All by God – 1st Thessalonians

Beloved by God  1:4

Chosen by God  1:4

Approved by God  2:4

Entrusted by God  2:4

Called by God into His Kingdom and Glory  2:12

Taught by God to Love  4:9

Destined by God for Salvation in Christ  4:9

Sanctified, Preserved, Blameless, entirely by God – Spirit, Soul, and Body – until the Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ – 4:23, 24

 

 

 

 

What do I have to fear if You hold tomorrow? I trust You to turn me from wrong, to guide me through confusion and to provide all that I need. Help me, Lord, to set my heart on doing the next right thing. Ps. 66:20; Matthew 6:34; 1 Peter 4:19

Dirt in Your Face

With permission from Jorn Burger

“Benaiah’s eyes wouldn’t work – the Egyptian had thrown sand into them. He tried to shake off his surprise at how fast the giant moved, he knew he should have remembered from before.”

That was the first thing I read this morning  from “Day of War” by Cliff Graham.

Normally, I don’t grab my Kindle first thing in the morning, but I’m nearing the end of this book and I reached for it before I even got out of bed. It’s made me think a lot about battles and enemy tactics. The story fills me with courage and inspires me to be bold. But this morning it also illuminated the difference between what the world offers and what God desires me to have.

The enemy likes to throw dirt in your face. It’s your past sins and failures, or the failures of those around you. It’s your fears too. When thrown into your eyes it’s very effective for momentarily blinding you. Then your enemy can charge in for a deeper wound.

I wasn’t thinking about this on the way to drop off my daughter at her high school. We were talking and listening to the local Christian radio. Rachel Lampa was singing, “You Are My Remedy,” in between songs, the DJ was sharing verses of hope. We stopped and Hannah got out. “Have an great day, Hannah.” She turned and smiled. “I love you,” I said, “and I’m praying for you.”

“I love you too, Mom. Thanks.”

As I pulled away, I changed the station to a secular one. I like the music on this station, but a song had just ended. “Up next,” the DJ broke in, “get your daily dirt! Find out all the trash talk they are dishing out on your favorite celebs!”

I scoffed and switched back. Get your daily dirt here. Let me throw it in your face. Let me remind you there’s nothing grander to live for than to hope your doing better than the next idiot. Let me entertain you with the meaningless things of life and the stupidity of someone’s vain pursuits. Let me get your eyes off the battle. Let me help you forget God wants you to conquer. God wants you to win.

How sharp the contrast! The Scriptures offer so much hope. They constantly remind us there is more to live for. They constantly warn us to trust in God’s strength and not our own. To rely on Christ’s covering and not our feeble efforts. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling,  the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1:18

What dirt is the enemy throwing in your face today?

The Accuser

“What are you thinking?” Dale asked.

He could tell I was thinking something because the drive had been mostly silent. And after 16 years of marriage, he knew the various rhythms of those silences. Exhausted quiet sounds much different from thoughtful quiet. And strained quiet is as loud as a cannon. For months, the cannon had been booming.

“Nothing.”

Now, I’m not one of those women who punishes her husband with tense “figure-me-out” moods. But the last three years had been brutal and I was all out of coaching tips. How could I tell him what I really thought? We were on our way to meet with our pastor and a successful author who attended our church. What I was really hoping… thinking… entertaining… was the thought of getting published.

Becoming famous.

And leaving him.

I knew why he was suddenly investing himself in my life. Money.

The praises of our friends and family over my book had ignited dollars signs within his dark brown eyes. Lord knows nothing else could get him to give me THIS much time. Hours and hours of editing the manuscript, formatting it on the computer, helping me design logos and letterheads – he was hoping I would make it big. He was pinning our financial recovery from a disastrous try at small business back on me.

And I had been stuck enough.

We sat through an hour and a half with Tom and Jon – each of us for different reasons – as Jon laid out the complexity of the publishing world. One by one, my balloons popped. I could count on months of searching for an agent. Years of looking for a publisher and then maybe, MAYBE, if I was really lucky, I’d get signed with a 10 to 15,000 dollar contract for one book. In the meantime, we would need to spend money to make some. Conferences – where I might meet an agent; workshops; agents packets; website; professional editing….

The trip back in the car was even quieter. This time a deflated, zero hope, dead dream quiet. We had no money and no time for me to invest. We couldn’t even afford postage for 300 query letters, much less the cost of printing materials for agent packets. I breathed in, “I guess I need to get a job and drop this stupid idea.”

“Why do you say that?” Dale asked, surprised.

“Because it’s obvious we aren’t going to make any money at this anytime soon.”

“I never thought we were,” he answered.

Silence. This time the cannons, my cannons, were all aimed at me. I blinked back tears. “But I thought….”

Dale stopped the van and looked at me. “I’ve never thought we were going to make lots of money off this. I’ve just liked seeing what it’s done for you. I’ve enjoyed learning about you by reading what you write. You’re talented, honey, but even if you never sell a book, I want you to keep going.” He smiled, “I know it’s scary, but I’m going to get us out of this. We’re going to make it, okay?”

“Okay,” I breathed out.

And we did.

 

 

 

 

Extra Easter

I discovered last night it’s not easy to communicate outside in the dark amid three thousand people taking communion. Tangled whispers with my husband resulted in both of us getting communion for my eighty-six year old mother. Only he beat me back to the seat.

For a moment, I stood there, cup and cracker in both hands, wondering what to do. Mom had her portion, and everyone else around us did as well. I couldn’t very well return to the table. It would cause too much disruption for others. Then it hit me… I had been given a double portion of grace.

I sat down and stared at my hands ladened with the reminder of God’s provision through Christ. Both hands were filled. There wasn’t one holding on to the Spirit and one holding on to the world, both were covered with evidence of His rich love. Verses ran through my mind, “My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) “Where sin increased – grace abounds.” (Romans 5:20) and I started to weep.

How tender God’s love is for us! How it never fails! He doesn’t give us a tiny drop to smear over an ocean of sin. He floods us with the grace of Christ, changing the salt lakes of our hearts to rivers of life. Never does He regret making the sacrifice for us, but is glorified eternally because He loves us consistently. And every time we ask for His mercy, He gives. And gives. And gives.

Do we go through trials? Does anyone need to ask? Do we suffer for our choices? Deeply. But even through trial and consequences the truth prevails –  Jesus saves completely those who trust in Him because He lives to intercede for us. (Hebrews 7:5)

This is your year for extra Easter. Take and drink His love.

 

If you were weak, O Lord, how could I count on you? If you were powerful, but cruel how could I depend on you? But you, O Lord, are powerful and you, O God, are faithful in unfailing love. You are all I need. Psalm 62:11 -12

Today is made for you, beautiful God. Show me your character and cause me to radiate your light as I walk through your plan. Help me to rest in your goodness and be your envoy of peace. Genesis 1 and 2

Filling the Tank

I don’t know of anyone who loves pumping gas into their car, but for my friends Bryan and Jo, filling the tank is an exercise in faith.

Bryan is blind and Jo, his wife, severely handicapped by rheumatoid arthritis, is wheelchair bound. For Jo, getting her wheelchair between the van and pump is impossible, so she coaches Bryan as he finds the pump and tries to operate it. She calls out to him, “To your left, Bryan. Now up… no back… too far. Not that button! You’ve got to start over. Clear it… put the card back in. No… not there.” She rests for a second, the effort of looking backward exhausting, before trying again.

Right here is where “normal” people widen their eyes, “How in the world do they do it?” Answer: Bryan and Jo are anything, but normal. They are God’s secret agents, fearlessly traveling disguised as a handicapped couple in their mission to help others understand the love of Christ.

Take for example their last fill up. Tired of the craziness of paying at the pump, Bryan offered to go inside the store and prepay.

“Usually, the moment I come in, someone offers help because they can see I’m blind. This time only silence,” Bryan recalled, chuckling. “I held out my credit card and said ‘Hello?’ – nothing. So I made my way to the counter where I could hear someone behind it.” He stretches his arms out wide with a grin, pivoting on one foot like a swinging gate, “‘HELLO! I want to prepay!‘ Finally this guy speaks in Spanish and I realize he can’t understand me. I hold up my card. ‘I want to prepay,’ I say again.”

Meanwhile, Jo is watching from the van as more people enter the store. A line forms behind Bryan, who’s waving his arms and gesturing to the pumps. Back inside, a stranger tries to help out, only his thick urban dialect is more confusing to the clerk then Bryan’s English. For awhile it’s chaos, but eventually, the clerk figures it out and takes the card. Bryan heads back to the van and Jo drives over to get the gas.

Only someone else is pumping their prepaid gas into another car.

Bryan gets out and calmly explains to the woman that she’s pumping his gas, but she speaks broken English and has trouble understanding him. Her teenage son, who’s been sitting in her car, begins cursing, “G** D#@* it, Mom! You’re taking his *#@&*^ gas!” He rages on at her until she stops and puts the nozzle back in the pump.

Now what would you do if you were blind, your wife is in a wheelchair and you’ve just been through fifteen minutes of insanity? I would be rattled. I would smile softly at the mom and try to stay away from the kid. But God made Bryan to show me how handicapped I am.

Bryan put his arm around the lady. “You really shouldn’t let your son treat you that way. You were made in God’s image, made to be respected. Can I pray with you that God will give you the strength to correct your son?” And so they pray!

By this time the whole station has been affected by Bryan and Jo – not an unusual thing for them. Another stranger comes up to Bryan and offers to pump his gas. Bryan stretches out his arms again, moving his head like Stevie Wonder, “Oh bless you!” he beams, still happy, not flustered, simply ministering where he can. “I thanked him and talked with him and was just about to go have a heart-to-heart with the kid when they drove away,” he finishes telling me.

I’m amazed. “Bryan, you’re used to being vulnerable aren’t you?”

“Oh yeah! Hey, it’s always God that protects us. Even with the van that’s decked out for us, it still has to function properly and we still have to trust the Lord to get us there. Our lives depend on God so why not take chances and let Him work?”

I shake my head. “Yeah, why not?”

Genesis

photo by John Tarr

How many stories have you read since childhood? How many of those have you studied, torn apart, memorized? Genesis has been with me longer than any friend, longer than my own husband. So as I began this research for my third novel, Genesis was the part I thought I knew. The mythologies of the ancient Near East were the unopened package – the dark mysterious new date. Was I in for a shock!

I can see my mistake now. I had taken those first pages of scripture and placed my seal upon them. Stamped them with issues relevant to me and viewed the stories with familiar eyes: Creationism vs. Evolution. Myth vs. Fact. Allusions  of Christ and proof of the Trinity. It was all there or so I assumed.

There was so much I never pondered.

My old friend was ready to talk.

Remembering who Genesis was originally written to immediately cast a new light on the text. How could I’ve forgotten their importance? I passed over the issues facing a wandering band of former slaves as if Moses intended for my generation to be his primary audience!

Surely Genesis was an encrypted message meant to supplement modern science.

Hints of the BIG BANG. Chronology of the Earth’s time line.  Origins of humanity. There could be no higher calling than to speak to directly to the pinnacle  of man’s knowledge… right?

Wrong! My issues do not necessitate God’s message. His agenda cannot be hijacked.  And while the message of Genesis is timeless, God’s mission was not to provide a treatise on how He created the world and what materials He used. After all, when gas goes to four dollars a gallon and you’ve lost your job to a collapsing economy, is your first question the age of the earth or Good God, who’s in control?

Trail the path of the wandering Israelites  and discover how God used the cultures around them to reveal His character.  You’ll see Genesis in a whole new way.

She Did It in the Garden with the Pruning Shears

I was working right beside her. You think I would’ve noticed. You think I would’ve heard the snip, snip, snip and would’ve  checked. But I didn’t until it was too late. Way too late. I gasped at the remnants of my beautiful vine, “Mom! What have you done?!”

“Well, it was dead on top,” she began.

“Then don’t you think you should have started there?” I felt sick. It had taken five years for that vine to grow and against all odds it beat this year’s frost. I had been looking at it for a week, thinking how I would carefully prune and plant around it. Now it looked half dead with all the lush green parts in a pile by my 86 year old mother turned Lizzy Borden. Brown twigs jutted out from the bottom half like the innards of a gutted fish.

“I’m tired.” She handed me her weapon, a pair of pruning shears. “You finish,” she ordered, walking away.

For a moment I just stared. The family reunion is in 6 weeks, (5, but I’m hoping denial will work like pixy dust) and the vine isn’t going to be happy in time. Half hacked, there was only one thing left to do – obey my mom – tendril hit man. So I dove in. I clipped… I sawed… I conquered. And I ended up looking like someone played tick-tack-toe on my arms, hands and face with a razor.

The window behind me slid open. “What did you do?” my husband cried out.

“It wasn’t me!” The pruning shears dropped to the ground, “Mom started it.”

He gave me a sideways look of disgust. “Honey, if you want to be an author, you’ve got to come up with a better story. I remember the kid’s haircuts when they were little.” He looked at the vine and shook his head. “It’s never gonna look good for the reunion.”

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