Saturday, November 2, 2013

Unexpected Thanksgiving #1

The post this morning about Nazareth Hearts that only want to see and receive miracles has been on my mind all day. A Nazareth heart was not at all attractive to Jesus, and I certainly don't want to be like that. I want a grateful heart that finds a blessing in every trial. 

With that in mind, I have had to try harder than usual to keep a happy, grateful heart. My Mac computer has been in a mess since last night. I can't begin to explain the problem but, in a nutshell, a critical program quit working. I needed to delete that program and reinstall it. To do that I had to delete another program and reinstall it in order to install a new program so that I can reinstall the program that failed. Confusing, huh? It's been frustrating, too, but I've managed to keep my cool and find things about which to be grateful all day long. 

Here's the list, in no particular order:
- Computer Universe was my first stop. They couldn't help, but everyone agreed they would be frustrated in my situation and their compassion helped quite a bit. They did try but couldn't fix the problem.  
- Since Computer Universe couldn't help, they didn't charge me. I'd have willingly paid them because they were so nice, but I was glad for the savings. 
- I have spoken with Apple representatives off and on all day. John, Doug, Tim, and two other guys whose names I've forgotten (so sorry) were ALL super nice. They were not only apologetic, they commiserated with my misery AND assured me that they would keep trying until they had my problem fixed. I can't begin to say enough about how kind they were. 
- Even better, everyone I talked with at Apple spoke fluent English. I don't mind accents and English as a second language. People have been incredibly patient with me when I was the one attempting a second language, so I try to be patient, too. I was just glad that extra patience wasn't required today. 
- The first time I tried to reinstall the operating system, my computer told me it would take 208 hours and 42 minutes. I was not at all surprised. I do live in Rural northeast Mississippi, and my internet is not the fastest. It was a wonderful surprise, however, when my second attempt (well maybe my forty-second attempt) took considerably less time than that. 
- I had lots of errands to run today and, since the temperature was wonderfully cool, Maggie rode along. There is nothing better than Maggie as a riding companion. Everything is exciting and wonderful to her (and, therefore, to me)
- Since she was groomed Thursday, I had a nice smelling companion for errands, which is definitely a plus. 
- I arrived home with 500 pounds of feed to unload and Bill (who helps me on the farm) was at the barn! He unloaded all the feed so I didn't have to do it!! Hooray! 
-Pillsbury now makes gluten-free pizza dough in a tub, so I had a super yummy GF Gruyere, Romano, arugula, chicken, and prosciutto pizza for supper. Don't knock it until you've tried it. Delicious!! 
- To top it all off, we move the clock back an hour tonight! Extra sleep is a super wonderful thing!!

The funny thing is that, despite the frustrating difficulties with my computer (which have delayed uploading my new e-book to Amazon by two days at least), I have had wonderful blessings all day and I actually have a grateful heart. It's amazing. I chose to have a grateful heart and, in the end, that's what I've had. 

It's become a Facebook tradition to list something every day in November for which you are grateful. This month, I hope to take it a little further. I will be looking for the opportunity to give thanks in unexpected places. Why don't you try that, too?  Let me know how it goes! I can't wait to hear from you!

Happy Thanksgiving!!  

The Nazareth Heart

And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; (Luke 4:28 NASB)

That little word ALL is interesting here. There was not one person in the synagogue that day who was not out of control angry with Jesus that day. Not even one.

Why were they so angry? Jesus had said out loud what they were all thinking. He told them that were mostly happy to see Him in the synagogue because they wanted to see Him do some tricks like He had in Capernaum. Apparently He was right. Then, He told them that He wasn't going to be too popular in Nazareth after all, because prophets never are popular in their home towns. He was right about that, too. He reminded them about Elijah and Elisha being sent to Gentiles instead of Jewish people, which implied that they would not be getting any special miracles on an individual basis either. That was pretty much icing on the cake, and they were furious with Him.  

They didn't want truth, they didn't want conviction, and the only thing they did want was more than they already had. They wanted to see corporate miracles and receive individual miracles. They didn't love Jesus. They weren't overwhelmed with gratitude for what God had already done. They just wanted what He could do for them. 

I have a friend who often says, "If Jesus never does another thing for me, what He's already done is more than enough!"  She's right. Oh if we had that kind of grateful heart instead of a "Nazareth heart" that wants not just more, but something spectacular. 

As we begin the Thanksgiving Season, take some time for introspection today. Do you have a Nazareth heart? It's a dread disease, but the cure is simply gratitude. Thank God for all He has done for you. Pray, too, that our loved ones will recognize the goodness of God at work in their lives and that they, too, will express their thanks to Him. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Responding to Jesus

And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, "Is this not Joseph's son?" ...And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; (Luke 4:22, 28 NASB)

When Jesus read Scripture, people in the synagogue that day were pleased. He did a fine job, and they liked it that their hometown boy was becoming a famous preacher. They knew His people and He was one of them. Well, He was one of them as long as His words were lovely to hear. 

When Jesus spoke hard truth and required self-examination of them, the people in the synagogue went from zero anger to full-out rage faster than a speeding Lamborghini. They were "filled with rage", and completely overcome by it. Why? Jesus had challenged them at the point of their prejudice and they did not like it one bit. 

What about us? How do we respond to Jesus? What is our response to His words? His challenges to our prejudices? Do we respond with a heart willing to change or one filled with anger?  Pray today that we, as well as our loved ones, will respond to the words of Christ with open hearts and a willingness to become more like Him. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The "Good News" Mail

Most of the time, if it looks like junk mail, I toss it without looking at it. This afternoon, I received a piece of mail that looked a lot like junk mail, but I wasn't sure, so I opened it. This proclamation caught my eye:
It was scam mail, but we all had a good laugh when I said, "Oh, it's good news! I've been accepted!" What kind of accepted wasn't quite clear. "I can do something with this!" I laughed. Indeed, I've been thinking ever since about being accepted. 

I've been the new girl in school who didn't quite fit in. Being accepted, when it finally came, was a wonderful thing, but I still remember how not being accepted feels. Relationships and daily interactions are full of opportunities for us to accept or reject others. I'd like to think I'm always accepting of those who are different from me, but I'd just be fooling myself. Maybe you have a little trouble with that, too. 

In the spirit of "faith lived out loud", I did a search to see what the Bible says about "accepted". I found lots of verses, but one really hit home. "Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God." (Romans 15:7 NASB) That verse just stepped all over my toes!  Christ glorified God when He accepted us (in all our sinful badness) and we are to do the same for others. I had never considered that accepting those who are different, just like Christ accepted me, would glorify God, but it does.  We make God look good when we are kind and open-hearted to people who are different from us, whether because of skin color, socioeconomic class, or lifestyle choices.  We make Him look bad when we are not. 

Put that way, this whole accepting/rejecting business looks a little different, doesn't it? Who wants to make God look bad? Certainly not me. I'm pretty sure He's not happy with that!  It's a lot to consider, but I don't see any way around this fact: Jesus Christ died for while I was still a sinner, He accepted me at my worst, and He expects me to do the same for others. 

The next time we meet someone who is "different" let's remember "Good news! You've been accepted!" And so have they!

Fixing Your Eyes on Jesus

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. (Luke 4:20 NASB)

The Son of God read the Scripture, closed the scroll, and sat down. Surely it was the most authoritative reading they had ever heard. They could tell something was about to happen, and they didn't want to miss a thing. No one was looking around. No one was fidgeting that day.  Their eyes were fixed on Jesus. What a wonderful place to fix your sight!

It reminds me of that old chorus by Helen Lemmel:
"Turn your eyes upon Jesus, 
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace."

Her inspiration was Hebrews 12:2, in which the writer encouraged his readers to "... run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus..." (Hebrews 12:1, 2 NASB)

That's exactly right, isn't it?  The way to live the kind of life that pleases God is to "fix our eyes on Jesus" rather than all the things this world offers, and "run with endurance". Don't give up, no matter what happens or who disappoints you. Keep going. 

Interestingly, there is nothing in Hebrews about plodding reluctantly along. The word here is RUN. it's wide open, give it all you've got, running. This is the running that gives a huge adrenaline rush after you've run a while. It kicks in, feels so good that you never want to stop, and helps you make it to the finish line in a race. Run.  Run to Jesus.  

Pray today that we and our loved ones will get our eyes off the stuff of this world, fix our eyes on Jesus, and run with everything in our being straight to Him. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Vegetable Box

The vegetable box arrived today! Everyone wanted a peek to see what exotic and not-so-exotic vegetables were inside. Occasionally we've had to resort to Google to identify something, but usually my boss, an experienced grocery produce man (years ago), can not only identify the vegetables, he can tell us how to cook them. 

Here's how this got started.  Will Reed grew up in Tupelo. He wanted to be a farmer, but that is a risky and expensive business. Will ventured into a new kind of farming. CSA farming is community supported agriculture. For an individual, a large vegetable garden can be a fairly expensive and labor-intensive way to have fresh vegetables. For the farmer, it can be difficult to scrape together enough cash to start a crop that is big enough to produce revenue. CSA is a way to let both groups of people work together to accomplish their goals. 

People like me, with not enough time to garden, and those who for one reason or another can't do a garden, partner with the farmer. We pay for a share of his crop in advance, and the farmer agrees to pick and box the crops when they are ready. We can either pick the veggies up at the farm or (for a little extra) they will bring them to us. The farmer has an initial revenue stream and can sell all the extra vegetables throughout the growing season. It helps him to know how much he should plant. We get fresh, naturally grown vegetables from a person we know. It's the best of both worlds, and everyone benefits from the arrangement. 

This works the way the church is supposed to work. Some are farmers, some are investors. At Native Son Farm, some are even interns and volunteers. All are a part of the Community Sponsored Agriculture project. No one is unhappy because they aren't the farmer, volunteer, or intern. The Reeds are happy with the job they have, too. This arrangement works, just like it should. Wouldn't it be great if the church worked like this?  Think how much we could accomplish. Think how many lives could be affected. 

The challenge for tonight is to consider your part in the body of Christ. What is your role? How well are you fulfilling it? What do you need to do differently in order to "make the arrangement work"?

The Moses Seat

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. (Luke 4:20 NASB)

The first half of this verse gives us an interesting word picture. Jesus, finished reading, rolled the scroll back up, handed it to the synagogue attendant, and sat down. In this instance, He took a very specific seat. The "Moses seat" was a stone seat (or chair) mentioned in 
Exodus 18:13. When Moses judged the people and mediated their arguments, he sat. While he sat, he explained the law to them. This became the traditional position to assume when teaching or explaining scripture. Sitting in the Moses seat was a position of authority and understanding. 

When Jesus sat in the Moses seat, he was taking the position of authority and understanding that were rightfully His. Later in Luke, we find that Jesus will be seated at the right hand of the Father in eternity. That stone chair must have been a bittersweet place for Him, as it served as a symbol of the seat of authority He had vacated to redeem us. When the people listened to Him, they were implicitly acknowledging His authority. 

Authority is a word that indicates rightful power or control over a situation, as well as the right to demand obedience to a set of rules or laws. Once authority is acknowledged, acquiescence to that authority should also follow. For the believer, there is no doubt that Jesus has the authority of God in our lives. The question becomes, then, how thoroughly do we submit to His authority? How completely do we obey the commands of Christ? How closely do we follow Him?

Today, spend a few minutes examining your own life and the extent to which you are submitting to Jesus. How closely does your life model His?

As we pray for our children and loved ones, ask God to open their eyes to the authority of Christ and to bring them to a point of willing obedience to His control in their lives. 

    The Moses Seat

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Quick Rain

“Hey mom can you believe this?  In three seconds it started raining.”  Ryan was incredulous.  “When I walked outside to get the cat’s bowl, it wasn’t raining.  When I walked back out with his food, it was.  Can you believe it could start raining so fast?”  I laughed.  “Yes, Ryan I really can believe it.  I think God likes to work fast like that sometimes.  Do you know what Proverbs says?”  I asked.  “It says that people who are doing wrong will be broken in a moment.  Just as quick as that.  God will let them keep doing bad things for a while, but when they least expect, he will move and break them.”  “Break?  Like a broken glass?”  He laughed as he thought about how that would look.  “No Ryan, not like a glass.  He means that the consequences of the wrong they’ve done will come when they least expect it.   They will be thinking, ‘This didn’t get me in trouble after all.’  They will think the wrong things didn’t really matter.  As fast as can be, they will find out it did matter in the end.”  

“There’s another time God said he would act fast.  Jesus said that He would come back “in a twinkling of an eye”.  As fast as you can blink He’ll come back and we’ll be changed and go to heaven with Him.  That’s why it’s so important to do right.  I sure don’t want to be doing wrong when he comes, do you?”  “Me either,” he agreed.

What about you?  Are you choosing to do what’s right or what’s wrong?  Have you been doing wrong so long that it seems like the only way?  That your actions don’t really matter? Does it seem you’ve “gotten away with” your choices?  Maybe you need to rethink that.  God says that, when we least expect it, the consequences of wrong choices will come.  We won’t like them, but it will be too late.  

Maybe you’ve begun to think that relief will never come.  Maybe you’re in a hard time that seems as if it will never end.  Does it seem as if all God’s promises are on hold?  As if He will never move for you?  Just hold on a little longer.  As fast as the blink of an eye, He can move.  One day, He’ll come back for His children.  Don’t despair.  When you least expect it, as fast as can be, you’ll be going home.   Are you ready for the trip?    

Jubilee Release (Luke 4:19)

To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord." (Luke 4:19 NASB)
This verse may not seem like much at first glance, but it is an allusion to the Year of Jubilee. According to the Law, every fiftieth year was to be a year of Jubilee. Any land that had been sold reverted back to the original owners. Slaves were to be freed in the year of Jubilee. If a Jew sold himself to a stranger (foreigner), he could be redeemed by a kinsman redeemer at any time, but in the year of Jubilee, he was released, no matter what. Once redeemed or released in the year of Jubilee, these former slaves would return to full status in their family. They returned to family land as if they'd never been away. 

Christ said He had come to proclaim a jubilee year. He was releasing those who were slaves (to sin) and restoring them to full status in the family of God.  What a word picture of Grace!  Those who had been enslaved longer or who had done worse "slave tasks" have equal to those who did not. It's the idea that house slaves and field slaves were restored to the same status as the family that had owned them.  What a miraculous turnaround!

We, too, were once slaves to sin and death, but Christ has redeemed us and proclaimed Jubilee liberty for us. We are not just released, but also restored. 

Pray today that our dearly loved ones will accept both the Jubilee release He offers and the restoration He brings as well. Pray that we will have the grace to accept them back in the same spirit of Jubilee. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

New Glasses

My ophthalmologist was pretty surprised when he learned how long it had been since I lost my glasses. "What have you been doing? Just winging it?" he asked. Well, yes, sorta. I thought I was seeing fine, but reading was becoming a problem. After some discussion, we agreed that two pairs of glasses would be best, one for reading and one for driving.

The reading glasses arrived last week. It took some adjustment for me, but I am constantly surprised by how different things look through the new lenses! Reading is SO much easier.

Today, the driving glasses finally arrived. These are the glasses of my dreams! I was shocked by how clear everything looks. Even colors look clearer and brighter. I can hardly believe it. As I was driving home wearing my new glasses I kept thinking about how much more I can see and how much safer I am as a driver with them. 

I've also begun to ponder the "eyes of my heart", and wish there were corrective lenses for them, as well. I don't know what they would look like, but I imagine they would give me perfect insight and understanding into every situation.  I would be able to recognize God's hand at work in my life, understand the reason other people act the way they do, and know exactly what to do in every situation. Wow. I really need this third pair of glasses. Alas, no such eyeglasses for the heart exist. 

The question of spiritual sight has been around for millennia. We want to see to believe, but the apostle Paul told the Corinthians "For we walk by faith, not by sight"- (2 Corinthians 5:7 NASB). How frustrating! Not only are there no spiritual eye glasses, but also there is no chance of any. We are supposed to obey without seeing. 

Centuries before, the Psalmist also struggled with this problem of spiritual sight. He came to a very astute understanding of the issue. "I see your love, and I live by your truth," he wrote. (Psalms 26:3 NCV) The evidence of God at work in his life and in the world around him was all the seeing he needed. Hmmm. Looking around for evidence of God is supposed to be enough to help me obey. That seems simple enough, doesn't it? 

Maybe the two new pairs of glasses will be enough, after all. 

Resting on The Word

One of Maggie the Wonder Dog's favorite things to do in the morning is sit on my lap while I read my Bible. Her other favorite thing is to snuggle in my place when I get up to get ready for work. Here she is in her favorite morning snuggle-spot. Resting her head on my open Bible.

Resting on the Word.

That's a great place to be.

We would have a very different world if more of us started the day with the Good News and rested in it all day long.

Setting the oppressed free (Luke 4:18)

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to... set free those who are oppressed, (Luke 4:18 NASB)

An earlier version of the NASB used the word "downtrodden". There is a clear distinction here between those who are captive and those who are oppressed. Those who are oppressed are weighted down, or pressed down, by something, often by society. Possible oppressors include financial responsibilities and debt, unfair laws or customs, prejudice, and demonic temptation. Oppressors usually have some sort of authority over the oppressed. In demonic oppression, that authority is generally gained by the conscious sin of the oppressed. 

Here is the good news. Jesus came to set the downtrodden and oppressed free from their oppressors. Because He was given all authority in heaven and earth by God Himself (Matt 28:18), He has authority over all other sources of power, over all oppressors. 

Perhaps you or your loved ones are experiencing the kind of spiritual oppression that constantly accuses of sin, fills you with doubt and uncertainty, or overwhelms you with fear and anxiety. That is the very thing from which Jesus came to free you. Today, pray that we and our loved ones can be set free from all oppression by the power of Jesus and that we can stay free for the rest of our lives. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Restoring Vision (Luke 4:18)

"...He has sent Me to proclaim ... recovery of sight to the blind... (Luke 4:18 NASB)

A few weeks ago, the struggle to read what wasn't clear finally wore me out. I had five pairs of "readers," but couldn't read out of any of them. Everything looked blurred and indistinct. I called for an appointment with my ophthalmologist and, amazingly, they had just had a cancellation for later that day. The doctor was  surprised that I had been struggling so long without glasses, because the need for correction of my vision was so significant. When the glasses finally arrived, I put then on, expecting to see much clearer. "What???" I thought. I couldn't see anything clearly. Letters and words had a fuzzy halo and, for some odd reason, looked like they were dancing. "Good grief! This is worse than without them. I can't see with these!" I exclaimed. I wanted to cry (but didn't). I could not believe how much money I'd spent to see less instead of better.  Back at the office, Louise, my nurse reassured me. I would adjust and be able to see before long, she promised, and she was right. Over the next two days, my eyes adjusted to the correction, and now I am surprised by how much clearer I see when I put them on. The print looks darker and every letter is clear.  

Spiritual sight is like that, too. God told Ezekiel, "You live in the midst of the rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see..." (Ezk 12:2) Rebellion against God causes clear vision to be unclear, and can lead to spiritual blindness.  We may see truth all around us, but we can't recognize it. The rebellion and spiritual blindness of the people in Ezekiel's time resulted in captivity, and it still does today. Some of our prodigals are captive to alcohol or drugs, but they are all captive in their rebellion, just as we once were. Only Jesus can set them free and restore their spiritual sight. 

Recovery of sight is not always instant. Sometimes Jesus restored vision instantly, but sometimes He used a second touch to "fine tune" the vision. With both ways, He made the blind to see.

Paul said that we see dimly now, but one day we will be "face to face" with Christ, and all will be made clear. Our vision will not just be corrected, it will be made perfect. 

Today, pray that our Lord will move us closer to that perfected vision He promises, and that our children and loved ones will experience the healing touch of Christ that restores their sight and "makes the blind to see".