Monday, April 9, 2018

Easter's Over So It's Back to Life As Usual, Or Is It?


Although the calendar says Resurrection Sunday has come and gone, for Believers, it's never over.

Because of Christ's Resurrection Power lived out in our daily, we continue gathering every Sunday to worship and celebrate together. Our Savior is alive! He is risen indeed!  He's proving it everyday through those who believe.

Those who just show up for the calendar event must view Christ like a ground hog who only comes out of his "tomb" when spring arrives, and heads back into the shadows hiding until the calendar tells him it's time to come out again.

The once-a-year spectators are missing Jesus completely!
The Resurrection isn't about Christ hiding from people. It's all about LIFE being redeemed, the power to overcome sin, the sting of death, and the grave. 

Our risen Savior, forever glorified, lives in and through those who believe.

My husband was continuing to teach on The Resurrected Christ's Appearance On the Road to Emmaus yesterday, and my mind immediately went into blog mode.

Jesus appears to two obscure followers on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35. This is one of the most powerful encounters revealed in Scripture. The Apostle Luke introduces them to us, but we only learn one of their names. Our class concluded it was probably because these two represent all of us - the regular, ordinary, everyday Believer.

So, why are they on the road to Emmaus?

Christ is gone, crucified. They're at a loss, struggling with their grief, and when we meet them they're at a crossroad - a crisis of faith so to speak. Their hope of Jesus, the Messiah, ever becoming their earthly King of the Jews has been crushed, so they're torn. Is what they believed true, or was it all just hype?

The road to Emmaus was familiar and could lead them back.

Back to what they knew.

Back to the familiar.

Back to life as usual, void of the presence of Jesus.

With hope dwindling, and doubt increasing, Jesus shows up in the midst of their doubt, confusion and deep grief.

But they don't recognize Him.

Jesus chooses to engage them in conversation first, asking what they're talking about. He quizzes them about what has just taken place. Though they're amazed at how anyone could not know about the events of the past few days, they oblige and spill the whole story to Him.

Then, Jesus begins to scold them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?" (vs. 25-26)

So, for the next seven miles, Jesus gives them a tutorial about Himself written throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, and how they ALL point to His coming, His death, burial, and resurrection. He walks them through the book of Moses, the prophets and more, showing them where it's written all about what they've seen and heard.

After this, they still don't recognize Him, but they also don't want this stranger who's lifted their spirits to leave, so they invite Him to their home for supper.

While at the table, Christ, their stranger-guest, begins to break the bread and serve them.
(Does that seem odd to you, too?) 

And it's in this breaking of the bread that their eyes are opened to recognize Who's presence they are in.

Do you see that? Christ reveals Himself to them in the breaking of the bread just as He taught the disciples on the night before He died how to "see" and remember Him:

as a broken and spilled out sacrifice.
For their sin, for our sin, for all sin.



He gave thanks and broke the bread...

In the home of these two obscure Believers, now as the Resurrected Christ, He demonstrated again what to do in remembrance of Him, and to see Him clearly.

He had already reminded them through their tutorial of how He had to broken and spilled out for them, buried and resurrected.

Today, we continue to give thanks and break the Bread together.

It's in the breaking open of The Word where we recognize the Savior. In the breaking we're reassured of the hope within us, and it's in the breaking that we know His holy presence is with us, and in us.

When the Word is opened, distractions dissipate and our eyes become fixed on Jesus. It's in the seeing and remembering of what all He's done that causes our hearts to burn within.

After Jesus vanished from their sight, they said to one another,"Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?" (v.32 paraphrased)

Then they quickly headed back to Jerusalem to tell the eleven disciples all that Christ had told them.

All of us who follow Christ have chosen the road back to the familiar at times, back to those places we deem safe and secure. We've also found ourselves in crises of faith. But all along "the road" of our faith journey, we have access to the Bread, the Word, to break open, to reveal Him clearly, and to ignite our hearts to burn within, affirming our faith.

Ask yourself:

  • Is my heart burning because of what my eyes seen in the Scriptures by Holy Spirit in my personal and corporate study of the Word?


  • Am I compelled to run and tell all that the Spirit has shown me in His Word?


Lord, forgive our unbelief. So many are in a crisis of faith, full of confusion, doubt and hopelessness. Many are on a road back to life as usual, ignoring Your presence and the power of the resurrection. We need You to show up on our "roads to Emmaus" in all of Your glory, teaching us and unveiling our eyes to see You through Your Word, Your Truth. Make our hearts burn within us as we abide in You, and help us to show up at the tables of others to break bread and radiate Your glory in love and grace, proving that "He is Risen, indeed!" ~Amen.

My Pleasure,
Melanie




Monday, March 26, 2018

PALM SUNDAY: The Prince of Peace Rides Again





The day Jesus gave the people permission to proclaim who He really was, we call Palm Sunday. Throughout His ministry, He often told His followers not to tell anybody who He was. But, on this day, it was time for His Triumphal Entry - time to celebrate in a very public way His true identity - the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior they had been waiting 2000 years for.

He was living among them.

His purpose was to die for them.

For us.

For the whole world.

Laying down their cloaks and palm branches, lining the path leading into Jerusalem, His followers praised God and proclaimed...


"Hosanna to the Son of David! 
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! 
Hosanna in the highest!"
(Matthew 21:8-9)


Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a never-before-ridden, full-grown donkey.

Where did this donkey come from?

Jesus told two disciples to go into the village, and there they would find an unattended donkey and a colt tied up. They were to untie them and bring them to Him. If anyone asked what they were doing, He told them to say, "The Lord needs it," and they would be allowed to take them.
(See Matt. 21:1-7)



Why a donkey?

According to the Ancient Middle Eastern world custom, when leaders rode into a city on a horse, it was a declaration of war. When leaders road in on a donkey, peace was being proclaimed.

The King of kings rode into Jerusalem that day declaring He was Prince of Peace. He would bring peace and redemption to all who believed in Him, and when He returns again, He will bring peace and redemption to the world.

No more war.
No more death.
No more sin!

Then it occurred to me, and I find this so interesting.

Jesus' Triumphal Entry wasn't the first time He rode into a town on the back of a donkey.

Safe inside His mother's holy womb, Jesus rode on the back of a donkey into the little town of Bethlehem. He didn't arrive proclaiming war, but proclaiming peace. The Prince of Peace would soon make an appearance in the form of a baby into the world He had created.

And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, 
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
(Isaiah 9:6).


Unlike His Triumphal Entry where chaos erupted because of Jesus being on public display, hailed as King, this previous trek on a donkey into the town of Bethlehem was an obscure entrance. The chaos stemmed from people scrounging for places to spend the night and to register for the census. They were completely unaware that Peace had just entered their little town.

Only a few lowly shepherds and some faraway, curious star-gazers would be privy to His arrival that very night. 

Holy Week reminds us of the events affirming God's chosen, unblemished, spotless and perfect sacrifice - His Son. Maundy Thursday reminds us of our Shepherd's servant heart. Good Friday reminds us of His sacrificial death and His position of being our High Priest as the veil ripped, opening the entrance into the holy of holies for all who believe. 

And Resurrection Sunday reminds us "It is finished!" Christ has won, and we have nothing to fear. 

Hosanna and Hallelujah!

Jesus has overcome sin, death, and the grave!

My Pleasure,
Melanie


Monday, March 12, 2018

The Turquoise Table Delivered, Grace Extended



Delivery day finally arrived! Positioned in the front yard, I couldn't wait for the stories that would be shared around the TurquoiseTable. Our anniversary present to each other would become a gift extended.

#practicehospitality 



We didn't waste any time inviting people to the table. On the day of delivery, we had our friends who refurbished the 'ole front door and a couple of neighbors join us for a picnic lunch. Such fun!



Two days later, The Red Carpet, Girls Only Bible Study ate dinner around the table.



In the middle of some very specific, faith-walking instructions, Paul us we are to extend grace to one another as grace has been extended to us through Jesus Christ.

Paul begins Romans 12:9 with...

Let love be genuine, without hypocrisy.

There are many impostors of the Christian faith today. Most people can tell if you're authentic or not, and nothing is more detrimental to impacting our world for Christ than not loving genuinely.


Our Red Carpet, Girls Only, Bible Study, Living Like You Belong to God, challenged us to examine our conduct by asking...

Is my behavior holy, distinguishable, vastly different from how the world conducts themselves?

#practiceholiness

Living holy is living counter culturally in the world. It's behaving the exact opposite from how the world behaves. Once we become a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) we immediately begin the process of becoming holy - being shaped from the inside out as the Holy Spirit works within the heart of a Believer to transform thinking and behavior. It's called sanctification. Until a person comes to believe in Christ Jesus, that person remains in the old creation state, succumbing to the sin nature that leads to death. The new creation Believer experiences a new birth which leads to life everlasting.

Paul continues on in Romans 12:9-13 (CSV, some paraphrased) with more counter cultural behavior of the authentic Christian community


(vs. 9) Detest evil; cling to what is good.
(vs. 10) Love one another deeply; outdo one another in showing honor to each other.
(vs. 11) Be diligent in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord.
(vs.12) Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.
(vs. 13) Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality.

Paul ends this particular list of identifiers with...

#pursuehospitality

Where the world looks out for #1, those seeking to live holy look out for one another, pursuing opportunities to be hospitable to the brothers and sisters of the faith.

A genuine display of Biblical hospitality toward one another is what attracts the stranger to the community (fellowship) of Believers. As we extend hospitality inward, we more easily extend it outward into a broken world, inviting them to believe and receive the grace that has been offered to all of us by Christ. This is practicing holiness. This sets us apart from the world.

#extendgrace 

We don't need a turquoise table to extend grace, but we do have to have a heart full of love for God and our fellow Believers, and a burning passion for others to know and love Him too.

How will you extend grace today?

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Thursday, February 22, 2018

How God's Holy People Can Impact an Unholy World


Two small words. Only three letters.

Moses asked God, "When the people ask me, 'What is His name?' What should I tell them?"  God replied to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you" (Exodus 3:13-14).

I AM.

Oh, the power in His name.

These two words, in all caps, hold within them the fullness of God.

In light of the recent school shooting in Florida, where 17 souls moved from this world to the next by a senseless act of evil, I can only respond with this:

As long as we live in this world full of sin, evil will manifest itself through broken people. We cannot always stop a person from doing evil things, but we can illuminate the dark around us by being God's Light and Hope, offering the only cure for their broken hearts - Jesus Christ. 

This world needs to see Hope through those who claim to have Christ in their hearts.




Until we stop ignoring our call to be holy, we will continue to drift through life having no impact on the world around us whatsoever as evil continues to place a stronghold on more and more of our society.

This breaks God's heart!

Recently, I was studying through week five of "Live Like You Belong to God" and noticed I AM stated backwards becomes a question: Am I? So, I began to ask myself some Am I questions:

Am I living the holy life God's redeemed me for and called me to? 
...but as the One who called you is holy, you are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy because I am holy (1 Peter 1: 15-16).

Am I living a distinguishable life from the unholy culture around me? 
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).

Am I living as a new creation or am I blending in with worldly ways and habits?
For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (Ephesians 5:8).

I AM has never wavered in His character. He's the same yesterday, today, and forever. In contrast, we live with the constant tension between our flesh and our spirit. We struggle daily to not waver, but we often do.

Then, how in the world is it possible to live the holy life God has called us to?

It's not. 

But with the power of I AM in us, all He calls us to is possible.

We are the temple of God because the Holy Spirit dwells in us.
For the temple of God is holy and that is what you are (1 Corinthians 3:17). 

The Holy Spirit is working right now in and through Believers to make us holy perfect - perfect in our representation of a holy God. He's chipping away at all that's unholy and shaping what is holy into the image of Jesus Christ. It's called sanctification. 

Every day we must intentionally ask:

Am I willing to die to self today so I can present Christ well?

If God's name, I AM, plainly states the holy, unwavering character of God without reservation, then...

Am I, without trepidation, displaying God's holy character well under the authority of His holy name?

We, the nation of God's holy people, must fall humbly to our knees in broken repentance, asking Him to forgive us of ignoring His call to holiness - to stand up and stand out. We must pray for the courage and strength to die to self and walk in obedience. Only then can we rise up to live separate, distinguishable, countercultural lives by the power of the Holy Spirit, and resist the evil one who is seeking to destroy our families, our youth, and all people through broken lives and broken minds.

Dear Jesus, 

Forgive us. Give us courage to stand out among the crowd and be recognized as Your ambassadors, your holy people. Help us to heed the call to be Light and to bring hope to a hopeless world. 

In Your powerful name (I AM) we pray, 
Amen.





My Pleasure,
Melanie











Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Hospitality - Extending the Heart of God



Don't you just love it when God connects the dots in His Word to help us understand and apply truth in our everyday lives? 

God continues to point me to what living a holy life looks like - how Believers are called to be set-apart, to stand out, to be distinguishable from among unbelievers. 

Some dots He's connecting for me:
  • 1 Peter 1- my meditation since January 1, 2018. "Be holy because I am holy (vs.16b).
  • Live Like You Belong to God - our small group Bible study by Kay Arthur, emphasizing the holy life we're called to.  
  • Books - all threaded with the same theme of hospitality and holiness. 
One of the books I've read this month, The Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell, has ignited an even deeper passion for something my husband and I already do - open up our home.



I just couldn't put it down. I fell in love with its cover the moment I saw it in the bookstore and even more with the idea of The Turquoise Table. If you've never heard of Schell's book, you're probably bumfuzzled, thinking, "What's the big deal about a turquoise table?

I'm so glad you asked.

A simple, but life-changing, invitation was extended to gather people in Schell's front yard. The meeting place was an ordinary, wooden picnic table, painted her favorite color, nifty turquoise. Her table has become a welcomed go-to spot for neighbors, friends, and family who desire rich, quality time of getting to know each other. They simply talk while sharing a freshly baked plate of cookies, a hot pot of coffee, sweet iced tea, or some refreshing lemonade. Nothing fancy, because this table is not about entertaining. It's all about being present in the lives of people, and being an extension of the heart of God.

The Turquoise Table became a life-long dream of implementing an age-old art. While studying abroad, Schell was inspired by a French family who used their time around the dinner table to deepen relationships with family and friends. Ever since, she's longed for a table just like theirs. Longing for real community in a new neighborhood, she had to get creative. So, she purchased a picnic table and designed a plan to gather her neighbors in her front yard. Now, not only does she have a turquoise picnic table in her front yard, but many more have popped up all over her neighborhood, across the United States, and even in other countries. It's a movement that's changing homes and hearts all across the world.

We all long to belong, don't we?

God, the Creator of all things, extended the very first invitation to Adam and Eve to commune with Him, and He's been inviting people ever since. God invented community for His people to not only commune with Him, but also with each other. His people, Believers, are called to love and care for one another. As we follow Christ in obedience by loving and meeting one another's needs, we are extending His invitation out into the world, inviting them to join God's community of Believers.

Holiness is reflected through hospitality.
The word holy is embedded into the word hospitality. Therefore, when God's holy people are hospitable, the character of God is on full display. This gives me goose bumps!

My turquoise table is being made out of something that represents the opening our home for over 30 years. In January 2017, we finally replaced the original front door to our home. It was 40 years old, warped, and would hardly close. But, it had served us well. Many, many people have walked through that door into the place where we do life, onto the red carpet where we make disciples, counsel, and enjoy one another's company. After years of weather, wear and tear, it was time to let her go.


But I just couldn't let go of that old tattered door completely. It was so much a part of what God has done in our lives, and what He continues to do as we seek to reflect His holy character through hospitality. We welcome people in, love them, and teach them what God's taught us through His Word. We've dedicated each of the three houses we've lived in as a place for ministry. Whoever God would lead to walk through the door, we would embrace and love them because He first loved us. (1 John 4:7-8)

After a year of leaning against the fence behind our carport, the ole' door is being refurbished by a good friend and turning her into our very own turquoise table, extending our behind-closed-doors hospitality into the front yard.






Can I just say, "I'm about to burst with excitement!" I can't wait to see the finished product. (Oh, don't worry. I'll post more pics as progress is being made.) I can't wait to invite people from our neighborhood to gather around the turquoise table to shoot the breeze, relax, build relationships, and enjoy life together.


That ole' front door will continue to serve her designed purpose as she displays what's written on our hospitable hearts to all who long to belong, "Yes, we're OPEN!"

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Monday, February 5, 2018

The HeArt of Welcome


For a long time now, I've pondered the idea of putting a book together for those who want to learn the deeper meaning of the HeArt of welcome. Anyone can invite someone into their home, neighborhood, community, or church, but what does welcome look like when reflecting the image of Christ?


My family always had a picnic table in our yard. Whether at the lake or in our backyard, the picnic table was always open. I guess this is where I first witnessed the HeArt of welcome. My mom and dad had the gift, but they also had the heart of Christ. Our doors were always open to those in need or for just being present in the lives of people. We had more fun around those tables. From slurping watermelon to scarfing down fresh, fried fish, from char-grilled hamburgers and hotdogs to homemade coleslaw and Lay's potato chips, our yard was always full of fun, food, family and friendships.

I miss those lazy days basking in the sunshine with gobs of people gathered around. I miss my dad's silly jokes, my mom's amazing cooking, and not having a care in the world. I miss the table talk - conversations about anything and everything. I miss the laughter. And, I especially miss not having to watch the clock because we had to hurry off to get to somewhere else.

Time was never short. We were never in a hurry.

Time was rich and full because being present with each other is what mattered. 

Now, we never seem to have enough time to "get-it-all-done." We cram into the white squares on our calendars crazy stuff that really doesn't matter in the eyes of eternity. Why are we so scattered, forgetful and worn slap out? It's because we meet ourselves coming and going, doing this, going here, there and yonder, believing we're living the full life God promised us, when all we're doing is filling life with lesser things.


I'm sure in my parents' 50 years of marriage they entertained some angel strangers and weren't even aware of it. And in our attempt to accomplish more and more, we're missing out on the simple art of heart - welcoming people into our lives and our homes; not for the sake of entertaining, but for Jesus' sake.


Hospitality originated with God. He created us to bring Him glory, and He's always desired to do life well with us. His name, Immanuel, means God with us.

Community has become a Christian buzz word - a word magnified and overused until no one wants to hear it anymore. You see it everywhere, even churches have inserted it into their names as if Church doesn't mean community. Living in "community" isn't man's idea - it was God's idea. Gathering His people in His fullness of His presence was always His intent. This is where our hospitality flows from - the heart of a loving God pouring in and out of hearts devoted to Jesus Christ. Christ's heart is all about inviting people into His space. He never shuns or shies away from anyone desiring to belong. His heart gushes love, compassion and mercy all over anyone who is willing to walk by faith, live like Christ, and obey His commands.


Be hospitable to one another without complaining (1 Peter 4:9). 

A cheerful heart doesn't just give money away or place it in an offering plate during a worship service. A cheerful heart gives time and talents as well. This is the HeArt of Welcome. It's being present in the moment with and for each other. We love because He first loved us. And we give of ourselves out of our love for Him.

Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us
 and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 
Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another 
(1 John 4:10-11, CSB).

How can you show the HeArt of Welcome where you are? I'd love to hear your ideas.

My Pleasure,
Melanie

P.S. If you haven't already, would you please subscribe to my blog. I'm working on a book proposal and I need to be able to show publishers I have an engaged audience. Thank you in advance.




Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Live Life to the Full Even In the Shadow of Death


I was hoping when 2018 opened its door that death would not overshadow the excitement of new beginnings. But, in spite of the fresh, new beginning, within the first four weeks, four souls I've known have exited this world and entered their eternal surroundings.

Life and death are inevitable on earth.

And, until Jesus returns, death will be the portal into our out-of-this-world, forever home.

My parents never sheltered me from the hard of life, death especially, and for that, I'm forever grateful. I can't even remember the first funeral I attended, but I do remember how the lives we celebrated powerfully impacted my perspective on life growing up. From teenagers who committed suicide, to friends killed in car accidents, to teachers who lost their fight to cancer, and grandparents who just withered away naturally, death leaves behind no rhyme or reason. 



Throughout my life, death has continued to teach me much about living. My familiar place to reflect on life is on the piano bench at our church. I've been playing or singing (or both) for all kinds of services and life events for over 40 years, but funerals have always been a unique place of ministry for me. Even for my dad and mom's celebrations, I played and sang. My heart spills onto the keys and, through the music, I seek to bring healing and comfort to hurting people as well as praise to God, the Giver of life. Being asked to be a part of so many home-going celebrations has been my honor. Serving in this way provides a fresh perspective on what really matters, and gives me time to reflect on how I'm living my one life.




A shadow of grief looms over us when someone we know and love leaves this earth. It presses in hard on the reserved space in our hearts where we hold them dear. We feel lost without their physical presence, but God walks with us through our grief and holds our hand with His comfort, hurting with us as we cling to all that's left - the sweet memories.

God has given us a wonderful gift of remembering. Whenever we choose, we can reach down deep into that sacred space and draw from a well of cherished memories. God also gives us tears to cry, helping to empty our hearts of the pain and sorrow, and as He catches every tear that falls, He holds them close to His heart of holy compassion.

Memories of joy.

Tears of sorrow.

God's tender touch helps us maneuver in and out of the shadows.

In the midst of grief, God also brings eternal hope. He gently calls us to focus on His Light, His Son. Christ, our Hope, illuminates the dark with light, and tramples death with life everlasting.

Death is a hard pill to swallow. It hurts. The pain can be excruciating. No one understands the pain more than God, Himself. Even Jesus, born under the shadow of a cross, could hardly bear the weight of our sins and the death that loomed over Him as He cried out to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. But, for the joy set before Him, He chose to die - to be the perfect sacrificial Lamb for you and for me. His death broke the Father's heart, but it also broke our chains of sin enslavement. His death set us free. Our Victor, Jesus Christ, swallowed the sting of death for us so we would have nothing to fear when we face death. He conquered death and the grave.

Death could not thwart God's redemption plan, therefore we are redeemed!
Death could not defeat Christ, therefore it will not defeat us!
Death's grave could not hold Christ, and it will not take hold of us!
Death has lost. Life has won!



We have Christ's promise and hope of being fully restored and wholly healed. All of those tears we've cried on earth? Every one of them will be wiped away. Praise God!

He has called us to live fully in His Light even in the shadow of death. For in His presence there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11), every moment of every day, and that's where we, His people, are to remain - in the light of His presence. 

How has the shadow of death impacted your living for Christ? 

My Pleasure,
Melanie