Monday, July 25, 2016

Because He Lives: Fixing What is Broken

FIXING WHAT IS BROKEN

  (Part of a series sharing my devotional thoughts from almost two decades ago. For the back story & links to other posts, see the first post in the series.)

Watching small children at play, I have often seen a toy break -- a doll’s arm falls off, the wheel comes off a fire engine, the motor on a battery-operated car stops working. It is interesting to watch the responses of the little ones to these mishaps. Some try to act as though the toy were not broken; others try unsuccessfully to repair it themselves; many just burst into tears. Sometimes, though, one will take the toy to his or her father, hold it up as high as possible, and say, “Daddy, can you fix it?”
It is important for us to realize God wants us to approach Him as a little child, totally trusting and considering Him to be our perfect father. None of  us had perfect earthly fathers; some of you may even  have been deeply wounded by the men who were charged with your care. But in God we have a heavenly Father who is absolutely perfect -- and who is waiting for us to approach Him with what is broken.
Like a small child with a broken toy, we should take our broken things to Him ... broken homes, broken hearts, broken dreams, broken spirits, broken promises, even broken relationships with Him. In full faith that it can be done, we should lift them up and say, “Daddy, can you fix it?” And He will.
“...and in Him all things hold together.” Col. 1:17

“He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34:18

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.”
Psalm 51:17

“...‘Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter
the kingdom of heaven.’”
Matthew 18:3

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption by which we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’”
Romans 8:15 [Abba is a very personal Greek word for Father,

most closely translated into English as “Daddy.”]

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Because He Lives: The Invitation

THE INVITATION
  (Part of a series sharing my devotional thoughts from almost two decades ago. For the back story & links to other posts, see the first post in the series.)

Suppose God gave a party and the whole world came. Millions vie to touch Him, to talk to Him. With whom do you imagine He would choose to spend His time . . . Billy Graham, perhaps, or the Pope? Maybe a selection of world leaders for a very high-level strategy meeting?
Or ... the teenage prostitute hooked on drugs, who cries herself to sleep every night? The young woman who slips away in the dark so she won’t have to face the man who took her to a motel from the bar the night before? The angry middle-aged woman no one understands, who is bitter toward men and mad at the world after her husband has abused her for years? Who would capture His attention?
2000 years ago, while on earth, God did accept an invitation. Luke 7:36-50 records Jesus’ attendance at the home of Simon the Pharisee -- a highly religious man. Yet it is not Simon who captures Jesus’ heart:
“Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him.And He entered the Pharisee’s house, and reclined at the table. And behold, there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet, and anointing them with the perfume.

“Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ And he replied, ‘Say it, Teacher.’

“‘A certain moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. Which of them therefore will love him more?’ Simon answered and said, ‘I suppose the one whom he forgave more.’ And He said to him, ‘You have judged correctly.’

“And turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.’

“And He said to her, ‘Your sins have been forgiven.’ And those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, ‘Who is this man who even forgives sins?’ And He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’”


Jesus’ heart was captured not by the Pharisee who knew the Law and considered himself righteous, but who had not shown love. Instead, He was touched by this woman who hadn’t been invited but who had come just because she heard Jesus would be there. She simply showered Him with love. She didn’t try to explain herself to Him ... she just loved Him.
Jesus didn’t deny her status as a sinner when He perceived Simon’s thoughts. He didn’t make excuses for her sin or try to rationalize it. He didn’t even tolerate it. He simply forgave her sins, and told her to go in peace. Jesus knew she was a sinner when she approached Him, but as she poured out her love to Him, she found acceptance and forgiveness.
Jesus’ response to this woman’s sin and her love is the same as His response to you today. He won’t try to justify or explain your sins ... but He will forgive them, and give you peace, when you come to Him with your whole heart.

In Matt. 11:28, Jesus says, “Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Accepting this wonderful invitation will usher Jesus into your heart and you can pour out your love upon Him and receive His love, forgiveness, and peace ... a peace that will last for eternity.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Because He Lives: He Understands Your Pain

HE UNDERSTANDS YOUR PAIN
  (Part of a series sharing my devotional thoughts from almost two decades ago. For the back story & links to other posts, see the first post in the series.)

Sometimes people tell us they understand something that we know they have no possible way of understanding. How can a vibrant young person truly understand the hurt of a senior citizen losing her ability to take care of herself? Or how can someone with no children empathize with a stressed mother of seven? On a more personal note, you may be wondering how anyone else can truly understand your pain, the things you have been through, when perhaps you’re too hurt to even verbalize them yourself.
As you have seen, God hates violence and evil. But more than just hating what you may have endured, God truly understands. How do I know such a thing? Because Scripture records the many horrible abuses and persecutions He endured Himself. To recount all of them would take many pages, but Isaiah 53:3-5 summarizes the type of treatment He endured:
“He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.”

When God came to earth as a man, Jesus Christ, He knew He would be despised and forsaken, pierced and crushed through crucifixion. He endured much humiliation -- being spat upon, beaten, mocked; being displayed naked on a cross while people below taunted Him;  and ultimately dying. And as this passage from Isaiah explains, it was for US -- for OUR sins -- and through all He endured we are healed. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
You probably would never have voluntarily chosen your wounds. Yet Jesus Christ did just that -- He voluntarily chose to come to earth knowing He would endure this kind of treatment -- simply because He loves us so very much. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [acceptable sacrifice] for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
So when your pain is so deep that you wonder if anyone possibly understands, and you feel emotionally numb -- remember, Jesus understands your pain and He really cares about you. Take your wounds to the One who was wounded for you, who suffered and endured more than you can imagine out of love for you, for me, and for all those who have ever been born.
Because, my friend, He understands. He truly understands.

“And they dressed Him up in purple, and after weaving a crown of thorns, they put it on Him; and they began to acclaim Him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting at Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him....And they crucified Him, and divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour when they crucified Him....And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, ‘Ha! You who were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!’...And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’...And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last.”
Mark 15:17-19, 24-25, 29-30, 34, 37

Monday, July 18, 2016

Because He Lives: “But There's So Much Evil!"

“BUT THERE’S SO MUCH EVIL”
 (Part of a series sharing my devotional thoughts from almost two decades ago. For the back story & links to other posts, see the first post in the series.)


If you are like most people who have experienced abuse and violence, you probably have some real questions about God. You may even have some wrong concepts about what God thinks of your pain. Would it surprise you to know that the Bible, the Word of God, very clearly shows that God always abhors violence, evil, and sin? He has an especially strong reaction when it is His own who suffer.
In fact, when we are hurting and experience the inevitable pains that come in life, we have the opportunity to experience God’s presence in a special way. Psalm 34:18-19 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” God’s Word is so powerful on this subject. Please just read the following verses, asking God to speak to your heart through them. My comments are in brackets [ ] to distinguish them from the Scriptures.
“For Thou art not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil dwells with Thee.
The boastful shall not stand before Thine eyes; Thou dost hate all who do iniquity.
Thou dost destroy those who speak falsehood;
The Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit.” Psalm 5:4-6

“The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
And those who know Thy name will put their trust in Thee;
for Thou, O Lord, hast not forsaken those who seek Thee.”
Psalm 9:9-10

“For He who requires blood remembers them;
He does not forget the cry of the afflicted.”
Psalm 9:12

“For the needy will not always be forgotten,
nor the hope of the afflicted perish forever.”
Psalm 9:18

“O Lord, Thou hast heard the desire of the humble; Thou wilt strengthen their heart,
Thou wilt incline Thine ear to vindicate the orphan and the oppressed,
that man who is of the world may cause terror no more.”
Psalm 10:17-18

“The Lord is in His holy temple;  the Lord’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked,
and the one who loves violence His soul hates.” Psalm 11:4-5
[Remember: Your situation is never hopeless, because God is on His throne!]
“‘Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy,
now I will arise’, says the Lord, ‘I will set him in the safety for which he longs.’” Psalm 12:5

“I love Thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.

The cords of death encompassed me, and the torrents of ungodliness terrified me.
The cords of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help; 
He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears.

Then the earth shook and quaked; and the foundations of the mountains were trembling and were shaken, because He was angry. Smoke went up out of His nostrils, and fire from His mouth devoured; coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down with thick darkness under His feet. And He rode upon a cherub and flew; and He sped upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness His hiding place, His canopy around Him, darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies. From the brightness before Him passed His thick clouds, hailstones and coals of fire. The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered His voice, hailstones and coals of fire. And He sent out His arrows, and scattered them, and lightning flashes in abundance, and routed them. Then the channels of water appeared, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at Thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of Thy nostrils.

He sent from on high, He took me, He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my stay.
He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.

The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all His ordinances were before me, and I did not put away His statutes from me. I was also blameless with Him, and I kept myself from my iniquity.
Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in His eyes.
With the kind Thou dost show Thyself kind, with the blameless Thou dost show Thyself blameless. With the pure Thou dost show Thyself pure. And with the crooked Thou dost show Thyself astute. For Thou dost save an afflicted people; but haughty eyes Thou dost abase. For Thou dost light my lamp; the Lord my God illumines my darkness. For by Thee I can run upon a troop; and by my God I can leap over a wall. As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the Lord is tried. He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.
For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God.”
Psalm 18:1-31


“For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard.”
Psalm 22:24




“How great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast stored up for those who fear Thee, which Thou hast wrought for those who take refuge in thee, before the sons of men! Thou dost hide them in the secret place of Thy presence from the conspiracies of man;
Thou dost keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.”
Psalm 31:19-20

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”
Psalm 34:18-19

“I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear, and will trust in the Lord.”
Psalm 40:1-3

“How blessed is he who considers the helpless;
the Lord will deliver him in a day of trouble.”
Psalm 41:1

“For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise His who are prisoners.” Psalm 69:33

“For he will deliver the needy when he cries for help, the afflicted also, and him who has no helper. He will have compassion on the poor and needy, and the lives of the needy he will save. He will rescue their life from oppression and violence;
and their blood will be precious in his sight.”
Psalm 72:12-14

“Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
Rescue the weak and needy, deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.”
Psalm 82:3-4

“I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the poor.”
Psalm 140:12

“He heals the brokenhearted,
and binds up their wounds.”
Psalm 147:3


[This verse shows how PERSONALLY God takes mistreatment of His own. Saul has been killing Christians. Jesus appears to Saul and says,]
“Saul, why are you persecuting ME?”
Acts 9:4

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Because He Lives: Getting to Know God

GETTING TO KNOW GOD
 (Part of a series sharing my devotional thoughts from almost two decades ago. For the back story & links to other posts, see the first post in the series.)

God WANTS you to get to know Him. Whatever your background or beliefs are, He wants you to get to know Him as He really is. And if you are sincerely seeking to know Him, you will find Him. That is His promise. And here’s the first thing you must know about God: He ALWAYS keeps His promises.

“And you will seek Me and find Me,
when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13


“Let us hold fast the confession
of our hope without wavering,
for He who promised is faithful.”
Hebrews 10:23


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Because He Lives: Introduction - Life in Christ: What's it All About?

“WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?”
(Part of a series sharing my devotional thoughts from almost two decades ago. For the back story & links to other posts, see the first post in the series.)

Is that your question today? Are you searching for answers, hoping to find some meaning in a world that has brought you pain? Are you longing to put your hope and trust in Someone other than yourself, yet hesitant because you don’t really know what God is like? Have you heard people talk about Jesus Christ, but you wonder who He was and why people still follow Him almost 2000 years after He walked the earth?
Or maybe you’re a Christian who long ago lost the joy of your salvation when you experienced shattered dreams, a broken heart, and a wounded life. Have you given up on Jesus Christ making a difference in your daily life on this earth? Are you trusting Him for your eternal salvation but doubting His ability to intervene in today’s circumstances? Does “abundant life” seem like an unrealistic promise?
Then this devotional is for you, my friend. In these pages you will learn something about the God of the universe who wants very much to be your personal Lord and Savior. He loves you! In fact, He loves you so much that He took on human form and suffered a very degrading, brutal death to make a way for you to have a relationship with God. Then He was resurrected, giving you the opportunity to live with Him in heaven for eternity and have a much more fulfilling life on this earth. Through Scriptural truths illustrated by word pictures, stories, and examples from my own life, you will discover a God who wants to make a difference in your life -- both now AND in eternity.
As you begin, pray for God to reveal Himself to you as He really is. Ask Him to help you understand how He provides eternal life and how you can have abundant life.
My prayer for you is that He will do such a work in your heart that you will never be the same.              

Monday, July 11, 2016

Because He Lives: A Celebration of Relationship

It's hard to believe, but I've hit the two-decade mark of seriously walking in relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I'm not one of those people who can pinpoint the exact date, time, and place, and I'm ok with that. I grew up in church three times a week and was baptized when I was six years old - but it didn't become real to me in a way that made a daily difference in my life until I was an adult. In 1996 I began reading through the Bible and dipping my toes into in-depth Bible study. I really didn't know what I was doing, but that's ok. Somehow between all the aha moments of seeing what Scripture said for myself and learning to break down the chapters in Romans, God moved in and took up residence. I look back at 1996-1997 as the formative days of my relationship with God, where I was born into new life. So now, I've decided I get to look at 2016-2017 as a two year celebration!

Once I began that serious walk with God and entered into relationship, He began to show me gifts and talents and began talking to me about using my writing for His purposes instead of the selfish ambition I always had for it. No, a Pulitzer by 30 would never be in His plans for me. He had something else in mind. Even as I struggled to learn that I couldn't just replace worldly ambition with Christian ambition (still selfishly motivated), and learned about giving Him glory in all things, and learned how to develop the gifts He gave me -- I started what would become a lifelong journey of chronicling my relationship with Him through words and communicating those words to encourage others.

On July 5, 1999, I penned the introduction to a devotional that I wrote over those first couple of years. Looking at it now I can see it is so rudimentary; there are many things I would change if I wrote it today. And yet it is precious to me, because it reminds me of those early days of discovering who He is and who I am in Him. It reminds me of studying Romans 12 and having His Spirit speak to me, without me even asking, that I had the gift of encouragement. It reminds me of my husband telling me that God wanted me to teach women - and of me being scared to death at the prospect. Mostly, it reminds me that no matter where He takes me, the truth is, as C.J. Mahaney said, "We never move on from the cross." Or as the old hymnwriter penned, "Tell me the old, old story/Write on my heart every word."

The old, old story was so new to me 20 years ago. Only a couple of years later I tried to process it to help others understand who Jesus was and why I loved Him so much. The result was a devotional, Because He Lives. I've shared it with maybe 30 people in the world. To celebrate what God has done in my life these 20 years, I'm sharing it on this blog, making it public for the first time.

As I post, I'll link all the posts below. I'll only lightly edit (any grammatical errors or typos only). My hope is that you'll see a heart that was learning to love Him. More than that, I hope you see HIM. I hope it helps someone come to know Him, or reminds someone of truths that we can so easily forget in the craziness of life. No matter what is happening we have hope - Because He Lives.

Introduction
Life in Christ

Part 1
Eternal Life
“God in the Storm”
“My Self-inflicted Wounds”
“But I’m Scared of God!”
“The Best and Worst Things in my Life”
“Jesus Loves Me”
“The Perfect Bridegroom”
“What Jesus Did When He Died For Me”

Part 2
Abundant Life
“Thirsty ... or Satisfied?”
“The King’s Daughter”
“Experiencing Abundant Life”
“Do You Pass God’s Vision Test?”
“God Has a Plan”

Conclusion
New Life
“Because He Lives”