Friday, January 12, 2018

Sign on the Dotted Line

“He forgave us all our sins, having canceled
 the written code, with its regulations,
that was against us and that stood
 opposed to us; he took it away,
nailing it to the cross.”
Colossians 2:13b-14 (NIV)


            “Jude is going to ride the “Electric Slide” this year, Grandma,” my granddaughter Ella told me with a confident smile.

“What makes you so sure?” I asked her.  It wasn’t that Jude hated riding the Electric Slide at Silver Dollar City; it was actually just the opposite. More than anything Jude wanted to experience that ride with his brother and sister.

 The problem was that every time they got in line, Jude stood at a distance, hands in pockets, trying desperately to explain that he just didn’t like the ride but failing to hide the fact that he was just too frightened.

“Oh, he will ride this year,” she repeated, “because I made him sign a contract.” I couldn’t believe it! “You made your 5 year old brother sign a contract? Why?”

Ella, with all the wisdom of an 8 year old, replied “He keeps saying he wants to ride and then he chickens out every time. But he really does want to ride it, Grandma. He’s just scared. So I told him that when he signs a contract, he HAS to do what it says.”

            I couldn’t help but ask. “And if he doesn’t? If he changes his mind again, what will happen?”

Ella gave me a sideways glance and grinned. “Well, if he doesn’t ride, Jude is going to have to kiss our dog Sadie on the mouth.” Mercy.

A written, binding contract. Paul mentions it in Colossians 2:13-14. He calls it a “written code.” It was a handwritten acknowledgment by a debtor of his debts, in other words, a type of contract that the Colossians lived by. Paul explained that no matter how hard the people tried to follow every regulation on that code, the result would always be failure.

            In the same way, the Mosaic Law of their time made them debtors to God because of sin. But Paul encourages them with the good news – GREAT news – that Jesus cancelled those debts in that “written code” by nailing them to the cross. He paid in full what they could not.

Here’s my question: what contracts have you “signed” today that you have already broken? The “No-Gossip Contract?” How about the “Anti-Envy Agreement?” Or maybe the “Never Lie Pledge?”

Jesus paid in full what we never could. He tore up those contracts by nailing them to the cross. Allow Christ to cancel the contracts you are holding on to as He forgives your sins and nails them to the cross.

Oh, the end of the story for Jude? When they arrived at the “Electric Slide,” he was too short and was not allowed to ride. He received an official pardon from Ella and she cancelled the contract.   

Father, thank You. Thank You for taking my sins and nailing them to the cross. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up . . .

Reflect
  • Can you think of rules in your life as a Christian that you try to obey perfectly every day?

  • Is your record spotless or have you failed in some areas?

Application
  • Write the sins in your life that you are struggling with on pieces of paper.

  • Tie two sticks together in the shape of a small wooden cross. Tie those pieces of paper to the cross and toss them on a bonfire as you give them to Jesus.  

Power Verses
  • Colossians 2:13b-14 (NIV) “He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”

  • Matthew 5:37 (NIV) “Simply let your ‘Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No’: anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

  • I John 1:9 (NIV) “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

  • Luke 11:4 (NIV) “Forgive us our sins, and we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.”


  • Acts 3:19 (NIV) “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” 

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Itemized Statement

“Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!”
Wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.”
Proverbs 20:22 (NIV)

The bitter tone of the woman’s voice in the next room caught my attention as I walked into the office.  Her barely restrained fury made every word she spoke sound like a shot being fired from a rifle.

I had an appointment to have my car inspected at a restore and refinish auto shop after a minor bumper mishap but from the tone of her voice, I assumed the vehicle belonging to the angry woman must have sustained an exorbitant amount of damage. It sounded as though she was having every single part replaced as she listed item after item that needed to be ordered.

“And one last thing,” she concluded. “I want a new paint job. He’s gonna be sorry by the time this is done.” I almost pitied the guy who hit her car. “Must have been some collision,” I thought.

The man talking to her laughed. “What about new leather seats?” he asked. “Sure, why not,” she answered. “He’s got the money. He’s getting the bill.”  

As they concluded their business, the woman walked into the office and, with a look over her shoulder, made one final comment as she left: “He thinks I am just going to have a few things updated on my car. Just wait until he gets the bill! This is going to be great! I’ll teach him to divorce me!” and with a laugh she was gone.

Getting even. Oh, haven’t we all been there? “He said” or “She did” and we immediately believe we have a right to hold a grudge and to inflict judgment ourselves.
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Now, I know you may be thinking “But you have no idea what has happened to me and what he/she did” and that is very true, just as I have no idea what happened in this woman’s divorce. But I can tell you that, after she had inflicted her damage to her former husband’s billfold in revenge, there was no joy in her laugh.
  
I also know that resentment and bitterness do more harm to you than to the person you are resentful and bitter toward. Your physical health is affected immediately and, more importantly, your spiritual health is compromised.
  
Forgiving does not mean that you accept as right the wrong done to you. It simply means that you are trusting God to turn that wrong into a right for His glory.

The woman’s itemized statement was really a list that included revenge, bitterness, resentment, anger and unforgiveness.

If you have an itemized statement like hers, I urge you to truly count the cost and write “forgiven” under the amount due.  

Father, I have had a “get even” attitude so many times in my life. Please help me to look at all situations through your eyes and to learn to forgive. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.  


R.A.P. it up . . .


Reflect
  • Can you think of an instance in your life when someone committed a wrong against you?

  • What was your first reaction? To get even or to forgive?

Application
  • Make a list of the wrongs that have been done to you.

  • Beside each one write “forgiven” and the Scripture that applies. Then forgive.

Power Verses:
  • Proverbs 20:22 (NIV) “Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.”


  • Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV) “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”


  • Leviticus 19:18 (NIV) “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

  • Psalm 27:14 (NIV) “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

  • Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV) “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” 





Friday, December 29, 2017

Dare to be Bold


“Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth,
words may be given me so that I will fearlessly
make known the mystery of the gospel.”
Ephesians 6:19 (NIV)

My granddaughter Lola B. taught me a great lesson on being bold when she was in the second grade. Her sister Ava, who was a first grader, was being bullied by another student. Ava, who was very shy, had tried unsuccessfully to get the girl to stop her behavior but it continued.

So Lola, who loved Ava very much, decided at 7 years old to help her 6 year old sister out.

Digging deep inside for courage, Lola walked up to the girl as she stood in the hallway with a friend. “I am Ava’s older sister and I understand that you have been bullying her. It needs to stop right now and I am going to tell your teacher about it.”
The girl looked a bit surprised but quickly nodded “okay.”

Then Lola went to Ava’s classroom and found her teacher. “Hi. I am Lola, Ava’s older sister. I want you to know what is going on with Ava being bullied. And I want to let you know that I will be speaking to my mother about this.” Mercy.
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Oh to have the courage to be bold! That is something that I certainly need when I want to share Jesus. Can you relate?

The Scripture in Ephesians 6:19 speaks directly to that. Paul says “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.”

Why am I not bold when sharing what the Lord has done in my life? Why can’t I tell others about His goodness and mercy and forgiveness and hope?

Honestly, I cannot come up with a good reason. Only excuses.

Like, I’m afraid the person won’t like me anymore and no longer be my friend. Or, I think they will look at my life and all my flaws and failures and see me as a hypocrite. And, maybe I will say the wrong words. Good grief!

Paul wrote this passage as he sat in prison. In prison and thinking of how to share Jesus! And I can’t share because I am afraid that someone won’t like me? Shame on me.

Can I tell you that the bullying stopped? It did. All because of the boldness of a 7 year old little girl who loved her sister very much and was not afraid to speak truth.  

How much more can we do to speak the name of Jesus in love and share the hope He gives to us all. Dare to be bold!

Father, please help me to share your hope through Jesus with love and courage. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.


                                                    R.A.P. it up . . .

Reflect
  • Can you think of a time when the Lord nudged you to share His love and mercy with someone but you hesitated because of one of the above excuses?


Application
  • Journal the names of five people in your life who need to know about the love and forgiveness of Jesus.

  • Beside each name write your excuse or reason for not yet sharing Him.

  • Pray over each name, asking the Lord to give you courage and boldness in love to speak to them. Then do that this week. Journal the result.


Power Verses
  • Ephesians 6:19 (NIV) “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.”

  • Acts 4:29 (NIV) “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”

  • Joshua 1:9 (NIV) “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

  • Acts 28:31 (NIV) “Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.”

  • Matthew 28:19 (NIV) “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . .”    


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Jerry’s Christmas

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;
he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you; You
will find a baby wrapped in clothes
and lying in a manger.”
Luke 2:11-12 (NIV)


I’ll never forget that precious little boy: freckles scattered like tiny raindrops across his entire face, including his ears. Big brown eyes partially obscured by wispy blonde hair that brushed against an ever present smile minus two front teeth.

Jerry was a first grade student at the elementary school where I worked. He came from a home that was short on money but long on love. His clothes were always someone else’s property first, but he never seemed to care.

And this Christmas season was no different.

As a mother of three, I was frantically trying to balance home, husband, kids and job while I shopped endlessly for the perfect “only thing I want” gifts for my family. Somewhere in the rush of the season my focus shifted from the birth of a baby in a manger to the number of presents under our Christmas tree.

There was some success but at a price…a high price. My Christmas budget was shrinking rapidly. “Why couldn’t my children want something a little cheaper?” I kept thinking. “Why do they think they have to have every thing they see on television?”

Those questions were occupying my thoughts as I walked down the first grade hall and saw Jerry coming toward me in his winter coat that was about three sizes too large and worn tennis shoes minus the laces.

“Hey, Jerry! How are you?” “I’m good, Miss Nancy. It’s almost Christmas…Jesus’ birthday…did you know?” I couldn’t help but smile at that comment. “Yes, I have heard that. So what do you want for Christmas, Jerry?”

He quickly replied “Oh, I already know what I’m getting. It’s the same every year.”

At this point I would have expected a child making that statement to duck his head in disappointment and go on, but not Jerry.

As I bent down to hug and encourage him, Jerry put his hands on my shoulders and, with a huge smile, continued. “When I wake up on Christmas morning, there will be a BIG candy cane under my pillow!” he exclaimed as he licked his lips and rubbed his tummy in anticipation of that moment. “And then, under the tree, I will get a little Matchbox car to add to my others. I can hardly wait, Miss Nancy!”

As I hugged Jerry and sent him on to class, I could not hold back the tears of sadness – not for Jerry but for my attitude. Instead of focusing on Christ and His birth, I had gotten caught up in the world’s view that the number of gifts you have under the Christmas tree determines your happiness.

Christmas at our home would never be the same again. All because of a candy cane under a pillow, a Matchbox car under a tree…and a very thankful little boy named Jerry.


Father, thank you for the most priceless gift of love you could ever send – the gift of your Son.  May we never forget that He went from a manger to the cross for us.  In Jesus’ Name. Amen.


R.A.P. it up . . .

Reflect
  • Do you find yourself focused more on gifts than the Giver of Life at Christmas?

  • Have you talked with your children about the Ultimate Gift that Jesus gave each of us?

Application
  • Sit down with your children and help them write on slips of paper the gifts that they can give Jesus this Christmas, like trusting Him, being obedient, and sharing Him with friends.

  • Have them wrap each of their gifts for Jesus in a box and offer each one to Him on Christmas morning in prayer.

Power Verses
  • Luke 2:11-12 (NIV) “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you; You will find a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger.” 

  • Romans 6:23 (NIV) “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

  • 2 Corinthians 9:15 (NIV) “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”

  • John 1:14 a (NIV) “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

  • Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV) “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”



Sunday, December 17, 2017

Are You Going With Me?

“The Lord himself goes before you and
will be with you; he will never leave you
nor forsake you. Do not be afraid;
do not be discouraged."
Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)

I had a surgery scheduled to remove a small fatty tumor on the back of my neck.  The doctor said that it was a minor procedure and he could do it in his office – no problem. He explained exactly what he was going to do and what he expected to find.
And yet, because it was on my neck, I was more than a little concerned. Yes, he’s a great doctor and no, he would not have said he could do the removal in his office if he could not. But I still had considerable apprehension at what was going to take place.
Oh, I prayed about the surgery but my prayers went something like this: "Lord, I am really nervous about the surgery on my neck. What if there is a problem? What if something gets cut that isn't supposed to? What if I can't lie still like the doctor wants me to?" and on and on and on. Can you relate?
And then one day, after a month of approaching the Lord repeatedly with my “what if” sessions, I think He felt He needed to reassure me. My Bible fell open to the Old Testament and I found myself reading Deuteronomy 31:8.  “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."  
It was at that very moment that the Lord whispered to my heart. “I am not going to leave you at the door of the doctor’s office and say ‘See you when you are done.’ I will never leave you – remember? I will walk through the door first, be there through the surgery, and walk out through that same door with you. Just as I have always done. Always.”
I know. I know. How many hundreds or even thousands of times in the past had the Lord gone before me, making a path, and then stayed right by my side. And yet, here I was, facing the unknown and thinking that just maybe, on THIS journey, Jesus would decide not to go.  
So let’s be honest: what “door” are you entering, afraid that the Lord will not go with you? Maybe it’s divorce or financial problems or a prodigal child. Or it could be health issues or broken friendships or a new job in a different state.
Whatever the situation, rest assured that just as Moses shared with the Israelites that the Lord would not only be with them but would lead the way, He will be with each of us, no matter what we face or what “door” we may be going through. Always.
May I share with you that Jesus did just as He promised. He did. He stayed with me and kept me calm and at peace. I felt His presence during the procedure and thanked Him when it was over.
No matter what “door” you may be facing today, thank the Lord for not only going with you, but leading the way. “Are you going with me, Lord?” Always.
Father, Thank You for Your faithfulness to stay right by my side, no matter what I have faced in the past or will face in the future. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
R.A.P. it up . . .
Reflect
·        Have you ever been faced with a “door” that you were truly afraid to go through?
·        Did you realize that the Lord was at your side and would never leave you?
Application
·        Journal some of the “’doors” that you have gone through over the past few years.
·        Beside each one, write a sentence of praise for how the Lord stayed with you through each and every one and never left your side.
Power Verses
  • Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV) “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."
  • Exodus 33:14 (NIV) “The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
  • Joshua 1:9 (NIV) "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” 
  • Psalm 94:14 (NIV) “For the Lord will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance.”
  • John 14:18 (NIV) “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”




Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Value of a Name

 “He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white.
I will never blot out his name from the book of life,
but will acknowledge his name before
my Father and his angels.”
Revelation 3:5 (NIV)


I have an old red sweater. The tag says “This has been knitted especially for you with love by Patty Hallam.”  It is a comfort to me…it is precious to me.

Why? Well, first of all, it was made for me by someone who loves me – my sister.

Secondly, when I am hurting, when I am sad, when I need to hide away from the world for a while, I pull out that sweater and I wrap it around me like the hug from an old friend. I immediately have a sense of not only warmth, but security and peace.
           
But you know something? Some day, when I am gone, that sweater will be given away, perhaps to Good Will.

Someone will look at it and the tag and say “Patty Hallam…who is that? Who cares?” and my sweater will no longer be a source of warmth and security nor will it be considered precious but instead will be a rag for soaking up oil from an engine or tossed in the trash because it is no longer in style.

And why is that? Because no one will know the name of the person who worked so hard to create it out of love for another and they will not recognize its value.

How wonderful it is that Jesus not only knows each of our names but considers us precious in His sight. We read in Revelation 3:5 this beautiful promise:  “He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.”   

Can you imagine Jesus speaking our names to His Father? And if that’s not enough to encourage us, we read in Isaiah 49:16 “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”

How amazing is that! Our names are not penciled in which can be easily erased or written with permanent ink which fades with time but engraved by Jehovah Himself. And why has He done that? Because He created us. Because He loves us. Because we are precious to Him.

The name on a tag in an old red sweater may not mean anything except to the person who made it or the person wearing it. But the names engraved on the palms of our Father’s hands will be spoken with love in heaven for eternity.   

Father, thank you. Thank you for knowing my name. Thank you for loving me so much that you call me your very own child. Give me courage to share that love no matter where I am. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.



R.A.P.  it up

Reflect
  • Have you ever considered that God calls you by name as His child because you are truly special to Him?


Application
  • Tattoos are popular in today’s society. When you see a person with one, remember that our Father has an eternal “tattoo” of you on His hand. Lift him or her up and specifically pray that, if they do not know our King, they will seek His face.

  • When the Lord lays someone’s name on your heart to pray for them, write their initials on the palm of your hand and as you look at your hand throughout the day, pray for that person.


Power Verses
  • Revelation 3:5 (NIV) “He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.”

  • Isaiah 49:16 (NIV): “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”

  • John 10:3 (NIV) “The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

  • Isaiah 43:1 (NIV) “But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are mine.’”

  • Luke 12:7 (NIV) “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”





Sunday, November 26, 2017

Best Reunion Ever

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command,
 with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and
the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are
 still alive and are left will be caught up together with
them in the clouds to meet the Lord  in the air.
And so we will be with the Lord forever.”              
I Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NIV)


The videos showing a family member coming home from the military to surprise those they love get to me every time. I automatically get out the tissues when one pops up on the internet or on television.

They all make me cry. The son who thinks he is throwing a pitch to his catcher, when the catcher’s mask is suddenly pulled off to reveal Dad. The wife who has been told she is to receive an award for her husband in his absence, only to turn around and see him running toward her. The child in class who looks up from her deskwork and yells “Mommy, you’re back!” as her mother peeks in the door and falls to her knees to scoop up her daughter.

The stories behind those beautiful reunions are similar. Family members have been gone for several weeks or months – apart from their loved ones, serving their country in the military. Some have been able to Skype occasionally as well as talk on the phone; others have not been able to communicate with each other except through mail.

They also share one common bond: none of those getting the surprise reunion had any idea it was being planned. They knew they would see each other again but had no idea exactly when it would occur.

The Scripture from I Thessalonians has become sweeter than ever to me recently. Paul is speaking about Christ’s return and he is explaining what will happen. From this passage we learn that Jesus will be the one leading the glorious get-together.

First He will collect His children who have passed away and then those who are still alive. Both groups “will be caught up together . . . in the clouds.” Wow!

Can you imagine it? Hugging a spouse or child again! Smiling as you once again see a parent or grandparent! I can imagine the hugs and laughter that will roar through the clouds at that glorious reunion.

Do this for me: think of those special people in your life who have passed away. Now, picture meeting them again face to face.

Just as the military families don’t know when the reunion will take place, we Christians do not know the exact date.
But we DO know it’s going to happen one day. And when it does, we are going to shout “best reunion ever!”

Father, oh the hope that you give with your promise that we will be together with our loved ones who knew you. Thank you for that joyful reunion. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.


R.A.P. it up . . .
Reflect
  • Have you had doubts about seeing a loved one again?

Application
  • Re-read today’s Power Verses and picture in your mind what the beautiful reunion will be like with loved ones who have passed away.

  • Praise the Lord for His death and resurrection that make heavenly reunions possible.

Power Verses
  • I  Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NIV) “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

  • John 14:2-3 (NIV) “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

  • I Corinthians 2:9 (NIV) “ . . . No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him . . .”

  • I Corinthians 15:55 (NIV) “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

  • Psalms 147:3 (NIV) “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”




Sign on the Dotted Line

“He forgave us all our sins, having canceled  the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood  opposed to ...