Monthly Archives: December 2014

Hard Hearts and a New Year

The Bible tells us some hearts have become so hard against God that they will never come to him. (Read Revelation 15&16 for example). Prosperity, health, times of peace don’t draw them to the Savior. Poverty, sickness, and times of war don’t either. Some people are so tightly in Satan’s grasp they don’t even recognize the countless ways God is trying to get their attention.

In John’s vision, people watched the destruction of the Great City, Babylon. (chapter 18) Once the rich and powerful center of everything, the city received God’s wrath in a day. The neighboring towns and the merchants watched the destruction and said: That’s too bad. I feel sorry for that city. Now who will buy my wares? (from 18:11)

That got me to thinking. The world thinks they know what love, success, happiness, and contentment are. Satan has manufactured a pretty good imitation of God’s blessings. But in the end, those things which produce a false security, won’t hold. In the end, those people will be like the merchants, alone and ruined, and crying: What about me?

Life is not just the days we walk on planet Earth. It is forever. You will always exist.

One day, those who have humbled themselves and accepted God’s grace, the forgiveness of sin through the sacrifice of Jesus, will stand together and enjoy the best party ever thrown. The rest will find themselves alone, in darkness, crying in a loud voice: What about me?

2014 is almost behind us. It’s that time of year when many people reevaluate their lives, when they look back and think, What if?, and when they look ahead to a new year, a new start, a clean slate. I pray that as you do, you will consider your heart’s condition. God is trying to get your attention. Do you recognize it? Do you respond? Are you sensitive to his voice, or is your heart so hardened by sin  that you don’t even hear it?

Some good things will happen to you in 2015. And so will some bad things. In all that happens, look for what God is saying to you. Trust him. He won’t let you down.

Heavenly Father, some who read this blog are burdened by the events of 2014. Some have lost loved ones, some have faced physical challenges, some are lonely and afraid, some are confused and disheartened. I pray that all of us would check our heart’s condition. May we begin this new year humbled before you, repenting of our sin, accepting your grace, and determined to have hearts that are sensitive to what you have for us in 2015. Go with us God, as you have promised. May you find us faithfully obeying you, loving you, and spending time reading and learning from your written Word.   May our hearts be softened so you can mold us into the people you would have us be. Bless your people, Lord, and make us a blessing to others. 

Christmas 365 Days A Year

Ha! We had our family Christmas last night. My sisters and their families, including five children under the age of 5, and two dogs, made for a rocking’ evening. A niece flew across the country to be with us. Colorful presents everywhere and a bunch of little kids eager to dig in. I think the entire house was shaking with excitement.

Then came the opening of gifts. Boxes, paper, singing dolls, foam swords, Legos, and race cars were everywhere. Confusion? Just a little.

But it was so fun. The gifts that were given and received were done so in love. There was something personal and special about each one. And there were lots of hugs. It really was a great evening.

But I’d be ok not to do that again until next year!

This morning, I was reading the three short letters John wrote. They are found toward the end of the Bible, and I thought it was fitting that John’s theme seems to be, love. Love is what Christmas is all about, isn’t it?

John points to Jesus as our example of love and reminds us that we are to love like Jesus loves. God is love, John says. And those who know him, who have him living in us, must love each other.

So what does that look like? Is it a warm, gushy feeling? Is it the reaction to a kindness shown us? (I just love the earrings you gave me)

Jesus, by example demonstrated love for us in that while we were still sinners, he died for us. He didn’t sit back and feel love. He showed it. Love is something you do.

Love is not even close to what modern society tells us: that we can’t help who we love, or that we “fall” in love like it’s out of our control. Those ideas are lies from Satan to cheapen true love, the love of God in us that propels us into action. Love is a choice to set aside ourselves and concern ourselves with the welfare of others, both in this life and for the life to come.

Jesus gave up a throne to become a baby in human flesh. Jesus gave up comfort to go into the world and tell everyone he saw about the way to the Father. Jesus gave up his life to buy my forgiveness, and yours.

That’s love. Jesus said people will know we are his if we love one another.

My prayer is that we all will choose to demonstrate Christ’s love as we look forward to another year. May we go out of our way to befriend an unsaved neighbor, to reach out to a hurting coworker, to pick up the phone and reconnect with that person we’ve neglected far too long. May we actively demonstrate the same kind of love Jesus showed when he was born in that manger 2000 years ago.

In other words, may we live Christmas 365 days a year.

Get Out There And Get To Work

God is in no hurry to come again. Peter tells us in his second letter that God’s patience gives people time to be saved. (verse 15) Time, as we know it, doesn’t exist for God. A day is like a thousand years to him and he’s willing to wait a few more days if it means another soul will accept his grace.

We Christians are commanded to go into the world and preach the Gospel in order for people to hear about and accept this grace. I hope you aren’t content, believing people should come to church to be saved. It’s just not the way God intended it. If you’re concerned about “branding” your church to attract non-believers, you’re concerned about the wrong thing. The Bible clearly teaches our concern should be our neighbor, our co-worker, our family. We Christians need to hit the streets and get to know unsaved people in order to love them to the Savior.

Recently, a church in our area took a benevolent offering on a Sunday morning. The preacher and a deacon took the money that was collected, went out into their community, and started talking to people. They learned the story of a hard working, needy neighbor and handed over the $200 in Jesus’ name. The next Sunday, the pastor shared the story with the congregation, and they took up another collection. This time they collected $430. There is a waitress in town who, after sharing her story with the pastor and deacon, got the biggest tip of her life. And that waitress knows she received  that financial help because Jesus loves her.

A Sunday School teacher in the church gave each of her students $1 and challenged them to pass it on to someone in need. Some of the kids gave their dollar away, some added their own allowances and money from their piggy banks and gave a little more. One youngster was at Walmart. He bought a wool scarf and gave it to the old man ringing bells for the Salvation Army… in Jesus’ name.

So I’m asking all of us, how are we handling the Great Commission to go into our world and share Jesus? God wants us to walk with people, share their lives, demonstrate kindness, love, patience, support in Jesus’ name.

After all, isn’t that what God Himself did 2000 years ago? Wasn’t he born in a manger? Didn’t he put on human flesh and walk with us, sharing life with us, demonstrating kindness, love and patience? Didn’t he die so we might live?

This Christmas, as we celebrate the baby in the manger, my prayer is that we will recognize the significance of this act, God in human form. Why did he do that? There are so many wonderful reasons! But just maybe one of the reasons is that he wants us to follow his example, to get out there, and get to work.

May he find us faithful.

I’m praying that all who read this will have a blessed Christmas with family and friends. May we worship the Savior with fellow believers, and may we all be intentional about sharing the wonderful news of Jesus with the people around us.

Our God is a Devouring Fire

Fire fascinated my dad. When we were little girls, our family would drop everything and jump in the car almost every time we heard the fire trucks’ sirens. We’d search the sky for smoke and rush to the scene to watch the brave firemen battle the dangerous blazes.

Fire takes on a life of its own as it devours its prey. I remember watching a garage burn a block away from our home. A big department store and a lumber company both burned while we watched from safe distances. I can almost hear the snap crackle of the burning wood, smell the acrid odor of smoking embers, feel the heat from dancing flames.

Hebrews 11 lists men and women of faith, people who believed God, and looked to him in spite of circumstances. Then Hebrews 12 begins with the word, “Therefore” and challenges us to have the same kind of faith as those listed in chapter 11, because God has proven himself to be faithful. The writer points us to God’s spiritual kingdom, as sure and real as the physical city of Jerusalem. But now God promises that one day, we who know him will live with him, while the rest of creation will be removed.

Hebrews 12:28 says, “Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.” It’s followed by verse 29, a verse that jumped out at me as I read this morning: “For our God is a devouring fire.” (NLT)

Fire is welcome at a campsite, melting marshmallows for s’mores, heating hotdogs, warming fingers and toes. But campers know to enjoy the fire with fear and awe, knowing fire can also unleash its destructive power.

Those of us who know Jesus as our Savior can enjoy God like a camper by a fire pit. We benefit from God’s very being, we enjoy his fellowship, we are safe in his presence. But we must not take his power too lightly, or misuse his blessings. We must not forget that he is that devouring fire. That’s where worshiping him with holy fear and awe comes into play.

My prayer is that all who read this blog will know the warmth, the peace, the safety God provides to those who call on the name of Jesus. The alternative is frightening. Those who reject the Savior will only know the devouring fire of his wrath, his anger and punishment, and be separated from him forever.

May we worship God with holy fear and awe. For our God is a devouring fire.

Why Christmas?

Christmas is next week. I doubt that bit of information comes as much of a surprise to anyone. The whole world celebrates Jesus’ birth whether they want to admit it or not, whether or not they believe that baby in the manger was God in the flesh. Carols fill the airwaves weeks in advance. Colorful lights sparkle from rooftops and streetlights. Everybody and their brother has a Christmas special on TV. Presents are bought and wrapped, plans for family gatherings, office parties, even ugly Christmas sweater parties are in full swing leading up to the day. Even business are closed on December 25.

Many people will attend a church service, even if they haven’t been to church since last Christmas.

On December 25 we celebrate the most important birth – ever. The writer of Hebrews tells us why this event is so important. He spells out who Jesus is and why he was born that day in Bethlehem. God planned, before he created the universe, to join his creation in flesh and blood, to walk where we walk, experience life like we experience life, and to go to the cross so that he could bridge the gap between us and him.

We have forgiveness because this baby grew to be a man who went to the cross to pay the penalty we deserve for every sin we commit. We can have fellowship with him, we can enter his rest, we are co-heirs of the promise, and we have the assurance of heaven because that baby whose birth we celebrate, God with us, lived and died to give us the ultimate present. Himself!

Many of you have spent a lot of time and thought, picking out the perfect gift for that special person in you life. You bought it, brought it home, probably looked at it a thousand times and imagined your loved one opening it. You wrap it carefully in the best paper you can find and put that finishing touch on the package, a bow and a card that says, To…, From… As the day approaches, your level of excitement grows with the knowledge that your loved one is going to love this gift!

So the day comes. You hide the gift behind your back and approach your loved one. With a smile on your face, you bring the package around and offer it to that one who means so much to you. You can’t wait to see their reaction.

What happens next is life changing. Imagine if your loved one refuses the gift. Imagine he or she holding the wrapped package, then putting it aside and walking away. That gift is their’s for the taking. What if they don’t take it? It’s bought and paid for. Their name is right there on the package. They just need to accept it.

But imagine your loved one accepting that gift, opening the package and holding it close to their heart. Imagine them wearing the gift, using it as it is intended. Imagine them protecting it, showing it off to their friends, cherishing it for a life time. Isn’t that what you, as the giver of the gift, planned for all along?

That’s, “Why Christmas.” You have the most important gift you’ll ever receive right in front of you. It’s forgiveness. It’s cleansing and freedom and fellowship with Jesus, the baby whose birth we are celebrating. God’s grace is the best, most wonderful possession you will ever have. And it’s yours for the taking.

I pray you will cherish that gift like no other. God has forgiven you. The price for your soul has been paid. Will you accept it?

Precious Jesus, I pray that everyone reading this blog knows you as their Savior. That’s why you were born that day 2,000 years ago. But for those who have yet to accept your gift, I pray they will talk to you today, that they will ask you to forgive them, that they will turn from sin and toward you who has bought the most wonderful gift they could ever receive. May this Christmas have real meaning for each of us as we consider why you were born. Thank you for the baby in the manger, for the man who lived and died so that each of us can know you. Thank you for Christmas.

What to Wear?

As I read in Colossians today, Paul reminded me that as a Christian, everything I do I do as a representative of God. If I’m shopping, if I’m shoveling snow, if I attend the office Christmas party, speak to my neighbor, get my hair done, drive my car I represent my Savior.

The Apostle challenges me to take care as I get ready for the day. I may stand at my closet and pick out which shirt to wear, but I also need to clothe myself with, “tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, …and above all love.” (3:12-15) I need to make allowances for other’s faults and forgive as God forgave me (as guilty and underserving as I was). Paul also tells me to live in peace and be thankful.

Getting ready in the morning is an act of will. I shower, dry my hair, put on makeup, and carefully choose clothes that match, and that hide those extra pounds I’m carrying. Reading Colossians today I am challenged to be as intentional about what else I put on, knowing I want to make a good impression.

After all, I represent my precious Jesus.

I am going to memorize Paul’s list of “What to Wear” and make it a matter of prayer each morning. I want to choose to be the woman God will be proud to have represent him as I allow him to clothe me, as I allow him to be seen in me.

Dear God, I ask that you will clothe me today with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and love. May I make allowances for other’s faults and forgive as God forgave me, because we both know you have forgiven me a boatload of sin. I want to live in peace and show you how thankful I am for your many blessings. As I represent you today, may I do it wearing all these things. And may Jesus be seen in me.

Stormy Seas

I’ve never been in a storm at sea. I don’t even want to imagine the fear of being that exposed to danger out there surrounded by water miles deep. I’ve never been in a tropical storm or lived through a tornado. In fact, there have been only a few times I’ve even come close.

But as I read about the terror the passengers and crew experienced in the ship carrying Paul to Rome, I can relate. (Acts 27) Not because I’ve been there, but because I know to an extent, what it’s like to face storms of life.

Getting laid off from my job, Mom’s cancer, financial struggles, my sister’s cancer, my nephew Geoff’s death, Dad’s death. I can’t hold my storms up next to anyone else’s and say mine were harder or that mine were less significant. I only know there have been times that I felt hopeless and lost, when I found it hard to breathe, when fear of the future (or present) caused me sleepless nights.

The account of Paul’s storm at sea reminds me that, no matter how bad the circumstances, no matter how hopeless the future appears, when I am tossed about and can’t find the sun, God is standing next to me.

My only hope is to stay in the boat, holding on to my Savior, riding out the storm together. In this account in the book of Acts, God didn’t calm the storm. But the people on board made it safely to shore. This tells me that my circumstances might not change. The cancer diagnosis might not be a mistake. A broken relationship might not heal. Whatever the cause of my anxiety, depression, fear, might not magically disappear.

But God can see me safely to the other side. I can trust him. And I will.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your Presence. You are stronger than any storm I have to face. And I find comfort in knowing that… knowing You. I pray for those reading this today who are being bounced around in a frightening storm. I pray your strength, your comfort, your direction will be evident in the midst. I pray they will hold on, that they will trust you to see them through. Thank you in advance for what you are going to do in the lives of those of us who are facing stormy seas.