March 29, 2010

Vultures or Victory

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. I Peter 5:8 (NIV)

An eerie sight greeted us as we pulled into the church parking lot Palm Sunday morning. At the top of the main building, five large vultures perched as if waiting for something to happen. It felt a little creepy as I pointed out my discovery to Bob and he agreed.

Well, I have watched enough westerns to know that vultures are not generally a good sign. I consider circling vultures the universal sign of impending death. I sure hoped this wasn’t an omen.

As it turned out, services were wonderful and we saw several come to know the Lord and unite with our church. It was a victorious and glorious day. But the sight of those oversized carnivores weighed heavily on my mind. A thought occurred to me, if vultures hover where death is pending, could those vultures have been waiting for me or for you?

Whew! I bet that wasn’t a question you expected to hear right now! Actually, me neither! But I had to wonder, how many times have I shown up to church nearly dead in spirit or attitude ? How many times did I come poor in spirit yet I refused to allow myself to revive in God’s word or worship? How many professing Christians come to church near death and leave the same way? Apparently, there must be enough for the vultures to take note! Sorry – I only write what He gives!

On the first Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem with great fanfare and covertly the vultures were starting to take notice. His entry into the Holy City started a chain reaction of events that God foretold by the prophets of old. At each turn, the vultures appeared to gain strength and numbers, circling the Savior closer and closer until Calvary was within sight.

Perhaps they nestled in the nearby rock clefts with the cross in plain view, anxiously awaiting the proclamation of the death of God’s Son. When it finally came, I am sure they soared with glee and sped to spread the news: Jesus Christ was dead.

Wouldn’t you have loved to see the looks on their beady-eyed faces when they discovered 3 days later, they were wrong! Jesus Christ rose on Resurrection Sunday, alive and well and He lives forevermore! Glory to God for His victory over death!

Whether Satan appears as a lion with fierce desire to pounce on us unexpectedly or whether he appears as a vulture circling and waiting for our guard to drop so low that we look like easy pickings, make no mistake he is watching and waiting for you and for me. I know that was a mouthful, but if that doesn’t creep you out, I don’t know what will!

But wait – there is good news! In Jesus, we have victory over every vulture who thinks they can finish us off!

In one week, we will celebrate Easter Sunday. Without Easter, the vultures would be having a field day in my life. In fact, they would be in control and my life would be worthless, hopeless and picked to pieces. But praise be to God there is VICTORY over every vulture in our life.

Bye-bye buzzards!

March 22, 2010

I Hate Being Sick

“All the days of the afflicted are bad, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast.” Proverbs 15:15 (NASB)

I spent the first two weeks of March sick. It was off and on, but mostly on. I had a pesky old head cold and sinus infection. However, the older I become, the longer it takes to recoup from even minor afflictions. It wouldn’t have been so bad, if the stuff just wouldn’t mess with my head. It’s a mess enough on its own.

The first week:
After a few days in bed, I decided some fresh air would be good so I went with Bob to buy groceries. The fact we had nothing, and I mean nothing, in the freezer necessitated the trip by someone! I thought I was doing okay until an innocent bystander caught me talking to myself in front of the freezer case – complete with hand motions. I decided going back to bed would be best when I tried to pay with said groceries with my driver’s license. Who knew TheraFlu could mess with your head that much!

Second week:
Why did this come back? What did I do to deserve head harassment? Can’t someone catch a cold in a knee for heaven’s sake? At least then I could grab a crutch and continue on with a clear mind! So, I cancel all daytime engagements and pray I am well enough to teach my Wednesday night and Saturday morning classes. I’m not taking any chances of humiliating myself this time.

Unfortunately, I discovered you do not have to leave home to do that! Since I work from home and have a very kind and understanding boss, I wasn’t too worried about my job. Except I was starting to work on some really cool stuff and hated losing momentum.

I managed to get payroll done, not too hard – the software pretty much does everything. But wait, did I pay that bill – sure I did. OMG! I didn’t! Here comes the chest pains – seriously. Paid the bill and confessed my sin via email. I am such a chicken.

After a period of grief, I headed back to bed. Bob had secured me a jar of Vicks Vapor rub. I rubbed it on my feet and put on socks. Someone said this would help. I was desperate. Did it help? Not sure, but it put a few quirky looks on the kitty’s face when she came sniffing around.

I tell you all this for absolutely no good reason at all. I can’t divulge any great spiritual lesson from the experience, but thought you could use a slight giggle on a Monday morning. Maybe you don’t feel like the brightest crayon in the box today. Maybe you had to come clean about a mistake you made and have had some chest pains of remorse yourself. Perhaps life is just closing in faster than you like and just need some room to breathe. Just giggle. Just a little. It might help. Then give it to God. I did.

The Father is available to us all the time, not just in a spiritual crisis. I didn’t feel well. My Father cared. I made a careless mistake. My Father forgave. (and so did my boss) Okay, I acted a little strange. My Father overlooked that and probably got a laugh or two out of it as well. Whatever your day is bringing you, please rest assured that your Father is watching over you as well.

Today, don’t let whatever affliction that might come your way consume you. Don’t let it torture you. Let the Lord lighten your load, take it to heart and feast on that!

Loving the day and you!

March 15, 2010

Savior Absorbed

“Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all.” I Timothy 4:15 (NASB)

I have been absorbed in two very fascinating books of the Bible lately: Esther and Daniel. God certainly allowed them to come “for such a time as this” in my life. Not that you’d think anything too curious is going on in my home. Life is simply happening. I am sure it’s happening for you too.

The Scripture has a unique way of morphing into whatever we need it to be at any given time. Now before you jump too far out of gear – hear me out. I am not talking about twisting God’s Word to make it suit your circumstance or taking it out of context to make a connection. I am talking about that unexplainable quality of God to speak to our hearts personally and individually through His Word, and now I am trying to explain what I’ve already stated can’t be explained, at least by me.

Perhaps it will work better if I show you. By the way, if you’ve not read these two Biblical books – try it, I believe you’ll like it! Now, I’ve read them before and already learned volumes. Such as, from Esther, I’d learned that although God isn’t always visible, He is always in control. From Daniel, I learned to strive for faith in the fire and in the lion’s den.

Guess what? Those lessons are still there. Yet this time I discovered some new ones too! There are a few striking similarities between the two books and the world we live in today. I can’t believe I missed that comparison before. In both books, the kings and some high-ranking officials mentioned are all highly self-absorbed characters. They are legends in their own minds! Sound like anyone you know? The vanity and conceit sure takes center stage in these medieval melodramas. Then the cultures in both books were used to extravagance. Notice any parallels to our society today? Don’t we appear to be a self-absorbed society used to a few frills here and there? Just thought I’d ask!

I love the way that each time you read the Scripture, the words never change but each time I revisited those pages the text came to life based on my current needs. How cool is that! No wonder we call the Word living! It’s as if the Word reads my mind. Hmmm….

I thrill to the strengthening of my faith by the words of our wise warriors of old. But today, it’s a little embarrassing to admit aloud, I need a lesson on self-absorption and I’m not talking a “how-to” either! Wait a minute! I feel something is coming on! Hey, how about a “what to” lesson? Now that could be helpful for all of us!

While absorbing my lesson today, I came across an interesting verse in I Timothy. “Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all.” There is that word again. Absorbed. I won’t insult your intelligent by offering a definition for the word absorb. I think we all know what it means. But I can offer you some insight into what we should be absorbing. That as those “these things” referred to in this verse.

Paul was writing some heartfelt encouragement to Timothy. If you look carefully at the verses preceding our Word for the day, you will find what “these things” are (with my editorials of course):

• Let no one look down on your youthfulness (if you’re not young, fill in your own blank: let no one look down on your inexperience, enthusiasm, goals, _____________)

• Be an example of a believer – in speech, conduct, love and faith

• Give attention to the public reading of Scripture (could be going to church or sharing your faith)

• Exhortation (preaching and/or encouragement)

• Teaching (by example, by giving of yourself)

• Don’t neglect your spiritual gift(s) (Use ‘em, don’t lose’em)

It’s too easy to become self absorbed in a society that tells you, you’re worth it. It’s too easy to believe our own press or become self-absorbed in self-pity or loathing because we don’t feel worth it. Neither is healthy and neither serves God.

Just maybe we are at our best when we are comfortable in our own skin and allow ourselves to be Jesus in skin to someone else. Any thoughts? You have an open invitation to join me as I fight self-absorption in favor of Savior-absorption.

Since I read the end of the book, I know who wins!!

March 09, 2010

The Chosen

“Just as He [God] chose us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world…” Ephesians 1:4a ( NASB – brackets mine)

Carrie and Matt have a cat. Okay, poetry is not my forte, but the statement is still true. A few years ago, they tried to give us and everyone else in the neighborhood that cat. No one accepted the gracious offer.

I heard recently on a television show, where cats were the topic du jour, cats are not pets you choose, but rather they are pets that choose you. Since Bob and I are also cat owners, we tend to agree, especially in the case of Matt and Carrie.

Their cat wanders inside and out at will. It has exalted itself to a high and lofty position in their household. I’ve even heard rumors that the cat goes for walks with them without the constraints of a leash. My cat only follows me to the kitchen. I wonder why.

Now I’ve seen cats being walked by their owners on a leash, although not often. But never have I seen a cat that will follow you on a walk or to the neighbor’s house for dinner and then wait for you outside. It has been my experience that a cat will happily head for parts unknown if given half an opportunity.

Last week, Bob and I made a grocery run and down the street was Carrie, out walking their dog. The dog is older and suffers with bad legs. Today she had her entire backside in a sling, held onto by Carrie. The dog walked on her front paws with her mistress maneuvering the sling. Bringing up the rear was the cat. Readily following behind, the kitty kept pace with the two in front of her. I’d heard about this but it was the first time I saw it with my own eyes.

It’s funny that as hard as Matt and Carrie tried to unchoose that cat, their efforts were in vain. The cat simply had chosen them and that was the end of it. So now, life goes on for a cat that perhaps thinks she’s a dog with a claim staked on a family who lives on our block. This family has now chosen her as well.

This comical moment made me think of the “chooses” or choices, I make every day.

• What or who do I choose to follow willingly?

• What do I choose to follow through on – even if the object is skeptical about choosing me?

• Do my choices reflect a greater choice made in my behalf, even before I knew there was a choice to make? (This might not sound like it makes sense, just think on it a while)

From the beginning of time, the great God of the universe chose me. He chose you too. God created us and chose us to have an active and vital relationship with Him. However, God is all about us choosing back as well. Joshua told the Hebrew nation, “Choose you this day whom you will serve.” Jesus told the crowd, “You can serve God or money, but not both.” You choose.

Over 25 years ago, I realized that one very big God chose to love one very pathetic creature – me. He chose to love me at my worst, so He could offer me His best and created in me a new life, filled with wonder and amazement. How could I not choose Him back! So I did and it was a choice, I have never regretted.

What about you?

Have you chosen to love the Lord that loves you? If so, how does that reflect in all the other choices you make during the day? Do you follow Him relentlessly? Or just wander in and out of His life as you please? If you do, maybe it’s time to settle down and let your life reflect that.

Choices, we all make them. I encourage us all to choose love. Choose life. Choose the Lord. In doing this you will be choosing wisely.

Love, Barbara

March 01, 2010

Come, Let’s Learn Something Today Together

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt. 28:18-20 (NIV)

I hated to back-seat drive but I did it anyway, “Bob, you are pulling in too close to her!” Bob slowed the car to a stop, just inches from the vehicle in front of us. My eyes rolled and wondered if the woman in front of us would judge us nuts for not leaving her room to move her car when she finished putting air in her tires.

We needed air in a tire as well. That’s why we stopped after church a few Sunday’s ago. Although I was in a hurry to get home and hopefully indulge in some Sunday rest time, Bob thought now was better than later to accomplish this small chore. He was probably right.

However, I quickly considered changing my vote of affirmation when the woman ahead of us turn and walked toward my side of the car, complete with air hose in her raised right hand. “Oh no! She is going to psssst me with the air hose!” was my first thought! I knew we’d parked too close to her!

Fortunately, an internal sense of decorum returned and directed me to open the window to see what it was she needed. I am so glad I did. She had such a lovely spirit about her. With the most beautiful smile, she inquired about where on her vehicle she could locate the correct pressure for her tires. I smiled, clueless, and instantly directed her to my fearless leader, who knows everything about everything.

Bob got out of our car to assist her as I muttered something about not knowing a thing about tire pressure. After all, that is what my husband is for! That’s when it happened. She turned and said in a coaxing voice, “Come on! Let’s learn something today together!”

“I like that! You’re right, let’s learn something today!” The words rolled out in astonishment from my mouth as I jumped out of the passenger seat. It was like one of those epiphany moments. After all, I never thought of an opportunity to help as an opportunity to learn – especially when the learning invitation came from the one you were trying to help! Well, you didn’t have to ask me twice.

I watched and learned how to work the mechanic pump. I learned to look on the tire or the inside sticker of the door to locate the right pressure for my tires. Bob even let me try out my new-found knowledge on one of our tires! The one we tried to help – helped us! I left the Shell station feeling empowered. A feeling, I would not have had, without such an intriguing invitation.

Jesus told us to go into the world to teach, preach and make disciples. I thought I was doing okay on that command, after all, I am a Bible study teacher. (Note: It’s really the Holy Spirit who teaches, I just hope to let Him use my mouth on occasion.) Yet, I wonder if we’ve forgotten that perhaps parting of teaching others while reaching others means learning from them as well.

I’ve always said that a teacher always learns more that the student, generally because of the preparation required in presenting a lesson. Then we also learn from class participation – from the thoughts and examples of others. But here I was in the middle of a ministry opportunity – never expecting a challenge to learn myself in this setting. It was, indeed, a refreshing moment.

I am not certain how the Holy Spirit will use this ministry moment in your life, but I felt compelled to share it with you! All I ask is that you ponder this in light of some of the opportunities that could cross your path during the week:

• When your child asks you how to something you are not familiar with….

• When your teenager isn’t sure how to check the oil in the car….

• When your friend has a question about Scripture that stumps you….

• As God sweetly calls you into a personal quite time with Him each day….

Then perhaps you can respond, “Come, let’s learn something together today!”

May we each follow the command to teach, while taking time to learn as well!