OH … You Mean LITERALLY?

Jesus replied, “‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Matthew 22:37-39

When we first moved to Michigan, this city girl felt like Laura Ingalls Wilder. Our “little house in the big woods,” was a beautiful setting that Marty adjusted to quickly, having grown up in rural Illinois.

(When Marty is in the city, he wonders, Where are the woods? the lakes? the creeks? When I’m in the country, I wonder, Where is everybody?)

We lived at the end of a dirt road that had three houses at the time, and we could only see one from our front door. It was hardly a setting where one would expect challenges in neighbor relationships.

I learned quickly who lived in that house across the road, when as we were still unpacking, the woman who lived there came to visit, bringing something she had baked and enthusiastically welcoming us to the “neighborhood.” How nice, I thought. She stayed and talked a while, and I learned all about her and her husband. They were both retired, and while he seemed to keep to himself, Vicki clearly wasn’t used to being without people around. She seemed downright giddy to have a neighbor to talk to.

And talk to … and talk to…

She was a retired hairdresser, and her specialty had been elderly ladies. She told me numerous times about the “senior citizens” coming in on certain days and getting a special discount. I learned all about perms and body waves and what might look good on me. Vicki told me about her dog Sandy, a large, undisciplined German Shepherd that was always running off into the woods. I already knew about “Sandy-Bandy-Boo-Boo,” as Vicki regularly stood at her door calling him, seemingly oblivious to the fact that despite her shouting, he would come back when he was good and ready.

It was not only Sandy’s perpetual absence that brought out Vicki’s booming voice. Even in our visits (In those early days it was two or three times a day), she shouted. The moment she yelled, “HI ANN!” I would greet her back at nearly the same level, assuming she was hard of hearing, and the volume would either remain or escalate as the conversation went on. Usually by the time she left, I was a bit hoarse and totally stressed.

I was a young Christian in those days, just learning to have regular, uninterrupted time with Jesus every morning. Before long I was having that time even before Marty got up, in order to be “prayed up” before any surprise company arrived. Soon I joined a women’s Bible study that met one morning a week, got on the board of the local Christian Women’s Club, and signed up to substitute teach at the local high school. The substitute teaching led to my having an informal “youth group” in my living room one evening a week. I did like to be involved, but I think at least part of my eagerness to get out of the house involved escaping my loud neighbor’s constant visits.

I was keenly aware that Jesus commanded His followers to love others, even those who were hard to love. I had always assumed this referred to people who were unkind to us. When someone insulted us or ridiculed us, or even persecuted us, we were to “turn the other cheek” and respond to their hatred with His love. We were to love those who didn’t love us, who abandoned us, ignored us, or treated us as dispensable.

It hadn’t occurred to me to apply that command to the neighbor who wouldn’t leave me alone, who was so overwhelmingly friendly day after day after day, and whose baked goods were piling up on my kitchen counter, as if they were the price of admission for an hour of companionship.

I realized that Vicki, was one of those people – the “least of these” – that was hard to love. And while I wanted to delve into the deeper things of God, to become a more mature Christ-follower, I knew if I hadn’t yet mastered the grass-roots concept of “love thy neighbor,” I was a pretty pathetic believer.

I knew Vicki was profoundly lonely, that she needed Jesus, but whenever I had tried to talk to her about Him or about my church, I had been interrupted or shouted over, and the conversation would go back to baked goods and perms and dogs and senior citizens, and I would give up. Now I wonder if I gave up too easily – if deep down I was just reluctant to have her and her loud voice join my church or Bible study.

It also occurred to me that I had never actively shown Vicki the love of the Lord. She had always come to my house. I had never once initiated a visit, had never even seen the inside of her house.

I had tolerated her, but never really loved her.

As usual, Jesus was not content to leave me at that shallow stage of discipleship. But knowing that I wasn’t exactly a spiritual giant, the lesson had to be quick, simple, and profound. And it was, evidence by the fact that over forty years later I still remember it quite clearly…

(To be continued …)

Prayer: Lord, You are infinite in Your love and understanding, and we are limited in both. We find it hard to love, not only those who don’t love us, but even those who do love us – who need us. We are selfish creatures. We need to be needed, but we don’t want to be tied down. We don’t understand others, and frankly at times we don’t want to understand them. Lord, bring us out of our self-centered bubbles and open our eyes to see the way You want us to live. Fill us with divine love, not merely human tolerance. For only then will we experience true joy that we can pass on to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Mysterious, Morphing Me (Update)

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. – I Corinthians 13:11

Recently I heard a Bible teacher outline the spiritual journey of a Christian in three stages: Curious, Convinced, and Committed.

Hearing this brought back a memory of a brief but vivid dream from years ago. I wrote about it here before, but for the 600 followers I’ve picked up since then, I think it worth repeating, especially in a time where the world is in so much turmoil.

Looking out the window, I saw a large squirrel, pure white. As I was thinking I’d never seen an albino squirrel, it began to grow, morphing into a sheep!

Confused, I asked the person next to me, “Is that a squirrel, or a sheep?” – realizing the moment the words were out of my mouth how silly they sounded.

But now the sheep was changing, too! Its legs were getting longer and more slender, and the way it moved was less like a sheep’s walk and more like the energetic trot of a dog. It was only then that I noticed a young man calling to the squirrel/sheep/dog. Promptly and obediently it came and trotted alongside its master.

When I woke up, I lay there for a few moments, asking the LORD, What was that all about???

I thought about the characteristic of the three animals, starting with the squirrel.

Curious

Squirrels are … well, squirrely. They are curious and flighty, with an attention span of about two seconds. I can only imagine how their little minds run. Hey-what-IS-that?-wow-cool-That’s-awesome-gotta-go-now! Squirrels are energetic and entertaining, but don’t expect them to be responsible. One thing they are not is committed.

As a child I was flighty (even more than now), and although I now know God was caring for me and looking out for me as I explored my world, I was oblivious to His presence in my life. I was a little squirrel – cute perhaps, but pretty useless.

Convinced

Sheep, on the other hand, are not oblivious to their shepherd! They know he is their guide to food and clear, clean water. He’s their protector and the one who cares for them when they are sick or injured. Sheep are almost never far from their shepherd. If one does wander away, it most certainly will find some kind of trouble and need to be rescued.

When I first knew about Jesus, I loved Him in my own little-lamb way. I trusted Him, knowing that He had created me, came to earth to save me, died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins, protected me, provided for me, healed me, and would someday give me eternal life in heaven!

That’s an awful lot of “me’s!” My love for Jesus then was based on the things He did for me. As long as I was being cared for, I would follow Jesus, and I usually took Him for granted. It never dawned on me that I could do anything for Him.

Committed

Dogs also know where their food and care come from, but unlike sheep, their loyalty is not based entirely on having their needs met. A dog is often in the position to serve his master, as well. Dogs help firefighters and law enforcement officers save lives, help sheep herders round up the flock, or bring love and joy to patients in hospitals and nursing homes. Service dogs can guide the blind or alert a patient of a medical need. Even the average family dog can find ways to help, guarding the home, alerting the family when company comes, or just being there to hug after a bad day.

As I have matured in my relationship with Jesus, I desire to serve Him – not to get Him to love me, because I know He already does – but to express my love and gratitude. After all, He suffered and died to save my soul. Today I want to make Him smile.

Which creature are you?

Do you identify with the loyal dog, wholeheartedly serving your Master? Does His kingdom benefit from your ministry and mission? Or are you more of a little lamb, just staying close to your Shepherd, trusting Him for getting your needs met?

Trusting Jesus is a great thing, especially if you’re a new believer. We should all have that quality of complete trust, all of our lives.

But are you ready to take your devotion to the next level and explore ways He might work through you to accomplish His purposes? Are you ready to give back to Him – not to earn His favor, but to celebrate His love and share it with others?

Every morning the news headlines have terrifying stories from all different fronts. The problems are overwhelming. We may want to stick our heads in the sand and wish it all to just go away. But as I often say, while sticking your head in the sand might be an option, it leaves the rest of you pretty vulnerable!

So, while we can rest in knowing we are His beloved sheep, there comes a time to step out of the green pastures and still waters of our comfort zone and reach a world that is lost and dying. Our Shepherd renews and strengthen us for a reason. No one of us can solve the world’s problems, but that isn’t an excuse to do nothing. God can use each of us to make a difference to someone. The Church can’t afford to simply graze in the comfort of the pasture.

The world needs JESUS, and we need all hands on deck!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for being our Good Shepherd and for Your constant care for us, even before we knew You. Help us to grow spiritually, so that we can be all You created us to be, not only Your sheep, but Your servants. In Your name, amen.

Note to the curious: Maybe you aren’t even at the sheep stage yet. Maybe you’re just an energetic little squirrel, running aimlessly through life. Have you been keeping God at arms’ length, because the world has so many other things to occupy your mind? If so, maybe it’s time to finally get acquainted with the One who loves you so much that He died to give you life, and discover the reason He created you.

For more on this journey to true happiness, see the following posts:

Visiting My Mothers in Heaven

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” John 11: 25-27

The dream came shortly after my mother’s death, and about eight years after my mother-in-law’s. It was one of those dreams that caused me to wake up smiling.

I’m not sure how I got there, but in my dream I was with my mother and my mother-in-law in a place that seemed neither inside nor outside. If it was inside, the place was huge. If it was outside, it was inexplicably cozy.

The floor or ground was covered with flowers – flowers we were making together. Although my school never had a homecoming parade, I imagined it was a little like gathering in the gym with classmates to make paper flowers for a float. But these flowers weren’t paper. They were real, soft, colorful, fragrant flowers!

As we made one beautiful blossom after another, we indulged in “girl talk,” reminiscing about the highlights of our lives, joking, telling stories, laughing, even singing. As the piles of flowers grew higher, the fellowship grew sweeter and sweeter.

At one point I realized somehow that my visit with them was coming to an end. I reluctantly told them it was time for me to go, and they seemed to understand.

“This has been so wonderful!” I exclaimed, unable to fully express what our time together had meant to me. “And such a delightful surprise,” I added, still not quite realizing this was a dream. In my confusion, I stammered, “I-I thought you two were dead!”

Those dear women looked at each other for a moment, and simultaneously burst out laughing. They giggled as though this were the funniest joke they had ever heard.

When finally they began to catch their breath, my mother shook her head and said to me in that sweet, reassuring voice I had grown up depending on, “Oh honey, of course we’re not dead!” I can still picture their affectionate smiles as they said good-bye – or rather, “We’ll see you soon.”

For some people Mother’s Day is a sad reminder of someone dear who has departed this life. But if that mother knew Jesus as her Lord and Savior, it doesn’t have to be a sad day. After all, Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for the sin that separates us from our Creator.

And since Jesus didn’t stay dead but rose from the grave – conquering death once and for all – we know that death is not the end! Those who accept Jesus’s atoning sacrifice as a free gift are washed clean of their sin, and those who believe in His resurrection will be raised as He was raised! We will be together again – not sitting around on clouds playing harps (unless playing a harp is something you enjoy doing – I do.) – but in some way being an active part in His kingdom. Maybe we’ll be making flowers, or sculpting mountains, or composing worship music that surpasses anything we have yet heard on earth. I can envision my creative husband helping build the most beautiful mansions in preparation for souls yet to arrive.

On Mother’s Day, when memories of my mother come to mind, there is a certain bitter-sweetness to them. But it’s more sweet than bitter. I know she’s safely with her Savior, as well as all the other loved ones who have gone to be with Him – what a glorious fellowship we have to look forward to!

Meanwhile, I can still talk to Jesus every day, right where I am, and I can pray,

“Lord, tell Mom I love her, and I’ll see her soon.”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank You for mothers. For some of us they have been channels of Your love, for others, examples of the fallenness of the human race. Some of us struggle to forgive our mothers, while some of us miss our mothers terribly. Some of us feel conflicting emotions of love and resentment, because our mothers are doing their best but are as flawed and imperfect as we are. Lord, the qualities we look for and appreciate in good mothers – tender love, nurturing, comfort, loving discipline, patience, humor, loyalty, forgiveness, encouragement, help, self-sacrifice – all are found in You, the Author and Finisher of our faith. For those of us who have mothers in our lives, for those of us who are mothers ourselves, give us these attributes, and help us to be the people You created us to be, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

God’s Split-second Timing

For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. – Psalm 91:11

“Anyone with kids has to believe in guardian angels, because statistically it’s impossible to grow up.” – my father

I didn’t want to interrupt their day. Thank God I did.

While my daughter Joanna’s family lives only a mile from us, the other grandparents live in another state. So, when “Marni and Papa” are in town for a visit, my husband and I usually do our own thing and let them have the grandkids to themselves.

Caroline, with her sassy sense of humor, made it abundantly clear that the focus was on the visitors Tuesday when I was dropping her off along with her sister Charlotte. We had been enjoying a frozen yogurt treat and some animated conversation, but when the girls spotted the familiar car in the driveway, the pitch got even higher as both shrieked with delight, “Marni and Papa!” As they got out of the car, Charlotte said “Thank you, Nana, I love you,” and Caroline, who had barely finished her frozen yogurt, yelled, “‘Bye, Nana! You’re yesterday’s news.” (I guess it was a little rude, and I probably shouldn’t encourage her, but if I had tried not to laugh, I could have hurt myself.)

In spite of the visit from the other grandparents, Friday I “borrowed” Charlotte for a little while. My younger granddaughter gets allergy shots two or three times a week, and because that’s something she and I have in common, I am the one who takes her. On days when I get my shots we get them together. It’s one less thing my daughter has to do, and it has proven to be a very special time for Charlotte and me. The conversations in the car, more often than not, have been those “teachable moments” we’re always hearing about. Of my five grandchildren, Charlotte has always been the one who is most curious about the things of God, and from the time she could barely talk I have frequently marveled at the depth of her questions.

So Friday morning I shot a text to Joanna: “Good morning! Yesterday’s News here. Do you want me to take Charlotte for her shots today? If so, what time?” After assuring me that I wasn’t yesterday’s news to her – (heart emoji) – Joanna said whatever time I wanted, they were just kind of “hanging out,” doing miscellaneous things.

Little did I know that the “random” time I picked was spot on in God’s plan.

(Or was it foiling the enemy’s plan?)

It was a beautiful day, and as I turned the corner next to Joanna’s house, I saw Charlotte standing in the yard, ready to be picked up. Her little brother Jackson was sitting at the edge of the street writing on the pavement with a big blue, piece of chalk, right behind his mother’s minivan. I wondered why the little guy had chosen that odd spot for his artwork.

Suddenly I saw the minivan moving – Joanna was backing out of the driveway!

Realizing she couldn’t see him in any of her mirrors, I hit the horn loud and hard.

Jackson jumped, saw the van, moved over, and kept right on writing. Joanna stopped, giving me an inquisitive look. I parked and ran over as she rolled down the window to see what the emergency was.

“I didn’t know if you knew Jackson was sitting behind your car…” I panted.

From the expression on her face, she clearly had not.

Somehow we both survived the incident without a heart attack, and between Joanna, Charlotte, and me, we persuaded (scolded) Jackson to draw elsewhere and stay out of the street. Annoyed that he had to start over, he clearly didn’t see what all the fuss was about. He threw the chalk onto the ground and stomped into the house.

As Charlotte and I pulled away and headed for the allergist, I said to her, “Well, Charlotte, if you ever wonder why God allowed you to have allergies and have to get shots, if nothing else, here’s a reason: to save your brother’s life!

I walked her through the “what-ifs”: that if it weren’t for having to take her for her shots, I would not have come over and interrupted their day. It also dawned on me that, had I arrived five seconds later – or if I had picked up Charlotte five minutes earlier – there could have been a tragedy from which none of us would have ever recovered.

Every day I ask God to take care of our family, and at times like this I can clearly see His hand in our lives.

But I truly believe that there are countless other times He has had His angels around us when we aren’t even aware of the dangers or thinking about Him, and He “delivers us from evil” more times than we know.

I realize that there are many godly families that have experienced tragedy, and I wouldn’t attempt to explain why. I expect those times will come for us in some form, someday – no one’s life is without its hardships and grief. But that’s exactly why I want to take nothing for granted today. If we’ll focus on and and be thankful for the thousands of times the Lord has been merciful and gracious to us, I believe the memories of those times will give us strength and faith to trust Him when we don’t understand what He’s doing or allowing.

He’s in control, and He knows best.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for every moment of our lives. I believe You have a plan for each of us, and as we put our trust in You, we will not leave this world one moment before Your plan for us is completed. Give us divine perspective, to recognize Your hand in our lives, that we would continually give You the thanks and praise You deserve, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

My Fellow Bloggers, You Have Been Un-spammed.

My first hint that something was off came a while back when some of the comments I received included things like, “Welcome back! I’ve missed your posts.”

The fact was, I had been consistently posting every Friday …

Hmmm …

I also began to notice I had fewer notifications of new posts from many of the blogs I follow. For a long time I figured that as society had been “opening up” and people were less stuck at home, y’all must be getting out more and blogging less. (Not sure why I thought that. I certainly hadn’t been writing less.)

Last night I checked my “spam” folder, and WOW… Looked like y’all were having a party that I wasn’t invited to! I’m not sure how you got there, but I just spent the past hour going through weeks of spam and marking as “NOT spam” the bloggers I have been missing.

So, it’s my turn to say, “WELCOME BACK!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have 282 emails to attend to…

Blessings,

Annie

seekingdivineperspective.com

P.S. A big “THANK YOU!” to those of you who have been loyally reading my posts in spite of my not reading yours lately. And if I ever seem to be making myself scarce, check your spam. Those folders seem to be like ditches we fall into every now and then, except with a real ditch, we’d know it.

Amazing What God Can Do with a Couple of Innocent Sneezes…

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

People who are unfamiliar with the power of prayer might think of it as a dull, monotonous activity. I know I did at one time. But lately I have seen answers to my daily prayers that have added more excitement to my life than I ever expected to see at my age. The following is an email I received from a dear friend who is a pastor in another country. I had received word that he had been hospitalized with Covid and had asked every prayer warrior I knew to intercede with me for him.

As it turned out, he didn’t have Covid at all, but something much more interesting had been happening. Here is the story, in his words:

“Respected servant of God,

Greetings to you in His Holy name! Thank you so much for your love, care, and concerns and prayer supports. Thank you SO MUCH> Let me write in detail on how I got into the COVID Hospital. It is indeed interesting but God’s Plan.

On 23rd March 2021, I was returning from a mission field by local transportation after the baptism program, I twice had sneezing. I had a mask on my face and no fever, no cold nothing. I was talking and sharing the Gospel. When I sneezed twice, the three people that were seating in our front seat though their faces were towards the front side, created a problem. Since I was sharing the Gospel with my neighbor but they were listening to me very keenly. And I am sure, they too heard the Gospel. But I didn’t know that they belonged to [a fanatical group from another religion]. So, they started arguing with me saying: “The god Jesus you were talking about is a foreign god, you people are forcefully converting other faith people and making them Christian….etc”. But very politely I told them, “I am sharing the Gospel which is the real story that happened in the history of mankind. It is my duty to share the Gospel, but it is the hearer’s responsibility to accept the Gospel or reject the Gospel.” But in order to bring some allegation upon me, they slowly led the argument towards my sneezing. Finally, they put an allegation saying that you are a coronavirus patient. I said, I am not. But they tried their best to put me into trouble. Early morning, I arrived home, but without my knowledge someone was following me. And those three people informed the police that I am affected by the coronavirus. So, on 24th March 2021, around 3 PM, one man came and took me to the nearby hospital to have a covid test. Then I came back home. The hospital people told me to collect the report by 8PM. I was getting ready to go for the same, again the same people reached my home and said, you are tested covid positive and you have to go to the covid hospital. Without giving me a report, they simply said, I am tested covid positive and they forcefully took me to the hospital by an ambulance. I was in the hospital till 31st March 2021, but they didn’t give me a single medicine because I didn’t have any cough, cold or fever. I was discharged from the hospital on 31st March 2021 evening, but they again took me to an isolated place for quarantine. They asked me to be there for a week but they released me from there yesterday and again they have asked me to be at home quarantine for a week.

This is nothing but a game played by those three people who were seated in front of our seat. They wanted their best to do some harm for me but God protected me from their hand. It was their plan and game to put me into corona hospital. Moreover, since last year, I think I must have told you that, police department and medical department in [that country] play a politics with corona cases. They simply take people in the name of a corona positive case; they enter the patient’s name in the hospital register book, keep them for a few days and leave them. The more numbers, the more money they get from the government. And by doing this, they get more money illegally. But I thank God for this incident. Though those three people out of anger they put me into the covid hospital, God used me to share the Gospel with more than 150 people inside the hospital and more than 80 people I offered prayer in the Name of Jesus upon their request. Even, when I was in quarantine, I spent my time in prayer, particularly praying for those people whom I shared the Gospel and offered prayer. I strongly believe that God would bring them to the saving knowledge of Christ Jesus. Some of them have taken my mobile number and I have asked them to call me if they need to hear more about Jesus.


So, this is the story. The enemies of the Gospel are active in their work when we are active in sharing the Gospel.

[He goes on to (again) thank everyone who prayed for him and tell about the books he was reading in the hospital, including my book BARRIERS – which he read three more times ( ❤ ) and requested I send more copies. (!) – So, I get to be part of this incredible ministry!

Pretty boring, huh? 😉

Prayer: Lord, Your enemies are no match for You. You are the most powerful (You created the universe.), the wisest (You outwit all Your enemies.), and the most loving (You gave Your life to pay for our sins.) We are so blessed to have the God of the universe on our side! Thank You, Jesus! Amen

Do You Smell Right?

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other the fragrance of life.

II Corinthians 2:14-16

One Sunday I was greeting a friend at church when she grinned and said, “Pastor Tom hugged you this morning, didn’t he?”

“He did,” I confirmed. It wasn’t a wild guess. Not many people got through the door without getting a hug from Pastor Tom.

“I could smell his aftershave,” she chuckled. Apparently the hugging pastor had his own distinctive ambience, and all he came into contact with took a little of that ambience with them. That got me wondering, can people tell I’ve been with Jesus by the way I “smell”?

After Jesus was arrested, people recognized Peter as one of His disciples by his accent. (Matthew 26:73) In the book of Acts it was written that people who saw the courage of the disciples took note that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13) And in the passage above, Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians that God spreads through us the fragrance of the knowledge of His Son.

So, the question is, are we (Christians) doing that? When we’re in the room, can people “smell Jesus”? Have we spent enough time with Him that His essence permeates our lives? Have we been embraced by Him, enveloped in His fragrance, – saturated in it – so that wherever we go we are the aroma of life to those who are called of God?

Another question – and here’s where it gets hard – are we the stench of death to those who are perishing? Are we so good at representing Jesus that those who hate and reject Him also hate and reject us? – And if so, are we okay with that?

I think with all my early insecurities and fear of other people’s opinions, I had as an unspoken goal of having everyone like me. There were a few times I seemed to have succeeded. I have memories of summer camp in my middle school years, sharing a cabin with girls who were prone to be drama queens on occasion. I remember more than once hearing a young lady wail in despair, “Everybody hates me! … except Ann!” (I doubt it had anything to do with any virtue on my part, just an unwillingness to get in the middle of an adolescent cat-fight.)

But for the mature Christian, being liked by everyone and avoiding others’ disapproval is not the goal.

On the contrary, if everyone likes us, it’s a pretty sure sign we’re doing something wrong.

Jesus told His disciples ahead of time,

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (John 15:18-20)

Apparently, not everyone is going to appreciate the fragrance we carry with us from belonging to Jesus. With all of the beautiful promises He has given us, there’s also the promise that we will be persecuted for His sake. Being rejected and hated could very well be a sign that we’re doing something right.

But persecution is not something we should go looking for! We’ve all met people who act like jerks and then, when others respond in kind, take it as a sign that they are righteous people being persecuted. Let’s not kid ourselves.

Peter wrote:

If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (I Peter 4:15, 16)

Although we can’t expect everyone to love us, or even like us, this does not excuse us from Jesus’ command to love everyone, even our enemies!

“But I tell you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

It isn’t up to us to decide who is going to be saved and who is going to reject Christ’s offer of salvation forever. God can do surprising things, and sometimes the last person you expect to surrender his life to Jesus is the one who is transformed seemingly overnight and taking the world by storm – if the Christians around him don’t blow it by acting un-Christlike.

So, I for one want to spend ample time each day, as early in the day as possible, in the presence of Jesus. I want to be able to come away from my prayer time filled with His light and saturated with His fragrance, so that as I go about my day, I can bring His presence with me, so that He can impact lives around me in any way He sees fit to do.

In other words, our job is to spend time in the Lord’s presence and walk in His Spirit. If we do this, wherever we go we will carry His aroma to those around us. Whether that’s the aroma of life or the stench of death is up to them.

Prayer: Lord, I delight in You; give me the desires of my heart – the desire for more of You: to see Your face, to hear Your voice, to feel Your embrace, and to have my heart beat in sync with Yours. I want to smell Your fragrance and be enveloped in it, saturated with it, so that wherever I go I will be the aroma of life to those You are calling – even if it means being the stench of death to those who are perishing. May I not be hated for being a despicable person, doing despicable things, or even as an obnoxious person. But if I am hated for being Yours and for being like You, I will wear that rejection as a badge of honor, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Balloons, Streamers, and Resurrection

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has risen from the dead’ … ” Matthew 28

[Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” Mark 16:15

As some of my readers know, I was involved in an outreach in Michigan called “Satan’s Worst Nightmare,” which occurred every Halloween. It took fifteen years for the outreach to grow into a multimedia production, complete with live music, drama (depicting the death, burial, resurrection and final victory of Jesus Christ – from Satan’s point of view), dance, special effects, sidewalk counseling, and free Bibles, food, hot cider, tracts, and candy. But it started as a simple yard display.

One October day I had been getting a little weary of the usual yard displays – cemeteries, corpses hanging from trees, the “Grim Reaper,” witches, zombies, giant spiders, etc. It seemed the world was celebrating death, darkness, and evil. My friend Kelly and I decided to decorate her yard with a different kind of display, one celebrating life, while keeping with the general style of the season. We filled her yard with tombstones, which didn’t seem that unique at first. But each one of our headstones had a verse from the Bible on it having to do with resurrection and eternal life.

It was meant to make people take a second look, and it worked. After the display was set up, Kelly would enjoy sitting in her living room, sipping her coffee and watching out the window as people walked by, stopped in their tracks, did a “double take,” and backed up to read the messages on the tombstones. As they read, she’d pray.

Since moving to Kentucky I have made some evangelistic tombstones of my own, and last Halloween they were spread out in front of our house – as much a anything could be spread out in our little yard. A black sign with jagged edges and creepy writing pointed to the mini-cemetery with the words “Satan’s Worst Nightmare.”

The night before Easter it occurred to me that the verses on the tombstones were just as appropriate for Resurrection Day, probably more. So I dragged them out, minus the “Satan’s Worst Nightmare” sign, and set them up in the yard.

When I backed up to inspect the display, it didn’t look right to me. The verses of Scripture were great, but from a distance the display as a whole looked like a graveyard, and anyone unable to read the Bible verses wouldn’t “get it.”

After a quick trip to the corner store, I blew up some colorful balloons and attached them to the tombstones. Various colors of curly ribbon dangled around the words of Scripture to emphasize the festive, joyous message they conveyed. It was midnight, but from what I could see, I was satisfied with the end product.

Resurrection Morning was sunny and beautiful, and as I was leaving for church, I spotted a neighbor I frequently saw out walking with his little granddaughter. As I greeted them, the little girl’s face lit up, and she went running toward the colorful balloons and ribbons. Grampa’s face broke into a grin as he pointed to the yard and exclaimed, “LOVE it!” I wished them a happy Resurrection Day and hopped in the car. As I drove away, I could see the tiny child still taking in the the view, as her grandfather stood looking at the headstones, I’m guessing reading the good news they were declaring.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, today we hear news that disappoints, distresses, frightens, angers, and saddens us. But You have given us the best news ever. -You have conquered it all! You died for us, to pay for our sins, and You are alive! You freely offer us the gift of salvation and ask only that we believe and share the good news with everyone. Let our writings, our voices, our faces, our actions – even our homes – communicate that good news daily. When people look at us, may they see You. In Your name we pray, Amen.

Easter Tears

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” John 20:15

The college I went to many years ago did not have “Easter Break,” just “Spring Break.” During my freshman year I was on campus for Easter, or as I prefer to call it now, “Resurrection Day.”

It had been a rough spring. Having had one throat infection after another, I had lost my voice entirely, and one doctor had even suggested that I may have damaged my vocal cords permanently. I had been forced to drop out of choir and the other singing group I had been a part of, and my final scene for acting class was an embarrassing mime, at which I proved woefully inept. For me to be a theater major without a voice was bad enough; having to refrain from singing, the thing that gave me more joy than anything, was downright depressing. And of course, the physical pain on top of everything else threatened to send me spiraling down even further into despair.

I had discovered – or rediscovered – my Christian faith during that year, and if you had looked up “Jesus freak” in the dictionary, you would have seen a picture of me. I wanted to tell the “Good News” to everyone, but now could barely communicate with anyone. And so I often could be found shut up in my room alone, praying and trying to read my Bible without letting the tears splash onto the pages. I sometimes would have Simon and Garfunkel singing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” from my stereo to give me comfort, but that turned out to be merely the soundtrack of my pity party.

There was a special service in the chapel Easter weekend, and I attended, thinking I really should celebrate this holiest of all days. But as the choir filed in, I felt a lump in my already sore throat. When they began to sing “Christ the Lord Is Ris’n Today” and the congregation joined in, I felt so left out that all I could do was stand there and cry. I loved the Lord with all my 19-year-old heart, but here it was Easter, and all I could do was sit there and watch everyone else celebrate. It was SO UNFAIR!

I don’t know if I was consciously praying or just silently whining to myself, but the though passed through my head,

What could be worse than wanting to sing AT EASTER and not being able to!?

But the One who was with me heard my silent question and answered immediately. I could “hear” His still, small voice in my heart, saying gently,

What could be worse?? Being able to sing at Easter, but not wanting to.

The Voice was right. Whatever this life holds, I have Jesus. And having Him, I am far better off than anyone, in any circumstance, who doesn’t.

My prayer for all of my readers/followers/friends this Resurrection Day is that you will know Him and let Him lead you through life, whatever comes. If you aren’t sure, or if you know you need a relationship with the Lord, here are a couple of posts to get you started:

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2020/01/17/be-attitudes-biography-of-a-believer/

https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2020/01/24/the-be-or-not-be-attitudes-the-road-to-true-happiness-part-2/

If you take Jesus’ words to heart, if you place your faith in Him, I’ll meet you later – “here, there, or in the air” – and we’ll sing His praises together.

HAVE A BLESSED RESURRECTION DAY!

Annie

Prayer: Lord Jesus, the worst of times with You are better than the best of times without You. Keep us aware of Your presence, sensitive to Your leading, and obedient to Your will, in Your name. Amen.

“It’s Friday. But Sunday’s Coming!”

“Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.”                                                                                                                                                                     John 16:20

 

If the title of this post looks familiar to you, it’s because S. M. Lockridge (1913-2000), a prominent African-American preacher, preached a sermon by that name that has moved people, stirred their passion, and given them hope for years. Author and speaker Tony Campolo was so moved by Lockridge’s words that he has been sharing the message with his audiences and written a book by that name.

Even though the circumstances in the world have changed, the power of the Cross hasn’t, and the hope of the Resurrection remains timeless. Today of all days, let’s remember the incredible LOVE that was extended to us on that gruesome Friday so long ago, ponder its meaning, and share it with our loved ones.

Here is an excerpt from that famous sermon, as relevant as ever, followed by my “updated” 2020 version of the conclusion:

It’s Friday. Jesus is praying. Peter’s a sleeping. Judas is betraying. But Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday. Pilate’s struggling. The council is conspiring. The crowd is vilifying. They don’t even know That Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday. The disciples are running Like sheep without a shepherd. Mary’s crying. Peter is denying. But they don’t know That Sunday’s a comin’.

It’s Friday. The Romans beat my Jesus. They robe him in scarlet. They crown him with thorns. But they don’t know That Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday. See Jesus walking to Calvary. His blood dripping. His body stumbling. And his spirit’s burdened. But you see, it’s only Friday. Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday. The world’s winning. People are sinning. And evil’s grinning.
It’s Friday. The soldiers nail my Savior’s hands To the cross. They nail my Savior’s feet
To the cross. And then they raise him up Next to criminals. It’s Friday. But let me tell you something Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday. The disciples are questioning. What has happened to their King. And the Pharisees are celebrating That their scheming Has been achieved. But they don’t know It’s only Friday. Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday. He’s hanging on the cross. Feeling forsaken by his Father. Left alone and dying Can nobody save him? Ooooh It’s Friday. But Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday. The earth trembles. The sky grows dark. My King yields his spirit. It’s Friday. Hope is lost. Death has won. Sin has conquered. and Satan’s just a laughin’.
It’s Friday. Jesus is buried. A soldier stands guard. And a rock is rolled into place. But it’s Friday. It is only Friday. Sunday is a comin’! *

2020: It’s Friday. An invisible enemy has invaded nation after nation. The peoples of the world are terrified. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Once booming cities are all but empty. London, New York, and Paris are ghost towns. Italy is a graveyard. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. People are isolated from loved ones, separated by glass, social distancing, and fear. Smiles are hidden behind masks. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Hospitals are filled to capacity. Medical staff look like ghosts. They try to extend compassion through masks, gloves, gowns, face shields, and their own anxieties. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Families are devastated, losing loved ones without saying good-bye, mourning without funerals, grieving without comfort. Unless they know that Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jews are commemorating another time they were hidden in their homes, shielded from the Angel of Death by the blood of a spotless lamb on their doors. Again they are awaiting their liberation, watching and waiting for the second Moses, the promised Messiah. He has come! And He is coming back! (Sunday’s coming.)

It’s Friday. Christians are remembering the spotless Lamb of God, betrayed, arrested, beaten, mocked, spit on, nailed to a cross and left to die, the Lamb whose blood saves us from eternal death. (Sunday’s coming.)

It’s Friday. Skeptics and scoffers are shaking their fists at a God they claim not to believe in. They mock believers – “He’s coming back? You people have been saying that for almost 2000 years!” … almost. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Some are wondering if these are the end times. Some are predicting the end of the world. Some have given up hope. But don’t give up hope – Sunday’s coming!

So, now it’s 2021. Has anything changed in the past year? Are we still anxious to “get back to normal”? Are we willing to do anything it takes to get there?

Or are we realizing that “normal” is overrated? Is “normal” even possible any more? Is the world spinning out of control? (Have we ever been in control?) 

It’s Friday. “Has God forgotten us?” some are asking. Others are wondering, “Is He mad at us? Does He hate us? Have we gone too far?”

YES, we have sinned, YES we are all guilty, YES, we desperately need forgiveness, but He has paid for our sins on the Cross, so we can be FORGIVEN and receive eternal life!

Does God still love us? Look at the Lamb of God, sacrificed for you.

(YES, He loves us!)

He has not fallen off His throne! He is in control! He knows things we don’t, and He tells us to trust Him. Death is not the end! He is coming back. Whatever the world, the flesh, or the devil are telling us, we need to keep looking to Him, knowing that 

SUNDAY IS COMING.

*https://thepreachersword.com/2016/12/31/its-friday-but-sundays-coming/#more-1309

Enjoy my new favorite song that I played (and sang) countless times in the past year, which seems very relevant today:

Andrew Peterson – Is He Worthy? – YouTube

Prayer: Lord Jesus, today as we remember Your suffering on the Cross to pay for our sins, we look to You as our only hope in a fallen and desperately wicked world. It has been said that something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. We have seen the price You were willing to pay for us, and we know that You won’t give up on us now. We thank You, we praise You, we rejoice in the Love that was demonstrated by Your sacrifice, and the hope of the Resurrection that we celebrate this Sunday – and every day of our redeemed lives. In Your name we pray, amen.