On Walking By Faith…

“We walk by faith, not by sight.”

Paul wrote these words to the church in Corinth.
I’ve been chewing on them recently.
Especially when I have been praying for some seemingly impossible situations.
In my relationships.
In my church.
And in this world.
So many messes!
So much to navigate.
Leading me to wonder, what does it really mean to “walk by faith”?

Of course, the first answer is the simplest one. The author of Hebrews said it this way:
“But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6, AMP)

Walking by faith means believing that God is who He says He is.
Taking His Word to be His Word.
Not shaping Him into who I want Him to be or even who I think I need Him to be.
But believing that He exists and that He is God.
And as God, He gets to set the rules.
The how-tos.
The stay-away-froms.
The “I-will-bless-you-ifs”.
He gets to decide all of those – not me.

And, of course, I cannot know Him for Who He really is without believing that His Words about Himself are true.
Something to be studied.
Chewed on.
Memorized.
And lived.
God as revealed in the inerrant Scriptures.

That is the first layer of what it means to walk by faith instead of sight.

But as I was thinking through some relational things the other day, I said to God, “Why is it “we walk by faith”? Why not “we walk by grace”? Or “we walk by love”?”

And it hit me.
It IS walking by faith that allows me to walk by grace. By love. In power. In forgiveness. In all the things I need for life and godliness.
Both for myself and for others.

I can walk in these things first concerning myself because I know – I confidently believe by faith – that the following is Truth:
God loves me.
Not because I am a good person. I am not.
Not because of anything I do.
Or how I look.
How I dress.
Speak.
Act.
Or even think.
None of that makes God love me.
He simply chooses to love me.
And nothing I have done or will do will change His mind.

He hates my sin, not just because He is holy and perfect Himself, but because He sees the damage it does to me.
To others.
To this world.

But He loves me.
And He has forgiven me
Past.
Present.
Future.
I stand forgiven.
Cleansed.
Made perfect in His sight.
Because He sees me both now, in process, and then, when I stand complete before Him.
And when He sees me, He also sees my record.
Every sin.
Every mistake.
Every failure.
And across the record, the word “Forgiven”.
By the blood of Jesus.
By Him taking my punishment on Himself on the cross.
I am free.
I am forgiven.
I am in right standing with God.

And therefore, I can extend all those powerful things to myself.
Forgetting what is behind, I press on.
Shaking off everything that makes me stumble, I run the race with my eyes fixed on Jesus.
And because He has been so incredibly gracious to me, I walk through this life striving to keep my life free from sin.
But knowing that when I mess up – and I will mess up – His love never changes.
His grace is still there.
And I am still beloved.

So I walk by grace, power, forgiveness, love – and all those other things – concerning myself.
Which means that I can walk by grace – and all those other things – towards you.
I have been forgiven much. I can forgive much.
I am dearly loved. It is possible to love you the same way.
I have the freeing knowledge that this life is not all there is, that this is just the title page to the book.
I can share that peace, that comfort, that hope in the midst of trials, with you.
I have freely received. I can freely give.
I have been bought at an extremely high price, redeemed. I can be extravagant in my love for you.
I am protected by the hand of Almighty God, surrounded by His angels, equipped with His armor and the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. I can fight for you in the heavenly realms against all the schemes of the enemy.
I have been given spiritual gifts in addition to my natural abilities. I can now share my blessings with you by using my giftedness for the Kingdom of God, giving generously of my time, energy and talent because I know that I can never, ever give away more than God has the ability to give.

Walking by grace IS walking by faith.
Claiming all of God’s promises for my life.
Not just spouting them.
Not even just remembering them.
But putting all my weight in them.
Living as though they are true.
Because I don’t have to see how God is going to protect, provide, comfort, guide, equip, or empower me.
I just know that He will.
Because I am walking by faith, not by sight.

And the very cool thing?
As I walk forward in faith, I can look back.
I can “see in my history the faithful love of the Lord.” (Psalm 107, NLT)
I can see how walking by faith – which is walking by grace, walking by love, walking in power, walking in forgiveness and more – I can see how those things have woven God-sightings into my life. Times I have seen Him work. Times I can point back to and say, “Look what He did!” Times when my faith becomes sight in retrospect.

Which gives me the impetus I need to turn back around, confidently walking toward an unknown future with a well-known God.
Taking the next step.
Because “we walk by faith, not by sight.”

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A Message To Those Who Mourn

All the days ordained for me came to pass on Sunday.

I slipped from this thing you know as life into that thing called death.
It was a surprise to me and to you that my body died that way.

But no surprise at all to God.
He knew before time began how my life would begin.
And how it would end.
He knew I would choose Him for myself.
And that I would become of follower of The Way.

He knew that I would choose to worship Him that day at a small Baptist church in Texas.
And He knew that a sin-soaked, sin-filled, hopeless man would decide that my life held no value.
But He also knew that the life that man took is not my real life.
That was just the earthly container that held the real me.
That man could harm my body.
But he could never harm my soul.

I guess you are thinking, “If God knew, why didn’t He stop it?”
He tried.
He whispered to that man’s heart long ago about His love.

But that man rejected His love.
And in His kindness, in His goodness, He refused to make that man a robot.
He gave him the ability to choose.
And that man chose darkness over light.

You probably feel sorry for me.
But, oh, please don’t.
I have seen Jesus face to face.
As soon as my heart beat the last time, He held me in His arms and whispered, “Welcome home.”
And then He took me by the hand and led me to His Father, to our Father.
Who gave me another hug and said, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter our joy!”

And what joy it is has been!
David gave me the details of his fight with Goliath.
Lazarus explained what resurrection really feels like.
Moses showed me what manna looks like.
And Queen Esther and I just hung out and chatted for a while.
I hugged my Grandpa for the first time in years.
And met my great, great grandparents for the first time.
But the best part has been hanging out with Jesus.
Asking my questions.
And soaking in His love.

So, yes, it was a surprise to face a gunman in my church the other day.
I had no idea that Sunday was the day I would transition from death to life.
That man thought he was doing something horrible to me, to us.
But his evil actions brought me to this place, to my home, to no sin, sickness, death or tears.
And I am so glad to be here.
So don’t mourn for me.

Miss me, sure.
But don’t spend your energies on what might have been.
Don’t cry because I am absent from you for a little while.

Instead, weep for all those who do not have hope.
Weep for the men, women and children across the globe who will not have this when they die.
Weep for those who do not know and have not heard about eternal life in Christ.
Spend your energy telling the world about Jesus.
Show them they have a choice – a choice to choose the Kingdom of Light over the kingdom of darkness.
Love them until they ask you why.

Channel your anger about this – about all horrors – against the enemy of our souls.
Stop fighting each other and fight him instead.
Stop living for yourself and seek first God’s Kingdom.
Stop thinking this life is all there is.

And get busy shining.
Being a light on a hillside city in a dark, dark night.
Changing the world one redeemed sinner at a time.
Sharing with them what you already know.
That there is hope.
That there is real life.
That there are real answers.
And real power to live a holy life.

That is the only way to bring peace on earth.
The only way that hearts are changed.
He is the only One – and the Only Way – to turn sorrow into joy, mourning into dancing, and death into life.

So do not weep for me.
Because I am good.
In fact, I am better than I have ever been.
I’ll see you soon.
And until then, keep shining.

On Communication… (Or, Us vs. Them, Part 2)

I was with a young friend, reading a story about a squirrel who stole Christmas bulbs from a string of outside lights.
As we read, he was getting wigglier and gigglier.
I finally asked him what was going on.
He said, “Bulbs…” (giggle, giggle, blush…)
I said, “There is nothing wrong with the word bulbs. It’s not a bad word.”
He said, “Well, it is not a nice word!”
I said, “What do you think it means?”
And he said, “You know, these…” as he gestured to his chest… “on girls.”
And the lightbulb finally went off for me!
“I think you mean “boobs”. Not the same word, my friend…”

True story.

And just like that, communication became twisted.
Unclear
Corrupted.

What he thought he heard was not what I was actually saying.
He framed it in his understanding of the world and we were off to the races of misunderstanding.
It took me stopping and clarifying for us to be able to continue maturely.

“Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]…” wrote James to all Christ-followers.

Because our enemy, Satan, wants just the opposite.

“How dare he say that! You better jump on that and set the record straight!”
Or…
“How dare she post that! I thought she was a better person than that! Unfollow!”
Or…
“I can’t believe they would say that! I know when I’m not wanted…I’m out of here!”

He prods us with our emotions.
Our histories.
Our past wounds.
Our perception of the world.
And then he tempts:
“Be QUICK to speak! Stop listening and say your piece! You have the right to be mad! You better get in there!”, he hisses.

Because that is his primary goal.
His fellowship with God got broken because of his pride.
He was cast out of heaven and out of communion with God.
So now he is on the prowl, like a lion searching for prey, according to Peter.
But here’s the thing about prowling lions.
They are pretty subtle at first.
They don’t announce their presence to the happily munching gazelle until it is too late.

And our enemy is a master at subtlety.
Because he knows that if he can pit Christ-follower against Christ-follower then he does not have to worry about those who are lost being found.
If he can shut down our communication within the Church, we will not be proclaiming Christ outside of it.
He is slick.
And he is on the job.

He uses all sort of things to do it, too.
Everything from furniture to worship styles.
What should be worn and what must not be said.
Who is in charge and where the money should go.
Styles of communication, personalities, race and gender all get pulled into the fray.
He really could care less which hot-button he pushes to divide us.
As long as we are divided.

And we get so caught up in the heat of the moment that we entirely miss the fact that we are fighting the wrong enemy in the wrong war for the wrong cause.
And more than that, we forget that the real enemy has already been defeated at the cross.
His fate is sealed.
But for a little while he has the freedom to mess with us.
Not because God is powerless.
But because He is merciful, “not wanting any to perish”.
He has given this world time to choose.
And entrusted us as one of the ways to present that Truth to a dying world.
But we get caught up in communication wars with each other instead.
Instead of praying for you, I talk about you.
Instead of choosing to listen, I choose to shout.
Instead of coming together as a beautiful bride for the coming King, we split into factions, into “us” and “them”.

And while we are busy miscommunicating, thousands of people by the minute slip through the portal of death into a Christ-less eternity.
And Satan wins a soul.

So wrong!  So sad!  Because  we have “all that we need for life and godliness” at our disposal. (2 Peter 1)
The “full armor of God” given to us to not “wrestle with flesh and blood” but with “the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places.”
The power of prayer. (Ephesians 6)
The same power that raised Jesus from the dead at work in us. (Ephesians 1, Romans 8)

But we fight the wrong enemy all the time.
And the person who does not know Christ says, “He’s no different than me. Why do I need what he’s offering?”

It is why one of the last prayers Jesus offered on earth was for us.
It was while he was with his disciples in the borrowed room, celebrating the Passover.
After he had washed their feet.
After he had given new meaning to a very old celebration.
And after Judas had slipped away to betray him.
Before he faced his humanity in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Before he told the Father, “I don’t want to do this. But I want your way more than my own.”
Before that, he prayed for you.
For me.
First he prayed for those in the room.
But then he said to His Father,
“I do not pray for these alone [it is not for their sake only that I make this request], but also for [all] those who [will ever] believe and trust in Me through their message, that they all may be one; just as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe [without any doubt] that You sent Me.” (John 17)

“That they may all be one…”

One heart.
One mind.
One message for a dying world.
One Body to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the hurting.

Communicating well.
And when we don’t, fixing it.
Genuinely loving each other.
So that the world will know we are His disciples by our love for one another.
“…SO THAT the world may believe.”

I plead with you (and with myself) today.
Be quick to listen.
Hear the other person out.
Listen to their heart behind the words.
Pray for discernment.
Put a lid on your emotional response, whatever it may be.

Be slow to speak.
Even when you are firmly in the right.
Even when they are firmly in the wrong.
Even when it is killing you to tame your tongue.
Even when you hate every word they just said.
Even when they attack your character.
Even then.
Slow to speak, even while “speaking the Truth in love.”
Slow to speak, even when giving correction or rebuke.
Slow to speak, even when you are in complete agreement.

And slow to become angry.
Yes, you will become angry.
Yes, communication is hard work.
Yes, you are two sinners bumping up against each other.
Yes, we are all deeply flawed.

But we are all deeply loved.
Designed by God.
Built for His purpose.
With plenty of Kingdom work to do that does not involve attacking each other.
And all the tools we need at our disposal to fight the right enemy.

Be quick to listen.
Slow to speak.
And slow to become angry.

Please.
Because eternal lives are at stake.
Not ours as Christ-followers.
But those who are not.
For their sake.
Please.

Us v. Them

I am an “us” in so many ways.
Except for when I am a “them”.

And so are you.
It all depends on who you talk to.
And the topic.
Who your friends are.
And who you would never call “friend”.

Because it is all about labels, categories and boxes.

I am a woman.
I am a plus-sized woman.
I am white.
I am middle-aged.
I am single.
I have no children.

I am politically conservative.
(If you and I have the same definition of that word.
For some of you, I am not conservative enough.
And for others, I am disgustingly conservative.)

I am a military brat.
I am patriotic.
(Depending on how you define that word.
And where you stand in the current cultural conversation on what that means.)

I am employed.
I am a home-owner.
I am rich.
(Depending on how you define that word.
And your understanding of how the world – the whole world – works.)

I am a person with hidden health issues – things that aren’t immediately obvious from looking at me.
But I am also a person who has been blessed with good health – relatively speaking.

I am an “us” if we match.
In race.
In gender.
In ideology.
In opinion.
In understanding.
In circumstances.

I am a “them” if we don’t match.

And, oh, how we love our “us-es” and our “thems”.
We bash the “thems” on social media.
Or perhaps just in our conversations with other “us-es”.
Sometimes overtly.
More often, covertly.
We let our emotions run our words and we spew.
Gaining momentum – or at least vindication – from those who think like we do.
Act like we do.
Feel like we do.
Look like we do.

Or sometimes we just stew.
Letting a “root of bitterness” worm its way into our hearts.
Where it grows into a plant of hatred.
Disgust.
Loathing.
Sometimes shown.
But often hidden behind a veneer of social justice.
Or, “That’s just how I feel”.
Or, “You couldn’t possibly understand.”

And you are no longer YOU.
You have become a “them” to my “us”.
A category.
A lump.
A box.

But what if…
What if God looks at the world completely differently?
What if He has only one “us” and “them” for the entire human race?
Because He does.
He divides humanity only one way:
Eternal beings, made in the image of God, dearly loved, bound for heaven.
Or, eternal beings, made in the image of God, dearly loved, bound for hell.
Based solely on what they did with the gift of grace offered by Jesus dying on the cross.
Accepted the gift.
Rejected the gift.
The only two categories that matter to God.

That simple.
And that important.

It is all through Scripture.
From the beginning when God said, “Let us make man in Our image”.
Every person, everywhere, created in the image of God.
An eternal being that will live forever. No, not your body – but your soul.
You are a being with thoughts, feelings, emotions, and will.
Creative.
Loving.
Designed for community.
And we were a completely unified “us” – until sin came into the world, separating us from God, creating the category of “choosing to be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb” and “choosing not to be”.

It is echoed throughout the Old Testament.
God made a group of people, the Israelites, His “chosen people” as a vessel for bringing His Word into the world. Both His written Word and the Living Word, the Messiah. They were a living object lesson of Kingdom of God.
But He also made provision for any “them” to join the group that chose to do so.
A non-Israelite could become one by choice.
A picture of the eternal “us” and “them”.

Beyond that, He allowed many of the “thems” that are highlighted in the Old Testament to be of questionable virtue, questionable heritage.
A woman who tricked her father-in-law into having sex with her so that she could have kids.
A prostitute from a completely different race.
And a woman from yet another ethnic group that sacrificed their children by burning them on the altar of their god.
Tamar
Rahab
Ruth
All in the genealogy of Jesus.
All “thems” who became “us-es”.

And then in the New Testament, Jesus went so far as to include every kind of outcast – every “them” for his culture.
Prostitutes and other notorious sinners were his friends.
Half-breed Samaritans, despised by the Jews because of their bloodlines, were welcomed.
Men who had betrayed their countrymen by siding with Rome, and then cheated their fellow Jews as they collected taxes, were welcomed.
The woman caught in adultery.
And women and children in general.
People wracked with diseases that kept them apart from the community.
Jesus talked to ALL of these “thems”. Ate with them. Lived with them. And provided The Way – Himself – for “them” to become “us”.

And finally, the New Testament writers after the cross reiterated this concept as well.
Paul wrote in his letter to the church in the region of Galatia: “There is [now no distinction in regard to salvation] neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you [who believe] are all one in Christ Jesus [no one can claim a spiritual superiority]”.

And again, in his letter to the believers at Colosse, he writes that they, as Christ followers, “…have put on the new [spiritual] self who is being continually renewed in true knowledge in the image of Him who created the new self— a renewal in which there is no [distinction between] Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, [nor between nations whether] barbarian or Scythian, [nor in status whether] slave or free, but Christ is all, and in all [so believers are equal in Christ, without distinction].”

One us.
One them.

Follower of Christ.
Believing in the saving work He did on the cross and through the empty tomb.
And therefore bound for heaven.

Or not a follower of Christ.
Rejecting His work on the cross.
And, therefore, bound for hell.

In all the clamor of our world and particularly in social media, remembering God’s view can be difficult.
It has to be a choice.
When my emotions are engaged.
When I go, “How in the world can he think that?!?” or “How dare she post that?!?”
When I feel misunderstood.
Or justifiably bitter.
That is when I have to choose.

I have to take my eyes of off now and put them on eternity.
I have to remember that that person – no matter who they are – is someone for whom Christ died.
And we are either going to live forever together as residents of heaven or they are going to burn forever as a resident of hell.
If the Bible is true, there is no other choice of destination.
It is either eternal life or eternal death.

I have to decide in that moment – and every moment – who I am.
Because I am a “them” to many, many people.
But before I am ANY category, label or box, I am a follower of Christ.
And He has given me two jobs to complete in this world:
Love God with all my heart, mind, and strength.
And to love my neighbor – ANY neighbor – as myself.

Because “they” need to know that this life is not all there is.
They need to know that heaven is real – and so is hell.
I have the information they need so that they can choose eternal life.
Will I really let our differences – their “them-ness” – keep me from sharing it?

Will I be known by my love?
For the “thems” that are Christ-followers and yet different than me?
As well as for the “thems” that do not yet know Him?

Because Jesus said that is the hallmark His followers – His love poured out.
On both the “us-es”.
And the “thems”.

On Serving the God of the Impossible…

For years I had a quote on my desk that said, “What are you doing today that proves that you serve the God of the impossible?” I have managed to lose the piece of paper and, therefore, the name of the original author. But it is still a question that resonates.

Corrie and Betsy ten Boom were middle-aged spinsters from Holland when they were imprisoned in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany.
They were not Jews.
They were Christ-followers who, along with their elderly father, built a secret room in their home to shelter Jews and help get them to safety.
They were discovered.
Imprisoned.
Treated brutally.
Their father died before ever reaching the camps.
Betsy died while in the camp.
But not before she and Corrie started a Bible study in their barracks, leading many women to Christ in a place where He appeared to be impotent. They had a Bible because God hid it from the guards when they were stripped naked and paraded before them on the way to the showers. And, while the guards would never have allowed such meetings to take place, their barracks had a flea infestation. So the guards stayed away. And the sisters became lights in unimaginable darkness.
Corrie was released from the camp. It was a clerical error.
The next day, every woman in the camp her age was exterminated.
She went on to write many books and to speak around the world about the love of Jesus and forgiveness. She was reunited with her family in heaven at the age of 91.

“What are you doing today that proves that you serve the God of the impossible?”

Amy Carmichael served for 55-years as a missionary in India.
She never married, although she had several offers.
But marriage would have taken her away from the hundreds of children who called her “Amma”, or “Mother”.
They were the disposable children, often sold into slavery as temple prostitutes by their families, hoping to gain favor with one of the millions of Hindu gods or simply so the family could eat.
Amy rescued as many children as she could. They lived, laughed, learned and loved at Dohnavur, which she opened in 1901. It is still in operation today, 116 years later and 66 years after her death.
When Amy was in her 60’s she took a walk one evening to inspect some work being done on the grounds. In the darkness, she fell into a freshly-dug hole and severely injured her back, leaving her bedridden until her death two decades later. She was in extreme pain for much of that time. But she used her time in bed to write, publishing 16 books in addition to the dozens of others she had already penned.
She could have been bitter about many things.
Instead, she was a light in the darkness – and a light that continues to shine to this day.

“What are you doing today that proves you serve the God of the impossible?”

Those ladies are some of my heroes.
But there are other, more modern heroes that are living proof of a powerful God.

My friends who are laying down their lives to care for elderly parents.
A sister in Christ who walked away from a life of addiction and is now raising two beautiful Kingdom-centered kids.
The man who refused to allow the need for a kidney transplant to stop him from planting churches, including mine.
My friends who adopted from China, even though it was a risk financially and emotionally.
Other friends who have profoundly changed the lives of two children by fostering to adopt – while still ministering well to the four they already had.
The man I know who went to prison without God and was released on fire for the Kingdom, in a relationship with the Living God because his Mother loved him unconditionally.

And so many more.

Each story is about a frail, sinful, broken human being.
None of these people are spectacular in their own right.
They definitely have God-given gifts and abilities.
But each one is “a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow”.
Just like you.
Just like me.

The thing that stands out in each life is that they are willing to take God at His Word.
To be faithful and obedient, regardless of the circumstances.
To truly believe that they cannot out-give God in any way.
To live by His power rather than their own.
And to live this life like it is not all there is.
Seeking first the Kingdom of God instead of their own agenda.

In other words, they are choosing with a thousand little choices (and a few huge ones) to prove that they serve the God of the impossible.

How are you proving that today?

Are you sticking with your marriage that is in trouble, even though you would much rather walk?
Are you giving God the best parts of you, rather than the leftovers? Using your time, talent and treasure to further His Kingdom here on earth?
Are you choosing His Kingdom first by loving as He loved? Even that ridiculous co-worker or the person who infuriates you on social media?
Are you giving as He gave?
Are you simply being obedient on what feels like a never-ending journey? Doing the next thing, walking by faith even when your eyes are filled with tears?
Choosing to trust Him even when your circumstances say He has abandoned you? Living by faith rather than feelings?
Forgiving the unforgivable?
Setting up the schedule and rhythms of your life so that He is a priority?
Guarding what your eyes see, your ears hear and your tongue says?

None of these things are possible for you to do.
And that is a great thing.
Because if we could live this life the way He has called us to live it by our own strength, then we would get the glory.
But when we live our lives the way He has called us to live them, HE gets the glory.
Because then we can do the impossible.
Because the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us. (Ephesians 1)
Because He specializes in using the weak to shame the strong. Making the broken, beautiful. (I Corinthians 1; Isaiah 61)
And using us in spite of ourselves.

When we live in the Truth that we serve a God who can do ANYTHING through a surrendered heart and obedient hands, the world gets changed for the better.
Because they see in you – in me – the God of the impossible.

So — what are you doing today that proves you serve the God of the impossible?

*************
If you want to read Corrie’s story, check out “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom and Elizabeth Sherrill and the sequel, “Tramp for the Lord”, also by Corrie.

To read more about Amy, check out “A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael” by Elisabeth Elliot.

Ready?

 

 

I blame my youth.
And that we had no gas appliances growing up.
I had no idea we were in danger.
Because I didn’t know the signs.

Picture this:
A quiet neighborhood in Silver Spring, tucked away in old growth trees, backing up to Rock Creek Park.
Older homes, full of character. And tiny, narrow streets to match.

It was the early 90’s and I was in my early 20’s, housesitting for a lovely lady in the neighborhood.
She had a very old gas stove in her house.
And I had a friend come over for dinner.

After dinner we left for some reason – I don’t recall why – but when we came back, the house reeked of gas. So we called the gas company.
They said they would send someone right away.
So my friend and I hung out on the screened-in porch just off the kitchen.
No idea of the danger.
Or the response that was coming.
Because we didn’t know the signs.

And then we heard it.
Off in the distance, a faint wail.
Sirens. Getting closer.

I looked at my friend, laughing in disbelief, and said, “No…Are they coming here? No…”
She said, “No… Really? No….”

We were still in denial as multiple trucks pulled into the long, narrow dead-end street.
And wailed to a stop at the bottom of the driveway.

The fireman fussed at us for being in the house.
And rightly so.
Because, while the stove appeared to be off, it wasn’t.
A knob had malfunctioned and was allowing gas to pump into the house.

We didn’t know the signs.
We were blissfully ignorant of how close we were to going “Boom!”
And taking half the neighborhood with us.

Fortunately, it all ended well.
They cut off the gas.
And I didn’t use the stove again while I was housesitting.
Thankfully the home owner handled it with grace.
Although I am certain the peering neighbors may still be talking about this misadventure.

But it was all because we didn’t know.
We didn’t understand what we were seeing.
What we were experiencing.
So we were not prepared.

It reminds me of things that Jesus told His followers towards to the end of his earthly life.
He very clearly told them that he would leave them – but that He also would come back again one day.
He explained that there would be signs of his return and that they should always be watching, always be ready, always be looking for Him to come again.
And he warned them that there would be many who would not be ready.

I don’t know when He is coming.
In fact, Jesus said that only the Father knows the day and the hour of His return.
So I am not saying it will be today.
Or tomorrow.
Or a week from Thursday.
It may be.
Or He may tarry for another 1,000 years.

But I am saying that there are signs.
He is trying, desperately, to get our attention.
He is begging us to look to Him instead of our own strength, our own wisdom, our own understanding.

Because He controls the weather.
He is still the Lord of the wind and waves.
He is master over the earthquakes.
As well as all the other natural disasters.

And, while they are a result of living in a fallen, sinful world, He is still Sovereign over them.
Their timing
Their path
Their frequency

You may not believe that.
You may choose to say instead that we have caused these things, that we have impacted the earth so much that they are inevitable.
But He is the one who said they would be signs of His return in Matthew 24 and Luke 21.

And, even if you discount those signs, look to Paul’s words in his last letter to Timothy:
But understand this, that in the last days dangerous times [of great stress and trouble] will come [difficult days that will be hard to bear]. For people will be lovers of self [narcissistic, self-focused], lovers of money [impelled by greed], boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane, [and they will be] unloving [devoid of natural human affection, calloused and inhumane], irreconcilable, malicious gossips, devoid of self-control [intemperate, immoral], brutal, haters of good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of [sensual] pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of [outward] godliness (religion), although they have denied its power [for their conduct nullifies their claim of faith].”

I have rarely read a more fitting description of our culture today.

What are you thinking?
“Oh, Kathy, people have been saying this for two thousand years!”

Yes, they have. And with every heartbeat, we are that much closer to His return. Are you ready?

“Oh, Kathy, don’t be a fear-monger! For all the bad there’s a ton of good going on as well.”

Yes, there is. And I am not afraid of His return. I look forward to the day, not because I am wonderful but because I have been saved by grace through faith. Are you ready?

“Oh, Kathy, the Bible is an outdated piece of literature! He didn’t mean that literally. It’s figurative at best!”

But what if it’s not? What if Jesus literally lived 2000 years ago? What if He literally died to take your place on Calvary? What if He literally rose again? And what if He is literally coming again to judge the earth and all of its inhabitants? Are you ready?

I can’t prove to you that He is coming back any more than I can prove to you that He exists.
But He can.
And He will.

And regardless of what you believe about the signs or His return, I know this to be 100% true:
One day I will see Him face to face.
And so will you.
It may be because He has returned.
Or it may be because our bodies give out, our hearts stop beating, our brains stop firing.
So whether or not He returns in my lifetime or yours, we will see Him.
We will give an account.
It is 100% inevitable.

Are you ready to meet Him face to face?

Because death is inevitable.
And it may be far sooner than His return.
So I – we – have to live today like it is our last.
Because we don’t know.
My lack of knowledge about gas stoves did not change the fact that my friend and I were in extreme danger. We just didn’t recognize it.
But God has clearly said that He is real.
And that we need to acknowledge Him as Lord.
And then accept the salvation He offers.

When I see Him face to face – whether that is through death or the day He returns – there will be no scales to weigh the good and bad of my life.
Because my very best good is done with mixed motives. And it is nowhere near the perfection of Who He is. I have fallen far short of the standard of complete perfection. I cannot achieve heaven on my merit. But I can say to Him, “I don’t deserve to be here with You. But I accepted the gift of grace that You offered. I took Jesus up on His willingness to die in my place. I’m with Him.”

And He will say, “Enter.”

Are you ready for His return?
Or your own demise?
If you knew today was your last day on earth, how would you live?
What would you change?
Are you ready?

Because you are facing the inevitable.
Whether you know the signs or not.
Whether you believe it or not.

Are you ready?
If the answer is “no”, let’s talk.
You can know for sure that you are. You can have peace with God.
No matter what is happening in this world. No matter the signs.
You can know for sure that you’re ready.

Adjustments

(Hebrews 10:14) For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

I’m addicted.
It has made such a difference that I am willing give up all sorts of things for it.
Time.
Energy.
Money.
All worth it.
Because of the difference I feel.

What addiction?
Adjustments.
Chiropractic adjustments.

I hurt my back this summer and it drove me to a place I never thought I would go – a chiropractor.
I was beyond skeptical, having a long-term relationship with chronic pain and inflammation. I seriously doubted that she could help.
But I was wrong.
Those adjustments to my spine have been nearly magical.
The injury is healed.
But I also am feeling relief from things I had accepted normal.
I have less pain. More flexibility.
Can exercise longer, with more intensity.
All because of adjustments made in the right place by the right person.

But I have an even greater addiction that makes an even bigger difference in my life.

Spiritual adjustments.

Here’s the thing about chiropractic care.
It is all about relaxing and letting her adjust my spine.

Here’s the thing about my spiritual life.
It is all about yielding and letting Him adjust absolutely everything.

What I say.
And what I choose to not say, even when it is burning on my tongue.
What I post on social media.
And what I choose to not post, even when it is burning on my fingertips.
How I deal with a crisis.
A personal one.
A national one.
Even an international one.
How I deal with sin in my life. And in the lives of others.
How I spend my money. My time. My energy. My resources.
What I read.
What I listen to.
What I watch.

All of these things require constant adjustment from the Great Physician.
Daily.
Hourly.
Asking for His eyes to see the circumstance.
And His heart for those in it.

Because my eyes are bad.
They have cataracts of sin on them.
And they have not experienced the trauma or tragedy so many have faced.

And my heart is equally unequal to the task.
It is also warped by sin.
And, left to its own devices, “desperately wicked”. (Jeremiah 17:9)

The only Truth I have to go on is what is revealed in The Word of God and illuminated by the Holy Spirit.
I cannot trust my feelings.
My own wisdom.
My perspective.
Or even my experience.
I can only trust the One Who sees all and knows all.
Every motive.
Every circumstance.
Every heart involved.

And, just as going only once to the chiropractor doesn’t make a huge difference, it takes more than just a one-time conversation with Him for my heart – and my actions – to get it right.
True, I received eternal life the moment I chose to believe Jesus died as my substitute, taking the punishment for my sin.
In Christian-ese, I was saved at that moment.
But I am also being saved as I travel with Him on this road of life.
I am being changed, transformed into His likeness.
If I allow it.
Allow Him to make those adjustments.
Allow Him to change my heart.
Allow Him to guide my words, my actions, my reactions.
One of my favorite verses says, “..having been made perfect, we are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14)
In other words, I am guaranteed heaven when I die because God sees the end, when I stand before Him, when I am done with sin once and for all.
But, in the meantime, I am being made more and more like Him, being made holy.
Adjustments by the Great Physician.

Because Jesus did not pray, “Father, Your Kingdom come when they get to heaven and in the meantime, well, it’s pretty hopeless so why bother?”

He said, “Your Kingdom come one earth as it is in heaven.”
His Kingdom here. Now.
Starting in my heart.
And reaching out through me – through you – to a dying, broken, hell-bound world.

On my own, I am out of alignment.
I seek my kingdom first instead of His.
I allow bitterness and rage to drive me rather than forgiveness and unconditional love.
I see the world as for ME or against ME, rather than for HIM or against HIM.
I lead with my emotions rather than with Truth.
I define God as I would like Him to be rather than Who He is.
I excuse sin, both in myself and in general.
Or I choose one sin as “the bad one” and focus only on that.
I lose sight of the eternal perspective and concentrate instead on things that will not last.
I sit back and say, “That’s your problem, not mine.”
I hoard instead of give.
Protect myself instead of others.
Speak up for my rights instead of yours.
Focus on me instead of Him. Instead of you.
Allow the constant pain of a world that is dying without Him to shut me down.
I forget that every single person I meet is either bound for heaven or bound for hell – and that I have the Good News that will make the difference in that destination.
I delegate my Kingdom responsibilities to the “professional” Christians.

Out of alignment.
And overwhelmed by my own inadequacies.

But when I take the time to sit with Him each day…
When I regularly meet with brothers and sisters in Christ to exalt Him…
When I talk to Him about EVERYTHING…
And when I allow the Holy Spirit into every corner of my life, asking Him to make any adjustment necessary, yielding quickly to His prompting, whether it is to NOT do something or to DO something…

Then I am come back into alignment.
Seeking first HIS glory, HIS Kingdom, HIS righteousness.
Loving as He loved. Even loving the unlovely.
Laying down my life. And my time. And my bank account.
Asking Him for wisdom.
Seeking His words for any given response.
Looking out for your interests ahead of my own.
And making an impact on this world one person at a time. One word at a time. One response at a time.
Because as I constantly and consistently realign myself with Scripture, with His heart, with His wisdom, I become more and more like Him.
A reflection of His glory.
An instrument of hope and peace in a dark, dark world.
A shining reflection of the Light of the World.

Adjustments.
Constant.
Vital.
And life-changing.

Will you yield?