Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Grace Gifts, Reasons to Give Back

For the past few days I've noticed a hydrangea blooming in the back yard. Isn't it a little late in the season for hydrangeas? I'm really thinking it is, but I'm no botanist, and this is South Carolina.

A few days later, this is what I found. This gorgeous, pink flower, standing tall and proud, just begging to come inside and brighten up my day.

 Gift #1136, Hydrangea

Last Tuesday night, 9 of us gathered around a table to celebrate the life of a wonderful friend. This friend has traveled a difficult road this past year. In June of 2013, she called me while I was at the beach and shared the news she had received. "I have breast cancer," she said.

My heart sank and sadness flooded my soul. Not Lara. Not the healthiest person I know.

Now, she's cancer free and we could not be more ecstatic and blessed to have her by our side.

Gift #1137, Lara.

Wednesday, a life-long friend went into surgery to have a cancerous tumor removed from her stomach. By the afternoon we had received word that the surgeon could not remove it because of its location. The next step, chemotherapy.

My heart sank. I even felt nauseous.

Gift #1138, childhood - adult friends.

Thursday, Gift #1139 -Birthday!

My birthday began with Bible study with some fabulous women, and then lunch with my favs: Rick, Turner and Madison.

Then, while at lunch, another tragic call. More friends hurting. Their child, lying in a hospital in critical condition after a horrible car accident.

My heart sank again. Sadness flowed through me...again.

Gift #1140, Life.

I remember God's gifts - the flower, friends, my birthday, life.

No one is promised tomorrow. We are not privy to God's timetable or the number of our ordained days.  We just have to run this one race well; this one life God has given, in His strength, in His power, in His love and grace, with faith.

We are proclaiming and claiming this truth in our Bible study, "God is greater than our struggles." 

He has us! He's got this!

Press on with your eyes fixed on Jesus. Run for the joy that lies ahead! Run, baby! Run!

Tall and proud; my hydrangea. Today it blooms. Tomorrow it may die, but it is bursting forth its praise for the Creator who gave it life. God's gift has blessed me.

Tall and proud I stand! God's child.  I live this day to the full because I'm not privy to what tomorrow holds.

So today I burst with praise, for my Creator has given me life to do so.

May my gift of praise bless Him.

"Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name." 
(Andrae Crouch, lyrics) 

My Pleasure,

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Little Web Wisdom

Lately, I've heard many people say, "I don't read much anymore what people post on Facebook because it's all negative and depressing." Have you heard anyone say this?

Personally, I think long and hard about what I release on the World Wide Web. Sometimes, I probably overthink my words. I pray about, edit, rewrite, and reread my words over and over until I'm absolutely sure that, when I hit "Publish" or "Post", it is something that will be helpful, and not harmful. (I've even been working on this post for a while.)

Sure, I could use cyber space to vent, complain or grumble, but I choose not to.  What good does that do anybody, especially for people who are looking for encouragement?

So why do people, especially Christians, whine or vent on social media?

I didn't have to think long and hard about this one because the old saying says it well:

"Misery loves company."

We whine on social media to attract those who will sympathize with our "poor me" posts and justify our pity parties. But, as Christians, does that represent Christ well?

When Jesus was struggling with something very difficult, like going to the cross, where did He go to pour His heart out? Did He stand on the highest point in Jerusalem and yell, "I don't want to die for the sins of the world!" Did He go in search of those who would justify His distress and encourage Him in the flesh to not do what He was born to do? Certainly not.

Jesus went to the Father, alone, every time.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, He took three of his closest confidants, but He left them to keep watch as He walked a little further to be alone as He fell on His knees in utter sorrow and distress battling between His earthly flesh and His divine purpose.

The only One who could truly settle the battle in His heart, and give Him the strength to press on, was the One He trusted with His fight - His Father.

I'm not saying that we should paint a rosy picture of what it's like to be a Christian, and never share our feelings. Life's hard! We all have inner struggles. But, when Christians display unchecked emotions, degrade people or other Christians for all the world to see, and invite others to join the pity parties, we are not displaying the love which Christ said we should have for one another, nor are we revealing His character.

It's easy to say things when we don't physically see the people who are reading our words, but it would (I hope) be a very different story if we could look into the eyes of those same people we claim to love and then say the things we post. We might would think twice, or three times.

Although I've failed at times, this is what I try to do. I picture the faces of those who may read my blog or FB posts, and I try to speak with wisdom, sensitivity, and love to their tender hearts. I try not to scold, or demean. I try to point my readers to Christ first, then through prayer, humbly share my heart.

Public displays of emotional distress can wound and hurt people - sometimes for life. Our cyber thoughts in black and white can be perceived in ways we never intended, which in turn, hurt us, and the One we love and serve.

It's tough not to share our hurts and disappointments with the world, but it's for the best, and it protects the character of Christ which is our character as Christians.

How can we keep our emotions in check and temper our cyber words with grace?

Here are 3 simple questions I ask before I hit "Send", "Post", or "Publish":

- Is what I've written truly helpful to anyone?

- Is what I've written helpful or harmful to the Body of Christ?

- Is what I've written lifting up Christ or lifting up my need for sympathy and/or approval?

Thank you for allowing me to share with you a little bit of Web wisdom I've learned along the way.

My Pleasure,

Monday, October 6, 2014

Therefore...because of Jesus

The Sunday sermon, on most occasions, drives me to dig deeper because of something said or read, and steers me down a path not necessarily eluded to in the sermon. I like to think of it as going on a personal retreat with the Holy Spirit.

Today's adventure drove me to taking a deeper look at the word Therefore.  I love words, and especially the words which are significantly and strategically placed in Scripture to help us understand the heart of God.

Through many years of studying the Bible and being taught by some incredible teachers, I've learned to always read the Bible in context. When the word therefore is used, I've learned to ask, "What is it there for?", and back up in the text for clarification. Therefore is a connector which joins the previous text with the future text.

The spark from Sunday's sermon drew me to a very simple, but profound understanding of why therefore is used in the New Testament. Researching briefly Strong's Concordance Sunday afternoon, I discovered that therefore is used 53 times in the New Testament.

Though I have definitely not exhausted my research, or my theory theologically, I do believe three simple words could be interjected after every therefore in the New Testament; because of Jesus.

For example, Sunday's sermon was focused on Romans 8:1-4 (NIV) which begins, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

What is the therefore there for? If we insert those three simple words, "Therefore, (because of Jesus), there is now no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ," it becomes perfectly clear.

Another example: Acts 2:36 (NIV) says, "Therefore (because of Jesus) let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." A description of Jesus is given before in verse 33, so because of Jesus works again.

Here's one more example: Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV) says, "Therefore, (because of Jesus), my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose." An extensive description of Jesus preludes these verses in verses 5-11, so it works here too.

Remember, this is just my theory. I will have to continue looking at all 53 uses of Therefore in the New Testament to see if this works all the time. Until then, think about this:

Because of Jesus - His willingness to step out of heaven and into skin, to be born of a virgin, to live in a body of flesh just like us, but still filled with the Divine...

Because of Jesus - His sacrifice satisfied the wrath of the Father for all sins committed by all humans. His sovereignty, His forgiveness, His mercy, His grace, His love, His position, His humility, His greatness, His Sonship, etc...

Because of Jesus - We who are in Him are not condemned by Him.

Because of Jesus - We are free! Free to point others to Him, free from fear, and free from the power of sin.

We can live life to the full because of Jesus.

My Pleasure,