Saturday, April 27, 2019

Are We There Yet?

Hey Friend,
We thought we were pretty "high tech" cruising down the road some 20+ years ago in our Pontiac Transport minivan (lovingly known as the dustbuster on wheels).  For long family road trips, we were among the first to have a "deluxe" video tape player that plugged into the cigarette lighter.

Cell phones and video games had not yet been invented and so when my kids invariably asked, "Are we there yet?" I would put it in terms they would understand.  One more "Winnie the Pooh" (30 min) and we'll stop for something to eat.  Or, one more "Sandlot" (90 min) and we'll be there.  This along with a Mary Poppins bag of treats and toys that came out at crucial moments is what got us through those long ventures.  

As an adult who is cruising toward 60,and in the midst of lots of trials and prayers waiting to be answered, I find myself asking God..."Are we there yet?"  

God has been so faithful to answer prayers in ways that I would have never imagined.  Some prayers went on for over 25 years.  It's beginning to dawn on me that some prayers will not be answered on this side of eternity.  We are drawn into thinking that this life is all there is and prayers need to be answered during this limited time we have on earth.

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.  (2 Corinthians 4:17)

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."  (John 3:16)

God's promises go far beyond our short life spans.  His focus is an eternal one and He calls us to get on the band wagon with this way of thinking.  I took a seminary class on grasping God's word and one of the things it had us focus on, in scripture, was repetition.  When God really wants to make a point, the point is often repeated several times.

Let's look at Psalm 136 that talks about God's love being eternal.  

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.
His faithful love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1)

The Psalm goes on to chronicle God's steadfastness throughout Biblical history.  After every point the psalmist makes, the chorus is repeated.  

"His faithful love endures forever." is repeated some 26 times.  I think God is trying to get the point across that His love is not just for this world, but will be especially present in eternity.  What hope, what joy awaits us.

A good friend of mine tragically lost her young adult daughter to a drug overdose.  This is the type of tragedy that is very hard to wrap your mind around and even harder to produce answers to the question, "Why?" After all, my friend and I have spent countless hours on our knees in prayer for our adult children.  We were diligent in presenting our petitions, with thanksgiving, to the Lord.  So why this?

James Banks in his book, "Prayers for Prodigals" offers this advice as we are apt to pray for our child's success, happiness, peace, in this lifetime...

"God has given us our children for eternal purposes, and there is no greater blessing and inheritance we can pass on to them than our prayers for their salvation."  

Even Christian parents have prodigals, but what reassurance to know that our years of "training them up in the way that they should go" is not wasted.  Our training of our children is not for this is for eternity.  

The bible talks a lot about "forever," and "eternity," and "life everlasting."  The Gospels' main theme is that man is not doomed forever for his sins, but by grace, can have life everlasting, salvation in paradise, forever.  

I am convicted that I need to adjust my lens for a more eternal setting.

This life is not all there is.

So, when I am want to ask God, "How long O Lord?"  It's kind of like I'm asking as a child, "Are we there yet?"  As I try to patiently wait upon the Lord, I take heart that even if my prayers aren't answered on this side of the pearly gates, they will certainly receive a glorious answer in eternity.  

Dear Heavenly Father,  I thank you and praise you that this life is not all there is.  Thank you for sending your Son to die for me so that I may live forever, in eternity, with You.  Help me to be patient through these momentary trials and periods of suffering because I know they are building my character for eternal purposes.  Help me to look not just to the end of this lifetime, but instead, look to the blessing of eternal life where all unanswered prayers will finally be answered once and for all.  Thank you for your goodness and faithfulness through all the moments of my life.  You make good on Your promises and Your grace is sufficient for all that we go through.  Grant me patience until I am with You forever.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Are there some prayers of yours that have not been answered?  What hope can you take from knowing that His faithful love extends into eternity where most of our life will be lived?  What do you need grace for in this moment?  Will you share?

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Saturday, April 20, 2019


Hey Friend,

It has stuck me profoundly, in my scripture reading before this Holy Week, just how "uncontainable" our Triune God (God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit) is.

As humans, we continually try to put God in a box.  That box can be literal (physical) or figurative (a box in our mind).  As the Israelites wandered the desert, they realized that God needed a traveling home, so they put the ten commandments in an ornate box that was intricately designed down to the most minute detail.  That box was called the Ark of the Covenant.  It was God's dwelling place as they moved about in their journey.


Fast forward and King Solomon builds an awe inspiring temple in Jerusalem to be used as God's dwelling place among the people.  1st Kings and 2nd Chronicles describe, in great detail, the temple.  The temple Solomon commissioned took seven years to build (the number of completion).

The temple consisted of the finest wood paneling from the mighty cedars of Lebanon.  It's construction used the richest finished stones cut at the quarry so that no hammer, chisel, or iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built.  

Solomon commanded that the interior of the temple be overlaid with pure gold (45 thousand pounds worth).  Around the temple walls were carved engravings of cherubim, palm trees, and flower blossoms - also overlaid with gold.  The pillars of the doorposts were five sided and the giant doors were made of the best olive wood.  He hired Hiram, a skilled metal worker, to make all of the bronze sculptures and utensils needed in the temple.  There was a gold altar, table, and lampstands.  Long story short, Solomon spared no expense on the Lord's dwelling place.  

The ark of the covenant was then placed within the innermost sanctuary of the temple.  A box within a box, if you will.

The last place mankind attempts to contain the Lord is in the grave where they laid Jesus' dead body.  The last box.  But God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit cannot be contained.

A box, no matter how ornate and beautiful cannot contain God.

Hell, to which Jesus descended after His death, because our sins were upon Him, could not hold Jesus.

The grave could not keep Jesus.  With resurrection power, He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven.  

If there is one thing for certain, our God, the triune God, cannot be contained. Praise! Furthermore, as believers in Jesus as our Savior, the resurrection power of Jesus resides in us.  In Him we are more than conquerors.  We know how the story ends.  Perfect love casts out fear forever.

Even though the dwelling places of God have been destroyed or lost - the Ark of the Covenant's disappearance is a mystery.  Solomon's temple was destroyed - burned, plundered, and pillaged by the Babylonians...much like the burning of God's beautiful dwelling place in Paris (Notre Dame).

Praise that the Lord is not able to be contained or destroyed by the boxes in which our minds put Him.  

Solomon, himself said:  "But will God indeed live on earth?  Even heaven, the highest heaven, cannot contain you, much less this temple I have built."  (1 Kings 8:27)

Though stained glass may shatter and gold may melt, the power of the Lord will never come to an end.  God is the Alpha and the Omega - the beginning and the end. Only through the death of his precious Son can we be reconciled to God.

The Good News is that the Lord is undestroyable.  He is bigger than the 
boxes that we relegate Him to.  That is certainly reason to kneel in reverence and praise to the Lord this Easter.  Let's celebrate, together, the uncontainable, undestroyable, defeater of the box - our Lord and Savior.  

Dear Heavenly Father,
We thank you that You are Creator God above everything and anything.  Forgive us for trying to literally or figuratively put You in a box.  Help us, through this Easter journey, to come to a new and profound reassurance that You are above all; You are uncontainable.  Though we build beautiful temples for You, we praise you that You are undestroyable.  Your love never ends.  Your compassion and mercy sent Your only Son to the cross for my sins.  Let me contemplate this indescribable love deep within my soul.  Let me take the gift of salvation and walk forward in the Freedom You've granted me.  I will praise Your name forever.  In Jesus' holy name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  What does Easter mean to you personally?  What can you take from the Easter experience forward into how you live your life?  What reassurance does Jesus death and resurrection bring you?  Will you share?

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Monday, April 8, 2019

Personal Reflections On the Cross

Hey Friend,

I've had this sign in my yard for about a month.  I put it out on the first day of Lent (Ash Wednesday, in March).  Truthfully, I'm surprised that the Home Owners Association hasn't asked me to take it down...they can be that way.  

My neighbors have seen it in their comings and goings and I'm sure some think I'm some sort of "Jesus freak", but that's okay.  One of my neighbors, the twelve year old variety, asked me point blank one day, "Ms. Bev, what are you thanking Jesus for?"  Wow, talk about an open door invitation! 

"Keep it conversational...don't preach," I heard that little voice in my head say.  So I proceeded to give him the Good News of the Gospel in sixth grade vernacular.  I could tell he was awe struck by the part about the cross.

"Did that really happen?"  he inquired in disbelief.  "Yep, that's how much he loves you, loves me," I said.  He smiled and then he turned away and rode off on his bike to play with his friends.  It hit home, for me, just how hard it is for children and adults, alike, to truly grasp the reality of the cross.

Author, Sarah Coleman, gives this meaning to the cross: "The cross is a great contradiction. Death and life, hate and love, violence and peace, accusations and forgiveness, sin and purity, brokenness and wholeness, all is lost yet everything is gained, destruction and restoration, defeat and victory.  Once the cruelest form of execution, yet now it is the symbol of abundant life."

I agree that the cross is definitely a paradox.  Ever since my days in Sunday School, I've thought it was a horrible way for Jesus to die.  It wasn't, however, until my adult years that I made it personal.  

The cross was a horrible way for Jesus to die....for me.

Christ died for sinners, of which I am one.  Gone are the myths that I can enter the gates of heaven if I am just "good enough".  Jesus didn't die on the cross because it was forced upon Him.  It was a choice.  A choice made in love.  I knew deep down in my heart that Christ died because He couldn't bear to live without me.  Who does that?  Love does; that's Who.

But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.  (Romans 5:8)

In all other religions, people strive to reach deity.  Christianity is the only faith in which God reaches down to us.  There is no striving or earning needed.  It is a gift of pure grace which we must then either choose to accept or deny.  Jesus laid down the bridge to God when He laid down His life.  Will we choose to accept it and walk across?

The cross is the ultimate act of humility.  Jesus came to the conclusion to die for humanity as a human - not as God.  He willed His flesh, mind, and emotions to die on that horrific cross.  Terrified of what was to come, Jesus still brought Himself to say, "Not my will, but Yours be done."  I am not threatened by death by torture, yet I am challenged to pray like Jesus, that God's will be done and not my own.  It makes it personal. It makes me humble myself.

The cross is final.

I have gazed at the cross, yet still held onto past hurt, pain, and guilt.  I have realized that this is pride speaking.  What I am, in fact saying, is that Jesus' death on the cross was not enough.  I still need to pay penance for my sins.  I need to do something more. That is a lie from the enemy's lips to my ears.  

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow.

When Jesus uttered the words, "It is finished," He meant it.  The debt is paid.  My debt is paid.  Your debt is paid.  It is up to us to look to the cross and receive our salvation.  

God wrote us the most beautiful love's called Easter.  In it He boldly states that He would rather die than to live without us.  And so, in an act of radical love, He sends His only Son to die on the cross for our sins.  God says, "Christ's death was the ultimate expression of my love for you..." (1 John 4:10) and "I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love..."  (Romans 8:38-39)  What love!!

Dear Heavenly Father, I admit that it is hard for me to fathom a love so great that it would choose torture on the cross in order to gain my love.  Forgive me for gazing at the cross in an impersonal way.  You did this for me and while I was still a sinner.  I praise You that I don't have to clean up my act in order to come into Your holy presence. Jesus, You bridged the chasm between me and God when You took my sins upon You and laid down Your life on the cross.  I am so very thankful that God sees me through Your blood.  You are my Savior.  Thank You for the gift of my salvation.  It is, indeed, finished.  The debt is paid.  In Jesus precious name I pray, Amen.  

What about you?  What does the cross mean to you personally?  Is there still hurt, pain, guilt, or shame that you are holding onto?  Will you bring it to the cross and lay it down this Easter?  What will your response be to this humble act of great love for you?

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