Monthly Archives: June 2015

I Forgive You

When a hate-filled young white man walked into a church attended by Christians of color, they welcomed him. He sat with them for over an hour, heard them talk about their Savior, listened to their prayers, then pulled out a gun and killed nine of them, just because of the color of their skin. He may have wanted to start a civil war. What he got, instead, was something he never imagined.

At his bond hearing, several loved ones of his victims spoke to him. If you get a chance to hear their statements I hope you take the time to do so. Through their fresh and devastating grief, they forgave the killer. They asked him to repent, to turn to Christ. They refused to allow hatred into their souls.

In this day and age of Ferguson and Baltimore, these people have demonstrated what it means to be followers of Jesus Christ. They set aside their “right” to seek revenge, and held on to the One who is the final judge of us all.

If you don’t understand how these people can forgive, or if you don’t believe they really have forgiven this murderer, you don’t know their Savior. I invite you to read the book of John in the Bible and get to know Jesus, who forgave his own murderers.

What Satan intended for evil, God will use to bring about good. You see, the people who died that day closed their eyes in prayer, and opened them face to face with Jesus Himself. Do not grieve for the lost lives. Rather pray for those who are left to live with the void their deaths bring, until the day they are reunited. And they will be reunited because of their faith in Jesus.

Dear Comforter, I pray that you will wrap your arms around those who mourn in Charleston today. I pray for that church. May the members stand together and strong in their obedience to you. I pray for the shooter, that he will humble himself and accept what Jesus died to give him – forgiveness. And I pray for everyone who reads this blog or hears the testimony of the grieving loved ones. May hearts turn to you by the thousands. Maybe this will spark the revival we so need in this country. May we not be overcome by the evil played out here, but overcome the evil that led this man to commit this crime, with good, with love, with faith, and following the example of the people in Charleston, with forgiveness.

Wishing Doesn’t Make Is So

I was reading in Acts 4 this morning and ran across the verse many people wish didn’t exist. Peter, just a short time after he’d watched Jesus ascended into heaven, stood before the Jewish leaders – men who studied the Law of Moses, men who were respected, who were obeyed – and said that he was proclaiming Jesus, the Son of God, whom they crucified, Jesus who died and rose again, Jesus the Cornerstone by whom everything is measured. Then he said:

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (4:12)

Some people don’t like to hear that. They want to believe they are good enough on their own, because if they believe in Jesus, they have to believe they are sinners in need of a Savior. They have to repent, which means turning from sin and to a Holy God. They want to believe good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell. They want to believe sincere Muslims, devout Jews, peaceful Buddhists, kind agnostics, will get to bypass Jesus and go to heaven.

What does Scripture say? What does “no other name” mean except NO OTHER NAME?

Don’t be fooled. Heaven is reserved only for those who accept God’s gift of forgiveness, paid for by his Son Jesus on the cross. Wishing that wasn’t the case doesn’t change the fact.

Acts 4:12 doesn’t stand alone. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father expect through ME.” John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in HIM will not perish but have everlasting life.”

The fact is we are sinners. We have failed a Holy God. There is nothing in any of us that can measure up, that can make up for our failures, or cover the cost our sin debt has incurred. We need Jesus.

I pray you know him, that you have humbled yourself before him, taken responsibility for your sin and asked him to forgive you. Don’t think for a minute you don’t need to. There is just no other way. I promise that if you do go to Jesus on his terms, you won’t be sorry. In him is eternal life, that’s true. But also in him is a glorious today.

Dear Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, thank you for providing forgiveness. Thank you for providing the avenue to God, to everlasting life, to fellowship with you as I walk this earth. I pray for those who read this blog today. Draw our hearts toward the truth of your written Word. And may we all rejoice in the fact that you, Jesus, the name given to us through which we must be saved, have made salvation possible through your precious blood.

Completely Loved

I’m not married. And sometimes when I read about Ruth’s declaration of love, I get jealous. I have never been loved like that. I believe I have the capacity to love like Ruth loved. But I haven’t had the privilege of being loved so completely.

Then, in the midst of my pity party I almost hear God say, “What about Me?”

I read in Luke 19 where Jesus, surrounded by screaming fans, wept over Jerusalem. He wanted to protect them from what was ahead. But he loved them so completely he continued into their midst, knowing it meant his death.

I am reminded Jesus loves me like that. As beautiful as is Ruth’s declaration of love for Naomi, Jesus’ declaration of love for me is even more so. And every time I see a cross I am reminded of that declaration of love, a love that sent Jesus to Calvary. There is no greater love.

My response?

Don’t ask me to leave you, God. Where you go, I’ll go. Your people are my people. I’ll live and die with you. And, in death, I’ll continue to be at your side.

God Doesn’t Give you… What?

Naaman’s story from 2 Kings 5 is a pretty familiar story for those of us raised going to Sunday School. It’s the story of a little Jewish slave girl who shared her faith in Israel’s prophet, and whose master’s husband Naaman was not only healed of leprosy, but became a believer in Israel’s God because of it.

I’ve read or heard the story many times over the years, but today I had one of those laugh-out-loud moments when I read something in the story I’d never noticed before. Naaman, who was a Syrian warrior, went to Israel on the word of this little Jewish girl, with a letter to the King of Israel written by his boss, the King of Syria. In it, the Syrian King said:

“Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy.”

The reaction of Israel’s King is priceless and it is what made me laugh this morning. He tore his clothes, a sign of distress and anguish and says: WHAT? Does he think I’m God? Is this a trick so he’ll have an excuse to go to war with us when I don’t heal this man? I CAN’T DO THIS! WAAAA!

Talk about a major misunderstanding by someone who was looking within himself way to hard.

I laugh because, sadly, I recognize myself in the king’s panic. Sometimes I look at the circumstances of life, feel the weight of expectations on my shoulders, fret about a situation I’m facing, and think I CAN’T DO THIS. Then someone tells me, God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.

LIAR!

Read 2 Kings 5. When the prophet Elisha heard that the king was losing his mind over this situation he sent a message to the king: Relax. God’s got this covered.

And God is saying that still. The truth is, God does allow things in our lives that are too much for us to do on our own. If he only sent things our way that we could handle, we wouldn’t need him, would we? God delights in revealing himself in every circumstance you face, good or bad. He wants you to go to him, to trust him, to depend on him, to show the world what he is able to do through you. I am convinced that God is not concerned about strengthening your ego, or teaching you how powerful you are. He wants to point you and me, and everyone around us to Himself as we allow him to handle every situation, as we trust him with every detail.

And I have found that, when I do surrender to him, I am blessed beyond what I can imagine. I believe it’s Satan’s lies that tell you you can handle things on your own, or worse, should handle things on your own. Satan certainly doesn’t want you surrendered to God.

The next time you are tempted to think God won’t give you more than you can handle, think again. Then turn the situation, your very life, over to him and see what he can do when you get out of the way.

Peace!

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world. (John16:33)

I am a child of the 60’s, a Baby Boomer, raised in the era of hippies, the Beatles, and ‘All We Need Is Love’. A common greeting back in the day was, “Peace”. Our country was at war, and it wasn’t a popular war for many. You saw the word ‘peace’ or its symbol on the sides of buildings, on book bags and necklaces, and on t-shirts. It was everywhere.

People longed for peace and looked for it in drugs, in sex, in throwing out the rules, in themselves, and in Easter religions. But the 60’s were far less than peaceful.

Jesus said his words were spoken so that in him we could know what real peace is all about. A person might calm themselves, find their ‘center’, repeat a mantra to experience a form of peace. But the source of true peace can only be found in knowing Jesus.

Life is hard. Things aren’t always fair. Bad things happen. And Satan is attacking. But Jesus tells us to cheer up. You see, he has overcome the world! And those of us who stand with him stand on the winning side.

Peace in the midst of a storm. Peace when the doctor’s report is devastating. Peace when the career hits the skids. Peace when a relationship crumbles. Peace that has nothing to do with circumstances, and everything to do with Jesus.

A peace beyond the world’s understanding.

Peace.

They Hated Me Without a Cause

I am Facebook friends with a former student, a young man who loves the Lord. Very often he will post something about his struggles or his victories as he maneuvers his way through this life. This morning he posted something about wanting to live his life with so much faith that the world would have nothing against him.

At first, I wondered about that statement. Then, as God would have it, I opened my study Bible and it directed me to John 15 where Jesus is talking to his disciples right before his crucifixion. He tells his disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own… They hated Me without a cause.”

I was reminded that, in order to condemn Jesus, they had to make things up. They had to lie about him so that they could get rid of him. Then I understood what my young FB friend was saying. He wants to live his life in such a way that if someone wanted to accuse him, they would have to lie.

Isn’t that the life we are all called to live? “Be holy as I am holy.” John continues to report that Jesus, after warning his disciples about how the world would view them, promised them the Holy Spirit to help them bear witness of Jesus. God knows his children will face difficulties because we love and serve him, and he promises to be exactly what we need to face them.

Dear one, don’t lose heart. Expect the world to be uncomfortable around you, because Jesus in you is going to make them uncomfortable in their sin. We can expect the world to hate us because they hated Jesus, too. Let the Holy Spirit do his work in their lives as you are obedient to Him, remembering that it’s God’s passionate desire for those people to come to him.

I’m praying for you. May the choices you make today reflect your relationship with the Savior. And may an unsaved friend or loved one be very uncomfortable in your presence because of their sin, and because Jesus is in you. Most of the time you won’t have to say a thing. John 15:26 promises that “He (the Holy Spirit) will testify about me (Jesus).”

Have you ever heard it said that you may be the only Jesus some will ever see? Or that you may be the only Bible some will ever read? I pray that those who see my life are getting the right message, seeing the right example of a woman saved by grace through the precious blood of Jesus. May it be true in us all.

Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled

Sometimes when I watch the news and am faced with the way Satan’s power seems to be getting stronger in ISIS, in American politics, in our courts and on our streets, when I see flagrant sin proclaimed as the “new normal”, and people who call themselves Christian accept sin and tolerate multiple avenues to God, I get anxious. I find myself worrying about what’s ahead for us in this country, what kind of world my great-nieces and nephews will inherit from us.

Then I read what Jesus said to his disciples right before he was arrested: Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in me. (John 14)

History tells us these same disciples endured persecution like most of us have never seen. They watched Jesus die. They fled for their lives. Some were tortured and killed because they did believe in Jesus. But Jesus told them, let not your hearts be troubled.

I don’t know what lies ahead. I can guess according to what I read in the Bible. And the thought of what will probably be makes me sad. I want the babies in my life, their mothers and dads, to be grounded in the Truth of Scripture, to believe in Jesus. Because then I can face the future knowing Jesus is preparing a place for us, to be with him where he is. I can choose to not let my heart be troubled because I believe in Jesus and trust what he says.

I pray the same for you.

Dear God, it sounds like I’m throwing in the towel, and really I’m not. I will continue to pray, to stand for the Truth revealed in your Holy Word, and live my life to reveal you to those who don’t know you. I believe you will continue to bless those who call on you in Spirit and Truth, that your Holy Spirit will continue to draw all men to you as long as there is life. But I also know, Lord, you are coming again. This life on planet Earth is not all there is, and one day that angel will blow that trumpet, and everything will change. And unless your children hold strong, things will continue to decline. So keep us strong, Father. Give us courage and confidence and purpose. Thank you for telling us it’s possible to face the future without troubled hearts because we believe in Jesus. Be with our children and may we raise them to honor and fear you. Prepare them for battle, Lord. Prepare us all. And may you find us faithful.