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?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Rejoice with me

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15

Summer seems to be the time that my friends fill Facebook and Instagram with all kinds of amazing and beautiful experiences. One friend spends half her summer at the beach, another's husband and daughter are in Rwanda, a couple of friends went to England, friends from England traveled to the States, a dear friend went to NYC and was able to share her favorite hangouts with her kids and I was able to take a picture of my feet on a black sand beach during a once in a lifetime trip to Hawaii. Really, it is truly amazing to see all the joy captured in these posts and pictures.

Now it is time for a quick gut check- When you hear about other people's blessings do you rejoice or are you envious?  I have to admit- sometimes I am envious.  It is hard to rejoice with some people.   This inner conflict- most of us have had at one time or another- is the reason that told to rejoice in the Bible.  Romans 12:15 says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn."  If rejoicing with others was always natural and easy, we wouldn't have to be told to do it.  It's like picking up dirty clothes, my kids have to be told to do it because they don't do it naturally.

Though it may go against our natural instinct to rejoice with some people, the Holy Spirit can empower us to rejoice with those who are rejoicing. The antidote to envy is giving glory to God and trusting that just as God blessed our friend (or someone we don't like) , He has blessed us and will continue to bless us more. His resources aren’t limited.

An important way to encourage each other in our faith is to rejoice in the goodness of the Lord in our friends’ lives. Being able to share joy with others is so important that the word “Rejoice” appears over 100 times in both the NIV and King James Versions of the Bible. It is a command and a response. When we share with others what God has done for us, we can encourage them to trust that God can do exceedingly and abundantly even greater things for them.

Jesus told a story about a woman who lost a valuable coin- worth about a days wages.  She swept and cleaned her house until she found the coin. "And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’" Luke 15:9  "The idea behind the prefix “re” is to do something again- i.e. redo, return. So, “to rejoice” means to feel the joy again. The woman had the initial joy of finding the coin but the joy was multiplied because she could rejoice with her friends. 

At times, I am hesitant to share my blessings because I don’t want to be perceived as bragging. The proper heart in sharing blessings requires us to not seek glory for ourselves but instead to glory in what God has done. God calls us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. It is much easier to rejoice with someone who has shared her hard times as well as her good times. When we are authentic with others, they will be able to mourn with us in the hard times and rejoice with us in the times of blessing. By remembering the struggles of the past, we will be able to appreciate the blessings in the lives of our friends and our own life." Embracing Change, p. 180

God calls us to rejoice with others because when we rejoice with our friends, we get to enjoy and celebrate the blessing again and again.

This week look for opportunities to rejoice with the people God has put in your life. Ask them to tell you about a blessing they have recently experienced. Your request will allow them to re-joice and will allow you to join in their joy!

Leave a comment on this blog, Facebook, Instagram or write an old fashioned letter to share how God has blessed you. Not to brag but to allow others to share your joy, take a minute to write down a blessing so you can read it and rejoice again.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Unto All the World

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation." Mark 16:15

Last Sunday, we happened to be sitting in church in Kona, HI.  I am so grateful that the call to "Go unto all the world" includes beautiful places like Hawaii.  One of the great joys of traveling for me is visiting churches in different countries. I am always amazed at the sacrifices made by the first church planters who were called to isolated places like Hawaii once was. Every church is evidence of the gifts of many people who were passionate about the call to proclaim the gospel.  It is such a privilege to see how the body of Christ celebrates and builds one another up in the faith throughout the world. 

The minister at Living Stones Church had just returned home after several weeks of ministry and vacation on the mainland.  He encouraged all of us that our ministry goes with us wherever we are.  The ministry of the body of Christ isn't confined to the sanctuary that you regularly worship in- it goes with you- whether you are in Hi, the U.K. or sitting at lunch with friends.  

Going on vacation should be a time to be bold and open to see God in new and different ways.  Getting our of our comfort zone can be a great way to grow in our faith.  Summer camp challenged and built up my sister's faith. This summer, my friend Julie is leading a bunch of kids from North Carolina on a youth trip to host English language Bible camp in Korea.  My older son spent a week playing with inner city kids in Memphis with his church youth group. Our ministry during vacation shouldn't end when we are too old for youth group. No matter where in the world we go- we can follow the call to "Go unto all the world." Traveling might even enable us to expand our mission and influence for Jesus more than at home because we don't have our usual responsibilities and expectations.   

Wherever we are in the world, our purpose is to glorify God. Enjoying the abundant life that Christ gave us is a powerful way to glorify God.  Rejoicing in the beauty of His creation whether we are sitting on the beach, awed by a volcano or marveling at a giraffe is a wonderful way to give Him glory.   

We don't have to be on vacation to rejoice in the glory of God.  Wherever you are right now,  take a moment to look around you at the sky, trees and animals. Rejoice in the beauty of creation and God's unending creativity. 
 "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." Psalm 19:1

   "Praise the LordPraise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights above." Psalm 148:1

   "Praise the Lord all you nations, Praise the Lord all you people of the earth".  Psalm 117:1

Getting out of our comfort zone is a great way to experience God's glory and presence in a new way.  How has traveling expanded your view of God and His Church?  Please take a minute to share a memory with me. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Too Much

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

I have been thinking about a conversation my Mom and I would have when I was a teenager while driving by huge houses near the mall.  I would make a comment about such a pretty house and how l liked such their long driveway and rolling yard. My mom would make a comment such as "Such a big house would take a lot of work to clean" or she would say, "Imagine how hard it would be to mow that yard."  One benefit of these conversations was that I learned not to want what other people had because I didn't want their responsibilities. As a teenager, cleaning my room was a huge task, I couldn't imagine being responsible for a mansion. This perspective helped me be content with our much smaller house and big enough yard.  

However, I have realized applying this same logic to spiritual things has limited my view of God's ability to provide. I was afraid of too much. You see if God provides the big house with the big yard, He will also provide the ability to clean it or the resources to have someone do the yard maintenance because He has unlimited resources. If He allows you to have a huge family, when you ask Him for help, He will provide the wisdom, strength and endurance you need because He is the perfect Father. If He calls you to a position of influence, He will enable you because . He is the Lord and Ruler of all. Nothing is too hard for Him.  

Focusing on our resources and ability limits what God wants to bless us and bless others.  A big part of growing in our relationship with God involves being obedient by getting in situations that are over our head and beyond our ability so that we ask Him to provide.   

When faced with a hungry crowd of 5,000 people, Jesus told his disciples, "You feed them."  Jesus knew they didn't have the resources. In fact, after scrounging among themselves, they only had five loaves of bread and two fish. He challenged them to feed the people because He wanted to reveal his ability and resources to them- not because He expected them to provide the food. Jesus then blessed the food.  This blessing asked God to make it greater than what was there, just as Isaac made prophetic blessings for his sons and Jacob blessed  Joseph's sons. Asking for God's blessing on our day, our resources, our words, our work and our families unleashes God's power to take what we have and make it greater than what we could imagine.  The story of feeding the five thousand is found in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Interestingly, a couple of verses after this miracle in Mark 6 is the amazing story of Jesus walking on water. "But when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out,for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid. And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.The Gospel writers wanted to make sure we knew and understood the importance of this story. God's ability is not limited by our resources, faith, or understanding.  

We can't walk on water of our own strength, we can't feed five thousand with a couple of fish and five loaves of bread, we can't heal people who are chronically ill. We can't even introduce them to Jesus without the power of the Holy Spirit.   

Growing in our faith means we will be challenged by Jesus to "Feed them."  I often respond like the disciples and focus on my resources rather than obediently using what God has given to me and trusting it will be enough.  In the end, God did use the disciples to feed the 5000.  God provided the food and they simply handed it out- we are called to be the hands and feet of Christ. 

For many of my friends, sharing the good news of Jesus with others seems impossible. They wonder if they will have the right words and are afraid that they might do it wrong. Ask Him to help you, He knows their hearts and hurts.  He will give you the words. He is the Word.

I understand feeling inadequate. When I felt called to write my Hezekiah study, I truly felt like I only had enough insight to write a blog.  Maybe a couple of hundred words but once I finished that I felt God say "Write more." So I did. Before I knew it, with God's help, I had a nine chapter Bible Study completed.  God supplied the time, the words and the wisdom. As Paul wrote in  Philippians 4:19, "And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus."

What has God called you to do that you don't have the resources for?  What is holding you back?

I love to hear stories of God's provision, in the comments share a story of how God provided when you trusted God to bless your limited resources and stepped out in faith.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Curse God and Die

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” Job 2:9

Job is one of the most interesting characters in the Bible. He is one of the most righteous people of all time, yet he was horribly afflicted by Satan.  In fact, God gave Satan permission to attack Job and the first thing that Satan took away was his wealth. Successive attacks meant that his cattle, sheep, camels and all of his servants were destroyed. This was just the beginning.  The devastation continued when his ten children were killed when the building they were in collapsed.  To me, this would be an attack on my greatest blessing. I truly don't know how I would respond.  

Job's response to losing his kids is powerful. He was devastated.   He shaved his head and tore his clothes in mourning, yet he profoundly exclaimed, "And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”  Job 1:21   Wow!   I can't imagine.  Job blessed the name of the Lord even as He knew that the Lord could have prevented the heartbreak and loss that he was experiencing.  

This wasn't the response that his adversary Satan expected so he continued his attack on Job.  Satan doesn't play fair.  He also didn't stop his attack after taking Job's kids and his wealth, he also removed his health.  Here's the Message version of Job 2:7-8 "Satan left God and struck Job with terrible sores. Job was ulcers and scabs from head to foot. They itched and oozed so badly that he took a piece of broken pottery to scrape himself, then went and sat on a trash heap, among the ashes."

Job's wife had finally had enough. She knew her husband was a person of integrity.  She knew that her husband had prayed and sacrificed to God by interceding for their children every day.  She was in mourning for their kids just like he was.  She had lost her financial security.  Her world was falling apart and finally she had enough. So she said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.”  

The Hebrew root of the word translated "Curse" in this verse is actually "bless" - in fact the verse more literally says, “Bless not God and die."   As I was looking up all the times the word Bless is used in the Old Testament- this one struck me, Job lived such a life of blessing that simply “not blessing” God would be revolutionary for him.   Even after his children all tragically died, yet he still blessed the name of the Lord.  I have been challenged by this conversation to make blessing the Lord such an intricate part of my life that for me to not bless would be so out of character, that it would be equivalent to cursing.

In response to his wife’s admonishment to not bless God, Job reminded her and us that if we are to accept the good from God's hand we must also accept the bad.  Life does not always seem fair.   When I was about five years old, I complained to my mom, “That’s not fair.”  Her reply was, “It’s as fair as pork chops.”  She explained that life is not fair, just as it is not fair to the pig that becomes a pork chop. Even at five years old, I wanted life to be fair. 
Job was righteous and hadn’t done anything to deserve the tragedy that his life had become.  Three “friends” even tried to convince him that he must have sinned or done something wrong to deserve the suffering.   They wanted his suffering to be “fair,” consequences for his sins. Sometimes we are reaping the consequences of our foolish and sinful choices or we are suffering as a result of another’s sin that affects us.     

I think we all are like Job’s friends and we want life to be fair.  Job’s story teaches us that at any given time, life isn’t fair. In fact, Job suffered because of his righteousness.  1 Peter 3:13-17  summarizes how this relates to us, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.”

Job’s story has a happy ending.  He wa blessed with ten children, numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren to the fourth generation.  His wealth was far beyond what he previously had.  His ability to bless God at all times, allowed him to experience the presence and voice of God in the midst of the whirlwind.   Job summarizes all that he has gone through, by saying, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” Job 42:5 Sometimes the greatest blessing in the midst of our greatest heartbreak is to experience the peace and presence of God in the midst of the storm.

How have you experienced the presence and voice of God in the midst of suffering?

I want every part of my life to bless God so much that not blessing would be totally out of character.  Psalm 43:1 (KJV) says “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”   Have you found a way that blessing God at all times becomes like breathing?   

Sunday, June 18, 2017


 Bless the LORD, 
O my soul,and forget not all his benefits,
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
Psalm 103:2,13

A friend recently received the great news that a spot on her thyroid was benign. At the end of her Facebook post, she added the hashtag #PraiseGod.   One of the neat things about hashtags is that you can search all the references with the same tag.   I loved the idea of grouping my activities under "Praise God" tag. 

I have been studying "blessings" in the Bible. I noticed that the Hebrew word that means “bless” was often translated "praise" in the NIV while the same word is translated "bless" in the KJV and ESV .    

Here’s an example from Psalm 103.  This is a beautiful Psalm that starts in verses 1&2 with praising and blessing God, the next 18 verses remind us why we should praise and bless him.  The chapter wraps up in verses 20-22 with the reminder that all of the creation should praise and bless him.  

Here are some verses to illustrate this. 

Psalm 103:1-5 (ESV)
Of David.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagles. 
Here is the NIV version. Psa 103:1-5
Of David. Praise the LORD, my soul; 
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, my soul, 
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins 
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit 
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things 
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

I love the idea that when we praise God- we are blessing God.  Everything we have is a gift from God, so to bless Him back all we have to do is acknowledge the gifts and blessings that He has given us.  

This Psalm is a beautiful reminder us of the many blessings we have; God's love for us reaches to the heavens (vs 11), God has removed our transgressions as far as the east is from the west (vs 12), and the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him as a father shows compassion to his children. (vs 13.) 

Psalm   103:20-22 wraps up with this reminder-
"Bless the LORD, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word.
Bless the LORD, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the LORD, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!"

Take a minute to bless the Lord and praise Him for the great things he has done.  He is worthy of your praise. #PraiseGod

Saturday, June 10, 2017

How Do You Love God?

How do we love God? In my previous blog, I wrote about loving God through obedience and worship: since then, I've been pondering the refrain from a popular song, "What is love".   As the refrain went over and over in my mind- I thought about applying a well known passage of scripture about love to loving God. 

            If I love God- I will be patient when things don’t happen when I want them to. I will trust His timing and His understanding of things that are outside my knowledge and experience.
           If I love God- I will be kind in my words and heart toward Him, His creation and His glory.  If it is not kind, I will not say it about myself or others.  I will not think unkind thoughts about my attributes or the way He has created someone because all people are created in His image.
          If I love God, I will not be envious of the gifts that He has given others, I will not wonder if He loves them more or doubt His goodness to me, my family members and friends.  
          If I love God, I will not boast or take glory in the things I own, have accomplished or achieved because everything I have – every relationship, experience, ability, opportunity, and asset is His. I have been entrusted with my kids, finances, writing ability, health, friends and everything else that I might boast about. I am like a steward was given five talents of gold and trusted to use it as the Master would have invested it.
          If I love God, I will not be arrogant in my interactions with His Word and His commands.  He is God and I am not- Why would I think it would be okay to ignore or make up what I believe rather than obeying what He says?
         If I love God, I will not be rude and act in an unbecoming way toward God and others that dishonors Him and His name, that treats Him and His Creation with disrespect.
         If I love God, I will not insist on my own way. I will trust that the Creator of this Universe and every cell in my body has a plan that is better than my short sighted and selfish plan. I will trust that God‘s way is better even if it doesn’t make sense to me.
         If I love God, I will not irritable or resentful when things don’t go my way, when He blesses other people and I seem to be suffering, when He takes forever to change horrible situations, when He seems to ignore injustice.
         If I love God, I will not rejoice at wrongdoing or getting away with something.  I will trust that He is not rejoicing at the wrong doing in our world but that His heart breaks for the sin and suffering that covers every inch of our world.
        If I love God, I will rejoice with the truth. I will take great joy in sharing the amazing Truth of Jesus Christ and rejoice as others share the truth.  I will trust that God is true and faithful, that He will do what He says, I will experience joy over and over as truth is experienced in every part of my life.
         If I love God, I will see how His Love bears all things, there was nothing that was too much for Him.  I will have confidence that His grace is sufficient in my weakness. He can carry every burden.
        If I love God, I will believe all of His Words and act on them. "All things are possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23 
        If I love God, my hope will be in Him -  I will not put my hope in people, in the government, money or even myself.
        If I love God, I will see how much He endured for me and for every other person in the world. His love is steadfast and unfailing. It is dependable and strong.
       If I love God, my love for Him will never end.  It will not be contingent on what He does for me, my attitude, other people’s foolishness and I will trust that because His Love never ends, I will be with Him in eternity, embraced in the purest, Most Perfect Love for all eternity.

Let me know how you would rewrite this passage to show your love for God in the comments-  I can't wait to read it.  Thanks for sharing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7