Friday, 16 January 2015

Kicking and Screaming

And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ (Acts 26:14 ESV)

As a city chick, born and bred, I never truly understood what ‘kicking against the goads’ meant. I recall a Christian band called ‘The Goads’ that sang a song my kids learned, ‘God Made me Thumbody Special’ but that was about the only context I had. I never dug in to find out more.

So when our pastor recently told us about how the goad was a stick with a sharpened iron end that was used to prod on stubborn oxen, I giggled at the sense of humor Christ had.

And people ask me if God laughs!

Saul (later known as Paul) was determined to wipe out Christianity. He was a zealot amongst zealots! He himself was at the stoning of Stephen and our pastor mentioned how it must have been such an amazing testimony to behold. And still, the stubborn Saul kicked against the Truth.

His kicking finally lead to a sentence of three days of blindness in order to see The Way.

Now before we gang up on poor Paul, let’s acknowledge that we ourselves have been known to do some kicking and screaming ourselves. I know I have! In fact, whenever I hear myself say, ‘I never will’ I stop myself now. I’ve read the Word and lived through a few good goad pricks of my own . . .  repercussions of telling God, ‘no!’

God is going to use who He’s going to use. And if He is tapping on your shoulder as you read this, best to just surrender and let Him lead you. After all, who wants a sharp prod to the backside!

Father, we thank You that You mix Your lessons with humor. Help us to hear Your voice with clarity and that Your character would shine through giving us glimpses of You. Forgive us for our stubborn kicking and fill us each day, Holy Spirit, that we would walk controlled by You instead of by our own willfulness. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

I Resolve

If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name," says the LORD Almighty, "I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me.  (Malachi 2:2 NIV)

Never join a gym in January. You can’t get on any of the machines and the parking lots are always full. No, much better to wait until February when you’ll get all kinds of discounts and the workout equipment and parking spots will be vacant. It would appear that people tend to lose their resolve faster than their excess weight.

So, what do you resolve this year? What changes do you wish to see in your life?

I, for one, never make New Year’s resolutions. As a youngest child, and as a competitive person, I don’t like to fail at things. So why on earth would I commit myself to change something that I haven’t been able to make happen in the previous 365 days? On January 1st, does my entire DNA suddenly align differently giving me new miraculous abilities to overcome horrible ingrained habits? 


For most of us, it takes a strong desire, or critical health issue, to make such changes.  To think we change with a flip of the calendar would be downright silly.

Not so silly is the decision to start the New Year with a fresh commitment to the Lord; to resolve to honor His name and to listen and seek His face in obedience each day.

That is the key to all worthwhile change, His Spirit living within us. After all, the fruit of the Spirit is actually a great listing of most of the character flaws that we need help with in order to see any positive, external changes in our lives:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)

So we should take time alone on New Year’s Day, asking God to direct our paths, to transform us, and to stir up a renewed fervency for our First Love.

Lord, we thank You for this fresh, new year, full of promise. Please help us to walk in Your light, allowing your Holy Spirit to make the changes You desire in our hearts as we resolve to honor You and Your name in all that we do.  Amen.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Sacrificial Gift

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:11 (ESV)

Every Christmas for the first few years of our courtship and marriage, my husband would give me a dead cow.

Sometimes the gift would take on the form of a purse, other years it would be a jacket . . . wallets, gloves and even scarves too. But regardless to the shape, there was bloodshed to bless me – an ultimate sacrifice was made.

I don’t know if my man was just really into symbolism, or if he just found it convenient to shop at the leather store near his house, but he blessed me this way for several years. Then, we put an end to the slaughter. We agreed to tone down the Christmas gifts and make them smaller and more sentimental.

But the awkward tradition does stay with me. I still have all the leather goods he gave me. Leather tends to hold up well and stands the test of time (thankfully it also stretches a bit as I am no longer my petit pre-wedding size). God made hide tough and resilient.

Unlike my husband who traveled an hour to see me, the magi gave months of their life to take a treacherous journey. And then, upon arrival, before they even unpacked their treasures, they fell down and worshipped Him.

The Magi were not just delivery boys. It was not about the gifts. They had risked all that they had to come and worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, saying “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Christmas should not be about what we are giving or what we’ll receive. It’s about bowing before the One who left his throne in glory to walk amongst his sin-filled creation and in love-filled obedience, laid down his life as the ultimate sacrifice. An eternal gift that is one-size-fits-all. Let’s bow before Him and lay down our gift of time. Oh Worship the King!

Father, we are so thankful that You gave us examples of worship from those who held earthly status and education. Lord, may we too find time this season to fall on our knees in humble adoration and awe of Your Gift. Help us to shine the Light and Truth into the lives of those who are seeking this Christmas. Amen. 

Photo by Petr Kratochvil

Friday, 19 December 2014

Tip-toeing Thru Temptation

And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (Jude 1:22-23 ESV)

When I got to the top of the stairs, I saw it . . . a trail of pieces of thin mint wrappers that had fallen from the tall sofa table that sat next to our couch. The singing Christmas Mickey Mouse was knocked over and the nativity scene looked like Godzilla had marched through it.

Which she had.

Our little terrier, Mona, had managed to jump onto the table from the arm of the couch and snuck across to the box of mints, helping herself to a few, (all the while terrorizing the tiny Bethlehem village).

And then I saw it.

A slightly chewed and regurgitated pile of chocolate, minty goodness. Clearly she had been deceived by the chocolate scent – not knowing that a sharp, strong mint taste hid underneath. We all knew that Mona’s weakness is chocolate and that is exactly why we placed it – we thought – out of her reach. We weren’t trying to tempt her or put her at risk! Chocolate can be fatal to canines!

I saw Mona’s mess as a result of her weakness and was more upset with myself for having not protected her properly.  My daughter Tia, on the other hand, considered the dog’s actions as willful and wanted to punish her, to fill her with fear in order to protect her from ever trying the dangerous Evel Knievel stunt again.

Just like Mona, we Christians can be deceived and find ourselves in dangerous messes! Which is why Jude commanded that we watch over each other.

Matthew Henry in his commentary of Jude had an interesting thought:
We must watch over one another; faithfully, yet prudently reprove each other, and set a good example to all about us. This must be done with compassion, making a difference between the weak and the wilful. Some we must treat with tenderness. Others save with fear; urging the terrors of the Lord.

It’s important when we approach struggling sisters that we do so carefully and with discernment. Only the Lord knows their heart. First, we should go the tender route, assuming that their actions are a result of weakness. But, if it’s apparent that they are in flat-out, willful rebellion, then it’s time to turn up the heat and attempt to save them with the fear of the Lord. Because deception can be deadly.

Father, we thank You that you designed us to be in community and to care for each other. Help us to be tender towards one another, yet brave enough to know when to be strong and instill godly fear into the lives and hearts of those who are tiptoeing through dangerous territory.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Friday, 12 December 2014

Not Alone

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34

I’ve always been a ‘why’ girl. When being trained on a new job, it’s fine to show me how and I kind of get it, but explain the why and I can usually run with it. Understanding the logic behind something has always been key for me.

I love how Mary did not ask the angel, ‘why’ but was more interested in the how. My mind races trying to figure out what she meant by that statement. As women, we can all probably imagine the thoughts and fears that ran through that young girl’s mind.

So willing to be used by God, Mary let go and trusted the Lord in all the details. She humbled herself and submitted to His will. The Bible says she had found favor with God. From that, we can surmise she was walking a holy life and knew the law. She must have known then the shame and punishment that could have fallen on her once others discovered she was pregnant and unmarried, yet she never argued or asked the ‘why’ but basically said, ‘bring it on!’

What about you? Are you approaching this season with a heart full of questions? Has the last year been so brutal you are having a hard time even getting into the spirit of Christmas? I know the first Christmas after my mother passed away I struggled with both ‘Why did you take her’ and ‘How can I fake any holiday cheer?’ 

Life doesn’t always roll the way we had planned. It sure didn’t for Mary – you just know she shed both happy and sad tears during her journey raising the Son of God. It’s okay to feel ‘different’ this Christmas if you’ve lost someone close to you. There are questions in our hearts and wounds that are still healing. Lay down your ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ at his feet. Let the Lord meet you right where you are and be kind to yourself. He is Emanuel, God with us . . . you are not alone in your loneliness.

Father, we thank you for the gift of your Son! Oh how much we can learn from Mary’s obedient heart. Help us to remember that you are God with us and that we – no matter how we’re feeling – are not alone this season. Fill us with your Holy Spirit that we would be free to embrace all that you have for us this Christmas. Amen!

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Written on Our Hearts . . . and Jeans

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 1 John 4:16 (ESV)

We’ve all had days where we feel completely alone and unloved. Even when my mother was alive (and I know she loved me deeply), there would be days when I felt rejected. So many are driven to despair and suicide by accepting a lie that there is no love or hope for them – yet the Word tells us the truth.

God is Love.

In the seventies, hippies would embroider that declaration on their jeans and use it as a mantra. Perhaps that is why we saw such revival back then – at least God was being acknowledged.

Satan hates this truth. And he hates God’s creation. He’s been bent on destroying everything God designed. Enemies do that. They live to find something of value, beauty or purpose and render it useless.

What has happened in your life to rob you of the truth of God’s love? The truth that He created you, designed you, and purposed in you great things to be done for His kingdom? For me, people – both well-meaning and not – have often attempted to blow out my candle in order to make theirs burn brighter. Sometimes with words, other times with actions, their desire was to see my destruction. Thankfully, even when knocked down, the truth of God’s love for me resonated deep within and I would recall all his faithfulness in times past – proof of his love for me.

Don’t let the lies win. Don’t let Satan destroy God’s plans. Jesus loves you, chose to die for you, and desires to have the most amazing love relationship with you. Celebrate this truth – write it upon your heart (your jeans are cool too) and live it out.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Falling In Love

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

I love books. I buy far too many and read far too few. Many lay in stacks next to my bed, full of good intention but with no free time to be opened. Others lay covered in dust having been opened and found lacking. Yet I tend to keep them. It’s a sickness.

When my daughters were young, I taught them upon entering bookstores, they were to pick up a book, crack it open, stick their noses in real close to the freshly inked page and inhale deeply. The amazing smell of paper, ink and glue would enhance their experience. To this day they still do this. No matter who is watching. I love them. My kids I mean. Oh, and the books too.

As much as I love books, my friend, Donna takes bibliophilism to a whole new level, (bibliophilism is a love of books – I didn’t find that in a book . . . I found it on Wikipedia).  She has books in every room of her house and confesses without repentance her addiction to the written word. Smart girl that she is, though, she spends more time devouring the Word than other people’s words. So that’s okay.

I heard of another woman who loved books. She would bring them home in multiples. One day she was very disappointed to realize that one of the volumes she brought home was not at all what she had hoped for. It was dry, lacked relevance and had symbolism that she could not embrace. Very poorly written and a waste of money, she thought. She put it on one of her shelves and forgot about it.

Years later on a rare night away from her stacks, she found herself at a party and engaged in a fascinating discussion with a young man. It was pretty much love at first word. They talked for hours and found they had much in common; he was a writer and she a librarian. A match for sure! It was hard for them to part ways at the end of the night and she floated home, not feeling the pavement beneath her feet.

Too excited to sleep, she decided to peruse her vast personal library to see if she could find any books written by her newfound friend. And indeed she did! It was covered in dust, abandoned. That’s right — it was the poorly written find from years before. She sat down with a cup of tea and began to read. How wrong she had been! It was the most meaningful, insightful and eloquent novel ever written . . .

What happened?  Had the book been magically transformed?  No?

She had fallen in love with the author.

Many of us have a book on our bookcase covered in dust. A love letter, written to us personally and ignorantly ignored. We don’t open it often.

Because we haven’t fallen in love with the author. And it grieves Him.

It’s a conundrum to be sure. What comes first, a love for the Word or a love for Him? I think the answer is found in 1 Peter 4:19. We need to ‘meet’ the author before we can truly embrace his writing. We need to fall in love with the One who loved us first.

Ask Jesus to be your Savior and Lord of your life. Begin an amazing relationship that will last an eternity . . . live your own love story that includes an everlasting happily ever after. The Book will become completely engaging once you fall in love with the Author.

Tune in online to hear Lori discuss Falling In Love with the Author with radio host Carrie Cooper of U2HaveHope on November 23 at 4PM (CST) at KDKR (also available to listen to after the fact here). 
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Photo thanks to George Hodan