Monday, March 19, 2018

Lord Have Mercy

Every June I look forward to attending the Christian Writers Workshop in Cedar Falls. The registration just opened this weekend and I couldn't wait to print it out and fill in my information. I am always humbled when I come to the area where I am to list my previous writing/publishing experience: Beginning, Intermediate, or Advanced. The workshop instructors are published book authors. I'm truly humbled in their midst.

"To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' 

"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted," (Luke 18:9-14 NIV).

The writers' conference always blesses me because I am so inspired by what everyone else is doing. Some have books being published and another one in the works! Others have contracts for several books ahead. They are working with agents and publishers and taking on speaking engagements to promote their works. Some self-publish books and are out promoting the sale of the books.

That has never been a burning drive for me--to publish a book. Perhaps that will change in the future but now I am happy to write a twice-weekly blog and hope that it brings a blessing to a few people's day. I am honored to share this very humble gift of writing on a very primitive level. But, I still want to get better at what I do. My hope is that I grow as a Christian the more I write. Researching scriptures and topics helps me learn more and keeps my nose in the Bible - where it should be.

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. Help me to share my constant struggle with sinfulness with others so together we can learn and grow to be more like Jesus every day. Amen.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Hope of Redemption

God uses imperfect people. Thank goodness! Abraham lied. Isaak lied, Jacob deceived. And David lusted, and murdered to gain a beautiful woman as his own. Peter denied Jesus. Yet, God loved them and blessed them and used them in mighty ways.

""You will all fall away," Jesus told them, "for it is written: 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee." Peter declared, "Even if all fall away, I will not." "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "today--yes, tonight--before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times." But Peter insisted emphatically, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the others said the same," (Mark 14:27-31 NIV).

Only one person has ever lived without sin: Jesus Christ. The rest of us are sinners; imperfect; just struggling to get through this life making the best of our bodies, minds and souls; using them to create something positive in the world around us.

Christians want to live a perfect life as Jesus did. That is our goal, to be like Jesus. That was Peter's goal, too. He truly loved Jesus and was a faithful follower, but when it came to risking his own reputation and perhaps his life, Peter denied his connection to Jesus. Three times.

How many times do we deny Jesus in our own lives? I don't want to see God's tally of my sins. My only hope is in Jesus. By repenting before my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, His forgiveness and redemption, and God's 'Amazing Grace' is mine.

My NIV Life Application Study Bible notes for John 3:18 say the only thing we need to fear in life is eternal condemnation in hell. When we believe in Jesus Christ and ask for forgiveness of our sins, we open the door for Grace to wash over us and make us pure and holy before our God.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son," (John 3:16-18 NIV).

Believe in Him today;
Redemption is yours forever.

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Wondrous Cross

I have a hymnal that my father used as choral director back in the 1970s. He used tic marks next to the hymn numbers to show how often he used the songs. I was reminded of the hymn, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" as I chose the theme of today's blog. So I pulled out the hymnal and found this hymn had more tic marks than any other song, which kind of surprised me. Yet, perhaps that is an underlying reason I began to collect crosses for their artistic display and meaning that lies deep inside of me.

The cross represents Christ's love for me. I am just overwhelmed by His precious love and His ability to care for me, a sinner so unworthy. He died on that Cross for me. It just blows me away that Jesus would do that. Just think about how much love He held in His heart for us! To suffer the way He did for you and for me. And that He knew all along that He was headed for death on a cross. As the day of crucifixion drew near, Jesus tried to prepare His disciples.

"He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him... Then he (Jesus) called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it,'" (Mark 8:31-32, 34-35 NIV).

The Cross made the difference for me
"When I survey the wondrous cross, On which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ, my God; All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood. See, from His head, His hands, his feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down; Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown? Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all. Amen." (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, written by Isaac Watts in 1707).

Such rich and descriptive words written so long ago. How true they still ring in our most inner depths of faith! I can hardly breathe as I think of Jesus hanging on that cross, held up by those wicked nails and topped by a piercing crown of thorns.

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me'," (Matthew 16:24 NIV).

As we walk these last weeks toward the joyous Resurrection Day, we must first hoist up our own crosses and carry them. Following Jesus requires dedication and commitment. We are not without our own wounds, though they may seem petty compared to Jesus' complete sacrifice. Still we must be willing to go to our own cross, if He calls us to do so. This is where we must examine ourselves to see our weaknesses and pray for His strength to carry us forward.

We don't know the day when Jesus will return to us but we are called to walk step by step with Jesus toward that blessed day of His return. May we use these days that lead toward the Christian celebration of Christ's Resurrection (commonly called Easter) to focus on our cross and carry it with conviction and strength of faith. The Cross makes the difference for me!

Carry your cross
all the way to Calvary.

SDG - Glory of God alone

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Make My Ears Tingle, Lord

As often happens, I started to write my blog this morning and I got distracted. I looked through some notes I had made about Bible verses that I could turn to in times of need, hoping something would jump out at me. Then I started making notes about good verses to use as I continued toward the cross in my blogs up to Resurrection morning. I now have topics and scriptures for most of my blogs through Easter but it's 10 am and I don't have a blog written for today.

I found a list of "Breath Prayers" - short prayers that can be said quickly, even memorized so they become automatic when needed. The prayers "Here I am Lord" and "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening" touched my heart today. So often I pray, and I do all the talking. Today, I want Jesus to lean over and speak into my ears. I want to hear what He wants me to do, to say, to change. I want my whole body to quiver with the sound of His voice.

Can you imagine what it would be like to go to bed and hear God call to you, as he did to young Samuel?

"The Lord called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.'" So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening." and the Lord said to Samuel: "See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle,"" (! Samuel 3:8-11 NIV).

What a wonderful moment! I long for Jesus to speak to me like that, yet if I am honest it would probably scare me to death. But, what a great way to go!

More frightening than that, is considering what my response would be to a personal Word from God. I desire to be like Isaiah who answered God's question,

""Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"" (Isaiah 6:8 NIV).

But, I am not confident that I could drop everything and follow as the disciples did. As Samuel did. As Isaiah did. Would I? Could I? Do I?

Lord, speak to me for I am listening, Lord. Show me the work you have for me to do. Whisper into my ears the role You have for me and I will follow You. Amen.

My ears will tingle with the Words of the Lord.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Just a Tiny Mustard Seed

If you look carefully at the picture you will see a tiny mustard seed encapsulated in the glass heart. It is resting on the bible my Grandmother Elma Springer gave me in 1970. This chain and mustard seed bookmark has always been with it and shows where the scripture is marked in the margin.

"Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches,"
(Matthew 13:31-32 NIV).

Look at that seed. It is the same as what you buy to make pickles in the spice section of the store. Who could imagine that Jesus would use a rather plain and tiny mustard seed to explain a concept of such importance? The mustard seed shows how the value of faith and how that faith grows from one tiny seed into an enormous tree of faith that is the kingdom of heaven, the future home of believers.

"Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive (the demon) out?" He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you," (Matthew 17:19-21 NIV).

Jesus is preparing His disciples for their leadership role when He is gone. They must have faith.

"The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you," (Luke 17:6 NIV).

Each time the disciples shared The Word with another person, it was like planting a single mustard seed. The story was shared again and again through generations and centuries and here we are still hearing that same story about the mustard seed and growing in our faith. We are part of God's Kingdom because we believe today. Who can you share The Word with today?

"Again he said, "What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade," (Mark 4:30-32 NIV).

Plant a mustard seed today. Hold its power in your hand and increase your faith.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Plunging Into The Details

I started my day with a plugged toilet. Nice huh? My otherwise pleasant mood quickly turned to one of frustration and embarrassment. Ever have a day like that?

I certainly would never think of starting my blog with this experience but I think God wants me to share my everyday, down-in-the-dirt, uglier-than-a-rotten potato moments to show you that I am human. I am a sinner. I mess up big-time.

Life isn't all fragrant lilacs and delicious cheesecake. I go to Jesus with my smallest issues: the lost car keys; the low fuel light; the hurtful utterance made to my husband; the angry thought I couldn't avoid; and the hope for an acceptable hemoglobin so I can give blood. I think because Jesus loves us so much, He desires us to share everything that is important to us with Him. He sees us through each situation and brings us out humbly or graciously in the end.

"The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives," (Psalm 37:23 NLT).

Although the New Living Translation takes some liberty with the original scripture, I like its paraphrase of this verse. I believe that Jesus wants us to be so close to Him in our daily lives that we share every detail with Him and we allow Him to correct our thinking and direct our steps as we move through the day. And I love being next to Jesus in every moment. His love and guidance make my day so much better than when I try it on my own.

With Jesus at my side I feel protected, sheltered from the daily storms, counseled, and loved no matter what my grade for the day will be. I desperately need His precious love to lift me up and encourage me to do the right thing.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight," (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV).

Thank you, Jesus for showing us the way to get through the messy details of life with You at our side. Amen.

Monday, February 26, 2018

What a Difference the Son Makes

I awoke to the most brilliant sunshine this morning! It seemed so much brighter than the usual sunny day. My eyes watered in the glorious radiance. I felt uplifted and pulled in a higher direction. My spirit was enlightened and I chose to praise God for this incredibly beautiful day! Thank you, Lord for the blessing of Your control over the heavens and the earth.

The last several weeks have seemed to be filled with too many dark gray days. We had the lights on many of the days, just to allow us to see what we were doing. We had rain, sleet, snow, more rain, more sleet, freezing rain, sleet and more snow. Then the weather warmed and thawed all the snow into an ugly slush that covered the vehicles on the road and splattered over the grungy terraces and roadsides.

We are well into the Lenten season, a time to show penitence for our sinful ways. For me, it is also a time to reflect on Jesus' life and journey toward the cross. When I saw the sun this morning I was reminded of Resurrection morning. The glory of God filled the earth and made me feel the wonder of Jesus' gift of eternal life, that is ours to accept.

We are just a little more than halfway through Jesus' life of preaching the Good News and growing followers who will stand strong and continue His teaching when He is gone. (If we fit Jesus' precious life into the days between Christmas and Easter - as I have been attempting to do.) The disciples are still being made to realize that Jesus is the Son of God.

""But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon Son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,"" (Matthew 16:15-18a NIV).

As I read this I want to shake Peter and tell him to wake up and pay attention to what Jesus is telling him! This is important stuff! But Peter, just like me, fails to understand the significance of all that Jesus is teaching until it is almost too late. Fortunately, we get the whole picture to help us figure out that Jesus Christ came into this world to go to the cross and save us from our sins. He did that for me. Jesus went to the cross for you. Wow; what a difference the Son of God makes!

"After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light," (Matthew 17:1-2 NIV).

I encourage you to read once again the story of Jesus' teachings, His life, and His journey to the cross, this Lenten season, and let the Word speak to you as it never has before.

Soak up the Son and 
allow Him to brighten your soul.