Tag Archives: Jesus

Who has the power?

Television remote control
Image via Wikipedia

In our house, whoever holds the television remote control, “has the power”, as we define it.

As we seek to make faithful choices, we need to realize who has the power.

Jesus spoke here: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”  John 15:16

My choice today:

Put down the remote.

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How does God fit a pair of jeans on a lily? (part one)

Day lily
Image via Wikipedia

Certain Bible verses stump me.  They pose a thought or idea my mind cannot fully grasp.  Over time some of them have become clearer with practice, persistence and patience.  These are some of those verses:

“And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!”  Matthew 6:28-30

The first time I read those words, I pursed my eyebrows together and thought, “What on earth is this talking about?  How does God fit a pair of jeans on a lily?”

I didn’t get it.

I couldn’t fathom how God would cloth a person as easily as he decorates a flower, it’s so much more complicated than photosynthesis, right?  I mean there are styles to consider and fit.

I could easily spend an hour in any given store trying on item after item and wind up not buying a thing.  How would God carry out such a feat?

I’ve spoken with many people about how they assume I shouldn’t take scripture literally.  They’d tell me it’s an example of God’s strength and capacity, not His fabrication methods.

But in other parts of scripture, He’s darn literal.  I mean Jesus didn’t figuratively die on a cross, He really sacrificed Himself.  Peter didn’t figuratively deny knowing Him, he outlined it in detail.  So, what if God truly desires to cloth us?

I never imagined I’d be testing this, but God does invite testing in one arena.  Our money.

In other stuff, He repeated points out, not to test the Him, but monetarily He says, “Go ahead.”  Actually, He put it this way:

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be  food in My house, and test Me now in this,‘ says the LORD of hosts, ‘if I will not  open for you the windows of heaven and  pour out for you a blessing until  it overflows.” Malachi 3:10

Now that’s a lofty promise onto which we often attach our own expectations.  We think He might give us more money, and He might.  We imagine He could grant us a better job, and He might.  But often, we get so concerned with our own capacity to make a buck and pay off our own debts, we fail to put Him to the test.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you more about this test, but for today:

My choice today:

Trust God enough to take a risk for Him.

Want to live your life on death row?

Folsom Prison s520
Image by uvw916a via Flickr

Harsh right?  Why would anyone want to do this?  It does happen.

Imagine what it would look like.

Death row sentence

You know you’re guilty, though you fought it.  You don’t want anyone to view you in light of your guilt, but there it sits like the pink lawn flamingo in the Pasadena suburb.  You argue and rail at those who’ve accused you, in spite of your self-acknowledged guilt.  The sentence passes and you walk through the doors of the jail knowing you will not leave on your own two feet.

You have to survive and want to enjoy the moments you have.  You pick your place in society or its chosen for you.  Still, you must follow rules.  You must do everything you’re told or suffer instant consequences.  You attempt to forget the reason for your new housing status.

You tell yourself, it’s free room and board.  You decide orange is your color, and you’ve always wanted to wear flip-flops, every day.  You seek a sense of happiness in spite of the space.  You are king of your cubicle.

But you know death is near.  You hear it, see it, smell it and taste it.  In the back of your brain sits the knowledge that you lack control.  Fear finds a home in your heart, whether you let anyone in on the secret or not.

But what would you do if you knew pardon was an option?  A real option.

The pardon 

Would you want the pardon option?

Well, yeah.

You’d do whatever it took to secure that pardon, wouldn’t you.  You’d make calls, dream dreams, write letters, you’d probably put on an orange polka-dotted tutu and dance the Macarena in front of all the other prisoners, if you knew you could leave this dream abode.

What if you weren’t told about the pardon possibility?  Others knew, but didn’t tell you because you were so cool and kingly.  They refused to offer you the option because they feared you’d become angry at the offer.  Really.  People do that.

This is real

What if what I’m writing isn’t just an exercise in imagination?  What if this was your life or the life of someone you know?

It is.

You’re wondering how that’s possible, right? You never visited Folsom Prison, let alone death row.

Those of us who know Jesus live in the daily knowledge of His forgiveness and love.  We have received the pardon.  I’ve received it.  Hopefully, you have too.

Our death sentence became a life sentence because Jesus offered to take the electrocution Himself.  Think pictorially, I know He’d died on a cross, but that doesn’t happen much today and I thought I’d offer a more recent image.

Jesus said, “…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b)

I see you shaking your head saying, it isn’t the same as death row. Let me explain.

Sinful life= Death row

If you were unaware, the word “sin” means “to miss the mark”.  Think of Robin Hood with the arrow in that famous contest.  The arrow has to hit bulls-eye to land “on the mark”.  God hits the mark every time, He is sinless and perfect. 

No matter how far from center we land, if we miss the mark, we sin.  Let’s face it, we all miss the bulls-eye of life.  I miss it so often, it’s as if I’m shooting in the air and landing a mile away in some strangers car tire.  Sorry.

What happens to all of us who miss that center sweet spot?

The Bible puts it this way (not my words, the Bible):

“The wages of sin is death…”

That’s where the death row image comes into play.  The pay we receive for continually missing God’s mark is life on death row.  But He doesn’t leave us there to wallow in our issues.  The same verse finishes this way:

“….but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23 

The pardon is available and it isn’t just for us.  The pardon is a gift.  Imagine, it’s sitting at the prison’s front gate.  You’ve been sent a note and the guards permit you to go and get this gift.  When you open it in all it’s beauty, you can leave and live the life God has for you.  Would you go?

I would and I did. 

Once free, it’s your responsibility to place that gift at the gate again and offer it to as many prisoners as you can, so that they too can secure freedom.  It’s easily the best gift they’ll ever receive, and you get the privilege of giving it.  Will you?

Are you currently the prisoner or the pardoned one?  What are you doing to secure your freedom or offer it to others?

Do you hear me now?

Human ear
Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever known someone who loved the sound of their own voice?  You know the type.  They start a conversation on one item then continue to another, then another, barely breathing.  The mouth moves and it’s as if they’ve recorded each detail of every day in its totality.  When you get together, they push the play button and recite each moment as it happened.

You like this person.  They aren’t mean or anything like that, just chatty.  Actually they aren’t just chatty, they verbally vomit their day onto the least suspecting person.  Sorry, it’s true.

The listener

What can we do with a friend like this?  Here are some ideas:

1.  Exercise compassion.  They probably don’t realize their capacity to recall daily details.

2.  Recognize loneliness when you see it.  If they saved up all day, maybe no one connected or attempted to connect with them prior to you.   Maybe they spend much time alone and have lost conversational skill practice.

3.  Know the flow is coming and mentally set a timer.  They probably repeat this pattern, so you might as well recognize playback season for what it is. They will reach a finishing point, believe it or not.

4.  Make an effort to connect more regularly.  Yes, that’s what I said. More is better.  By having more regular contact with others,  the loneliness dissipates and true conversations can begin.

The speaker 

As you read this, perhaps you see something in yourself, maybe it’s you who has become the verbal vomit specialist.  How can you redirect and build better friends?

1. Ask questions first.  Before you play your recording, come up with questions you really want to ask other people.  When you ask, bite your lip and allow them to press play on their day.

2.  Listen more than you talk.  This will take great effort because the lips have had more practice than the ears, but there are two of them and maybe they need more use.  There is a danger though.  Listen with the purpose of truly hearing what the other person says, not just waiting for your chance to speak.

3.  Seek to know your friends better.  True friendships develop because we care about one another.  Your friends need to know you care about who they are not just their ears.

4.  Apologize early and often.  As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step is realizing you have a problem.  If your friends know you are working on this area of your life, they’ll be inclined to support and encourage you and maybe even listen more.

And what’s the Bible connect to all this listening and talking stuff?  Jesus often said, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 13:9)  Funny, He never said, “Whoever has a mouth, let them talk.”  Just something to think about.

By the way, if I haven’t said it lately,  “I am sorry.”

The danger and beauty of thistle people

Milk thistle flowerhead
Image via Wikipedia

Have you seen a thistle up close?  They are nasty looking.  This green spined weed visually displays its ability to defend itself from one and all.  With a tiny wisp of purple rising above the flowered spines, one can image inner beauty but why investigate more? When other flowers hold outer beauty and wonderful smells, it would seem silly to waste time on a thistle.  But maybe not.

Thistle people

Sound like anyone you know?  Thistle people throw barbs at others effectively creating a distant relationship.  You know the type, any time you get too close, it’s as if a spear pierces your heart and you back up, relationally speaking.

Sometimes their rough exterior holds people back.  They don’t dress a certain way or talk appropriately.

One great image of a thistle person came in Murphy Brown.  Do you know or remember the show, circa 1980 something?  If not, allow me to inform you.

Murphy Brown worked as an investigative reporter.  She rose to the top of her profession.  No question too tough for her to ask, no topic to difficult to cover.  Her work environment contained a variety of personalities.  Ultimately these people served as her only real friends and yet they described her this way, “The first time I met Murphy, I thought she was beautiful.  Then, she opened her mouth.”

Another thistle person shows up in George Lopez, savez que, you know what I mean?  A thistle person could be someone like Lady Gaga.  Her outward appearance can be off-putting to some people.

Do you know a thistle? 

Maybe you know a thistle person or you are a thistle person.  Your very demeanor screams, “Don’t come any closer!”

Why would anyone want to do that? Why hold out barriers to friendship?

What is it protecting?

I wondered about that uninviting weed.  After research, I discovered what it was protecting. Milk thistle helps people with multiple ailments.  For years, it’s been used by various practitioners to help treat liver malfunction, hepatitis C, gallstones, high cholesterol and cancer.

I’m not advocating a medicine, but examining a plant.  With so much potential contained within its highly protected body, maybe the thistle knows what it’s guarding.  Ignoring any hippie dippie thoughts, something of value is worth protecting.

Steps to know a thistle person

Thistle people guard their true self carefully and cautiously.  They know the value they hold, on some level, they know.  Perhaps they’ve been damaged previously, but the inner beauty remains.

What can we do?  Exercise caution.  Spines hurt, no matter what beauty lies within.  As a snake handler knows the pain of the bite, so those of us who want to see the inner beauty of a thistle need to use caution and respect.

Seek the beauty and let them know you see it.  Maybe, with each kind word, with each positive action, the spines can shrivel and show the true beauty within.

For those patient enough to appreciate a thistle, the reward is great.

The great weed lover 

Jesus did that for us.  He sought us out and didn’t let our spines push Him away.  He took everything we could dish out at him because He knows and sees our beauty.  He took a beating because He saw our beauty and wanted to give us friendship.  He died at the hand of people like ourselves.  Yet, He knew we were worth the trouble.  So are all the other thistle people. 

He told us how to react and treat the thistles in our lives:

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

 

If you have a story of a thistle person you love, please share it here.  Don’t forget to anonymously rate this article (thumbs up or down).

May the Son shine on your Sunday

Sunshine in Greece
Image by Guillaume Cattiaux via Flickr

I don’t often write poetry but a friend recently encouraged me to do so.   What could I write?  What could I pass on? Only what I know.  God’s love is present and real and He is there for each of us.  This is for you my precious reader, may it bless you.

This I know

When the sun shines and the wind blows, this I know,

You are there.

When my feet get stuck and I’m in the muck, this I know,

You are there.

You are there when the darkness penetrates my soul,

When my life feel like I am the pin and it’s time to bowl,

When I look in the mirror and feel like a troll,

This I know, I know, I know…

You are there.

It’s officially May 21st and I’m still here, are you?

"The Blue Marble" is a famous photog...
Image via Wikipedia

I’m sure you’ve heard the end times tale.  This is the final day for planet earth, give or take an hour or a day.  Yet, here I sit at midnight writing,  because I just thought it would be fun to do so.

Did you wonder, why weren’t more Christians condemning the statements or commenting on them or something?  There are just so many people who do this over time, it almost becomes a joke, but clearly to those who agree or sit confused it isn’t.

Allow me to clarify.  My grandfather loved Jesus deeply and lived his life sharing Christ with people wherever he went.  He cared for his invalid wife, my grandmother, without complaint.  As the year 2000 approached, he began listening to sermons by a pastor named Van Empe.

That pastor told people the end of the world would happen in the year 2000.  We heard much disturbance and confusion as 2000 approached.  Computer people told us it could all fall apart and we thought some catastrophe would occur.  We called it Y2K.  My grandfather’s health wasn’t its best and all he longed to see in life was the end of life.

Sounds weird, right?  He wanted to see Jesus return.  Well, 2000 came and went, we remained.  A bit later my grandfather did see Jesus, but not in the way he thought.

So, please bear with those of us who’ve seen these conversations previously.  The question has arisen since before Jesus walked with the disciples.  As a matter of fact, the disciples requested detailed knowledge of the earth’s last days.  Here’s Jesus response:  “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. ” Matthew 24:42-44

One choice we can make now is to live as if we will face our Creator’s judgement today or tomorrow.  We stand  ready and willing to meet our maker.  But we should also prepare for the long haul, if He doesn’t.  After all, He’s God, not me.

In the midst of the media hoopla, my favorite quote was a tweet from Pastor Dudley of Shepherd of the Hills.  He said, “If the world ends tomorrow, I’m ready.  Are you?”

What do you think of all this end of the world stuff?

Petition writers wanted

Vendstar 3000 Vending Machine at Approved Cash...
Image via Wikipedia

This weekend our family made a trip to Wal-mart, and what did we see upon our arrival?  Petition takers.  You know what I’m talking about.  Those people who set up tables in front of stores holding various petitions for items they want added to our local political arena.  Clipboards in hand, they approach anyone who enters.  While we applaud their enthusiasm, they can occasionally be found irritating. 

However we feel about these stalwart, political envoys, they accomplish things.  Laws pass because of their drive.  Rules change.  The world responds to their enthusiastic desire for newness. 

Why can’t we approach prayer in the same fashion?  It’s easy to say, “I’ll pray for you”, when a friend shares a need.  But how often do we ask others to pray for us? 

Over the years, I’ve observed many believers on the faithful road struggle with the concept of prayer.  The struggle isn’t centered on prayer for others, but rather on prayer for self.  It’s as if we know something we long to see occur, but we aren’t willing to put pen to paper and write the petition.  Ironically, in petition prayers for self, no one needs to agree with us and sign on except God himself.  So, what’s the problem?

Talk show host Dennis Prager commented on the topic of petition prayer by stating, “I do not enjoy using God as a celestial butler.”  Is that our reasoning too?  Do we somehow assume that the God of the universe is lowered to subservient status simply because I make a request? 

In my mind,  it’s like a man driving around with a 15-year-old car and a friend asks, “Do you know a good mechanic?” 

Immediately the man responds, “absolutely” and shares location information on a mechanic. 

Then, the friend asks, “Do you go there?”

“No,” comes the response. 

Why would anyone trust our God, if we don’t?  If I pray for my friend and yet never submit myself to God and humbly place my own request before Him, how real is my faith? 

I wish to be clear here.  I do not believe God is some cosmic vending machine.  It’s not like we put in the prayer and get out the request.  If He is God, then we trust that He knows what’s right for us.  He has the right and ability to respond in the positive or negative.  He may even seem to not respond, and is thus saying, “wait”. 

Perhaps that’s precisely what we fear.  We fear, He’ll say “no” or “wait” and so we’d rather not even make a request.  But in the same way, we cannot travel anywhere without first moving toward our goal, we cannot grow in our faith if we don’t first begin by submitting our request and giving over our trust. 

Scripture puts it this way, “…You do not have because you do not ask God.”  (James 4:2b)  In yet another place it says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

Let’s choose to be more like those petition takers. Unlike us, God won’t feel annoyed.  After all, He’s told us to do it. 

 

God wants my best?

Spring Lamb
Image by EssjayNZ via Flickr

Yesterday, our youngest daughter and I travelled to the grocery store to pick up a few items for our family’s Passover celebration.  One piece of that experience is a lamb bone.  Because God directed the Israelites to choose a spotless, unblemished lamb to sacrifice as a demonstration of their faith, many Passover meals include a plate with a lamb bone on it to symbolically recollect that moment.

My daughter and I picked up the required bone and continued on our shopping journey when she asked me why we needed the bone.  We’ve done this many times in her life, and she suddenly chirped an answer to her own question, “Oh yeah, because they cooked a lamb, right.”

I responded with the parental, “yes, dear,” then filled in more info for her inquiring mind.  “It wasn’t just any lamb,” I said.

“It wasn’t?” Her eyes perked up ready to hear about what kind of mysterious lamb they chose.

“It was their best lamb,”  I continued.

I could see her mind working in those few moments. “Why was it the best lamb?” She asked.  I had waited for this one.

“Because,” I informed her, “God wants us to give Him our best.” Her brain began doing its thing again and she remained silent for a second.

“God wants my best!?” She more declared than asked.  The thought seemed to shatter her world view.  She has attended church her entire, seven-year, life.  She’s put money into the offering plate and helped with food drives.  But this thought startled her.  It was as if she said so much more in her little question than what came out her mouth.  Clearly, her attitude had been to do what mommy or daddy told her, give her minimum and keep the status quo.

We all do that sometimes.  It’s like we keep our own personal tally sheet.  We think of what represents our proper reimbursement to God .  We mentally tell ourselves, “I’ve done this, and this, and this, that should make God happy.”  But the question at hand asks if it was our best.

As our conversation continued, I shared with her how God never asks something He won’t give.  Jesus represented God’s best given to us.  John the Baptist declared upon seeing Him, “Look, the Lamb of God…” (John 1:29).  Though He was tempted and treated horribly, Jesus never sinned.  Thus, He is the unblemished One who can be offered as a proper sacrifice to show faith.  God demonstrates His faith in us through this act.

The Bible says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8.

I noticed a twitter trend called #ifitwasuptome.  It caused me to think about this more.  If it was up to me, I wouldn’t offer my best, because I like my stuff.  If it was up to me, I wouldn’t be saved, because I mess up too often.  If it was up to me, the world would be lost.  Praise God, it’s not up to me.

There’s a hole in my crown

Dentist drilling a girls tooth
Image via Wikipedia

Perhaps it’s my macabre sense of humor or something else, but when a piece of my tooth broke off the other day, I started thinking of various crowns in our lives. The tooth in question is a crown. That’s not what we usually think of when we picture crowns but suddenly I’m thinking of the old hymn, “Crown Him with many crowns”. And I’m realizing I do, in fact, have many crowns, on my teeth.

I didn’t understand why Jesus would be crowned with many crowns. A Dr. Suess-like image of Christ with multiple crowns stacked upon His head flashed through my mind. But now, I find those thoughts being redirected.

A crown on my tooth is a protector, but it’s also a source of beauty for a decaying molar. Even within our mouths, we seek a type of beauty and adornment, how bizarre.  To be fair, it also provides the ability for us to bite or chew, which is  desired in a tooth.

What if the crowns on Christ, as the hymn states, are representative of successes and even His own miraculous beauty. There is great beauty in the One who would give of Himself entirely for us.  Are those crowns trophies?  Maybe they declare His stature as King of Kings.  Whatever the reason, scripture gives us an amazingly powerful image of Christ in the book of Revelation

It says, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

   KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. “

Even as I read it and write it, I’m stunned by the strength of Christ in this passage.  Earlier within Revelation, an equally revealing image presents itself.  People called “the elders” are laying their crowns before the throne of God.  The things we can acquire, the power we possess, the successes we experience are nothing comparatively speaking, but they are like our crowns.  If we trust God enough, we can offer the things we treasure to Him, recognizing His incomparable power, strength and mercy.

I sat in the dentist office today as she repaired the hole in my crown.  My thoughts wandered to my damaged crown.  We all have them, and I don’t mean the toothy kind.  As Easter approaches, let’s realize the great power of the One who sacrificed Himself for us.  The One with the crowns stacked upon His head.  Are we willing to lay our crowns at His feet?  And as we surrender the treasures of our lives to Him, we might discover a new treasure even greater. 

1 Corinthians 9:25

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Let’s learn to let go of the things we think will give us a type of glory and appreciate real glory.  Then, we will receive something much better.