“Tell them…”

Image result for God speaking

Tell them…

I asked God what I should write about in my blog today.
And He replied, “Tell them that I love them.”

And I said, “But God, that message feels too simple for these complex times.”
And He replied, “Tell them that I love them.”

So I asked, “Who is ‘them’, Lord?”
And He replied:

“The refugees at the airports – as well as the hundreds of thousands who can’t even begin to get to an airport to go anywhere. I love them. They are made in My image. And I sent Jesus to die to take the punishment for their sin because I want to have a relationship with them. Tell them – by words and deeds – that I love them.

But tell the protestors, too – the ones you agree with and the ones that you don’t. The ones yelling on Facebook, those gathering at airports and the ones marching in the streets. Tell them I love them. They are made in My image. And I sent Jesus to die to take the punishment for their sin because I want to have a relationship with them. Tell them – by words and deeds – that I love them.

While you are at it, tell those wrestling with abortion – those who are for it and those who are against it. Those who had one and are proud of the fact and those have had one and are dying inside every day. Tell them I love them. They are made in My image. And I sent Jesus to die to take the punishment for their sin because I want to have a relationship with them. Tell them – by words and deeds – that I love them.

Don’t forget the forgotten – those who are not in the popular spotlight at the moment. Like the children living around the world who are starving – some for love, some for protection, some for food, some for clean water, some for a family. Or your brothers and sisters in Christ in many lands who are being executed daily because they will not deny Me. Tell them I love them. They are made in My image. And I sent Jesus to die to take the punishment for their sin because I want to have a relationship with them. Tell them – by words and deeds – that I love them.

And the list goes on.
The abused or neglected child just down the street.
The mentally ill.
Those who claim the name of Christ.
And those who do not.
Those who are crying out for someone to tell them about Me and those who have no use for Me.
The hundreds of people groups around the world who have never heard the name of Jesus and have no recorded language – and therefore, they don’t have My Word in their language.
And the millions of people who have the My Word but only use it for decoration, entertainment or back-biting.
The politicians you like.
And the ones you dislike.
The people you agree with.
And the ones that make you scratch your head in disbelief.
The guy in the next cubicle who makes strange noises each day, all day.
And the girl in the car next to you who is texting as she drives.
The stranger who does a small act of kindness – and the one who treats you like dirt.

For all of these people, tell them I love them. They are made in My image. And I sent Jesus to die to take the punishment for their sin because I want to have a relationship with them. Tell them – by words and deeds – that I love them.”

“But Lord,” I replied. “That list is TOO long! I am just one person! How can I possibly do that?”

“The King replied, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it for Me. So here is what that looks like:
Love the Lord your God – ME – with all your heart, soul and mind – and love your neighbor as yourself.
Because you love Me, go and make disciples of every nation, baptizing them in My name, as well as the Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded.
Pray for all people. Ask Me to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that you can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.
Bless those who curse you and pray for those who treat you badly.
Forgive as you have been forgiven.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
And be careful how you live. Don’t live like a fool, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what I want you to do.
I want you understand the incredible greatness of My power for you who believe Me. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at My right hand in the heavenly realms. Now He is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come.”

(Matthew 25; Matthew 22; Matthew 28; I Timothy 2; Matthew 5-7; Ephesians 5; Ephesians 1)

So, my friend, here is my post for today:
God loves you. He sent Jesus to die to take the punishment for your sin because He wants to have a relationship with you. Yes, you. No caveats – and no exceptions. If you already knew that and have accepted it as fact in your life, then tell someone else. By word and by deed. If you are not sure how to reach those close to you or far away, let’s talk. There are some awesome ways for you to make an eternal impact in your neighborhood and around the world.

And if you didn’t know it or aren’t sure about it, I would love to talk with you about it. Because it really is true. God loves you.

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Thermostat? Or Thermometer?

thermostat

She was so incredibly rude!
I made a simple, easy request.
Of a perfect stranger.
In a place where serving people is what they exist to do.
I asked for a piece of paper and a pen.
As she sat at a massive desk.
Doing paperwork.
And she acted as though I had asked her to give me one of her appendages or perhaps a kidney.
As well as treating me like I was lower than the dust mites dwelling in the carpet.

Thermostat or thermometer?

I can’t believe my friend posted that on social media!
That goes against everything I believe to be true.
I thought I knew her.
And I thought we were much closer to being on the same page.
I am disgusted, disappointed, outraged.
I am saddened.
And I am insulted.
She just lumped me in with an entire group of people with a few scathing words and a picture.
And I am officially offended.

Thermostat or thermometer?

I have a deadline.
And a to-do list that won’t quit.
Things to do.
People to see.
Projects to complete.
Things I have to get done.
And I get interrupted.
Again.
Someone needs a listening ear.
Or the answer that I already gave a week ago.

Thermostat or thermometer?

A left-handed compliment.
An unasked, negative critique of what I am wearing.
A joke at my expense that hits too close to home.
A lousy driver.
Another interruption.
An illness.
A person who lets me down – again.

The daily stuff of life – the stuff that comes from living in a fallen, sinful world.
It happens.
And I get to choose.
Will I be a thermometer? Or a thermostat?

A thermometer registers the current temperature.
A thermostat sets the temperature and regulates it.

The current temperature of my corner of my world is largely out of my control.
I cannot control what you write on Facebook.
I cannot control how you think, feel or believe.
I cannot control what you say or how you choose to say it.
I cannot control your political views.
I cannot control how you drive.
I cannot control when the phone will ring or when I will be interrupted.
I cannot control which illnesses will attack my body and win.
And I cannot control whether or not you will be pleasant when I ask you for a piece of paper.

The general temperature of my life is beyond my control.

If I choose to be a thermometer, I will register that fact – the temperature beyond my control – in all I do and say.
I will let loose the words the spring to mind.
I will react instead of respond.
I will allow my circumstances to determine my emotions.
I will love me more than I love you.

But if I choose to be a thermostat, I will not allow the temperature to control me.
I will “take every thought captive to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10)
I will “let everyone see that I am considerate in all I do” because I choose to “remember, the Lord is coming soon.” (Philippians 4)
I will be “be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven me.” (Ephesians 4)
I will “bless those who curse me” and “pray for those who hurt me.” (Luke 6)
I will “give thanks in all circumstances.” (I Thessalonians 5)
And I will “speak the Truth in love”, letting “everything I say be good and helpful, so that my words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4)

Impossible on my own.
Left to my own devices, I am a thermometer!
But because I have been redeemed, bought at an exceedingly high price by the blood of Jesus, chosen by God and am dearly loved, I can be a thermostat.
Because I have the Holy Spirit inside of me, giving me all I need for life and godliness, I can respond to the temperature rather than simply reacting to it.

And not only that, I can help to change the temperature.
When I choose to be a thermostat.
Not in an instant.
And not in my own power.
But through prayer, through finding wisdom in the Word of God, by asking God what HE thinks about whatever it is that is happening to me or around me, I can be an influence for the Kingdom. A regulator of temperature. Or as Jesus put it, salt in a dying, decaying world and light in a very dark place. Sometimes in an instant, like how I choose to respond on social media. And sometimes over the long haul, like when I choose to pray for the leaders above me, whether I like them or not. Thermometers have no power to bring change to the environment. They just report what is. Thermostats set the environment and change what is.

A daily choice. A heartbeat to heartbeat choice.
Emotions rule? Or God rules?
Circumstances lead? Or God leads?
My word? Or His Word?
Reacting from my sinful self? Or responding in the Spirit?

Thermostat? Or thermometer?

Annie’s Story…

annie-johnson-flintAnnie’s Story…

Her mother died when she was 3-years old, giving birth to her baby sister.
Her father died when she was 6.
Before he died, he made arrangements for a childless couple to raise Annie and her little sister.
As a teenager, the rheumatoid arthritis set in.
And by the time she was in her twenties, she was permanently crippled by it, sent to live in a long-term care facility for the rest of her life, in part because her foster parents had also died.
Gnarled hands, twisted fingers.
Permanently in a wheelchair.
Unable to meet her own most basic needs.
She lived 66 years.

A hard life by any description.

And yet, she was a poet.
From her earliest elementary years she wrote poetry.
And through her last years, she wrote poetry.
As well as long, humorous chatty letters to friends to encourage them.
With gnarled hands and twisted fingers.

Because she gave her life to Jesus at the age of 8. And she understood what Paul meant when he wrote about his own trials. Paul said that he had a “thorn in the flesh” that he begged God to remove. But God’s answer was this:,
“My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.”

And Annie also agreed with Paul’s reply back to God:
“Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me. So I am well pleased with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak [in human strength], then I am strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength].”
(2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Some of Annie’s poems became hymns.
And this morning I was telling God how weary I am.
How I truly don’t have this day in me.
How the circumstances of my life have ganged up on me this past week to make me so very tired.
And He brought to mind this line from this hymn – written by Annie Johnson Flint:

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half-done…

Which led me to looking up the rest of the words – and Annie’s story.
Her testimony to the incredible faithfulness of God.
With crippled hands.
Incredible pain.
And a twisted body.
From a sanitarium.
In an era when those were not even close to being nice places. (She died in 1932.)

In those conditions she wrote – and lived – these Truths:

He Giveth More Grace

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase,
To added affliction He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men,
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half-done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

I am weary.
But my Father is not.
I am at a loss for how to solve some of the issues of my life.
But my Father is not.
I have exhausted my resources.
But my Father has not.
So with Annie and Paul, I will “lean hard on the arm everlasting”.
Knowing that these two are among the “cloud of witnesses” who have gone before. (Hebrews 11 and 12)
And knowing that the Father has not and will not change. Their testimony is mine as well.

Blessed be His name! May you also learn today and daily that His grace has no limits and His power has no boundary known unto man.

5 Prayers That Will Change Your Life

“I surrender.”
This is where the life of a Christ-follower starts. The day you say to God, “I am not perfect. I mess up all the time. And I deserve to be punished for the ways I fail. Thank You for sending Jesus to take that punishment on himself when he died on the cross. I accept the gift of eternal life You are offering. I am Yours. Do with me as You will.”

It starts there – the day that you are born a second time, born into the family of God. It is a crossing of a line, a before-and-after mark in your personal history. And you are indeed born into the family of God that very moment. And just like you cannot be un-born to your biological mother, you cannot be un-born from the family of God. But the Bible is clear that this salvation, this surrender is both a one-shot deal and an ongoing one. You were saved from sin the moment you accepted the gift of salvation. But you are also in the process of being saved from it as well. Changing. Growing. Becoming more like Christ. And one day that process will be finished. One day you will stand before God, complete and completely saved. Because you will be done with this life once and for all and done with this body of sin and death. You have been saved. Are being saved. And will be saved. And it all starts with “I surrender.”

But then there are other life-changing, life-giving prayers along the way. Like this one:
“Make me hungry and thirsty for more of You.”
In this process of becoming, I find it easy to come to a plateau and stay there, quite content. But God is not content with that – and I should not be, either. I have been born into His family as a small infant. But just as it is a tragedy when an infant does not mature physically, so it is a tragedy when a Christ-follower remains a spiritual infant for the rest of his life on earth. Never growing. Never changing. Never self-feeding. And never self-replicating.

I first heard someone pray this prayer many years ago. I was on a trip to bless my friend Kim who was living and working in Germany, sharing the love of God with refugees from the first Desert Storm. We were praying together and she said to the Lord something like, “I don’t love you as I should. Please make me hungry and thirsty for You.” It was an eye-opening moment for me because it was one of the most honest prayers I had ever heard. And it was coming from a “professional” Christian, a missionary! But what amazed me the most was that it shifted the weight of the wanting from my shoulders to His. A desire to know God, to crave Him is not something I have to conjure up on my own. On my own, I do not long for the things of God as I should – but it had never occurred to me to ask Him to put that craving in me. That I can safely toss the whole thing onto Him. “God, I need You to both give me the desire to know You more AND fulfill the desire You place in me. I need You to make me hungry and then satisfy that hunger. I need You to cause my thirst and then slake it.”

As my hunger and thirst for Him grows, He satisfies them through His Word, through good teaching, through great music and awesome books. But mostly, He satisfies my soul by allowing me to know Him more, to grow in Him.

But then, as I grow, I recognize that there is a HUGE disconnect between His heart and mine. There is a HUGE difference in how He sees those around me and how I see them. He is passionate for His creation. I tolerate it – or them – at best. He truly loves the person while hating their sin. I have a hard time distinguishing between the two – and the emotions are difficult to wrangle through it all. But that just leads to another life-changing prayer:
“I don’t love ___. But You do. Show me them through your eyes.”

The beauty of this prayer is that it applies in every situation. On 301 when someone is forgetting everything they learned in Driver’s Ed and causing my blood pressure to skyrocket. “God, I do NOT love that other driver. But You do. Help me to see them through Your eyes and to love them with Your love – even though what I want to do is offer them some choice words and perhaps some sign language!”
In the line at the grocery store when “10 items or less” seems to be something that customer took to mean pounds of groceries rather than pieces. When someone gets hostile because I won’t – or can’t – give them the answer they want. When I have a personality conflict with another person. When someone I love doesn’t respond the way I want them to. When someone says something incredibly hurtful and seems oblivious to it – or worse, when it is fully apparent that they are not oblivious at all. And when I look in the mirror. This prayer works in ALL of these situations. It even works in politics. With bosses. Co-workers. Spouses. Children. And enemies.

This prayer does not usually change their behavior. But it certainly changes my heart. Because when I pray it, I remember that the person I am not loving is just that – a person. With an eternal destiny. Created in the image of God. Dearly loved by Him. No better or worse than me when compared to the holiness of God. A loved sinner. When I see them through His eyes, with His heart, my heart is changed. Blood pressure stabilizes. Reactions are kind, even when they need to be firm. Dignity is given. And Love wins the day.

But that isn’t easy. None of this life is easy. Because wars never are. We are engaged in a spiritual battle every day, a war between two Kingdoms. Every part of life, from the magnificent to the mundane is influenced by this battle. And I am just a speck of dust on the planet, a flower quickly fading, a clump of grass that is here today and gone tomorrow. And yet, God has entrusted this fading flower with a mission: “Go and make disciples. Share My love with the world. Tell them about Me – and that they do not have to be trapped by My enemy.”

Impossible mission. Overwhelming odds. And the reason why I start every day with this prayer:
“I can’t do this.”

Because I cannot. I do not have it in me to surrender. To hunger and thirst for righteousness. To love others. To share His love. To make godly choices. To seek first HIS Kingdom. To remember I am a soldier involved in a cosmic war. I do not have it in me. But “greater is He that is in me, than He who is the world”. And “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” because He has “given me all I need for life and godliness”. So I can “trust in the Lord with all my heart, leaning not on my own understanding, acknowledging Him in all my ways, knowing He will make my path straight.” And I can rest in the fact that “He who began a good work in me will continue it until the day Jesus returns” because the “same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in me.”

I can’t do this. But He can. Which leads to the final life-changing prayer for today:
“Be glorified at my expense.”

I was not created for my pleasure. For my glory. For me to feel or look good. I was created for HIS glory. To know Him and to make Him known. Whatever that looks like. For richer or for poorer. In sickness and in health. ‘Til death do us unite. I was created by Him and for Him. So my life is His to do with as He wants.

And that would be a terrifying proposition and an impossible prayer to pray except for this one thing: He is GOOD. He is a good, good Father who knows me and passionately loves me. He always has my best interest at heart, even when He brings or allows tough things to cross my path. And the best is yet to be. Right now, I am in the waiting room of eternity. My whole life is the title page of the book. I am the baby in the womb who cannot imagine what life looks like after birth. And because all of eternity stretches before me, I want to know Him. And I want to make Him known. No matter what that costs in this life. I want Him to be glorified at my expense. Because God the Father gave up His only Son so that I could know Him personally. Jesus was tortured and crucified in my place. And the Holy Spirit patiently waits for the day when the battle will be over, fighting in me, through me and beside me on the spiritual battle field. When I am loved like that, why wouldn’t I say, “Have your way”? How can I not say, “Your will be done”? How can I not say “Be glorified today at my expense”? Because the price tag is worth it. He is worth it.

So, Father-God,
I surrender.
Make me hungry and thirsty for You.
Give me Your love for every person I meet.
I can’t do any of this. But You can.
So be glorified today at my expense.
Amen

Lessons from 2016

Image result for lessonsLessons from 2016:

It really stinks to be misunderstood.
Sometimes no one is going to understand.
But even when no one else knows my heart, God knows. He sees. And He understands.

It feels really great to be known – really known.
And even better to be loved for who you are, not who others think you are.

Words are powerful.
Prayer is even more powerful.
Even when it can’t be expressed in words.

What may seem innocuous to me – words or actions – may be extremely hurtful to you.
I need to hear your heart before I try to explain mine.
But we both have to choose to believe the best about the other person.

My days were numbered before one of them came to be.
As are (or were) every celebrity’s.
And the nameless, faceless victims of persecution.
War.
Disease.
Natural disaster.
This life is finite. Therefore, I must live for the eternal or nothing I do matters.

I don’t have to agree with (or like) those in authority to pray for them.
And if I do not pray for them, I am being disobedient to the Greatest Authority.
Praying for our leaders (of any sort, at every level) was not a suggestion. It was (and is) a command.

The only thing I have any control over at all is me.
My actions.
My attitudes.
My thoughts.
And that is what controls me – the thoughts I allow to become attitudes which will inevitably turn into actions. For good or for bad. For God’s Kingdom or for the enemy’s. It starts with me taking my thoughts captive – or not.

Social media is a double-edged sword.
Can be a great source of encouragement and sharing.
Can be a marvelous tool in the hand of the enemy to divide us from each other.
It is up to me how I let it be used in my life.

Forgiveness is immeasurably powerful.
For individuals.
For communities.
For entire races.
Justice is held in the hands of God. It will all come to light one day. Not just the actions – but the motives as well. And justice will be meted out for all “they” have done to me.
Justice will also be meted out for all I have done (or not done) to “them”.
Justice is in God’s hands.
The ability to forgive others tells me that I actually believe that to be true.
And it releases me to live outside of the shadows of blame, guilt, retribution, retaliation, shame, fear and all other toxic, sinful choices.

My hope does not lie in a new year.
A change in the political landscape.
Saving the environment.
My hope does not lie in bettering myself.
Eating better.
Going to the gym.
Saving more money.
It does not even lie in more spiritual behaviors, things that I do to get closer to God.
Any sort of checklist for improvement.
There is value in all of the above.
But my hope starts and ends in one thing – God.
To know Him and to make Him known.
To live for His glory.
If I put my hope in anything or anyone else, it will fail and I will fall.

One final lesson – I learn more in times of adversity than I do in times of ease.
Both are valuable and necessary.
But I need to welcome both with open hands and an open heart.
Not because I am all that.
But because the Good Shepherd leads me.
And walks beside me.
He chooses the joys.
But He also chooses which trials He will allow.
For my good and His glory.

My prayer for you and me in 2017: May we live for the One who died for us. May we learn the lessons that are needed. May we remember that this life is temporary. And may we live for the day that we meet Him face to face, striving to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant”, no matter what comes this year.