The Gift

8 01 2014

Christmas Eve was difficult. For the first time in eight years, I was ill and unable to join our worship team for the Candle-lighting Ceremony. I popped in long enough to hear my granddaughter sing in the flash mob, and then came home.

As I drove along, I began to talk to the Lord about Christmas and my desire to give Him a gift. The way I saw it, the only thing I could give Him that He had not first given me was my heart. The chorus to the song  “You Are Good” ran through my head:

“How can I thank You? What can I bring?

“What can these poor hands lay at the feet of the King?

“I’ll sing You a love song – it’s all that I have

“To tell You I’m grateful for holding my life in Your hands

“You are holding my life in Your hands.”

As I looked at my heart, though, I realized that it was filled with dirt and grime…envy, jealousy, unforgiveness, and a host of other ills. It broke my heart to offer such a piece of rubbish to the King of kings – but I had nothing else to offer Him that was truly mine to give. With tears streaming down my face, I lifted my hands as if my heart were there and offered it up to Him, and apologized for its miserable condition.

 The next day, my daughter and her family stopped by. With a look of joyous expectation, she handed me a small, wrapped package.

“This is for you. I believe you are meant to have it.”

Wondering what the package contained, I opened it. Within was a small jewelry box.

I was filled with horror when I opened it and found my mother’s wedding ring nestled inside.

“I don’t want this. It means nothing to me,” I said sharply as I plopped the box on the dining room table.

Tears welled up in her eyes. “Mom, I really believe you are supposed to have the ring,” she said.

I left the box where I’d set it and changed the subject.

Now, this surely seems like a bizarre reaction to a lovely gift. At any other time, it would be. There is history behind my rude behavior, though.

When my mom moved to heaven, my dad basically disinherited me. He’d had very little love for my mom – mostly used her to support himself. Her wedding rings were given away to others, leaving me without a “daughter’s” honor in this and every other way. It’s hard to describe, and I don’t wish to go into details to help you understand!

For the last eight years I’ve been passed over, put down, and pushed out, so when God began to speak the word, “Chosen” to me, it stirred my heart and brought healing.

This single word has been swirling around me like a gentle breeze, softly lighting in my heart.

On Christmas Day, it finally hit home. 

God said, “This is not a wedding ring you’ve been given. It’s a daughter’s ring, for you are Mine. No one can ever take that from you. This ring is a gift from Me, not just from your daughter. I want you to know how much I love you.”

Whooee! When the Lord wants us to understand something, He certainly has a way of getting through…if we have the ears to hear His voice.

Are you listening to Him? He has such wonderful words of love for you as well. Pay close attention, for He is drawing His own to Himself as never before!

Oh, how our Father loves you and me!

PS – it’s not about the “bling” God chose to give me, either. That was just His way of cementing the truths He’d been speaking to me all month. He has many, many ways of showing us how much He loves us. Often, it’s in the form of heart-shaped rocks, hummingbirds, or a beautiful sunset. Don’t miss the little things. Mmm. The word “chosen” spoke volumes more than the little ring I now wear on my finger.





I Did It My Way

30 11 2013

When we think about the poor, the needy, or the destitute, many feelings come to the surface.

For some, this gives rise to compassion and a desire to reach out.

For others, it’s a sense of loathing and disgust. We hear phrases like:

“Why don’t they get a job?” or “They should have made better decisions.”

Smug self-righteousness can creep in if we aren’t careful.

Jesus had a unique way of viewing the needy:

Blessed are the poor in spirit…

Blessed are those who mourn…

Blessed are the meek…those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…

Blessed are the merciful…the pure in heart…the peacemakers

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness. (Matthew 5)

He hung out with drunks and prostitutes so often that He was accused of being one! (Luke 7:34)

Jesus looked beyond their faults and saw their need.

He said things like:

“Ask and keep asking; seek and keep seeking; knock and keep knocking.” (Matthew 7:7)

“You don’t have because you don’t ask.” (James 4:2)

Although this was not brought out in the study we attended, I realize that our independence and desire to be seen as strong and autonomous is a very big obstacle to our relationship with God.

So long as we believe we have life “handled,” we think we have no need for God’s assistance. We tend to call on Him only for our “big” problems.

When we read the Psalms and find David weeping on his bed all night as he calls on God, we’re thankful that we don’t need God like that. The Old Testament prophets can be uncomfortable to read – many of them were broken-hearted over what they saw around them.

We think, “Nah, so long as I’m okay, that’s all that matters.” We can be so self-centered!

Oh, and let us be “grown up” in our self-sufficiency or die. But Jesus said:

“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Mark 10:15)

We have grandchildren who come to visit. Some days it seems like all they do is ask!

They ask if they can have this or that to play with, or for something to eat. They ask if they can do things, and they ask us to do things with them. In most cases, they ask out of curiosity, or they need something (a drink, for example).

Because we love them, they delight us and it gives us pleasure to be able to do things with or for them.

We don’t put them down for their immaturity…they’re children.

Isn’t it a relief to know that we are, in fact, all immature in our spiritual walk? We all are…even the most mature among us. Step back and look at the BIG picture for a sec. How “grown up” are any of us, really, in the overall picture?

(Makes you want to disagree, doesn’t it? I’m typing this and asking at the same time, “How dare you?” 😉 )

Yes, we are to mature in our faith. I get that.

This means becoming more dependent upon God – not less!

To the extent that we insist on coming to God with our “adult undies” on, we miss out on sweet communion with God.

He is not put off by neediness, or dependence. He calls this state of mind “blessed.” In fact, it isn’t until we come to this place that we have a chance of entering His Kingdom. Let me repeat Jesus’ words:

“…Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

Does this statement concern anyone?

It certainly makes me think twice before I approach God as anything other than His child!

On a typical Sunday morning, when we are at our “Christian best,” we gather to sing about Jesus, to talk about Him, to collect money for Him.

Where is Jesus?

Behold, I stand at the door and knock…

To knock – and keep knocking is not beneath Jesus. We find Him doing just this in Revelation 3:20. To call His action one of humility would be an understatement, for the door of the church is the one through which He seeks an invitation…to be with His own.

“If any one hears My voice and opens the door.”

“Hello…Is anyone home?”

In closing, let’s remember that self-sufficiency is not listed in the fruit of the Spirit. Let’s learn to depend upon God more, and ourselves less.

“Me do” will only get us so far –

– and will block our relationship with God.

You’ve dropped in on the series Intimacy with God. It begins here: C’mon In…

This section is about obstacles to intimacy. It begins here: A Clogged Conduit





A Clogged Conduit

25 11 2013

(Note: This is a two-part post. If the first bit doesn’t pertain to you, the second half will…don’t miss it.)

When it comes to intimacy with God, it must be made clear that first we must have a relationship with Him.

Being merely “religious” doesn’t count: faithful church attendance…charitable acts…being nice.

These are all good things, but without ever coming face to face with our need for a Savior, they profit us nothing.

Sin – our inability to be perfect – is a very big problem when it comes to having a relationship with God. It was one we couldn’t fix. It took Jesus, who came to earth as a baby, lived a perfect life, and was put to death on the cross to bring reconciliation.

While on the cross He stated, “It is finished.”

Nothing more is needed on God’s part in order for us to commune with Him.

It didn’t end there, though. He rose from the grave, having overcome death. A few weeks later, He lifted off the planet and returned to heaven where He lives today.

The Bible calls Him the “prototokis” among many brethren…the “prototype,” or model of what is available to all who choose to follow Him. It is His life after death that gives us hope. He is, for those who have accepted His pardon, the true “Fountain of Youth.”

If there was another way for mankind to be reunited with God, then Jesus’ death was for nothing.

To those who have not made this important first step, very little that is written about “life with Christ” will makes sense. It sounds like a fairy tale, and those who “buy into it” will seem deluded to the extreme!

The Bible is like a true hologram. It was created by a unique Light. To the naked eye, it appears to be nothing more than a bit of gray film. Illuminated by any other light, it remains a bit of plastic – and nothing of the image can be seen.

However, when it is illuminated by the Light that created it, the Book comes to visible and understandable.

If the Bible is nothing but a dusty old book, full of ancient history, then ask God to shed His Light on it…to reveal what can’t be understood apart from His illumination.

Go ahead, take a risk and ask God to reveal Himself. If He truly does not exist, then nothing will come of it; Christians can be written off as a bunch of nuts, and time (of which there is a limited quantity if there really is no God) can be spent doing happier things than having frustrating arguments with the “deluded” about their beliefs!

*****

For the child of God, sin is not an obstacle to our walk with the Lord, but…

unconfessed sin is a major barrier. 

When Jesus called out, “It is finished,” He used an accounting term. You’ve probably heard this before, but it bears repeating. Translated to English, His words were:

“Paid In Full!”

It is this statement that makes all our efforts to “earn” the right to come close to God ludicrous. Jesus bought an “All Access Pass” for those who will accept it. We are free to come boldly to His throne for grace and mercy…and a whole lot more!

The purpose of the cross is to provide intimacy with God.

However, when we regard iniquity in our heart, the Lord will not hear us (Psalm 66:18). Think of it this way:

Good parents love their children. Affection flows freely, and there is peace between parent and child…

Until the the child disobeys or rebels.

This causes a rift in their relationship that remains so long as little Johnny refuses to “come clean.” He still wants the cuddles, the laughter, the uninhibited communion with his parents, but instead hides in his room.

Love does not cease, but closeness is affected.

Until he is willing to admit his fault, this break in their relationship will continue.

In the same way, we – God’s children – do the same thing. We judge (with an intent to condemn), we lie, cheat, steal, hate, or gossip.

Then we sense distance between our Father and us. We may have chosen to distance ourselves so He can’t “see” what we’re doing. (Really??!)

When we finally “come clean” – by which I mean agree with God that what we did was wrong – we are instantly forgiven, and the relationship is restored.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)

Note that great acts of charitable deeds are NOT demanded for penance. A simple, “I’m sorry I did ___________ (fill in the blank)” is sufficient. There is no punishment to endure…Jesus was punished on our behalf.

There may be consequences of the choice we made to sin…and we may have to live with those consequences for many years. The principle of “sowing and reaping” is not always suspended. I’ve lived with the unpleasant results of choices I made thirty years ago…and so have my (now) grown children. 😦

In some cases, like divorce and remarriage, God could not remove the consequences of our actions without wiping out our ex’s entire family, for they didn’t cease to exist the day the divorce was final (no matter how much we wish they had).

It wasn’t just the former spouse and our children that were affected, but another entire family as well. Divorce may be the end of one set of problems, but it’s the beginning of a whole new set!

There is no “undo” for this choice. This is discipline enough. (Note that this is training – not a beating!)

Simple confession is enough to clear the air between God and us.

Father, is there anything I need to confess in order for our relationship to grow?

Search me, O God, and know my heart

Try me and know my thoughts

See if there be any hurtful way in me

And lead me in the everlasting way.

Psalm 139:23-24

*****

We’re discussing obstacles to intimacy with God. It begins with: C’mon In…

Week two begins with: Where Image Is Everything