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One Letter

One letter can make a huge difference. Mean versus moan. Bad vs bed. Dog vs. dig.

Take the words son and sin. The letters that are different are the letter I and the letter O. But there is so much more to that observation. Hidden in it is a great truth.

 

 

No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. I Corinthians 10:24

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

 

When “i” is in the middle of our thoughts, we are self-centered.   S.I.N. = See, I need.

Replace that with “o” and you have changed your focus to others’ needs.  S.O.N = See, others need.

Here’s why.

Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth not for Himself but for others. He died for us so we could have a bridge of reconciliation back to the Father in Heaven who loves us. We, in our sinful nature with our “me first” attitudes, separate ourselves from that love. Christ shows us a better way.

Christ calls us to act the way He lived on earth — to be other-focused. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you “– the Golden Rule from Matthew 7:12. Time again He rebuked His listeners for not caring for others first and foremost. John, Paul, and Peter reiterated this many times in their letters to the faithful. They understood what a servitude attitude was all about. They lived it.

By humbling ourselves and putting others as our priority, God sees our motive as an act of love for Him and what He created. Serving others, praying for others, and loving others takes our minds, actions, and hearts off ourselves. Then, we begin to realize we have something in common – we all need love. We need each other. We need God.

We are not an island floating in a vast sea alone. We are part of creation as a whole, dependent upon the Creator.

Yes, of course, we should love ourselves…as creations of God. But when that love of self becomes the main focus, then sin sets in and pushes out the Son from our hearts, minds, and soul.

Prayer can reverse the order. It can replace the “i” with the “o”. Ask God to help you be more other-centered. He will send His Holy Spirit to guide you away from self into selflessness. Peace and happiness will flow from you as a result.

 

Shut the Door


She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out. 2 Kings 4:22

She was rich, the Bible says. She would give the prophet Elisha a meal whenever he was in town because she knew he was a holy man of God. It was her way to honor him and the Lord. In fact, she made up a small room for Elisha to stay in so he could rest from his travels. But when her son fell ill and died, she didn’t lay the boy on his bed or even her own as was the custom for mourning visitations before burial. She laid him on Elisha’s guest bed and shut the door.

That, to me is an important difference. It shows faith. She didn’t mourn at all. She knew if anyone could revive her son, it was the man who acted for God, and hopefully, by the power of God, he’d heal the boy.

You see, she had been barren and Elisha prophesized God would give her a son in thanksgiving for her hospitality. So when that happened, she knew it as a gift from God. When her son collapsed in her arms and breathed his last, she sought out Elisha. She went to the source. She wanted the prophet, and only the prophet, to come since it was he who had prophesized she’d have the boy. Elisha saw her tenacious faith, went with her, and revived her son while she waited outside of the door.

The story tells me that when something awful happens to me, I need to respond in faith. Set it down, shut the door, and seek Jesus instead of wallowing in my sorrow or fear or hurt. Not try by my own knowledge or strength to handle it, and not to get angry with God. If I respond in faith, Jesus will respond to me.

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God may not do exactly as I ask, as Elsiha did for the tenacious woman, but He will do what is best in my situation. My response is to trust and pray. Shut the door on my problem and seek His face before anything else. He will know how to handle it as I wait patiently.

Animal Wisdom

Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up. Micah 6:8

When my guinea pig wants my attention, he stands on his hind legs and peers over the rim of his cage so I will notice him. But when I get to the cage, he lowers himself and lays flat. It isn’t a “deer in the headlights” freeze of fear. When animals freeze, they are on their feet ready to dash. They’re wary of their surroundings as their hearts pound and the adrenaline builds.

No, this is different. It is his “Momma, come to me, I trust you” pose. It is easier for me to pick him up and lift him to cuddle on my shoulder when he is still.

Does your pet do that? My cats used to do that as well. And that is one reason animals are smart. They crouch in trust. They purposely stay still, waiting for the big old powerful human to pick them up and hold them close. No fight or flight mode. They know a bit of safe, secure loving is coming.

Why can’t we be more like that with God? Humble ourselves so we can be lifted to His shoulder. I don’t care how old you are, everyone needs a hug. Everyone needs to feel loved, secure, and safe. Is there any place you’d rather be than in the arms of your Savior? I don’t know of one.

If God has ever brought you to your knees perhaps it was to teach you to react like a small animal. To be humbled, contrite, and totally dependent. Perhaps that is why kneeling to pray feels so special. It aligns our hearts to His will. It is a position of vulnerability and trust. And also one of confidence and hope.

In fact, it may be the best position we can take no matter the situation. When we are frightened, and when we are a tad bit overconfident. When we are hurt, or when we feel on top of the world and invincible. When we are angry as all get out or so joyful we lose perspective.

Pray for God to draw near and He will. Go ahead. Crouch down and pray. Snuggle in and feel His merciful, wound-scarred hand wrap around you as He draws you to His chest. Lay your head like a sleeping child, peaceful and secure on Daddy’s shoulders. It’s the best place to be.

He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart...Isaiah 40:11

Pesky Weeds

A friend in my Bible study group said, “I keep having these negative thoughts crop up in my mind, and I have to yank them out. It’s like God is bringing them to the surface so I know they are there.”

It made me think about the “grow your own lavender” gift my son gave me. In it was a packet of seeds, which I planted in the provided soil and set out on my patio in a semi-sunny location. But evidently, some weedy seeds got mixed into the soil, probably from the bird feeder. Until they pushed to the surface and began to grow, I wouldn’t have known they had been buried there. Just like my friend’s thoughts.

Jesus told his dsiciples about weeds in a parable in Matthew 13:

2Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

Now in the parable, the man tells the workers to let the weeds grow with the wheat until harvest and at that time they could “weed things out”. Jesus was referring to Judgement Day. There will be good and evil side by side until then.

But the concept is the same. We are sponges. Our brains absorb images and actions in our surroundings, many subconsciously. Try as we may, it is hard to filter all the “bad” out. Through the mercy of the Holy Spirit, we can be guided to know what is good (of God) and what is bad (not of God). As these weeds, which are not of God, grow into our consciousness, we can plunk them out and refuse to let them take deep root. Bitterness, anger, envy, an unforgiving spirit…these are all things that, if left to grow, can choke out the fruit of the Spirit.

So the next time a negative thought floats to my attention like an answer in a Magic Eight Ball, instead of chastising myself, I will do as my friend suggests. Yank it out, give it to God and let Him deal with it. Gone. Then fill the “hole” with Scripture and let that grow instead.

How about you?

The Three P’s

But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. Exodus 9:16

When in comes to the Christan walk, there are three p’s:

Prayer

Power

Purpose

Prayer is the most powerful tool we have for fulfilling God’s purpose. When a car has a wobbly tire, it is hard to steer it straight. It keeps wanting to veer off. Prayer brings our mind, heart, and spirit in alignment with God the way a mechanic aligns the tires. It keeps us going in the right direction. Prayer is a privileged conversation with the Almighty, which requires listening as well as talking. It reminds us of God’s power when we humble ourselves and trust. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16b)

Power is an elusive thing, except when it comes to God. He has power over everything, yet He grants us the free will to accept it or not. Many people find this to be a stumbling block because they wish to retain power. But once a person experiences the power of God, they soon fall to their knees in awe, and their response is prayer. They discover a new purpose–letting go and letting God. They learn freedom is bliss inside boundaries. They are no longer tethered to the lie that they have to be in total control. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever. (Lord’s Prayer)

diego rosa- unsplash

Purpose – most of us at one time or another ask ourselves what our purpose is in life, or if life itself has a purpose. The answer is found in our relationship with God. Job knew this even after he went through more calamities than a person should ever have to experience. He said, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2). The Christian has two purposes, which Jesus stated all else rests upon–Love God, love neighbor. (Matthew 27:37-40). Neither is easily accomplished without the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives, giving it purpose.

The initial Scriptural quote from Exodus is concerning Pharoah and his hardened heart. I chose it as an encouragement. God has a purpose for everything and everyone. He used Pharoah to show His power not out of some ego stunt but to show His people, the Hebrews, that He was with them and would not forsake them. It was also to show Pharoah that he was not a god. His power was limited.

Today there is pesecution in ways we have never experienced, and some say it will only get worse. Society will conintue to crumble into chaos, morals will keep declining, and life will be further devaluated.

Fear not. God has the power and a purpose. We can seek that and receive it through prayer, bringing power and purpose to our lives and those of others.

For more information, consider getting P.R.A.Y.I.N.G: Bringing more Power and Purpose to Your Prayers

HOPE 2

Two years ago I wrote on hope seeing it as:

H – Holding

O – Onto

P – Promised

E – Eternity

Many people choose a word for the new year, and for the past several years ago I have as well. Last year it was grateful, and through this pandemic, being grateful for my blessings was something I leaned upon a great deal to stay faithful and positive.

This year God placed the word HOPE on my heart. I’ll be honest, that made me a bit nervous. Then I recalled my little formula.

Hope is more than wishing. The dictionary says it is to “expect with confidence.” When you and I hold onto the promises of the eternal, then it produces hope. God keeps His promises. He has in the past and He will continue to do so. As I often say, He is there and He cares.

Whatever happens in 2021, I know this to be true and I can cling to it. This is not my home, and this life is not all there is. There is an eternity waiting for me. An existence basking in the love of God, praising the Lamb for His sacrifice, and never experiencing pain, grief, illness, or rejection again.

A social media post asks if it bothers you that this year is saying “2020-won”? No, because God wins. Each and every time. That is a hope we can cling to.

David wrote , Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24. That is my prayer for you, no matter what this year brings.

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews stressed: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we possess, for He who promised is faithful. (10:23).

Join me in holding onto the promises of God in hope – unswerving, steady, expectant confidence that He has got this. As Paul said, nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:39). Nothing can snatch us from His hands. Nothing. Not a virus, a secular angry society, an unexpected illness, a job loss, an unfaithful spouse, or the heartbreak of a wayward child.

Amen and amen.

What Gift?

This time of year many of our minds are on gifts. What are we going to give Uncle George who is so hard to shop for? What about our grown kids? Our coworkers? Our pastors or ministry teams? How much should we spend? Should we bake cookies and treats to give neighbors or is that against the new social distancing rules?

And when someone asks us what gift we want this Christmas, what should we tell them?

This year, I want to ask you what I have been asking myself. What will I give Jesus this year?

After all, it is His birthday.

The magi brought Him gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh.  According to the song. the little drummer boy brought him his talent by playing Jesus a song on his drum. And the baby Jesus smiled when he did. If anyone has heard a child play an instrument, they can relate. It may not have been the most amazingly executed tune they’ve heard, but the heart, the enthusiasm, and the intent on pleasing are there in every note. Who could but smile?

According to Romans 12:6, We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.  

God has gifted us with amazing things – forgiveness, eternal life in His presence, and a love that brings peace beyond understanding. These are all wrapped up in the birth and sacrifice of His Son, who was born to die so we may live.

And through His Holy Spirit Jesus gifted us with gifts of the Spirit so we can live in this world without despairing, draw others to Him, and give Him the glory.  And He has graced you with a talent that can be used to His glory. Be it the ability to write, to calculate, to invent, to make money, to speak and inspire, to sing, or perhaps to play the drum.

Everything you have is a gift from God in one way or another.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

So what can we give the One who has everything?

Ourselves is the obvious answer. But what part of ourselves will we particularly give Him in 2020? Our best? He has that already. 

Why not pledge to give God something He can use? 

  • Our tendency to be anxious instead of trusting?
  • Our quick-to-judge character that dams up our ability to love and empathize?
  • The temper that blocks us from opening our hearts?
  • The doubts and fears that stop up our ability to give thanks in all circumstances?

Strange gifts perhaps. But if we give God our shortcomings, He can turn them into blessings for us and others. When we give of ourselves, it is the gift that keeps on giving once it is in Jesus’s nail-scarred hands. Because once we give our doubts, fears, anger, and prejudices to Him they are no longer in our possession. He can then do amazing things with them while He gives us comfort, joy, peace, and a loving heart instead. That will attract us, believers, to people and people to us.

Let us lay at His feet one of the things we need to work on in our character that keep us from being Christ-like and watch what He can do with it in 2021.

Christmas blessings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boundaries


It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth… Psalm 74:17

Guinea pigs are smart…most of the time. They are cave dwellers in the wild so they have developed a natural fear of edges. They learn quickly to live within their boundaries.

Mine has set boundaries outside of his cage. Every evening, I lay down an old beach towel and let him romp on my couch for an hour or so as I watch a mystery on TV. He hops, skips, waddles, and chortles…but when he comes near the edge, he halts. Usually.

One night, I got up to get a drink of water and told him to stay put. Instead, he “followed me”– right off the edge. I heard a thump and then saw a black and white streak dashing under the nearest piece of furniture (a cave) to cower. I rushed to gather him, but he became so frightened he hesitated to come to me. Finally, I was able to scoop him up and hold him until his tiny heartbeat settled. Then I placed him back in his cage and he skittered into his house. Safe and sound.

He learned his lesson, though. The next night, when he got within an inch of the edge of the sofa and ottoman, he squeaked and ran to crawl up in my lap. My heart melted as I cuddled and calmed him.

You see where this is headed, right? 2020 has been a year of setting new boundaries for most of us, forced by a nasty contagious virus that has spread globally. Many do not like the restrictions and rules. I don’t blame them, I don’t care for them either.

But we have always had boundaries. Our laws give us the freedom to move within the realms of society. God’s commandments give us hedges of protection and guidance for behavior. Not obeying the rules has some unpleasant consequences.

But, sometimes we like to live on the edge. Perhaps we are tempted to ignore the rules and follow someone or something, even if it goes against our grain. Always a dangerous thing lest we fall into trouble.

But here is the good news. God is there to pick us up and place us back in the comfort of His realm of safety. His lap is always available for one more person to crawl into for comfort. He is our security, our strength, and shelter. Always.

Praise God for the boundaries He sets, and for his boundless love.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

Immunotherapy

Allergies. Annoying. Postnasal drip, persistent cough, pressure around the teary eyes. I have been under immunotherapy for 6 months where the allergist injects into my body the things that irritate my body, slowing increase the amount, so I will build up an immunity to them. So far, it has only made my symptoms worse and my body wants to reject them even more. The allergist says it is part of the process and eventually my body will accept these irritants.

It seems this world wants us to undergo spiritual immunotherapy. Slowly our minds are injected with a viewpoint that initially the Holy Spirit in us would scream, “Reject!” Little by little, we are exposed over and over again to the things that prick our conscience. They get under our skin. Everywhere we look, acceptance is promoted.

Eventually, we can begin to get used to it as semi-normal. Seeing or hearing about these activities and opinions does not cause the adverse reaction they once did. We look the other way. After all, we are not to judge, right? It is a lifestyle, and if they have found love and happiness, is that so bad? There is too much hate in the world as it is.

A wise minister once said that Jesus loves us where we are, but too much to leave us there. God is there. And He cares.

We have all fallen short. We all sin. But, that means we all must be drawn to repentance of the sin, not acceptance. While we can love the sinner, and we should in order to help them, let us not become immune to the sin no matter what it is.

They say that sin always has “I” in the middle. The “I” doesn’t mean immunotherapy. It means looking inwardly at oneself. If that does not spur a need for repentance then that “I” is the issue. I am just born this way. It is who I am, accept me anyway. I don’t want to change.

The only cure is to replace the “I” with an “O” – let the sin be changed by the Son. He alone can encourage each of us to omit sin from our lives. But each of us can help open hearts to His ways by refusing to become immune to sin and yet still loving the person anyway. That takes strength from the Holy Spirit. And it takes time.

Maybe if we worked more to eliminate sin in our society rather than build up an immunity to it we could all breathe a bit easier. 

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-3

 

 

Come to Me

“Let them come to me for refuge; let them make peace with me… ” Isaiah 27:5

Training pets takes patience, time, and tenacity. I’ve had my little guinea pig for about five months now. At first, he was so afraid of this giant outside of his cage but slowly he has come to trust me as the person who opens his bag of food to scoop some into his bowl or reaches in the refrigerator to bring him veggies. But, I am also the one who disturbs him when I have to clean out his cage. Sometimes I turn on this loud box with flashing pictures and weird sounds in the evening. And I use this noisy machine with a light in front of it and run it back and forth across the carpet.

Several times a week I lay an old beach towel down on the sofa and let him wander around on it as I sit at one end. Usually, I lay down a snack for him as well. He has slowly started to come to me on his own, cuddling next to my hip and giving off soft guinea pig chortles. But only for a few seconds, then he’d skitter away. After a few minutes, he’d return, but the cautious pattern continued.

Last night an amazing thing happened. He stopped, crawled into my lap, up my torso, and licked my face. That is guinea pig for “I love you and want to be near you.” Then he nestled in my neck.

My heart melted.

I thought how similar our sweet Lord must feel when we finally come to Him on our own accord. How many of us cower, afraid to near His throne, even though through Christ we can have that privilege. He seems so big, so mighty, and His ways are not ours. He does things we do not understand. But slowly, as we realize He provides out of love and cares for us, we begin to trust Him more and more. We learn to draw near and rest in His presence for comfort and safety.

Unlike my domesticated guinea pig, we humans can forge out a living on our own. We can get our own food, build our own houses, choose our environment. We don’t need God…or so we think. What a day of rejoicing in Heaven it must be when one of us finally decides to trust our Master enough to crawl up from our situation and reach out to Him then whisper, “I love you and want to be near you.” Let us not then skitter away.

 

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