Saturday, April 30, 2011

The True Meaning of Tolerance

Tolerance.  We hear this word used a lot today.  Mostly, it's touted by special interest groups trying to push their own agendas, and clearly these groups have no idea what the word really means.

Tolerance doesn't mean I have to agree with someone's opinion, belief, practice, lifestyle, etc.  But, the special interest groups act like this is a requirement or you're intolerant.

Tolerance as defined by the online dictionary is "a fair, objective and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc. differ from one's own."  To practice tolerance means to "agree to allow the right of something that one does not approve."

Did you catch that last part?  To be tolerant doesn't mean I have to approve of the special interest's agenda. Tolerance doesn't mean I must condone, accept as right, agree to embrace something I believe is wrong.  Tolerance means I can agree to let someone else believe differently than I do and agree they have the right to do so.

Somewhere along the way, the special interest groups have redefined tolerance.  Tolerance to them means I have no right to not approve of their agendas, lifestyles, beliefs, and practices.  To them, if I don't agree with them then I'm intolerant.  Nevermind that I would never discriminate against a person based on their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc.  Nevermind that I think it's wrong to mistreat any human being based upon their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc.  That's not good enough.  I must embrace things I don't approve of or else I'm a hate monger, narrow-minded, an imbecile, a weak-minded Christian, and of course intolerant.

I believe the Bible is the Word of God and it clearly explains what is right and wrong.   But, according to those who so strongly believe in tolerance, I have no right to believe as I do, and; therefore, I'm intolerant.  In other words, all of these people and groups really only believe in tolerance when it promotes their agendas, opinions, ideas, practices, and beliefs.

Jesus says Christians will be hated and persecuted because we believe in Him and the Father who sent Him.  And, I need only to look at comments that some of my friends on Facebook make to realize how true this is for Christians today.  The amazing thing to me is these people never think they may be hurting one of their friends by the ugly intolerant comments they make.  Or maybe, they don't care since I'm a Christian and they're not.  They're practicing the very thing they espouse to hate so much - intolerance.

What I do know is I'm not as tolerant as I once was.  Not because my belief about treating people as I would want to be treated has changed.  It hasn't.  I'm less tolerant because I have been insulted, demeaned, and shown intolerance because I believe in Jesus, God, and the Bible.  And, I suspect many other Christians feel the same way.  Our comfort though comes from Jesus himself:  "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."  (Matthew 5:11-12). 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Impossibility of Living a Holy Life Without Christ

I've made my way to the book of Numbers in my daily Bible reading.  I finished Leviticus last week and will finish Numbers early next week.  What has really jumped out at me as I've re-read these books is the impossibility of me, all by myself, living a life holy before God.

Read Leviticus 17 - 20 and see if you could keep all the laws, rules, and commandments in order to be holy before a Holy God.  It's just not possible.  It's evident no person could.  Compared to God, we are absolutely unholy.  Now, this conclusion; however, doesn't mean I shouldn't strive to be holy.  I most definitely should.  It just is so clear I can't do it myself.

I've never fully appreciated until now how absolutely helpless I am without the saving grace of Jesus.  We're unholy to God because we sin and don't even know we've sinned.  God can't look upon us because we're committing sins we don't even know are sins. 

The enormity of measuring up would be more than we could bear if it were not for Jesus.  Our hope lies in the fact that He took all our sins, known and unknown, and carried them to Calvary.  He is now our intermediary, who pleads our case before the Father.  Without Him there is no hope.  I'm so glad, I can call Him my Savior because He is. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

One Solitary Life

My intention was to post this on Monday to finish out the Easter season; however, the roaring tornadoes kept me offline.

I first read the poem One Solitary Life when I was a kid, and used it to begin and end my 12th grade English Thesis.  It was such a beautiful tribute to my Savior.  I wonder how many public schools would let you write about Jesus now?

The poem honors the most influential life ever.  I hope you'll enjoy the short video.

One Solitary Life Movie

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Third Day

"On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.  In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them.  'Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; He has risen!  Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galiee: The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and on the third day be raised again.'  Then they remembered His words." (Luke 24:1-8)

The dawn of the most glorious Sunday in the history of mankind has arrived.  The darkness is over.  Jesus, the Messiah, has risen from the grave, and He holds the keys to eternity.  The power of death has been shattered.  Satan has lost and is doomed to the very pit of Hell.

And for all who believe in Jesus, the Christ, the living God, the Son, the Saviour, our Redeemer, for all who believe in Him, eternal life awaits.  Oh death where is your victory?  Oh death where is your sting?

The very hope of mankind rests on the events that took place on this third day for without the resurrection, we are all doomed.  Praise be to God, Jesus lives.  Hallelujah He is risen!!!

(The video link below is not the greatest YouTube movie ever, but the song by Jeremy Riddle is glorious.)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

It Is Finished!

"The clouds had not yet lifted, the tomb was sealed and dark.  The cruel cross had crucified the hope of every heart.  The Son of God, the Lord of Life by death had been destroyed."

It's Saturday and the Light of the World is extinguished.  Darkness has fallen and fills the hearts of the disciples.  Their hope has been crucified on a wooden cross.

Peter wrestles with shame and guilt as he remembers how he has denied Jesus.  John still sees the horrific images of Jesus suffering on the cross, crying out to the Father, and dying.  The other disciples are hiding afraid they might be executed too.  And, Judas, the betrayer is dead.

This is a dark time indeed for the followers of Christ.  Jesus had told them this would happen.  Jesus had told them what was about to happen.  But, they hadn't understood.  For them all hope was gone.

Their reality on Saturday: The Romans still rule.  The people still suffer.  And, Jesus, the one they believed was the Messiah, is dead.  Evil has prevailed.  Satan has won.  Their hope is buried in a cold, borrowed tomb.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Darling of Heaven Crucified

"His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and His form marred beyond human likeness."  (Isaiah 52:14)

Isaiah's prophesy concerning Jesus is chilling.  I cannot imagine anyone being beaten so badly that he wouldn't even look human, but that's what happened to Jesus. 

Jesus suffered many indignaties from the time of His arrest until He drew His last breath on the cross.  After His trials, He was spit upon by the Roman guards.  To be spit upon is degrading.  A person feels violated and dirty.  I know because I had a street person spit on me a few years ago while I was walking back to my office.  I felt demeaned by this stranger who singled me out as the victim of a disgusting and hurtful act. 

Jesus was mocked and taunted about His diety.  He knew who He was, but He also knew He couldn't persuade those who tormented Him that He was the Messiah, the very Son of God.

Jesus was scourged by the Romans, who had perfected this torturous act.  They carried out the punishment using a whip with leather strips, which had bones and other sharp objects sewn to it with one purpose - to rip flesh and muscle from the victim's body.  As the barbs and hooks pounded the body, they dug deep within the flesh and when the lictor drew the whip back, the flesh was ripped in chunks from the victim's back.  There was massive blood loss during a scourging.  Bare, torn muscles would quiver uncontrollably from the trauma.  The Roman lictor stopped just before death, and many people went into shock from the trauma and blood loss.

After being scourged, Jesus was beaten about the head with a wooden stick until He was unrecognizable.  Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ probably comes the closest to depicting the scourging, but even it could not capture what Jesus endured.  We could still recognize the Christ in his movie as human.  Jesus, we would not have known.

After all this, Jesus was made to carry His own cross.  Most scholars will say He carried only a portion of the cross, but the portion He carried probably weighed 75 pounds.  And because He was strapped to it, the weight and the roughness would most certainly have further damaged His already hideous back.  He would have bled the entire route, growing weaker and weaker with each step.  "Oh to see the dawn of the darkest day, Christ on the road to Calvary."

At Golgotha, the Roman guards would have thrown Him to the ground.  Dirt and small stones would have been embedded in His back causing even more pain.  Next, He would endure the excruciating pain of having His hands and feet nailed to the cross.  The nails through His hands would have damaged nerves, which would have sent unbearable, fiery waves of pain searing up His arms. 

Finally, Jesus would have been raised up, suspended by His hands and feet.  If He moved to try to breathe, He would have aggravated the damaged nerves in His hands causing more horrific pain.  In crucifixion the body is in a position so the person cannot exhale.  And the very act of trying to breathe would be exhausting for a person who had just been nailed to the cross.  Imagine the agony if you had been scourged and beaten before the cross.  "Oh to see the pain written on Your face bearing the awesome weight of sin."

But, Jesus didn't just suffer physically.  He suffered mentally and spiritually, which for Him was more terrible than the physical suffering.  In His final moments on this earth as mortal man, Jesus had to endure the loss of His Father's presence.  In His final moments, God had left Him, and He faced death alone and condemned.  "Shameful sin, placed on Him.  The Hope of every man."

In the end, unable to exhale and too tired to inhale Jesus asphyxiated.  "Savior, Son, Holy One, slain so I can live.  See the Lamb, the Great I Am, who takes away my sin." 

Jesus, the darling of heaven, crucified. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Garden of Sorrow

"Tis midnight and on Olive's brow, the star is dimmed that lately shone.  Tis midnight in the garden now, the suffering Saviour prays alone."

"Tis midnight and from all removed, Emmanual wrestles lone with fears. E'en the disciple that he loved, heeds not his master's grief and tears."

Last night, our pastor preached on Gethsemane.  I had written this piece before church, and was glad to have someone who knew so much more than me confirm what I had written.   If you go to Central and you read this, it will sound much like last night, but I know a few of my non-Central friends read my blog, so it's new for them. 

Oh how deeply my heart hurts when I think of the anguish Jesus felt in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night He would be betrayed and handed over to the Romans. 

Even though He knew the outcome, His pleadings show how much He dreaded the pain, humiliation, separation from God, and finally death He'd face in just a few short hours.  He knew it was His mission, and He was resolved, as our pastor said last night, to accomplish His mission.  Still, He anguished because He was human too and as a human torture and death were unappealing.

"Tis midnight and for others' guilt, the Man of Sorrows weeps in blood. Yet, He that hath in anguish knelt is not forsaken by His God."  He was distraught to the point of death.  "And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground." (Luke 22:44)  The clinical term describing what was happening to Jesus is hematohidrosis.  When a person is greatly stressed, the blood vessels around the sweat glands constrict and then they dilate until they rupture, and the blood mixes with the sweat.

On the website, Christian Answers, an article points out it wasn't the physical suffering He would endure that caused Him the most anguish, but it was knowing His Father, God, would forsake Him as He took on the sins of you and me.  Barbara Lardinais on her website, Hannah's Cupboard, said taking on the sins of the whole world wasn't a done deal until Jesus said, "Yet not My will, but Thine be done." (Luke 22:42).  Jesus could have said, "Father, these people aren't worth it."  And God would have said.  "You're right, Son."  But, Jesus didn't say it.  He would endure in the last moments of His life, a life without God.  How horrible it must have been for the One who knew no sin, who had been in constant communion with the Father, to know He would die alone and forsaken to save someone so unworthy as me.

I feel certain God was there with Jesus comforting Him as his soul cried out in the place of sorrow.  And when He arose to meet His captors, He never faltered.  He knew He had to do it or you and I would be forever condemned.  "Tis midnight from the heavenly plains is borne the song that angels know. Unheard by mortals are the strains that sweetly soothe the Saviour's woe."

(Tis Midnight and On Olive's Brow by  William B. Bradbury)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Altogether Lovely

Our choir sings Here I Am To Worship often and it's one of my favorite praise songs.  "You're altogether lovely, altogether worthy, altogether wonderful to me."  I don't feel I can ever tell Jesus enough how beautiful He is.

The Bible tells us in reality there wasn't anything special about Jesus from a purely physical perspective.  He was ordinary.  He wouldn't turn heads, command attention, get noticed in a crowd.  "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him." (Isaiah 53:3)  And yet, He was lovely.

Our perspective of people is often formed by their outward appearances.  But all of us know at least one person who is beautiful on the outside, and vile and ugly on the inside.  Conversely, the least attractive people can be people we see as most beautiful because they are people of character.  They are selfless, compassionate,  and giving.  Their inner beauty outshines their outward appearances.  Jesus was one of these people.

As the song says: "He stepped down into darkness.  Humbly came to the earth He created.   All for love's sake became poor.  And took my sins upon Himself" to die a horrible, undeserved death on the cross.

What could be more lovely to me?  What could be more wonderful to me?  Absolutely nothing.

For a more scholarly offering click on the link below to read The Undesirable Jesus by Robert H. Farish. 
The Undesirable Jesus

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fairest Lord Jesus

One of my favorite hymns is Fairest Lord Jesus.  The music and words are so beautiful.  Munster Gesangbuch (what a name) was masterful in describing the magnificence and beauty of Jesus.

"Fairest Lord Jesus, ruler of all nature."  Jesus who could wither a fig tree that had no fruit. "Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves.  Then he said to it, 'May you never bear fruit again!'  Immediately the tree withered." (Matthew 21:19) Jesus who could calm the storm.  "The disciples went and woke him, saying, 'Master, master, we're going to drown!'  He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm." (Luke 8:24)

"Thou of God and man the Son."  Jesus, who was God.  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning." (John 1:1-2)  Jesus born of a lowly virgin girl.  "The angel answered, '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)  "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)  "Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor, Thou, my soul's glory, joy and crown." 

"Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands, robed in the blooming garb of spring:  Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer, who makes the woeful heart to sing."  Jesus who turns our mourning into gladness.  "The ransomed of the Lord will return.  They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.  Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away." (Isaiah 51:11)  "For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."  (Revelation 7:17)

"Fair is the sunshine, fairer still the moonlight, and all the twinkling starry host: Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer than all the angels heaven can boast."  Jesus who knew no sin.  Jesus the bright and morning star.  "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches.  I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."  (Revelation 22:16)  "His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them." (Mark 9:3)  "In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it...The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world."  (John 1:4-5,9)

"Beautiful Savior! Lord of all the nations.  Son of God and Son of Man.  Glory and honor, praise, adoration, now and forevermore be thine."  Jesus, my savior, who took my sins upon Himself so I might be free and have eternal life.  "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. " (Luke 2:11)  "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."  (John 3:16)  Jesus, who will reign forever.  "The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever."  (Revelation 11:15)  Jesus, who reigns over all nations.  "Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name?  For you alone are holy.  All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed."  (Revelation 15:4)

Jesus, whom I will praise forever.  “The Lord will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the Lord.”  (Isaiah 38:20)

My beautiful Jesus - the one and only.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sing to Jesus

The Easter Pageant is finished and while I'm happy to have some free time, I must admit I feel somewhat sad it's over.  We grumbled and laughed together, but we also encouraged each other and pulled together as a team to make this happen.  I think it's safe to say everyone wanted to do the best job possible.  And as wonderful as this was, there was something even better.  For me, it was impossible to push Jesus aside.  He was on the forefront of my mind because I was singing about Him, and watching each night the re-enactment of His life, death, and glorious resurrection.  I liked where He was last week and I want Him to stay the main focus of my attention and affection.

This pageant also provided an unexpected lesson for me.  One I hope never to forget.  If you know me, you know I suffer from stage fright.  People are always surprised to hear it, but it's true.  In part, I think it's because I know my vocal limitations, and then there's the desire to do things perfectly.  And because of my limited abilities and my many allergies, I can never be sure how anything I sing is going to actually turn out.

This year when Dave gave us the Easter CD, I listened to it and sighed a breath of relief because I didn't really think anything we would be singing was right for me.  I figured since I'd had a solo in the Christmas program and nothing seemed right, this was a perfect time to let someone else have the opportunity to sing a solo.  I don't want to be a solo hog.  I felt good with my decision and was sure it was made for all the right reasons.

And then, the message from Dave arrived in my inbox.  "Have you thought about which song you'd like to sing?"  I quickly responded I thought I'd give someone else the opportunity this time.  There was no reply from Dave.  With no reply I reviewed the CD again and determined if I were to sing anything it would either be All Is Well or Carry Him Gently.  So, I sent Dave a second message, which stated what I thought I could sing, but again I emphasized I really was good with letting someone else sing a solo this time.  Still no answer from Dave.

I found out the next night after choir practice Dave's computer had crashed and he hadn't gotten either message.  I told him what the first message said, and he laughed his "this isn't going to fly" laugh and asked what the second message said.  I told him.  He said one of the teens would be singng All Is Well, which made perfect sense to me because it sounded like a young voice on the CD.  (Allie did a great job with it too.)  So, I said Carry Him Gently.  Dave sang the first line in his best falsetto and said something like okay, Mary's song.  And that was it.  I left not knowing if I was to sing the song or not, but I began to practice.

A few weeks later it was official, and so I really began to practice.  It wasn't a complicated song, but as I worked on it, I couldn't get the words right.  I kept singing the right words, but at the wrong time.  And, then I got the horrible respiratory infection and couldn't sing at all for about a week.  In my mind, I kept hearing this:  "You were supposed to sit this one out.  Someone else should have gotten the chance.  You let Dave's email persuade you because you really want the limelight.  You're not doing this because you feel the Lord wants you too.  You're doing it for you."  And then I would agree with these internal recriminations and the real doubts began.  Would I be having such trouble if God really wanted me to sing?  Maybe the getting sick was God's way of making everything right.  I felt it was going to be a disaster.

I stressed and struggled, but I continued to practice and pray.  "Please Lord, help me.  Let me get well and do well.  Help me say the right words at the right time."  And then I learned that I was going to be front and center and Jesus was going to be placed in my lap.  Now, I not only had to sing, but I had to act too.  More stress, more prayer, more recrimination.

Saturday arrived and I had improved physically, but I continued to struggle with the order of the verses.  As we waited backstage between scenes I ran through the song over and over.  And the dreaded moment arrived and I nervously took my place front and center at the foot of the cross and watched expectantly as they lowered Marty (our Jesus) from the cross.  (I worried so for him each time they took him down.)  I was nervous and it was very intimidating to think I was about to sing to this man with such a beautiful voice, who was such a gifted singer.  But here came Marty into my lap.  The music began and I, as Mary, began to sing to my crucified son.  The dread and nervousness was gone.  I felt calmer than I ever have.  I believe, of course, it was the real Jesus who helped me through, but I also must admit Marty did too.  He lay there calmly and peacefully and I felt peace.

The other performances felt exactly like that one even though I said the right words at the wrong time during performance two and my voice nearly cracked in performance three.  I never stopped feeling secure and safe.

So, finally I get to the lesson I alluded to earlier.  No matter what is happening or what happens, if you just sing to Jesus, you'll feel the peace only He can give.  He doesn't expect perfection.  He only wants you to love Him just the way you are.  We can always trust He will have our back.  He's there for us when we can't make it on our own.

Was I really supposed to sing?  I don't know.  It was a wonderful experience and I am grateful for it.  It was a privilege to be a part of the show; it was a greater privilege to sing Mary's song; but the greatest privilege was to sing to Jesus and not worry about the audience or how it would turn out.  Jesus liked it out of order just as much as in the right order and that's all that really matters.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Do You Believe?

My church choir has been preparing an Easter Pageant, which we will perform this weekend.  This week has been very hectic and sometimes frustrating.  I've grumbled more than I should, but in reality, I've enjoyed working on it despite the long hours.  We may not be the best actors or singers (me anyway), but we've given it all we have to tell the beautiful story of Jesus' life.

Music has always moved me.  Many songs make me cry both secular and religious.  But, I think most religious songs affect me because they speak about God and Jesus.

On Monday night we met Marty for the first time.  Marty is Jesus and he has a beautiful voice.  It's a shame Jesus only has one song because Marty's very talented.  Marty, as Jesus, sings a song from 1979 written by Dallas Holm entitled Do You Believe In Me.  I've always loved this song because it's beautiful and the words are so powerful.

Jesus is asking His disciples if they believe in Him, but I hear Him asking me the same question.

"I've tried so many ways to show you My love, and show you who I am.  Sometimes I've wondered if you've ever learned, or if you understand."

I can hear the exasperation in Jesus' voice at how clueless I've been about His love for me.

In another verse, Jesus says, "This is My body that is broken for you; never forget what I've done.  This is My blood that is shed for you.  This is what makes us one."

And so I ask myself - do I forget what He's done?  And my answer is - I must because shouldn't the one who gave His life for me be the most important thing to me?

As I listened to Marty sing that first time I began to cry.  One of my fellow choir members was quite concerned about me and kept asking if I was okay.  I tried to reassure her I was fine, even though I cried through the whole song.  I cried because I know what He did for me and how little room I make for Him in my life.

Do you believe in Me?   Yes.
And in the words I say?  Yes.
And in Him who sent Me from above?  Yes.
Do you believe in My love?  Yes.

Do you believe in Jesus and what He did for you almost 2,000 years ago?  He wants you to believe in His love.  Afterall, He gave His life for you too.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Help To Overcome Unbelief

I have recovered from the horrid upper respiratory infection, and have just a few moments to write this post.  We are in the midst of our Easter pageant preparation, which takes place this weekend, and we have rehearsals tonight, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  I'm guessing I won't have another post until at least Thursday. 

Yesterday, our wonderful pastor preached about faith.  His morning message looked at the healing of a boy, and the father's faith in Jesus to heal his son.  The evening message looked at another father's faith in Jesus to drive a demon from his son.  The passage is Mark 9:14-29.  The crux of the message really was about how the father had faith, but he still wasn't without unbelief.

Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?" 
"From childhood," he answered.  "It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him.  But if you can do anything, take pit on us and help us."
"If you can?" said Jesus.  "Everything is possible for him who believes."
Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief."
(Mark 9: 21-24)

I can relate to the father.  I do believe, but most of my prayers are offered with a similar attitude.  I know God can do all things.  He controls everything.  He's in charge, but I don't know if I've ever prayed truly thinking He would answer me.  I hope He will.  I know he can, but I can't truly believe He'll do it for me.

Often, I feel my requests are really insignificant to Him.  Many times, I think I'm not worthy of His favor.  Whatever the reasons, the reality is I have unbelief.  And I don't want to not believe.

Right now I am facing a situation I want desperately to escape from.  It really is impossible from a human standpoint and I've asked God to please make a way for me to be relieved of this burden.  I know He can.  I have no doubt about it, but I, like the father, still feel the "if you can."  Or, perhaps it's, "if you will."  All, I know is God is the only one who can change the situation for me.  I cannot, and I want to believe without a shadow of a doubt He will...but I can't.  And so, I've asked Him, like the father, to help me with my unbelief.

My unbelief is something I plan to be very mindful of when I'm asking the Lord to help me.  When doubt occurs, I want to ask Him to help me overcome my unbelief.  It's only through His help and love unbelief can be conquered.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Radical Update

The post tonight is short.  I'm not feeling well today.  My throat is scratchy and has that hot, burning feeling.  It's not sore, just irritated, but it makes me cough and I'm just worn out.

So, I thought I'd do the Radical Update for this week.  I have two areas proving to be my Achilles heel.  One is weak and the other undone.  Weakness - prayer.  Now this really shouldn't be so hard.  I mean I have the opportunity to talk to the God of the universe and I can't seem to get myself to the point where I can do it regularly.  On the days I pray, I feel so much better all day.  Monday was an example.  Monday, despite the storms, was a great day from a mental peace standpoint.  I got up and read my Bible, got ready for work, and then prayed for about 30 minutes.  Yesterday and today, I  couldn't get going.  All I managed was to read my Bible lesson.  And, of course, I'm supposed to be focusing on the world in my prayer too.  China is this week.  I hope the Chinese aren't expecting a miracle to come through me because so far they're not on the prayer radar.

What has distracted me?  Rebellion and illness come to mind.  Who suffers because I don't make time to pray?  Me. 

The second area is multiplying my community.  I have no idea what to do.  Literally, nothing has come to mind and I don't feel the Lord has indicated anything to do, or even the people to do whatever "it" is with.  At least I have made attempts to pray, but this eludes me.

I'm reminded of what Paul wrote in Romans 7:15, "I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do."

I want a real relationship with the Lord, not one that is all about me running to Him when I need something and hiding when I don't.  I want to talk to Him regularly, but I don't do it. 

Therefore, I will conclude tonight by saying I will strive to do better so that I may report progress in my next update. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

When You Think You're Not Enough

This is not really a continuation from yesterday, but I'm still using the song I mentioned in yesterday's blog.  The song is "To Become Like Him" by Jenny Phillips and it begins:

"You look around you and you wonder if you'll ever measure up.  In this world it seems, you may never be enough."

This song rings so true for me.  I started out an outgoing, never-meet-a-stranger kind of kid.  I would talk to anyone and just loved being around people.  I was a vivacious, competitive kid.  My mom said I was fearless.

And then puberty hit and everything about me began to change.  First, my appearance began to change.  I went from this adorable kid, to an ugly duckling.  I was taller than all my classmates, and my features were suddenly not petite and cute anymore.  And, I say "ugly" because people let me know I wasn't pretty.  I never understood why people felt it necessary to make others feel ugly, but our society focuses on beauty and if you're not beautiful, it lets you know it.  

My coordination changed next and I suddenly was the worst at team sports.  I was the last kid to be picked for anything.  I was the kid the other kids made fun of, and so the joy of being a part of a team slowly died until I loathed anything that was team-oriented.

There's a scene in the movie Pretty Woman, where Vivian tells Edward about her life.  She says, "People put you down enough, you start to believe it."  Edward says,"I think you are very bright, a very special woman."  And Vivian answers, "The bad stuff is easier to believe."   For me, the bad stuff was all I could believe.

As I began to believe all the bad stuff my peers said about me, my personality changed too.  I wasn't the outgoing kid any more.  I was the kid who still craved attention, but wanted in no way to stand out.  I withdrew and became a quiet, try-to-fade-into-the-background person thinking if I made myself unnoticeable, maybe all the insensitive comments about my appearance and athletic abilities would stop.

As the years passed, I remained a prisoner of what other people thought about me.  And it's only been within the last few years that I've been able to even consider coming out of hiding.  And, I think about all the years I wasted trying to be invisible because now I see how foolish it was.  It's something I regret and of course must live with the consequences because the one thing we can't do is go back.

God made me.  It was His design to make me look the way I look and to not be very athletic.  There's a reason why He formed as He did.  I'm not sure why I couldn't have looked like Catherine Zeta Jones, but God had other ideas.  And the point to all of this is, the only thing that matters is what God wanted me to be.

In Psalms 139:13-16, we read:  13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

I was wonderfully made, but I couldn't see it.  I'm still very quiet until I get to know people, and I know in the looks category, I won't win any beauty contests, but I do believe I have something to offer.  As I've matured, I realize how important it is to make other people feel special, especially children.  The world will always tell those not pretty or handsome enough, not smart enough, not athletic enough, not from the right social standards that "you don't measure up."  Kids especially need to know God sees the real you.

Sandi Patty sings a song called, "You Call Me Yours."  In it she sings: "You call me beautiful.  You call me righteous.  You call me worthy of your Son's own precious blood.  You call me holy.  You call me strong when I'm weakest.  Forgiven and pure, You call me Yours."

I wasted so much of my life believing the world, but God thinks I'm beautiful because He created me.  And, if the supreme creator of everything thinks I'm beautiful, then why should I believe anyone else.  I shouldn't and neither should you.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Man Up, Moses!

My Bible studies have taken me back to Exodus where I'm reading about Moses.  During the last two days, God has been telling Moses to go and speak to the Israelites and then to go and speak to Pharoah.  Both times, Moses has tried to wiggle out of the assignment by telling God just how much he lacks in ability.  Each time God, no doubt impatient with this man for having so little faith in God to provide, has co-assigned the responsibility to Moses and Aaron.  I'm reading and thinking "Man up, Moses."  And then I'm convicted of all the times I've rattled off one excuse after another not to do what God wants me to do.

Whether it's Moses or me, we're so afraid we're going to look foolish that we miss out on the most important thing we could ever do, which is to serve God in a way He wants us to serve Him.

I love to sing.  I always have.  When I was a child, I would climb up to the top of my slide in the backyard and sing for the neighborhood.  I didn't think about how I sounded.  I just sang because I loved to sing.  I still sing, but not with the same love and abandonment I sang with as a child.  Now, I worry about hitting the notes right or forgetting the words.  I have tremendous stage fright and pray for days before I sing that the Lord will be with me.  I start a countdown about 24 hours before the dreaded moment and visualize how great it's going to feel to sing the last note.  And, why do I worry?  Because I don't want people to think I stink.  In my mind, I can just imagine people are thinking, "Oh no, not her again."  I worry what everyone else is going to think and can never feel the pure joy to just sing for the Lord.  And, what I really want to do is sing to the Lord.  I want to be able to forget all about the people in the audience and just sing to the Lord.

There are other things I know God speaks to me to do, and instead of following the finest examples in the Bible like Samuel who was always ready to say yes.  Or like Nathan, who confronted kings to remind them of how they had failed.  Or the best example of all, Jesus, who never backed down from fulfilling God's plan.  No, I do the Moses side shuffle to get out of it. 

I'll be singing again Sunday night.  You've been warned if you're thinking, "Oh no, not her again."  The song I'll be singing is called "To Become Like Him."  The main theme of the song is we are strongest when we walk with God.  Unfortunately, we let what other's think and our own fears rob us of the pure joy of doing what we've been called to do - to be like Him.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Oh What a Beautiful Morning

Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day...that's how I began my day after opening the door to let the dog out.  The song from Oklahoma just popped into my head and I went down the hall singing it.  As an aside, this song is the only thing I liked about the musical. 

It was a beautiful morning.  There weren't any major things that went wrong.  I got ready for church with time to spare and headed out the door marveling at how beautiful it really was.  On my way to church, I noticed people going about their lives, doing yard work, running, etc., and I thought to myself, "I guess they're going to miss church today."  And then, I thought how glad I was to be going to church.  For a minute, I pondered that thought because I must admit there are far too many mornings when I get up and think I don't want to go to church today.  I'm only going because I'm supposed to go.  And even though I go begrudingly, I usually do get something good from it.  I'd like for every Sunday morning to be like this one.  Me, happy to be up and headed to church.  Me, excited about going to church.  Me, excited to see what Pastor Wyman will preach on today.

The whole day has just been great.  I've done nothing worthwhile.  I ran by Kroger and got a few things to cook.  I went to Sams to buy gas because it was $3.42 a gallon.  I stopped at Sonic at Happy Hour to get a $.98 coke.  Exciting stuff.  And, in just a few minutes I'll be headed back to church for the evening message and choir practice afterwards.  And, I'm looking forward to it.

Today was a beautiful day.  It was another day the Lord made, and for me it was a great day to rejoice in it.  I hope you had a great day too.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Trusting Even The Troubling Bible Books

Yesterday, I finished reading the book of Job after almost two weeks of working my way through it.  I must admit I really dread reading Job and when I saw it on my daily Bible reading list I seriously thought about just skipping it.

The book of Job troubles me.  I wish it didn't, but it does.  I'm troubled when I read Satan travels back and forth across the earth because it makes me wonder if he's passing my way now and again, but of course I'm unaware because he's operating at the spiritual level and I'm in the temporal.  The thought is just creepy. 

Then, I'm troubled by the fact that God let Satan come to Him.  I know God is in charge of the universe and all created beings and things, and Satan was created.  Still, we read time and again how no one can look upon God because He is holy.  And, God cannot look upon the unholy.  But, there in Job Satan is right there in heaven talking to God. 

Next, I'm troubled because God let Satan torment Job in such a tremendous way.  I know He knew Job would be true and faithful no matter what, but I can't fathom God telling Satan to go do what you will with Job just don't kill him.  It bothers me that Satan might decide he wanted to see just how faithful I would be if he could have his way with me.  And then, I tell myself not to worry, God knows I'm not even close to being on the same level as Job, which is also troubling since I would like to be as righteous as Job.

Finally, I'm troubled because like Job when things go wrong I want to know why, but God says to Job and to me, "You don't have to know why I do the things I do.  I am God and I created you."  We humans want explanations and many times when God makes decisions we don't agree with, we demand to know why.  Job just reminds me God doesn't have to explain Himself to me even though I act like He should.  I act like He owes me an explanation for everything that affects me.  I act like I'm the creator instead of the created.

Of course, Job ends well.  He has more than he had at the end than he did at the beginning of the book.  And, if I am faithful I can have more at the end than I've ever had on earth.  And until that time, I need to let God be God, and remember I am created to praise and honor Him through good and bad trusting always the end will be better than the beginning.

Friday, April 1, 2011

President's Three Through Eleven and God

Many of you will be happy to know this is the last post on the presidents and their beliefs in God.  It seems after number three, Thomas Jefferson, our presidents became more and more voluminous in their other words they were windbags.  And, frankly their speeches have depleted me of all my reserves.

But, before, you get to see what three through eleven had to say, here's a little trivia.  James Madison had one sentence that was 357 words long.  I've never seen so many semi-colons in all my life. 

William Henry Harrison has the honor of giving the longest inaugural speech in history, over an-hour-and-a-half.  He also has the dubious honor of being the oldest president elected (until Reagan) and the first to die in office.  It seems his eternal speech propelled him to eternity when he contracted pneumonia and died a month after taking office.

John Tyler didn't give an unaugural address because he took office after Harrison died and then wasn't re-elected.  So really, my title should be Three Through Eleven Minus One.

It's interesting to note almost all the speeches ended with some reference to God, which must be how the presidents of our day got the idea to conclude their speeches with, "God bless America." 

Here's just a sampling of what you might find if you read the speeches.  I would suggest you do this on a night when sleep is eluding you and you need something to bore you into a superfluous stupor then coma.

Thomas Jefferson, also known as the author of the Declaration of Indepence, which started this whole study in the first place:

"Acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter—with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people?...And may that Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe lead our councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace and prosperity."

James Madison, Mr. semicolon:

"In these my confidence will under every difficulty be best placed, next to that which we have all been encouraged to feel in the guardianship and guidance of that Almighty Being whose power regulates the destiny of nations, whose blessings have been so conspicuously dispensed to this rising Republic, and to whom we are bound to address our devout gratitude for the past, as well as our fervent supplications and best hopes for the future."

James Monroe:

"Who restrained from offering his vows in the mode which he prefers to the Divine Author of his being?... If we persevere in the career in which we have advanced so far and in the path already traced, we can not fail, under the favor of a gracious Providence, to attain the high destiny which seems to await us...Relying on the aid to be derived from the other departments of the Government, I enter on the trust to which I have been called by the suffrages of my fellow-citizens with my fervent prayers to the Almighty that He will be graciously pleased to continue to us that protection which He has already so conspicuously displayed in our favor."

John Quincy Adams:

"I shall look for whatever success may attend my public service; and knowing that "except the Lord keep the city the watchman waketh but in vain," with fervent supplications for His favor, to His overruling providence I commit with humble but fearless confidence my own fate and the future destinies of my country."

Andrew Jackson:

"And a firm reliance on the goodness of that Power whose providence mercifully protected our national infancy, and has since upheld our liberties in various vicissitudes, encourages me to offer up my ardent supplications that He will continue to make our beloved country the object of His divine care and gracious benediction."

Martin Van Buren:

"Beyond that I only look to the gracious protection of the Divine Being whose strengthening support I humbly solicit, and whom I fervently pra y to look down upon us all. May it be among the dispensations of His providence to bless our beloved country with honors and with length of days. May her ways be ways of pleasantness and all her paths be peace!"

William Henry Harrison (I should have stopped an hour earlier):

"These precious privileges, and those scarcely less important of giving expression to his thoughts and opinions, either by writing or speaking, unrestrained but by the liability for injury to others, and that of a full participation in all the advantages which flow from the Government, the acknowledged property of all, the American citizen derives from no charter granted by his fellow-man. He claims them because he is himself a man, fashioned by the same Almighty hand as the rest of his species and entitled to a full share of the blessings with which He has endowed them...The tendencies of all such governments in their decline is to monarchy, and the antagonist principle to liberty there is the spirit of faction—a spirit which assumes the character and in times of great excitement imposes itself upon the people as the genuine spirit of freedom, and, like the false Christs whose coming was foretold by the Savior, seeks to, and were it possible would, impose upon the true and most faithful disciples of liberty...I can conceive of no more sublime spectacle, none more likely to propitiate an impartial and common Creator, than a rigid adherence to the principles of justice on the part of a powerful nation in its transactions with a weaker and uncivilized people whom circumstances have placed at its disposal.  {This is talking about the American Indians...that's a whole 'nother future topic.}..I deem the present occasion sufficiently important and solemn to justify me in expressing to my fellow-citizens a profound reverence for the Christian religion and a thorough conviction that sound morals, religious liberty, and a just sense of religious responsibility are essentially connected with all true and lasting happiness; and to that good Being who has blessed us by the gifts of civil and religious freedom, who watched over and prospered the labors of our fathers and has hitherto preserved to us institutions far exceeding in excellence those of any other people, let us unite in fervently commending every interest of our beloved country in all future time."

James Polk:

"In assuming responsibilities so vast I fervently invoke the aid of that Almighty Ruler of the Universe in whose hands are the destinies of nations and of men to guard this Heaven-favored land against the mischiefs which without His guidance might arise from an unwise public policy. With a firm reliance upon the wisdom of Omnipotence to sustain and direct me in the path of duty which I am appointed to pursue, I stand in the presence of this assembled multitude of my countrymen to take upon myself the solemn obligation "to the best of my ability to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States...Confidently relying upon the aid and assistance of the coordinate departments of the Government in conducting our public affairs, I enter upon the discharge of the high duties which have been assigned me by the people, again humbly supplicating that Divine Being who has watched over and protected our beloved country from its infancy to the present hour to continue His gracious benedictions upon us, that we may continue to be a prosperous and happy people."

Times have changed because it seems so many people don't think God has had anything to do with the greatness of our country.  But our forefathers seemed to get it.  We can't prosper and grow unless God is involved.  And, so I will conclude by saying, I hope God will still bless America.