Little Acorns

I was doing a little work in my flowerbed this morning and pulled up this little Water Oak.  I think people call trees like this “volunteers” because they just sprout up on their own, without being planted.  It is fascinating to see that it is still attached to the acorn.  I was reminded of the saying, “Great oaks from little acorns grow.”  I like this saying, and think about it whenever I am beginning a big task.  But this morning I was thinking about our own little acorns…our grandchildren that are too quickly growing into oaks.

I know I sound really old here, but where did the time go?  It seems like only a short time ago when they were all little, and now the youngest is finishing elementary school this month.  I am especially thinking of the two graduations we will celebrate in the next few days.  

Tomorrow will be Jack Foster Day as he graduates from OU.  Oh how we celebrate this graduation!  The tiny acorn that was once a preschooler has now completed college.  But then overnight he will turn into an acorn again as he begins his working life, and he is stressing a bit about finding a job.  To Jack I want to say, don’t worry about your first job.  Trust me, it will not be your last.  It used to be that people got a job, worked at it for thirty years, got a gold watch, and retired.  But things have changed.  In our current age, people change careers (not just  jobs) three times during their working lifespan.  “Just get a degree,” we told him.  A degree is a ticket.  You will figure it out.  

When I was forty-eight I enrolled in two classes at what was then Tulsa Junior College.  I wanted to get the degree I never got when I was young.  There was a verse from the Bible that was a source of encouragement to me, and I share it today with Jack:

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work beginZech. 4:10

My small beginning was a little acorn that grew into a Ph.D.  Jack, just put one foot in front of the other and trust that the Lord will lead you to the place you need to be.  I can already see the might oak you will become.

Our other graduate is Ellie Grace Herrold who graduates from Bishop Kelly next Friday.  We have watched you blossom, Girl!  There are so many wonderful experiences ahead as you enter Belmont University in the fall. You have exciting plans, and I can’t wait to watch them unfold.  I have shared many verses with you in the last days…I want to make sure I tell you everything I am supposed to share with you.  So this one more verse I give you as you spread your wings:

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.  Psalm 20:4            

We cover all our children, grandchildren, and our great-grands in prayer…even our unborn little girl.  We have a lot of moving parts in our family, and some of our acorns get more prayer than others depending on what season they are in.  I am so grateful that I can trust a God who loves them even more than I do.  To all of them, my prayer for you is to stay in God’s Word.  That is the way for an oak tree to grow and flourish.

But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night.  They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.  Psalm 1:2-3

A CALL TO GRANDPARENTS

One of Satan’s oldest and most effective tactics is to go after the family.  It is as old as the book of Genesis.  In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve to live together in perfect intimacy.  That was God’s blueprint for marriage.  The Bible says they were both naked and not ashamed (Gen. 2:25), and I think He was referring to more than just physical nakedness.  They were real, honest, and open with each other.  But then came Satan.  They started blaming each other and hiding.  Hiding from God and from one another.  Genesis goes on to tell us they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves (Gen. 3:7), and men and women have been covering their true selves from each other ever since.  They lost intimacy — real, emotional, vulnerable intimacy.

But that was not enough for Satan.  He then went after their children.  One brother murdered another.  Satan knew if he could create conflict in our families he could distract us from our calling, our purpose.  If you have been a parent for any time at all, you know this to be true.  It is hard not to worry or be preoccupied when you have a child or a grandchild in trouble.  

For about a year I have been a part of a small group of women who meet every Monday to pray.  We have been praying big, bold prayers for our country.  We are pleading with God to bring another Great Awakening, a national repentance, a revival of the church and a harvest of lost souls to come to the Lord.  But this week we decided to shift our focus a bit and pray for families.  We are aware that we have poked the bear.  But the devil cannot have our families!  It has been said that as the family goes, so goes the nation and the whole world in which we live.  Satan seeks to destroy the nuclear family, and at the risk of getting political and acquiring haters, this ploy is straight out of the Marxist playbook.  Erwin Lutzer, in his book We Will Not Be Silenced, asserts that it is the nuclear family that is the biggest obstacle to cultural Marxism.  I highly recommend this book to every Believer.   

I am writing this post today as an exhortation to prayer, especially to grandparents.  Grandparents, particularly those who are retired, have the luxury of time that we didn’t have when we were in our busy child-rearing years.  It may seem that there is not much that this one ordinary woman can do to turn the tide of culture that is threatening our homes.  But I can pray.  Prayer may seem like the least I can do, but in reality, prayer is the most I can do.  

The picture I have posted is of the small table that sits beside my prayer chair.  If you look closely you can see a little plastic soldier.  It is there to remind me that as I pray, I am doing battle.  I ordered a bag of these so I could have some to distribute to my prayer sisters.  Also in the photo is the beautiful ornament with the Appeal to Heaven flag.  This ornament was created by the fabulously talented artist sister in our group.  The flag is a reminder that we are going before the court of Heaven with our pleas, appealing to our God.  Another of our group opens her beautiful home to us every week so we can have a peaceful space to do spiritual battle.  She has a quiet spirit and such a beautiful walk with the Lord.  A different prayer sister is the one I call our firebrand.  She enters God’s presence with the boldest of declarations and intercessions.  And she must read a book a day!  The fifth member is probably the biggest lover of children among us.  She laminated the verses I will share at the bottom of the post and I keep them as another reminder that I am doing spiritual warfare.  She also gave each of us a copy of the book I referenced above.  (I could write volumes about each of these godly women.  I have only shared a fraction of what they have given to my life.)

Grandparents, who will stand in the gap?  This is my call to arms.  We need to raise up an army of praying grandparents that will turn our nation back to God.  Your families need your prayers.  Will you stand with me?

EPHESIANS 6:10-18

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.  Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

THE GOODNESS OF GOD

When I am getting dressed in the morning I enjoy listening to Christian music.  Like morning devotionals, it gets my day going in the right direction.  And it is SO much better than non-stop news.  This morning I was struck by the lyrics to The Goodness of God by Bethel Music and Jenn Johnson.  If you are not familiar with this beautiful song, I invite you to click on the link and listen.  Even though I have heard (and sung) this song many times, it captivated my heart this morning.  The Lord filled me with a sense of His goodness and I wanted to praise Him for who He is, not just for what He does.  I wanted to sing of His goodness.  

God is good.  It is an essential quality of His character.  He is the very essence of goodness.  Exodus 34:6 tells us that God is abundant in goodness.  There is so much packed into that verse about the nature of God and His goodness.  In this passage the Lord is revealing himself to Moses, revealing so much of His glory that Moses, hidden and protected by God’s hand, could only look at the back part of God’s glory.  The verse tells us only a little about God’s goodness; it cannot be completely illustrated by mere words. 

 God is merciful, compassionate, and gracious, forgiving our sins.  He is longsuffering, slow to anger.  How blessed we are that God gives us time to come to Him in repentance instead of giving us the immediate punishment we deserve.  And He is filled with goodness, abundant, overflowing, and abounding.  His goodness is absolute.   God is goodness.  I don’t have adequate words to capture His goodness.  It is a goodness that overflows our deserts, fills our empty places, and calms our fears, a goodness that binds our wounds and a goodness that pours the oil of gladness on our grief.    

His goodness is enough.  It is a goodness that comes from a place of love and compassion.  Mercy.  It is enough for me in this life and the life to come.  But I am a mother.  I have concerns for my children, my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren and those who will come later that I will never know.  God’s goodness is sufficient for all of them.  The next verse goes on to tell us that His goodness and mercy go on to a thousand generations!  

The song tells us that God’s goodness is “running after me.”  How grateful I am, because there are times I run away from God.  He will not let me go; His mercy and goodness pursue me, run after me.  And that same goodness will run after those I love, my future generations.  I often wonder who among my ancestors prayed for me, who set his goodness in motion.  Thank you Lord for running after me!

And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, maintaining loving devotion to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. Ex. 34:6-7a

PUSHING THE ROCK

Do you ever feel like Sisyphus?  If you have forgotten the Greek mythology you learned in high school, let me refresh your memory.  Sisyphus was an evil king who was punished by the gods with the task of pushing a large boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down each time he neared the top.  This happened over and over again for all eternity.  Can you imagine the futility?  Sort of like a really bad version of Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day.

I imagine most of us have felt like Sisyphus at some point in our lives.  The times when you feel like you keep beating your head against the same brick wall.  It could be a situation that just will not go away.  Perhaps it is that annoying co-worker or neighbor that you keep encountering in different iterations even after changing jobs or moving.  It might be the same argument you have with your spouse year after year with no resolution.  Maybe it is your recalcitrant teenager who keeps making the same bad choices over and over.  

For some of us it might be that thing we resolve to never do again, but find ourselves repeating.  In Christian circles we refer to these bad habits as besetting sins.  A besetting sin is that one (or perhaps more) toward which we are naturally inclined.  It seems to call us…over and over.  For an alcoholic it is just that one drink, for someone who struggles with sexual lust it could be the lure of pornography.  For the one who resolves to pursue a healthier lifestyle it is the call of the bag of Fritos in the pantry or the appeal of the aptly named La-Z-Boy. 

The rock may not be an active sin, but rather the consequences of a sin.  Sin always leaves a residue.  Ironically, it was Ravi Zacharias who said that sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.  The life of David in the Bible is a prime example.  God forgave him for his sins of adultery and murder, and continued to bless and use him, but David had to push the rock of family turmoil for the rest of his days on earth.

Sometimes (or often if we are honest) we want to blame others for our rock.  If only they would change I wouldn’t have to keep pushing that rock!  Blaming others is much easier than looking at myself.  Theologian John Piper took an eight-month sabbatical to do what he called a “soul check.” You can read more about it here:

https://www.epm.org/blog/2018/Oct/12/piper-identifying-fighting-besetting-sins

Piper discovered that the remedy for these besetting sins was to put them in the crosshairs and consciously do battle with them.  Those sin rocks may keep tumbling downhill as long as we are on this earth.  But hopefully as we keep chipping away at them they will become smaller and smaller.

The rock is not always sin.  Maybe it is a situation you are in over which you have very little or no control.  The COVID pandemic for instance.  We have been pushing that rock for a year.  It might be that your rock is a chronic health problem.  No matter how many doctors you see or how many treatments you try, you can’t get that rock over the hill.  I have dear friends who deal with chronic pain…day and night.  But yet they persevere.  It is that perseverance that brings me back to Sisyphus (and how many more times am I going to type that name?)   

The punishment from the gods was all I remembered about this story.  I had to do a little review on Sisyphus to remember the rest.  What I discovered was that Sisyphus never gave up.  He never surrendered to gravity.  He kept pushing, day after day. But he learned to see his condition as his purpose.  And he learned to find joy in it.  As a believer I remind myself that I am not alone in my battles.  God promises to fight with for me, to hold my hand, and renew my strength.  The Bible tells us that Paul also learned to look at his trials through a God lens and find joy in them,

 “…knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts…”   Rom. 5:3-5 ESV.

Pushing my rock with joy is all about discipleship.  It is what Eugene Peterson writes about in his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction We may stumble and fall, but we press on. I am so thankful that God’s mercies are “new every morning” and that he gives us just the right amount of grace and strength for each day.  And He promises to come alongside us and push for us.

ABIDING

Most dogs are loyal, and my Max and Ruby are no exception.  They are my constant companions.  As I write these words, they are right here beside me.  If I leave the room, they will follow.  If I go upstairs, they go upstairs; when I come down, here they come after me.  And when I get comfortable to read or watch television, Max especially wants to be cuddled up with me.  He takes his job of lap dog seriously.  As you can see, his favorite position for a car ride is right behind my neck.  There are times when I think, “Could you get any closer??”

Occasionally, Ruby will go off on her own.  Usually it’s to go take a nap in a new location; she has her favorite spots.  But the other night while Jerry and I were watching television I heard a strange noise coming from the bedroom.  Ruby had gotten into the wastebasket and had strewn the contents all across the floor.  When I found her she was happily chewing on a small piece of cardboard.  She hasn’t pulled a stunt like that in a long time, and she knew she was in trouble.  They both know what they are allowed to do and what is off limits.  But sometimes the temptation to do what they want is too strong.  When they are staying close to me they stay out of trouble.

This week our Community Bible Study focused on the 15th chapter of John, and the concept of abiding in Jesus.  We had to look up the meaning of the word abide.  I thought it means “to dwell” and that is actually one meaning.  Another definition is “to accept or act in accordance with,” as “I will abide by your decision.”  But I really like the way Rick Renner explains it in his book, Sparkling Gems from the Greek.”  The Greek word for abide is meno, and it means “to stay, to remain, or continue.”  It conveys the idea of being “rooted, unmoving, and stable.”  The Bible tells us in 1 John 3:6 that anyone who abides in Jesus will not sin.  It’s when we wander away that we get in trouble.  The temptations of the world become too much for us to resist.  

This problem of temptation goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, but Jesus has given us the remedy: abide in me (John 15:4).  When we abide in Jesus, He also abides in us, permanently and steadfastly.  There have been times in my life when I felt that Jesus was holding onto me while I was losing my grip on Him.  I guess Jesus is better at abiding than I am.  But what a wonderful promise! “Remain in me and I will remain in you” (NLT).  It’s like an extra layer of protection.  He knows I will not be able to abide without His help, because He also tells us in the next verse that apart from Him we can do nothing.  He doesn’t just issue commands and say, “Good luck!”  He comes to dwell in us to help us obey His commands.  What a wonderful and gracious Lord we serve.     

POWER OUTAGE

The winter storm we have been experiencing all across the nation has led to widespread power outages.  We woke up this morning thanking God for our power, and as I write these words we are still on line.  But there are many who have lost power, and others whose power is unstable.  We are currently sitting at a temperature of -4 degrees with a wind chill of -21.  At those temps it doesn’t take long for a house to cool down.  And for the homeless it is a life or death situation.  It is dangerously cold!  I was supposed to have an important Zoom call this morning, but others on the call have lost power, so we are changing plans.  We are so reliant on power and an outage changes things quickly.  

As I was thinking about the importance of power this morning, my mind shifted to spiritual power and what it is like when we lose that kind of power.  In the first chapter of Acts, Jesus promised the disciples of a power that would come to them after He departed.  And in the very next chapter it happened, just as Jesus said it would.  The Holy Spirit came in like a rushing wind and filled them with power.  This power enabled them to do the work they were called to do.  Likewise, when we receive Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us and empower us, instantaneously and permanently.  While we can never truly lose this power, we can, in a sense, become disconnected from it.  The Bible calls this the quenching of the Spirit.  It can flicker and dim, just like what some of my friends are experiencing this morning. 

What would cause a power “outage” in the life of a believer?  1 Thessalonians 5 gives us some instructions. The first thing that comes to mind is sin.  Disobedience.  While we are secure in our salvation, we still live in a sinful world with trials and temptations.  And we still have that pesky free will that often yields to temptation.  That is why the apostle Paul admonished us in Romans 12 to present our bodies as a living sacrifice (not giving in to the temptations of the flesh).  He went on to tell us that we are not to follow the behaviors and customs of the world.  Instead we are to let God transform the way we think.  

And that brings me to the second reason we might lose our power: we neglect God’s word.  For me, this is where that transformation of thought occurs.  Where I have my “aha” moments.  I need to think God’s thoughts and see the world through His eyes.  The only way I can do this is through studying the Scriptures.   The bible is where God reveals His heart to me, where He tells me how He sees others and me.  In order to put on the mind of Christ we must know the mind of Christ.  God’s word guides me.  David said, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Ps. 119:105 NLT.  There is nothing like a power outage to revel how much we need light!

The other way we can lose our power is through prayerlessness.  Prayer is where I meet with God and get my spiritual batteries charged.  Oh, the mistakes I have made when I have gone off alone without consulting God.  My car is not going to get out of the garage unless it has gas in the tank.  When I run low on gas, it is time to get to Quiktrip and fill my tank.  In the same way, Christians will soon venture off God’s path and run out of spiritual gas without the constant filling of the Spirit we receive through prayer.  I’ve heard it said that power failures are prayer failures.  

Finally (and this might have gone first), is pride.  When we start getting real with God we will see what a problem pride is and how it keeps us from being all we can be in God’s kingdom. We get so full of self there is no room for the Holy Spirit.  And we lose power.  We are told that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).  Life is tough enough.  I certainly don’t want to go up against opposition from God Almighty.           

Sometimes the storms of life cause power outages, just like the winter storm we are enduring now.  We need to be prepared because storms are inevitable.  Confession of sin, Bible study, prayer, and humility all serve as backup generators for the sudden storms of life.  I must always be on guard against the things that disconnect me from God’s power and I must continually rely on His grace.  

Thank you, Lord for the gift of your Holy Spirit.  Please give me the grace to stay connected to you.      

LOVE IS A CHOCOLATE PIE

A couple of days ago I posted this same picture on social media along with a little story from our very early marriage days.  The story was about my first pie, a chocolate cream pie, my husband’s favorite.  I didn’t have any background in pie baking but my thought was that the filling came from a box mix so that is what I used.  In this little story I related how disappointed Jerry was with the finished product because it didn’t taste like his mother’s pie.  Well the poor guy got hammered with comments and jokes at his expense which was not my intention.

Please don’t be hard on him.  We were newlyweds.  I told my appalled daughter that we were both learning; I was learning to cook and he was learning what not to say.  But it was actually much more than that.  We were learning how to do marriage, and that is a lifetime process.  When I was active in my psychology practice I often said that in an enduring marriage you are married to several different people over the course of the marriage.  And you have several different marriages.  We are not the same callow young adults we were in the pie story.  Thank God!  You grow, and you change, and you adapt over the years.  

This is February, the love month and God has been coming at me from all directions with lessons about love.  I often say He is a multi-media God.  It seems that everything I pick up or listen to has scripture passages about love.  I attend (thanks to Zoom) Community Bible Study.  This year, classes all around the world are studying the Gospel of John.  At first I wasn’t too excited about studying this book; I had read and studied it so many times.  But God’s word is always fresh and I amazed at all I am learning and the things I never saw before.  The big lesson for me is about loving and serving others.  It’s not optional; it is a commandment.  I have to tell you, service does not come naturally to me.  I am a word person.

We tend to think of love as a feeling, something we “fall into.” But the kind of love Jesus invites us to express is different.  This kind of love is an action verb.  I can tell Jerry how much I love him all day long, but that really doesn’t speak to him.  His love language is acts of service.  He hears “I love you,” when I do things for him.  In his book, Love Languages, author Gary Chapman tells us we tend to love others in the same way we wish to be loved.  He lives for the phone calls from his daughters that begin with “Dad can you, do you mind, would you please, I hate to bother you, but…” My love language is words of affirmation, so while I am writing these words telling you about the kind of guy he is, he is in the kitchen cooking a Valentine breakfast for me. 

My Valentine to him was an old fashioned chocolate pie, the kind his mother made.  The recipe comes from my bridal cookbook, the old Better Homes and Garden Cookbook.   That book has been revised several times, as has the recipe so I am including the original below to save it for posterity.  

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  1 John 4:7-8 NLT

Chocolate Cream Pie

1-cup sugar

1/3-cup all-purpose flour or 3 TBL. cornstarch

¼ tsp. salt

2 cups milk

2 1-oz. squares unsweetened chocolate, chopped

3 slightly beaten egg yolks

2 TBL. butter or margarine

1 tsp. vanilla

1 9-inch baked pastry shell

1 recipe meringue

In saucepan, combine sugar, flour, and salt.  Gradually whisk in milk and chocolate.  Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils and thickens.  Cook 2 minutes longer.  Remove from heat.

Stir small amount hot mixture into yolks; return to hot mixture; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla.  Cool to room temperature.  (To prevent crust from forming, put clear plastic wrap or waxed paper directly on top, touching surface of the hot pudding clear to sides of pan.)  Pour into baked pastry shell.  

Meringue Beat 3 egg whites with ¼ tsp. cream of tartar and ½ tsp. vanilla till soft peaks form.  Gradually add 6 TBL. sugar, beating till stiff peaks form and all sugar is dissolved.  Spread atop pie sealing to pastry.  Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees) about 12-15 minutes, or until meringue is golden.  Cool.

IT’S NOT SUPPOSE TO BE THIS WAY

We had an unpleasant incident in the back yard a few weeks ago and I am left with an image I can’t erase from my mind.  Before I relate what happened, I need to remind you of our ongoing battle with squirrels.  While I still think they are fun to watch as long as they stay away from my house, they have caused so much damage that I feel like I am at war with a cute, furry enemy.  I understand they are just doing what squirrels do and I really would like to peacefully coexist with them, but they are continually tearing up the cushions on my patio furniture in order to line their nests with the stuffing.  Pretty smart, but costly to me!  When they are not doing that they are trying to find ways to chew their way into my attic or antagonize my dogs.  As a matter of fact, Max and Ruby are sitting on the back of the sofa next to me, barking loudly at a squirrel who is sitting about a foot away, separated by a window.  I think the squirrel is laughing.

And this is where the story begins.  Max and Ruby have chased the squirrels since they were puppies.  I have always just laughed at it because those squirrels are way too fast and too smart.  Ruby especially pursues them.  As you can see from the picture, she has a long vertical leap and would climb the tree if she could!  Whenever I let the dogs out, she runs for that tree hoping to chase a squirrel.  

A few weeks ago when I let the dogs out, I watched Ruby run for the tree as usual.  Then I heard the scream!  I didn’t know a squirrel could make that noise, but I instantly knew what happened.  At first it looked like Ruby had nipped its tail, and I thought it would get away as it continued to climb.  But then it dropped to the ground.  I quickly screamed for Jerry to come out.  Max was barking and Ruby was shaking the squirrel like a rag doll.  Miraculously both dogs remembered the commands, ”Drop,” and “Leave it!”  

The next part is the part that haunts me.  I stood over the squirrel, waiting for Jerry to come and do something, watching it gasp for breath.  As it did, its eyes looked right into mine.  I remember thinking, “This shouldn’t be.”  Even as I stood there I recalled the verse from Matthew,

What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.  Mt. 10:29 NLT

 I saw the dying squirrel and so did God.  I wonder if He too thought, “This shouldn’t be.”  As I have ruminated over this incident, I keep going back to the Garden of Eden.  The world was perfect.  There was no death, no killing between the species and no murderous intent between humans.  There was no COVID, no riots, no dirty politics, no anger, and no hatred.  You know the rest of the story.  Satan came into the garden, and humans began doing what humans do.  They disobeyed God and sin came into the world, and with sin, death.  Before you put too much blame on Adam and Eve, let me tell you something I know to be true.  I would not have done better.  That forbidden fruit, those lies from Satan…they would have gotten to me too.

Sin and death.  We have seen and experienced so much of it these last months.  How blessed we are that God provided a remedy when He sent His Son to earth to pay the price for our sins.  If we accept this payment, we gain eternal life.  When our earthly life is over we just slip into our heavenly life.  Romans 6:23 tells us that the payment for sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ. 

The things I see on the nightly news?  They shouldn’t be.  And they grieve the heart of God.  If he cares about a sparrow (or a squirrel) that falls to the ground, how much more does He care about our human condition?  His answer?  Repentance.  That’s a churchy word that means we agree with God that we are sinners, we ask for forgiveness and accept the sacrifice of Christ as payment for our sins, and we turn away from sin and follow Jesus.  

Repentance is the only remedy I can see for our country.  It will not come from a president or any elected official.  It will not come from Wall Street, our universities, or our entertainment industry.  It can come only from God.  I invite you to join me in prayer, for both personal and national repentance, asking God to send a new Great Awakening.  

Lord, we are a nation in trouble.  The blessings we have enjoyed have come to us not from our own goodness or superior wisdom, but solely because of your grace.  We have turned our backs on you and followed our own desires.  We have gone after that forbidden fruit, and it has left us broken and dying.  These things should not be. Please forgive our land.  Return us to you.  Heal us and help us to fulfill our destiny as a nation. We ask and believe in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, Amen.            

GOOD DIRECTIONS

Anyone want a refund on those black-eyed peas yet?  We are only one week into 2021 and already we need a do-over!  It feels like we have already made a wrong turn and have ended up right back into 2020.  It is hard to believe the events of the last few days.  This is the year things were supposed to get better.  If we could just endure 2020, make it to the finish line, turn the calendar over on January 1, things would be better, right?  And yet here we are with the brokenness of our world smacking us right in the face every time we turn on the television or pick up a newspaper.  Many of us have been praying for a revival, a new Great Awakening, but the world seems more sinful than ever.  Where is God when the world seems so dark?  Did we miss His directions?  

First of all, God is not bound by our human calendar.  He operates on His own timetable and the fact that our calendar has flipped over to a new year does not obligate Him to anything.  Secondly, God has His own agenda, His own plan.  If you read the Bible all the way through (and I strongly recommend that you do), you will see that God is moving all of history toward an end to this world.  I am not saying the end is today.  People have thought that we are in the last days ever since Jesus ascended to heaven, and we are.  There is no doubt that we are getting closer to the end of human history. 

In my last post, I shared a verse of scripture that has really spoken to me in these early days of 2021:

Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters— a pathway no one knew was there!  Ps. 77:19 NLT

Every year I ask the Lord to give me a verse or a word for the year.  I have been trying to hear from Him and settle in on what He is speaking to me.  The scriptures that have jumped off the page at me are ones that contain the word “path” or “way” or “pathway” so I have settled on “path,” understanding that it contains the meanings of all three words.  I am loving the idea of Jesus as a way maker, the One who creates a path.  When we think there are no good options, he shows us a way we have never considered.  

Jesus tells us that He is the way (John 14:6), and we understand that He is speaking about the way to the Father, the way to heaven.  But when someone tells you the way, there is still the journey.  I might ask the way to get from Tulsa to Dallas, but I still have to make the drive.  I need to know where to turn, what towns to drive through, and where the rest stops are.  I need to know the road conditions.  Is there construction?  Bad weather?  I need to stay on the path and trust that the directions will get me to my destination, even though I will drive through a long stretch of highway that doesn’t look like Dallas.  If the person who gave the directions truly knows the way, I can trust the drive.      

So that is where we are now.  We are beginning our journey through 2021, without much of a road map, but the One who created the road has the directions.   He knows the path.  We may not know what is ahead, what will happen next week or next month, but He knows.  He will show us the way, where to turn, where to stop.  And when it looks like we are at a dead end, when we are out of options, He will show us a way; a way we never knew was there.

Fasten your seat belts! The road ahead may be bumpy!       

Goodbye 2020, Hello 2021!

Today is New Year’s Eve and we stand at an intersection between a year we never want to experience again and a year of unknowns.  We will remember 2020 as a year that would be hard to believe had we not lived through it.  Think about where you were this time last year, what you were thinking and feeling.  I think most of us go into a new year with hope and optimism.  This is the year I will—-you fill in the blank.  I will lose weight, find a new job, read through the Bible, run a 5K, find love.  Most of us set off on January 1 with goals, hopes and dreams.  We kiss our loved ones, watch fireworks and drink a toast to send off the old and welcome the new. Never at this time last year could we imagine a pandemic was on our doorstep.

As I have thought back over the events of 2020, I think the most amazing thing that happened was the shutdown.  The entire world stopped, became silent.  Commerce came to a halt.  Doors were shut and locked, even church doors.  There was no traffic on the street or in the air.  It was strangely quiet.  Can we just stop and look at that one aspect of 2020, the global shutdown?  What a remarkable event!  I do not know of another time in history when something of this magnitude happened except the Great Flood of Noah’s day (yes, I believe that really happened).  God silenced us, put us in time out.  People, WHAT does God have to do to get our attention?

I won’t rehearse all the other hardships and sadnesses of 2020.  We all lived through them.  But before we completely close the book on 2020, I wonder if you have questioned why, of all the times in history, you are living now, during this remarkable, unprecedented time.  It is a question worthy of taking to the Lord, because He tells us in Psalm 139 that He ordained every day of our lives before we were even conceived.  So what is His purpose for us, to be living during these extraordinary days?

That question brings me right back to New Year’s Eve.  What is His purpose for you and for me as we cross into 2021?  What will we be facing?  I want to share a verse with you, a verse I found the other day that really spoke to me:

Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters— a pathway no one knew was there!  Ps. 77:19 NLT

I think some context is important here.  The psalmist is referring to the events in the Book of Exodus, when the children of Israel stood facing the waves of the Red Sea with the army of Egypt bearing down hard on them from behind.  God was about to provide a path for them to cross over, a path no one would have ever dreamed could exist.  

Like the children of Israel, we too are standing at a precipice.  The year 2020 is at our rear, and no one wants to go back to that!  But the uncertainty of 2021 lies ahead.  We thought things would be better by now.  We thought life would be more normal, that this terrible virus would have run its course, that all the unrest of a contentious election would be settled.  These are our choices: the Egyptian army of 2020 and the Red Sea of 2021.  But God.

God has a pathway, a way we have not seen before, a secret way no one knows about.  Today, in these final hours of 2020, will you ask God to show you the path He has for you?  And if you do not know God, I urge you with every fiber of my being to invite Him into your life to show you the path.  You might wonder how to do that.  It is simple, but profound.  You agree with God that you are a sinner (we all are), you confess those sins and turn away from them and ask Jesus to forgive you and come into your life to guide you.  I would not want to go into 2021 without Him.

Jesus, I believe You are God and You died on the cross in my place because of my sin. Please come into my life, forgive my sin, and make me a member of your family. I turn from going my own way. I want You to be the center of my life. Thank You for Your gift of a forever relationship with you and for Your Holy Spirit, who now comes to live in me. I ask this in Your name. Amen.