Perfection!

I am the middle child. Actually, I share that spot with my next younger sister, because out of 6 kids (poor Mom!) I am third and she is fourth – 2 ahead of me, and 2 after her. I am the baby of the first 3, and she is the eldest of the last 3. We have also concluded that most (all!) of us are ADD, and some are ADHD as well, starting with my parents- and it really goes back further than them. My life is an oxymoron 😎 …. I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with us!

Whatever spot I choose for the moment, baby or middle-child, I must admit that I have been guilty of pride and perfection much of my life. Is that an affliction? Perfectionism stems from many things, both internal and external. I think that on a subconscious level, we make the choice to be prideful and conceited. I chose both, to hide the damaged, broken parts that I am comprised of. Whatever I did, I did with the attitude that if I did it, it was the right thing to do. Whatever I decided was the right decision, the only logical conclusion in my mind; therefore, anyone else was obviously wrong. I had the attitude that I was invincible, hard and sharp-edged – and I was hard and cut people like a knife with my words and actions. I sound like a bad person! If I was told I had a heart of ice, or that I was hurtful or mean, well, guilty as charged. I was full of pride and could do no wrong because I was perfect. Seems like we all have the tendency to judge others based on our own perceived perfection. For years, I was really good at being perfect, at least on the outside. My ‘inside’ was pretty messed up!

Even now I will find those feelings of pride and perfection, perfectionism and judgementalism, stealing back into my life. I cry out “GET BEHIND ME, SATAN, in the Name of JESUS!!”

When I came to be under the Shining Bright Light of my LORD JESUS through His saving Grace, all of my cracks and brokenness were illuminated. His illumination shows everyone who looks what a messed up person I am, but the LIGHT also shows how He has put me back together. My prayer for us today:

LORD, show us our brokenness. Shine Your Great Light on us and let the world see YOU in that Light. Use my brokenness to illustrate how beautifully You can put us back together, if we just ask You. No matter how shattered we are or how much ugliness we contain, help us to see the beauty of Your Handiwork in ourselves. You alone can take all of our messes and all of the junk we accumulate in our hearts, and create something beautiful.

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the LORD JESUS, to testify to the Gospel of the Grace of GOD.” – Acts 20:24 ESV Amen.

And the ONE who was seated on the throne said, “See, I Am making all things new.” – Revelation 21:5 NRSV

The LORD Is My Portion

The author of the book of Lamentations is disputed, but regardless of whether it was Jeremiah, his scribe, or someone else, it is a book expressing deep torment. It was written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BC. At one particularly bleak period in my life, had I the eloquence of Jeremiah, I could have written this about my own life. These verses can apply to both our physical lives and our spiritual lives. Can you relate it to your life?

“The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.” – Lamentations 3:19‭ NRSV

Despite his sorrow and angst, Jeremiah doesn’t lose his trust in the LORD. Like David, Jeremiah suffered through soul wrenching sorrow, but his faith didn’t waver ….. unlike mine. I questioned GOD, I blamed GOD, and I cursed the situations I found myself in. I know – my choices, my consequences. When I finally said, “Enough! I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!” Then I could call out to JESUS, LORD, and allow Him to pull me out of the muck and he mire and the just plain ugliness of my life. Am I always thankful of GOD’s Mercies? Do I always accept His Portion and let contentment into my life? The answer is a resounding “No, I do not.” I am human, and my ‘feelings’ and emotions can overwhelm me. Sometimes I prefer to wallow in my self-pity, but a mentor said to me, “Feel sorry for yourself for 5 minutes, then get up and get on with your life.’ Don’t let the ‘shoulda coulda woulda’s’ run your life, because they will ruin your life!

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have Hope: The steadfast Love of the LORD never ceases, His Mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your Faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will Hope in Him.” ” – Lamentations 3:20-24 NRSV

I have HOPE in the LORD, AMEN!

Image of the prophet Jeremiah from Wikipedia Commons

Do Whatever He Tells You

Have you ever considered the life of Mary, the girl whom the Almighty Creator, GOD of the Universe chose to be the mother of His Son on earth? This girl, probably a teenager, who believed and followed Him without question? The angel of the LORD came to her – not in a dream, but while she was awake and she knew it was real!

“And he [the angel of the LORD] came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The LORD is with you.” ” – Luke 1:28 NRSV

I would have fainted, straight out! Not Mary. She listened to the message, and thought about it before answering – that’s not my strong suit, to ponder a thing before reacting or responding. She did wonder at the message, even asking the angel, “How can this be…?” That’s more like me – I want to know the What, the Why, the How?

Because she believed, and accepted GOD’s Will in her life – even though it looked impossible to her – she knew the Truth about her son, JESUS, from the moment of His conception, and steadfastly believed in Him throughout His life. When others scoffed, she praised. When He was tortured and killed, she cried for His pain. She supported everything He did with His life. His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”
John 2:5 NRSV

Oh, to have faith like Mary, and to be able to say to myself, without reservation, “I will do whatever He tells me.” Easy to say; difficult to put into action for me, because I’m a ‘bottom line” kind of person. I want to see the whole picture before I commit. How does it affect me personally? Our GOD doesn’t work that way…. or maybe He does, and in our human-ness we just can’t see it? What I forget is that He is watching out for me, not sometimes, but all of the time. He knows the bottom line, and He knows the turmoil, the frustration, and the sorrow we are dealing with. I forget that I am not alone, ever. He is with me to catch me when I fall, steady me when I stumble, and pick me up when I can no longer walk.

Is today a bad day? Are you frustrated, almost to tears? Are you worried to the point of being sick? Lately, I’ve had several of those days. Besides having a running conversation with GOD, what can we do? I recite the first couple of lines from the 23rd Psalm, “The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want,” and sing with Hillary Scott and the Scott family “Thy Will Be Done.” The anxiety may still be there, but I find a wonderful Peace when I let GOD take the fear. “What A Friend We Have In JESUS,” sung by Matt Maher – great reminder!!

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but My Steadfast LOVE shall not depart from you, and My Covenant of Peace shall not be removed, says the LORD, Who has Compassion on you.” – Isaiah 54:10 NRSV

Forever and ever, AMEN.

Image from http://www.fanpop.com

I Stand At The Door And Knock

The LORD said to John: “I reprove and discipline those whom I Love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear My Voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with Me. …. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the SPIRIT is saying to the churches.” – Revelation 3:19‭-‬20, 22 NRSV

JESUS is a gentleman, unlike His/our enemy who will slither into our lives through the slightest opening – just like the cockroach he is! Here in these verses from Revelations, JESUS is inviting us to the greatest banquet of all time! There’s no entrance fee, no tickets to buy, no bribes to be paid; just walk in through the door He is knocking on, the door to our souls that He is anxiously waiting to hold open for you – for me. No tricks, no lies, no fooling. Those things belong strictly to the enemy, who constantly bombards us with them. Why should we enter with the LORD now, rather than waiting? We need to be prepared, because we have no way of predicting exactly when JESUS will return and shut the door forever. He tells us what will happen if we aren’t ready when He returns in Luke 13:25 (NRSV).

“When once the Owner of the House [JESUS] has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘LORD, open to us,’ then in reply He will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ ”

Are you willing to take the chance of being locked out; left behind? Satan is busy busy busy these days, filling our ears with the lies that there’s no hurry to give up our sins or to go to JESUS now; after all, He’s been promising to return “soon” for over 2000 years! If you listen to the father of lies, he will convince you that it’s fine to stick with whatever we are doing, however sinful GOD says it is, because we are here, and JESUS isn’t. Lies; Liar! I tell you the truth; I lived that way for years until I finally recognized the deceitfulness and ugliness of the enemy of GOD. When we open our hearts to the LIGHT, all of the lies are illuminated in all of their darkness, to be seen for what they are. Being human, we want to slam the door shut so we can hide the blackness within – but it doesn’t work that way. Once seen, we cannot “un-see” the ugliness, but we can ignore it and pretend it isn’t there. (I tried that way, too. Tried and failed.)

Part of our journey with our LORD is to be transparent with others and to let the LIGHT of JESUS, our Salvation, show through all of our cracks and brokenness. He puts us back together, but I believe He leaves those imperfections on purpose. How else could we serve Him effectively when we are reaching out to sinners like us? We have the opportunity to let His LIGHT shine – or we can throw a blanket over it to hide it. It is a beautiful sight when that covering we put over the Light catches on fire. Talk about the LIGHT of the LORD! Where are you in your life journey? It’s said that there are two types of people: those who are in recovery, and those who need recovery. Let that LIGHT Shine! Open the Door quickly, before it is too late.

Does GOD Care About ME?

GOD said, “I Will be with you ….. ” – Exodus 3:12a NRSV

In Exodus 3:1-9, GOD shows He cares about Moses and the Israelites, even though He allowed them to spend 400 years in slavery. Verse 7: The LORD spoke to Moses through the burning bush, I have observed the misery of My people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings …..” GOD cared enough about them to step down from heaven so that He could meet Moses on his level, because it isn’t possible for us as humans to meet GOD on His level. He cared enough about us to send JESUS to us, to live among us and instruct us on how much He Loves us, and on how to remain close to Him.

Psalms 94:9, 14-15 NRSV tells us of GOD’s care for us – “He Who planted the ear, does He not hear? He Who formed the eye, does He not see? For the LORD will not forsake His people; He will not abandon His heritage; for justice will return to the righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it.”

He cares and He comes down to meet us – in the Garden, in the burning bush, in the giant fish that swallowed Jonah. He sent angels to Abraham and Issac and others to show His care and protection. When we focus on the issues/problems of our lives and not on the blessings that surround us – yes, even when – especially when – we are in the valley of the shadows, we don’t see His Presence. The binding of sin; frustration with circumstances, anger, jealousy, and etcetera: these things are blinders that the enemy uses to keep our eyes off of the LORD.

“The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for YOU are with me …..” – Psalms 23:1‭, ‬4 NRSV

A portion of my daily talks with GOD contain that first verse, and I have to remind myself that it has no room for any “buts” at the end of the sentence. I constantly remind myself to trust GOD to know the very best who, what, when, and how for me, not myself. – because my track record in life of choosing the “best” for myself is a huge fail!

Psalms 13 starts as a lament, and it is a prayer most of us have prayed in our lives. Verse 1: “How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your Face from me?”
I love how it ends in verses 5-6: “But I trusted in Your Steadfast LOVE; my heart shall rejoice in Your Salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.”

Yes, He cares! He cares enough for us that He left heaven and His Throne to live and die for us, and in doing so He conquered death and hell for us. “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name Him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”Matthew 1:23 NRSV

He is with us. What a fabulous thought!

Photo credit NewChristianBibleStudy.org

The End …. or A Fresh New Beginning

What happens when we die? Is there a heaven – is there a hell? Where is heaven? Absolutely. Both the Old and New Testaments record their existence. A classic example is the story JESUS related to His followers in Luke 16:19-31, telling of the rich man and the poor man. The story is impressive in the Truth that is shared, and a very poignant warning to those who reject our LORD JESUS CHRIST. As the rich man can see into Heaven, or Paradise, I see that as a part of the eternal torment of hell. He gets to see throughout eternity how beautiful is. The poor man doesn’t reply, and I think that goes to what John has written in Revelations 21:4.

“But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” – Luke 16:31 NLT

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” – Revelation 21:4 NLT

Read that second part of Luke 16:31 again, and consider the person telling the story – JESUS. He knows that He will be crucified and buried for three days, and that He will rise from that grave, and people will still reject Him. Because of this story, it is clear that as soon as a body dies, the soul is instantly transported to the heavenly banquet – aka Paradise, Heaven – or as quickly, the ones who reject CHRIST go directly to the place of the dead – aka Hell, Sheol, Hades. If we die before JESUS returns to destroy Satan, our corrupted bodies are buried and our indestructible souls go to one of these two places. We aren’t going to be in limbo, we aren’t going to purgatory, and we won’t be reborn into another physical body. After the Second Coming of our LORD, when He defeats the enemy forces led by Satan, then Heaven, the dwelling place of GOD ALMIGHTY, will come to our new earth. Those who have acknowledged JESUS as their LORD and SAVIOUR will come to abide in the House of the LORD, with the Creator FATHER GOD, JESUS the SON, and the HOLY SPIRIT. IMAGINE! Look at how John describes it:

“Then I saw a NEW Heaven and a NEW Earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down from GOD out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I saw no temple in the City, for the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY and the LAMB are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the Glory of GOD illuminates the city, and the LAMB is its Light. Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty – but only those whose names are written in the LAMB’s Book of LIFE.” – Revelation 21:1‭-‬2‭, ‬22‭-‬23‭, ‬25‭, ‬27 NLT

Will I finally get to meet you there?I pray it is so!

Televangelists, Lawyers, Used Car Salesmen, Politicians …….

Apologies up front to any honest televangelists, lawyers, used car salesmen, or politicians who are reading this and protest that they are not at all like these Pharisees! My experiences with the above have convinced me that many, if not most, are exactly as the Pharisees that JESUS calls out here.

“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of GOD; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.” One of the lawyers answered Him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.” And He said, “Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them.” – Luke 11:42‭-‬46 NRSV

There is some debate among Bible scholars about the epistle (letter) written to the Hebrews. Some say Paul wrote it, and others say it was written by a group of early Christians. There is also disagreement as to who, exactly, are the Hebrews it is addressed, but those are discussions to be taken up by others …. Whoever wrote this, to whomever it was originally written, it is also written for us – Christians, CHRIST-Followers – today. I firmly believe that a true Christian will be honest and above board, in business and their personal lives, holding their convictions over what “everybody else is doing.” None of us are perfect, no matter what field we are in: stay-at-home mom/dad, student, retiree, businessperson, politician, preacher, salesman, or attorney. Not one, because we are human, and humans are grossly imperfect, unfair, unfaithful, and vindictive. JESUS CHRIST is the ONLY Man who was or ever will be perfect.

“Dear friends, even though we are talking this way, we really don’t believe it applies to you. We are confident that you are meant for better things, things that come with salvation. For GOD is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for Him and how you have shown your love to Him by caring for other believers* [*Greek, for GOD’s Holy People], as you still do.” – Hebrews 6:9‭-‬10 NLT

We know that Salvation doesn’t come from good works, but that real good works, real love, and real caring behaviour, come only from our Salvation through JESUS CHRIST. Are you with me? More importantly, most importantly, are you with JESUS today, and FOREVER-more? Hallelujah if you are! But if you have to answer no, then I urge you to reconsider where you stand. Once you accept His Salvation, you have this promise to hold on to:

“And I am convinced that NOTHING can ever separate us from GOD’s Love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from GOD’s LOVE.” – Romans 8:38 NLT