Straight through the Lions

 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

–2 Timothy 1:7, NLT

Fear & Timidity will ruin your day.  In fact, if you let them, they will ruin your life.

As in Pilgrim’s Progress, they will point out the lions in your path.  And they will tell you that, if you don’t turn back, the lions will eat you for a small, in-between-meals snack.  They will be sure to reiterate over and over that you . . are . . just . . a . . snack.

Power (God’s Power), Love (God’s Love), & Self-Discipline (Submission to God’s Way) are the lion walkers.  They will walk right out in the middle of lions and not be consumed.  They will look straight at those long, curved claws and slicer fangs.  And though they may shrink down in terror, they will not budge from the path.  Power, Love, & Self-Discipline follow God wherever He goes.  Even through the path of lions.

We are all on a journey.  We’re all walking either towards eternity with Jesus  or destruction away from Him.  And it seems both paths have plenty of lions.

If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ and you follow Him, you will still meet lions.  Maybe even more lions than you ever did on your past journey towards destruction.

Along this new path of salvation, you will meet lions on your path.  They’re already waiting for you.  And not just in one spot, but throughout your travels.

But only Fear & Timidity need to despair about that.  For you, Christ-follower, you have the opportunity to experience God’s surprising Power (working through weakness), God’s extravagant Love (you won’t believe how tightly He can hold you), and God’s other-wordly Self-Discipline (you’ll do things for Him that you wouldn’t or couldn’t do for anyone else).

Hold onto His gifts and walk straight through the lions.

 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

–2 Timothy 1:7, NLT

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Published in: on February 28, 2014 at 6:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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Think about . .

Embroidered handkerchiefs.

Vanilla and sugar.

Meeting the love of my life.

Cinnamon toast at a sleepover at ten years old.

Hyacinths.

Hot chocolate pudding, with melted butter on top.

Yellow balloons too, and Mom knows why.  🙂

A kiss from my husband (a.k.a., the love of my life).

Buttercream roses, as they make their appearance in Hazel’s Amazing Mother.

The laugh of someone jolly in the other room . . right before falling asleep.

Shamrock green and the color of toast.

Puppy’s fur.

My mother’s grin.

Honeysuckle on a country trellis.

A cafeteria decorated by holiday.

The glint of a marble racing down a whirly path.

Silky lotion on rough hands.

God’s Word on hard hearts.

Opening a cookbook for the first time.

Wedding rings.

Warm water on a winter’s night.

The first snowball of the season.

The smell of Hawaii.

Watching my husband read a book as I type.

A restaurant dedicated to apples.

A baby’s fist curled around my finger.

MacDonald’s toys when I was five years old.

The smell of right-out-of-the-toaster strawberry tarts.

.                  .                  .                  .                  .                  .

With all the evil in the world, it’s important to think about things that please God.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. (Philippians 4:8, NIV)

Published in: on February 26, 2014 at 9:22 pm  Comments (1)  
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Leap for Joy

On Ray Comfort’s facebook page yesterday, someone asked him, “How can we best cope with the criticism and abuse thrown upon us because of the stand we take for Christ and the Word of God?”

He replied, “When I get abused for being a Christian or for a stand on righteousness, I rejoice and leap for joy. It takes some effort, but I do it no matter how I feel. Try it the next time the world or some rotten circumstance comes against you… physically leap for joy (it will make you smile):

“‘Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed, your reward is great in Heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.'” (Luke 6:22-23)

This passage was also part of my daily reading this morning.

From Ben’s Pen

Published in: on February 19, 2014 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Whose side are you on?

In the Lord of the Rings, the ents were the ‘neutrals’.

They tried to claim they were on no one’s side and that no one was on their side[1].

Hundreds of creatures were giving everything they had–even their lives–to destroy Middle Earth.

And hundreds of creatures were giving everything they had–even their lives–to rescue Middle Earth.

But not the ents.

Standing together somewhere in the middle of a woods, gathering together in a ceremonial act of goodwill, speaking at a leisurely pace . . while the blood of dozens on both sides is spilled on the earth and even children are picking up swords and hurling rocks at the man-hungry orcs . . the ents decide they are not going to war.

Lesson from the trees: You can be as ‘nice’ as can be and utterly pointless at the same time.

The ents aren’t hated or really even bothered by anyone in Middle Earth.  They don’t really have enemies because they are no threat to anyone.  They wander around inventing long poems and caring for trees.  All’s well for them–{unless, of course, the entire Middle Earth is razed to the ground and they’re burned in the greed-fire of Sauron’s ever-thirsty power}.  Other than that, though, no worries.

Only when their personal world is at last seen to be infringed upon (trees they tend for have been chopped down), do the ents decide to go to war.

{Certainly they don’t go to help anyone else–but at last they go to help themselves.}

At last they choose sides.  At last they recognize that they are a part of the war, whether they “would will it or not”[2].

What about you?  Whose side are you on?  Are you fighting for evil or for good . . or are you casually waiting for the war to be won by whomever while you sit on the sidelines?

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9, NLT)

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12, NIV)

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[1,2] Lord of the Rings: the two towers, New Line Cinema.  Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson.  Based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, Lord of the Rings: The return of the king.

Grace abundant for the Christ follower

Our life starts with grace.  And our life ends with grace, too.

Our life is grace.

But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. (Romans 11:6, NASB)

Published in: on February 19, 2014 at 4:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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Why is self-control so hard?

I chew gum even though it flares up my TMJ (messes up my jaw and gives me headaches).  I’ll say I won’t do it again, but the next time there’s a slice of gum around . . I just might.

I eat zucchini even though it makes me sick.  Yuck sick.  But it tastes so, well, tasty grilled up . . that I eat it to “test whether it really, really does bother me”.

We all do it.  Things that just plain don’t make sense.  Bulls get mad and charge right at swords.  We lose our self-control and charge right at the thing that hurts us, too.

We all do it.  But WHY do we do it?  Why do we do things that hurt us?  Why is it so hard to lose 5 pounds, stop eating candy, arrive at church on time, workout 10 minutes in the gym, switch to gluten-free, take only the allocated lunch break at work–whatever it is, why is it so hard?

Self-control.

We don’t have much of it.

(When we don’t have to.)

I remember an example from a book many years ago.  The author pointed out how people often feel the uncontrollable urge to cuss and scream someone out who makes a traffic violation.

But these same people, if they got out of their car after a fender-bender and saw a 7′ 6″ tall linebacker step out of his car . . would suddenly remember their manners and be very polite.

Most of us aren’t so out of control that we can’t do what’s good for us when we absolutely have to–that is, most of us don’t want to face immediate unpleasant consequences.

But if there aren’t immediate miserable consequences, if the consequences are delayed even a teenie bit or might not happen at all . .

{Where’s my gum and serve up the zucchini.}

That’s what happens to us.

It’s why people still smoke.  There’s years of delay to lung problems for most.  It’s why people still speed.  They might not get caught, and they probably won’t get in an accident.  It’s why we do all the crazy things we do and think we can get away with it, or just want what we want badly enough that we take the temporary gratification even knowing the long-run disaster.

Why do we do it?

Well, this fact isn’t Self-Esteem 101, but the Bible tells us we’re sinners.  But what is uplifting is that we don’t always have to have one more piece of chocolate.  We don’t have to buy another pair of shoes or cheat on a test one more time or toss in one more poker chip or have one more dating sleepover.  We really, really, really can stop.

Not on our own, though.

Do I have the power to resist the gum that causes me headaches and the zucchini that causes me nausea?  Apparently not.  But God does.  Jesus resisted all evil when He was on earth.  And it wasn’t because He wasn’t tempted!  Even though He was tempted worse than anyone, He said no to it all.  He came out of the grave as a total victor, not one tally mark of sin to His record.

Wish you had a record like that?  You don’t have to.  Jesus Christ is willing to give you His record–and His strength to resist temptation.

Does that mean you’ll never smoke another cigarette?

Maybe.  Or maybe it means you’ll begin a battle that lasts 6 months.  Or 6 years.  But Jesus will give you the power to stop whatever is destroying you, and the more you trust Him, the faster it will happen.

I’ve known for a long time about the back exercises I should be doing, the diet changes I should make, and the conversations of negativity I should stop having.  I haven’t mastered my lacks yet.  But God has given me the strength to do so.  And I’ve already said no to many things I use to say yes to, like bad movies and an addiction to video games.  I’m getting stronger in some of my no’s, like correcting when I tell little white lies instead of letting them go–something that used to be nearly unheard of for me.

My journey may not seem like much, but I can tell a change because I know who I used to be.  And the more I trust in Jesus Christ, the more of a change I can tell.

No more zucchini & gum–soon, I hope by His grace!

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14, NIV)

Grace Contagious

Grace is contagious[1].

Highly contagious.

And even the most stubborn, hard-core hater can’t go to the local drugstore for a vaccine against it.  Even he, yes, he! . . Even she, yes, she! . . Even the ones you can’t even picture smiling or giving, even THEY can become infectious with the grace of Jesus Christ.

Find someone to give grace to today.

And don’t be surprised if it’s the person you DIDN‘T have in mind.

Oh, make no mistake, it will probably be someone who really annoys you–and not just a little bit!  Or someone who you struggle with hating.  Or someone you’ve had a long-term grudge against for 21 years.  God will give you the opportunity to spread His grace to people like that {and also the teenager who cuts you off in traffic and the man interrupting your dinner date with his loud cell phone conversation and the coworker who goes on and on about political beliefs that are opposite to you and . . you get the idea 😉 }.

Grace is contagious.

Spread it around.

Can’t do it?  No way?

None of us can.  Only Jesus can give you the quality of grace.  The world will look at it with wonder and confusion or even recoil and call it a disease.  But once you receive grace, you see that you are ‘infected’ not with a pathogen, but infused with benevolence meant to bless every single person in the world.

. . And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone in debt to us. (Luke 11:4a, HCSB)

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[1] I don’t know who first said this, common phrase on internet.

Slow Cooker vs. Ingredients. And the winner is . .

Ingredients.

I forgot about the ingredients.

Lest you jump to judgments on me, to be fair, I have a stupendous slow cooker.  I mean, it cooks amazing food.  Corn chowder, potato soup, Velveeta cheese dip, BBQ chicken sandwiches . . extraordinary meals.  But . . these came from cookbooks.  Gooseberry Patch cookbooks, to be exact.

Somehow, someway, I thought I could use leftover ingredients and achieve an okay result.

Hamburger, kidney beans, canned carrots–I am not making this up–and tomato bisque soup.  This is really a time I can say don’t try this at home.

I came home to taste not a delicious commercial-worthy meal, but a–to be frank–distasteful, off-color hodgepodge.  What would I do?  Make a skillet of stir fry to serve with it, (naturally?).  Somehow, someway, this would make the greasy, slightly-gross meal better.

If I hadn’t oversalted the stir fry, it would at least have made the meal better–>eat that part of the meal.  Poor Ben sat down with me and ate salty stir-fry with weird ‘Hamburger Hurter’ in it.

The lesson?

Ingredients.

I forgot about the ingredients.

They matter.  The so-called mighty slow cooker is just a vessel.  It can’t make fabulous meals.  Without the recipe, guessing and tossing together random ingredients . . just doesn’t work.  Even if there was an obscure chance it did, would you risk supper on it?  Probably not.

What about eternal life?  Would you risk your opportunity for eternal life on the chance that you can create a hodgepodge of good works to get you there?

That your brilliance or cleverness or wittiness or abilities, tossed together, will be enough to get you to Heaven’s shore?

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 62:6, NIV)

Why?  Why would you do it?  Why would you risk it all on the cooking vessel instead of the recipe?  No matter how smart you are, how strong, how creative, or how benevolent . . you are the vessel, not the recipe.

Our lives really are like slow cookers, and what is produced by them isn’t revealed until the final act: The timer dings and we are in the Presence of a Perfect, Good, and Holy God to show Him what we’ve done with ourselves.

The recipe for success?  The five-star taste to life that you’ve been craving and never able to master by whim or genius, will or self-‘good’ness?

God’s Word–and there is no substitute for this one.  You either follow Him . . or you don’t.  But don’t worry: there is plenty of room for the creativity of your personality to come through in the melody of perfection He desires for your life.  And He’ll show you just how to add that ‘irrepeatable’-in-anyone-else, magnifico blend of spices He has just for you:

If you will trust in Him.

. . If you don’t, you will end up with something far worse than a yucky dinner.  You’ll end up with a yucky life, and a yucky outlook on eternity.

Trust in God’s recipe.  Trust in the grace of Jesus Christ to be the Masterpiece in your life–not your own works.

Otherwise, you’re stirring together catastrophe.

Now, today, start stirring together the eternal “taste of joy” that highlights the work of Jesus Christ in you.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him,

and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Suffering God

Sometimes we think of God as a “God of Suffering”, meaning He is in the midst of our suffering.  But have you ever thought of God as the Suffering God?

“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Jesus, quoted in Luke 22:42, NLT)

Published in: on February 7, 2014 at 8:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The best news for my eternity

God longs for eternal life with me.

God longs for eternal life with you.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NLT)