“Holy Week…Tuesday”

“When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.

“Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left.  Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.

“So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.”

Matthew 24:37-42

So many things happened on this 3rd day of Holy Week including one of Christ’s most famous teachings, the Olivet Discourse.  This was one of the last recorded public teaching sessions of Jesus as he stood atop the Mount of Olives and taught a great multitude.

Knowing His time was short, (He was only 2 days from His arrest,) we should listen carefully to what He chose to share with us.  The discourse covers several chapters in the Book of Matthew, and I encourage you to read through them for yourself.  See what the Spirit has for you in these sacred scriptures.

For me, I seem to be drawn to this particular passage.  We are so close to celebrating Easter Sunday, the Resurrection Day!!  Christians all over the world will sing and dance and speak of deliverance.  For me, Easter is more joyous than Christmas.

But do we ever sit and truly think about the “BIG DAY?”  That day when Jesus promises He will return for us?

Some scripture relates it to a great wedding feast: the Lamb and his bride – the church.  Can you imagine?  Sitting at work, washing your car, wandering lost inside Walmart? And all of a sudden trumpets begin to blow, a mighty wind and thunder begin to sound and you know – IT’S THE LORD!

He says there won’t be any doubt.  His angels will begin gathering the faithful from all corners of the earth.  He says we will see Him coming on the clouds with His army of angels.  I can only imagine the sight with music and colors, and singing, and celebration.  We can’t comprehend what that day will be like can we friends?

But amidst the chaos and the celebration, He says there will also be great fear and weeping and pleading.  And where is all this despair coming from?  Church folks.  That is right friends, us.  He says there will be a multitude of religious people calling out to Him, only to be told, “I am sorry, but I don’t know you.”  (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+7&version=NLT)

I know this may be a downer, but consider why He chose this message friends.  Because He desperately wants us to get it while there is still time.  We don’t know when He is coming back.  But we are assured that He is, He said so.  So we have to be ready.  And what does that mean?

For me, it means living each day by giving my whole heart, soul, and mind to Him.  It means allowing Him to be Lord of my life and living obediently to what He commands.  It means staying in daily communication with Him through prayer and Bible study.  And it means accepting this wonderful gift of grace He has to offer instead of lying to myself and telling myself I am just fine on my own.  It means being a disciple, and not just a fan.

Jesus says there are many Christians who will be left behind because they lack a personal relationship with Him.  Be clear on this, these folks:

  • Attend church
  • Serve
  • Give money
  • Support missions

But they don’t have a relationship with Him.  And that will be all that matters on that fateful day.  Jesus cries out to us from the Mount of Olives friends: “Come to me now, while you still can.”

Please don’t let another day pass without reaching out to Him brothers and sisters.  If there is any doubt in your heart about where you stand with Him, talk to Him and receive that assurance that you are one of His beloved.  Now is the time, and He is overjoyed when you approach Him in faith.  That is what Easter is all about.

Grace to you my brothers and sisters.

King of Glory,

I pray to You now.  If there is anyone in my midst that doesn’t know You as Savior and Lord, please let today be the day.  Please unleash Your Holy Spirit upon us and help us to find our way to You.  Speak to us in ways that we can understand.   Help us now, while we still have the opportunity.  Let Your grace and mercy flow in this holiest of weeks.

In the Savior’s name I pray,

Amen

For further study, consider:

Matthew chapters 22 – 25:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+22&version=NLT

Mark chapter 12:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+12&version=NLT

John chaper 12:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+12&version=NLT

“Holy Week – Monday…”

“On the following day, when they had left Bethany, Jesus felt hungry. He noticed a fig-tree in the distance covered with leaves, and he walked up to it to see if he could find any fruit on it. But when he got to it, he could find nothing but leaves, for it was not yet time for the figs. Then Jesus spoke to the tree, “May nobody ever eat fruit from you!” And the disciples heard him say it.

Then they came into Jerusalem and Jesus went into the Temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of the dove-sellers, and he would not allow people to carry their water-pots through the Temple. And he taught them and said, “Doesn’t the scripture say, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations?’. But you have turned it into a ‘den of thieves!’”

The chief priests and scribes heard him say this and tried to find a way of getting rid of him. But they were in fact afraid of him, for his teaching had captured the imagination of the people.”

Mark 11:12-19

As we begin this Holy Week meditation, I urge you to spend some time reading the entire story for yourself.  It will only take a few minutes each day, but it will engage your mind and heart in a profound way.  If you will take the time to journey with Christ to the cross each day, I believe that Easter Sunday will be a celebration of deep spiritual renewal for you.  At the end of each post this week, I will list the scriptures that would be most helpful to you in this process.  Grace to you my friends.

We find Jesus on Monday morning.  He has entered Jerusalem with much fanfare the day before and when evening came, He and the disciples had retreated to the small village of Bethany (about 2 miles away,) for the night.

On this 2nd day of the Passion Week, we find two shocking events.  We see a side of Jesus that makes us very uncomfortable: anger.  We see Him cursing a tree for being pretty, but having no real fruit.  We see Him angrily flipping over tables and forcibly removing people from the Temple.

Can you imagine the chaos?  Imagine being one of the disciples viewing these events.  One minute you are walking into God’s holy house, the next your master has gone crazy and begun manhandling people and breaking things.  Livestock begins running all over, money is flying through the air, the normally gentle Jesus is yelling and scaring people.   What is wrong with Him?  Doesn’t He know that this is the way things work in the Temple during Passover?  Worship has always taken place this way, as long as you can remember.

And what about that poor little tree?  Everybody knows it isn’t time for fruit yet.  So why did He get so mad and curse it?  It shriveled up and died for goodness sake.  We don’t know why He is in such a bad mood, after all He had an incredible welcome yesterday with a parade and cheering crowds, the whole nine yards.

What in the world would make Jesus so angry?

I would love to hear your conclusions, but as I meditate and think on these things one word comes to mind: emptiness.  For me, both the tree and the temple are a symbol of emptiness.

The tree looks appealing and promises something sweet, only to have nothing to offer on closer inspection.  The temple, the house of the living God, is glorious to behold and it promises redemption and hope for the oppressed people of Israel.  But what are the faithful finding upon entering?  A place devoid of spiritual nourishment.  A place controlled for the good of merchants and the temple authorities, not for the people of God.  As Jesus calls it, “a den of thieves,” we see the people that need God the most being exploited and denied His presence.  Never what He intended.  No wonder Jesus was angry.

What am I to learn from this day in Christ’s life?  These events were so important that they were included in the cannon of holy scripture.  Therefore, I belief there is a deep message there for us.

I don’t know about you, but praying through this day reminds me that what seems to grieve Jesus the most is hypocrisy.

As a Christian, do I look good on the outside and preach a good game, all the while being empty inside?

Am I more concerned about what the church is doing for me, or should I be concerned about what the church should be doing for those on the outside?

Does my Lord look at me with a smile as I bear good fruit and invite others to the kingdom banquet?

Or is He angered by my outer appearance of being a follower, all the while my heart is not His?

Does my witness to others lead people to Jesus or further away from Him?

These are my questions upon further reflection about today.  I would love to hear yours.

Peace my friends.

Heavenly Father,

Forgive my spiritual emptiness and my self-centeredness.  Help me, Lord, to honor Your sacrifice for me this day.  Help me to be conformed to Your holy image.  Point out anything in me that brings You to despair, and renew my heart to love those people and things that You love.  Help me to be authentic and a welcoming witness to those that still seek You.

With great thanks to my Savior I pray,

Amen

For further reading, consider:

Matthew chapters 21-23:  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+21&version=NLT

Luke 19:45 – 20:47 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+19&version=NLT

 

 

“Two Kinds of People In This World…”

“Seek the Lord while you can find him.
Call on him now while he is near.”

Isaiah 55:6

 

Whenever my dad wanted to make a point to us, he would always begin his discussion with the line, “There are two kinds of people in the world…”  and then he would adapt his story to whatever point he was trying to make – one kind of person doing the wrong things, and the other doing the right.

When it comes to home maintenance, there are two kinds of people in the world:  the ones who take care of things as they occur; and those that let things pile up until they can’t stand it any more and are forced to do something.  I am, and probably always will be, the latter.

I am a procrastinator of the worst kind.  Until I am in a crisis, I normally let things go.  For example, yesterday I found my purchase receipts from Christmas in a big pile on my desk.  They were only a few inches from my file box, but for some reason, I hadn’t found the 15 seconds of free time it would have taken to file them over the past 3 months.

Or let’s look at my garage.  I am going to spend all of Spring Break cleaning out my garage.  You are probably thinking, “Oh it won’t take that long.”  Since it has been 8 YEARS since the last cleaning, I am pretty sure it will be a 5-day event.  It just hasn’t been a priority until now that I can’t walk through it.

Now, before you folks of the other side begin to break out in hives, let’s take the focus off cleaning for a minute.  I believe that this principle is true for our spiritual lives too.  As good as it is to maintain a daily prayer and devotional life, I know sometimes we slowly let those disciplines slip away from us.  Normally this occurs when we are so busy with normal life.  We promise ourselves that we will “get to it later,” but later rarely comes.  And one day we wake up and realize our relationship with the Lord has been on the back burner for months.

And much like living in chaos within our home, our souls are out of sorts.  There is a tension we can’t really describe and there is an underlying sense of anxiety, or lack of peace, that we experience.  This is a crisis of spirit, and it drives us to do something now.

May I challenge you to view the coming week, Holy Week, as a time to re-connect with God?  Maybe you felt some peace and joy at Christmas, but it has slowly eroded?  This week is an excellent time to regain a sense of His presence and to reflect on His love for you.  It is a time to start over and get back on the right path.

Beginning on Monday, I plan to begin a daily meditation that follows Jesus from His triumphal entry into Jerusalem all the way to the cross on Friday morning.  If you are feeling out of sorts in your spiritual connectedness, I hope you will consider journeying with me for a few days.  In these coming days, I hope to find my center again.  I would love for us to do it together.

Grace to you my friends.

Heavenly Father,

Forgive me for pushing You aside in the busyness of everyday life.  In Your faithfulness, You have not forsaken me.  Instead Your grace keeps You close, even when I don’t recognize it.  Help me to find my way back to You.  Help me to find my center again.

In the name of my Savior I pray,

Amen

“I Am Writing a Litany…”

Psalm 97

1 The Lord is king!
Let the earth rejoice!
Let the farthest coastlands be glad.
2 Dark clouds surround him.
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
3 Fire spreads ahead of him
and burns up all his foes.
4 His lightning flashes out across the world.
The earth sees and trembles.
5 The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.
6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
every nation sees his glory.
7 Those who worship idols are disgraced—
all who brag about their worthless gods—
for every god must bow to him.
8 Jerusalem has heard and rejoiced,
and all the towns of Judah are glad
because of your justice, O Lord!
9 For you, O Lord, are supreme over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.
10 You who love the Lord, hate evil!
He protects the lives of his godly people
and rescues them from the power of the wicked.
11 Light shines on the godly,
and joy on those whose hearts are right.
12 May all who are godly rejoice in the Lord
and praise his holy name

 

Blessed morning to you friends!  I don’t know where you reside, but here in the southern US, it is indeed a glorious morning.  The birds are singing, the sun is shining, flowers are blooming and there is a definite hint of spring in the air.  Praise be to God!

I am studying this week for my DISCIPLE 4 class.  We are concentrating on what we believe heaven is like.  The DISCIPLE Bible series is a collection of seven, 34-week,  in-depth Bible studies.  Each study in the series has a different focus, and all are phenomenal.  If you truly want to read the Bible and be transformed by it, then I highly recommend it.

DISCIPLE 4 follows a theme of worship; how to live in a worshipful spirit each day.  And, by far, this has been my favorite study of the series so far.  It is deep and rich with experiences of God, and has really done a work in my heart over the last 7 months.

Our assignment this week is to start our study with Psalm 97 each day and then to write one line of a litany that Christ places in our hearts.  A litany is a prayer (0r possibly a song) that is repetitive in nature that is used for praise and worship.  And I have to tell you, yesterday was an incredible experience.

I began my reading with the psalm, then moved on to our assignment of Revelation 4 and 5.  I sat on my back porch meditating on the Revelation passages which describe the door of heaven opening and the brilliance of God’s throne room.

I sat there, thinking about the day I would meet my Savior, and how wonderful it would be.  Imagine it:  the brilliance of the light, the sounds of a holy choir, the rainbows and the smells and glory of God…  What a day that will be!

But then I noticed something else.

  • Warmth – from the sun coming through my window
  • Birds singing a sweet melody
  • The smell of freshly cut grass on the breeze

What peace, how lovely.  And these things were surrounding me in my very own back yard.  As I sat there pondering how incredibly good it was to be in God’s presence at that very moment,

Raucous screams and laughter broke through the silence as my children and their friends burst into the yard.  Running and jumping and giggling – PURE JOY!

Yes, yes Lord!  That is what heaven will be like:  sweetness and light – absolutely!  But heaven will be a place of pure joy where we run and play and love and laugh because everything there is good!  It will be a celebration that never ends, place of no tears, a place of no sorrow, a place of divine freedom.

I thank my God for such a powerful experience of His grace yesterday.  He made me realize that heaven will be wonderful.  But also, that I have a little piece of heaven right here and right now.  I just have to stop long enough to see and appreciate it.

Thank You my King!

The first line of my litany goes like this:

The Lord fills my heart with gladness and my home with laughter…  The Lord is King; let the earth rejoice!

 

 

“I Need Answers…”

“Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I wait for you.”

Psalm 25:4-5

 

I need answers.  I am currently in a season at both work and home in which I am deep into planning for the rest of the year.  I have schedules to create, decisions to make, and I desperately want to follow God’s leading.

So I pray.  And I ask.  And I search.  For weeks I have been asking God what He would have me do in all these situations.  I want to be faithful.  And what do I get?  Nothing.  I have gotten no answers and no insights.  No “aha moments,” no peace.  I am still in the dark.  So what does a good Christian do in those situations?  It’s simple: I keep asking, and praying and seeking.

Surely my faithful God won’t leave me hanging will He?  After all, it is His will I am seeking.  Surely He won’t leave me here in the dark to make these decisions all by myself, will He?

Friends, have you ever had experiences like these?  Do you struggle through times in which God does not appear to be listening?  Does He seem distant and far away?  I think we all do.  How do we deal with that?

In my experiences, there is such an anxiety that accompanies these times of utter silence from the Lord. See, I truly ask and want to follow His plan in all areas of my life.  I want to make sure I am getting it right.  But there is a limit to how long I will wait.  After all, God may be eternal, but I have a schedule to keep, right?

I cannot dare fall behind because the whole world would come to an end if I didn’t have everything tied up in a neat bow 3 months in advance.  And I have to admit, I’m a pretty smart girl.  I can always figure these things out on my own.  If the Maker of the Universe can’t get on board with my timetable, then I am sure I can work it out by myself.  I have to do something, I can’t bear the stress and uncertainty of the unknown.  This state of limbo is driving me crazy.  I have to address these things now and put them behind me so I can focus on the next priority and the next.  I don’t have time to wait on Him anymore.

But, what if, He has answered me?  What if His answer is,

“Not yet.”

What if His answer is,

“I am still putting things in place for you to be successful.  Please be patient.”

What if His answer is,

“You are focusing on the wrong thing.  Turn around and get on board with Me”

It never occurs to me that God has a timetable, or that my plan isn’t lining up with His.  It never occurs to me that He is active in my waiting and I just can’t see it.  So what do I do now?

Maybe, I should forget my schedule and be at peace in my waiting for Him to move.  Maybe I should show a little faith and trust and ask Him to reveal Himself to me at the right time, not necessarily MY time.  Maybe I should remember His promise to never leave me and to always answer when I call.  Maybe I should stop acting like God and let HIM be God for a while.

Gracious Lord,

You have numbered the hairs upon my head.  You know me in my sleeping and in my waking.  You know my heart, mind and soul.  You also know what I need.  Forgive my impatience and lack of faith.  Help me to hear Your voice, and to rest in Your promises until I do.  Relieve my anxieties with the unknown, and develop in me a heart that trusts Your faithfulness in all seasons.

In the name of my Rock and Fortress I pray,

Amen

 

“Being Me Has Its Privileges…”

“Being me has its privileges…”  

– Professor Albus Dumbledore

 

I spent my morning doing my most favorite thing in the world, just sitting in the presence of God.  Nothing else.  No noise, no Bible, nothing.  It was so peaceful that I didn’t want to get up and leave.  But, like everything else we truly enjoy, I couldn’t stay there forever.  Life called, and I had to get back to all the things waiting for me.

You may think it quite crazy for me to say that my favorite thing to do IN THE WHOLE WORLD, is to sit in the quiet.  But that is exactly what feeds my soul.  I can’t get enough of it.  I can’t really explain it, but when I am able to sit in complete silence, it is almost as if I am encapsulated in pure oxygen.  I can breathe deeply, my heart expands, my shoulders relax and I become as light as a feather.  That is true communion with my Eternal Father.

And this is my fortunate week.  My church each year produces several such venues for folks to come and spend some time in prayer.  Quiet Spaces is happening now, and because I work there, I have a key to the building.  I was able to let myself in before anyone else and have the place all to myself, what a gift; what a privilege.  My soul has been renewed.

Its crazy sounding I know, to think that having a key to a building is such a privilege.  But for me, it is the ultimate gift from God – the ability to feed my Spirit at any time I need it – in a place that ushers me into His gracious presence.  – Magnificent.

What about you, friends?  How does the life you are living allow you to connect with God?  What elements of your daily life allow grace to flow over you?  Or, here is an even better question.  Are you living a life that allows you to connect deeply with the Father?  Are you following His path for you, or have you created your own life that might leave little space for Him?

When we follow the path God has for us, it is almost certain that He will build in places and opportunities for us to commune with Him.  His greatest desire is to stay in constant contact with us.  And we can trust that He will take us, whatever the way He chooses, to a place that deepens our relationship with Him.

Now, we may not be able to sit in silence and pray all day (I wish!)  However, His presence will always be there, no matter what we are doing:  teaching children, making deals, treating patients, cooking dinner – whatever.

The key is to be where He leads us.  The key is to live the life He has for us – and we will always be satisfied and whole.  So, how about it?  Are you living the abundant and privileged life He has for you?  Or are you left still needing something to be complete?

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for never giving up on me.  All the years that I chased my own dreams and my own plans – they still left me needing more.  But in Your grace, You have fulfilled me.  You lead me to peaceful streams. You pull away the mask and teach me to be the real me.  And, surprisingly, that is enough.  For when I find my true self, I find You.  Thank You for showering such peace into my life.

In the name of the Good Shepherd I pray,

Amen

“One Book”

 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Matthew 7:7-8

 

We are talking this week about our questions and doubts regarding faith.  As one that did not grow up in the church, I can assure you, any doubt you can come up with – I have dealt with it.  Coming to faith as an adult brings its own challenges.  After years of education, we are already ingrained into a way of thinking and learning.  The Scientific Method, Laws of Physics and Mathematics – all the things we know to be true and reliable go right out the window when trying to comprehend the Bible don’t they?

Think about it.  Our world created in 7 days.  People living for 900 years.  Men walking on water.  5000 people eating 2 fish.  And don’t forget:  people being raised from the dead.

And if we can’t truly accept these things, don’t they call into question everything else the Book says?  So coming to faith has its challenges for us doesn’t it friends?

If you are struggling with your faith today, might I make one suggestion – as one who has been there and done that?

Don’t try to read the Bible as you would a text book.  Turn off that part of your brain.  If you truly want to learn, before you even open your Bible, you have to do one thing: PRAY.

That’s right.  You have to approach the Bible as the holy word of God.  It is sacred and a living document.  It was written by men, yes, but inspired by the Holy Spirit.  So before you try to make sense of it, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to you.  Ask the Spirit to give you an understanding that the unbelieving world does not have.  And I promise you friends, a whole new world will be opened up to you.  You will be given more understanding than you ever dreamed of.  He is the author, ask Him to help you glean what you need to strengthen your faith and He will be faithful to you.

Every answer that I have needed over the past fifteen years has been easily found in His Word.  He never fails me.  I encourage you to seek and find truth for yourself.

Maybe you don’t know where to begin.  I have been there too.  Here are a few tips if you have specific questions:

1.  www.biblegateway.com

Bible Gateway is a website that is a treasure of biblical information.  It includes:

  • all translations of the Bible,
  • daily reading plans,
  • topical indices to help you search for specific topics and questions.
  • commentaries to further explain what you have read
  • and search engines to get you started

2.  Try Google

If you google your question, you will receive unending scriptural references.  Just be sure to think critically about your source:  openthebible.com, and thebible.com – are reputable resources.

3.  If you live in the Birmingham, AL area:

Beginning next Monday, our church, Liberty Crossings, will have a prayer event for 3 days called, “Quiet Spaces.”  One of the venues will be a room that addresses common questions people struggle with regarding their faith.  Anyone is welcomed to drop by from 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. each day.  The scripture research has already been done for you in this room, so it might be a good start on your search for understanding.

Heavenly Father,

You are the perfect parent.  You do not hide Yourself from us.  You are open and accessible for all who seek You.  Teach, Lord, to see past our well-defined, clearly constructed parameters and to behold You in all Your magnificence.  Give us the hearts of children that we might accept Your words in faith.  Give us eyes to see and ears to hear the truth of the Spirit.  Lead us past our doubts and into greater faith.

We ask these things in the name of our Savior,

Amen