Friday, July 20, 2018

Engraving God's Recipe


“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared
to give an answer to everyone who asks you to
give the reason for the hope that you have. But
do this with gentleness and respect…”
I Peter 3:15 (NIV)

My mother-in-law was a wonderful cook. She gave me several of her favorite recipes years ago and they became my favorites, too.

One that I particularly love is called K-bars. But I have learned through several failures that the recipe must be followed precisely or the results will not be even close to the promised picture.

I have gotten so many requests through the years on this particular dessert that I have memorized the recipe beginning to end. That way whenever someone tastes it and asks for the recipe, I already have it memorized and can easily share how to make it.

If only this were true in our spiritual lives, my friends. We need to have Scripture so engraved in our hearts that when someone is struggling with a situation in her life, we can immediately, from memory, share encouragement and hope with her.

That is not to say that we should simply quote a Scripture to the hurting and go on our way thinking the problem is solved! We need to share, in love, what has helped us hold on when the winds and hail from one of life’s storms have threatened to knock us down and keep us from getting up again.

For example, a friend comes to you because she is convicted that she has a problem with gossip. Can you tell her “I find help with that in Psalm 19:14. It says “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” or do you say “I have trouble with that, too.” and stop there?

When a co-worker confides that she is not certain that God even knows who she is or cares about her, can you hug her and whisper “Our Father loves us so much that he has engraved our names on the palms of His hands.” and share Isaiah 49:16 with her or do you shrug and say “Me, too.” without going any further?

Please hear me on this: I am not saying that we should have every single Scripture memorized chapter and verse. There have been many times when friends and I have looked through God’s Word, searching for a specific thought and unsure exactly where it was found.

What I AM saying is that we should always be ready to gently and lovingly share the hope that we have because of the Word that is engraved on our hearts.
A recipe for K-bars is memorized for future reference but how much more important that God’s recipe for hope and encouragement is engraved on my heart to share with those who are hurting and need hope.

Father, help me to memorize your Word so that I can help others when they are struggling with a concern and need your encouragement. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

                                                            R.A.P. it up . . .

Reflect
  • Do you ever feel inadequate when someone shares a concern or problem with you?

  • What is your first response when this happens? Do you search the Word?

Application
  • Make a list of situations and problems that any one of us could face in this life.

  • Beside each entry, write a Scripture that encourages and then memorize that Scripture so you can share it as needed.

Power Verses
  • I Peter 3:15 (NIV) “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”

  • Matthew 22:29 (NIV) “Jesus replied, ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.’”

  • Proverbs 25:11 (NIV) “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”


Friday, July 13, 2018

The Trap



“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world,
and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”
Luke 9:25 (NIV)

An article detailing a unique way to capture monkeys alive and unharmed in the jungle to deliver to zoos captured my attention. Trappers had tried a number of different devices, including nets. But their concern that the small animals could be hurt if they became entangled in the webbing resulted in a clever solution.

Trappers built several small boxes and inside each one placed a banana. Each box was nailed shut but not before a hole was drilled on one side, just large enough for a monkey to reach in with its hand. The boxes were left on the ground around trees.

The monkeys quickly converged to examine the boxes. Finding a banana in each one, they immediately reached in to pull it out. They tugged and pulled on the banana but it wouldn’t budge. The opening was just big enough for a little hand to reach in but not for a little hand clinging tightly to a banana to come out.
  
As soon as the trappers returned, the monkeys immediately tried to flee but could not. The reason? They would not let go of the bananas! They would scream and screech and twist and pull as they attempted to escape. All they had to do was let go of the banana…. but they refused to and were captured.

I see myself in that article. That box represents this world that we live in. And while it is not a banana that I want to hold on to with all my strength it’s much worse: it is a hunger for happiness.

Happiness that I think I will only have if I am wealthy or have a bigger home or newer car or maybe even a more important career. It’s power and prestige and prominence in the community. THAT’S what will make me happy I shout!

And all the while Jesus is calling to me “Let go. It is nothing compared to what I have to offer you. It’s a trap!” but I keep holding on and pulling and tugging as I convince myself that happiness exists when I have a firm grip on all those earthly things.

Consider this: if the trappers did not come back and the monkey continued to hold on to the banana, he would soon find that it would begin to spoil and rot and would not be anything that he would even consider eating. That is, unless he is eaten by the wild animals around him as he holds on to nothing. So it is with me and my grip on all the empty promises of this world

Holding on to the temporary as if it is priceless will never have a good outcome. Just as there is a part of us that wants to yell “Let go of the banana!” after reading the article, even more so the Lord is prompting us to let go of the fake possessions here on earth and focus on the priceless treasures He has prepared for us in heaven.


Father, forgive me for focusing on the temporary things of this world instead of what you are offering me: life for eternity with you. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up . . .

Reflect
  • What are you holding on to in your life because you consider it to be important to   your happiness?

  • How does it compare to what Jesus is offering you?

Application
  • Make a list of everything in this world that you consider most important in your life.

  • Next to each entry, journal what Jesus offers you instead and a Scripture that speaks to His offer.

Power Verses
  • Luke 9:25 (NIV) “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”

  • I John 2:15 (NIV) “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

  • Colossians 3:2 (NIV) “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.”

  • Matthew 6:33 (NIV) “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

  • Ecclesiastes 2:11 (NIV) “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”


Friday, July 6, 2018

How Will You Be Remembered?


“I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the
world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Matthew 26:13 (NIV)


The question asked by the man on the phone late one evening caught me off guard: “Is LeRoy there?” he asked. “What? What?” I repeated haltingly. The caller must have thought I didn’t hear because he repeated his question more slowly and loudly: “I said is . . . Le . . . Roy . . . there?”

My husband had passed away 5 years earlier and, except for the occasional junk mail addressed to him, the references had ceased.

After the man explained that he wanted to buy a coon dog, I took a deep breath and told him that LeRoy had passed away. He quickly gave his condolences and hung up but his question remained with me: “Is LeRoy there?”

Yes. Yes he is. He is here. He is here in the mannerisms and quiet strength of his son. He is here in the hazel eyes of his oldest daughter. He is here in the smile of his younger daughter.

He lives on in the giggles of grandchildren who were babies when he passed away and do not have clear memories of him but still beg again and again “Tell me how Papa LeRoy lifted me up in the air!” to “Papa LeRoy loved coon hunting, didn’t he. What was his dog’s name?” to “How come Papa had a mustache?”

He will live on because we choose to share memories of a man who was crazy mad in love with his children and grandchildren and his wife and who considered every day a gift and a blessing.

Those are precious memories, yes. But, more than anything else, his memory will live on and he will not be forgotten because he shared the Lord he loved with fellow coon hunters, with co-workers, and with his family.

In Matthew 26:13 we read of a woman who, according to Jesus, would never be forgotten. She did something that the disciples thought was ridiculous. This woman, named Mary, brought an alabaster jar of expensive perfume to the home where Jesus and the disciples were and began to pour it on Jesus’ feet and wipe them with her hair
.
While the disciples considered it to be an expensive waste, Jesus replied that she would be remembered for this act of love because what she had done would be told over and over throughout the world. She had given everything she had of earthly value to her Lord by showing where her treasure belonged.
Can I just ask you this? What legacy are you leaving behind? How will you be remembered? “He was a great athlete” or “She loved to garden” or “He was a successful businessman” are all nice accomplishments and compliments.

But more than anything, we want to be remembered as a Christ follower who shared the One we loved with everyone around us. That is the memory that is most important.

So is LeRoy here? Yes. Yes, he is . . . for years to come.   


R.A.P. it up . . .

Father, I want to be remembered as someone who loved you more than anything on this earth and desired to share you every day. Please give me opportunities to share you. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.  

Reflect
·         What memories of your life will be left for those who knew you?

·         What do you want people to remember about you years from now?

Application
·         Journal a mini-version of your conversations for one week. How many times did you mention Jesus and what He has done for you?

·         Ask the Lord to give you boldness to share Him with those you meet every day.

Power Verses
·         Matthew 26:13 (NIV) “I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

·         Philippians 1:3 (NIV) “I thank my God every time I remember you.”

·         Romans 1:8 (NIV) “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.”

·         Psalm 78:4 (NIV) “We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power and the wonders he has done.”

·         Psalm 145:4 (NIV) “One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.”



Friday, June 29, 2018

When I Decide that Sin Isn’t Sin



“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the
knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left. . .”
Hebrews 10:26 (NIV)

It was one of those moments that, years later, still makes me shake my head and smile. Noah and Lola, both 4 years old, were having a heavy conversation over a lunch of mac ‘n cheese and chocolate milk.

“Noah, when I’m 10, I’m going to see an R-rated movie,” Lola informed him.
Noah immediately answered. “You can’t see an R-rated movie. If you do you will go to “hail,” Lola.”

But she shook her head “Yes I CAN see an R-rated movie. I won’t go to “hail” if I do.” Noah totally disagreed. “Yes, you will, Lola. You will go straight to “hail” if you see one.”

The conversation went back and forth for several minutes.

Finally Lola sighed and held up both her hands. “Okay, fine. I’ll go see an R-rated movie and then after it’s over, I’ll ask God to forgive me.” Mercy.

Obviously, at 4 years of age, Lola had no concept of Hebrews 10:26 but evidently she had heard a conversation somewhere about doing something you know you should not be doing and THEN asking God to forgive you.

So what does it mean to “deliberately keep on sinning”? I believe it comes down to this: knowing the clear commands of Scripture but choosing to ignore them and do what we want to do instead. Not confessing but continuing our sin; not battling against it but willingly surrendering to it day after day.

For example, do we focus on loving money to the point that every day is filled with how to obtain more and more wealth? We are told in I Timothy 6:10 that the love of money only leads to all kinds of evil. We know that and yet we continue holding it up as our god. “But we all need money to live!” we declare as we try to justify our sin.

Or perhaps we are in a sexual relationship outside of our marriage. We know that we are clearly warned in I Corinthians 6:18 to run from sexual immorality and yet we ignore the word of God and continue sinning. “It’s okay because we love each other” or “we are engaged and getting married anyway” we rationalize our sin.

Before you say “Yes, but no one is perfect! We all sin!” I completely agree. We all mess up and as Christians we know our trust and faith are in the only One who died for us and who promises forgiveness when we confess our sins to Him.

But when we intentionally sin, knowing God’s word is opposite of what we are doing, we are rejecting the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for each of us.  

Jesus became the Ultimate Sacrifice for our sins with His death on the cross. Resolve today, not to deliberately keep on sinning but to deliberately keep on turning to Him for forgiveness and renewal.  

Father, thank you for your grace and forgiveness. I do not want to ever deliberately sin against you. Help me to stay in your word to seek truth. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up . . .


Reflect
  • Can you recall a time in your life when you knew you were deliberately sinning but you didn’t care or repent?

Application
  • Journal anything in your life that you think might be “deliberate sin.” Read through the Word and write Scripture verses that speak to each entry. Ask the Lord to forgive you and help you begin anew by His grace and mercy.

Power Verses
  • Hebrews 10:26 (NIV) “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left. . .”

  • II Peter 2:21 (NIV) “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.”

  • Ephesians 2:8 (NIV) “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God . . .”

  • James 4:17 (NIV) “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

  • 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.” 



Friday, June 22, 2018

A Hair-Raising Experience



“And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t
be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Matthew 10:30-31 (NIV)

I knew when I was a little girl that I was not blessed with a full head of hair like my sisters. For one thing, it was obvious when I looked in a mirror. But until I was about 10 years old, I thought it was somehow the fault of my mother’s attempt to tame my hair.

 I had even considered that when God was creating me, He called out “Hair!” but one of the angels thought He said “Nair!” and dumped a bottle of the instant hair remover in my genes. And then I saw some pictures of me at about 2 years of age.

“How in the world could you cut my hair like that?” I demanded of my mother. “I look weird.” She immediately shook her head. “It wasn’t me. You didn’t have any hair until you were five years old.”

Perhaps that will help you to understand why, at first, I was not overly impressed with the Scripture in Matthew 10 about God knowing how many hairs I had on my head. I remember thinking “How big a deal is that if you have hair like mine?” But further inspection reveals so much more about what Jesus meant.

On average, there are over 100,000 strands of hair on a young adult. Each individual hair lasts for two to six years before it falls out and another begins to grow and take its place. There is no way I could figure out a system to correctly count the number of hairs on my head – or any one else’s for that matter. What a tedious, time-consuming job that would be!

But is that all Jesus was saying? That He was divinely capable of doing a head – err – hair count? Not at all. I believe that Jesus is using a visual picture to show us just how much we are loved.

First, He is emphasizing to us that He has knowledge of all things, no matter how insignificant they may seem to the world around us.

Secondly, He is subtly reminding us that He is our Creator and knows exactly how we are made – from our heads to our hearts to our toes – because He designed us!

Do you get it? If He cares enough to want to know everything about us, it is because He is crazy mad in love with you and you and you and me! And for that very reason He will watch over us, His priceless creation, each and every day.

I am never going to have hair like a model but I am always going to have a Father who values every hair on my head because of His great love for me.   

Father, Thank you for reminding me in today’s Scripture that you know everything about me, your creation, and that you love me more than I can ever imagine. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.


R.A.P. it up . . .

Reflect
  • Have you ever felt like you weren’t worth very much to the Lord?

  • What person or situation caused you to feel that way?

Application
  • Write today’s Scripture on a note card and place it with your combs and brushes as a reminder of God’s love for you.

  • Each time you brush your hair, silently thank the Lord for loving you enough to watch over each detail of your life.

Power Verses
  • Matthew 10:30-31 (NIV) “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

  • 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.”

  • Psalm 121:3 (NIV) “He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber…”

  • 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.’”

  • 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.”


Saturday, June 16, 2018

Was That A Putdown?


"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."
Luke 18:11 (NIV)

            There is an “unspoken” rule when working out at the gym: never come in and take over any equipment without asking the people already working out if they are using it.

            That really is just common courtesy. Some people combine two or three machines at a time when exercising, making it necessary to adjust a workout routine around them.

            That was why, when I walked into the gym, I stretched and then asked a guy who was working out which machines he was currently using. His reaction made me smile – at first.

            He looked at my muscles compared to his (David vs Goliath) and laughed “Oh, you and I won’t be using the same machines, I guarantee you” and turned around, smiling.  As he moved away, he – perhaps unintentionally – flexed his arms in what seemed to be a “see why we do not compare?” movement.

            After I smiled and started my workout routine, I ran several responses through my mind: “I had shoulder surgery a year ago and I am just getting back into shape.” Or “They call me small but mighty” to “I just didn’t want my workout to interfere with yours” but I remained silent. Why?

            Because I was embarrassed. I work out 6 to 7 days a week and, for me, they are tough workouts. I am committed to what I do. No, I don’t look like him (and would never want to) but those few words made me feel like the workout I did was unimportant and inferior compared to his.

            Today’s Scripture involves a Pharisee who thought fairly highly of himself. He compared his prayer time to that of a tax collector who had also come into the temple to pray. His prayer was not “have mercy on me” as the tax collector had prayed but rather “thank you that I am not like other men.” What a putdown to the tax collector! “Yes, you may be at the temple to pray BUT you don’t compare to me!”

            As I worked out, I found myself wondering if, as a Christian, I sometimes treat people with superiority and righteousness.  Someone tells me “I was so glad I could find time to read my Bible twice this week!” Do I praise them or do I respond with “Well, I read mine every day, without fail.”

            When someone shares “I finally got up the nerve to share Jesus with my neighbor!” what is my response? “How wonderful!!” or do I think “Nice, but I do that all the time.”

            To be honest, I have no idea if that “Goliath” at the gym was comparing his muscles to mine and laughing at me or if he was simply answering my question. My perception might have been wrong.

            But his reaction to my question really served as a wake up call to me about my attitude as a Christian toward others and how I respond when they share their successes. May I never utter one putdown but always remember to build up!

            Father, I have no right to act in any way superior to those around me. Please forgive me for those times I put someone down, simply because I thought I was better than they. I pray the words from my heart will be filled with mercy and grace. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up . . .
Reflect
* When someone shares with you, is your first response praise and encouragement? Or do you try to top what they have to say with your actions?

Application
* When someone shares their success, listen carefully and focus on what they are saying. Then encourage and praise them.
* Push to the back of your mind those things you have succeeded in and do not share them at this time. Remember the focus is on them and not on you.Your success is not more important than theirs.

Power Verses 
 Luke 18:11 (NIV) “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.”

·      Matthew 7:1 (NIV) “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

      Romans 2:1 (NIV) “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”
  
·     Proverbs 16:23 (NIV) “A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.”

·     James 4:6 (NIV) “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”


Friday, June 8, 2018

Agenda of Compassion


“…I was a stranger and you invited me in.
I needed clothes and you clothed me.
I was sick and you looked after me…”
Matthew 25:35-36 (NIV)

You think you’ve had a bad day? Remember the poor guy in Luke 10:30-37? The one who was beaten, stripped naked and left for dead by robbers? Now that would definitely be a bummer of a day. But what happened next was perhaps even worse.

Three men came by and saw him. Two couldn’t get away fast enough. We are not told why they “passed by on the other side” but are only left to wonder what could have been more important than the needs of this badly beaten man on the ground.

But the third man? Totally different reaction. Not only did he see the terrible situation but he acted. Out of duty? Not at all . . . out of compassion. He immediately bandaged the man’s wounds, took him to be cared for by an innkeeper, and paid for it out of his own pocket.

 He even went further: he told the innkeeper that when he returned, he would reimburse him for any extra expenses above what he had already given him. In other words, his compassion for this total stranger didn’t stop once the immediate need had been met. It continued on and on.

He could have said to the beaten man “I see that you have a bit of a problem here. Let me check my IPhone to see what I have scheduled and then I’ll call my secretary to try to pencil you in on my agenda next Tuesday…say 10:00? I promise to get back with you…oh, and I’ll be praying!”

But instead, he saw the need, he felt compassion, he took care of the need.

Matthew 25:35-36 is glaring in comparison to my attitude and actions when I see a need at times. And I am ashamed. A car is stopped alongside the road on my way to church. Maybe I don’t hurriedly “pass by on the other side” but I rationalize that I am a female so it might be dangerous for me to stop so I drive on.

“I was stopped beside the road today and you saw me but you looked the other way and drove on.” - Jesus

The person ahead of me in the checkout line is digging unsuccessfully for the money she needs for her purchases. Do I step up, without judging, and help? Or do I switch all my items to another line and go on?

“My bank account was low because of the medical bills for my children and you ignored my need and walked away.” - Jesus

The thing is, I truly want to be like that Good Samaritan because I long to be like Jesus. That will never happen until I see others as He sees them: with compassion, mercy and love and until I understand that when I take care of people around me, I am honoring Jesus.  

            So from this moment on, I will do my best to look around me with compassion, mercy and love as I take care of every need that I can.

            I repeat: I want to be like the Good Samaritan because I long to be like Jesus. What about you?

Lord, I want to be like you. I want more than anything to have your heart of compassion. Please show me what is keeping me from looking through your eyes at those around me and taking care of their needs as you did. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


R.A.P. it up . . .
Reflect
  • Have you ever seen a need that required immediate attention?

  • Did you stop and meet that need? Why or why not?

Application
  • When you see someone with a sign that indicates they need food or money, immediately ask the Lord for wisdom to direct what action you should take to help.

  • Volunteer to work regularly in a shelter for those less fortunate.



Power Verses
  • Matthew 25:35-36 (NIV) “…I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. . .”

  • Luke 10:36-37 (NIV) “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

  • Colossians 3:12 (NIV) “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

  • I Corinthians 11:1 (NIV) “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

  • Luke 6:46 (NIV) “Why do you call  me, Lord, Lord, and do not do what I  say?”



Engraving God's Recipe

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the...