Do we only hang out with Christians?

Do we only hang out with Christians?  Do all our friends look, believe, or act like us?

abwarten

What sort of person are you the least likely to witness to?  Who makes you really uncomfortable?  We all have those people.

They may have a different:

  • religion
  • political party
  • personality type
  • lifestyle
  • past or present, or both

Now let’s take an even deeper look.

They might be:

  • judgmental
  • hypocrites
  • bigots
  • loud and obnoxious
  • barely even there
  • very young
  • very old

They might:

  • smell bad
  • wear ten-thousand dollar suits

Whoever they are, wherever they are, one tie unites them: they need us to tell them about Christ and live in such a way that our faith is believable.

How much of your day is spent with non-Christians?

How much of your day that is spent with Christians is focused on energizing up for the time spent with non-Christians?

Christ says in Matthew 28:18-20 (NASB):

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Published in: on April 18, 2014 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Fork in the Road

Freeway sign

Dear God,

When there is a fork in the road . .

And I can’t tell which way is right and which way is wrong

And both ways seem to turn-about and go the other way

And I can’t tell where either of them end

And there’s so many distracting bridges and tresses and underpasses and tunnels

And at least half of the road signs are misleading

Help me to step off the fork in the road . .

Bow to my knees

And find the path You really want me to take

Far, far away.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

Published in: on April 17, 2014 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Promised Land . . Promised ONE

I’ve had a Veggie Tales song stuck in my head the last couple days.  It’s from Josh and the Big Wall, based on the story of Joshua and the Israelites’ entrance into the Promised Land.

The song starts with their laments that they’ve been wandering around in the wilderness for 40 years because of their disobedience and disbelief in God:

We didn’t have a lot of fun in the desert
We didn’t have a lot of fun in the sand
But saddle up your cow and fall behind us now
Because we’re goin’ to the Promised Land!

And the song continues with a list of all the treats the veggie Israelites are dreaming of feasting on once they get to the land the Bible describes as “flowing with milk and honey” (see Exodus 33:3):

And in the Promised Land, it’s gonna be so grand
We’ll have our fill from the grill as much as we can stand
It’ll be so great with waffles on my plate
‘Cause we’re goin’ to the Promised Land

The song, in VeggieTale style, gushes with food the Israelites wouldn’t have even known about, of course.  But the concept hits to the core of where the Israelites’ hearts were:

Ready for the Promised Land.

For the Israelites, the Promised Land was probably little different than Chuck E. Cheese is to a 6-year-old today.  Full of the promises of delight beyond what the imagination can hold.  A feast of joy.  And that is where most Israelites held their loyaltyas the song points out:

The dining was lousy with Moses
But we’ll be feasting with Josh in command
I’d like a taco, please, and some pintos and cheese
Because we’re goin’ to the Promised Land

They wanted the Promised Land, and they wanted it now.

Now there was nothing wrong with longing for the Promised Land.  In Hebrews, the author talks about how God rewards those who believe in His promises (see Hebrews 11).  In fact, Hebrews 11:6 says,

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

There’s nothing wrong with looking forward to the reward of Heaven.

But the VeggieTale song strikes right at the heart of the Israelites’ problem:

For years, I’ve eat nothing but manna
A dish that is filling but bland
But now we’re on our way, I’ll have a cheese souffle
Because we’re goin’ to the Promised Land

Jesus describes Himself as the bread from Heaven (see John 6:32-35).  He is the true Manna.  The Israelites’ missed the important of the bread of Heaven because they had their hearts set on “cheese souffles” so to speak.  They lost the true meaning of what God was doing:

He was providing for them in a way that had never been done through the miracle of manna.

Later, when the manna ended, I suspect many of them longed for the bread to pour down from Heaven again.  In fact, in John 6, this is exactly what the people want (this or more).

The Israelites focused on the Promised Land and forgot the Promised One.

hands

They had been given a relationship with GOD as a gift, but their hearts were all about the milk and honey.  They saw the things God could give them and they missed that God had given them the greatest gift of all in Himself[1].

Without a true relationship with God, or without an awe of this relationship, the desert times will be awfully slow.

Time and time again, the Israelites failed testing because they were in it for the milk and honey, not the communion with God.

Time and time again, they worshiped idols, grumbled and complained about what they didn’t have yet, and did the opposite of what God commanded because their hearts were set on the “pintos and cheese” stuff of life rather than the Living I AM.

They were hit with plagues again and again.

It is so serious to forfeit your relationship with YAHWEH for the gratification of a fleeting pleasure.  Any gift put above God is radically insulting in comparison to the gift of God Himself.

Even though God intends to give His people all good gifts (see Romans 8:32), the best Gift, the Gift that changes everything, the one Gift from which you should not be able to bear being parted, the one Gift worth giving up every other gift in the world to have is Jesus Christ.

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

The manna that the Israelites’ tossed aside for bird meat and the hopes of milk & honey was a picture of how we, so often and so dangerously, casually toss aside our relationship with Christ for something ‘easy to get’ or for dreams we hope will come about.

The relationship with Christ is here and now.  Heaven is off in the future.  None of us who believe in Jesus know how long that will be.  It could be ten minutes or one hundred years away.

But the relationship with Christ begins the very instant we believe.

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again.” (John 6:35, NLT)

 ______________________________________________________

[1] I highly recommend Max Lucado’s children DVD, Hermie & Friends: A Fruitcake Christmas, which helped shape this blog

Credit for the song “Promised Land” to Josh and the Big Wall, Veggie Tales.

Published in: on April 16, 2014 at 8:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Planted

How happy is the man

who does not follow the advice of the wicked

or take the path of sinners

or join a group of mockers!

Instead, his delight is in the LORD’s instruction,

and he meditates on it day and night.

He is like a tree planted beside streams of water

that bears its fruit in season,

and whose leaf does not wither.

Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3, HCSB)

Lord, plant me.

Young plant in old hands against green background

Plant me deep in the soil of your grace.

Plant me beside streams of Living Water.

Plant me that I would bear fruit when the time comes.

That what I do would not wither away and crumble in the north wind.

How happy to be planted by the Lord.

To be willing to be dug up, carried away from the advice of the wicked.

Torn out of the path of sinners.

Uprooted from the group of weedy mockers.

Plant me deep within the delight of Your instruction.

Day and night, let me live in Your garden and reflect on Your beauty.

Grow my roots into the deep down delight of the wisdom You keep hidden for those who love You.

Grow my stem further and further up towards Your Son.

Let me branch out in never-ending worship of You.

And may Your Kingdom’s work nest in my branches.

Lord, plant me.

How happy is the man

who does not follow the advice of the wicked

or take the path of sinners

or join a group of mockers!

Instead, his delight is in the LORD’s instruction,

and he meditates on it day and night.

He is like a tree planted beside streams of water

that bears its fruit in season,

and whose leaf does not wither.

Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3, HCSB)

Published in: on April 16, 2014 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Do you want to see God?

Do you long to know who God is?  Do you want to talk to Him one day face to face?

Then you must meet Jesus.

Jesus pouring water

God could not be clearer:

No one has ever seen God.  But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart.  He has revealed God to us. (John 1:18, NLT)

So many times we hear the Name “Jesus” and we think of Him as an Israelite, or a carpenter, or a prophet, or a ‘good man’ who walked on earth.  Or we think of Him as a friend or a buddy who sticks up for us or a buffer against an angry God.

So many times we fail to think of Jesus as God–even if we know it in our minds, we fail to acknowledge it in our hearts.

The reverence worthy to bestow upon God is worthy to bestow upon Jesus.

He came as an Israelite because He chose to be so . . He took up carpentry because He had planned it this way since before the creation of the world . . Most naturally, He is a prophet as He is God and knows all . . He is a friend to the world, but a friend who is unfathomably unequal to us, a friend of unparalleled love and perfection . . He is not a buddy to protect us from a bullying God, but rather He is God . . He is the representation of God to us . . To know Jesus is to know God.

I do not say rain protects me from water and I cannot say Jesus protects me from God.  They are one and the same, and there is no divergence in their personality.  Rather, I must say Jesus protects me from the wrath of God, which is an entirely different matter.

All of the Trinity (God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit) have the same just wrath toward sin.  Jesus is sheltering us from not just His Father’s wrath, but also His wrath (and the Spirit’s wrath) when He died for us on the cross.

Do you want to see God?  Then you must see Jesus.  And you must see Jesus not only as a historical figure or a good man or an interesting prophet.  You must see Him as God Himself.  Otherwise, you will never know God.  After all, if you can’t see what is ten feet in front of you, how would you ever expect to see what is 10,000 feet in front of you?  If you cannot see the incarnation of God in Christ, how will you ever see the manifestation of GOD ALMIGHTY who cannot be seen by any mortal?

Do you long to know who God is?  Do you want to talk to Him one day face to face?

Then you must meet Jesus.

Now.

Why wait another moment when the most ultimate opportunity in the universe awaits you now: the chance to know God?

“I AM WHO I AM.” (from Exodus 3:14, NIV)

“I am the Resurrection and the Life,” said Jesus; “he who believes in me, even if he has died, he shall live; and every one who is living and is a believer in me shall never, never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25, WEY)

Published in: on April 15, 2014 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  

With clouds in the illustrations

Old book with sky illustration

I long for my name to be written in a book with clouds in the illustrations.

I long for my name to be written in an ancient book, a book before I was, a book that knows all about me and promises me an everlasting last chapter more beautiful and more delightful than I can imagine.

I long for my story to be without the evil twists.  For my sin to be brushed away like cirrus clouds and the cumulus clouds of joy to be bustled in.

I long for a life far beyond what I live now.

I long for a life with God.

The trouble is, I am afraid for that book to open.  Because I know it means the end of my life as I know it.  It means my death.

I don’t want to die.

As much as I want the storybook of promise that Jesus offers through His sacrifice . . I am terrified to open the covers to see whether my name is really inside.  I’m afraid that I’ve misunderstood, that the offer was really for less evil people, that I didn’t believe enough, that I failed the test, that I missed it by one ‘good deed’.  I’m afraid to die.  I’m afraid that, when I die, I won’t have enough to show for my life.  I’m afraid of my name disappearing from the most beautiful place of all: the Lamb’s Book of Life.

It’s in these moments that I realize there is only one Word to which I can cling to hope for the fairy tale ending my heart so longs for:

Jesus.

He is the Word.

He is my story book.

He is the Author of the Book of Life.

And He writes the names there not by their perfection, but by His.

I believe in His perfect life.

I hold onto His quintessential story.

I live in His happily ever after.

I bask in the hallelujah that I don’t have to be afraid to die.

And I happen to know that His book goes on forever and ever in the best possible way.

(Maybe even with clouds in the illustrations.)

 Every day of my life was recorded in your book. (Psalm 139:16b, NLT)

The wall was made of jasper, and the city was pure gold, as clear as glass. The wall of the city was built on foundation stones inlaid with twelve precious stones: the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.

The twelve gates were made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass.

I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city. Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. (Revelation 21:18-27, NLT)

Published in: on April 14, 2014 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Feed the Birds

When the Sherman Brothers previewed all the songs they had composed for the making of Mary Poppins, Walt Disney chose one song to represent what the musical was all about: Feed the Birds[1].

Not what would later be the famous Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, nor the award winning Chim Chim Cher-ee.  It wasn’t what would become a catchphrase Spoonful of Sugar or the uplifting Let’s Go Fly a Kite.  Rather, it was the somber Feed the Birds that won the primary attention of Walt Disney.

For Disney, the song captured what he thought the movie was all about: doing something small (like giving a tuppence to feed pigeons) to make a huge difference (like supporting an elderly woman).

Disney wasn’t the first to come up with this idea.  Throughout the ministry of Jesus, you get this very same thought.  After all, Jesus taught that God would remember who gave even a cup of water to a suffering believer out of love for Jesus (see Mark 9:41).  He blessed children, who in that day weren’t always so valued (see Mark 10:16).

As a friend pointed out to me recently, Jesus’ purpose for coming to earth wasn’t to heal people, and yet He took the time over and over again to do just this.  Even though He came to save us from our eternal sins, He took the time to heal us of our temporary sufferings.  Time and time again, He healed those who came to Him with all manner of sicknesses.  He even took the time to protect a bride and groom from the embarrassment of running out of refreshments!

As a Christ-follower, it is my job to take time out of my day to “feed the birds”: to bless the lives of those around me by Christ’s compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (see Colossians 3:12).

. . always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. (1 Thessalonians 5:15b, ESV)

[1] From the special edition features of Mary Poppins, DVD

 

Published in: on April 14, 2014 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Not to fear

I fear all sorts of things.

Heights.  Animatronic animals.  Getting into the median lane at the same time as someone else.  My husband having a heart attack.  Saying something crazy and destroying my reputation (you see it happen on TV all the time).  Getting my arm caught in the garage door.  Going into the wild and seeing a little animal get eaten by a predator.  Someone breaking into the house at night.  An elevator door closing on my hand or foot.  Walking by a fish tank and seeing dead fish floating up at the top.  Plane rides.  Running over one of the squirrels in the parking lot.  Bungee jumping.

I fear all sorts of things.

But Romans 8 reminds me of something I don’t have to fear.

And it’s the big one.

CONDEMNATION.

Law scales, judge gavel on table. Symbol of justice

I don’t have to fear condemnation.

Not even a little bit.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1, ESV)

If you are in Christ Jesus, you don’t have to fear condemnation.

Not even a little bit.

Christ has set us totally free–perfectly, positively, wholly free–from condemnation.  We are absolved of guilt.  We are parted from shame. We are disassociated from sin.  We are 100% removed from condemnation.

If there was ever anything not to fear, now there is: absolute justification in the eyes of God.

No condemnation.

And if there’s nothing to fear with God . .

all my other fears can be scratched off the list as well.

Not to fear:

This is a gift from God.

Have you received it?

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)

Published in: on April 13, 2014 at 5:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Do you want to be less afraid?

The more God’s love fills you, the less afraid you are.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18b, ESV)

Published in: on April 13, 2014 at 2:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Meditate

How happy is the man

who does not follow the advice of the wicked

or take the path of sinners

or join a group of mockers!

Instead, his delight is in the LORD’s instruction,

and he meditates on it day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2, HCSB)

Taste and see that the LORD is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him! (Psalm 34:8, HCSB)

Praying Hands bible

I have a confession.  Until recently, I had very little clue how to meditate and was very uncomfortable with the word meditate.  Meditate seemed to me like a different religion, like something where you put your fingers out in circles and wait for spirits to come talk to you.  Not something for a Christian to do.

I don’t read my Bible seeking to meditate.  As Max Lucado points out in the video Be Still, there are two ways of reading Scripture

  • Information
  • Inspiration

Both bring fruit, but different fruit.  I guess I mostly read for both at the same time, but really using the way of gathering information, rather than the way of receiving inspiration, which is pretty new to me.

Of course, to meditate in the way that pleases God, you must have God’s Spirit within you.  You must be a born-again believer, meaning He has molded a new life for you in God’s Spirit, with the old life that conformed to the confusion and rubbage of this world cast aside.

In the video Be Still, theologian Richard Foster suggests the following steps for meditating.  I hesitate to use the word “steps”, because it implies a “formula”, and reading God’s Word is always about receiving it into your heart and mind and not about checking off boxes.  But the way Mr. Foster meditates is practical, easy to start, and I’ve found it to be a great introduction to meditation.

  1. Pray for God to reveal His Word to you.  Then, read through a passage.  Underline words, phrases, and verses that especially captivate you.
  2. Go back through and read the underlined passages.  Pray for God to help you choose one passage to focus your day on.
  3. Reread and reflect on that one passage all day.

(For those who have their devotion time at night, notice that you could choose a passage to reflect on before bed and all the next day.  You don’t have to have a morning devotion time in order to meditate.)

I have another confession.  I don’t have a good highlighter right now to use in my Bible.  I’ve been reading a passage once and then choosing one portion to focus on.  It’s easy to let things like not having the right highlighter stop you from meditating.  Don’t.  :)

If you feel overwhelmed at reading a passage three times, do what I, the newbie, have been doing, and read through it once.  Then focus on one Scripture.  Build endurance for reading and reflecting on God’s Word the same way you build endurance for a sport.  Give your mind and heart a work-out as you would give your mind and body a work out if you were learning how to ride a bike, or take up archery, or lift weights.

Meditation is a most beautiful spiritual practices.  It’s worth every bit of time and effort–and a trillion more bits, too.  I have noticed even with my scrawny, beginner attempts that my mind is more focused on God during the day, and my heart more open to the Kingdom.  I didn’t realize until I began watching Be Still how much I was missing my walk with Christ.  Meditating is really like eating and drinking at God’s table–and you can feast to your fill.

“I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again.” (John 6:35, HCSB)

Published in: on April 12, 2014 at 9:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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