Opening My Gift

christmas_gift_187449

As I recall Christmas past, the memories evoke the wonder I felt as a child early on Christmas morning, racing from my bedroom, down the stairs and into our living room to find the Christmas tree surrounded by wrapped gifts that had not been there the night before.

I circled the gifts with awe, searching for those with my name on them.  Then I hurried to wake my mother to come and open gifts with me and my little sister.  It never entered my mind to leave my gifts unopened for even a short time.  In a a sense, the gifts, although pretty to look at, were of no value until I opened and used them.  That’s when joy flowed out of the awe and wonder of the morning, as I held my new dolly and lovingly touched the clothes Mom had sewn for her.

Christmas is the celebration each year of God’s Best Gift to us, His Son, the Lamb of God who came to take away our sins and give us salvation.  The gift cannot bless us, until we receive, open and use it.

In my last post, I spoke of the exchanged life.  That exchanged life is the Gift of Christmas.  I ponder how to open that gift and  unfurl the new Life, the life of Jesus Christ within me?

Paul said, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  Philippians 2:12-13

Salvation is God’s life within me, giving me the will and the power to act according to His good purpose.  I open that gift, unfurl that power by working out my salvation with fear and trembling.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, fear is to be in awe.  Awe is an emotion of mixed reverence, dread, and wonder.  To revere is to regard with awe,  great respect or devotion.  Wonder is awe, astonishment, surprise, or admiration. To tremble is to shake involuntarily or to vibrate or oscillate, like a leaf trembling in the wind.

To revere this life of Christ in me, to be in awe of His presence, to respect and to be devoted to him, I think, must mean to yield to him, to let him have his way each day, moment by moment.  I think it means to wake up each morning and say, “I’m getting out of the way, moving over, and trusting you to go to work today, Lord Jesus”, and then with wonder to watch his power unleashed in me and through me.

How good is God; he gives us the work of letting him do the work.  What a wonderful Father he is.

Father God as I open your gift of salvation and put it to work each morning in the year ahead, let me be a leaf, clinging to Jesus, trembling in the wind of his power blowing within me to will and to do his good purposes.

Did you like this? Share it:

An Exchanged Life

One of my dear friends, who has long been in Christian ministry, told me that she and her husband have changed the way they present the gospel.  Their daughter had believed in Jesus as a child and had long called him Savior, but she has dated her salvation to the day when, as an adult, she surrendered the Lordship of her life to Jesus.

What is salvation?  Is it not forgiveness and the way into an everlasting relationship with the Lord of Heaven, the Savior God, through the redemptive work of his son, the Lord Jesus Christ?  What is it we need forgiveness for?  Is it not the breaking of the first commandment – you shall have no other Gods before me?  Do we not break that law every time, as rebellious children, we say to God, I am the boss of me?  Is that attitude not evidence self is God?

I am currently reading Watchman Nee’s book, The Normal Christian Life.  In it he writes, “How good it is to have the consciousness that we belong to the Lord and are not our own! There is nothing more precious in the world. It is that which brings the awareness of his continual presence, and the reason is obvious. I must first have the sense of God’s possession of me before I can have the sense of his presence with me. When once his ownership is established, then I dare do nothing in my own interests, for I am his exclusive property…The trouble with many Christians today is that they have an insufficient idea of what God is asking of them…Do you not know that God is asking of you your very life? …Not until we take the place of a servant can he take his place as Lord.”

Jesus said that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that whosoever believed in him might have everlasting life.  (John 3;16)

Are we too familiar with the word believe?  Do we use it glibly?    If God is God, then I am not my own Lord. I can say I believe Jesus Christ is God, but I deny my own espoused belief every time I choose my way, instead of his.  I think the result of genuine belief is death, my own life nailed to the cross with Jesus, as I yield all rights to the One who gave his life for my salvation.

When Jesus said we must be born again to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3), didn’t he mean this glorious exchange – my death for his resurrected life in me – my life for his?

Did you like this? Share it:

The Root Of Repentance

I have long pondered how one who says he believes in Jesus can also say he does not know how to forgive.   For the Lord Jesus taught that his Father in Heaven would not forgive men their sins unless those men forgave other men their sins toward them.

Recently I read the fictional trilogy, Flight From Stonewycke, by Michael Phillips and Judith Pella.  In the story an old man named Elijah spoke to a younger man, ” …all people, Dermott, must humbly come to the point of being able to forgive others the wrongs they have done them, forgive themselves for their own sin, and even forgive God for what we perceive as the cruel hand of fate working against us….Elijah paused and looked intently at the his young friend.  It is this forgiveness which lies at the root of repentance and opens the way for the life He would give us.”

What grabbed me most was the well articulated thought that forgiveness is the root of the repentance that leads to the gift of LIFE EVERLASTING.

Of what must we repent?  Certainly,  our rights, including our right to demand justice, our right to revenge, our right to withhold mercy and forgiveness.  Giving these rights up is easier when we realize our desperate need for God’s forgiveness, when we realize, that no matter how good we are, we still fall short of God’s Glory, his standard of holiness.

Repentance leads to death, our lives are nailed to the cross with Jesus Christ.  We give up own lives with all our rights, in order that He might rise again in us with his new life.  My life for his.  Your life for his.

In his book, The Normal Christian Life, Watchman Nee says, “We think of the Christian life as a ‘changed life’ but it is not that.  What God offers us is an ‘exchanged life’, a ‘substituted life’, and Christ is our Substitute within.”

Christ forgives.   If Christ lives in me,  then I forgive.   For the life I live is no longer my own but his.  Praise God.

Did you like this? Share it:

Something Old Made New

I have always liked old things.  I treasure their history.   So I especially love old family things – my mother’s platform rocker, the cake plate that belonged to my mother-in-law, my dresser from childhood.  These things  have a story to tell and preserve pieces of the history of my family and my husband’s family.

100_4661 (1)

A year ago my son and his family were moving some old things out of the furnace room as they packed and prepared to move.  One of the things they pulled out was an old desk that had belonged to my mother-in-law.  My husband can’t remember a time the desk was not setting in the living room of the home he grew up in.  He estimated that the desk is 65-70 years old.  Our granddaughter examined the old desk and decided she wanted to keep it.  Since it was in bad shape, she and I hatched a plan to give it new a life for her new room in their new home.   We decided on some chalk paint and a coat of clear wax to protect the wood.  Miah picked out her colors  and new hardware for the drawers.  We worked together.  Both of us were pleased with the results.  I was thrilled that Great Grandmother’s desk has been preserved to serve a new generation in our family.

100_4664

Perhaps one of the reasons, I find refurbishing an old piece of furniture so satisfying is because it becomes a metaphor for the work Jesus Christ does in creation and in the lives of his followers.  He tells us in Revelation 21 that HE MAKES ALL THINGS NEW.   In her DVD study,  Here and Now… There and Then,  A Lecture Series on Revelation, Beth Moore quotes Dr. M.E. Boring, “God does not make all new things but all things new.”

I am so glad Jesus has made me new and preserved me to enjoy a wondrous, glorious future with him in Heaven.  I love him.

Happy Birthday, Miah!  I am glad God made you, and that Jesus made you new when you put your trust in him.  I love you.

Did you like this? Share it:

Autumn Expectation

DSC_0096

Mellow September is my favorite month of the year.  I look forward to warm days of brilliant color and cool nights, snuggled under a warm blanket with the windows open to fresh air.

This autumn I look forward to trips to see two of my sons and their families.  I can hardly wait to see them, to hug them, to hear their voices, and to see them smile.

As a follower of Jesus, autumn also finds me anticipating and looking forward to another visit – to a visit with the One who knows me best and loves me most, the One I love above all others – to a visit that never ends with my glorious Savior.

The apostle Paul teaches us in I Corinthians 15:51-52 and I Thessalonians 4:16-18 that a day is coming when Jesus will descend from Heaven and lift His followers up into the clouds to be with Him forever.  This coming event is called The Rapture.

In their book, The Feasts of the Lord, Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal, write, “The Feast of Trumpets is next on Israel’s prophetic calendar.  Israel’s four springtime holidays (Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and the Feast of Weeks) were fulfilled in connection with the Messiah’s first coming.  Israel’s three autumn holidays (Feast of Trumpets, Yom Kippur, and Tabernacles) will be fulfilled at His second coming.” (Page 112)  On page 29, one of the authors writes, “While I will not be dogmatic on this issue, I strongly believe that at the Feast of Trumpets, the church will be raptured and the Lord’s wrath will commence on earth.”

The Feast of Trumpets, also known as Rosh Hashanah, takes place on the first day of the the seventh month in the Hebrew calendar.   This falls sometime between mid September and mid October in our calendar.

Each autumn I wonder wistfully: Will this be the year? – Will my Lord take me up into the clouds to be with Him this Feast of Trumpets?

Recently, I have been listening again to the music of Chris Rice, in his old CD, Run the Earth, Watch the Sky.  My heart identifies with his lyrics in the song Smile: “Cause I just want to be with you;  I want this waiting to be over… And it helps to know the day is getting closer…til I don’t have to imagine, and I finally get to see you smile!”

I keep running the earth, watching the sky, especially the autumn sky, and praying with the Saints of all the ages, “Come, Lord Jesus.  Come Quickly!”

Did you like this? Share it:

Rebuilt and Replanted

100_4548

Earlier this summer, my husband and I celebrated our 45th Wedding Anniversary.   We were newlyweds in the early 1970’s,  an era enriched with the beautiful music preformed by Karen Carpenter and her brother Richard.   They told our story in We’ve Only Just Begun*:  “…White lace and promises.  A kiss for luck and we’re on our way.”  They expressed our dreams in For All We Know**:  “…We’ve got a lifetime to share.  So much to say…Let’s take a lifetime to say I knew you well…And love may grow for all we know.”

Our promises and dreams were godly, and we sought God’s blessing and invoked His help.  It is good we did.  For life happened.  Demands and stresses within and without took a toll on our marriage, which nearly failed.  (You can read our story by going to the book page of this website.)    We’ve had a lifetime to know each other well and see our love mature and grow because of the God we trusted.

“Then the Nations around you that remain will know that I , the Lord, have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate.  I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do it.”   Ezekiel 36:36

In this, our 45th year of life together, Howard and I honor the God who rebuilt and replanted our marriage, the God  who spoke and did what He said He could do!

* written by Nicolas,Roger S./Williams, Paul H.

**  written by Bunch, John/Colbert, Joshua/Cordoba,Derick/Neptune, Cha

Did you like this? Share it:

Mothers, Daughters, and Life Lessons

FullSizeRender-1
Earlier this year I took my granddaughter Anjela and her mother Adreza to see the movie Cinderella.  I was delighted on our way home to hear my daughter-in-law ask, “Anjela, what did Cinderella’s mother teach her?”

Anjela promptly replied, “Always be kind and courageous“.

Adreza spent a few moments reinforcing the importance of kindness and courage.  Then she asked, “What did Cinderella say to her step mother at the end of the movie?”

Anjela replied, “I forgive you.”

Adreza then emphasized  the virtue of having a forgiving spirit.

I applauded my daughter-in-law for capitalizing on an opportunity to teach.  What could have been just entrainment for Anjela, became a transformative experience.  It also became a memory of her mother as a woman who values kindness, courage, and forgiveness.

As Christians we filter all the messages we hear through the filter of our Biblical World View.  There is much we must throw out as incompatible with God’s truth.  How refreshing when the message we hear agrees with the truth we build our lives on.  Adreza was reiterating truths expressed in scripture:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  Colossians 3:12-13

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

As I reflected back on Cinderella and Adreza’s life lesson with Anjela,  I  remembered my mother and her lessons to me.  She taught me to be kind and respectful.  She role modeled those virtues and expected me to follow her example.

I used to complain about my broad shoulders.  She firmly retorted, “Life will be hard, and you will need those broad shoulders.”  Although she never directly told me to be strong,  I certainly internalized that expectation and the belief that I was equipped for that challenge.  My mother’s life was often hard;  I observed her courage and her strength.

I don’t remember my mother talking about forgiveness, but I have memories of her extending forgiveness to others, as her Lord had commanded her.

Hebrews 12 tells us we have a great cloud of witnesses who kept the faith and have gone before us into heaven.

“Mother, if you are watching, and I am confidant  you are, please know I am trying to be kind and courageous, and forgiving.  I want to make you proud.”

100_4474

Did you like this? Share it:

Hungry Caterpillars and Transformation

100_4284

Our granddaughter Alyse has loved puzzles and Monarch Butterfies. When she was pre-school age, she liked to put together a floor puzzle of an illustration from the children’s book, The Hungry Caterpillar. I made happy memories of sitting on the floor with Alyse piecing that puzzle together.

The above photograph of Alyse was taken one Easter at her Grandma Doreen’s home. As you can see, she has a Monarch Butterfly perched on her finger. The Butterfly must have decided she was lovelier and sweeter than the nearby yellow hibiscus!

What do hungry caterpillars and butterflies have to do with Easter and Transformation? Hungry Caterpillars become beautiful butterflies by God’s design and plan. The crucified Christ becomes the Risen Lord on Easter morning to complete God’s redemptive plan for mankind. The Risen Lord transforms believers into New Creations. (See 2 Corinthians 5: 17)

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6, New American Standard Bible)

Like hungry caterpillars, Christians keep reading the Scriptures, day by day, year in, year out. It is their daily bread, and it satisfies them. This steady diet of God’s truth transforms their lives. Christ uses his words to make them new creations.

Sometimes a transformation in Christ can be very dramatic and sudden, like it was for Louie Zamperini, as I mentioned in my previous post. For most of us other believers, I think, the transformation is the slow, steady variety.

Oh, the wonders of God’s Creation! – caterpillars becoming Monarch Butterflies, granddaughters becoming beautiful young women, and believers being transformed into the likeness of Christ with ever increasing glory (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Did you like this? Share it:

A New Creation

100_4286

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Can a person be so broken, that healing and wholeness seem hopeless – that ever knowing peace and true joy again is despaired of? Perhaps in the realm of the human, but in the realm of the Spirit of Christ, all things are possible. He is the one who proclaims that he makes all things NEW.

I recently read, Unbroken, A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand. It is the story of Olympian runner Louie Zamperini whose life was broken by the ravages of war and the horrors of life in a Japanese prison camp. He survived and returned home, alive, but in reality dead to any meaningful life. He suffered from crippling, disabling flashbacks, nightmares, and alcoholism.

In 1949 Louie attended the Billy Graham Crusade in Los Angeles. Laura Hillenbrand documented his testimony of the morning after the crusade on page 376: “Resting in the shade and the stillness, Louie felt profound peace. When he thought of his history, what resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him. He was not the worthless, broken, forsaken man that the Bird had striven to make him. In a single, silent moment, his rage, his fear, his humiliation, and helplessness had fallen away. That morning, he believed he was a new creation.” Ms. Hillenbrand documented that he never had another flashback or nightmare of his prison guard, the Bird, once again assaulting him.

I highly recommend reading this book. One cannot fully appreciate Louie’s transformation without comprehending the depths of his suffering.

You can make of Louie’s transformation what you will, but I see it as an apologetic of the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:17!

Did you like this? Share it:

With Gratitude

   100_3993

Oh, Give Thanks To The Lord

Last Friday my husband saw his oncologist and reported having some mild pain in the same general area where pain in 2013 had been the alert which led to the diagnosis of lymphoma.  The doctor examined Howard carefully and reassured him that a recurrence of cancer was unlikely.  A CT scan was ordered for the coming Tuesday, just to be careful and certain.     

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.   His love endures forever.”  Psalm 136:1                                                                                

Tuesday morning Howard had his scan and returned home to wait for a call from the doctor.  Late in the afternoon, the phone rang.  As I listened to my husband’s tone of voice and gazed at his demeanor, I knew the news was good.  There was no sign of cancer.  His new discomfort was blamed on some moderate degenerative joint disease in his spine.

We are filled with relief and gratitude.  As I thank God for his enduring love this afternoon, I am reminded of the last verse of the old hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross*   –   “…Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”                                                                                                                               

 * arranged by Lowell Mason/Isaac Watts –  based on Gregorian Chant

 

Did you like this? Share it: