Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gift of Joy

After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over {the place} where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Matthew 2:9-11

A friend of mine wrote a blog recently about the Three Wise Women. Check it out here: http://stm-jehwriter.blogspot.com/2008_12_01_archive.html. It got me to thinking. Especially as we approach 2009.

If I was to bring a gift to the baby shower for Jesus, what would I bring? The practical side of me would say diapers and wipes...or onesies and blankets. The materialistic side of me would say savings bonds, shares in Toys R Us or an heirloom sippy cup. But her blog spoke to the deeper side of me, the spiritual side.

2008 brought a lot of changes to our family. My son is away from us for a while--he made some bad choices and we had to relinquish our legal control over him to the State. My job ended with JDSU, I contracted some work with them for a year and now it's over again. My daughter-in-law fought a mysterious illness that took a year for the doctors to figure out. Now we know what she's fighting and can focus on a healthier lifestyle. My mom's illness progressed quickly. She will receive a wonderful gift of marrow from her sister in the new year.

With all that 2008 slung at our family, what is left to give to Jesus in 2009?

In our tight-knit Bible study group, we decided to give out of our abundance to each other at our next meeting. We thought a gift exchange of dollar store items would be silly-that nobody needed another coffee cup. But to give out of our abundance--what we already have--might be just the thing.

So as I think about what I have in abundance after slogging through 2008, I am astonished to find an abundance of Joy. It's not the same as happiness...being happy is dependent on what happens to you. Joy goes deeper, like roots that sustain an oak tree.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. James 1:2-3

Joy because I know where my son is and that he is cared for and safe. Joy because I have some down time to pray, think and write. Joy because my daughter-in-law is able to care for her family again. Joy because I had another year with my mom.

That shining star the magi followed to find Jesus is still shining today for those who wish to see it. It is Joy, and it is with every Christian who shakes off what the world tries to bury them with.
So my gift to my Savior in 2009 will be JOY. (Accountability partners take note!)

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Jude 1:24-25

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Kids' Table

Did you ever sit at the kids’ table during Thanksgiving? It was usually a flimsy card table with someone’s turkey they made in school perched in a nest of fake autumn leaves in the table’s center. The paper plates were lively autumn colors, with matching cups and napkins. The cutlery was plastic, with knives that could spread butter but couldn’t cut turkey.

We either had our plates filled for us, with stuff we really didn’t want or we’d serve ourselves and balance a turkey leg, a pound of mashed taters and a flood of gravy that dripped onto the paper tablecloth. Cranberries, green beans and that mystery casserole never saw our table. Then there was always some clown at the table and who'd put olives on every finger tip.

What was really embarrassing was if one of our moms would come and cut our turkey for us. Can we get an eye roll and heavy sigh? Yeah…there was never enough room under the table to hide. And when we did get some of that mystery casserole, the family dog was our best defense. It slid off the paper plate, onto the floor in one easy plop. And the dog made short work of it. He wasn’t going to tell either. (Let’s face it, some are still stuck at the kids’ table simply because of their manners.)

Sometimes we’d sneak and get dessert first. Ah…there’s nothing like a slice of pumpkin pie and enough kool whip to disguise it as a mound of taters. But watch out for that distracted helpful mom who cuts everyone’s meat…in all the confusion you just might get a douse of gravy on that disguised pie.

So why the stroll down memory lane? Well, I was thinking about how funny we’d look if we were still stuck at the kids table. We wouldn’t be very comfortable, all elbows and knees. Or trying to use cutlery that bends under pressure and trying to enjoy food dished up for us. Thankfully we’ve moved on to the grownup table…with dishes, cutlery and serving ourselves and passing the bread and butter to the next person, then having pie if we dare…sigh.

Something to think about while you enjoy your seat at the grownup table this year: how many of us are still stuck at the kids’ table spiritually? Do you go every Sunday and sit because that’s what you were raised to do? Do you feast on what is served up to you every week, never daring to serve yourself on Tuesday or Friday from God’s Word, the Bible? Do you feel too awkward to even darken the door of a church, all elbows and knees—not sure what the protocol or manners are?

Let me tell you dear reader, there is room at this table and you are all invited. God has prepared a feast for all of us. "He has brought me to {his} banquet hall, And his banner over me is love. Song of Solomon 2:4

Time to push away from the kids' table, dust off the crumbs and find your seat. There's more than enough room and there's even your own namecard holding your spot.

Will you dine with me on this day of thanks? Do not rely simply on what is served up for you by someone else. It’s time you seek the Truth for yourself and find out what you’ve been missing. Time to pull out that Bible and see where He takes you. It could be Genesis, or John or Romans.

It’s an amazing banquet, and it is all you can eat for an eternity. Be blessed, be loved and be thankful.

O taste and see that the LORD is good Psalms 34:8a

Saturday, November 15, 2008

About Daphne

Today I’m driving to a Memorial service for a special lady. You see, my friend Daphne passed away to glory on Nov 4th after a long illness. She was so stubborn that the doctors and nurses were pretty amazed at her stamina. But then they didn’t know Daphne until she got sick. I’ve known her for over 25 years.

I remember first meeting Daphne. It was dinner and a card game at her house with Joe. The kids were little, stealing shoes and hiding them so we couldn’t go home until they were found. This lady who couldn’t shuffle cards at all had an infectious giggle and kind brown eyes. Well, they were kind until her husband Joe would tease her. He knew to duck when she’d yell, “Joseph!”

There was something there that told me I would be very good friends for a very long time.

And we were. You see, Daphne became my guardian angel on earth. She knew something was wrong in my house. And when things fell apart, she was there. We would go to the ocean and sit and let the waves wash away my pain.

She loved her family so. When she moved away to another state and times got tough, she sold her beloved teacup collection for grocery money to get by, and never regretted it. Sharing tea and cucumber sandwiches with her at different local tea houses became our favorite outing.

When I couldn’t have kids she counseled me…helped me get through that hard stuff. And when I brought a little red-headed boy home, she loved him like a grandchild. And we rejoiced. She cared for him until I could afford daycare. She saw his first steps…

When I was invited to a local Christian singles' group, she encouraged me to go. And when I found my Prince Charming, she rejoiced with me. She helped me plan the wedding and kept me organized. She was my Matron of Honor and stood by my side.

And when we moved away, she understood I would not be seeing her very much. You see, when we told her we needed to move closer to Tom’s kids, she understood. She loved her kids so much, she knew what it cost to love your children unconditionally.

My faith grew because of her gentle encouragement with hand written prayer journals and quiet conversation. She was no Bible thumper, she was the fragrance of Christ. She showed me unconditional love and told me about the magnitude of His love—Agape Love—that she experienced. Her faith was not a religion, it was a relationship and she lived it out every day.

In her garden, planting the backyard with vegetables and the front yard with flowers, she saw the miracle of growing things. While crafting things, she felt the pain of creating—a feathered angel wing placed just so with hot glue that would blister her fingertips. At the ocean’s edge, she saw the awesomeness of His forgiveness—a never ending washing away of sins. In her church, the love for worship extended to her life in music and fascination with Christmas.

It was that unconditional love that she showed to her family, friends and church that is a gift to us all. To love with no strings attached is what Jesus was all about to her. She loved, because she knew she was loved—unconditionally.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39

Friday, October 31, 2008

Wait on Him

I like to leave encouragement cards to the wait staff at restaurants. It normally includes info about our church or my blog. Have you ever stopped to think about this difficult job?

They start their work day introducing themselves to complete strangers. They serve a beverage and take an order for the kitchen to cook up. Then they deliver the food and make sure the guests have everything they need to enjoy their meal.

They wait for the first course to be finished and clear the plates. They wait for the glass to get half full and then refill it. They wait for the meal to end and they offer dessert and coffee. Then they wait for the customer to leave and the process starts all over.

When you become a Christian, you are stepping into a similar situation. You are no longer a "customer" to sit and be served. You wait--but it's not the resting kind of "wait". You find your niche at church and you wait on complete strangers who enter the building. (The only difference to me is that guests at a church are not required to put anything in the offering plate. It's the members who are responsible for tithes...but then that's a whole other blog!)

You may be the greeter and deliver a handshake or hug, which is like a refreshing beverage to most.

You may be an usher, who finds a good seat for them or brings a chair for extra guests.

You may be in the worship team who delivers a taste of heaven--an appetizer of what is to come.

You could be in the background or "kitchen", cooking up new ways to present the banquet that is served by the pastor.

You could be with the kids...making sure they get their "happy meal" tailored to their spiritual tastebuds.

Or, you could be a Pastor--who knows exactly what God has cooked up and presents it in such a way that it is tantalizingly good.

A Christian without a church is like a waiter without a restaurant. He's ready to serve and finds it very difficult to serve out of his own kitchen. He cannot do it all alone.

People are starving in this world and we are called to feed, tend and care for His children. What are you going to do for your church today?

We are called to "Wait for the LORD," (Psalms 27:14a) because He gave us the Ultimate Head Waiter: Jesus.

It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Matthew 20:26-28

Monday, October 20, 2008

Promised Land

In Deuteronomy 34, we find Moses climbing Mount Nebo, all the way to the top of Pisgah. God was taking him literally to new heights, but He was also keeping His promise to Moses. If you remember, because of Moses’ disobedience, God promised he would never set foot in Canaan. (Numbers 20:1-13 ) However, God would show it to him.

And what a view he had! From horizon to horizon…we read, “And the LORD showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, and all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, and the Negev and the plain in the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar.” Deuteronomy 34:1-3

God allowed him to see this wonderful sight, and then he died—at the vivacious age of 120. What a way to go—how many of us will ever get a view of what’s in store for our descendants before we die?

However, this man, this chosen servant of God, this one who knew the Lord face to face, this one who faithfully delivered the Ten Commandments and led a nation out of bondage, could only lead the people so far.

This task was for another—the only one whom Moses literally laid his hands upon during the blessing of Israel. (Deuteronomy 33) This is the one who received the “spirit of wisdom” and would be the one to take the children of Israel into the Promised Land.

This man’s name was Joshua, which means deliverer. Remember God is all about parallels. While you savor part of his name’s definition, let me explain a bit more…

Moses brought the Ten Commandments to the people directly from God. It’s pretty obvious they’re not ten suggestions, they are mandates.

It seems pretty sensible to follow. Children and nations have been reared on these laws. They’re very straight forward.

So let’s look at a couple…here is the whole scripture from Exodus:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;

Do not have any other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,
but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
For six days you shall labour and do all your work.
But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour
Exodus 20:2-17

Most have never killed anyone or robbed a bank. We should be pretty safe, right? But when the Bible teaches us that hate is the same as murder, and withholding your tithes is the same as robbing God…where can we run from that guilt that the law unleashes?

You see, the law shows us how much we are still slaves to sin. It is a mirror that shows every ugly shackle and chain we forged our self and how that keeps us in bondage to sin. It shows us how far away from the Promised Land we really are. We haven’t even begun to set foot inside the boundaries! And there is no way we can do this on our own strength.

Who do we look to for our Joshua—our deliverer?

The other definition of Joshua’s name is Jeshua or Savior. Yes, Joshua is a form of the name Jesus!

Is that hard to swallow, or is it sweet? Imagine! We have our own Savior and Deliverer who is Jesus Christ. He is the only one who can free us from our bondage and lead us into our own Canaan.

Why do you think Jesus said “follow me” so many times anyway? He’s moving forward to the Promised Land and we can either choose to follow Him, or be Left Behind.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Many, many moons ago when I was a teenager, my friend would play her guitar and sing a song by Jim Croce. It was my favorite sung by her. It's called "Time in a Bottle". For years she has been battling an illness and that song comes back to me in pieces and parts almost every day.

This morning I looked up all the lyrics and I was amazed. I wondered if Jim Croce ever realized who actually wrote this song of his!

This haunting lovesong tells of a bottle saving time, and I remembered a verse that says, "You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are {they} not in Your book?" Psalm 56:8

How amazing that God would be catching all your tears--tears of sorrow and of joy--in a bottle. Many people wonder if God even cares what they are going through. Know the tears that you cry and drop on the ground or dab with tissue are being caught because God cares that His children's emotions are bursting out of their tearducts.

How big a bottle do you think that would have to be? Another verse hints..."He gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle..." Ps 33:7a

If you think about it scientifically...your tears evaporate into the air and eventually return to the earth as rain, and then go out to sea. Where they are kept in their salty container.

Mr. Croce also sings about an empty box, that held a memory of how someone answered a wish and dream for him when they walked into his life. I would imagine he is singing of his son, but did you know that God also speaks of an empty box in the Bible?

"When they constructed the place of worship, the Tabernacle, God said, "Construct the altar in the shape of an open box..." Exodus 27:8a

Every human on this earth has one basic need, to be loved. How much love do you think someone would have for you if they gave their life for you? God filled that empty box, that altar, with His own sacrifice: His son Jesus. He had shown that no matter how many sacrifices His people made with animals and food, it just was not enough. It would take one perfect sacrifice to redeem His children once and for all. No other sacrifices would be needed.

I know that Jim Croce was singing of his lady love and his child. But when I really listen to the words, I hear a lovesong from our Savior.

For the LORD your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty savior. He will rejoice over you with great gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will exult over you by singing a happy song. Zephaniah 3:17

When you are faced with the thought of eternity, I want you to hear "Time in a Bottle" in a new way. Really listen to it and hear that longing and promise of forever. May you be blessed knowing that God sings over you, collects your tears, and has a box with a treasure in it for you.

May you hear His voice today, singing, "you're the one I want to go through time with..."

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23:6

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Grace Happens

I cannot imagine how people feel in the gulf cities of Texas and Louisiana right now. Yet another hurricane beat a path to their door with water, wind and tornados nearly a week ago. Lovely coastlines were erased, boats were drydocked in asphalt parking lots and cars were moored in murky water.

And the people, they are everywhere except where they want to be. Those that evacuated are trying to get home, while those who remained at home are cutting holes in their attics to be rescued from their rooftops.

And I sit in amazement at the whim of the wind.

"The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going..." John 3:8a (NAS)

We thought we would be the ones boarding up the windows and evacuating to the North. Who is to say why God diverted this storm from our coast? Some wonder why God even allows hurricanes.

...for He causes His sun to rise on {the} evil and {the} good, and sends rain on {the} righteous and {the} unrighteous. Matthew 5:45b (NAS)

"How can a loving God allow bad things to happen at all?"

I hear that more and more every day. From the mother of a sick child, the grandson of a man killed by a drunk driver, a teacher in shock after a student's suicide, a woman after her first miscarriage...

It rings in my ears and I have to ask God, "Why?"

And He seems to answer with the wind, the rain, and the alarm on the weather radio. But I wait for that still, small voice that is steady against the static of chaos.

So He said, "Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD." And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; {but} the LORD {was} not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, {but} the LORD {was} not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, {but} the LORD {was} not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. 1 Kings 19:11-12 (NAS)

The world will keep spinning on it's axis, people will continue to be human and God will still love us--no matter what we do or say to each other.

In Luke 13:1-5, Jesus talked of calamaties happening and questioned some people about whether the victims had this happen because of their sins.

He said, "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (NAS)

It wasn't about whether the bad thing that happened was because of being bad or good. That was not the point. The point was whether or not they were right with God. Repent means to make a U-turn. (God might've been a terrible traffic cop--He allows U-Turns all the time!)

If tragedy happens, are you ready to come face to face with the possibility of death?

Tomorrow it might be a freak accident, a hurricane or just plain old age catching up with us. We never really know when it's time. But there is one thing we can be sure of, and that's if we've made our peace with God and His son Jesus. (This is one thing you don't want to procrastinate about.)

You don't have to get right first, because He's the one that makes it right. It's no change that we can make on our own. He gives us grace-total unmerited favor-while we're in our guilt!

So tell me, when you see that storm on the horizon, or feel the punch of your airbag, do you know for sure where you'll be for eternity?

"For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. "For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. "Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. "Two women {will be} grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. "Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. Matthew 24:37-42 (NAS)

My prayer is not a kind one. I pray that you are restless until you have made a decision for Christ. Consider it a dose of holy insomnia my friend. I care about your soul.

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 (NAS)

If you want more information, check out the book of John in your Bible...or ask a Christian friend.

But don't stop until you get the answer you need.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. Revelation 22:21 (NLT)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fey Fay

The name Fay means elf or fairy. It’s a lovely name. I have a new friend named Faye. It is a delicate, female name. Even the pronunciation of the name takes a small bit of breath.

When news came of a tropical storm named Fay was on her way, I did not take much notice. We had been through tropical storms before, and they seemed to be a regular Florida rain storm. We bought our hurricane supplies like the drill that it was and waited for the rains to come. Little did we know what was in store for us.

Tropical Storm Fay arrived like one of those unwanted stealth water balloons. Only she had a more lasting blow—rain gauges could not keep up with the 30 inches of rain that pounded our homes.

Fay was no lady…she was more like a two-ton fairy who left a wake of water in her path that flooded the most unsuspecting neighborhoods. And she overstayed her visit. She seemed to relish hanging out in Brevard County, pulling on the ocean breezes to supply her endless deluges. Her synchronized water dance would win no medals—but several trees fell prostrate, and power lines dipped low to the ground. When she finally tottered north, her skirts gave our county a few more slaps and thousands went without power.

You could say Fay made a name for herself in Florida. You could say we were thoroughly baptized; sprinkled AND dunked.

She underestimated the spunk of the people in Brevard County. Neighbors crossed property lines to check on each other. Strangers drove their big trucks in streets that were now rivers to rescue elderly trapped in their homes. Even a teenager became a siren for her mobile home park—calling, emailing and asking for help as the waters rose around her elderly neighbors.

People change in the face of calamity. Some of them crumble, yes. But others rise to the challenge and step in to the flood with little fear for themselves. They seem to know exactly what needs to be done at that moment.

I want to ask you…what kind of storm is on the horizon for you? Is it just another one of those drills in life? Do you have a doctor’s appointment, a subpoena, a hunch about your teen, a phone ringing? Does it not seem like a big deal for now?

It is a good idea to make sure you have your supplies stored up. If you don’t have a church family, it is never too late to begin looking around. When a crisis appears, yes they are human and some may not step up. But then there are others who will, and they do it because the love of Christ compels them to.

Do you have a Bible? It is the Bread of Life and Living Water. The Word of God has been my sustenance in times of great tragedy. T.V. is chewing gum for the brain, there is no nourishment. You may get a sound byte of wisdom between hours of hypnotic broadcasts…but His word “will not return void”. (Isaiah 55:11)

Next time you see a storm brewing on Doppler radar, expect it to be a water logged, two-ton fairy. Be prepared spiritually and learn to rely on God. He knows a lot about floods.

"As for you, you meant evil against me, {but} God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive." Genesis 50:20

Sunday, July 27, 2008

If it ain't broke...

I was reading an article in Worshiper* magazine today. It started with an idea that spurred my thinking. Rev. Smith said that the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality is "Sage wisdom from a culture in which the measure of all things tends to be results and success. Whatever's working, go with it!" His article goes on to talk about how that concept does not work for the worship of God.

If you've been a Christian for a while, you've found that Jesus does not fit the mold of the world's thinking. Some of His teachings clearly go against the norm...if someone strikes you, turn your cheek...if a brother asks you to walk a mile with him, walk two miles...if someone demands your coat, offer your shirt...

So I wondered what Jesus would think about that proverb "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". I think He would reword it to say, "It ain't fixed until it's broke." Doesn't make sense to you? Let's look at some scripture on that.

In Mark 6:30-44 you see an event similar to Woodstock. Thousands of people followed Jesus to a remote area just to be with Him. Note that the 5,000 it mentions was just the men they counted--there were women and children too. As the day wore on, the people needed to be fed. There were no food tents, no kosher hotdog vendor who followed the crowd. Nobody thought to bring the kids a happy meal or protein bars. The situation needed a fix. They found they only had five loaves and two fish. ..so Jesus' solution? Break the only things they had all to pieces...and the fragments fed everyone. They even had leftovers!

Ruth Stull said, "If my life is broken when given to Jesus, it is because pieces will feed a multitude, while a loaf will satisfy only a little lad."

You see, there's more to life when it's broken apart. Only then does Jesus have something to work with. If our lives are comfortable, orderly and perfect...how can He get any glory? How can there be any hope for that unbeliever who's life has just crumbled around them?

Nothing gives more volume to a Christian life than the experience of brokenness. If you really get to know a strong Christian, you will find their life has been broken in some form or fashion--probably more than once!

When we praise God despite illness, bankruptcy or death...that's when Jesus is revealed to unbelievers. It's the broken vessel that allows Living Water to pour out to others.

It's a scary prayer to think of, but I'm finding it an amazing step in faith. Can you take this adventure with me? Then pray, "Lord, give me the gift of brokenness."

Life isn't fixed until it's broken. Jesus knew that, or He would not have laid down His life for you. You see, we never could have earned eternal life on our own. The gift of eternal life was achieved only when His own life was broken for us. How can we not do the same for Him?

And when He had taken {some} bread {and} given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." Luke 22:19

*Worshiper Summer 2008, When It Is Broken by Rev. Scotty Smith

Thursday, July 17, 2008

No Deposit, No Return

When someone wants to buy something of great value like a diamond ring or a house, they are usually required to put down a deposit. Sometimes it's 20% or more. The seller wants to make sure you are serious about the purchase, and that you'll be back to sign a contract for monthly payments or to pay it off completely. If you don't return, you lose the deposit.

If you don't have money, then something usually of equal or more value is left with the seller. They hold this deposit until the buyer returns for the item. Only an unscrupulous seller would keep the deposit and sell the item to another while the first buyer is away.

Normally a well-known business name is someone you would make this deal with. The guy behind WalMart with a van full of "diamond" rings--not so much.

Did you know that when you became a Christian, God put down a deposit for you? He wants you to know that you are His, and He will be back for you. Jesus paid the price and it was high. It cost Him life itself.

The transaction was made when you prayed to receive Jesus as your Savior. No, it's not 20% of your net worth, and it wasn't a roll of quarters for the bundle of chemicals that you're made of. The Bible tells us that God deposited the Holy Spirit within our hearts.

Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave {us} the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (NLT)

The "deposit" or Holy Spirit remains within you. He is better than your conscience. He is a comforter, counselor...a still, small voice that speaks to your heart when you need Him. No wonder He's a jealous God--He made an eternal investment in you!

Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"? James 4:5 (NLT)

For those that have not made the choice to accept Jesus Christ, they do not have this deposit, this promise. Ever wonder why some people feel so empty? It's because they have yet to receive this gift--and it is free. All they have to do is ask. They think that saving up their own good works is enough for a deposit of their own...but it's never enough. The more they do, the more they fall short. It's a frightening cycle. If you have never asked Jesus Christ into your life, I would not waste another moment. The gift only He can give is free. There are no brownie points, no drycleaning your soul before the prayer.

Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the law? Of course not, for the Holy Spirit came upon you only after you believed the message you heard about Christ. Galatians 3:2 (NLT)

You can bet Jesus Christ will live up to His promise of returning. I hope you find comfort in that. When you find yourself lonely and wondering if you will ever feel loved, know that He is coming back. And He loves you like you are the only person in the world. That in itself is priceless.

"Don't be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father's home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. John 14:1-3 (NLT)

Monday, June 09, 2008

Go Green 2

It's still wildfire season in Florida, and I can't seem to get away from the visual of the blackened brush on my way to the grocery store.

The palmetto bushes are now a riot of green against the black and brown damage of the brush fires in my area. I am amazed how close the fires got to some buildings. Two churches in my area had the fires licking at their parking lots, ready to pounce on the roof and steeple.

The fires have revealed a lot about the areas that burned. I can see homes once hidden behind thick brush, trees and kudzu, where before you only saw a meandering driveway. I can also see the sheer number of trees that stand with blackened trunks--they look like hundreds of creosote power poles. But what amazes me most is that I can see the tiniest growth. A shoot against all that black and brown is a flare of hope, a rocket of life that is a party amongst all the gloom.

My heart soars with the verse from Lamentations 3:21-36, "This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. {They} are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness."

It was as if God was saying, "My daughter, how can you think that anyone could see your growth unless there was the appropriate backdrop? How would an unbeliever behold the touch of My Hand in your life, unless there was a contrast to make it obvious?"

"But the natural man does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." 1 Corinthians 2:14

I am in awe that God would use a meek mouse of a girl to shout His amazing love to the world. Being a Christian is not for sissies my friend. When you finally do make that decision to follow Christ, you'd better be ready to feel the heat of hell at your back door. Because most people can't see the obvious, it has to be as clear as the shock of green palmetto against a few blackened trees.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Go Green

'Tis the season for wildfires and so far we've come away unscathed. On the way to the grocery store, there are scars of fires that riddle my neighborhood. Once the fire was finally out, smoke hung in the heat of the day. It was enough to make your throat sore for days. As I drove by the blackened acres, it amazed me how much farther in to the brush you could see. Where one section was seemingly impassable by kudzu and palmetto, stark black trunks stood bare for any passerby to ogle at. After about a week, the remaining pine trees dropped their needles to the floor. A fine layer of brown seemed to carpet the charred ground.

The thing that always amazes me is after about three weeks the palmetto bushes begin to change. Before the fire, they were great green fans that sheltered animals and made any meandering through the woods very difficult. Afterwards, the plants trunks looked like writhing black snakes on the ground, easily stepped over. But give them three weeks or so, this seemingly dead plant sends out a flare of green. You see, the palmetto is very resilient and hard to kill.

It's a beautiful sight to see shots of green amongst the black. The green is so bright and sharp, it's almost as if someone tagged each plant with a garish green flag--the green flag of "Go!".

I wonder how many lives out there feel blackened and charred by a wildfire that Life has sparked. Do you only see the damage and ruin caused by words, abuse or natural disaster? The human soul is like a palmetto plant. Take time to mourn, to lay dormant and allow others to cloak you with comfort. But do not linger there because depression can set in and you will remain down, your growth stunted.

My God is in the renewal business. No matter how bad it gets, no matter how much you think you can't stand, He is there to comfort, restore and renew. Yes you will still have the scars of the past, but the new growth that comes will be like the new growth of a blackened palmetto. The contrast of life against death will cause others to stop and wonder--just who is this Jesus you believe in?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friendly Fire

One of the tragedies of war is something called "Friendly Fire". In the American Heritage Dictionary it is defined as

n. Discharge of a military weapon that injures or kills a member of one's own armed forces or an ally.
Normally this happens because of obscured vision, the aim was off, or bad intelligence was provided. The consequences can be tragic. A soldier can lose their life. If they suffer physical injury, they must live with it daily that the injury was caused by a comrade.

As a Christian we are in a spiritual war against hell itself. We are in the field with enemy fire all around us. The "friendly fire" we face in our battlefield can be just as devastating.

A stray word meant for someone else can actually ricochet. One comment I hear from non-church goers is, "Why would I want to go be with a bunch of hypocrits? The way some christians talk is no different from non-christians!"

Gossip cloaked as prayer requests can rally a well-meaning Christian to blast another for possible sinful behavior, and another casualty of war falls out of church.

The most common instance is being blinded by our own sin, we strike out in anger at our own loved ones like they are the enemy. When the smoke clears, we want to take back those words and recall the bombs we lobbed but it is too late. Our loved one's trust is mortally wounded and it may take years to recover.

How do we avoid "friendly fire" in our walk with Christ? The Bible says do not associate with a gossip. (Proverbs 20:19) Be careful how you receive prayer requests. Are you truly praying for that person, or are you "passing it on" to the next "concerned" friend?

Proverbs 26:18-19 says that a person who deceives his neighbor and then claims it as a joke is like a crazy person shooting flaming arrows. Think about what you're saying before you let loose with cutting remarks. Saying you were joking does not repair the injury at all. You're only trying to duck the blame for the pain you caused.

In Matthew 7:1-6 Jesus tells us to check ourselves before we try to point out what another person's problems are. When you find the statement, "You know what your problem is?" bubbling up in your mouth, stop and make sure what irks you about someone else is not exactly what God wants you to deal with!

Today you can start over--that's what God is all about: new beginnings. Ask God to remind you of those you have hurt with friendly fire. Go to those people or write a letter and ask forgiveness. Our God is a god of restoration. If they refuse your apology, don't get angry. You've done your part. After that it's God's turn to work on their heart.

Finally, if you do find yourself in a battle with a loved one, stop and do what a good friend once told me. Take that person's hand gently and tell them, "You are not my enemy!"

We are in a war and the book of Revelation says we will win. That should strengthen your resolve to keep up the good fight. Just remember to be sure of your target.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual {forces} of wickedness in the heavenly {places.}
Ephesians 6:12

Monday, February 11, 2008


We love to visit garage sales on the weekend. We love the adventure of a treasure hunt where most everything is $1. One time we found something really cool. There was no price, so we asked about it.

The owner said, "$1".

We looked at each other and couldn't give them such a small amount--we knew it's true value.

"We'll give you $10."

The expression on the owner's face was great.

"Excuse me," he said, "that's not how it works. You're supposed to offer me a lower price."

We said, "Yes but, we know the true value and we want to give you a fair price."

We left the owner with $10 in his hand, shaking his head.

That's how it is with God. The world may tell you that you don't amount to much. That nobody wants you. That by the end of the day if nobody picks you up, you're trash.

God says something different. He knows your value. He created you. (Psalm 139:13) He counts the hairs on your head. (Luke 12:7) You are His treasure (Isaiah 62:3) and you were bought with a price. (1 Corinthians 6:20) A very steep one at that: the death of His only son Jesus.

When you want to add value to your life and the world tells you you're worthless. Look to God. He says you're priceless!

For R151 God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

Friday, January 18, 2008

Thank God

James E. Bibbons was quoted as saying, "If a matter is not serious enough to pray about, then it is not serious enough to worry about - and if it is serious enough to pray about, and we have prayed about it, then there is no need to worry about it."

When I was little and had a nightmare, I would lay paralyzed in my bed and yell for my mom or dad to come rescue me. I guess I was too afraid of the ankle monster that lived under my bed to try and make the dash to their room. Once they came in, turned on the light and listened to what my dream was about, I was able to settle back down and get to sleep. Most times, unless I was really sick, I would never have the bad dream again.

When I think about all the problems people face and the worries that keep them up at night, I have to ask if they've prayed about it. Sometimes they'd say that God has enough on his plate to deal with. (That would be like saying that you never talked to your father because you figured he had enough on his plate what with work and bills. That's another blog.)

Sometimes they'll answer, "Yes, I was up all night on my knees, petitioning God, begging for Him to take care of it." And yet, there is still no peace and the worry lines grow deeper in their brows.
Looking at Phlippians 4:6-7, Paul exhorts the church to "be anxious for nothing"--don't worry. Easier said than done. Then he instructs them how to do that. "in everything by prayer and supplication"...ok, we're doing that too. "...with thanksgiving..." Ah HA! Did you notice that word--thanksgiving. Sure you can pray and petition, beg and bargain but to pray like it's already done and thank God for it? Now that's a trip of faith, isn't it?

Now look at the rest of the verse...there's a condition that goes hand in hand when you pray "with thanksgiving". Check it out, "And the peace of God...will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." There's the reward my friend, peace of mind. You want to sleep at night but your worries are building nightmares in your bedroom? Praying with thanksgiving is a flashlight to those dark corners of worry. When you pray, thank God like He's already accomplished the job. Most times He already has, we just don't know about it yet.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Back in high school we had spirit week to celebrate homecoming. Each day would be a special day to show your spirit: Nerd day, Black and gold day, Hat day, 50's day and Inside-Out day. All week the excitement would build. Then at Friday's pep rally we welcomed our homecoming football champions. (Go Bobcats!)

My favorite day was 50's day. Another fun "spirit day" was Inside-Out day, where students wore all their clothing inside-out. Proudly we walked from class to class with all our tags flapping in the wind--as well as pockets, lining and seams.

With one glance you knew exactly how the clothing was sewn together. It was obvious when it was nicely made or a home-ec experiment gone horribly wrong. Pockets would be visible and people would ask about gum or lunch money you thought you had hidden away. A finer detail was whether or not the fabric was printed on one side, or if the color was woven into the fabric. Then there were a few class pests who would try to rip your shirt tag out. Their goal was to snag as many Hang Ten or Ocean Pacific labels they could get.

In 2008, my church is encouraging members to turn their faith inside out. I thought for a moment what that would look like. Could it be as obvious as wearing your shirt inside-out?

Certainly an inside-out faith would prove how we were put together. How are your seams? Are they torn and in need of mending? Or do they need to be taken in a bit by the Master Tailor? Are you hiding anything in the dark pockets of your life? Time to empty them out! An inside-out faith would also prove whether or not it was a real faith...is your faith one-sided, or is it woven into the fabric of life? And finally, what about that tag flapping in the wind? If satan tries to "rip out" your tag, will he find "made in heaven" or a counterfeit faith that never quite measures up under pressure?

Are you ready to show your Spirit? If you are not a member of a church family, I would encourage you to find a solid church to belong to. Seek Christ this year. 2008 could be the year of Jesus' homecoming...the ultimate pep rally!

"The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil {man} out of the evil {treasure} brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart." Luke 6:45