God and Real Life…

The Holy Spirit illuminates Truth through the Word, through creation, through the ordinary …

Here Comes Trouble… March 5, 2016

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“In this world you will have trouble, but take heart!  I have overcome the world!”  Jesus

Trouble.  Difficulty. Distress. Anxiety. Grief. Burden.  The list goes on and on… for many of us.  Whether it’s minor pain or major heartache, most of us have suffered some sort of trouble.  Those of you who haven’t…watch out.  It may be right around the corner.  This is just a fact of life in the world in which we live.  Those we love get sick, friends we care about get caught up in addiction,  people we don’t even know commit horrific acts of violence.  Sometimes the world around us can be so disheartening and disturbing that we withdraw altogether, which can take us to equally troubling places deep within ourselves.  We can end up feeling hopeless, helpless to bear the burden.  But … I know I was hoping for a ‘but’ right about now.  But… there is hope!  Comfort in calamity,  Peace in pain,  Hope in hardship.  His name is Jesus.  And He has overcome…and wants us to, as well!

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles…”

2 Corinthians 1.3-4a

Comfort is a beautiful thing!  Too bad we have to actually go through some trouble in order to experience the truth of that statement.  As I look back over my life, I’ve come to realize that the times I’ve been comforted most by my Loving Father are the moments I have hurt most.  No pain, no gain.  Not only have I received comfort in my troubles, I hope I’ve been able to give comfort as well.

“…so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

2 Corinthians 1.4b

My encouragement to you… and frankly, to myself… is to go to Jesus when trouble comes. Not only will He bring peace to our anxious hearts and give us hope to endure life’s stormiest seasons, He will bring purpose to our troubles.  When we realize that whatever difficulty we’re going through can actually result in compassion toward others in their troubles … we can face whatever lies ahead … and help someone else to do the same.

 

The Best Valentine Ever! February 13, 2016

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I cannot believe it’s been two years since I last blogged!  To the day!  Life has been busy…apparently.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day…a day of joy and happiness for some, and a day of sadness and regret for others.  As is the case with most holidays, expectations of Valentine’s Day can be built up to absurdity – women in lingerie deliriously excited about oversized Teddy Bears, dining so elegant (and expensive!) that neither party knows which utensil to use, and my personal favorite:  eloquently articulated marriage proposals spoken in public places, on bended knee, and posted online for all the world to see…over and over and over again.  (Sidenote:  Not all engagement rings are given on Valentine’s Day, right, Russ?)  Needless to say, expectations can be dangerous.  Especially when it comes to love.

“No one has greater love (no one has shown stronger affection) than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends.”          

 Jesus

There is One who will always exceed our expectations, love us more, accept us completely, encourage us daily, speak to us personally.  He reached into the world…and into my own heart…to show His love.  For the past 25 years, He has revealed his character, his faithfulness, his power and his compassion to me.  He loves well and enables me to love better.  Jesus is the Ultimate Valentine, inviting us into real relationship with him.  All we have to do is accept.

 

 

 

Quiet Time… 2.13.14 February 13, 2014

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Today is a snow day!  Home from work today, I actually have time to blog about my quiet time rather than just tweet!  Hope this is an encouragement!

Taking it in:  (What does it say?)

Matthew 7.17 “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.”  ESV

Thinking it through: (What does it mean?)

This verse leads me to ask myself, “How healthy am I?” and “What kind of fruit am I bearing?”

How healthy am I?  My mind races through the past 18 months since I decided to get in shape physically. Sweat. Soreness. Protein.  Scales.  Goals.  Enthusiasm. Water. More sweat.  Hard choices. Discipline. Biking.  Set-backs. Discouragement. Running. Momentum. Consistency. Progress. Satisfaction.

Working it out:  (How can I apply it?)

Physical health doesn’t just happen.  It takes effort. I must eat right and exercise.  Spiritual health is much the same.  I must “eat” the Word DAILY!  I must “work out” my faith by obeying what that Word says.  I must be determined. Consistent. Set goals. Chew on some meat. Sweat. Make hard choices. Run the race. Fall down.  Get back up.  Obey. Make progress.

BOTTOM LINE:  Jesus so wants to reveal Himself to me and through me.  He wants our relationship to be healthy.  He wants me to be fruitful.  As He speaks to me through His Word and prayer, and as I obey Him…I grow healthier.

 

Women & Ministry… January 18, 2014

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Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?”  John 21.21

This past week one of the ladies at Image Church approached me with a question about serving.  She had been “hit” with a desire to meet a need within our body, and she intended to act on it!  She even went so far as to invite other ladies to join in the mission…and she has more than a few takers.  “Does this sound ok?” she asked.  My response: “ABSOLUTELY!”

In my quiet time this morning, I finished up the Gospel of John, which I’ve been reading for well over two months.  I’d been guilty of racing through the familiar stories in past readings, so I intentionally slowed my pace this time around.  And I am so glad I did, because God has been faithful to teach me new lessons using details I may have previously overlooked.  Case in point, the verse above.

John 21.21 records Peter’s asking a question many of us have asked.  “What about him, Lord?”  We often look to or at others instead of simply focusing on our own personal obedience to Jesus.  We want someone else to teach a truth, to lead a ministry, to set an example, to organize an activity.  Jesus didn’t do that.  Jesus went straight to the Source in order to find out what He should be doing…because Jesus understood this important principle:

 “So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing…”  John 5.19-20a

He didn’t look to others, He looked to God the Father.  He didn’t even need to dream up something to do for God…but rather, He just joined in what God was already doing!  That certainly takes the pressure off!

If we want to know how this comes about…how we will know what God is doing…perhaps the words of the Psalmist hold the key. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  Jesus’ delight was always in God the Father, so God placed His own desires in Jesus’ heart. And God still places His own desires in the hearts of His children. Surely, He did this in the lady I mentioned earlier!  God encourages, so she desires to encourage.  God takes the initiative, and so does she. God’s heart becomes her heart; God’s ministry becomes her ministry. God invites people to join Him, and you guessed it – so does she!

This is our hope for women and women’s ministry:

  • That we would continue growing in relationship with Jesus and joining Him wherever He is working.
  • That we would take personal initiative in serving others in the body and outside the body.
  • That we would ask others to join in the work.

Following Jesus in this way will help us to focus on Him…and to do what He calls us to.

 

Passing the Rolls.. Part 1 November 26, 2013

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Two days from now my family will gather around our dining room table to offer thanks to God for all that He is, all He has done…and all He is doing.  The table will be set with a linen tablecloth, our best china and glasses made of actual glass.  I may even polish a few pieces of real silver so as to begin what my husband jokingly refers to as “Eating Season” in style.   There will be a golden brown turkey which has been grilled to perfection,  cornbread stuffing, sweet potato soufflé, green bean casserole with those crunchy french fried onions on top, fresh cranberry relish, deviled eggs, and of course, rolls right from the oven.  I predict that whoever comes hungry will indeed leave happy!

dinner-rolls-ck-1120287-l

For the past week I’ve been spending time (or investing time, I should say) in the Gospel of John.  Chapter 6 in particular.   My most recent blog also referenced John 6…where Jesus refers to Himself as The Bread of life.  This passage is so rich, so jam-packed with spiritual truth that I find myself just hovering over it, not unlike my 14-year-old son  at that Thanksgiving spread I described.  Neither of us feel full quite yet.

John 6.1-13 is a passage familiar to many of us.  Even if you haven’t grown up in church, you may have heard of Jesus’ miraculous “Feeding of the 5000.”   As Jesus and His disciples went along, a great crowd gathered.  The throng had seen Jesus’ miracles of healing, and they were intrigued.  And hungry.  In an effort to test Philip (and I believe to further reveal Himself to His disciples as well as the crowd), Jesus asked a question. 

“Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?”  Good Question.

Lesson #1:  Everything we need for life and living comes from God Himself.  When Jesus asks Philip where can he buy bread, I believe Jesus is pointing to the fact that we cannot get what we need for life on our own.  At least, not what we need in order to have real life, eternal life.  What we need for real life,  eternal life comes only through an intimate relationship with Jesus Himself, a relationship which He initiates…and to which we respond.  Notice Who is asking the question.  This is all Jesus’ idea. 

Philip’s response: “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough!”  Bingo.

Lesson #2:  We cannot give what we do not have.  In a physical sense, Philip had no way on his own to secure enough bread to feed such a crowd.  Even if he worked hard…for a month!  If the crowd were to be fed, the food would have to be provided by Jesus.  Spiritually speaking, the same principle is true.  We simply cannot give what we do not have.  We must look to Jesus as the Bread of Life if we are to have satisfying sustenance…for ourselves and for others.  We must open His Word and take it in…let it work itself into every inch of our being.  We cannot afford an “in one ear & out the other” approach when it comes to the Truth of Scripture!  We must obey it so that it begins to grow us into spiritual maturity…and we must give it away to others.  I am grateful for the opportunity to do just that, even as I type.

Coming soon…Passing the Rolls (Part 2)

 

Bon Appetit! November 22, 2013

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imagesAs I read through the Gospel of John in the Bible, I’m gaining more understanding and a deeper appreciation for Jesus’ reference to Himself as the Bread of Life.  Maybe it’s because I never met a piece of bread I didn’t like…and because I’ve all but given it up for the past year.  Au revoir, croissant.  Arrivederci, herbed Italian.  Goodbye, Texas toast…with garlic butter.  A painful sacrifice to say the least.  Thankfully, Jesus makes the sacrifice that allows me to completely indulge in the Bread of Life.

You may be asking why, if I enjoy bread so much, did I willingly give it up?  The answer is simple:  I had a goal, and giving up bread would help me achieve it.  A little over a year ago, I decided to lose weight and get fit.  And, try as I might, I could not figure out a way to make cinnamon rolls a part of that plan.  Or fluffy, buttery yeast rolls.  Or crusty French bread.  Drastic times called for drastic measures.  The good news is that I have lost weight; I am more fit than I’ve been in years.  In short, I have achieved my goal!  Now, I must work on maintenance.

“I am the Bread of Life.” John 6.48 ESV

So…what does any of this have to do with Jesus’ description of Himself? Bread was a staple of the ancient diet at the time when Jesus spoke these words.  His audience would have clearly understood its importance, its value. Bread was essential to Jewish culture, as much a part of worship as it was of daily life.  As He often did…and does, Jesus used the physical to give insight into the spiritual.

When He refers to Himself as the Bread of Life, He is communicating to us that we need Him.  He is the very essence of all that we need in order not only to thrive, but I daresay, to exist.  Just like a piece of warm toast after a nasty stomach bug… He will sustain me when my world is upside-down.  Like a hearty pumpernickel, He will energize me for the work I must do.  I will go so far as to say that, at times, He is even like an aromatic cinnamon roll right out of the oven…bidding me to sit down in my favorite chair and simply enjoy Him.  The best part of the Bread of Life is that I CAN & MUST HAVE SOME EVERY SINGLE DAY!   By reading His Word (the Bible), talking with Him (prayer), listening to Him (meditating on & memorizing the Word), learning from Him (studying the Word) and obeying Him, I am in effect “eating” the Bread of Life.  Over time, these disciplines will help me achieve my goal to know Jesus better as well as God’s goal for me to be more like Jesus.

Bon appetit!

 

Sometimes He Asks Us to Stay… November 12, 2013

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YouarehereI’ve seen it so many times that I’m beginning to recognize it as a pattern. When there is a storm…be it internally or externally…people begin to look for God.  They want answers.  Security. Peace.  I should know…because I am one of those people.  When the pounding waves of dissatisfaction threatened to drown me, and the driving winds of loneliness misdirected me, I cried out to God.  When the shifting sands of broken relationships gave way underneath me, I looked for Someone who would put my heart back on solid ground.  That is the moment when Jesus truly began to reveal Himself (although He had been calling me for some time)…and the moment I surrendered to Him…the moment I began to follow Him and to obey Him.  After two decades, I am still learning to surrender, trying to follow Him, and doing my best to obey Him.  During the past twenty years, I have known more than a few people who have had painful life experiences that led them to a point of utter desperation.  Men and women who -at a moment of personal crisis- call out to the One who can change everything.  Many voice commitment, but in that moment, few actually surrender.  As my pastor,  Chris Rhodenhizer, might say, “Commitment is all about us, while surrender is all about Jesus.”   Consequently, not everyone remains with Jesus after the storm is over, when the seas are calm and the wind gentle.

Mark Chapter 5 records Jesus’ healing a demon-possessed man…a man who is described as uncontrollable, destructive, and unrestrained.   Tormented and tormenting, he could not escape the evil that perpetually dominated him.  Then Jesus set him free.  Free to listen and learn, free to go and do.  F.R.E.E.  Although the man of the tombs asks to travel on with Jesus, Jesus instructs him to stay put.

Why is it that more often than not we associate going with adventure?  Progress?  Meaning?   But not staying.  Staying is safe…stale…. unsatisfying.  Staying is what we have to do when we are not chosen to go…when we have no other option.   Even in religious circles, we often hear the saying, “You can’t stay where you are AND go with God.”  The man of the tombs and I beg to differ.

Jesus asked the man to stay and simply tell his family all about the miraculous healing he had experienced.  I don’t know how he felt about this.  Scripture doesn’t tell us.  All we know is that he obeyed.  In so doing, he managed to stay where he was AND go with God.