Friday, April 29, 2011

Sometimes you've just got to go with your heart...

I've got to admit I'm a little distracted while I write my post (late) today...

Yesterday, I lost a good friend who had suffered a stroke several months back. He was a diabetic that had lost his eye sight and much of his mobility over the past few years.

Oh...I also found out just yesterday I too have Type II diabetes.

Last night, I took a long walk alone to sort through a number of issues I'm currently going through with the two above being paramount. I also have several of you specifically on my heart as well. It was a clear, cool night as I walked around a track that's not only elevated but has a spectacular view of a nearby mountain range.

As I walked and talk with my Father about the things on my heart, it became abundantly clear to me that my personal issues are a direct result of my own actions...or lack there of.  There will be no time for a pity party. I just need to stop with the wishful thinking and start acting. God provided me a loving, supportive wife who understands the ramifications of this week's news on all levels. Although I could see the anxiety in her eyes when she read my blood work report yesterday, she also projected a silent strength. One I haven't seen since quite possibly back in Officer Candidate School before being commissioned in the Marine Corps.

Back to my walk.

God has a remarkable way of humbling people while at the same time providing hope. If for some reason you happen to be a doubter in the God we worship and write about on this blog, and you are still reading...maybe even searching...hear me out. Last night...God brought me to my knees.

There are very few things short of medical reasons that would cause me to spontaneously fall to my knees in submission. Actually there is only One. Most of us go through life under the belief or misconception that kneeling before God is an act reserved for an alter in a church on a Sunday. Brother...I've been there, and I know better. God is every where at all times, and He doesn't reserve His Spirit for us on just Sunday mornings.

There were changes made in my life last night. Changes that can only come with the help of a risen Savior. I understand completely I have a crucial role in those changes, and they won't happen without me. But I've got from pretty good sources that everything will be okay if I just remember this:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 
 Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

What does any of this have to do with the Resurrection? Well for has everything to do with it...absolutely everything.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Resurrection brings me Hope

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the word Hope. Hope that my life will be of value while here on this earth, and Hope that I have more to look forward to when my life on this earth is finished.

Because Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for my sin, and because he rose from death 3 days later, I have hope for life after this one. When my life on this earth is done, and I stand before the All Mighty, Holy, God, I can be in His presence because the blood of Christ has made me clean (Hebrews 9:11-27). Knowing that this life on earth is not all that there is gives me a sense of stability, calm in calamity, and purpose that I don't know how to put into words. This knowledge always being in the background of my mind puts things into perspective.

The resurrection changes me. Romans 8:8-20 talks about these changes in a manner that takes my breath away! Verse 10 proclaimes that:

for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God's terms.

and verse 15 says:

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant

While Jesus was here on this earth He said that His followers would do greater works than He did (John 14:11-13). I can't tell you what those "greater things" include; I tend to believe that it will look different for each person because God has a unique design and plan for each of us. But I do know that I don't have to live life just getting by, or seeking after material things, or living for sensual pleasures - I have a purpose that's bigger than myself. Each day as I look to Him for what He wants from me in that day, each day as I seek to remain open to His leading and guiding, to be on the look out for what God is doing around me and how I can join Him in His work, it truly is an adventure.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Time for Greater Works

Christ is Risen.  He is risen indeed. 

Perhaps you greeted someone with this ancient greeting of our faith this weekend.  These are powerful words.  These are meaningful words.  They are words that declare the most important fact of our faith.  Christ rose from the dead.

I am never at a loss for thoughts.  I have a very fertile mind.  There are so many ways I could express my thoughts and feelings two days after Easter 2011.  I had a strange Easter.  It has been years since the family actually gathered to celebrate the day.  Some of us celebrated the holiness of Easter at the Easter Vigil at Saint Ann’s RC Church.  You can read a bit of my thoughts about that night here.

On Resurrection Sunday we celebrated the gift of family.  It was a beautiful day.

But Easter is over for this year.  Like David my thoughts are turning to the days following.  While we express jubilance at the Resurrection, I wonder about those first disciples.  They all had questions.  Not just Thomas who expressed his doubts.  They all wondered what was next.  They were hiding behind locked doors. 

During the days after Jesus resurrection he appeared to many.  He eased Thomas’ doubts.  He offered restoration to Peter.  He told His disciples to go and make disciples.  He told them to baptize the new disciples in the name of the Father, and name of the Son, and the name of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). 

Jesus had told His disciples that they would do greater works (John 14:12).  I’ve pondered that greater works many times.  I know the discussion in Christianity over works and grace.  While I can’t earn my salvation, I am called to do greater works and to make disciples.   

I’m heading to the upper room with David.  I’ve baptized a few people in my life.  I want to baptize more disciples.  I want to do the greater works that Jesus told us we would do.  I want a fresh Pentecost.

I’ve been praying for some people who have deep need.  I am sobered by the needs of my friends.  As I go to the upper room with my own plea for more of God, I also go for them.  I pray for them.  As I pray I am reminded of Paul’s words about the Spirit of the resurrection: 

If the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he'll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ's! (Romans 8:11 The Message)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Go To Your Upper Room!

It is the day after the celebration of Jesus' resurrection from the dead! We sang Hosanna in the Highest and maybe shouted hallelujah, now what? Many liturgical Christians use the church calendar to engage the many faceted life of Jesus, and worship the Most High. Even non-denominational Christians celebrate the biggest feasts, Christmas and Easter.

He has risen!

This week we'll be writing about the resurrection season here on Kingdom Bloggers. You'll have to forgive me, but the side effects of two of my new heart medications is confusion - so it can tough getting through a blog in a cohesive manner. But I'll try.

The days of the Lenten season leading up to Resurrection Day are often introspective and reflective; a time to look inward and do some soul searching. Then on Easter, there is the release of joy in the empty tomb!

If we follow the life of Christ, we need to ask what is next? I mean we are Christ followers, right?

The next major feast is that of Pentecost. It is both a Jewish and Christian holiday. In fact all the major events of Jesus' life fell on the Jewish feasts, that is one way we know that he is the Lamb of God! This is essential revelation, and you can read a short blog about it HERE.

For the 50 days following Easter, the disciples, about 120 of them grieved the loss of Jesus their friend, they were confused about the now but not yet Kingdom, and a few Jesus appeared to them after his death - oh yes, and they prayed. They believed the word of God and the words of Jesus. In fact the life of Jesus was also properly witnessed according to Hebraic Law (more on that HERE). And of course there were the prophecies about the Messiah. (more on that HERE). Their perseverance in the word, in prayer and in fellowship; however was not going to be enough to keep them going for a lifetime!

As the first believers in the resurrection made their way forward with a dead but living Jesus, I am sure it was an interesting time. They did not yet have the Holy Spirit to comfort or teach them. There had been a terrible crucifixion followed by an earthquake, after which those that were dead came out of their tombs and walked about he city! (Matthew 27:51-53) There were so many new questions, new doubts, and a glimmer of hope. After all Satan doesn't even have the keys to his own kingdom! (Revelations 1:18)

I want to be like them!

In this season, I want to prepare myself for an encounter with the Holy Spirit. I want to put aside all my theories, all my head knowledge, and all my preconceived notions about the greatest Power in all of creation, and experience Him. This is the very power that raised Jesus from the dead, it created the heavens and the earth, and it knew you before the foundations of the earth! It is the power that moves mountains, heals the sick, drives out demons, causes mere man to prophesy that which is not as though it is, it performs miracles, and came to give you peace that surpasses all understanding! It's good stuff!

This power is the King of King, the Lord of Lords, the Lion of Judah, the Bright Morning Star, the Almighty, the Alpha and the Omega, the Cornerstone, the Counselor and the Creator - he is the Father and the Son, the Good Shepherd and he is our Hope and our joy: He is love. (more about who He is HERE)

As we head towards the celebration of Pentecost, I want to prepare myself to encounter the mighty, but gently blowing Holy Spirit which empowers me to do everything that Jesus did, and more! (John 5:20)

I don't know about you, but I am growing weary of living with a dead but living Jesus, yet doubting His power. For the next 50 days I am praying this prayer:

Lord, I said I would follow you, but I guess I meant when it was easy. I'm repenting now. I say I have faith, but some days it doesn't produce much fruit. Increase my faith. I want to preach the Gospel and heal the sick like you did. Empower me. I want to hear your voice and know your heart. Speak to me. Today, I give you permission to invade my life with your Spirit and prepare me to encounter You, giving meaning to Pentecost like never before. Baptize me afresh with your fire. Amen!

Care to join me?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Thank God for His pardon of sin...because I'm as guilty as they come.

I am completely unworthy of writing this day about this topic...

Out of obligation to my fellow Kingdom Bloggers who have done such a wonderful job this week, I post today as I also personally reflect with tremendous sorrow on my heart and heavy shame on my conscience. Why? Because I killed Jesus.

Our Father created a perfect world and placed perfect people in that world. Out of His love for that creation, He extended the gift of choice to mankind...whom He created in His own image. Honestly, I've not been a very good steward of that gift of choice.

But God knew that would be the case a long, long time ago. He didn't make excuses for me because there just are none. What He did give me was another chance...another choice.

 Love Me as I have loved you. Come back to Me child. 

Jesus is perfect...Holy. He has spent eternity in Holiness with the Father. Pure. Heaven.

Because I'm incapable of loving God back the way He loves me, my sin required another gift from my Father. I took choice for granted, so God from His love extended to me the gift of Grace. But this gift didn't come without a couldn't.

Because of the disobedient choices I've made in my life, Jesus had to leave His place of purity and come walk among the filth and disgust of sin. When I put aside my selfish tendencies and reflect on just that fact alone...I am overwhelmed with shame. He didn't deserve that...not on my behalf. Especially on my behalf.

I don't ever want to make light of the physical torment my Savior endured on this Good Friday so long ago. But those temporary physical pains could not possibly compare to the moment my sins were placed upon Him to be taken away. Jesus had never known sin...through all of eternity...until that very moment when His Father was forced to look away...because of me.

If this had been the end of the greatest story ever known, my life would be completely worthless to me. The moment of enlightened understand that I was guilty of killing Jesus just so I could be with God again, I don't think I would want to continue living with that guilt hanging over me. Like Judas, I'd probably go find my own tree of reconciliation.

Thank God that isn't the end of the story! As I spend today in reflection on the ultimate loving sacrifice, I look so forward to Sunday when I will joyfully celebrate an empty tomb and a risen, living Savior. Salvation, above all else, should be something we all celebrate together.

I thank you Father for saving my soul and praise Your Holy name on high!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maundy Thursday

Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum, meaning "commandment". In John 13:1-34, Jesus both demonstrates and proclaims a new commandment. Specifically, in verse 34 He comes out and says:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."

Whenever I read these words I'm blown away. The preceding verses show Jesus washing His disciples feet, loving the one who will betray Him, and sharing about the fact that He will give His very body and blood so that His followers can experience forgiveness of sin; then He says that we are to love one another as He loved us!

Whenever I read this passage I'm hit anew with the truth that I can not do this.

I'm always brought back to the fact that it is only through Christ in me, by staying connected to God my source, that I can even start to touch the edges of this kind of love.

What about you, what are your thoughts as you reflect on this new commandment that Christ gave His followers?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Remember White Gloves and White Mary Jane's?

I wrote a rather deep thought-provoking blog on Holy Week yesterday on my Sounds of Hope blog.  You can read it here.  I thought about continuing on that theme.  I have a lot of those thoughts right now.  Seems Holy Week brings them out of me.  As we remember Christ’s passion I think it should bring a lot of deep, reflective thoughts.  However, I think I’d rather take a little bit lighter approach today.

I was not raised in a liturgical church.  Back then, we called them “mainline” churches with a bit of a distain in our voices.  We spurned all things ritualistic as it did not allow the spirit to move.  While I fully understood the message of Holy Week and Easter, our “holy week” was spent focusing on what to wear on Easter.  My mother usually made my clothes for such momentous occasions.  New white gloves were bought and ruffled white socks were bleached to perfection.  This would be the first time I wore my "spring coat."  I remember clearly some of my Easter dresses, and of course the necessary Easter bonnet.

There would also be talk of Easter baskets but never a lot of talk about the bunny that is supposed to bring them.  Perhaps that was too secular.  My mother was a flurry of activity during Holy Week for in addition to my clothes, she needed a dress for herself, and a meal to plan and prepare.  Usually a ham would grace our Easter table complete with brown sugar, pineapple rings, and those little black studs, cloves.

One element of liturgy always crept into to Holy Week.  It was the only time I heard the term Holy Week, as to us it was the “week before Easter.”  My mother was in charge of “released time.”  New York City schools allowed for a weekly one hour release from school for religious instruction at the church or synagogue of your choice.  Each year as Easter approached, she would be notified by the Pastors of the 4th Avenue churches that it was time to plan the joint Holy Week released time services. 

I think my mother was intimidated by these “mainline” pastors.  Most were Lutheran and seminary trained and here she was this woman with a 10th grade education.  Her only qualification was she loved Jesus and she loved children.  I remember the year she came home upset because they made jokes about hymns and ruined the song “In the Garden” for her.  She said they called it the Andy song – Andy walks with me Andy talks with me. 

But it was part of her duties to share in this one ecumenical event.  The Norwegian children of Salem had never been exposed to the “state church.”  We were dissenters.  We were purer.  We were holier. But we went.  Into those mysterious Lutheran churches we would see our friends from school and celebrate Holy Week.  One year, my mother volunteered me for a long narration of the Passion scriptures.  I remember saying with all seriousness: “My betrayer draweth near”  and foolishly wondered if Lutheran's could be "saved."

Soon it would be Good Friday, or Long Friday as my father would insist it should be called.  He would say every year, why do you call it Good?  Somehow long suited his translation from Norwegian to English much better than good.  Our hustle to get ready for the big day stopped for a few hours on Friday.  Every shop was closed for the hours that Jesus hung on the cross.  The neighborhood became somber for those hours. 

My childhood thoughts turned from my new dress and patent leather shiny Mary Jane shoes to a cross.  Sometimes a cloud would come during that time and I’d remember my Sunday School lesson.  I’d remember that the sky turned dark and the veil was torn in the Temple as He hung there for me. 

I won’t get new clothes this Easter.  I haven’t played dress up for a long time.  I’d like to.  I will think of the cross.  I will think of Christ’s Passion.  I will think of those days before His Passion as He spent His last moments with His disciples, including Judas who would betray Him.  I wonder if He prayed for Judas?  I will remember those hours in the Garden as He sweat drops of blood in agony. 

I will be participating in some of that liturgy my parent’s distained.  I know the Spirit moves in ritual as well as freedom.  It will help me with my remembrance.  

How will you remember?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty

I confess it has been a very long time since I celebrated traditional church feasts or holidays other than Pentecost, Christmas and Easter. I hope that doesn't make me a bad Christian.

This week the faithful are writing about holy Week - whatever that is. :)

As an Anglican for a few years, we followed a liturgical calendar. I think the biggest difference in focus (not theology) between the evangelicals and those the follow the Roman Catholic calender is the resurrection. The Catholic cross depicts Jesus being crucified, while the evangelical one, shows an empty cross; a sign of the resurrected Jesus. As Christians, we need to understand the sacrifice and the horror of the crucifixion, as well as engaging the power of the resurrection!

My take on Holy week is this, we follow Jesus from the Triumphal Entry through the betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane to the cross, and the joy of the empty tomb. On Palm Sunday we cheer the mighty King, and on Good Friday we celebrate his death (in our place) which is like a funeral mass. Then there is the overwhelming joy of Easter!

Each service touches me in a different way as I reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made for me. One of the things that I miss the most about my Anglican roots is the stations of the cross. Because the stations of the cross are done on Good Friday, the 15th one is omitted and done on Easter Sunday. Let's take a quick walk through them.

-1 Jesus is condemned to death
-2 Jesus is given his cross
-3 Jesus falls the first time
-4 Jesus meets His Mother
-5 Simon of Cyrene carries Jesus' cross
-6 Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
-7 Jesus falls the second time
-8 Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem
-9 Jesus falls the third time
-10 Jesus is stripped of His garments
-11 Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross
-12 Jesus dies on the cross
-13 Jesus' body is removed from the cross
-14  Jesus is laid in the tomb and covered in incense and grave cloth.

Holy week was a painful journey for our Lord as he suffered betrayal, humiliation, false judgement, torture and finally death - a death that defeated the sting of death for you and me for all eternity.

What does the death of Jesus mean to you?

Friday, April 15, 2011

I'm a Christian who happens to write blogs...not a Christian blogger.

Christians really mean well with our projections of Jesus, but...

Okay. I'm guilty party as anyone when it comes to personalizing an image of Jesus because even Christians are autocratic and infatuated with the concept of power. One might even say especially Christians from a historical perspective. So, we've created a paradox within our own belief system, and nothing epitomizes that quite like the events of Holy Week.

Everything Jesus did on Earth was for a reason...His reason. Some actions were extremely overt and witnessed by many, while others took on a subtle nature and may not be understood or even discovered this side of Glory. Why is it so hard for Christians to accept the life of Christ, as He actually lived it, as the living model for the Kingdom of God?

How do Christians continue to be the show love for others, seek justice, and carry out the Great Commission if we fail to fundamentally recognize the very nature of our Savior? 

Palm Sunday, as the story unfolds in the Word, is a head-scratcher for most people. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a direct collision course with the mighty Roman Empire, the Jewish religious establishment of the day, and a date that will forever change history. He does this on the back of a borrowed donkey to the cries of Hosanna, Hosanna in the Highest...or literal shouts for salvation; yet just a week later, the same crowd enthusiastically cry out for Jesus to be crucified. Did they have any possible comprehension that the two separate sets of exclamation would forever be Divinely connected?

The concept is mind boggling even today, and Christians have the benefit of knowing the outline of the whole story from birth to return. So why do we continue, even today, to misconstrue the nature of Jesus? I believe as the people did during Holy Week over 2000 years ago, we still to this day subscribe to the same crowd mentality that breeds a very narcissistic attitude.

The crowd on Palms Sunday had surely heard the stories of Jesus. Some may have even witness a miracle or two in person.Their cries for Jesus to save them were done from a secular frame of mind...not an eternal one. Sure. The qualifier of calling Jesus the One the Lord has sent was a nice tribute, but if they really believed Jesus had been sent by God to save them, why did they turn on Him so fast?

Jesus gave the people hope. What they failed to realize was that hope was on a far greater scale than just delivery from Roman oppression. Even if Jesus had delivered His followers from the hold of the Romans, that didn't change the broader setting of living in a fallen world. Most of them couldn't see past the immediate challenge to seek after the more meaning reward of eternal life in Heaven.

Aren't we guilty of the same mistake today? Even as Christians, we often focus on paltry things like status and image. We even use the name of Jesus selfishly to attain such secular objectives. Sometimes we even do this while claiming to serve the Kingdom...which not only pains me to write...but shames me even more to realize and admit includes myself. No, we don't have to be guilty of cheering for Jesus to be crucified or physically throwing Him up on the cross to be lumped together with those who did. Each and every one of us have our own sins that Christ died on that cross to atone.

I'm excited myself about the day I get to cheer and worship Jesus in person. But until that day comes, I need to be just as enthusiastic about serving God in humility and on the terms He established in His word while always remembering this is all about Him...not about me. I need to learn to ride the back of that donkey just like Jesus did and with great confidence He rides right along with me...and that's what makes the task so wonderful.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Just Get the Donkey!

Imagine that one day you are sitting, looking out the window at your car, and two nicely dressed guys, one who looks like Rob Bell and the other who looks like John Piper, they open the front door and start looking around in it. You ask them, "hey, what are you doing?"

"We are taking this car because the Lord has need of it." they reply in a soft spoken voices.

"Well, I need it to get to work, and pick up the kids from soccer." you reply. "Can't you just rent one?," you ask them.

"No, the Lord said that he needed this one. May we have the keys?," they ask.

I know it seems a little far fetched, however; that is exactly what happened so many years ago.

Luke 19:28 When He had said this, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 And it came to pass, when He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet, that He sent two of His disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring it here. 31 And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you loosing it?’ thus you shall say to him, ‘Because the Lord has need of it.’”

Situations like these I prefer to call a "crises of faith." Without faith, how would you know if they were ripping you off, or if the Lord really wanted them to use YOUR car? This passage is an excellent illustration of what it is like to follow Jesus - to hear his voice and do it. in fact both the disciples and the colt owner both had to hear and obey God.

I pressed a Bible study really hard one night. How exactly would you know if this was God or not?

They seemed to agree with each other, "well I just would!"

I continued to probe them. How would you know, what is it like for you to "just know? Has it happened before?" I asked.

The real issues was how do you know that you are hearing God in the first place? I find that a lot of Christians don't hear God, they throw a few prayers up in the air and hope things work out, they find a Bible verse that agrees with what they are feeling, or they get counsel - some times even the counsel must agree with their feelings. But the real question was how would the colt's owner know that the disciples were on a mission from God? Or not?

If we look at the disciple's side of things, they had to be told "if anyone asks" which certainly shows some sort of doubt, and it wasn't Jesus. The message is clear, just get the donkey!

The entire Christian life is encapsulated in this passage - hearing God and being obedient.

Of course the story of the Triumphal Entry goes a lot deeper. There are lots of questions surrounding those that cheered on the Messiah, and where were they as the events of Holy Week progress toward Pentecost?

How about you, how do you know that you've heard God? Have you missed it?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Where are your Palm Branches?

The Norwegian Pentecostal church that I grew up in was typical of non-liturgical churches.  We knew it was Palm Sunday.  We had a sermon about praising God.  But we had no palm branches.  I’d see my friends come home from Catholic Mass, Lutheran, or Methodist services with branches in hand.  Sometimes they had twisted them into the form of the cross.  I always wanted some palms.

As I got older we started going to classic Pentecostal churches without the Norwegian flavor, Palm Sunday would be a service with some extra oomph.  We were out to show those stodgy Christians with their Palms that we were the only ones who REALLY knew how to PRAISE GOD.  With our virtual palms raised in the air we’d shout to the Lord with great fervor. 

When we settled in a church in Connecticut, another classic Pentecostal church, I was surprised that first Palm Sunday when we were all given palms.  A childhood desired fulfilled.

Yesterday, Tracy asked the question: “How could people be so outwardly recognizing Jesus' rightful glory, honor, and worthiness and proclaiming Him as Lord one day, and then be crying out for his crucifixion less than a week later?  GOOD QUESTION. 

When I was taking Matthew Mark in grad school, I had this professor who would stand before us with his Greek New Testaments, his English Bible, methodically going through the gospels verse by verse.  He painted a picture of the pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem.  They had been traveling a very long time to reach Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.  As they traveled they sang from the Hebrew Hymn book, the Book of Psalms.  They sang the Ascension Psalms that spoke of the glory of ascending the hill to Jerusalem.  Lining the road were vendors for all their last minute needs.    As they neared the end of their journey, they were thinking of the glorious time when God judged Egypt and Moses declared “Let My people GO!”

On those dusty roads they shared their expectations of the coming Passover. They had heard of Jesus.  They had heard He performed miracles.  Perhaps He was the Messiah as some said.  Perhaps THIS Passover they would see the return of one like Moses who will deliver us from the oppression of Rome.  As they saw Him, riding on the donkey, the fevered pitch of expectation climaxed as they shouted Glory to God in the Highest.

As Christians we don’t have a required Pilgrimage.  But we can understand these people caught up in the moment of ecstasy that day in Jerusalem.  We have Christian conferences.

Preparing for these conferences is a bit like the pilgrims as they journeyed to Jerusalem.  The closer I got to the conference, the higher my excitement, and expectation.  I was so excited because I was going to meet with Jesus.  He was going to be there.  Maybe I’d see some great miracles.  Maybe I’d have a miracle.  As the first chords of worship were struck, I’d be on my feet, hands raised.  As the worship reached higher and higher dimensions, out would come the glory hoop, or the flags, or the streamers; I did the Charismatic two-step.  Jesus was in the house, it was time to worship.

Those are great times.  I am sure everyone there truly loved Jesus.  But like the crowd of pilgrims that Passover in Jerusalem, I wonder how many of us would be at the cross?  Or would we be in the crowd, disappointed that the miracle hadn’t happened, saying “Crucify Him.”  Perhaps those yelling crucify Him were so angry that their last hope now stood beaten and seemingly weak in front of them.  Perhaps, they couldn't see past their own disappointment, bitterness, and disillusionment.  I've had moments like that, so disappointed you wonder if Jesus is ever going to act on your behalf.

I think we are still a lot like that crowd.  We get caught up in the emotions of the crowd.  We are great in praising God when everyone else is waving Palms and laying them at His feet.  A few days later, when seemingly our prayers aren’t answered, when hope is waning, where are our Palm branches then?

Monday, April 11, 2011

When praise isn't enough

Since this coming Sunday will be Palm Sunday, that's what we're writing about this week at Kingdom Bloggers.

I've got to tell you, I've never had a deep and meaningful Palm Sunday experience. Although I've repeatedly read and heard about how "all four gospels come to a crescendo with this event" of Palm Sunday, and how Palm Sunday was "the ultimate act of worship in all of history", whenever I think about Palm Sunday I'm left with questions.

Questions like, How could people be so outwardly recognizing Jesus' rightful glory, honor, and worthiness and proclaiming Him as Lord one day, and then be crying out for his crucifixion less than a week later? Maybe it wasn't all the exact same people, but there had to be some of the same people in both groups. Even if the same people who'd been praising Him during His triumphant entry into Jerusalem were not crying out for His crucifixion, they certainly weren't defending Him. The event of Palm Sunday brings me to the question of if praising God is enough. It causes me to wonder if following after emotion can be a dangerous path.

Don't get me wrong, I love to worship God. Someone only needs to begin to read God's names, or recount His blessings, and the Holy Spirit rises up within me and I want to start praising God. My husband can attest to the fact that many are the mornings when I'm singing praises to God. Our God truly and certainly is worthy of all our praises and more.

I also think passion and emotion and enthusiasm are wonderful things. Passion, emotion, and enthusiasm bring the zest to life. But those three, minus knowledge and truth, are dangerous. A perfect is example is couples in love. I can't tell you how many couples I've known that are sexually active, sometimes even living together outside of marriage, who tell me how God has blessed them with this love. Yet if they had enthusiasm and knowledge they would let the sex wait until after marriage so that they could fully experience God's blessings.

But aren't you grateful for God's forgiveness? I know that I sure am! I'm reminded of what Jeremiah proclaimed in Lamentations 3:22-23:

22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

ALL of us need God's forgiveness. ALL of us fall short often. It's ONLY through the shed blood of Jesus that any of us can come into the presence of God.

I'm a grateful recipient of God's forgiveness every single day. I mess up frequently. But I don't want to stay the same, I want to grow in God. I want to learn more, experience more, yield more, be used more, with every passing day.

I think that one piece to how I do that is to grow in knowledge, to base my passion and emotion and even my praise, on the knowledge that God grows in me. To be in the Word, and open to the Holy Spirit's teaching me through His opening up God's word to my heart, through His own sweet presence, through brothers and sisters in the faith, and through life experiences. To stop insisting on my way (Seems like that's what the Israelites did with Jesus; they insisted that He be an earthly kind of king and bring them political freedom. They were praising Him greatly when that's who they thought He was, but they turned away when they realized that it wasn't.) and look for what He's doing, what He wants, for His agenda.

When I was thinking about all of this, I talked with my husband John. When he read the quote from Lamentations, he reminded me that many of those very same people who'd called for Jesus' crucifixion, may have been present at Pentecost. That one of the reasons God IS WORTHY of our praise, is because of His great mercy and compassion.

So these are the thoughts I'm pondering as we're approaching the celebration of Palm Sunday in the Western church. What about you, what kinds of things come to your mind as you're thinking about Palm Sunday?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Everyday should really be Sunday...or vise versa.

Being the anchor on the Kingdom Bloggers relay is a tough job...

What a great week of post! I'm so glad to see Stephaniee Ruth in the Wednesday slot and look forward to her sharing thoughts each week.

I'm also glad my friend David is home resting after a medical scare this week. He poured his heart, as usual, into Monday's post and maybe a little too much. Okay. That's not what actually happened, but I'm thankful he is on the mend after a viral infection made it to his ticker. If you know David at all, you also know he has a great (and strong) heart and love for Jesus. Please keep him in your prayers.

By now, you may be growing tired of my repetitive use of the love theme. Fact of the matter is that as a Christian following the Word of God, I don't see any other way around the commandments to love God and my neighbors. Jesus didn't really place an addendum when He spoke those words as to when or when not to (or if there even are exceptions), so I try to keep at a bare minimum at least those two biblical principles in focus each and every day.

Yes. Some people make it very difficult, but then again, God could say the very same thing about me.

Too often we mistake love and mushy (or even soft) as synonymous. I personally think kind is a much better fit in both the noun and verb form. Of course, true is recognized as an acceptable synonym in most all languages which is an interesting fact when put in the context of the Bible. God is love. Without love in our heart, we cannot know God. We are commanded to love one another by God, who so loved us He chooses to pardon our transgressions against Him through Jesus. If I don't love...I don't get to be with my Father.

That's about all you basically need to know about this thing we call being a Christian...truly. The hardest part is living with that in the forefront of your mind, in everything you do...every single day.

You don't have to be a missionary, Sunday School teacher, famous author, Christian musician or church deacon to be an effective life for God. Just love. Show kindness. Patience. Empathy. Encourage. Show those acts to others then add a God bless you or better yet share the fact that you do these things because God does them for you, and it's just your way of honoring Him. Do them every opportunity.

There will be a lot a people with us in Heaven because they found Jesus reflected in the small acts of another. I can't think of any other better way to spend my day than doing the small things for His glory.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Honoring God in the Ordinary

Few truer things have been said then that much of life is routine.

Every morning we wake up. We go to work, or maybe we stay home with young children, or maybe something else all together. But whatever it is that you do every day, at work or at home, there are so many mundane tasks that must be done repeatedly; tasks that are not particularly recognized when they’re done, but will eventually catch up to you if left undone.

I’ve found that in the midst of the routine, in the midst of the mundane, that I can become stagnant if I’m not careful.

If I don’t choose to replenish my supply of God’s gifts on a daily basis, I’ve noticed that my drive starts to putter away, like a car whose battery is wearing out. I’m reminded of how when the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they had to gather God’s miraculous provision of manna daily (Exodus 16:4). I’ve read that the word enthusiasm derives from two Greek words, en theos, meaning “inspired by God”. My life needs to be inspired and filled, each new day with God’s goodness for that day.

I decided a few years ago that I did not have to have something extraordinary happening in my life to be excited. That I did not have to have a perfect job, marriage, home, or children to choose to live with enthusiasm. I can, as directed in Romans 12:11, choose to “Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord.” A few years ago I decided that no matter where I was in life, that I wanted to make the most of it and be the best I could be; to honor God in the ordinary, in my every day life.

You need to know that I’m not what people would consider a charismatic personality, nor am I super self disciplined. So staying enthused and seeking to honor God in my every day life do not come naturally to me. But there are some things that I have found helpful for me in this process; staying in the Word, keeping good role models in my eyesight, choosing to constantly and consistently speak words of thankfulness, music, and choosing excellence even in the small things.

What about you, what have you found helps you stay inspired by God in daily life?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


To me, one of the things that has always stood out to me as honorable to God is thanksgiving. Everything God has given to us is a gift. A light that shines in the dark is much like a radiant face of joy, a smile, or a warm embrace. Maybe it's just those little things, like being thankful for my family and the people God has put in my life. Often times, I can get carried away with my big dreams, but then I realize that everything I could ever want is right before my eyes. Even in the times where I am waiting for things to get easier, I realize I could not ask for anything more! I am absolutely rich in every way! I have been given the greatest gift of all!

The sacrifice of thanksgiving is so powerful. It can turn any moment around and bring in a reality check. Thanksgiving to me brings the truth to light. It can be done in many ways. Sometimes, it's just the song one's heart sings. Other times it is seen through laughter or a word of encouragement. Thanksgiving is not always a pompous grand act that everyone sees or readily notices. Thanksgiving is like music. When the lights go out, it keeps playing. It's a great gift!

To me the best way I can honor God is by having a heart of thanksgiving. This eventually expresses itself in many ways, especially in the way one deals with people. Thanksgiving builds honor in relationships. When one gives to God the attributes that are His, it becomes explosive and infectious in almost every situation. All it takes is a second to thank Him for the magnitude of what we have been given!

Bring on the Gusto

It’s hard following David.  It’s also great because he gives me food for thought and also clarifies the topic for me.  He’s an excellent leader in so many ways.

Yesterday he wrote:

I don't want to be an ordinary Christian, I want to a history maker in my family, my church and my community. In fact I want to travel the world and love others with my gifts, while being a part of a team with different gifts than mine.
I’d like to just say Amen and stop.  It sounds so much like what I want as well.  My life has been far from “ordinary” and yet I see myself as an ordinary person.  I think the frustration I feel is because I have this same desire to be a history maker.

That said, every day, I need to focus on what I can do that day.  Those days when it seems I’m nothing more than a cook and maid to my family, I am still serving God and being a woman of faith.  If that’s what God gives me to do that day, than I need to do it with thanksgiving and joy.

If you’ve read my blogs, you know that I am real and at times, less than optimistic.  The thanksgiving and joy part are hard for me.  However, since coming back to Tennessee after the dark cold wilderness journey in South Dakota, I am beginning to find thankfulness and joy easier.

Yesterday, I had an ordinary day.  I went out earlier than usual and met a friend for coffee.  The coffee extended into lunch time.  At 2:00 p.m. we finally parted ways.  During that time we saw the wind blow, had a tornado warning, feared the window would blow out of the Dunkin Donuts, and ultimately huddled with other customers in a protected hallway.  It was a perfect metaphor for my friend’s life.

I listened to her.  I heard her story of pain.  I saw the pain in her eyes.  I felt her pain.  Last night I laid in bed and interceded for her.  I will hold her deep in my thoughts and prayers.  As I drove home I planned supper in my head.  What to do with hamburger?  I changed my mind a dozen times and finally settled on meatloaf. 

I made a quick stop at the store so a salad could be added and the strawberries for dessert could become shortcake.  It’s just my husband and I but I try to make every meal a work of art for both the tongue and the eye.  It’s ordinary.  It’s the ordinary acts of faith I do every day.
I am reminded of the words from Eclessiastes 9

Seize life! Eat bread with gusto,    Drink wine with a robust heart.    Oh yes—God takes pleasure in your pleasure!    Dress festively every morning.    Don't skimp on colors and scarves.    Relish life with the spouse you love    Each and every day of your precarious life.    Each day is God's gift. It's all you get in exchange    For the hard work of staying alive.    Make the most of each one!    Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!    This is your last and only chance at it,    For there's neither work to do nor thoughts to think    In the company of the dead, where you're most certainly headed. (The Message)
Until I find my place as a history maker, I will live every day to the fullest and (re)learn thankfulness and joy.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I Don't Want to be an Ordinary Christian

When I read the Gospels, I just love the healing, the prophecy and the other miraculous displays of God's power. The book of Acts is my favorite book! I love to think about what it would have been like to be with Jesus, and like Philip, he hands me some bread and fish and asks me to feed the 5,000 men and their families. It is all very exciting. For 35 years that is the life that I have sought: I wanted to know the supernatural Jesus, that one that appeared to Peter on the beach, and the one so full of wisdom and love!

The Christian walk is not always like that. If you think about it, you can read a Gospel account in a couple of hours, maybe less. Into a few thousand words is packed three years! In between those accounts, the disciples, later apostles, struggled with their faith, and lived a quiet life.

This week, the Kingdom Bloggers are going to talk about those times, the ordinary days where we put one foot in front of the other, living a quiet life of faith.

I confess, my walk is more on-and-off than waiting around like an EMT playing cards in anticipation of the next adrenalin rush. The truth is that in the last 35 years, there has been a lot of off times where I didn't put much effort into knowing God. I have had times when I was bored with church, bored with sitting in a pew (that's like 2,000 sermons), and even though I have had a chance to teach my self, I still prefer ministry lines and the laying on of hands. I like to be where the action is!

I still go to church every Sunday, read some Bible every day, and pray. I have a short list of folks that I pray for each day along with my family. I pray a lot in the spirit because I do not know what to pray. This edifies my spirit, and when the time comes to minister to someone, I am ready. I enjoy the prophetic ministry too. I tend to flow in that pretty regularly now that I am part of a trained, sane and mature community.

And in between I listen to lots of Christian music, I really prefer the soaking genre these days. It allows my spirit to commune with God, and I feel refreshed.

I am not one to try make things up. I need to be in communion with the Spirit of God. It is a wonderful experience to sit at the keyboard and and listen to His still small voice, to let my spirit soar with Him, to have peace.

I don't want to be an ordinary Christian, I want to a history maker in my family, my church and my community. In fact I want to travel the world and love others with my gifts, while being a part of a team with different gifts than mine.

Until then, I read a little Bible, pray a lot, go to church and live a quiet life.

Friday, April 1, 2011

I just don't have a desire for strong liquor, wild women or gay show tunes...*

7 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 (NIV)

I love each of the post this week from my fellow Kingdom Bloggers. The desire of the heart is as unique and characteristic to an individual as a fingerprint, and comes to fruition from a number of variables that we each develop and experience as we grow.

David Johndrow started the week with a wonderful promise from God found in a psalm of King David. In Acts 13:22, Paul is laying the Good News out to the Jews (and even the Gentiles who worshipped God) by preaching to them about the chosen history of Israel that had been directed by God's hand. How God had found David to be a man after His own heart, and from his lineage had come the Savior of all mankind, Jesus Christ.

I personally find great hope in David's story because his journey for God is one that strays from the path on occasion. There is great solace in the fact God can use us for His glory even though we start broken and are prone to disrepair along the way.

My heart's desire was once focused on the dream of becoming an astronaut. I planned and plotted the path my life would follow: after high school, college, commissioning in the USMC, flight school, fighter pilot, couple of tours, test-pilot school, and on to NASA. For once, my height played to my advantage because astronauts are preferred to be under 6 feet tall. While my desire to play college football was smashed by my stature, the bigger price was still in hand. I had my course charted.

Problem was...God wasn't in it. I had moved away from Him and seeking His will for my life. That's why when  the wheels came off the cart, I found myself completely lost in the darkness. I couldn't pass a flight school eye exam. From the word dream was over. I plotted and schemed to find a way around the one limitation that had become the closed door in my path. The thing I didn't do...I couldn't do...was pray for God's help. I was swimming in unconfessed sins and the desire of my heart revolved around a path I had never stopped to check with my Father about. So endeth the lesson for this grasshopper...

Today, my heart's desire is completely focused on God's will for my life. I long to be closer to Him, for my family to be closer to Him. I pray to be a man likened to God's own David. Rarely do I dwell on my shortcomings but rather examine the root causes to avoid them in the future. I start each day mentally reciting the words of Jesus concerning the greatest commandments. I yearn for His return and to be in His presence. I seek after the face of God...

My true heart's desire.

The reality that God will do what and when He wants keeps me grounded. The verifiable truth that I fail Him each and every day and to live up to a standard worthy of His love also drives me...motivates never accept spiritual defeat...ever! I must humbly accept without my Father eternal death is my sentence. To be separated from true love forever...

The very antithesis of my heart's desire.

* The title of this post comes from a conversation I had just today with one of my Italian customers. At the end of every conversation we've ever had, this gentleman will ask me, in his heavily accented voice, if I'm going home to enjoy 'the Jack Daniels' this evening. I guess people in Italy have people from Tennessee stereotyped just as we stereotype them (he hates spaghetti I've learned). At the end of our telephone conversation this morning, he posed the question once again, and I gave him the above title answer. He laughed about the gay show tunes...