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Whose are you?

Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth. (Ephesians 1:7) Abundantly free - how many of us live as though we were set free and now live free? Most of us struggle with some form of guilt (because we did something wrong) or shame (because we believe we are bad because we have done wrong). Guilt is meant to drive us to a place of repentance; shame just keeps us believing we will never 'measure up' and will always be lacking in some way. Either way, we are likely not living free if we are gi

When silence answers it all

Although I don't know the author of this saying, it remains quite true: "Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something." Proverbs 29:11 reminds us, "A fool lets it all hang out; a sage quietly mulls it over." Proverbs 10:14 provides a little more thought on the matter: "The wise accumulate knowledge - a true treasure; know-it-alls talk too much - a sheer waste." Do we talk because we have something to say - or do we talk because we need to say something? It is a telling question, isn't it? Talk too much and you just fuel fires; speak wisdom in the midst of chaos and you can re-establish order and set the course once again in the right direction. Proverbs 10:19 goes a little further by telling us, "The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words." How measured are you words? I have had to learn that lesson the hard way - by saying way too  much when I should have been more 'meas

Break out the water

God—you're my God! I can't get enough of you! I've worked up such hunger and thirst for God, traveling across dry and weary deserts. (Psalm 63:1) Whenever we find ourselves in the midst of the "excesses" of life, we often crave what we most need to help us deal with the excess the best. So, we crave what we most need to deal with what we find ourselves enduring or living within! Sometimes we are "enduring" stuff by our own doing - like when I eat a huge bowl of Cheezits or eat a whole candy bar. The sodium from one and the sugar from the other just cause me to "crave" the very thing which will help my body deal with the excess of sodium or sugar - water, movement, and something a little more sensible. Take a look at some of the things that develop a more "spiritual" craving within you and you may just be surprised at how much you have been 'craving' because you are deficient in those very things. Here we are presented with

Pssst...are you digging in?

"But my people didn't listen, Israel paid no attention; so I let go of the reins and told them, 'Run! Do it your own way!'" (Psalm 81:11-12) What is the purpose of the reins when riding a horse or having a horse pull a wagon? They let you direct the horse, don't they? At least, that is what someone told me when I mounted a horse as a young girl and attempted to get that large beast of an animal to go where I wanted it to go! Heaven knows, I have had some opportunities to ride some of the most stubborn horses, or at least it seems they were more stubborn than they were willing. No matter how hard I pulled the reins a certain direction....there was no turning them from their chosen destination! Gotta ask - - - - what was the purpose of the reins with these horses? I think they were there for nothing more than decoration! Or was it because I really didn't understand the purpose of the reins? All I could do with those horses was to "give them the reins

So, time for retreat?

God is solid backing to a well-lived life, but he calls into question a shabby performance. (Proverbs 10:29) Just met with the financial advisor and one of the questions I keep asking is how 'solid' the backing of every investment is right now. As I near retirement, I want to be sure my investments will be solidly backed. Backing sometimes comes in the form of a 'thing', but it can also be a 'place' and a 'person', right? Be in the right place and have the right person 'backing' you there and you are likely going to do okay in the end. A sanctuary is kind of like having that 'well-backed' place and it is usually a place provided by some pretty 'phenomenal', as well. There is something special about having a place of sanctuary, isn't there? When we have a place of retreat, we somehow feel a little better knowing we can go there to recover from the things of our day that beat us down and made us more than a little weary. Anoth

Gritting your teeth?

Albert Einstein was known for his amazing mind. Do you know he published over 300 scientific papers, had his PhD by the age of 30, and actually won the Nobel Prize in physics at the age of 42? As accomplished as he was in his field of study, do you know one of the most memorable things he said is repeated time and time again, maybe not verbatim, but pretty doggone close. "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." Do you know how many mistakes a scientist has to make before he finds the proof of his theory? Too many to count! Do you know how many mistakes I have made along the way, attempting to live out this Christian walk with grace and stamina? Too many to count! How about you? Too many to count?  Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well

With or To?

Mom always told me if I wanted to have friends, I had to show myself 'friendly'. In other words, don't be closed off, aloof, or stand there with your nose up in the air. Go for it, put yourself out there, and be a friend to the one who needs a friend. That is what she modeled and I certainly took a long time to learn that lesson. Why? I was terribly insecure as a child - not really thinking others could ever like me because I didn't know that I had anything 'good' to offer in a relationship. As I cam to Christ, do you know what happened? God became my 'security' - he took all that made me 'insecure' and gave me what will always make me feel totally secure. He gave me his heart and his hand. As I took his hand, I experienced his heart. As I experienced his heart, I understood there was an internal 'anchor' that made me secure no matter what came my way.  Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you. How? you ask. In Christ. God

Not finished with you yet...

"But you, dear Jacob my servant, you have nothing to fear. Israel, there's no need to worry. Look up! I'll save you from that far country, I'll get your children out of the land of exile. Things are going to be normal again for Jacob, safe and secure, smooth sailing. Yes, dear Jacob my servant, you have nothing to fear. Depend on it, I'm on your side. I'll finish off all the godless nations among which I've scattered you, but I won't finish you off. I have more work left to do on you. I'll punish you, but fairly. No, I'm not finished with you yet. " (Jeremiah 46:27-28) The book of Jeremiah deals with a condition many of us experience in our lives - repeated sin and willful disobedience. Recorded for our reading is this report of major catastrophe after major catastrophe for the nation of Judah. They chose to worship other gods, offering special offerings to the Queen of Heaven - an idol of the religions in the land that went against God&

A million other things

My help and glory are in God —granite-strength and safe-harbor-God— So trust him absolutely, people; lay your lives on the line for him. God is a safe place to be. (Psalm 62:7) May I ask what 'absolutely' means to you? If you ask me if I want to go fishing, my reply will be 'absolutely'! If you ask me if I want to paint a few walls, my expression of interest or intent will be way different! The first expresses the idea of being without any reservation - I am completely, wholly, and intently interested in going fishing. The thing you might hear from me when you ask me to paint a few walls may be 'okay', but my heart isn't 'absolutely' committed to the project! There is going to be some reservation because I know how insanely hard it is to paint and do a good job at it. There is all that prep time, then you have to roll the paint in this direction and that so you get even coverage, and all that cutting in...I am just getting tired thinking that one th

The news is going to get out...

I have met church-goers who seem to treat their 'religious life' as though it was something they could hold so close to the cuff that no one else could actually know the God they serve. It is as though they think they have some 'inside track' with this God-thing, but in reality no one really has found a 'more right' way to heaven than to believe in the finished work of the cross accomplished by Christ himself. No one who really serves Christ whole-heartedly is able to 'shut-off' their 'religious life' just because it a workday and not the sabbath. In truth, our life isn't 'religious' if we are followers of Christ - it is a genuine relationship that carries into all the days and hours of our week. He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we’ve learned: that there’s one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us—Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captiv

The Great Beyond

The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look . He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried — our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us . We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed. We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him. (Isaiah 53:3-4) If you have ever thought all the 'things wrong with you' are a bit much for anyone to actually lo

Not just any old stone

Parents everywhere are faced with the challenge of teaching their children manners as they grow up. Society sets expectations of how people should 'behave' when interacting with each other. The lessons vary from chewing with your mouth closed, elbows off the table, say 'please' and 'thank you'. Other lessons may be taught in some cultures - things like hold a door open for others, respect your elders, no back-talk, and the list goes on. When someone spoke to me, I was taught to answer them. When they gave me something, I was taught to thank them. Whenever someone thanked me, I was to tell them they were welcome. Simple manners - yet so much meaning behind them. First, when I was being spoken to, answering revealed just how well I had been listening. When someone gifted me with something, a simple thank you let the other person know I appreciated the gift. Whenever I let someone know they were welcome, I was showing I cared about them meeting a need. Welcom

No April Fool Here

But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master. (Romans 6:23) Who tells you what to do? We probably all have persons in authority within our lives that give us tasks to complete and we go off in the direction of 'doing' whatever it is we are asked to do. Bosses are probably at the top of the list - they by nature of their position are guiding the work that gets done each day. If you are a child, parents are those individuals who remind the child of the bed needing to be made, teeth requiring a little scrubbing, and toilet paper that needs replacing when they use it all up. Traffic cops expect we will observe what they tell us to do, diverting this w

More Moxie, Please

Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life. (James 1:12) I know many of us don't feel very 'fortunate' when we are faced with challenges that test our faith or fortitude. In fact, we probably groan a bit and wish the doggone thing would just evaporate before our eyes. We might dig in because we know it isn't going to just go 'poof' and be gone, but then somehow we don't have the fortitude to stick it out. Fortitude is both the mental and physical strength to face the difficulty with courage. If you are like me, getting my mind and body to align is a challenge a great deal of time - I get one motivated and moving, but the other seems to lag behind or go in a totally different direction! Have you ever seen something coming at your head-on? As a teen, I remember a group of boys in the neighborhood playing 'chicken' with their bi

Taken in and taking up

"Now, vigilantly guard your souls : Love God, your God. Because if you wander off and start taking up with these remaining nations still among you (intermarry, say, and have other dealings with them), know for certain that God, your God, will not get rid of these nations for you. They'll be nothing but trouble to you —horsewhips on your backs and sand in your eyes—until you're the ones who will be driven out of this good land that God, your God, has given you." (Joshua 23:11-13) Joshua is about to turn over the control of the nation at the point of his death. He gathers the leaders, priests, and elders together. In the moments which pass, he gives them sound advice on how God expects them to live in the land they have been given as an inheritance - a place of permanent settlement after years and years of wandering the deserts. His first piece of advice: Stay alert ! Why? The work was not done - nations still had to be dealt with. Know this, my friends, OUR work

Doubt, is it the enemy of trust?

“But blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God. They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers— Never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season." (Jeremiah 17:7-8) Trust is won, but not as easily as it is broken sometimes. We have all probably trusted someone to do something they committed to do in the manner they promised at the specific time they intended. The outcome was slightly different than what was committed, though. We end up disappointed by the lack of commitment someone revealed in that moment. When that happens repeatedly, trusting that individual to fulfill their commitments becomes very hard, doesn't it? Think for just a few moments today why it is you trust or don't trust God. I doubt a lack of trust in God is based on him not keeping his commitments in the manner he promised within the timing he intended! In fact, it

No choice but to flee

How many of us seem to just be 'spinning our wheels'? We seem to be going nowhere, but we are doing a lot of work to get 'nowhere'. There are times in each of our lives when we just feel like we have been "marching all night". We seem to be constantly moving, but accomplishing very little - exhausted by the many battles of our day that seem to just keep coming no matter how many we have fought. These are the times when our enemy wants to mount his most significant attacks. Why is this the best time for him to attack? He views us as "weak" when we have been "marching long"! He views our physical exertion and weakness as spiritual weakness, too! Silly devil, don't you know who we stand with and who stands strong on our behalf? Joshua marched all night from Gilgal and took them by total surprise. God threw them into total confusion before Israel, a major victory at Gibeon. Israel chased them along the ridge to Beth Horon and fought th

In and Under Authority, but Absolutely Free

But what happens when we live God’s way ? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified. (Galatians 5:22-23) I have run into people over the years that ask why I chose to follow Christ. They aren't asking because they are curious so much, but because their 'view' of being a 'Christ-follower' means I must be a total 'rule follower'

I have 'green hope'

So reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory. Jesus did it; now you do it! Jesus, staying true to God’s purposes, reached out in a special way to the Jewish insiders so that the old ancestral promises would come true for them. As a result, the non-Jewish outsiders have been able to experience mercy and to show appreciation to God. Just think of all the Scriptures that will come true in what we do! For instance: Then I’ll join outsiders in a hymn-sing; I’ll sing to your name! And this one: Outsiders and insiders, rejoice together! And again: People of all nations, celebrate God! All colors and races, give hearty praise! And Isaiah’s word: There’s the root of our ancestor Jesse, breaking through the earth and growing tree tall, Tall enough for everyone everywhere to see and take hope! Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope! (Romans 15

Just not capable

My dad could sell anything - but he also liked to 'brag' about the 'big' fish that got away. He might have been called a 'big talker' when it came to some of his fishing tales, but dad was an excellent fisherman, nonetheless.  Big talkers - do you know any? They kind of paint a picture that sometimes goes way beyond what we imagine possible, but the "picture" never really materializes. What do they do with their "big words" and "big ideas"? They build up hope, don't they? At least until you have been "burned" a few times by the "hollowness" of their words! While dad's 'big talk' was harmless because it was just another 'fish tale', there are 'hollow words' we might all hear from time to time that are not only harmful, they are downright misleading to all who listen. Like billowing clouds that bring no rain  is the person who talks big but never produces.  (Proverbs 25:14) I live in

I am in second place

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. (Colossians 3:12) Chosen by God - don't those words just excite the soul? There is an intense desire on God's part to have you and I as his children - embraced by his love, set free by his grace, and living in the liberty those two things produce within us. We aren't just 'picked from the pack' - we are chosen by him because there is an intense desire - a passion of sorts that keeps his focus squarely on each of us. As a result, we are never outside of his provision, protection, and certainly not far from the reach of his passion.  One part of this passage that struck me this

Coffin Life is No Life

Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. (James Baldwin) The more we attempt to 'live within' our masks - rather they protect us from things we'd rather not know, or cover over things we already know all too well - those masks aren't really going to do their job very well in the end. Some people use their careers as the 'mask they live within' - useless busywork that seems to really be getting them nowhere in the end. Others will use their humor as the 'mask they live within' - seeing sarcasm and pointing out the foolishness of others as a way of taking the eyes off of themselves. We can become masters of 'living within' our masks if we allow ourselves to escape into those things. Yes, you read that correctly - we 'allow ourselves' to escape the reality of life by 'living within' some mask we have created. That 'masked place' is really a place of hiding and God asks us to rip