After the Votes Are Counted

 

trump-and-hillary

Did you know that it was God who ordained government? Romans 13:1 says, “… there is no authority except that which God has established.”

Sometimes we don’t understand His thinking; and sometimes we just plain don’t agree with His choice of leaders, so we must remind ourselves that even in the tough times God is still sovereign over all.

Whether this election goes your way or not, let’s remember that…
God is still in control.
Jesus is still His Son.
The Holy Spirit still comforts.
The Bible is still true.
Heaven still awaits all believers.

And, even though…
We still have flaws;
We still fall short of God’s glory;
We still need forgiveness, and
We still need a savior…

We can rest assured that God still loves us and patiently waits for us to come to Him so He can shower us with His love, grace, and mercy. When we do, He will show us how to extend His love to others…regardless of how they voted.

After the Votes Are Counted

trump-and-hillary

Did you know that it was God who ordained government? Romans 13:1 says, “… there is no authority except that which God has established.”

Sometimes we don’t understand His thinking; and sometimes we just plain don’t agree with His choice of leaders, so we must remind ourselves that even in the tough times God is still sovereign over all.

Whether this election goes our way or not, let’s remember that…

God is still in control.
Jesus is still His Son.
The Holy Spirit still comforts.
The Bible is still true.
Heaven still awaits all believers.

And, even though…
We still have flaws;
We still fall short of God’s glory;
We still need forgiveness, and
We still need a Savior…

We can rest assured that God still loves us and patiently waits for us to come to Him so He can shower us with His love, grace, and mercy. When we do, He will show us how to extend His love to others…regardless of how they voted.

The Wisdom of the Election Process

Voted

“Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world?” 1 Corinthians 1:20.

The election process has turned into one big fat mess. I first noticed something was slightly awry when I voted in the primary.

The “how to make my selections electronically” were explained to me before entering the voting booth. But once in there, I realized that I had to vote for delegates for my candidate–people I’d never heard of–and out of the gazillion delegates listed, I could only vote for 19 of them. What??? If I were voting for one candidate wouldn’t I want him or her to get all the delegates?

That just didn’t seem right to me. Now both parties are up in arms over the delegate count. Who gets what and how many, and how you can win the popular vote and lose the state. None of it makes sense when you consider that whoever designed that process also added into the rules that if the party doesn’t like the candidate who wins the popular vote they can change the rules at the last minute. What???

Foolish me for thinking that each of us has one vote for one candidate, and that one vote added to other like votes would go to one person. But that’s not how it works. We vote for delegates. I wonder why they don’t call it the delegate election. Hmmm. But then again, maybe they will since they can change the rules to suit themselves.

God has indeed made foolish the wisdom of the election process.

Is Christianity Making a Come Back?

Ash Wednesday

Have you noticed that politicians have finally tuned in to the rising up of the not-so-silent majority? 

In an effort to capture our votes, politicians are suddenly professing their faith in Jesus Christ; calling for a return to decency and doing what’s right instead of what’s politically correct; and most amazing of all, political pundits and some politicians themselves actually sported cross-shaped ashes on their foreheads on national TV Ash Wednesday.

Why is that significant? In a day when Christianity has been pushed off the public stage, ashes on the forehead make the bold statement to the world, “I belong to Christ, and I am not ashamed.”

It symbolizes that we were created from dust by Him and to dust we shall return… on His time schedule. So ashes on the forehead remind us of our mortality and encourage us to turn from our sins before we face our Creator on our own personal day of judgment.

Of course I didn’t understand all that spiritual significance when I was growing up. We didn’t have the Ash Wednesday ritual in my church. Or, if we did, I was unaware of it. But, like many teenagers I wasn’t aware of a lot of things.

So I was shocked when our teacher, Miss Phlegar, strutted into our sophomore English class at Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport, Tennessee sporting a sharp-pointed cross on her forehead that looked like it had been applied with a thick black magic marker. There was nothing subtle about it; but there was nothing subtle about Miss Phlegar either.

She was a joyful soul with twinkling eyes, a mischievous grin that made me wonder why she was so happy all the time, and a short perky haircut with turned up ends that always reminded me of what a teenage water buffalo must look like. She elevated her short, stout figure with thick three-inch high heels in which she strolled in front of the class as if amused by her authority. Miss Phlegar seemed to know who she was and whose she was. And, she was happy about it and behaved accordingly.

Not so today’s politicians. Their walk doesn’t quite match their talk. They engage in shouts, obscenities, and name-calling that violate the new covenant of love, grace, and mercy…but don’t we too on occasion.

It’s hard to tell if Christianity really is making a come back because we are all sinners still misbehaving, seeking forgiveness, and thankful we are saved by grace alone.

So while the vote is still out, I only hope. But God only knows.

Poor in Spirit

Poor in spirit

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

As a kingdom dweller, do you know what it means to be “poor in spirit?”

When I read The Beatitudes in Matthew 5 again, the questions I’ve had about “poor in spirit” came to the forefront. Perhaps you’ve harbored the same questions.

How can I be “poor” when I have access to all the glorious riches in heaven? How can I be “poor in spirit” when I have the Holy Spirit living in me? And how can I possibly be blessed if I’m poor in spirit? Much studying required.

Since this first beatitude is the bedrock of all others, we need to understand it. Jesus’ disciples did too. So as crowds gathered, Jesus took them aside to give them an outline of what being His disciples would look like; but first, He had to revolutionize their thinking because their message would change the world.

Over the years the Jews had showcased their status as God’s chosen people. They stuck to the Law–even added a few of their own–and paraded their prophets with puffed up pride, but in the process they became legalistic and withdrawn trying to save their faith for themselves. But that’s not what God intended.

In these first teachings, Jesus explained to His disciples that God’s people were not to be concerned with their outward appearance but with an inward transformation that would enable them to show God’s love, mercy, and grace to a fallen world. He was preparing them–and us–to be part of His kingdom. Thus The Beatitudes–or as some call them, “The Blesseds.”

To be “poor in spirit” means we recognize that without God we are lost, hopeless, and destitute: sinners saved by grace alone.

It means that we are to live our lives as He lived His–in the world but not part of it. But as we fight our earthly battles, we often fall under the influence of the prince of the air, while Jesus lived above the fray. He followed a different plan.

Even though Jesus was a human being filled with the same Holy Spirit who indwells us, He said only what His Father told Him to say and did only what His Father told Him to do.

When we compare our indwelt lives with His, along with all the I-me-my words we speak and all the things we do for ourselves instead of others, we discover that we are indeed “poor in spirit.” Spiritually in poverty.

Can we be blessed knowing that we’ve failed miserably as His disciples? Yes.

Blessed goes beyond happy. It means having an inner joy–the unexplainable peace that resides within that sometimes bubbles over and splatters on others. It’s the “I’m lapping from the saucer ‘cause my cup is running over” kind of joy that draws others to Him. We have that joy because we know that Jesus loves us in spite of ourselves.

Jesus knows that you and I will always fall short of His glory while we are here in this fallen world. We’ll never measure up to His standard on this side of eternity. That’s why He said we are “poor” in spirit. But at least we are His, created in His image to walk in His Spirit and do good works for Him.

As we recognize our need for God and look to Him–instead of others–as our standard for how we measure up, we understand that we are indeed blessed to be poor in spirit; and we look forward to the kingdom of heaven.

A New Strategy for a New Year

happy-new-year-2016

Have you ever lost heart, or your motivation, or your sense of purpose? I have. I’m there now. I feel like I’m just going through the motions.

As I walked Jethro, I said, “Lord, I know You’re with me. You live in my heart; but I just don’t feel Your presence.”

I really said that.

Then I started reading Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. From prison in Rome, Paul wrote to encourage the church not to lose heart. From prison!

If anyone had reason to lose heart, it was Paul. But he didn’t. Instead he chose to pray for us. As a result of his prayer, I sensed a new strategy forming for the new year–a strategy to seek God’s point of view more frequently so I can understand the bigger picture; and a strategy to ask Him for a fresh and more frequent infusion of His power, from His Spirit to mine, so I can come closer to accomplishing His will for my life.

Then it occurred to me. That’s a new year’s resolution I can keep. All I have to do is seek and ask. God will have to do the work. Happy New Year to me!

And Happy New Year to you, too.

May God crown your year with an infusion of His strength and goodness.

God’s Divine Plan

heavenlyhost

Have you ever wondered about God’s divine plan for your life?

This year as I re-read the Christmas story, I was struck by the way God confirmed His will for Mary’s life — that she was indeed pregnant with His Son — and how He continually reminded her that Jesus is His Son.

Through Gabriel, Elizabeth, the shepherds, Simeon, and Jesus Himself, God gave Mary many moments that caused her to think back, to ponder, treasure and marvel at how her son was God’s Son — the One Who would bring salvation to the world.

Gabriel revealed God’s plan
What a mind-boggling moment that must have been for Mary when the angel Gabriel appeared to tell her about God’s plan for her life. She was chosen to give birth to the “Son of the Most High.”

Her reply? She simply asked, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34).

Gabriel explained, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God,” (Luke 1:35).

Now, if somewhere in the deep recesses of your mind you are still harboring some doubt about the virgin birth, this account was written by a scholarly physician named Luke, who knew full well how babies are made. Then he researched the event to provide an orderly account for you.

If a residue of doubt still remains, consider the explanation that Gabriel gave to Mary.

“Nothing is impossible with God,” (Luke 1: 37).

And if you yourself have experienced the Holy Spirit of God coming alive in your life, you know full well that nothing is impossible with God.

So, from Mary’s humble and devout faith she replied, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as You have said,” (Luke 1:38).

Elizabeth confirmed Mary’s pregnancy
When Mary went to see her much older cousin Elizabeth, who was also experiencing a miracle pregnancy, she was greeted with a blessing.

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” Elizabeth exclaimed. “But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:42-45).

Shepherds confirmed Jesus’ birth
After Jesus’ birth, shepherds hurried to town to find Jesus. They told Mary and Joseph how angels had flooded the night sky with the light of revelation that the Son of God had come to all people.

Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart,” while the shepherds returned to their flocks praising God all along the way (Luke 2:18-20).

Simeon confirmed Jesus as the Lord’s Christ
Thirty three days after His birth, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to consecrate Him to the Lord.

Moved by the Holy Spirit, Simeon– a righteous and devout man filled with the Holy Spirit– waited in the temple courts, because God had promised him that he would not die until he saw the Lord’s Christ.

When Mary and Joseph brought Him in, Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God saying, “My eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel,” (Luke 2:30-32).

Mary and Joseph marveled at what Simeon said.

Jesus confirmed God as His Father
Twelve years later God continued to send Mary and Joseph reminders that HE was the Father of Jesus. After the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph were on their way back to their hometown of Nazareth when they realized that Jesus was not with them. They backtracked to Jerusalem and found Him in the temple courts sitting among the teachers who were amazed by His understanding.

Mary and Joseph were astonished too, but Jesus simply said, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).

Although Mary didn’t understand at the time, she “treasured all these things in her heart,” Luke 2:51).

This season as you re-read the Christmas story, I hope you’ll take time to ponder, marvel, and treasure all that the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, means to you personally. And as God continues to search your heart for a willingness to accomplish His divine plan for your life, may you respond in humble faith as Mary did.

“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as You have said.”

Voice Control

Go around

Jethro, my black lab, is half my weight but twice my strength. Walking him can be a difficult task especially when he’s being lured by a fresh or different scent. So it’s important to keep him under voice control.

In times of his enticement, he wants to leave my side to follow wherever his nose leads him like the other night when he kept trying to cross the street. Over and over again I had to stop, apply the brake on his leash, and say, “Go around,” to keep him out of the street and by my side.

Jethro knows what it means to “Go around.” He learned it the hard way.

Being a head-strong dog, he would often sniff his way to the far side of a tree or mailbox, get his leash wrapped around it trying to free himself, then look to me to get him untangled.

In order to enjoy an otherwise peaceful walk with Jethro, I taught him how to backtrack and get himself out of his own mess by applying the brake to stop his forward progress and saying, “Go around.”

Now I can use the same command to prevent him from following his nose to the far side of an obstacle in the first place. But on this particular evening our walk was a constant struggle–a battle of wills. Jethro’s will versus my will for him.

He wanted to walk on the side of the street where there were lots of new smells to investigate at a house that’s being renovated. His enthusiasm to explore far outweighed any possible concern for dropped tacks, nails, and other sharp objects in the yard that could hurt him.

Our twenty minute walk was a constant herky-jerky stop and go. He waited while I took two steps forward then tried to sneak behind me to cross the street. I’d stop, brake the leash, say, “Go around,” and wait for him to come back to my side before resuming our walk.

After we had gone through that routine numerous times, I wondered how God puts up with me during those times when I’m as stubborn, strong-willed, and prone to wander as Jethro is.

Jethro’s struggle also mimics the universal one–the desire to control our own destiny, to go our own way, and to do our own thing in our own time.

But the thing is, we don’t often know what’s best for us. We don’t see the big picture, so we make poor decisions. We go where we shouldn’t go; say what we shouldn’t say; and do what we shouldn’t do.

Struggling against God’s will for us is a struggle we tend to repeat. But God is good. His patience with us exceeds our patience with our circumstances. His love for us exceeds our love for ourselves. His grace is greater than all our sins and wrongdoing. His mercies are new every time we need His forgiveness. And if that weren’t enough, His gift of the Holy Spirit guides us with a loving yet convicting voice that prevents us from wandering too far from His side if we only listen.

Just like Jethro’s hearing me say, “Go around,” prevents Him from getting hurt or in trouble, our listening to and heeding our Master’s voice prevents us from getting hurt or in trouble, too. That’s why it’s important that we stay under the Master’s voice control.

I’m listening. Are you?

Down and Out? Look Up!

Fish symbol 4

Have you ever had a series of days when nothing seems to go your way? Trouble after trouble keeps piling up? Days and days that you’re supposed to be counting it all joy, but the only question you have is, “How? How can I count it all joy? It isn’t!”

I have.

While putting up my gheenoe for the winter, I ripped a hole in my left calf on the trailer’s tail light holder and will be in wound-care for six weeks.

A couple of days later, I drove through some unknown, unseen something that made my lungs shut down immediately, so I’m on big drugs just to breathe again and wearing masks to avoid further damage from the mold and dust of dying leaves.

Then I went for another oil change at Walmart. I know–pure stupidity, but I thought I’d give them one last chance to get it right. I checked their shelves, told them I’d seen Motorcraft Synthetic Blend 5w 20 in stock, and asked them to change my oil with it. They did the deed in record time–30 minutes–and charged me $75. They said, “The price of oil musta went up.” I paid it, looked at the receipt when I returned home and discovered they had put Mobil 1 in my car.

And running in the background of injury, illness, and emotional distress is an ongoing battle with TVA allowing the guy who bought the lot next to me to cut down a live tree on my shoreline so it won’t fall down on his dock which hasn’t even been built yet. To add insult to injury, TVA is allowing him to ignore the rule that requires owners to build their docks 10′ inside their own property line. For the record, that would place his dock on dry land, 60′ from the water’s edge. He has no waterfront property, but he will cut down a live tree, build his dock, and park his 22′ pontoon in my backyard with TVA approval.

Count it all joy? How! I started counting my blessings.

1. The wound-care staff is warm, friendly, and really good at their jobs. I enjoy going there, and they will heal my wound.

2. Even though my lungs are ultra-sensitive to environmental changes, my doctors have me on meds that allow me to live a normal life and immediately deal with life threatening situations.

3. I’m all for giving people a second and third chance, but at least I have oil in my car and the money to pay for it until I decide where to go for the next oil change.

4. And I’m so blessed to live in my own home on a beautiful lake with wonderful neighbors who call to check on me if my blinds aren’t open when they pass by.

Counting my blessings changed my perspective. Then just this morning, Sarah Young’s JESUS CALLING reminded me, “Instead of wondering about what is on the road ahead or worrying about what you should do if…or when…, you can concentrate on staying in communication with ME [Jesus].”

Peace began to replace my inner turmoil. After breakfast I walked Jethro by the lot next to me that has already been cleared. I looked up to see a grapevine that had doubled back on itself to form the sign of the fish. And I was reminded once again that God is my ever-present help. He is with me always in all ways, and with Him, I can handle anything life throws my way. He promised.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

Knock! Persistence Wins

persistence

In teaching His disciples about prayer, Jesus made it relevant for them.

He said, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity [boldness] he will surely get up and give you as much as you need…to him who knocks the door will be opened.”

Knocking means never, never, never giving up. It requires the same kind of persistence and repetition that Jethro, my black lab, uses to wake me up every morning. 

I pretend to be asleep when he enters my room, but the sound of his 3-footed gait makes a distinctive sound as he limps down the hall, so I’m awake but playing possum by the time he arrives bedside.

He begins his persistent get-up-and-feed-me routine with a single “Woof” while sitting as close to my face as he can sit. The second “Woof” comes before I can count to ten. By the third “Woof,” Jethro has become a little impatient and puts his foot on my bed to push it for emphasis. Now, our morning routine has reached the critical point.

If I keep my eyes shut and quietly say, “Lie down,” I can buy two or three more minutes of sack time before he sits up and starts the routine all over again. But if I open my eyes when he nudges my bed, he starts a series of joyous body slams that shake my bed until I get up. Either way, his persistence wins.

Like the man in the story, I don’t get up to feed Jethro because he’s my friend or because he’s hungry. I get up to feed him because he’s not going away until I do.

Jethro’s “Woof,” nudge, body slam routine is equivalent to “Ask,” “Seek,” “Knock.” His efforts escalate until he gets what he wants.

That’s how we are to approach prayer.

If asking doesn’t generate immediate results, we must invest more time, patience, and persistence in our prayer lives, because God knows we need more face to face time with Him.

He knows we are a work in progress, and through prayer we are conformed to His will for us. So the amount of time it takes for God to conform us to His will is the amount of time it will take for Him to answer those prayers that require knocking. The more stubborn we are, the longer it takes.

So pray without ceasing and never give up. Go boldly and persistently before the throne of grace and keep on knocking until the door of opportunity opens, and you walk through it.

If it’s time to storm heavens door for a job you want, or forgiveness for something you’ve done, or salvation for a loved one, keep knocking!

“For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks the door will be opened.”

That’s a promise from the One Who keeps His promises.