Easter

The other day I was thinking about how our world celebrates Easter. We have an Easter bunny hiding eggs. We fill baskets with fake grass and chocolates. It seems like a very strange combination to me. I wonder how the bunny and eggs got together in the first place. After all, bunnies do not lay eggs and chickens do not have floppy ears. And, chocolate bunnies and eggs? Easterbunny_1Then we have Easter egg hunts. Someone hides the eggs and then the search is on. Children run to see who can find the first eggs and the most eggs. Then they crack them open to see the treasure inside. That treasure might be candy, a trinket or even money. We even have helicopters dropping eggs for kids to run and find. I wonder…what do any of these things have to do with the true meaning of Easter?

I’ve come up with a few connections. There are no bunnies, eggs or helicopters in the real Easter story. But, there certainly was a search launched and a treasure found. Jesus had been crucified and buried in a tomb. Some of the women who followed Him went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body with spices. They were searching (hunting if you will) for His body. And treasure, He was a treasure to them. However, they thought that treasure was gone.

Here is the account as written in Mark 16:1-8 “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” hempty-tomb-of-jesuse said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”

Here is John’s account as written in John 20:1-18 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So, she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So, Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.  Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally, the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)  Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

Matthew 28.5-6Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

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

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

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

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

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

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

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

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.”

God assures us that if we seek Him, we will find Him.

Proverbs 8:17 “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.

Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

And don’t forget…Jesus first sought us.

Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

What love! So, on this Good Friday and the upcoming Easter (Resurrection) Sunday, let’s remember the Easter hunt with an everlasting gift/treasure – a relationship with our risen Savior – Jesus Christ!

He promises that if we seek Him, we will find Him. Remember, He sought us first – to save us from sin. What a glorious gift!

Hallelujah! He is Risen, He is Risen indeed!

04/19/19

Imaginary Friends

Did you ever have an imaginary friend when you were a child? I did not and in fact, I can’t think of anyone I know who did. But I have heard that many children do have imaginary friends. I guess that’s when imagination starts, in children. imaginary friendThe benefit of imaginary friends is that they are whatever you want them to be. They never have to get mad at you, they can always be by your side and agree with all you say and do. You can make them do the scary things that you are too afraid to try. They can take the blame whenever you get in trouble. You can be with them or ignore them whenever you want. It’s a one-sided relationship where you are totally in control. The trouble with that is…they are not really a friend at all. They are not real and true. You are just as alone as if you had never imagined them in the first place. In order to have a friend and be a friend, you must get to know the other person and allow them to know you. imaginary-friends - facebookThat takes effort and it takes time. Life is lonely with a friend who is only imaginary.

Do you know people who have a relationship with God like that? I guess the more important questions is…have you ever had that relationship with God? Where you imagine Him to be what you want, when you want? Pick him up when you need Him and then ignore Him when life seems to be going well? Is it a one-sided relationship where you do all the talking and no listening? Does this imaginary god love you just as you are but doesn’t want to work in you to make you better? That’s not real – that’s not God. He does love you just as you are but…He does want to work in and through you to make you better. He has a plan for you and it’s a plan for YOUR GOOD. The thing is, you can’t be in control. You can’t pick God up when you want and then drop Him when you want to go your own way. You must let God be God in your life. He’s not pushy; He gives all of us freedom of choice. We can choose to have an imaginary god or we can choose to follow the real, personal and only true God. What will you choose today? Imagination and deceit or reality and truth? Deceiving ourselves only leads to destruction.imaginary friend cartoon - God

I choose GOD! I pray that when I try to take control and make God what I want, I will quickly realize it and use my imagination for something beneficial, not making a false God. His will, not mine. He is God, I am not.

Isaiah 65:2 “All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations”

2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

John 17:3 “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

Ephesians 3:20-21 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

04/01/19

Wait

I don’t think any of us like to wait – unless it’s for something we are not looking forward to enduring.  It’s like one of “those” 4-letter words, isn’t it? As children we often hear “wait your turn”, “wait a minute”, or the infamous “wait until your Father gets home”. As adults we are not used to waiting for things and we don’t like it when we are forced to wait. Here are just some examples I’m reminded of:

We don’t have to flip through a TV Guide to make our viewing selections. We can click a button on our remote or even watch on our phones, computers or tablets. We have streaming on demand.

We don’t have to dig out a dictionary and flip through the pages to find out the spelling or definition of a word. We just search on-line, ask Siri or Alexa. We get immediate answers to our questions and don’t have to search for them. I wonder if we are forgetting how to problem solve since answers come so easily by just asking.

We don’t have to wait for our food to be prepared from start to finish if we are in a hurry. We can go to fast food, order ahead of time and pull up for them to deliver it to our car.  We can even order from a restaurant and have it delivered to our home.

We don’t even have to do our own grocery shopping any more. We can place our order ahead of time from our phones and have someone at the grocery shop for us and bring it to our car.

What do all these things say about us? We want immediate action, access, answers. We don’t want to be delayed or inconvenienced. We don’t want to wait!

What about when we are waiting for an answer to prayer? How well do we wait on God? Do we jump in and try to “help Him”? Do we keep our eyes open to His leading? Do we spend time in communication with Him through prayer and His Word? Do we “wait upon the Lord”? I know in my own life I sometimes get way ahead of myself. A circumstance arises that causes some anxiety, or I think needs my immediate action of some sort. Even though I pray about it, for some reason still think I must “do something now” while I wait. Maybe sometimes I do need to do something. But, often, if I just keep praying and watching and waiting on God, things work out as they should. Funny how that happens. God does know what He is doing!

There are certainly benefits of waiting, especially waiting upon the Lord. Now, waiting upon the Lord is not the same as procrastinating so I/we must not confuse the two to excuse ourselves from action. Procrastination is more about avoidance than waiting. First, we must call upon The Lord. Then we wait upon Him – in expectation, being faithful to stay connected to Him through His Word and Prayer, keeping our eyes and ears open so that we recognize His answer when it comes. I searched God’s Word for some wisdom about waiting on Him. Here are some:

 In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. (Psalm 5:3)
We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. (Psalm 33:20)
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. (Psalm 37:7)
Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!”
    Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you. (Proverbs 20:22)
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. (Psalm 40:1)
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. (Psalm 130:5)
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
    therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
    Blessed are all who wait for him! (Isaiah 30:18)
Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. (Isaiah 64:4)
 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him. ”The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:24-26)
 But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. (Micah 7:7)
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. (Acts 1:4)
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (1 Corinthians 4:5)
saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.”[ And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. (Hebrews 6:14-15)
But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,  keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude 20-21)

wait Isaiah-40-31Patience and waiting are very hard for us but are so worthwhile when God is working in our lives. The outcome is always best when we wait upon the Lord and let Him lead as we follow. Let’s agree to slow down, calm down, and be joyful knowing that God is in control and we can trust Him, even in the waiting.

{February 22, 2019}

When GOD speaks – LISTEN!

Do you remember the old E. f. Hutton commercial (“When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen”)? I was thinking about that commercial and thought the truth is, E. F. Hutton might have good advice but, what we really need to know is, “When GOD speaks – LISTEN”!

God doesn’t put people or things before us by accident. God speaks to us in a variety of ways. He speaks through His Word, a song, devotional writing, during prayer, when God answers our prayers, another person, circumstances, etc. god speaks in circumstancesThe question we must ask ourselves is this: Are we listening for/to Him? And when we hear His Voice, how do we respond?

I am studying “A God Centered Church” written by Henry and Melvin Blackaby. We have been talking about how God uses all of us within a local body of believers to work together for the good of all and to reach those far from God with His precious gift of salvation.

The other day I was reading 1 Chronicles 22. In this chapter David is organizing the building of the temple. He knows that his son, Solomon will be the one to build it, but he is planning and organizing for him. He has gathered those who God has gifted with special talents so that it can all be accomplished for God’s glory.

god speaks in stillnessAfter reading and sitting quietly before God… these two things came together for me. God gave me an idea to help each of us in our class to recognize our own gifts or talents and to acknowledge those of others and encourage them. I don’t know where this will lead us but just maybe (hint: God has a plan, remember?) God has something in store.

God gifts each according to His Will, not ours.

I love music. I love to sing. I would love to be able to play an instrument well. Neither of those things have been gifted to me. Why? It’s the desire of my heart and God tells us in His Word that He will give us the desires of our hearts. (Psalm 37:4). BUT, and there is a big but… it’s when our desires become whatever His desires are. That’s the kicker.

God puts us all together in a body of believers for His purposes. We don’t all have a beautiful singing voice or musical talent. We don’t all have the gift of teaching and engaging children. We don’t all have the gift of administration or preaching or a good financial mind. That’s the point. God created us all to work together using our individual gifts for the common good.

The questions is this – Do we recognize the gifts God has given to both us and others? Has it prompted us to ask God what He has in mind for us to do – together? Have we asked God (or been quiet enough to hear His still small voice) what it is He is trying to accomplish in and through our lives right now, right here? God’s timing is not our timing. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. We must get out of the way to let God speak to us. Sometimes what we think God has in mind is scary.  Sometimes it’s intimidating. Sometimes we think it’s us and not God who has this idea. But I have learned over the years that procrastinating, even if for “my good reason” that it might be me and not God or that I am not able, all I have done is miss an opportunity with good intentions and no follow-through. I have had many good intentions over the years that ended up missed opportunities.god is speaking I am trying to remedy that by moving forward and stepping out of the water when God calls me to walk with Him. The criteria I tend to use now is this: If it is a good thing and not bad, if it will not hurt anyone, then no harm done if it is me, not God. God will correct and re-direct me. But, IF IT IS GOD speaking to me, I better immediately obey! Who knows what blessing is ahead – it might just be an answer to one of my prayers.

01/14/19

Joyful Greetings {12.20.18}

There are two little 4-year old girls at our church that just love being together. They are the best of friends. I have had the blessing of spending time with them in the nursery until this past year when they moved up to an actual class. But I still see them as they enter church and recognize each other. What a joyful greeting they share. girls huggingThey hug, giggle, hold hands, share treats and simply enjoy being together. Last Sunday was one of those days when I witnessed their joyful greeting. It is contagious! You just can’t help smiling or laughing at their exuberance as they get together and just enjoy being alive and having a friend. Do you have a friend like that? You just simply love spending time together, no matter what you are doing or even if you are not doing anything at all? I do. We may not skip around, giggle and hold hands but we still share a joyful greeting. It’s a special thing – friendship.

These little girls reminded me of another joyful greeting. The Bible tells us of a joyful greeting with Mary (Jesus’ mother) and Elizabeth (John the Baptist’s mother, Mary’s relative). This joyful greeting is recorded in mary and elizabethLuke 1:39-45 “At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” What a joyful greeting they shared!

There will be many joyful greetings soon as we gather with family and friends for Christmas. There will no doubt be memories shared (and re-shared), favorite traditions observed, great food devoured and maybe even presents unwrapped. Christmas dinnerIt is by far my favorite holiday. I love the Christmas lights, decorations, cards and candles. I love spending time with family and friends. But, most of all, I love celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. What a gift was given to all of us! All we need to do is receive it (Him). That’s the thing – we must unwrap and receive the gift. Salvation is open to all who will receive. It’s not a one-time gift either – we walk out our salvation every day as we obey God and follow Him. With God, it’s not impossible. Only two things are critical to our salvation – Love God with all our heart, Jesus birthsoul, mind and strength, and love others. What a gift! The best gift ever! And, it’s given freely to all! What we must remember though this gift for us was at the cost of a life, a precious life – the only life that could redeem us from sin. Jesus Christ had to be born a baby and die on a cross as a sacrifice for us. That’s how much God loves us! (John 3:16). After Christmas had to come Easter. Both holidays are celebrated because of the love God has for us!

As we gather together this Christmas with joyful greetings, let’s remember that…

JESUS is the reason for the season!

 

If you see something, say something {12.6.18}

see something say somethingWe have heard this statement many times in recent years. It has been used in the context that if you see something irregular, suspicious, etc. you should say something. Good advice. If it is nothing, no problem. If it is something, you may have saved someone from harm or from causing harm to others. In the wee hours of the morning today, I woke up and this was one of the thoughts swimming around in my head. However, it had a different twist. I was thinking about it in a more positive light.

Yesterday, we went out to eat for lunch and I noticed a lady who had on a very pretty, red top with sparkles around the neckline. She had silver/white hair and it looked so nice on her. I noticed but didn’t think much about it. Then as we were leaving, I walked past her table. (Well, I almost walked past.) She was talking with who I assume was her husband. Anyway, I took a step backward, interrupted her and told her how nice she looked and that I really liked her top. The smile on her face was all I needed to know that it was ok to interrupt/disrupt her conversation. I wonder how many times I do just walk on past without giving the compliment or encouragement that I should. I know that God doesn’t tempt us. Our enemy does that! The Holy Spirit does give us nudges to do good though. How many times do we ignore those nudges because we think we might interrupt, be embarrassed, delayed on our journey, etc.?

 I was reminded of a time a week or so ago when I complimented and encouraged one of our grandsons. We had been together for several days and I had noticed that when we were out in public, he always held the door for people instead of letting it go behind him. (Sometimes this is unusual for a teenager I might add.) Anyway, I told him that I had noticed and that I really appreciated his kindness and thoughtfulness toward others by simply holding a door. Again, his smile was all the reward and motivation I needed to watch for other behaviors to encourage. say something nice

 We don’t know what other people are going through in their daily lives. Usually though, we can find something with which to praise or encourage. Even if it is simply a big smile or word of thanks. God talks about this in James 4:17 “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”  Let’s watch for people we can encourage as we see or hear them doing or saying something good.

 If you see something, say something!

Assumptions {11.16.18}

We often make assumptions about someone or something, don’t we? Sometimes those assumptions are positive in nature. Sometimes we make assumptions about someone or something in a negative manner. We need to be careful in both cases.

 I’ve recently witnessed an attitude adjustment in someone. This person had a negative attitude about a particular group of people. But, through circumstances close to home, that attitude was adjusted a bit. It’s funny how we can form rigid opinions and thoughts about people or situations and hold our ground. But, when something happens that brings it close to home and we see the other side of the coin, our thoughts become a little more flexible. Sometimes God allows us to see it when it happens to us. Sometimes He shows us through other people and situations. Regardless of how, I’m sure all of us have “eaten our words a few times”. It doesn’t taste very good, but it does us good. Humiliation is not fun, but humility is a good thing.

 “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)

 “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10)

assumptions - blind spotsSeveral years ago, I made assumptions about a married couple. I did not know either of them but they both were musically talented and involved in the praise and worship ministry at church. I remember thinking that (1) they must really have it all together and be walking closely with God, (2) their children are blessed to have such a positive, loving, example lived out before them, (3) it must be great to sing and play music in praise to God in their home. What joy and fun they must have. I compared this to me and my life. Our family certainly didn’t have it all together. We were lucky if we knew what we had and where it was. Walking out our faith in a positive example before our children did not usually go as we wished it had. Coming to Christ when our children were pre-teens and teens put us behind the eight ball so to speak (that’s my excuse anyway – even though there really is no excuse.) Anyway, my husband and I neither one have any musical talent whatsoever. We make a joyful noise unto the Lord (and only He can appreciate it). Our life was full of love for sure, but it was also full of trials (and error) and distractions and discouragements. For some reason I thought this couple I watched were exempt from that. How absurd. God’s word tells us that all of us who follow Him will have trouble. Jesus had trouble. We will have trouble. I soon realized this in a sad way. That couple I wished we could be more like had troubles of their own. Unfortunately, they divorced, and I was shocked. This is an example of making positive assumptions of someone without knowing them.

 “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

When we make assumptions on the negative side, we look at a person or situation and think we know what they should or should not do. We make judgments using ourselves as the base line, somehow thinking that we know best and do what should be done. Oh! How quickly pride and arrogance can set in. And, how humbling when/if we finally get the truth about a person or situation and realize how far off base we were in our assumptions. We don’t know what causes a person to act or drive (for all road rage people) irrationally. Maybe they just heard a loved one was hurt or died. Maybe they are in a relationship that is hurtful. Maybe they are scared. Maybe they are just selfish. But the point is – we don’t know everything!!! Only God sees their heart. We see only the outward appearance. Unfortunately, we often make judgments on those outward appearances, false as they might be.assumptions

Satan is roaming about trying to get at us any way he can. He wants to drive a wedge between us and our relationship with God. When we act as though we know best, we know it all, etc. – we are putting ourselves before our God. God is jealous. He is almighty.  He shares His blessings with us but not His Glory. It’s all His and rightfully so. When we act as though we are somehow lesser than others, that isn’t doing justice to God either. He created us all uniquely, loves us all, and has a plan for our lives. We must be careful not to get too puffed up or too deflated in spirit.

 “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5)

 We all form opinions and then develop attitudes to go along with those opinions. It’s going to happen. It’s human nature. However, the problem is when our opinions and attitudes are so rigid that we don’t allow room for error (our error in thinking). Even though we think we know what we are seeing or hearing and that our opinions are justified or verified, our vision is blurred. God tells us that only He sees the entire picture with clear vision. So, my lesson to myself is this: don’t think I know it all. Sometimes I don’t know much of anything. But one thing I do know, God knows all and is in control. I can certainly leave things in His capable hands. I just need to be still and listen, so I will know when and how to obey when He calls my name. No judgment – just love.

 “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus” (Romans 15:5)