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Archive for January, 2013

This week I’m thrilled to have one of my Literati editing partners, Katie Meyer, appearing as a guest blogger. Also a member of North Texas Christian Writers,  for the past several years Katie has won the high school fiction writing competition. Last  year she moved up with all us old folks and placed second in the adult fiction competition. She also leads an edit group of younger teens. Welcome Katie!

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True confessions from a wallflower—I always wanted to be a performer.

A dancer, an actor, a trapeze artist with the cure for cancer, I didn’t care. Anything would work, as long as it was show-stopping. And yet, the Salutatorian Syndrome kept catching up with me.

That tree in the kindergarten play? That was me. I did snag a silver medal once in a figure skating competition, but only with one other person in my division. Still, the award looked great next to my twelfth-place ribbon from the elementary spelling bee. All I remember from that royal catastrophe was misspelling the word ‘cereal’ and losing to the other kids involved. All eleven of them.

Sure, like everyone else, I won my share of kudos. I was good at plenty of things. But after sixteen years of green ribbons and honorable mention plaques, my winner’s-circle envy caught up with me and left me clutching a vendetta. I’m not much of a type-A person, but at that point my inner self resembled something akin to Gollum and his ring.

I didn’t pop out of the womb so I could keep winning second. No sir.

I had to be The Best.

That’s when God grabbed me by the ankles and dragged me out of my miserable toad hole. And after reading through a little bonk on the head called the book of Job, this is what I learned.

“He must become greater, I must become less” (John 3:30).

Honestly, that mantra’s as tough to digest as it is to swallow. But here’s the how-it-is of the day. The core of worship—“worth-ship”, according to ye olde West Saxons—is realizing worth. And let’s face it. Human beings are hardly equipped to be christened The Best. In fact, we’re built for the opposite, to be made less. My relationship with God works the best when I realize how drop-in-bucket insignificant I am by comparison to Him. Because that’s when I get blown away by what a big, screaming deal He makes of me.

While God’s intrinsic worth swallows mine without choking once, He still devotes the whole of Himself to humanity. The fact that He has any interest in a relationship with us at all is one big, bizarre twist in the universal “Order of Things”, and that meta-twist surpasses any validation I could ever hope to squeeze out of this earth. So when I take the element of God’s worth out of the equation, it’s no wonder I end up wandering beyond the fence on a hunt for mine.

By depending on someone else’s approval, I tell God that I don’t care what He thinks of me. I don’t care that He equipped me with fingernails to pop the tab on my orange soda, or that He gave me hot water in the shower this morning, or that He killed Himself just so we could talk face-to-face.

First place is a great thing, but I have to remember the importance of standing back and sizing myself up for what I truly am. When’s the last time I tried to tell God exactly what He’s worth, and then tried to fathom how much He thinks of me?

Though not without plenty of kicking and screaming, I’ve finally discovered that I’m the best me I can be when I’m losing myself in the middle of the King of the Universe. Real worship blasts me right past Blue Ribbon Fever and totally drowns my want to be wanted.

In doing what I’m built to do best—spend time with God—I rediscover both His worth and my own. Who knows? Maybe a few sessions of shrinking could save us all a few sessions with a shrink.

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Stuffed in my ears and heaped in stacks around my feet. From hands-free devices to flat screens. TVs. Phones. And books. Zillions of them. A constant barrage of words. All day, every day and into the night, words surround me.

But is anyone listening? Does anyone really hear my words?

As a parent I’ve asked the above questions concerning my children, my spouse and my friends.

So why should I even take the time and energy to speak today?

Because the Lord Jesus Christ gave me the ability to speak and the command to go and tell.

“So what am I supposed to tell them, Lord? And how am I supposed to say it?”

Jesus instructed I am  to… “Go and make disciples.”

Now preachers go to seminary to learn apologetics—how to present God’s Word to their congregations. But I’m just a normal person. I don’t have all those degrees. I don’t know what to say or how to say it.

My mind raced back to those first century Christians. How did they make disciples? They didn’t have Bibles. Yet their numbers multiplied. They just shared their experiences. The joy and peace they found in knowing Jesus after centuries of enduring a bloody altar that didn’t fix their sin or their problems. The joy of suffering persecution on account of His name. The joy of knowing and believing their life on this earth was only the beginning.

They understood with their minds and believed in their hearts that at the moment of death they would open their eyes and be in the presence of the Lord. Forever. In His everlasting kingdom that is to come. Where He will rule and reign here on earth.

The accounts of these early saints lives and deaths are an incredible role model for us today as we see persecution of believers escalating around the globe.

Perhaps that’s the problem. We lack experiences. Maybe. But I don’t think we need more experiences or how to—I think we need more want to. I wonder if pride and churchiness aren’t the issues preventing us from sharing our heart.

Fear and pride are sister-boogers-in-the-woodwork. Fear and pride of what others would think if they really knew what we had done, what had been done to us, or what we really think in those dark corridors of our minds. Fear and pride of deception, thinking we are better than we are.

So we retreat behind the walls of the church, compare ourselves to all those sinners who don’t go to church, and become clones of one another. Using fancy words. Words without power. Words that do not affect or change the life of another, much less our own life.

The cure comes when we begin to recognize the depth of our deception, dear church, acknowledge our need for repentance, and get real with others about how and why God is transforming our lives. Sounds easy doesn’t it? It’s not. Being transparent is painful, to us and sometimes to others.

I’m here today to use my word limit to share my troublesome boogers with you. Not with flowery words that loose us in a trail of sweet sounding emptiness. No. Just the sorrow of my heart and the immediate and responsive love of my Savior.

This past Christmas Season was the most difficult one of my life. Family issues, changing relationships, grief and coming uncertainties for America, brought the onslaught of a spiritual battle in me that loomed larger each passing day.

‘Til I admitted that terrible word—depression—and fell on my face, crying to my Lord Jesus for help. I was ashamed and confessed that I had squandered this year’s holy celebration. More concerned about me and mine rather than focusing on the miracle of His conception and pondering the purpose of His birth, death and resurrection. I had to confess I had ignored God. When I did that, I bowed to worship of The Sovereign God of all creation—Immanuel—God with us.

He didn’t stand me in the corner. He didn’t shout reprimands. He immediately answered the groaning of my heart and reminded me, I’m His child. He dried my tears and wrapped me in the warm Emergency Room blanket of His love and refocused my eyes and my heart on His mercy and everlasting love for me.         

“You Yourself have recorded my wanderings. Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your records?” (Psalm 56:8).

The battle ceased. The fog of deception lifted. Have the problems vanished? No, but the bottomless well-spring of His joy immediately bubbled-up and filled my spirit to overflowing. When a wisp of gloom tries to creep back into my thoughts I capture that thought and give it to Jesus. The light of His love overpowers the shadow of darkness every time.

The formula is simple but sure:

My plight + my cries to Him + His love and power = His comfort, His mercy, His grace and His healing = complete forgiveness and restoration for me, now and forever.

As soon as my lids flutter open in the morning, my heart tunes to sing the anthem, “For Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me, the glory and the lifter of my head.”

No sin is beyond His ability to forgive. How long has it been since you have had honest words with God? How long has it been since He rescued you? How long has it been since you’ve used words and actions to tell and show someone what God has done for you? Now is the perfect opportunity. I invite you to share with the readers of this blog what God has done and is doing in your life today.

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Everything God does is based on covenant.

From the early days of Genesis we can follow the red thread of the covenants throughout the entire Word of God. And the Word begins and ends with covenant—God’s covenants with His people—some unconditional, others conditional.

God brought ancient Israel to the promised land just like He brought our founding fathers to the shores of America. Both were lands flowing with milk and honey. Both sets of immigrants made covenants with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, The Lord God Almighty, El Shaddai—conditional covenants of blessing and cursing. And just like those early Israelites, Americans have abandoned the God of our fathers, abandoned the covenant and thumbed their noses at the promised blessings.

History confirms when we defile God’s covenant, cursing and judgment must follow.

God warned Israel over and over again. Through His Word, through the prophets, and through minor judgments aimed at turning their hearts back to Him. But they refused to listen and spiraled into the depths of abominations. Ezekiel tells us their behavior was worse than the pagan nations surrounding them.

Joshua finally led Israel into the land God promised and scripture tells us about two mountains, Mt. Gerizim, the Mountain of Blessing, and Mt. Ebal, the Mountain of Cursing. One group of priests would stand atop Mt. Gerizim and shout the blessings of  God to the people. Then from Mt. Ebal another group of priests would shout to remind them of their cursing by God if they disobeyed.

Notice they didn’t need to be reminded God loved them. His blessings confirmed His love. However, even though they were reminded of the consequences of rebellion, they chose cursing. I’m sure over a period of time the only word they heard from the mountains was “blah, blah, blah.” Just like we do. Both in and out of church.

Therefore, in 722 B.C. God’s judgment began with the removal of the northern kingdom. Syria invaded Israel and carried those ten tribes into captivity. And God clearly states, He did this because of their rebellion.

Judah, the southern kingdom, refused to learn, thinking God would surely not destroy His temple and Jerusalem. For goodness sake, it was His holy city. But in 605 B.C. the Babylonian Empire invaded and carried great numbers of the upper crust of Judah off to Babylon. Daniel and his three famous friends also went to Babylon at this time. And again, God said He did this because of their rebellion.

A second invasion of Judah occurred in 597 B.C. and Babylon took Ezekiel and ten thousand others captive. But the people left still didn’t get the message. And the priests continued to speak the lies of their own words, not God’s word. The Book of Ezekiel tells us about those priests’ behavior and their actions would curl your hair.

Then in 586 B.C. a third invasion occurred and the temple and Jerusalem were completely destroyed. Just like God said would happen.

God told them He would make Israel a desolation and a waste; that the pride of her power would cease. He said that the mountains of Israel would be desolate allowing no one to pass through. And every word from the mouth of God was fulfilled so that “…they will know that I am the Lord, when I make the land a desolation and a waste because of all their abominations which they have committed” (Ezekiel 33:29 NAS).

Rebellion and disobedience always produces sorrow. Faithfulness and obedience always produces good.

Scripture tells us that “God’s Word will stand forever.” It further tells us that “God is the same, today, yesterday, and yes, forever.” Yet is all we hear “blah, blah, blah?”

America has chosen the same rebellion that existed in ancient Israel: Shedding innocent blood, lifting up our eyes to idols, committing abominations (the list is lengthy) and each of you defiling his neighbor’s wife. God asked Israel, “Should you then possess the land” (Ezekiel 33:26-28 NAS)? Is God asking His people that same question today? I believe He is.

We don’t own the land. God does. We are stewards—His stewards. Whether we believe it or not. And all stewards are held accountable for their trusts.

I speak about the times we are living in and the urgency of the hour and folks look at me like I have two heads and both of them are crazy. They still don’t believe that one day, and according to scripture I believe very soon, this Age of Grace will be over. This age will end and we are headed for the “glorious appearing”. But at least half of Americans are like ancient Israel who missed His appearing 2,000 plus years ago because of their lack of belief. Only this time the following period won’t be grace, it will be Tribulation.

So my questions for you today are as follows: Which mountain have you chosen to build your life upon? Mt. Gerizim or Mt. Ebal? The Mount of Blessing or the Mount of Cursing? Deuteronomy 11, 12 and 13 were pivotal chapters for the nation of Israel and we see the consequences of their choice even today. Do you think these chapters might be pivotal to America if our people, our pastors and our leaders read and obeyed this Word of God?

What do you think would change or is it too late?

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Do you remember Fiddler on the Roof? There’s a scene I love between Tevye and his wife, Golde. They’ve worked hard with little to show. Their mood is bleak. All they own is piled on an ox cart. They must leave their meager home. Their daughters have refused their traditions. The Russian army is coming. There is no hope. And the wife asks, “But do you love me?”

In the middle of hopelessness, love brings hope.

Tevye gives Golde a litany of the reasons she should know he loves her—because of what he has done and she is convinced he loves her. But if my memory is correct, a try-out relationship wasn’t part of the deal. Neither were money, fancy clothes, nor a fine house.

No, love is a choice. Not warm fuzzy feelings.

Love is a commitment. A choice to endure. Love nurtures and respects through good times, difficult times, illness, until death. Love is selfless. Considering what the other person needs rather than putting one’s self first.

But we have raised several generations who have no understanding of the meaning of the word love, relationship, or lifetime commitment. Their focus is Me. What I want I deserve. And I will get my way, regardless of the cost.

Welcome to the age of  entitlement. And we created it.

America is a deeply divided nation. Not between the haves and haves not, as some politicians would lead us to believe. But between those who adhere to God and His Word as a model for life and those who reject the authority of God and His Word. The mantra of those in rebellion is Me—I—Mine. Left to itself, America’s great divide will vanish as the World War II generation dies, unless God returns or sends revival, America will become a united pagan nation.

Where are America’s watchmen and women? God fearing preachers, parents and prophets? The trumpet of warning is silent.

Generations coming out of the Depression through the ‘40’s were determined to give their children more than they had. And we have, but not always things of eternal value. Then these adult off-spring followed our example and gave their children even more and more and more—with borrowed money.

The result? Americans are completely out-of-touch with the reality that God brings His judgment by bringing a nation’s actions back on their own head. God prospered America because of the reverence and obedience of our forefathers to His Holy Name. He requires four things out of men and women: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8 NAS).

And the fourth thing? “And you shall teach them (the above things) diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:7 NAS). We’ve taught them everything but the right things. God’s things. The necessary things. If the harvest is displeasing, the sowing has to change. And the harvest of what we have sown has only just begun.

God told Joshua when he led the people into the land of promise, “Be strong and courageous…Only be strong and courageous; be careful to do according to all the law…do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then  you will have success” (Joshua 1:6-8 NAS).

God brought our forefathers across the raging Atlantic, fleeing to a promised land where they could worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in any manner they chose—not any god they chose. They set up a government of the people, by the people and for the people according to the Word of God.

On a score of 1 – 10 how are we doing, America? Remember Tevye’s song? “If I were a rich man…” Well, America has been rich in the things of this world, but look at the mess we’ve created. I can hear your groaning.

We have squandered God’s blessings. We have rebelled or been silent as our nation turned away from His Word. We have allowed deception to fill our ears. Like ancient Israel, we have cozied up to those things God calls profane, embraced them, and called them good. We have refused to come apart and be separate as God commanded. To be a people holy unto God. We’ve invited pagan gods into this land of God’s blessing and those false gods are gobbling up the hearts of our children with their lies.

I don’t listen to those who make predictions for the New Year. But according to the Word of God I can make this forecast for America—the New Year is going to bring increased judgments from the hand of God on this land and her people. God forbid. Perhaps even a judgment as final as the one He brought to Israel in 597 B.C. Unless we repent. As individuals. As His people. As a nation. And if God’s people will humble ourselves, repent, and blow the trumpet loud and long, perhaps He will show us His mercy.

God tells us in Ezekiel 33:11: “As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die…?”

God’s desire is always to lead us to repentance and restoration, to be a people after His heart. A relationship. But don’t miss the warning of the word of God: “In that day…”

What day? The day that this age of grace will be over. Finished. Completed. The day that God will require from the hand of every man and woman an answer why they didn’t choose Jesus. Why they didn’t accept and believe the revelation of His perfect love. His sacrificial love.

The love Jesus committed to, before the manger in Bethlehem. The love He displayed on the cross. The sacrifice of His life for you and for me. To all who come through the cross. God’s way. The only way to the Father—through His Son, The Lord Jesus Christ.

Have you chosen Jesus? If so, are you sounding the trumpet?

If not, I plead with you—consider Jesus. Accept Him. Believe Him. Trust Him. Because He loves you and died so you could live with Him. Forever. No sin is beyond His ability to forgive and cleanse.

We are created beings with eternal souls and the sand in the hour-glass of your life is slipping away. Please don’t delay. Choose Jesus’ eternal love today.

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Christmas 2012 is over. The decorations cleaned and stored for next year, and the residue of the season swept into the vacuum, the trash or the washing machine. Table cloths, dish towels, and napkins, however need a deeper cleansing. A time and place for them to linger, in a sink filled with hot water and Oxi-Clean in order to remove the stains inflicted by holiday festivities.

If you’re like me, you’ve incurred a few stains and discolorations during the holidays too. The stain and depression of remembering those not with you at the table or around the tree. The stain of disappointments and failures. Unfulfilled expectations—relationships gone awry. The stain of guilt and fear of what has been and what’s to come.

So what’s next? Do we rush into the New Year, counting the days ‘til Valentine’s Day, worrying over the state of our nation, our family, our world? Or do we project clear to Easter—Resurrection Sunday and Spring, attempting to sweep the stains and discolorations under the carpet of life and just keep on keeping on?

The sun peeked through my window this morning and I found my mind skipping along the precipice of depression. A sadness burrowed deep in my soul. ‘Til I heard the Spirit speak to my heart, whispering words I have typed throughout the holidays. Born to Die.

Yes, we have just celebrated the miracle of the virgin birth of God’s Lamb in that manger in Bethlehem. But that baby, that Lamb was born to die. And the Spirit whispered again—linger here.

Linger at the Cross. Don’t rush to the empty tomb—linger at the foot of the Calvary.

But I don’t like to linger anywhere, much less at the Cross. I’m depressed already. It’s a hard place. It’s ugly. It’s uncomfortable. I see so much suffering on the tube and on the net every day. And I’ve grown tired and desensitized to blood and suffering. I am war weary—at home and across the world.

The Spirit said “all the more reason you  must learn to linger at the Cross and contemplate the Lamb, born to die so that you  might live with His joy, His peace, and His love.”

That old hymn played through the corridors of my mind … “There’s power, power, wonder working power. In the blood of the Lamb.” Then another melody stirred. “There is a fountain, filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains…”

I thought about those linens soaking in the sink. In the power of Oxi-Clean. All their stains and discolorations disappearing. A rapid cycle through the washing machine wouldn’t remove the smudges—they needed soaking. They needed to linger in the power of a stain remover.

The Spirit took my face and turned my eyes to the miraculous power of the blood of Jesus. The power that His blood has to remove all the stains sin has ground into the pages of my life. I needed to linger and soak in that fountain of my Lord’s powerful blood this morning. Every morning and remember the Cross.

The journey through life on earth is messy. The filth of rebellious choices, a prideful heart, and selfish actions and the what-ifs had clung to my blemished soul, seeped to the surface and needed a good soaking—a daily soaking in the deluge that still flows from the Cross.

I invite you to join me. Stop awhile and ponder the Cross, the power of the blood shed there, and the love of a Savior—born to die—for you and me. Linger there. Experience the depression and weariness vaporize in the power and sovereignty of the blood of the Lamb—our Savior, our Lord and soon coming King.

Behold the Lamb!

“And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. And He came, and He took (the book) out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne…and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb…and they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy art Thou to take the book and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” (Revelation 5:10 NAS).

 

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