Monthly Archives: March 2018

A pretty good Easter message

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people, training us to renounce all ungodliness…and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in our present lives.  When the goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared He saved us…by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit.  Titus 2:11-12; 3:4-5

When Jesus showed up, that’s when His grace came.  That’s what gave us the ability to “Just say no” as the old anti-drug slogan said.  It’s His grace that trains us to be better people.  Coupled with the Holy Spirit, we can change from being selfish jerks to something much better than that.

Well then, why did I launch off on the Sirius XM customer service person on the phone because of their hidden charges fee that I found on my bank statement the other day?  Aren’t I supposed to be better than that?  I hung up, shaking my head at myself.  Who was that on the phone?

I was just reading these verses: “Fools show their annoyance at once,” Proverbs 12:16.  And “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools,” angrywomanfrom Ecclesiastes 7:9.  I don’t need to let things like hidden taxes set me off and I roll out the welcome mat to anger.  Forgive me God.  I’m sorry phone person.

I am not going to let anger take up residence in my heart.  God’s grace is at work in me, training me away from a life of being irritated easily, being grumpy, prone to resentment, self pity or moodiness.  That’s not who I am.  Romans 5:20-21 says that where sin increases, that where grace abounds all the more. As sin reigns in death, grace might also reign through righteousness leading to eternal life.

In other words, when I sin, God pours out His grace so that righteousness triumphs instead of sin.  When Jesus came, He brought goodness and kindness with Him.  He brought grace and mercy with Him.  He’s pouring it on on me so I can pour it out on others.

That’s a pretty good Easter message.  Grace is what showed up when Jesus came and the the training away from ungodliness was made possible because He rose from the dead.

*Image from Google images

 


The Power of the Cross

the cross.pngFor Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  1 Corinthians 1:17-18

Oh how we try to rely on everything but the simple message of the cross to get by and to get ahead in life!  We rely on eloquent wisdom, fancy words, glitzy images, good looks, muscle, craftiness, slick tricks, sometimes manipulation…anything but the simple message of the cross.  It’s a fitting Easter thought–the cross.  I need to return to it again and again.

In reading through Isaiah 53, and back through the corresponding Gospel passages, I am struck with the basic message:

  • Jesus was sinless.  Pilate said he found no fault in Jesus (Luke 23:4).   Hebrews 4:15 states, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  In other words, Jesus never sinned.  That’s why He was able to be the sacrifice for our sins.
  • The sinless one took our sins.  Back to Isaiah 53:4-5,  we find that Jesus bore our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.  That’s the good news of Easter.  Jesus paid the price for sin so we don’t have to pay it, if we allow Him to.
  • Jesus gave up His life willing for us. Sin brings death and demands that a price be paid.  We’ve all sinned, and we all deserve death.   Isaiah 53:6 says, All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.  Jesus said in John 10:18 No one takes (my life) from Me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  Jesus willingly gave up His life to pay the price for our sin.
  • This is where true love and peace are found.  Romans 5:8 proclaims, But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  And 1 John 4:10: In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the wrath satisfier (my word) for our sins.  And Romans 5:1 so marvelously declares, Since we have justified by faith, we have peace with God.  There is no other way to find peace deep down inside than to get this straight.

This is the message of the cross.  1 Corinthians 1 goes on to say that God entrusted the foolish, the weak, the low and despised to carry this message to shame the strong, the wise and the mighty so that none might boast in the presence of God.  God picked me, and for that I am eternally grateful.  And I get to tell others this simple, yet powerful message, not with eloquent words of wisdom lest I empty the cross of its power.

Jesus, use me.

*Image by ‘Faithlife Sermons’


Daylight Savings Time

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.  Ephesians 5:15-18

I’ve been thinking about these verses a lot since Daylight Savings Time hit a couple of a-clock-character-running-concept-for-running-out-of-time-or-work-C7G3W1.jpgweeks ago.  Ironically, I’ve been too busy running from one demand to the next to even be able to process anything.  That’s how crazy this time crunch thing is.  And then we get an hour ‘taken away from us’ every Spring.  I was thinking maybe we should change our clocks on Friday afternoons at 2 instead of Saturdays at midnight, and then we would think of it as a bonus: “Hey, I can’t wait–this Friday is our free hour!”  That is instead of us grumbling about losing an hour for a month.

But my time issue is bigger than losing an hour, just like it is for most of us.  I’m a big football fan, specifically a Green Bay Packer fan.  I lived through the years when Brett Favre went through his years of “I’m retiring,” and then he’d cry his eyes out, and then he wasn’t retiring and on the saga would go.  I realized why he had such a fight with it all, especially the older I get…once he hangs up his cleats, all he’s got is game film.  No more last minute heroics, no more chances at the Super Bowl, or being the league MVP…just game film.

CT Studd said, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”  Our game film is different.  I’m well aware of that as I spend most of my time and energy working, then coming home and squeezing in what I can with the little time and energy I have left.  I think about the Ephesians 5 verses and CT Studd’s quote a lot and want to cry like Brett Favre too.  When I get to Heaven, what I did here on earth is my game film.

It seems the days are getting more and more evil and people need Jesus more.  I’m getting older here and my days are getting shorter.  The psalmist said, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” in Psalm 90:12; Psalm 31:15 “My times are in Your hands,”   and finally Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in His time.  Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

In other words, God has made us be ‘clock checkers.’  He has made us long for eternity and to make our lives count for something.  Maybe that’s why Brett cried when he talked about retiring and why I don’t like bustling around.  I want my life to be about more than just going to work to pay bills and to get enough sleep to go back the next day and to do it all again.

We all hunger for eternity because that is what God created us for.  Dallas Willard said in his book The Divine Conspiracy that that’s why everyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame–because we are made to matter for eternity.  God put a hole in our hearts that only He can fill, and He put eternity in our hearts with this time clock in it that says that we want our lives to matter not just now, but for generations to come.

So we don’t want to waste time, to lose time, or to throw it away.  That’s why we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  It is through His guidance and direction that I will know which turn to take, to know what is a waste of time, and to know when it is time to retire.          It is the Holy Spirit who will give me the power to turn away from foolish things and toward the things of God, away from selfish and materialistic pursuits that will amount to nothing in the end, and toward eternal things.

Teach me, O God, to number my days.  Give me a heart of wisdom that I may walk more by faith, less by sight.  Fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that I will crave the eternal more than things that won’t last and don’t matter in the end.  Use me even in the busy days.  Give me more than fifteen minutes of fame with You forever.

 


Whatever it Takes

count it as loss

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  Philippians 3:7-8

I’m back to the white spaces again.  We talked about this in our women’s Sunday school class.  One younger woman seemed particularly bothered by why God would leave questions unanswered for long gaps of time, or why in my case, He would seem to lead overseas and then head me in a total opposite direction and not tell me why for so long.

Three years ago I would have jumped on that question and argued with God on her side and yelled, “Yeah, WHY GOD?”  I’m so much more mature now 🙂  Not really.  It’s just that He’s tipped His hand a little more since then.  And I’m thankful.  Thirty years ago I did think that God was calling me to be an overseas missionary and instead I’ve been stationed instead just south of Lake Superior in Wisconsin.  I’ve not been labeled as a missionary, and for parts of the time I’ve not had many friends, a healthy church to attend, or have I been overjoyed to be posted here.  I’ve tried to relocate, only to feel pulled back by the hand of God.  Rats.

I do know that God had me learn things in the 80’s that I needed to know for life in this spiritually tough area:

  1.  I learned that the Bible really is the power of God for salvation.  I had been a part of several camps and youth ministries where I was able to lead hundreds of people to the Lord, or to be a part of God’s process.  I learned that if I taught with a Bible in my hand, things would happen.  I saw hearts changed radically and visibly.  I needed to know that so when I got to this area, two different places in NWest Wisconsin, where the spiritual climate was drastically colder and harder, I wouldn’t give up.  I learned not to resort to emotionalism, manipulation, or slick tricks to get numbers.  Today, I still teach with the Bible in my hand, trusting that God will do His work.  The visible results aren’t there like they used to be, but it’s still true.
  2. I  learned that the Holy Spirit is real and is alive.  I had been taught in my youth that all of the work of the Holy Spirit ended with the apostles.  God did some amazing things to show me this was not the case.  He wanted me to have the Holy Spirit as my close friend and power to stand and to keep standing.  It’s a good thing, because there have many spiritual warfare battles and I have learned in the trenches how to chase demons away.  I even had a graduate professor astral project into my bedroom a couple of times when I lived alone in the woods.  But that’s a story for another day.
  3. I learned that God still had purging and refining to do in me.  I had claimed a song as a life song in the 80’s, “Whatever it Takes.”  Some of the lyrics are:                       There’s a voice calling me from an old rugged tree, saying ‘Christian, draw closer to Me.  Leave this world far behind, there are new heights to climb; and in Me a new life you will find’…For whatever it takes to draw closer to You Lord, that’s what I’ll be willing to do.  I’ll trade sunshine for rain, comfort for rain–that’s what I’ll be willing to do.  For whatever it takes, for my will to break, that’s what I’ll be willing to do.  When you say, ‘Whatever it takes’ to God, then you better mean it.  You’re giving God the license to purify, purge and sanctify.  I needed and still need junk hosed out of me.  The time here has done that, and it hasn’t been fun.  Some of the time just about killed me.  But it has been good (kind of like a root canal).
  4. I learned that God is writing a story in me, in all of us, that He wants to use.  A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a third grader in my principal’s office.  She and another girl had gone on a stealing spree, going through classmates’ lockers that they thought would have cool things to take.  The biggest problem was that they took and lost a girl’s retainer, worth hundreds of dollars.  And they seemed unfazed by it.  Something in me snapped, and I said to the one in my office that day a speech something like this, What do you want in your life?  Do you want to be in jail like your mom?  I know she just got out.  I know that wasn’t fun for you or her.  I know where you live.  Not really–I don’t know where your house is.  What I mean is, I grew up like you did.  I lived your life.  We didn’t have plumbing half of the time.  Our lawn mower didn’t work most of the time so the grass was over our waist and I slunk down in the bus seat because I was ashamed for my classmates to see it.  And my clothes were all hand me down’s because I had two older sisters.  Then our house burnt down and so we got the whole neighborhoods’ hand me down’s, so my clothes were really bad then.  I could have stolen things because I thought I was a victim.  But I did something instead.  When I was in third grade, your age, I read every book in my school.  It might have been a little smaller school than this, but the point is that I used my brain.  And that’s what got me out.  Find something that you’re good at and run with it.  Make something out of your life!  She sat there frozen, just staring at me.  My words probably went over her head, but they didn’t go over mine.  Maybe she helped me find a little more of my voice that day.  God has written my story and He wants me to tell it.
  5. God isn’t finished with me yet.  Caleb was 85 when he went to Joshua (in Joshua 14:10-12) and said, “I am 85 and I am just as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me…so now give me this mountain!”  Caleb still had dreams and plans until the end, and that’s a great role model.  I’ll never arrive until I get to see Jesus.

I don’t remember when I quit singing that song, but I do know what God did take me at my word.  He has made me more like Him, not to be mean, but to make me useful and to lovingly make me who He made me for my good and for His glory.  And He’s not done yet.


Fear is a Liar

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  2 Corinthians 10:3-4

Praying at all times the Spirit… Ephesians 6:18

I had a blip of a dream this week with an old friend and myself in it.  We were at a women’s conference of some sorts.  We went up together to go talk to the speaker at a front bench.  I was initially struck that my friend looked a lot like the speaker, with both having the same blonde hair and the same purple top on.  My friend was crying.

As I went up with her, this large snake, which I thought was an anaconda, came quickly up and crawled up her right leg up to her waist, doubled around and came down again.  Remembering this is a dream, I had a hatchet in my hand and I reached over and hacked its head off.  That was the end of my dream.  I wake up and it’s time to go to work.

A Christian friend is into dreams and dream interpretations.  I have learned enough from him to know that I needed to contact my friend as soon as possible and talk to her about the dream.  She lives over 2000 miles away and I haven’t talked to her for over six months.  I figured I would have a chance at the end of the day, which I did for about 30 minutes between things, long enough to spill the dream and begin to see what was up.

Interestingly enough, it had been on her heart to put on a women’s conference to introduce her many contacts in the business world to Jesus.  She had come from quite a life of drugs and alcohol and was radically saved, and desires to tell them about Jesus.  She has been hesitant because she hasn’t known about whether or not to bring in a speaker from somewhere or what.

This is when it hit me that the speaker in my dream that looked a lot like her was her.  I was able to say with confidence that I was bringing her to herself and that I cut the head off of the snake.  It’s kind of like the credit card commercial where you’re talking to yourself on the other end of the phone and the tag line is, “We treat you like you treat you.”  The snake seemed to be the thing that was keeping her from moving ahead.  I saw it as fear–maybe a fear of vulnerability, one of rejection.  Who wouldn’t have that fear?  I kept telling her, “I cut the head off, so do it!”

All week I have been thinking about the snake.  I called my dream friend and got his take on it.  He said, “The snake is a ‘big fat lie.'”  It was a big fat snake, a lie is anything we believe that keeps us from getting to where we need to go.  Isn’t that the way Satan works?  It can be fear, it can be just the words, “You’re not good enough,” “You’re not smart enough,” “They’ll laugh you out of the place…”

The other thing I can’t get out of my mind: “I’ve got a hatchet!”  That increases my prayer confidence.  Somehow, some way, God used me in the spiritual realms to be a part of hacking the head off of the snake for my friend.  It really didn’t happen until I spoke it to her to say, “Don’t let fear stop you from putting on that conference.  Do it.  God has put it in your heart.  Your story is powerful and God has done it.  Other women will relate to it and will come to Jesus because of it.”

I want to break things with hatchets, swords, daggers, lances and anything else I can.  God, teach me how to pray to be more effective in the spiritual realm to do so.  Use me to hack snake heads off in my own life, in other peoples’ lives and do things that need to get done to see chains broken off and people set free.

Check out Zach Williams with his “Fear is a Liar” song.  It’s kind of like the big fat snake.  Name it and cut off its head!