Thursday, August 17, 2017

Love the Word

Joyful are people of integrity,
    who follow the instructions of the Lord.
Joyful are those who obey his laws
    and search for him with all their hearts.
They do not compromise with evil,
    and they walk only in his paths.
You have charged us
    to keep your commandments carefully.
Oh, that my actions would consistently
    reflect your decrees!
Then I will not be ashamed
    when I compare my life with your commands.
As I learn your righteous regulations,
    I will thank you by living as I should!
I will obey your decrees.
    Please don’t give up on me!

Psalm 119:1-8

Psalm 119 is the longest book of the entire Bible, but it really isn't so horrible to read.  In fact, the more I read it, the more I love it.  Every eight verses is like a stanza of a poem and most verses speak of laws, statutes, decrees, commands, or regulations.  I still sometimes wonder how David can say all of that; however, the more time I spend reading the word, I, too, fall in love with it.

I think we all crave order in some fashion or another.  God's commands are not demands as we have a choice to follow them or not.  We will suffer consequences if we choose to disobey, but oh the joy when we obey!  "Joyful are the people of integrity..."  Joyful?  Yes, Joyful!  I was reminded in a podcast yesterday that joy and happy are not the same thing.  Joy is a state and happy is an emotion.  When we are in alignment with the Law, there is this state of joy that is actually peaceful and contented.  

You may know someone who has been a Christian a long time that is always grumbly and grumpy.  I would ask, then, are they a person of integrity, or a person of rules?  Don't ask them and don't judge them, but as a tree is judged by its fruit, you can judge the fruit of the person.  Not if they produce apples, but maybe fruit of the Spirit... love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  There isn't much joy in just being a rule follower, I have been in that category a lot and it actually produced bitterness in me for anyone who did not follow the rules.  I couldn't stand to see someone walk outside of the lines!

So I'm sure it sounds like I'm promoting judging and permissiveness.  AGH!  That's not what I mean!!  Here's the thing.  If you're turned off by Christians and don't want to be one because of the dogmatic, bitter rule-follower that you know, I want you to realize that there is so much more to the law than that!  Maybe no one you know is a great example, but many of us are trying!  I think this section of Psalm 119 actually outlines the right mindset.  Follow instructions, obey God's laws, search for Him with all your heart, do not compromise with evil, walk ONLY in His paths, keep His commands, have actions that reflect His law consistently, learn his righteous regulations, thank Him by living as you should, and obey.  I love how he closes this stanza, "Please don't give up on me!"  This sounds to me like trying to please God and not being dogmatic about the rules.

Deuteronomy 6:4-6 says, "Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today."  He says, "must," and must is a strong word!  The speaker is Moses.  He understands the promise and the consequences.  There is an urging and compassion for the people of Israel.  Then we come to the New Testament.  Jesus says in John 14:15, "If you love me, obey my commandments."  His commandments are not for harm, but for good!  It is not something to fear!

I will leave you with a few verses to meditate on.  I would encourage you to look at them in context as well.  

Matthew 5:17  "Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose."

I John 4:7-8  "Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love."

Romans 13:10  "Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law."

John 3:16  "For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."

John 13:34  "So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other."

John 14:21  "Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them."

I John 4:17-19  "And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.
18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 19 We love each other because he loved us first."

All quoted scripture is from the New Living Translation unless otherwise specified.

Saturday, June 18, 2016


I have read this story several times and am so appalled by the end that I miss the beginning.  In Judges 19 there is a story of an unfaithful wife who returns home to her parents. She is also called his concubine. He goes to get her and each night her dad begs them to stay just one more night.  After 6 nights they go and the night they leave she is raped to death by men from Benjamin and then her husband cuts her into 12 pieces and sends her body to the tribes of Israel to rally them against the men of Benjamin because they are so evil.  
It is a terrible story and I almost just skimmed it this morning, but I read it anyhow.  I have no insight and still don't like to read it.  But today, I really paused at this part:

“So they went on, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin. There they stopped to spend the night. They went and sat in the city square, but no one took them in for the night. That evening an old man from the hill country of Ephraim, who was living in Gibeah (the inhabitants of the place were Benjamites), came in from his work in the fields. When he looked and saw the traveler in the city square, the old man asked, “Where are you going? Where did you come from?” He answered, “We are on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim where I live. I have been to Bethlehem in Judah and now I am going to the house of the Lord. No one has taken me in for the night. We have both straw and fodder for our donkeys and bread and wine for ourselves your servants—me, the woman and the young man with us. We don’t need anything.” “You are welcome at my house,” the old man said. “Let me supply whatever you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square.” So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink.”
Judges 19:14-21 NIV

I think that most of the people in the town must have been afraid at how travelers were treated so they were not hospitable.  The old man apparently knew because he told them that they must not stay in the town square.  Of such a night I remember reading in Genesis with the 3 visitors and Lot in Sodom and Gamorrah. 
Anyhow, I think about today, there is no such hospitality to strangers.  Our culture, our country, is not set up to take people in.  When you go to a town of your kinsmen, you don't sit in the center of town until someone takes you in.  There is so much "stranger danger" mindset with grown-ups that we wouldn't dare take in someone we do not know.  We are the rest of the town.  We may choose to give $10 to someone's "fund me" page, but rarely ever to a stranger's. Who knows if they're really in need or just scamming.  
I know that my heart has hardened to giving to those who live off of others' hospitality.  It makes me cautious to give to anyone.  There will always be poor among you, but you will not always have Me is something Jesus said when anointed with expensive perfume.  There will always, I'm guessing, be those who take advantage of hospitality, but the love your neighbor as yourself principle didn't go away.  And interestingly when Jesus explained who my neighbor is, He didn't give an example of someone in my family tree or even my same race.  He gave an example of hospitality given by a Samaritan.  Someone who was detested by those He spoke to, was to be considered a neighbor. 
How do I know if I will be taken advantage of or not?  I don't always know, but I can use the discerning brain God gave me to detect a scam.  We all know someone who we believe abuses the hospitality of others.  When I see it, I get mad, but there is often a child watching and the child sees that people still give and still care.  I have also seen a begging child in a third world country who had cash taken away by his handler as soon as they thought the foreigners were out of sight.  It breaks my heart, but someone with me reminded me that the child was at least fed by our money.
I am just rethinking how I can be giving and hospitable.  The next time I have an urge to be hospitable, it is likely the Holy Spirit guiding me to be an answer to someone's prayer.  I am praying to be more sensitive as to when I should or should not.  
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
Hebrews 13:2 NIV

Friday, January 1, 2016


As I prepared a worship set, I was really excited and expectant to see what God was getting ready to do.  Later in the day, I heated up a piece of Fried chicken and sat on the couch to eat it.  My son's puppy was sitting beside me as I ate it.  She was very alert, ears perked up and looking at me with an excited longing.  I don't generally share my chicken with her, but she still was expectant in that slight chance that she might get just a morsel.  I stand up and she jumps to the floor and starts bouncing around and follows me clear to the kitchen trash where I dispose of the bones and then to the dishwasher as I put my empty plate in there. 
I thought of this puppy and her excitement.  She does this ALL.THE.TIME!  She rarely gets rewarded for her persistence because of her sensitive stomach and my distaste for dog puke, but she still persists with expectancy!  WOW!  In this scenario, I had a God moment! 
How many times have I come before Him with an excited expectancy and things didn't turn out in my favor?  Do I come before Him the next time with the same hunger and excitement, or do I bring my doubt with me?  After a few times of not getting what I wanted, I lower my expectations.  Sometimes I recognize that what I wanted was not good for me, but there are times that I didn't have expectations and what I could have gotten would have been precisely what I need! 
This expectancy and doubt cycle can come when praying for a miracle, during worship service, when planning an event, when delivering a message, with personal goals and dreams, or in other situations that I can't think of at the moment.  That doesn't give us permission to give up.  I want to be like Sadie, the puppy.  When there is something that I'm asking/begging for.  I want to act as though it were going to be given.  If I am passed by, I will just wait until my next opportunity and ask again.  One of these times, the timing will be right and I will get that thing and wag my tail all the more!  And it really won't just happen once, it will happen over and over, because that is how God works!  If I can give good gifts to my children, how much more will God give to His?
Even in a service where I'm not a part of the ministry, I need to go with expectancy because this might just be the moment that God is going to pour out His Spirit upon me and amaze me again!  When I am a part of the ministry, I need to not look at the probability of low or high attendance and change my expectancy level accordingly.  IF I feel that what I expected wasn't what happened, I can walk away and know that what God poured out will not return to Him without accomplishing what He planned to accomplish.  I can say, "Next time!" with enthusiasm!
There are times as well that expectancy goes unanswered and not because it's not time, but because He wants us to push a little harder.  I love the story of what we endearingly call, "The persistent widow."
Matthew 15:21-28 NLT

21 Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”

23 But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”

24 Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”

25 But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”

26 Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

27 She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”

28 “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.
Another scripture has spoken to me as well.  In Luke 11, Jesus says that if you go to a friend's house at midnight and ask for 3 loaves of bread, he really tries to brush you off because they are in bed already, but because of persistence, he gives it to you.
Luke 11:8 NIV

I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
Both of these people pushed harder to get what they wanted and were rewarded.  I want to know when to push and when to release and know that God is God and that is enough.  Wherever and whatever the situation, I want to start this year with EXPECTANCY!  I don't know what God has in mind.  I'm spending this next week praying about goals and "resolutions," but as I do this I don't want to be flippant.  I want to be expectant!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Extravagant Forgiveness

There are two occasions in the New Testament where Jesus was anointed by women with expensive perfume.  The latter was just before his crucifixion and He said that He was being prepared for burial.  This is recorded in Matthew and Mark.  The first anointing was by a sinful woman and it was early on in Jesus' ministry, before even John the Baptist was beheaded.  This is recorded in Luke's gospel.

 Luke 7:36-50 NLT
36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. 37 When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. 38 Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”
40 Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”
“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.
41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. 42 But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”
43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”
“That’s right,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.
47 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” 48 Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”
50 And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Let’s step into the woman’s shoes…

She was sinful.  That is all the Bible says.  There is no clarification on it.  Sure we can suppose and some have even given her sin a name, but we don’t know for sure.  With her UNNAMED SIN, today, we CAN relate.  This could look a lot of different ways.  Prostitution, abortion, fornication of other kinds, murder, theft, embezzling, stripping, or drug or alcohol addiction.  Those are BIG public sins.  What if this sin is a little more subtle or even a sin that is so private that no one knows about it but her, but it is eating at her.  Bitterness, unforgiveness, or silent rage, maybe she ran out on her children, maybe she was a habitual liar, or a bully, or had a pornography addiction… the list goes on.
She had heard of Jesus, but she felt worthless, so the only thing she thought she had that was worthy of Jesus was this treasure … her dowry … her life savings … she probably lost all hope of having a normal life so what is the use of having this expensive perfume.
She had a yearning to see this Jesus, so she went where she knew He would be.  Nearing his presence, she began to weep uncontrollably.  At this point no water was necessary and she didn’t have a cleaning cloth, but she did have her tears and this beautiful head of hair ... her crowning glory ... the best, most undefiled thing about her.  She approaches.  She breaks open her best, and pours it on His feet.  She weeps more.  She kisses … not in lust or impurity, but holy, worshipful kisses.  More tears … drying and cleaning the dusty, dirty feet of the Love she’s never known … with her beloved hair.
She may hear the conversation above her, but she, seemingly unaffected by it, keeps up this act of worship for the entire time.  As she washes Him, He washes her!  He doesn’t consider her untouchable, which makes her weep even more.  No righteous person has allowed her to remain in their presence before, let alone allowed her to touch them, even when her motives were pure.  She just wants to love!  She really wants to be loved … rightly.
A friend of mine during a message once said, “He will kiss even the dirtiest of cheek!”  There is nothing about me or you that will make Jesus turn from us, in fact, He is wooing us even now.  He delights in us!  Ephesians 1:5 says, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.  This is what he wanted to do and it gave him great pleasure.”  (NLT, emphasis mine)  His presence is drawing anyone who opens their heart to seek Him.  Maybe you’ve heard that there would be a teaching or opportunity to meet Jesus, but felt that you were not worthy of His time.  In ADVANCE He decided that YOU are worth it!  This is not an, “Everyone but me,” thing.  This is a you thing!  He loves you!

There is an allegory in the Old Testament in the book of Hosea.  Now the whole book gets pretty deep and is confusing, but the beginning of the book shares a story of a man named Hosea and compares that relationship to His relationship with Israel or the People He LOVES.  Hosea was VERY righteous and esteemed, and God asks him to marry a prostitute.  We’re talking a pure and righteous man marrying a used up woman.  He obeys, she runs away and gets pregnant by another man.  He BUYS her back!  He shows her selfless love!  This is an example of the love that Jesus has for us.  "'When that day comes,' says the Lord, 'you will call me "my husband" instead of "my master."’"  The price he pays was 15 pieces of silver, some barley and some wine.  Quite a price to pay for someone who has been unfaithful and is cheating, even at the moment they are being bought back.
Over and over again in the Word, God is redeeming or buying back or loving back people who don’t think they are worth it.  He is still doing that today.  While human beings may fail to show the true love of Jesus, He never has quit loving you.  He wants you to just come home and the price He paid was more than 15 pieces of silver.  It was His own life.

For those of you who have been around the church a while and know this story particularly, you may have always heard it told about worship and breaking the alabaster jar as an act of worship to God.  That’s good, but this is also a redemption story.  This is my story.  This is your story.

Are you the one who has never felt wanted by the church, especially?  By Jesus?  Do you think that He has kept a record of your past?  He knows that your extreme forgiveness will bring extreme worship.
Notice that this woman worshiped without singing or playing a note!

Are you the one who is in the church and has been on the fringes because you have felt disqualified by your past?  He decided in advance to bring you into His family.  You delight Him!

Are you the one who loves Jesus and serves Him faithfully, but there’s just that one thing that you’ve been holding on to that really prevents you from coming fully before Him?  Remember He has been building relationship with you all along and wants you to come closer, because He knows there’s room!

Yes, this story is often about extravagant worship, but it is also about extravagant forgiveness!  Let Him wash you as you wash Him!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Leave A Mark

I was looking through my blog posts and found several unpublished drafts.  This was written in 2013 and never published.  I don't know exactly what I was going through at the time, but here it is.

A week or so ago, I read a question asking what we believe God is ultimately calling us to.  I had a hard time with that.  I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now, but haven't considered where I will even be in 5 years.  Am I still going to homeschool?  Am I still going to teach at church or be a worship leader?  Am I even going to keep my unsporting license or will I be back in nursing full-time?  I prayed through all of that, but I still don't have an answer to any of those questions.  I'm really okay with that, too!  Here is what I do know, I am going to leave a mark!
This is not a vision of grandeur or a pipe dream.  I am going to leave a mark in history during my lifetime.  If I happen to have done that already for someone, then great, but my life isn't over and I'm going to do it again and again until I can no longer move or speak.  I am not satisfied with just being a piece of wallpaper, I'm going to be a usable vessel.  When I leave this world, I don't really even care if my name is remembered or even my face.  The mark I desire to leave is a knowing of the Creator of the universe.  The One who formed my face and called it lovely.  The One who made my voice and desires to hear it speaking and singing praises to Him who is Worthy of all praise!  I want to make known Jesus!
By my actions and by my words, I desire that others will want to know this Jesus, the Word made Flesh.  I don't want that they would be turned off to Him because of my hippocracy!  I am human, but I want to live what I believe.  When others see the best parts of me, I want them to know that it is Him in me.  I am not good in my own power.  I read a poem to my kids and it took me looking up word to help explain the meaning to them for me to grasp it as well.  Wow!  It is powerful and reinforces what I've already been contemplating.  I will share the last few stanzas here:

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Wow!  I want to leave footprints on the sands of time!  That's my goal.  I won't do bizarre stunts so that people will be talking about me.  But, if He calls me to do something unusual, I don't want the fear of man to hinder my obedience.  I would even be grateful to be a nameless mention, but my action remembered as was the Samaritan woman at the well or the sinful woman who anointed Jesus' feet.  Lord, give me words of Life!
When I have spoken His words to someone and they hear with their hearts, let it be His voice they hear, not mine.  Let my heart not be offended when they do not remember that I was the vessel for the delivery of the message.  May I be reminded that I prayed that all glory be to The Lord of Hosts!