More than Puppy Love

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When I was a teeny-bopper I LOVED Donny Osmond. I knew every word of every song he sang. I knew the inflections in his voice. I could imitate perfectly his cry when he sang “Someone help me, help me, help me please!” in “Puppy Love.” I had a binder that contained every article and picture of Donny that “Tiger Beat” magazine published. I slept on a Donny Osmond pillowcase and I wore purple because that was his favorite color. I knew countless facts about his life, his family and his career. I was an expert in all things Donny. But that doesn’t mean that I knew Donny Osmond, and he certainly didn’t know me. Our “relationship” never went any farther than my dreams.
In the Bible, God repeats the phrase “know that I am the Lord” at least seventy-plus times. This “knowing” goes much deeper than my knowledge of Donny Osmond. It means that the Israelites acknowledged that God is their Lord. They made a life-long commitment to him. But it is also a recognition that comes through revelation. You and I cannot know God unless God reveals Himself to us. Moses pleaded with God, “Teach me your ways so that I may know you” (Exodus 33:13). And that is the key. It is important that we learn about God’s ways – His character, His actions, and most certainly His Words, but we do so in order to enjoy a deeper connection to Him. The word “know” is also used in Scripture in the context of the marriage relationship and the most private moments between and husband and wife. It means that nothing comes between them to hinder their intimate connection. That is the depth of relationship God is offering to you and me.
How could I know so much about Donny Osmond and still not know him? Because I never spent time with him. Knowing God is so much more than gathering information; facts don’t make a relationship. Knowing God is spending time with Him, in His Word, in prayer, and in worship. Beloved you have the remarkable opportunity to know God – deeply, intimately, eternally. Don’t settle for a bunch of facts about God – know Him – with all your heart. He’s an even bigger deal than Donny Osmond.

Kanye and the Church

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What does it mean to be a “righteous person?” Merriam-Webster says that “righteous” means “to act in accord with divine or moral law.” In Scripture, it means to be “right.” But who sets the standards for “right” and “wrong?” In our culture, that standard shifts like a sheet caught in the wind. God gave His law and commandments so that His people would know exactly what He deems to be right and live accordingly. Righteous behavior was rewarded and unrighteousness was punished. In a previous post, I shared how the Prodigal Son would, according to Levitical law, be stoned to death when he returned home for rebelling against his father. Likewise, a woman who was found to not be a virgin when she married would also be stoned to death. The law stated: “She has done a disgraceful thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her Father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you” (Deuteronomy 22:20-21). According to the Law, this was the right way to deal with her.

So how is it that Joseph was called “a righteous man” when he decided to disobey this law? When Mary revealed her pregnancy to her fiancé, Joseph “did not want to expose [Mary] to public disgrace, [so] he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19). Joseph did not want Mary to endure what the law said she deserved. Yet the Scriptures called him righteous. Because Joseph opted for mercy over judgment. No wonder God chose him to be the earthly father who would raise His Son.

A popular entertainer professed to be a Christian recently and just dropped a full gospel album. He has a reputation as a foul-mouthed, wild, arrogant, rebellious guy, but now he says he is a follower of Christ. And the church has judged him and his claim by his past. Where is mercy? Where is righteousness? Who among us has the right to judge his faith? Shouldn’t we instead be proclaiming the saving power of Christ? If the angels are rejoicing that a sinner came to Jesus, why aren’t we? We have an opportunity to show the world the grace and mercy of God by embracing this man and his new-found faith – but we’re showing them that Heaven has slammed the door in his face. And theirs. Why would they want a God like that? The truth is, it took the same amount of holy blood to cleanse my sins as it did to cleanse his. And it takes the same grace to overcome my mistakes as a believer as it will to overcome his. If God can save a wretch like me, no one is outside of the reach of His salvation.

James said it clearly and boldly: “Judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:13).

I’m choosing righteousness here. I’m choosing the same mercy that was shown to me. I’m going to believe that my God can save. Anyone.

Seeing the God Who Sees Me

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The angel of the Lord found Hagar…” Genesis 16:7

You know the story of Abraham and Sarah – childless and old, God promised them a son, but in the waiting, they grew impatient and Abraham slept with Sarah’s maid Hagar, and she conceived. But their act of faithlessness caused tremendous grief for the Egyptian slave-girl. Twice Hagar wound up in the desert, weary, hungry and frightened. On her first excursion, Scripture tells us “The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert” (Gen. 16:7). The Hebrew word for “found” means “to cause to encounter.” God purposefully put Himself in Hagar’s path to cause her to have an encounter with Him. He set Himself right where He knew she was going because His heart was tender to her.  Hagar gained precious insight into who God is.  Realizing that the God of her master was very much aware of her and her plight,  She named the Lord El Roi – “the God who sees me” (Gen. 16:13).

After the birth of Ishmael (which- by the way – means The Lord has heard – Gen 16:11) Hagar and her son were forced to leave their home with Abraham and Sarah.  When their meager supplies of food and water ran out, Hagar recognized their inevitable deaths.  She put Ishmael under a tree and walked away, so as not to watch her weakened son die.  She and the boy were both crying, and God once again came to Hagar and assured her that He was aware of their plight.  Genesis 21:19 says, “Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.”  Oh, do you see the beauty of this passage? El Roi – the God who saw Hagar, now opened Hagar’s eyes so she could see.  He showed her a well of life-giving water that would minister to their bodies and to their spirits.

You may find yourself in some difficult places and very hard circumstances, but I can assure you that you have never been out of your Heavenly Father’s sight.  There is no place you can go that God will not be.  Whether they are physical places, emotional pits, and spiritual dark caves – God has promised, “I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5) The truth is, it’s often in those hard places that we see the God who sees us. Had Hagar not been lost in the wilderness, running from the hard hand of her mistress, she would have never encountered the Lord and come to know Him.  I know this to be true in my life.  So often I have discovered aspects of God that I would have never known had I not been in difficult circumstances.  When I was unable to put food on our table, I discovered Jehovah-Jireth – the Lord who Provides (Gen. 22:8). When I was desperately ill I found Jehovah Rapha – The Lord our Healer (Ps. 103:3). When I was discouraged and fearful, Jehovah Shalom – The Lord is Peace (Jud. 6:23-24) and Yahweh-Tsuri – The Lord my Strength (Ex. 15:2) came to encourage and strengthen me.  If you are in a difficult season, look for God to reveal Himself to you in a new and encouraging way.

Beloved, if He was faithful to a frightened, lost Egyptian slave girl, and He will surely be faithful to you.

For the Weary Servant

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This is for the ones who are weary of being the responsible one, the nice one, the one who always puts others first, the one who gives till it hurts. This is for the one who takes the smallest piece of chicken, the one who gives more than they have, the one who never sits down till everyone else is half-way through the meal. The ones who clean up other’s messes – the mess they left in the kitchen and the mess they made in their life. You are the givers and the forgivers, the doers and the do-with-outers, the backbone of the family and the pillar of the church.
Let me tell you who else you are – you are the imitators of Jesus Christ. You are following the example He gave when He washed the disciples’ nasty feet. You took His calling and made it the theme of your life. “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:15). That is essentially what you are doing when you put others first. Because you do it out of love. Just as He did. And He sees you Beloved. He knows the burden you bear. And He loves the reflection of Himself in you. He says to you, “Do not grow weary in doing good . . . because your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (Galatians 6:9, 1 Corinthians 15:15).
Take a deep breath weary one, then pick up your towel. Someone needs to see Jesus in you today.

Sandpaper People

“I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel” (Ezekiel 14:5).

As I pray each day for my granddaughter, I also pray for the people that will touch her life.    I pray for her future friends, caregivers, teachers, beaus, bosses and coworkers, and the man that she will one day marry.  I pray that they will be people who love the Lord, have a passion for His will and will help her achieve God’s purpose in her life.  I always ask Him to surround her with godly people.  But I know that there will be people who will come into her life that will not be godly.  They are what I call “sandpaper people” – gritty and abrasive people who rub us the wrong way.  I’ve had more than a few of them cross my path and I image you have too.  They are the people who frustrate and annoy us, who take advantage of us, fail to keep their word, who lie and who take more than they give.  They hurt us, mistreat us, abandon us and yes, even abuse us.  They make life hard and painful.  But they are there for a purpose.  For what does sandpaper do?  It smooths the rough surface.  Likewise sandpaper people are God’s tool for smoothing off our rough edges.

God used some of those sandpaper people to scrape off judgment and arrogance.  He placed some of them in my life to rub off selfishness and to remove my “victim mentality.”  He used some of them to sand out my attitude of self-righteousness. And He used them to teach me humility, kindness, generosity, compassion, patience, and forgiveness.  Through them He opened a tiny window into His amazing grace.  He taught me about prayer – oh how I learned to pray about some of these abrasive and hurtful people – for me and for them.  He also taught me about discernment and wisdom, for some of those people were there because I foolishly invited them in.  He exploded my understanding about His unconditional love, then asked me to be a conduit of that love into other’s lives.  Let me tell you, when God uses you to love someone to Christ, you will never consider another soul as a “hopeless mess.”  I confess that I complained – a lot and loudly – about some of the people who rubbed me the wrong way – but every one of them taught me something God wanted me to know and each one left an indelible mark on my life – some imprints of grace and forgiveness, some scars of wisdom, and some cracks in the wall I had built around my heart.

Beloved, who has God brought into your life that you sometimes wish wasn’t there?  Can you look at them through His eyes?  Maybe they are the very ones He is using to remove something that keeps you from fulfilling His purpose for your life.  Maybe they are there to teach you some valuable lessons about grace, compassion, forgiveness or discernment.  They may be in your life so that you can love them to Jesus—or so that you can become more like Jesus.  Ask God what He’s up to in your life and in theirs.  Not every relationship is going to be sunshine and roses – some people will bring on the rain.  But rain makes the roses grow and their fragrance is a sweet aroma.  Above all remember – every person – even the one who rubs you the wrong way – is a soul God loves and Jesus died to save.  That’s reason enough to love them.