Monday, December 22, 2014

The Babe is No Longer in the Manger

The Nativity sits serenely under our Christmas tree.  Mary and Joseph gaze lovingly at their child, the animals look on in silence, the wise men far off follow the star.  "All is calm, all is bright."  Or is it? I sip my morning coffee reading the headlines:  rape, murder, deceit, revenge, and various other acts of evil in bold print, all festively surrounded by a holiday border, and I ask myself again "what have we become?".  Those who believe in other gods, or no god at all, are not the ones to blame.  It's us, the ones who claim to follow Him with our whole hearts.  We have forgotten who He is.  As He lays serenely in the manger, gazing up, a halo wrapped around His head, He looks powerless.  Helpless.  Waiting to be cared for by His earthly parents like any other child.  We light our candles, and sing our Christmas hymns, carol for the elderly and infirm, and deliver food baskets to the poor, and we assuage our guilt.  We are guilty of leaving Him in the straw.  Wake up!  The world around is falling into chaos, and as we put on our Sunday best, another man or woman dies without Christ.  That should make our hearts scream.

I am screaming. I'm screaming at myself.  I think sometimes that I am still stuck in those early Sunday School years.  "Who loves you?", teacher asked.  "Jesus. Jesus loves me."  "Who died for you?", teacher asked, "Jesus. Jesus died for me.".  Ahh, me, it's all about me. Jesus loves ME, Jesus died for ME.  I'm safe.  Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

Woe unto us who have forgotten the lost.  He is coming back, and there will be no second chances.  That gift you begrudgingly bought for the boss you don't like, he knows you don't love him.  Those distant family members, the ones you "can't" forgive and won't speak to any more, they know you don't love them.  The person who hurt your feelings years ago, you'll take them a gift, but your eyes will tell them you don't love them.  They know.  How can we move them past the vision of the sleeping child if we are sleeping, too? God help us.


"Matthew 24:3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" 4 Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ, ' and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains. 9 "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved."

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Woe

And all the people said "let us live a life with no boundaries, let us remove God's name, His Word, and His influence from our lives, and we will be free and happy". And so they did, and in place of great joy there was great sorrow, for the people began to kill each other, and commit great atrocities in the name of that freedom. They wandered aimlessly through life, seeking pleasure in all manner of earthly pursuits yet all they found was emptiness. They railed and they cried at what their land had become, and cast blame and pointed fingers, but none at themselves. And they all sat down to think, each alone in his own suffering, and complained to themselves that there must be more to life than this.
Psalm 10: 1 Why, O LORD, do you stand far off ? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? 2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises. 3 He boasts of the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD. 4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. 5 His ways are always prosperous; he is haughty and your laws are far from him; he sneers at all his enemies. 6 He says to himself, "Nothing will shake me; I'll always be happy and never have trouble." 7 His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue. 8 He lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent, watching in secret for his victims. 9 He lies in wait like a lion in cover; he lies in wait to catch the helpless; he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net. 10 His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under his strength. 11 He says to himself, "God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees." 12 Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless. 13 Why does the wicked man revile God? Why does he say to himself, "He won't call me to account"? 14 But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. 15 Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness that would not be found out. 16 The LORD is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land. 17 You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, 18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

You Are His Workmanship

God is holding all the pieces of your broken self today. I like to imagine Him with a big shelf full of wooden boxes. One of them has my name on it, maybe one has yours, and every once in a while He takes the box down and sets it on His work table. The light in there is dim, and it's quiet except for the sound of the pieces rolling around in the box. He lovingly lifts them out one at a time, looks them over, and carefully starts putting them back together. A little glue and some time in the vice. A few brush strokes of paint. A patch sewn here or there. Then, with a pat on the head, and a gentle push forward, He sends us back out restored. "For we are God's workmanship...." (Ephesians 2:10 a)

Photo is from Google Images

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Tethered

We've had Shadow since he was a puppy, and although that seems like yesterday, seven long years have passed by.  We picked him out of one of those "odd lots" of puppies that you find in the "free" section of the newspaper.  Granted, he's missing a few nuts and bolts in the intelligence department, but he makes a really good watch dog.  Shadow has always been an outside dog. He protects the house and the garden year round, with the exception of days that are too cold for man or beast.  All he has ever known is the twenty feet of space surrounding his dog house, and the chain that keeps him there.  We walk him on the leash, and in the evening we set him free to run through the fields.  When he's done chasing rabbits, he returns to the chain.

I have never understood why he comes back.  We release him to run where he pleases, to escape from the confines of his tether, but he always returns to the chain.  Isn't that so much like us?  God has provided us with a way to break free of our chain, but because it has always been such a part of us, we're afraid to let it go. There's comfort in the bondage.  There's familiarity in the feel of that tug on our necks that keeps us where we are and prevents us from moving any farther forward.  It's not that we don't have a way to escape, it's that we choose not to take it.

Job 36:8 But if men are bound in chains, held fast by cords of affliction, 9 he tells them what they have done-- that they have sinned arrogantly. 10 He makes them listen to correction and commands them to repent of their evil. 11 If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment. 12 But if they do not listen, they will perish by the sword and die without knowledge. 13 "The godless in heart harbor resentment; even when he fetters them, they do not cry for help.

A reminder today that there is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain. --Jesus Culture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtyVdC7E6Wo



Saturday, May 31, 2014

70X7

It takes an incredible amount of energy and focus to be angry, unforgiving, or bitter. Then why, when presented with the option to let go of those feelings, do we say "I can't"? I imagine, if we took that same amount of energy and focus and poured it into a project, we would build a skyscraper. Single-handed. One stinking block at a time. A useless hulk of concrete and steel whose doors would never open to allow anyone to enter. If you are carrying blocks to the building this morning, then take a moment to stop. Do you feel the weight of them? Are you tired? Then what is preventing you from putting them down?

Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" 22 Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 "The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' 27 The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28 "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. 29 "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' 30 "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."


Photo is from Google images, I don't know who to credit.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Broken Shards

When I look at me in the mirror, I see the flaws, the cracks, the giant imperfections from those "consequence" days. Those would be the ones where I tried to ram through the wall God put in my way, or tripped over my sin and banged my head on the floor. Again. Every time it happens, I wonder why God doesn't just scoop me up in his dust pan and put me out to the curb. Why He takes such great pains to continue to mend and mold me is hard for me to fathom. I know I'm dust. I blow gently in the breeze, never quite landing, occasionally dancing in a sunbeam but always a breath away from being blown out the door. I'm thankful for His love. I'm thankful that His mercies are new every morning. I'm thankful that He died and made a way for all of us to be whole again. So, this morning, I drop my broken pieces at the foot of the cross. Again. This is my love offering. Use the pieces as You will, Lord, and make them into something beautiful.
Genesis 2:7 NIV
the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Photo from google Images

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Wounded Bliss

Anger says hello and winks. It hopes you won't look away, because it has a friend it would like you to meet. It introduces you to Unforgiveness. You go on a few dates, and Unforgiveness asks you for a commitment. "Til death do us part" you say. A few months later this new "marriage" gives birth to twins, Bitterness and Vengeance. You hold them tightly in your arms and love them with your whole heart. Bitterness and Vengeance grow into hurtful young adults, causing pain wherever they go. You can no longer control them. They look for others just like them, and form a gang called Self-Pity. Self-Pity joins up with Depression, Rage, Entitlement, and they are bent on destruction. Bitterness meets someone just like himself, and marries her, til death do they part. Their first child they name Wounded. Wounded never met Anger, but his parents mention him all the time. Wounded runs into Anger who introduces himself as a close friend. Anger says hello and winks....

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:13





Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spinning a Yarn


When my kids were mobile infants and toddlers, they never ceased to amaze me at what they could get into and not get out of. They'd get lodged behind the couch, stuck under a dresser, hung up in a drawer. Then I'd move the couch, duck their little heads under the furniture, or pry their toes from a drawer handle. They were a mess sometimes. So, today when I caught sight of this tangled skein, it was a great reminder to me that God does the same thing for me. This is a skein of alpaca yarn, lovingly donated by Under The Moonlite alpaca ranch. It was intended to become a hat before there were some, ahem, "difficulties" in the process. Now, it makes a great illustration of my life (and yours). My life is is the tangled mess. Every hour of every day God is working those strands of yarn loose. He is freeing me from the places I have managed to crawl myself into or under. It's not an easy process. The yarn snaps, it needs to be cut sometimes and tied back together, and some places are so knotted it will take weeks to figure it all out. But God is patient, and He lovingly moves me in whatever direction I need to go to be freed from the mess of my making. In His time, the knots come out, the yarn is rolled into a manageable ball, and knotted strings and all, he uses it to make something beautiful. God is not waiting for you to be perfect before you come to Him. All He wants is for you to have the faith to hand him the mess. He'll take it from there.
Ephesians 2:
1 Once you were dead, doomed forever because of your many sins. 2 You used to live just like the rest of the world, full of sin, obeying Satan, the mighty prince of the power of the air. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passions and desires of our evil nature. We were born with an evil nature, and we were under God's anger just like everyone else. 4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so very much, 5 that even while we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God's special favor that you have been saved!) 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ, and we are seated with him in the heavenly realms -- all because we are one with Christ Jesus. 7 And so God can always point to us as examples of the incredible wealth of his favor and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us through Christ Jesus. 8 God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.