Tuesday, September 28, 2010

As long as it's called 'Today'...

"But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."
(Hebrews 3:13)

I just received word that one of our church members died of a massive heart attack last night.  He called his wife, a nurse, who was on her way to work, to say that he was experiencing chest pains.  "If something happens to me tonight, know that I love you and the girls," he said to her.  By the time she turned around & made it home (just minutes later), he was unresponsive.

Every day is a gift.  We know that in our heads.  But do we live as though it's a true reality?  The author of Hebrews calls us to "exhort one another every day."  Encourage one another.  Love one another.  think about others more than yourself.  Daily.  Why?  Because none of us knows if there will be a tomorrow for us.  Too often we live like we expect tomorrow to be there, but nothing is guaranteed.  So say what you need to say, the author continues, "as long as it is called 'today.'

What do you NEED to do today?  Who do you need to encourage?  Who might need to know they're loved?  Don't let anger, resentment, pride, or any other sin take root.  Not while it's still called 'today.'  Life is too short.  Life is too precious.

PRAYER:  Thank you, Lord, for Dennis... and the love he showered upon his family... including his love for you!  AMEN.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Name dropping

"Moreover, is it without the LORD that I have come up against this land to destroy it?  The LORD said to me, 'Go up against this land and destroy it.'"
(Isaiah 36:10)

"GOD TOLD ME..." Powerful words, aren't they?  They're words designed to influence others.  Words echoing divine authority & power.  When someone says that, also implied is this unspoken sentiment: "Who are you to question God's commands?!?"

But maybe they're bantered around too easily.  Maybe we should be a little (a LOT!) more reflective whenever someone says it.  As I learned in seminary, the "hermeneutic of suspicion" could go a long way here.

Consider our passage today from Isaiah 36.  The Assyrian King Sennacherib has come to attack the cities of Judah.  King Hezekiah is in Jerusalem when the Assyrian armies arrive.  Before attacking, however, the Assyrian spokesperson stats 'talking trash' and trying to convince Hezekiah's men to not resist, for the odds are stacked heavily against them.  Amidst this dialogue, the Assyrian claims that not only has God been with him, but GOD CALLED HIM to undertake this military campaign against Judah.  Yes, he's claiming to use Israel's God against them!  (The nerve!)

But it caused me to think about very expression: "God told me..."  How often do we speak those very same words?  Of course, we may not be intentionally trying to manipulate others, like the Assyrian officer was... but it could have similar consequences if we're not careful.  As sure as we may be of God's direction & instruction in our lives, we need to be careful about speaking on behalf of the Almighty.

Somehow, the phrase "Do not take the LORD'S Name in vain" comes to mind here...

Friday, September 17, 2010


"I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and now, I am sure, lives in you." 
(2 Timothy 1:5)

I've always loved this verse.  Not enough kudos go out to grandmas... and the impact they can have on our faith journeys.

Today I'm thinking about my Grandma Louisa White.  In her younger days, she was a nurse, who spent her live helping others.  I remember her later years with much fondness.  We'd drive up from Arizona to their house in Montana every couple of summers or so.  Grandma had a wonderful little vegetable garden in her back yard.  I loved her fresh rhubarb sauce (think apple sauce with sweetened rhubarb flavor!).  I loved digging for worms (night crawlers) with Grandpa in that garden, prior to going fishing.  She was a gung-ho outdoorswoman!  She could fish with the best of us.  She had no problem cleaning the fish we'd caught... and sure knew how to fry them up after (yum!).  She was an accomplished painter, who loved to paint her favorite flower - the pansy!  And I don't know why I think this, but I seem to remember her being fond of stories.

But above all else, Grandma White was a woman with a deep & abiding faith.  She raised my father with similar convictions... who, in turn, raised me.  Grandma White loved music & hymns & singing.  I remember going to church with her (and Grandpa).  And I remember the summer she came out to visit us in Hawaii.  It would be the last time I ever saw her, as she died later that fall during heart surgery.  At the time, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer.  She simply said, "The world needs more Christian lawyers."  Indeed!

Thank you, God... for my Grandma... who helped shape who I am today!

(What do you remember about YOUR grandma?)

Thursday, September 16, 2010


"Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food & clothing, we will be content with these."
(1 Timothy 6:6-8)

We're never content.  We're not supposed to be.  (At least that's the message we're bombarded with in today's society!)  There's always something more we need to have.  Always some upgrade worth buying.  If only we could have... (fill in the blank)!!!  We've been conditioned well.  Too well.

Paul reminds us where our focus should lie: godliness & contentment.  It's the perfect pair.  Love God and neighbor.  Live right.  Live simply.  Be content.  Food & clothing are the main essentials, he writes.  That's enough.  (Or at least it should be.)

It's so hard to stop acquiring (and desiring!) stuff.  And yet, that's not where life (TRUE LIFE) is discovered.  Contentment is key.  Chris Tomlin wrote a song called "Enough."  It expresses this message of contentment perfectly.
  "All of you is more than enough for all of me; for every searching, every need.  You satisfy me with your love, and all I have in you, is more than enough."
May I live more and more into that promise!  AMEN.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Divine Pairs

"A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.  The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom & understanding, the spirit of counsel & might, the spirit of knowledge & the fear of the LORD."
(Isaiah 11:1-2)

Isaiah 11 talks about the coming Messiah.  It was a predictive passage - as Isaiah was looking towards what would come down the road.  God's chosen... a new kind of king!  Not one with political & geographical borders, but a king of spiritual & eternal consequences... ready to usher in God's kingdom here & now!!!

One of the sings Isaiah points us toward, so we can know who truly is this Messiah King, is recognizing that the spirit of the LORD is with him.  But there are other signs, too.  A spirit of wisdom & understanding, counsel & might, and knowledge & fear of the Lord.  They're all very familiar terms and the sentences flow so smoothly together.  But I spent a while seriously thinking about what they actually meant...

A spirit of wisdom & understanding... Wisdom is more than intelligence.  it's also insight & common sense.  Couple it with understanding, and it gives a depth of comprehension.  It becomes practical & extremely valuable.  It's definitely not a 'trivial pursuit.'

A spirit of counsel & might... This gives the king the ability to lead others - to help guide, direct, inspire, challenge, and encourage.  But couple it with might, and he can exude confidence because he's speaking from strength.  The might is not to be abused, of course.  Instead, it provides a deep reservoir... a foundation that enables him to better share good counsel (and have people accept that counsel!).

A spirit of knowledge & the fear of the Lord... Knowing God (not just knowing about God, which is vitally important, of course) means having an intimate relationship with God, which leads to a genuine fear of God.  Fear, however, does not mean literally being afraid... but rather a sense of respect, awe, and reverence.  Together these enable a healthy relationship with the Divine.

So this is what the Messiah King... what JESUS... would eventually be like, Isaiah says.  Why do we need to know this, if we already recognize Jesus as the Savior?  I think we ALL are called to strive for these "divine pairings" in our lives.  They can be a wonderful start of a daily prayer... "Lord, by your grace, fill me with your wisdom & understanding, with counsel & might, with knowledge & fear of you!  Help me to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, my Savior!  AMEN."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Noisy Joy

"Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.  Worship the LORD with gladness; come into his presence with singing."
(Psalm 100:1)

We live in a world full of noise.  Heck, we ourselves make a lot of noise!  Radios/iPods/Computers/TVs/DVRs/DVDs etc. are going non-stop in our lives.  Our modes of transportation are noisy (unless we drive a hybrid, of course).  It's hard to find quiet places these days.  Not to mention our grumbling - in traffic, with coworkers or classmates, at home... over the economy, politicians, athletic teams, the weather, etc.  Noise is everywhere.

Psalm 100 calls us to refocus our noisy lives.  It doesn't condemn them, but rather challenges us to turn it into joy and focus on God.  'MAKE A JOYFUL NOISE TO THE LORD ALL THE EARTH!'  Everyone.  Every creature.  All Creation.  In unison.  In praise.  IN JOY!  Gladness, thanksgiving, adn singing should be the norm.  That would be joyful noise!

How can I change my life to have more joy-filled noise?  Instead of grumbling at others, I want to sing praise throughout my day.  I want to have a grateful heart.  Not because I 'have to,' but because it's bound to make a difference on how I experience life.  JOYFUL NOISE.  Let's give it a shot.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


"For in (Jesus) the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of the cross."
(Colossians 1:19-20)

I remember hearing a teaching by Pastor Rob Bell (it may have been his NOOMA video series) about the idea of "reconciliation."  In the ancient near east, when Rome ruled the Mediterranean, Caesar brought about "peace" (Pax Romana) by a process of what he called "reconciling" former enemies.  He'd use the violent method of crucifixion to bring "reconciliation."  It proved to be very effective in keeping the peace. 

Paul, in his letter to the church in Colossae, turns that image upside down.  God also brought peace and true reconciliation through crucifixion.  But it wasn't the crucifixion of his enemies.  No, it was himself!  Jesus (God's Son - the representation of God in human form) was crucified.  The blood of the cross brought healing, forgiveness, and restoration to all.  Wow!

It's so hard to forgive deep hurts.  Vengeance is so tempting.  We, like Caesar, want those who've hurt us to suffer... to feel some of the pain they've caused us.  Thank Goodness God doesn't act like that (or we'd be doomed!). No, God gives us an alternate vision.  Because he's forgiven us of so much, we are challenged to extend the same grace to others: Peace.  Healing.  Forgiveness.  Grace. RECONCILIATION!  (Amen!)

Friday, September 3, 2010

SCANDAL... redeemed!

"What does it matter?  Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice."
(Philippians 1:18)

A few years ago, Hillsong produced a very powerful song, 'HEALER.'  It speaks of how God is everything one needs - and can heal anything (or anyone) who's broken, sick, etc.  In the height of the song's popularity, scandal broke out.  The man who wrote & performed the song (a Church leader in Australia) needed an oxygen tank to sing it, as he was suffering from a debilitating & life-threatening disease.  It was quite moving to hear his testimony & see his determination to praise God in the midst of his challenges.  What was scandalous, however, was the shocking realization that he wasn't really sick at all... he was making it all up for effect!  Not only that, but people had been giving him donations to help with his medical bills & treatment.  Ouch.  Fraud.  Manipulating & misleading the faithful for personal gain.  Yikes.

I remember feeling guilty still liking the song.  As if the sin in which the song was birthed was supposed to negate its message.  But I couldn't help it.  It was a great song ("I believe You're my healer.  I believe You're more than enough for me.  Jesus, You're all I need!").

In my reading today from Philippians 1, Paul gives me permission to not feel guilty about this song!  He was writing to the believers in Philippi, telling them his recent imprisonment has actually given him MORE opportunities to share the gospel with others!  Not only that, but other people have been proclaiming the gospel in an attempt to prolong Paul's suffering.  I don't know the details, but Paul assures us that their hearts are NOT in the right place.

"BUT IT DOESN'T MATTER," Paul continues.  Whether God is proclaimed through pure or impure motives doesn't matter.  The bottom line is that GOD IS PROCLAIMED.  Period.  God is big enough to use whatever testimony is made to change hearts!

So it's okay to like the song, "Healer."  Who knows, God might even heal the one who took his name in vain by creating this song in deception?!  For Jesus is indeed more than enough for us all.  (Amen to that!)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


"(Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying (in the tomb), and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself."
(John 20:6-7)

I read again today the familiar Easter story of Peter running to the empty tomb & seeing Jesus' grave clothes lying empty.  John makes a point of saying that Jesus' head wrap was neatly rolled up on the side.  My first thought was, "Wow... his mom must have taught him to make his bed every morning when he awoke!" (like my mom did!).  But then I noticed the OTHER wrappings weren't rolled up, they were just lying in a pile.  Why the difference?  Was Jesus in a hurry & couldn't finish folding?  Were the body cloths too much to roll up?  Or did it just look pretty cool lying there - like the skin from a lizard after molting (guess what kind of pet I had as a kid?!)?

Then I noticed a note in my Bible: "Compare 11:44."  John 11 is the story of Lazarus - the one whom Jesus raised from the dead.  In verse 44, when Lazarus walks out of the tomb, Jesus tells the crowd to "unbind him."  He was still wrapped up... still 'mummified'.  But in John 20, Jesus didn't need anyone to unbind him.  He was already unbound!  He took care of it himself.  What's the point?  Was Jesus the original escape artist (before David Blaine & Houdini!)?  Or maybe this was the author's way of telling us that NOTHING can hold Jesus.  not a tomb... not graveclothes... not death.  He has conquered all!

For us as followers of Jesus, that means we share in that freedom.  We may not "conquer all" in this life.  Let's face it, life is hard.  Troubles come.  Evil hits.  But we will not be left on our own... we'll never be abandoned.  The One who conquers will see us through!  And even when this earthly life comes to an end, we will escape the bonds of our bodies & live eternal in God's glorious kingdom.

And it has absolutely nothing to do with making our beds!  lol

What a comforting thought.  AMEN!