Friday, April 24, 2009

Scar Stories

See that scar on my arm? Like all scars, it was caused by a wound, and with that wound came pain. It’s strange how you can receive a wound in a split second, but then spend much longer (sometimes a lifetime) trying to recover from it. Some wounds (like this one) even leave scars; and not just visible ones either. While the sting from the initial impact is gone, the memories remain; and that scar is my daily reminder.

I suppose I could live with this scar a lot better if it didn’t have a story behind it (yet, what scar doesn’t?). This scar resulted from a common wound I often get in the kitchen; more precisely, from the oven. I love to cook, and despite the precautions I take, I often end up getting injured (usually, it’s a burn). Even with oven mitts and hot pads, some area of exposed or inadequately protected piece of skin ends up getting burned! Normally, I laugh it off as another one of my clumsy mishaps. It’s happened lots of times before. However, this burn was different. When I received this one, I was pretty angry. Why? Well, it was because I really shouldn’t have been baking in the first place. If it weren’t for the “event” that I was going to (in which I was supposed to bring what I had just baked) I wouldn’t have gotten burned! Moreover, it was an event that I DIDN’T want to attend, and WOULDN’T have ordinarily attended if it weren’t for the circumstances (which I won’t get into) that got me involved with the “event” in the first place.

I took care of the burn as best I could. I put anti-biotic ointment and a band-aid on it and hoped that it would heal as well as the rest of my burns that I had gotten over the years (can’t even see remnants from those anymore). Yet, I remember someone had told me when they had seen it that it would leave a scar. I was hoping and praying that that wouldn’t be the case. Of all the burns and injuries I have ever gotten, why would THIS ONE have to be the one that left a scar??

Needless to say, the burn didn’t heal as well as I had hoped. This is what led me to scout out some Mederma at Wal-Mart a few days ago. As I was reading the package, it said that you had to apply it 2-3 times a day over a span of a few months! *GROAN* All that for a wound that took less than a second to obtain?!! Argh! Though, I guess that’s always the case isn’t it? I got to thinking about how much pain we all suffer and how we consistently have to deal with it and apply the salve to the wound if we want it to heal. If we just hope it will heal by itself and do nothing to treat it, of course it’s not going to go away and of course it won’t heal properly (or at all). If you want to heal from anything, you’ve got to do whatever it takes to heal.

With this in mind, I thought that I would give it a shot. I hate this scar with a passion because of all it symbolizes to me. It’s obvious and ugly, and it reminds me of all the emotional wounds of that “event” that hurt much worse than that stupid little burn ever did! So, if I had to make myself remember to be that diligent in putting the cream on in order to get rid of that horrible mark, I would have to do it (either that or cover it up with a tatto LOL. Yeah, not likely!). ;)

With my mind made up, I decided I would spend the ten plus bucks on a cream (and hope for the best). That is, until I felt a strange conviction from God. I started to get mad. “GOD, I DON’T WANT THIS SCAR!! I HATE IT!!!” God says to me, “I didn’t want mine either.” Dang it! Why does He have to say that?! That just makes me think of the pain He chose to endure by sending His Son to die on the cross and receive those scars in His hands for ME! THOSE were supposed to be MY SCARS! It also reminds me of how Jesus prayed in the garden before His arrest. He didn’t want His scars either, but as always, He had His Father’s will in mind and not His own. So, He took the cup that was given to Him (Luke 22:42). Ok, God, I understand what you’re telling me. Fine! I won’t buy the stuff!

However, it still didn’t make things any easier; and I was trying desperately not to cry for all to see in Wal-Mart! I wondered WHY it had to be this one and WHY He didn’t allow it to fade away from sight and memory. WHY does it have to be visible? Then, I thought of another scar I have. As ugly as it truly is, I never treated it that way because it’s my c-section scar (and no one sees it anyways). At least that scar has LIFE attached to it. From that scar, my children were brought into the world. And so, that scar I bear and its appearance doesn’t bother me much because there is a glimmer of beauty in it.

It was in thinking about my c-section scar (and Jesus’ scars) that I remembered that there is redemption in EVERY scar. I remember hearing Beth Moore say that our scars tell a story, and that’s why some of them are visible (and some of them linger/remain). The scars are there so you can have a little “show and tell” with those who desperately need someone to relate to their pain. Our “scar stories” give others hope for whatever pain they are going through. That is why God allowed me to be wounded and to have this scar; and why He hasn’t allowed it to fade yet - if ever. It’s also why God didn’t want me to heal it with an over-the-counter cream. God isn’t finished with this scar yet. Whether He chooses to let it fade or not, His purpose for allowing me to go through it is the same as His purpose for His own Son’s. The scars have a story to tell (and that‘s why I‘m telling my “scar story” now). Scars are “ugly” to us, but there IS beauty in them when we allow Jesus to redeem them!!

It’s going to take some conscious effort on my part to find the beauty in this one. I will have to apply God’s “redemption cream” to it daily for a good while before that scar will be something that I no longer look at with a heavy heart. It will take that constant application of remembering the few good things that came out of that “event” more than the many bad things. Already, it’s helping as I force myself to look at that scar every day and CHOOSE the good memories and not the bad ones. It’s a reprogramming and conditioning of my brain to focus on the positives (Philippians 4:8). One day, that scar will be nothing but beautiful to me (and God might even let it fade some more by then). Regardless, I’m glad that for even the sake of one, God has allowed me to have this scar. He knows that AT LEAST ONE person reading this desperately needed to know this message. Is it you? Are you the one he wanted me to share this story with? Are you the one He had in mind when He allowed me to bear this mark? What scars do YOU have? What’s YOUR “scar story”?

Greater than any scar that I bear, HE bore the most ugly, and yet beautiful, scars there ever was!! And yes, those were/are for YOU!!! His scars tell a remarkable story of love. It’s like the chorus from the old Ray Boltz song “Scars” (which has been playing in my head for days):

“I saw His scars. No He didn’t try to hide them. He said come and look inside them. They are a window to my heart. And don’t forget I love you, just the way you are. I knew it must be true, I saw His scars.”

I will end this blog with a song that God chose for me the other day. I was walking/jogging and my “shuffle” feature that I was using on my iPod landed on FFH’s “On My Cross.” I’m glad that I resisted the impulse to skip over it to a more “upbeat” song to keep my momentum going, because God wanted me to hear the message in it. It also put on another layer of “redemption cream” LOL. ;) I hope this song/video speaks to you like it spoke to me!

Grace and peace to all of you!! I pray that you too will find the beauty in your own scars and that you’ll allow God to heal them with His “redemption cream.” ;) If it helps, feel free to share your stories in the comments. Let us all heal together as we share our “scar stories“ and speak hope to each other!! Or, if you prefer, send me a message/e-mail. This blog is called “Scar Stories” for a reason - I’m not the only one with a scar to talk about (and we all need to talk about it!). Talking is a key ingredient in the “redemption cream” you know. ;) It goes right along with the active ingredient: Jesus. God bless you all!!

Heart Tugs

Tomorrow. What kind of word is that to you? Sometimes, it can mean the date in which we will get something done, or PLAN to get something done (if we are a procrastinator). Tomorrow is a lot of things, but one thing that it never can be is CERTAIN.

Last Sunday, Craig preached on “tomorrow.” Just as Jesus said in Matthew 24:36-44, we won’t know the day or the hour that He will return. Therefore, we need to be prepared. It’s just like the story Craig shared about when he was in Boy Scouts. He and his friends were up at camp and the scout master had to leave for a little while. He wanted them to take care of a few tasks while he was gone so that they would be prepared for the evening later (that is, they needed firewood stocked up, provisions gathered, etc.). They thought he would be gone a good while, so they put it off until “later” and had fun swimming instead. Much to their surprise, their scout master returned earlier than expected and he was very disappointed that nothing had been done.

Not only is this story important to remember in the event of Jesus’ coming, but also for the things that we are supposed to be doing while we’re waiting. Craig said that there are undoubtedly things on our hearts that we know God wants us to do; but we haven’t done them yet. When asked the greatest commandment in Mark 12:28-34, Jesus essentially said “Love God, love others.” THAT is what we are supposed to be doing while we are waiting!! That’s what matters most and that’s what we need to be demonstrating; our love for God and our love for others. To get a good picture of what that means, refer back to the sermon Chad preached on love; the one I entitled “Getting Off Your Donkey.” It’s one of my favorite sermons and one that I always think of when pondering how to best love and serve others.

What it all boils down to is that God’s business is our business. In fact, Jesus said the same thing about Himself many different times (John 4:34, 5:30, 6:38, 7:16, 12:49). He always talked about doing His Father’s will and speaking the words that God the Father had Him speak. We need to be like-minded; concerned about God’s Kingdom and not our own. Can you imagine how much the world would change if we were all focused on that?

So, what sorts of things has God been nudging your heart to do? What words has He been wanting you to speak? What things has He been urging you to do? Craig said that for one, he needed to make a point of calling his Mom every week and that he also needed to visit some people who haven’t been to church in a while. We don’t know how long we have before our unfinished business remains that way forever. Time is precious! We must utilize all we have and make the most of it!! Do whatever it is that’s been tugging on your heart; call or visit that friend, forgive that person who wronged you, finally give your heart to Jesus, etc. It’s different for all of us, but the urgency is the same. Putting things off will cheat yourself, and others, out of a blessing! Don’t put off the good that you ought to do (Proverbs 3:27, James 4:17). Listen to those “heart tugs” from God!

Grace and peace to all of you!! Have a blessed weekend!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

To Susan Boyle: I Apologize

“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” is a fitting phrase if you’re talking about a new food, a clothing item, or quite literally, a book. However, I am finding it increasingly inappropriate when it comes to using that phrase to describe a PERSON!! Yet, this is the phrase that keeps getting thrown around when it comes to “Britain’s Got Talent” contestant Susan Boyle.

My irritation about this situation was mild at first. I understand that the media and everyone who has commented on this woman’s extraordinary voice were trying to compliment her in some strange way by using that phrase. Yet, what is it REALLY saying to her; a woman who has admitted to being taunted and bullied by others and that has never been married or even kissed?! Are people daring to think that just because she has learned to put up with it that it somehow hurts any less by saying such things? I can only imagine what she has already gone through. Now, she has the added wounds of the WHOLE WORLD piling on her that she has a great voice but her “cover” is nothing to look at. That’s really got to hurt!!

Maybe I am just extra sensitive/aware of that kind of talk since I have been reading the book “Captivating” by John and Stasi Eldredge (which I will be blogging about soon!). In it, John and Stasi talk about the heart of a woman and her inner/outer beauty. Created in God’s image, we are ALL BEAUTIFUL - inside AND out! We are all “captivating.” So, to deem any woman as anything less than who she is and was created to be is an outright assault on her heart and identity! I can’t imagine how Susan Boyle must feel as she watches and reads peoples’ responses. Most of the comments I have seen have been well-meaning, but rather counter-productive to what their intent was; even on positive sites such as the weight-loss site I use and Christian sites such as Tangle (click on the links provided and see for yourself!). Talk about bittersweet! How wonderful is it to be complimented on your voice and then see all the talk about not judging a book by its cover? I get that the idea is to look beyond the exterior and at the treasure that is in the inside, but at the same time, it’s also saying that her “cover” is nothing to look at. As the authors of the book point out, we are a world that is enamored by beauty. While that IS a good thing (after all, GOD is beautiful and CREATED everyone and everything that He made to be beautiful) we often get caught up in comparisons and judgments based on our own ideals and standards. 1 Samuel 16:7 says: “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”

In saying all this, I’m not claiming my own innocence here. Like anyone else, I have judged, compared, and have been guilty of these things many times in my life, just like everyone else. However, since reading “Captivating,” I have learned so much about what it means to be a woman and about being beautiful and it has enhanced my ability to see beauty within which, in turn, radiates outwardly. I am learning to reject those judgmental and comparative thoughts from the enemy that only serve to bring them (and myself) down. In fact, he is the biggest source for all that garbage; we just “go along“ with it. I’ll blog it in more depth later, but to give you an idea, the root of it all is Satan and his special hatred and jealousy for humankind; especially women.

Woman was God’s final and most beautiful creation; the finishing touch. Women have a special allure and beauty that men do not have (sorry guys! LOL). And, she was created to be that way. Not only that, but she is a life-giver, and Satan hates that too. HE used to be the beautiful one before his own fall. So, is it any wonder that he chose to appeal to EVE when he sought to bring down the human race? He chose her because of his unique hatred for her beauty, her ability to give life, and the fact that she is the tender heart of God incarnate. So, he ALWAYS tries to make women feel less than such by robbing her of the very things he is jealous of. He seeks to rob and defile her of her femininity by either downplaying or exploiting her beauty. No doubt he has done this to Susan Boyle who only now at age 47 is finally deciding that she is not going to hide her beauty anymore. She will do what she is meant to do and be who she is meant to be. She will not be stifled by Satan or the judgments of others. Hopefully, she can heal from all the massive wounds that she has been dealt; all of them meant to keep her from being who God created her to be because Satan FEARS that so!!! Yes, she is a great threat to Satan, and so he has assaulted her heart as best as he could to keep her from shinning as she was meant to shine! HE was once the great STAR of heaven and oh-so-beautiful (Ezekiel 28:12-14). He doesn’t want HER or ANYONE else to shine like he once did! He will do whatever he can to stop it - and he’ll even use others to do it by implanting those judgments, remarks, and thoughts into our heads about her and others in order to wound people. But, we have a choice. When negative things come into our heads, those aren’t OUR thoughts! We don’t have to agree with HIS lies! We can CHOOSE to say, “Silence; you wicked father of lies! There is no truth in you! He/she/me is beautiful, valuable, and worthwhile and I will not let you to persuade me to think otherwise!”

So, to Susan Boyle, I commend you. I am awed and inspired by your inner AND outer beauty!! That beautiful angelic voice that God placed within you is only but one of the many beautiful things about you! Many have beautiful voices, but they don’t mean much if they don’t have the life, light, and passion that you so perfectly display to the world!! Your eyes sparkle and shine as you grace the world with your presence. Your personality speaks of compassion and joy. You are a delight to watch and behold; even when you are NOT singing! The warmth of your heart lights up your face! You exude a confidence that I can only imagine has taken you a long time to build as you humbly stepped out in faith to share yourself with the world!! On behalf of everyone who has ever hurt you; Susan Boyle, I apologize. You ARE beautiful!! You ARE lovely!! You SHINE like a star! You are CAPTIVATING and God delights in your beauty (Psalm 45:11). We who truly see you DELIGHT in your beauty as well! You are a radiant woman! Keep singing but moreover, keep BEING! You are a “book” that was never meant to be shelved!! Thank you for allowing yourself to be displayed and opened! Your “cover” and your “pages” are a wonder to behold!! God bless you!!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

God Is No T-Rex

Last week, we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ. With His triumph over death, He was much more than a life brought back from the grave; He was and is the Almighty Conqueror over sin and death (Romans 6:10)! Who else in history can own what He did but Him alone? What other person (or god) has EVER laid down His life for YOU and the sins of the whole world so that YOU could live eternally? As Chad said once before, “He’s the only way because He’s THE ONLY ONE!” There’s no other “religion” that speaks of a god that passionately loves you, pursues you, sacrificed for you, and is COMING BACK for you!!! 

It is because of that truth that many have also laid down their own lives. Many of His disciples (both then and now) have suffered and died because of Him. Who would be willing to live and die for the sake of Christ if He weren’t for REAL?! As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:14: “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Paul knew that there would be nothing to live and hope for if the gospel wasn’t true. Paul was smart and well educated. And, as most know well, he wasn’t always a believer in Christ until Jesus (quite literally) brought him to his knees! Someone like Paul doesn’t go around preaching about a Jesus He hasn’t experienced and believed in! His preaching and faith wasn’t useless because He was a living testimony that Jesus lives!!

Paul isn’t the only one with a great testimony. In the Bible, we have numerous testimonies from countless witnesses. Records upon records, manuscripts upon manuscripts, and they all proclaim the truth that JESUS LIVES! Those that seen and witnessed the miracle on the cross want us to experience Him and believe as well (1 John 1:1-4; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8). No matter who has tried to silence the gospel, they have not succeeded! Christ (the truth) lives on, and all His children and creation sing of His glory as they continue to experience the presence of Jesus every day!! I wouldn’t be talking about Jesus if I hadn’t experienced Him in miraculous ways firsthand!! Jesus is no joke!! HE IS VERY REAL!!

Of course, as Chad spoke about, we all know that there are “scoffers” and those that don’t believe. Paul was one who refused to believe for a very long time. Though, as a friend of mine has always said: “No one is beyond redemption….if I can change, anyone can change.” He should know, he was a hardcore atheist and hated Christians just as much as Paul did! Yet, He was brought to his knees by observing the wonderful and amazing power of Jesus Christ working in his heart and in his life. A man who couldn’t “rationalize” that there was a Creator of the universe finally “seen the light” (so to speak) just as Paul did on the road to Damascus. 

So, if you’re finding it hard to believe that there is a God (and that Jesus lived and died for YOU) consider those examples. Or, if you are one that WANTS to believe (but you feel you can’t because of guilt, shame, fear, etc.) consider the infamous story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:20-24). Chad illustrated it with his two little boys. Jack and John came onstage and he gave one of his sons his “portion.” It was a little treasure box. Jack went away (off to the side) and spilled all that “inheritance” on the floor. Gone. Wasted. How could he ever return to his father after squandering his wealth? Yet, Chad said that there was nothing his son could ever do that would cause him not to take him back. Jack returned to his father, and Chad put a robe on him (which was actually John’s robe) and “celebrated”- even though he didn’t “deserve” it (John shook his head “no” when Chad asked him if he “deserved” it LOL). The father took him back. That’s HIS SON! HE LOVES HIM!! Always has and always will - NO MATTER WHAT!!! If we who are human can love like that, how much MORE does God loves us??!

Some may still not be convinced of the Father’s love. Many of us compare our earthly father to what we think the heavenly Father is. Some of us may even think of him the way Chad showed us with another illustration. He had a little plastic container with some lizards in it. He said that John loved to take his huge T-Rex and try to scare the lizards. Got to keep ‘em in line! ;) I think many of us think of God as the big T-Rex. He’s just sittin’ up there with lightning bolts; waiting for us to screw up. He’s sittin’ on the throne, shakin’ his head, and just hates it when us pathetic humans can’t get it “right.” Unconsciously, I used to pretty much think that that was how God thought of me. I could never get it “right.” I was/am a BIG screw up!! Uh-oh!! Here comes the T-Rex!! Let me have it!! Get me in line!! Fortunately, as I have finally learned, God isn’t a tyrant. He’s SLOW to anger and ABOUNDING in love (Psalm 103:8). It’s BECAUSE of His great love for us that He allowed His OWN SON to take OUR punishment for us; so that through His AMAZING GRACE, we can have forgiveness and redemption!! I don’t think T-Rexes are that merciful, do you??

In closing, please consider coming (or returning) to Christ. He will ALWAYS take you back!! He will embrace you and CELEBRATE!! He DELIGHTS in you and rejoices over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17). Let that sink in as you watch these videos and hear the beautiful messages of these touching songs. “Prodigal“ talks of our desperate need for God and how we have returned to Him after wallowing in the “pig slop“ of the world. “When God Ran” speaks of how He RUNS TO US and welcomes us back!! “Take You Back” affirms us of the fact that He ALWAYS WILL take us back!!! (Also, consider renting/buying “The Wonderful Wizard of Ha’s .” It’s a Veggie Tales video on the prodigal son that will touch hearts of all ages - it’s one of my favorites!!). 

Grace and peace to all of you!! I pray that each and every one of you will find peace, rest, and joy in the Father’s arms!! Comment or message me if you want to know more and need to talk about it!! God bless you!! 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Don't Be A "Rich Man"

Last week, Chad finished up the “Things Above” series. He brought up the interesting story found in Luke 16:19-31 about the rich man and the beggar named Lazarus. When both of them died, Lazarus was comforted in heaven and the rich man was in agony in Hell. The Bible says that he could look up and see Abraham with Lazarus by his side. He begged for pity and that Lazarus could cool his tongue with just a drop of water from his finger. But, Abraham told him that neither side could cross to the other; there was a great chasm between the two. The rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his brothers so that at the very least, they might not end up where he was. Abraham told him that that was what the prophets were for and that if they didn’t believe them, they wouldn’t be convinced even if someone were to raise from the dead. 

Chad talked about the interesting points about this parable. The fact that both sides could see the other (but not cross) and the fact that the rich man could remember his brothers. He made the point of saying that if those in heaven could see those in Hell, how “heavenly” would heaven really be? He compared that to what John described in Revelation 21:1-4 about the new heaven and new earth and how the old ones passed away. It is only after that is done that the word says that there is no more death, morning, or pain. It is only then that everything is final and everything is renewed and restored. Like he said, being able to see people in Hell with no hope of escape would be torture for us to observe/know just as it would be torture for them to see and know that they will never be free from torment. At least Revelation assures us that heaven will be the paradise it’s meant to be after it’s all said and done. Maybe the heaven that’s existing right now is sort of the “waiting room” for the heaven to come? It’s hard for me to wrap my brain around it all. 

Those are interesting things to think about. Since Jesus gives us a window into what heaven is and what it will be like at the very end, we should be mindful of those things when considering our choices here. If we are like the rich man and care only about our “heaven” on earth, that’s all the heaven we will get. If we are nothing but self-absorbed and concerned about our own selves, the only comforts we will have are the comforts that we seek and receive here. But, if we are humble and poor in spirit (yielding ourselves to God and seeking HIS will) our comfort will be our reward in heaven when we die and go to be with Him. 

Whenever I hear that parable, I always think about how awful it would be to be the “rich man.” I also think about how awful it would be to see people we knew on earth suffering on the other side of that chasm. Therefore, it makes me all the more concerned about telling others about Jesus so that they will not be like the “rich man.” I don’t want others to suffer in Hell; neither do I want to SEE them suffering. I will continue to live and speak the truth as best as I can so that that doesn’t have to happen. Though, it’s ultimately the choice of each person’s individual free-will. There will undoubtedly be people who choose NOT to be with Christ by denying and rejecting Him on earth. It saddens me that there are those that make “rich man” decisions to ignore Christ for the sake of temporary earthly pleasures. Why be so short-sighted? NO ONE escapes death! EVERYBODY dies! It’s an absolute certainty (for those that believe that there are no “absolutes” how do you answer that one?!). With that being said, shouldn’t we be concerned about where we will spend all eternity? Wouldn’t you rather be a Lazarus than a “rich man”? 

I hope and pray that you’re a Lazrus!! If you’re not, or you’re not sure, please don’t hesitate to talk to me!! I want to see you WITH me when this life is over; not on the “other” side. 

Grace and peace to all of you!! May the miracle of the resurrection of Christ be your greatest joy as you celebrate redemption today!! 

Monday, April 6, 2009

Who Needs A Perfect Friend? I DO!

What makes this comic funny is the fact that so often, it’s sadly true. Like Spencer, we only remember God when we “need” Him. We forget to talk to him about the good as well as the bad. We forget to thank Him and praise Him; only seeking Him when we need help of some kind. In a world that screams “Do it your way! Be independent! Don’t rely on anybody!” we forget just how dependent we are supposed to be on our Savior; and that He is more than just our Father…..He is our FRIEND (John 15:15)!!

This Sunday, we will celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The amazing feat that was accomplished on that cross is almost beyond anything I can comprehend!! ONE MAN (the Son of God) voluntarily lays down His life for the sins of everyone who ever was, is, or will be!! Yet, we sometimes miss how intense that love and sacrifice is, and how PERFECTLY His grace covers everything!! We just “get saved” and move on with our lives; not thinking twice about everything salvation gives us besides saving us from eternal punishment in Hell.

In the Old Testament, they always had to follow rules in order to be right with God. Not only that, animal sacrifices had to be made because without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). All of that placed a terrible burden an one’s shoulders. Can you imagine trying to keep “rules” all the time and having to wait until the next sacrifice to be forgiven of your sins? You couldn’t just ask God to forgive you, because the priest was the only intercessor you had! Before Jesus paid the price once and for all, the priest was the only one that could go through the curtain and communicate with God (and even that was risky business - Exodus 28:35). Talk about holy fear!!

Today, however, we have been given a lot more than just forgiveness and atonement for our sins. Our salvation was a “package deal”, so to speak. Not only do we get cleansed and forgiven of our sins, saved from Hell, and the assurance of eternity in heaven, we get SO MUCH MORE!! Have we ever stopped to think what a GIFT the Holy Spirit is? What a PRIVILEGE it is to be able to COMMUNICATE with God; whenever and wherever we want to?! THAT VEIL WAS TORN!! Before Christ, the people didn’t have that! You might even say that their faith had to be greater than ours because they couldn’t experience and feel God in the same way we can today and have that assurance in their spirits!! Why do we wonder why God doesn’t speak to us out loud from heaven, or through a burning bush, or a cloud? We have Him speaking directly to us from the inside! Our faith doesn’t require the boost of physical proof because we have the proof living in us when we invite Him into our hearts! In the Old Testament, however, that was the only evidence they really had! They had to take the priests’ word for it because they couldn’t experience it for themselves (and they didn‘t even have the Bible in print to read for themselves either!). Wow! How different my faith would probably be if I didn’t have the advantage of experiencing God every day in my heart and a Bible in my hands to read (and in some countries, they STILL don‘t have Bibles in their hands)!!

Jesus Christ gave us the best gift ever; the gift of a perfect and eternal friend!! I don’t know about you, but I often get frustrated with my earthly friends. No matter how much love and trust you think you have, failure is bound to happen and pain is inevitable. Why? Because humans are not perfect and unfailing (but God IS!). We can run to our “friends” and tell them about our joys and sorrows, but how much do they really understand? Are they there 24/7 when we need them most like God is? Is God our “last resort” friend when everyone else has abandoned us and left us alone and bleeding? Why isn’t He the FIRST friend that we go to; the one that is never far away but always with us (Deuteronomy 31:8). Jesus sacrificed EVERYTHING to make that relationship possible; a relationship that the people who lived prior to Christ’s sacrifice would have LOVED to have!! Yet, we so often save Him for “later” when all our other friends (and ourselves) fail us. Shouldn’t we be more inclined to rely on someone that is constant, unchanging, faithful, perfect, wonderful, beautiful, and 100% trustworthy? His motives are always good, perfect, and for our betterment. He makes the impossible possible and He is the perfect Father, Friend, Defender, Lover, Healer, YOU NAME IT!! He is I AM!!!

A pastor I know always made fun of the Garth Brooks song about having friends in “low places”. What’s the good of that when we have a Friend in the HIGHEST of HIGH PLACES?!! He sits on the throne in all His splendor, glory, and sovereignty! Yet, He chooses to be (and longs to be!) friends with US; the ones who are truly in “low places”. Then, He ADOPTS us into His family and lift us up to HIS level (Ephesians 2:6)!! Heirs with His Son (Romans 8:17)… doesn’t get any better than being a child of the Most High KING OF KINGS!!! Who’s your Daddy?!! :)

Grace and peace to all of you!! May you all be blessed in knowing who you are and WHOSE you are!! You are special, beloved, and favored!! The King is YOUR FRIEND, and all because His Son took your place on that cross so you could stand beside Him in glory for all eternity!! What a gift! What a friend!! What a God!! Who doesn’t “need” that?!! Amen!!

**This comic was used by permission by the gifted, talented, and insightful artists at "Knocking on Heaven's Door". If you would like to see more of their inspiring and humorous comics (which beautifully illustrate the friendship between God and Spencer) visit their myspace page and view their blogs (and if you are a myspace user, please subscribe to their blog! They will most certainly brighten your day; just as they do for me!): **

Friday, April 3, 2009

ATTENTION HOOSIERS: Here's Your Second Chance to Meet Mike Huckabee!

Attention Hoosier peeps!! If you missed seeing Mike Huckabee in Elkhart, you have a second chance!! Mike Huckabee will be the keynote speaker at the the "Celebration of Life" Banquet in Indianapolis on April 30th!! For all the details (and to register) please click on the link provided: 

We've already registered!! We hope to see you there!!! :) Oh, and speaking of life, today was the Monthly Call for Life!! If you participated, THANK YOU!! God bless you!! If not, check out their website for how you can participate in the future: (And don't forget, pro-life t-shirt day/week is coming up!! See my March 2nd blog entry entitled "Important Information" to learn more!!). God bless you all!

Fresh Joy!

It’s a rarity when I get a pleasant moment with my 3 and a half year old daughter. She’s strong-willed and stubborn (“where does she get that from?” - yeah, I know LOL). However, there are those rare times where her sweetness/cuteness really shines through and I can see God working in her. Today, I experienced one of those moments with her:

I was washing the dishes (a chore I hate to do and that aggravates my back and neck pain). I tried to make the chore a happier one by listening to some praise and worship music and singing to my sweet Jesus. As I finished up the last of the dishes, Gianna pulled up a chair next to me and stood on it. She gave me a hug, laid her head on my shoulder, and then stood on her tip-toes to give me a kiss. I looked at her bright blue eyes and her adorable little smile and was grateful for her sweetness. Then, she eagerly asked me if she could wash the dishes (Oooo!! Every parent’s dream! LOL). Well, I let her “wash” the last item I had in my hand, and then decided I would let her help me dry the dishes. I had her wash her grubby hands first, and then I got her a towel and we both got to work.

Taking advantage of the moment, I tried to show her how to dry them off. She was so excited about “helping” that she couldn’t (and wouldn’t) pay attention to any instructions. She barely dried anything that she put her hands on! Then, she would hand them to me as I tried to dry what she missed (which was pretty much everything!). I couldn’t keep up with her because she was just rushing through everything she could grab!! I told her to slow down and to wait. She needed those constant reminders in order to control her enthusiasm a little. In fact, she reminded me a lot of myself.

That’s when God showed me what my “enthusiasm” was like. While it IS a good thing, I need to slow down and wait a lot more often. If I get ahead of myself (or God) we are going to be out of sync. I’ll make more work for Him, myself, and others around me if I rush through things. He’ll have to stop me more often to correct me and show me how to do things right. If I don’t listen, my efforts won’t amount to much and He’ll have to keep cleaning up the stuff I missed in my haste. How grateful I am for His patience and willingness to teach me!!

The other thing I realized is just how thrilled Gianna was by a task that most of us do not enjoy. New things often have that thrill to them. It may be old hash to someone else, but it’s brand spankin’ new to the one who‘s trying it for the first time! Though, over time (and with maturity) the newness loses its luster and we become comfortable in it the more experience we get and the more we perfect our technique. It’s a double edged sword. While I can look forward to the fact that she will do a better job at the task, her joy in doing it might wane. I remember when my Mom first showed me how to do dishes, I thought it was exciting and fun because you got to wash all the crud away and see the cleanness revealed as you rinsed everything off the dishes. I felt like Cinderella; a beautiful, dutiful, and helpful princess! Being able to serve and fulfill a need or purpose made me feel important. Maybe that’s one reason Gianna is enjoying it (or enjoying pressing the button on the dryer, throwing away trash whenever she sees it, or sweeping up bits of stuff on the floor). She is learning to serve out of a sense of purpose and joy. As that is refined, she will get better in her maturity. Yet, it’s that maturity that somehow causes one to lose that joy that we had when we were learning and engaging the very first time.

Trying to instruct her “majesty” was MY great joy. I got to share a moment with her, and it also made the task go faster. It served as an opportunity for both of us to accomplish something and to try and bond in our relationship (thank You, Father, for hearing my prayers about that!). It further emphasized the importance of engaging with God and nurturing my relationship/friendship with Him by communicating, listening, and enjoying His presence and instruction through prayer. Through my growing maturity, that relationship gets better and I am refined by Him and growing stronger in my faith. However, I don’t want to lose the joy of my “first love” in the process of “maturing“. I don‘t want to “mellow out“ with age. The eagerness and newness is what makes the relationship so fresh and beautiful. I don’t want to lose my passion, joy, and enthusiasm!! Sometimes, I’m “extreme”, but I want to learn how to better contain it, not constrain it! “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart………to stay!!” So there!! LOL

I truly want to have faith like a child because with children, we see how great the simple daily things can be when we take joy in it. All the “meaningless” things “under the sun” can have NEW meaning if we just keep coming back to the joy of that “first time.” Psalm 51:12 puts it perfectly: “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.”

Grace and peace to all of you!! May we all be able to delight in the Lord (and in the simple things) by remembering the joy of the “first time.” May your maturity in Christ only increase your enthusiasm and passion for Him; and fill you with “fresh joy“ every day!! God bless you all!!