Day 19: Fairy Tales Remixed

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

This life might not have a fairy tale ending on earth, but all of our sorrows will be swallowed up in Heaven and for all eternity. 

Scripture of the Day:

John 10:28

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them out of My hand.”

Once upon a time (had to start this blog post like this, right?), ok, where was I? Oh yeah, once upon a time everything was perfect and a perfect looking person (who is the object of this story) suddenly had something imperfect thrust into her life. Whatever would she do? Oh, no worries, there is always a fairy something or another to help save the day after she goes through a significant amount of pain that makes it all worthwhile.

Sorry for the notable sarcasm present in that last paragraph. Fairy tales were not something I read to my kids much when they were little, and while I am at it, we did not celebrate Santa, either. I know – I am a real killjoy. Or am I?

I always wanted my kids to know that I told them the truth. Being fed lies can leave us hopeless and disillusioned when real life smacks you hard in the face. I wanted them to know that when I told them about Jesus that they could trust me, because I had laid a foundation of being a truth-teller.

Back to our story. We all somehow wish we could live in a fantasy world, because things always turn out well there. The “bad guys” always get what they deserve and the “good guys”always win out in the end. Life is good and it all revolves around us. Well, not really.

In the story of our lives, a life well-lived revolves around Jesus, the real Hero of our story. He made us, and though He was God, He came in the form of man and laid down His own life for us. He did not seek a comfortable life nor man’s praise. He, the God over all, humbled Himself! He did not complain about things being unfair, but entrusted Himself to His perfect Father, knowing the story would ultimately be for God’s glory and His good.

Perhaps instead of craving a “perfect” life where we are surrounded by orchestral music constantly cheering us on in our adventures and where everyone adores us, we could have a change in our mentality. If we, too, laid down our lives as Christ did and sought to have Him live through us, then our perspective becomes one with a much different goal.

If my expectations are that all will work out well for me, my expectations can lead to idolatry. Ultimately, it ends well for those who are in Christ Jesus, but there will be times where life just does not make sense and sinful people seem to get away with wicked things. Other heroes of the faith got distracted with this reality, too, but they hoped in God.

When life hurts, we just want to escape. We want to hope in a perfect life. But maybe instead of that vain, temporary hope, we can begin to see a new hope forming. A hope reinvented is a hope in the tragedies and mishaps of life that is focused on hoping to live a life worthy of the life Christ gave on our behalf. It is a passion to be faithful and to glorify God in the pains and the joys that life brings, a life that overcomes obstacles and looks to the Author of our faith instead of the obstacles themselves. That is my hope.

I know it’s hard to have faith when there is turmoil all around. It is a death, of sorts. But this life is not the end goal, anyway, and after death there is life.

This life might not have a fairy tale ending on earth, but all of our sorrows will be swallowed up in Heaven and for all eternity. We may not have a castle that eventually moth and rust destroy, but we have mansions in Heaven that never fade – beside the crystal lake, where we will have no more burdens and no more tears. Sounds better than any fairy tale ending I know – pretty amazing, in fact.

This song, “I Can Only Imagine” by mercy Me has always got me. What a hope we have that never disappoints!

Lord, help our hope to be solely in living lives that glorify You. Take our burdens and use them to make us more like You!

 

Truthful Tuesday: True Repentance

True Repentance

Image from Closerdaybyday.org

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

We live in a unique time today in the politically correct society that tolerates all sin, but judges the righteous…

Scripture:

2 Corinthians 7:9-11

“Now I rejoice, not because you were made sad, but because you were made sad to the point of repentance. For you were made sad as God intended, so that you were not harmed in any way by us. 10 For sadness as intended by God produces a repentance that leads to salvation, leaving no regret, but worldly sadness brings about death. 11 For see what this very thing, this sadness as God intended, has produced in you: what eagerness, what defense of yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what deep concern, what punishment! In everything you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.”

While we as Christians are called not to judge one another, for we are all equally sinful, we are also called to gently correct one another when we see sin in our lives. Sin – that death threat to our spiritual walk with God. Who wouldn’t want that gone?

But sometimes we live in fear of offending someone, even though they are trapped in their sin. The message of the Gospel has the power to deliver one from the bondage of sin and bring true joy into their lives, but we often shrink back because it might hurt them or their feelings. Not really. We are afraid in actuality that they might not like us. So, instead of sharing the life-giving message of Christ’s resurrection and the forgiveness of our sins, we often keep the most amazing truth a secret, potentially damning people for all eternity.

I know. That was hard for me to hear, too. Today at a Chick-fil-a, a woman came up and handed me a napkin she had written upon. She wrote to tell me how astonished she was at the patience of my youngest child who sat while I worked for three hours. Divine appointment. Sometimes these moments are not convenient – wait, who am I kidding? They are never convenient. But we are perpetually on a mission, and those around us are the ones we are to reach.

If we dare to love people enough to share both the message of God’s punishment and forgiveness of sin, We just might witness one of the most beautiful things on this earth – true repentance – that moment when a soul recognizes their need of God and submits wholeheartedly to God’s loving rebuke and correction.

True repentance cannot be faked. It is a devastation over our sin and a turning away from that sin.  It is not the emotion of sorrow for being caught, but sorrow for hurting God and grateful for the instruction that opened our eyes in the first place.

Lord, help us to care about the souls all around us and to share Your message of hope and salvation. Bring divine appointments our way and help us to be Your faithful witnesses. The harvest is ripe – send us – and help us to yield, as well, when the revelation of sin knocks on the door of our own hearts, begging us to truly repent.

Holy Week: Palm Sunday Irony

Palm Sunday

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Sometimes salvation comes in a way we least expect.

Scriptures:

Zechariah 9:9, 11

“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  11 As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.”

Hebrews 13:20-21

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep. 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Isaiah 46:16

“See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”

Exodus 24:8

“Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Happy Palm Sunday!  I confess I have missed blogging and look forward to blogging each day this week after taking an unannounced spring break.  🙂

I brought a liturgical element into our worship service this morning, palm branches for Palm Sunday.  Ok, let’s be real.  The palm branches ended up being limpy leaves, not branches.  But burdening my heart was a desire to help the worshipers at my church get a sense of the awe the people must have felt, waving palm branches as Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey.  500 flimsy leaves did not quite capture that emotion for me.

Nonetheless, I pressed on in Scripture and chose songs that would hopefully evoke the rich symbolism of these leaves representing victory.  What victory were these people hailing?  Though they thought He was coming to conquer world governments, instead He captured our hearts and ultimately achieved victory over death.

Christ’s entrance was a fulfillment of the prophesy spoken 500 years earlier by Zechariah. How amazing that God would communicate to His people how He would come into the world.  He did not want them to miss it.  Even though they could not understand fully God’s purpose in coming to them at the time, the groundwork of God’s covenant promises laid a path toward this salvation.

The blood covenant could not be paid by an animal or an ordinary person.  God had to bear the transgression of His people, Himself.  This Savior, their King – came humbly – riding on a donkey.  This manner of salvation appears so foolish to man – that a King would come riding in on a borrowed donkey – to die – rather than in a majestic array of splendor as a hero riding in to demonstrate incredible power.

He owns everything, yet He borrowed a donkey.  He lacks for nothing, yet He chose to lack. He is All Powerful, yet God chose to come in weakness.  This does not make sense until we see that He became weakness, infirmity and sin and chose the place of suffering to bear it all in our place.  He did not save us while He himself sat in a lap of luxury.  He spared no expense or detail, but simply rode in humbly.

These same fickle people who praised Him passionately as He entered Jerusalem, begging Him to save them now (Hosanna), would kill their Savior by week’s end.  Christ’s mission might have seemed like a failure, but the very people He came to save brought about their salvation unknowingly, by condemning Christ to His death.  The wordplay is hard to miss in the Scriptures above.  God inscribed His people on His palms and His people waved palm branches to their Savior.  Ultimately it would be nails driven into his palms (wrists) that would forever set His people free.

Lord, thank You for Your salvation, offered freely to sinners.  Thank you for showing us how to live and for providing for a debt we could never pay.

 

Friday: It’s Party Time!

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

There is no more joy that can be found on this earth than in Jesus.

Scriptures:

Isiah 24:14-16

“They raise their voices, they shout for joy; from the west they acclaim the Lord’s majesty. 15 Therefore in the east give glory to the Lordexalt the name of the Lord, the God of Israel, in the islands of the sea.  16 From the ends of the earth we hear singing: “Glory to the Righteous One.”

Isaiah 25:6-8

“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations;  he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.  The Lord has spoken.”

The weekend is here … finally!  So many of us live for the weekend, for a break from the tortuous routine of daily living.  Hoping for an escape from boredom, we pursue relief, even partying as a refuge.

Maybe it’s hobbies or parties – drinking, maybe it’s drugs.  Maybe relationships.  But in all the human pursuits of this earth, eternity knocks on the door of all of our hearts and the longing for something more is not quenched by a momentary celebration or diversion. No, we need something – someOne more.

When I read the verses above, I can’t help but smile.  God is not a spoil sport.  He designed everything for our enjoyment and eternity with Him is going to be filled with joy and delight in His perfect presence.  Parties on this earth pale vastly in comparison to what God has in store for those who love Him!

Those promises the world offers?  Counterfeits.  We can let them go and find real, lasting answers in God alone.  He alone satisfies our soul’s deepest need and desire.

No more death, no  more sorrow.  No tears seen there.  Only perfect peace and joy, enveloped in His love.  Think on that this weekend.  You are loved with an everlasting love.  Right now we can seek Him and know Him and be filled with His Holy Spirit to overflowing.

Lord, thank You that we can know You and enjoy You now.  Thank You for the gifts you lavish on us each moment – Your peace, Your unconditional love, Your Joy and faith in troubled times.  Help us to find our joy in You and to spread it to all the world.

Thoughtful Thursday: The God in the Pit

The Pit

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Don’t imagine the future without God.

Scripture:

Job 3:25-26

“For the very thing I dreaded has happened to me; and what I feared has come upon me. 26 I have no ease, I have no quietness; I cannot rest; turmoil has come upon me.”

When I was a child, I feared death; I guess most people do.  As I grew up, more things were added to my list of things that I “hoped I never had to go through”.  I even made a deal with God on a few of them.  Just a tip – don’t ever do that.

To fear or be anxious is human, but the person of faith need not remain there.

The shock of going from such tremendous blessing like Job had to the complete opposite is difficult to bear.  Our expectations are dashed because we somehow tied God’s goodness to our blessing.  The unknown provokes a humility in us all when we are not sure how we could handle whatever might come our way.  Couple that with the thought that pain or suffering might be attached to a potential unknown and fear can quickly be apparent in us all.

This is where the gift of faith comes in.  Imagining my future apart from God’s grace to escort me through all of life’s valleys and mountains is like imagining myself apart from my very life and hope.

If I had known all that I would walk through almost eight years ago now, I would not have believed it and possibly would have tried to avoid it, yet God had me walk through it, anyway.

The verse above is palpable to me – it almost hurts to read it.  I am brought back to the moment when I lost twenty pounds from dread and anxiety and fear gripped me like cement, heavy upon my heart.  My vision was affected, there was no feeling in my feet or hands, people shunned us, we lived with a stigma where dread and sorrow were pervasive. The thing I had asked the LORD to not ever allow me or my children to experience was upon me and my household.  Where was God?  Right there beside me.

Passionately crying out to God from a fragile, broken heart was part of what set me free from all that had bound me before.

My happiness was no longer tied to a shallow faith based on perfect surroundings.  It was hidden in Him.

When we feel forgotten because this life is not Heaven and the corruption of sin and its consequences vanquishes us, in that lonely place is One Who chose that suffering we sought to avoid.

Turmoil is a dark pit that seems insurmountable, but within that pit is a closeness to God that we would likely not find in all the blessings the world offers.  For it is in that crucible that we hold on tightly to the promises of God and realize the perfect comfortable life we wanted before was never a worthy goal in the first place.

Lord, thank You for revealing our need of You.  Help us to cling to You in blessings and hardships and to trust you with what lies ahead.  You are faithful.  Always.

True Freedom – Happy 4th of July!!

Galatians 5:1

“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.”

Isaiah 61:1

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners;” 

Romans 8:1-2

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”

Many images come to mind when I contemplate what freedom means.  Imagery of a soldier, willingly choosing to fight to keep our land free from danger; thoughts of our founding fathers, tirelessly making sure our constitution protected our rights and freedoms; and an innocent God-man, choosing to lay down His life to purchase our freedom.

Freedom is not cheap.  It is the most expensive gift someone can give and receive.  Yet after it has been received it is often quickly forgotten what sacrifice was given to provide such a gift.  We can begin to deviate from what that freedom really was intended for if we are not mindful.  Freedom FROM sin, not freedom FOR sin.  Freedom to live in freedom, but not to use that freedom to infringe on other people’s freedoms.

As we remember the hard fought for freedom in the United States of America – won on the backs of those who laid down their lives so we could become a new nation, may we never forget the chief purpose – to be able to worship freely.  They saw a bigger purpose for our nation than just the American Dream of living lavishly.  We can still be a lamp to the world if we will remember the true freedom we were meant to have in this land – freedom to worship our living God.  We cannot let this hard-fought-for freedom die so easily.

Political correctness threatens to stifle our consciences and silence true Christianity, replacing it with dead religion that offers no hope nor true freedom.  In the name of freedom we are told people should have freedom of speech, yet Christians are told they cannot pray, the ten commandments are removed and a marine is disciplined for not removing her Scripture from her desk.  In the name of freedom, people demand offensive cakes be made and sue the ones who will not make it, denying the freedom of choice and conscience that the bakers have.  In the name of freedom, people proclaim their right to murder the unborn for their convenience, while the voices of those who cannot speak for themselves are silenced forever.

Our freedom is being taken from us little by little.  Do we perceive it?

We can still be a source of light to the nations if we do not forget our heritage.  Christ is the hope of all the nations and the only One Who really sets us free.

The ultimate freedom is the freedom from sin.  Freedom from bitterness.  Freedom to choose righteousness.  Freedom to love your enemies.  Unlike the freedom this world affords, the freedom Christ purchased is forever.  May true freedom reign in our hearts and our land.  To God be the glory!

Lord, thank You for setting my heart free twenty-seven years ago – I will never be the same.  Heal our land, LORD! Capture our hearts again and revive our hearts for you, Jesus.  Have mercy on our sins and make this nation Yours!

Happy Easter – The Second Adam Conquered Death!

1 Corinthians 15: 26, 45, 47, 54b-57

26 “The last enemy to be eliminated is death.  45 So also it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living person.’  The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.  47 The first man is from the earth, made of dust; the second man is from heaven.  54b Now when the perishable puts on the imperishable and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen.  55 “Death has been swallowed up in victory.  Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”  56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our LORD Jesus Christ!”

The greatest fear of mankind according to one source, is public speaking.  Next to that is death.  When I was a child, I was afraid to die.  Mostly it was the uncertainty of and the manner in which that event would take place that I feared.  Or being taken sooner than I wanted.  Then I met Christ.  He conquered the fear of death and conquered my heart, as well.  I will never be the same.

What looked like defeat when God Himself was nailed to a cross was victory, instead!  The innocent was slain and satan thought he had won.  Instead, all mankind was covered with the blood of the sinless lamb, who defeated our enemy – death.

Jesus faced the fear of death as the perfect God-man.  The first Adam was given life by our Creator, God.  .Made in the image of God, he chose sin and separated all mankind from God.  Every offspring from then on was made in Adam’s image.  Until Jesus came.  This second Adam lived a perfect life and brought eternal life to all.  We were first born of Adam and now can be born again through Jesus.

When I first heard that terminology, “born again”, I thought the people who shared the Gospel with me were crazy.  So did Nicodemus, when he questioned Jesus about how one could be born again.  But because Christ rose from the dead, we, too, who believe in Him will rise.  And this hope we have is not in vain.

The more I walk with Him, the more I long to be with Him.  I do not desire to leave loved ones, but I realize that we who are in Christ were made for another world.  My former fear of death has been replaced with a perfect love that casts out all fear.  The longing in our hearts for eternity with God cannot be satiated by anything this world has to offer.

Today, as we celebrate Easter, may we pause and realize the effect of Christ’s obedience on the cross.  His resurrection means we no longer need to fear death – He crushed it and the head of the serpent.  Praise be to God!  Happy Easter!

Good Friday?

John 19:17-24

17 and carrying his own cross he went out to the place called “The Place ofthe Skull(called in Aramaic Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him along with two othersone on each side, with Jesus in the middle. 19 Pilate also had a notice written and fastened to the crosswhich read: “Jesus the Nazarene, the king of the Jews.” 20 Thus many of the Jewish residents of Jerusalem read this notice, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the notice was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. 21 Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The king of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am king of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

23 Now when the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and made four shares, one for each soldierand the tunic remained. (Now the tunic was seamless, woven from top to bottom as a single piece.24 So the soldiers said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but throw dice to see who will get it.” This took place to fulfill the scripture that says,They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they threw dice.”  So the soldiers did these things.

Responsibility.  The aim of teens who long to be “free”, and also avoided by most.  Sure, we want responsibility that we perceive as helping us gain preferences in life, but taking on responsibility for others is not seen as something to be desired.

Seldom would we find someone willing to bear the responsibility for everyone else when he was innocent Himself.  Even children sense the injustice and want people to know when they are blameless.  For Christ to willingly permit sinful man to torture Him when He was guiltless and had all the power in the world at His disposal is beyond words or understanding. This is wrong that an innocent man should die – how could it be called “good”?

The God of the universe allowed man to kill God.  And not just a quick death, either.  Painful and humiliating.  Why did it have to be that way?  When I contemplate Christ’s suffering on my behalf, I wish it did not have to be so graphic, so hard. But God knew fully what was to happen long before it ever was.  He could have changed the circumstances and He did not.

The timing and the manner of His death were in His will.  Our sins were destroying us – vile and condemning our souls to Hell – He took that suffering for us; the perfect, spotless Lamb bore all of our sins.  The weight of the world was upon Him and He bore it with humility and love.

How can this day be called “Good”?  Logically we know that the redemption of man is the best news ever, but the term “good” makes me think of how Holy He is.  Holy and yet nailed to a tree.  It is a day of solemn reflection that One so Righteous was cruelly crucified.

When a soldier sacrifices his own life and lays it down for another, there is gratitude for the precious gift given, but no rejoicing in the lost life.  Our celebration of His resurrection is coming, but for now, I want to bow before my King of Kings with overflowing thankfulness that He would die for me.  What a Good, Holy, Perfect God, who would suffer for our sins willingly and do this with joy in His heart.

Lord, thank you for coming to save us from our sins so we could know You!  Help us to never take such a sacrifice for granted and to walk in obedience with You all our days.

Writing 101, Day Four: The Serial Killer – part 1

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Writing 101, Day Four: The Serial Killer -Today, write about a loss. The twist: make this the first post in a three-post series.

When I was a girl, I dreamed about happily ever after.  Guess it depends on what the definition of happiness is.  If happiness was defined as being happily married, having healthy children, wealth and minimal problems in your life, then I do not know whether anyone will every achieve perfect tranquility and bliss, known as happiness.  But for a short while I thought I had it.  Despite a bumpy childhood, I thought I could have the perfect family and lasting joy.  Then the enemy of our souls came and snatched it away . . . seemingly.

My family would never be the same, and the father of my children was to blame.  The death of our family as we knew it was agonizing and there was no escape from the mark it had left.  The signs of death were all around . . . functioning on a normal level was hampered, and life just seemed numb.  The children and I clung to one another, knowing God was going to take our pain and use it for good.

But then, what did normal look like?  How do we move on from this place of death?  Perhaps the death of what we idolized was more painful than we could imagine, but would also open our eyes to what in fact was wrong with what we were considering happiness…