Wednesday, March 26, 2008

God is Love

I read a great quote this morning by Gloria Gaither:

Love is the seed of all hope.
It is the enticement to trust,
to risk, to try, to go on.
Since God is love, he represents the seed of all hope. As a battle weary soldier of Christ, this reminder was a glimmer of light in a dark cave. After losing my sweet mom and recovering from major surgery over the last six weeks and many other issues, I have had a hard time processing all the changes, not only in my daily life, but in my heart and my body.
As I move forward in life and ministry, God entices me to trust, to risk, to try, to go on. I can see my Master Coach on the sidelines now, with his hands around his mouth calling "You can do it. I'm with you all the way."
How sweet it is to know this love that passes all human understanding. He will help me deal with my own grief and the grief of my family members. He will never leave me alone. A comforting old hymn just came to mind:
Because He Lives
by Gloria Gaither and William J. Gaither
God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus; He came to love,
heal and forgive; He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.
Because He lives I can face tomorrow;
Because He lives all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.
How sweet to hold a newborn baby, And feel the pride,
and joy He gives; But greater still the calm assurance,
This child can face uncertain days because He lives.
And then one day I'll cross the river; I'll flight life's final
war with pain; And then as death gives way to victory,
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives.
I can face tomorrow. His love drives out the fear. I know He holds the future. He alone makes life worth living. HE LIVES!! Amen. When I listen, I hear his precious words of comfort and assurance.
Note: How strange that the hymn God's Spirit led me to while writing this entry is written by the same person whose quote encouraged me. God's ways are mysterious. :)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hearts Who Listen

When I think about the phrase “give ear,” it sparks a memory from my grade school years. Endless motion and school work filled our days, but when it was time for lessons, the teacher demanded undivided attention. My teacher said, “Sit down, eyes on me, it’s time to put on our listening ears.” As we settled down and faced her, we clicked each listening ear securely into place. Only then did she begin to teach.

Adult life often mirrors those of elementary children’s. Modern living brims with non-stop activity. No longer in school, however, we do grown-up things and time spent with our Master Teacher slips away.

Could my childhood memory embody a solution to gaining some time alone with Jesus? After all, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3NIV). The difference between grade school and now is that our Master Teacher doesn’t demand attention. He simply repeats an invitation to all: “Come to me.”

In our spiritual life, hearts do the listening. If we desire to hear, we are obliged to give Jesus full access to our heart. When we do, miracles occur and true love blossoms. While giving ear, Jesus’ love stimulates a hunger to know him in deeper ways. One way to hear his voice involves a treasure hunt, digging into the richness found in God’s word. It’s not surprising that when God asks us to “hear” it means much more than we think. It means to hear intelligently with diligent obedience and attention.

Even though I gave my ear (my listening heart) to Jesus long ago, I’ve experienced hearing impairment because I failed to come to him on a regular basis. I finally learned how to sharpen my hearing ability—spend time alone with God and his Holy Bible every day. During heartfelt listening, distractions lose their draw and God supernaturally invigorates me.

Whenever we listen to Jesus’ voice, his words speak directly to our hearts—words we are able to obey, not because we have to, but because we want to.

An adventurous life awaits hearts who listen. How about beginning a journey today?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Bright New Day

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the hearts of men;
yet they cannot fathom what God has done
from beginning to end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11
In the early morning hour, we are at our purest and strongest. Ready to face a new day, it would be a great time to ask God to keep us that way. In her hymn, God, Who Touches Earth with Beauty, Mary S. Edgar guides us in a prayer that keeps eternity in our hearts and minds and asks God to keep us pure and strong and true throughout each day:
God, who touches earth with beauty, Make me lovely, too;
With Your Spirit recreate me, Make my heart anew.
Like the springs and running waters, Make me crystal pure;
Like the rocks of towering grandeur, Make me strong and sure.
Like the shining waves in sunlight, Make me glad and free;
Like the straightness of the pine trees, Let me upright be.
Like the arching of the heavens, Lift my thoughts above;
Turn my dreams to noble action, Ministries of love.
God, who touches earth with beauty, Make me lovely, too;
Keep me ever, by your Spirit, Pure and strong and true.
(Words Copyright by Mary S. Edgar)
May we never forget what God has set in our hearts--eternity. Then we can remain heavenly minded while being of earthly good, praising and serving our worthy God, making a difference for eternity.
Keep your springs running freely and shine bright for Jesus!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dispelling the Big Lie about the Good News

Some of us view certain delivery methods of the Gospel as negative. How can the good news include bad news? Is this possible?

A threefold problem arises when the good news is delivered, however, no matter what the method because: 1. The Gospel reveals that we are sinners. This is hard to hear. 2. The Gospel proves there is only one way to fix our problem and it is not do-it-yourself. This hurts our pride. 3. The Gospel makes known the fact that our time is limited. We don’t like being pushed to make decisions.

And then the Prince of this world, Satan, gets involved. The father of lies convinces us that if we deliver the gospel leaving out the part that hurts people’s feelings, we will get more converts. In other words, if we do it right—the way Jesus did—we will be successful every time. There is nothing farther from the truth. Yes, Jesus emanates kindness and mercy, but he speaks the truth in love and there are times when the truth hurts.

Let’s first take a look at exactly what the good news entails:

“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you,
which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this
gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on
to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to
the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day
according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to
the Twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:1-5).

The most negative thing here is the fact that Jesus died for our sins. Why did my sins and your sins nail him to a cruel cross at Calvary?
1. God’s purpose for our lives includes peace and life, but most of us are not having this experience. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10NKJV).
2.We choose to disobey God by attempting to run our own lives. We ignore his way to peace and life which results in separation from God. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23NIV).
3.Through the ages, we have tried in many ways to bridge this gap, without success. “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12NIV).
4. Jesus Christ is the only answer to our problem. He paid the penalty for our sins of going our own way. Jesus built the bridge between God and people with a cross. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8NIV).
5. We must trust Jesus Christ to save us from our sins and receive him by personal invitation and we only have one chance—this life—to do so. “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9NKJV).

This represents the greatest of all news! We have a problem that we cannot solve—separation from our holy God. God solved it through giving us his one and only Son, that whoever believes—clings to, relies on, and trusts in him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Paul said the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). Does that mean if we leave parts of the gospel out it loses power? Isn’t this exactly what Satan wants to accomplish through his lies?
There is even more news to the good news! The Scriptures dispel Satan’s lie that if we give the gospel without any negative connotations we will be doing it Jesus’ way and in turn, be successful every time. Newsflash (that’s really old news)—Jesus did not win every person he spoke to for God. In Mark 10:17-31 Jesus spoke to a rich young man about eternal life. This man did not like being told he was a sinner. He had convinced himself that he kept every commandment since childhood. His pride was hurt because God’s plan for eternal life meant putting God above all of his material wealth that he had worked so hard to attain. Jesus' good news caused a storm to erupt in his heart. He walked away from Jesus sad, without the precious gift of salvation.

Jesus was never politically correct either. He told the woman at the well straight to her face that her religion was wrong (John 4:1-26). But she didn’t walk away sad, she skipped away filled with the living water of eternal life.
Paul said it best when he wrote, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16) Amen.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

My Beloved Mother

After a long battle with countless medical issues, my mom went home to live with Jesus on Thursday, February 28, 2008. I wanted to share the eulogy I wrote with you. She was strong and courageous to the very end.

JANUARY 21, 1934 to FEBRUARY 28, 2008

Recite Psalm 147 First

Mom’s Eulogy March 2, 2008

Back in 2006, when God laid this Psalm—147 on my heart, my church family and friends were dealing with a lot of heartbreaking issues, like the death of a daughter, who was also a young mother, death of a newborn, cancer, and serious illness. God used this Psalm to minister to me and help me pray for all of these hurting people. Now that my family and I are brokenhearted, Jesus, the Good Shepherd led me to this comforting Psalm again.
This Psalm overflows with the attributes of our magnificent LORD, many of which my mother clung to, relied on and trusted in on a daily basis. Let me share a few of them with you:
Through this Psalm, the LORD promises to build up Jerusalem. My mom depended on the Lord, our builder and encourager, to lift her up. Because she dealt with serious illness most of her life, she was constantly being knocked down, but you would never know it. She was the most positive person I have ever known.
Through this Psalm, the LORD promises to heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds. My mom experienced more than her share of heartache and tragedy. My mom depended on God, the healer of broken hearts, to cure the hurt caused by our broken world.
Through this Psalm the LORD promises to sustain the humble. My mom was also the most humble person I have ever known. Her words and actions proved our Lord sustained her.
My mom served God’s children in a way that is unseen and often went unnoticed—she constantly prayed for us. When I read, “His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love,” I smile, because through this Psalm I know the LORD is thrilled with my mama. She didn’t worry about doing things to get recognition; she respected her LORD at all times and put her hope in his unfailing love and let him take care of the rest.
One of her repeated testimonies comes from the promise in this Psalm that “He grants peace to your borders.” My mom was frequently trapped in a hospital bed, but she continually bragged on how God repeatedly gave her peace to withstand being bound by her medical challenges. One of her hospital stays lasted 100 days. She made it through by holding on to God’s gift of peace. She believed Jesus when he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
This Psalm also glorifies God as our Creator. My mom relished God’s creation, especially her beloved Florida Keys. She took great pleasure out on her deck watching those fabulous sunsets and feeling cool breezes on her face.
And last but not least, she loved God’s word. She enjoyed good preaching and Bible Study. When my car was headed to church she wanted to be in it. She knew the power of God. She watched and waited as God sent his word to melt hearts of stone. She got excited when he stirred up his breezes and sent his Holy Spirit waters flowing.
I desire to follow in her footsteps and cling to the promises of God. Today, I am assured that she is happy and completely healed. My mom was a strong, selfless woman and always thought of others first. Recently, in the emergency room she cried out. All she wanted was her eyes back so she could read. God answered her prayer and much more. She has her eyes back and a body that will never be sick again or require surgery. She is reunited with her precious son and many other loved ones, and most important she is with her beloved Savior, Jesus Christ. And for that, we can celebrate!