Thursday, April 26, 2007

Mmmm... Wood chips!

Last week someone gave us our first flowers of the spring… they are orange and purple impatiens which are some of my very favorite flowers for our house, because they’re hearty and they flourish even though our front beds are in the shade almost all day long. The only problem was that we didn’t get to plant them right away because we had our hands full with babies and groceries. At the end of that day they wound up in the foyer. The next day we were just moving too fast and furious to plant the impatiens and they made their way back out onto the porch, but not in down in the dirt. The day after that was somehow busier than the previous two! Before we knew it, a week passed and those beautiful flowers were sagging… they had spent the week moving around all over the place instead of being planted. They were sitting on the flower beds, but they still weren’t in the dirt.

But never fear! Christy planted ‘em on Monday and they perked right up! As soon as they got into the moist soil and sank their hungry roots down deep in the rich nutrients, those wilting buds popped open and started struttin’ their stuff! It was awesome to see our flowers come back to life… and all because they were planted in just the right place. Psalm 92:12-15 says, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.”

If your stems, leaves and buds are drooping and your petals are withering, could it be that you’re not planted in the right place? If you want to flourish and stay fresh and green, you just need to be planted in the house of the Lord… in the courts of our God. The Psalmist says that the fresh trees are the ones who are praising… the ones whose roots dig deep in the Lord and whose branches are lifted high in praise.

Sometimes we get so busy that we get to moving around all over the place and don’t stop long enough to dig into His word, drinking up the nutrients our spirits need. Sometimes we get so rushed and hurried that we don’t make any time for thanks and praise… our hands are too full to open them up and raise them to the heavens. And what happens? We start to wilt and sag… but never fear! You can perk right up in the right soil! Just plant yourself in the word and give your heart to praise… it’s what you were made for and it’s how you were made to flourish and bear fruit.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sliding at the park...
Hidden Cameras

You know, there is almost no feeling that is worse than the feeling of being busted or being totally embarrassed. Did you know that if you speed through certain intersections or run certain red lights these days that you will receive a picture in the mail of you running said light? There are actually cameras perfectly placed at the traffic signals that will take a picture of you in the exact moment when you break the law… they will then send these pictures to your house with an attached traffic ticket. You can’t deny it, you can’t wriggle out of it and you can’t appeal it because cameras don’t lie. So not only do you have to pay for a red light you ran, but you also have a picture of yourself being a bad citizen. I can’t think of a much worse feeling than seeing a picture of yourself in the moment of wrongdoing. The only thing worse than this situation would be if you happened to be picking your nose at the moment of running the red light…

I grew up in church and I have heard preachers talk about the Gospel all of my life. Before I knew how to tie my shoes I knew that Jesus died on the cross to pay for all my sins and that if I believed in Him I would be totally forgiven for everything wrong I had ever done… but here’s the weird thing… I was still scared of judgment day. I was still scared of dying. I was still pretty freaked out about standing face to face with the Holy God of Israel… but why? Why would I be afraid of facing God if all my sin has been paid for?

I’ll tell you why… those same preachers who talked about my sin being forgiven told me that I should be afraid of that day… I grew up hearing that even though Jesus paid for all my sin, facing the Lord was still going to be a scary thing and that there would still be tons of things that I would feel ashamed about and guilty about when I really saw Him. On the one hand I was hearing that my sin was gone. On the other I was hearing that I still had stuff to feel ashamed about before God. On the one hand, there was now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, but on the other hand, when I saw God one day, I was going to feel all condemned. On the one hand, salvation was a totally free gift of God, but on the other hand, I still had stuff to pay for. Which is it? Am I going to be judged or not? Is it free or not? And if it isn’t free, how much is this trip to heaven going to cost me?

1 Corinthians 4:5 say this,“Therefore, judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts…” When I first read this, my heart hit bottom… I was like, “Great! So it really is true?! There is a hidden camera out there somewhere videotaping my whole life and book-marking all the sins and one day when everyone who has ever lived is all gathered up there together before God and His holy angels we’re just all going to watch it on the jumbo-tron?” And what’s worse is that this video not only catches all my wrong actions, but it also has a way of capturing the motives of my heart?

When I read that I wanted to give up trying… but then I noticed that there is some more to this verse! Paul says, “He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” Now… did you catch that?! There is coming a day when Jesus comes back and stops the world spinning and I don’t really think we’ll be watching movies of everyone’s life, but if we did, those in Christ would only receive praise from God… not condemnation or shame, but praise. Jesus died for all our sin, guilt and shame, so when the Judge of all the earth exposes everything I’ve done in hidden darkness, it will be times I loved Him when no one was watching. It will be times I served Him in quiet. When He exposes the motives of your heart, (if you know Him) it will only be the pure and sweet motives you had.

At the end of everything when you stand before God and He exposes everything you’ve ever done, thought or said in darkness and then brings to light the motives of your heart, it will be only good stuff. All the bad stuff is gone as if it never happened… and that’s why it’s called good news.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Seeing the Future

Both times Christy was pregnant we wanted to find out as soon as we could if we were having a girl or boy… Some people like to be all old-school about it and wait so that they can be surprised, and that’s cool; but for me, I knew there were going to be plenty of other surprises in store over the next thirty years and so I was ready to know something for sure. Like, okay… here’s one: a tiny fourteen pound baby girl can burp with just as much volume and intensity as any 240 pound linebacker after he has inhaled an entire pizza… no one bothered to tell me this. It was just like, “Surprise!”

Actually, the real reason I always wanted to know our little girls were little girls as soon as I could was that I just wanted to know them as soon as possible. We named our girls and called them by their names ages before they came into this world because they were already real people and they were already real people who were a part of our everyday lives. But also, we were looking ahead. We were naming them and thinking about not only who they were, but who they were going to be once they were out in the world and in our arms.

I was reading the other day about the death of Moses and how the last thing he ever saw before he died was the Promised Land. He saw a bush on fire that didn’t burn up when he was 80 years old and God made promises about Canaan. 40 years later the nation of Israel was on the threshold of Canaan… the front porch of the Promised Land and God told Moses to climb a mountain and take a look before coming home. Deuteronomy 34:1-2 says this, “Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land- from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea.”

It struck me when I read this that When God was showing Moses “all the land of Judah” it was still filled to bursting with those messed up Jebusites. Israel was still Canaan. You see, our Father looks out over previously claimed and unconquered territory and names it for His children. Don’t you know that Moses’ heart exploded with joy and his eyes filled with tears when God called that land “Judah?” It was what he always wanted.

You know, there is a person I will be one day who trusts God completely, is filled with joy and gratitude all the time and loves everyone more than I do myself. There is a totally righteous me out there who is conformed to the image of Christ and the great thing is, my Father sees that me. May we have eyes of faith to see into the future the way He does… to see unseen victories… He sees who you are and He knows who He’s making you into. May you see with a heart of faith not just losses, failures and problems everywhere, but the land of Judah stretching out before you, knowing He’s going to give it to you one day.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Well, it was sunny and warm for a little while anyway...

Senses and Remembrances

A few weeks ago Christy and I were getting all dressed up to go out on a date and as I was walking past her in the house something strange happened… I was instantaneously transported back nine years to the first few weeks of our dating life! All of a sudden, without planning it and without any warning I was 18 years old again and falling in love… then Norah screamed, Anna laughed and I was back in the present, wondering what in the world had just happened to me. Then, as Christy walked past me, I figured it out… She was wearing the same perfume she used to wear in those early days of our life together and the tiniest whiff of that unmistakable aroma took me back in time.

Have you ever driven past the house you grew up in just to see it? Have you ever listened to an old song you used to love and felt like you were fourteen again? Have you ever eaten something that tastes exactly like your mom used to make? Have you ever walked in your old high school and realized that even though you never once thought about it when you were there, it smells just the same as it did back then? For some reason our memories are so connected to our senses that certain sensations can trigger recollections that are so strong we actually feel as if we are right back there, reliving those moments.

Well, today is Good Friday. And on this day 2,000 years ago God who became man shed His blood for us, dying in our place to pay the penalty for all of our wrong. This is a day where we stop for a while to do something very important. Today is a day to remember. For those who believe in Jesus… for those who love Him and have put their hope and trust in Him, everyday is a day to remember His sacrifice, but today is special, because it was on this day all those years ago that it actually happened… it was on this day that the sun went out at noon and Jesus drank the cup of the full wrath of God on our behalf. It is very important that we remember Him… that we remember His sacrifice and never get too far away from it, because it is our salvation and our hope.

The night before Jesus went to the cross He wanted to make sure His friends would never forget what He was going to do for them, so He gave them a way to remember it... Luke 22 says, “And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper, He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

This was and is a lesson for the senses… to feel your fingers tense around the bread as you break it, tearing the fibers as His body was broken... to hear the wine being poured out in the cup, just as His blood was poured out, listening to the way the pitch changes as it fills up… to smell the bread which is like no other smell, just as His life was an aroma of perfection rising up to the pleasure of the Father’s heart… to see the color of the wine like the arresting and shocking color of bright red blood… and to taste them both in your mouth before swallowing… to be nourished not by calories, proteins or vitamins in the meal, but to be nourished by the remembering.

In communion, Jesus has given us a time warp for our hearts. Taking is remembering, in which your senses can transport you right back to the place where you know in the deepest places of your spirit that God loves you and has loved you unto death.

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