Monday, May 29, 2017

Third Time's The Charm

Hey Friend,

Being the word nerd that I am, I like to know the etymology of words and sayings.  I've heard the saying, "Third time's the charm" since I was very little. Yes, it often takes three (or more) tries to get something right, but where did this little phrase come from?

Some word theologians believe that "Third time's the charm," or "Third time lucky" originated in this quote of Shakespeare's from "The Merry Wives of Windsor".

"Pr'ythee, no more prattling:- go.  I'll hold: this is the third time; I hope good luck lies in odd numbers.  Away, go; they say there is divinity in odd numbers, either in nativity, chance, or death. - Away."

I could go on and on about the different thoughts about three times being lucky in a myriad of historic events.  Personally, I go with the thought that this phrase has something to do with the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).  When you start to look at the number of times the number "three" shows up in scripture you easily lose track.

My first thoughts were of Jesus - And on the third day He arose from the dead.

Next, I thought of Peter and Jesus prophesying that he would deny Christ three times.  Right on cue, Peter does, in fact, deny Christ three times before the rooster crows.  

Here are some stories of "three's" that I was not as equally familiar with.  In John 21, Jesus makes His third appearance to the disciples after He has risen from the dead.

The disciples are tired after a full night of fishing and having caught nothing.  I can just see them, despondent and weary, hauling in their nets and equipment and knowing they won't eat that day, when Jesus happens upon the scene.  

"Men,"  Jesus called to them, "you don't have any fish, do you?"  "No," they answered.  (John 21:5)

Jesus proceeds to tell the exhausted men to put out once again and cast their nets on the right side of the boat - assuring them that they'll get some fish. Reluctantly they obey - all the while wondering who is this guy?  Their nets are full and tearing as they haul the huge catch on board the small boat.  

Once on the shore, Jesus takes the bread and the fish and gives it to the disciples and finally, the light bulb goes on in John's brain.  

Third time's the charm....on the third appearance, the disciples finally know that this is the Lord that they love.

Jesus, as only Jesus can do, sets about restoring what has been broken so He turns to Peter who had denied Him three times before He was crucified and He asks:

"Simon Peter, son of John, do you love Me more than these?"

"Yes, Lord," he said to Him, "You know that I love You."

"Feed My lambs," Jesus told him.

This back and forth questioning goes on two more times.  Jesus asks twice more if Peter loves Him.  

Jesus' restoration of Peter takes three times of Him asking Peter about His love for Him and three times Jesus commands Peter to go then and shepherd His sheep.  

I love how things can be torn down in groups of three:  The three denials by Peter, three days dead from crucifixion, three strikes and you're out.


But, God uses threes to restore and redeem:  Three days then resurrected from the dead, three appearances to the disciples and they call Him "Lord", threefold questioning of Peter about His love.

I love Peter....he's a bit of a screw up, but Jesus tells this doubter and betrayer that not only is he forgiven, but that He (Jesus) is going to build His church on Peter's shoulders.  He even calls Peter the "rock" on which His church will be built.

Wow!  Talk about being given another chance.  

I'd definitely say that "Third time's the charm for Peter".  

Third time's the charm for us.  Jesus went to His death, descended into hell, and on the THIRD day, He arose from the grave so that we would never have to worry that we could strike out on His grace and mercy.

God commands us to forgive 70 X 7 and He will forgive us an infinite number of times if we repent of our sins.  We're not limited to three because this member of the Trinity has paid the price for our sins for us.  His grace and mercy will never run out.  We can't out run his love and we can't disappoint Him or alienate His love for us.  It's simply not possible.  

So thankful for this third person of the Trinity who makes eternal life possible and the abundant life attainable.

What about you?  Do you feel like you've struck out with God?  Do you ever feel like Peter - having denied Christ and perhaps He's given up on you?  How have you seen Jesus' redeeming power in your own life?

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you because you are not a "three strikes and you're out" kind of Father.  Your mercy and love for us is endless. So much so that you gave your only Son to literally go through hell for three days so that I could be restored unto You forever.  I ask you for forgiveness of my sins and claim your promise that if I confess my sins you will remove them from me and purify me with Christ's righteousness.  Help me not to heap guilt upon myself because You surely don't.  The price has been paid.  The days of striking out are finished.  In Jesus precious name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed...

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Blessing Season

Hey Friend,

In this place where I am, recovering from yet another surgery, God has brought me to a complete standstill.  He has given, one may even say forced, me to spend more time in His Word, more time in His presence, more time being still, and more time in contemplation.

A devotion that I read on one of my favorite sites - www.(in) - has had me pondering my blessings.  Granted, I've been pondering them ever since I came to a standstill, but God has brought things into a little better focus for me.  

I have realized that I have had different seasons of blessings in my life and that often periods of waiting have brought me to places of blessings.  

This is not so hard to believe because God's ways are so much different and higher than our ways.

When I was very young, I believed that blessings were something that I assumed came with life.  I enjoyed them, gleefully, and one might say I took them for granted.  Maybe that is the beauty of youth that we don't question them; we just take them from God's hand and enjoy them.

As I  grew up and began maturing, I would say that I still held onto the notion that life was a big bowl of cherries.  I would eagerly eat up the first sweet bites of blessings, but instead of pausing to enjoy the sweet goodness on my tongue and just savor the moment, I would begin digging down deeper to the next level of goodness and blessings and sweetness.

One might say I never dwelt in my blessings long enough until I was plowing headlong into what was coming next. 

In yet another season of life, I realized that, as Erma Bombeck would say, with every bowl of cherries there are going to be pits.  And if "life was a bowl of cherries, what was I doing down here in the pits?"  Life can be hard and full of heartache and disappointment.  

I have to say I have experienced some of the most trying and difficult seasons life can throw at you.  Perhaps that's why when future blessings came along, I found myself somewhat skeptical and I worried that the blessings I had been given would be pulled out like a rug from under me. 

Still at other times, when God opened His hand of goodness and loving kindness to me, I'm not sure why, but I almost felt guilty and would be apologetic for the blessings bestowed on me.  When I would see others still struggling it felt uncaring to acknowledge and go on about God's blessings, because didn't these other people deserve blessings too?  

Perhaps what I'm learning is that The Blessing Season is not an all or nothing concept.

Even though I'm laid up with a fourth surgery in as many years, I see what a blessing my husband is.  We've been married three and a half years and I have thanked God day and night for the blessing of him.

This whole experience has shown me a whole deeper level of how much he loves, and cherishes me, and would do absolutely anything for me.  

When the chips are really down you see what someone is truly made of. 

So now, looking back upon my different reactions to God's blessings, I draw TRUTH from scripture.  

I will not fall into the trap of thinking that God wants me to race from one blessing to the next, or that I need to worry that the blessings will be pulled from my hand as this is not God's nature, nor do I need to apologize for blessings bestowed on me...

The Lord appeared from afar, saying, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness."  (Jeremiah 31:3)

You, O Lord, will not withhold Your compassion from me; Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me.  (Psalm 40:11)

I have come that you may have life and have it in ABUNDANCE...(John 10:10)  ...preceded by truth that it is the enemy who steals.

No, I will accept the blessings in whatever form them come, in each and every season that they come.  To deny them, and not let praise come from my lips, would be to deny grace, and mercy, and love, and hope - the very things God sent His Son to die for.  

To deny and not accept blessings with childlike thankfulness would be to deny Jesus' sacrifice for me so that I could have life and have it to the full.

In this Blessing Season....I will savor and enjoy, and simply say, "Thank you, Lord."

Dear Heavenly Father,  thank you for the truth you reveal to me by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.  I thank you that you are a good, good Father and your desire is to bestow blessings upon me.  Help me to accept them from your hand thankfully and not let worry, or skepticism, or the hurriedness of life not let me enjoy them fully.  Help me to know that just as joy and pain can co-exist, so can blessings and trials.  Give me the grace to see that you died so that I could experience life and blessings in abundance.  Give me the childlike faith to just praise you and say thank you.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed....

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Why, I Think, God Says What He Says

Hey Friend,

It's a good thing I wrote this post before my surgery.  Being on heavy duty pain medicine, has left me fuzzy-brained and not able to focus (you may be saying so what else is new?).  Thank you for your caring and compassionate prayers.  I have truly felt I wait, pray, and thank God for what He is going to do in my life.

I've been thinking about why God says what He says.  The Bible says, and I've heard many a pastor preach, on the subject of God hating divorce. It's usually a guilt trip. Naturally this hits close to home because I have gone through the tragedy that is divorce and am now remarried.  Yes, I am happily remarried, but the road here has been far from a fairy tale.  In fact just the opposite.  Divorce is hell and I think God's heart for us is to not have to travel there.

Even if your divorce meets the Biblical criteria for divorce, it is still the tearing apart of a union that God meant to last until death do us part.  I don't think God says He hates divorce for His sake, I think He hates it for our sake.

I look at all the lives that were impacted by my/our divorce.  This didn't just traumatize the two adults rippled out to our children, family, friends, future relationships, our relationship with God, etc. I felt guilt and failure that took a long time to shed.  It still affects things even today.

At the moment, I have a very strained relationship with my daughter who I thought, for sure, would be the first one to rise up and call me blessed.  I know that her hurt comes, in part, from insecurities stemming from the divorce. Divorce tempts children to take up sides, harbor resentments, place blame, internalize guilt.  I believe that God hates the feelings that the children of divorce (no matter their age) have to deal with.  He hurts, not for Himself, but for them.

God has counted and caught the many tears I've cried into my pillow from the divorce and now the strained relationship with my daughter.  He doesn't want this for me...for us...but this can be the aftermath of divorce.  I know that God is still working.  He is still orchestrating and He will continue to work these broken pieces into something for good, but I believe He hates it for us that we have to shed tears, and have heartache, and experience strained relationships.  It's not so much that God hates divorce, but that He hates it for US.

In the Ten Commandments, God clearly says Honor Thy Mother and Father.  I'm sure, as a teenager, I thought - Yeah right God, do you know how lame they are??  You're cramping my style if you want me to honor them and all the demands they put on me.  Sound familiar? Of course, those were the days when there was a healthy dose of fear mixed in there, so I tried to "fly right" lest the boom be lowered on my head.

Even as I grew older, I always thought of the Ten Commandments as something that God wrote to infringe upon our fun, cramp our free speech, boss me around.  I thought it was all about Him and His rules.  How far from the truth I was.

One day, when my parents were visiting with us, I worked up the nerve to tell my dad (in a not so nice way) all the things he had done wrong - how he had failed to let me know I was loved - how he was overly critical - and on and on. In essence, I let him have it and I felt justified in my mind.

My Father passed away five years ago and you know to this very minute, I wish I could take back all the hurtful things I said to my dad in anger.  Sure, my dad had his faults, but God called me to honor him.  And, I believe that honor sometimes means just keeping my big mouth shut!!!

By breaking that command, I didn't necessarily hurt God, I have hurt myself.  I have to live with the remorse of saying words I wish I could take back.  

God told me to honor my father not for Him, not for my earthly father, but for me.  I know he mourns with me when I feel remorse.  He catches my tears when I pray and ask Him to give my earthly father a hug and tell him that I love him.  

One last example and I'll let this rest...God says to keep the marriage bed pure. Again, he doesn't say this to squelch our fun.  My husband and I kept this command as we were dating (and no it's not easy), but the blessings that have come from following God's commands are tremendous.  There is no guilt; there is no comparing; there is no remorse had the relationship not worked out.

I have seen, however, the trauma that having sex outside marriage has caused. I know of young women who have wound up pregnant and then further bring years of agony upon themselves by opting for abortions.

I know young men who wait with fear and trepidation to get the results of STD testing only to find out it's positive and now they have the awful responsibility of sharing that with other partners.  

I've seen what HIV can do to a marriage, a family, and life itself.  It can take it away in an instant.  The wages of sin are death (literally).  But, before you go thinking I'm some puritanical hell fire and brimstone writer.  I want to emphasize that:

God's commands are not about His anger toward us.  They are, I believe, ALL about His great love for us and NOT wanting to see us have to go through all the heartache, turmoil, worry, anxiety, remorse....that our sins lead us straight into.

God loves us and He created us and gave us rules for living so that we COULD HAVE LIFE AND HAVE IT ABUNDANTLY.  That is His greatest desire for us.  

He doesn't want to squelch our fun, He wants to enhance it.  He doesn't want us saying things that might hurt others in the moment, but will haunt us for a lifetime.  

I think God says what He says and hates what he hates because HE LOVES US SO MUCH.  Beyond words.  He loves us higher, deeper, wider, farther than we could ever imagine. 

To the Ten Commandments, He attaches a promise:  "Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you."  (Deuteronomy 5:16)

God gives us commands so that it may go well with us...Amen!

“As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” (John 15:9-11)

It's kind of ironic, but one of the most self-serving things we can do is follow God's commands.  Think about it?!

Furthermore, if we fail to follow His commands, but later repent of our sins, He is faithful to forgive us.  Our sins are removed as far as the east is from the west.

What an AWESOME and LOVING God we have who cares so much about us that He wants it to go well with us.  I think God says what He says not for Him, but for us.  He knows how some of our poor decisions will play out and He would love to spare us that heartache.  

Still, if we hand Him the shattered pieces of our lives, He may not put them back together exactly as they were before, but He can make something even more beautiful from them.  God is still in the business of bringing beauty from ashes.

Why do YOU think God says what he says?  How have you witnessed blessings by listening to God?  How have you experienced heartache by disobeying? What do you sense God saying to you right now?  What would He have you know?

Dear Heavenly Father,
I praise you for your goodness and how your very heart for me is love. You ARE love and you cannot deny yourself.  Help me to see that the path you have laid out for me is for my own good.  You want me to have life and have it abundantly so you give me direction on how to make this happen.  Enable me to "color within the lines" so that it might go well with me.  You say these things to me, I believe, to spare me heartache.  Great is your faithfulness.  Forgive me of my past sins and invite me into life everlasting with you.  I love your commands, Lord, give me the strength to obey.  I can't do this in my own power!  In Jesus name I pray,  Amen.

Be blessed.....

ps.  Thank you for all the prayers and well wishes for my surgery.  I am slowly will be a long haul but trying to be patient.  

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Revealing New View Of Mary & Martha

Hey Friend,

I will be having foot surgery on the 10th.  This is a complex surgery that I'm having in an attempt to correct an unsuccessful surgery three years ago that left me with constant, residual nerve pain in my foot.  Naturally, I am a little more anxious than I normally would be about how this surgery is going to turn out.  I would really appreciate your prayers for me, the surgeon, and for peace and patience in the process of a smooth healing.

Meanwhile, I would love to share a revealing (at least to me) new view of Mary and Martha.  We all say we'd love to be like Mary - sitting at the feet of Jesus and resting on His every word while our silly sister, Martha, scurries about cleaning house. 

One of my favorite writers, Denise Hughes, at "Deeper Waters" wrote this devotional that has me thinking about how multi-faceted we all are.  Possibly because we are created in God's image?

To get the full gist of this devotional, you really need to read the scripture that goes along with it.  You'll be glad you did.  You may have read this story before, but I challenge you to read it with fresh eyes......get ready to be blessed...

Image result for pictures of jesus bringing lazarus back to life

DAY 24

— Read: John 11:1-27 —

Two women. Mary and Martha.
They’re most known for the time they had Jesus in their home, along with many other guests. Jesus was teaching and Mary was listening while Martha did all the work. After all, who was going to feed all those people in their house?
So Mary sat while Martha worked. And Martha got upset. But Jesus gently rebuked her, saying that Mary had chosen wiser.
Two thousand years later, women today will remark how they want to “be a Mary” and “not a Martha.”
But in today’s reading, we’re given a deeper look into the lives of these two women. Their brother had died. And in their society, if a woman didn’t have a husband or a father or a brother to care for them, they were destitute. So their brother’s death was not only a deep loss emotionally, there were also serious practical matters to consider.
Jesus heard their brother was ill, but He didn’t come. He delayed. And when Jesus finally arrived, their brother was already dead. Now we know that Jesus was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. But in that moment, the two sisters had no idea. And look at how they respond to the situation.
1. When they hear that Jesus is coming, Martha is the only one who gets up to meet Him. Mary, at first, refuses to go see Him.
2. When Martha sees Jesus, she says:
“Then Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Yet even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.'”
3. When Mary sees Jesus, she says:
“When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet and told Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died!'”
Martha’s faith is so great that she believes Jesus could raise Lazarus from the grave. But Mary can only lament that her brother is gone (and she insinuates that it’s Jesus’ fault).
Yes, when they had lots of people in their house, Mary was the one who chose better. She sat at His feet and listened while Martha worked. But here? In this situation? Martha is the one who showed great faith.
So whenever I hear someone say they want to “be a Mary” and “not a Martha,” I have to ask: Why must we choose between one or the other?
Like Mary, I want to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to all He has to say. And I do this every day by being in His Word.
Like Martha, when my world comes crashing down, and it seems as though all hope is lost, I want to run to Jesus and put all my faith in Him.
by Denise Hughes

— Diving Deeper —

Do you see yourself more as a Mary or a Martha or both?
Share your answer in the Comments below.