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Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, Hebrews 12:28

My pastor stated in our adult Sunday school class that many of us have forgotten what worship should be all about. We so used to sitting in an audience to be entertained, be it in a theatre, concert, or on the couch binging on Netflix that we have a tendency to treat church like that.  We “watch” what is going on near the altar. We may participate by saying amen or sing a hymn. maybe nod when the sermon has a rhetorical question in it. Perhaps we feel a stirring in our hearts over the words of the hymn or what the preacher said. But often times, conversations on the way our the doors is whether or not worship was “any good” that day.

But that is not what worship should be about. It should be us entertaining our Lord, telling Him how much we love Him, honoring Him and giving Him the glory. It’s not about how well the choir sang, or if the preacher got off track, or if the service went off without a hitch. We are not to be the critiques and whine that the church just doesn’t do it for us. If we do, perhaps our focus is on the wrong thing.

It’s not about us. It’s about Him.

Then we are to go into the world, filled with His Spirit, to be His hands and feet to a hurting, confused world filled with lost people. Instead, we crawl into our air-conditioned cars and go out to lunch to be served by a waiter (who didn’t get to go to church but had to work instead) or to the store to be served by a floor clerk and cashier. When we make it home, there is laundry, or the game on TV, or projects to be completed before we hit the ground running on Monday. And church became just another check mark on the to-do list. That’s not worship.

I’ve mulled over his message all week like a cow chewing on its cud.  Not only did it challenge me to check my motives in the pew, but my private worship time as well.  Do I judge my quiet time with God by how I feel at the end? Do I rush through it so I can get to my other errands? Is my time less about praising God for who He is and more about what He can do for me? Is my daily Bible and prayer time just another check mark on my things-to-do-today list?

Euginia Herlihy, an author and spiritual leader from Capetown says, “Praise and worship shouldn’t be a few hours of church service entertainment. It should be our heartbeat and should never depart our lips. ‘Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song’ (Psalms 95:2).” *

Lord, is my worship time all about me…and then You somewhere in the mix? Forgive me if I have slipped into that pattern.

 

 

*https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/praise-and-worship

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“O taste and see that the Lord is good!” Psalm 34:8

This verse had always confused me until I saw something in a restaurant. A mom carved off a very small piece of her meat and put it in her toddler’s mouth. The tiny eyes widened as a smile spread across the little girl’s lips.

The mom nodded. “See? Good.”

Toddlers taste everything. They judge what is good and bad by how it reacts on their tongues. Are we any different? How many of us have asked someone to taste what we are cooking to “see if it is good”?  Even though smell and taste are intertwined, we describe food as yummy or yucky more by its taste than its smell, appearance or texture.

So, why should we not taste and see that God is good?

And how good is He? The yummiest thing ever. Better than gooey caramel, a chocolate candy bar, or a fresh-from-the-oven bread. Better than lobster dripping in butter, chowder on a cold night, or ice cream…well, anytime.

Jesus often used food as a conduit to fellowship. One of his miracles involved multiplying a simple lunch of fish and bread. It wasn’t until He served the disciples fish that they recognized him on the beach after the resurrection. At the Last Supper, He said the bread represented His body and the wine His blood and commanded us to remember Him whenever we broke bread together.

Recently, I had not been physically able to attend church in months. A person from the congregation brought me a small, tasteless wafer from the communion service. That way I could be “a part” of the community of believers that had gathered at the altar table. As it dissolved on my tongue, it truly was the best thing I’d ever tasted. I instantly felt the connection of the Cross…vertically to God and horizontally to the people in my church.

I could almost picture God smile and say, “See? Good.”

Yes, Lord. I have tasted Your goodness and now I see. Let me always hunger and thirst for Your righteousness and for the fellowship with others who believe. Amen.

 

 

 

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In Bible study on the Book of Exodus, our lecturer said the Ark of the Covenant was a “portable Eden”. It was where God chose to dwell among His people on earth.  Placed in the Holy of Holies inside the Tabernacle, God recreated Eden in a golden box so He could travel with His believers and be in covenant with them.  Once the temple in Jerusalem was built, God dwelled there, in the midst of the land He’d promised them. It became “Eden.”

That sent a flutter through my chest. Why? Paul told the Corinthians that their bodies were the temple since the one in Jerusalem had been destroyed. It has never been rebuilt, by the way. Not that it needs to be because God now dwells in the hearts of believers. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (1Corinthains 3:16).

That makes you and me portable Edens!

In Eden, there was love, goodness, peace, calmness, and serenity.  Mankind freely communed with God. They shared time and space. Sin was an outsider.

Eden is not a lost world. It still exists. The peace that passes all understanding still resides there like a gorgeous flower that is always in bloom. Faith, trust, and compassion flourish in lush fullness. This wondrous place now travels with us wherever we go in this un-Eden-like world. It is our “go to” spot whenever we need it. Better than comfy pants or chocolate.

So, if this portable Eden is always with us, and thus God is, why are we not more serene and content?  Why aren’t our lives centered more in Christ?

And…If our hearts contain that marvelous, fruitful place called paradise, why do we try to bring the seeds of worry, strife, anger, and bitterness through the garden gate? Those need to stay outside. We don’t need to haul them inside to dwell where only God should.

Where can we find God today? He is in Eden, a heartbeat away.

 

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A friend of mine posted a picture of how well her new solar lights worked in her yard.  When I saw it, the double meaning flashed across my brain.  So, I asked her if I could use it.

Solar lights work because they store up the sunlight during the day. It’s very easy to correlate the storing up of Christ’s Light through His word in us so we also can shine.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:6

But what was unique for me was how each lamp shined in a circular pattern.

We all have a circle of influence. First, are the people with whom we are in close contact. These are the people who see us day in and day out and with whom we have the most influence. Close friends, coworkers, family. It’s hard to hide our true self from these people. The more we have Christ’s Light in us, the more we will reflect Him in our day-to-day lives and shine into theirs as well.

Moving out in the spiral, are the people with whom we have casual contact. Notice the specks of light are further apart and do not touch. Perhaps these represent friends on social media or distant relatives. Friends we went to school with or old neighbors that moved away.  We occasionally keep in touch with them, especially if there is news to share.

Further out still may be the people on the peripheral edge of our lives. Perhaps those who benefit from our charitable donations, or the cashier who notices we actually smiled and called them by name. They get tiny snippets of light, but it can be enough to encourage them to draw closer to the Source.

Now, notice that each lamp has its own circle of influence, and the spiral they cast barely touch. It brought home to me that God has me planted where He wants me to be, and in touch with those I should be.  It’s my job to shine His grace and mercy, and to keep replenishing the Source so I can still be of use, lest I grow dim.

It’s a dark world out there, and it’s growing darker. Let’s all work harder at shining into other people’s lives, whether it is most of the time or a chance encounter. Let us never pass up an opportunity to shed a bit of God’s love.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:6

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“God does all these things to a person—twice, even three times— to turn them back from the pit that the light of life may shine on them.” Job 33:29-30

A dear friend gave me a pothos ivy. The kind with wonderful green leaves that stretch into strands to dangle down bookcases, shelves or stair rails. I placed this one on top of my bookcase near a window so it could get some sunlight. Soon, the tendrils began to grow longer, curling down the side of my bookcase, leaves angled toward the light streaming through the blinds. After a while, all the leaves exposed to the light had turned toward it. Their leaves were lush and full.

However, on the “darker side”, the leaves stop growing, and several died. I decided to turn the plant so that side could receive the light. And sure enough, the thriving side’s leaves still began to turn toward the light, even though they were further away. They had gotten used to it and knew it was what they needed.

Now the botanists among you will nod, saying this is common. For plants, yes. But is it common for us humans?

Once we receive the light of the Son, we thrive on it. We know we need it to grow in our faith. To flourish, we need to be near Him daily. But Jesus wants all of us exposed. That means even our darker sides. The side that harbors our bad habits we try to hide from the world. The sins we have pushed to the back of our hearts and minds because we simply do not want to deal with it right now. Perhaps we gossiped, or unkind words slipped from our mouths. Maybe we left off some tiny thing on our tax return so we could get a bigger refund. Perhaps we told a lie because it sounded better, or we didn’t want to reveal the truth. Maybe worse.

Eventually, Jesus will nudge us to turn those darker things to Him so His loving mercy can expose them. Once that happens, His grace can pour in. We can begin to flourish again where we were once stunted, and in fact, shriveling.

My ivy taught me that though I may not wish to do so, I must expose my whole being to my Lord so I can reflect His Light in my life. All my thoughts, fears, desires, and doubts need to be turned toward Him. Full Son exposure!

Do you dare turn your darker side to His glory?

 

 

 

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Today is April 15th. It marks two big events this year. It is Tax Day, and it also begins Holy Week.

As a freelance writer, I am self-employed, so I have to pay double the taxes people with employers do. The thing is, when money is tight, it is tempting not to pay into my savings so I can make those nasty quarterly payments to the beloved IRS. And if an expense comes up, such as an unforeseen medical bill or a flat tire, well, okay I could skip a quarter and pay next April. Or hope that I can find a few more deductions to make up for it. I can let it slide, right?

The IRS won’t forgive the debt, though. By April 15th, I have to pay back every cent I owe to them. Or set up monthly payments at exorbitant interest rates. Talk about sliding downhill into debt! At times I wish I had a Sugar Daddy to bail me out.

Two millennia ago, Jesus warned, “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.  Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny” (Matthew 5:25-26). Debts have to be paid.

We live in a debt-filled society. Many owe thousands on credit cards. Our income barely keeps up with inflation, and the tax system is skewed to applaud those who can figure out the best how to get out of paying. When someone does, don’t they toot their horn and tell all their friends? “My accountant is the best. He found a way to deduct 1,000 extra dollars. The wife and I are off to Cancun after all.”

Cross on a hilltop in Kerrville, Tx. Photo courtesy of Coming King Sculpture and Prayer Garden

Not to be a Debbie Downer, I have good news. When it comes to our souls, there is also a way to get out of paying our debt to God for all that we have let slide. It is called accepting Christ as our Savior. He paid our debts–past, present, and future–on the cross.

The payback? Our gratitude, which draws us closer to Him. And it doesn’t hurt to tell others about how our debt was paid. “You would not believe how much I owed. But He paid for all of my transgressions. Every single one.”

God’s method of accounting would make a tax attorney rub his temples. God prefers to cancel as many debts as possible and let His Son pay them all.

But there is a catch. We have to ask for it.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1John 1:9).

We ask for help at tax time from professionals, be it online, hiring an accountant, through software, or mulling through the irs.gov site (there’s a headache).  How much more should we ask for help from the One who can save us from the worse debt of all…the one caused by our sins!

This week, don’t let the IRS deadlines overshadow the tragedy that will happen on Friday, to His glory, and for our sakes.  Pay Ceasar his due, but render your hearts, minds, and souls to God.

Then rejoice next Sunday. Celebrate that our debt is canceled because Jesus is alive. He is risen indeed. And Daddy has bailed us out!

 

 

 

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courtesy Alexiscorvus | Dreamstime.com -

courtesy Alexiscorvus | Dreamstime.com –

Throwback Thursday….from a post three years ago. I needed this reminder. Maybe you do as well.

 

An author friend of mine, Anita Klumpers*, posted this on Facebook about her grandson:

Lesson learned from a 37-month-old, trying to control his sad tears: “Liam, how did you stop crying so fast?”
“I made my mouth go different.”

Scientists state it takes less muscle effort to smile than to frown, but often times it takes a lot more spiritual muscle effort, doesn’t it?  It is hard to stay upbeat, positive and hopeful when the world dumps troubles and strife on our shoulders like buckets of coal.  Yet, as Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians, we are supposed to rejoice, be thankful in all things and steadfast in prayer.  Is this possible?

Yes- if we make our mouth go different.

  • Take a deep breath and move your lips into a smile. It is hard to be angry, hurt or anxious if you can smile, or even drum up a chuckle.
  • Open our lips to only speak good things. Our grandmothers were right. If you don’t have anything nice to say…
  • Audibly Praise God no matter what and pray for Him to alter your attitude.

The next time you feel your lips quivering into a frown, ask our Lord to help you make your mouth go different. That is not to say emotions are not valid. There are times we should be sad or angry. Jesus cried.  He also overturned tables in the Temple.

I’m also not insinuating we shove our negativeness down our gullets where it can fester. But, we can change our attitude by purposely altering our body language and our thoughts.  We can choose to brood and be rude or make the choice to rejoice. We can give our angst to God instead of spreading it to others and pray for Him to give us the attitude of gratitude instead of stinkin’ thinkin’.

“In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,  and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:26-27

Each moment we have an option – be hopeful or despair, trust or distrust, stand firm or melt into a pool of self-pity. How will you make your mouth go today? However it goes, your thoughts and attitude will follow.

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