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    God IS Love

    Monday, August 18, 2014, 9:40 PM [General]

    1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
    Love is patient, love is kind.
    Love does not envy,
    is not boastful, is not conceited,
    5 does not act improperly,
    is not selfish, is not provoked,
    and does not keep a record of wrongs.
    6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness
    but rejoices in the truth.
    .7 It bears all things, believes all things,
    hopes all things, endures all things.
    8 Love never ends.

    To many, this is that sappy scripture read at weddings. To others, it is a goal to strive for. And to some, it is just another check list of where we fall short yet again.
    I was struck this morning with the truth that this is how God is towards me. How often He is patient and kind. When I trip up, fall short or even when I dive head first into foolishness, He loves me. He isn't waiting to wag a condemning finger at me. He has faith in me. Often He has faith for me when I can muster none. 
    Try seeing yourself today as God sees you. Maybe that will help you more to be the person He is making you to be.

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    What's Your View of God?

    Saturday, August 16, 2014, 11:02 AM [General]

    What's Your View of God?

    Verse of the Day

    [ The Letter to Laodicea ] “Write to the angel of the church in Laodicea: “The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Originator of God’s creation says: Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me. Revelation 3:14,20 HCSB

         The web page had barely appeared on my screen when I saw the words "The Letter to Laodicea."  The message to that church was that since they were neither hot nor cold, they were being spit our of God's mouth.  It is an important and necessary warning of the danger for the church about not ministering to the hurting world around you or your brothers and sisters within you.
         However, it is not His only word to them, as today's verse testifies.  And yet sometimes we still choose to see God's condemning stare instead of His loving  gaze.  Why?
         We do still need to hear truth from God when we stray.  Conviction of the Holy Spirit and discipline from God are actually a gift of love.  Without them, we drift farther away from Him.    
         Also, it is harder to hope than to wallow.  To hope for change, we have to believe in His promise that He is working in us.  Phillipians 1:6 says we have to believed that He gives us strength to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling."  Not produce our own salvation, but to work it out, like kneading dough to work the ingredients through out it.
         Finally, we have an enemy that wants to keep us chained to our failures. Again, though, God's word provides us with necessary truth and strength.  Romans 8:1 reminds us (and oh, we need much reminding in this life) that " Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,"
         No condemnation. We can rest in God's word, whether convicting or encouraging, knowing that He will always love us and never cast us aside.  
    Can I get an Amen?

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    Great Quote

    Saturday, August 9, 2014, 12:00 PM [General]

    "An unshared life is not living. He who shares does not lessen, but greatens, his life."

    Stephen S. Wise - Reform Rabbi, Zionist Leader

         It is a mistaken belief, especially with men, that to need others is a weakness.  To give of myself to others, and to receive help from them, is to slowly lose little pieces of myself till eventually nothing is left.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  I believe that God uses that giving and receiving as a tool to chip away the parts of me that don't belong, much the way a sculptor uses a chisel on marble.  Slowly, God is revealing HIS masterpiece, the me that I truly am meant to be.

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=83OtmNQiIk0

    "No Man is an Island" - Tenth Avenue North

    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    My Stained Glass Window Life

    Sunday, August 3, 2014, 4:05 PM [General]

         I recently started a new blog page titled "My Stained Glass Window Life." Why "My Stained Glass Window Life"?

         I have always loved stained glass windows.  Whenever I looked at a them, I figured that the pieces of glass where just broken cast off pieces of that that were collected and made to fit a picture.  Recently, I was reading about how it is made.

         It is an art form.  The glass is crafted to fit where it is designed to fit.

         God is an artist.  Sometimes I feel like what I always imagines the glass was, broken and cast off pieces.  But what if my jagged and rough edges are not an accident or mistake?  What if they were designed that way?  Maybe I was made the way I am so that God's grace may shine through me, creating a beautiful picture only visible when His light shines through me.

         John 9:1-25 tells the story of a man born blind:

    Jesus heals a man born blind

    As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’

    ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.  As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’

    After saying this, he spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.  ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means ‘Sent’). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

    His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, ‘Isn't this the same man who used to sit and beg?’  Some claimed that he was.

    Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’

    But he himself insisted, ‘I am the man.’

    ‘How then were your eyes opened?’ they asked.

    He replied, ‘The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.’

    ‘Where is this man?’ they asked him.

    ‘I don’t know,’ he said.

    The Pharisees investigate the healing

    They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind.  Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath.  Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. ‘He put mud on my eyes,’ the man replied, ‘and I washed, and now I see.’

    Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.’

    But others asked, ‘How can a sinner perform such signs?’ So they were divided.

    Then they turned again to the blind man, ‘What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’

    The man replied, ‘He is a prophet.’

    They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. ‘Is this your son?’ they asked. ‘Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?’

    ‘We know he is our son,’ the parents answered, ‘and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.’  His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.  That was why his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’

    A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. ‘Give glory to God by telling the truth,’ they said. ‘We know this man is a sinner.’

    He replied, ‘Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!’

         The man's blindness was not about sin.  Whether a sin is our's, another's or simply the result of living in a fallen world, it is an opportunity for God's grace to shine and for Him to be glorified.  When we sin, repent. We must trust God and allow Him to use our failures and struggles to fashion a beautiful stained glass window from them.

    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    I Hate My Flaws

    Sunday, August 3, 2014, 2:53 PM [General]

    I Hate My Flaws
         I hate my flaws. They are ugly, a sign of weakness and of failure. Sin. Pain. Accusations That I do not measure up in this world, that I will never be enough.
         My enemy loves to point them out and use them as a weapon to isolate me. Sometimes, I allow him to do it. That is not God's desire. Although Satan (literally "adversary/accuser") seeks to accuse me even before God, God's word speaks a more powerful truth to me. 1 John 2:1 says that when I sin, I "have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One." Jesus is my defender, and by His blood shed in my place, I can stand innocent before God.
         Then what do I do with my flaws? How can I look at them without constantly being filled with shame and regret? The answer (please do not laugh) might just be found in natural wood furniture.
         I love furniture and wood work that displays the natural grain in the wood. The swirls, the knots, the cracks. All this may make some throw the wood away as unusable, undesirable. Ever feel that way, like you have been discarded as "undesirable?
         Woodworking, however, is art. In the hands of an artist, the "ugly" can become beautiful. This is true not because the artist is talented, but because the artist loves to create. The Artist loves his creation.

         Nowhere is this truer than with God. Unless you are Adam or Eve, you were created after the fall. You still contain a reflection of the divine, as you were created in God's image. Yet you are also flawed and fallen. More importantly than that, you are dearly loved by your Creator.
         Psalm 139:13 declares that God "knit us together in our mother's womb." Did you get that? Even though we are a product of our mother and father, God was also intimately involved in our creation. God also foreknew all the sins and mistakes of our life before we were even born. Could it be somehow that His sovereignty even worked through our disobedient free-willed choices, with the plan to create something beautiful out of them? Can He take my sin, my pain and even my brokenness, and somehow still be glorified by it?
         Do not misunderstand. I do not suggest this as a licence to sin. Romans 6:1-2 clearly states "What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?"

    "The Broken Beautiful" - Ellie Holcomb

         Romans 8:28 reminds us that "we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose." This is only true for those who have accepted His free gift of salvation. And for those that are in relationship with Him, and desire to be used for His kingdom, He will bring beauty from our deepest pain.

    "Nothing Is Wasted" - Jason Gray

         He can use our "shameful" past to allow us to feel empathy for others that struggle and give them more grace than we thought we could. Our own forgiveness from God can allow us to forgive others and show them undeserved mercy. Our deepest wounds, when placed in the loving and healing hands of God, can become "sacred wounds." These wounds can become avenues of ministry to bring healing to others. Or as Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 1:4, "comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."
         For those who are know God, may this be a source of joy and strength to persevere. For those who are "religious," this may seem like we must do something more on our part. God did not come so that we could do religious things. He came to restore a relationship. To those who have no idea what any of this means, but you are weary and hope beyond hope that there could be something more, God says this:
    "At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, because this was Your good pleasure. All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal Him.
    Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25-30)
         If you finally recognize that you are not simply at the end of the rope, but that you are free-falling without a hope, know that God desires to give you hope. He loved you enough to take on flesh and blood, live a perfect life (Yep. NO mistakes. Not even looking down on those who did.), and then payed the full weight of every sin ever committed by every person in the ENTIRE human race. He allowed His own creation to murder Him, so great was His love for you. Better still, His love for you was so powerful, that He even defeated death, so that when this life is done, you can spend all eternity with the one who loves you more than you could ever imagine. Accept God's free gift. Thank Him for His gift. Go out and ask His help as you seek to join a church, His family here on Earth. Like any family, it may be a bit dysfunctional, but we exist in community to strengthen and love each other.

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    No Man Is An Island

    Saturday, July 26, 2014, 10:44 AM [General]

         For those who have been hurt by the church or other Christians and have walked away:

         God never wants to marginalize your pain as unimportant, but He does call us to live a life of forgiveness and community. We will not always agree, and we are like a dysfunctional family at times, but we ARE family. If you can't return to the group you were once part of, pray for God's healing in the situation and find another church. You need the help and support of other Christians. And guess what. They really need you as well.
         No man is an island.

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Intimacy

    Saturday, July 12, 2014, 5:22 PM [General]

         Intimacy is to let another fully know you.  That is a very fearful thing.  There are no half measures and there can be no going back once we have committed.  If rejected, we will be crushed.

         1 Corinthians 13:12 says "For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."

         Jesus knows your every flaw and failure, both the ones you have hidden and the ones you have not yet committed.  He also loves you fully and completely, so much so that He clothed Himself in flesh.  He lived a life like ours, yet not like ours.  He felt the struggle and pain, but remained true to His Father's will.

         And though He remained true, he took all our failures into Himself and took our place.  He took our penalty.  He traded places with us so that we need never be separated again from Him.

         Accept the one who knows you fully and loves you anyway.

         Below is a link to a modern adaptation of "The Hound of Heaven" by Francis Thompson.  You can read more about him at:

    www.patheos.com/Catholic/Hound-of-Heaven...

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXlgz4aBKt8

    0 (0 Ratings)

    How's Your Speed?

    Sunday, July 6, 2014, 6:51 PM [General]

    How's Your Speed?
         I love to drive, but it can get a bit crazy on the road. Some are real sticklers, driving only the speed limit. Some are overly cautious and drive a fair bit under. I, like many, follow the 5 mph rule. You can always get away with up five over the limit, well, almost always. Careful in school zones though. Others figure if you can get away with five, why not ten. Still others believe themselves to be above the law and drive as fast as they can, zipping in and out of traffic at will.
         All those different drivers do not mix well together. Everyone wants to live by their own rules. The problem is, we all want to follow our own opinion of what the correct limit should be. Fortunately, there is a group that we are accountable to called the police. They enforce the only valid speed limit set by a higher authority, the government.
         A lot like life, isn't it. Some live by the rules. Some avoid doing anything remotely close to breaking a rule. Some bend the rules to the point of breaking. Still others follow no rules but their own passions. We all tend to want to decide for ourselves what the rules of right and wrong are.
         Again, we are fortunate in that we are accountable to a higher authority. He set the rules long ago. They do not bend and sway based on our whims or desires. And in the end, He will enforce them. That may not be good news.
         We have no capacity to perfectly follow them, and if we fail in the least point, we fail in all points. (James 2:10). The penalty for failure is death, separation from God. (Romans 6:23) And that isn't just a here and now thing, that separation from God is forever. (2 Thessalonians 1:9) For a people who like to live by their own set of rules, that can not end well.
         There is good news though (Gospel literally means "good news"). God's love for us is as infinite as his hate for sin. He came as one of us and lived a perfect life. In spite of this, and the many miracles he performed and all those he healed, he was falsely accused of a capital crime, tortured by those in charge, and the full force of all God's hatred for sin (the sin of every single human that will ever have existed) was poured out on him.
         Because he willingly chose to pay our price when he himself was innocent, we now can stand before God. One small catch. We must realize our need for him, and we have to believe that he loved us enough to actually do what he promised he did. This leads to the "Crown Jewel" of all scripture, the most recognized verse in the whole bible.
    "For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16
         So how's your speed? Are you still trying to set your own rules? Or have you realized you can't follow the rules on your own power and need help?

    0 (0 Ratings)

    How We Respond to the Grieving

    Saturday, July 5, 2014, 10:57 AM [General]

         We see someone grieving a loss. The loss of health. Loss of job. Loss of family. Loss of hope. We want to say something, do something to ease their pain.
         Often, a small aspect of that is selfishness on our part. It can be uncomfortable, even painful to be around them in that state. It is nearly impossible to be happy around them, and deep down (I hope), we realize that it would be wrong to simply try to cheer them up.
         What to do then? We want to fix their pain, but that is not what they really need. Part of their pain, the truly unbearable part, is the feeling of being utterly alone. "No one understands my pain or my circumstances." These words echo in the heart and the mind like a driving, deafening drum beat.
         So how do we help? We sit with them. We listen. And where appropriate, we embrace them. We accept the awkward and unpleasant moment and yield our self.
         The human touch is a powerful thing. It can convey so much meaning and power. One of my favorite miracles is found in Matthew 8, where a leper comes to Jesus for healing. Sometimes Jesus healed by speaking a word, and sometimes that word is not even spoken in the presence of the one being healed. Here, though, Jesus touches the man.
         Imagine being that leper. The law requires that you separate yourself from all people. If you are to enter an area, you must announce in a loud voice that you are coming, giving them time to get away from you. He had not felt a human touch in only God knows how long. And with the loss of sensitivity in his nerve endings, he could not feel the touch anyways.
         Jesus touches him and immediately, he is healed. Not only is he healed, but he now feels the touch of Jesus' hand. Were I him, I would have hugged Jesus with all that was in me. Knowing the compassion of Jesus, I believe he would have hugged right back.
         When we embrace those grieving, we enter into their world. They feel less alone. Their grief is lessened in the sharing.
         That is what Christ did for us. He entered into our world. He left the splendor and glory of being worshiped in heaven behind when he was born. He lived as one of us for over thirty years, experiencing all the joy and suffering of being human. Then, he allowed his own creation to torture and kill him. He came down and entered into our pain. He embraced us as we were so that we could know that he loved us. We were not alone.
         For those who would believe on the sacrifice he made for us, he gives the gift of his Holy Spirit to live in us. He also promises in John 14:23 that "anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them."
         He promises to always remain with us till the day that he comes to take us home to himself, to live eternally in heaven. There, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Rev. 21:4)
         ALL grief will finally be swallowed up.

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    A Funnel or a Sieve

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 5:20 PM [General]

         Often we think of ministry as a funnel. God's love is poured into us and is directed out somewhere specific. We are great at creating programs of all kinds to reach people.
         The problem with funnels is that their shape has to be pretty precise to work where we want them. 
         Many think that they are not gifted enough, or their lives are to messed up to minister. 
         Most often, I think, God desires ministry to be a sieve. A sieve is simply a container of any shape with a bunch of holes in the bottom. The water pours in and filters out through a variety of holes in the bottom. That is us. Irregular shaped containers with a lot of holes in life. And the sieve is far less important than what is being poured into it.
         Let God's love pour into your imperfectly shaped life that seems to be full of holes at time. Then let it pour out onto whoever God brings across your path. I bet that He does amazing things. 

    0 (0 Ratings)

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