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Our Outward Reverence

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 3:18

Holy Spirit, today as I stand looking into my closet in deciding what to wear today help me to not only have an inward Christ-like life but also an outward one so that I may completely glorify God in all I show the world. Amen”

I know it’s not fashionable or even politically correct these days to say things like, “the clothes make the man (or woman) but in the not too distant past this was understood as fact.  This well documented human behavior actually acknowledges a role in what our outward appearance says to the world.  You may think things have changed because of culture or “at home work” but human psychology is a pretty stubborn thing. Don’t take my word for it.  

“Through our clothing, we can send each other silent cues that signal to others how we expect them to treat us. This works because we tend to make very quick assessments of situations and people and put them into categories that we already understand. This cognitive shortcut, known as representative bias, saves us precious computational energy.” 

Sarah C. Newcomb Ph.D., Psychology Today

And in a 2012 study done through Northwestern University, researchers found that wearing certain clothes exerts influence through symbolic meaning.  So, when, as Christians, we leave the house each day do we ever consider what message we are sending out to our neighbors, the folks at the grocery store, at church or at the beach by our clothing choices?  That’s not to say we should be covered head to toe in some sort of hijab – the Bible doesn’t ask that of us women.  

“20 you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:20

Jesus wants us to present ourselves with honor in front of God.  That means we clean ourselves off and cover our private bits up.  When my youngest was home from college her last summer she wanted to find a modest one piece bathing suit.  Quite the change from her bikini days.  When asked why, she said she wanted to be more modestly dressed around her Christian boyfriend.  That’s the Holy Spirit work in a believer!  

Friend, when we leave our homes and go out into the world, we are God’s representatives.  And when we attend church, we should present our best as though receiving an audience in front of the king.  We glorify Him through our modesty of outward appearance and exuberance of inward love.

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A Bigger Kingdom

"Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him.  Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness."  1 Chronicles 16:29

“Holy LORD I am so grateful there is You.  You who are above all, above all kings and leaders.  Above my need to be ruler of my own kingdom.  Your Kingdom is full of the glory of your majesty and nothing, absolutely nothing is better than that!  Amen”

I kept hearing today about the glory of God’s kingdom, His presence being above all with nothing greater than Him.  Through songs, scripture and even the sermon from church.  “No one, no one, no one, no one but You LORD is higher or greater” is the song verse that happens to be playing right now as I write this. 

How often do we forget this?  We have our tiny kingdoms that we work so hard to protect and maybe even rule over.  Our schedules, our bills, our children, our stuff, our opinions – all things so much lowlier than what God’s kingdom has to offer us.  And we too frequently forget to look above our kingdom walls toward His holy skies and fall on our knees in reverence.

"For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him." Colossians 1:16

I just got through reading this verse in my current study about God the Son.  Yet another poke at me to remember who made it all and who is fully in charge.  And even more shocking to some – who it is all for.  

Look around, none of this is for your kingdom or mine.  It’s all for His glory.  Which, because God loves us so much, His kingdom is also ours – for those who believe and obey His commandments.  He wants so much more for us.  Not just our little kingdoms.  Yes, He wants us to take care of all He has gifted us but for the greater kingdom.  That means each time we have the opportunity to teach our kids about Him, we do.  Each time we should show love and forgiveness to our spouse, we do.  Each time we see the chance to use our financial gifts to glorify Him, we do.  Each time we can show hospitality in His name, we do.

Friend, the Kingdom doors are so wide, welcoming and beautiful!  Drop to your knees and give thanks to God He is so much bigger than this small world we have built. And turn yourself into the only offering He has ever wanted – you. 

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Forever & Ever

“To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen” Philippians 4:20

“Jesus, thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to live in me.  I can turn to you at any time, day or night, in times of joy and of sorrow and you are with me guiding me, convicting me and loving me.  Forever and ever.  Amen”

When I married my husband 34 years ago, we promised to be there for each other till the day we die.  I plan on keeping that promise, and I’m certain he will too.  However, I also recognize that we are both human.  We will disappoint each other.  At times we’ve felt betrayed by the other.  We’ve been angry and hurt.  We’ve also loved each other deeply.  And although I hope that our promise we made all those years ago stays true, you just never know what strange turns our sinful human nature may take.

In all our relationships there is only one that we can know without a doubt, that we could place a million dollar bet on and know it’s a “sure thing.”  And that’s the one we have, as believers, with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. 

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17

Before the glory of Pentecost the Holy Spirit only came and “visited” man.  He would come and direct various people in the Old Testament to do God’s work.  But Jesus made it clear that He would no longer make us orphans.  When He left He would step aside for the Holy Spirit to come and live IN us believers forever.  How beautiful, loving and glorious is that?  God – this magnificent, mysterious, expansive, all powerful being wants to be a part of me and you, always.  While we are taking a shower, making dinner, at work, running errands He is with us. 

“You have often left God.  Has He ever left you?”  

Charles Spurgeon

I’ve had friends that no longer talk to me.  I’ve turned my back on some myself.  I’ve even gotten pretty mad at God.   With one of my funnier moments telling Him, “I’m not going to believe in you anymore!” (Ponder the irony of that statement for a minute) But God has stayed true.

Friends, look at the very best relationship you have.  The one that brings you laughter, joy, loyalty and more.  And magnify that by a billion.  That’s God living with us and in us through the Holy Spirit.  I don’t know about you but I think that’s certainly something for which we should glorify and give thanks.

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From Why? to What?

Lessons from Cherith

He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Luke 24:38

During the time in my own land of Cherith, a place where I was separated from my home, my regular way of life and exposed to great sadness, I so needed to rely on the vast promises of God.  Yet each day I battled the “why” of it all.  Why didn’t the cancer doctors see and recognize the increased cancer markers in my beloved mother-in-law’s blood tests?  Why did each visit to the emergency room end without answers?  But more importantly, why would this woman, a shining light for God, an inspiring gift to everyone around her, a woman, as her pastor reflected at her funeral with a beautiful aura surrounding her, be stricken with cancer and taken so soon? Why God, oh why?

How often have we lamented that why question in our lives?  Why are we suffering financially?  Why is my child rebelling?  Why is my marriage on the rocks?  Why did I suffer that abuse?  It seems as Christians we are expected to answer those questions.  I believe many of us avoid speaking the Gospel to our friends, family and neighbors out of fear of being asked those why’s of life.  In fact, as a young college student who was approached one day on my campus by two religious folks, I too asked the big why – why is there suffering?  You see I believed in God but didn’t really know anything about Him.  Unfortunately, neither did these two young proselytizers.

I recently heard the statement: “If we view the world as a Christian, it all makes sense.”  On the surface that’s a real head scratcher since this world seems so upside down especially now.  Broken families, broken lives, so much pain and death abound.  But take a step back, way back to Genesis 3.

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. Genesis 3:17-18

And that’s just a taste of what man’s rebellion wrought.  Creation is currently at odds with God.  And just as cells divide and life moves without our intervention, our world around us is no longer under our full dominion.  So yes, there’s floods and fire and famine and cancer.  And it has absolutely nothing to do with whether we are a good person or not.  In addition to this result of The Fall, we became separated from God, always seemingly looking for ways to buck His system.  And we face the consequences for our actions, both individually and collectively.

Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’” Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”  Exodus 5:1-2

And we know how well that went for Pharoah.  But what was Moses’ first reaction after Pharoah knuckled down and made the Israelites work harder?  “Why?”  He asked God why did He have to make things worse and why did Moses have to be the brunt of everything?  From a Christian point of view, we should say, “There’s consequences in this world when anyone chooses to not submit – whether you choose to believe in God or not.”  This is not “Karma,” it’s simply a cause and effect of acting outside God’s desires for us.  

And while we may cry out, “why?!” in the moment whether in situations of our own making or of those in which we have no power, we need to remember the “what.”  What is God doing in me or even in the world?  What is God expecting of me as a believer? What is the promise I can hold on to?  The early Israelites had a decent excuse.  They didn’t know God as well as we do now.  They didn’t have all the stories of how He has rescued and protected His people.  They didn’t have Jesus’ brother James telling them there will be trials and in them they need to seek the lessons of God.  They didn’t have Jesus come to earth and die for their sins.  They didn’t have the Book of Revelation.  But we do.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So, each day as I sat beside Bev’s bed as her body succumbed not to cancer but to an infection, I battled the “why” demon. I wanted someone punished.  I wanted someone to suffer like I was now suffering.  Then I heard a whisper, “She gets to come home to me.  And you need to see what I am teaching you.”

You see even in her suffering, on her death bed, this Christian called Bev was a conduit for Jesus.  A teacher and a comforter.  I finally realized it didn’t matter the “why.”  For one, there really were no answers that fully satisfied.  At times like that we just need to submit to God’s sovereignty and say, “I don’t know but He does.”  The only real answers that I continued to come back to were the “what.”

What did I truly believe about God?  And what was He trying to teach me?

Christian Friend, if you earnestly believe the Bible, believe that God is the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth and all it’s inhabitants, if you believe He is sovereign and He sent His Son to die for our sins, if you believe that there is a place greater than Eden awaiting us then you could understand why Bev wasn’t worried.  Why she could make us all laugh at her darkest hour.  Why, in the middle of a conversation she looked over my shoulder, waved and with a child-like voice exclaimed in joy, “Hi Jesus!”

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? John 14:2

You see I didn’t need to know the answers to my worldly questions and I definitely didn’t need retribution.  I needed to remember that Jesus hates death because it’s a sign of our broken world.  And He is right now preparing a room more beautiful than I can imagine for even me.  When He comes back we will all be raised up to live forever in a beautiful place that has no suffering, no death, no pain, no war, no hate, no fear.  And that is just what I needed to learn.

Are you asking “why” in your difficult time when you should be asking “what?”

What is the Lord teaching or asking you right now?  

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Rescue Me!

Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love.
Psalm 44:26

I’ll admit I’ve had a bit of a rough relationship with God the last few weeks.  I have an on-going health issue related to my sinuses.  For years I’ve suffered through swollen sinuses, infections, allergies, clogged ears, excruciating headaches and more.  I’m in my third year of allergy shots and recently had a second sinus surgery.  And I feel worse.

A few weekends ago I spent most of the time feeling like my head was either in a tight vise or underwater. Conversations were muffled and my eustachian tubes felt as though a needle was being jammed in them.  I got on my knees and started praying desperately for God to heal me.  While at church I prayed continuously for healing.  And the pain continued.

Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?  Rouse yourself!  Do not reject us forever.  
Psalm 44:23

Have you ever felt the way the psalmist did when he wrote that verse?  Like God just isn’t listening?  That Sunday evening, I sure did.  I was in tears.  And so, I cried out to God even louder to please heal me.  For a brief moment I even felt myself being pulled back into my old way of thinking that God didn’t care about me or worse, maybe didn’t even exist.  But my faith journey has brought me too far to let me slide backwards.

There is no relapse where Christ heals; no fear that His patients should be merely patched up for a season.  He makes new men of them; He give them a new heart and He puts within them a right spirit.  

Charles Spurgeon

My knowledge of God has led me to a place of greater wisdom.  Instead of asking God to “wake up” I started asking Him if this was to be my thorn, my constant affliction to cause me to rely more and more on Him.

It also led me to put my pain and suffering in perspective.  While my issues are painful and irritating, I am not debilitated.  I can still rise every morning and serve Him and the people around me.  And through a pounding headache I can still go out for a walk and experience a beautiful day.  I put my troubles up against my mother-in-law’s, who through a year battling cancer and diverticulitis has managed a smile each time I talk to her.  Yes, at her lowest she has cried.  But I’ve watched her turn back to God in faith, searching for His hand in all things.

I want God to take away my pain.  I know He can.  He can heal me as I write this.  And it is not for me to know why He doesn’t.  

I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  
2 Corinthians 12:7-9

I would prefer not to be held to the same spiritual standards set by the Apostle Paul.  To seek God’s goodness when I feel my worst.  To feel His presence when my head is pounding.  To do the work required of me when the pain is almost overwhelming.  At times I just can’t.  That’s when I beg God to help me, to rescue me.

I’m not going to stop asking for healing.  But I’ve decided that I trust God that there is a reason He hasn’t.  And I know for certain, that in trusting Him, one day we will all be free from affliction and experience His amazing glory.

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Vessels of Good News

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it 
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish, 
so that it yields seed for 
the sower and bread for the eater, 
so is my word that goes out from 
my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire 
and achieve the purpose for 
which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:10-11

The Gospel is good news. Plain and simple. The actual word “gospel” is translated to mean “good story” or “good news” in Greek. But the question is – if the Gospel truly is good news, why is it so hard for us to talk about it? 

I’ll rewind a bit and start from the very beginning. For those who have always heard the word Gospel, but never heard the story of the Gospel, here it is:

1. God created us for his glory (Creation). 

2. Therefore, every human should live for God’s glory.

3. Nevertheless, we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (the Fall). 

4. Therefore, we all deserve eternal punishment (Hell). 

5. Yet, in his great mercy, God sent his only Son Jesus Christ into the world to provide for sinners the way of eternal life (the Cross). 

6. Therefore, eternal life is a free gift to all who will trust in Christ as Lord and Savior and supreme Treasure of their lives (Salvation). 

John Piper

All that to say, the Gospel is indeed good news. It means eternal intimacy in the presence of God, forgiveness of sins and citizenship in Heaven where there will be no more sorrow or pain – ever. For those of us who have been saved by grace through faith and are living testimonies of the power of the Gospel, we are all vessels of this good news. 

As Isaiah writes in chapter 55, God is proclaiming and promising that the good news he has sent down to earth (salvation through his Son Jesus), will indeed be fulfilled and carried from nation to nation until Jesus returns again. 

As described in verse 10, God sent down Jesus like rain, to water a dry and barren earth. God has promised us that this rain would not leave the earth dry and barren, but that it would be fully watered until it is returned to its original perfect creation. Right now, we are still in the watering phase of God’s plan for creation. The land is still thirsty and in need of the living water, and thankfully, we as Christians know just where to find it. 

Those in Christ are not just blessed with knowing the truth of the Gospel, we are called to share it. As the Jesus’ Great Commission states in Matthew 28: 

Go therefore and make disciples of 
all nations,baptizing them in the 
name of the Father and of the Son 
and of the Holy Spirit, teaching 
them to observe all that I have commanded 
you. And behold, I am with you always, 
to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:19-20

We are vessels of good news and have the refreshing drink our thirsty world is gasping for. Sharing the Gospel may not always be easy, but it is always God’s will for us to share the good news of Jesus Christ. We are a part of God’s redemption story for this world. He uses us, ordinary people, to return to Creation what was robbed by sin. 

I challenge you today to change your perspective from one of fear and hesitation towards sharing the Gospel, to one of joy and anxious anticipation for sharing the good news of salvation. As believers, we exist to serve God – not the other way around. Start today by remembering that God is using you as a divine vessel of good news, created and saved to play an important role in His plan for our world. 

Relish in that promise today.