Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Our Homes Are Sanctuaries

Last week was filled with nail guns, saws, the constant opening and closing of doors, and tracking in and out of our home. I wouldn't be surprised if our CPI security voice is a little hoarse from calling, "Den door!," every time it opened.

We finally bit the bullet and put in new kitchen floors, extending down the hallway, and a new backsplash, all of which was needed. It is absolutely beautiful, and I couldn't be more pleased.

We still have the new range hood to be installed. But, our new washer and dryer, both of which were in dyer need of replacement came yesterday and renovations - Phase One - is almost done!

I read this somewhere recently: Our homes are not show places but sanctuaries.

Don't you just love that?

Many have graced our home over the years for parties, wedding and baby showers, and Bible studies. Others have entered in times of grief, or in need of Christian counsel. We're OPEN - 24 hrs. a day, 7 days a week to meet needs, listen and love on those who need it. It's who we are. It's what we do.

The art of making people feel at home isn't some hidden secret. You just have to be willing to do life with people. Be real, inviting them into your successes and struggles, pointing them to Christ and the Scriptures.

Our homes are a type of sanctuary - a sacred place of refuge for family and others.

In the Old Testament, the Temple walls surrounded the most sacred of places where the sanctuary was housed; a place that only the high priest could enter into once a year to ask for the forgiveness of sins for himself and on behalf of God's people. The sanctuary was called the Holy of holies, where the Ark of the Covenant (the presence of Yahweh, Jehovah God) dwelled with His people.

After Christ redeemed us on the cross, the sanctuary or temple (the place where the presence of God dwells) is now inside of us - God's people. It's not an intricately God-designed mobile tent of worship with extravagant accessories and decor, filled with sacred symbolism, or a brick and mortar, breathtaking structure of meticulous architecture and art. The moment Jesus gave up His spirit, the heavy veil of the Holy of holies split in two signifying God's dwelling place would now be in the hearts and spirits of those who follow Christ. It's where the Holy Spirit resides, and we don't need a human priest to intercede for us anymore.

We have access to the sanctuary of God, and our High Priest, Jesus Christ, sits at the right hand of the Father interceding on our behalf. Because we believe in Him and have received Him into our hearts, we now live in His presence moment by moment, day by day.

Therefore, wherever we are, we house His sanctuary. Doesn't that just send goose bumps running up and down your spine?

Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and glory are in His sanctuary (Psalm 96:6 NIV).

Strength and glory are in His sanctuary - in us!

So, shouldn't our homes also be a physical sanctuary filled with His strength and glory? A place where love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness abound? Where calm, peace, protection and refuge are looked forward to with each opening of the door?

How would you describe the atmosphere of your home? Does your home breathe a sweet release for those who enter? What renovations need to be made in your heart's sanctuary so peace can spill over into your home today?

I pray we will begin to see our homes from this perspective, recognizing the focus of home is sanctuary, not showplace. 

  • Where we learn from our messes, not focusing on never making messes.
  • Where our speech is filled with kindness, not harshness.
  • Where we listen to each other, not talk over one another.
  • Where God's Word is the center of our conversations.
  • Where Jesus isn't just an honored guest, but the Head of our families.

Before I close, let me confess that I am guilty of not following my own advice. I fail again and again. I can be too concerned about messes. I speak harshly sometimes. I don't listen as I should (just ask my kids). I don't multitask, especially if I'm writing or reading on the computer.

We all need to renovate our homes at times, especially because of the hidden, crumbling spaces the eye can't see. But, we also need to be alert and aware at all times of the status of our hearts, allowing the Spirit to clean out sin and renovate. Then, instead of the musty, stale odors our guests would inhale, they will breathe in the sweet aroma of Christ and find refuge - a soothing sanctuary for the soul.

(Renovation - Phase Two - starts Thursday. Bring it on!)

My Pleasure,

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Before You Go, Simply Be

Most of us have been called to dinner.

"Dinner's ready! Come and get it!" 

We've also been called when it was time to go somewhere.

"Hurry up! Let's go! We're gonna be late!"

Some of us have even been called names. Some endearing, and some, not so much.

Christ called the first disciples using two simple words: 

Follow Me.

Jesus invited these ordinary men to walk with Him, sit with Him, live life with Him, and learn from Him.

And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. They immediately left their nets and followed Him (Matthew 4:18-20 NKJV).

In the Gospel According to Luke, there is more to the story. Large crowds are pressing in around Jesus to hear the word of God. There are so many people that He asked a fisherman named Simon, who was cleaning his nets, to take Him out in his boat a ways so He could speak to the multitudes easier. After He finished speaking, He performed a miracle by telling the fisherman to put down their nets. Stating that they hadn't caught any fish all day, Simon agreed to still comply with the Master's request. Alarmed at the large catch of fish in their nets, they shout for their fellow fishermen to come and help them. Simon Peter falls on his knees in the presence of Jesus, for he truly sees himself as he really is for the first time. After the boats had been brought into the shore, four exhausted, nasty, stinky fishermen drop everything, leaving all behind to be with Christ. (See Luke 5:1-11)

And today, Jesus is still calling us to the same.

To be in His presence - settling into the sacred place where we see Him for who He is and ourselves in the Light of His glory; where we renew our minds with His Word. There's no greater invitation in all the world than to be invited by the Creator of the Universe, the King of kings, to come and be with Him.

Being with Jesus is the safest, most secure place to bring our realness.

There's no pretending because He already knows our weaknesses.
There are no masks because He sees our hearts.
There's just being with the One who knows us best, loves us most, and will complete what He started.

I love the picture chosen for this blog because it speaks of the sweet intimacy Christ offers us. Can't you just hear Jesus saying, "Here. Have a seat. Come sit with Me a while." It gives me a sense of Ahhh and awe as I humbly and gratefully slide into my reserved seat. 

Being with Christ is the essence of a real disciple's life.  

It's in His Word and through the power of prayer that:
  • our ears hear His tender voice
  • our minds are washed with the Word
  • our souls are refreshed
  • we confess and converse with the Lover of our soul
You see, we can't go make disciples without being with the Master Discipler. The two go hand-in-hand. We've put so much emphasis on the nets (evangelism) - the how-to-get-saved part, that we've ignored the crucial and best part of discipleship  - The stop-drop-everything-and-be-with-Christ part. (And that includes our nets.)

Jesus is all about being with His followers and His followers being with Him. Seems to me that our nets would naturally catch more if we would be intentional about being with Christ.

Are you missing out on the part that will make you a much better fisher of people?
Then have a seat at the table. He's inviting you to simply be.

My Pleasure,

Picture credit: Pixabay.com 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

An Unusual Summer of Unwrapping Gifts


Spectacular or simple.

Gift bags adorned with colorful tissue paper. Boxes carefully wrapped with crisp creases and fancy ribbon.

Anticipation fills the air as the giver waits and watches for the recipient to open the carefully selected treasure.

The Summer of 2016 has been full of unexpected gifts. Somebody knows me well and has carefully placed on my doorstep unsuspecting packages, reminding me of His deep love and affection for me.

Well, not literally on my doorstep, and nope. Not my husband.

These gifts have arrived in the form of long-time friendships wrapped up tighter than the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. As I've opened these precious treasures, each has put a smile on my face and filled my heart with that squeal-out-loud-skip-a-beat joy.

As I blogged earlier this season about the different levels of friendships we experience, I had no idea God was wrapping up some of my own friends I haven't connected with in years and would be placing them on my stoop all throughout the summer.

Gift #1: A friend of 30 plus years and her husband connected with me while they were in France learning about the refugee crisis and how to best meet the needs of those fleeing from their homes. These missionary friends were coming back to South Carolina for a sort-of sabbatical. God used my husband and me to meet their need by providing them with a home to stay in while they sought the Lord's direction for a new season of ministry. Inside this unsuspecting package were dinners out, morning coffee chats, lots of laughing, praying, and catching up. What an incredible gift!

Gift #2: Another friend and her husband are in the process of moving to South Carolina from Virginia. This friend and I sang together in ministry for a short time, but connected with a bond that has lasted through 20 years. Although we've had little contact except through Facebook, we've picked up right where we left off. God is so good.

Gift #3: My former hairdresser and long-time friend attended church with us. Before moving to go to seminary, she was my right hand during eight weeks of bed rest while pregnant with my daughter. At the end of June she literally shows up on my doorstep for #SummerBookClub2016. What a treat to have her back in my life and to reconnect after almost 20 years. She even brought me a gift - a wreath she made in Carolina colors with football ribbon. Oh, she knows me well.

Gift #4:  Just a couple of weeks ago, God sent another surprise package in the form of a precious friend whom I've stayed in contact with, but not like I would have liked to. She just moved from Georgia back to South Carolina and I couldn't be more ecstatic! We met for lunch, caught up, and it was like she never left. What a kindred spirit we share. Afterwards, I walked to my car thinking, God is absolutely amazing. I needed this encounter today and He arranged it all. I love how He loves.

This intimate Lover of our souls knows us inside out. He created us with certain likes and dislikes, and He brings people into our lives for us to choose from to connect with on this earth for friendship, encouragement, to love and be loved, to rejoice and weep with, and to build one another up in Christ. He knows we need each other. He knows we need friends.

Every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17, paraphrased).

How has God gifted you this summer? Look around. I'm sure He's watching with great anticipation for you discover, unwrap and enjoy the gifts He's picked just for you!

My Pleasure,