Saturday, April 23, 2011
"I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible."-1 Corinthians 7:35 NLT
Today is Holy Saturday and I spent a great deal of the morning pondering what this day was like for Jesus' disciples. Frightened and bewildered about the events that had just come to pass, I am sure they were filled with questions. Truly, Christ's journey to the Cross is complex and mysterious. A love that big is beyond the ability of many to fully grasp. This world, with it's many distractions, keeps us far from the truth about what Christ accomplished for us all. Which is why our family attended Good Friday services at our church last night.
More than memories of Easter egg hunts and chocolate bunnies, I want my children to revere the great sacrifice that was made on their behalf, by a God who loved them too much to leave them to die in their sin. We worshiped in song and remembered in communion. We walked through stations that depicted details of what Jesus endured. And we were humbled as we wrapped our hearts and minds around what transpired that dark day when Christ willingly gave His life for the sins of Man. As our family left the sanctuary, and walked into the dark night, our hearts were truly changed as we pondered what happened that day on the Cross.
This morning, my son, Jack is still meditating on what he experienced. "I think this is the first year I really began to understand all that Jesus went through," he said sadly as we cleared the breakfast table. "Why is it that so many people forget that Easter isn't about the fun stuff?" he continued inquisitively.
Gently, Marty and I explained how the enemy goes to great lengths in order to distract us from the truth about the Cross. This year is no exception. Distractions are big and small, but they are always in our midst. The Easter Bunny, egg hunts, and Earth Day all compete for our attention this Easter. Then, there are the bigger distractions of pride, ego, and selfishness that blind us daily to the love of Christ. As Christ followers, we must choose to make it a priority to reflect on all that was done if we are to truly experience the freedom that is ours because of Jesus.
I pray this day that you, dear friend, are taking some time to meditate on God's truth. I hope you will revisit the moments before, during and after Jesus went to the Cross on your behalf. And I ask that you humble yourself and receive the grace that is given to you freely, but came at a great cost.
Jesus gave His life so that you and I may know intimacy with God for all eternity. God looked into a world gripped by sin, and in His great mercy made Himself the sacrifice that would reconcile Man to Himself. By the blood of Christ, we are redeemed and stand justified before the LORD. There is no other way. For we are told that "God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
You won't find salvation in good works, nor is grace found in a candy-filled plastic egg. But both are found in Christ. To use a word that seems to be popular amongst politicians and journalists today, it is a RADICAL love offered by a sovereign God...and it's yours.
Christ wasn't distracted when He gave His life for you. If you simply place yourself at the scene of the Cross, and let go of the many distractions, you will find His grace is enough.
Challenge: Read the following and pray for God to prepare your heart for the Cross.
Reflection: What distractions in this life keep you from fully experiencing God's grace?
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
"All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen."-Jude 1:25 NLT
He carried His cross.
He gave His life freely and conquored sin.
For He is Savior.
Salvation is here.
"It is done!" (John 19:13)
By Christ Alone.
An over scheduled weekend was behind us, and bedtime was fast approaching. With Marty at a business dinner, I was outnumbered 3 to 1, and in the middle of my best delivery of zone defense. Hoping to clean the kitchen and still maintain our regular bedtime routine, I sent the kids into the den to watch a little TV.
Moments later, I heard my middle daughter, Lily emerge with a perplexed look on her sweet face. Immediately, I stopped what I was doing, as tears began to fill her big brown eyes. As I listened to her heart, I realized bedtime was going to have to be briefly postponed. For a teachable moment was upon me, and the world would not wait.
Rather than the "innocent" programming I had anticipated on a children's network that we watch regularly, my children had come upon a show about the world's differing religious views. "How can they not know Jesus, Mommy? How do they not see?" Lily asked in pained bewilderment. As her words penetrated my heart, I was gently reminded that "your eye is the lamp of your body." (Luke 11:34) Lily's faith-filled eyes see her beautiful Savior so easily. How I wish it were so for us all. Sadly, that is not the case.
By now my two other gifts from Heaven had joined us, and all eyes were on me. I took my children into my arms, grateful that God had chosen me to be the one to lead them to the Cross. Each of them accepted Christ as their Savior at an early age. None of my precious children can recall a time when Jesus wasn't a trusted friend on whom they could call. His love has never been hidden from their lives.
Hoping to speak some perspective into my troubled child's heart, I spoke gently and prayed for wisdom. "Lily, sweetheart. This is a family who believes and truth is all around you. Scripture teaches us that Jesus is the only way to eternal life, and that the gift of grace is ours to receive freely." I continued, "Never forget that even when Jesus walked among us, there were few who could truly see their Savior in their midst. Sometimes life gets too dark for some to see."
For some, the truth is hidden. It was true then. It is still true today. The Bible teaches us "When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness." (Luke 11:35-36) Jesus Christ, alone, is the light that leads the way to salvation. Still, many do not see.
Today, our world is growing ever darker as all of creation groans in the fallout of sin. This world is broken. By poverty. Injustice. Greed. Pride. It is a world gripped by the consequences of sin. As Christ followers, we must have eyes to see the world as it is. But, then we must have courage to share the love of Christ with those whom the truth remains hidden. For "blessed are your eyes because they see." (Matthew 13:16)
We praise You for the gift of eyes that see truth. Because of Christ alone, we are free to approach you boldly, as your adopted sons and daughters. Let us have compassion and patience with those who are blind to the Son. Give us courage to share the truth about who Christ is, so that others may see.
Reflection: Is there someone in your midst from whom the truth is hidden?
Sunday, April 17, 2011
"I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. For I am the least of all the apostles."
-1 Corinthians 15:3-9 (NLT)
Last week, I stopped at Starbucks to buy a morning coffee for myself and a friend. I waited patiently in the drive-thru line, as I anticipated the rich chocolaty flavor of a cocoa cappuccino. When I got to the cashier, I was surprised to find that my coffee order had already been paid in full. In a random act of kindness, the customer ahead of me had purchased not only my coffee, but that of my friend. It was a delightful surprise that filled my heart with gratitude and joy.
"It's been happening all morning," the barista explained. "It started with one customer, and then it just continued. Car after car...they just keep passing it on." Of course, who was I to break the trend? "Well, then, I am buying the coffee for the car behind me," I said smiling. As I pulled out of the drive, my heart was reminded of the power of love when we pass it on.
Scripture reminds us that "God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior.(Titus 3:4-6NLT)
As Easter approaches, this is the perfect time for Christians to "pass along" the Good News of Christ's redeeming love. We are told, that we are reconciled to God by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, His only Son. Unable to save ourselves from our sinful condition, Christ, alone, redeemed mankind from sin. Fully God and fully man, Jesus lived so that we might learn. He gave His life so that we might live. He rose again so that we might know Him as our Savior. And He is coming again, so that we might dwell with Him forever.
Understanding that we can never be good enough, God sent His Son to pay for our sins in full. As His adopted heirs in Christ, we have the great honor of sharing God's goodness with those whom we meet. Christ alone is the pathway to salvation. While some will choose not to receive this precious and priceless gift, others will receive it joyfully with gratitude.
We are told that we are not to worry about the results, we are only responsible to pass it on. To friends. To family. To all who are lost. Proclaim the truth about who Christ is, what He has done, and how we are changed because of His great love.
Now is the time...pass it on.
How grateful I am for your love, for your sacrifice, for you Son. Help me to be a living example of your great love to all whom I meet. Let me never forget that my good deeds are not for me, nor are they payment for my salvation, but they are entirely for Your glory. Help me to pass along the priceless love of Christ, so that others might know Him, and receive his free gift of salvation.
Reflection: How can you share the love of Christ this week?
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Key Verse: "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?" ---Job 1:10
Growing up in central Iowa, I have experienced my fair share of brutally cold winters. As a child, the cold was somehow minimized with the magic of snow, but as I grew older, I quickly understood the harshness of the fierce north wind. Memories of walking across the central campus of Iowa State University in the midst of an arctic blast make me shiver even now.
When I was twelve years old, my family moved into my Dad's childhood home. It is a simple farmhouse built with pride over 100 years and has been our family homestead for three generations. And since one wall of the house directly faces the north, our home was sometimes drafty mid-winter. While we didn't mind snuggling up under a warm, fuzzy blanket on a cold winter night, my Dad had the wisdom to build a hedge of pine trees that would grow quickly to shelter our home from the draft.
Today, those trees effectively block the cold of winter, while also serving as a perfect place for my children, neices and nephew to play tag and hide-and-seek. Standing tall, they reach proudly to the sky and give our house a feeling of warmth on the coldest Iowa night.
Friendships are like a hedge in our lives. With love, friends stand with us and protect us from the harsh days of life that sometimes cause our hearts to grow cold. When storms rage around us and the winds of change threaten our security, our friendships act as a shield that blocks the penetrating chill of the world. As we walk through life, we grow and change.
Likewise, our friendships often change as well. Godly friendships are vital in strengthening our walk with the LORD. And so we must carefully choose our friendships in order to build a sustainable hedge. After all, scripture reminds us that "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." (Proverbs 18:24 NIV) The number of friends is insignificant to the quality of the bond.
True friendship is one of God's greatest gifts in the lives of His children. It is perhaps demonstrated most beautifully in the bond between Naomi and Ruth. These two women, though initially supportive of one another, shared a friendship so woven in faith that they became surrogate family. When given the choice to part ways, they remained intact as they resolved that "your people will be my people and your God my God." (Ruth 1:6)
Lasting friendship grows deep through life's challenges and is rooted in God's love. With trust and accountablity these relationships help us to establish Godly priorities as we look to grow in Him together. Such friendships are to be treasured, nurtured, and protected. Despite distance or time, these relationships grow. They protect. They shelter. They endure. They are "a hedge around me and my household" for which I am humbled and grateful. (Job 1:10)
I am grateful for the women in my life that stand before me and shelter me from life's storms. For me, a few Godly women who love me at my best and my worst serve as a hedge of truth, accountability and shared priorities in my life. Truly, they are blessings to me from God and they help me grow in my relationship with Christ and encourage me to be my best for Him.
While some of these women are not geographically near, they are loyal and true. Thankfully, we remain spiritually close, despite the miles that separate us in this world. To these women, I say "Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, 'The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.' " (1 Samuel 20:42) And I imagine a day when we shall greet each other and fellowship for eternity in Heaven.
In the winters of my life, my friendships have been a source of support and comfort that help me feel secure, accepted, and safe. Truly, I offer praise for each one of the dear women I call "my friend" and I appreciate the honesty and strength they bring into my life. They are my friends. I know who they are...and they are my hedge.
I praise you for the gift of friendship. I thank you for the relationships that were temporary but have helped me to grow and learn in a season since past. And I give you thanks for those friendships that endure the challenges of life and grow stronger each passing year. May your hand guide me as I choose my friendships wisely. Let the words shared between me and my friends be sweet as we bring you honor in our conversations. May our actions be like the hands of our Savior reaching into the lives of one another. Thank you God, for my sisters in Christ.
Reflection: How strong is your hedge of friendship? Could it be time to trim your hedge?
Perhaps it is because I underestimated how difficult it would be to feel so out of control. Maybe, it is due to the fact that God only reveals our path one step of faith at a time, and this is not a road I expected at this time in my life. Whatever the reason, the adoption journey is long and we have only just begun. And over the past couple of weeks, I have felt my strength waver. Filled with inner turmoil, I was in need of answers. Direction. Deliverance. Yet, God has not clearly revealed the next piece in our adoption puzzle and that left me bewildered, even a bit angry.
Experience has taught me that when I reach this fragile place, it is time to rest in the arms of the Father. So, that is what I set out to do on Wednesday morning. I dropped the kids off at school, returned to our silent home, and sat still before God's throne.
"What are we to do, LORD?" I wondered desperately. "I feel so helpless. There are so many paths in front of us. Which one is yours?" With many concerns on my mind about our future, I spent the morning quietly pouring my heart out to the Father. During that precious time together, God revealed Himself in such a personal way, I knew he heard the cries of my heart. Slowly, I felt my fears subside. It felt so good to be still.
Now with a clear head and my heart was at peace, it was time to rejoin the world and get on with life. That evening, I went to church to teach my first grade Girls in Action class. The lesson for the night was on standing firm in the midst of great fear. Dutifully, I prepared for the class and began to study the lesson. The passage was on how God led the Israelites on dry ground through the Red Sea. Of course, that is a mental picture that I know well. In wonder, I have imagined that miraculous scene since I was a little girl.
Still, there was more the LORD wanted to teach me about the deliverance of His people. Carefully, I wrote the scripture for the evening on the white board and felt it speak directly to my heart. My heart pounded as I read His Word...
Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” -Exodus 14:13 (NIV)
It took my breath away when I read that promise, for it was one I had read earlier in the day during my quiet time with the Father. I knew, in that moment, that God had been holding me all day. I finally understood what my Heavenly Father had been whispering all day. Now is a time to stand firm and wait for His deliverance.
"What is deliverance?" one of my young girls in action asked sweetly. I looked at her with a smile, prayed for words and said, "Deliverance is when God shows up in your life when you need Him the most." All at once, the word "deliverance" gave me clarity and courage at the same time.
While I am being still, He is fighting for us. For me. For Marty. For our whole family, including our chosen child we have yet to meet. The LORD is fighting for us all. But He is calling me to courageous faith as well. Right now, while I patiently wait on Him, the LORD is fighting to bring our child home. All we must do is be still, stand firm, and believe God will show up. For when the time is right, the LORD will move ahead of us and direct our every step. This battle is not mine, but the LORD's. I must wait expectantly on His deliverance. That is how we bring Him glory.
That night, as I drifted off to sleep, my strength was renewed for I was resting securely in the arms of my Savior. He delivered the Israelites from slavery. He delivered me from sin. And He will deliver our baby as well. God, Himself, will bring us to the other side of this adoption. Together, our family shall walk on dry ground.
But for now, it is time to be still, stand firm, and wait for His deliverance.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Sometimes you call us to act. Other times you ask us to wait for your deliverance. Help us to draw near to you in all things that we might feel your presence and hear your voice guiding us faithfully.
Reflection: In what part of your life are you looking for God's deliverance?
Friday, April 8, 2011
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving! Pick up your staff and raise your hand over the sea. Divide the water so the Israelites can walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground." -Exodus 14:15-16
Take that step of faith.
Cast away your fears.
For you do not go alone.
Now is the time.
The LORD goes with you.
He is plowing the way.
Parting the sea.
And He will see you through.
So step decisively.
On dry ground.
Today is the day...
You are good. You are faithful. And You are here. Sometimes, our fears and doubts keep us from moving forward in faith. Cast away our fears and fix our eyes on Your presence. Help us to move with you as we seek to bring You glory.
Reflection: How is God calling you to move?
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
I am a do it myself kind of gal. In many parts of my life, I simply decide that God needs a little help and I opt to "give him a hand". Inevitably, that is precisely when life really starts to get messy.
With my limited perspective, things inevitably get tangled, and before long my situation look ugly. Discouraged and overwhelmed, I must then hand it all back to God and ask Him to fix my mess. Sometimes I picture God, shaking His holy head and nudging Jesus as He says, "Watch this. When will she ever learn? She is such a mess maker!"
Thankfully, my mess is nothing compared my God's love for me.
He forgives my sin.
Comforts me in my pain.
Assures me all is well.
For He is not shaken by my mess.
In fact, one day this mess shall become beautiful.
Despite my mess, God sees the best in me. Where others see failure, the LORD sees potential. When He looks upon my mess, He sees His Son. Jesus took my mess to the Cross. And because of Christ's great sacrifice, I can boldly approach the throne and present myself to God. Mess and all.
Even though I will never be worthy, He draws me near with assurance. For "the Lord will work out his plans for my life—for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever." (Psalm 138:8 NIV)Since I am His child, the LORD willingly takes my mess. Then, God uses it for His glory.
Dear Heavenly Father,
How grateful I am that You, great God, are big enough to get Your hands dirty with a mess like me. I praise You for the ways You work in my life to clean up the messes I leave behind. Forgive me, Father, for my careless mistakes. Let your great love and power be the driving force that cleans up the mess I leave behind. Give me guidance as I teach my children to avoid the mess, and run straight to you, LORD.
Reflection: What mess in your life requires God's intervention?