Right now, I want you to think of the most beautiful wedding you have ever attended or seen pictures of. Maybe it was your own, but for me…I always picture the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.
My mother insisted we watch it live on television. She was particularly fond of the royal family, and liked to make a fuss over things like this. She would drum up enthusiasm from my sister and I by telling us, “It’s history”, or some such thing. Meaning that if we didn’t care about this then we didn’t care about anything in the world…EVER! The royal wedding prompted countless, “It’s like a fairy tale. It’s a real-life fairy tale”.
She, of course, was right. The royal wedding was truly magnificent in every way, and as close to a fairy tale wedding as any American girl would ever get. Lady Di had captured the world’s fascination in the time leading up to the wedding, and everything about her on that glorious day set the tone for many years to come.
She was the perfect princess. She was young and beautiful, full of spirit, yet proper enough for royalty.
Her wedding gown was just what every little girl had fantasized about their whole lives, but didn’t even know it until they (we) saw her in it. The scene of her exiting the carriage and walking down the aisle is something I will never forget.
Her groom, a real-life Prince no less, eagerly awaiting her arrival. The perfect bride.
It’s become very popular in our culture today to focus on the groom when he first sees his bride on their wedding day. You can find countless videos and pictures celebrating the reaction a groom has when he sees his bride adorned in her wedding gown for the first time. If you haven’t seen any of these videos, you should do an internet search and watch a few. They are pretty precious.
We’ve all seen this before – a groom stands at the alter, the wedding party in place, all the guests are there, and some kind of official is ready to perform the ceremony. Then, the traditional (or not) music begins to play, signifying the bride’s arrival.
Cameras roll, and capture everything from shock to tears from the groom when he sees the woman he so desperately loves, finally walking down the aisle to take his hand and begin the rest of their lives together as one flesh. So special!
Now, how do you think this groom would feel if people were hurling insults at his bride?
Saying things to demean her. Things to degrade her. Tear her down. Disrespect her. Mock her.
Maybe, “Well, she’s a bride for someone who doesn’t like brides”.
How about this…let’s don’t call her a bride. That’s old-fashioned. Not nearly “hip” enough. Let’s make up another word. Something that won’t sound so bride-ish. We wouldn’t want anyone to think that’s what she is.
Like, “Female In Waiting”
Wait…that’s not today’s PC.
How about, “Trans-Nuptually” something or other.
Sound ridiculous? Good…now maybe you’ll see just how ridiculous some of the current religious whims really are.
Churches today all across this country, and the world, have begun to employ tactics like these in a seriously misguided effort to appeal to the unchurched masses. All on a whim.
Many of these efforts are harmless, like preachers wearing jeans with holes in them and flip-flops.
Who cares? Jesus wore a robe and sandals. Wear flip-flops if you want, but preach the Word of God.
You can wear your Sunday best, but if you’re just a motivational speaker, or a good storyteller that can hardly be bothered to work Jesus into your little story…well, all the tea in China will never make what you are serving the Water of Life. Lost souls who attend your church will thirst forever if they rely solely on you. They will never know what Jesus spoke of in John 4:14, But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again—ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life. The saved among your congregation can never grow, develop, or even feed their spiritual needs. Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it for your salvation, 1 Peter 2:2.
If this is what you are doing, then you’re not a preacher…you’re a performer.
Other methods and ideas are strange at best, and can be downright spiritually dangerous.
One idea I find just silly is the new fad of naming our churches things that don’t sound like a church. It seems like some have fallen into the trap of trying to choose the coolest name out there. Something like these hipster churches: Rapture Riders, Mustard Seed Manufacturing, Daytona 500s, Love Matters Inc., or G³. (I just made these up, so I’m sorry if you go to a church with one of these names.) Now, I’m not sure what the point is behind this. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…it’s a tree? All I do know is, God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).
That brings us to some of the more dangerous aspects of these current religious whims. They deal more directly with the establishment of church.
Here’s an example of a motto that a great number of churches in the U.S. are using:
“We’re a church for people who don’t like church”.
Maybe you don’t see the danger in a tactic like this. It’s harmless, right? We’re just trying to reach people who have been turned off by traditional churches in the past. People who haven’t been to church in years. It’s just an advertising campaign. We’ll do anything to reach the lost.
Let me help you see this more clearly.
By mocking, belittling, degrading, and disrespecting the Bride of Christ we’re going to bring in more people?
Well, yeah…that makes sense. No doubt, they will come to you in droves.
But how do you think Jesus feels about what you’ve just done? The bride He so longs to be united with, the one He adores, the one He gave Himself for (Ephesians 5:25)…that is the one that you have just so ignorantly disrespected.
How hip and cool is that?
Wonder what that wedding video would look like?
The Church, as it is now, has not come into a complete relationship with Jesus. As Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 11:2, the Church is betrothed to Jesus. It is the responsibility of the Church to remain spiritually pure, I have promised you in marriage to one husband—to present a pure virgin to Christ. Let us look carefully at the next several verses from Corinthians:
But I fear that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be seduced from a complete and pure devotion to Christ. For if a person comes and preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or you receive a different spirit, which you had not received, or a different gospel, which you had not accepted, you put up with it splendidly!
What mighty and wise words!
The devil is so clever, so powerful. We must be ever vigilant and on the lookout for his deceitful ways. Of course he wants us to do things that will be unpleasing to God. Satan is the Father of Lies. That’s his job; to do whatever he can to damage, or keep you from even having, your relationship with God.
Satan wants you to look as much like the world as possible…when you were called to do EXACTLY the opposite! Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God, Romans 12:2.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, I say to you that we must be oh so careful in how we go about the Lord’s business.
Words do matter. I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned, Matthew 12:36.
Don’t get so caught up in trying to draw people in that you actually cross the line on a whim. Oh yeah, there is a line. If you are having trouble seeing it, you probably need to pray about that.
We can’t just put on all these shows and tactics the world finds appealing and then just sprinkle a little Jesus on top and call it good. You will answer for that. It’ll probably go a little something like this…Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity, Matthew 7:20-23.
Woe unto the churches and the people who have been deceived into thinking they were serving God, but they were serving the devil. Do not let your spiritual weakness become the devil’s gain. Any leader with a little charisma can come along and mislead others for their own selfish purposes. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves, Matthew 7:15.
Don’t be a victim. He that hath ears, let him hear (Matthew 11:15).
Our first love must be Jesus. Only Jesus. Nothing but the blood of Jesus. When a church puts that aside, makes Him secondary, or just forgets…they are no longer a church. You can have all the lavish productions, expensive music and sound equipment, first-class coffee and cappuccino bar, and theater-style seating you want…but it won’t change the fact that you are just a building. Four walls and hollow on the inside. Gone with the whim.
If you are afraid you may be in a church like this, or your church is heading down this path of deceit, pray. Pray hard. Go to the Lord and ask for His divine guidance. Beg Him to intervene. To enlighten your church leaders and other members. Search the scriptures. Ask questions. Never be afraid to ask questions in your church. The Lord will lead you if you let Him.
Dear Lord, I pray that my intentions here have not been misunderstood. Lord, I seek only to bring glory to Your great name. To never bring reproach on Your Bride or disrespect her in any way. I ask for Godly wisdom in discernment to choose only a divine approach to reach the lost and those in need of a church home. For I am weak and unworthy, and fully aware that Satan is ever present. Go with me now, lead, guide, and direct me, and give me an open and willing heart so I may hear Your voice. These things I ask in Jesus name, Amen.
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Abide in me, and I in you.
There are many lessons in John 15, as is the case in all of Jesus’ teaching. Something came to me in such a profound way today from it. It was something I’ve been struggling with for several months now. I felt I had a really good understanding of what the Lord was trying to teach me, yet there seemed to be something missing. Like I wasn’t quite done with it yet. Today…I got it, and I wanted to share it with you, because that’s what I do. I want everyone to know how good our God is, and I know there is someone somewhere who can relate to my experience. So…let me back up just a bit.
The house we built, and had lived in for the past 14 years, was on the market for sale.
We planned to live in a mobile home for a few years on some land we have and then build another home there. It is an older mobile home, very small, and basically being totally gutted for remodel.
Major downsizing going on, and while we were glad to be doing it for many reasons, for just as many reasons…it was hard.
Before the remodel was ready, our house sold. So, we packed up, threw away, donated, forced our children to take custody of, sold, moved, and/or stored everything we owned.
We have some wonderful friends who were gracious enough to let us stay in their little fishing cabin down by the river (no…I’m not making that up, although it does sound like a country song). I LOVE the water. I am sure I was meant to live on it somewhere. The fact that the river was in the backyard of the cabin, was very appealing to me. That was February. When the rains came in late April, two months later, we were forced to take up residence elsewhere.
Now, I have to admit something to you. I knew if we moved to that cabin, it was going to flood.
I mean, I knew it was going to flood…didn’t matter if we moved in or not.
I get these “feelings”, like a sixth sense. I like to call it…JESUS. He talks to me. No, I’m not crazy, and no, I don’t just have bad feelings about everything or think the worse is going to happen. I’m a very positive person. Ask anybody.
But, the cabin is susceptible to flooding. Our friends have owned it about 4 years. It had flooded twice during that time. Not every year, obviously, but it does happen. My husband felt pretty confident that nothing would happen. It had just flooded, for the second time, a year ago. He figured there would be at least two years between rains that heavy.
His logic didn’t help me any. As much as I was looking forward to being there, I felt sure it was going to flood, logic or not. Only, I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t share how confident I was about what was going to happen. I mentioned it a couple of times, jokingly, when my husband made fun of me for immediately hanging things on the walls. This wasn’t a permanent home, and he thought it was a waste of time. I wasn’t trying to make it “homey” – although it was a nice touch to have some of our things taking up residence – I was trying to protect the things we had brought with us. If the pictures were hanging on the walls, I felt like they were safe from flood waters, whereas, if they were stacked up together leaning against a wall…well, you know.
The spring rains came, and the first heavy onslaught brought the river inches from the back of the cabin.
We both submitted to whatever the will of God was. If we lost what we had left…we lost it. So be it. We prayed and talked and sought refuge in the Lord. Even at that, there were a few anxious hours and one sleepless night where we wondered if we were going to be floating down the river on our mattress.
Through it all, we both were totally accepting of the possibility of our loss. I just walked around saying, “This world is not my home, Lord,” over and over and over. We had been on a journey of spiritual enlightenment and discovery for about a year and a half at that point, and we were learning how to let go of worldly and material things. We were understanding our purpose more clearly than we ever had before, and we were both growing closer and closer in our relationships with the Lord. So, we thought we were ready to face anything.
Just a few days later, the weather forecasts were calling for several more days of rain – 8-10 inches in some areas of the county in which we live. The ground was already saturated, and the creeks and rivers were heavily swollen.
The foundation of the cabin is about 5 feet high in the back, nearest the river. So, even when the water does get to the foundation, it still has to rise 5 feet to get in the house.
We weren’t sure what to do.
The conditions seemed like there was little hope flood waters wouldn’t reach the house. Yet, we had placed our faith in God just the weekend before and all was well.
Were we being weak?
Did we doubt God?
Was He testing us?
Where would we go? I mean, how many friends do you think I have that own an extra home we can just move into and live?
There was so much uncertainty. I felt like I had surrendered to ‘this world is not my home’ and ‘put God before everything else in life’. I really kind of felt like someone had just put me in a blender and hit the “pulverize” button. I was praying and seeking an answer, and I’m fully versed in God’s timing…not mine, yet I had no idea what to do and I just felt numb.
When the local emergency management agency publicized their predictions, my husband decided we would just put everything in storage and stay on our land in an RV he was going to borrow. That was fine with me. He went to check it out.
The rain would start in about 24 hours.
Just a bit later, he called and asked me to meet him in town. The RV hadn’t worked out, but he had a lead on a little rent house a friend of his owns that happened to be unoccupied. Cute little house, a little bigger then the cabin, and in a fairly quiet part of town. The house would be closer to church and closer to work for me. It wasn’t ready for renters. His friend was doing some renovations, but we could work around that.
So, we had a place to go. All was well…or was it?
Somehow, when we got back to the cabin…doubt, uncertainty, maybe fear, was there again. There just seemed to be no peace in any decision.
I had taken off work for the next day in anticipation of moving or something in preparation for flood waters, and to attend a funeral during the morning.
By the time I was leaving for the funeral the next morning, I still hadn’t felt in my bones what I was waiting to feel…wanting to feel. My husband was unable to reach the first three people he called to help us move. He began to think we should just wait it out. We could stack things up and use the counter tops if the water actually came in the house.
It was all very frustrating, and I could see it was wearing on him. I told him we would do whatever he felt like we should do. I assured him that he and I could move by ourselves if we needed to, that he didn’t need to worry. I said, “You and I aren’t planning a funeral today. This is nothing. We can do this.” All we needed was each other and the Lord.
I hoped when I returned from the funeral, he would be in better spirits.
I received a very important message before I got to the funeral home. It was so clear, and so absolute. There was no denying it was the voice of the Lord. He was speaking to me.
In a very clear voice, He said, “I gave you a place to go…now go.”
I knew immediately, He meant for us to move. There was no doubt about it. He gave us that place in town and we were to move there.
I called my husband as fast as I could and told him what had happened.
While I was at the funeral, he was able to reach our three children. They all came and we moved faster than anyone has ever moved before. At one point, our oldest daughter, Dayton, said, “Mom, I’m so nervous.” I thought she was afraid the rain was about to start and I knew we had until evening hours, so I asked her, “Why?” “Because, it’s like ya’ll are in the Witness Protection Program and we have to hurry up and move you cause the mob has found you!” We had a good laugh at that.
We had to leave everything that was hanging on the walls. My husband and I were going to return to the cabin early the next morning and finish up, hopefully before the flooding started.
High flooding began in the middle of the night. All roads in and out of town were closed.
We were safe on high ground in the new house, but we worried about how high the water was at the cabin.
The next day we discovered the water had gotten up to a foot high all throughout the cabin. There was mud and water everywhere. The stuff on the walls was safe, and we had definitely made the right decision to move.
Two days after the move, I was unpacking a box that had a daily devotional flip book in it that was given to us by a lovely couple we go to church with. In all the craziness the previous 6 or 7 days had bestowed upon us, I hadn’t kept up with the daily readings. I flipped over to the devotional for the day of the flood, April 28, the day that had begun with such turmoil and indecision. Here is what it said,
As you look into the day that stretches out before you, you see many choice-points along the way. The myriad of possibilities these choices present can confuse you. Draw your mind back to the threshold of this day, where I stand beside you, lovingly preparing you for what is ahead.
You must make your choices one at a time, since each is contingent upon the decisions that precedes it. Instead of trying to create a mental map of your path through this day, focus on My loving Presence with you. I will equip you as you go, so that you can handle whatever comes your way. Trust Me to supply what you need when you need it.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. —Lamentations 3:22-26
Talk about an eye-opener! I shared it with my husband, but he told me he already knew. He had read it that day when I left for the funeral. I asked him why he hadn’t told me about that. He responded, “Because it wasn’t for you…it was for me.” He was right about that. God had spoken to me in a different way that day, and He spoke to my husband through that devotional reading. He gave us both exactly what we needed when we needed it.
Now, I really thought one of the things the Lord has been trying to teach me over this past year is this world is not my home, but what I realized today, is it’s more than that. I was listening to a sermon by Max Lucado. His focus was John 15. Abide in me, and I in you. He began to explore the idea, “Abide in Christ”.
Abide in Christ.
What does “abide” mean?
The archaic definitions mean to dwell…to live.
Live in Christ. Make your home in Me.
Christ says, “Make your home in Me”.
And there was my ah-ha moment. All of the things I’ve gone through, it’s not just for me to realize things of this world don’t really matter, or I need to put God before everything else in life.
It’s more than that.
These experiences, my life, helped me not just understand, but really get in a way I never have before, that my home is in Jesus.
It’s not in a structure here on earth, it’s not in a certain possession, it’s not in my friends or family, and it’s not even in my husband who I love above all else.
My home, the place where I go to relax, to kick off my shoes, to get comfortable, to find sustenance, to find peace, to rest, to be taken care of, to be my honest and complete self…is with Jesus.
Not only when I finally get to Heaven, but now. Right now. Here, while I live in this world.
Something I’ve said repeatedly over the past two years is, “Jesus, you know my heart”. For some people, that may be a really scary thing, but for me, it is so comforting. He knows the truth about me. I don’t have to try to say the magic words to convince Him of anything or pretend to be something I’m not.
He knows…and I LOVE that.
He has taken care of me every step of the way.
His plan for me is being revealed, in His time, each step of the way. It is designed so, to draw me ever closer to Him.
I want to live in Christ, and in so doing, I am putting Him first in my life, and I will bear the fruit He wants me to bear. I won’t have to worry about how to do it…how to serve Him. If He is my home then I am a part of the true vine. The living vine. Fruit will spring forth naturally.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. —John 15:1-5
If you think that I’ve got it all figured out…I don’t.
Even though I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God would provide for us, that He would guide us, and He would be there with us no matter what transpired I still allowed myself to have some level of worry. But the moment He spoke to me, all worry, fears, anxiety, whatever…vanished. There was a purpose in His timing. Like when the Israelites were caught between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army and they began to yell at Moses, “Why have you brought us here to die in the wilderness?” They felt hopeless. They saw no way out. But God brought them to this place of hoplessness so He could display for all His overwhelming power, and show them that He is the One true God. Only God could save them, and how mightily He did. So many people throughout time that know the story of the Israelites judge them as being so stupid, so blind, so unbelieving. They had seen countless wonders of the Lord and knew His might, and yet they always doubted and were easily led astray. Am I not an Israelite? Have I not seen countless wonders of the Lord in my own time, and yet I still worry. And oh…have I been led astray. Like Moses intervened with God on behalf of the Israelites, Jesus intervenes for me. In my own ignorance, I have learned much, and have grown abundantly stronger.
I am constantly under attack by Satan.
I am weak and stupid. I need constant prayer, study, and worship to even be able to make it through the day, and I don’t want to make it through the day without spending a lot of my time with Him.
I have no idea what my future on this earth holds.
I only know that I have surrendered myself to serving the Lord. I know how much I need Him, and without Him I am nothing. I know how much He loves me, and I don’t deserve it. I know how much I owe Him, and I can never repay Him. I know how good He is, and I want to be more like Him.
I pray to live a life that is a testament for Him. Only. For. Him.
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It is a natural response to want to defend yourself. I don’t mean physically, like from a shark attack (good luck with that), or with a shield and sword. I’m talking about defending your character, your reputation, your religion, your political ideology, your sense of direction.
Each of us likes being right. We can even prove we’re right.
Sometimes we are right and the person we are defending ourselves to is also right. In those cases, we – of course- are more right.
To have a defense, there must be an offense. The offense is looking to invade your homeland and score some proverbial points. You, are trying to defend yourself against this offense. Therefore, defense is created by offense. Now don’t get lost here. This is kinda like, “I think, therefore I am.”
Defense is created by offense.
Defense occurs when there is a need for it…which is when someone, something, whatever, is on the offense.
If this were football, it would be pretty straight forward: the offense takes the ball down the field and attempts to score, the defense tries to keep the offensive team from being successful and regain possession of the ball.
Every now and then we aren’t actually defending ourselves though…sometimes we are just plain ole arguing. The only arguing in football would be whether to run the Chicken Little Flea Flicker on three, or just drop back and throw up a Hail Mary (football move…not a Catholic reference).
If you are an arguer, don’t you just hate those people who won’t argue back? Good grief! They are the worst. How dare they just sit there! That’s not right. That’s not fair. Don’t they understand the universal rules of human conversational conflict?
Wait…they probably don’t argue because they know you are right! Yep. That’s it.
You are right.
So, is there a difference between defending and arguing. Maybe. Depends on how it’s used. You can defend yourself with an argument based on evidence and sound logical reasoning. I was about half a step away from becoming a lawyer, so I can play with words all day, but there is no need for that.
My point today is – it doesn’t matter.
The life of a Christian is not played out in the court room or on a sports field. We don’t have to run around defending ourselves; trying to prove we are right. The Great Commission compels us to tell the world of the Gospel and of Jesus Christ. We need not defend ourselves for it.
I see too much of that going on today. Too much arguing back and forth with each other over religion, scriptures, point of view. Social media is full of groups, sites, pages, feeds, whatever, where people have just become addicted to arguing with each other. Instead of being a forum for growth and sound Biblical learning, many of these avenues on social media are just the opposite. Many people on these Christian sites cannot wait to pounce on any post and nitpick the most ridiculous things. Then they just sit and wait for someone else to comment so they can go back and reply.
For what? Is someone somewhere keeping a score card of all the “points” you’ve made each time you hit reply? What are you going to do with that score card? Can you cash it in when you get to Heaven for a Premium-Grade Gold Street specially laid for you to walk on instead of just those regular old streets of gold?
I’m not talking about teaching someone the Word. That is not what I see happening. I see people spending countless hours arguing.
Arguing for the sake of arguing.
Wanting to be right.
Looking to score points.
Some incredibly negative things can happen when you allow yourself to become involved in these cycles of defense and argument.
First of all, and most importantly, you are not putting God first. Now that may seem like a strange thing for me to say. You are defending your religion, your point of view on scripture, etc. So, you feel like you are putting God first. You just spent three hours arguing about God…how is that not putting Him first?
Anything that takes away from your time with God, is not putting Him first.
All that time you spent scoring points is time you could have spent in prayer, study, worship, or fulfilling the Great Commission. You just robbed yourself of valuable, intimate time with God or time you could have been sharing the Gospel. Again, let me be clear, there is a difference between Biblical learning and the negative cycle I’m talking about here.
Something else that all this bickering brings to my mind, is how is this possibly Christian behavior? We are to build each other up and love one another. I understand how a saved person could be misled or not be in the right Spirit, but just take a look at the letter Paul wrote to the Thessalonians. Love is at the forefront. Paul even admonishes them to seek to lead a quiet life and mind their own business, (1 Thessalonians 4:11). He goes further and tells them to comfort those who are discouraged, help those who are weak, be patient with each other, and live in peace, (1 Thessalonians 5). Wasting your time trying to score points is not doing any of the things Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to do. Your weak brother/sister in Christ needs your love, comfort, and patience to help them grow and learn the Truth.
I can’t find anywhere in scripture where we are to delight in the exalting of our own knowledge above our brother’s.
I believe that is pride.
We all know what pride comes before.
I, You, We…need to spend our time on more constructive ways to share the Gospel. If you are doubting what I’m talking about right now, let’s use Jesus as an example.
When He was finally arrested, He had all manner of accusations thrown at Him. The books of Matthew, Mark, & Luke show that Jesus said very little during His questioning. The most we are given comes from the book of John. Even as He endured being mocked, spit on, hit, and other physical abuse…He did not defend Himself, and He was right. He was more right than anyone has ever been, but as He tells Pilate, My kingdom is not of this world, (John 18:36). Jesus was fully aware of what was going happen to Him, I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice, (John 18:37).
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the issue is very simple: Jesus didn’t defend Himself or mindlessly argue, and you don’t have to either. Share the Truth with the world. Tell the story of Jesus. But don’t allow yourself to be drawn into a cycle of arguing or defending yourself. Don’t waste your time with that. I know that’s difficult; it’s going against your nature. But strive to be more like Christ.
The Truth speaks for you.
Jesus speaks for you.
Spend your time developing an intimate relationship with God, pray, study, worship, and serve.
Stay in the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.
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I secretly loved being scared when I was a kid. We’d watch the old monster movies – Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, Werewolf – they were awesome, and provided just enough fear to give you a thrill. When I got a little older, the movies got a little scarier. To get to my best friend Julie’s house, I had to travel down a stretch of road where some large, old trees hovered over the street. There were very few street lights in this part of town, and it was pretty eerie. Julie and I were always a bit apprehensive about traversing this stretch to reach the house at the end of our destination – if it was dark. At some point, we convinced ourselves that we were perfectly safe…as long as we didn’t hear the theme music from Friday the 13th. You know…the dreaded, “Che che che che che. Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah.”
Not every lesson my mother tried to teach me went the way she planned. One such time happened when I was about 15 years old. Mom called my little sister, Mary (who was 12 at the time), and I into the room and told us to sit down…she wanted to have a talk with us. I remember vividly, my mind racing back and forth, wondering what in the world she wanted to talk to us about. Had something happened? Was someone sick? What is going on? It was a bit odd to say the least.
One of my favorite times in church as a child, is when we would sing songs in our Sunday school. Often, we would perform one as a special for the congregation before the preaching service began. These children’s church songs usually had hand gestures or other body movements to go along with the words, signifying the ideas in the verses. I particularly loved, This Little Light of Mine. The version we sang went like this:
I was raised near the South Canadian River in a small town in Oklahoma. My family spent a lot of time on that river, noodling and swimming and searching for morels. I have always understood the power of its raging waters after the spring floods. A fact that was made all too clear to me when my brother, Robin, took me with him one day to hunt for arrowheads. There had just been a heavy rain, and he knew this was a great time to find them. Farmers had just plowed their fields for the spring planting, and the rain would help expose any treasure we sought.
The word “passion,” as most people know it today, comes from a French word associated with a state or outburst of intense feelings. However, the word is also associated with the final hours of Jesus’ life on earth. That “passion” stems from Latin and means suffering or enduring. It is most definitely what Christ did. He suffered more than we care to imagine. The passion of Christ begins with His time in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He began to really feel the heavy burden of what He must do, through His death on the cross. Jesus suffered so many things in those last hours: the betrayal of Judas, abandonment and denial by His disciples, arrest, trials, mockery, shame, and torture. These things He endured voluntarily.
I came across a little chart recently, that had a break-down of about 9 well-known religious leaders in the world today. I won’t name any names here. It doesn’t really matter the who…it’s the what that I’m more concerned with. I’ll get to that in a minute. The chart showed the amount of money each of these leaders and their ministries earned in a year. Let’s just say it was quite a bit more than the teacher’s salary I earn in Missouri. I can’t adequately assess these leaders solely based on how much they earn because I have no information as to how much of that money they give to God – and there is the what.
I saw The Wizard of Oz for the first time when I was about 3 years old. The movie had a powerful impact on me. I was mesmerized by it. I loved the singing, adventure, and friendships. So many scenes captivated me. I remember being very upset when Dorothy was trapped in the witch’s castle and the hour glass was almost empty. I was crying from fear she was going to die. I also cried, a time after this, when I watched The Cowboys and John Wayne was killed. I thought he was really dead. It was a relief to learn we don’t really kill people in movies; they’re just acting. So many things about The Wizard of Oz impacted my life, including the overarching theme: there’s no place like home.
One of my favorite stories to share with my history students in class has always been that of the Prussian ruler, Frederick the Great. Frederick ruled in the 1700s. He didn’t have a good relationship with his father. I like to tell this story because a lot of teenagers can relate to difficult times in their relationships with their own fathers. It also helps me connect with them the fact that they cannot blame their behavior on their past. Regardless of the circumstances in which they were raised, or of any event they may have experienced, the decision is theirs, and theirs alone, how they behave. They are 100% responsible for their actions. End. Of. Story.
For we know that if our earthly house, a tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
I’ve seen a lot of houses in my life. There are even shows on TV celebrating everything from the most over-the-top luxurious to the latest craze…tiny houses. My own experience ranged from the stately 3-story home of my grandparents (dad’s side) to the little more than a shack that my Mamaw & Papaw (mom’s side) lived in. My grandparents house is something I still dream about. It was so big! There were so many things to do and see. Visiting there was like a wonderland adventure.
More than 15 years ago now, I spent many days in a hospital room taking care of my mother when her time on earth was coming to an end. I slept in the bed beside her, fed her, bathed her, washed her hair, helped her brush her teeth, massaged her neck, talked to her, watched over her, and tried to comfort her during her pain and confusion. The emotions we all experienced during this time ran the gamut. My mother had not gone into this hospital to die. It was just another step in the process of getting her better, or so we thought. None of us, me or my three siblings, misunderstood the severity of the cancer that ravaged her body. Yet we were slow to accept the truth about how little time she had left. The reality of that fact would weigh heavier on me than anything I had ever faced before. So heavy, I all but crumbled beneath it.
This past summer, my husband and I went on a little vacation, and by that I mean I went with him to work for a few days. He travels a lot with his job. We spent a couple of those days in Kansas City and were able to attend a Royals baseball game. We hadn’t been anywhere in quite a while, and even though it was a “working holiday”, I was pretty excited about getting to spend time with my husband and laying out at the hotel pool while he worked. The day we departed, he asked if there was anything particular I wanted to do while we were in Kansas City. I had been wanting to go to the IKEA that had opened there for a while so I told him about that. He didn’t really know what IKEA was and thought this was a questionable request. No more was said about IKEA for the next two days, and I figured by his dismissive response earlier that we would not be making a visit.
Several years ago, I had a profound experience with a young lady who was a student of mine at the time. I have known this girl since she was in kindergarten. She is the same age as my youngest daughter, Autumn, and they have always been friends. Her mother is also a dear friend of mine. Through the years, I’ve watched her grow and face all the challenges that many young people face, including the loss of her father while still in elementary school. Almost anyone looking at her from the outside would never know things in her life have ever been anything but rose petals and sunshine. She was always cute and bubbly, and had a million dollar smile. That just speaks to the power of her Faith, and is part of her testimony for the Lord.
Forrest & Jenny, Woody & Buzz, Sherlock & Watson, and Thelma & Louise. These are some of the most famous best friends of all time. But how does one acquire a best friend? Friends come in all shapes and sizes, and from all walks of life. They are born as your sister or cousin, or made from complete strangers. My sister, Mary, and I are very close, and true friends. Aside from my sister, I have a dear friend who is also my sister-in-Christ and we go to the same church. But growing up, my best friend was a little girl with blonde hair. She was sweet and kind, and she had a little sister about the same age as mine. I remember the first time I saw her. It was the first day of kindergarten. I was already in the classroom. I looked up, and she was coming through the doorway with her mother. Her hair was up in doggy ears, and I knew immediately that we would be best friends.
In 1987, a little movie called, Date With An Angel, came out. It was a silly romantic comedy starring Michael E. Knight (of All My Children fame), Phoebe Cates (of Fast Times at Ridgemont High fame), and the not-quite-as-famous, Emmanuelle Beart as the angel. It was no huge hit. It only gets 5.8 stars out of 10 on IMDB. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s funny and sweet, and oddly enough, one of my favorite movies. I can quote many lines from this movie even though I haven’t seen it for years. (After writing this, I am going to find it and watch it again though!) For all the movies silly little antics and scenarios, there is a scene at the end of the movie that I just love. The angel comes to escort Michael E. Knight’s character to heaven when he dies. It’s actually a beautifully depicted scene. I will never forget the first time I saw it. I got tears in my eyes. It was quite a surprise to have such a poignant moment in this funny little movie, and it was pretty close to how I had always imagined that moment to be like.
Mrs. Jones, my kindergarten teacher, had just explained to us what “Show & Tell Day” was. This was the first time I had ever heard of such a thing, and I was very excited about it. All the students were going to get to bring things from home, show them off, and tell about the item. Such a great way to get to know my classmates a little better, and a great way to let them know more about myself. We were all, pretty much, new to each other. I quickly began to look around the room and wonder, “What will Julie bring? Ooh, what will Tammy bring? Shane, what will Shane bring?” It was very exciting, and then I focused back on myself. What would I bring? How would I decide what was the best item to bring? This provided endless possibilities for me. I really wanted to “wow” the crowd. So, I decided on the best, most amazing, most interesting thing I had in my house…the brain.
I was just three years old the day my Sunday school class was combined with the older kids’ class. There weren’t enough little kids at church that day to have a separate class. I was a bit apprehensive about going in with the bigger kids. I wasn’t sure what to do. In the little kids class we would color, maybe get to cut something out of construction paper, learn a bible story, and sing. This big kids class had a totally different teacher. Her name was Betty Pollard. I was unsure of her knowledge of us little kids and our specific needs. I worried that we wouldn’t fit in, or that it might just be a waste of time for me. Betty got everybody arranged in their seats and quieted down for the day’s lesson.
I had my sigmoid colon removed after suffering with chronic diverticulitis in August of 2014. The nine months prior had been filled with numerous trips to the emergency room, CT scans, antibiotics, painkillers, and a five-day hospital stay. While my time in the hospital was about as lovely as it could be, it was my second hospital stay since I had been diagnosed with diverticulitis three years earlier. I was tired of being sick and tired. The sigmoidectomy had been done through a laparoscopic procedure and I was recovering quite nicely at home. About eight days after the surgery, I began to notice some discomfort in my upper abdomen. The pain became unbearable just after midnight on August 31st. I had developed a blood clot in my portal vein.