The End – or The Beginning?

So it’s the last day of 2013.  This morning I read “the ends” of the Bible.  Malachi 3-4, Revelation 21-22, Psalm 150 and Proverbs 31.  Malachi and Revelation are all about the end of the world as we know it, which feels a bit weird.  This world is all I know.  If I didn’t have my faith I think I would be terrified of this world ending.

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But I do, so I’m not.

Instead of being scared about this world crumbling I am excited!  I can’t wait until Jesus comes again!  Doesn’t this world as described in Revelations sound better than what we currently have?

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’”  (Revelation 21:1-5)

No more death.  No more missing the ones we love.  No more mourning over a death, a sick child, a broken marriage.  No more crying over the people we love.  No more pain from regrets of our past.

This year is over.  Many people will mistakenly look to 2014 with great anticipation for a better life instead of looking to the only One who can truly deliver it.  Jesus is our great deliverer on this side of the new Jerusalem.  We will experience death, mourning, crying and pain until He comes again.  But when Jesus makes His reappearance, get ready.  For He will make everything new, including you.

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’

Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.”

(Revelations 22:20)

Blessings in 2014!

Leigh

The Day After

December 26th.  The day after Christmas.  Do you feel a sense of relief?  A sense of sadness?  Glad it’s over or sorry the 25th has come and gone?

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We build up certain days in our heads and apply huge expectations to them.  Our wedding day.  A big number birthday.  The first day of our new career.  Christmas Day.

And sometimes the let down doesn’t come for a few days – or weeks.  Jesus may be front and center in your life today, the day after Christmas.  And Christians can often carry that feeling into the holy season of Easter.  But what about May 16th?  June 4th?  August 19th?  Does Jesus still have the prominent place in your life or has He been pushed aside to “the day after” status?

If you don’t have that Christmas feeling all year, don’t blame Jesus.  Jesus makes a wonderful promise to us found at the end of the gospel of Matthew:  “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:20)

Surely Jesus is with us always.   He doesn’t just show up on December 25th, but He’s with us every minute of every day, every year.  But we must pursue Jesus, not put Him in a box of Christmas ornaments only to be seen once a year.

“Come near to God and He will come near to you.”  (James 4:8)  Today, Christmas Day, every day.

Blessings!

Leigh

Why the enemy is enjoying Christmas

It occurred to me yesterday that I do believe satan just may be enjoying this Christmas season.  Why you ask?  Because he has managed to use the controversy surrounding Phil Robertson to cause many Christians to lose their focus. And satan is enjoying every minute of our distraction.

Instead of focusing on the birth of our Savior we are instead focusing on whether we believe homosexuality is a choice or you or born that way, whether Phil had the right to say what he did, whether A&E had the right to suspend him from his own show, and whether we should ever eat at Cracker Barrel again.

We Christians are more focused on explaining our feelings and defending our position on homosexuality than sharing our feelings about the birth of Jesus.  How many of us have posted something on our FB page about Phil?  Now how many have posted something about Jesus???

(For heaven’s sake I’ve read so many blogs and FB posts on this subject that they are all starting to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher – “Wah, wahhhh, wahh, wahhhhhhh….”)

As my daddy would say, “It’s Christmas Eve EVE.”  Wake up people, especially all you Christians out there.  For the next few days why don’t we quit talking about Phil, lifestyles and A&E and talk about why Jesus was born and who he was born to save (that would be EVERYONE, btw) and the love that Jesus represents…

I for one am not going to let the enemy enjoy this Christmas.  My thoughts, my words, my actions will flow from a gratitude that comes from God sending His Son to be born in a lowly manger so that you and me and everyone else who believes in Jesus will be saved from eternal death.

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Merry Christmas, satan. No room for you at this inn.

Have a blessed Christmas week!

Leigh

 

What about me?

The last installment on Jonah really makes me laugh.  It’s all about me – Jonah that is.  See he finally listened to God, went to Nineveh and warned them about how mad God was because they worshipped idols and had forgotten about Him.  Jonah told them God was going to destroy them.

But the Ninevites repented, God reconsidered, and thousands were spared.

So you would think Jonah would be fired up, but he wasn’t.  What was his #1 concern?  Himself.  “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry… ‘That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish.  I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.  Now, O Lord, take away my life, for me to die than to live.’” (Jonah 4:1-3) In other words, Hey, wait God – I did what you told me to do, but now you are making me out to look like a fool if you don’t destroy them.  So just kill me now so I won’t look like an idiot.

Drama – KING.  Asking God to kill him?  That’s taking it a step far, don’t ya think?

So Jonah angrily stomps off and parks himself on a hill to watch what will happen to the city.  It was hot, and his compassionate God sent a vine to grow over him and give him shade, which made Jonah happy.  But the next day God sent a worm to eat the vine, and that made Jonah mad.

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The point?

“But God said to Jonah, ‘Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?’ ‘I do,’ he said. ‘I am angry enough to die.’ But the Lord said, ‘You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow… But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left… Should I not be concerned about that great city?’” (Jonah 4:9-11)

In other words, God created Nineveh, not Jonah.  God was concerned about Nineveh because he loves every person on earth.  Jonah didn’t create Nineveh, and it wasn’t his place to be angry about how God handled the situation.  You see it’s not about our being right, it’s about everyone being savedWe should rejoice when anyone is saved no matter how God chooses to use us or what other people think about us. 

Let us keep the ultimate goal in mind – winning souls for Christ, no matter how God chooses to use us.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)  If you try to figure out God’s thoughts or plans you are going to be thoroughly confused and frustrated.  We look at life one dimensional (from our point of view) but God looks at every dimension, every interaction, every situation.  Humans just don’t have that capability, but we are capable of being used by God in His plans if we will open up our hearts to His will.

The story of Jonah teaches us that it’s not all about me – or you. It’s about being obedient so that God can use me – and you – for his higher purpose.  So next time you try to run from God, don’t be a Jonah.  Run to God, your heart and your arms open wide, ready to be used for His glory.

Have a blessed weekend!

Leigh

Jonah’s Two Step Solution

Yesterday when I asked the question “How do you respond to the worst possible day in your life?” let me clarify what I meant by your worst day ever.  I wasn’t referring to a time when situations were out of your control, as in the day a loved one passed on from this earth – that surely would be the worst possible day for you and Jonah’s situation really doesn’t apply.  What I’m talking about is the I’m gonna do it my way, nope not gonna do what God wants me to do, so now I’ve made a big mess, uh oh now other people are suffering because of my decisions worst day of your life.

That’s what I meant by the worst possible day – the day you created when you ran from God’s will.

So Jonah is now deep in the belly of a huge whale.  (Ew, gross.)  Isn’t exactly where he thought he’d be when he stepped on that ship, attempting to run from God.  So what did Jonah do to fix his situation?

First – he prayed.   “From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.  He said: ‘In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.’” (Jonah 2:1-2)  Jonah recognized that his first move should be prayer because truly no one on earth could help him in his current situation.  Sometimes we are brought to our knees to recognize that only God will be able to deliver us from the horrible place in which we find ourselves.  We have to be stripped of all of our comforts, our friends, our families before we earnestly trust God.  Oh if we would just do what God asked us to do the first time!  So much discomfort, so many problems could be avoided.

But it’s important to know that while praying Jonah didn’t just ask God for help – that’s easy to do in a time of crisis –  he also praised God in his worst moment: “Those clinging to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.  But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you.   What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.” (Jonah 2:8-9) Jonah, Paul and others in the Bible were able to praise God in their most horrific circumstances.  Are we able to praise God in our worst moments or do we blame God in our worst moments???

Upon hearing Jonah’s prayer the Lord commanded the great fish to vomit him onto dry land.  (Probably not the most pleasant experience, but at least he’s out of the whale belly!)  So prayer moved him from a horrible place to a better place, which is one of the best gifts of an answered prayer.

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Jonah may have thought God was through with him, that surely God wouldn’t want to use him now or no way would God tell him to go to Nineveh.  Wrong.  God commanded him a second time to go to Nineveh and preach to that godless city.  So what step did Jonah take so that he wouldn’t repeat the same mistake?  “Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.”  (Jonah 3:3)  He didn’t run, make excuses or ignore God this time.  No, he obeyed God, which is the second step when you are trying to fix the mess you made.

Jonah went to Nineveh and warned the city of the impending destruction.  The Ninevites repented and “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.” (Jonah 3:10)  Jonah was able to have a great impact on those around him because he was obedient to what God wanted him to do.  He saved thousands of people from eternal death because he delivered God’s message to the city of Nineveh.  Jonah had to go through his worst possible day before he could be obedient to God’s will, but that experience changed Jonah – and the Ninevites – forever.

The big lesson Jonah’s story taught me is to listen to God the first time and avoid the “belly of the whale” moments.  But when I do things my own way and create a mess, this story teaches me to pray first – pray with thanksgiving and asking God for help – and then listen to what God wants me to do, be obedient and do it.

The last chapter of Jonah cracks me up – it’s so real life.  We’ll look at Jonah’s response to God’s sparing the Ninevites next time.

Blessings for a wonderful weekend!

Leigh

Jonah’s Worst Day EVER

Yesterday we left Jonah as he got on a ship headed for anywhere but Ninevah.   Anywhere but where God told him to go.  And if you’ve read the rest of the story, you know it didn’t work out so well for Jonah.

A great storm arose and threatened to destroy the ship.  The crew became angry with Jonah.  “So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us?  What do you do?  Where do you come from?” (Jonah 1:8)  They were mad, and they wanted someone to be held accountable for the problems they now faced.

Real life gut check:  When we run from God, run away from His will for our lives, big BIG problems can threaten to break us – and those around us – into tiny little unable to function pieces.  And if the problems don’t crush us, our attitudes, decisions and actions will because those are coming from our feelings not from God.

Jonah tells them he serves God the creator of the sea and the land.  So the crew asks him “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” (Jonah 1:11)  Jonah could have said “Oh just pray with me awhile,” but he didn’t.  He knew he couldn’t put those lives in jeopardy any longer.

“’Pick me up and throw me into the sea,’ he replied, ‘and it will become calm.  I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.’” (Jonah 1:12)  When I read this the other day I thought how unbelievably refreshing!  Here’s a guy with the whole world crashing in on him – people ganging up on him – and what did he do?  Did he blame his parents?  His siblings?  His workHis God?  Nope.  He took full responsibility.  He knew that his disobedience was causing HUGE problems for the people around him.

He must have been around a group of compassionate crewmen, because they did everything they could not to throw him into the angry water.  When nothing else worked, they threw Jonah into the sea and it immediately calmed.  The problem stopped when the responsible person was dealt with.  Now I agree that was a pretty strong response but sometimes dire circumstances require forceful actions.

And as if Jonah’s day couldn’t get worse, “the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.”  (Jonah 1:17)  I’m fairly certain if you asked Jonah what was the absolute worst day of his life, the day he ran away from God, got on a ship, sailed in a violent storm, got thrown overboard by the crew, struggled to swim and not drown and finally got swallowed up by a whale would win the prize hands down.

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Tomorrow we will look at the rest of Jonah’s story.  But for today, ponder this:  How do I respond to the worst possible day in my life?

Jonah gives us the plan to follow.

Blessings!

Leigh

You can run…

What’s your job?  Do you like it?  Do you like every single part of it?   If you’re a nurse, you probably don’t enjoy cleaning bedpans.  If you are a salesperson you’d rather not call on the same client who refuses to buy your products.  A mom?  Sleepless nights and washing mountains of laundry aren’t on the list of spectacular momma benefits. Sometimes we have a job to do but we really don’t want to do it.  So maybe we slip away…no one will notice…

Until the bedpan isn’t clean, the client calls your boss or the laundry piles up.

Every job has a downside (or two, or a hundred).  But I am learning to trust God no matter where He puts me, no matter what He asks me to do.  That’s a lot easier said than done, because sometimes He asks me to do something I really don’t want to do.  I want to run.  Jonah must have felt the same way when God told him to go preach to the Ninevites.

“The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai:  ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’ But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish.  He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port.  After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.”  (Jonah 1:1-3)

Jonah probably thought something like, “Oh no – not me.  You aren’t sending me down to that hideous Nineveh to preach bad news.  Nuh uh.  You can find someone else and I am outta here!”

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So he tried to flee.  He got on a ship sailing far away from Nineveh.  Surely God wouldn’t chase him down and bring him back.  Surely God would just pick someone else.

But God didn’t pick someone else.  He picked Jonah, and at times He will pick you to carry out an unpleasant but necessary task. When we sign on with God, we don’t always get the fun jobs.  Sometimes we get the dirty ones, the ones that need to be done but don’t have a sign up sheet full of names underneath them.

Tomorrow I’ll finish the Jonah story.  But for today, think about this:

You can’t run from God – so why not run to God? 

Blessings!

Leigh