Sunday, December 13, 2009
Well, I've been busy (Haven't we all? it IS the season, you know!).
I have a new website up, and, except for a glitch on the spry menu (front page of course, smile, ), I'm ready to promote my newest book, along with a contest for a free trip to Genoa Bay. You can view the new look at the old address:
The new book releases January 4th here in the states, (from what I hear). And you can catch a first chapter preview on the new website. Feel free to take a look and see what you think.
I've got hundreds of postcards ready for the mail. And, I'm about to mail the first round of "reader's club" books out to my faithful First Reader's Club.
If you'd like a postcard, leave a comment here. Or, if you'd like to sign up to receive a free book, in exchange for some promotion, contact me via the website. I'll need your snail mail address in order to make that work. But let me know. I have a few extra spots open.
Now for the WORD:
I only have one comment tonight, and that refers to a little phrase I found in 1 Timothy 2:19. "For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result their faith has been shipwrecked."
Remember Paul is one who knows about shipwrecks. He survived one, remember? On his way to Rome, the boat carrying him (and the Roman soldier responsible for Paul) was completely destroyed. Paul and all of the crew members survived. Now THAT's a shipwreck.
And so Paul, this very experienced sailor, gives us this one critical clue as to one way that believers can shipwreck our faith.
Paul blames it on this one decision: the deliberate violation of the conscience. The result? Shipwrecked faith.
We can't blame our shipwrecked faith on the devil. Not on an evil society. Or a bad upbringing. Not on a difficult economic time. Not on hardship, or addiction, or poor parenting.
I know something of boating. I've seen groundings. I've seen folks stuck at the end of an anchor when an outgoing tide leaves the boat high and dry. I've seen boats hit rocks. I've seen boats spring leaks, break parts, burn out engines. But I've never been aboard during a shipwreck.
That's something that every boater tries to avoid. And every believer should try to avoid the shipwreck of our faith.
And as a believer, we can avoid that kind of disaster by paying attention to this one wise admonition. Don't violate your conscience.
Your conscience is your own private GPS system. It's an alarm that tells you when you're getting into shallow water, too near the rocks, or when the weather and conditions are more than your boat can handle.
I believe it is the Holy Spirit's gift to humans (both saved and unsaved), his way of helping us to move toward God and away from disaster.
So. Remember Paul's advice the next time you feel that little tickle in the back of your awareness. When something inside tells you, "don't," then listen. Respond. Move away.
When something inside you whispers, "do," then stop, consider, move deeper into obedience.
Shipwreck avoidance. No one needs to write a book, or teach a class.
If only we could all commit to obeying our conscience!
Tonight, I'm going to commit. Can you?
Monday, November 16, 2009
So. Today, questions for you:
Are you a reader? If so, how do you choose what you will read next?
As a reader, how do you think I (an author) could BEST entice you to read my next novel?
I'm in the middle of planning my release promotion for my next fiction, (Genoa Bay, releasing January 2010) and frankly, when I signed up for writing novels, I thought WRITING was all I'd have to do. Turns out, that is wrong. Writing is only a tiny part of the bargain.
Nope. You plan the novel. You research the novel. You write parts of the novel. You sell the novel to a publisher (With the help of your ever supportive and helpful agent). And then, you write the rest of the novel. You edit the novel. You turn the novel in. You edit again. And again. And again. And then you wait.
And then you promote it.
This, it turns out, is the hardest part for me. Promotion is so much outside of my comfort zone.
So. To promote, I speak. I teach. I try to get others to read the novel and to tell friends about it. I write about the process (here, for instance). And then I hope. I pray.
So, my friends. You read what I sometimes write here. What advice do YOU have to give your author friend?
I'm open, really!
Friday, October 30, 2009
We had a great day at Bible Study today.
We've been talking about God's discipline, about our own childhoods, about permissive parents, overly harsh parents, about motives and effects. And in the midst of it all, I find this passage from Isaiah 28 so comforting. . .
"Listen to me; listen as I plead! Does a farmer always plow and never sow? Is he forever cultivating the soil and never planting it? Does he not finally plant his seeds for dill, cumin, wheat, barley and spelt, each in its own section of his land? The farmer knows just what to do, for God has given him understanding. He doesn't thresh all his crops the same way. a heavy sledge is never used on dill; rather it is beaten with a light stick. A threshing wheel is never rolled on cumin, instead it is beaten softly with a flail. Bread grain is easily crushed, so he doesn't keep on pounding it. He threshes it under the wheels of a cart, but he doesn't pulverize it. The LORD almighty is a wonderful teacher and he gives the farmer great wisdom."
Okay, so why does Isaiah include this passage? Is it really about farming? I don't think so. In chapter 27:8 Isaiah says, "Lord we love to obey your laws, our heart's desire is to glorify your name."
I think it's about discipline. And I find some incredible truths in this passage. Let me list them:
1. God plants different crops in different types of soil. He doesn't plan to get the same exact crop out of each of us.
2. There is a season for everything. You don't crush the seed before the plant grows. There is a planting season (sowing) a growing season, and a harvest. THEN, there is a threshing season.
3. The point of the threshing is to get the good stuff OUT -- to separate the good stuff from the waste. It isn't to punish the seed. There is a good motive behind the threshing.
4. God uses no more force than is necessary as he brings out the good from the bad. I can expect him to discern how much I can stand, and to bring the good out tenderly, without bruising or hurting me.
5. As there are different things harvested from different crops (believers) there are also different threshings for the different crops. Thus, my threshing (discipline) won't look exactly like every one else. Mine will be custom chosen.
6. My father, my Daddy God, who gives wisdom to the farmer, has an infinite supply of wisdom. He will know EXACTLY how to get the good stuff out of my life.
It comforts me to know that my Daddy God doesn't act in anger. He doesn't have any motive except to bring out the good harvest in my life. He won't over do it, won't hurt me in the process.
Daddy disciplines with wisdom, keeping the end in mind, always aware of the fragility of the crop he is working with.
What a good Daddy we serve!
Has he disciplined you lately? How? How did you respond?
Sunday, October 11, 2009
So, occasionally, I teach Bible Studies.
This fall, I'm teaching one that I've written, called "A Daddy You Can Trust." It's hard for me, to write a study all week (that belongs later in the quarter), and then get one day to prepare a session for my students. Takes a lot of energy. A lot of concentration, and perseverance.
Anyway, lately the Holy Spirit has been reminding me of these words, found in Ezekiel. "Son of man, let all my words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully for yourself. Then go to your people in exile and say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord Says!' Do this whether they listen or not." (Ez 3:10-11)
In the passage, the Spirit is reminding the old prophet that all teaching begins at home.
A tough lesson. A hard lesson. He's not so much demanding perfect behavior of teachers, as God is demanding that teachers take his words to heart. That we consider our own lives in light of what we know. That we stay open to God's correction and guidance.
So, last week in my teaching time, I confessed that I have a prejudice. Probably not a prejudice that anyone would be able to identify, looking at my life. But a prejudice just the same. And I realized that God doesn't like it, this preconceived notion floating around in my brain, taking root, and bringing forth bad fruit.
So. I confess to you. I need God to cleanse me, to heal me, to free me of this silly, wrong attitude of mine. I need to see all people as he does.
I can't do it without his help. But then, he's already helped. He spotted it. He called it to my attention. He helped me to repent. And now, he'll help me grow out of it. He'll help me to choose another way.
God is good, isn't he? And the next time you think of YOUR teacher, remember to pray for them, won't you? They, like Ezekiel, like me, like Beth Moore, Chuck Swindoll, Max Lucado and hundreds of thousands of other teachers all over the world need God to bring the words home first.
God help us all to let YOUR word sink deep into our hearts, so that we can listen carefully for ourselves, whether others listen, or not.
How about you? Do you find yourself ready to dish the word out before it changes your own life? What are you doing about that?
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Last night I couldn't sleep.
You see I'm teaching a Bible Study on Friday morning, and I have to figure out how to bring the lesson to my students in a way that it matters. That's the question we should all be asking every time we look at the word.
For instance, I'm reading in Exodus. And I read these kinds of stories, one after another. God leads his people from Egypt through the wilderness to the promise land, not the easy way, not the direct route, but the long way. Then, when Egyptian enemies come chasing after them, God miraculously drowns the bad guys. But just two chapters later, when the Amalakites come after them, these poor guys find themselves on a battle field for the first time in their collective memory. They have to beat them the old fashioned way. The hard way. (though yes, God helps them)
So I find myself trying to make sense of God's work with his people. Is He a long-way God? Is he occasionally miraculous? Does he want us to work for our own victories -- sometimes? Confusing isn't it?
And here is my breathtakingly brilliant conclusion:
God is incomprehensible.
We don't understand what He is doing. His ways are beyond us. His thoughts are deeper, truer, wiser than ours.
But in the midst of our confusion, we do know one thing. God is NOT random. While WE may not always know WHY he does what he does, we know that HE DOES KNOW.
In the crazy examples above, each one comes with an explanation. They went the long way because God thought the direct way would bring them to a battle they weren't prepared to win (the Philistines). He led them through the Red Sea, because God wanted the people to fear the LORD and to put their faith in Him and his servant Moses (verse 14:31) and they fought the Amalakites because God wanted to demonstrate his opposition to those who "raise their fist against the LORD's throne."
He had his reasons.
So what? Well, it pertains to the Sunday School word we use all the time when we describe God. We call him incomprehensible. Beyond our understanding. Yes. But God understands. He has reasons. Plans. Purposes. They are beyond us, yes. But not beyond Him.
He reasons. He plans. He works. He acts. He responds. We don't always understand it. But we don't have to.
When we know God's character, we can rest in his HEART for us and trust that his reasons, plans and purposes are good. Like He is.
That's faith, isn't it?
Monday, September 28, 2009
I have a friend who bugs me regularly about how rarely I blog. I tell her, it would be easier if someone wrote back to me. As it is, I often feel as if I'm writing to myself!
So hey, are you out there?
I spent the last two weeks getting ready to help my son move to Loma Linda, California. I've painted his room, gone through the stuff stored there, moved some to the basement, taken some to the Goodwill and had the Salvation Army truck come by. I found mice tracks in my pantry (yuck!), and put new shelves in the basement. What a busy end of summer! Last week, we drove to California together and set up his apartment.
But the Word of God draws me in. I'm reading Exodus again, and I've caught something I never noticed before. It happens at the part where Moses leads the folks out of Egypt and they end up camped against the Red Sea; then the Egyptian army comes after them. Picture this. As the sun sets, they set up camp. On one side is the sea. The Jews pitch their tents, get ready to cook their dinner, and find the kids. Then someone shouts. Fingers point. Screams come from the outer rim of the camp.
The Egyptians are coming.
Terror starts to spread. Panic runs through the camp. Then suddenly, the "angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to a position behind them and the pillar of cloud also moved around behind. The pillar of cloud settled between the Israelite and Egyptian camps." (Exodus 12:19) God steps in to protect them from the enemy.
Then, as most of us know, the Israelites cross the Red Sea on dry ground.
But have you ever noticed that they cross at NIGHT?
They do. Check it out.
"So as the sun began to rise, Moses raised his hand over the sea. The water roared back into its usual lace, and the LORD swept the terrified Egyptians into the surging currents."
The Jews were over the sea and onto dry ground BEFORE the sun rose.
They crossed at night.
Important? Maybe not. But it seems to me that many times, God does his most miraculous work when things are darkest. And as God worked, (stacking up the water) he asked his people to walk through the provision he made for them. In the dark.
How many times have you walked through a dark place on dry ground?
Has he healed your marriage? Blessed you with a new attitude? Healed your body? Brought you through grief? Has he given you a new job? Taught you how to manage your money? Given you confidence, even in the face of a tough economy?
God is so different from the world where we live. In modern movies, the worst always happens at night.
But in God's stories, He always shows up when things look darkest! When the sun goes down, look for God. He is behind you, protecting you, working on your behalf. When he opens up the way, walk in it.
God shows up in the dark!
Sunday, September 13, 2009
I've just finished Matthew again, and once again, I found something I've not seen before.
Look for yourself. Matthew 28:17
"When they saw him, they worshiped him -- but some of them doubted."
After Jesus death, the eleven disciples went to Galilee, (just as Jesus had instructed them through the women who had visited the empty tomb). There, they saw Him, the risen Lord, exactly as He planned.
But some of them doubted.
Can you believe it? These guys had hung out for at least three years together. They'd eaten and slept and ministered together day in and day out. If anyone should have recognized the risen Lord, it should have been these guys. After all, these guys were the inner circle.
And after his death, they trot off to Galilee, where they see the risen Christ, in person. And some of them -- doubted?
What is that about?
I don't know exactly. But I do have some thoughts. For one, isn't it interesting that Matthew could have left this detail out? It would have made more sense (if he were writing propaganda, anyway) to leave it out. Wouldn't you? If you were writing simply to convince someone of a false story, wouldn't you tell them that "everyone believed?"
But Matthew doesn't sacrifice accuracy for the sake of believability. I think that small detail tells us that he must have had a commitment to truth, and thus, we can conclude that he has told the WHOLE truth to the best of his ability. Matthew told us even the difficult details.
Secondly, I think it tells us something about human nature. How many times have we thought, "If only I'd have walked with Jesus, this whole faith thing would be so easy. I wouldn't struggle with doubt."
Doubt is part of our walk. Not because we believe in something false, or because we are stupid and foolish, but because we believe in something that is completely impossible. What kind of idiot believes that a dead man can be raised? It's impossible.
We have to acknowledge that simple fact. It IS ABSOLUTELY impossible.
But with God, impossible things are quite possible.
And sometimes, even in the face of those quite impossible things, we may pinch ourselves, thinking, "Can this be true?"
It isn't always easy to believe. But of course, if it were easy, it wouldn't take faith.
The take away? When you doubt, don't beat yourself up; remember the eleven. They struggled with doubt. You are in very good company. But do remember this:
Jesus said in John chapter 20:29,
"You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who haven't seen me and believe anyway."
Be blessed and believe.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
In Matthew 24, Jesus tells his disciples that not one stone of the Jerusalem temple would be left on top of another.
Why? That answer is found in Matt 23, beginning in verse 37. The reason, in essence, is because the Jews would refuse to see and accept Jesus as the Messiah-- the promised one.
Yesterday, I was listening as a Biblical expositor explained that the real sin in Genesis was that Eve would not believe in the goodness of God. The speaker was telling us that we should trust God's restrictions to be representations of his LOVE for us. He does not say "No" lightly.
But is that all that is there? I don't think so.
"You surely will not die," the serpent told her.
Wasn't the real issue that Satan tried to convince Eve that there would be NO consequence for her disobedience? And wasn't Jesus telling Jerusalem that they would suffer for their rebellion?
I think so.
Not long ago, I tried to warn a young man who was about to marry a divorced woman. I told him (because this woman had no Biblical grounds for divorce) that I knew UNEQUIVOCABLY that she was not God's will for him. Mark tells us that to marry a divorced woman is to commit adultery -- not ever God's will for his people.
What was this young man's question for me? "So," he said, "adultery. That's big. But will God throw me out if I go ahead and marry her?"
What he wanted to know was, would there be a consequence. Answer? Yes. You see, he'd been told that God is love for so long that he thought love brought only good and pleasant things into his life.
Now, I'm not saying that he is about to lose his salvation. But I am going to stand on the side of the Word. When God warns his people, he is warning about the consequences of sin, whether it be the destruction of Jerusalem, or that Eve WILL DIE (as she did, and so did all of creation, both spiritually and physically).
To disobey God is to face the consequences. We must never forget that our good, loving God loves us far too much to let us go our own way. We help our children by letting them experience the consequences of their actions.
God loves us in a similar way. Don't ever underestimate his love for you.
So. How about you? Ever face a consequence? What was it?
Friday, July 24, 2009
Jacob blessed Pharaoh.
Does that surprise you? It should. It blew me away.
Think about it. As Genesis 47 opens, Pharaoh has it all. Because of the famine, he owns all the land, has all the people's money, in fact, he's even managed to get the whole population enslaved to him.
He was the "Iranian Dictator," the Idi Amin, the People's Republic, of his era. He had it all. Everything.
But Jacob, who was a starving refugee still chose to bless Pharaoh, not just once, but twice in the same chapter. Why? What did Jacob have to offer? What gave Jacob the chutzpah to bless the highest leader in the land?
Because he had something Pharaoh didn't. Jacob had a direct line to the God of the Universe. Jacob had relationship. He had perspective. He had divine understanding (Jacob was a prophet!) Jacob had divine leading. Jacob had lived a life under the shadow of God's hand.
He didn't have stuff. Jacob had God.
Compared to that, Pharaoh had nothing.
So, what about you? Got God?
If you do, do you have the courage -- in the same audacious way of Jacob -- to bless the people you meet?
Can you give God's blessing to everyone? Rich or poor?
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
One more on obedience:
It's really the little things. There are many little things I hear during the day that I must not ignore. No. I don't hear voices. But I do get the "impression" of instructions. Full sentences. Directions. Instructions.
Last weekend, I got the impression that I should mention to someone that he seemed tired and less than himself. He responded that I was right. I told him that I would pray for him. I think the Holy Spirit wanted him to know that HE cared for my friend.
Here are some I've heard lately:
Pray for that person.
You should think about giving ... to ...
Contact (this person from my past professional contacts) and tell her you are thinking of her.
Write out a prayer for him. Send it.
Pray this way for your son.
Let it go.
Don't say it. (I need to heed this one more often)
Turn it off.
Work on this (project)
Do this project (a completely new idea I hadn't considered)
Write the opening like this (happened during a bike ride this weekend).
These are the whispers of the Holy Spirit in my life. They are personal. They are specific. They are time sensitive. Often, if I delay, the effect is negated. You could say that I'm schizophrenic (one who hears voices), but I don't think I qualify.
I think these things are common with Believers who listen. Ironically, you learn to recognize God's voice by beginning to obey. Just one at first. Then judge. Was it the Holy Spirit? What were the results? Was Jesus glorified? Was someone cared for? Was someone touched?
Then, the next time you hear that same voice you will recognize it more easily. Perhaps more quickly. It will start to feel familiar to you, perhaps as familiar as best friend's voice when she calls on the phone.
It happens. Listen. Obey. Judge. And listen again.
"My sheep know my voice."
Do you know your shepherd's voice?
Tell me a story about listening where it made a real difference!
Sunday, July 19, 2009
This is so cool.
Today, at church, our pastor was talking about guidance and obedience. It was really good thinking and very relevant to this discussion, yes?
As a commenter mentioned in her writing: "I have trouble obeying if I don't have instructions." She's right. Without instructions, we are just wandering around in foreign country without a map.
So, where do you start? One easy place! Start by obeying (by the Spirit of God) all the simple instruction sentences in the New Testament. There are way too many to name. But let me give some examples:
John 15: Remain in my love. I command you to love one another. Romans 8: by the power of the Spirit, turn from your sinful nature. Give your body to God. Don't copy the behavior and customs of the world. Corinthians 5: Don't be caught by sexual immorality. A wife must not leave her husband. Happiness or sadness or wealth should not keep anyone from doing God's work. Use the things of this world without becoming attached to them. Don't be enslaved by the world. Let love be your highest goal. Be courageous. Be strong. Give the wonderful message of the Gospel to others. Make disciples. Obey the authority of the world (Do you obey the speed limit?) Don't think more highly of yourself than you ought (Romans )Don't forsake meeting together. Use your gift for the benefit of the body (are you actively ministering? Daily, weekly?) Are you living by the spirit or by human strength and rules? (Galatians) Allow the Spirit to develop the Fruit of the Spirit in your character (love joy peace patience kindness gentleness faithfulness, goodness self control). Don't follow the desires of the sinful nature. Pray for one another. Encourage one another. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord (and do it!) Make the most of EVERY opportunity for doing good in these evil days.
Are you living the disciplines? Are there some you could use some help with? Prayer? Word study, memorization, meditation? Fellowship? Service? Discipleship? Are you mentoring or being mentored? (These disciplines aren't just something the Navigators made up. They are recommended behaviors in the new testament. To develop the disciplines is to obey the Holy Spirit!)
So many single statements in the New Testament are TODAY's instructions. When we take them to heart (as the spirit whispers) and respond, THAT is obedience.
Just like Abraham.
Our pastor said this, and I think it is great advice, "If you are a Sunday Christian, don't expect to hear from God on Monday morning."
His point: The closer to God you walk, the more you will hear his voice, recognize it's timber and respond in obedience.
Yesterday, one of my daughters drove me home from shopping. A motorcycle was RIGHT ON HER BUMPER all the way. My daughter was angry. She was afraid for his life. She was full of emotion.
Frankly, her behavior, language and response didn't reflect her faith in Jesus. It was a perfect opportunity to obey TODAY, what she knew of God's instructions in her life.
Most of the time, my daughter succeeds. That particular time, she didn't. I fail too. I frequently speed -- just enough that I don't get a ticket.
You see? Obedience is most often not about the high and mighty things. It is about the small things. The small things lead to the bigger things. And then we look like Abraham, obeying THAT SAME DAY.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
I started over.
Right now, I'm reading in Genesis (again). I can't tell you how many times I've been through the Bible-- yearly since 1979 as far as I can remember. Every day, I see something new, something inspiring.
This time, I was reading in Genesis about God initiating a covenant with Abraham. In Genesis 17:22 my Bible reads, "That ended the conversation, and God left. ON THAT VERY DAY Abraham took his son Ishmael and every other male in his household and circumcised them."
I placed the CAPS there for emphasis.
Do you see what I see? God instructs. Abe obeys. Same day. In real time.
No delay. No arguing. No self-justification. No questions. No excuses. No "I'll do it as soon as I finish. . ."
I wish, after all these years, that I could be that obedient. This year, in January, God showed me a task he wanted me to accomplish. I thought it was about writing, and publishing. Now, I'm not sure.
When I thought it was about my success. I was quick to obey. When the whole purpose came into question, my enthusiasm waned. I slowed. I gave up. I failed.
Reading about Abraham gives me pause. I repent Lord. I will do it. I will keep at it. I will obey.
Okay. I've confessed. Now it's your turn. Where do you struggle with obedience?
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Thought you might like to see a preview of the cover for the new book.
I read all 375 typed pages last Friday, the last time I'll see the manuscript until Galley Copies return.
Printed them all this morning so that I could have the author endorsement procedures begin.
Living the writing life is like riding a bicycle. Sometimes, it's all uphill. Slow. Tiresome. Hot. Exhausting.
Other times, it's flying down hills faster than feels comfortable.
So, all that to say, I've been neglecting the blog lately. Sorry.
I have a new blog idea. What do you think about a serialized novel? Not for publishers. Just for you. Like Mark Twain, or Dickens, or Lucy Maud Montgomery? Sounds like fun. Any takers?
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
In a little known book toward the end of the Old Testament, Nahum speaks directly to the capital city of Assyria, Nineveh. This is the same city where Jonah was sent to preach.
Interesting, isn't it, that the Assyrians aren't part of God's chosen people?
In fact, they are the ENEMIES of his people.
Yet, in the book of Jonah, God cares so much about their condition that he sends a prophet to speak to them. And he gives the Assyrians the grace (power) to repent. The Assyrians call a fast, and beg God's forgiveness.
And now, in the book of Nahum, God tries again. Time has passed. The Assyrians have fallen away from their commitment.
Again, God speaks.
If we learn nothing else from this tiny little book, we should learn that God CARES DEEPLY about those who hurt us. God seeks relationship with those whom we might label "enemies."
Who has hurt you lately?
And how do you think God feels about their soul?
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Last night, I prayed as I started the book of Jonah. "Let me see something new here Lord."
And I did.
In the first chapter, our friend Jonah heads the other direction. He avoids God's command. And he gets in a boat heading AWAY from the very people he is sent to reach.
And in the boat are a bunch of heathen men, guys who have no clue about the God of Israel.
For them, the story begins with a storm. A real corker. And they are terrified. And they ask Jonah, "Who are you, where are you from, what is your nation?"
So, Jonah explains it all. And in the midst of this horrible experience they hear about God. They ask Jonah what to do. He tells the truth. Throw me in, he says.
And they do. And the storm is over. They are safe.
And scripture says that they "were awestruck by the Lord's great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him."
So. A believer fails. He runs. He messes up. And God goes after him.
And in the midst of his failure, God shows himself mighty, and some heathen sailors come to know the God of the universe.
A diamond in the midst of a tornado, I think, that God would use one man's stubborn disobedience to reach the unreached. Certainly not enough reason to disobey. No. But hope for those moments when you do.
Pretty amazing, yes?
Friday, April 10, 2009
In today's blog, I'd like to let Scripture speak for itself.
From Hosea 14:1-5
Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for your sins have brought you down. Bring your petitions, and return to the LORD. Say to him, "Forgive all our sins and graciously receive us, so that we may offer you the sacrifice of praise. Assyria cannot save us, nor can our strength in battle. Never again will we call the idols we have made our gods. No, in you alone do the orphans find mercy.
The LORD says, "Then I will heal you of your idolatry and faithlessness, and my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever! I will be to Israel like a refreshing dew from heaven. It will blossom like the lilly; it will send roots deep into the soil like the cedars in Lebanon."
Okay, so that is the Old Testament. Is it any different today? Not at all. God hasn't changed. He still wants the same things for us:
Go to the LORD.
Admit your wrong.
Receive his forgiveness.
Experience his healing.
Let him make your life fruitful.
That is what the cross is all about.
In Hosea 13: 4. "You have no God but me, for there is no other savior."
No matter which testament you read, God hasn't changed. He wants to forgive sin, to bring us back into relationship with him. He sent Jesus for this very reason. It's what God has always been about.
How's your Easter?
Friday, March 27, 2009
Like some of you, I have my favorite bloggers. I too, get frustrated when they don't post often enough. I want to hear from them more often; I hate it when real life gets in their way!
But real life is like that. Sometimes, it gets in the way. Mine did. A couple of weeks ago, I heard from a publisher that a book I'd spent more than a year writing had an abysmal first quarter on the market. Bad. A years worth of work for nothing more than five hundred copies.
I get paid when the work sells. That's all. Needless to say, I was disappointed, and my disappointment turned quickly to anger. After all, even the ox that tramples the wheat is entitled to eat as he works. Why not me? I want my work to reward me too!
You can almost hear frustration rumble and churn around inside me-- like an upset stomach after a night of bad pizza.
Before long, I fought tears. Anger is frequently a first response for me. It takes a while for the real issues to surface. My worth, it seems is tied up with my earning power. As a registered PT, my hourly salary was never a question. My value was affirmed in my salary.
Not so as a writer.
A writer works on speculation. I take most of the risk. Publishers spread their risk over many many writers. Everyone else at the Publishing house gets a paycheck. Each specialist does his job. The cover artist, the editor, the marketing team, the sales team. All of them cash a check at the end of the month. Not the writer.
She (or I in this case) waits hoping that the whole team does its job, and does it well.
I recognize that the team working on that project hadn't done their job. The editor told me it was the best in the series. The best he'd ever worked on. But it didn't sell. At least not yet.
So what's a writer to do?
Go back to the basics. As I've been working on Jeremiah, I've come to realize that God gives us our assignments. Fortunately, he doesn't hold us responsible for the results. Did God give me the writing task? Absolutely. Did I do it to the best of my ability? Absolutely.
Will He reward my obedience? Most certainly. Perhaps not today. Perhaps not here. Perhaps not in the way I'd hoped.
But the Word gives me principles by which to live. Who would I be, if I preached them, but did not live them.
I'll continue to work my craft. To consider my options. To think about the effectiveness of various ventures.
But I will not dwell on the things I cannot control. I will comfort myself on the truths that I know. God asked. I responded.
Nothing could go better than that! How about you? What do you do in the face of disappointment?
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I've finished reading 1st John recently. Since it's such a short book, I think the theme jumped out at me more quickly. Reading along in the first chapter, I noticed that John mentions his PERSONAL connection to the gospel more than four times in the first paragraph.
He is the one, John tells us, that we have seen and heard.
Seen and heard. Seen and heard.
So. What have you seen and heard lately? When you share the gospel with someone, is your "testimony" personal? Do you share your transformation? Can you tell someone honestly how you have encountered Jesus in your own life?
Has he changed you?
Has he spoken to you?
Try it. Skip the philosophy. Skip the arguments. Don't worry about the creation versus evolution discussion. Bring it back to the simplest of stories for a while.
And as John advises us, "Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God's place in your hearts." (1st John 5:21)
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Here's another one:
Jesus takes Peter, James and John up on the mountainside to pray. As he was praying, he was changed. His face changed and his clothing became dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appear with him, and they visit about God's plan for Jesus to die in Jerusalem. Then Peter suggests building three shrines for the three of them (The word shrines appears in the New Living Translation. Other translations use the word "tent."). Just then a cloud came over them, and terror gripped them.
And a voice comes from heaven saying, "This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him." (Luke 9:35)
Not hear. Not read. Not notice. Not observe.
Have you been listening lately?
Monday, February 23, 2009
I was visiting with my hubby the other day, and told him that I'd noticed something new in Ezekiel. Here it is. . .
God, speaking about his people, makes quite a distinction between "hearing" and "listening."
Instinctively, this is something every wife understands. We try to talk to our husbands over the children's noise, with the TV blaring in the background, the phone ringing, and the microwave beeping and then we wonder why they forget what we say.
We know that there is a vital (the root of the word comes from LIFE-giving) difference between hearing and listening. God knows it too.
In Ezekiel, God complains that his people heard the truth, but they didn't consider it. They didn't take it in, roll it around in their minds and hearts. They didn't try to ask questions, understand it, relate it to the things they already knew, and finally to apply it. Instead, like our husbands after a busy day at work, they let God's instructions go in one ear and out the other.
Women do it too, by the way.
And then this morning I found this. Jesus speaking in John 8 says this: "Anyone whose Father is God listens gladly to the words of God."
Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees and teachers of religious law. They were men and women who knew the Word. They'd memorized it. They understood it. They obeyed it, quite perfectly.
But they hadn't let it sink into the deepest places of their heart. It hadn't changed them from the inside out. Instead, they'd only let God's word in as far as their superficial behaviors. They'd conformed, but they hadn't changed.
So, I ask you. Do you hear or listen to God? Do you think there is a difference? Do you listen gladly to God's word? Do you let it sink into the deepest reaches of your heart? Do you let it change you, or conform you?
Are you changed?
Thursday, February 5, 2009
So, I have a bit of time on my hands, and I'm making an offer.
I have about forty copies of the Bible study, "Jeremiah: Bright Light in a Dark Season." And, I'm willing to give them away for free, provided you think you might want to use the book for your group study. That's all I ask.
I'd be happy to send you a free sample copy if you might use it for your own group.
Here's what you do: Leave me message here along with your snail address and I'll drop it in the mail. No cost whatsoever.
Doesn't get any better than that. Here's a link to the publisher's page about the manuscript.
This should give you all the information you need. Just let me know what you decide! I look forward to hearing from you.
Monday, February 2, 2009
So. My youngest daughter passed her RN test! My second son was accepted to dental school. My husband and I have been doing some heavy duty cleaning in a big project at our house. It's been a busy season for us. Aren't they all?
While I'm busy, I almost never, ever miss a day in the Word. Fortunately, the frequency of my blogging is no reflection of my commitment to the Bible. How about you? Do you have a regular time in the word? Are you committed to study and explore the meaning of all that scripture?
In 2 Peter 2:1, Peter tells us why it's so critical to develop a Word Habit:
"But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach their destructive heresies about God and even turn against their Master who bought them."
At some point, we are promised, we will come in contact with FALSE TEACHERS. Clever, false teachers.
How will they convince their audience?
I can tell you. Their words will sound good. They will appeal to human logic and greed and pride. (See chapter 2:18) But the most important thing to remember is that they will use and twist scripture to make their point.
Our job? We must know the Word. If you don't, you will fall victim to their heresy.
The Word is our plum-line to the truth. We must know it fully -- and be so firmly confident in our understanding that any alteration of its meaning or application smells to us like rotting chicken, alerting our senses to the falsehood perpetrated by those greedy teachers.
(Remind me to tell you the story of the frozen chicken that thawed seven days in my microwave oven. I'm telling you, it was BAD!)
So, how exactly do you develop your familiarity with the word? Are you reading? Do you understand? Are you learning?
Are you safe from false teaching?
Monday, January 19, 2009
So, I finished Isaiah.
Not an easy book. And made slightly more difficult because Isaiah doesn't do us the kindness of making himself clear with the details -- like who is speaking? What does this prophecy refer to? Where does this prophecy end and the next one begin. I have friends who read Isaiah and consider the whole book mush -- a little like something you'd get if you put your whole dinner into a blender. Hard to tell what was steak and what was apple crisp.
But remember, Isaiah didn't really have the details either. He just tells us what God says, in no particular order, with little or no understanding of the events he portrays.
So, when I read, it helps me to think of Isaiah as a pile of transparency sheets. (remember those from the days of overhead projectors?) On each sheet is a complete, or nearly complete photograph. However, when you layer all the photos on top of one another, the result would appear as a composite of all the photos -- because you could see through the empty space on photo A all the way to the details on photo C.
It would be a little like a photo created in a blender!
Not easy to figure out, right?
Still, rather than throw the whole thing out, choose to focus on the events you do recognize. For instance, I found this in the last chapter...
"Before the birth pains even begin, Jerusalem gives birth to a son. Who has ever seen or heard of anything as strange as this? Has a nation ever been born in a single day? Has a country ever come forth in a mere moment? But by the time Jerusalem's birth pains begin, the baby will be born; the nation will come forth. "Would I ever bring this nation to the point of birth and then not deliver it?" asks the LORD. "No I would never keep this nation from being born," says your God."
Anyone who has studied the history of present-day Israel knows that the nation did indeed come forth on a single day. After WW I, the League of Nations granted the British a mandate in Palestine, which was populated largely by Arab muslims (outside Jerusalem) and Jews in the city. The mandate included the purpose of providing a safe haven for Jewish emigration. After WW II, displaced Jews from all over Europe fled their old lives to begin again in the region of Jerusalem. As the population swelled, the Palestinians worried about the new emigrants. Tension increased. The Arabs wanted to drive the Jews out. The Jews saw independence as the only route to safety. The demand for an independent Jewish nation rose to a mighty roar.
Knowing that the Palestinians were armed, the British set a date to withdraw. They had NOT allowed the Jews to arm themselves. The scene was set for a bloodbath between the Jews and the Palestinians. On May 14, 1948, the day before the British Mandate was set to end, the Jewish Agency declared their independence.
Within 24 hours the Jewish state was born. When the British withdrew, the war between the Arabs and Jews became a fight for survival which has erupted in various forms over the intervening years.
A nation in a single day. It happened. Against all odds, the unarmed (officially), untrained, unorganized emigrants declared themselves a nation, and when the ensuing war began, they proved Isaiah correct.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Most folks make a stab at resolutions; instead, I think about projects.
So, I thought I'd share with you one that I'm working on. While at a service in Gig Harbor, at my in-law's church, I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to work on this: An outline of the gospels.
Here is what I was thinking about. I'd like to propose a Gospel book as a Bible Study to the publisher responsible for Jeremiah. (my study) And as I was pondering that with the Lord (while I ought to have been listening to the sermon), I got the thought that to do ANY gospel, I need to have a firm hold on ALL the gospels.
So, here is what I did: I went to an office supply store and bought a GIANT post-it like pad. I've divided the page into four columns, and I've labeled each with a Gospel. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Then, I started in. Matthew chapter one. Mark chapter one. Now, as one of my close friends says, "It's a slow way to serve the Lord."
In this case she's right! At the same time, I've been amazed at what I've been discovering. Repetitive phrases. Key words. Intriguing ideas.
So, I'm letting you know that this will be my day project for a while. At the same time, I'm working through Isaiah.
I'll leave you with this quote from the 47th chapter of Isaiah: God speaking.
"You are a pleasure-crazy kingdom, living at ease and feeling secure, bragging as if you were the greatest in the world! You say, 'I'm self sufficient and not accountable to anyone! I will never be a widow or lose my children.' Well those two things will come upon you in a moment: widowhood and the loss of your children . . . "
Doesn't that sound familiar? Can you think of a pleasure crazy kingdom nearby?
Saturday, January 3, 2009
I'm reading through Isaiah. And, as I read about Sennacharib who was determined to take Jerusalem at the time of King Hezekiah, I realized that Sennacherib made the same mistake that many people make today.
"All Gods are essentially the same aren't they?"
"Aren't all people praying to the same God -- no matter what they call him?"
"God doesn't care what you call Him, does He?"
"Buddha, Allah, Jehovah, Jesus, Mother Earth, they're really all the same thing, yes?"
Here is how Sennecherib said it, "Don't let Hezekiah mislead you by saying, 'the Lord will rescue us!' Have the gods of any other nations ever saved their people from the king of Assyria?"
The Assyrian King was making a huge mistake. He assumed that the gods of the other nations WERE EXACTLY THE SAME (in power, in authority, in passion, in interest, etc) as the GOD OF ISRAEL.
I have one word for him.
All Gods are not the same. The Bible gives NO ROOM for this kind of thinking. God's answer to Sennacherib:
"Whom do you think you have been insulting and ridiculing? Against whom did you raise your voice? At whom did you look in such proud condescension? It was the Holy One of Israel!" (Isaiah 37:23)
Don't make the same mistake as this foolish king. He woke one morning after mocking God and found 185 thousand of his troops dead. "When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land."
It was a humiliating defeat. Thousands died because he was foolish enough to think: All Gods are the same. No one else has stopped me. The God of Israel won't stop me either.
If you are a believer already, this story reminds us:
God has the power to rescue even against overwhelming odds.
God does not tolerate being mocked.
God hears everyone, even the foolish statements of our enemies.
God responds when we take our troubles to him.
God cares about us, whether our troubles are small, or large. When we are surrounded, when the water is cut off, the food is cut off and our enemy is camped all around us. He listens. He hears. He responds.
Our God is an awesome God.
Don't be fooled. He is like no other.