Saturday, September 29, 2012

As You Go (Don't Forget to share Your Gospel Fuzzy!)

We're getting ready to start hosting Good News Club in the public elementary school this week.  Last Saturday we set up a booth at the local Children's Festival and made around 200 Gospel Fuzzies"  Even Mrs. Hinky Dink, the clown, sported a gospel fuzzy strolling up and down the street!

Sharing the good news of Jesus' life, death and resurrection is exactly what His earthly ministry was about.  I was thinking of the opportunity to share the good news of God's forgiveness with children when I read Matthew 4. 
Matthew 4:23  says, "Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease, and every kind of sickness among the people."
When Jesus commands us to go (Mt. 28:18), He asks no less of us than He did of Himself. And the question isn’t will I go.  I already go somewhere everyday.  Each week I go countless places and see many different people.  The real question is how will I go?  Will I go in obedience, making disciples, or will I go in disobedience, seeking my own pleasure and desires?

And you?  How will you go today?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What I Don't Deserve

Guess what?  Doing what's right doesn't earn me good things.  You know that.  I know that.  Then why was I bummedwhen I returned from helping a friend to find a parking ticket on my windshield?  Why was my only detention in Middle School due to a good deed?
One might argue that we have a sense of justice--instilled by our Creator--that expects tit for tat.  The truth, however, is that most of the time I tat. I wouldn't admit it.  I try not to think about it.  You don't want to hear it because maybe you're the same, but if I'm honest, I take and don't return.  I inconvenience, manipulate and disservice others without noticeable consequences.  I sin against God and choose to think maybe He didn't see.  Or didn't care.  Or my actions were justified.
But God... Does He really use eternal scales, good vs. bad?
Not according to Scripture--and that's a good thing.  If He were to truly weigh my heart (good intentions and otherwise) and actions, each of us would come up short.  When we see reality for what it is, we are  helpless.  Hopeless.  Dead.  Each of us is disobedient and rebellious, wanting my own way all the time; totally, completely deserving of eternal punishment.  The only time I do good is when it benefits me in some way, shape or form. Period.
But God... who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),  and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:5-10, NKJV).
Have you ever used that passage to compare yourself and God?  I hadn't until now.  Here's the breakdown:
dead (verse 1)
walking in trespasses and sin (verse 2)
following my desires and wants (verse 3)
deserving of wrath (verse 4)
needing rescue (verse 5)
unable to do enough good (v. 9)
rich in mercy (v. 5)
full of love (v. 5)
exercises love (v. 5)
gives life (v. 5)
raises me up (v. 6)
makes me sit in heavenly places (v. 6)
lavishes exceeding riches on me (v. 7)
demonstrates undeserved kindness toward me (v. 8)
rescues me out of His goodwill, as a gift (v. 9)
makes me His workmanship (v. 10)
recreates me in Christ Jesus (v. 10)
prepares good works for me to walk in (v. 10)

There is none like our God.  We cannot, will not come before Him apart from His grace and mercy; His lovingly kind touch.  So what's a parking ticket?  An opportunity to show His grace and mercy instead of the stinky, rotting response that comes naturally.  And it's all good.  Because He has been so good to me.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

To Love or Not to Love: That is the Question

Birthday cards.  They're almost out of style, especially with facebook at our fingertips.  This morning our daughter, Laura, and I picked out and addressed birthday cards, laughing at pictures and words as we considered each name and whether they would appreciate being an "inspiration" or laugh at a gloppy picture of gummy bears.  Last Saturday we purchased the cards at a nearby Amish store (which is an adventure in itself) and, referring to our simple spreadsheet, we addressed and dated cards for those on my husband's deacon care list and in our Sunday school class.
Why? Each photo, each message, is an expression of love, a remembrance of times together, a tribute to life.  To love--to have compassion--is to act, to reach out, to see and feel another's experience.  And respond.  A birthday card is simple way to knock on the door of someone's life. But our calling is so much greater.  When I walk as one who bears Jesus' name, my heart sees the needs of others and, as Jesus works through me, my agenda dissipates.  His prevails.
"But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’"
"...when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest" (Matthew 9:13, 36-38).
To follow Jesus is to love, to have mercy, to be and to pray for laborers of His harvest.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Want Change?

Limp, hobble, stop.  Limp, hobble, stop. "Unclean! Make room!" A sharp stone cut his foot and blood flowed, but he didn't feel it.  He scratched scaly skin on his face with scabbed, stubby digits.
"Jesus?  Lord?"  And Jesus drew near. 
For the leper, life was difficult, painful, long.  Each day, each meal, was uncertain. People were impossible.  Those who could help didn't.  Those who wanted to, couldn't.  Each agonizing step led to death, one foot in front of the other.  Until Jesus came.  Compared to leper two thousand years ago, no one was more poor in spirit than he, no one more hungry, thirsty or persecuted; no one more anxious and worried, no one more judged and condemned. No one longed more for the Golden Rule, no one saw more clearly the hypocrisy of its spiritual leaders.
So he came.  He came to Jesus and asked to be cleansed.  Not healed.  Cleansed.  The words, the power and authority of Jesus' teaching spoke to his heart; changed his thinking.  As he sat, perhaps hour after hour, he wanted something more.  He didn't approach Jesus for physical healing, but for the opportunity to enter the courts of the temple once more, to be right with God, to have his heart renewed--and physical healing was the vehicle, the ticket, to restoration.  Physical healing made it possible for him to worship and be one with God's people.
Jesus heard.  He inquired.  He touched.  He healed.  He restored.
Jesus' goal was not to heal broken, wounded bodies.  He is the Ruler of heaven's kingdom.  Reigning deity in the peasant garb (Philippians 2).  A walking, talking sacrifice--dead man walking--that would lead us to God (1 Peter 3:18).  It is only as we listen that we desire Him, that our eyes move from the immediate to the eternal, from the story to the Author.  Isn't that what Jesus taught on the mount?  "...if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.... seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness....he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter" (The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7).
Want change?  Need change?  Long for change?  You will not find it apart from God's Word.  Read it.  Bathe in it.  Meditate on it.  Think it.  Read it again.  Then ask.  You'll be amazed at what God is already doing, and will continue to do.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What I Need

I desperately need to read my Bible. 
Sometimes I don't think so.
Sometimes I don't want to.
Sometimes I put other things first.
But I need it.


Because it's different than who I am.
It's different than what I think.
It's different than what I do.
It's different than what I say.
It's the opposite of my natural tendencies.

On my own, I flatter, gossip, lie.
On my own, I overindulge and wallow.
On my own I malign and protect myself.
On my own I manipulate and scheme.
On my own I meddle and whine.

God says speak the truth in love.
God says put others first.
God says don't worry.
God says trust.

And I can't.
But He can.
And He will.
What I Jesus.  Jesus from within; Jesus from without.

Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth" (John 17:17 NASB).
"Thy Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105).
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)