Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Being Found Out

…be sure your sin will find you out.

Numbers 32:23b

“I figured that no one would find out.” The famous last words from a husband who’s extramarital affair had just been exposed. That relationship, which at the time had been so important it had to be kept secret, was suddenly caught in high beams proving that nothing can really be kept secret.

Many probably don’t realize that what has become a part of the "moral" fabric of our society is rooted in the Bible. And yet, even though the truth is as “old as the hills”, keeping sin hidden continues to be a favorite past time. A little “white lie”, a “slight” misrepresentation, a “small” omission of facts, a “tiny” twist to the story are all part of what eventually wears down our inward life and we are exposed. Sin will not be hidden.

The challenge for our Christian community today is knowing and identifying sin. In most churches confession of sin is encouraged as an important part of the Christian life and yet, in an environment of total acceptance of all things the lines of “sin” have become blurred. We don't want to judge, so what exactly are we to confess?

Just as nothing can be kept truly secret, neither can sin. Ultimately what is sinful will reveal itself through broken relationships, community or familial discord, heartbreak, soul deterioration, separation from all that one holds dear. Sin is tough that way. It steals our God given gifts, freedoms and purpose, leaving us empty handed. Sin refuses to stay in the shadows.

Jesus, forgive me for the sins I know and those
that have not yet been revealed.
Give me a spirit that rejects what seeks to steal away Your gifts.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Expectant and Hopeful

For who hopes for what he sees?

Romans 8:24c

Most children aren’t very hopeful, they’re expectant! Eating, bathing, napping, playing it’s all what they expect during a day. There are exceptions, but, the truth is that all children should be able to live expectantly. Their hopeful wishing will come much later!

We were once expectant children, but age faded its brilliance as we discovered that, eventually, life dished up a variety of unrealized expectations. Gradually we recognize that what we expect, is not always what we end up seeing. Our expectations become diminished and we begin using the language of hope—I hope I get that promotion. I hope I get accepted into college. I hope my doctor’s appointment goes well. There is much that we haven’t yet seen and yet we remain hopeful.

Being a Jesus follower demands huge amounts of hope. A commitment to Jesus is based on faith in what can’t be seen. The Trinity is not a visual reality, but it is a hopeful one. And as with so much of the other “stuff” in our lives that can’t be seen, but for which we are hopeful, we begin to appreciate that we can believe and hope in something that we don’t “see.”

It takes work to be hopeful. It’s much easier to create schedules, set agendas--organizing one’s life in such a way that we expect to get certain results. Living a hopeful life is edgy and absolutely crazy. But, one day hope will bring into focus what can’t been seen with the naked eye—the Kingdom of Heaven.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit I want to be able to see You,
hear You, feel You. Help me to know You in a way that is hopeful,
expecting that one day all will be seen.


Friday, August 27, 2010

A Marinating Quote

The process of marinating is allowing a choice piece of beef, chicken or fish to soak in a combination of juices that have been perfectly balanced to produce the best flavor. Here is a quote that is worth allowing your thoughts to marinate in and see what the outcome might be!

One Christian city, one city in any part of the earth, whose citizens from the greatest to the humblest lived in the spirit of Christ, where religion had overflowed the churches and passed into the streets, inundating every house and workshop, and permeating the whole social and commerical life--one such Christian city would seal the redemption of the world.

Henry Drummond, The City Without a Church

Thursday, August 26, 2010

No Longer a Christian

So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life
with Christ, act like it.

Colossians 3:1 (The Message)

It’s not an original idea but I’ve joined of the growing ranks of those individuals who don’t call themselves “Christian” anymore. After years of being in the church I’ve come to the conclusion that if “Christian” is an adjective, describing a person, place or thing today’s definition of “Christian” doesn’t describe who I want to be.

Before you get too frustrated, let me explain! Increasingly I have come to believe that the world has defined a “Christian” as a two faced, hypocritical, judgmental, stuffy, fluffy, not-in-touch-with-reality, stick in the mud. Of course there are exceptions but generally “Christians” don’t have a real good rap these days and it’s no one’s fault but our own.

Growing up I was raised in a Baptist church, went to school at a Lutheran one then moved to a Brethren high school. My college years found me at a non-denominational institution but worshipping with the Pentecostals. My husband and I started ministering together at an Evangelical Free church somewhere we made a sharp turn into ministering in the Presbyterian church – the liberal kind in case you’re wondering!

Here’s my thinking. I’ve seen and experienced just about everything that “Christians” can argue about from baptism to communion to Biblical interpretation to how to settle (or not settle) disagreements and the list goes on. And very little of the behavior defines the character of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

It didn’t take long for the first century church to become divided amongst themselves about the teachings of Jesus and “how” they were to live. The term “Christian” was given to them by others, early in Acts, as a way of distinction. They were different, set apart, from the rest of the crowd.

But now our distinction has become of a different sort. We are distinct because our behavior between each other, our congregations, our communities aren’t all that different than the world’s behavior. What the world sees is “Christians” not being able to get along, even arguing about the foundations of our faith.

So, this is how I want to be known. I am a Jesus follower. My life should reflect the character of Jesus. I want to be known for how I move through the world – living openly, eagerly, a continual student of the Bible, a contemplative recipient of the Holy Spirit, a responsive disciple of Jesus and in awe of the God who made me. I am a Jesus follower. I pray my life will make a difference.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.

I Corinthians 7:17

Here is a confession—I compare my life to the lives lived by others and, more often than not, wonder why I couldn’t have their life. Of course, all the lives I envy "appear" to have more than me, not less. Walking down the streets of a mega rich community recently, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to worry about money. I could do ‘wealthy’ quite nicely!” Of course, none of this is based in reality because what I see is the outside stuff not the soul of their lives. That remains hidden.

An ongoing conversation with my husband revolves around “signature sins”; those sins that hound us throughout our lives. They are the ones we never quite give over completely to our Father. One of my “signature sins” is my envy of how “the other half lives.” I’m not sure who makes up “the other half” but this I do know, my sin is ugly..

What strikes me about Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthians is the message of freedom. When I am distracted by a life “over there” the life I’ve been given wanders off trail and before I know it, I’m struggling to bush whack my way back.

Freedom comes in embracing the life God has assigned me, because only then can I completely trust that, no matter what happens, God will see me through. When I’m craning my neck to see the other half, I lose sight of Who is leading my way.

Jesus, forgive me for my envy of the lives
You have given others.
Help me to embrace my assigned life
With all my heart, soul and mind.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Clear Directions

Point your kids in the right direction—when they’re old they won’t be lost.

Proverbs 22:6 (The Message)

There are no guarantees when raising children. I don’t need to be a parent to comprehend this truth, because I am my parent's child. Musing over the past I wonder, “How did I manage to get from there to here?” I am a parent and the slippery nature of parenting has found me frequently on my back, wondering how I lost my footing.

The kicker is that the relationship never ends! It’s a job from which I can’t resign and don’t want to. At some point, however, a shifting of the paradigm took place and I found myself looking into the face of a person who looks vaguely like my child. All the time I've spent pointing in the right direction will now be put to the test.Will this child, who I feel in my marrow, be able to find her way?

Proverbs is a great book with bits of hard and comforting truths. However, even here there aren’t guarantees. Everyday I have asked God to protect my child from my numerous parental mistakes. But, when a child is no longer a child and with saucer eyes is looking at the world, a parent has to trust that their directions were clear.

Ultimately, that child I nurtured, loved, spoiled and who I claimed as my own isn’t my possession. She was knitted by God, created for His joy and sustained for His purposes. As parent I pointed towards the goal. From this point forward my child must choose, on her own, which direction she will take. It’s the risky part of parenting—will she go in the right direction.

Father, thank you for creating, knowing and loving me, your child.
Help me to feel Your touch, hear Your voice and
move in the direction of Your choosing.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


I am the LORD your God. . .

Exodus 20:2a

Sometimes I am a couch potato. In other words I find myself slumped in front of the television aimlessly watching whatever the remote control finds. Recently, in one of my moments of “whatz this one”, I became fascinated by the dialog between (now remember this was a made for TV program not reality!) a “police detective” and a “surgeon” who was being accused of harvesting organs from individuals who he considered criminals and passing them along to critically ill patients. When I was just about to tap my clicking finger it froze with this exchange—

Detective: Who made you God?

Surgeon: The position was empty and I took the job.

I turned off the television.

That “make believe” conversation, however, has been a nagging irritation. I get queasy and uneasy knowing that many in our society believe that the position of “God” is vacant. Remembering that thousands have died in recent years as a result of tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, monsoons it’s not surprising that I frequently hear the question, “if there is a God, why does he let all this bad happen?”

In order to answer that question I need to be effective in how I introduce I AM. My approach can’t assume an awareness of God much less knowledge of his nature. If they are asking the question, if they believe the position of God is vacant my starting point becomes In the beginning. . .

It may take a while, but there’s no better place to start!

Jesus, let my life be an open book
that people can easily read
about You!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stones vs. Gifts

Watch the way you talk…Say only what helps, each word a gift.

Ephesians 4:29 (The Message)

If you can’t say something nice don’t say it at all was part of my early education. Honestly...I haven’t always applied this principle. But, I've been the recipient of words spoken by individuals who haven’t applied it as well! It’s not that uncommon when living in community! If you can’t say something nice… We live in a time when people believe it is their “right” to say whatever they “feel” with very little thought to the outcome.

The majority of conflicts, estrangements, misunderstandings begin with stone words instead of gift words. Words are the most powerful weapons we have at our disposal. They can also be tools for rebuilding and restoring. It all depends on how what words I decide to use.

As Jesus followers, the words I speak should make me distinctive in a world consumed with tongue rights. When the “world” hears Christians exercising tongue rights with each other, what are they to think? Why should they choose another Way if what they are seeing isn’t any different from how they presently live? My words should be so gift-like distinctive that they attract people, like a sumptuous food.

Watching the way I talk begins at “home.” The words I speak to my parents, spouse, children, siblings are practice for how I will speak to my neighbors, friends, and fellow Jesus followers. My “nature” is not gift words. Speaking words of grace - gift words - is a conscious, deliberate and daily choice.

Jesus, thank you for Your “gift words”
that brought healing, forgiveness and wholeness.
Help me to watch the way I talk
so that I can give “gifts” instead of stones.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Food for Thought

If you haven't read Timothy Keller's book, The Reason for God I highly recommend it. There are lots of books out giving an apologetic (i.e. defense) for the existence and nature of God but this particular book spoke to me. Here is a quote that I pray gives you something to meditate on today!

Religion and the gospel...lead to divergent ways of handling troubles and suffering. Moralistic religion leads its participants to the conviction that if they live an upstanding life, then God (and others) owe them respect and favor. They believe they deserve a decent, happy life. If, however, life begins to go wrong, moralists will experience debilitating anger. Either they will be furious with God (or "the universe") because they feel that sinced they live better than others, they should have a better life. Or else they will be deeply angry at themselves, unable to shake the feeling that they have not lived as they should or kept up to standards. The gospel, however, makes it possible for someone to escape the spiral of bitterness, self-recrimination, and despair when life goes wrong. They know that the basic premise of religion--that if you live a good life, things will go well for you--is wrong. Jesus was the most morally upright person who ever lived, yet he had a life filled with the experience of poverty, rejection, injustice, and even torture.

Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

Monday, August 16, 2010

Remember Me

Can you tell my life has been rather hectic lately? My posts haven't been as punctual! My apologies. My prayer recently has been that I might be filled with God's joy - no matter the circumstances and then this morning came the verses of Psalm 23:4-5 and I was reminded that even in the darkest moments, God's "rod and staff" are nudging me giving assurance of God's presence as well as His direction. Blessings!

Remember me, O my God, for good.

Nehemiah 13:31c

For a lifetime the world witnessed her humble life at work. Most people understood the why of her endeavors, fewer understood the Who. It was difficult to put into a “worldly” context a life lived in obedience to God. Nevertheless, Mother Teresa’s journals express a very basic spiritual emotion—does God even care. How many times have you wanted to say the words of Mother Teresa--“I feel like refusing God.”

Nehemiah’s life took a drastic turn when he lived his life in obedience to God. After moving to Jerusalem he encountered one barrier after another attempting to thwart the good work God had called him to do. And, when the wall was finished, his “enemies” were afraid because they knew that it was a result of God’s help (Nehemiah 6:15-16). Enemies that are afraid are unpredictable and yet Nehemiah continued--restoring, rebuilding; helping the Jewish community to return their focus on the Who of their existence.

By the end of his life, this humble cup bearer accomplished much more than anyone ever anticipated. What had started as a construction job turned into a life long mission. In the process of repairing the physical walls Nehemiah realizes that the spiritual foundation of the community had been compromised and so he stays, obedient to God’s call.

They both lived obedient lives. But, Nehemiah and Mother Teresa shared a doubt--was their good work enough to be remembered by the God who had called them to obedience.

God has a loving memory.

God, thank you for those who have lived before us revealing
that an obedient life is a life that You remember.
My desire is to do Your good work, living a life of obedience.
Remember me, O my God.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Jesus Way

If the world hates you,
know that it has hated me before it hated you.

John 15:18

Marian always wore her snowy hair in a tidy French twist. With hearing aids firmly in place, you would find her, every Sunday, at the doors of our sanctuary handing out her warm “hellos” and “we’re glad you came.” Her conservative style and Norwegian sensibility were in sharp contrast to our alternative lifestyle community. She was unique, but, what one never failed to recognize was Marian’s devotion to Jesus.

Even though she was over twice my age and had studied the Bible far longer than I, she came every week to the Bible study I taught. She was firm in many of her ideas and, at times, her Biblical doggedness frustrated me. But it was from Marian that I learned one of my most important lessons, “when you raise up the name of Jesus, trouble is going to happen.”

If we are genuine about living in the Kingdom, being the name of Jesus in the marketplace, lifting him up in our churches, making our lives a living testimony to Christ’s character, there will be obstacles--big ones, mean ones, gossipy ones. Rarely has a day gone by that I am not reminded of Marian’s insight, “when you raise up the name of Jesus, trouble is going to happen.”

Trouble surrounded Jesus from his birth, continuing until his death. Personally, this makes me squirm--I want people to like me! But, knowing that Jesus walked through the trouble, the hatred, the animosity and plots against his life, gives me confidence to keep walking the Jesus Way.

The world, or even closer, maybe some of our friends may “hate” us. But, we’re not alone. Jesus lived it--to the cross.

Jesus, I am afraid of people not liking me
and so I keep quiet about You, about what is
right and wrong. About sin!
Help me to live, breathe, speak. . .You!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

In God's Employ

So they strengthened their hands for the good work.

Nehemiah 2:18c

Nehemiah had a good, steady job in the palace of King Artaxerxes. As cupbearer it was his responsibility to protect the king by tasting the food and wine served to the king for possible poisons. Granted, it was a risky occupation, depending on the political environment, but it was also a job that was respected. A cupbearer was a trusted employee.

But, Nehemiah was an Israelite in exile, longing for home. One day a group of visiting Judeans give him the news that the walls of his beloved Jerusalem have been burned and destroyed. Nehemiah, overwhelmed with sorrow, believes that some action needs to be taken and so he begins the discerning process of praying and waiting. God's answer to Nehemiah is that he must ask the king for release from his duties in order start a construction company and begin repairing what had been broken in Jerusalem. For Nehemiah, the request was a huge risk! The mere asking could have resulted in Nehemiah’s death. God, however, had gone before Nehemiah and entered the presence of King Artaxerxes.

And so, with the King’s blessing and God’s hand pressing, Nehemiah leaves behind him the stability, comfort and respect of his palace position and heads to Jerusalem to begin what God has called him to do—the good work.

We are modern day Nehemiahs. Whatever our “employment” whether an attorney, quilt maker, doctor, teacher, sales clerk, homemaker…, God calls us to strengthen our hands for the good work. As Jesus followers, we are in God’s employ. Our earthly employment is secondary.

The walls of our society have been destroyed. Are we, as followers of Jesus, willing to strengthen our hands and do the good work of rebuilding, restoring and repairing?

Jesus, sometimes I get so caught up in my “earthly employment”
that I forget I am also in Your employ. I am open to all positions!
Show me what Kingdom job you have for me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Prayer for Christian Unity

O God, form the minds of your faithful people
into a single will.
Make us love what you command
and desire what you promise,
that, amid all the changes of this
world, our hearts may be fixed
where true joy is found;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.

Book of Common Worship

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sit and Rest Awhile

Ah, stubborn children, declares the Lord
…who set out to go down to Egypt,
without asking for my direction...

Isaiah 30:1a, 2

I am at the place in my life where I take up with God every plan I concoct. Unfortunately, this lesson has been learned the hard way. I have often marveled at individuals who make life plans for themselves and they turn out. My experience has been, when trying this approach, that things always turn out messy. Waiting for His direction is usually maddening and yet it’s in the waiting that most of my problems are made clear.

From churches to government there seems to be an absence of asking God for direction and then sitting still and waiting. Dozens of books are available outlining program development for churches, money growth for individuals, five year plans, and retirement survival. None of these are wrong but how frequently do we stop in the midst of our devouring and pray, “Lord, what do I do?” Perhaps, like the Israelites, we respond in panic when things go wrong, pining after our enslavement.

Over and over again God says that He wants to have conversations with us even about the simplest of issues. He’s good at giving directions. The question that I am always faced with is - am I willing to follow His directions. Flashing screens abound with tempting life directions. God’s sign is a simple wooded one providing a strong support when I’m weary from running around. I must sit and rest awhile. Soon the way will be made clear.

Jesus, thank you for the signpost of your Cross that points the way.
I want to live my life asking for life’s directions from You.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/estmsk/3015377786/

Friday, August 6, 2010

Grace and Peace

Grace to you and peace.

I Thessalonians 1:1c

It was time in our worship to pass the peace of Christ, but for many the time was spent catching up on news. Turning to my neighbor I glimpsed her hand reach out to a fast moving worshipper obviously intent on reaching another "neighbor." My neighbor received a slight brush of the hand with no eye connection. The peace of Christ had not been given. I caught her eye and with a shrug of her shoulders she looked away.

Sitting down I pondered over what had been missed. Every letter that the apostle Paul wrote to the early churches starts with a greeting of peace. It must be important for us as well! Giving a word of peace is surely more than finding out where to eat after worship.

Encouragement, exhortation, instruction and correction were what Paul’s letters contained. Familiar with the challenges that faced each congregation, he also knew what they needed to hear. While each letter is unique in its message he never failed to first give them the peace of Christ. While situations, locations and political structures separated them, Christ’s peace was what bound them together.

There was a huge disconnect on this particular peace of Christ Sunday. So much had been missed. Two Jesus followers, possessing all manner of things that separated them, missed an opportunity to connect at the Cross. Our differences make us individuals. Christ’s peace makes us family.

Grace to you and peace.

Jesus, thank you for the peace that you give me every day.
Give me eyes to see the opportunity and lips to speak Your peace to everyone I meet.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Straining Forward

But one thing I do: “forgetting what lies behind
and straining forward to what lies ahead, I
press on toward the goal…

Philippians 3:13b-14a
Athletes are perfect illustrations. Endurance, strength, character, perseverance, discipline are just part of what makes up a world class athlete. But the ability to put behind them past failures or mishaps and focus on the ultimate goal is a great example for a Jesus follower. Ice skaters may take a tumble in the middle of a gold medal program but so far I’ve never seen one skate off the ice—they always get up; focusing on the goal even if the fall costs them medal placing.

Forgetting “stuff” that has happened in the past is tough. Like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress I tend to carry it around with me even though the weight digs into my spirit. When I am bowed by the hurts, fears, betrayals, misunderstandings, rejections of my life it’s impossible to see any future beauty.
Jesus had a lot of “stuff” happen to him. From the start people were out for his blood. He was misunderstood. He was rejected. Friends denied knowing him. Betrayal led to his ultimate death. But, he never looked back nor did he carry any baggage. He kept the goal of the Kingdom in sight and, in order to reach it, he kept moving forward.

With every pulsing muscle and disciplined breath athletes strain forward. They never look back. The goal is ahead, not behind them. This is the life of an ardent Jesus follower!

Jesus, your life is a comfort and an inspiration. You know
the “stuff” I keep lugging around.
Forgive me! Take from me everything that keeps me from reaching You.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Powerful Name

do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Colossians 3:17

As a participant on a panel, I heard a group of teenagers once ask, “If Jesus was all about love, why have so many been killed in his name?” The question intrigued me, as did the uncertainty of the panelists. In response, I asked, “What events are you thinking about specifically?” One shot back, “the Crusades” another followed with “Hitler killing the Jews.” Their only points of reference were events instigated by Christians from the 11th century putting them alongside a 20th century event perpetrated by a mad man. They didn’t mention more recent events--Rwanda, South Africa, Ireland--now I was the one uncertain how to answer!

Much of our past is muddled for the majority of individuals. Events flow into each other and we’re not able to make distinctions between what is truth and what is fiction. If, as Jesus follower, Truth is my guide I need to be informed. If doing everything in the name of Jesus is my compass then I need to be intimately acquainted with the power of His Name. It’s awesome, Jesus sent his disciples into the world with nothing more than His name and they heal, restore, changing lives.

The name of Jesus is powerful and testimonial. Doing everything in the name of Jesus demands that I intimately know Him; allowing Him to saturate my being. The best part is that the result could bring about a powerful transformation to our world.

I pray that those teenagers will witness transformation in the powerful name of Jesus.

Jesus, thank you for givingme the power of Your name.
Be my teacher.
I am committed to learningmore about how Your name can transform
my life and the world.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Angelic Circles

God’s angel sets up a circle of protection around us while we pray.

Psalm 34:7 (The Message)

The political environment at the time was such that religious freedom had been abolished. There were serious consequences for anyone who expressed or practiced belief in God. Undeterred, and yet knowing that their lives were at stake, three young men boldly prayed and committed their lives to God. The next thing they remember was laying face down on a glowing floor surrounded by white heat. Once they realized that they were still breathing they stood up and discovered that they weren’t alone. Walking around them was God’s angel. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walked out of the furnace whole.

It’s an old story but it doesn’t make it any less true. Google “angel stories” on the internet and you’ll find hundreds of personal accounts where people have experienced an encircling angel. Granted, many of the accounts crave belief in angels while being skeptical about the existence of God. Nevertheless, most people want to believe they have some kind of angelic protection. We can't bear to think that we’re in this world alone.

God, as well as His promised protection, is reality for the Jesus follower. No matter the circumstances or the surrounding darkness He has promised to respond to our prayers with an angel circle. When we're not able to see something with our eyes we can become skeptical about its reality. However, what we can experience emotionally and spiritually, as a result of our prayers, is a true reality show—we can, like Daniel’s friends, walk through fire and come out whole.

Thank you God for Your protecting angel circles.
Help me to understand more eachday that while I may walk through fire
I will come out whole.

The image used with this devotional is from South African artist, Magrit Prigge titled, Fiery Furnace. For more of her art check out www.missionaryarts.com