This is the day that the Lord has made...

This is the day that the Lord has made...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Two Simple Words That Changed So Many Lives

Follow me.  That's it.  That's all Jesus needed to say to the disciples and they left family and home to learn His mighty ways. Think about what it would take for someone to tell you to follow them, and you would actually do it?  Give up everything, and everyone, in your life to follow a complete stranger calling himself "The Son of Man".  It sounds odd to me

My cynical mind wonders if there were any men or women he invited to follow Him that said no?  Maybe there are and we just don't know about them.  Maybe there are and I am not well versed enough to know about it.  Maybe there aren't.

Look what happened to Mary when Jesus called her name.  I have to believe that the same can be said about Jesus' conversation with the disciples.  He called their name and said to follow him in a way only they would recognize that it was God speaking.  And, if you or I knew God was calling, certainly we would answer!

Has He called your name?  If you know Him, He will. If you know Him, He already has and will again when He returns to us, or when we return to Him.  But, only if you know Him.

In reply Jesus declared, " I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."  John 3:3

Follow me.  The key to opening the gates of Heaven and slamming shut the doors of Hell.  He is calling you, listen, can you hear Him?  Are you willing to follow? 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Why Name Calling Works

"Woman," he said, "why are you crying?  Who is it that you are looking for me?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."  Jesus said to her, "Mary."  John 20:15-16

Yesterday was the celebration of Christ's triumphant victory over death and sin.  We all went to church to hear the Good News of His resurrection, listen to beautiful music proclaim that He lives and feast over wonderfully prepared meals with our closest of family.  Easter was a great day, is a great day and will always be a great day for those of us who know Christ.

I was visiting my Mother's church in Iowa and listened to an eloquent message, which at the heart of it, was the verse above.  Pastor Vicki extrapolated the text and then commented on what tone of voice Jesus would have used to get Mary's attention. I began to think about how I talk to my children and how many different inflections I can use to get their attention, and why is it that I know so many, and which one will work at the  appropriate moment.  I realized that I would know which tone to take with my children when I needed to because I know them, and love them. What a wonderful notion to know that Jesus is going to call my name because He knows me and loves me!  Then I began to think about all of those lost souls who will not hear their name called by Jesus. 

These are the ones that found all the eggs yesterday, ate a ton of candy, had a great meal, yet left the table unsatisfied because the One who made Easter so special wasn't invited to dinner.  We all know folks like this.  We know what they are missing out on.  Is it not our mission, our instruction from our Lord, to tend to those that are lost and bring them back to the flock?

In order to be called by name, He has to know your name...and He learns your name by calling out His name, Jesus, and surrendering this finite, pain-filled, struggle-laden sinful life to Him.  He has gone before us to make a room for us in His mansion, but only if He knows us by name.  On this morning after the celebration of eternal life and victory over sin, I pray that everyone I know will be called by name.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

He Is Risen

"Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!"  Luke 24:5-6

For weeks Jesus was predicting the events of his final days, even his final hours, here on Earth.  Yet, when the time came, his followers were still perplexed and astonished by the events.  I can only imagine the feeling in their hearts, and guts, when they learned that he was not there.  Praise God for the realization of the Truth that he preached- that he conquered death and sin so that we wouldn't have to!

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."  John 16:33

In my pursuit of living spiritually inclined, everything comes to a head on this grand and glorious day- the day He gave us the Holy Spirit through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. To believe, better yet, to know, that God so loves us that He sent His son- His one and only son- to be tormented, tortured, ridiculed, mocked and eventually killed- for me...and for you.

Look around at the world we are living in.  Really look...deeply...and you will see the pain, the suffering, the loneliness, the false persona's.  His message is more valuable today than ever.  He is risen!  Thank you God for that stone being rolled away and for the tomb being empty on that morning!  He is risen!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Where was His "Bucket List"?

Teaching.  That's what he was doing on his second to last day on Earth.  Spending precious and valuable time ministering to the sick and broken, sharing the message his Father sent him here to deliver so that he might accomplish his goal.  Of all the things he could have been doing in those last days, he was serving others.

This makes me think about 2 specific points, totally unrelated to one another: 1) How awesome must Heaven be that he continued to teach people about their Heavenly Father so that they might one day get to see him, and 2) How frivolous is the idea of the "bucket list", trying to do all the things here on Earth before we die.

Knowing his ultimate destiny was nearing, Jesus continued to serve man by sharing the hope and grace of eternal salvation.  Our human nature is to focus our concerns heavily on this life and all the needs, wants and desires we continuously develop.  Satisfaction is something rarely achieved while here, in this life, yet the message of eternity is the opposite- there are no wants, needs or desires.  So, it makes sense that Jesus would have focused on what is truly important- eternity- in his last waning hours.  Building my faith in that message and holding on to the hope of eternity in Heaven with Jesus and all of the other believers is something I pray  I continue to pursue the rest of the days of my life.

And, how many times do we hear about the terminally ill completing their final "to do" list while they have the strength and energy to find enjoyment in it's fulfillment?  I pray I am never in that predicament for I am not certain of which I would choose.  I would hope that my faith was strong enough to carry me through to recognize the futility of clinging to this truly temporary, and ultimately, meaningless existence knowing what was in store for me in the near future.  If Jesus, my shining example of faith, hope and love, spent his last hours helping others find grace and mercy through salvation, I should hope that I might have just a small portion of his character to be able to do similar.

In these final days of Holy Week as we prepare to celebrate his victory over death, and ours, I can't help but be humbled and grateful for having and knowing such a loving God.  My prayer today is for those who don't have this peace and don't know my Lord, Jesus, and that somehow, someway, all of those lost souls might be touched by his love and peace this week.  Look around.  The signs are plentiful.  He is coming.  Praise God, our Father, for that glorious day!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

An Example We Can All Learn From

Jesus answered, "I tell you Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me."

Sitting before all of your closest friends, people you consider more special than even your family, and your solemn leader, the go to guy, the big dog, the top cheese, the BMOC, turns to you and says that you are a traitor- that you are going to disrespect him and the rest of the group.  I cannot even imagine how that would feel!

Peter, I'm sure, was just as shocked as anyone could be for he just finished telling Jesus that he would go to prison for him if he needed to do so.  So with Peter all riled up, ready to fight for Jesus and filled with fire and passion in his heart and mind, Jesus throws this wet blanket over him. Why?

Was it because Peter was a little too zealous for Jesus?  Or, maybe, Jesus could see through Peter's little "show", knowing in fact, that Peter wasn't that committed to the cause at that time.  I may never know the answer to that, but I do know how the story ends for Peter.

"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you like wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail.  And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."  Luke 22:31-32

Here, once again, is the overpowering grace and mercy of Jesus being displayed for all of us to see.  Even though Jesus knows, and even tells Peter, that he will betray him, Jesus still prays for him and knows that he will come back to the family in the end!   Sometimes it takes a little trauma, turmoil or some type of devastation to re-open the eyes of the heart to see Jesus, again.  Just as Jesus says here, He is praying for us with a full knowing that if we should stray from the path, we are welcomed back- AND- are expected to use those new lessons to help strengthen the faith of those around us.

Once a member of the family of Jesus, always a member, if we are willing to open our hearts and let Him in.  I pray today for those who have fallen away, much like I have in the past, in that they may be touch by the Holy Spirit today in some miraculous way, to bring them back into the family of Jesus Christ. 


Monday, April 18, 2011

It's All About The Donkey

Who would have believed a donkey could have had such an impact on millions and millions of lives?  It is by no accident that Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem during his "Triumphal Entry."  In case you don't know the history of the donkey, I'll share a bit of my research.

The donkey is considered by some to be a mistake, or cast off, as a result of genetic mistakes.  As a result of breeding powerful, majestic horses, on occasion a donkey is created.  A mistake, if you will.  For centuries kings and military leaders have ridden beautiful stallions in public displays of power and leadership, yet, no one would consider riding a donkey during a ceremonial march...except Jesus.

It is totally fitting for the "King of the Jews" to make his grand appearance on the back of a lowly donkey for Jesus was, and is, known to take the weakest and poorest and exalt them!  Also, it is no coincidence that his mother and father brought him into the world via a trip on donkey-back.  Once again Jesus, in his actions alone, teaches us how God values even the lowest amongst us.

Only the Son of Man, our Lord and Savior, could take a cast-off animal such as the donkey and give it such a high position of accolade.  I can only believe that in those few moments when Jesus was on his back, that donkey was as proud as a peacock. Or, just maybe, he carried the King with a humble attitude in some way knowing that the one that chose him was the one that chose all of us.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Heaven is for real

The idea of Heaven has been a perplexing one for me for many years.  I truly believe there is such a place for our spirit came from somewhere and, therefore, has to return.  I've studied scripture diligently for many months, and still, have many, many questions.  But, I tell myself, isn't that what faith is for?  To help support my beliefs and values?

I'm reading a book right now, Heaven is for real, that has been confirming and supporting all that I have believed.  It is filled with scriptural knowledge, heart wrenching agony and tearful joy- everything a good book about heaven should have!

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.  And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."  Matt 18:2-4

There is a section in this book where the author, a pastor, describes what it means to become a child again, and, he is dead on.  For us to have child-like faith is to put our intelligent-all-knowing brain in the back seat for a moment; to put our idealistic thoughts on hold; and to humble ourselves to the point where we are willing to call a spade a spade and deal with the reality of it.

I look forward to the day when I am called home to be with Jesus, and yes, I wonder what it will be like.  I know that it will be more than my earthly mind can comprehend.  And that's all I need to know!  Go get this little book, Heaven is for real, and be inspired about what Jesus did for us and what he still offers us!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Joy In The Moment

Floods, nuclear meltdowns, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis.  A constant reminder of how little control we truly have in our lives and how the things of the "this world" are always at risk. We can spend an entire lifetime toiling to accumulate all these "things" while never experiencing the true joy of living.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.   1 John 2:15-17

Loving and serving each other is the will of God.  Not doing so because of the reward that awaits, but doing so because it is just what we do.  It is in these small moments of service in which the joy of the Lord can be discovered.  To see another person smile because they are truly grateful for what you have done for them can change your heart, and your mind, in a hurry. 

It is in these small moments that we can see and feel God's love shining on us, and, in us.  It's easy to pray for the big things in life- sick folks, financial hardship, marital woes. Why not spending time today praying to God for more of the small moments so that we might experience a little heaven on Earth? 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Kind of like death and taxes

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved.   Ephesians 2:4

The harsh reality is that I don't deserve it.  None of us do.  Everyone one of us has lived, or maybe still are living, a life dominated by sin and transgressions.  There are countless categories of sin and an infinite number of ways to sin, so much so that even knowing how we ought to act or behave, and not doing so, is sinful. 

My point is, we cannot escape sin.  It is all around us.  Tempting, inviting and alluring.  And, to know that I will succumb to it at some point, whether it be daily, weekly or yearly, is just one of those cold, hard facts of life.  Kind of like death, and taxes.

The good news, though, the really, really good news, is that those sins I have committed are long gone.  They have already been erased from my history.  They don't have to be drug behind me in a crate, or lugged around in a backpack  with me all the days of my life.  Nope. They have been forgiven.  Not because of who I am, or what I have done, or how much money I have given, or how many orphans I have helped, or how many meals I have delivered.  No.  Because Christ loved me enough to die for me, so that I, too, would not have to die for my sins. 

It is through His mercy and grace that I am free from my sins.  Hallelujah!  If it were up to me, I'd be screwed!  Yes, I am free because He was willing to suffer in my place.  And so are you.... 

Monday, April 4, 2011

What have you got to lose?

Every now and then I run into people, old friends or merely acquaintances, whom I haven't seen in some time.  A majority of the time we get caught up in talking about the kids, work, the latest vacation or some other trivial aspect of life.  Once in awhile, though, the conversation has some meaning as we talk about how our lives have changed, how our perspective is now different or how our priorities have been realigned as a result of some incident, tragedy or trauma.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.  Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.  Ephesians 2:1-3

I have asked God and, myself, many times why it takes a trauma, tragedy or life altering event for us to truly turn our eyes to Jesus?  As much as I haven't liked the answers, which is obviously why I continue to ask, the reality of it has set in.  Just as Paul writes here in Ephesians, with God absent from our lives, we are at the mercy of a different spirit.  One that preys on our Earthly desires and selfish thoughts.  A spirit that manipulates and distorts our perspectives and thoughts so that simple, natural justification can prevail in any circumstance.

However, there comes a time in life when the reality of this strikes a chord:  we are spiritual beings having a physical experience.  Becoming spiritually inclined is an awakening of sorts in that either the pain of the wrath of God due to our disobedience or the miracle of the grace He offers, opens our hearts and minds to this new perspective. 

The God of Heaven is patiently waiting, and will always be waiting, for those who are ready to come to Him.  It is my experience that each of us will, at some point in our lives, need the presence of the Holy Spirit.  It is not a matter of if, but when.  I have chosen to have Him at my side daily for comfort, support, love and encouragement.  I have been in the deep, dark pit of despair that results from trying to live without Him, relying solely on me, myself and I.  That is a place I never want to return to...ever.  That is Hell. 

The journey back to living a life for God, with the Holy Spirit, will not-as Matt Maher says in his song "fix your life in 5 easy steps".  It will, however, bring peace to your spirit so that you can begin making better decisions, seeing life more clearly and, putting things into a new perspective.  God is waiting for you and me to choose Him over everything else. Will today be that day for you? 

Nobody, at no time, in an any age, is perfect.  The social stigma that has been placed on believers to be "perfect" is unattainable and keeps many from committing their lives to a higher pursuit.  No one, not even our Heavenly Father, expects perfection from me or you.  It is the pursuit of a holy life and recognizing when we slip, asking for forgiveness, and getting back on the path- that is what is expected. 

Make today the day you fully commit- all in- to the pursuit of a holy life through Jesus Christ.  What have you got to lose?

Friday, April 1, 2011

This New Life

Much has been written in scripture, and in other books, about the transformative nature of the Holy Spirit and what happens when you invite the Lord into your life.  The ultimate goal for us as believers is to reside in Heaven, with the Lord, for eternity, enjoying the promise of salvation.  While here on earth, however, we still have to live our lives, day in and day out.  Here is what Paul writes about living with the Holy Spirit: "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;  to be made new in the attitude of your minds;  and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:22-24

How many times do focus on truly putting off my old self, taking on a new attitude, only to find that I cannot sustain it for more than a few measly days.  What a huge frustration for me it is to not be able to follow through, continuously, on what I have been taught.  Herein lies one of my biggest challenges in living spiritually inclined.  Consistency.

  The key, for me, is recognition.  It's important for me to be able to recognize when I am slipping off the path illuminated by the Holy Spirit.  Satan, and all of his troops, do their best to drag me to a different path, daily, which is why it takes daily prayer and reading to keep me focused. 

One of the glories of being saved in Christ is that His forgiveness of our sins is eternal, as long as we are able to confess them  Falling short of the goal, being distracted from the path of righteousness and letting my mind be deceived by the senses is part of being human that will forever challenge me.  Thank goodness I have a loving God that will accept me in whatever condition I show up, as long as I know Him and confess my shortcomings, mistakes and mess-ups. 

How amazing is it to know that there is one person, always, in my corner, on my side, loving me unconditionally, not because He has to, but because He chooses to!  He chose me, so it's up to me to choose Him, daily.