Saturday, October 17, 2015

How to Recognize Good News


I was tossing about for a topic to write about this morning and coming up empty. Last night, I had a plan. This morning, it's gone straight out of my head. I should write about some good news, I thought, and Google'd "good news". 

Much to my surprise, the first hit was "Joe Biden Bid for White House Would Begin in a $60 Million Hole." Really? That certainly isn't good news for Joe Biden or his fellow Democrats. Only Republicans could call that good news. 

The next hit was "Mexican Drug Lord Injured in Recent Evasion of Capture." It's not good news for Mexico that the man is a drug dealer, nor that he recently evaded capture. I'm certain his injury was not good news to him, either, so what is good about this news?

The third hit was equally discouraging. "More die as violence and finger pointing plagues Israelis and Palestinians." As one who regularly prays for the peace of Jerusalem, that supposed good news was another disappointment.

Clearly, we have lost the ability to recognize Good News and Bad News, so I've decided to enlighten us on the difference.

This is Bad News: We are all sinners and we deserve nothing except death and hell. (Romans 3:23)

This is Good News: God sent Jesus to pay for our sin and  give us eternal life for free.

Here are some more examples of Good News:
God has a plan for each one of us and it's for our own good, not for a calamity, to give us a future and a hope. (Jer. 29:11)


Jesus binds up the brokenhearted, comforts those who mourn, and turns their ashes into beauty, their mourning into gladness, their fainting into praise. (Isaiah 61:3)

If you put your trust in Him, God will help you deal with whatever trouble comes your way. (Matt. 6:34)

Jesus is in Heaven and preparing a place for us. He's coming back for those who belong to Him and we will spend eternity with Him in Heaven. (John 14:2-3)

The news is full of stories about wrongdoing, but we don't have to listen to the news to find out about the sinfulness of man. Scripture tells us clearly that we are all sinners. Evil is rampant in the world, and has been from the beginning. One day, God will deal with all the evil but, because of His great mercy, He has delayed.

For now, we need to know that there is evil, some of it will be directed against those who love Christ, and some of that evil will be terrible. In the end, Jesus will return, gather His own, and settle the score. 

As disciples of Christ, our job is not to fear evil. Our job is to BE salt and light in a dark and tasteless, perishing world and to love the most unlovely among us.

The news that matters most is that Christ has risen and is coming again. That is truly good news.
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Here are links to similar posts about good news: A Little Good News and The Good News Mail.

In case you missed any of this week's posts, here are the links: Still a SinnerHow to Have a Flood of God-LoveThe Wonder Girls Close the ParkSoft drinks, snacks, and airplane takeoffYeast in the Flour, and The Problem With Phone Calls

The most-read post of the past week: Death is Not the End

#GoodNews #Jesusiscomingagain #secondcoming #disciple #JesusChrist

photo courtesy of freeimages.com

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Problem with Phone Calls



I don't like phone calls. 

Since 1986, when I graduated from medical school, very few of the phone calls I've received have delivered good news. The vast majority of my phone calls have been about patients. Night call can do that. None of those calls were to celebrate a miraculous recovery. Most were because of a problem, and most required some sort of action on my part.

It's no wonder, then, that I avoid the phone like the plague. It has seldom brought good news. 

Today marks four weeks since that pivotal call from Sam. "Jamie's on the floor and I can't get her up." It was an ordinary day like every other ordinary day, but it changed everything. 

I had no idea what that call would mean to our future, nor did Sam. 

I don't guess Jamie knew, either. Sam's call led to a 911 call requesting an ambulance. A call to the referral center requesting transfer. A call to family requesting their presence after a downturn in condition. A call to hospice with another referral. A call to the funeral home.

One call after another, one request after another, all marching in a steady spiral toward an eternal destination. 

There were a few calls, however, that made a difference we won't soon forget. Jamie called out to God, and grace, mercy, and redemption were given. Calls to friends and family for prayer were answered with an outpouring of grace. Sam and I called out to God for strength and peace, and we received it. 

Decades of phone calls have taught me that life can change in an instant. When we least expect it, disaster can strike. A downward spiral from which there is no escape can begin. The doors of eternity can open and someone we love can walk through. 

There's no escaping the inescapable. No avoiding the inevitable.

Trouble will come. Sorrow will overwhelm us. Life will end. Eternity will begin.

Life is precious and fragile. 

Knowing life's brevity should make a difference in how we live, both today and tomorrow. 

Leave nothing undone. No kind word unsaid. No forgiveness withheld. Love without reservation. Give without limit. Obey without hesitation. 

One day, our call will come. We will step into eternity and everything will change. Until then, let us live and love with abandon, as if this day, every day, might be our last.

Behold, I tell you a mystery, we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable and we will all be changed." 1 Corinthians 15: 51-52 kjv

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In case you missed any of this week's posts, here are the links: Still a Sinner, How to Have a Flood of God-LoveThe Wonder Girls Close the ParkSoft drinks, snacks, and airplane takeoff, and Yeast in the Flour
The most-read post of the past week: Death is Not the End

#lifeisshort #JesusChrist #eternity #death #eternallife #phone

photo courtesy freeimages.com

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Yeast in the Flour

I'm writing today from Starkville. I'm here for the Small Towns Conference and super excited that I go home today. I've been away from home so much in the last three weeks that I'm desperate for my own bed. 

Last night, my sister and I were discussing my recent blogging techniques. "I like stories, but I really like the in-depth Bible study. Maybe you could do both, switch it up a little." Since I like the Bible studies, too, I intended to write about a passage in Luke 13 today. 

The next verse up is the one about the kingdom of God being like a mustard seed. I have some mustard seed from Israel at home (where I am not), so I'm jumping to the yeast verse. 

“And again He said, "To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened."”   Luke 13:20-21 NASB

I'm of two minds about these verses, but we're just exploring one " mind" today. 

In the previous verse, Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed. It was a very positive image. In these verses, He compares the kingdom of God to leaven in flour. The nature of leaven (yeast) is that it expands and grows by fermentation until it affects all the flour. It's how we make bread. The flour becomes more than it could be without the leaven. 

Matthew Henry suggests that the people expected the kingdom of God to arrive by external means such as a conquering king and his armies. Instead, the kingdom of God arrived by internal means, much like the work of yeast in flour.  

The kingdom of God, through the Holy Spirit, constantly, but slowly, works in our hearts until they are transformed, expanded. It changes us into more than we could be without God. It takes time. We don't become all God wants us to be overnight. 

Maturity as a disciple is a process that cannot be hurried. 

I wish discipleship could be speeded up. I hate the struggle of intending to always do right but finding myself doing or thinking wrong when I least expect it. As long as I've followed Christ, surely I could do better. 

Just yesterday, the impromptu group of which I was a part was assigned a brief project as part of a class. It wasn't rocket science, but it required that everyone participate. The group assigned me as facilitator. (Note-taker) One man in our group didn't want to do the assignment. He wanted to talk about all the wonderful things he'd done in his town. I'm always happy to hear what other towns have done, but not while we have an assignment to do. His self-absorption stopped our progress because no one else could speak, and we couldn't get our work done. 

I was frustrated. Efforts to get him on track failed miserably. I was not the only one who was aggravated with him, but my frustration was evident on my face. When the class was finally over, the woman across from me commented about it. "He was driving me crazy. I looked at your face and could see he was driving you crazy, too." What happened to my patience, kindness, self-control? They flew right out the window!

Maturity is a process. It takes time, and I clearly need more time than I've had to be like Christ. 

Sigh. I praise God He has liberated me from the power of sin in my life. Today, I hope to do a better job of appropriating that freedom. I intend to act more like Jesus today than I did yesterday.   

It's exactly what Jesus said. 

The leaven moves through the flour and changes it, but it doesn't happen in an instant.

Maybe you have a little trouble acting like Jesus sometimes, too. The leaven of the kingdom of God will transform if allowed to proceed. Invite Him to keep at it until all the "flour" in your life is transformed into what it was intended to be. 

If the kingdom of God is leaven, then just as we are light and salt, the leaven in us should spread to the world around us in such a way that our presence brings transformative change. 

We should carry Jesus as we go and leave a bit of Him with all we meet. 

Is that how we live? How we interact? When we look at the world, do we see the evidence of God's leavening at work in the loaf? 

Perhaps some introspection is in order. If you, like me, struggled to act like Jesus yesterday, let's start fresh. Today, invite the kingdom of God to do its work in you. Pray that the work will not stop until all is transformed. 

#leaven #transformativechange #disciple #JesusChrist #yeast

In case you missed any of this week's posts, here are the links: The Wonder Girls Close the Park, Soft drinks, snacks, and airplane takeoff
The most-read post of the past week: Death is Not the End

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Wonder Girls Close the Park

 
Maggie the Wonder Dog and Mamie the Apprentice Wonder Puppy

The Wonder Girls are, of course, exceptionally smart and have an extensive vocabulary. Like most dogs, they know the typical words such as treat and go, sit and stay. The Wonder Girls know phrases, as well. There are two phrases that send them into frenzies of delight. Open the park. Close the park. 

As an alderwoman in Blue Springs, part of my job is opening and closing the park on my assigned day. Last night, I casually mentioned to the girls that I needed to close the park. "We'll leave at 6:30," I told them. They could not have been more excited about filet mignon. They ran in circles, panting and racing as fast as they could go. They ran down the stairs and back up. Up and down the hallway. Around and around in my bedroom.

At last, I said, "Okay, do you want to leave now?" Yes. They did. Both girls raced to the door, then ran in circles until I could get downstairs. They were pumped. I opened the door and they were out of the house like a clown out of a cannon. Whoosh. They were at the car before I could close the front door.

It's not the park that delights them. (Dogs, even Wonder Dogs, are not welcome in the park.) It's the trip to the park. They love to put their paws on the edge of the window, stretch as far as possible, hang their heads out, and let the wind plaster their ears and fur against their heads. Mouths wide open, heads up, they are in heaven.

Lest you think this is dangerous, the Wonder Girls know they are safe, because I hold them tight. They can reach as far as they want, because I have them. Held tight in a no-slip grip.

They love the journey. Any journey will do as long as they are with me.

As I watched them in a wind-induced ecstasy, I realized they experience the journey with an abandon usually absent in my life. My tendency, like many of us, is to focus on the destination. I keep the goal in sight and head toward it with dogged determination.

I wonder, though, if I might not enjoy my journey through life a bit more if I could experience it with the abandon of the Wonder Girls. Perhaps focusing less on the needs of the day and more on the experience of the journey would bring the kind of abandon so common to Maggie and Mamie, as well as the joy.

They don't worry about a thing. They know they can count on me to provide for them. With worry out of the way, they are free to enjoy every minute, every day.

How much more should we, who serve a faithful, generous God, enjoy life? How much more should we focus on the journey, relishing the adventures God allows into our lives, without worry or fear? 

It was Jesus Himself who told us, "For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Do not worry then... But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself..." 
                                                                                                         Matthew 6: 25, 31, 33 NASB

Go ahead. Trust God to meet your needs. Enjoy the day He's given you.  Embrace life with abandon. Stand on tip-toe, stretch as far as you can reach to experience everything God has planned. 

Live with joy for we, too, are held tight in God's no-slip grip.

#livewithabandon #noworry #trust #havefaithinGod



Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Soft Drinks, Snacks, and Airplane Takeoff



I made my way down the narrow aisle of the airplane. Backpack slung over one shoulder and sliding down as quickly as I pushed it back in place, pulling my rolling bag behind me, I was anything but graceful. The plane was packed and I was in D seat. The middle one. 

I plopped my backpack on my seat and went in search of an overhead compartment. A few seats back, I finally found a spot, jostled through the crowd, and stowed my bag. The rest of my fellow passengers were busy with the tasks of preparing for the flight. 

At last, we were all settled, seats in the upright position, tray tables up, personal items securely stowed under the seat in front of us, seat belts fastened. There was a collective sigh. We were ready to go.

We waited.

We waited some more.

At last, the pilot came on the intercom system. There had been a problem, he said. My first thought was sabotage of the aircraft. (I know. It's not likely, but I'm a suspense writer. What can I say?) It was not sabotage. It was a crazy error. 

Our takeoff was delayed because the catering truck had serviced the wrong airplane. Our plane couldn't take off because there were no soft drinks and cookies. I laughed. Surely this was a joke. A plane couldn't fly without soft drinks and snacks? 

He was serious.

The catering truck was several miles away, and we would have to wait for its arrival. It would take a while. I had a long layover after the flight, so my schedule was flexible. Not everyone had the same luxury. I heard groans throughout the cabin as people calculated the likelihood of making their connection. No one wanted to miss their next flight because of ginger ale and cookies.

He allowed the crazy truth to sink in, then offered a solution. We could go without snacks and sodas if everyone was agreeable. He suggested an applause vote. Everyone who wanted to leave without waiting for the catering truck should clap. The applause was deafening. Everyone who wanted to wait for the snacks should clap next. Not one person dared to applaud. 

The engine roared to life and we were soon airborne. No snacks. No sodas.

As it turned out, the staff were not completely without refreshments to offer. They had cups and napkins, but not a lot else. There was some coffee and a few leftover snacks. After a quick count, they found there was enough for everyone to have one snack. 

The stewardesses brewed coffee. Halfway through the flight, the ladies pulled their refreshment cart into the aisle and headed through the cabin. 

They were not only accustomed to serving, they were determined to serve. 

We had our choice of a half-cup of coffee or a full cup of water and either a cookie, a small bag of peanuts, or a small bag of pretzels.

I accepted my coffee and peanuts, grateful for the service they had chosen to provide. It seemed like a bonus, rather than something to which we were "entitled". 

What surprised me about this incident was the determination to serve. We had been told there would be no service. The stewardesses could have offered nothing and no one would have questioned their decision.

Instead, they served because serving is what they do. Having little did not deter them.

We, as the body of Christ, could take a lesson from those determined ladies. We are also called to serve. The imperative of service has nothing at all to do with the amount God has placed in our hands. Rich and poor alike are to serve one another, in humility and love. Talented and less talented share the same mandate of service. 

We are called to be servants, because servanthood was the example our Lord set for us.

Hear the words of Jesus: 

Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." Mark 9:35 nasb

It's an odd paradox. In the Kingdom of God, position is determined by service. The first are last. The lowest servants occupy the highest spot. 

As disciples of Christ, we are called to serve, so let's serve, no matter what resources God has given us. Let us pour out ourselves to those around us, giving freely, loving with abandon, demonstrating to a cold and dark world that the light of Christ has come for all.

#servant #JesusChrist #disciple #airlinesnacks 

photo courtesy of freeimages.com

Monday, October 12, 2015

How to Have a Flood of God-love

Tupelo Tornado, 2014    knowbefore.weatherbug.com

I continued my reading in Romans this morning and came to this passage, which I memorized as a young girl. 

“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Romans 5:3-5 NASB

This word, exult, is kauchaomai, and means to "glory in" or "rejoice in". This concept is so foreign to our culture that we would do well to consider it. We might say, "We rejoice because of our troubles and trials." 

Right. Who rejoices because of the trouble we face? 


Not many of us, but there is good reason to exult in trouble. Paul tells us that we are to rejoice because tribulation teaches us to endure and endurance brings about proven character. The proving of our character brings about hope. Hope, he says, never disappoints because of the love of God.


Rejoicing in our troubles begins a cascade of good into our lives that ends in the love of God flooding into our hearts.


The Tornado of 2014 brought about considerable devastation in our area. We wept over the terrible destruction, but we rejoiced, as well. Although "stuff" was lost, there was only one death. That which mattered most was preserved, and we celebrated that face. Before long,  a flood of God-love poured out through His people. 

You, like me, may find grumbling much easier than gratitude, but grumbling is not the path to blessing. 

Instead of whining and complaining about the difficulties in our lives, we are to thank God and rejoice because of what He will do through those difficulties. We can glory in them because we know He will use those trials to make us more like Him. 

Rejoicing in tribulation is not easy, but it opens up an opportunity for great blessing. 

I am speaking of the difficulties that come through no fault of our own. Those difficulties that come as a consequence of our own behavior and poor choices are also a source of rejoicing if we allow God to use them to change our behavior and refine us.

In a way, it is a great blessing to endure hard times because of the flood of God-love that is sure to follow.


I look back on every hard time, every loss I've ever faced. It was hard to give thanks in the midst of those times, but now I can see the hand of God at every juncture and the love of God carrying me through. He used the trial to make me more like Him. 

Are you going through a hard time? Take heart, dear ones, and rejoice, for when you do, you can be sure a flood of God-love is on its way. What could be better than that? Absolutely nothing.
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Thank you, God, for the hard times. Thank you for how you will bring us through, how you will change us because of them, how your love will be evident. In Jesus' name, Amen.

#loveofGod #rejoice #tribulation #JesusChrist #disciple

In case you missed the most recent posts, here are the links: The Costly Bad AttitudeGoing Home, and Still a Sinner

The most-read post of the past week: Death is Not the End





Sunday, October 11, 2015

Still a sinner

I hate to admit this, but I had a bit of  a critical, judgmental spirit last night in the airport. Yes, again. I have repented of this before, and have had to repent of it once more this morning. 

I was waiting in the boarding gate for my plane. A well-dressed man, who looked to be in his mid-forties, was chatting up a woman who appeared considerably younger. I've seen this kind of "chatting up" before, and had an idea where it might be leading. 

They were both headed toward Memphis, and he was a fast mover. Before we boarded the plane, I heard him ask where she lived. To my surprise, she told him. In case you're wondering, it is not a good idea to meet a man in the airport and give him your address, even if he is the most charming man you've ever seen.

She may not have noticed, but I saw an indention on his left ring finger from where a ring usually rested, and I assumed the worst. 

Off I went with critical, judgmental attitude again.

Of course, the interaction may have been perfectly innocent. He may have removed his ring after his wife died and this might have been the first time he's spoken to a woman since. She might have been the age of his daughter and reminded him of her. Any number of innocent reasons could have triggered the interaction, but I assumed the worst.

This morning, I was reading in Romans, but still thinking about the man, when I came to Romans 2:1.

"Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself, for you who judge practice the same things." Romans 2:1. nasb

My first impulse was to defend myself before the Lord. (Yes, I know that's foolish.) I'm certainly not doing what that man was doing, I thought. 

Romans 3:23, though, causes me to see the situation in a different light. My sin may not be the same as his sin, but it is still sin. 

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23 nasb

In case you're wondering, my sin is no worse (or better) than yours. Our sins are no worse (or better) than the most sinful person we know. God puts gossips in the same group with murderers. (Romans 1:29-30) It's all sin. We've all fallen short of God's standard.

There's good news and bad news.

The bad news first. Because we are sinners, we deserve death and hell.

Every single one of us. The murderers. The coveters. The gossips. The adulterers. On and on and on. We are sin-riddled people, and we deserve the worst punishment our righteous, perfect God can pour out. We do well to keep the truth of our sinfulness ever before us, if for no other reason than to avoid a critical, judgmental attitude.

We are in a desperate state because of our sin and there is nothing we can do to improve it.

There is good news, though. We deserve death, but God offers eternal life through Jesus. 

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 3:23 nasb

That's pretty clear, isn't it? There's nothing we can do to save ourselves, no matter how hard we try, so God made a way of escape. He's given us a pardon from our death sentence. There's a catch, though. We have to accept this pardon His way.

Only accepting Jesus as Lord can save us from the death penalty of eternal hell.

It would be easier to make a big donation to a worthy cause or do some heroic action, but God will not accept a one-time "good deed". He calls us to a lifelong commitment to His Son, to the Lordship of Jesus.

It seems a severe kind of mercy. 

We give ourselves to Jesus so that we are no longer our own. It doesn't make sense in the me-focused society in which we live, but it's the only way. We accept His gift of redemption and forgiveness and, in return, we also accept His Lordship, His leading, His way. 

As if the pardon from our sin was not enough, God offers more. This leading of Christ is designed to be a blessing to us. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has plans for us that are for our good, our welfare, not for evil or for calamity. 

We are all full of sin, but God has made a way of escape, and it is good.

Ponder that today. 

Jesus is all we need, and the plan He has, no matter how hard, will (in the end) be the best thing for us.

Since we, as believers, are no better than the world, let's make sure we communicate that truth to a world in darkness. We are sinners, just as they are. The only difference between us and them is the hope of Christ within us. Neither group deserves that hope, but it's offered freely to all. 

Undeserved, outrageous mercy. Inscrutable grace. Love beyond all measure. Jesus.

"It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all." 1 Timothy 1:15 nasb

#mercyandgrace #sin #savedbygrace #forgiven #disciple #JesusChrist
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In case you missed the most recent posts, here are the links: The Costly Bad Attitude and Going Home

The most-read post of the past week: Death is Not the End