Archive for August, 2008

We’re not meant to be sedentary creatures!

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

I’m continuing with my 3 mile Walk Away the Pounds DVD. Today was 12 days in a row without missing! I’m so excited! The instructor talks a lot about the importance of using your muscles and keeping the blood flowing regularly and rapidly in order to stay in shape (or get in shape if she’s talking to me). Every day she says, “God is very smart. We were not created to be sedentary creatures!” This morning when I heard it for the umpteenth time, I had a spiritual thought.

Just like our physical body, our spiritual bodies were not meant to be sedentary either! We must work them, keep the blood flowing rapidly in order to stay in spiritual shape. We do that by doing a spiritual workout regularly. Bible study and prayer, Bible study and prayer, Bible study and prayer. It’s not rocket science; there is no magic formula. It’s pretty simple. But it is critical that you work out regularly or your spiritual body will get way out of shape and it won’t be worth a whole lot. It’ll want to lie around on the couch like our physical bodies and vegetate with no activity and then we won’t get much out of it. The last thing we want is a lazy slobby spiritual body. We’d never be able to stand against the darts of the enemy!

Come on! Get up off that couch and work that spiritual body. We’re not meant to be sedentary creatures – in any aspect! Work it!

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10 & 11).

Hope

 

The look…

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

Have you ever received “the look” from your mom or dad? Or maybe you’ve given it to your children. Mark Lowry, Christian Comedian and recording artist, talks about the look that his mom used to give him from the piano stool all the way to the balcony where he’d be cutting up during worship service. I know exactly what look he’s talking about! My dad was the pastor of a small mountain church, probably 70 people and my mom was the pianist. All she had to do was give us “the look” and we knew exactly what it meant. When we got home we’d all four line up and wait for our spankings. It was a Sunday afternoon ritual in our house. It was as common as biscuits and gravy. (Leigh was too young to get in on the action, but the Lord knows she needed it later on.) All Mom had to do was clear her throat and we’d all cut our eyes to her. If she didn’t get us, Daddy did. I remember one time right in the middle of his sermon Daddy said, “I’m going to stop preaching long enough for Hope to go spit out her gum.” I was blowing bubbles to beat the band totally oblivious to the distraction. I was so embarrassed that I didn’t go back in the service. I could tell by Daddy’s look that he was not a happy camper nor was he at all impressed by how big the bubbles were!  That look told me I had had it when I got home.

Reading in Luke 22 I was struck by the look that Jesus gave Peter after Peter denied him three times. Jesus had told Peter it was going to happen and Peter was appalled that Jesus would suggest such a thing! Peter told Jesus he would go to the cross and even to death for Him. But Jesus said, “I’m telling you, Peter. Before the cock crows you will deny three times that you ever knew me.” That very night it happened just as Jesus foretold. As Jesus was being led into the house to be tried before the high priest, Peter lagged behind at a distance. Three different times from three different persons Peter was asked, “Aren’t you one of them?” “Don’t you follow this man?” and Peter answered, “I don’t know him!” The rooster crowed just as Peter denied Him the third time and Jesus turned from where He was being held and looked Peter eye to eye. What was the look? Was it the look of condemnation? Was it the look of disappointment? Was it the look of shame? No, it was the look of love and compassion and understanding and assurance that in fact He is the King of Kings and that He knew Peter knew this in his heart. It was a look of forgiveness, and Peter had not even asked for it. It was the look that reminded Peter that Jesus had told him he’d turn away, but had encouraged him that when He returned, to strengthen his brothers. The look took Peter to his knees and he went away and wept bitterly, tears of regret and shame. Jesus gave Peter the look of unconditional love.

That’s the look He gives to all of us. Not a look of condemnation, not a look of “You just wait til I get you home!”, not a look of disapproval. The look of unconditional love. That look of love should bring us to our knees.

“‘Simon, Simon (Peter), Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ But he replied, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.’” (Luke 22:31-34).

Hope

Our Abba Father…

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

“Abba” is an Aramaic word corresponding with the English word “Daddy.” It is an intimate form of speaking. Jesus used it when He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane for God to consider another way to save the world other than the cross. He was having an intimate conversation with His Abba, His Daddy, His Papa. God wants us to talk to Him intimately, to see Him as our Daddy, our Papa, One Who loves us unconditionally. One Who hurts when we hurt, One Who will defend us to the end. He is our Abba Father.

I was listening to Steven Curtis Chapman, the world-known Christian Artist on Focus on the Family this week. As most of you probably know, Steven Curtis’ 5-year-old daughter, Maria Sue was run over in their driveway and killed by his 17 year old son, Will on May 21. Will’s initial response to this horrific accident was to run away as fast as he could. But his older brother, Caleb chased him down and as Steven Curtis was riding out of the driveway in a rush to get to the hospital, he saw Will collapsed on the ground with Caleb hugging him and praying for him. Steven Curtis rolled down his window and yelled as loud as he could, “Will Franklin, your father loves you!” Oh how that breaks your heart yet it is a beautiful picture of a father’s unconditional love for his children. Will had accidentally run over his little sister yet there was no blame, no anger, no lecture. Just a father rushing to be with his little girl yet determined that his son know that how much he loved him. As I listened to Steven Curtis tell that story, I thought of our heavenly Father. Oh how much He loves us. When He sees me crumbled to the ground with guilt and shame or pain and horrific sorrow, He calls to me in a loud voice, “Hope, your father loves you!”

He’s my Daddy, my Papa, my Abba Father. And He’s yours too.

“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

“I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

Hope

 

Shade trees…

Monday, August 25th, 2008

I was watching Dennis Swanberg, Christian comedian and pastor, last night and he was talking about planting shade trees for those who come behind you. Shade trees provide a cool place from the hot sun, a dry spot when it’s raining, a good place to nap when you’re tired. (Dennis didn’t say all of this; I’m just sharing my commentary on it.) So what does it mean for us to plant shade trees? We need to be a shade tree for others, even if we never get to see them use the tree. I want my life to be a life that provides shade when things get really hot from the fires of this life, or a dry spot when the rains of sorrow are peltin, or a place to nap when exhaustion sets in from the battle. Who do I want to sit under my shade tree? Caleb, Clay, my sisters and brother, my mother, my close friends, and all of you! Even if you don’t use that tree now, it’s there to use when you need it. And I may never know when you rest under the strength of my tree, and that’s okay. I plan to keep it watered so that it is healthy and strong just in case you ever need to use it. Even if I’m dead and gone, a good solid shade tree will continue to stand.

“I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God…For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord…who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace” (2 Timothy 1:5-9).

Hope

 

Condemned to the cross…

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

I’ve been recharged this morning from my study of “Jesus the One and Only.” I’m in Luke 22, the Lord’s Supper. I’m not usually blubbery and don’t often get so emotional that I weep, but I have wept this morning as I read Beth’s commentary on this event. Every day before I do the study I ask Jesus to let me see Him in a new way, to learn something new about Him, to walk somewhere with Him that I’ve never been, to feel fresh sand between my toes as I travel through Jerusalem with Him. Oh the sacrifice of the Perfect Lamb, without spot or blemish! He was perfect, yet He became sin for me and you. Beth quotes a poem at then end of this chapter. I don’t know if it is original or if she borrowed it, but because she doesn’t reference it to someone else I think it must be her thoughts. I won’t share the entire poem but definitely want to share with you what struck me, if I can see to type through my tears.

That I, a slave of Egypt’s lusts

A prisoner of dark dread

Could be condemned unto a cross

And find You nailed instead.

Here is the visual the Lord gave me that drove me to tears of praise and thanksgiving. Get the visual with me. You’ve been found guilty – put yourself in the courtroom, bound by chains of sin, and the judge finds you guilty in the first degree. He sentences you to death on a cross. Security jerks you out of the courtroom and drags you through the streets to the place where a cross is raised with your name on it. Your head is bowed low from shame and fear and dread and exhaustion…but when you raise your eyes to the cross you find Jesus nailed there in your place. He looks down at you with love and compassion and whispers, “It’s okay. I’ve paid your penalty for you. You are free. Go, and leave your life of sin.”

That is exactly what Jesus did for you and me. Isn’t that amazing? Accept His sacrifice! Take the shackles off your feet so you can dance! God, through His Son, has set you free! Don’t put those chains back on! Just simply go – and leave your life of sin.

“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you…’” (Luke 22:19 & 20). His body was brutally broken and His blood was poured out for you and me!

“Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ’No one, sir,’ she said. ’Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’” (John 8:10 & 11). Accept it and move on. Amen!!

Hope

 

Staying within our boundaries…

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

One of the first pieces of advice that Clay gave to me when he and I first started dating was that children perform best when given boundaries. They feel secure and thrive within their boundaries. Caleb was already fiercely independent at age 6 and had a mind all his own. It was at that age that we were driving down the road chatting, Clay said something witty to Caleb and Caleb responded, “Don’t be sarcastic.” Clay told him not to use words he couldn’t spell and Caleb rattled off  “s-a-r-c-a-s-t-i-c.” Clay’s eyes widened, he grinned sheepishly and later told me that maybe he had met his match with Caleb. Now 10 years later I see prophecy fulfilled! That’s when Clay encouraged me to set boundaries for Caleb so that he knew what was expected and how far he could carry his wit and humor without crossing over to disrespectful. He explained that when we cross over our boundaries and into unknown territory we get into trouble. I thank God often for Clay’s wisdom and his spiritual leadership in our home, even all the way back to our dating days.

With that said, we as God’s children are the same way. We thrive with boundaries. How many of us think that we have to do it all, get it all in, not say “no” to anything but rather think we have to spread ourselves as thin as paper? I know I struggle with saying no. My mentality is that I’m letting someone down if I don’t do what they ask, or if I don’t participate in everything coming and going. But Paul tells us in Corinthians that God has given us certain territories that we’re responsible for and that we are to stay within those boundaries. Otherwise we’re not affective. Hmmm, interesting. If we spread ourselves too thin we will come up short. We’re exhausted and we burn out quickly.

“We will boast only about what has happened within the boundaries of the work God has given us…” (2 Corinthians 10:13).

This chapter has much to say about boasting and taking responsibility for accomplishments that we really had nothing to do with. But what I want you to get from it is that God has given all of us boundaries within which to work, and if we stay within those boundaries the results will be good enough for bragging rights, spiritual boasting of course. I hope this brings relief to you and encourages you to “just say no” so that you’re not overcommitted. If you have too many irons in the fire you never really complete a task. I guess that could be considered spiritual ADD. Stay within your boundaries and you’ll find your spiritual journey to be joyful and fulfilling. Cross over into other territory and you’ll get into trouble.

Hope

Will grace ever be enough?

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Our Sunday School studies are now in Acts and it’s been good to follow Paul through his missionary journeys. The parallel between Bible times and the days we’re in never ceases to amaze me. While we do not fight the circumcision battle, there are certainly plenty of other laws that try to hold us back. Our modern churches are still plagued with a few that want to keep you under the law, hold us back because of manmade rules and regulations. Will grace ever be enough?

So we allow ourselves to be beat down and guilted back into the recluse of unfruitfulness because we are not worthy. Technically we’re not worthy, but through Christ we are heirs to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. That is all it takes for us to be worthy to serve, worthy to post daily devotionals on the worldwide web, worthy to sing in the choir, worthy to represent Christ in any capacity. Will grace ever be enough? In God’s eyes, grace is just enough!

Grace, grace! God’s grace! Grace that is greater than all our sin. Will grace ever be enough? Maybe not for the religious folk, but for God, it already is. Walk in His daily sufficient grace. Amen!

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23 & 24).

Hope

 

One big swoop…

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

“I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you” (Isaiah 44:22).

Oh how Satan loves to remind us of our past failures! Every time things get a little rocky he throws up our past and whispers, “See, that’s what you get! This wouldn’t be happening to you if you had not messed up!” But there is no truth in those whispers of deceit. If we have accepted Christ, God has swept away all of our offenses like a cloud. Get a mental picture of that. I think of a white fluffy cloud soaring through the sky on a windy day. It is swept away and never returns. That’s what God does with all of our failures and mistakes. They are out of here, never to return. Our sins are like the morning mist. The mist burns off and that same mist never returns. So take courage today. Do not allow Satan to beat you up. If you’ve strayed from the Lord because of guilt and shame, return to Him. He has redeemed you! He paid a big price for our redemption, His only Son!

My only son started his junior year today and I’m sad. He called me yesterday to say that he and Ryan were on their way to the mall to buy clothes, bookbag, etc. and then to Wal-Mart for his school supplies. I freaked out! How dare him even consider doing all of that by himself! I told him to wait until I got off and I’d take him. He said, “You are kidding, right? Me and Ryan are going, Mom. But I do need some money.” But of course. This is the first time in 11 years that I’ve not taken a day off and shopped with him for school supplies and clothes, taken him to lunch at a restaurant of his choice and just enjoyed the day with him. Nope, sad to say those days are over. I’ve missed him all day today just knowing how fiercely independent he has become. I can’t even imagine giving him up to save the life of a bunch of ungrateful, rebellious, self-centered humans. But God didn’t hesitate. He knew that His only Son was the greatest price that could be paid. And evidently He thinks we’re worth it.

You’re redeemed. Your sins vanished with one big swoop. Live in victory!

Hope

Light your world…

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Our church has kicked off Judgement House preparations for October. We’ve done Judgement House for now six years. You’ll remember that last year the story was Hannah’s Hope. This year it is “Web of Lies.” We watched a DVD of another church presenting this story and my thoughts were, “Wow, this is a dark story.” The characters are a young teenage girl who spends far too much time on myspace, a Christian teenage boy who witnesses to the girl, and an adult business man who preys on young girls via the internet, posing as a teenage boy. While the story is very dark, it is relevant for today.

While praying for Judgement House and our church body as we prepare for the performances, I’ve prayed that we, Cudd Memorial Baptist Church, will be a shining light in the midst of this very dark story. Then I remembered Caleb’s baptism 7 years ago. Caleb was baptized by his dad’s pastor, and he did a beautiful challenge from the baptismal waters. After Caleb was “dunked” (we are Baptist you know), Preacher Tim lit a candle and handed it to Caleb and said, “You are the light of the world. Go – light your world” and Caleb carried the candle out of the baptistmal waters. I’ve reminded Caleb of that many times. Oh the truth in that scripture!

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:13-15).

This world is a dark and gloomy place, but we, the Christians, are the light that wipes out all darkness! We can’t hide our lamps under a bowl – we must put it on a stand so that it lights up the house. What house? Whatever house we’re in! Whatever mall we’re in, whatever office we’re in, wherever we are. We must be a city set on a hill. A light so bright that others can’t help but notice us.

What about you? Is your light shining for Christ, or do you have it hid in a drawer and only light it when it’s convenient? This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine! You are the light of the world, go light your world.

Hope

 

Tip the Box, Lord!

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Oh Dear Father, You are God and You are God alone and You are on Your throne and we bless Your name that You are the God we love and serve! “Who among the gods is like You, O Lord? Who is like You – Majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? In Your unfailing love You will lead the people You have redeemed.” Exodus 15:11,13 Oh Father, what a reality! what a promise! You are God, there is none like You and Your great desire is to lead Your people! We are a blessed people indeed!

You led us yesterday, Father, as we came to You in prayer as a community of believers to pray over our children, our schools, our teachers, and our administrators. Your people are so hungry to pray – You have placed that longing for corporate prayer in our hearts. In Your word You speak of two or three coming together to pray and how You are in the midst of that. Matthew 18:20 There is such power and preciousness when we join together with others for pray – You keep us focused, You allow us to pray with one heart and voice in agreement and Your power is released. You always begin great movements of revival through prayer – why? Because when we come to You in prayer, we are acknowledging our inability and helplessness to change the circumstances and situations we find ourselves in and we are humbling ourselves before You and asking for You to work in our lives to accomplish things it is impossible for us to accomplish. We are acknowledging that we are powerless in ourselves to accomplish anything of eternal purpose and value.

Oh Jesus, thank You for that opportunity to pray. Thank You for every person You brought to pray. Thank You for the group You assembled to pray at our high school after we had prayed over each of the schools in our district. 

Father, I had never been in the school You took my friend and I to pray in yesterday afternoon. It is a school set apart for those who misbehave in their regular schools – a school that houses those who have deep hurt and pain in their lives. Oh Father, what a precious time of prayer You allowed us to have. When we first went in we met “Joe.” He was a big man and he was in the process of polishing the floors in the school – and they were looking great. He was doing his job and he was doing it well. The entire school had been painted this summer and looked wonderful. Use that new “facelift” as a great encouragement for these kids to take pride in their school and in themselves.

Two other ladies had already been there to pray and they had paved the way for us. I told him that we had come to pray for him and for this place where he worked. And then I asked him if he knew the Lord. No one was more surprised than me at the boldness You gave me to ask him if he knew You. You know, Lord, it seems that the older I get, the bolder I get. I suppose that is because I just know and understand at a deeper level in my own life how desperate I am for You and I know how desperate everyone else is for You also – if they chose to acknowledge it or not! You have created us with a vacuum that will be filled with something. Yes, it is going to be filled! Pastor Thomas spoke of that vacuum yesterday morning. He spoke of D.L. Moody being asked how to get air out of a glass – he reached for a pitcher of water and began to fill the glass! All the air came out! It is not enough for us to cease “doing wrong,” “thinking wrong,” “acting wrong.” The things we do, think and act must be replaced with things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy the apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8. It is indeed being re-created into Your image. Oh Father, bring “Joe” to my heart and mind many times this school year to pray for. What an opportunity, what a mission field our schools are! Oh Father, help us be found faithful in serving on those fields.

What a blessing it was to walk the halls of that school, go into the classrooms and pray for the teachers and students who would be attending there this week. You know, Lord, You just gave me a picture yesterday of the huge box of blessings You are desiring to pour out on Your people – in my mind the box was on its edge – almost turned over and ready to pour out – and You are just waiting for us to ask You to tip the box! I’m asking Lord, tip the box – pour it out! I want to know and see all that is in the box that You are waiting to pour out!

You also amazed me by the way You ordered my steps and ordained my path yesterday. On Saturday evening I had a conversation with a friend I had known for many years but had never really known “beneath the surface.” We had the most precious conversation. She began by telling me that she thought of me every day. I was so touched by that but it was only as she began to share the pain she herself had lived through that I began to understand why. When she was 7 years old, her brother of nine was killed by a drunk driver who swerved off the road and into their yard where he was. She went on to tell me that from that day forward her life was never the same. She was one of five children and her father could never deal with his son’s death – he became an alcoholic and she became, along with her mother, a victim of abuse. Oh Father, it broke my heart and I could identify with her in a way I never had before. It just “so happens” that she teaches in the school where I prayed yesterday. I was able to go into her room and pray for her and the classroom of students that will soon be entering her door. You amaze me Lord by the way You order my steps!

We hadn’t been there long Father, when we saw a lady walking down the hall toward us and I recognized her. Her family had been one of the first families we met when we came to Dorman 24 years ago. And there she was – these years later serving as a guidance counselor at that school. We had a sweet time of prayer we had together in her office! Oh Father, what a mission field. Oh Jesus, in a new way this year will You pour out Your Spirit and presence over that school and redeem those that so desperately need the eternal hope You offer? Will You give the teachers and administrators that know You a new boldness to share the reality of who You are? Will You use that place to mend broken hearts and lives? Oh Father, help me be faithful to pray for that school and those children in this new school year, in the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

And Father, I will never forget walking into our high school and hearing and seeing the body of Christ petitioning You on behalf of our schools – it was a precious, hallowed time. Thank You Father for opening that door of opportunity! Today, I look for a new door. . .