November 29, 2010

Out of The Mouths of Babes

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” II Cor. 5:17(NASB)

Words can be haunting, especially when they’re your own - coming back to bite you. Words from the preacher can be haunting, convicting your heart. Words from your friends can be haunting, giving you cause for deep reflection. However, some of the words that give me the most delightful moments of my life and haunt my soul (usually in a good way) are from children.

We all know that children can be the most amusingly simple and yet the most enchantingly complex creatures on earth. Their innocent quips defy logic and thrill the imagination. They can be theological without having a clue what theology evens means.

Here is my most recent case in point. Our 8-year-old granddaughter, Kylie, asked Jesus to live in her heart the week before Halloween. Shortly thereafter, she went “forward” in church to tell the staff of her decision and make herself available for baptism. Then the entire family trekked over to our house for Sunday dinner.

We enjoyed a grand time of talking and of course, eating. Afterwards, I realized I had not asked Kylie about her church experience of “going forward.” But it wasn’t too long before I got the opportunity to rectify that omission.

A few days later, we had the occasion to be riding together in the car. I looked over at her and said, “Kylie, Nana forgot to ask you the other day about you sharing your decision to accept Jesus with the preacher.” An instant smile lit up her face. “So, what they ask you and what did you say?”

“Well, they asked me what sin was and I told them,” she informed me. Her smile morphed into a quizzical expression and she continued, “Nana, they told me that when I asked Jesus into my heart, I became a new person.”

I beamed, “Yes darling that is correct.” Then she popped a question I never expected to hear.

“Nana, if I am a new Kylie – where did the old Kylie go? They said she was dead. Did she get buried? Is she in heaven?”

Lord, help me answer this one! In her child-like faith and innocent, she had no problem believing she was a new creation in Jesus, but her natural curiosity couldn’t figure out the logistic of what happened to the old self. Therefore, I began a conversation about internal natures on my best 2nd grade level.

Still, the question haunts my mind. Unfortunately, my problem is the opposite. I know exactly where my old self is – often lurking too close to the surface of my life. I let the junk of living overwhelm me and some days I wonder, where did my new self go?

Can anyone relate?

While we are eating turkey leftovers, thankful for all the blessings God has provided over the years, we begin preparations for another season of celebration. A birthday for a Savior. Jesus Christ.

Steppenwolf (a 1970’s rock group) proclaimed they were “Born to be Wild.” Bruce Springsteen “The Boss” declared he was “Born to Run.” However, Christ the Redeemer was born to die. He was born to die on a cross only to rise again on the 3rd day.

Why? The birth and atoning death, validated through the supernatural resurrection of our Savior and King makes it possible to become a new creation. I have a new self and that she is never too far away.

Simply put - the old self is defeated and allows a new self to emerge for each one of us. Christ allows us to live an abundant life here on earth and afterwards in heaven where the old self disappears from existence and all earthly struggles will be over. Final answer.

As we head into a season where the old self can become a formidable force in the midst of holiday commotion and deals of the century, let’s remember to crucify ourselves (our old self) daily and let the new self rejoice and live for the glory of God.

Keeping in touch with my new self,
Barbara

November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

“Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples.” I Chronicles 16:8

I am a day or two late and more than a dollar short. While I haven’t made it to my keyboard before now, I have been busy preparing for this week’s event and I haven’t forgotten to give Him thanks!

Let me just share with you today some of my thoughts toward my God this week. God, Thank you for:

Taking me out of my sin

Your Holiness

Being the One I Adore

Never letting me go

Keeping me close to you through thick and thin

The Holy Spirit to help me in life

Giving me spiritual gifts to use for your glory

Inspiring me with your Word

Thinking that I am Very good! (refer to Genesis)

Insisting I live by Your commandments

Not remembering my sin

Going the extra mile and then some, on the cross, to make sure we’d be together always

Bob and I wish each of you a very blessed and Happy Thanksgiving.

Love,
Barbara

November 15, 2010

Each One Reach One – I Disagree

“And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve….” Mark 3:13-14a (NASB)

I know I tread on thin ice. It’s a bad habit and not pleasant when I hit a crack and fall into icy waters. But sometimes, I feel certain thoughts are worth going out on a limb for.

For years in my particular denominational circles we’ve heard what could happen if each believer would/could reach out and touch the life of just one person with the Gospel message. I must admit, it always sounded good in theory to me. If it indeed would truly happen, I can’t even imagine the world we’d live in! It made evangelism seem easily attainable to those of us who aren’t necessarily gifted in that area. I mean, really how hard can it be to touch the life of just one person!

Today it dawned on me that the entire “Each One Reach One” philosophy might not push us as hard as maybe we should be pushed. Before someone calls for tar and feathers, let me preface the reminder of my time by stating I am not knocking “Each One Reach One.”

I know the push for each person touching just one other person for Christ wasn’t meant for us to simply reach out to one person and then no others in our life time. But it was more of a starting place to get us to realize the simplicity of reaching others because we make things so hard sometimes. I believe it was intended to go far beyond just checking one person off the list as “reached” in our life and then living as we pleased for the remainder. It is motivational. Okay I am getting preachy – but bear with me.

Right now I’d like us to consider a new line of thinking. It’s one I found in the Biblical book of Mark today. What if each one of us reached twelve people? Jesus started a religious revolution with only twelve people. This is quite phenomenal considering His ministry lasted roughly only 3 years. Because His earthly time was limited, He reached His twelve all at the same time.

Do you think you could specifically touch twelve people in your lifetime? Let’s take a look back at Christ for a moment. He pretty much left everyone He met better off for knowing Him (okay, a few weren’t but it wasn’t for Christ’s lack of trying!). When you met Christ on the dusty roads of the Middle Eastern plains, you left knowing what and WHO He stood for, whether you agreed or not. That’s something that should be said for each one of us today.

However, He chose twelve to “be with Him” so He could “send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14) and He gave them authority. He found twelve men to pour Himself into in a way that He couldn’t do with folks He would just touch for a day or so. I had to think since Jesus is our example to imitate, why would I settle for just reaching one! Why not twelve? At least!

Does twelve seem like a lot to you? Well, let’s start with me. I have a husband who I played a part into bringing him to Christ. That’s one. I have a daughter and son-in-law I pour into bringing the total to three. Then we have the two grandbabies. That’s five.

I have coached two people over several months – now I’m up to seven. That’s over half way to twelve and my life isn’t over yet. You know something, Three Dog Night, the group from the 1970’s sang a hit song (back then) called “One is the Loneliest Number” and maybe they had something spiritual there without realizing it – what a hoot! How lonely for us to only reach one person in our lifetime!

Yes, everyone we come in contact with should know what we stand for and Who we stand for on a daily basis. That is good solid lifestyle witnessing. But everyone should have specific people (family or friends) that they “pour” themselves into so those people can be sent out and pour themselves into others as well.

Since God impressed that upon me during my personal reading time, I thought I’d share it with you. Oh yeah – before anyone reminds me – I know one of Jesus’ twelve turned out to turn on Him. But in all fairness, that was a one-time event with a very one-time purpose that will never need to be duplicated. And they did replace Judas later on.

Why settle for one? Jesus didn’t – in more ways than one!
Barbara

November 08, 2010

Moo-Moo, Boo-Hoo, Pooh- Pooh

She glared at me and called me a cow! She pointed her finger and pronounced me an adulteress! To add final insult to already fatal injuries, she said I was a baby! I was shocked. I was insulted. I was appalled. I was…convicted.

Who was this woman who dared to speak to me in this fashion? Where did she come from and just who did she think she was! Well, her name is Liz and she came from out of town. She is a pastor’s wife but she was also our speaker for a women’s event last month. Bet you are wondering who signed up for that message!

It was a rough ride where no one had a clue what was going to happen next. You are probably asking if this was one of those events that went very wrong. Not really. Did we fire her after that? No. Did we run her out of the town on a rail? Nope. What did we do? We stood and applauded. We bowed our hearts and confessed. We came forward and we prayed. Battle-scared and bruised, we were not bitter but grateful for the wake-up call to live our faith as it was meant to be lived.

I wished you could have been there. Our conference was entitled: R U SERIOUS? And that was the question we had to ask ourselves about our relationship with God. Today, I ask you – just how serious are you about your relationship with Christ?

Now that I’ve asked, I am sure you are dying to hear the explanation for the title of today’s devotional. Well, those were Liz’s three talking points in our first session. I’ll try and give you a brief synopsis of each and ask that you allow the Holy Spirit to teach you in accordance to what you need for the day.

1. Moo-Moo (Amos 4:1)
In this verse, the prophet Amos is addressing a group of overly-indulgent, lazy, bossy women, who had no concern for the poor or oppressed people of the town. They were only interested in satisfying their own self-centered desires. He called them “Cows of Bashan” and it wasn’t a compliment. They were fat, lazy, bossy and selfish cows. Moo-Moo. Ouch!

2. Boo-Hoo (James 4 and II Tim 3:6)
Here we are called adulteresses (in James) because although we call ourselves Christian – we continue to maintain a close and personal relationship with the things of the world. We compromise our faith without thinking. We have become weak or silly women (II Tim) weighted down with sin so that we can easily be taken captive – learning but never able to come to a full and true knowledge of the truth. Poor me and woe is us! Boo-Hoo! I feel a knife in my back.

3. Pooh-Pooh (Hebrews 5:12-14)
Liz said she used this title because it rhymed with the other two and because babies only drink milk and poo. Hebrews is clear that most of us should have well surpassed the training wheel stage of Christian maturity by now. We should be moving toward more solid food. Training our senses by PRACTICE!!! Yet, for some of us, we are still content to paddle around in our Pampers – in need of a change. Icky-poo! It was another correct call.

Our relationship with God is the most important relationship we will ever have. To illustrate how personal and important this is, let me share a private moment with you. Our granddaughter, Kylie (age 8) prayed on Oct 23, 2010 to accept Jesus in her heart. In her own words, she desired God in her life “to have and to hold.”

We get to hold Jesus close in our hearts. It’s intimate. It’s internal. This takes work like any relationship. We must take time to talk to one another, to listen to one another and to learn about one another. It’s serious and it’s intentional. But having Him means having something to share with others and this is also serious and intentional. It’s external. It’s the second part of the relationship.

Now I have given you several Scripture references to look up at your convenience – if you dare! But I dare to say – you’ll be glad you did. However until then I leave you with the words found in Matthew 22:37.

My boss calls this the Secret to Everything. Our Jewish brethren know it as the Sh’ma. Jesus called it the “great and foremost” commandment and then threw in Matthew 22:39 for good measure. What is it? Simply this: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. Do this and you will enjoy and prosper in a serious relationship with God and with others.

That’s the truth and there is no “utter!”
Barbara

November 02, 2010

Letter to the Winner

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Romans 13:1 (NASB)


Date: November 3, 2010

Dear Elected Candidate,

Congratulations on your win. I guess right now you are getting ready to dust off your new Senate seat or rearrange furniture in the Governors Mansion. Perhaps you are pulling out a list of appointments to make and reviewing the speeches you will begin to give.

Before you get started in this new phase of your life, I offer you some words of wisdom and advice. First of all, don’t get that excited about your win. It’s possible you didn’t get there on your own merit. Appalled by that thought? Let me explain.

I am “one of the people” and I honestly believe that “all of the people” in this country witnessed more mud slinging than we ever thought possible in the last several months. I also believe with all my heart that whether we are tea sippers, elephant riders or have donkeys hooked to our cart; we just want the type of change that will make Americans proud to be Americans.

Sure, there are lots of issues but mostly we just want to live a life where we have jobs so we can work hard to feed our families and the means to educate our children. We’d like to leave this world better than we found it, with a few less issues. Is that too much to ask of you, after all, you got the votes?

In my opinion regarding some races, a great many votes likely boiled down to this: 1) My vote for you was a vote against the other guy/gal or 2) I am voting for the lesser of two evils. How does that make you feel? Does it take some of the wind out of your sails? Humbled? Personally, I’d rather not get elected at all rather than be labeled as "the lesser evil." Hmm…..

Let’s move to my second piece of advice. Prove us wrong. Respectfully, you have a lot to prove. Now this may be hard to believe but we really want you to do well and I am sorry that some of us aren’t expecting it. But I promise to do better, if you will. Please remember that regardless of how you got here, you have been given a great and powerful responsibility. So is that piece of paper up your sleeve your own personal agenda or the agenda of the people?
Thirdly, serve wisely with a grateful heart to God for this opportunity to make difference in our country. Despite the ballot count, ultimately God allowed you in this position. You see, nothing gets by Him, not even an election. Therefore, you can be a self-serving elected official, thus doing absolutely nothing to dispel our lack of governmental apprehensive or you can serve God by serving the people in a godly fashion. Is this the popular thing to do? No. Will it cost you points in that coveted approval rating? Probably, at least at first but it will prove to be the wisest choice you will ever make.

So today, I don’t care if you call yourself conservative or a liberal just do the job the right way based on those principles this country was founded on. Keep God in the mix. Yes, you’ll make some people mad. But they might be the ones in the wrong to begin with, so as far as I am concerned they can just stay mad. But when that happens, I pray the rest of us will stand up and support you - loudly. Just don’t forget the greatest role model for politicians ever: Jesus Christ.

People didn’t always agree with Him either. He made more than a few people mad. But He positively affected more people for the good. His logic was indisputable and so was His love. Everything He did was based on the welfare and benefit of others, never a concern for His approval rating. The only special interest groups He served were the ones who couldn’t stand up for themselves: the children, the elderly and the sick.

And if this doesn’t beat all! He was both conservative and liberal. He was fiercely conservative when it came to His principles and He was passionately liberal with His love and His grace, and He always made good on His Word. Christ lived for the people and He died for the people. We should all live and serve according to His example. Just think of the possibilities if we did!

Praying for you,
Barbara