Tuesday, June 28, 2016

I Never Knew You

We all know someone who works too much. We all know the story of the wife who sits at home while her husband works long hours to give her everything she wants only to discover (after their divorce) that what she really wanted was time with him. There is a story about a child who asks his dad “How much money do you make an hour?” When the dad told him the $$ amount, the child went to his room, emptied his piggy bank, and then asked his dad if he had enough to pay for an hour of his time.

We all run the risk of forgetting that the best thing we can give the people we love is ourselves. Our time. Our attention. Our affection. The people we love need to know that we will put aside our agenda, our to-do lists, calendars and schedules to be with them. Without putting effort into developing a meaningful relationship, the stuff we do for the people we love is just more stuff. We can work 60 hours a week, bring home a 6 figure income, have the biggest house on the block and the newest car in the drive way, be PTA president, Scout Parent, Dance mom, Team dad, and many other things that keep our calendar full, and still not give the people we love what they want most.

We know this.

So, why then do we cram our lives full of “church stuff” and leave little or no room for time with God? I have been guilty of this myself on more than one occasion. Writing for God, leading VBS for God, Teaching Sunday School for God, teaching Ladies Bible Study for God, serving on the outreach committee for God, singing in the choir and on the praise team for God, leading Children’s choir and Children’s worship for God. Lots of stuff. Just like the husband that works 60 hours a week, I had little TIME for God and my relationship with Him suffered.

This isn’t new, or surprising. Scripture puts it like this:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Matthew 7:21-23 NIV

Of course God wants our service. If we are going to carry out the Great Commission, we must work. Even so, our works should not take priority over our relationship with Christ. Our time in service should not outweigh our time in prayer and our time in God’s Word.

Our service, our works, all the things we do “for God” are meaningless if He doesn’t have our hearts. I’ve learned from experience that when He has my heart and my relationship with Him is strong, the joy and fulfillment I experience from serving is exponentially greater than when I spend ALL my time and energy serving and neglect my time with my Savior.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Parable of the Weeds

Over the past few months, I have been faced the challenge of choosing how to react to certain issues. It’s caused me to dig into the New Testament and see how Jesus dealt with normal, everyday, sin-filled people who didn’t follow Him.
Last week I wrote about 3 Bible stories that helped me understand Jesus’s heart for unbelievers. Over the weekend, I was also reminded of Jesus’s parable of the wheat and the weeds:
Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” Matthew 13:24-30 NIV
We have weeds everywhere, in our churches (even in our small groups), in our schools, at work, in government, in every group we are a part of. I admit, my natural response is to pull them…get them out of my “wheat”. After all, we all know that weeds suck up vital nutrients and can even choke out the things we are trying so hard to grow.
Jesus says no. HE says to leave them be. Why? Look at it again:
“‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
Oh my goodness, how many young Christians have been hurt by church turmoil? Church splits destroy young, immature Christians. Jesus says, “let me deal with the weeds when I get ready. YOU focus on the task at hand…growing wheat.”
Another interesting little nugget… notice that the weeds aren’t separated until the wheat is ready to harvest. Thinking about people I have known throughout my life and ministry, I can think of several  who LOOKED like “weeds”, but were really just very immature, new Christians.
We have to give everyone time to trust Jesus and to mature in their faith.
Our job is to grow wheat. Give them good fertile soil. Water them and let them soak up the Son so that they grow deep strong roots and are able to withstand all the storms of life.

We can trust Jesus with the Wheat...and the Weeds.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Heart of a Christian

There is much in the news about hate-filled, judgmental “Christians”. They are loud and want to speak for all Christians, but they don’t speak for us. They aren’t even the majority. Just like extremists from other faiths, these are a handful of people who use their “faith” to justify hatred in their hearts. They hide behind their “faith” as an excuse to do unspeakable things to other human beings because they aren’t brave enough to admit that they themselves are conceited, hate-filled, and judgmental. They blow up abortion clinics, march, carry signs, and spew hate all in the name of Jesus. Many justify their actions by citing one incident from Scripture (Mark 11:15-17) where they say Jesus “lost his temper", forgetting that Jesus was rebuking the Temple leaders (religious people) for misusing the Temple.

Followers of Jesus do not spew hate. We are not loud. We don’t post passive-aggressive comments on social media. We don’t feel that another person’s lack of faith in Christ is an insult to us or to God. We know that, were it not for a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ, we’d be just like them. We just want everyone to know Jesus. Why?

Look at John 8. The religious leaders caught a woman in adultery. They stood her before Jesus and said that the Law commanded she be stoned, then asked what Jesus said about it.  Jesus responds, “Let anyone of you who is without sin throw a stone at her.”  It goes on to say that “Those who heard began to go away, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left with the woman.”  Then Jesus asks “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” to which she replies “No one sir” and he responds… not with a monologue on why she is so bad… He simply says:

“Then neither do I condemn you, Go now and leave your life of sin.”

THAT is who I serve, the Savior I love. I’ve been on both sides of the story. I’ve been the girl, condemned by religion, knowing I am “bad” and that they are justified in their judgment of me. I have also been the religious person with the weight of a stone heavy in my hand, ready to punish someone who chose to disobey God’s law... and I have felt the weight of that rock become too much to bear as I remembered that I received forgiveness I did not deserve.

In Mark 10, we discover the Rich Young Ruler. The young man asks Jesus what he needs to do to be saved. Jesus responds that he must obey the commandments and the young man says he has. Jesus then tells him to sell his possessions and give to the poor, “and come, follow me.” God’s Word then says that the man went away sad.

Jesus gave the woman caught in adultery the choice to leave her life of sin… or not. He gave the rich young ruler the choice to sell all he had and follow Him…or not. Just as He gave me a choice, just as He gives you a choice. You can follow Him or not. You can’t continue to live contrary to God’s Word and follow Him, but the choice is yours.

When Jesus sent out the 12, he told them how to deal with people who didn’t want to hear their message: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” (Matthew 10:14 NIV) I only include this to explain why I don’t get all worked up when someone doesn’t believe like I do. I believe God’s Word. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the forgiver of sins, and I believe that eternal life in heaven is only available through Him, but I know that others believe what they believe just as strongly as I believe what I believe. I tell people about Jesus, about what He has done in my life, and explain the Gospel. From there, it’s their choice

Just as it was mine.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Thoughts on the Orlando Shooting

My heart is broken for the families of the people murdered in Orlando last night. I've heard snide remarks about the fact that this occurred at a gay bar. I am overwhelmed by the hate that defines our society. These people died. They are people. Just people. I assume that they are gay, since they were in a gay bar, and I believe that homosexuality is a sin...but i do not hate them, nor do i think they are any more sinful than i am. If my sins were broadcast for all to see, i would be hated by many, I'm sure.

See, someone hates you. They may hate you because of your skin color, because of where you were born, or because of your level of education. They may hate you because of who you worship or who you vote for. They may hate you because you believe you have a choice in whether or not you have an abortion...or they may hate you because you want to take away their right to choose. They may hate you because you are homosexual, transsexual, transgender, or heterosexual. They may hate you for any number of ways that you are different than they are. Someone hates you...possibly enough to kill you.
It's like a cancer eating our souls.

I believe that God is our creator. I believe that God is holy and that He cannot be in proximity of sin. I believe that we are sinful by nature and i believe that this separates us from God. I believe that God hates sin because it separates us from Him and because it causes us pain. I believe that God loves the human race so much that Jesus came from heaven, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life and was crucified to pay the penalty for our sin... for all our sin. For the murderer, the embezzler, the rapist, the gossip, the adulterer, the person filled with hate, the homosexual. I believe that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and therefore I believe that Jesus died for every single person on earth. I believe that Jesus died, and that paid the price for my sin (and yours) and I believe that He defeated death and rose from the grave 3 days later and that gives me (and you) victory over death.

I believe that God went to great lengths to restore people to Himself. He did that out of love for them.
I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to choose to trust and follow Jesus for themselves and I believe that since God provided a way for our restoration to Him out of love, then it is by His love that those of us who are restored to Him should be known.

I also know that not everyone will choose Christ. I know that others believe what they believe just as strongly as I believe what I believe. It makes me sad, not angry. I don't hate them. My heart breaks for them. But...I respect their choice.

I believe that the Bible is  God's revelation of Himself to us. I believe that God's Word tells us of His character and of His will for us. I believe that God's Word is clear about His expectations of us, of what He delights in and of what He calls sin. While some people's sin is more evident and more socially controversial than mine, i know that God sees it all and condemns it all. I also believe that Jesus died for all.

Someone in my life made choices that were against the things that God's Word says are good. She lived a life that was characterized by rebellion. Several years ago, I realized that I hated her sin more than I loved her and I was devastated. I believe that God does not accept sin...I believe that He hates sin... but He provided the way for us to be restored to Him out of His love for us....He does not hate us, even when we hate Him.

None of us are innocent. We all fall short. Thankfully God loves us despite all our many faults, flaws, and sin. He saved me...From my rebellion, from my sin, from my determination to do things "my way" ...from myself.

It is not out of hate that I tell others about Jesus. I tell them about Jesus because I love Jesus and because I love Jesus, I love who He loves....

and He loves you.

I am so sad for the families who lost loved ones last night.
I am so sad that there are people who hate sin more than they love people.
I am praying that those of us who have experienced the love of Christ have a burning desire to share His love above everything else.
We're all just people, fighting our own battles.
Our enemy is Satan not each other.

Sending love and prayers for those who are suffering tonight,

Friday, June 10, 2016

Lessons from and Encourager

 Please join me today at the Internet CafĂ©.

Lessons From An Encourager

flowers-desk-office-vintage copy
I recently met a tremendously encouraging woman. Well, I haven’t actually “met” her. We’ve never talked or had coffee. I’m not even sure what state she lives in. Still, she is my encourager.  She encourages me with a few simple words…
“Great Post.”
“Thank you for this.”
Or my favorite:
“Bless you, dear one.”
Continue reading here

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The greatest responsibility of motherhood

There’s this little girl I know. She has brown hair that bounces when she runs and brown eyes that sparkle with mischief. Her laugh is like bubbles dancing on the breeze. She is passionate and fierce, and at the same time, gentle and nurturing. She is shy...and silly. She is a lover of Jesus, her daddy, animals, dill pickle chips, flowers, veggies, and old folks.
Her name is Izzy, and she is mine.
For however long He sees fit, God is allowing me to share my life with her. For reasons I cannot understand, He has entrusted her to me and for that I am eternally grateful.  
Last night I realized that she needs more from me than clean clothes, reminders to brush her hair and teeth, and advice on how she should handle conflict with a friend.  She needs something infinitely more important than the things I have always thought she needs from me.
See, last night I realized that my little girl has an enemy. Not a playground bully. Not a girl who calls her names and hurts her feelings. She has someone in her life who wants to hurt her, who tells her that we love her brother more than we love her, that we are unfair, that we don’t understand her, and that we don’t care about her feelings. This person tells her over and over again that she is misunderstood and that the disobedience we punish her for is not really disobedience at all, but rather an example of us being unfair to her.
Last night, I saw in my little girl the things I see in so many grown women: anger, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, denial...the list goes on...and it hit me:
We have an enemy.
I’ve known, taught, and written about this for years. His name is Satan and he is very real. He wants to absolutely destroy you, me….and my little girl.
I realized last night that my daughter’s disobedience, defiance, and rebellion, are all a reflection of Satan’s schemes and the lies he is telling her. I guess I thought “she’s too little” for Satan to really attack her.
What a fool I am.
What better way for Satan to destroy the woman my little girl will become than to start working on her now?
He is filling her head with lies and breaking her little heart and I didn’t see it because she is a child and…well, children are just disobedient, right?
No. Not right.
Sin is sin, no matter how old, or young, we are. The one fueling our sin is Satan and my job as mom is to teach my little girl how to fight the enemy of her soul.
More than anything else I can teach her, she needs to know that her Father in heaven, the creator of the universe, loves her and created her. She needs to know that God will fight for her, that the One who watches over her does not sleep, and that HE who is in her is greater than he who is in the world. She needs to know that God sent Jesus to pay for her sin so that she doesn't have to. She needs to know that she is valued by God and that following HIM is what will bring her peace and joy and satisfaction.
So, I am declaring war on Satan. Hands off my little girl. For every lie you tell her, I will fill her pretty little head with the Word of God. Every time you break her heart, I will guide her back to her Savior and He WILL restore her.  I will pray for and with her so that talking to God is as natural for her as talking to her daddy. You cannot have your way with her Satan.
Because she is  mine  God's.
And for however long He sees fit, He has allowed me to share my life with her. For reasons I cannot understand, He has entrusted her to me and for that I am eternally grateful.
I won’t let her down.