Category Archives: Blog

God’s Goals

There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there. ~Indira Gandhi

My writing goal is to make God relevant again. I want people to love his Word. I want people to fall in love with his Son. I long for a time when people will gather to talk about what God is doing right now, right here.

I also want to sell my work.

So when a friend on Facebook rejoices that her Bible study about abortion is in the top 1% of Amazon sales, I have two options. 1. I can cry out in frustration, ignoring her success and focusing on my sales’ low ranking. Or 2. I can congratulate her, knowing that my goal is being met through her.

In Luke 9, the disciples argue about who is the greatest and Jesus shoots them down with a child. Not to be outdone, John tells Jesus that he saw a man working miracles in Jesus’s name, but the man wasn’t part of the inner-circle. John tried to stop him.

Jesus corrected John with this:

50 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” (NIV)

Is your goal to raise godly children? Then why are you jealous of the relationships your kids have with godly people?

Is your goal to end homelessness in your community? Then why are you envious of other organizations promoting the number of people off the streets because of their work?

Do you want people to pray? Then why do you scoff at  prayer circles and Prayer at the Pole meetings?

Are the ideals you hold for the greater good actually for the greater good? Or are they all about what you can do and accomplish?


 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:9-18 NIV

 

Yogurt Deodorant

In our digital age, the Golden Rule is not enforced online. ~Whitney Wolfe

Several years ago I noticed something was changing. I wasn’t hearing things correctly. It became very apparent the day I brought home yogurt for my son.

“Here’s your yogurt.” I set it on the counter in front of him.

“Thanks?” He looked confused. “Where’s my deodorant?”

“What do you mean?”

I had no clue. The boy had asked for yogurt. Here was the yogurt. Was I supposed to read his mind that he needed deodorant?

It turns out I didn’t need to read his mind, I just needed to listen carefully. He hadn’t asked for yogurt, but he did need deodorant.

In Luke 8, Jesus tells the people to consider carefully how they listen.

Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.

 Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”

He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” Luke 8:18-21

How do you listen carefully?
By putting God’s word into practice.

Is someone trying to sabotage you at work?  Is your ex trying to turn the children against you? Does your neighbor threaten court proceedings for the tree on your border?

Jesus said to pray for our enemies.

Does a friend’s constant chatter about her new car make you want to slash her tires? Do you stay away from the baby showers because you’re angry with God for withholding a child? Maybe you schedule your car for a tune-up so you don’t have to meet the “Happy Pappies” for breakfast to talk about another trip abroad.

God tells us to rejoice with others.

You mutter all the way to work about your children making you late again. -Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.

You call the church fellowship committee to say that you can’t be a part of this weekend’s event. Something came up that sounds like “cap on the pouch.” -Let your yes be yes and your no be no.

Take care of widows and orphans. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Don’t look lustfully or covetously at another. Honor your father and mother.

How carefully are you listening? Are you putting the Word into practice?


Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. James 1:22-25 NIV

Better Than Deserving

Everybody is so talented nowadays that the only people I care to honor as deserving real distinction are those who remain in obscurity. ~Thomas Hardy

Nineteen nominations.

NINETEEN!

Susan Lucci, of American soap opera fame, was nominated for a daytime Emmy award an astounding 19 times before she won. It had become a joke to many; it had to hurt for her.

If you are nominated nineteen times for something, at some point you have to imagine you are deserving of winning. Why is there always someone, or something, better than you?

Maybe you aren’t even nominated. Maybe you just work hard with no recognition.

You clean peanut butter off of the refrigerator door, wipe snot off a  face, and wash urine-soaked bed sheets. No one says thanks.

You stay late to get the paychecks in the accounts on time, fix the printer that someone left jammed again, and send a bouquet of flowers to the secretary whose mother passed. No accolades are offered.

You burn the midnight oil scraping paint in the living room, spend weekends digging out wild weeds and bushes, and pay the neighbor boy to power wash the moldering wall. No one offers to help you put Dad’s house on the market.

It looks like a twentieth non-nomination is on the way. No one sees you. No one notices. No one cares.

In Luke 7, a local hero- most deserving according to the town leaders- needs some help. His friend and servant is sick.

He sends to the town elders to ask if they will go to Jesus on his behalf. He doesn’t feel worthy to go on his own merit. The men ask Jesus to do this favor for the centurion. He deserves it for his help around town.

Jesus goes.

The centurion finds out Jesus is on his way and he has a guilty conscience. He doesn’t believe he is worthy of Jesus’s attention. He sends messengers telling Jesus not to come.

The centurion’s humility results in the servant’s good health.

Luke tells us soon after this, Jesus goes to a little Podunk village called Nain where he sees a widow preparing to bury her only child. No one comes on her behalf. No one intercedes.

But Jesus goes.

He restores the son to his mother.

Whatever it is that you are doing, Jesus notices. When others say you’re deserving, and when you are alone in your grief, he’s there- healing, restoring, blessing.


I lift up my eyes to the mountains –
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip –
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you –
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm –
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and for evermore. Psalm 121 NIVUK

Name Your Enemies

The Lord gave me ‘Sojourner,’ because I was to travel up an’ down the land, showin’ the people their sins an’ bein’ a sign unto them. Afterwards, I told the Lord I wanted another name ’cause everybody else had two names, and the Lord gave me ‘Truth,’ because I was to declare the truth to people. ~Sojourner Truth

She was sincere and alarmed, disgruntled and uncomfortable. God was talking to her.

My young friend was having difficulties with a brother and sister. She felt that God was compelling her to pray for them. So she settled down, Bible on her lap, feet tucked under her, head bowed.

“God, you know these two are really giving me trouble.”

Say their names.

She sat stunned. Did she really just hear God? Did he really tell her she had to say their names?

“What? You want me to what? But they’re my enemies. I’ll pray for them, but I don’t want to say their names.”

Say their names.

She sighed and started praying again- naming each offender instead of each offense.

A week later she told me the relationships were mended.

Names are our identity. We are not a number, not another face in the crowd, not just another thing that has to be dealt with.

When my friend prayed for her enemies by name, she lowered the gate to her heart.

Jesus said:

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6: 32-36 NIV

I’m guessing your daily life doesn’t include machine guns and tanks. You don’t fly stealth bombers. You don’t have night-vision goggles.

But you do know people who hurt you, say things about you. People who do their best to get under your skin. People who push your buttons.

Jesus said to love them. Be kind to them.

Go ahead. Try it.

Call them by name.


 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 NIV

Jealousy and Pride

It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels. ~Saint Augustine

This hurts to admit. I was not inducted into the National Honor Society until I was a senior in high school.

No, that’s not what hurts.

What pains me to admit is that when asked if I expected the secret induction, I answered, “Truthfully, I was surprised that I didn’t get in last year.”

Wow. Real humility, huh?

I always did well in school- academically and socially. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t inducted into the NHS as a junior with so many of my friends and peers. I had the grades. I had the extra-curricular achievements. What didn’t I have?

Have you ever been there?

You have the experience, but you were passed over for the promotion.  The younger girl with the longer legs got the job.

You filled out all the forms, but didn’t get the grant. It was awarded to the homeless shelter’s social worker. Again.

You always bake the best ham and loveliest lemon meringue pie for Easter. Your mother-in-law chose to join the other widows from church for lunch instead.

Could it be that we fail to see our own flaws, our own short-comings, our own pride?

In Luke 5, the Pharisees and teachers of the law are following Jesus around. They like what they see and usually what they hear. This is a guy who knows his religion. He has Scripture memorized and can throw down miracles like matzah.

But instead of partying with the Pharisees, Jesus chooses the tax collectors. Instead of inviting disciplined disciples, he asks kiss-ups and frauds like Levi to follow him.

Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:29-32 NIV

Jesus invites everyone to follow him.

But only those who realize they aren’t worthy truly find him.


Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  Philippians 2:3-4 NIV

The Struggle Is Real

All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today. ~Pope Paul VI

 

The Grand Canyon is growing 0.4 mm/year if you imagine it growing at a constant rate. But, of course, it isn’t. The Grand Canyon suffers from earthquakes and volcanic activity. It has seen major flooding in its long life. Some floods may have changed it in as little as ten hours. During other seasons it wore away at a minuscule rate.

Do you ever feel like the Grand Canyon?

All of the relatives are getting along, then Aunt Cathy dies and everyone wants a piece of her stuff.  The fighting and bickering that ensue damage the family and Christmas is never the same.

Your child received perfect scores all through Elementary school, but now in Middle school the grades are falling, the attitude is changing, the language sets your teeth on edge, and no one wants to be in the house with her.

You loved your job. The boss was perfect, so understanding and congenial. But she was promoted and her replacement is the meanest snake in the pit. You hate your new boss. You hate work. You’re even beginning to hate your co-workers.

Jesus gets it. He’s been a solid rock beaten by the winds and scorned by the rains of Satan.

His ministry began with healing and teaching and praising. God was on his side. He was baptized and told so.

. . . the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:22 NIV

But that “life is good” moment was met with fasting, thirst, fatigue, and temptation.

Satan went after Jesus with everything he had.

And when Jesus didn’t succumb?

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. Luke 4:13 NIV

Things got better for a while.

The relatives came back for Christmas. The daughter kissed her parents and hugged her sister. The coworkers held a meeting and worked out all the problems.

But sometime later . . .

The flood came crashing over the lava walls and in ten hours chaos reigned. That’s the way of Satan. He doesn’t give up, just waits for a more opportune time.

But that’s OK, because Jesus said,

. . . I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 ESV

JESUS doesn’t leave for an opportune time.

He stays forever fighting beside you.


“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV

Ripe Repentance

Repentance means you change your mind so deeply that it changes you. ~Bruce Wilkinson

John’s preaching was often direct and harsh. He called his audience a “brood of vipers.” He chastised Herod for sleeping with his brother’s wife. And he warned the people they were going to be cut down like a barren tree.

Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Luke 3:8-9 ESV

In fear the people asked what they should do. They didn’t want to be cut down and thrown into a fire.

John responded:Share your food; share your clothes. Don’t cheat people. Don’t threaten and accuse people. Be content with your pay.

He says that that is the fruit of repentance.

Repentance is a big word we don’t hear very often. It means actually change to show that you’re sorry for what you’ve done.

We often force little children to apologize to their friends, but the behavior that follows shows whether they apologized or repented. If another toy is taken, another smack given upside the head, another hateful word spewed- then they only apologized.

What about you?

Do you eat lunch with your coworkers but think about feeding them crow?

Do you wish your brother well on his promotion, but view him in a new shade of jealous green?

Do you buy the cheapest canned vegetables for the food pantry while you purchase organic produce for your own family?

Is there an axe at the root of your tree?

Ripen some repentance before it’s too late.


 “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:5-9 ESV

I Don’t Know ‘Bout That

Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark. ~Rabindranath Tagore

Excited fear.

I feel it in the pit of my stomach when I hope something is true, but maybe, just maybe, I got it all wrong.

You get a call from another company about a job, but it’s above your level of expertise. Was it an elbow nudge from God saying Go for it?

You’ve made it through the second month of pregnancy, longer than ever before. You don’t tell anyone the news, but your whole body glows with anticipation. Is this finally the blessing?

The visa you’ve been applying for makes it to the last hurdle. Will you leap over this final obstacle and be a missionary? Is God really going to send you?

The shepherds were out in the field. It was late. It was dark. It was surreal.

An angel appeared and the night was lit bright as day with the glory of the Lord. The angel’s message? “The Messiah has been born.” (Luke 2:9 ff)

The legend. The myth. The anticipation. The excited fear.

The shepherds have just been told that what they have waited for all their lives has just come true.

But can they really trust the messenger? Did they really hear what they thought they heard? They head to Bethlehem to see if these are angels of God or messengers of lies. Were they having hallucinations or were the Heavenly Hallelujahs real?

They don’t say anything until they see for themselves that the baby is in the manger just as they were told. Then their fears are transformed into faith that they just have to share.

“When they had seen him, they spread the word. . .” (Luke 2:17)

Listen to God. Then go check it out. See if what you think he has said is truly for you. And after you kneel at the manger, let your excited fear turn into ecstatic faith.


And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6 NIV

Leaping and Listening

Why is it that when we talk to God we’re said to be praying but when God talks to us we’re schizophrenic? ~Lily Tomlin

I was about seven months pregnant with my first son, when my husband left for a weekend church retreat. Friday and Saturday passed with no movement from my active little fellow. I became concerned.

Sunday morning I sat in the pew, waiting. My husband walked to the podium and began to preach.

The baby inside me jumped and turned in a silent “Hallelujah dance.”

He had heard his father’s voice and responded.

Mary and Elizabeth are both stunned to find themselves pregnant. Elizabeth has tried to have a baby for so many years she has stopped counting. She has probably stopped praying.

Mary is not married, isn’t even sure how a baby is made, and yet here she is– pregnant.

In fear and confusion, Mary heads to her cousin Elizabeth’s house. She knocks on the door, raises her eyes to meet Elizabeth’s gaze, and offers a hesitant, “Shalom.”

The baby inside Elizabeth leaps when it hears the sound of Mary’s voice. . . Mary so recently touched by the Holy Spirit . . . Mary so longing to know everything is going to be alright.

And Elizabeth knows what her child has heard. She is filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaims, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! . . . Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:42, 45)

Elizabeth was in tune with the Spirit. She was listening for its call, watching for its coming.

Did you give $10 to the homeless man at the Spirit’s urging? Did you call that friend you haven’t heard from in years? Did you stop to pray for the passenger in the passing ambulance? Did you carry groceries for the mother with three children pulling on her pants? Did you encourage the humming teen in the checkout line to keep singing praises?

Do you know when you hear the sound of God approaching?

Are you listening for his voice?


Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.  Proverbs 3:6 MSG

I Will

Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

He always wanted to be a missionary, but J. Oswald Smith was susceptible to sickness and disease. One mission assignment after another ended with his return to the States to recover from some new malady. So in the 1950’s, Smith gave up on being a missionary and began serving at a church in Toronto.

He gave up on being a missionary, but not on being mission minded.

He spoke to his members about the great work that needed doing, and they raised $282,000 for missions in one year alone.

He began helping other churches raise funds for missionaries. He helped one church in Boston go from a $3200 missions budget to a budget exceeding $200,000 in only six years.

How many more people heard the Good News of Jesus because of Oswald Smith than would have ever heard it by listening to him alone?

Last month I thought I should offer to host the community Bible study that I attend. I prayed about it, but felt a definite “no” being given.

Why in the world should I not host the study? We have a large house with no children left in it. It is a central location to many in the group. And it’s a Bible study, for goodness sake!

But I put aside my arguments and listened to God.

Another woman, growing in the faith, offered to host. It was a big step for her who so recently had spoken of the tongue lashing her father gave her for teaching Bible class at church.

What do you feel called to do? Is it what God is asking you to do, or is it just what you want to do?

Ask God what he wants.

His answer may not make sense at the time, but you can be sure it is the right answer.


 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24 ESV