Thursday, May 1, 2014

Trouble in Paradise: Sink or Swim

"Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. . . . The islanders showed us unusual kindness. . . .“This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” . . .  they changed their minds and said he was a god." Acts 28: 1-10

Beach on the Island of Malta

     Paul and the crew sailing to Italy had just survived shipwreck, washing ashore on the Island of Malta.  Ahhh, solid ground! Kind islanders! A bonfire! 

     Always one to pitch in and do his part, Paul grabbed a pile of brushwood and dropped it on the growing fire.  A sudden pain gripped Paul's hand. He probably thought a spark from the fire had landed on him, but looked down to see a poisonous snake latched on tightly and dangling from his hand.  

     The Islanders also saw the snake attached to Paul and the speculation and gossip started:

Hmmm. - He survived a shipwreck to be attacked by a poisonous snake?
Hmmm. - He's one of the prisoners from the ship, right? What did he do?
Hmmm. - Must've been bad - like murder!
Hmmm. - Justice says it's payback time.

     Then, Paul shook the snake off of his hand and into the fire to sizzle. 

Hmmm. - He's still walking.
Hmmm. - His color's good.
Hmmm. - No swelling. No blistering. Nothing unusual about his hand.

       *Crickets     *Crackling fire    *Campground songs

Hmmm. - He must be a god to survive both the storm and the snake!

       It's human nature to either vilify or deify people, but no one quite knew what to do with Paul.  He prophesied terrible storms and he was right.  He said "I told you not to sail now," but then shared his faith in God's goodness to encourage hopeless people on a beleaguered ship.  He shared visions of angels and God's promises, and the people lived on those promises for days. He was bitten by a poisonous snake, but shook it off and refused to die. Villain or god?  Neither. Rather, a man of God.

    The literal storms and snakes in Paul's life could have left him faith-shaken; instead, he shook them off and left deep tracks on sandy Malta beaches, turning the hearts of a people from false fertility gods to the One True God. (
     As Paul swallowed salt water and fought to stay afloat, he shouted encouragement and buoyed his fellow passengers.  Rather than allowing the snake to paralyze him in fear, he fried the poisonous thing. He, a prisoner, prayed for a bed-ridden Islander and God used him to heal all the sick people on the island.  In the middle of snakes and storms, he turned from his own perilous situations to impact a culture with his powerful faith in God. 

Dear Father,  We're so easily discouraged by storms and snakes, but we want to be like Paul - looking out for others and helping them latch onto You.  Give us faith where we lack it.  Increase our compassion. May Your Presence weigh heavily in us so our footprints lead them to You.
In the Name of the Only True Savior, Jesus!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Fat Robin

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans." Romans 8:26

I saw a fat robin sitting on a fence under a tree yesterday and thought, "That's me."  

I'm looking to get comfortable between the danger on the ground and the needs in the nest.  I don't long to soar or bring home the worms. There's not enough get up and go in these wings to spread them and I can't think of a single springtime tune to trill. This fat Robin just wants to sit here and groan.

Now, as a child of God, I know I'm going to be miserable if I sit on this splintery fence too long.  God didn't give me wings to hang 10 (or is it 8?) on a rail forever. Nope. Something's got to give and it's got to be me. So, 

Note to self: 
Do you not know?                                          (What?)
     Have you not heard?                                 (Tell me!) 
The LORD is the everlasting God,                     (but . . . )
     the Creator of the ends of the earth.           (that's amazing!)      
He will not grow tired or weary,                       (even though I do)
     and His understanding no one can fathom.   (I don't understand . . .)
He gives strength to the weary                        (I'll take two -)
     and increases the power of the weak.          (Weak as water, Lord, feel                                                                         free to amp it up.)
Even youths grow tired and weary,                   (So what hope is there for
     and young men stumble and fall;                   a fat bird on a fence?)
but those who hope in the LORD                      (I want to, LORD)
     will renew their strength.                           (Hope in the LORD=strength)
They will soar on wings like eagles;                  (That's a great goal)
     they will run and not grow weary,                (Maybe soon)
     they will walk and not be faint.                   (That could happen today.)   
Isaiah 40:28-31

"But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

If, in the very near future, you see a fat robin walking along a fence or running down the rail and shaking our her feathers to take off - don't laugh, just ask God to help her remember Who lifts and empowers His children.

Lord God, I glory in my weakness: I'm nothing without You.  You alone are the strength and wisdom I need. May Your power rest on me as I rest in You. Fill me with Your Spirit so I can release the fence and walk, then run, then soar in Your strength.   May we free You to free us: pry our toes off the fence, build the muscles in our legs, and unfurl our rusty wings.
In the Name of Jesus Who ascended!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Define "enemy"

1) a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something

2) one who feels hatred toward, injury towards, or opposes the interests of another

3) something destructive or injurious in its effects

After reading these three different definitions (especially the third one), I realize how deceptive enemies can be.  In fact, I mistake them as friends and allow them to cozy up to their target, my heart, before I recognize them as enemies. Have you been duped by any of these enemies? 


Listen to the sales pitch of these opponents and you'll find yourself heading in the wrong direction BUT
God has always been your defense;
His eternal arms are your support. 
He drove out your enemies as you advanced,
and told you to destroy them all." 
Deuteronomy 33:27

God drove out Israel's enemies as they moved into the Promised Land. He also told them to destroy any enemies they encountered.  When they didn't, they paid dearly.  When they mingled with their enemies and adopted their false gods, they fell.  

"Hear my cry for help, 
my King and my God, for to You I pray. 
In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly."   
Psalm 5:2-3

Jesus died to destroy Death and Sin, but He also warned us:
"Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin."  John 8:33

We work with God to destroy what would destroy us or we work against God by letting our enemies move in, assume command, and enslave us. Who will we serve today? Our enemies or the God Who destroys what would destroy us?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Surely Temple

"Within Your temple, O God, we meditate on Your unfailing love."
Psalm 48:9 (NIV)

"Don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own." 1 Corinthians 6:19

     Over the last few weeks, the fire in this temple has needed kindling.  Sacrifices ran the temple grounds, unattended and unruly rather than bound and burned.  Dust gathered on the instruments of praise. I've tossed blessings in a dark corner rather than polishing and displaying them.  My love, attention and service grew unseasonably and unreasonably lukewarm.  
     The worst part is that I can't explain why.  No major changes in my life triggered a crisis of faith.  Terrible news didn't break my heart nor did "good" news leave me thinking I didn't need God. So when and why did I slip into spiritual apathy? Did I grow weary without a miracle? Is it too hot to meditate? Am I exhausted from praying about the same issues and fears? 
     I don't know whether God will  provide answers to these questions, but I do know that for whatever reason, I'm ready to respond to God's sweet, urging Voice to return to HIm, confess my apathy, bring out the bellows, sacrifice the false gods, invite the Spirit to blow through and remove the dust, display the blessings, dispose of distractions, and refurnish this temple with all that makes Him at home again. 

"God's beloved; God's permanent residence. 
Encircled by God all day long, within whom God is at home." 
Deuteronomy 33:12 (The Message)

"Take delight in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart."
Psalm 37:4

Monday, June 17, 2013


Jesus Calling encourages lighthearted living today. According to the author, our faith in God's power shines through when we can laugh at ourselves and our circumstances.  Our sincere laughter (not the nervous version) expresses faith in God's loving provision. Laughter lightens the mood, breaks the spell of gloom, and sends God the message that we trust Him to handle the situation.  

In the beginning, God assigned people a workload, and in the Gospels, Jesus promised His followers He would put a "load" on them.  
"Come to Me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest.  For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light." Matthew 11:28-30 

I evidently think I can handle more than the light load God assigns me since I add to my load until I wobble like an overloaded washing machine.  If I hear about a problem, I feel it's my responsibility to solve it and I figure, re-figure, plan and revise until my mind is worn out. 

"A cheerful disposition is good for your health; 
gloom and doom leave you bone-tired." 
Proverbs 17:22
Amen, Brother Solomon!

The answer? "Mind your own business!" or, to put it nicely, "Find freedom by accepting the boundaries of your domain." (Sarah Young, Jesus Calling)  We may not realize we're minding God's business when we pull other people's problems, circumstances and issues into our domain to solve for them. 

God decides our business (workload), including when and how to help others with His guidance and help. He lays this "yoke" gently on us and sticks with us to carry it to completion.  He's the only one who can carry the weight of the world on His shoulders.  

"The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel, which means 'God with us.'"  Matthew 1:23

So laugh it up today and tell God you trust Him. 

"She is clothed with strength and dignity; 
she can laugh at the days to come." 
Proverbs 31:25

Friday, April 19, 2013

No Tipping That Scale

Our dog Gus sticks close to us - sometimes for the food,sometimes for the affection, and sometimes for the walks or rides we give him. His desire to please us makes Gus a great dog, easily trained and responsive. However, Gus isn't perfect. He commits canine sins such as overturning and pilfering the kitchen garbage, dominating the cat, and wandering away to meet new dogs and people without leaving a note.  When all evidence convicts him, he senses our displeasure and backs away, tail tucked and ears down. Which is fine - he is a dog and the Dog Whisperer says dogs must earn what they're given.

Although God is our Master, our Boss, we can't earn what He gives us, especially His love. And, if we had the sense dogs have, we'd sense our Master's love for us even when He's displeased with our sin. He's told us He loves us, He's drawn us to Him and He has embedded us in His hands and heart. 

"The LORD appeared to us in the past saying,
 'I have loved you with an everlasting love;
 I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.'" 
Jeremiah 31:3

He celebrates His love for us with a splendid head to foot wardrobe of salvation and righteousness - not our own dingy good deeds but His unfailing love and untouchable righteousness. And what does He ask in return? - our delight in His gifts, our joy in His love, our gratitude for His grace. 

"I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For He has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of His righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with jewels."
Isaiah 61:10

His eyes crinkle with joy when He watches us - the way we smile all the way to our eyes when gaze at our babies and grandbabies.  His face shines with a mysterious, unearthly acceptance we don't deserve, can't earn, and can't lose.  
"Let Your face shine on Your servant;
save me in Your unfailing love." 
Psalm 31:16

He keeps loving us when we fail to keep His commands. He continues steadfast and unshaken by both our personal catastrophes and our personal bests.  We can leave behind whatever we juggle, our framed certificates and awards, our civic activities,  resumes, and contribution records because none of it adds a gram of weight to the balance of God's love for us.  That scale, filled with His own righteousness and salvation and unfailing love, has already been filled to overflowing, thanks to Him alone.  His love is independent of anything about us.

"Let them give thanks to the LORD
for His unfailing love
and His wonderful deeds for mankind."
Psalm 107:8

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Poison in the Pantry

A gallon of milk in our fridge tasted strange. In spite of the future expiration date, it was "off" and tainted everything it touched.  We forgot to mention this to Nick who thought we'd bought a box of bad Fruity Pebbles (healthy because of the word "Fruity").  Nothing ruins a good bowl of Fruity Pebbles or a chocolate chip cookie like bad tasting milk.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

Philippians 4:6-7 mentions a couple of bad tasting ingredients in our prayer pantries. Number one on the list is anxiety. Anxiety both doubles the punch of crisis and negates our prayers and peace. Fear-filled prayers and efforts to control the outcome don't please Him because these prayers show no trust in Him, no faith.  He wants us to pray from the calm assurance that He can, He will and He wants to intervene with peace and protection. He calls us to take the time and energy to de-tox from busy-ness, anxiety, worry and fear as we pray to Him with gratitude. 

As a matter of fact, the second poison in the pantry is ingratitude. Apparently, God knows  it's impossible to over season lives or prayers with sincere gratitude. God loves to hear thanksgiving pouring from His children's hearts and lips. Gratitude reshapes our prayer as we remember how God has blessed us in the past.

Spring cleaning means it's time to clean out the poisonous and stale ingredients in our prayer pantries.  Time to toss the expired faith, artificial joy, and traces of anxiety and to  refill with the gratitude, trust, and peace that touch God's heart and open the way for the fresh fruit of  answered prayers.