Monday, September 25, 2017

One Sentence Sermon


His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ Matthew 25:23

A friend's one sentence prayer turned into a sermon. I meet with a group of moms to pray for my kids' school. Our prayer time is based on a model outlined by Moms in Prayer International.  Every week we praise an attribute of God, thank God and before we pray for our kids and their school, we take a moment to confess.  Our time of confession can be silent or out loud. Last week, my friend confessed that she felt like the person given one talent, who let fear keep her from using it for God's glory. Her one sentence prayer of confession struck a nerve.   

I instantly knew what she was talking about.  In Matthew 25 -  Jesus told a story about a master who gave his servants differing amounts of money called "talents". Two of the servants took the resources given to them and doubled the Master's money but the third servant hid the talent in the ground. He explained his actions by saying, "so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’"  Matthew 25:25

I realized that I have been like that servant and have let my fear keep me from doing what God wanted me to do.  Interestingly, I don't think fear of failure kept the servant from using the resources God had given him.  I think he was afraid of success.  Here's what he said in verse 24, "Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed".  When you are farmer, this is success. 

Here are some reasons why I think he was afraid of success and why am I afraid of using my talents. 

Success means more work-  Burying the talent and resources that the Master had given him meant that he didn't have to worry about it. He didn't have to plow or harvest and didn't have to monitor the investment.   He knew if he did what the master wanted being successful would make even more work.  The servant was lazy.  It is important to remember God didn't give him more than he could manage- God didn't give five times as much or even two. He only gave him one talent.  God knew his limitations and knows my limitations.   I shouldn't let my fear of work keep me from the blessing God has for me.  

Success feels insignificant- I feel like my contribution would be too small even if I did my best.  I wonder why work so hard with just one talent- it won't make a difference anyway.  After studying this, I realized if the guy who had been given the one talent, just doubled it like the other two servants, he would have had the equivalent amount of resources as the second servant who had been given two talents.  We all start out with different abilities, resources, families and personalities- all we have to do is use what we are given.  The master said that both the servant who had been given five and the servant who had been given two were "faithful over little."  While one or two might seem insignificant and five seem like a lot- compared to God's resources- they are a little.  Don't let your definition of a lot or a little limit God's work through you.

Success puts a target on your back- It is easy to see that people who are successful face a higher standard and great scrutiny.   To whom much is given...  The servant feared the master because he was hard. This meant he was focused on the negative and missed out on the blessing.  His fear became a self fulfilling prophecy.   My fear of people, being judged or making a mistake can create an environment that leaves me open to the judgment I am trying to avoid.   

This week I have been searching my heart to make sure I haven't let fear of success and the resulting accountability keep me from doing what God has equipped me and enabled me to do.    If God has given me the talents and resources, he will help me as they grow.  My fear of not hearing "Well done good and faithful servant" needs to be greater than my fear of hearing people put me down or misunderstand me. My desire to "enter the joy" of my master needs to be greater than the temporal pleasures of not using my talents.  

What are some fears about using your talents that you have struggled with? How have you gotten past fear to use talents and follow your dreams?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Bad News Keeps Coming

What you have learnede and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.  Philippians 4:9

What do you set your mind on?   Not too long ago I wrote about the distractions that filled my week and kept my mind on 50 million things.  This week, I realized that my attention easily drifts to the news feed that travels across the front screen of my phone.  There is no doubt that tracking the hurricanes, the President's opinions and other's responses, North Korea and the bombing in England are important news.  After reading about such devastating and awful things, what do you do?  Do you just blow it off?  Do you let the sadness overwhelm you?  Do you think things are hopeless?  Do you get mad at God?  Are you frustrated with world leadership?

I’ve been studying Philippians 4:4-9, I realized, the author Paul was outlining how to think and respond in difficult times.   By the time Philippians was written, Paul was in prison in Rome.  Things were looking desperate for the early church. Roman Emperor Nero had persecuted many Christians.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” The first thing Paul said in this passage is rejoice. How would you define "Rejoice?”  Be happy? Be joyful? The key understanding to this word is the "re" part.  "Re" means to bring something back or to do it again. Like "remind" means to bring something to mind again and "renew" means to make new again.   To rejoice means to bring back the joy that one experienced in Christ.  Paul isn't saying to rejoice about bad things happening to other people.  (We are encouraged to “consider it all joy” when we are personally suffering and going through hard times but reading the newspaper and watching awful things on the news, and worrying about a nuclear threat is not the same as actually having your house flood, living through a terrorist attack or being persecuted).
Floods on the other side of the country, North Korea having nuclear bombs and terrorist bombs in the London Underground are bad.  We aren’t told to rejoice about bad things, that is heartless,   In this verse, Rejoice means to remember the joys that God has brought into your life up to this point.  Experience again the joy of salvation, the joy of new life in Christ, the joy of answered prayers, the joy of healing, the joy of good gifts and the joy of knowing God's character that He is loving, sovereign, just and good.  Much of what I hear about on the news is out of my control. Rather than rejoicing, many people start worrying. Worrying often provides a false sense of control. Our minds fixate on the problem.  Paul is telling us to first focus on God by rejoicing.   
Here’s a way to apply this short verse, next time you hear news that is scary, difficult or overwhelming; stop and rejoice. Stop the worry, anxiety and your desire to fix things, and take a minute to rejoice.  
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; Next Paul says that our reasonableness should be evident to all.  We should not overreact.  As this verse reminds us Jesus is near.  We aren't on our own.   The NIV translates this word as gentleness. The concept behind this word has to do with justice and fairness.  We should be gentle in the sense of "relaxing overly strict standards." Rather than being judgmental, we need to realize the Spirit of the law rather than being tied to literal interpretation.  Jesus modeled this when he healed on the Sabbath. 
Once you have rejoiced, made a decision to be reasonable and not overreact, remembered that Jesus is near, we then are told not to be anxious but to pray.  I have to admit- I often jump to this point.  When I am worried, I start with prayer but instead of being reminded of the joy God has brought to my life, being reasonable and being grounded in the knowledge that Jesus is near - I am anxious and my prayers are all about what I want rather than filled with peace.  However, if we follow the pattern in Philippians 4 something amazing will happen. "7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  
Here’s a way to check to see if you are not being anxious and are being reasonable and rejoicing – you will have peace after you pray.  God’s peace will keep and protect you from worry and anxiety.
Paul is not saying that times won't be hard.  Often we can't change our circumstances and we have little influence over much of the horrible things that make the news but we do have control over our minds.   We have a choice regarding what we think about.  8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 
Are you thinking about what is true?  Focus on God and His truth.  What actually is, not your imagination. Going down the mental path of all the horrible things that could possibly happen- isn't the truth.  Don't let your imagination and attributions distort your reality..  Jesus said He is the way, the truth and the life.  Think about him.  
Are you thinking about what is honorable? Honorable things have value and are deeply respected.  Don't focus on the negative. Pray about it and let it go. 
Are you thinking about things that are right?  “Right” in Biblical terms is not a political word or even about not being wrong. Right has to do with things that are righteous and aligned with God and His will.  
Are you thinking about things that are lovely?   Lovely in this verse is a funny word - it doesn't mean pretty or beautiful. It means pleasing, acceptable and worthy of personal affection.   Lovely things are valuable and are worth the effort to embrace. They build up your relationships.  By this definition my kids and husband and friends are lovely. They take work but are so worth the effort.  
Are you thinking about things that are commendable? The word commendable always makes me think about people getting official commendations from a public official for serving their town or country with dignity and valor. Another word for this is praise worthy. Commendable actions should inspire all of us to do more to bless others.
Are you thinking about things that are excellent? The underlying meaning of this word relates to virtuous. It has to do with moral excellence, goodness and virtue.  I have to admit much of what catches my eyes on my news feed has to do with people’s poor choices, scandals, petty disagreements and trivial discussions of celebrity’s lives. 
Are you thinking about things that are worthy of praise?  Too often I spend time thinking about the negative rather than the positive.  Negative headlines catch my eye.  It takes work to focus on the items worthy of praise in the news and even more effort to notice praiseworthy things that my kids and husband do.  I need to focus on the positive things in our country, community and especially in my family. Then I need to make an effort to actually praise and encourage my kids, husband and community members when they do things that praiseworthy.   
If we take these ideas and put them into practice, the peace of God will be with us.  Whenever I see the word “practice” in the Bible, it gives me hope.  It means I don’t have to do it perfectly, but if I keep trying, I will get better over time.    
Bad news all around us can be overwhelming.  Phillipians 4:4-9 provides a practical way to overcome anxiety and worry with peace. 
1.    Think about something that you really have no control over but it sticks in your mind and stresses you out. 
2.    Shift your mind to rejoice over great joys God has already brought into your life. 
3.    Be reasonable and remember Jesus is near.
4.    Chose not to be anxious. 
5.    Pray and make your requests known to God.   Intercession is a form of prayer that aligns your requests with God’s will.
6.    Once you have prayed, choose to think about things that are true, right, honorable, lovely, pure, commendable, excellence and worthy of praise.  If we don’t fill our minds with good stuff, worry and fear will creep right back in and we will be back where we started.
7.    Put this into practice. This is a new way of thinking.  We won’t be perfect but every time we make a choice to rejoice, chose not to be anxious, choose to think about good stuff instead of garbage, and Wil focus on the positive rather than the negative we will be blessed with peace.

If you decide to try this- let me know how it goes. This week, I am going to really try rejoicing first before I pray and to try to think about things that are worthy of praise rather than being critical.  

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Honor Your Father and Mother

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 2:12

Today is a special day.  It is my Mom's birthday. One of the things I admire most about my mom is her desire to keep learning and growing in God.  I first realized this when I was “know it all" 12 year old.  I asked Jesus into my life at a very young age so by the time I was twelve, I figured I knew all there was to know about God.  I remember asking my mom why she still went to church and read her Bible, "Don't you already know everything?" She explained that she still had a lot to learn. Rather than being inspired by her wisdom, I figured maybe that she wasn't that smart.  It has taken me many years since to realize that I am not that smart and I still have so much to learn. 
      Around the age many people start thinking about retirement, Mom completed a spiritual healing coursework so that she could counsel others with hurts and wounds from their past.  She knew that she needed to learn more about this area and wasn't content to keep the knowledge for herself.
      Now in her seventies, she is still learning and growing in her knowledge of God.  She is writing to share her wisdom with others and is willing to take editorial advice from her "known it all" daughter. Her humility and heart for learning has challenged me to realize I will never reach a point where I can't learn and grow more about Jesus. 
      As I was thinking about how blessed I am to have such a wonderful mom, the commandment "Honor your father and Mother" popped into mind.  It is easy to honor my wonderful mother, though she is not perfect, she is loving, quick to apologize and is always willing to learn.
      In my Bible Study about Hezekiah, wrote about the challenges of honoring a parent that is ungodly or a downright bad parent like Hezekiah's dad Ahaz.  Ahaz was wicked and led his entire country away from God.   I have several friends whose parents are more like Ahaz than my mom. 

How can you honor a wicked ungodly parent? 

      Hezekiah is a great role model in this area. “He brought honor to his family not by continuing in the sinful patterns of his family but instead by deliberately undoing the harm his father caused and intentionally doing good and seeking a right relationship with God… Hezekiah knew that just because his father had made foolish choices, he didn’t have to continue in his father’s footsteps.   I was struck by a quote from actress Demi Moore about her mother who was an addict, "Whatever wrongdoings, bad deeds, actions that she had—what was hers was hers and she took it with her. And what was mine—whether justified or not, anything that I did that was potentially negative, out of anger—was mine."   We can’t blame others for our response to their sin and foolishness.  Our response is our responsibility.  Rather than responding to other people’s negative behavior, our responsibility is to respond to God and to live our life for His glory as healed, whole people who bring his peace to the world.”   (Keep Calm and Respond to God.)
      I am truly blessed with imperfect yet wonderful parents.  Whether your parents loved God with all their hearts, were wicked, narcissistic and abusive or you didn’t even know them doesn’t stop you from honoring them. Honoring or dishonoring our parents is not dependent on their parenting ability or lack of it.  To understand this, imagine being the parent of a criminal like Dylan Roof or John Wilkes Booth; I can barely comprehend the dishonor their parents must have felt every time their son’s name was mentioned. No matter how good and kind our parents are, if we make bad choices, we dishonor them. When we do what is right, make Godly choices and use our gifts and abilities for good, we honor our parents regardless of their personal attributes.
      Everyone can honor their father and their mother by living honorable, righteous lives.  We can bring honor to them by doing what is right, having a right relationship with God and using our gifts and abilities to bring glory to God.
   "Honor your father and mother" is one of the Ten Commandments for a reason.  It is just as important to God as not killing, stealing or committing adultery. Take a moment to think of some ways that you can honor your parents. I would love to hear how you have honored your parents.  How have you taught your kids to honor you? 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Distractions

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Colossians 3:2


I have been highly distracted this week- all good things like watching soccer games, seeing friends, checking Facebook and Instagram, getting my tennis racket restrung, picking out new paint and living room furniture - but each distraction has drawn my focus away from eternal things to focus on temporal things. 

I realize I am blessed that these are all good things that fill my mind since I know so many people are struggling and overwhelmed by actual and metaphorical floodwaters.   They are dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster, putting together a life after a divorce or a loss of a child, grappling with debilitating health issues, trying to make sense of our country's politics, and managing their responsibilities while supporting friends and family members through heartbreaks and hard times.  
  
Each of us respond differently to good things and bad things.  In hard and difficult struggles, my natural response is to start praying and seek God but in good times, I take a spiritual break and let insignificant things take my attention away from the most important One.  I have other friends who do such a good job of praising God and depending on Him in the good times but when hard and challenging situations arise, they become Superman or Wonder Woman and feel they have to fix all the problems in the world with their own strength, knowledge and determination.  

As I have been pondering how to balance letting go of these distractions but still being involved with my life and the people around me- this brief passage from Mark 8:29-33 caught my eye. "And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Wow!   I can't imagine being Peter- after realizing that Jesus was the Christ- to have Jesus say, "Get behind me Satan, you are setting your mind on the things of man."   I spent some time looking at the Greek meanings of the words in this sentence and what struck me was the idea in "Get behind me".  Get used in this verse is more often translated "go."  Jesus used it as a command after he healed someone to go home or go to the temple.  "Behind" was more often used as "after."   In other words- "get behind" means "Go to your proper place behind Jesus."  It doesn't mean the problem went away but that Jesus became first and foremost. 

With all the good and bad things in our lives, it is so easy to get distracted. If we elevate anything in our lives, whether it is good things like redecorating or bad things like sickness over Jesus, we are going to struggle with being overwhelmed.  Survival mode and artificial deadlines create a sense of urgency that drowns out the peace of God.   The certainty that God is in control, protecting us and leading us gets damaged as we struggle with wave after wave of distraction. To overcome these challenges, we have to be intentional and set our minds first and foremost on Jesus. 


The benefits of setting our minds on the Jesus and not the things of this world results in peace. The phrase "set your mind" is also translated "be of one mind." As  2 Corinthians 13:11 encourages us "Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you."    

Jesus is the source of peace in every situation.  He promised us, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27


 Have you been overwhelmed with distractions?  How do you put them in their proper place?






Sunday, August 27, 2017

Remembrance

I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. Psalm 77:11

I'm so horrible at remembering faces that my kids have even pointed out people in the grocery story and asked, "Mom, isn't that your friend." I definitely have a weakness in this area but Nataliya's name and face made such an indelible impression on me when I first met her five years ago at a church luncheon that I immediately recognized her when I slid into a seat next to her at a Women's Conference yesterday. During a break, I asked her about how her mother was doing and a surprised look transformed her face, shocked that I would remember her mom after all these years.

The day I first met Nataliya is highlighted in my mind. My friend Dana had invited me to visit her church for a women's brunch.  If I can help it, I never miss a chance to spend time with Dana plus great food takes me back to my college days and the joys of the church potluck dinners. We sat down at a table in the back of the room and across from us was a beautiful woman with blond hair, wide set eyes and the high cheekbones you see on Eastern European models.  Next to Nataliya was a beautiful older woman with the same cheek bones. Nataliya explained that her mom was visiting for several months but didn't know English.   Every once in a while Nataliya would lean over and quietly explain what was going on in Ukrainian.

During the meal, we went around the table and introduced ourselves and during the process learned Nataliya's amazing life story of growing up in Ukraine and coming to North Carolina after meeting her husband online through an international dating website.  I was amazed at how brave and open she was about her life story- there is no way I would have left my life and family to marry some guy from Ukraine.   After coming to the United States, she started attending church with her husband and in the process came to know Jesus.   Her eyes lit up as she shared the transformation that had taken place in her heart after finding her Savior and True Love.  She thought she had traveled across the world to find love and a new life with her wonderful husband but God had a bigger plan that meant she would find the One who loved her so much that He sacrificed His life so that she would have eternal life.   Wow!  I am always amazed and humbled to learn of the extremes God goes to to make us aware of His love. After finishing her story, she looked at at us and said in the heartfelt manner of someone who knows True Love and wants everyone else to know it too, "Please pray for my Mom to know Jesus."

When someone asks me to pray for salvation, I pray.  I never doubt that it is God's will.  2 Peter 3:9 says "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." God's heart is for everyone to know Him regardless of our gender, race, age or ethnicity.  Everyone.

Seeing Nataliya yesterday brought back her heartfelt request for us to pray for her Mom.  As we were standing in line for coffee during a break, I mentioned remembering her prayer request for her Mom's salvation.  Her face went pale with shock and she looked at me and said, "I can't believe you remembered my Mom and my prayer request. I don't even remember asking you." She paused and then joyfully answered my question. " My mom is saved.  She knows Jesus." She paused again and then gave me a concerned look. She explained, "God has told me to keep a journal.  He said 'Write it down.' This is why I am supposed to journal so that I can remember important things like this." I totally understood her conviction and calling.   God had called me to write and I had realized if I wasn't writing I wasn't being obedient to His calling.  Not all of us are called to write but all of God's people are called to remember His goodness, celebrate answered prayers and acknowledge His provision and protection.

Even before the people of Israel were delivered from slavery in Egypt, God told them to celebrate the Passover for all generations to come.   “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast." Exodus 12:14    By the time Jesus was born, the descendants of Israel had been celebrating the Passover to remember God's deliverance for 1,300 years. Just as the Passover was a way to remember the miracle of the Exodus,  Communion is a time to remember the bondage that we have been delivered from, a time to celebrate the amazing gift of new life that we have in Christ. Jesus told his followers to celebrate their deliverance from sin and death by remembering his sacrifice, "And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." Luke  22:19

It is so important to remember what God has done for us. As the Psalmist encourages us, "I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago." Remembering requires valuing what God has done, repeating and sharing so we don't forget. What helps you remember God's blessings and answered prayers?  How would you share stories of God's blessing and salvation with others?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Are You Intolerant?

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

I’ve realized I am intolerant.
Over the past week, I’ve read a lot of posts that include phrases like “racism and intolerance are incompatible with American values.”  I agree that racism is incompatible with the founding principles of our country.  The “Declaration of Independence states that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”   

I firmly believe racism is incompatible with being a Christian.  One of my favorite verses states “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 This verse was written to address areas of racial and economic discrimination in the early Christian church. The early church leaders knew tolerating discrimination devalued Christ’s sacrifice for everyone.   While it might be human nature to devalue people of different economic, cultural or religious backgrounds, it was incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. James 2

Early Christianity was remarkable that people of all backgrounds worshiped together.  First Century society was more racist and economically divided than anything we could imagine today. While the first twelve disciples were men, a woman was chosen to tell everyone that the Messiah had risen.   Galatians 3:26  says we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We might be different but we are all loved and valued in our Father's eyes. One of the most beautiful pictures painted by a scripture verse is found in Revelation 7:9 describing a vision of heaven, “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” 

All this to say, as much as I am certain that racism is incompatible with both Christian and American values, I am just as certain that I am intolerant.  I believe that much of the conflict and heartbreak today has grown out of tolerance. We have sat passively by and tolerated racism, injustice, and lies with an attitude of tolerance that has allowed atrocities to continue.

I am intolerant of racism.
I am intolerant of devaluing another person because of their race, gender, mental capacity, age, economic status, nationality, viability outside of the womb, weight, physical handicap, or any other thing that could cause us to look down on someone.  When we devalue a person based on their skin color, nationality, gestational age, or gender, we are devaluing God because every person is created in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 clearly states, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”  There is no doubt that there are remarkable differences between the 7.4 billion people in the world but I believe he made us different colors, genders, heights, aptitudes, interests and temperaments so in our diversity we get a taste of His vastness and we reflect His beauty and creativity.

I am intolerant of lies.
I am intolerant of disrespecting ourselves and others by lying to ourselves and to other people.  Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) and I hate that He twists the truth so that we sacrifice the blessings God has for us for cheap imitations of love and happiness that devalue Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and devalue His Word. Psalm 119:128

I am intolerant of injustice. 
Proverbs 20:23 states “The LORD detests differing weights, and dishonest scales do not please him.” While I am certain life is not fair, as this blog about Job’s suffering points out, one of the reasons God set up the Law in the Old Testament was to provide justice and a safeguard for His people, including women and children and to protect immigrants who were of different races.  Deuteronomy 10:17-19 makes this clear, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”

 While laws like “An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, foot for a foot” seem incredibly harsh to us today, 3,500 years ago when this law was given, it was remarkable because it limited retribution.  Rather than a tit for tat battle that says, “You hurt my eye, so I am going to hurt your eye and kill you cow” spiraling out of control like a gang war or generations of conflict we see in parts of the Middle East, the Law created a system of justice.

If we tolerate injustice, lies and discrimination; our hearts grow hard and insensitive to the Holy Spirit and a feeling of hopelessness and victimhood takes hold among those who are mistreated. Anger grows and violence explodes just like a pressure cooker that wasn’t used according to the directions.  God gave us very clear directions.  We are to love him and love our neighbor as ourselves.  Matthew 22:37-39  As Christians, we are called to a higher standard. It is time to repent of not following His directions and hold each other accountable. 

My tendency when faced with bad things is to be passive.  I freeze up when someone is telling a racist or sexist joke. I know it is weak but I don’t know how to respond.  Confronting lies, calling out injustice, denouncing racism, and actively valuing every person is hard.  It is scary and can upset people but I have realized that just as James denounced favoritism in the early church in Jerusalem and Paul argued against racism and sexism in the Galatian church in Greece, each of us have this same responsibility.

Dear Jesus, I am sorry for being complacent and tolerant of sin in my life.  I am sorry for not confronting racism, injustice, sexism and the Devil's lies. I am sorry for not standing up for those who do not have the resources to stand up for themselves. I am sorry for valuing comfort over listening to the Holy Spirit. Please forgive me and show me how I should love others as I love myself. Amen


 Are you intolerant?  How do you intentionally value everyone?  How do you confront lies?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Child's View

God is faithful and reliable. If we confess our sins, he forgives them and cleanses us from everything we've done wrong.  1 John 1:9


My friend's 6 year old son was devastated. Before bedtime, he began to tell him mom about bad things he had done, mistakes he had made and the mean things he had said.  Through tears of shame, he asked his mom, "How could God love me? How could he forgive me?"   My friend quickly assured him that there is nothing he could ever do that would make God not love him.  With a kiss and a hug she put him to sleep.  

Later, she shared with me her struggles about her conversation.  She was heart-broken that he felt such grief and sadness.  He was so distraught over such little things, like mean thoughts and watching big kid's shows, things that most of us wouldn't think twice about.   At the same time, she didn't want to dismiss his concerns.  As I listened to her story, I couldn't help but think of Jesus when he said, “We must become like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3

This six year old knew that he had made mistakes and he wasn't perfect.  None of us are perfect but once we get older we tend to rationalize our mistakes and compare our relatively minor imperfections with dysfunctional family members, our out of control friends or the really messed up people on reality tv shows. Compared to them- we aren’t that bad. We reach a point where we have to do something major like driving a car after having too much to drink, discovering an unplanned pregnancy, or running a red light and endangering someone's life - to admit to ourselves that we are sinners.

Romans 3:23 says "we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."  The Greek word translated "sin" in this verse means "missed the mark"; in other words, we make mistakes and we aren't perfect.  Realizing that we make mistakes is the first step to realizing we need a Savior. If we were perfect, we could save ourselves.   Since we aren't perfect, we need to ask God's forgiveness for all of our sins- the major ones that haunt us and the small ones like being mean or being caught in a lie.

I told my friend that her son should simply pray and ask Jesus to forgive his sins.  The Bible says, “He is faithful and just to forgive all of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9   Jesus can take away the awful feelings of guilt and shame.  There is nothing that we have done, said or thought that He won’t forgive.  Nothing.  All we have to do is ask. He makes us pure and holy.

Talking with my friend reminded me of when I was five years old. At that very young age, I realized I was a sinner.  I knew I had done bad things and so every night I prayed and asked God to forgive me.  As I look back on my life I am so grateful that I realized that I wasn't perfect and and made mistakes when I was young.  I learned that Jesus loved me not because of what I had done for him but because of what he had done for me.  Realizing His love for me at such a young age has given me a lifetime of confidence in His love, grace and forgiveness. 

If you have a young one in your life, don't miss out on the opportunity to introduce them to Jesus's amazing grace and love at an early age.   Romans 8:38-39 promises us that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus- Nothing.    You can help them avoid so much grief and heartache if they learn they are always loved and there is nothing they can do to lose God's love.    

How old were you when you realized that Jesus loved you in spite of all your sins and mistakes? How did that change your life?