Saturday, December 31, 2005

Beauty for Ashes

This past Christmas, many kids put out cookies and milk out for Santa on Christmas Eve. Crumbs and an empty glass were evidence that the jolly elf had visited their home. I remember the year I decided there was no Santa. I was 13 and very wise for my age. When I woke up Christmas morning, I dragged myself out to the family room and saw my grandmother sweeping…I figured my little brother broke something and she was cleaning up the pieces. She tsk-tskd under her breath, “What a mess he left!” I asked her what happened and she told me she was cleaning up the mess Santa left…I looked more closely, and boot prints in ash led up to the fireplace. My heart flipped and I believed in Santa for one more year.

Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of evidence for people to believe in things. From a smoking gun to fabrication, people need some kind of evidence. For a child to believe in Santa Claus a few cookie crumbs and presents under the tree will suffice. For a woman to believe a man will love her forever, he needs to produce a ring. And for many to believe in Jesus, they demand tangible evidence.

Many are like the disciple Thomas, not believing Jesus is alive until they can see Him in all His bloody gore. So where am I going with this? Do I have a long lost artifact that proves Jesus actually exists? Am I keeping a doorway to heaven all to myself, peeking through the keyhole every once in a while to make sure He’s still there? I don’t have a shroud of Turin tucked away anywhere, but what I do have something else required in a court of law…witnesses.

Look at the disciples themselves, Thomas included. (John 20:26-31) If you know anything about human nature, you’ll know that it’s easy to fabricate a hoax. But how many men withstand torture and death, because of a hoax? The men that followed Jesus never denied Him, they died with His name on their lips. (Acts 7:54-60) Would you deny Santa Claus if someone held a gun to your head? Sure you would. I know of a girl who had a gun held to her head and asked if she believed in Jesus. Cassie Bernal said yes.

I’ve known other lives that where totally changed because of Jesus. Drugs, alcohol and promiscuity were all they knew until the living Christ stepped into their lives and they changed. They didn’t become scripture spouting puppets. He did a heart transplant and they lost their taste for that old life. They were born again and have started new lives, living for Christ and not for their impulses.

And my evidence? What can I say about what He has done in my life? He took a goody-two-shoes girl who thought she was OK and turned her life upside-down. Yes, God made me unable to have children, but put a new heart in me for other people’s children. He made me a single mom with a baby, to show me He could provide everything I needed. When I finally returned to Him completely, He provided a husband and father for my child who would be a strong spiritual leader for our family. Jesus took a timid mouse of a girl who dabbled in the occult and wilted at what others might think and made her into a woman who is not afraid of what tomorrow will bring.

Let Jesus take the ashes of your life and sweep it up. He may have to turn it upside down for a bit to get you to really let go. But when you do, I am a witness that what He has planned for you will be more amazing than anything you’ve ever prayed for.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Gift Exchange

This Christmas there might be some kids out there who awaken to their stockings jammed with what seems to be candy and toys, only to find new underwear and whopper-sized fruit. I know I’m dreaming about what’s inside those pretty packages and can’t wait until Christmas morning. Some of the givers spent a long time shopping for something they knew I’d love. But what if it turns out to be something I don’t really like or need? Is it really so bad to exchange it the next day?

Remember the day you decided to give your heart to Christ? What a wonderful package that must’ve been for Him to receive! You were all caught up in the excitement of giving…the package was neatly wrapped, a bright bow on top. You can just see Him holding it up to give a shake and hear the ka-thump ka-thump inside.

What about His gift to you, did you receive it gladly, even with a few tears of joy? The next day or week, when your new life was humming along…did you expect smooth sailing? Did you expect to have an easier life and everyone would like you? Or did you get blindsided with heartache and loss? Did you think that maybe His gift didn’t fit or was broken? Did you return His gift for something else?

Jesus didn’t promise us an easy life if we gave our heart to Him. He did tell us there would be problems, and that the world would actually hate us like they hated Him. (John 15:18-19) But like a gift at Christmas, this giver knows you better than anyone else and He knows exactly what you need. That gift He gave you was not a guarantee for a new house or better job. It was Grace…and you didn’t do a single thing to earn it. (Ephesians 2:8) He knows you are the only person in the world that can handle that new life.

When we celebrate Jesus’ birthday this year, let’s examine our hearts. Let’s make sure that Christmas present to Him really has something inside. And when He hands you His gift, receive it with joy and thanksgiving--because He spent an eternity picking out just the right new life for you. (Ephesians 1:5)

Friday, December 02, 2005


We are blessed with an outgoing son who sometimes needs encouragement to stay on task in school. His wrestling coach has been a huge help in this area. A few weeks ago, Jared had a bad day at school. One teacher went to advise the coach of his misadventures that day.

When wrestling practice was almost done, the coach called Jared over to do one more match. He did not look forward to it since it was going to be a larger guy. Just as he was ready to start the match, his opponent stepped back and the coach stepped forward. He realized then that his misbehavior that day was going to cost him dearly. If he ran away, he would be off the wrestling team. If he persevered, he could learn his lesson and become stronger. By the end of the match, Jared swore that he would do much better in all his classes.

When I have not stayed “on task” with God’s will, I find myself facing difficult situations created by stepping out of bounds. I have a choice to repent and get back on my walk, or stay on that disobedient track. Sometimes I rebel and the wrestling match begins. At first I face small opponents: friends or family drawing me back. I make excuses, deals or ignore their pleas. Then larger opponents step up to the mat…illness, depression or legal problems resulting from my rebellion. One by one I take them on, and exhaustion starts to set in. It takes a lot of work to rebel from God!

When Jacob was scared to death because God told him to return to his angry brother Esau, (Genesis 32:1-23) he had an idea. He sent gifts, his wives and children on ahead to greet his brother who was coming with 400 men. (Nice guy!) When they had gone and he was left alone, he found himself in a major wrestling match with a heavenly stranger. (Genesis 32:24-32) He did not give up and he wrestled until daybreak. Finally he asked to be blessed, and refused to let go of his opponent until he received a blessing. The consequence of his determination was a permanent limp. His name was changed from Jacob: “the replacement” to a new name: Israel—“who prevails with God”.

When I am in direct disobedience to God, I sometimes find myself in the ultimate smackdown …and let me tell you there is no way you can win when wrestling God Himself. He is stronger, knows all your tricks and excuses and will never let up. It’s best to not run away. So repent, take your licks, and humble yourself --you could come away forever changed and possibly win a new nickname: Victor. (Philippians 4:13)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Snakes Alive

I hate snakes. I know this is a built-in aversion to the animal that reaches back to that fateful date with Eve in the garden. (Gen 3:1-15) I try to avoid them at all times, even to the point of changing my path. My son and I were running errands the other evening, just after dusk, when we saw a shadow starting to slip across the road. I swerved to miss it.

My son said, “Mom, that was a snake! You should’ve squashed it!”

My skin crawled at the thought of running over the thing. What if I didn’t kill it? What if I missed, or worse, what if it struck at the van and wrapped around the axle? My mind reeled at the paranoid possibilities.

My son convinced me, “Mom, what if it hurts someone? We should stop it before it bites someone.”

I realized as we turned around to make another pass, it was no skinny black snake. This was a fat, dusty colored cottonmouth—very poisonous. And it was headed towards a populated area. I lined up my van wheels and went forward. In my rear view, it was hard to tell if I hit it or not. We rounded the bend to check the damage. In my headlights it seemed bigger, and it waited. I lined up my wheels again and this time, I felt the crunch pop. Waves of revulsion went through me. Clearly, the snake did not survive.

There is a more dangerous snake that is prevalent in everyone’s life. In Genesis, the serpent is Satan, sent to deceive and tempt humans. This snake is sin incarnate. How often do we avoid ridding ourselves of this detestable being? Do we step around the sin in our life, too scared to squash it, only to find it raising its head at another opportunity? Do we rationalize that it’s just a small sin, and so we let it alone, only to find it growing bigger or multiplying? Just how hard is it to line up the van wheels, take aim, and crush the serpent’s head?

The best way to rid your life of habitual sin is to confess and repent in prayer. Know that Jesus came to ultimately crush satan and his minions. He will help you as you rid your life of serpents if you just ask.

Call on someone to hold you accountable: your pastor, prayer partner or small group.

Recognize sin for what it is. Sin is real and it is poisonous to your soul.

Finally, if we don’t do everything we can to rid it from our lives, it’s going to either bite our loved ones or us. And in the end, that sting of sin is Death. 1Co 15:56a

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

His Story

Everyone has that one movie that they always seem to miss the beginning of. My husband’s daughter had never seen the trilogy series Lord of the Rings, all the way through. She couldn’t understand all the rave reviews it was getting. She didn’t know why Frodo was such a reluctant hero and why the elves were so worried about the whole situation. One weekend she finally got all three movies and made a point to see them all the way through—a major movie marathon. After seeing the first movie, not just the second or third, she understood why the characters were driven, how the bad guy became bad and how the good guy got in his predicament. The story came full circle, and good triumphs over evil.

Have you ever felt that way about the Bible? You feel like the New Testament is all you need to get by. It has the message of salvation, the story of Jesus and in the end the good guy wins, right? But at the back of your mind, don’t you wonder about those quotes from Isaiah that popup now and then? Does the genealogy of Jesus tickle your curiosity a bit? How did this “hero” get in this predicament, anyway? And why Bethlehem, why a manger and why, most of all, crucifixion? After all, isn’t the Old Testament just dry history?

My biggest blessing this year has been joining a group of ladies every Wednesday night for a Cover to Cover Bible study. Last January, we started in Genesis and read through the Bible, sequentially. We read about Noah, Abraham and Moses…but we also learned about Hezekiah, Zerubbabel and why Israel is called Israel. Now we’re heading into the New Testament and after reading that “dry history”, we understand a lot more.

Yes, we know the end of the story. But now it makes so much more sense! From The Fall to The Savior, God has given us living words that are like a drumbeat that announces the entry of a King. I can’t wait to recognize names, places and prophesy. I can’t wait to hear that familiar scripture announcing the birth of Christ and His beckoning to “follow me”. I think this time when I read the crucifixion, I will finally feel the real determination of His sacrifice, the real joy of His resurrection and understand fully why those Pharisees where so worried about the whole situation.

I am glad I joined this group of pilgrims. For us, the story will come full circle in Revelation, when good triumphs over evil. That “dry history” will come to life for us as His Story.

Luke 4:14-30 - NAS
And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. And He {began} teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all. And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD." And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Cover to Cover, Through the Bible, as it happened By Selwyn Hughes and Trevor J. Partridge. ISBN 1-85345-136-3

Friday, October 28, 2005


Halloween is coming and as a Christian, I sometimes shy away from it. Pshaw, you say. It’s a harmless kid’s holiday. Let them dress up in ghoulish attire, roam the neighborhood and take candy from strangers. It’s all fun, right? What I’d like to ask my fellow Christians is, what are you doing to show the love of God in a practical way this Halloween? How are you shining a light in the darkness? Are you locking your door and turning out the lights? Can you be found slumped on the couch, watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and eating Hostess cupcakes?

What scares you the most as a Christian? I find more often than not it’s not the evil spirits or the boogeyman, it’s evangelism. Most people would rather cross the street than witness to someone. Some people’s throat constricts when an opportunity to speak about Jesus pops up. Why does the idea of sitting down with someone and sharing the gospel scare us into silence? Are we so scared of rejection and ridicule that we would rather zip a lip?

In the Old Testament, Moses was scared speechless. He even told God he wasn’t a good public speaker. (Exodus 6:30) God had every faith in him delivering his message to the Egyptians, but Moses was so freaked, he asked for his brother-in-law Aaron to be his mouthpiece. (Exodus 4:30) God said OK to that. (But you know…if God can create the world with a word, why do you doubt He will give you a word to speak to someone?)

Did you know that you have your own Aaron to speak for you? No, it’s not your brother-in-law that always eats the last piece of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. Jesus said that he was sending someone else, the comforter, the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts. (John 14:26) He is our Aaron and he speaks for us when we have no words.

I have a dear friend Allison who is very in tune with the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I am amazed what comes out of her mouth when it’s time to speak to someone. But if I ask her an hour later if she could give me a synopsis of what she said, she gives me a look that says, “Yeah right, I’ll just hit replay.” It’s amazing that it’s always what the other person needs to hear.

So, how do I step out of my comfort zone this Halloween, you ask? Might I suggest starting small, like actually offering treats to those kids that make the trek to your front door? What if those treats had a cool cartoon message about God not being scary? What if you offered chilled water to the parents guarding their kids on the walk, and have flyers from your church with upcoming family events? What if, when it’s 9:30 at night, and that knock comes at the door…you find a lanky teen dressed as a chainsaw murderer holding a bulging pillowcase…waiting expectantly for any leftover candy…Stop and tell him: “Dude, Jesus loves you.” Then, let the Holy Spirit speak through you and tell him why. What’s so scary about that? In the end they aren’t rejecting you, they are rejecting Christ. And that’s the scariest thing to me.

"For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and {the glory} of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:26

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Getting Lost

My son started high school this year. He was a little worried about getting lost on campus. I encouraged him to use his map, ask people for directions and move quickly so he wouldn’t be late for class. He has made it through so far as “the new kid” and even made a few new friends.

God has a way of talking to us with our life experiences, and He tapped me on the heart again with this one. If my son had relied solely on his map, he would’ve made it eventually to his classes. But he might’ve been late or missed out on a shortcut provided by a new friend. He could’ve thrown the map away and just relied on the good nature of the kids that had been there before, but without the map—how many times would he be sent the wrong way either by mistake or by people picking on “the new kid”? And if he didn’t move quickly, how many detentions would he receive for constantly being late for his classes?

What God was asking me was, do I neglect to read my Bible for direction when faced with choices in my life? Do I chuck the map and ask friends, family and Dr. Phil for advice? How do I glean the good information from the psycho-babble of the day when facing troubles? Or, do I have stunted spiritual growth because I do not add fellowship and works to my Bible study? Am I missing out on a new friend that could give me insight to my walk? What about indecision, am I just missing opportunities and blessings that were around the next bend by staying put and pouting?

God encourages us daily to write His word on our heart. (Proverbs 7:3b) Before you take a step out the door today, read your Bible for direction and insight. Use prayer to reset your compass and stay tuned in to where He wants you to go. Talk with friends and family who have been down the same road you are on. They’ll know the shortcuts and potholes, and you might even find an opportunity to share your walk with them. And by all means, don’t dawdle. Indecision is disobedience.

Feel free to get lost, but take your map and your loved ones. Because being a Christian means you’ll eventually make it Home, no matter where in this world Life takes you.
Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. Ps 119:105