Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What does the Resurrection mean to you?

All week over at Kingdom Bloggers we're talking about what the Resurrection means to us.

What does the Resurrection mean to you?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Faith is a choice

My husband John and I watched a movie entitled The exorcism of Emily Rose tonight.

If anyone besides us two had been watching it with us, they would have been seriously annoyed. We both kept periodically stopping the movie to discuss various concepts or thoughts that it brought up. John and I enjoyed our conversations every bit as much as the movie. The movie is a cinema-tized version of the real life story of Anneliese Michel.

One of the many themes that the movie brought out for John and I was that every miracle of God can be explained away if that's what we choose to do. The majority of this movie takes place in a courtroom where the priest who performed an exorcism is on trial for negligent manslaughter. One of the interesting things is that no one claims the priest is lying; the prosecution does however, provide scientific facts that provide an alternate explanation for every supernatural event that the priest recounts, or for what he has on tape recording.

Isn't this just so in life???

John and I talked a lot with each other about specific events or situations in our world that he and I see as truly demonstrating the reality that there is a God; yet we've repeatedly seen other people give scientific facts for these same situations and events. The truth is that we see things how we choose to see them.

Faith by it's very essence is a choice. Faith also can not be proven via the concrete, measurable, verifiable methods that our society holds in such high esteem. I see the merit in using objective, verifiable, data, to analyze situations. I use this approach frequently in my job. But I do not think this is the only approach to truth.

There's a common expression, leap of faith. I think we use this term because at some point, if one is to have faith, one has to step out beyond what one can "fact-ualize" and simply make a choice to believe.

I've never regretted any of the choices of faith that I've made in my life that relate to God and what He's spoke to my heart through the Bible.

What about you, have your leaps of faith produced good things in your life? Or have they produced regrets?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

He has risen

John 20
The Empty Tomb
1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Jesus Appears to Thomas
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The Purpose of John’s Gospel
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Good Friday

I could barely force myself to read the account of Jesus crucifixion in John 18:1-19:42 this morning. It's so painful, even to read. Although his faults and wrong actions are plentiful, I'll still forever be grateful to Mel Gibson for producing the movie The Passion. Because floggings and crucifixions are so far removed from my cultural context, it wasn't until I watched that movie that what Jesus suffered for me became more real; I had a mental picture.

I don't think I'll ever get past being totally blown away that Jesus, the God of the Hosts of the Armies of Heaven, was first of all willing to take on human form and come live among us, then was willing to suffer and die on the cross, to take on the sin of the world, for us, for me.

To say that I'm grateful is an understatement.

As I think on Jesus' death on my behalf on this Good Friday the question comes to me about how Jesus' death on the cross affects my life. With this question in mind, I wanted to share a prayer that I came across:

"Jesus, you were taken prisoner in the darkness of night and all your friends abandoned you. Be with all who are abducted and strengthen all who mourn those who are missing. You were crowned with thorns and beaten by soldiers. Help us to end torture throughout the world and have pity on those so afflicted. Your face was covered with spittle and you wore a robe of shame. Heal the wounds that make us act less than human and remind us that we are made in the image of God. You accepted the help of Simon and Veronica. And awaken us to the ways that we can help those who are suffering and be grateful to those who minister to us. Amen."

Maundy Thursday

This week over at Kingdom Bloggers we're talking about Holy Week.

Since today is Maundy Thursday I want to know what comes to your mind as you reflect on the new commandment that Jesus gave to His followers?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Never Alone

As I read the words from Matthew 26:36-46
I am again faced with both Jesus' deity and His humanity.

His humanity is right there as I read His words of dread and anguish in the 38th & 39th verses (MSG):

Then he said, "This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me."
39 Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, "My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?"
Have you ever dreaded anything?
Although I certainly try not to live that way, sometimes yucky stuff just happens. Worse than that, sometimes I know in advance when something really bad is coming my way, and that's when those feelings of dread rise up within me.
You know what I really don't appreciate when I'm struggling with dread? Someone coming along and blithely telling me "God's got it all in control sister". Even though it's true, I feel even more alone when I'm given a quick fix like that. What I really long for is for someone to come alongside me, to wait with me, to just be with me through the tough times.
Somehow I just can't see Jesus trivializing someone's pain and dread. I'm reminded of how in Hebrews 2:17-18 and in Hebrews 4:14-16 I'm told that Jesus can understand and help me because He has gone through suffering and testing, and because He knows what it's like to be in weak human form. As I look at Gethsemane I can see that He understands what it's like to dread something.
As I look at Gethsemane I'm grateful. Grateful that Jesus went ahead and went to the cross and suffered so that I can come before the Father due to Jesus' shed blood on my behalf. Grateful that I don't have to be alone in life because, just as He promised , He has given me His Spirit to live inside me. Grateful that He understands me and is with me through all of life.
What are you grateful for on this Wednesday of Holy Week?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Can you really ever count on people?

Day 2 of Holy Week brings me to reading John 13:21-38. Jesus picked Judas as one of His inner circle, the men in whom He chose to invest His life while on this earth. As we know, Judas betrayed Jesus. I've read that the word traitor means someone who hands another over to suffering.

Guess by that definition, I've been a traitor before in my life - just ask my husband or sons, the ones who know me best. I really think that each of us hands over another to suffering somehow, somewhere, often without meaning to or even being aware that we're doing it; it seems to be part of the human condition.

Yes it hurts really bad when someone I love betrays me. But somehow, I think that in recognizing that I'm not without the same sin in myself, I can move past the pain and into forgiveness. Without recognizing my own need to come to God and seek His forgiveness for my betrayal of my loved ones, or even of my faith, then I'm both without the need or ability to extend forgiveness to others. Without forgiveness from God and to others, I'll stay bound in the pain.

I don't want to live that way!

Oh Father, thank You for Your forgiveness! Please make me aware today. Aware of the suffering that I may be causing others, and if I am, help me, by your grace and power, to change. Aware of any unforgiveness that I may be harboring in my heart; if unforgiveness is there, may I choose, by Your power, to forgive.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Holy Week Monday

As I began Holy Week this morning, I spent some time thinking on John 12:1-11. I prayed that, just as this passage depicts Mary symbolically preparing Jesus for His burial, that the Holy Spirit would use this passage to prepare my heart for greater revelation of Him during this Holy Week. Greater revelation that would lead to a heart transformation
that would result in a more loving life.

The two things that hit me as I thought on this passage throughout the day were how extravagant Mary's love was, and the fact that Jesus pointed out that He would not always be with them.

I prayed throughout the day that God would show me ways to show love to the people in my life. So much of my life has been spent in giving just enough to get by; but I want to become more like Mary and give lavishly. None of the things I had the opportunity to do today were big, but hopefully they made the lives of others at least a bit better.

Thinking about not always having the people I love with me,...well, I took a lunch break and called and talked with my mom.

What about you, how did your first day of Holy Week go?

Holy Week

Although I guess I'm what would be considered an "evangelical" there are many things that I appreciate about traditional "high church" observances. The celebration of Holy Week is one of them.

It seems to me that the devotional times of Holy Week help me move behind the joyful celebrations of Palm Sunday and Easter and look at suffering, humiliation, and death of my savior. Perhaps by walking through the sadness and darkness of Holy Week and Good Friday, in contemplating the horror and magnitude of sin and its consequences in the world that are incarnated in Jesus on the cross, I can come to a greater understanding of the light and hope of the resurrection of Jesus that we celebrate on Easter morning.

Are there special things that you do to make holy week meaningful for you?

Starting tonight I'll be writing about my devotion times this week. I'd be interested in hearing about the experiences of others as well.

Monday, April 11, 2011

When praise isn't enough

Since Palm Sunday is this coming Sunday, we're posting about it this week at Kingdom Bloggers.

In my post today, I share some of the things I'm pondering as we're approaching the celebration of Palm Sunday in the Western church. What about you, what kinds of things come to your mind as you're thinking about Palm Sunday?

Friday, April 8, 2011

What's in a Name?

Periodically I like to take some time to think on one of names of God.

This morning I spent some time thinking on what’s referred to as “Lord of Hosts” in the New American Standard version of the Bible, or “Lord Almighty” in the New Living Translation, or “God-of-the-Angel-Armies” in The Message paraphrase.

I spent some time reading and thinking about the following Bible verses: 1 Samuel 17:45, Isaiah 2:12 , Isaiah 5:16, Isaiah 6:3, Isaiah 37:16, Jeremiah 11:20, Jeremiah 31:35, Jeremiah 50:34, and Zechariah 7:9-10.

It’s a wonderful thing to think on a name of God. As I read scripture after scripture the Holy Spirit rose up faith within my spirit. Faith in the All Powerful God. The God Who alone created the heavens and the earth, the one who causes the moon and stars to shine and makes waves in the sea. The Holy God. The God who is just and will not let evil go unpunished forever.

As I thought on these aspects of God I was filled with both wonder, and a bit of fear. I mean, scripture is clear that He will always love me, yet He is just. I’d do best to stay on the right side of His justice, to follow His ways to begin with so that I won’t have to incur His discipline.

I was also encouraged that I have help in God, especially when there’s no other help.

I have a few situations in my life right now that don’t look so good; in the natural there’s no good end in sight. But God is the one Who created what is natural; He can choose to do whatever He wants. He is more than powerful to bring about resolution and good outcomes in these life situations.

I’m so grateful that I can trust in the All Powerful God.

What about you, what need in your life does the fact that He is the Almighty God speak to?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Honoring God in the Ordinary

This week over atKingdom Bloggers we're talking about honoring God in the ordinary.

That's not always easy to do. I know that sometimes I can get bogged down in being busy. I’ve found that in the midst of the routine, in the midst of the mundane, that I can become stagnant if I’m not careful.

I’m not what people would consider a charismatic personality, nor am I super self disciplined. So staying enthused and seeking to honor God in my every day life do not come naturally to me. But there are some things that I have found helpful for me in this process; staying in the Word, keeping good role models in my eyesight, choosing to constantly and consistently speak words of thankfulness, music, and choosing excellence even in the small things.

I’ve written a lot lately about the Word and about spending time in the Word, so I won’t write a about that again. Except to say that as I spend time daily in the Word, the Holy Spirit causes the words from the Bible to become life to my spirit.

Perhaps I’ve never understood the influence of others so much as during these past couple of years as I’ve watched my teen son be influenced by the people with whom he hangs out. It’s been heart wrenching to see him turn away here and there from God to pursue worldly pleasure like his contemporaries are pursuing. But I’m not fundamentally different from him; who I surround myself with affects who I become. Of course this doesn’t mean that I don’t develop relationships on varying levels with people who don’t know God, but it does mean that I purposefully pursue godly role models as well.

One of my favorite role models is a French monk named Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence wrote a group of letters that were later compiled into a book entitled “The practice of the presence of God”. He worked at manual labor until his death in 1691, and he wrote about how to live in God’s presence, and do everything in which you are involved, to the honor of God. Here’s an excerpt from his tenth letter:

“Let us think of Him perpetually. Let us put all our trust in Him. I doubt not but that we shall soon find the effects of it in receiving the abundance of His grace, with which we can do all things, and without which we can do nothing but sin.”

Purposefully choosing to put thoughts like these before me, puts me in a place where I’m able to receive God’s outlook on life, to experience His passion, even in the ordinary business of daily living.

If you’ve ever spent any time around a person involved in a 12-step group you’ll soon hear a popular phrase they use: “Attitude of Gratitude”. That’s what I want to have. I’ve found that a simple way to help myself have that attitude on any given day is to look for the good in every situation, to look for how God is giving good gifts to me, and then choose to speak words of thankfulness to my God. Sometimes I speak these words of gratitude aloud and other times, due to life situations, I silently contemplate them in my mind. I’ve seen over the past few years as I’ve chosen to practice this, that there are so many ways that God is blessing me. I’ve seen that there are many blessings that I’ve failed to see in the past because I was choosing to look at the things that I wanted but did not have, and failed to recognize all the good that I already had. It’s hard to not experience the presence of God and passion of the Holy Spirit when I’m thanking and praising Him.

Music is the language of heart and it lifts me to places that I can not take myself. I’ve noticed that David at Kingdom Bloggers frequently mentions this same thing, that listening to music that is uplifting for me during my commute to work, or during tasks at home, helps me remain conscious of God. Helps me stay in constant communication with Him.

Repeatedly I’ve noticed that as I perform those tasks before me to the best of my ability, that as I choose excellence, the fires of the passion in my soul are stoked. In the interest of honesty here, I need to make note that I’ve learned this truth as much from when I’ve done a half-baked job, as from when I’ve done my very best. Something about giving my best, doing my best, stirs up joy inside me. This truth is totally independent from the notice of others; there are so many things in life that we can do extremely well and no one will ever know, but we know and God knows.

So I’ve shared that staying in the Word, keeping godly role models in my eye sight, gratitude, music, and pursuing excellence, are what I’ve found assist me in staying inspired by God, and stir up His passion within me, even in the ordinary business of day to day living.

But what about you, what have you found helps you stay inspired by God in daily life?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

If I were a pastor....

Today as I was getting ready for church I was thinking about the sermons that I've heard about giving. For the most part, they've all been good sermons. Typically they've included Bible passages such as Malachi 3:9-11, Matthew 6:27-32, Luke 6:37-39, and Luke 18:28-30. Very good stuff!

But this morning I was thinking about the reason that compels me to give. I like who I become when I give. I become a better person when I'm giving. So I guess if I were a pastor that's what I'd preach about giving - that giving changes your heart.

I've really noticed this at my current job. I make less than half of what I made at my last job. Yet, due to the way things are, I find I'm frequently giving money for one thing or another at work; things like fund raisiers for the Special Olympics, or to do something special for my staff at a home after the DPH has left to thank them for all their hard work, etc. I'm also so inspired by the selflessness of some of the people with whom I get to work, that I find myself giving more on a personal level as well. Through all of this I just can't help but notice how generally happier I am with myself, how much more content I feel.

What compels you to give?
Blog Widget by LinkWithin