It’s Time to Love Like Jesus Loves

Here we are again.

The ugliness of impending evil has reared its head and spewed hatred across the country that I love. The events over the weekend in Charlottesville are horrific, and quite frankly,  I don’t have the eloquence nor the bandwidth to break down the reasons for it and the solutions to it. There are countless others who do, and I’ve heard a lot about it over the weekend.

Churches around the country on Sunday opened their doors to grieve and lament. I have the privilege of attending an intergenerational, multi-ethnic & racially integrated church in California called Fellowship Monrovia. We are grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ and in the pillar of reconciliation. Our Center for Racial Reconciliation regularly hosts workshops led by people of every race so we can learn what life is like for those who are different from us. We are one body, and one thing I noticed today is that black, white, hispanic, asian, middle-eastern – we all gathered together like always and were steadfast in our love for one another.

The heartfelt lament of our worship leader today spoke for so many as she read Psalm 13:

1 How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? 
3Look on me and answer, LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, 
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 
6 I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me.
And then we sang praise to the Lord. Because even though evil runs rampant through the world, he is still good, and he has the victory.

When events like this unfold, we are shaken but not destroyed. We grieve but we are not moved to despair. If anything, it makes us more resolute in our commitment to spreading love to the world.

It’s so easy to feel helpless and hopeless in the wake of such obvious evil, especially when the evildoers look like me. The important thing for me to remember is the solution starts with me. It starts with you. It starts with each of us. If we are to show the world a glimpse of Jesus, we must carry his attributes in our daily living.

 But there is still much work to be done by the church. The fact that people still have the slightest notion that those who spew hatred at another human being are a representation of christians is the biggest travesty. Why would they think that? The Bible says to love, not hate. Let’s not get into the ridiculousness of anyone thinking they are acting on behalf of God when they spew such horrible hatred. Why does the world believe them and in turn scoff at christians and lump us all together with the evil doers? It’s been such a mystery to me, but now I think perhaps it’s because we have been silent against injustice for far too long.
No, we have not joined our voices with theirs, but we have remained far too silent. We have watched in horror and done nothing. Our sin is one of omission.
No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8
In his message today the preacher said a visitor to his church once asked him, “if I come to your church, will I actually meet people who are like Jesus?”
I ask you, “if I came to your church, would I meet people who are like Jesus?”
My prayer today is that God will embolden Christians to reach beyond ourselves and love people like they’ve never been loved before. To show others what Jesus looks like.
It’s time.

Make Room for Abundance

When you’ve lived in the same house as long as I have, it’s so easy to be overrun with STUFF. Add to that my penchant for being super sentimental, and we have a recipe for getting bogged down with STUFF MAINTENANCE.

Do you do this? When I see something that truly no longer serves a purpose, I rationalize keeping it by saying

This thing meant something to me at one time.

I might be able to fit into this skirt/top/pants again someday.

I can wear these shoes (that are SO CUTE but kill my feet) to a wedding someday.

I’ll save and give this thing to _______________ because she loves the color ________________.

I’m quite sure I’m not the only one.

Lately, God has been sending me the message to simplify from the craziest places!

Purge.

LET IT GO.

In fact, as I’m typing this, my mailman left this magazine in my mailbox today:

Yep. God even enlisted the help of Oprah herself to get His point across. I always chuckle at His timing and creativity. Daily I get a message from somewhere or someone that confirms this area where I need to focus.

I’m telling you, if you ask God for confirmation on something you are struggling with or mulling over, HE WILL GIVE IT TO YOU.

He’ll even use Oprah to do it.

I’m not saying I’ve mastered the purging process, Lord knows it will be a lifelong endeavor… but I am recently invested in seeing things with new eyes. I’m still sentimental and there are many things that once belonged to my mom that will stay with me – but do I really need that set of vintage dishes I bought on eBay ten years ago?

No.

No. I don’t – and hanging on to it makes me unable to take on fun, new items I might get more joy from using.

But it’s not just physical stuff that needs purging – our minds are overrun by input that holds us back from our purpose of living in God’s abundance.

What are you filling your mind with?

What are you reading, watching, talking about?

Who are you spending time with?

The Bible is LOADED with verses that tell us to renew our minds.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.      Romans 12:2

 

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:13

A quick Google search came up with pages and pages on this topic – you can see one list by clicking here.

What am I doing to renew my mind to make room for God’s abundance and blessings? More importantly, what am I doing to prepare my mind for action and what He has planned for my future?

I’m learning to focus on the joy. I’m reading about the physics of the brain and how God created in us an amazing capacity for change. I’m learning to meditate on His word and His promises and I’m taking a good look at how to take action to change those thought patterns that only serve to agitate me. I’m going deep, and bumping into God all along the way.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8

Philippians 4:8 is my new motto, because I know that what we think about and focus on grows. Do you want resentment, negativity, hurt feelings and pain to grow, or do you  want truth, honor, justice, purity, loveliness, excellence and worth to be magnified?

I’m finding that simplifying life physically and spiritually comes slowly – but it’s something that holds great rewards if you consistently keep at it.

Here’s my pondering on Facebook from the other night – let me know in the comments if you can relate…

Are you Delighted?

delight [dih-lahyt]

1. a high degree of pleasure or enjoyment; joy; rapture: 2. something that gives great pleasure:

When is the last time you were delighted? Reread the definition above and really think about that for a minute. Unfortunately it’s an emotion that may be in short supply lately.  It’s an emotion I truly didn’t enjoy very often until a toddler started calling me grandma.

There is nothing like having a little person in your life who brings joy and wonder. His enthusiasm for EVERYTHING is over the top.

And he DELIGHTS me.

“Watch dis, gramma!” “Gramma, let me show you!” “I wuv you, gramma.”

Such music to my ears.

Every time I find such joy in my little guy, God gently reminds me that he feels the same way about me. And I am amazed.

“For the Lord takes delight in his people;
    he crowns the humble with victory.” Psalm 149:4

“the Lord delights in those who fear him,
    who put their hope in his unfailing love.” Psalm 147:11

“The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

Rejoice over you with singing! Oh! Doesn’t that make your heart just sing?

Let’s take it a step further: If we also delight in Him, God says He will give us the desires of our hearts! What?

Just this morning, I was playing with my grandson Luca & things got really silly. Doing something as simple as throwing a ball back and forth had us in giggling fits. We were delighting in each other. And you know what? There is no desire of his heart I would withhold from him when such delight is going on.

“Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

God desires that two-way relationship with us. When we take delight in Him, it makes His heart sing and burst with joy. Remember, He actually rejoices over us with singing! imagine yourself as a child with a daddy who is so in love with you that he delights in every little thing you do!

Father and daughter laughing and bonding

Our lives are so filled with trouble and angst that I know it’s hard to think about taking delight in anything some days. But what if we did? Find the smallest thing to start with, and see it with new eyes. Begin to change your outlook. Take delight in God, and He will take even more delight in you. Don’t miss out on walking in that kind of freedom…

And see what happens to your life.

Which “One Another” Are You?

It’s hard to remember a more divisive time during an election season in my lifetime. The name calling and questioning the security of another’s faith just because they disagree is beyond crazy these days. I’m especially saddened that Christians are polarized against one another.

That’s not the kind of “one another” God had in mind when He included some 59 scriptures in the Bible with those words.

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Seriously. It’s in there. Maybe we all could use a review:

Romans 12:16 tells us to “live in harmony with one another.” Mark 9:50 says to “be at peace with each other.” Romans 14:13 says “stop passing judgment on one another.” The phrase, “Love one another” shows up 14 times in the New Testament. Other verses say to “encourage each other” (1 Thessalonians 4:18, 5:11), to “live in harmony with one another” (I Peter 3:8) and to “encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13).

Oh, and my personal favorite, “If you keep on biting and devouring each other…you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15)

Insert gritting teeth emoji here.

I long for the days when a good old fashioned political discourse took place face to face. Live. In real time. The common decency of humans towards one another prevailed most of the time. Speaking as one who used to love politics, it was all in good fun & very few true friendships were lost over such discussions.

Fast forward to today when social media is our proverbial hiding place. We say things we would at one time never have said to someone to their face, hiding behind the veil of protection that we are just typing the words and they somehow aren’t as vile.

But they are vile. Words hurt whether they are slung from a loose and careless tongue or typed by angry hands. I’ve seen far too many of my friends become nasty word slingers in the past several weeks and if it breaks my heart I can only imagine how God must be feeling as he watches us escalate into hysteria and confusion.

As far as I’m concerned, November 8th cannot come and go soon enough. I pray the damage done is not permanent, and that we are as quick to repair relationships as we were to wound them.

 “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13

 

By Grace You Have Been Saved

In reading the book of Exodus, I was ministered to by the Holy Spirit as I read Exodus 20:24-26, about the making of the altar on which to offer the sacrifices for sin. God told Moses how to make it, and explained that if they made an altar out of stones, they were not to be hewn stones ,for if they used a chisel on the stones, it profaned the altar.

Why?

It was a type of our meeting with God under the New Covenant made through the blood of God’s Son, Jesus.

We have to come solely on the merits of His offering…no works of ours can be added.

“For by Grace you have been saved, through faith, and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8

But, you say, “What about ‘faith without works is dead’?” That’s true too, and Biblical, for if the Spirit of Christ lives in you, He will shine through you, and the works will follow because of Him and not because of you.

How freeing that is!

You Can’t Earn It

“But the father said to his servants, Quick! Bring the best robe and put in on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet…” Luke 15:22

You may have heard this story of the prodigal son who squandered his inheritance and was living in obscure poverty when he finally came to his senses and returned to his father to ask if he could work as his hired help. The father was so overjoyed his son had returned home, that he restored him to his previous status, including giving him the family ring that would forever give him all the rights to something he did not earn.

That ring, though.

Photo: Jostens

Photo: Jostens

Troy Murphy, a Wisconsin pastor who also happens to be the chaplain for the Green Bay Packers football team, tells a story about when they won the Super Bowl in 2010. A few weeks after that big game, he was running on the treadmill when he answered a phone call that went something like, “How soon can you come here to be fitted for your Super Bowl ring?” You better believe he stopped that treadmill and rushed to the stadium as soon as he could. As he flashed the ring to us and we all ooohed and ahhhhed at its bling & beauty, he said, “I don’t know if you remember, but I didn’t catch a pass during that game. I didn’t go out and make any tackles. I never ran a ball into the end zone.” And yet, here he was, the recipient of a ring that makes him part of something he did not earn.

What a gift we’ve been given!

God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be

~Brennan Manning~

 

Are You Too Near the Getting In Place?

The story is told of a little boy who had a habit of falling out of bed in the night. Finally, his mother asked him why he fell out of bed so much. He replied, “I guess I stay too near the getting in place.”

The small boy with alarm clock in the bedIt’s a picture of too many Christians who don’t seem to grow, or know the Lord Jesus better this year than last. They’re faithful in their church attendance and they even tithe. But the Christian walk is a walk with Jesus that causes us to change. As Paul wrote, we are changed “from Glory to Glory, transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Peter also cautioned us to grow in 2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Knowledge comes through the Word, illuminated by the Holy Spirit.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

 

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18

(These thoughts were first shared with Kristin in an email on August 11, 2005. Gladys was 86 years old. And yes, she loved connecting via email!)

What Legacy Will You Leave?

LEGACY.

I’ve honestly not given that word much thought, nor have I had any use for it. Deep down I knew my own mother left us a legacy. She will be remembered for her love of people, her fun-loving nature, her laugh, and of course her sermons, which God has used to change the lives of thousands, even several generations.

I guess I just didn’t think I would have the opportunity to leave a legacy. I was wrong.

How we treat people on this earth leaves a lasting imprint into eternity. Yes, what we do here matters.

Being content to sit in the corner and watch the world go by doesn’t seem to be an option. God wants more. He wants action. Action brings change. Change brings renewal. And renewal creates a legacy that reaches across generations with stories and memories. Many people think of an earthly inheritance when they hear the word legacy, but it is so much more than that.

Hand writing the text: Whats Your Legacy?

I have a little grandson who is almost 2 years old. The idea of a legacy did not hit me until recently, when God began asking me to step out of my comfort zone, and take action where I previously had been complacent. Little Luca’s face is ever before me now, as I ponder what kind of a world will I leave for him?

I heard a sermon recently that illustrated how a life of legacy looks, using the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. (Daniel 6:1-23) Go ahead and read it, then ask yourself: What are the qualities of someone who leaves a legacy?

  •  When it comes to leaving a legacy, God looks for men and women of character.  In verse 3 of this story we see that Daniel had distinguished himself among the administrators by his exceptional qualities. Daniel lived a life of excellence, even though he was living in exile and was a visitor. I’d say this would be the ultimate illustration of how to Bloom Where You Are Planted, am I right?
  • When it comes to leaving a legacy, God looks for men and women of conviction. Verse 10 of this story tells us that when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home and prayed beside a window opened toward Jerusalem three times a day anyway. Daniel knew the penalty was death for praying to any other god or human besides King Darius. He did it anyway. That’s conviction.

“Daniel knew that the lion’s den of conviction is a far safer place than the royal palace of compromise” Pastor Chuck Olson

 

  • When it comes to leaving a legacy, God looks for men and women of confidence. And, I might add, not confidence in themselves. We hear a lot to talk about self-confidence, but what if we operated in God-confidence instead? Surely we could move mountains. Daniel faced death, but he went about his day doing what he believed in without concern for the consequences. I’m sure he knew the bogus decree was specifically intended to trap him. He could have whined about how unfair life is. He could have begged the king for mercy and asked for a special dispensation to disobey the law. He was very close to the king, after all. What Daniel had was an unwavering faith in God even when life’s circumstances don’t make sense. Verse 23 tells us that when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 

Don’t you want that kind of unwavering Character, Conviction, and Confidence? That’s what I’m talking about. A legacy of money is fine, but what people will talk about for generations is how you made a difference in this world.

What will be your legacy?

We Don’t Fight this War Alone

I can hear them coming. World War II era airplanes fly over our house on approach to the local municipal airport for the annual Memorial Day air show. It’s a great display of patriotism, but I get a catch in my throat every year as I think of what it must’ve been like to hear that sound during a time of war.

Imagine the tension of being set on edge by the drone of approaching engines. 

Friend or foe? It wasn’t always evident. 

War is an impossible realm of uncertainty and danger. Now our ability to see what’s going on around the world at a moment’s notice gives us a glimpse into the horrors of war. Can you imagine what it was like to feel isolated from the world when communication was cut off?

This morning God used the sound of those airplanes to remind me of another war that is waging. The constant tension of battles in the spiritual realm requires a diligent heart, always ready to fight. But unlike those in wartime who heard the planes approaching and were helpless in their defense of the outcome, we do not sit helpless.


Have you felt blindsided by the enemy lately? Even if you saw the attack coming, were you unprepared for the intensity of the battle? Were you left feeling hopeless? Helplessly wandering in the rubble that was left after the dust cleared?


We have all been there. I have been there, and I know how easy it is to think I am alone in the fight. Like any good warrior, though, I took inventory of my strategy and found this:

“But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” Isaiah‬ ‭52:12‬ ‭NIV

And this:

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus‬ ‭14:14‬ ‭NIV‬‬ 

Aaaand this:

“But be assured today that the Lord your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the Lord has promised you.” Deuteronomy‬ ‭9:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The battle, no not just the battle, the entire WAR belongs to the Lord. He will fight for you, and he will prepare you for battle when he wants you to fight alongside him.  This promise I know to be true: God will never leave us to fight this enemy alone.

Never. Never. Never.

The Choice

There’s something about waiting for an appliance repairman to show up that has me feeling captive. I spent the better part of the day today wondering exactly when during the 10am to 2pm window he would arrive. He finally called at 1:55 informing me he’d be there in about a half hour. Oh well. Day lost. Or was it?

Usually, I spend this time frustrated that I can’t leave the house, or trying not to start something big because I may have to run to answer the door. There was plenty to do. Laundry & the ever present tidying up beckoned for my attention. But today I heard a still, small voice inviting me to quiet myself and spend the time in Bible study and prayer. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I struggle with calming myself long enough to hear from God. With 3 business ventures to pursue, I am BUSY. But you know what? Today was different. Today was good. So good.

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord.” Psalm 89:15

It’s so easy to forget that God longs to spend time with us. There’s nothing he’d love more than to have us seek his presence in our lives. In this journey towards more intimacy with God, I’m learning that sometimes he boldly provides that time and waits to see if we will use it to pursue a deeper relationship with him. It’s still our choice.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2

Today, I had a few hours of what could have been limbo, but instead I made the choice for spending time with Jesus & the rest of my day has gone well. There’s a peace in knowing God is in control and he’s got my back. A cup of coffee, a good Bible study book and some quiet time while chatting about the future and handing over the reigns for my business and family needs is so refreshing.

I highly recommend it.

Books and a coffee cup on a wooden table