Thursday, June 26, 2014

You Are Invited...

When we send out formal invitations, to whom do we send them and for what reason?

In Isaiah 55:1, the God of the Universe, who owns everything, sent out an invitation to a specific group of people: to those who were thirsty (parched) and who were flat busted, broke.

The reason they had no money was because they had spent it on all the wrong things. (v.2). Yet God simply extends an invitation to them - come, buy without money and eat without cost. It was the only type of invitation they could have responded to. No formal, black tie dinner invitation would have done them any good because they couldn't afford the price - they couldn't buy themselves fancy apparel and look   the part.

Jesus extended the same invitation as the one in Isaiah: "Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink'." In Rev. 21:6 He said, 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of water of life without cost.'


We may think that we have the currency of Heaven and that we can haul our burlap bags of good works into the unimaginable splendor of the throne room of Glory and simply buy on demand what we want. But Isaiah, as God's prophet, said that our righteous acts are like filthy rags in God's eyes. (Is. 64:6)

Caring for the sick, working for the church, reaching out to those in need - those are good things, things we ought to do, and they please God. But they don't impress Him.

Why? Because God looks on our hearts. Anything less than total purity, unadulterated love, and pristine worship inside us contaminates any good works that we might do. Any momentary thought of, "Look how good I am for doing this..." - that's pride. God says over and over through the Bible that He hates pride, that He is opposed to pride, that pride is what caused Satan to fall from Heaven...

So unless our thoughts and motivations are perfectly pure all the time, we simply don't have the coin of Heaven, we don't have the wherewithal to impress God or to buy (work) our way into Heaven.

But then, when we look into Scripture, we get this amazing invitation: Come, all of you, who are thirsty and broke, come...

ANd what is the "food and drink" that God offers in Isaiah? True, total, and complete forgiveness - a forgiveness like nothing that can be found in the heart of man, a forgiveness that can never be earned,a forgiveness that makes us clean and whole in the eyes of a perfect, sinless God, giving us a clean slate that will never be dirtied again in God's eyes. (Isaiah 55:6-11)

A forgiveness that draws us to our knees in humility and gratitude and then lifts us to our feet to serve, not out of compulsion and endless "trying harder", but out of adoration for the One who loved us so much.

Who wouldn't want to serve a Giver like that???

Thursday, June 5, 2014

But They Did it... and I'm Grateful...

      I read all the time as all my friends know.
      When David was a baby, I once realized I was carrying him half draped over my arm, drool running out of his little mouth, while I was fussing over  a book in a bookstore - the book had been placed upside down on the shelf....   Yes, it's that bad for me sometimes... Ha!
      I've heard it said that books are like old friends and for me there is a lot of  truth in that.  Most of the books I read simply occupy my thoughts for a brief time and then are forgotten.  However, there are some stories which standout, books that I return to again and again.  Over the past couple of years, these are the books that have become like friends to me.

     Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis.
     In the Land of Blue Burqas by Kate McCord.
     Which None Can Shut by Reema Goode
    Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi
    Unveiling Grace by Lynn Wilder

     The first three books are written by Christians who have lived or  who are living overseas and I found them fascinating because I love to read about other cultures.  But that's not why the books have become like treasured friends to me.
     It's because those three women, two of which have to use pseudonyms, loved Christ enough to follow Him to what could easily pass for the "ends of the earth" to  comfort-loving, thoroughly Westernized  me.           We have the expression: put your money where your mouth is.  These women have done that and in the process of following Christ way beyond their comfort zones, they have seen Him high and lifted up, standing out against the backdrop of a culture that has been made callous by poverty, by war, and/or  a culture that just doesn't recognize the right of Christians to exist and flourish.  The darkness they've encountered has only made the Jesus they know shine brighter than ever.  Who could not love the Jesus they know and serve?  And who could not love the people who have captured their hearts?
    Nabeel Qureshi's book and Lynn Wilder's book are set against the backdrop of the United States but again, they describe cultural and religious beliefs which are a bit foreign to me as well as fascinating to me.  The first part of each book takes me inside the world they used to live in and enables me to see exactly why they loved their "former life".  They didn't want to leave the religion and culture of their family and friends but they had to.  Because the Jesus of the Bible drew them to Himself and they found that the Biblical Jesus was not compatible with the Jesus they had been taught.
    The process of leaving the safety of a revered and much loved set of beliefs, in fact a whole way of life, in order to cast themselves solely on the Bible was not an easy one. In fact it was a long, hard process for Nabeel and for Lynn and they each lost a lot in that process.  However, they both have the same message: knowing the Christ of the Bible is worth it all.
    Having been raised in Christianity, it is easy for me to take things for granted about my faith, to subconsciously develop a "gimme" attitude towards God because I've lost the wonder and awe of knowing this amazing truth: for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son for us - so that we would not perish but instead would have everlasting life with Him.
   I love each and every book listed above and have read all of them or parts of them more than once. I've also listened to their testimonies on Youtube and been greatly  blessed by those as well.
   But I have to say that the book I keep going back to the most is Unveiling Grace.  There is something about Lynn's enthusiasm and sheer joy in finding the Jesus of the Bible that continues to captivate me and inspire me.  Each time I re-read the last part of her book, I see Jesus and the Bible through her loving eyes and it's just made a big difference in my own walk with Christ.
   The bottom line is that I owe a great deal to all five of these authors and look forward to hearing their entire stories in Heaven some day.  Meanwhile, I would be remiss if I did not publicly say thanks to these authors for what they have done for me in sharing their stories.  I know it wasn't easy for them to do any of the things they've done and certainly it wasn't easy (or in a couple of  cases) safe to write out their stories. But they did it... and I'm grateful.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


      Today there is joy in my heart...
      The house is a total mess... I'm pretty confident I'll never get my summer cleaning, re-arranging, throwing away, giving away project done... My house is waaaayyy too small for all the stuff we have accumulated (and keep accumulating...) and for several weeks now I just keep pulling more things off the shelves in various rooms in an effort to streamline our eclectic possessions.
      And I have dirty laundry that just keeps on giving... and giving...and giving... and giving....
      I have two dogs who slip out of our fence every time the batteries in their shock collars go out... which happens to be the case this week. So until we get more batteries, I have Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee doing time in our laundry room, plotting their next escape I'm afraid, instead of repenting from their sins... ha!  They are loved pets but they also guard our property so we need them...
      I have a hard-working husband who feels pressured by his job, works long hours for little pay, and is uneasy about  the intermittent pain in his back.   As a mechanic, pain in the back can be a serious hindrance to work.   Right now we're thankful that as long as he does his exercises, the pain goes away.
     We have  a grown son who is a good person but who doesn't always make the decisions I would make for him. It's hard to let go and just stand back and watch while he finds his way in the world.
    I have neighbors who are wonderful and neighbors who are one step ahead of the police.  Last night I met with some of the sweetest people in the world for our monthly  Neighborhood Time of Prayer.   I love each person in that group.  On the flip side of that coin, another neighbor got arrested last week.  He has a pleasant personality and a generous spirit. However he's also the one who celebrated Christmas 2012 by setting off a pipe bomb a few yards from our house.  I don't think he means to hurt anyone, he just likes guns and loud noises.  Still, that's kind of a dangerous hobby....  Since he was on probation when he got caught shooting a shotgun in our neighborhood for fun, he will be off the streets for a couple of months.  I am praying God will use this time to change his heart, re-direct his life.  So, yes, I have neighbors who are wonderful and some who are not so wonderful...
    I have faithful friends who pray for me -one in particular who lets me cry on her shoulder in public, who is always there for me.   I have other people in my life -  extended family members, former friends - who drive me crazy with their choices, their eccentricities.    Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, praying for a loved one who is so headed down the wrong path.  I can see the train wreck coming but I can't prevent it.  I've found 3 a.m. is a good time to pray...
    I have pain almost daily from geriatric knees and as I approach 60, I don't know what the immediate future holds.  I didn't know what the future held when I was 20 either, but as I enter my sixth decade the possibilities seem a little less appealing than when I was young... ha!
    In addition to all that, we aren't rich by any means.   One big expense could wipe us out, truly.  We don't have a big bank account or a house worth a lot of bucks.
    But this morning I woke up with joy in my heart.
    And that's because Jesus lives in my heart and He is enough!
  9And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
                                                                            II Cor. 12:9-10