Do We Clearly See?

Sun sets on the Hawaiian Islands, and the crowds stand along the shoreline with their cameras aimed westward while frothy surf tickles bare feet. Hundreds of eyes—young and old, round and almond-shaped, brown and blue—glued to the grandeur of a huge orb of fire, slipping serenely into an aqua sea. The sky is ablaze in hues of pink, lavender, and orange.

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I want to shout, “To God be the glory!”

But I’m a silent observer. My heart heavy with the weight of a world who pauses to experience a breathtaking sunset while often ignoring, if not denying, the Creator who made this very moment possible.

The people see, but can they hear the heaven’s declaring God’s glory?

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

I’m not passing judgement on a band of international tourists on holiday. Who knows what eternal thoughts (if any) came into their minds as they witnessed the daily miracle unfolding. Most people don’t wear a T-shirt proclaiming their faith. But imagine the eyebrows I might have raised, if I’d kneeled in the cool sand and raised my hands towards the sky, praising God’s name. Would anyone have joined me? Whispered, “Amen!”

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I’m not a bold witness when I’m alone among strangers. And yet, I’m convicted. How can I not proclaim the gospel that is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes in Christ Jesus?

A Japanese couple takes a selfie with the sun peeking over their shoulders. When they gaze at the sun, are they privately worshipping Amaterasu—the sun goddess—who is a major deity in the Shinto religion? According to the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki in Japanese mythology, the Emperors of Japan are considered to be direct descendants of Amaterasu.

Curious, I search the internet for “sun gods” and a long list of names from cultures around the world reveals mankind’s desire to define and worship the sun, or link the sun to a god or goddess. When the Apostle Paul wrote the Christians living in Rome, the culture worshipped the sun god, Apollo.

Does it matter what we call the god who created and controls the sun? Does it matter if there’s a god? 

According to Acts 17:23-31 . . . it matters very much.

That’s why Paul talked to the religious people of Athens about their statue to “an unknown god.” Paul stood in a crowd and assured them, they could know “the God who made the world—the Lord of heaven and earth.” He explained….

  • God does not live in temples built by hands.
  • God is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything because he gives all men life and breath.
  • God desires that men would seek him and reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

I wonder if Paul and the crowds paused that day to watch the sun set on Athens?

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What were they thinking when the sun seemed to brush the earth with a goodnight kiss? Did they credit Apollo with another sunset, dismissing Paul’s words as foolishness? Or, were their eyes opened to clearly see their Creator’s invisible attributes, His eternal power, and divine nature so they could believe and worship the One, True God.

Something to consider even in this . . . glorious God-ordained sunset that happens everyday!

 

 

 

 

Taking a Vacation from God?

Baseball. Barbecues. Bathing Suits. Are you ready for a summer vacation? 

How about a vacation from God?

That sounds irreligious to say, but let’s be honest. It’s tempting to have that mindset during Summertime.

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Bible gets dusty.
Prayer life shrinks.
Selfies by the pool take priority over acts of service.

After all, the Salvation Army only rings the bell during the Christmas season, so people less fortunate than me must be having fun too, right?

It’s not just individuals who hit pause on spiritual growth.

Churches—at least the ones in my area—are less active after Memorial Day. Other than a Family Camp or Vacation Bible School, the church calendar has a lot of white space.

Women’s Bible studies take a summer break. So do children’s Awana clubs. Small community groups within a church, that meet weekly in homes, are on hiatus.

Even church attendance and tithing is lower during summer. For even if a family has a staycation instead of going out of town, who wants to wait until Sunday afternoon to go on a hike or swim in the lake?

It’s not like God’s a killjoy. The Bible mentions festivities and God’s mandate for people to celebrate life.

Didn’t Jesus say, “the Sabbath was made for man.” We’re meant to rest at least one day out of the week. So why not set aside two weeks of vacation or three months of recreation?

Have I struck a nerve, yet? I hope you know I’m playing devil’s advocate.

I’m also NOT trying to guilt anyone or tell people how to spend their summer. I’m right there with other red-blooded Americans—weaving warm memories with my loved ones this summer.

However, conviction tugged my heart when I put on my sunscreen.

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Summer break from school and normal routines are no excuse to ignore the Lord. I still need to seek God’s presence through His Word and prayer. I need to put on the armor of Christ as faithfully as my sunscreen.

I need to, but I also WANT to spend time with the Lord this summer because He doesn’t take a vacation from me.

He is ever present. And He longs to have a relationship with each of us that isn’t one-sided or confined to nine months of the year.

So why would I consider a sabbatical from the One who loves me with an everlasting love, and redeemed my soul?

The Bibles says, “Rejoice in the Lord, always!”

Always. Even in this… good ole Summertime.

 

Photos:www.JennyWredePhotography.com

 

Consumed with Whom?

Today, I swam upstream in a sea of shoppers. Browsing for the perfect Christmas gift.

Never mind that Christ came as the Lamb of God to Save people from their sins on that first Christmas,

Businesses are glad to Save me a buck this time of year (and spend one too) so long as I…..

  • Shop on a particular date
  • Use a coupon
  • Buy two items to get one free.
  • Mail in a rebate

After two hours, and minimum results, I called it a day. I don’t have the shopper gene, and gifts aren’t my love language.

My trash can is full of unread, glossy catalogs and holiday coupons. I delete email advertisements that urge me to “Hurry up and Buy.”

Even charities finagle how to guilt me into year-end giving—tax deductible of course.

I DO LOVE CHRISTMAS, but it makes me crazy that Consumerism has taken center stage over Christ.

We’re solicited to purchase Christmas gifts, but  learning how to receive the GIFT of GOD is taboo.

I get it. Not everyone who celebrates “Christmas” believes in the name of Jesus. Did you know there’s a giant Christmas tree in a Dubai shopping mall? Isn’t that city located in a Muslim country?

Sorry, rabbit trail….Let me point my finger back to myself.

I can sit on my Christian high horse and spout, Jesus is the reason for the season.” However, unless I’m intentional about my relationship with Him, I’m prone to wander through the merry month of December, consuming goods and calories.

Consumed with everything and everyone, but Him.

Ten years ago, I was confronted with my wanderlust. After the Christmas season, I packed the ceramic nativity set on my fireplace mantel before I noticed…

Baby Jesus is missing!

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No manger full of straw, no bright-eyed babe for Mary and Joseph to adore.

Wise men and shepherds kneeled, and yet the newborn King wasn’t around for them to worship.

Baby Jesus was on my desk, buried beneath clearance ads.

I cradled the tiny figurine. How did I go through Christmas unaware the Christ Child was missing?

Then again, my spiritual disciplines and time with the Lord weren’t on my checklists—buy gifts, mail cards, bake cookies, watch Christmas movies.

My all-consuming, weary efforts to celebrate Jesus’ birth that year were a vain attempt to possess what I already had experienced, and thoughtlessly forsaken, the joy of abiding in Christ.

Abiding, even in this…busiest, most wonderful time of the year.

Is Jesus missing in your life?

 

Consumed with Whom?

Today, I swam upstream in a sea of shoppers. Browsing for the perfect Christmas gift.

Never mind that Christ came as the Lamb of God to Save people from their sins on that first Christmas,

Businesses are glad to Save me a buck this time of year (and spend one too) so long as I…..

  • Shop on a particular date
  • Use a coupon
  • Buy two items to get one free.
  • Mail in a rebate

After two hours, and minimum results, I called it a day. I don’t have the shopper gene, and gifts aren’t my love language.

My trash can is full of unread, glossy catalogs and holiday coupons. I delete email advertisements that urge me to “Hurry up and Buy.”

Even charities finagle how to guilt me into year-end giving—tax deductible of course.

I DO LOVE CHRISTMAS, but it makes me crazy that Consumerism has taken center stage over Christ.

We’re solicited to purchase Christmas gifts, but  learning how to receive the GIFT of GOD is taboo.

I get it. Not everyone who celebrates “Christmas” believes in the name of Jesus. Did you know there’s a giant Christmas tree in a Dubai shopping mall? Isn’t that city located in a Muslim country?

Sorry, rabbit trail….Let me point my finger back to myself.

I can sit on my Christian high horse and spout, Jesus is the reason for the season.” However, unless I’m intentional about my relationship with Him, I’m prone to wander through the merry month of December, consuming goods and calories.

Consumed with everything and everyone, but Him.

Ten years ago, I was confronted with my wanderlust. After the Christmas season, I packed the ceramic nativity set on my fireplace mantel before I noticed…

Baby Jesus is missing!

20141213_200458

No manger full of straw, no bright-eyed babe for Mary and Joseph to adore.

Wise men and shepherds kneeled, and yet the newborn King wasn’t around for them to worship.

Baby Jesus was on my desk, buried beneath clearance ads.

I cradled the tiny figurine. How did I go through Christmas unaware the Christ Child was missing?

Then again, my spiritual disciplines and time with the Lord weren’t on my checklists—buy gifts, mail cards, bake cookies, watch Christmas movies.

My all-consuming, weary efforts to celebrate Jesus’ birth that year were a vain attempt to possess what I already had experienced, and thoughtlessly forsaken, the joy of abiding in Christ.

Abiding, even in this…busiest, most wonderful time of the year.

Is Jesus missing in your life?

 

Comes Out Sideways

There’s a giant hole in my basement ceiling, situated below my kitchen. A plumber ripped out the drywall ceiling in search of a leaking pipe. Sure enough there was a plastic vent pipe with three holes, compliments of a rat we’d caught in the crawl space two years earlier.  

DSCN3014The plumber said we wouldn’t have known there were holes in the vent pipe, if it hadn’t been for a blockage in a different pipe.

Instead of the water backing up into the kitchen sink, it found the holes of least resistance and flooded the ceiling.

What does that scenario have to do with eternal significance?

Because the image of those exposed pipes in the ceiling flooded my heart, reminding me….

When I don’t deal with hidden sin in my heart, especially a grievance against someone, foul words will eventually pour out of my mouth.

The problem isn’t my lips or mouth, it’s my heart.

“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” (Matthew 15:18)

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Un-confessed sin towards others creates the perfect environment for bitterness to take root. Like the blockage in my water pipe, my thoughts and attitudes fester, clog my arteries. I may not be aware of my heart’s condition until, BAM!

Someone triggers my emotions.

Releasing a barrage of unkind words, or a barb.

Exposing my unhealed wounds like the holes in a pipe, and all because I had a blockage in my heart called un-forgiveness.

Once spoken, hateful words are like releasing a bag of feathers into the wind. There is no getting them back.

But sometimes, unkind words are subtle. People have to read between the lines.

 “Sideways,” a friend told me. “When we’re not forthright, everything comes out sideways.”

Like a verbal slap that comes from left field, but aimed to hit home.

Grumbling or murmuring behind someone’s back.

An “innocent” intentional action to make a point.

Passive aggressive is another label for not dealing honestly with others when we’re offended, or upset.

Fortunately, my heart was exposed last week along with my kitchen pipes. Now, everything is cleared, clean, in working order.

And the drywall man is here to repair the gutted ceiling.

Should I tell him what I learned, even in this?

Truth Be Known

243Woke up depressed, but I have to go to jail, share the “hope that lies within me” with women inmates.

Can’t give what you don’t have?” Satan taunts me.

I get on my knees where the battle is won, and pray God’s Word aloud. “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3)

Then I go out of obedience, not because I feel like it.

The jail tank is empty. Most of the women are asleep in their cells. I sit at the metal table and pray until a young woman joins me.

I confess my foul mood; explain I had to pray for the desire to come to jail. But I’m confident that as we read God’s Word and fix our minds on Him, our moods will change even if troubles remain.

Tears trickle down her cheeks. Woman admits she woke up thinking she should read her Bible, but didn’t “feel like it” which made her feel guilty. Knowing I struggle helps her know she’s not alone.

I assure her that Jesus struggled with mental anguish just before he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. He had to pray and focus on God’s will rather than his own feelings.

So we open our Bibles to Luke 22: 66-71 and read about the trial.

The Council of elders confronts Jesus, ““If you are the Christ, tell us.”

Just like Satan tempted Jesus. “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Just like Satan taunts me. “If you’re a jail chaplain, where’s your hope?”

Just like Satan accuses the inmate: “If you don’t read the Bible, you’re bad.”

How does Jesus respond to Ifs.

Sometimes He quotes scripture.

Sometimes He asks questions.

During the trial, He states facts. “If I tell you, you will not believe.”

Again, they ask Him, “Are you the Son of God?”

“Yes, I am.”

Jesus condemns himself with his own words,

Because they feel that anyone who claims to be the “Son of God” is a liar or a lunatic.

They don’t believe Jesus is telling the truth when He claims to be Christ the Lord.

But disbelief doesn’t change the facts.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

Believe it, or not.


What Am I Covering Up?

A large, purple plastic bowl lay upside down on the cement slab of our back patio. The bowl had been there for several days, untouched like the pile of discarded, mud-caked sneakers next to the back door.

Assuming the old bowl had toppled from the patio table, I stooped to pick it up.

My stomach lurched.

Beneath the purple bowl was a wet mess of rotting … cat puke.

My cat pleads the Fifth Amendment, but Someone covered the puke rather than clean it up.

“I didn’t want anyone to step into the mess,” Someone later explained.

Covered it up? Were you ever planning to clean it up?   

But even in this ….disgusting cat puke hidden beneath a purple bowl, I had an AHA moment about SIN.

Shuddered to think people, even those closest to me, might look “beneath my bowl” and see my disgusting sin.

Lips sealed, fingers crossed, do I hide sin behind good works? Masquerade as a good Christian, wearing blinders rather than confront my sin?

Out of sight, out of mind, I fool myself.

 “Oh God, you know my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from you (Psalm 69:5).

 “He that covers his sins shall not prosper; but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28: 13).

King David, a man after God’s own heart, committed adultery and murder. When David covered his sin, he suffered.

“When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer” (Psalm 32:4)  

When David came to his senses, he humbly came before the Lord.

“I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my heart” (verse 5).

Heaven forbid I cover my sin by comparing myself with others; pat myself on the back. I’m not as bad as….  

“Our Lord taught repeatedly that sin bottled up on the inside, concealed from everyone else’s view, carries the same guilt as sin that manifests itself in the worst forms of ungodly behavior (Matt. 5:21-30).” ~ John MacAuthur

The only remedy for sin involves uncovering our guilt.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us ours sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).