Consumed with Whom?

Today, I swam upstream in a sea of shoppers. Browsing for the perfect Christmas gift.

Never mind that Christ came as the Lamb of God to Save people from their sins on that first Christmas,

Businesses are glad to Save me a buck this time of year (and spend one too) so long as I…..

  • Shop on a particular date
  • Use a coupon
  • Buy two items to get one free.
  • Mail in a rebate

After two hours, and minimum results, I called it a day. I don’t have the shopper gene, and gifts aren’t my love language.

My trash can is full of unread, glossy catalogs and holiday coupons. I delete email advertisements that urge me to “Hurry up and Buy.”

Even charities finagle how to guilt me into year-end giving—tax deductible of course.

I DO LOVE CHRISTMAS, but it makes me crazy that Consumerism has taken center stage over Christ.

We’re solicited to purchase Christmas gifts, but  learning how to receive the GIFT of GOD is taboo.

I get it. Not everyone who celebrates “Christmas” believes in the name of Jesus. Did you know there’s a giant Christmas tree in a Dubai shopping mall? Isn’t that city located in a Muslim country?

Sorry, rabbit trail….Let me point my finger back to myself.

I can sit on my Christian high horse and spout, Jesus is the reason for the season.” However, unless I’m intentional about my relationship with Him, I’m prone to wander through the merry month of December, consuming goods and calories.

Consumed with everything and everyone, but Him.

Ten years ago, I was confronted with my wanderlust. After the Christmas season, I packed the ceramic nativity set on my fireplace mantel before I noticed…

Baby Jesus is missing!

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No manger full of straw, no bright-eyed babe for Mary and Joseph to adore.

Wise men and shepherds kneeled, and yet the newborn King wasn’t around for them to worship.

Baby Jesus was on my desk, buried beneath clearance ads.

I cradled the tiny figurine. How did I go through Christmas unaware the Christ Child was missing?

Then again, my spiritual disciplines and time with the Lord weren’t on my checklists—buy gifts, mail cards, bake cookies, watch Christmas movies.

My all-consuming, weary efforts to celebrate Jesus’ birth that year were a vain attempt to possess what I already had experienced, and thoughtlessly forsaken, the joy of abiding in Christ.

Abiding, even in this…busiest, most wonderful time of the year.

Is Jesus missing in your life?

 

When Do We Give In?

Lord, can you hear me? How much longer till you send help?

My previous blog described how I’ve been praying for—victory, direction, wisdom—anything to know God’s listening and will rescue the hurting people in my life.

I KNOW I’m powerless to fix people or remove their problems. However,  prayer can feel like a losing battle; a waste of breath.

How long should I pray before I raise the white flag?

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Or do I heed Sir Winston Churchill’s challenge, “Never give in. Never, never, never!”

The Bible says, “Don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who plead with him day and night. Will he keep putting them off?” (Luke 18:7)

After I prayed on Saturday morning, it felt like God kept “putting them off.” I remembered someone telling me “Perhaps God doesn’t answer our prayers because He’s busy with more important matters.”

That’s not Biblically correct, but a busy signal (beep, beep, beep) seemed more acceptable to my friend than silence on the other end.

Likewise, I felt exasperated with the lack of answered prayer which really means I didn’t see tangible progress or what I thought people needed. So I decided to have fun.

After all, their problems aren’t my problem, right? 

Only, how could I have fun knowing the enemy (Satan) wanted me to give up intercessory prayer?

Instead of attending a Mandarin Festival, I drove to a retreat center where I could stroll and pray beneath an outdoor cathedral of autumn leaves.

 

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Although I’m not Catholic, I appreciated the Stations of the Cross along the ivy-lined gravel path.

One statue in particular made me sigh.

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As Jesus stands there, shouldering a heavy cross, Mary looks up at her son with imploring eyes and clasped hands. I imagine Mary begging Jesus to save Himself. But his response is an outstretched hand (like a sweet benediction) to calm his grieving mother.

Why do I ever assume God is deaf to our pleas or immune to our pain? 

God became flesh and lived among us. He learned firsthand about human pain and anguish. Not only for himself, but the people He loved.

Jesus could have said, “Enough! This isn’t my problem.” 

But on that dark, smothering night when…

  • Jesus knew He’d be crucified.
  • He was in “such a great agony of spirit”
  • Everything in Him pleaded, “Father, Remove this Cup!” 

Even when it appeared to others like a losing battle, Jesus didn’t give in.

“He prayed more fervently.” (Luke 22:44)

More fervent prayer empowered Jesus to overcome temptation and carry out His Heavenly Father’s will rather than surrender to the prince of this world.

Even now, Christ Jesus doesn’t give in or give up on His people. “He lives forever to plead with God on their behalf. ” (Hebrews 7:25)

If Christ is our example, when do we give in and stop praying for others?

Never, never, never.

 

 

When Rebels and Rules Clash

The Confederate flag is disappearing…

From National Park gift shops, state buildings, and license plates.

And because I descend from Southern blood, I feel the rebel rising in me. Don’t touch that flag. Don’t tell me what I can and cannot do.

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Lately, I’ve seen more confederate flags waving in California. Whether these flag owners have Southern roots or empathize—I do not know. But, 

A rebel lives within each of us. Does “forbidden fruit” ring a bell?

Raised in a military family, I grew up with rules and regulations. Then I temporarily joined the Air Force and “Yes Sir” became part of my vocabulary even when rules didn’t make sense.

No rebellion in this heart. Rules is what I do!

So imagine my frustration when I first read the Bible.

All I saw was the LAW: things I’m supposed to do; NOT do.

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The Book of Leviticus alone had so many rules, my head spun. What if I break a rule and don’t even know it?

As a youth, I didn’t have much Biblical knowledge, but I knew the Golden Rule. Jesus called it the second greatest commandment.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Talk about an impossible rule.

In longing for God’s favor, I became like the rich, young man who asked Jesus, “What must I DO to get into heaven?”

Reading the New Testament didn’t make life easier. For Jesus took the rules up a notch. Not only are we to avoid certain actions like adultery we’re not even suppose to think about it.

My formula for eternal salvation and a well-lived life disintegrated.

By God’s grace, I discovered His grace. 

He knew I couldn’t keep the rules.

Once I acknowedged what’s “impossible for man is possible with God,” I was in a position to receive His grace.

And allow God to do what I could never do: Redeem my soul.

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Since then, I still study the Bible and meditate on His precepts. Only now, I understand that I can’t even begin to live God’s way. 

Thankfully, Jesus is more than my teacher. He’s my Savior.

When the rules overwhelm me and I fail the rules, I remember God’s Spirit changes me from the inside out. He’s molding me  into His image one day at a time.

On those inevitable days:

  • When the rebel within me wants to have my own way.
  • When I start waving my flag—whatever that looks like—particularly in someone else’s face.

The Holy Spirit directs my attention, not to a Biblical rule or a civic law, but to my unchecked motives which tend to be self-seeking.

Then If I’m listening, and willing to obey, the One who redeemed my soul does more of the impossible. He suppresses my inward rebellion.

And enables me to surrender whatever stands in the way of peace.

When the Empty Nest Ain’t Empty

I mourned my empty nest when the last chick flew from home.

Veteran moms told me I’d adjust to the empty space. The solitude. Cooking for two.

They were right.

Bedroom walls—once plastered with posters and youthful fingerprints—were painted and turned into guest rooms.

Beds were always made because no one slept in them. Bath towels hung on the rod like soldiers in formation. Ready for inspection.

A tidy way to live.

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No dirt. No drama.

Living in that sterile environment fooled me. Made me think I had my act together.

Then all my chicks arrived—temporarily filling up the nest. Bringing their smiles. Their baggage.

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Suddenly, SELF is tripping over shoes. Cooking when I’m not hungry. Stepping on sticky floors. Washing dishes I didn’t use. Just like the “good, old days of child-rearing.”

And I’m aghast!

Not with my guests, but my SELF.

Accustomed to being in control, there’s nothing like sharing and serving others to realize—maybe I’m not as patient and selfless as I assumed. 

In self defense, my family becomes a handy excuse to NOT meet with the Lord. I’m on vacation.

Then wonder, “Where’s the fruit of the Spirit like self-control and joy?”

Only this time, praise God, I’m proactive. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

I may roll my eyes when someone leaves the light on, but I refuse to nag or stuff negative thoughts inside of me and look as though I’ve eaten sour pickles. Don’t want to implode.

Like the Proverbs 30 woman, I rise before my household. Not to meet their needs, but my own because it’s imperative to put on my oxygen mask first!

Alone with the Lord, I relinquish yesterday’s mistakes, disappointments, and small annoyances. Why give Satan the victory?

Then I ask God to show me how to be more like Christ while my empty nest ain’t empty.

However, I can only do what Jesus would do when I heed His words, “Come to Me” (Matthew 11:28). And then abide in Christ throughout the day, mindful of His presence, knowing….

Even in this—bustling nest filled with human bloopers and blunders—God will accomplish His predestined will in me as well as others.

“Molding us into the image of His Son.” (Romans 8:29)

One dirty sink and shoe-tripping day at a time.

Where was God?

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Where was God?

Where was the Almighty while twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christian men were murdered by ISIS for professing their faith in Christ?

Joshua 24:15 says, Choose you this day whom you will serve….

And on February 16th, 2015~~

Twenty-one Christians chose the name of Jesus!

This horrific event happened last month, but the image of these martyrs will not be forgotten. Not by me.

What about God? 

Is there any doubt that He saw these men dying for their faith, claiming the name of Jesus?

If so,then why not spare these men?

Why didn’t God step onto planet Earth and perform a miracle that would prove He is real, and turn the world upside down? And thereby show how much God loves His own.

The ones He chose and knows by name.

Actually, God did!

Two thousand year ago, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Jesus, the Son of God, spoke about the Kingdom of God. He performed miracles to prove His deity.

Then God demonstrated His own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us“(Romans 5:8).

But in case we forget, Jesus warned His followers: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18). “…If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you….” (John 15:20)

Where was God when the twenty-one Christians died?

God was present with each man.

Because His Spirit lives inside every Believer, and the Lord has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:25).

Twenty-one Christians died, but “their blood is the seed of Christianity.”

The words of Tertullian’s (A.D. 160-230) during the early stage of Christianity rings true today:

Proceed in your career of cruelty, but do not suppose that you will thus accomplish your purpose of extinguishing the hard sect (the Christians). We are like the grass, which grows the more luxuriantly the oftener it is mown. The blood of Christians is the seed of Christianity. Your philosophers taught men to despise pain and death by words; but how few their converts compared with those of the Christians, who teach by example! The very obstinacy for which you upbraid us is the great propagator of our doctrines. For who can behold it, and not inquire into the nature of that faith which inspires such supernatural courage? Who can inquire into that faith, and not embrace it, and not desire himself to undergo the same sufferings in order that he may thus secure a participation in the fulness of divine favor?