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 God like Santa Claus just 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.

Pushing the Darkness Away

Wow, this is a dark time in our country, isn’t it?

Disrespect, discord, distrust, disgruntled, discrimination, discontented, discouraged. The ‘dis-es’ are one of the biggest pandemics infecting our culture today.

Do you find it hard not to get sucked into the darkness?

I do.

Until…

I look to the Light.

Love, peace, forgiveness and strength come from the Light and his name is Jesus. When I focus on Jesus, the darkness fades away.

Have you tried this when the darkness overwhelms you?

There are times that I forget darkness is not the opposite of light, it is the absence of light. When I let the Light of the World fill my mind and heart, the darkness is pushed away. ” When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

It can be very hard to focus on Jesus in the blackest part of the night when worries and fear creep in.  For many years, when my thoughts became anxious in the middle of the night, I would talk with my Father God.  Eventually I started to find myself thinking about all of the ‘bad stuff’ instead of praying about it and the night would gradually become darker and heavier on my soul.

Recently, I have begun to fill my mind with praise songs when the negative thoughts start and the darkness threatens. Remember – darkness is the absence of light. When I let the words and the melodies of some of my favorite praise songs repeat over and over in my mind, my brain becomes filled with the Light. It doesn’t take very long before my fears and concerns are replaced by reminders of Jesus’ love and care for me. He brings peace and security…..

and sleep.

Go ahead and try it.

His Light shines in the darkness.

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.

The first was 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 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 I had never committed to the narrow road of making Jesus Lord of my life. Floating in the pool that day, I knew 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!

Once I knew the Truth and made him my top priority, 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. There is no turning back.

Amen and Amen

 

The Wind Was Against Them

Sometimes it feels like everything is going against us, doesn’t it?

Our kids get sick.

Then the car breaks down.

Our boss starts driving us crazy.

Our bank balance gets down to a single digit.

And the refrigerator is empty….again.

We worry.

We struggle.

We stress.

We forget.

You and I forget that we have the Spirit of the Lord of the Universe living inside of us when we have put our faith in him.  He has the power to handle all of our problems.  When we turn to him, he can help us stop worrying, stop struggling and stop stressing.

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This truth became more real to me 8 years ago when I had the chance to visit the Sea of Galilee.  As we sailed over the water, the wind suddenly picked up, whipping through the boat and making it cold – not such a great afternoon to be out on the lake. I thought about the stormy night when the disciples were straining at the oars of their boat while the winds of a storm on the sea of Galilee battled against them. 

I could visualize Jesus as the water obeyed him and he walked on it out to the disciple’s boat. The reality of the power of Jesus became even more evident to me that day.  Jesus really is in control of everything.  He really does command the sea and the winds and everything around me.

I find that I am a lot like Peter who stepped out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the water and was doing great until he took his eyes off of Jesus and focused on the storm around him.  Then he started to sink just like I start to sink into worry and into anxiousness when I take my eyes off of Jesus.

Just like he did with Peter, Jesus reaches out his hand to me when I start to sink during the storms in my life and says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”  (Matt 14:31)  Then we climb into the boat together.  I am safe.  Secure. Forgiven.  Loved.

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Why do I doubt?

I have nothing to fear.  I have nothing to worry about.

There is no wind blowing against me that Jesus does not control and he loves me enough to sacrifice himself for me.

That says it all. 

 I just need to have faith and

keep my eyes on Jesus.

Look at the Birds

It’s hard not to be anxious about our world today.  We have a list of huge issues which continue to grow around us – politics, the economy, mental illness, our education system – just to name a few.

Most of these things we can’t do anything about.  They are out of our control.

So we worry.

Jesus tells us today in Matthew 10 to look at the birds.  “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside of your Father’s care. And even the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” verses 29-31.

Yes, I am more valuable.

So are you.

We are created in the image of God.  We are the best part of his creation.

I know God cares for me much more than the birds.  So what do I need to worry about? I’m leaving all of my fear and concerns at my Father’s feet.  He’s got this.

Look at the birds.

Why would my stomach get tied up in knots about politics and the election?  God’s in control.

Look at the birds.

God provides everything I need.  If I worry about the economy, this just indicates I need to grow my trust in God.

Look at the birds.

The only wise and logical response when I feel anxiousness growing about issues like the mental health crisis and all the other scary stuff going on is to pray about it and be confident that God is working all things out for the good of those who love him.  He promised – it’s true.

Look at the birds.

Jesus says to you and me today, “Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matt 6:27)

No.  The answer is obvious.  Worrying and anxiety are a waste of time and energy.  Let’s use this time and energy loving God and loving people.  If you ever start to forget how much God cares for you –

Look at the birds.

Thank you, Abba Father.

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 6 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.

Not When We Expect It

I don’t understand.

While talking to the disciples about his departure from earth and his return in the future,  Jesus says, ” But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven nor the Son, only the Father” (Mark 13:32)

Jesus is admitting he doesn’t know when he’s coming back.

Jesus also tells us that we should always be ready for his return, “because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matt 24:44)

Always be ready.

He will come back when we don’t expect him.

So why are so many people spending so much time and energy trying to drill down Revelations into a list of events so they can predict the second coming of Jesus?  I don’t get it.  Jesus said only the Father needed to know and he said we wouldn’t be expecting him when it happens.  Are we just ignoring these scriptures?

It’s obvious to me God has not made it clear when Jesus is coming back on purpose and he is telling us whatever prediction we make is going to be wrong.

I get it that we’d like to know when the end of the world is coming.  There were people in the New Testament that stopped working because they thought Jesus was coming back in their lifetime.  That was over 2000 years ago and it hasn’t happened yet.  And we’re still doing it today – predicting that it will happen in our lifetime.

I’ve decided  I need to be ready every day for Jesus’ return but my focus needs to remain on loving God and loving people.  That’s my purpose for still being here.  I have a responsibility to share the love and grace of God with those who haven’t put their faith in him yet.  I won’t be doing that if I’m spending my time trying to predict the end of the world.

I’m starting to think that all of this ‘end of the world’ stuff is just another strategy of the Evil One.  He’ll do anything to distract us from loving God and loving others.

Let’s not go there.

My eyes are on you, Father God.

The Way

The Way we should begin our day.

The Way we should end our day.

The Way we should live our lives.

In Acts 19 we are told that people were starting to call Christianity ‘The Way’.

I like it!our-treasure-map

The Way to love.

The Way to joy.

The Way to find purpose, our path, the direction we should go.

The Way to what we’re all looking for.

Unfortunately, we can be easily distracted and lose our Way.  Do you ever get distracted?  Probably a better question is – when was the last time you got distracted and lost your way?

Have you found yourself thinking that ‘stuff’ will make you happy?  And you became obsessed with ‘more’?  I have.

Or we start thinking that a person will make us happy – a new boyfriend because the current one doesn’t know how to make us happy, a new wife because the current one isn’t making us happy, a new church because the pastor in our current one isn’t making us happy.

We can get lost in thinking our job or career should be making us happy so we spend too much time there trying to be successful and ‘happy’.  Maybe one more raise or promotion will do it?

It’s easy to get lost in all the ways we see others searching for happiness.  I made a bunch of mistakes myself going down the wrong roads, looking in all the wrong places but never finding ‘The Way”.

Until I focused on my personal relationship with God.

Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37

It’s The Way.

They Could Not Be Stopped

They were cursed.

They were threatened.

They were hunted.

They were jailed.

They were whipped and beaten.

They were killed.

But they could not be stopped.

Gamaliel advised the religious leaders in Acts 5 – “Therefore, in the present case, I advise you: leave these men alone!  Let them go!  For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.  But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” vs 38-39.

The verdict is in.jesus-was-not-of-human-origin

Jesus was not of human origin.  His Great Commission for his disciples – then and now – to go into all the world and preach the Gospel making new disciples was not of human origin.

When they tried to stop the Good News of Jesus from spreading, the Pharisees found themselves fighting against God.  You know how well that worked.

How many believers are there in the world?  How many churches?

How many Bibles do you have in your house?

God was not stopped…..

and he will not be stopped.

We know the end of this story.

We love you, Abba Father.

With Jesus

They were unschooled, ordinary men.

But the religious leaders were astonished as Peter and John stood in front of them, telling them what they knew about Jesus.  These fishermen were eloquent and compelling.  They were passionate and knowledgeable.

It was clear to those listening to Peter and John that these men had been with Jesus  –

and Jesus had transformed them.  Something was significantly different about Peter and John.

* Jesus had redeemed their lives from sin and death and given them the power of the Holy Spirit who was now living inside of them.

* They spoke with authority about their personal experiences with Jesus.

* They had courage beyond that of a normal person.

The religious leaders didn’t know what to say or do so they let Peter and John go with a warning not to speak of Jesus again.

“But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you or to him?  You be the judges!  As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”  Acts 4: 19-20.

Brave.

Committed.

Not intimidated by the those in positions of power.

Nothing was going to stop Peter and John from sharing their personal experience with Jesus.  We know the truth about Jesus today because they did not stop talking about what they had seen and heard.

Dear Father, Please help us be as brave and committed as Peter and John with sharing what we know about Jesus.