Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Behold

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.' Luke 1:38, NAB


In my Advent devotional today, the referenced Gospel reading comes from Luke 1:26-38.  We're told the angel Gabriel comes to Mary with a somewhat troubling greeting – “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you” – as well as an overwhelmingly stunning announcement: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” (Luke 1:28; 30-32;35, NAB)

Can you even imagine? Being visited by an angel is jaw-dropping enough of an experience. But to be given a message such as the one which Gabriel delivered to this young, already betrothed virgin from Nazareth? Well, it’s hard to fathom. Especially considering the consequences for birthing a child sans the benefit of marriage back in those days and in that locale were, at the very least, to be shunned by fiancĂ©, family and friends, or worse: to be stoned to death.

Yet Mary doesn’t run and try to hide from the angel Gabriel’s presence (that would probably be my initial reaction); she doesn’t try to deflect and tell him that he’s got the wrong gal (me, again!), nor does she ask him to wait or to come back after she’s had time to consult with her parents, with Joseph or with her friends. No, after asking only one (one!!) question out of her youthful innocence, Mary’s humble, courageous response is this: “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38, ERV)

Today, where is God calling you to go? How is He calling you to be His conduit, His ambassador, His instrument and to be present in the lives of others? What is He calling you to carry, to birth, to nurture? To whom is God calling you to serve, to encourage, to console, to love, to forgive?



Dear ones, as this season of preparation winds down, and the celebration of our Savior's birth draws near, keep your eyes, ears and heart open for what God is looking to do in and with your life, and consider what YOUR response might be, no matter how troubling or astonishing His calling may sound. And don’t be afraid.


Friday, March 25, 2016

The Cross

'For people who are stumbling toward ruin, the message of the cross is nothing but a tall tale for fools by a fool. But for those of us who are already experiencing the reality of being rescued and made right, it is nothing short of God's power.' ~ 1 Corinthians 1:18, The Voice

If we believe that Heaven is merely a default destination for all, then are we not, in essence, making a mockery of Jesus’s death? Are we not, albeit unwittingly, with our ‘all dogs go to Heaven’ mentality, counting Jesus’s death as meaningless, and turning the Cross into nothing more than a Hollywood movie prop, an air-brushed car and truck decal or a common fashion accessory?








Today -- this solemn day we’ve come to know as Good Friday -- take some time to gaze upon the Cross of Christ, and when you do, consider these thoughts:

  • How do you view the Cross? What does it mean to you personally?
  • Are you thankful for the Cross, or offended by it?
  • Are you awestruck by just how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is…for you?
  • Are you humbled by the fact that the Son of God gave up the privileges of His Heavenly kingdom and set aside His rights of deity to come here to Earth to dwell among us, to love us, to serve us, and to give His life as a ransom for many?
  • Are you deeply moved by the fact that Christ gave up His body to be brutally beaten, broken and pierced…for you? For me?
  • Are you astounded by the fact that WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS, Jesus Christ died for us to demonstrate and to prove God’s incredible, amazing, unfailing love for us?

How do you view the Cross now? Do you still see it as a blinged-out trinket in your jewelry box; a piece of decor hanging on the wall in your home, office or an emblem stuck to your vehicle; a horrifying, offensive instrument of death to be avoided?

Or do you see it now, transformed by Christ, as a symbol of love, of life, of hope, of victory? Will you turn from it in fear and disgust? Or run towards it..and Him...with joy and abandon?


 \


Because Jesus didn’t remain in the grave, friends. It may be Friday, but Sunday’s coming. And with it, resurrection, salvation and new life!

"Men of Israel, listen to these words:This Jesus the Nazarene was a Man pointed out to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through Him, just as you yourselves know. Though He was delivered up according to God's determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail Him to a cross and kill Him. God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it." ~ Acts 2:22-24, HCSB

Monday, April 27, 2015

Afterthought


Go into a random store the day before a major holiday like Christmas or Easter, or days set aside to remember and honor those we love -- Valentine's Day, Mothers' Day and Fathers' Day -- and you’ll no doubt find a shelf filled with dubious looking items for sale (like a scented candle in the shape of a mini cupcake or a necktie sporting a pheasant) underneath a sign touting them as ‘Last Minute Gift Ideas.’ I’ve even seen one that read 


‘Last Minute Gifts for that Special Someone’ 

Listen – if that someone was THAT special, why would you wait until the dead last minute to buy them a gift (limited incomes and off pay weeks notwithstanding)? Yes, nothing says ‘I Love You’ like a tiny lump of wax resembling pastry, a gaudy tie, or some other lame item from the Clearance section of your local WalMart.

Or how about this one? Have you ever been told by someone:




“I asked all my other friends if they wanted to come with me to ­­_____  (fill in the blank here with some event or destination) but they all said ‘No’....and then I remembered YOU!”

Wow. Gee, thanks. Really, I'm honored.

Over the years, I’ve been the recipient of last minute gifts and invites; sometimes even left out entirely (intentionally or unintentionally) of one get-together or another. And sad to say, I’ve done the same to others.

It’s an awful thing to come face-to-face with the reality of being someone’s afterthought. Or even worse – realizing that you weren’t even thought about at all. As in totally off the radar. Not even on the list. Forgotten.

Thankfully, this isn’t how God operates. You’re not an afterthought to Him. In fact, the psalmist has this to say:

How precious it is, Lord, to realize that You are thinking about me constantly! I can't even count how many times a day Your thoughts turn toward me. And when I waken in the morning, You are still thinking of me! (Psalm 139:17-18, TLB)

And in Isaiah 49:15-16, God says, Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of My hands.


I like the Amplified Bible version of verse 16 even better: Behold, I have indelibly imprinted (tattooed a picture of) you on the palm of each of My hands.

Today and every day, grab on and hold tightly to this awesome, wonderful and comforting TRUTH that you are always on God's mind, that you are ever in His thoughts. You are never His last pick for the team; you aren't the recipient of some thoughtless, last minute gift; you are not a postscript to a letter written long ago but never mailed; nor a forgotten child left home alone. 

Instead, know that you are chosen, holy and dearly loved by the Father, Who is Love.


You are NOT forgotten. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Wisdom for the Way


Whether the journey is effortless or challenging,
the landscape lush or barren;

Whether the path is uncertain or familiar,
the terrain rocky or smooth;

Whether the seas are stormy or calm,
the skies cloudy or clear;

Whether the cup is full or near empty,
the drink bitter or sweet;

Whether the future is bright with promise or hidden in shadows
And you’re overwhelmed with joy or dread….


Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Whom Do You Seek?

1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Mag′dalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. 4 They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; 5 and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, 7 and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rab-bo′ni!” (which means Teacher). ~ John 20:1-16, Revised Standard Version

Out of all the stories in the Bible, the account in which Mary Magdalene encounters the risen Christ at the empty tomb is among my favorites.

I’m struck by several things here: that Jesus first reveals His resurrected self to a woman, entrusting her with the joyful task of announcing to the disciples that He is indeed risen – quite the radical and amazing act for that particular time in history, but that was Jesus – and Mary Magdalene’s love for and devotion to Jesus, which is so evident in her returning a second time to the empty tomb – to mourn the loss of her Lord, yes….but also, to search for His body so that she can bring Him back to the grave site.

'Why Weepest Thou?' by Simon Dewey
And then there are The Questions Jesus asks Mary when, as she’s weeping by the tomb’s entrance, she suddenly turns to find Him standing there, although she doesn’t recognize Him. Jesus, being Jesus, surely knows the answers to both questions, yet asks them anyway:

“Woman, why are you weeping?” and “Whom do you seek?”

It’s the second question that gets to me. Because I believe it’s a question that Jesus continues to ask even today, of each of us.

“Whom do you seek?”

A grief-stricken Mary Magdalene was seeking the lifeless body of Jesus: her Master, her Teacher, her Friend, her Lord. But once Jesus tenderly spoke her name and recognition hit Mary like a tidal wave, whom she found must have rocked her to her core. Whom she found was a very much alive Jesus, the Risen Lord; the Resurrection and the Life.

In this world, we seek many things: Fame, fortune, friendships. Answers to difficult questions and desperate prayers. Help, happiness, healing and hope. While there are many different people, places and paths through which we can seek to find any of them, there is only One in whom true and total fulfillment of any of our desires and needs can be found: Jesus, the Christ; the Risen Lord, the Living God, the Resurrection and the Life.


When Jesus whispers, “Whom do you seek?” what will your answer be?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A.D. 30, by Ted Dekker (a book review)

When I was first approached by PR agency Shelton Interactive and asked if I’d be interested in reading and reviewing a new, soon-to-be-published work by author Ted Dekker, I initially and immediately wanted to say a big, fat NO.

Granted, I had NEVER read a book by Dekker, although I’d seen the majority of his writings displayed on the shelves of township and church libraries, and local bookstores. But it was my understanding that his books were haunting, intense thrillers which are SO not my genre of choice.

However, the summary the publicist provided piqued my interest, so I decided to read and review A.D. 30, Dekker’s latest literary offering, which is due to hit the shelves on Oct. 28.

And after all my foolish apprehension and yes, I admit, a harshly judgmental attitude, I must say that I’m so glad I did! What a story!!


A.D. 30 is a fictional novel set during the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It’s the captivating story of Maviah, a young woman who is the illegitimate, outcast daughter of Rami bin Malik, a well-known and powerful sheik to the Bedouin people of Arabia. She, along with her infant son, live with her father, who has despised and rejected Maviah her entire life, and with her father’s Nabataen wife, Nashquya, the only one in the house who accepts and loves Maviah.

After a series of sorrowful occurrences and horrific, action-packed events take place in her desert hometown of Dumah, Maviah escapes the city under siege, and finds herself on a journey to Palestine, accompanied by two of her father’s best warriors, Saba and Judah. Once there, her mission is to find King Herod Antipas and form an alliance with him in order to save her father, who has been captured by an enemy tribe known as the Thamud, and the Bedouin people.

But unexpectedly, Maviah also encounters another King along the way – and quite a different King at that, who speaks of a Kingdom that is a far cry from any Maviah has ever known. His name is Jesus, or Yeshua, the Hebrew name to which He is referred throughout this book.

Each encounter she has with Yeshua, each incredible and radical teaching of His she hears, each amazing miracle she is privy to, slowly begins to change Maviah’s life dramatically. 

And finally, it is her faith and trust in Yeshua and His Way that will ultimately heal her and help her to deal with the surprise twists and dangerous turns that occur as she seeks to accomplish her all-important mission.

What I consider a ‘good read’ and a great book is generally one whose storyline causes me to carry the book with me wherever I go during the day so I can continue reading, and which keeps me reading far into the night after everyone in my family has gone to sleep. A.D. 30 is one such book. I could not put it down (although obviously, I eventually had to)!

In the micro biography on the book’s jacket, it states that Ted Dekker ‘is known for stories that combine adrenaline-laced plots with incredible confrontations between good and evil.’ I certainly found that to be true here.

Also, I absolutely love when a book enables you to experience what the characters themselves are experiencing – the physical, the mental and the emotional. The external and the internal.

And that happens for me here with A.D. 30, as Dekker paints an enormous linguistic mural, using a very fine, yet wonderfully detailed brush. His vivid, colorful descriptions and vast historical knowledge immediately swept me right into the times, the action, the excitement, the landscape and the emotions of this story.

The story itself is a little over 400 pages long, but for me, the real gem here is the 6 pages that make up the introduction that Dekker writes, entitled, ‘My Journey Into A.D. 30.’  

Here, we’re afforded a tiny glimpse into Dekker’s early life as the child of missionary parents, and how and why he came to write A.D. 30. From this portion of the intro alone, it would seem he wrote this as much for himself as he did for the benefit of other people:

‘For ten years I dreamed of entering the life of Jesus through story, not as a Jew familiar with the customs of the day, but as an outsider, because we are all outsiders today. I wanted to hear his teaching and see his power. I wanted to know what he taught about how we should live; how we might rise above all the struggles that we all face in this life, not just in the next life after we die.'

For those of us who feel or who have ever felt like an outcast -- invisible, betrayed, forgotten, unloved and abused -- A.D. 30 is also a story of hope and healing, through faith in Yeshua, one that we may be surprised to find (or not) parallel to our own life stories, although the details will obviously be vastly different. 

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a powerful and inspiring novel to read. Accept Dekker's invitation to 'enter this story if you like and see if you can see what Maviah saw. It may change the way you understand your Father, your Master, yourself, and your world.'



I’m so grateful and honored to have been given the opportunity to read and review A.D. 30, so many thanks go out to publicist Sara Pence at Shelton Interactive.  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Change

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever ~ Hebrews 13:8

Change – it’s a part of life.

Sometimes, change blows in like a much anticipated and welcome breath of fresh air with which we joyfully fill our lungs. Like oxygen, it is life-giving.

But other times, change hits us hard and unexpectedly, like a bomb being dropped in the midst of an unsuspecting people.


It’s unwelcome, frightening, and often, it can feel chaotic and destructive. And when it happens, we may do one of two things:

we run from it
or we fight it

Every day, each of us comes face-to-face with some kind of change, brought on by our own or someone else’s choices or decisions. We can run towards that change and embrace it, or we can run away and hide from it. We can joyfully accept it, or we can fight against it in anger.

Today, if you find yourself in the midst of change that you’re unable to accept; that you didn’t ask for and don’t want; that is cause for fear, dismay or unrest in your life, may I suggest another option?

Hand it over to God in prayer, and trust Him for the outcome.


For many, this may seem like the most difficult option of all. Because for those of us who would rather live with our heads in the sand and not have to deal with the various changes that confront us, this means even though we may give them to God, we would have to give up pretending they're not there and acknowledge them. 


And for those of us who are ‘control freaks,’ who refuse to hang up our SuperHero capes and would rather ‘fight than switch,’ as the old cigarette ad used to say, surrendering the unwelcome changes in our life to God and trusting Him with the outcome, well….to say that it’s difficult is a huge understatement. 


Because we ‘hands on’ folks NEVER like to be told ‘hands off,’ no matter how many times we may sing “I Surrender All” in church.

Today, maybe you woke up and your day began innocently enough. You were deaf to the sound of an engine roaring in the distance. You were blind to the shadow hanging over you as you walked out the door or answered the phone. You just went about your business, doing what you normally do, and then


Someone dropped a bomb on you, leaving you wounded, confused and perhaps, even afraid of what the future holds for you, for your family, for your school, your neighborhood, your place of employment.

Or even, for your church.

That actually happened to me this morning. While I won't go into all the gory details, I do want to challenge you, as I am challenging myself, to believe that you are in good hands.


Because you are in God’s hands.

Acknowledge and believe that whatever changes are occurring in your life right now, they may have surprised you – but they didn’t surprise God.

He knew about them LONG before you did.  He either purposely orchestrated them, or simply allowed them to take place.

And He has a plan. Whatever changes are happening, KNOW without a doubt that God is at work in them. 

Sometimes, He gives us a heads-up and offers us a front-row seat to what He is doing. Other times, He is at work behind-the-scenes, where we can’t see Him, and His plan is unknown to us.

Either way, we need to trust Him for the outcome.

Yes, life is filled with change. Seasons change. People change. Circumstances change.

But one thing NEVER changes, and that is our Lord God and His love, grace and mercy towards His children.

And because of this, we CAN let go of all the tough and unfathomable changes that come our way, hand them over to Him, and trust that He is both present and at work in them, for our good.


‘We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves Him’ ~ Romans 8:28, CEV

Monday, September 15, 2014

Giving God 7 Days

"I want God, not my idea of God." ~ C.S. Lewis

How much do you want God? And what would you give to show Him how serious you are about wanting to know Him and about having a relationship with Him; to experience His presence in your life; to hear His voice; to feel His hand upon you, daily leading and guiding you?

Would you give God a few moments of your time? Would you give Him a day or two...or three?

In these days of ALS ice bucket challenges and gratitude challenges sweeping through social media, let me throw another challenge your way, along with this question:

Would you give God 7 days?


Starting today, Lisa Whittle, author of the book 'I Want God: Forever Changed by the Revival of Your Soul', due to hit bookstore shelves on October 1st, is offering a FREE pdf with 7 days worth of devotionals, Scripture on which to meditate, reflective questions for you to answer, and some daily steps to take to walk with God in a new way.

You don't need to 'tag' anyone nor do you need to let everyone on social media know that you've completed each day's worth of devotionals and questions -- unless you feel moved to do so. Consider this a personal journey, one between you and God. So what you do with this challenge, should you choose to accept it, is completely up to you.

Interested? Intrigued? If you care to join me and so many other women who've already committed to giving God 7 days, here's your link to the page where you can sign up (and hey -- while you're there, why not check out what other folks like Sheila Walsh, Mark Batterson and Mary DeMuth are saying about 'I Want God,' and consider pre-ordering it?):

Soul revival is coming. Mine and yours. Are you ready for it?
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