Friday, December 18, 2015

Mary E. Adams: They Saw His Star in the East


"We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." Matthew 2:2 (NIV)

The wise men would never have seen that particular star unless they had been watching the night sky.

One of the first things I see after I wake up is the view in my window that faces east here in my bedroom. Lying in my bed, I can see the sun rise or watch a full moon snake its way across the dark sky. Occasionally I am especially treated when the northern lights decide to put on a display, or watch a zillion stars dancing around the Big Dipper.

Years ago we lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, north of the arctic circle. One New Year’s eve, just as we stepped outside to leave a church service we attended in a small village called North Pole, the northern lights were so brilliantly awesome that night. Looking upward, (even though the temperature was well below zero), nobody seemed to mind standing there in the cold looking at that night sky. We were transfixed by the sight of those brilliant yellow, green and red lights dancing up and down across the heavens, even streaking downward to almost touch my hands--- a sight emblazioned in my memory ever since it happened.

I also recall that there was an old Eskimo woman who sometimes attended that church. She lived alone by herself in a small cabin, chopped her own firewood, cooked her own meals, and washed her own clothes. She told me that every morning she would first go to the east window in her kitchen to look out to see “if Jesus had returned”.

Simplistic, and perhaps extreme to most of us. But now that I am alone and 80 myself, what she said makes more sense to me every day I am still alive.

Perhaps a relative or a friend might check on her welfare, take her shopping, or give her a ride to church. Nowadays there are government programs to help do those kind of things, yet as good and needful as they are, there is an element missing in all of that, that can never fill the place of “caring and loving” friends and family. 

I have a friend called Anita. She and I met years ago when our husbands were still alive, went fishing together and had a grand time roaming around our beautiful Alaska. We call each other at least once a week, sometimes enjoy a lunch together at i Hop and share conversation over a cup of coffee. Both of us are the same age and share our spiritual thoughts, memories and dreams.

But one thing that runs through our minds is the same for both of us. We might try to imagine what life was like for that old Eskimo woman, living by herself in one of earth’s coldest places, knowing she would soon die, probably alone. 

For when our bodies can no longer lift the ax to chop our firewood, when we don’t hear so well or see things in focus like we used to do, we wonder. When our friends have passed on to their reward or the ones still around sometimes can’t remember, we wonder. And when a younger generation has never heard, nor even care to hear what we experienced back when...

We wonder.... isn’t it time?

That daily question can keep us old folks a bit apprehensive.

But now that we once again are hearing the Christmas story, a nugget came along just as I was writing this: The answer to that is something this troubled, fearful generation needs to learn about; for it is the same for all of us, at any age, anywhere, included myself, even just as it was for those wise men 2,000 years ago who looked eastward:

She focused on His coming, rather than on her leaving.

Note from Sherry: When I read this article several months ago, Mary's last sentence touched me and has stayed with me. We can apply it to so many situations in our lives.
  • Focus on His coming, not on our fears.
  • Focus on His coming, not on our sorrows.
  • Focus on His coming, not on our circumstances.
  • Even our times of joy can be enriched if we focus on His coming.
Focus on Him!


Mary E. Adams lives in Wasilla, Alaska. Over half of her 70-year old life has been spent in Christian ministry around the world. She has authored several books and began using the internet to chronicle her insights and revelations from the Holy Spirit. Many people have been encouraged, revived, and inspired by them. Alaska is called "The Great Land", and great it is! Towering mountains surround her home, and Cook Inlet welcomes visitors to its shores. It is in this idyllic place that Mary became "born again" and filled with the Spirit of God. This experience changed her life forever.

Her husband Bob passed away in 1989, and after living in Alaska and raising a family, she decided to enter missions work in various countries, but mainly concentrating on India and SE Asia.

These writings came about after she was diagnosed with cancer in 2000 and underwent various surgeries. They chronicle her thoughts during physical and spiritual battles that she shares with those who might also be afflicted, but also adds humorous everyday insights the Holy Spirit gives her.

Contact Mary at meamin@mtaonline.net
To be blessed by more of her writings, go to her website: www.maryeadams.com

Friday, December 11, 2015

Two Sides of the Season


Thanksgiving and Christmas: lots of yummy food and indigestion, automatically giving thanks, rushing around to buy gifts. Counting off how many of the things on your list you get done.

The most wonderful time of the year, right?

Recently God challenged me with the true wonder of the season. He used a golden nugget hidden in a scripture I usually skim because I think it doesn’t apply to me.

Matthew 10:5-14. I’m not going to type the whole passage here - aren’t you glad – but I’ll give you the gist of it. In verses 7-8, Jesus prepares his disciples to go on a road trip. He tells them to preach that the kingdom of God is at hand, heal people, raise the dead, and cast out demons. I know we are to go out and tell the gospel but the rest of this doesn’t get my attention. After all, I’m not going to be healing the sick and raising the dead. I sure hope I don’t encounter any demons! 

So I scan on.

Next, in verses 9-14, He tells them to go without a suitcase. I mean, really? No extra clothes, no deodorant, no hairbrush? Instead, they are to look in each town for a home that will take them in and provide for them. I know there are missionaries that do exactly this but, forget it, I’m lugging my bag to the nearest Holiday Inn!

Then God points out the little jewel hidden in verse 8:
Freely you have received, freely give. (NIV)


Sure I am thankful for loads of things and I love to give gifts – to loved ones, friends, those who give their time and services throughout the year. I love to get gifts. I even love the wildness of shopping!

But is that what Jesus means?

Freely you have received: Are we aware, are we grateful for all we have been given?

Blessings God freely pours out on us: Salvation, friendship, family…I’m sure you have a long list. Health, talents, the ability to hold a job. So often, we don’t recognize the richness of these gifts until they are gone. Praise God for His bountiful gifts! They are without measure, even when times are hard.

In this season, we stand in awe at the birth of God’s Son. He freely offered His Son to us, to bring us grace and mercy. Our salvation is a free gift, bought and paid for by Jesus Christ. Praises for this wondrous gift should pour from our hearts all year long.

Blessings of friendship and love showered on us by those around us: Prayers, encouragement, fun times, a helping hand at just the right moment. Most of the time we say, “Thank you,” but we don’t always let them know how we truly appreciate them. Is there someone who has helped or encouraged you? Call them, send a card, do something special for them. Show them how much they mean to you. Sincere gratitude comes from the heart and blesses the giver more than we can ever imagine.

Freely give: God’s love is a flowing spring within us, not a stagnant pond.

As He has given, we should give.
  • Mercy: Shown to the driver who cuts in front of me or to a friend who barks sharply at me for no reason.
  • Grace: Give a cup of coffee or ice-cold drink to a homeless person or buy a little gift for a loved one…just because.
  • Love: Hug a friend, or even an acquaintance. Smile at the worker in the checkout line. Or, best of all, share the hope and joy of the gospel.

Freely give to others: We should look around and freely give the blessings we have received. 
  • A warm house full of loved ones? Invite someone who will be alone on Christmas day or take an old coat to a collection point. 
  • A table full of food? Help deliver food baskets or take a few things to the local food pantry. 
  • Joy of a child on Christmas morning? Donate a new or used toy at a collection point.
Or, the most expensive gift of all: time. Visit someone who can’t leave their homes very often. Stop and really listen to a friend or even a stranger who needs encouragement. Join a choir to sing carols at a rest home.

We have received such riches from God, in the past, present, and future.
Richly give to others right now and in the future.

You will be blessed!


Friday, November 20, 2015

8 Ways to Bloom in the Winter

"...be prepared in season and out of season..." 
2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV)
In west Texas, the plants and trees are kind of confused. Fall's late in coming. October was warmer than usual; cool days were spotty. The roses have bloomed like crazy, the tree's leaves didn't quite know what to do, and the dandelions popped up, ready to scatter their seeds.

The last few days have been cool. All the plants and trees are suddenly jumping on the Fall bandwagon - except the poor dandelions. They refuse to give up. As I looked at them scattered around the park, the words of 2 Timothy 4:2 came to mind, in season and out of season.

Talking about Jesus and living for Him is easier in the spring and summer. During the sunny times of our lives, we reflect Jesus' love and joy and compassion. Our hearts overflow with happiness. We talk about God's blessings.

It get's harder when winter hits. When times are hard, we might let fear or sorrow take over our lives.

We don't smile as much as we used to. We don't say, "Have a good day!" to people we meet. We might not reflect Jesus during difficult times.

How do we express Jesus' love when our hearts are broken? How can we be like the dandelions and keep our chins up, no matter the weather? Here are a few suggestions that might lighten your heart.

1. Smile. Smile when others are around. Smile when you're alone. You might feel silly, but look at yourself in the mirror and smile - even a fake one. There's something about a smile that lifts your spirits. Just a tiny bit at first but more and more as you practice it.

 2. Play silly music or watch a funny TV show. This time of year, play Christmas music. Grab a child's silly-song CD and listen to it. Watch cartoons. Before long you will be chuckling and humming along.

3. Do something you enjoy. A walk in the park. Go to a craft store (Hobby Lobby's my favorite), a computer store, or a plant nursery. See an animated movie at a time when the theater will be packed with kid's. The possibilities are as wide as your imagination.

4. Reach out to a friend or loved one. Talk about your feelings and pray together; a shared burden is always lighter. When you can, put aside the problems and have fun together. Have lunch. Get a mani-pedi. Go to a museum, a movie, or to the zoo. Or have a quiet cup of coffee at your home. 

5. Count your blessings. I hate to even mention this because it seems trite and trivial. But it works. If you dread each new day, the sunrise might not be a blessing.  Cherish these: a baby's laugh in the store, your pet's cuddles, ice cream with a friend, a good book. Simple things are the best blessings.

6. Read your Bible. There have been times I didn't want to do this, but it lifted my spirits when I did. Choose wisely - Leviticus and Lamentations might not be the best ones unless you're a little strange. There are Psalms that lift your heart. You might have a list or you can go on line and Google "uplifting Bible verses." 

7. My favorite: Listen to God sing. I know, weird, huh? Listen to Zephaniah 3:17. He [the Lord] will rejoice over you with singing." Go ahead, listen to His words. You are precious to Him. He will never leave you. You bring Him joy. Let His songs bathe your heart. 

8. Sing back to Him. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. Psalm 33:3
Sing praise songs. Dance around in your den. Don't be embarrassed; who cares?

The winter days won't fade away but you might find it easier to walk through them.

How do you lift your spirits when times are difficult? 






Friday, November 13, 2015

1 + 1 = Eternal Salvation

Note: Usually, my posts reflect my passion: to bring God's Word off of the page and into our daily lives. To discover how to live it, to be encouraged by it, and how to make it real and alive. But, every once in a while, I want to share something deeper. A new understanding. This is just such a post: 


To explore the depth of God's Mercy and Grace.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:4-5, 8 (NIV) (Emphasis mine)

Mercy and grace. So often we use these words interchangeably. But they are not interchangeable and to understand that is to bring a deeper richness to our salvation.

I know, you probably think I'm splitting hairs here, but bear with me.

Let's begin with mercy because that is where God begins.

In Ephesians 2:4, and in most New Testament verses about God's mercy, the Greek word is

éleos: to pass over deserved punishment. To extend forgiveness instead of punishment. Mercy rescues us from the penalty of sin.

Mercy is proclaimed on the cross. Because of Jesus' death on the cross, we are passed over and we do not experience the death we deserve because of our sins.

God's mercy is expressed in our redemption and forgiveness.

But what if we stopped there? What if God's mercy is all that was offered?

Hear me out...this might seem a bit crazy.

God's mercy is great, to be sure, but, without grace, it is finite.

Christ's death on the cross mirrors the sacrifices of the Old Testament. This sacrifice pardons the sins in the past but not in the future.

How does this forgiveness - this mercy - come forward through time to all men who have ever lived and to all who have yet to live?

Enter grace.

In Ephesians 2:4, and in most New Testament verses about God's grace, the Greek word is

chráis: an absolutely free expression of God’s loving-kindness; His unearned and unmerited favor toward men. A gift with no return expected.

God's loving-kindness toward us is absolutely free. We can't earn it and we can't be worthy of it. It is given, out of the depths of His heart. 

God bathes His mercy in His grace. 

Because of His grace, His mercy is eternal. 

Because of His grace, the mercy of the cross is gifted forward to all men who have ever lived or who have yet to live. 

Because of His grace, the mercy you and I received at the cross reaches through all time to forgive all our sin: yesterday's, today's and tomorrow's.

Because of His grace, we are forgiven and saved for eternity.

His Mercy, His compassion on and forgiveness of our sin through Christ’s death on the cross, is completed by His Grace, the unmerited gift of eternal salvation. 

Mercy + Grace = Eternal Salvation

God's mercy and grace are both centered in God. We can do nothing to gain or to lose them. Saved by God's grace alone, through our faith alone.

Once we are cleansed by His mercy and saved by His grace, it is for eternity. 

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. 1 Peter 3:18a (NIV)

Christ died for our sins (mercy) once for all (grace).

Once - for all men, for all time. 

God's mercy grace-gifted to all men for, all time. 

The key to grace is found in the word gift. A gift unaccepted is an expression of love missed. A gift unopened is a joy missed.

Jesus died for your sins - that's a fact!

The gift offered is eternal salvation. 

Have you accepted and opened God's gift?

Perhaps this post will start a discussion about mercy and grace. Please do! I have much to learn!!


Friday, November 6, 2015

4 Stories of Grace


Grace, Grace
God's Grace
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within
Grace, Grace
God's Grace
Grace that is greater than all my sin
Julia H. Johnston, 1910, Public Domain

Grace. Almost indescribable.  God's grace began with eternal life, given to us with Jesus' resurrection, and He showers grace on us each day through the Holy Spirit who lives within us.

In recent years, I experienced God's grace, even though I was filled with anger and frustration. When we moved from the Houston area to west Texas, I was so angry. I stubbornly refused to be happy. Instead of leaving me in my misery, the Lord used a fantastic retreat, Walk to Eamaus, to restore my joy and to show me the many grace gifts He'd given me in my new home.

God's grace is written all throughout Scripture. We can learn much through the lives of these four men:

  • Moses
  • Elijah
  • Peter
  • Paul


Moses   Moses' story is told in Exodus. He was the deliverer of God's people from slavery, the Lawgiver on Mount Sinai. God protected his life from the very beginning: As an infant, Moses was set adrift in a basket, rescued by Pharaoh's daughter, and raised to be next on the throne. Then hot-headed Moses killed an Egyptian guard and fled into the desert to live his life as a shepherd.

One day, while out on a mountainside with a herd of sheep, Moses saw a strange, burning bush.

God called Moses to deliver His people from Egypt but Moses didn't seem too eager to go:
Look at me! I can't go to Pharaoh!
What if the people ask me your name? What will I tell them?
What if they don't believe me?
But I've got a speech problem! Send someone else.

God could have left Moses with his sheep and found someone else more willing. But He chose to shower Moses with grace. He patiently answered Moses' questions and used him to deliver His people from slavery in Egypt.

Talk about stubborn! Sounds just like me. After I was laid off as an engineer at Johnson Space Center, God began to whisper to me about writing a Bible study. I had a list of excuses as long as my arm. When I did begin to write, I still resisted the idea. In His grace, God allowed my writing to win two key awards at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. My study, Storms of Life, is a testimony to God's grace.

Even in our stubbornness, God doesn't quit. We can't out-stubborn Him! He knew us before we were born and assigned the works we are to do in His name (Ephesians 2:10). He will deal with us in love and grace, waiting until we come to Him and surrender our lives to His purposes.

Grace that is greater than all our stubbornness!

Elijah   Even today, Elijah is one of Israel's most revered prophets. He was strong in his faith and stood up before the most evil Israeli kings, like Ahab and his wife, Jezebel. In 1Kings 18-19, the Lord used Elijah to embarrass 450 pagan priests and to prove that there was only one true Lord. As you can imagine, Ahab and Jezebel were furious and vowed to kill him.

Even after the Lord's show of power, Elijah was overcome with fear. He ran into the desert and begged God to kill him. He climbed Mount Horeb and hid in a cave.

God could have left Elijah to tremble in the cave. But He chose to shower him with grace. He revealed Himself to Elijah by passing in front of the cave and He restored Elijah's courage.

I have certainly cowered in fear. Many years ago, my family endured a horrible crisis. I prayed for deliverance continuously and I was terrified as things seemed to spiral downward. Even though God didn't choose to deliver us, He revealed Himself to us through His Word and through believers around us.

Fear, anger, or loneliness are crippling emotions. The enemy tries to defeat us and to cause us to cower in hiding. But God never leaves us there. As our loving Father, He comes to bring us back to our feet. We are never alone. We never have to fear. He assures us of His presence and His power.

Grace that is greater than all our fears!

Peter  Peter, the impetuous disciple, the one who often said or did something he shouldn't have. But he was the first to recognize that Jesus was the source of eternal life (John 6:68).

The night of Jesus' arrest, Peter followed the soldiers and hunkered down by a fire outside where they interrogated Jesus. A few of the people around the fire recognized him as one of the disciples but he denied that he knew Jesus - three times.

Jesus could have expelled him from His circle of disciples but, instead, He chose to shower Peter with grace.

After His resurrection, Jesus met Peter and some other disciples on the shore at the Sea of Tiberius. There He gave Peter three opportunities to declare his love for Him. All three times, Peter said, "You know that I love you." (John 21). Jesus cleared Peter's conscience and strengthened him. A few weeks later, Peter proclaimed the gospel with such power that 4000 people believed in Jesus.

That is always a result of disobedience: it denies Jesus. Sometimes, our actions deny our faith. Even though we might fail Him, He never turns away. He restores us and gives us opportunities to serve Him and to show our love for Him.

Grace that is greater than all our disobedience!

Paul   Paul was the Lord's missionary to the Gentiles - those who were not Jewish. He brought the gospel of Jesus to all of Asia and into Europe. Before this, though, he was a member of the Jewish elite, educated in Jewish beliefs by the best tutors in Jerusalem. He knew all of the prophesies about the Messiah, but He chose to rebel against the truth. He made it his mission to capture and imprison or execute as many Christians as possible. He rejected Jesus, even though he heard and saw the faith of the hundreds he persecuted.


God could have ensured that Paul was killed. He could have judged Paul and found him guilty. But He chose to shower Paul with grace.

On a trip to Damascus, Jesus met Paul on the road and transformed him from a murderer to a powerful witness for Christ (Acts 9).

Like Paul, we were in rebellion. Perhaps we'd heard of God's mercy and grace, but we refused to believe the truth. God pursued us and drew us into His love. Now we are His children, showered with His grace gifts.

Grace that is greater than all our rebellion!

Even as believers, we are in need of God's grace. We aren't always obedient but we are always loved. We aren't always strong but we are always filled with God's strength. We don't always listen but He never ceases to speak to us. We can never overwhelm God's Grace.

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (Emphasis mine)


How has God shown His grace to you?


Photo credits:

Saturday, October 31, 2015

God's Extravagance, Our Riches Part 2


For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (emphasis mine)

26 words: such a simple but rich truth! 


Last week, in Part 1 we looked at God's extravagance described in the first few words of this verse. 

Extravagant love: He loved us before were were even born.

Extravagant gift: Even before creation, He determined to give His only Son, Jesus, to save all of us.

Whoever: He loved and He gave to everyone who has lived or ever will live.

He loved beyond what we can imagine.

He gave His precious Son, a gift beyond compare.

The truths in this verse revolve around one word: Whoever.

God loved and gave to whoever - everyone - but His extravagant grace promised in the last part of this verse isn't available to everyone but only to whoever believes. Believes, that's the key word. 

Believepisteúō to place faith in, to firmly trust. 

We use the word believe so casually. Most of the time we refer to head knowledge, maybe even experiential knowledge. I know 2+2=4. I know a rock will fall if I drop it, not float, and it will hurt if it hits my toe. I've experienced it. I know about roller coasters: I know what they look like and the sound they make. I know they're safe because I understand the physics. Do I believe they're safe? No, and I won't get on one!

The same is true in our relationship with Jesus. We can know about Him: He is God's Son, He died for forgiveness of our sins, He rose from the dead. That's head knowledge. But if we don't have faith in Him and trust Him, we don't believe in Him. pisteúō is so much more. It's head, heart, and soul belief. 

I became a Christian one evening after listening to Billy Graham on TV. As I laid in bed, I realized how sinful I was and I turned to God. Now, I didn't know much about Jesus at that point. I knew He was God's Son, He died on the cross to forgive my sins, and He rose to life. But I believed in what I knew and I placed my trust totally in Him.   

For a long time, I wondered if my simple belief was pisteúō. But the profound words of John 3:16 erased my fear. I knew God loved me. I knew He gave Jesus for my forgiveness. I accepted His love and His gift. I believed, head, heart, and soul.  

Whoever believes, head, heart, and soul, receives the riches of eternal life. 



Extravagant grace is available to whoever believes in Him:
  • Believers do not perish 
  • Believers have eternal life 

Perish: apόllumi to utterly destroy, to perish eternally. apόllumi doesn't refer to a physical death; we all experience that. It's an eternal death. 

I admit there have been a few times when I felt like I'd been utterly destroyed. Life turned upside down and everything fell apart. Yet this verse promises we will not be destroyed - in eternity. 

I used to walk after work with a friend of mine. She was an atheist, as was her family. When her father died, she was distraught. She would look at me and say, "He's gone. Just gone. It's like he stepped into a black hole of nothingness."

How could I comfort her? Should I tell her that she could have eternal life if she believed in the death and resurrection of God's Son, Jesus? Wouldn't that be the same as saying her father faced eternal death? That seemed cruel because her grief was still so raw. Perhaps I took the easy way out - I just listened. But I continued to pray for her, for the right time to speak to her, and the right words to say. 


As I listened to her desperation, never have I rejoiced more in the security of my eternal life than I did at that moment.

Extravagant Grace:  Believers shall not perish!



Life Eternal - zṓē aiōnios entrance into life, entrance into God's kingdom

There are two facets of this phrase: We enter into life now and we enter into God's Kingdom for eternity. Even though the time we spend on earth is minuscule compared to eternity, it's hard to keep that in perspective. We can find some comfort in the fact that God's gift is not just for eternity, it is for now, too. 


God's Kingdom. What do you think of when you hear those words? Beauty, joy, praise...it's hard to describe. Most days, I take my dog, Ruby, for a walk in the park. It's a beautiful place: the path winds between big trees, green grassy areas, and wildflowers. The beauty calms me and brings a song to my heart. I marvel in God's creation and it's hard not to praise Him.

Beauty, joy, praise; sound familiar? God places eternity in our hearts when we believe in Him.

When we believe, we receive eternal life immediately, not at some unknown time in the future.  

Jesus rose from the dead. That's one of the fundamental beliefs of our faith that gives us assurance that we will rise from the dead as well (1 Corinthians 6:14). When we die physically, we don't pass into a black hole. We don't endure eternal separation from God. Instead, we step into His Kingdom to praise and to serve Him forever.

Extravagant Grace: We will live with Him forever!

John 3:16 is one of the most powerful verses in the Bible. It overflows with the extravagant love and the grace we receive when we believe in Him. 

It is Extravagant Truth!

Jaci's song says it beautifully!

Friday, October 23, 2015

God's Extravagance: Our Riches Part 1


For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16


John 3:16. Second to Psalm 23, this might be the most well-known scripture. We even see it held up on signs at sporting events. 

No single passage in all of Scripture reveals God's extravagant love and endless grace as do these 26 words. The gospel in one verse: God's work for us and the riches we receive when we accept His gift. 

I struggled with this scripture all last week. No matter what I did, it became a short book rather than a blog. Then I realized I was trying to cram all of the majesty of this verse into one post and it just wouldn't fit. So this is part one: God's extravagance.

As I studied it, I realized that this verse revolves around one word: whoever

God's extravagance ends and our riches begin with this one word: whoever

  • God so loved
  • God gave
  • Whoever 

God so loved: hoùtō agapàō To such a degree, to such a great extent, God chose to love. 


God's love is so extreme that it's beyond our grasp. Look at the verb tense: God loved. Before He created the world, He loved. Before you or I were born, He loved. His love was present before there was a whoever.

God chose to love us. When we didn't love Him or follow Him, He loved us. Do you get how amazing that is? How would our lives be different if we walked in that truth: God loved us before...anything. Before we screwed up so terribly, before we stumbled on the same sin over and over. 

What confidence that should bring us. Yes, I can serve Him! I might not get it right but He loves me - before, during, and after. Yes, I can talk about Him to others. My words might falter but He loves me. 

What power can fill our hearts and minds. His love is undefeatable, unconquerable, unstoppable. He has always loved us and He will always love us. 

Rest in His unimaginable, extravagant love.

God gave: dídōmi Freely, willingly, with great love, God gave.



Not only did God love before before anything existed, His love was so great that He gave a precious gift. He gave His Son before creation, before there was a whoever

How can that be? A gift given before there was anyone to receive it? 

God's extreme love is balanced by His justice. There is a penalty for sin that must be paid, but His heart broke to think of His beloved children paying the price. He gave His perfect, sinless Son Jesus to pay the penalty, in our place. Before creation, He knew His precious children would stumble; He knew the price would come due. And He paid it!

We can walk in the security of His gift. When we fall, we have no need to fear God. The gift has been given, the price has been paid. Too often, I live in fear of myself. I focus on my weaknesses rather than God's strengths. The gift was given to me. I joyfully accepted it. God will never come to reclaim it. I - we - walk in the grace of His sacrificial gift.

Walk the grace of His extravagant gift.

God's work is done. He loved beyond what we can imagine. He offered His most precious Son, a gift beyond compare. 

Now comes the big question: Who has He loved? To whom has He given the gift of His Son? 


Remember the word? 

whoever: pás  Everyone, all of us. His extravagance wasn't offered to a chosen few. 


We see the word everyone and perhaps we think it doesn't include us. Maybe there's something in our past, maybe it's our lifestyles now - for some reason, we think we can't be part of whoever. Guess again, God's extravagance is offered to everyone!  

Really? There has to be a catch. Nope. Look at the verse again. It doesn't say, "whoever earns it, " or "whoever straightens up." It's whoever, plain and simple. His love has no conditions and His gift has no price tag. 

You and I are whoever



Friday, October 9, 2015

A Wacky, Warped Parable



I came across this and just couldn't resist.
* Caveat: I'm not responsible for the grammar or the extensive use of "and."

I stress this: This is NOT a real parable. It is NOT in Scripture anywhere. I hope it doesn't offend anyone.

It was written at least 50 years ago but the author is unknown. He/she had quite a sense of humor!

I hope it makes you smile.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Well it was like this:

Once upon a time a man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves. And the thorns grew up and choked that man down.

And then he went on and he didn't have any money so the Queen of Sheba gave that man a thousand talents of gold and a hundred changes of raiment.


And he got in the chariot and drove furiously and when he was driving along under a big tree, his hair caught in a big limb and left him hanging there.
And he was there many days and many nights. And he ravens brought him food and water to drink.

While he was hanging there asleep, his wife Delilah came along and cut off his hair and he dropped and fell on stony ground. It began to rain and it rained forty days and forty nights and he hid himself in a cave.

He went on and met a man who said, "Come in and have supper with me," but he said, "No, I won't because I have married a wife and I can't come." The man went out into the highways and byways and compelled others to come to supper.


He went on to Jerusalem and when he got there he saw Queen Jezebel sitting up high in the window. And when she laughed at him, he said, "Throw her down from there!" And they did throw her down. And he said, "Throw her down some more! " And they threw her down some more. They threw her down seventy times seven. And the fragments they picked up was twelve baskets full.

And the man asked, "Whose wife is she going to be in the day of Judgment?"



 I recognize a few of these stories:

  • Queen of Sheba - 1 Kings 10:1-13
  • Man invited him supper - Matthew 22:2-9
  • Marriage in heaven - Matthew 22:23-33

What about you? Do you see some other stories woven in this wacky parable?

On a serious note, how many Christians might hear this and think it's just fine? How many would recognize that this is a wacky, warped story?



Friday, October 2, 2015

What's Your Favorite Lullaby?



He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Remember what you used to do when a baby wouldn't sleep?

  Soothe the cutie who screamed in the nursery.

  Quiet your precious little angel who howled half the night.

  Reassure the toddler who cried because there was a monster in  the closet.



Remember rocking chairs and lullabies?

But no one’s there to rock us or sing to us when we’re all grown up.

We lie there, eyes wide open.

  • Worried about something we did or experienced that day.
  • Anxious about what might happen tomorrow.
  • Afraid because we can’t see any way out of the pit we’re in.
  • Excited about something fantastic that’s happening or will happen.

I've tried closing my eyes and doing some calm-me-down routine.

I've quoted verses in my mind.

I've counted my husband’s snores.

Nothing worked – until I found Zephaniah 3:17

Now, I close my eyes and imagine my Father delighting in my day, bathing me in His love, and singing to me.

What does He sing? I can’t understand the words but I relax as I envision the tenderness on His face.

Before I know it, I’m asleep!

The worries, anxiety, fear, and even the jazzed-up feelings fade away.

And I sleep.

Do you lie awake?

Find quiet in His love and peace in His singing.



When you can’t go to sleep, how do you quiet your mind?

Peaceful sunset unsplash.com
Frightened child  corepics via depositphotos.com
Frustrated woman ruigsantoo  via depositphotos.com

Friday, September 25, 2015

Whoever??


For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.  John 3:16

In August. I spent a couple weeks with my daughter who'd just had surgery. One day I bundled up the dirty clothes and headed to the laundry in her apartment building. I was welcomed by this sign.

I nodded my head as I read the list:

  • Shapes - good because I'm not sure what shape I am!
  • Sizes  - tall, short, size 2 or 4X
  • Colors - what does the song say? Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.  
  • Languages - They might sound like gibberish to me but He understands them all.
  • Ages - no age discrimination with God, 10 or 110.

But I squirmed a bit at the rest:

  • Sexes - even those who have a distorted view of their sexuality?
  • Beliefs - how about those who belligerently declare that there is no god?
  • Faiths - surely not the ISIS member who'd beheaded Christians!

Certainly God didn't really mean whoever, did He?

Am I willing to hang this sign on the door of my church?

Do I have a list of people who can't be included in whoever?

God whispered to my heart: Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. Isaiah 59:1

God's Son was lifted up on a cross so that He could draw ALL men and women to Himself. (John 12:32)

He doesn't ask us for a list of acceptable   candidates.
He doesn't mark some sins as unpardonable.
He looks through the sin to the agonizing heart.

No stain is so dark that it is beyond His power to cleanse.

He opens his arms to all who turn to Him, brokenhearted and repentant, and He says:

"Welcome. you are home."

Lord, give me your heart.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Papa Bear's Chair


"No servant can serve two masters." Luke 16:13

"They tell how you turned to God from idols to 
serve the living and true God." 1 Thessalonians 1:9 

A friend of mine has a beautiful pond surrounded by lush trees, a little playground for their kids - and now their grandkids, and, my favorite, the 3-bear's chairs. 

I had to get a picture! Which one did I pick? Papa Bear's chair, of course! No one chooses a small chair when they have the best and the biggest.

It looks like I'm seated on a giant throne, doesn't it? All I'm missing is my crown.

My throne. My crown.

Should one called to serve God claim the throne for his own? 

Serve. None of us like that word. We are masters of our own fate. We are captains of our ships. We command our destinies.

I think we miss the meaning of the word serve in these verses. Webster's Dictionary has many meanings. I was surprised how many had to do with waiting on a customer. But, buried deep in the list was the one I think we are looking for:

To give the service and respect due. (to serve God) 

Why do we serve God? How can we not?  

We were slaves to sin and Jesus died to release us from slavery to freedom as God's child. We are filled with a desire to grow closer to Him and to walk with Him in love and obedience.

We serve Him because we love Him.

Master, Idols. Whether we admit it or not, we all have masters. We aren't truly free. We are controlled by what we value. Our actions reveal what we find most important.

I've had lots of masters: money, success, possessions, Facebook, TV...the list goes on and on. As I sat in Papa Bear's chair, laughing, I thought about that often-asked question:

Who is on the throne of your heart?

All the earthly masters I have served have been harsh and demanding. I'm driven to chase them until I am exhausted, never satisfied.

And then I turn from my idols to God. 

  • My Father
  • My Savior
  • My Confidant 
  • My Guide 
  • The Lover of my soul

My heart floods with such love, peace, and gratitude that it is pure joy to follow Him, to serve Him, to obey Him! 

Occasionally, I'm tempted by the Enemy to pursue one of the world's idols but it's not long before the sweetness of God's grace draws me back to Him. 

Lift your hands in praise to your Father! He has set you free from the cruel masters of this world. He has called you His child. 


Serve Him with joyful abandon!




Friday, September 11, 2015

Big-Headed Selfie



In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Go ahead. Laugh out loud. This must be the worst selfie of all time.

In August, my closest friend, Joanna, and I spent two weeks in England. We had an amazing time. (Eat your heart out, everyone!) We did all the tourist things, including a visit to King’s College in Cambridge, a 500 year-old building that’s part of Cambridge University. The architecture is amazing and the interior is breathtaking. Can you imagine studying history in a place like that?

Anyway, we wanted to get a picture of the two of us standing in front of a wing of this beautiful building. So we decided we’ve give this selfie thing a try. Neither of us had done it before. Well, I had, with similar disastrous results.

Later, when I looked at this picture, I realized that, sometimes, this is an image of my life. Too many days, the beauty of Jesus is hidden behind my big head. I can be: 

self-centered, 
self-conscious, 
self-important, 
self-absorbed, 
and a whole list of other self-words.

My light doesn’t always shine because it’s shaded by my words and actions.

A few years ago, my sister and I were traveling to a Christian writers conference – remember the word Christian. We got to the airport late (my fault) and the poor lady at the check-in area told us that, although we would make the flight, our bags would not. I had a fit. I said my favorite airline wouldn’t have any trouble getting my bags on the plane. I think I must have used the word stupid about ten times.

Talk about light-less, that was me!

That poor woman didn’t see Jesus, she saw me – and it wasn’t a pretty picture.

We all have light-less moments. Gossip spread in the form of prayer requests. A slightly off-color joke. Anger when it’s unwarranted.  Unforgiveness because we’re too proud to admit we were wrong.

Ouch.

When we feel the urge to slip into self-centeredness, let's remember the words of this childhood song:

This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.


When you are in a situation where you want to show self rather than Jesus, how can you focus on His light?





Friday, September 4, 2015

Desperate Prayers


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3

We’ve all been there. Crying out in desperation to the Lord. 
  • A crisis that almost destroyed my family and, even now, the pain hits me, without warning, like the proverbial ton of bricks.
  • My sister, who’s caught in a horrible job that threatens to cripple her.
  • My closest friend Joanna who struggles with the death of her husband; lonely days and even lonelier nights.

Desperate prayers: for deliverance, for miracles, for new jobs, for emotional or physical healing. 

Sometimes, we feel abandoned and wonder why He doesn’t step into our circumstances and answer our prayers.

In those panicked moments, we might hear God whisper, “Don’t pray only for the work of My hands, pray also for the work of My Spirit.”

He doesn’t promise that He will intervene. He promises that He will indwell.

What do we need most when we face a new sunrise?
  • Strength to get out of bed.
  • Peace when things make no sense.
  • Energy to make it through the next hour, or even the next five minutes.
  • Clarity to remember how to do the daily tasks ahead of us.
  • Guidance to make decisions and to respond to the situations we face.

Above all, we need the fullness of God’s Spirit to well up within us and do through us what we are incapable of doing on our own.

We need God Himself.

In those desperate times, He gives us His Word to guard our hearts and minds.

Strength: It is God who arms me with strength. Psalm 18:32
Peace: And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
Energy: But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. The will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Clarity:  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 (New King James Version)
Guidance:  Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Psalm 31:3

When you are desperate, pray for God to move in your situation, but don’t forget to ask Him to express His grace in your mind, heart, and soul.

Share with us:
How has God's strengthened your heart and guided your thoughts through difficult times?




Friday, August 7, 2015

4 Truths for Hope in the Desert



"I am with you and will watch over you wherever 
you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will  
not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." 
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, 
"Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it." Genesis 28:15-16

Jacob found himself in the desert. I'm sure he settled down for the night near an oasis or a well as a source of water. He was in the middle of nowhere, alone, with a stone for his pillow. I'm sure he was afraid and unsure about what tomorrow held. Jacob needed more that water to drink, he needed the refreshing feeling of hope.

God stepped into the wilderness to reassure Jacob and He comes to us when we feel lost in the desert of our circumstances. We desperately need hope when we're surrounded by loneliness, pain, or loss. We need water in the desert. And to us the Lord says:

1. I am with you. A few years ago, God moved me from Houston to the desert of west Texas. I wasted precious time demanding that He take me back home. I felt like God had abandoned me. Slowly, He taught me that home isn't a place. Home is where loved ones are. Home is in His presence. It took me a while to become aware of God's voice when He said, "I am here." This is a promise we can cling to: He is with us.

2. I will watch over you. "Don't you care? How can you do that to me?" It's hard to believe that God watches over us when our lives are falling apart. When I was laid off a year after I lost my Mom to cancer, I couldn't believe He'd take my job away. But, as I look back, I see that He saved my life. I was exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically. I couldn't see that I was steps away from collapse, but God was watching over me. Sometimes we can only see His love and care from the other side of the valley.

3. I will bring you back to this land. No one wants to dwell in sorrow, frustration, or despair. I've sat in many a pit, losing all hope that things would ever change. We might wonder if life will ever be normal again. But God never leaves us where we are. He reaches out to take our hands and to lead us back to peace and joy.

4. What I have promised you. Where I stumble is in a correct definition of what God has promised me. I want to be delivered from difficulties. Better yet, I don't want to experience them at all. But God's promises are so much better than that: His presence, His love, His work to restore us. These are the promises that sustain us.

When Jacob woke up, his circumstances hadn't changed. He was still out in the middle of nowhere. But one thing had changed: He knew God was with him.

Our circumstances might not change, but God's promises can lift us up out of fear or despair. We can feel His presence and be filled with hope and strength. Our worlds might be shaking but God's promises are our sure foundation.

How have God's promises provided stability during difficult circumstances?

Photo credits: Oasis: Google image,  Desert flower

Friday, July 24, 2015

Scripture for a Tilt Test


He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress. I will never be shaken. Psalm 62:2

If anyone ever mentions the words “tilt test” to you, RUN!!!

The past several months, I’ve walked on a rockin’ and a rollin’ suspension bridge. Not really, but that’s how it felt.
I’d be fine one minute and weave the next. I’d bounce off the walls when I went down the hall. Without warning, I’d veer into someone who walked beside me. I’m sure the people who saw me walk my dog thought I was drunk.
After he tried everything else, my doctor said, “Let’s try a tilt test.” Naively, I said, “OK.”
In case you’ve never heard of one, here’s the general premise: tilt the poor, unsuspecting person, head up, at a 70 angle, and wait until he or she passes out.
It was one of the most horriblest things I’ve ever experienced. After a few minutes, I started seeing weird psychedelic lights flashing in the darkness. Yes, I was a teenager in the 60’s. No, I wasn’t on LSD. I became so disoriented and weak that I couldn’t speak or move.
I freaked out. Something was seriously wrong and I couldn’t tell anyone.
Of course, the nurse who was monitoring me immediately leveled the table. It was still several minutes before I could speak and even longer before I could move.
According to the doctor, my blood pressure dropped like a rock, which is why I felt so terrible. – and why I weave and veer without notice. Two pills a day and I’m back on the straight and narrow.   

But what happens when we lose our spiritual balance?
  • When our security disappears and our faith drops like a rock.
  • How can we possibly stand when everything around us falls apart?
  • What feels solid and secure when our worlds spin out of control?

No trip to the doctor and no “magic bullet” can put us back on sure footing.
Only God’s Word can give us the sure foundation we need.

During those times, we can trust the ROCK.

Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Psalm 119:89
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer. Samuel 22:2
Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:4
And my favorite:
He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:2

Look at these words: 
HE set…HE gave.

When I have no security and no stability, He enables me to stand. He holds me on solid ground.

He and He alone is my Rock.

I don’t have to depend on a firm foundation I’ve built on my faith.
He is my Rock – not the number of verses I can quote or a count of my pew-warming presence.
When things tilt and sway, I can trust Him.
He alone is my strength, my fortress and my stability.

I trust Him - and so can you!

Is God alone your Rock or do you depend on yourself?
When has He been your fortress and foundation?



Friday, July 10, 2015

Love Him, Love Him Not

When we moved to west Texas a few years ago, it was a big hassle and expensive. I was amazed that, through it all, God protected our little emergency fund. I praised Him as Provider and Sustainer and all kinds of other wonderful words.

Then the air conditioner went out.

Boy, did my tune ever change!

I was afraid – after all, my little fund was empty. What if something happened?
I got mad. How could God let this happen? He knew it was my security blanket.

I was a bit fickle: love Him, love Him not. 

Then, when I read the chapters in Matthew about Jesus’ crucifixion, I heard God whisper, “Sound familiar?”
“Of course not,” I stammered.

Well, think again!

The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!"  Matthew 22:9


Why were the people praising Jesus as though He were a hero?
He was their security blanket! 
  • He was going to throw out the terrible Roman oppressors.
  • He was going to make Israel a super-power.
  • He was going to give them all they needed.

Then He was arrested.

That wasn’t supposed to happen.
Their tone changed.
They were afraid and got angry – angry enough to want Him killed.    
            
"What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" Pilate asked. They all answered, "Crucify him!" "Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!" Matthew 27:22-23

Why did the same people who shouted “Hosanna!” cry “Crucify him!” a few days later?

Jesus failed them. Kings don’t allow themselves to be arrested. Kings overthrow the Romans, not submit to scourging and mockery.

Hmm…I did recognize myself in the crowd.

As long as He does what I want, I sing his praises at the top of my voice.
But, when difficulty comes, I get angry
He’s not who I thought He was. He’s let me down.

Am I so different than the crowd who shouted, “Crucify him!”?

I can rationalize that my situation isn’t as extreme. I didn’t actually wanted Him dead
I just wanted Him to meet my expectations. Nothing so terrible about that, is there?

Just like that crowd, I totally missed the point.
  • Jesus didn’t come to pay all my bills and to fill my emergency fund.
  • He came to pay the price for my sin, to cleanse me, and to fill me with the Holy Spirit.
  • Jesus didn’t come to be my earthly security blanket.
  • He came to give me the security of eternal life with Him.
Image from google

Praise the Lord! He gives me above all I can ask or imagine!

My pathetic expectations fade from sight and all I can do is shout,

“Hosanna!”