Thursday, March 26, 2015

Breath-Taking Grace

Life is grace, and grace gives life. All is grace.
Nothing exists without God's grace.

Many people try to live life without ever acknowledging God's grace, but just because you don't acknowledge it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Life simply is because of our grace-full God.

In creating Adam, God breathed His own breath into Adam's lungs, making him a living, breathing soul.

The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7 NIV)

When my babies were born, the sound I wanted to hear most was their first cry, signaling their first breath, the very sign of life. What a relief when they take their first breath.

Since Eve birthed her firstborn, every person who draws a life-giving breath has breathed in the breath of God.

That's grace! 

A life saved by grace is quite a different story. Because Adam sinned, all are born into sin. Because of sin, we must choose; either remain in our sin nature, or be reborn with a new nature.

The first is choosing death, eternal separation from God, and the second is choosing life, life eternal with God.

Choosing to be covered by grace is choosing to live life to the full rather than just merely existing because of grace.

For our lives to be transformed by the grace of God, we must first allow God to take our breath away. That's right. We must first choose to die, spiritually. 

When we choose God's grace gift, we die to self, stopping the breath of the self-destruction of sin, and are resuscitated, reborn with new breath (new life) as we breathe in the life of Jesus Christ.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, not of yourselves, it is a gift from God, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV)

No one can be saved without the breath-taking, eternal life-giving grace of God.

Choosing God's grace covering is admitting our sin nature, believing in God's Son, Jesus Christ, and confessing Him before others.

With our new nature, we must choose to die to self, take up our cross, and follow Jesus... daily.

 In 1 Corinthians 15:31, Paul says, "I die every day."

When we repent and turn from sin, we breath out sin and we breathe in Jesus, receiving the fullness of His resurrected life. All sin is cancelled, and we now live with the power of the Holy Spirit breathing in and through us to overcome sin every. single. day.

 So, as you begin each day, repent and die to self. Then, let God fill you with the resurrection power of Christ as you take in a deep breath of grace!

My Pleasure,

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers

Losers weepers. My heart has been broken since I have not been able to locate my Bible for an entire week. My Bible, lost with my notes, underlined verses, commentary, and affirmations. Many years of study and listening to the Spirit are documented. My heart aches.

I checked our fellowship hall several times since the night it went missing, the night of our last "When Wallflowers Dance" Bible study, to no avail. I also checked in the Lost and Found in the church office. Tonight, after choir rehearsal, I was determined to look one more time for my treasured possession.

A friend stopped me in the parking lot before I went in to look. Before she drove off, she said she would pray that I'd find it. I walked inside and started looking around, and as I perused the last room, there it was, lying on a table with some classroom Bibles.

Yes! The Lord answered my prayer and the prayer of my friend. Finders keepers!

"Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back from captivity."  (Jeremiah 29:12-14 NIV, capitalization for "Me" is mine)

We who seek the Lord with a sincere, whole heart are promised that we will find Him. Once we find Him, He will never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)

Finders, keepers. Jesus, our true Treasure!

Thank you, Lord, for hearing my prayer, the prayer of my friend, and letting me find my Bible. Even more, Lord, thank you for allowing me to find You and for bringing me out of the captivity of sin. I treasure You, our relationship, and Your Word. 

In Jesus' Name,

My Pleasure,

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Cinderella Story, Truth Be Told

Last evening, my Prince Charming (Rick) and I went to see my childhood favorite, classic fairytale, "Cinderella." This updated movie version was filled with all of the good stuff a great fairytale should be filled with.

Good vs. evil, prince and princess, unexpected twists and turns, some humor, and of course, a happily-ever-after ending.

But, if truth be told, there was so much more to this age-old story narrated by the fairy godmother.

Cinderella had a happy life before the mean ole' stepmother and the nasty stepsisters waltzed their way into the story. Her name was Ella and she was adored by her very loving, kind parents.

Her mother becomes quite ill, but before Ella's mother dies, she gives her young daughter some very good, sound advice:

"Have courage and always be kind."

Ella and her father had a wonderful relationship. After Ella grows into a young lady, her father remarries, but he never falls out of love with her mother. The stepmother and stepsisters turn on Ella after her father dies on a business trip. She is forced to become a servant girl to these evil women who have taken over her mother and father's house.

Her mother's words are etched in Ella's memory. She clings to them when the stepsisters rename her Cinderella. She acquires this new name when the soot from the fireplace in the kitchen has smeared on her face. "Have courage and always be kind." 

Even when she's tricked into living in the attic, she remembers, "Have courage and always be kind."

When banned from eating at the dining room table, she remembers, "Have courage and always be kind."

You know the rest of the story, but I encourage you to see this cleverly produced version and be reminded of some powerful life lessons deeply rooted in Scripture.

Many times throughout God's Word we are taught to be strong and courageous. We can hold our heads up because God promises to be with us and to go before us on our faith journeys. He will take care of us and handle our enemies. There's no need to fear. (See Deuteronomy 31:6, 23)

We are also told in the New Testament to be kind to one another. (See Ephesians 4:32)

When truth is absorbed into our lives, life can be full of joy, even in the midst of despair and grief.

I love surprises, and there is a surprise ending to this movie which I was definitely not expecting.
(If you haven't seen it, you may want to stop reading here and go see the movie first.)

Once the glass slipper is carefully slipped onto Cinderella's foot, she and the Prince begin walking towards the door. The evil stepmother, with tears in her eyes, is standing at the bottom of the staircase in total disbelief. Before Cinderella walks away into her happily ever after, she turns around, looks her stepmother in the eye, and with humility and grace, speaks the words, "I forgive you." (See Luke 23:34, Colossians 3:13)

Cinderella turns back around and walks into her new future with her prince by her side, never looking back.

What a powerful ending! She followed her mother's words to the "T" even when life was barely bearable.  Then, taking those words to a deeper level, she shows her stepmother the ultimate kindness by forgiving her. Cinderella was now able to move on in her life with a clear conscience and a fresh new start.

Yes, I know Cinderella is a fairytale, but I also know real truth when I hear it. Brilliantly weaved into this classic story of old, were some incredible, timeless truths to be told.

My Pleasure,

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Letting Go So She Can Go

The toughest part of being a parent is dealing with the resistance to letting your child go; go to daycare, go to school, go spend the night with a friend, go on a date, go drive a car, go off to college, go on a far away mission trip.

It's just natural to want to hold on to someone that you've poured your heart and soul into their whole life. Birthing, loving, feeding, hugging, kissing, playing, teaching, disciplining, training, and praying for them to be all God wants them to be.

Our baby girl, who is really a grown-up girl at age 20, just informed her dad and me that she wants to go to Kampala, Uganda. The place where her best friend, McKinsey, wanted to return to put down roots while planting the Gospel into the hearts of a people she had come to love so deeply.

But, since McKinsey will not be returning, Madi wants to go.

I'm beyond words in describing the absolute thrill for her that I feel, but I'm also torn with letting her go so far away. She has never even flown on an airplane, much less been out of the country.

But, that's our amazing God at work in her life and in mine.

Through the death of her best friend, He's planted in her heart a desire to go,

and He's helping me to

let. her. go.

McKinsey's mom, Amy, will be traveling with Madison and I couldn't be happier for the two of them to take this trip together. If all goes well, and enough money is raised, she will board a plane in July along with two more friends to take this journey of a lifetime.

We who have said, "Yes"to Jesus are told to "Go."

Read Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus commissions His disciples to...

Go into all the world.

Go make disciples.

Go baptize.

Go teach.

Go in My name.

Go in My power.

Go with Me.

No matter who we are, in Christ, we have all been called to go with Him in obedience.

This mom has not been given a desire to go to the other side of the world, but I have been called to trust that, the God who gave me the privilege of being Madison's mom and to Whom I've prayed for her to be the woman of God He has designed her to be, will take care of her.

I have been called to...

Let go

So she can go

With Him.

Lord, help me to trust You in taking this next big step, not only in Madison's life, but in mine. We both love You with all we are and want to serve You with all we are so we can become all You desire for us to be. I know that the fullness of joy comes in our obedience to You. Help us to live obediently wherever you call us to go. In Jesus' name, Amen.

My Pleasure,

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Everyday Extraordinaire

Zipping through the grocery store aisles retrieving items for my husband's Bible study, I grabbed a few extra items I knew we needed for the house.

A roll of paper towels was on my list.

As I glanced across the color selections, I noticed a grey color peeping through the plastic I hadn't seen before. Any one who knows me, knows I have to have a pattern to go with the season or a color to match the kitchen, etc.

Taking notice of the unique color, I thought, "That will look great in my kitchen." My countertops are black with grey flecks, so I thought these were absolutely perfect.

This morning, I opened the new roll to replace the empty one. What a surprise when I pulled off the plastic. I discovered not only was the color perfect, but an ordinary household item just proved to be extraordinary.

Who puts crosses on paper towels? Bounty, obviously. The print immediately became a grace-full reminder that we are in the season of remembering. Remembering the cross.

The Church, the Bride of Christ, is called to remember Her first love and how He laid down His life for Her. We're called to remember His suffering, His pain, His death on the cross. His body, His blood.

We love Him, and we remember Him because He first loved us.

To some, my everyday extraordinaire may seem trite, but when we are looking for God's gifts of grace, nothing is ordinary anymore.

In just a couple of weeks we will be celebrating Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and then EASTER, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. These celebrations are traditions of the Church which help God's people to remember.

We remember, not only on these days set aside on the calendar, but every morning we wake up, and every night as we go to bed, and all through the day, everyday we're given to live... we remember.

Jesus, our Savior, our Lord, our Redeemer. Our everyday Extraordinaire!

"And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying,"This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me. Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you." (Luke 22:19-20 NKJV)

Keep remembering.

My Pleasure,

Monday, March 2, 2015

Remembering McKinsey: A New Normal, Part 3

In the days, weeks, and months following a life changing event, life must go on, and some even say, "We've got to get back to normal."

But I don't believe we are supposed to go back to normal. The "old normal" doesn't exist anymore. To go back would mean nothing has changed. To move forward is admitting a change has occurred, and looking for ways to learn from it, grow through it and adjust to it.

In our case, the change is life without McKinsey.

A "new normal" is what we and the people around us are trying to adjust to.  It is taking some getting used to, especially for her sweet family and close-knit friends, but through the hope, peace, and comfort we find in Christ, we are muddling through, one day at a time.

Think about when someone receives Christ. She is now a new creature. The old life of the sin nature has passed away, and the new life of overcoming the sin nature has begun. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Some, though, receive this gift of grace, but refuse to move forward in that grace, remaining in the "old normal" like a change never happened.

How can we deny the Holy Spirit when He has moved in and taken up residency in our hearts? That is incredibly powerful!  We have His power inside of us to move forward; to learn all we can about our Savior and Lord, to grow up in our salvation, to make changes that cause us to sin less and love more.

Two years ago, McKinsey experienced life to the full because she ran from her "old normal" full speed ahead into God's "new normal" for her life. She wanted to be filled up with the Spirit of Christ, and not just a little bit filled up, but a whole lot filled up. She wasn't going to do this Christian thing half way. She didn't just want parts of Christ, she wanted ALL of Christ and All He had to offer.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28 NIV) 

McKinsey was the epitome of God's "new normal"; a radically changed person who has fallen deeply in love with Jesus. This person has allowed the life-altering power of God to affect and infect every part of their being, their thinking, their living.  Going back is not an option.

We can't return to life with McKinsey, but we can certainly move forward with life because of McKinsey; the way she loved her Jesus, her family, her friends, and those street boys in Kampala will affect our lives from now on.

Our girl is having no problem adjusting to her "new normal" and she is cheering us on to learn as much as we can about God, grow in our faith in Jesus Christ, and adjust to our "new normal" as well. Moving forward does not mean we forget where we've been.  It just means we are learning and growing through and into what is new.

Jesus told His disciples at the Last Supper to remember Him: all that He had taught them, the love He had revealed from the Father, the truth they had received, and to look forward to what was to come - the Holy Spirit.

Jesus was going to die, be buried, rise again and ascend to the Father, but He would not leave them alone. He said He would send a Comforter (the Holy Spirit) to give them comfort and power to continue to proclaim Christ, baptize and make disciples, and then, He would be back!  He wanted them to remember the hope He gave them, and to move forward in Him, not without Him.

So, let's remember the hope McKinsey lived for and revealed to all who met her, her hope in Christ, and let's move forward in continuing our calling to do the same...spread the Hope of Jesus Christ, baptize and make disciples, living in the hope of knowing that one day we will see Jesus face to face, and we will see our girl again, too.

Until then, this is our "new normal".

My Pleasure,