Sifted

What does it mean to be sifted?

Ash is sifted to find anything important or useful in it.  Wheat is sifted so the unusable chaff is separated from the valuable grains.

I know what it feels like to be sifted. My world shook when my son, David Glasser, who was Phoenix Police Officer was shot and killed in the line of duty on May 18, 2016. My life crumbled. All of my hopes and dreams for him were stripped away. His future completely disappeared, leaving gaping holes full of hurt in my world.

What was left?

I had to dig deep…..

very deep,

into my faith and what I knew to be true in order to stay standing in the middle of the devastation.

Harsh sifting.

So Jesus’ words to Peter in Luke 22 stop me.  “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat.  But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail.  So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” vs 31-32.

Satan asked to sift the disciples – this is not the first time I have read this but it’s the first time it has sunk in.  Satan knew that Jesus expected the disciples to share the Great News of salvation to world so the disciples became a pivotal target for Satan.

Jesus knew that Peter would deny him three times in one night.  Major sifting.  So Jesus was encouraging Peter that his faith could not only withstand the shaking it was going to get, it was going to become stronger.  Through this experience of denying Jesus, then repenting and turning back to him, Peter would be more prepared to help strengthen his brothers.

I have learned there is purpose in the pain when I let God control what happens next.  God can make good come from evil – he did it in my life. My prayer is that my sharing this with you will help you turn to God when you are being sifted so your faith and trust in him will be strengthened.

Thank you for your truth, Abba Father.

All In

Have you been keeping your distance from Jesus? Do you believe he is the Son of God but you just don’t want to get too close? You don’t want to go ‘all in’? You don’t want to have to give up things you enjoy?

Many of us are like Zacchaeus. When he found out that Jesus was coming, he really wanted to see Jesus so he ran ahead and climbed into a tree to get over the heads of the crowd. He didn’t fight through the crowd so he could get close to Jesus. He kept his distance.

But that’s not how it works with Jesus. When he saw Zacchaeus, Jesus looked right at him and said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly, ” Luke 19:5 Getting close to Jesus changed Zacchaeus’ life forever.

And that is what we need to do if we want to experience the love and joy of a relationship with Jesus. We need to get up front and personal with him. Get out of our trees. Get out of our old habits and traditions.

The only way to genuinely know Jesus is to go ‘all in’.

That’s my story. I had a close relationship with Jesus as a child but wandered as a young adult. Then I came back to church but stayed on the sidelines – enjoying the benefits of a spiritual family but not taking my relationship with God too seriously.

I knew I was on the right track but inside I was miserable and empty. When God challenged me to put him first in my life, I felt I had nothing to lose so I went for it. That’s when I found the love, grace, joy peace and purpose I was looking for. It was almost immediate.

I didn’t have to give up things I liked. I took some things out of my life because I didn’t want them anymore. The things I like have gradually changed the closer I’ve gotten to God.

And the closer to God I get, the easier it is to hear him speak and see him move. It just keeps getting better.

If you’ve been been keeping your distance from Jesus,

you have no idea what you are missing.

God is challenging you today to go ‘all in’.

How Much More

She knocked….

and knocked……

and knocked….

on the door of an unjust judge.  Until he gave in and gave her justice.

How much more will my Father God, who loves me, give me when I ask?

How much more does he have waiting for you when you pray and never give up?

Understanding parable of the Persistent Widow in God’s Word and applying it to my situations changed my life. Jesus tells the story about a widow looking for justice and knocking on on the door of the unjust judge – over and over and over – until he decided to give it to her just to get rid of her. “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you , he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” Luke 18: 7-8.

Several times Jesus addressed this same topic. One of my favorites – “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Luke 11: 9 -10.

This is my answer. When I’m stuck, when I’m frustrated, when I have no idea what to do – go to God and keep asking until I get an answer.

Now, I know.  When I’m in those situations, I remember the Persistent widow and it reminds me that God has all of the right answers.

I just need to ask.  And keep asking.  And keep asking.

I ask knowing he will answer.  I ask knowing that he will guide me in the next step.  I ask knowing that he has determined the right path for my life.  I ask because I know he has chosen me and he has great plans for me.

As I persist in seeking God…

asking….

believing….

knowing….

he always answers.  Always.  Because he loves me and only wants the best for me.

When I have something big going on – something scary – something overwhelming….I pray.

And I keep praying.

I have had some very memorable days in my life which started in despair and fear and confusion but ended in peace with a plan and a smile because God answered my 200+ prayers that day.  Often I started the day asking for something specific that he didn’t want to give me. By the end of the day, he hadn’t changed my circumstances.  He changed my thinking, my perspective and my goal.  He reminded me that he is in control.

When I persist in turning to God for wisdom, direction and strength he gives me all that I need and so much more.

Thank you, Abba Father.

I want to be…

like the Samaritan Leper.

Jesus healed 10 lepers and “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.  He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan.”  Luke 17: 15 – 16.  Jesus healed the whole group of lepers and this man was the only one that came back to say thank you.

Jesus had redeemed the leper’s life from pain and death.  And the leper made an effort to show his gratitude for what Jesus had done for him.

Jesus has done the same thing for me.   He redeemed me from hopelessness, death and eternal separation from the only source of good things in this universe – our Father God.

After reading this passage many years, ago, I decided to start all of my prayers with thanking God for who he is and what he has done for me.  I still do this today and I find it puts me in the right mindset to have great conversations with God.  He has already done so much for me – lavishing his love on me, forgiving my rebellion and self-centeredness, pouring his blessings down on me, giving me purpose and peace…..I could go on.  So starting every prayer with ‘thank you’ helps me avoid the trap of treating him like Santa Claus and going down my list of ‘prayer requests’.

For the rest of my life here on this planet, I will be like the leper who came back to say ‘thank you’.  I will live my life in gratitude to God.

Thank you, Abba Father.

It Breaks Through

So much noise.

Too much information.

Bombarded by distractions….

and then God’s voice breaks through.

Clear.

Strong…..

making more sense than all the chaos around me.

One of my favorite images of God comes from the story that Jesus tells us in the 10th chapter of John about the Good Shepherd.  “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them on.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”  John 10:3-4.

I recognize his voice.  How?

It’s simple but not easy.  After reading the entire Bible 10 times, I know when God is speaking to me because he is speaking his words – the words I have read over and over.  I recognize his truth because I have seriously studied the Bible for over 30 years.  I’m not a pastor or a theologian.  I’m just an average person who really wants to hear God and know the truth.

I have been asked, “How do you know it’s God and not just your own voice telling you what you want to hear?”  When what I hear lines up with what I’ve read and studied in God’s word, I have no doubt that it’s his voice.  He often brings scripture into my mind that answer questions I have.  Many times God tells me something I’ve never thought of or even wanted – then I definitely know it’s him.

Important point – messages from God will be consistent with more than just one verse in the Bible.  The only way to really know it is from God is that it lines up with what God says about this topic over the entire Bible.

One verse can steer me in the wrong direction.  One or two verses taken out of context can tell us lies – nothing close to what God really meant.

Be very careful with the ‘life verse’ concept.  The only way that works is if you understand what God says regarding the topics in that verse through the entire Bible.  Otherwise, it can be a shortcut that takes you down a dark path – a path where you hear what you want to hear because you are not recognizing his voice.

The closer I get to God, the easier it is to hear his voice.

Thank you for being my good shepherd, Abba Father.

No Turning Back

Have you experienced a time in your life when you realized there was no turning back? You were on a path that you were going to be on for the rest of your life?

Did it feel like you were driving a stake into the ground declaring your commitment to this journey – no matter what?

I have felt that way three times in my life.

Once when I got married, the second time was when I became a mom and the third was when I put God at the top of the list of priorities for my life.

The first time was marked by a wedding celebration with friends and family. The second one included baby showers, a highly anticipated trip to the hospital, and the unbelievable joy of bringing our tiny son home for the first time.

The third time happened about 30 years ago when I was floating on an air mattress in my backyard pool all by myself listening to praise songs. As I sang along to words of the praise songs, I realized there was no turning back from giving my whole life to Christ. I had been a believer all my life but had never fully committed to following Jesus. But now I knew that Jesus was the only answer – he was everything I was looking for. There was nothing in life that was more important. There was nowhere else for me to go.

This memory echoes in my mind as I read the conversation Jesus had with Peter when some of his disciples were turning back and leaving him. “You do not want to leave, too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:67-69.

Good answer, Peter!

There is no turning back. Once I knew the Truth, the Truth set me free from looking any farther.

I’ve found the Light.

I’ve found the Way.

I’ve found the Life.

This relationship extends into eternity. There is nothing else I need.

Amen and Amen

 

My Fears

What am I afraid of?

What are you afraid of?

This world can be a very scary place with evil lurking around every corner.  The worst can happen in an instant –

I’ve been there.  It’s indescribably shocking and painful.

So it seems logical that you and I would be afraid….. until we read what Jesus says to his disciples in Matthew 8, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” vs 26.

Wow!  Jesus directly correlates the fact that they are afraid to how much faith they have.  He is saying the same thing to you and I today.  Through his Word, God is telling us that our fears mean we’re not trusting him.

After thinking about this for a while, I have accepted that this is very true for me.  When I am worried, I am not trusting God.  The amount of my fear is a clear indication of the lack of my faith because I know God is in control.  He has a plan and purpose.  There is nothing that happens to me that has not gone through his hands.

So what am I afraid of?

My worst fear – that something bad would happen to one of my children – has already come true for both of them.  My daughter got cancer and my son was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty 5 years ago.

What a huge waste of time and effort fear is!  It didn’t change anything that has happened to them or to me.

God has used these difficult experiences to teach me many things.  One of them is to lay my worries and fears at God’s feet and leave them there.  He is the only one who can do anything about them.  The question is not ‘if’ something bad is going to happen to me again, the question is ‘when’.  My faith in God’s goodness has grown to the point that I’m prepared for the next struggle, not fearful.

It’s a fact that God loves me and wants the best for me.  He is faithful to walk beside me when bad things happen, giving me strength and helping me grow my trust in him.

Jesus said it thousands of years ago and it’s still true today – fear comes from a lack of faith.

Do It!

Do you have questions about what God wants you to do?

Do you have various options but you aren’t sure which one is the right one?

One of the huge benefits of faithfully reading God’s Word is how clearly God answers these questions for me. God is constantly pointing out my priorities.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mathew 22: 36-39.

These are the top two. I need to do these – all day, every day.

Earlier in Matthew, Jesus has some more clear directions to those of us who have put our faith in him.

“You are the salt of the earth.” Matthew 5:13.

“You are the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14.

How am I supposed to be light? Our dark world needs a lot of light, doesn’t it? I am Christ’s hands and feet on this earth. When I share his love and acceptance, I am spreading his light. When my life and attitude are different in a positive way from the darkness that is quickly spreading across our country, my life shines for Christ.

How am I supposed to be salt? I need to be engaged in my culture, sprinkling God’s love over the people around me. When I’m living my faith out loud I bring the flavor of Christ – his caring, forgiveness and truth – with me where ever I go.

When I have options and choices, these scriptures help me decide. Which option helps me show my love for God and love other’s the most? What choice is the best in making my life salt and light in my corner of this earth?

What about you? What does it mean to you when Jesus says you are the salt and light of the world?

He challenging us – are we accepting that challenge?

There is no time better than today to do it!

Please light up our paths, Abba Father, and guide our steps.

Do You Want to Get Well?

Is anybody feeling sick?

Lonely?

Angry?

Confused?

Empty?

Sad?

Stuck in a dark place?

I have been in all of these situations.

When Jesus says, “Do you want to get well?” to the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda, I can relate. (John 5:6 ) Several different times in my life I have needed healing. A couple of times I needed physical healing but more often it was mental, emotional or spiritual healing.  So I asked and Jesus healed me. (this picture is from my visit to the ruins of the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem over 7 years ago.) 

Don’t get me wrong, I still have some physical issues like compressed disks in my neck.  God must have a different plan for those because, no matter how many doctors I see and how many times I have asked, God has not healed them.

Looking back, I can see that Jesus has been in the process of healing my spiritual, mental and emotional issues ever since I put him first in my life.  One step at a time. 

Perseverance in running this race of faith is the key – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Most of the time, growing in my faith has been a slow process – baby steps. But once in awhile God throws in some of his special ‘magic’ where he opens my eyes to something big – I call those epiphanies.  I will have a sudden deeper understanding of a significant truth or God will show me how he is already working out something in my life.  That’s always an exciting experience!

Anytime I feel lonely, unhappy, angry, confused, empty or stuck, I know I need to spend some significant time with God.  He reorganizes my thoughts, straightens out my emotions and calms my soul.

Sounds like healing, doesn’t it?

Thank you, Abba Father.

Real Friends

I need real friends.

You need real friends.

Real friends are people who care about us, easily forgive us and want the best for us.  They are the people in our lives who cheer us on in the good times and listen well with extra tissues ready during the bad times.

I am fortunate enough to have several real friends in my life.

These friends love me enough to speak up if I’m getting off track.  They hold me accountable for behavior that is not good for me.  They subtly (and not so subtly) ask questions about my choices when my behavior is not going to help me reach the goals they know I want to achieve.  They love me enough to speak truth into my life at the right time.

These friends also have shared this journey of faith with me.  They have walked beside me as, together, we experience the transforming power of God in our lives.  They continue to encourage me as God molds me into the person he created me to be and they celebrate with me when I find victory in my life through my relationship with God.

They help bring me to Jesus.

This is just like the four men who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus.  Their friend couldn’t move, so his four friends carried him around on a mat.  They heard that this man, Jesus, was healing people – even paralyzed people – so they were determined to get their friend to Jesus.

You might think they would have been discouraged when they arrived and saw the huge crowd of people around the house that Jesus was in.  They didn’t care – this was their friend and this was going to happen….today…..right now.

So they carried their friend on his mat up to the top of the house and dug a hole in the roof right over Jesus’ head.  Then they lowered the mat down in front of Jesus.

Seeing the faith of his friends, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ” Stand up, pick up your mat and go home.”

“And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat and walked through the stunned onlookers.”  (Mark 2: 11-12)

Jesus honored the faith of this man’s friends and healed him by the touch of his hand.

I know I have friends who need to get to Jesus.

Do you?

Are we good enough friends to help them get close enough to be touched by our Savior?

Please help us be real friends, Abba Father.