Author Archives: Mary

A Five Star Hostess

What makes a person a fabulous hostess or host?  When you recall being a guest in someone’s home, what made that experience pleasant or memorable?  Do you think of the decor, the ambience, or the food that was served?  Perhaps you remember some of those details, but I imagine the fact that mattered most was that you felt comfortable, honored, and respected.

If you are a Christian, you are a hostess or a host 24/7.  Your guest is the Holy Spirit.  In addition to Scripture, I am indebted to two books/authors who have helped me comprehend my identity as a hostess.   First is My Heart, Christ’s Home by Robert Boyd Munger.  The second is Hosting The Presence by Bill Johnson.

How am I doing hosting The Holy Spirit?  How are you doing?   Does He feel like our highly honored guest?  Does He know we love Him and love His company? Or has He withdrawn to His room in our lives and closed the door because the things going on in our homes and hearts are an affront on His Holiness? The Scriptures teach us that He will never leave us or forsake us, but those same Scriptures also teach us that He turns His back on sin – that our sin separates us from Him.

In the instructions on how to host the Holy Spirit, we are given two very explicit commands. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) and do not put out the Holy Spirit’s fire (I Thessalonians 5:19).  The implicit commands are to please the Holy Spirit and to facilitate His fire and flame in our lives.

Since the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22) and since the Holy Spirit is our power (Acts 1:8)  to fulfill the work Jesus has given us to do, we will be empty, weak, and unproductive shells of who God intended us to be, if we make a habit of hurting and quenching God’s Spirit.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be a Five Star Hostess.  I want the Holy Spirit in my main living space, engaged with me.  I want face to face conversations with Him.  I want to see His smile.  I want to hear His laughter.  I need His fruit and His power.   How about you?   It’s never too late to improve our hosting skills.

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Wonder Working Power

There is an old hymn* that proclaims an old and vital truth: ” There is pow’r, wonder working power in the blood of the Lamb, there is wonder working power in the precious blood of the Lamb.”

The Lamb was Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  Yesterday we remembered the day He let Himself be crucified, the day He shed His blood and gave His life.

The power, the wonder working power of His shed blood has purchased and accomplished great things in my life and in the lives of all His followers. These great things have been won for me and them: forgiveness and redemption (see Acts 20:28 and Ephesians 1:7); justification (Romans 5:9); peace (Colossians 1:20);  cleansing (Hebrews 9:14); healing (Isaiah 53:5); confidence to draw near to God (Hebrews 10:19-22); and freedom from sin (Revelation 1:5).

The evening before His crucifixion, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples.  ” “…after the supper, He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” ” (Luke 22:20)

When ANYONE believes in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His blood is applied to their life and powerful transformation follows.  This transformation is clearly witnessed to in the story and movie: I Can Only Imagine.  It documents how an abusive, mean man was changed into a loving father who stopped hurting his son and started blessing him.

Faith begets this miracle time and time again.  That is why Paul tells us that if any man is in Jesus Christ, he is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Church Communion is when we remember the night Jesus gave the cup of the new covenant to His disciples.  Whenever we bring the cup to our lips and drink, we say to the Lord Jesus, “I believe. I agree. I receive. I’m in. I’m yours.”

There is always room at the table for more.  You are loved, and you are welcome.  Come believe.  Come drink of the cup.

* There Is Power In The Blood by Lewis E. Jones

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Whispers of Love

I love foggy mornings.  The world is enveloped in such softness, like a gentle presence has descended and embraced her.  The fog reminds me of my life, of the reality that the Glory of God in Jesus Christ, in the person of the Holy Spirit, has come to me – that He is in me and I am in Him.  I live wrapped up in His Love, the way the morning fog hugs the earth.

One of the many blessings of this intimate relationship is our tender, confidential conversation. When difficulties come, He gives me visions and words that are tailor made for me and my circumstances – personal messages just for me from Him.

Recently I had some symptoms that were highly suspicious for cancer.  I went to see my doctor and had several diagnostic tests.  In the midst of that stress, my Lord whispered and revealed truth.  I leaned in to listen and be comforted, and I responded.

He breathed, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price…”  (Romans 6:19-20)

I sighed, “That is true.  My body is yours. Whatever the outcome, Lord, I trust you.”

He opened up Revelation Chapter One, and I saw Him – the One with a face as brilliant as the sun and hair as white as snow – the One with a sharp double edged sword coming out of His mouth and feet like bronze glowing in a furnace – the One whose voice is like the sound of rushing waters – the One whose eyes are like blazing fire.

I said, “Even though you are beautiful to me, Jesus, you are fierce and frightening. I am grateful that I am hidden behind you and that my enemies have to deal with you!”

My enemy symptoms disappeared and all my tests came back normal.  I said thank you to the Lover of my soul, and I praised His Holy Name.

The One, who shed His blood for me, shed it for you as well.  He wants to share an intimate relationship with you.  You are One of A Kind, and no one knows that better than your Creator and Redeemer.  No one loves you like He does.  No one will ever have the conversation with Him that He wants to have with you alone.  Come.  He calls you.

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The Fear That Is Wisdom

Disaster and destruction follows disaster and destruction in the world we live in, hurricane upon hurricane, earthquake upon earthquake, and wildfire upon wildfire. The news also carries stories of the tensions between nations and the dangers of nuclear proliferation or attack. We wonder when the terrorists will strike again. We wonder when the war in Syria will finally end.  Anxiety and fear are rampant.

Jesus teaches His disciples what signs will signal the end times and His return. (See Matthew 24)  He tells of unequaled distress on earth, such distress that all would die, if those days were not shortened. He tells of the sun being darkened and the moon not giving its light. He warns of a day during that historic, monumental distress, a day that no one but His father knows. On that day, He will come on the clouds in the sky with great glory and all those who have believed in Him will be caught up with Him to escape the horrors of earth.  “…That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.” Does this teaching inspire fear?  It well ought.

We learn in Psalm 111:10 that: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  Let fear send you running to God to learn how to escape His just judgment on mankind. John Newton’s ageless hymn, Amazing Grace, says, “Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear, and Grace my fears relieved.”

God is Love.  Love is warning us, and Love is reminding us that He has made a way of escape.  All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  All of us are unclean and powerless before the Mighty God of the Universe.  See a man upon a cross.  His name is Jesus, the Son of God, the Lamb of God.  His shed blood can wash away your sin and make you clean.  Believe in Him.

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;  the end of fear is love.  The apostle John tells us in I John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

When Love Incarnate, Jesus Christ, washes us clean, we are relieved of fear.  For those of us who have believed in that love, we listen to the news and watch the times with a growing sense that our Lord’s return is closer than when we first believed.  We are comforted knowing the day is coming when there will be no more sorrow and no more tears.  The One who gave Himself for us will dry away our final tears as He welcomes us home to be with Him forever.

Be afraid; it’s right and appropriate. But don’t stop at fear; go on to Love.  Run to Him. Now. Don’t slow down and don’t stop until you are safe in His arms.

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What Kind Of God

I inherited a disease called Fuch’s Corneal Dystrophy. My vision was getting worse.  I was reading large print books with reading glasses and a magnifier.  I was unable to read labels and sales tags while shopping. My husband was reading recipes to me when I cooked and baked. My vision was so hazy that I no longer trusted myself to drive our car.  Two specialists recommended corneal transplant.  On June 22nd I had the diseased membrane of my left cornea removed and a healthy donor membrane attached to that cornea.

I enjoyed the trip to my first post operative visit with the eye surgeon. The ditches along all the roadways were adorned with Queen Anne’s Lace,  a longtime favorite wild flower of mine.

The doctor was pleased with my progress. The donor membrane had attached, and the new cells were working well.  The swelling in that cornea had resolved, and my vision had improved.  He explained that, even though the swelling was relieved, the haziness in my vision would slowly resolve as the cells in my cornea re-design themselves.  He told me that 80 to 90 percent of my improvement will come within 3 months and that the other 10-20 percent will come over the next 1 to 2 years.

I am grateful for my eye surgeon and his team at Mayo in Rochester. I am thankful for my donor and my donor’s family. I am blessed by the prayers of family, friends, and church.  I praise the Lord who is my healer.

What kind of God makes wild flowers that look like lace and cells that can re-design themselves?  A Good God.  A Great and Powerful God.  A God who loves me and all of you.  And so gratitude becomes adoration of Almighty Creator God.

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Shafts of Glory

While my husband was driving us to our son’s home, I read out loud.  I read the chapter, Awe: Praising His Glory, from Timothy Keller’s book, PRAYER.

The following paragraph by Keller moved me profoundly:  First we should learn to do what C. S. Lewis speaks about in his book on prayer, Letters to Malcolm.  He deliberatively tries to see all pleasures as “shafts of the glory as it strikes our sensibility . . . . I have tried . . . . to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration.”  By “pleasure” Lewis means things as diverse as a beautiful mountain valley, delicious food, a good book, or a piece of music.  What does it mean to make every pleasure into adoration?  He quickly points out that, while we should give God thanks for every pleasure, Lewis means something more.  “Gratitude exclaims . . . . ‘How good of God to give me this.’  Adoration says, ‘ What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!’  One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun.”  He learns to instinctively think “What kind of God would create this, give me this?”  He concludes that while he doesn’t succeed in always keeping this discipline, it has enriched both his joy in everyday life and his concentrated times of prayer.  He says we “shall not be able to adore God on the highest occasions if we have learned no habit of doing so on the lowest.”

I loved the picture in my mind of following the sunbeam back up to the sun – the discipline of not only being thankful for the sunbeam, but the subsequent adoration of the one who made and sent the sunbeam to glorify my day.  I breathed a hurried prayer, “Lord, I would love to write a blog post about this.  It would be so neat if You would give me a photograph of a sunbeam.”

I kept reading to my husband and completed the chapter.  We reached our destination and enjoyed an evening of fun and fellowship with our son and his family.  As usual, our granddaughter Alyse gave up her room for her papa and I to sleep in.  As soon as I awoke the next morning, I raised the blinds in Alyse’s room and was greeted by glorious sunbeams  peeking out from behind the tall, old evergreens that shielded the morning sun!  I grabbed my camera and ran to the front porch to start snapping pictures.

I thanked God for the sunbeams and answered prayer.  I pondered what kind of God created light and this exquisite beauty for a summer morning.  I pondered what kind of a God hears and answers prayers.  What kind of God?  A powerful creator God.  An Artist God – The Artist of all Artists.  A loving, attentive Father God.  A Father God who delights in giving His children joy.  I adored my Creator God, my Father God!

O Lord God, teach us that gratitude and adoration intersect.  Teach us to follow the sunbeams back up to the sun.  Teach us awe and wonder over what kind of God gives us such beautiful and bountiful pleasures and gifts.  Teach us to turn our gratitude into adoration.

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Keys and Doors

I have a new friend.  Her name is Lona.  When she came for dinner on Easter, she brought me this kitchen towel as a hostess gift.   It reminds me of her, not only because it was a present from her, but because she does open big doors with little keys.  I know because I pray with her every week.

In Matthew 6:19, Jesus told Simon, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  Simon had just made his confession of faith, telling Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”   Jesus had replied by calling him Peter, which means rock, and saying, “On this rock I will build my church.”

The church is the living fellowship of all those who believe that Jesus is the The Christ, The Son of God. Jesus is the chief cornerstone of the church.  Peter, the Rock, was the first man to understand and believe that Jesus was the The Christ, the Son of God, and as such, he was the first living stone ( see I Peter 2: 4) placed upon the cornerstone of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Church is built upon the belief and confession that Jesus is The Christ, The Son of God.  That is the door that opens the Kingdom of heaven up to anyone who would believe.   All of us who share this faith are living stones built up over the centuries upon the Rock of our Salvation, Jesus Christ.

Like Peter, every believer is given the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.  The keys are to bind and to loose. To forbid and to allow.  To close and to open.  What do we bind, forbid, and close?  What do we loose, allow and open?  We loose, allow and open when we share the truth of the good news of Jesus Christ.  We bind, forbid and close when we deny the lies of the evil one.  We bind and loose whenever we exercise this authority in prayer.  We speak and believe the word of God given us in the Scriptures and apply them to the lives of our families, churches, and communities.

Lona has beautiful brown eyes that sparkle with the life of Jesus.  She comes to prayer expectantly.  She uses her keys, exercising her authority to bind and loose confidently when she prays.  I hear her.  I learn from her.  Sometimes during our hours of praying with Jesus, He shows her what He is doing, and she giggles with delight. I hear that laughter and I know bad things are being locked up and good doors are opening for those we pray for.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for giving us the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  We are humbled and grateful.  Open our eyes to see doors that need to be opened and to doors that need to be closed.

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Living Dead or Born Again

Life can leave us feeling dead.  Have you ever felt that way, breathing and exchanging air but starved for life, longing for change but powerless to make changes, longing for a heaven on earth, the kingdom of God in the here and now? Or do you believe  you are living, oblivious to the fact you are really dead?  It might be better for you to be one of those who feel dead and are seeking life!

In the third chapter of the Gospel of John,  we watch and hear Jesus tell the Pharisee Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Nicodemus is puzzled and wonders, how can this be?  Jesus tells Nicodemus that flesh gives birth to flesh and spirit gives birth to spirit.  He tells him that no one has ever gone into heaven except for the Son of Man who came from heaven.  He tells him that the Son of Man must be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

The apostle John tells us that everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.

The apostle Paul proclaims that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  He describes mankind as dead in their sins.  Indeed, the living are the living dead until they believe that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, was lifted up and crucified on a cross to pay the penalty for their sin. Then they are born of God, born of His  Spirit – given His life, an eternal, abundant life that begins in the here and now.

The good news is that you don’t have to be living dead.  You can be born again to everlasting life.  Will you believe in the One who was lifted up and died for you?

 

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A Heart of Light

“It is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”   Second Corinthians 4:6   NKJ Version

This is an extraordinary, marvelous reality.  The God of the universe shines his light into my heart so that I can see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

“We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image…just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Second Corinthians 3:18  NKJ Version

This is even more extraordinary.   When I look in the mirror I behold the glory of God.  How can this be?

Commentator William Barclay says, “Possibly what Paul means is that, if we gaze at Christ, we in the end reflect him. His image appears in our life.”  Commentators Barker and Kohlenberger state, “Paul concludes by noting that the progressive transformation of the Christian’s character is the work of the Lord who is the Spirit.”

As I have meditated on these truly beautiful passages of Scripture,  I have remembered the old song Mirror (from the 70’s) performed by Evie.  She told us so eloquently with her sweet, clear voice, “You’re searching for Jesus, looking to find hope for tomorrow and some peace of mind…but til’ you find him in the mirror, you’ve got a long way to go.”

Oh, Holy Spirit,  how I want to find Jesus in the mirror.  As I keep gazing at him, will you keep transforming me into his image so that I might reflect his beauty, his glory to the world.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Jesus.  I love you.

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Invisible, Not Imaginary

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Long ago a wise boy named Tim told me, “I like Jesus and Snuffleupagus.”

In a neighborhood named Sesame Street lived Big Bird.  His best friend was a four legged, gentle, soft spoken creature called Mr.Snuffleupagus.  They hung out and confided in one another.  Amazingly, no one else on Sesame Street had seen Big Bird’s best friend.  They erroneously believed that Bird’s BFF was imaginary. That didn’t really matter to Big Bird because he and Snuffy kept enjoying one another’s company and being there for each other.

Long ago in Bethlehem on the first Christmas, a BFF quietly moved into our neighborhoods.  Not everyone encountered him.  But to those who had eyes to see and ears to hear, who welcomed and received him, he became the most incredible best friend forever.

That Best Friend is Jesus.  He is fully man and fully God.  He is all knowing and all powerful.  He delivers and saves from sin and death. He is loving, kind, merciful and fun. He tells us to cast our cares on him because he cares for us.

Like Big Bird, it doesn’t really matter to me if you know my Jesus is real or if you think he is imaginary.  My BFF, Jesus, is real to me.  I know him, and he knows me.  We hang out and enjoy each other every day.

Jesus isn’t exclusive.  He has room in his heart for an endless circle of friends.  He wants you in that circle.  May you uncover and unwrap the gift of his friendship underneath your Christmas tree.

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