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On Being Transparent

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.     Isaiah 64:6a

I don’t do windows.

Well, every few years I try. There will be that bright sunny morning when the light was streaming in, and the need for cleaning was so obvious, I grab the window cleaner, spray bottle, rags, paper towels, and squeegee and get to work. Two or three hours later I throw in the towel (and everything on it) and once more promise myself, never again!

Every summer we go to the house in Michigan that my grandparents built it in the 1940s. It was elegant then and it is still elegant now. Forty-six years ago my husband Marty and I got married there, and two years ago our youngest daughter married the love of her life there. The house has French provincial architecture, fireplaces, a bay window, and French doors that open onto a patio overlooking the lake.

It also has windows that have had a curse put on them. Or maybe it’s just the paint on the frames that dissolves every time any liquid touches it… Each magical little pane is specially made to get dirtier the more it’s wiped. After several attempts at cleaning, the glass will go from mildly dirty to ridiculously streaked on the outside – when you’re looking out. Of course, when you’re outside looking in, all you see are the streaks that are inside. I have on occasion treated the job like an Olympic event, “the Window Sprint” – Can I run outside and get that streak off before I forget where it is? Pretty soon I’m streaked too, with sweat and dirt, and breathless with exasperation. No gold medal here.

(Now please don’t write and tell me how you clean your windows. Believe me, I’ve heard the advice, all about vinegar and newspapers and yada-yadda-yadda… I’ve tried it all.)

A few years ago we put our house in Port Huron up for sale, and one of the many jobs that needed to be done was … clean the windows. [Insert scary horror movie music here.] When a perfectly gorgeous day came up and I had absolutely nothing on my schedule, there was no excuse to put off the job, however desperately I wished for one.

I was delightfully surprised to find the job was not only effective but surprisingly fun when it actually worked! I found myself singing as I got into the rhythm -squirt-squeegee-wipe, squirt-squeegee-wipe – and pretty soon I was looking around for more windows to clean. At the end of the day I was standing in the living room, gazing out at the Lake Huron, relishing the fact that the windows were virtually invisible and I may as well have been standing outside. >Eureka!<

For some reason I took this to mean I now knew how to clean windows, so when we later went to Portage Lake, one bright, sunny day I confidently grabbed my trusty squeegee and began to make the dining room gorgeous, one little pane at a time, forgetting that these windows were cursed… Two hours, one roll of paper towels, one bottle of Windex, and one tantrum later, there was not one pane that was totally clean. I threw up my hands and yelled “I GIVE UP!” followed by a few other things that were probably inappropriate for a Christian to be saying.

Have you been there? I don’t mean just with windows, but anything that you’ve tried to “fix,” that only gets worse the more you try? As I stood there that day, hot and exhausted, scowling at the streaks blocking the view of the beautiful lake, I figured the only way to get a clear view would be just to break the windows. That’s it! Just take out the pains – er, panes – completely, and the view would be great. Of course, that would have made the house a bit drafty and buggy, so Marty didn’t go for that idea.

It occurred to me that I was looking at a picture of sin. The Bible tells us that ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, all of Mankind has been under the curse of sin. For many people, their lives may seem “good enough.” But then the light of God’s truth shines through, and it becomes painfully obvious that we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 6:23) The more we look at our sin, the more it bothers us.

So, what do some of us do? We try to clean up our act. Somehow we think we can make it right on our own, although it should soon be apparent that if we were so capable of doing good, our lives wouldn’t be such a mess in the first place. After trying to make things right, we see that we have failed, and more often than not, our feeble attempts have made the situation worse than ever. At this point we should see that we can’t do this ourselves. But some of us refuse to believe we’re that helpless. So we try harder, thinking if we could just try hard enough, we’ll finally clean up our lives.

The bottom line is, we can’t fix the mess ourselves. We have only two choices. We can avoid the Light and hope nobody notices the dirt, or we can go to God and ask Him to help us. Fortunately, He can. In fact, He sent His Son, Jesus, to take all our dirt onto Himself. When He died for us, He was taking our sin and nailing it to the Cross, and we never have to be enslaved by it again. He can make our lives clean, and He can shine His light through us. Isn’t it a relief to know we don’t have to try to clean ourselves up?

I haven’t yet figured out how to get Jesus to do my windows for me, but two years ago before our daughter Kelly married the love of her life on the lawn at that house, we did hire a professional exorcist – er, window cleaning service. Now when I look out through the crystal clear glass and remember how it used to be, I know what a mess I would be without Jesus. I’m just grateful that I’m not without Him, and that He was willing to do what was necessary to make me clean, so He could shine His light through me.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, in ourselves we are powerless to clean up our own lives. Thank You that You have not left us on our own, but You have shed Your blood to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, that we can live the lives You want us to live – the lives we truly want. We choose to trust You to shine through us today, in Your power, in Your name. Amen

Forsaking My First Love

Originally published as “The Dream that Broke My Heart” when my blog was brand new (It had 2 “likes’ and one comment.), this piece seems fitting for Valentine’s Day. With all the thoughts of romance and “true love,” let us not forget our First Love – our Creator, Savior, Shepherd, King, Counselor, and Bridegroom – and keep Him first in our hearts, today and always.

“You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken your first love.”  – Revelation 2: 3-4

I dream a lot, although most of my dreams are forgotten before I get out of bed. But occasionally a dream is so vivid and hits so close to home that I know the Lord is telling me something, and I need to pay attention.

Dreams are not meant to reveal new theological truths; we have all the theology we need in the Bible. But when I have one of those significant dreams, it is a revelation that applies Scripture to me personally at that particular time in my life. God has used such dreams to encourage me, instruct me, rebuke me, or warn me. Jesus has appeared in my dreams in different roles, such as the Surgeon who was about to give me a heart transplant, or my Commanding Officer, reminding me to put on all of my armor before the coming battle. One dream stands out in my mind as one that I will never forget – nor should I. It cut me to the heart.

In my dream I was with my youngest child, our daughter Kelly, who was about seven at the time. My husband, for some reason, was in hiding, and Kelly and I were about to have a secret meeting with him. I had a basket with some beautiful purple fruit, which I was bringing him as a special treat, a token of my love and devotion. We were excited to see him and give him the gift, but on our way we kept running into people.

“What beautiful fruit!” a lady exclaimed, her eyes huge with amazement. “It looks delicious!”

“Have some!” I replied without hesitation, and out of the corner of my eye I saw Kelly give me a look as if to say, “Mom, what are you doing?!” But I had always had a reputation for being generous, and hey, I was just being nice to this acquaintance. As I held out the basket to her, she took the biggest piece of fruit, leaving just two remaining. With a quick, “Thanks!” she took a big bite and was gone in an instant.

I arranged the two remaining pieces, but there aren’t many ways to arrange two pieces of fruit. We had barely started out again when someone else commented on how gorgeous the fruit was. I immediately offered this person a piece, too, which he took without a “Thank you,” and he was gone. This time Kelly looked horrified, and I felt a little guilty. But this person had looked so hungry, I would have felt guilty saying “No.” With one piece of fruit left, we started again to make our way to my husband’s hiding place.

This time several people saw us, and it was so obvious that they wanted my fruit that I started to break the remaining piece into fragments, which I doled out to these strangers, who disappeared as quickly as they had appeared.

With one mangled fragment of fruit left, I tried unsuccessfully to set it at an angle that made it look appealing, and said with exaggerated enthusiasm, “Come on, Kelly, let’s go give this to Daddy!” But my voice was so shaky that I wasn’t even convincing myself. Kelly, looking thoroughly disgusted, turned and walked away without a word, wanting nothing to do with my pathetic “gift.”

The phone interrupted the dream, and I answered it before I was completely awake. I recognized the voice at the other end as that of the secretary at my children’s school, and she sounded desperate. A teacher had called in sick, and she asked if I could possibly come in and sub. Still groggy, I mentally checked my calendar and guessed that I had no appointments that day.

“I don’t think I had any plans … sure,” I responded.

The secretary sounded relieved as she gushed her thanks, and for a brief moment I basked in her gratitude before she hung up to get back to other school business.

It was only then that I remembered the dream, and at the same time I remembered that I had made plans for that day! When I had realized that the day was wide open, I had decided that I would spend that day in prayer, Bible reading, singing, worshiping, journaling –  in other words, just spending unhurried time with Jesus. I think He had been looking forward to it as much as I had. But I had just impulsively committed the whole day elsewhere, and now I had to hit the floor running. I felt as though I had given away the biggest, best piece of fruit to someone for whom it has not been intended, and I felt ashamed.

The sting of shame intensified when I remembered the kind of fruit I had been so casually giving away in my dream…

It was passion fruit.

I broke down and sobbed.

Prayer: Jesus, my beloved Bridegroom, forgive me for the times I have put everything and everyone else ahead of You. I have valued the opinions of others more than my relationship with You. I have pleased others at the expense of serving You. I acknowledge my idolatry and confess it as sin. Your Word says that if I confess my sins, You are faithful and just to forgive my sins and purify me from all unrighteousness. Thank You for Your patience and forgiveness. Help me return to You, my First Love, and to give You all of my devotion, all of my passion, all of my life. In Your name, amen.

Flashback Friday: White Castle Romance

This piece was one of my first posts when I began blogging in January of 2018. At the time I had about a dozen followers. So in the interest of sharing it with the 300+ followers that have joined me since then, I’d like to share with you some Valentine’s Day thoughts from a couple of years ago …

 

Then the angel said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited

to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’”   Revelation 19:9

 

Well, it’s official: White Castle is taking reservations for Valentine’s Day.

I did a double-take as I passed the billboard, trying to imagine who would consider a meal at that establishment a romantic thing to do on Valentine’s Day. With all due respect to those who love and crave “sliders,” frankly the two thoughts “White Castle” and “romance” had never crossed my mind at the same time.

What do you picture when you think of a romantic dinner – white  linen tablecloth? Candlelight? Crystal, silver, and fine china? Soft music? I had to laugh, thinking of a couple sitting in hard plastic chairs, eating fries, and the girl trying hard to pretend she thought this was remotely elegant. (Am I just showing my age here?)

But then I thought of God’s perspective. (I was on my way to church, after all.) Jesus told us that our eyes haven’t seen, our ears haven’t heard, nor could we even imagine what He had prepared for those who love Him. (I Corinthians 2:9) That means, compared with the feast that awaits us in heaven, that candlelight dinner with all the luxuries attached is more like digging in a dumpster. And yet that “high-class” type of lifestyle is what so many people run after all their lives.

I’ve been there. I was raised in a country club culture from the time I was much too young to understand or appreciate what I was being given on a daily basis. And yet my first taste of what it was like to be a child of God – forgiven, saved, filled with His Spirit – awakened in me such a craving for more that I knew no private club, no amount of possessions or membership in a worldly “inner circle” could satisfy.

So, while I smirk and roll my eyes at the thought of a Valentine’s Day dinner at White Castle, I should be equally amused – or grieved – that so much of the world is “settling,” having no idea that “Better is one day in your [God’s] courts than a thousand elsewhere.” (Psalm 84:10)

 

Prayer: Jesus, our Beloved, our heavenly Bridegroom, help us to have our eyes and hearts fixed on You. Help us not to be distracted by the glitter of worldly things that will fade and decay, when You have promised so much more to those who love You. Let us live in eager anticipation of that day we are are joined with You forever, and the Wedding Feast has begun. In Your precious Name, Amen.

 

Groundhog Day, Karma, and Wishful Thinking

“It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment.”    Hebrews 9:27

As I mentioned in another post, I recently saw “Edge of Tomorrow,” the futuristic Tom Cruise film about an alien invasion threatening humanity, where a man is forced to relive the last day of his life over and over, until he figures out how to save his company – and the world.

Decades before “Edge of Tomorrow” a “same but different” film was released, which I can pretty much guarantee will be shown on at least one TV network this Sunday.

“Groundhog Day” is a movie about a journalist named Phil, who, for reasons that remain unexplained, must relive Groundhog Day until he “gets it right.” Both movies have scenes where a few moments of dialogue or action are shown repeatedly with variations of failures as the hapless men learn what not to do through a long process of elimination. While in “Edge of Tomorrow” the future of all of Mankind is threatened, in “Groundhog Day” what is at risk is merely one man’s self-esteem and winning his love interest.

(“Edge of Tomorrow” is “Groundhog Day” on steroids.)

What is it about the concept of time travel that fascinates us? Why do we fantasize about being able to go back in time, especially the opportunity to relive or reenact the past, to be able to “fix” mistakes? I’m guessing this desire is at the root of the concept of karma, the idea of living countless lives on one’s way to enlightenment and the ultimate goal, “nirvana.”

But each day passes only once, and regret over the past is one of the most excruciating emotions known to man. The sheer hopelessness of knowing that something done in the past can never be undone has driven many to despair. How many of us have said, “If only I could go back to that day, and change that one thing, everything would be so different now!”

But time is one thing Man has no control over, and as much as we may want to fix the past, there are no “do-overs” in life. While we may not be able to go back and correct the past, we can make the right choices now. And we don’t have to flounder about finding out what the “right” choices are by endless trial and error. The Bible – the Word of God – gives us clear directions about what to do with our messed-up lives.

First, we must acknowledge our sin and need for a savior. (I John 1:9) We must repent, (or as my GPS says, “Turn around when possible“), and place our faith in Jesus as the One who paid the price for our sins when He died on the cross. (I Peter 2:24) If we do this, He will forgive us, save us, and help us live better lives from this moment on.

The Bible is filled with stories of people who have made horrendous mistakes, seemingly fatal blunders, and outright deliberate evil, who nevertheless after repenting had their lives transformed by the grace of God. Apparently, if you’re still breathing, it’s not too late. Ask the thief that was crucified next to Jesus. (Luke 21:41-43)

The Bible says we have one life, one chance to get it right, and it would be wise to listen to our Creator, especially when He has made His truth available to us. We can’t go back and undo our mistakes, but we don’t have to be stuck in the mistakes of the past, either. We can get unstuck and do what’s right, starting today.

One last note:  This doesn’t mean we will be perfect, but if we keep short accounts with God – confess and repent as soon as we realize we’ve messed up  – we can enjoy a relationship with Him that will last all our lives here – and into eternity! (John 3:16)

“Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” (II Corinthians 6:2)

Prayer: Lord God of the past, present, and future, thank You for giving us Your Word to guide us through life. Thank You for forgiving us when we blow it and for helping us up when we stumble. Thank You that we don’t have to wallow in regrets over the past, but rather rejoice in Your grace and move on to a brighter future with You, in the name of Jesus, who died to pay for our sins and set us free. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

The “Be (or “Not Be-) Attitudes – the Road to True Happiness, Part 2

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”                                                                                                                                                                              – Jesus (John 10:10)

Last week I started to share with you what the “Beatitudes” say about finding true happiness. The word “Happiness” may be misleading, however, because these days what the world sees as “happiness” can be obtained through a new car, a slimmer body and younger-looking face, a good romantic relationship, or “enough” money, … whatever that means. People chase after these things and more in pursuit of the elusive thing called “happiness.”

I would submit to you that happiness is not a goal but a by-product. If our goal is worthwhile, attaining it gives us that sense of contentment that we long for. For the Christian, that goal is God – knowing Him, being in His will, doing what we were created for, and knowing that He is being glorified in our lives. The more we love Him, the more “happiness” (joy) we have in serving Him.

Last week, we saw how the first four Beatitudes direct the lost person to the point of salvation – being “found”:

1.) “Blessed are the poor in spirit … ” (Matthew 5:3) First we must realize our state of spiritual bankruptcy.

2.) “Blessed are those who mourn …” (vs. 4) We must acknowledge that spiritual bankruptcy is bad.

3.) “Blessed are the meek…” (vs. 5) We must admit responsibility for where we are.

4.) “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness …” (vs. 6) We must desire something better.

And as we continue to reach for God, it does get better!

5.) “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (vs 7)

Face it, we all need mercy! All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) God is merciful and wants to forgive us. But as we come to Him for mercy, we can’t at the same time refuse to forgive others. (Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Matthew 6:12)  Letting go of any grudges is the way we show that we realize the depth of our own sin. The attitude that says, “Their sin is worse than mine!” will only send us back to Square One. Whatever anyone else has done,”Let it go!”

WRONG ATTITUDE: “Forgive me, God, but punish THEM.” 
RIGHT ATTITUDE: “God, I am no better than anyone else. Please forgive me, and help me to forgive, too.”

P.S. Forgiveness isn’t a feeling, it’s an act of the will. Even if you still feel angry, you can consciously choose to give the matter to God. He will honor your sacrifice, even if you don’t feel “sincere.” Oddly, once we do make that choice, with God’s help the healing starts, and eventually the feelings won’t torment us so much – they may even go away entirely. (I speak from experience.)

6.) “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (vs 8)

The result of forgiveness is a clean heart! Without all the dirt of sin and corruption we can see God more clearly. However, now that we are made clean, our adversary (Satan) wants all the more to get us muddy again and make it look as though we were never saved in the first place. We should not be ignorant of his schemes! While we should not accept sin in our lives with an “oh well” attitude any more, God doesn’t expect us to be perfect now, and neither should we. Repentance should be a daily prayer. The good news is that God hears that prayer, and every day we can start again with a clean heart.

WRONG ATTITUDE: “Yeah, I still mess up, but oh well, nobody’s perfect.
RIGHT ATTITUDE: “Lord,  purify my heart today. Help me to live a life that is pleasing to You.

7.) “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (vs 9)

Being forgiven means we have peace with God! But what about the people around us?  Jesus told His followers, ” ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.’ (Mark 16:15) Jesus wants everyone to know and experience the peace with Him that we now enjoy – the peace He died for! – and we should want that, too. As we grow in our faith, it’s time to share that faith with others.

WRONG ATTITUDE: “Praise God I’m saved! Too bad for those other guys.
RIGHT ATTITUDE: “Salvation is too good to keep to myself!” 

8.) “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven … Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven” (vs 10 & 12)

Here is the sign of the highest level of maturity as believers – rejoicing to be counted worthy to suffer for Jesus. In many parts of the world suffering for the gospel is the normal sign of a Christian. But in America Christians have very little of what could be remotely considered “persecution.”

I admit I have not reached this level of maturity yet. Unbelievers around me either like me, tolerate me, or ignore me. If they are lying about me or accusing me, they’re usually doing it behind my back. I have not yet experienced true persecution. Will I someday be able to rejoice when I am persecuted that I am considered worthy to suffer for Jesus? Only time will tell, but I am confident that whatever my shortcomings, God can give me the strength I need when the time comes, as long as I “abide in Him.”

WRONG ATTITUDE: “I’m happy to serve the Lord, until it gets uncomfortable or inconvenient. Then forget it.” 
RIGHT ATTITUDE: “Following Jesus is worth whatever I suffer in this life. Suffering is temporary, but His rewards are forever.

Wherever we are on the journey of faith, we should all be striving to become more mature and Christ-like. Think about it: if we are suffering for the Lord and rejoicing, what is left to bring us down? We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for coming to earth to live as one of us. Thank You for understanding our weaknesses and being willing to die to give us new life. As we look to You as our only hope, draw us to Yourself, and make us more like You, in Your name, Amen.

“Be-(or “Not Be-)Attitudes” – The Road to True Happiness

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them …                                                                                                                                                                                 Matthew 5:1-2

The passage of Scripture known as the “Beatitudes” introduced what is arguably the most well-known sermon of all time,  Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  I had always considered the Beatitudes beautiful, poetic, and sweet. To me the passage sounded philosophically profound, but not exactly practical. (At least I didn’t know what to do with it.)

Then one Sunday while visiting a church I didn’t normally attend, I heard a message that was the beginning of a series on the Beatitudes. There, in a formal, ritualistic setting, where frankly I didn’t expect to hear anything new or profound, the pastor approached this passage from a different perspective, as the story of Redemption. And although I heard only the beginning of the series, I could tell where the minister was going with it, and I pursued that train of thought in my own studies of the Bible.

Ever since then I have thought of the Beatitudes as a sort of snapshot of the gospel, a “Readers’ Digest version” of the journey of a soul from being utterly lost to being saved, mature, and Christ-like.

“Blessed” here means “happy,” and the “Be-attitudes” tell what the right attitudes are to be ultimately, truly happy. Although some of them do not sound happy at all (“poor in spirit,” “mourn,” “hunger and thirst”), when approached with the right attitude, all these things can lead to the kind of happiness most people can only dream of.

So here, step by step, are what I see as the attitudes we need when faced with the circumstances in life that are inevitable to all of us:

1.) “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (vs. 3)

Each and every one of us sooner or later falls into in a state of spiritual bankruptcy. Some of us reach the point where we are ready to admit it, but some aren’t quite there yet; either we are blind to our own condition, or we are in denial. Either way, the wrong attitude can be a roadblock on the journey to true happiness.

WRONG ATTITUDE:Nothin’ wrong with me.”

RIGHT ATTITUDE:I’m lost!

 

2.) “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (vs. 4)

It’s not enough to realize we are woefully lacking in the spiritual area of life. Some see “spirituality” as more of a personality trait. They might figure, “I’m not that type,” and decline to pursue being “that type.” But denying that one state is better than another will only be another roadblock.

WRONG ATTITUDE:Yeah, I’m lost. So what?

RIGHT ATTITUDE:I’m lost, and this is bad!

 

3.) “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (vs. 5)

Contrary to popular belief, meekness isn’t weakness. It isn’t self-loathing or an inferiority complex. It is, rather, having an honest, realistic perspective of ourselves. In the spiritual realm meekness involves being willing to take responsibility for our own attitudes and actions, which is in fact a strong quality to have. As much as the “Blame Game” is in vogue these days, blaming others will only bring our salvation journey to a screeching halt. Whatever part anyone else has played in where I am today, the only person I have any control over is myself. I need the meekness to admit, “I am the one responsible for where I am.” This admission is the beginning of repentance, and a vibrant relationship with God requires repentance up front. Experiencing sorrow over our sins doesn’t seem like a very “happy” place to be, but it is the doorway to much better things!

WRONG ATTITUDE: “My life is a mess, and it’s bad, but it’s my parents’ (or my teachers’ or society’s) fault!

RIGHT ATTITUDE:I’m lost, I’m in trouble, and I am to blame.

Now if we’re honest with ourselves, we have to add, and I can’t do anything to help myself! which brings us to

 

            The Turning Point

4.) “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (vs 6)

Now that we’ve faced up to our condition, recognized that it’s not good, and admitted that it’s our own fault, do we just sink into depression, self-loathing, and hopelessness?

I would say, “Without God, yeah …”

But we are NOT without God – or we don’t have to be! Jesus came to show us the heart of a God who loves us and pursues us, even when we run away from Him. The point of “hungering and thirsting” for something better, the point at which we decide to stop running, can be the turning point of our lives. Jesus said later in the same sermon, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) He is the One who can exchange our sin for His righteousness, and He wants to!

WRONG ATTITUDE:Poor, horrible me! I’m hopeless.

RIGHT ATTITUDE:I’m lost, it’s bad, and it’s my fault. But I want something better!

The Good News (the “gospel”) is that we can have something better. We were created for something better! Those who have reached the point where we realize our lost predicament, own up to it, and turn to God for the remedy – they are people on the threshold of what Jesus called “abundant life!”

Next week we’ll see what the remaining Beatitudes tell us about walking in that abundance, and how much further God’s grace will take us!

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You for opening our eyes to our lostness, our misery, and our sin, and for making us aware that You offer a better life to those who desire it and turn to You. Thank You for being willing to free us from our old way of life. Make us willing to receive the new life You offer by faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Heed the Warnings

“[H]ow shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?                                                                                                                                                           Hebrews 2:3

I recently saw “Edge of Tomorrow,” the 2014 sci-fi film starring Tom Cruise. The film takes place in the future, as an alien invasion threatens the existence of humanity. Major William Cage [Cruise] has been accused of treason and forcibly sent into battle, where he is killed, along with every other member of the mission.

But then he wakes up, back in handcuffs, and is forced to relive the last day of his life again.

And again. And again. And AGAIN.

(“War of the Worlds” meets “Groundhog Day.”)

With each consecutive life Cage learns more about his situation, the people and creatures involved, and what not to do to get killed (along with the rest of Mankind), only to perish in another way and wake up, handcuffed, to try again.

At first Cage does all he can to convince the officers around him to believe him when he tries to tell them what is happening to him, and what is about to happen to all of them. He accurately states details about them and predicts what they are about to say (same things they said last time), but though they are baffled, they’re unyielding. So they continue to send the troops out in a “surprise attack,” only to be slaughtered by enemies who were expecting them – that Cage knew were expecting them.

How many of us have tried unsuccessfully to pass on the wisdom of our own life lessons? (And all the parents said, “Amen!”) Like Major Cage, we know that people ignore our warnings to their own peril, but screaming louder only convinces them that the messenger is crazy.

And how many of us have ignored the admonitions of others and ended up regretting it? Their shrill warnings have sounded crazy to us, so we write them off as madmen. (Indeed, there have been madmen making false predictions in the past, thus the dilemma.)

However, there is One who transcends time and space, One who has seen the future – He’s been there. Although His predictions are accurate, He, too, is ignored by multitudes of people. But we should heed His warnings, because He is not only all-knowing, He is all-loving. He has made the future known to us in His Word (the Bible). Some of His predictions are:

  • That conditions in the world – floods, wars, plagues, and famine – will increase in frequency and intensity. (Matthew 24: 7 & 8)
  • That the enemy of our souls will send false saviors, false miracles, and lies. We are to be on our guard against them and not be deceived; our only true Savior is Jesus Christ. (Matthew 24: 4-5, 11, 23-27)
  • That persecution of Christians will increase (Matthew 24: 9-10, John 15: 18-25; 16: 2-3) , but that we should persevere, because
  • Jesus is coming back for us, (John 14:18) to take those who are faithful away with Him to an everlasting reward (I Corinthians 15: 51-57). *                                                                                                                                                                                                              In “Edge of Tomorrow,” Cage’s goal is to save the world. God’s promises are infinitely better. The consequences for failure to heed Him are also infinitely worse.                                                                                                                                                                If we don’t get it right in regard to God’s truths, we will end up in the wrong place.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                For eternity.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Think about it: Get it right, spend eternity in a perfect place, in perfect bliss, with the perfect heavenly Father, being the Bride of His Son, the Prince of Peace.                                                                                                                                                                      Get it wrong, spend eternity away from his presence, in everlasting darkness, pain, misery, and regret.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                News, blogs, and self-help articles suggest a lot of New Year’s resolutions. But the best we can do in this new year is heed God’s warnings, and live for Him, day by day, from now on.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         For those who have never placed their faith in Him, the starting point is to acknowledge our sins, our powerlessness to help ourselves, and our need to change.  And since Jesus is the only One who paid for our sins Himself by willingly dying on the cross, the next step is to surrender our flawed lives to Him, with a willingness to abandon our sinful ways and follow Him.                                                                                                                                                                                                                      For all of us, the way to know His mind and heart is to read the Bible. The better we know God’s Word, the better prepared we will be for what’s to come.

    Prayer: Lord God, who sees the end from the beginning, thank You for giving us a glimpse into the future through You Word. Forgive us for all the times we have ignored Your warnings. We thank You for holding back Your judgment, giving us time to heed Your Word and repent. We thank You for receiving us as Your beloved children the moment we place our faith in You. And thank You that we can follow You confidently into the future, knowing that You’ve already been there, for You transcend time. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

    * There are many, many scriptures describing the future for this world and for believers in Jesus Christ. Those cited here are just a few. To be best informed, read the Bible regularly.

Worth Repeating

This year before the holidays I diligently wrote and scheduled ahead so I could enjoy family time without worrying about blogging for a few weeks. Well, now the pre-written blogs have been used up, and I still have family stuff going on.

For that reason, and because I have many new followers since last New Year’s, and  because this is one of my more amazing, what-are-the-chances?! experiences, today I am rerunning something you may not have seen. Enjoy, and I promise something fresh and new next week!

                                A Warrior’s Story

God is our refuge and strength,                                                                                                       an ever-present help in trouble.                                                                      He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;                                                                                  he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,                                                                          he burns the shields with fire.                                                                      “Be still, and know that I am God;                                                                                                   I will be exalted among the nations,                                                                                   I will be exalted in the earth.”                                 Psalm 46:1,9,10

 

I came across this journal entry from three years ago and just had to share it with my readers. This was probably the most exciting New Year’s I have ever had. Enjoy!                  

It’s New Year’s Day in Louisville. And in New York. And in L. A. And in Paris and Munich and the Middle East. And as far as I know, there have been no successful terrorist attacks.

There were threats, and as usual I prayed. I’ve been praying against terrorism daily since July of 2005. I had become frustrated with praying for the families of the victims after the fact and asked God how – with no idea where the enemy was or what their targets were – I could narrow down my prayer to be the kind of specific prayer He answers in my life – before these things happen. He had said (in His “still, small voice”), “Narrow it down to what they have planned today.”

Have these prayers been answered? I have a file folder full of articles – just the ones I’ve seen and saved – about thwarted terrorist attacks, some foiled by the authorities and some stopped by ordinary citizens who “saw/heard something suspicious;” some failed because the explosives didn’t detonate, and some failed because the perpetrator had a change of heart. Those are my favorite stories – where a former would-be terrorist is now a child of God – an evangelist, a church planter, an igniter of revival. (Glory!)

Do I think I personally have stopped terrorists? No … well, not exactly. I do believe in the power of prayer, otherwise I would not have prayed the same prayer over 4,000 times and would not be planning to continue. I do believe there’s power in consistent prayer and prayer by many people, and if an act of terror occurred because only 99 people prayed against it and 100 prayer warriors could have stopped it, I don’t want to be the weak link. Of course, GOD is the One who answers those prayers, but for whatever reason, I believe He honors consistency and unity.

I usually pray [these prayers] at night, because if/when I resolved to pray in the morning, there was always something to distract me or make me forget, so I just have a rule that I don’t lie down until I’ve covered our nation, leaders, military, intelligence, security, law enforcement, targets, and the terrorists themselves in prayer. If I am especially tired, it’s hard and might take an hour to pray what I should have been able to pray in eight minutes. (Some will call me obsessive, but I take this stuff seriously.)

Yesterday I prayed earlier in the day than usual and prayed specifically for New York City, Washington D. C., and Los Angeles. I had read that these cities were on high alert because of some threats. I had also heard that over a million people were expected to be in Times Square that night.

Marty and I didn’t go out for any New Year’s Eve festivities. We’re new in town,  and we haven’t made enough friends yet to be invited to any parties. So after babysitting the grandchildren … we turned to Netflix and spent the next 5-10 minutes browsing. After reading a few plot synopses, we settled on “Survivor” (or “The Survivor”) – a movie evidently about stopping a terrorist attack. I thought, “Good, it’ll remind me to keep praying for New York City.” So I said another prayer for those million+ people.

I prayed on and off even as we were watching the movie, and when I realized the terror plot in the show involved a an attack on Times Square on New Year’s Eve, I thought, What a coincidence! and kept praying.

At one point I was heating my shoulder pad in the microwave for an achy neck and noticed it was 11:53. I thought, Only 7 more minutes. I sat back down, and the film showed a sign in Times Square saying  “Only 7 minutes to go!”

I realized this “random” movie, that we “randomly” picked – off Netflix – and started at a “random” time was synchronized – to the minute – with our New Year’s Eve. (We couldn’t have planned that if we’d wanted to, even if we had known in advance what the plot was.)

It didn’t occur to me until this morning that God was encouraging me about the power of my prayers, as I remembered the end of the movie, where one of the characters said to the woman who had stopped the terrorists, “There were a million people here tonight. And you saved all of them.”

Do I think I saved everybody in Times Square last night? Of course not. I do believe in the power of prayer, and who knows how many other people who believe in it were praying last night? And God is the One who answers the prayers, but for whatever reason, I believe He honors consistency and unity. And I don’t want to be the weak link.

– journal,  January 1, 2016

Prayer: Lord, we understand so little about the power of prayer, just that You want us to do it. Thank You for all the times You have proven true to Your promises and answered us when we cried out to you. Help us to be faithful, too, in whatever You have called us to do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.