Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Building Endurance

Endurance: the word calls to mind a long distance/marathon runner, who, despite blisters, hunger, extreme fatigue and near dehydration, draws on some inner strength to complete the course.  The dictionary definition states it like this: the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other
adverse conditions; stamina. As the saying goes; No Pain, No Gain.

Speaking of which, when is the last time you endured, to the point of breaking a sweat? Not everyone is an athlete, but whenever we really exert physical effort, the potential to sweat is there.  How about spiritually speaking?  How much effort do you put into being a Christian?  There are plenty of folks who think that merely occupying a pew, once in a while, is endurance enough for them.  I had a dear lady, sincerely, tell me recently, that the Holy Spirit had led her to attend a church that had soft seats and short sermons!  No sweat involved there!!

God designed us to use our physical bodies, and so too our spiritual selves.  Just like a runner faces hills, potholes, insects and inclement weather, we’re bound to find similar obstacles in our walk with Christ.  Our early brothers and sisters in faith faced ridicule, hatred, physical and verbal abuse, and yes, even death.  Believe me, they sweated profusely, and many Christians, around the world are still doing the same. God knows our limits, but he also knows what we are capable of doing.  I think that he purposely places impediments in our way, like spiritual weights, to flex and strengthen us.  We all can relate to the satisfaction we’ve felt when we’ve accomplished a difficult task, despite the effort or adverse conditions it took.

Has life been handing you the heavy dumbbells lately?  Good, then you know that God is pumping up your endurance!  “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.…” James 1:2-4.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Making Friends, Not Enemies

During the US Civil War, the vehement hatred between the North and South was evident, even palpable.  President Abraham Lincoln was constantly criticized for speaking of benevolent treatment for the Southern rebels. One critic reminded Lincoln that there was a war going on, the Confederates were the enemy, and they should be destroyed. But Lincoln wisely responded, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.”

 Lincoln’s religious beliefs are a matter of debate. He grew up in a highly religious family, but never joined any church. “As a young man he was a skeptic. He frequently referenced God and quoted the Bible; he attended Protestant church services with his wife and children, and after the deaths of two children became more intensely concerned with God's plan for mankind. He was private about his beliefs and respected the beliefs of others. Lincoln never made a clear profession of standard Christian beliefs; he did believe in an all-powerful God that shaped events and, by 1865, was expressing those beliefs in major speeches.” Wikipedia.

Religion aside, Honest Abe certainly was gifted by his Creator with wisdom.  While we aren’t in a hostile, brother against brother battle, we are still faced with our share of  adversaries. It’s not easy to be nice to those who oppose us, or who have even wounded us, but Christ directs us to do just that.  “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” Matthew 5:40.  Isn’t that just like God, to go in the exact opposite direction than we would choose?    More than just making nicey nicey to their face, we must genuinely go way beyond, to the point of praying for them!   How is that humanly possible?  It isn’t.  The only way it can be accomplished is by allowing the power of the Holy Spirit to guide our speech and actions.

 Lincoln knew that someday we were all going to be a nation again, and it was going to be a much easier transition if he was dealing with friends, than enemies. Are you ready to let His Spirit direct you?  The only right answer is, YES I AM!! Is there an enemy, today, you need to make into a to friend?  Please employ God’s wisdom in doing so.  If it was good enough for Lincoln, it’s certainly good enough for us! “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” Matthew 5:44.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Above Average

In our society we hear the word average used quite often.  Average height; average income; average family etc.  In those cases, there’s nothing wrong with being average, it’s merely a comparative, mathematical finding.  Now let’s look at it another way.  Are you willing to have a medical procedure done by an average surgeon; or your child taught by an average teacher?  How about buying an average wedding dress, or going out for a special occasion to an average restaurant?  It changes things, doesn’t it?  I heard a wise saying once that goes like this; “Average is the best of the worst, and the worst of the best.”  While being an average “anything” isn’t bad, it’s also an indication that we could be doing a whole lot better.  Think about the jobs you hold, the skills you have, or the friend/spouse/parent you are to others.  Are you living up to your potential, trying to be an A+, or do you settle for a C?

 Let’s face it, our human natures tend to be a bit sluggish at times, and we rationalize away our sloth by saying that a C is better than an F.  While that may be true, it’s still falling short of the mark.  As Christians, God has set marks for us to hit, as well, missing them is counted as sin.  If you were to grade yourself, right now, where would you fall?  At the “head of the class”; trying hard; slightly motivated; needs improvement; lazy or failing?  How do you think God would judge you?  In a classroom, a teacher will tell you that the good or A students are alert, studious, obedient, ask questions and in general  want to learn and please the teacher.  Similarly, God wants us to be interested in his word, have a teachable nature and work up to or beyond our potentials.  He’s not going to hand out high marks to the pupils sleeping at their desks, or nodding off in the back pews.

While it’s impossible to get an A in everything we do, and God understands that, we can still try our darndest…God loves that quality in us!!  “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.…” Colossians 3:23.  Don’t settle for just being average!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Innocent Witchcraft???

I heard an interesting fact the other day that involved the people of Italy and their use of fortune tellers. Here‘s a portion of the article from the Telegraph: “Amid rising unemployment and general gloom over the state of the economy, Italians are spending billions of euros a year on astrology and fortune telling, according to a report by the European Consumers Association. Tarot card readers and pavement fortune tellers are doing a roaring trade, with about 30,000 Italians paying between 20 and 600 euros ($35- 750) a day looking for advice to help them out of their financial woes.” In addition these same superstitious folks are using centuries-old hand gestures to ward off evil and believe that plaster statues of Jesus and Mary can weep blood.

 Italy, a Christian nation, last time I checked, in a state of panic, is turning in large numbers, not to God, but to witchcraft.  Unfortunately, they aren’t the only ones.  Take a look at one of the most popular reality shows on TV, The Long Island Medium.  The program follows an everyday housewife who talks to the dead, and brings messages to their family.  I’m not saying this is all hocus-pocus, there is a spirit world, and it is a dangerous place.  When we venture outside of the safe confines that God has ordained, thinking it’s harmless fun, BEWARE.  We can’t split our allegiance to God, with an innocuous looking palm reader, horoscopes and Ouija boards.

The enemy wants to have us think there is nothing ungodly about them or their use, but take a look what God says.  “And do not let your people practice fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD.” Deuteronomy 18:9. Detestable is strong language, and not an adjective I want attached to my name.  Sure those things are fun, and even I glance at my horoscope once in a while, but never forget who is the power behind them. (Hint: it’s not God) I have no fear about my future, and neither should anyone who truly trusts in God. Are you Italians listening? “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” Proverbs 23:18

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Obeying the Rules

My husband and I took our two oldest grandkids on a 3 day/2 night road trip adventure, last weekend.  Before we left the driveway, I made the “rules” perfectly clear, well clear enough for a 9 and 6 year old to grasp.  No whining, no hitting, and no asking, “are we there yet”.  I thought that we all understood and agreed, but they found creative ways to get around the rules.  All in all, given their ages, they were great.

Now let’s look at ourselves, as adults.  We, as citizens of the USA, are subject to laws, and I won’t lie, there have been numerous times I’ve, creatively or not, tried to get around them. The latest on my list of shame was at a state park when I went around a DO NOT ENTER sign.  Like Chevy Chase’s character in the National Lampoon Vacation movie, I rationalized that we had come too far to not see the sight.  There was no park ranger in view, and with the grand kids watching, in I went.  Immediately the officer appeared and asked what part of the sign I didn’t understand.  Luckily for me, he was a softy and let us all go ahead in, since they were only cleaning off graffiti, but it could have been due to high water or deadly snakes.

God, in much the same way, has set up rules and do not enter signs for us.  Not because he is a meanie, or doesn’t want us to have fun, o contraire, He always has our best interests at heart.  He wants us to enjoy the life He’s given us, to the max, but in a safe, protected environment. I‘m sure there will still be times when I question God‘s plan, and try to take my own path, so I have to keep asking him to remind me.  We‘re all in this together, and it‘s far superior to follow his lead than our own.  As I told Ty and Ella, if we obey the rules our motto will be, “Fun for all, and all for Fun!!” and it was. “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.” John 14:21.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Clean Sweep

Friday morning, whether it needs it or not, LOL, I clean my house.  I love the fresh smell of Spic and Span, the orderliness and the feeling of accomplishment.  Ahhh, now I can kick back and never have to clean again.  Wrongo!  In a very short time, the pristine home, I worked so hard on, turns into a HOT MESS, to quote Niecey Nash.  How did this happen?  Where did all this stuff come from?  I won’t mention names, but the other person who occupies our abode, is currently dragging in a new load of knick-knacks.  Oh well, it’s job security, I guess.

Two of the gospel writers relate this story of housekeeping. “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.” Matthew 12:45.  Other than the demon part, this sounds like what happens to my house!  But, Jesus isn’t talking about our earthly bricks and mortar houses, he’s referring to our flesh, blood and spirit homes, our bodies.  In this scenario,  an individual has “cleaned his house“, sweeping out all the demons that had been crashing there for many years. Hallelujah, that’s good news, isn’t it?  Of course it is, the problem arises when he doesn’t fill it back up with godly stuff; Bible study, fervent prayer, ministry and gifts of the Spirit.  

Once we come clean with our Redeemer, His Holy Spirit should become our new lodger, and these are the items that will make his stay the most comfortable. Now let’s look back at the house in the story.  The owner had kicked out the bad tenants, but failed to move in the new, good one. So, when the previous freeloaders noticed the place was vacant, and clean, he invited all his rowdy friends to move in with him.  Jesus finishes this tale of woe by saying, “That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” The moral of His story is, a clean house is vital to salvation, we must evict those old demons,  but that is not enough. Once they hit the bricks, invite the Holy Spirit, and his decorating team, to make the new place their home. Will those previous pests try to sneak back in?  You bet, but don’t let them find any room, every nook should be filled to the brim with God’s stuff!

Thursday, July 18, 2013


It’s blackberry season, down on the farm, and we have 2 varieties, wild and tame.  The tame fruit is huge, as big as your thumb, or bigger, they have no thorns, but are so sour I pucker at the mere thought.  Out in the woods, the wild berries develop hidden between poison ivy, ticks, chiggers, and ruthless thorns, but they are naturally sweet.  Isn’t it funny that when horticulturists bred out the thorns, the sweetness was lost in the process.  I’ll be honest, I don’t like thorns.  They rip the flesh, snag your clothes and fester under your skin.  I have a mental list of questions I want to ask God, when I get to Heaven, and why he put thorns on berry bushes is one of them.  It couldn’t be to keep critters away, because they still get to them, and, after all, what good is a berry if it isn’t eaten? Anyway, every summer, in the sultry heat of mid-July, out I go, bucket in hand to pick those luscious delights, thorns and all.  Natural sweetness trumps scratches.

 Berries aside, God tells us about thorns throughout the Bible, none of the stories are pleasant.  For example; thorns growing up and choking out the sower’s seed, or the crown of thorns that Jesus wore on the cross, but then Paul relates another way of looking at these pointy pests.  “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.” 2 Corinthians 12:7.  It still doesn’t sound pleasant, but each of us has a thorn in the flesh, something that keeps us from becoming too full of ourselves. A reminder that God is still and always must be in control of our lives.

We don’t have to like it, I’m sure Paul didn’t, but like those wild berries, I think they are present to produce God’s sweetness in us.  No one gets through this life with out being scratched or pricked, face it!  Sure, we might rather be big and juicy like the tame ones, but it’s going to take a whole lot of outside sugar to make us palatable. So, next time you’re out picking berries, thank God for the thorns, and the delectable sweetness of the fruit they are producing in you!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

In His Hand

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” John 10:28-29.

 There are those who maintain that this verse offers eternal security to us, as Christians, and that is partiality true. If we look at the rest of this chapter, which is vital in Bible study, we find out to whom Jesus was speaking.  It was the Feast of the Dedication, and a group of Jews had gathered at the temple and began to bombard him with questions. “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” v.24.  Jesus answered,  “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not MY SHEEP.” v 25.

 Please note that only the sheep in his flock are promised eternal life.  All those on the outside couldn’t understand what he was saying or doing, because his voice was unfamiliar.  Unlike sheep, we are offered a choice about which voice, or shepherd we will listen to, follow and obey.  Like sheep, there is always the possibility of an escape from the flock, and that can, and does, happen with Christians as well.  Remember as a kid when you would make a tight fist to protect a small toy or candy?  Or even a tiny baby’s inborn reflex to wrap his fingers around yours. It’s mighty difficult to pry those fingers up, now imagine God’s hand… It’s Impossible!!  The only way we can get out of that lovingly clenched hand, is on our own.  Perhaps it’s the siren song of the world, and its carnality, that causes some to squeeze their way out.  Whatever the reason, it places those “escapees” in an unenviable place, outside the protection of God’s hand.

God won’t put us in chains, he wants us to be fully convinced about him before we place ourselves in his care.  Are you convinced?  Are you not only listening to the shepherd’s voice, but willingly following?  Life on the outside of his hand, is no life at all.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Christ:The Meaty Bone!!

It’s hard for me to believe that not everyone I talk to is as interested in Jesus as I am.  You all know that spreading the good news is my passion, even more than photography, and I love photography!! When I see folks living a life apart from God, it breaks my heart.  Part of me wants to physically pull them away from their “sinful” lifestyles, but that isn’t only impossible, it’s not the way God wants it done.

Imagine, if you will, a dog chewing on a dirty, stinky, old bone.  He’s very content, so don’t even think about trying to take that nasty thing away from him, unless you want to get bitten. The only way you can persuade him to drop it is to offer him something better in the form of a nice, big, juicy, meaty, fresh bone.  He may not jump at the new one right away, he’ll need to sniff on it for a bit, and maybe even go back to the yucky one for comparison, until he realizes that the meaty one is far superior.

 OK, so a dog may not put that much thought into the choice. The point I’m trying to make is, people get accustomed to their lifestyles, and like that bone-chomping pooch, the only way to draw them away is to show them something better.  This is where we come in as followers of Christ.  Our lives should be so enticing, so delightfully fragrant, that people looking at us will want to venture over for a “sniff”. True, they need to give Christianity more than a quick once over, but as we keep exuding the joy that is within us, many will be won over.

As I see Christ in action, I never see him forcibly pulling people away from sin, instead he too, uses the meaty bone technique.  It’s not our role to belittle or demean, those separated brothers and sisters, only to lovingly draw them in.  “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ's triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.” 2 Corinthians 2:14. Or, to sum it up, Paul tells us this as he leads us into the “Love Chapter”,  “But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.” 1 Corinthians 12:31.  We live a life that is truly best of all, let’s offer to the world what we’ve found!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Good News Day!!

Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!" Romans 10:15.  Remember those ads where representatives from Publishers Clearing House showed up at your front door with balloons, flowers and a great big check?  The ad campaign brought the prospect of big money prizes to all who entered their contest, or purchased their magazines.  It sounded like good news, and lots of naive  folks, bought lots of magazines, and waited for those checks to arrive.  While a few lucky families may have won something, the remainder are still waiting.

What do you consider to be good news?  Winning a prize; being awarded a scholarship; receiving favorable test results or closing on the home of your dreams?  All of those are wonderful, no doubt about it, but the best news we can receive is the Gospel, which literally translates, Good News. We, in the generations since Christ, have hit the jack pot when it comes to good news.  Before that time, people didn’t have any reassurance that they were in right relationship with God.  All they knew was to keep the law, day after day, year after year, never even anticipating a providential knock on the door.

Christ brought an end to that interminable system, and all we have to do is open the door of faith and believe.  “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BEDISAPPOINTED.” Romans 10:8-11.  Read that again.  Church membership can’t save us, neither can  religious rituals /ceremonies, or good works.  It’s all based on hearing the word of God preached, making the personal decision that it is true, and acting upon it, individually, by confessing Christ with your mouth.  Now that truly is Good News!!  Only you can open the door.  If you have never responded to his knock, today is your “lucky” day!  “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20.  Break out the balloons!!!

Friday, July 12, 2013

See Him for Yourself

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"--1 Corinthians 2:9.  God has certainly blessed me, by giving me the opportunity to travel this awesome world of his.  My eyes have beheld the myriad shades of blue in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and the Adriatic.  I’ve heard the wind symphony resounding through the Rockies and the Alps, and waves, like noisy symbols, crashing against Ireland’s Cliffs of Mohr. I take thousands of pictures for reminders, and to share with others.  Those photos, however, can never capture the fullness, grandeur or sounds of those places. Even my “eloquent” descriptions fall short of the real thing.  So it is with a personal, “real thing” relationship with Christ.  I can expound on mine, but until you experience it on your own, you see only  photos in my album. Whatever this fabulous planet has to offer the senses, it is only an album of what God has in store, for those who love, and follow him!! Start your own album and see for yourself!!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Boogie Wipes

The random gift-giving continues! Yesterday I found these on my placemat at the kitchen table;  Boogie Wipes, always appropriate and welcome…truly the gift that keeps on giving…LOL!!

By now you are familiar with the twisty paths that God leads my mind down, so if you’re curious, follow me as we sojourn along this one. Sunday, the pastor at my church brought up this scripture: “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8.  In today’s enlightened church, there are many who don’t believe in either hell or the devil.  The thought of a ferocious enemy, prowling around ready to pounce, is tantamount to thinking that the Boogie Man exists; it’s ludicrous!!

Please note this clever segue…just as boogies are real, and must be dealt with, so is our adversary the devil.  His presence is  felt everywhere, even inside the church itself.  Every notice how much back-biting goes on in there?  Remember in the book of Job, when Satan appeared with the angels before God?  God asked him where he’d come from, and he answered,  "From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it." Job 1:7.  Even then he was busy sniffing out his next prey, and he hasn’t stopped one day since.  He knows how the bible ends for him, so he’s always on the prowl for the spiritually weak,  ill-equipped, people who don’t believe in him, and especially those who think they can never be tempted.  Don’t be surprised to feel his hot breath on your vulnerable neck.

So how do we counter his attacks?  Is there a Devil Wipe?  Well, funny you should ask, because in a way there is, not that most Christians realize it. God has given us the ultimate Boogie/Devil Wipe in the form of his word.  Jesus called on this power when he was being tempted in the wilderness.  Each time Satan came close to sinking in his teeth, Jesus responded from the word of God, and the old serpent had to retreat, but always looking for another opportunity to strike.  We have that same power available to us, and that’s why it’s vital to be familiar with what the scriptures teach.  James exhorts us with this effective verse. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7.

Don’t ever become so smug that you think you can fight the enemy in your own human strength; YOU CAN’T!!  However, when you submit to our Supreme General, God, and stand firm in his word, repeat it to him and the enemy must flee!!  That’s good to know, and better yet to employ.  So keep it in mind when you hear him growling hungrily outside your door.  So, be prepared, always keep the power of your Boogie Wipes handy !!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I Am Convinced

“ I don’t have enough information to be an atheist.“ I heard a Christian make this reply to an atheist, when asked why he chose to believe in God.  Any decision, worth making, requires thoughtful inquiry which should include, among other things, gathering of pertinent facts, testing and retesting said facts, asking other people’s educated opinions on the subject and in-depth study.  What we are making a decision on, purchasing a car, choosing a profession, or even selecting a mate, all hinges on the conclusion our investigations come up with.  The same process holds true for the decision we are all asked to make about God.  Is he real; did he create the universe; are his promises true; was there a Jesus and did he purchase our salvation; and ultimately, what’s in it for me?

 Not unlike kicking the tires when we buy a car, God wants us to check him out thoroughly, and be convinced that the life-changing conclusion we arrive at is certifiable. Luckily, God has supplied us with all kinds of reliable sources.  Certainly the Bible, but there are also historical accounts written by  reliable scholars, not necessarily Christians, of the day. In addition, there are eye witness accounts of Christ’s miracles, his death, resurrection and ascension. In a court proceeding, the truthful testimony of an eyewitness is irrefutable, and makes for an airtight case.

 God has supplied us with more than enough truthful testimony to make his case.  On the flip side, what evidence does an atheist base his claim on?  Feelings? Scientific data? Those can be unreliable at best, but God is truth, and that should be sufficient in and of itself.  So go ahead and kick the tires, check under the hood and be sure to take a test drive, make sure your mind, heart, soul and spirit are made up and convinced. “For Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If One died for all, then all died. And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.” 2 Corinthians 4:14.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Empowered by the Son-Light

My husband is always coming home with some random “gift“ for me.  Some more random than others like these dancing, solar-powered flowers.  I wanted to be thrilled, but the truth is it‘s another silly knick-knack they I don‘t need.  I didn‘t say that out loud though, and now they are happily dancing away in my bay window.  As I was trying to come up with a plan to banish them to a dark corner somewhere, God revealed something about these tchotchkes. They can only function when exposed to the sun, they cease to dance if they are removed from the source of their power.  Now I realize that’s far from a profound statement, but He went on to remind me that I too am empowered, not by the sun, but by The Son.  I must stay in his light, so to speak, to truly be able to dance, and serve effectively in his kingdom.

Think back to the first words God spoke over the barrenness that was to become Earth, “Let there be light.” The Creator made light knowing it was essential to sustain all life forms.  In fact the word light is used 2869 times in the Bible, that’s a lot of light.  Jesus referred to himself as “the Light”, “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.” John 12:46.  When you are in the dark, you bump into things, and struggle to accomplish even mundane tasks.  Conversely, when we live in His light, we not only can see, but like those dancing flowers, are empowered for all kinds of service.

Choose today to dance with joyful, empowered abandon, in the Sonlight.  “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who EMPOWERS them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are EMPOWERED by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Count the Cost

We’re constantly being bombarded with commercials, commercials, and more commercials. Food, beverages, travel, cosmetics, etc., etc., all tempting us with fulfillment of  our personal needs. Most ads go way beyond basic need fulfillment,  offering a wonderful, new and improved life.  Take pharmaceutical ads for a good example. What we “see” is an individual suffering from depression, high blood pressure, psoriasis, or osteoporosis.  Enter the miracle drug/cure, and the visual picture changes from hopelessness to vitality and joy.  What our eyes perceive is all good, but turn away from the screen next time and “hear” the commercial.  When you listen, the picture is a lot different.  The announcer, in his most comforting voice, begins the long list of side effects; blood clots, heart issues, bone disease, worsening of conditions and suicidal thoughts!

 I was prescribed one of these “miracle” drugs, and after reading up on the horrific side-effects, I declined.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against medicine, but I want to be fully informed of what I can expect both positively and negatively,  then it is my decision to “count the cost“.  Jesus told his apostles, before following him, to count the cost as well. I love that about him, he doesn’t want blind, robot-like believers, and he lays the facts on the table, leaving the decision up to us individually.  Take for example this scripture; “"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? …..In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” Luke 14: 26-33.

Jesus isn’t casually handing us a delicious looking ice cream cone, he wants us to know all about it’s fat, additive and calorie content before we accept. He, above all, knows that the cost of discipleship can be steep, perhaps including  loss of family, friends, job, health and even life. Conversely he wants to make clear the benefits; a  Holy-Spirit filled, supernaturally empowered life on earth, and eternity with him in Heaven.  Don’t grab for any old, pill or ice cream cone that the world offers, read the fine print carefully, and choose wisely.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


What does it mean to be free?  Answers will vary, but they might include: tax-free; mortgage-free; kid-free; debt-free; fat-free and so on.  The implication is that you are loosed from a bondage, be it debt, childrearing or calories.  Most of us can’t imagine living under a dictatorship, or even a monarchy, but the founders of our nation knew what it was like.  Freedom from tyranny meant so much to them that they were willing to risk their lives for it. As Americans, we proudly recall those valiant men and women, who fought, and won our independence with their shed blood.  As Christians, our freedom from the bonds of sin, and the tyranny of Satan was won for us by Jesus’ shed blood.  Today we celebrate Independence Day, so shoot off some fireworks, have a picnic and wave Old Glory proudly, but don’t forget our greatest freedom comes through the Son. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Looking Redeemed

“I‘d be more likely to believe in God, if his redeemed looked redeemed.” I turned on the radio this morning, just in time to hear this quote from a sermon.  Apparently it was made by a man who had influenced the thinking of Adolf Hitler.  Obviously he was an atheist, but his words really impacted me.  Do we, as the church, purchased by his blood, brand-new, and grace-filled, reflect our redemption to the world?  Do we stand out from the crowd, or do we blend right in?  This onlooker couldn’t see anything special about the Christians he came in contact with, so there was nothing that made him want to investigate any further.

 Ask yourself, if I’m not representing Christ, who or what am I representing?   What should we look like?  Well, let’s look at what we shouldn’t  be putting forth; “…sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.” Galatians 5:19.  Paul reminds us that just because we have been redeemed, doesn’t give us the right to go on acting like we used to.  Sadly, many self-professed Christians, (church membership doesn’t make one a Christian), are still involved in these activities, and the world is watching them, very closely I might add. They profess redemption, but don‘t represent the redeemer.  Add to that the fact that many in the church complain about, long, boring sermons, uncomfortable pews and having to pay tithes. Good grief, there’s no evidence of joy, let alone redemption, no wonder atheists have the perception they do!

So then, how shall we live as the redeemed of Christ?  Paul, to the rescue again, says this, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22. While spiritual fruit doesn’t develop overnight, it flourishes under the right conditions. As we grow in our faith, we’ll start bearing this luscious fruit, and that’s what needs to be evident to unbelievers. Let’s start looking like who we are…“Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story…” Psalm 107:2.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Stuck in Tradition

I have a friend who is a traditionalist, in every sense of the word.  He‘s not into major change of any sort, be it technology, food, television shows, and especially the church. “What was wrong with the way we’ve done it in the past?” is his lament.  He frets about the casual way people dress for Sunday services, their lack of decorum/reverence during said services, in fact he has a whole litany of complaints. While I don’t disagree with his thinking, entirely, I also believe that strict adherence to traditions, many of which are man-made, can trap us in a legalistic mindset.  Many folks can become hung up on rule-following and fulfilling religious obligations, because it’s easier to check off a list than joyfully, willingly, worshipping God.  I don’t want you to get the idea that rules are a bad thing, perish the thought, but when we think that they are the only way to God, we find ourselves back where the Jewish people were, before Christ constantly doing and never done.

The body of Christ, the church, like any other living entity, should be growing, and maturing, not sitting in a stagnant pool of laws. I read a quote by John Wimber that said the church should be doing an ancient thing (following Christ’s teachings) in a contemporary way,  adapting to the current times, without taking away or adding to His mission.  We don’t wash our clothes on rocks, or live in stick huts anymore, so why do we expect the church to lag behind? The future of Christianity depends on it keeping up with the times, while staying true to the scriptures.  This is nothing new, even in the early church, Paul was obliged to set people straight about the dangers of following tradition rather than Christ.  “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Colossians 2:8.  Following Christ, in a relevant, contemporary way, is so much more rewarding, and grace-filled, than  being a stodgy traditionalist.  Try it and see for yourself!!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Thou Shall Not Eat Rotten Bananas

A friend of mine related this story to me about her attempt to teach an ornery 5 year old neighbor boy about the Ten Commandments. She began by asking if he’d ever heard of them, and he said no.  “OK, good, a clean slate”, she thought.  While not the most attentive pupil, he listened as she explained 1-5.  As she paused before going on to #6, he was able to wrestle control of the lesson. With an aloof tone, and rolling eyes he boldly blurted out,  “Oh, everyone knows #6, it’s don’t eat rotten bananas, or play with broken toys, just throw them out!”  End of Bible teaching for the day, you can’t argue with that kind of wisdom.  After I stopped chuckling, I got to thinking about God’s Top 10 List.  While it evolved into the weighty LAW, it began as a gift of grace to the people of Israel.

Hearken back with me to the days before the commandments were the law of the land.  The Hebrew people had been living in Egypt for at least 400 years, and for a number of those years, they were slaves to their hosts.  God, working through his man, Moses, freed them from oppression, and led them to the land he had promised. Now, consider the mindset of these folks.  The strong beliefs and traditions that their ancestors had held, had become diluted in the river of paganism. It was a wishy-washy religion, at best, and worse yet, they had developed a slave mentality.  None of them had ever known what it meant to be a nation governing and caring for themselves, they were, and had always been slaves. God couldn’t let a group like that just walk out of Egypt with no direction, they simply weren’t prepared.  So, in his love, he established the basic rules for his beloved children to follow.  These were not meant to be harsh or restrictive, but rather to encourage them to be focused; on their families, the care of their possessions, common sense tenets of behavior and most of all centered on Him.

 King David sings of the joy he finds in God‘s law when he says, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Psalm 16:6. Loving and serving God isn’t about merely keeping the law, instead the loving “fences” he has built around us are meant to keep us safe, joyful and in relationship with him.  So throw out those rotten bananas, it’s for your own good!