What Does One Have To Do With The Other?

January 9, 2020

Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you.  Hebrews 13:5

 These two separate concepts are familiar to me.  Being free from the love of money and God never leaving nor forsaking us.  But why are they connected here?  How does the comfort of God never leaving me enable me to be satisfied with what I have?

The answer is not given in this text.  It’s the kind of dilemma I love – finding connections and trails – working out the mysteries of the kingdom.  I’ve been pondering this for a day and a half now.  I woke up early and God showed me how it applies to my own heart.  Perhaps yours as well.

I asked myself these questions.  Why am I drawn to money?  Why do I feel good when I have stuff and deprived when I don’t?  It’s because material things provide a kind of significance and security.  They fill an emptiness inside, at least temporarily, until I feel I must have more to stay full. The problem is ~ the emptiness is there to be satiated by God, not money.   And because God promises to never leave me, the void that feels so threatening never need stare me in the face.  Jesus completes me.  His love fills up my soul.  I feel rich beyond measure and the need to accumulate what are mere trinkets (according to C.S. Lewis) is put into perspective.

What did this message mean to the Jewish people who received it?  They were literally losing everything under the oppressive boots of persecution.  Homes were destroyed or confiscated.  Food was scarce. Provisions were not certainties but luxuries.  As they watched their material world dissipate, this message of hope hit them hard.  They may be wanting in this world but Christ will always be with them, filling them up with Himself.  He is the treasure that addressed their wants and with their eyes on Him, they could live in plenty, or in want, and not be shaken.

Whether we sit in palaces or in a 900 square foot apartment, our souls can be filled.  The poor who have Jesus can perfectly fellowship with the rich who have Jesus.  Our eyes are not on bank accounts but on the eternal treasures of which Jesus is supreme.

Food and shelter, even beautiful things.  I, once again, put it in perspective. Amen

Healing From The Scars of a Dirty Word

January 8, 2020

Let marriage be held in honor among all . . . Hebrews 13:4a

To hold marriage in honor means to treat it as precious.  And it is!  God created it to give us an earthly picture of what His love is like.  Divine affection was such a priority that He instituted this earthly sacrament to make sure we get the message.

But if the experience of marriage has been, or is for you, deeply flawed, then you will have trouble thinking it honorable.  You will have an aversion to the topic and won’t even want to read this. There are good reasons why.

  • If your parents had a bad marriage, home was not a place you felt at peace. You lived on pins and needles and covered your ears to drown out the fights.
  • Or maybe it is your marriage that brings you pain of the deepest kind. You’re treated as God would never treat you. Daily, you pick up your battered soul and bring it to God with a big ‘why?’
  • Perhaps it is you who has failed in the marriage. You were unfaithful and have seen your infidelity worn on the face of your spouse.  The word marriage reminds you, even years later, of your failure and you live with a crippling sense of regret.

Marriage is, for most people, a dirty word.  How can I make such an outrageous claim?  By the statistics of divorce.  Through a lifetime of experiences in ministry where I’ve heard stories of people’s lives.  Most marriages are not happy.  So this begs the question?  How does a married person with scars get to a place where they consider marriage precious?  Is it possible?

Here’s how. Your earthly spouse doesn’t get to ultimately define what marriage is.  On earth, it has been perverted, pain has been inflicted, but Jesus is your bridegroom.  He is standing with open arms to welcome you to Perfect Love.  This Bridegroom shed His blood to pledge His love in covenant. There isn’t a moment when He regrets it or when He withholds His love. There isn’t a scar that His words won’t heal.  There isn’t a refusal that His welcoming embrace won’t erase.  Though our outward man feels the effects from the wounds of others, our inner man dines with Jesus and grows stronger each day.

If God’s love is evident in your marriage today, thank Him.  It is a work of grace.  But if God’s love is not evident in your home, know that your Bridegroom offers love, right now, when your spouse won’t give it. If you’re languishing in matrimony, remember – you’re married to another.  Savor Him and live.  The wedding feast is being prepared and His love heals all scars, starting now.

You heal the sores of earth, Jesus.  Amen

Was It An Angel?

January 7, 2020

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

There have been a few times in my life where I wondered if I had had an encounter with an angel.  One of them, however, stands out as a certainty.

Nearly ten years ago, I was driving by myself on a two-lane road in north Georgia.  It was early in the morning and I was on my way to a speaking event several hours away.  I saw a young man walking on the side of the road carrying a child in his arms.  It struck me as unusual as this was quite remote in its setting.  In my spirit, I thought I heard the Lord say, “Go back and offer this man and his child a ride.” Immediately, I questioned it.  I was a woman traveling by myself and the thought of picking up a strange man seemed reckless and potentially dangerous, even if he did have a baby.  But just days earlier, I had been asking God to teach me radical obedience.  If He spoke, I would obey.  So, after wrestling for a minute with this decision, I turned my car around.

Less than two minutes had passed.  When I reached the place where he should be, he was gone.  I checked and re-checked that mile-long corridor several times, driving back and forth, but he had simply vanished.  I looked for side roads that he might have taken, driveways, even some kind of pull off, but there were none.  He was gone.  I finally concluded that he had been an angel and this had been a test of obedience.

Obviously, I don’t advocate picking up strangers if you are driving alone.  Yet, God often asks us to do things outside the box.  He calls his children to mission work in dangerous places.  When God speaks, we go.

Entertaining angels doesn’t always involve feeding a stranger a meal.  It can take many forms.  But in each case, obedience is what prompts it and obedience is often our greatest test of faith.

I’m still such a novice.  Don’t let me miss an opportunity.  Amen

This Should Not Be Elementary

January 6, 2020

Continue in brotherly love.  Hebrews 13:1

God’s love is inclusive.  Mine is often not.  God’s love is instinctive, and He is quick to extend affection.  I do not love by default and often contemplate whether or not love will be demonstrated.  While ‘love one another’ sounds like an elementary message as I begin the last chapter of Hebrews, it is complicated.

This letter was written to the Jewish people who struggled to include the Gentiles in their circles.  They had understood for centuries that they were God’s chosen people and now they were being called to embrace ‘foreigners’ as fellow disciples of Christ. Treating them as brothers was difficult.  Perhaps they considered each one an add on instead of an equal.  The offense was large enough that the author of this letter to the Hebrews included this strong reminder.

If you’ve ever moved and joined a church, you remember how it felt to be a newcomer.  You came up against the old guard, perhaps, and knew that your opinions and votes didn’t matter yet.  You hadn’t put in your time.  You might have felt that the old timers were cliquish and slow to accept you.   While it shouldn’t be like this, it is.  Flawed humanity makes up the family of God.  The message in today’s scripture is clear.  We are all to continue in brotherly love.  Even to newcomers.

Biases are numerous.  They can exist in small towns as a certain resident is described as ‘someone from the wrong side of town.’  Already, love is compromised.  Biases can exist in families where marriages have crossed ethnic lines.  For the one who is different, there is nothing he can do to earn acceptance.  He is made to feel on the outside of family fellowship.  Within a region of a country, there can be prejudices.  The United States has deep fracture lines and they only seem to be getting worse as angry voices define our politics.

How readily do I embrace someone who is not like me?  Do I describe them to others with respect?  Or do I make fun of their culture?  Am I global in my vision for the spreading of the Gospel?  I need to rejoice when any unbeliever responds to the call of God’s Spirit, even those hostile to me, or my family, or my country, or to Christianity in general.  My love should not suffer.  Jonah’s did and without Holy Spirit help, mine will too.

I still love with strings attached.  Change me.  Amen

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  Genesis 1:2

Our earth originally had no order.  The darkness that is described is not a darkness void of light.  Darkness does not even mean evil.  It means original chaos where everything was undeveloped and non-functioning.  This negative threat of chaos though, was about to be overcome by the power of God’s Spirit.  Earth would never be the same once God touched it.  The chaotic would become orderly.  What was dead would begin to pulsate with stirrings of life.

There have often been segments of my life that I would have called chaotic.  Constantly swirling.  Even tormenting.  There appeared to be no answers.  A relationship was dysfunctional at every angle. Or, an event occurred which threw normalcy into confusion and it felt like I had absolutely no control.  In both kinds of situations, my mind worked overtime to try to make sense out of things so order could return.  Without order there was no peace.

What was the cure?  Where was peace to be found?  My chaos needed the hovering Spirit of God.  He awaited my invitation to come and, like a mother eagle, hover over my unordered and non-functioning world.  The words of God entered my chaos like sharp arrows of clarity; one after another until things began to become clear.  The hovering Spirit of God, ever my Teacher and Counselor, began to breathe over my life.

If a soil sample of our formless earth had been put under a microscope, there would have been no sign of life.  But when the Spirit of God came and hovered, the brown wilderness began to turn green.  Wherever the Spirit of God hovers, the landscape changes.

I make a hovering prayer part of my New Year.  Come to every situation, and person, that begs the breath of Your Spirit.  Transform my internal landscape.  Amen

The Wind

January 2, 2020

He walks upon the wings of the wind; He makes the winds His messengers, flaming fire His ministers. Psalm 104:3-4

I’m an over-achiever. I like to work hard and feel that I accomplished something. I enjoy stretching myself to learn new things. While none of these are bad traits, in ministry they can be dangerous. I can begin to believe that my efforts are what yield success. I would do well to remember that humans generate earthbound results. Only God gives rise to true spiritual outcomes.

Several years ago, I had a vivid dream.  I was mixing together three unlikely ingredients in a bowl to make something to eat.  Jesus was standing nearby so I asked Him about it. “What is this going to be, Lord?”  He answered, “It’s going to be manna for the people you’ll be feeding in my name.”  I was surprised because the ingredients were such that you’d never mix them together to create anything appetizing.  So I said, “But how will these three things produce something edible?  I don’t understand.” He laughed and replied, “The secret is in the wind.”

With that I felt a gentle breeze enter the room.  It blew over the ingredients and stirred them up so that they rose into the air to form a swirl before settling back into the bowl.  The Spirit had touched the common ingredients and transformed them into something supernatural.

Wind has always been a sign of God’s presence.  Wind and breath are often synonymous in scripture.  Jesus breathed on His disciples and filled them with a power beyond themselves.  No longer limited but Spirit filled, the Gospel message would spill out of their mouths with power and passion. Continents would never be the same as these ordinary men were transfigured into agents of heaven. Without impressive credentials, people would say of them, “We can tell they have been with Jesus.” The spiritual wind accompanied them. It disturbed the deep. The vast emptiness of people’s souls was filled with the Bread of Life.

God walks on the wind. He begs to be invited and is anxious to intersect today with the ordinary. He is passionate to alter the common things. He dreams of restoring what the Fall has eaten away. Where are you languishing? Why are you panting from self-effort to repair something in vain? The wind promises to blow across the carnage of our lives. We are meant to smell the aroma of Eden. Wherever the Spirit of God will hover today, the landscape will change. Transformation begins with an awareness of my great need.

Come, Holy Spirit, to my ordinary world.  Amen

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”  Matthew 7:24-25

The coast of Maine showcases many 100-year-old homes, some of them lighthouses. They are nestled securely in the cliffs that grace the shore.  They have withstood the test of time in spite of the many elements that battered them.  I’m sure the occupants have had some tense moments as hurricane force winds howled outside. But most likely, these homes never moved an inch.  Any damage was cosmetic.  Paint chipped, shingles flew away, and a window shattered.

My spirit can be that unmovable.  Neither a phone call nor any tragic news delivered to me has the capacity to uproot my connection to God and my belief in His love and sovereignty.  I am like that house, its foundation built into the immovable cliffs, and nothing rocks me off my foundation.

Stability comes from “hearing and doing”, Jesus says.  Just hearing the truth, making notes, and pondering profound words in the stillness of the day is not enough.  Words form suppositions – yet unproven.  Yet, I am often content to bask in good teaching and take pleasant head trips amidst interesting facts.  I take copious notes, expand and challenge my mind, and assume that I’ve grown.  Not true.

It is not until I test what I learned by putting it into practice that my new beliefs will be cemented into my spirit as truth.  I need to relax into them, knowing that I am testing them against the storms of real life.  Every time I trust them in the laboratory of experience, my foundation strengthens.

God is going to call each of us to new places in 2020.  He spent 2019 planting new seeds of truth in our spirits.  We might have thought that learning them was the point of it all.  But the real learning will come from future experiences when we take the seeds and sow them in the soil of what lies ahead.   I need never fear a new journey.  The truths are not untested hypotheses.  Because God spoke them, they are true.  I can also know that many before me have tested them and stood strong.  In this next decade, the Lord is my rock and my fortress.

Radical obedience for radical times.  For Your honor and glory.  Amen