Archive for the ‘Confessions of a Jesus lover’ Category


Have you ever asked yourself that question?IMG_0368

I don’t mean in a skeptical, it-won’t-do-anything kind of way. What I’m talking about is that deep searching of what prayer means. It’s not like God needs us to tell him what’s going on in our lives. He knows everything. And he knows what we need, so do we need to remind him? Besides, He is God Almighty, creator of the universe and the one who holds everything together and controls it all. Does he need our input?

So what is the purpose of prayer then?

Well, I asked Him. After all, in James he tells us if we lack wisdom to ask and he will give it to us. So I asked. And I guess that is the first purpose of prayer. God wants to give us things and he’s waiting for us to ask. He says if we ask, we will receive. And wisdom is a good thing to start with. But sometimes we can feel like we’re asking Santa for a Christmas list, and that’s not the point. Even though God longs to give us the desires of our heart.

I thought there was something more.

Partnership is a concept we’ve discussed in church. A former pastor, Daniel Brown, used to describe God wanting to partner with us in doing his will. Like a father asking his son to help him take out the trash. Dad doesn’t need his little boy’s help, but it’s about the relationship. Doing something together. I like that.

But, I still believed there was even more.

So when I asked, I was reminded of the Lord’s Prayer. We call it that because it is how Jesus told us to pray. Hmm…maybe there’s something in that.

I grew up reciting that prayer as a rote tradition. Even singing it, while deeply moving, didn’t impart the depth of it’s meaning to me. But the day I asked Jesus about praying, this is what struck me…

If God is all about us talking to him, and asking him for things, and partnering with us, then maybe praying that prayer would look something like this (translation my own):

Our Father, who is in heaven, I praise your holy name! I honor you as Almighty God. You are so holy! You are so worthy of my praise. Because You want to do good things for us, I invite you to bring your kingdom into my life and do your will just as you have purposed it already in heaven because you are great and good and have wonderful things planned for me. Whatever that is, I want it, so I ask you for it. Please, Lord God, I ask that your kingdom would come here to earth. That your will would be done here on earth. And please, since you know all I need, will you provide it. Just for today? I won’t worry about tomorrow, but trust you to give me what I need today. And about forgiveness, Lord. You forgive me for everything so will you please make me willing and able to forgive others the same way? Thank you that temptation is never from you. Will you please deliver us from evil? That awful enemy, Satan, who is looking to distract us from you and destroy our lives? I know you can and will do all this because your kingdom is glorious and powerful, and you love me so very much.

What do you think?

I’ve begun to pray this way, acknowledging who God is and inviting him to bring his kingdom to earth. That his will would be done in my life, in my home, my marriage, my children’s and family members’ lives, my friend’s lives, in my church, community, city, state and nation, as well as the world. Because if I believe God is who he says he is then I have to be open to and accepting of what he wants to do here on earth.

And I’m seeing incredible things happening.

Not always what I expect, but always great and good. In my life, my husband’s life, our marriage and family. Truly amazing.

God is a gentleman and never forces us. But he longs to do good for us, with us and through us. As soon as we invite him, remembering who he is and what is truly important, he will bring his kingdom to us.

I challenge you to give this a try and let me know what you see happen in your life.

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Last week I slipped out for a morning walk as the sun crept up into the morning sky.Sunrise in Aptos

Birds called, lizards skittered across the sidewalk and a couple squirrels chased each other up and around a tree. A few blocks into my outing, the bright pink blossoms of an oleander bush brought a smile. I longed to pick a few and take them home, but didn’t want to spoil the view for someone else. Then I noticed a dozen or so scattered on the ground. I felt okay about carting one of those beauties home with me.

But when I bent to take hold of it, I was disappointed.

Small, brownish spots marred the petals. Naturally. The flowers had fallen from the bush because they were dying. But from afar, I hadn’t noticed. They looked as unspoiled as the ones still blooming.

God had a picture in the petals for me.

In our new home, the paint marks of a darker hue mar the surface of most of our walls where the previous tenants tried to touch up nail holes. For some strange reason, the paint that is supposed to match, doesn’t. I had been so disappointed with the messed up walls that I had been focusing on it for days. What could I do? How could we match the paint? Should we repaint or ask the owner to?

In that narrow focus, I was losing sight of the our home being a gift from God.

Like viewing bacteria under a microscope, I saw things hugely disporpotionate to their actual size. It changed my perspective and created an attitude of discontent and worry instead of thanksgiving. Before my scrutinizing, my home was a beautiful blessing from the Lord. Just like the blossoms dropped on the sidewalk.

And there was more.

I contemplated these things as I continued my walk and entered the nature trail. The wide sidewalk was cool and shady, a respite from the growing heat. But I also began to feel nervous in this new setting. Trees emerged from the dark, swampy ground on each side of the path and hung over the top like a canopy. Thoughts of alligators began to plague me. What if they were lurking within grabbing reach of my hesitant steps? Fear crept into my heart where none resided before.

On the left!

A cheerful voice called out from behind me.

An older couple smiled and waved as they rode by me on bikes. I smiled as the fear melted a bit inside me. Within a few steps, another biker rounded a bend in front of me, calling out

Good morning! Beautiful day, isn’t it?

Yes. Yes it was. Especially with a change in my perspective.

I hadn’t seen or heard the approaching neighbors because they were outside my scope of vision. Once again, I couldn’t see the bigger picture because of the narrow focus of my situation.

God reminded me that morning that if I look too intently at my circumstances, I can miss the beauty in what he has for me, or what he is doing. I lose sight of him and his goodness, his provison and his love. Which is exactly what had been happening as I contemplated our dwindling finances, my husband’s lack of job, our belongings damaged by the movers, and of course, the paint spots on my walls.

Our pastor said something similar this weekend.

If all we see is short range, then the long range will always look fuzzy.

His words reminded me of my morning walk.

I don’t want to miss the clarity of the Lord’s perspective and trusting that the big picture is a good one from where he sits. I don’t want to let my narrow view draw me into fear or discontent or thinking that the beauty and goodness of what’s he’s done for me has been lost or ruined by the markings of life.

So, what’s your perspective?

 

 

 

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I’ve read a lot about religion lately.IMG_3527

The other day I remembered an orange button that adorned my leather purse when I was about sixteen. It claimed something like this:

Jesus is about relationship, not religion.

I recall when I saw it in a gift shop at youth camp, the concept grabbed my heart. It encompassed what I had been learning as a youth reading my Bible. Primarily the book of John, which I felt portrayed Jesus’ love for me the best because it was written by Jesus’ best friend on earth. I longed to spend time with my new friend and live in a way that made him proud of me. I didn’t get that his life for mine really meant just that. His blood covered over my sin. There was nothing I had do about it except accept it and be grateful.

But I grew up in an age of religion. Big time.

Right and wrong were about being right, and therefore someone else being wrong. Being right meant someone else had to be wrong. Good guys and bad guys. Church goers and “heathens.” Oh, I knew what the Bible said about grace and all that, but it also had plenty to say about not sinning. I took that to mean that the less I sinned, the more right I was. Which naturally meant other people who sinned more than me were wrong. Wasn’t that the standard?

No, that’s just plain dangerous thinking.

Does that mean I learned not to sin? Nope. I was pretty messed up and did a lot of foolish things based on my messed up perspective and my rebellion. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to get it right. Fighting to be right left me frustrated and hurt others as well as myself. Until I learned the simplicity of repentance. That coming clean about my stuff, all of it, with complete honesty to Jesus and those I hurt is the only way to freedom. But that’s not religion.

When God created people, he wasn’t starting a religion.

He wanted a relationship with us. And each other in the same way he, in three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), enjoys relationship in heaven. He is love, therefore he longs for us to love him and others. He even tells us that those are the greatest commandments. Makes sense that if we recognize his love for us and love him in return, he will give us the ability to love everyone he created.

His ultimate showing of his love was to come to us, giving himself up as a sacrifice to make a way for us to still be in relationship with him even when we choose to sin – to cut him and others off. Because let’s be honest; we’ve all had thoughts of wanting to do harm to someone at some point in our lives even if we haven’t actually followed through with it. And at some point, haven’t we all decided that our ways or plans were better than God’s?

On that basis, we need God’s love and forgiveness in order to have a right kind of relationship with him and with others.

The problem with religion, whether it’s Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism or Mormonism (name any you want here), is they are all man’s way of trying to get to God when God already made a way for us to be in a relationship with him through Jesus. Even as Christians or followers of Christ, we can cling to our particular denomination and its traditions rather than the sacrifice Jesus made for us.

But we don’t need to figure out a way to make ourselves right.

God did that for us. So all of our rituals whether they be worshiping a particular way or bowing down the right number of times or wearing a specific outfit do nothing to create a relationship with the creator of us and our world. We miss the point if we focus on those things. We miss loving God and each other. Especially when we insist that our way is the right way. Jesus said that he is the way. He is the truth. He is how we live rightly loving one another. And he is the only one who gave the ultimate example and lived again to prove it.

If we chose a relationship over religion, how would that change the way we live?

 

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This post is my response comment on Diana Rasmussen’s site.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk – photo from Google Images

My eleven year old son was on a field trip to a local amusement park with his class this past week. He was disturbed that while he and a friend waited in line for a ride, a male couple in line in front of him was kissing. It really bothered him and his friend. We happen to live in an extremely liberal area where any and all sin is accepted, condoned, and promoted as the best way to live so this situation isn’t the only one to which my children have been subjected.

What should I say to him?

I’m so sorry that you were subjected to the sinfulness of other people’s choices.

I explained that the Bible is very clear on this issue of homosexual relations using the verses you shared here(Romans 1). And that God loves us all. We all choose to sin in various ways every day. That sin affects others too.That is why Jesus died for us.

He understood that and said,

But Mom, it really bothered me. A lot. Why would someone want to choose to do that?

He instinctively knew it was wrong – meaning not the way God created us, even though we haven’t really talked a lot about homosexuality. It has come up in discussion, but we haven’t had an agenda about it. I also explained that it used to be that if people wanted to participate in a sinful lifestyle, it was private. Maybe affecting their life, but not so much the public. By law certain behavior choices were not allowed (and still aren’t in some places) to be exhibited in public. At least others didn’t have to be subjected to the depravity of drunkenness or drug use or cursing or stealing or….name it.

I guess all that is to say that I agree we need to pray and love others.

Can we or should we mandate sin? The Bible does. For God’s chosen people (the Israelites and those of us grafted in who follow Jesus). But as you say, the world lives according to the world standard, not biblical standards. What is our role then? I think of Paul in Greece who acknowledged the gods of the people while pointing out the one true God. (Acts 17:16-32) Many sneered at him, but many were open to hearing him speak. I guess that means that in love and kindness we should be willing to confront as we feel led by God in order to share the gospel-his love and plan for us.

We’ll be laughed at, but we will also be heard.

How does that apply to lawmaking? Maybe the same way – in love and kindness those in authority must stand for what is right and make good laws that will protect all not only cater to a small percentage. Then be willing to be maligned by some for those laws on behalf of those who want to live in the truth. And continue to pray and love and pray again.

Also, remember we are aliens in our world that is dictated by Satan. There will come a point, according to the Bible, in which the Holy Spirit’s influence to hold back sin will become less and less and our world is going down. I think we are in that time or coming quickly to it. So our focus may need to be on loving and sharing with individuals more than legislating sinful behavior. Just a thought :)

What are your thoughts?

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Today I visited a friend.IMG_0642

I dropped my daughter off to ride horses and ambled through country roads under marshmallow studded cerulean skies. Pastures rolled across the landscape embellished with the white arches of raspberry tenting. One ribbon of road cut through apple orchards stretched out towards a quaint farm house. Crisp spring air blew through my open sun roof whipping my hair.

Ah, the delightful beauty of the day.

In that moment, I savored the presence of the Lord in the wonder of his creation. Yes, I was on my way to a particular place for a planned reason. I drove my car.  But for that short span of ten minutes, I was being not doing. No emails overflowing my inbox, no Facebook poking me with notifications, no cell phone beeping, buzzing or sending me alarms for my next activity. The superhighway fast lane sped to various destinations five miles away from my peaceful world.

In cherishing this space, I longed for a simpler life.

Outside pressures of job, kid’s sports, church activities and social media clamor for our attention. The world’s technology has caused our tight knit communities to welcome the world. On one hand, that’s great. I’ve many blogging, Twitter and Facebook friends and connections that I am thrilled to have because of that technology. On the other hand, I don’t have the capacity to hold the world in my heart or hands. I don’t think anyone does. And I’m not so sure God asks us to. So what do we do with the needs, demands, and interests of the world?

Internal pressures abound as well.

We use busyness as an escape. Insecurity drives us to be responsible and in control of every situation. Legalism reminds us of all the shoulds and should nots. Expectations, perceived or actual, command us to do more, do better, achieve at any cost to claim success and abundant life. Performance driven, we jump through hoops to prove we are worthy of God’s love and others’ favor.

But Jesus calls us to sit at his feet.

And go into the world making disciples. Can those two realities co-exist? This week I read the story of the good Samaritan. I believe I saw the simplicity of being in the presence of Jesus as the Samaritan man reached out to be the “church” to his neighbor. This dear man traveled along attending to whatever business was at hand for him. Maybe he was headed to work, or a friend’s house.  Or on his way to worship. Perhaps he was enjoying his journey simply for its own sake.

But he was open to interruption. Jesus calling.

Willing to give a bit of his time and some of his resources, he cared for a wounded fellow traveler and went on his way. He also made a point to check back to follow up on the man’s well-being. It didn’t seem an inconvenience to him nor a new project to seek out every hurting person in the country. He simply helped someone in need who happened to cross his path – or rather whose path he crossed during his everyday life.

Am I going to or “doing” church, or am I being the church?

Am I running around like Martha so concerned about getting everything done, checked off, accomplished, worked out, served, made, corrected, or controlled? Or can I sit at Jesus’ feet soaking up his love, grace, mercy and wisdom – the peace of his presence? Not only in my life circumstances, but in the posture of my heart.

These are questions I’ve been asking myself.

While I don’t read this version often, I kind of like how The Message puts it in Micah 6:8:

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
    what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
    be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
    take God seriously.

Mary had it right.

She didn’t escape or neglect her life, but she knew the best place to be was at Jesus’ feet. And Jesus commended her not for all her activities or service or community projects, but for being with him. Isn’t that why we were created?

How about you? Are you able to sit with Jesus? What kind of external or internal demands drive you?

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Are we shouting “crucify him?”

Finally, after decades of complaints, prayers, token support and watching “B” Christian movies barely funded and with the best intentions, but not always much in the way of acting, movie goers have been inundated with a plethora of positive cinema. All in this month before Easter. You’d think the Christian community would be thrilled and celebrating.

Of the famous four, “Son of God”, “Noah”, “God’s Not Dead” and “Heaven is For Real,” I’ve only had the privilege of viewing the first, so far. Plans to see the others are in the works. Kids are begging for them, especially after viewing all the trailers a couple of days ago. My opinions, therefore, are limited.

But the point of this post isn’t to give a review.

I saw “Son of God” with a girlfriend the second day it came out. I felt it was well done, and while it may not have depicted the intensity shown in “The Passion of the Christ,” it evoked deep emotion. I appreciated the scenery which created an experience for me of walking with Jesus, and the way he was portrayed in such a personable manner, as I imagine Jesus would have been. Woman followed him in the Bible, so I appreciated the inclusion of the female gender, not only the men who were his disciples.

While some of the scripture was re-ordered, omitted or changed (probably for cinematic affect), the message remained unscathed and potent. Jesus came to save us, sinners, through love and compassion and ultimately his death on the cross and resurrection. We weren’t blown away by the film, but liked it a lot in spite of its “creative license.”

The shocker to me?

The criticism these movies have garnered from the Christian community. I don’t expect reviewers who don’t believe to rave in a positive way about any of these movies. After all, they talk about God and the Bible, Jesus and Heaven—topics that often raise objections among the majority of folks. What I didn’t expect is the flak from Christians who have complained on a number of points.

Really people?

The arguments seem to stem primarily from the pious protecting the Bible, or worse, their personal theological views. But the end result is cutting the throats of fellow believers who are living out their faith in a way they hope will make a difference by infusing the public with a taste of the Lord.

It may be presumptuous, but I choose to believe that each of the participants, who created, acted in, produced and directed, sought wisdom from God in what they did. Did they miss the mark? Probably in some ways. Are they human? Yes, which makes them potentially fallible. But did God use them to touch lives by showing people a bit more of him through these films? I’m betting, yes.

What’s the real point?

God created us, loves us and wants to be with us. Jesus died on the cross and rose again in order to make that a reality in spite of our free will leading to sin. We can have all kinds of theological debates(which we’re admonished not to do – see 2Tim.2:23 & Titus 3:9) over the “right way” to portray the truth, or simply be grateful that someone has the guts enough to do it. In some manner, these movies have the potential to bless believers and sow seeds for those who may not have thought about God before. Maybe some curious chap will choose to view and actually come away choosing Christ. It’s possible, regardless of what many are saying.

Bottom line?

Today we celebrate what Jesus did for all of us, and look forward to symbolizing his resurrection in a couple of days. People do that in many ways all over the world. It means something different to each person, each year depending on their personal relationship with Jesus. In the same way, the message of a movie, book, blog, or work of art can inspire whatever God wants despite the human factor of the messenger.

But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.                 Philippians 1:18

When will we lay down our agendas and uphold our brothers, the church, and join in unity to bless and not curse?

Oh gaze of love so melt my pride that I may in your house but kneel, and in my brokenness to cry, spring worship unto Thee.”  Hymn by Jars of Clay

What do you think? Seen the movies? Read reviews?
 
Disclaimer: I did not create this YouTube.

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