A Place of Worship

cropped-img1949004-1.jpg     According to song, Love is a Many Splendored Thing, and so is worship of God Almighty-a many-splendored thing – as varied in application as the denominations we have to choose from.  Last week, I chose to return to my spiritual roots, to a small whitewashed country church nestled on the side of a dusty gravel road.  This church was obviously loved by its members and that love reflected in the freshly cut grass, the swept sidewalk and the yellow mums blooming by the door.  Pulling my car onto the grassy parking strip (no asphalt here) and climbing the steps to the front door, I felt at home.  Surrounded by noise of friendly greetings, I felt loved.  I knew in an instant, I was welcome here, and so was God.

I’m not so sure God is welcome in all churches today, not the magnificent God of the Holy Bible.  Many of the recognized churches of today do not welcome ALL the scripture recorded in our Bible and some journey down a path that seems to be detouring from righteousness.  I do not wish to judge; I do not want to ruffle feathers, but deviation from traditional faith is becoming the normal and I’m fearful God does not feel welcome in such places.

So what makes God feel welcome?  What lifts Him up and surrounds Him with well-deserved honor?  I know what makes me feel welcome; smiling faces and genuine greetings, hugs from old friends, and music!  Music pleases the heart of God, too.  The Psalms are filled with words of musical instruments and praise choruses.  Psalm 150 is a good example, “Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance, Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals, with clashing cymbals!  Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” (vs. 3-6).

I’m partial to musical harmony, but the lady sitting behind me did not know that kind of music.  Her voice surrounded me, loud and strong, and you know what?  There was no offense.  Somehow, I sensed her sincerity of praise and I could join with her in song for the good things God had showered upon us.  This is true worship!  This is holy ground as my heart bows before our Creator God in worship!

The Bible shows how God feels when we honor Him with our lips, but denies Him with our actions.  A church family reveals their love for God in the way they accept visitors.  Are they greeted and welcomed regardless of their dress or appearance?  Do we serve the needy and help meet their needs?  Jesus revealed our target audience in Luke 14.  “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back and you are repaid.  When you give a feast invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.  And you will be blessed because they cannot repay you.” (vs.12-14)  This is the feast that honors God.

Prosperity is a good thing, but riches and fine things can take our focus off the importance of loving people regardless of their worth.  Take a close look at your worship.  Does it honor the values dear to the heart of God?  My visit to the little church in the wildwood gave me the perfect place to honor God in joint worship with the family of God.  Oh, how blessed it was!


It’s not unusual to see wildlife during my morning walk, but the beautiful black and cobalt blue butterfly I caught in my peripheral vision this morning seemed intent on following me.  Butterflies are a frequent sight on morning walks, but this one stayed with me, following at a safe Papilio_troilus_Linne_(1)distance, darting in front of me and then off to the side.  Gazing toward other attractions of nature, my focus shifted from her, but a few seconds later she reappeared and followed me the quarter of a mile to my driveway.  As if I was the pied piper of butterflies, she stayed with me all the way to my door.  Never think where you’re headed only matters to you; once someone starts following you, they may never stop.

I shall call her the Spicebush Swallowtail and a little later when I turned on the garden hose to water the flowers, there she was again.  As I admired her beauty perched on the Passion plant by the back door, God seemed to say, ‘she’s watching you.  Be careful where you lead her.”  Immediately I had to leave the hose, retrieve my Bible and head for the porch for a little porch sitting with God.  Just how careful have I been to lead others on this path of life?  How many detours have I caused someone to take?  Have I led them to safety and security?  Or have some stumbled on the path I have chosen?

I suppose children are the most naive when it comes to blindly following people they trust.   I remember following my dad to the barn once, so quietly he did not know I followed.  He picked up a shovel and swung around nearly striking me (accidently) because I followed so quietly.  And more than once a child has followed me home from church (I lived next door) without me being aware of their presence.  Where we are headed makes a great deal of difference to those who trust us enough to follow.

Peter seems to be telling me to follow Christ so that those who follow me will be headed in the right direction.  “For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an EXAMPLE, so that you should follow in His steps.  He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth; when reviled, He did not revile in return; when suffering, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to the ONE who judges justly.”  (1 Peter 2:21-23)

     When someone attacks us or criticizes us, what is our first reaction?  To strike back!  But it seems Jesus Christ did not submit to that temptation.  When He suffered at the hands (or words) of someone else, He did not threaten but trusted His Father to judge accordingly.  How hard it is to trust God and not take matters into our own hands!  No deceit was found in the mouth or life of Jesus so if we want to lead people in the right direction, our steps, our words, and our actions must follow the example Jesus left for us.

We all played follow the leader as children and found it easy and fun.  Well, guess what?  We are still playing that game but now in real life.  Be careful who you follow and where their path takes you.  Be careful the direction you are headed when others are following you on your pathway of life.

Heavenly Facelift

mirrorI ran into a friend yesterday, one I had not seen in a long time.  At first I thought him the brother of my friend; the resemblance was striking, yet the difference caused me to doubt.  Then he spoke to me and all doubts disappeared; it was my friend.  His appearance had changed because of weight loss which radically changed his physical appearance.  Could weight loss or coloring of hair cause a person’s appearance to change so drastically that friends would be fooled?  Better yet, could an encounter with God change behavior, outward actions, and friends would know it – not because they were told in words, but because it showed!

Shortly after I met my friend, I witnessed a toddler throwing a tantrum while walking beside her Dad at a flea market.  Blond hair fell away from her pretty little face as she looked up with admiring eyes toward her father.  “Daddy, I want that dolly!”  She had caught sight of a china doll sitting atop an antique display.  “No, Honey, that dolly would break and we would both be sad.”  Wise man, I thought to myself.  She did not see the wisdom in his advice.  Immediately the beautiful face contorted to an ugly copy of herself and she screamed, “I want that dolly!!”

For the next few minutes I watched him explain the fragile condition of the doll and why it wouldn’t be a proper toy for her.  Obviously, he was spending time with a child who was not under his guardianship 24/7.  The temper tantrum normally worked with whomever she spent time with, but now he had no choice but to pick her up bodily and leave with her screaming all the more.  She proved my point; her actions revealed her heart.  Sometimes we reveal what influences us by our actions.  What influences your reaction to life’s incidents?  Do your actions reveal your time spent with the Father?

If we look into my favorite BOOK would we find any good examples of character shining forth in every walk of life?  How about Job – who lost everything, yet praised the name of the Lord?  “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.  The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21) Or Daniel –who was told NOT TO PRAY to his God. “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home, in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.” (Daniel 6:10) Their actions revealed their faith, their time spent with God.

Faith is a mysterious thing.  The longer practiced the stronger and more obvious it becomes.  Why don’t you put my point to the test?  Spend more time with our Heavenly Father and see if it doesn’t change your appearance, internal and external.  You will help your friends see the difference in the way you look, the way you speak, and the way you act.

Mirror, mirror on the Wall

mirror    There’s a Bible verse in a prominent place above my desk so that not a single time of sitting down, I don’t see and read it.  “Humble yourself (Sharon) under God’s mighty hand that He may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6,7)  The obvious reason for its location is the constant need for me to remember the danger of pride.  No one likes to spend time with someone consumed with their own importance.  Have you conversed with friends who often interrupt you just to insert their own advice, experience, or bragging rights?  I don’t want to be that person.  How about you?

This danger not only involves your attitude regarding yourself, but stretches to your opinion of family members and friends.  Pride swells within me when someone asks about my children or grandchildren!  My mouth gushes with praise of their accomplishments and personally speaking, we should be able to share those feelings, but at the same time restraint should act as the reins to pull back our enthusiasm.   Paul advised us to remember, “I can do ALL THINGS through Christ who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13)  We (nor our loved ones) can do anything without God granting us breath, ability, and strength.

Our Bible has SO MUCH to say about the dangers of pride.  My favorite admonition against being prideful comes from Proverbs 16 where pride shows itself just before destruction, right before a great fall.  And to be humble with those who humble themselves is much better than to split the profit with others who are full of pride in their accomplishments.  (Prov 16:18,19) What a picture of the attitude of criminals leading other gang members!  Their initiation often involves crime and cruelty while the leaders brag of their superior evil deeds.

John advised that we not get attached to the world’s view, those things popular today.  “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world (like that) the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father but is of this world.  The world is passing away with its lust but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)

     So, brag on your family!  Share positive praise of others, but remember the danger of pride and the advantages of staying humble.  God wants us to influence our world for kingdom purposes, but not by becoming prideful or arrogant.  He will use those who humble themselves in the effort to lift up others.   If you need the praise of someone else, let the Lord take care of that.  If concerned that you are not getting the credit deserved, put yourself in the mighty hand of God and He will lift you up at the perfect time!  “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth, a stranger and not your own lips.” (Prov. 27:2)

Prayers for Politics?

awesome-american-flag_603993     Writing a devotional thought is a very complex undertaking.  While attempting to keep the topic interesting, the writer also tries to be brief because we fully understand the short attention span of most readers.  To top it off, it should be motivational, urging one to devoting more time and energy to the work of getting the message of the gospel out.  Well, this devotional will be short.  If you are interested in investing time for the good of others, this thought should spur you onward.  Ernest prayer is the topic.  And prayer can and will change things!  Here’s my challenge for you.

With increasing tension between law enforcement and special interest groups, let’s commit to praying today and all week for the Republican National Convention!  It makes no difference what party you prefer, Democrat, Republican, Independent or none at all, we must pray for all political gatherings as these ‘hot spots’ provide the kindling for explosive trouble where  concerned citizens gather to do the business of politics.  Before we know it, we will be praying for the Democrats as they gather to conduct their business.  And each time we see large crowds gathering, we know large numbers of law enforcement officers will be positioned to protect and defend our American right to assemble.

What does praying for political peace have to do with getting the message of the gospel out?  A portion of the message was summed up by Jesus in Matthew 5:43, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”  What greater challenge do we need?  This message is ours to carry to the world around us.

Please join with me in prayer that sometimes we just have to agree to disagree without bringing harm to others.  Sometimes we must love others when we don’t like them very much.  Prayer may not change the situations around us, but maybe it will change our hearts and when the heart is changed, we become much closer to sharing God’s message of love.  Won’t you join me?

Love’s Transforming Power

Remember the story from our World History books, a story over 3000 years oldBlog?  A well-crafted, giant horse appearing outside the gates at the break of dawn and curiosity got the best of those living within the fortified city?  So they opened the gate, maneuvered the mysterious horse into the inner sanctum of the walls only to find it was filled with the enemy’s soldiers who promptly attacked the city from within.  True story.  I think someone has opened the gate to our heartland and ushered in an ugly horse of hatred and violence, one that is growing and multiplying at an alarming rate.  It appears to me that the American population is attacking each other from within and no one is coming out the winner.  God must look at us and think we have lost our minds.

I suppose violence has always been with us.  From the Revolutionary War to the way we pushed the American Natives out of their home, from the Civil War to all generation’s ugliness of slavery of every kind, we seem to be steeped in violence.  Yet, in spite of history’s violence, todays drive-by shootings and crimes of hatred still manage to shock me.  My morning routine of tuning in the Morning Express has lost its appeal as I dread what tragedy might be the ‘breaking news’ of the day.  For all of us, prayer time has a new page as we devote time to praying for our law enforcement officers, praying for people who are injured or killed as a result of hasty actions, and praying that some sense of trust and peace can be restored to our homeland.

Matthew recorded in our Bible some powerful words of Jesus Christ as He taught His followers from a mountainside.  “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt 5:7-9)  Mercy – not getting what a person deserves, we could use a great deal of mercy today.  A pure heart cannot hold hatred, bitterness, or an unforgiving spirit.  We need more pure hearts.  And peacemakers??  Please, we need a truck load of them.

What disappoints the most is seeing the hatred and bitterness coming from the hearts of people who claim to believe in God and follow the teachings of Jesus.  How can we worship a God who exemplifies love by giving His own Son for our salvation and not love the created objects of His love?  Jesus told His followers, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”  (Matt 5:44)  We have no hope of pleasing God if we cannot focus on the goal of loving as He loves.  It will not be easy; it will not feel natural, but a compassionate love is our only hope.

One thing I know: we live in a fallen world, a world that will continue to struggle until God brings down His final gift to us, a world without sin.  Until that time, Christians must strive to love in word and deed simply because that’s what Jesus did.  That is the final word we have from the Bible, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17) May our actions and our words be fitting to be done in the name of our Lord.

Vacation Agendas

grandcanyon On the Road Again
Dust off the suitcase, Martha! It’s time to plan the vacation! Vacation trips would come more often in our family if it wasn’t for the expense. Such wonderful experiences occur while traveling to distant locations. Only limited funds force us to be pretty creative in summer vacationing and I’m sure that’s the normal for most families. It’s also true you can’t follow the same route as last year and expect to arrive at a new location. Equally true, if a change is needed in lifestyle habits, you can’t keep making the same choices and expect different results. When weary of unsatisfactory consequences in life, a change in direction is in order. You have to know where you are headed spiritually in order to get there!
A most rewarding vacation took us to the Grand Canyon. Instead of the most popular viewing location, we chose the north rim; less commercialized and wow, we were glad. No crowds, lots of places to pull over and roam the area and picture opportunities galore! But this less traveled route was hard to map and a long dry spell of no gas stations or fast food restaurants complicated the planning. Perhaps this is what Jesus was implying when He explained we need to count the cost before committing to our spiritual walk. The rewards of a faithful walk with God are many, but there are costs involved that may not be seen at first glance.
A story of a rich young man Jesus encountered on one of His trips to Jerusalem is a good example. The rich man asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. (He evidently knew where he wanted to go) Jesus repeated some of the rules the Jewish people were accustomed to following and the young man proudly stated he had kept ALL these rules. A deeper look into his heart showed Jesus his love of riches for He stated, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me.’ (Luke 18:22) The man’s actions leave no doubt to his disappointment, ‘But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.’ (v. 23)
Paul went one step further. He counted all things worthless – ‘Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ,’ (Philippians 3:8) I don’t think the point is for us to give up all things, but we certainly need to be ready to do just that, if Jesus Christ asks us to make sacrifices in our lifestyle.
It stands to reason if we want to experience everlasting life in heaven, we’d better study the route and be ready to follow directions. For those professing Christians who shun attendance at a house of worship or fail to read God’s word with regularity, I wonder if they have counted the cost. This is not a casual thing, this born-again, rebirth experience, not a vacation trip but a life-journey. Let’s get serious about following the teachings of the New Testament in order to reach heaven. Jesus said it best, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) and ‘If anyone desires to come with Me, let him take up his cross daily and follow Me.’ (Luke 9:23)

The Greatest Story Ever Told

img1949004     Suppose you could take out magic glasses and see way back into the past – before electricity, before the invention of the wheel?  Well, you can.  Just open the Bible and read with eyes and minds ready to be amazed at what unfolds.  Listen to the telling of the story of God’s great love for His greatest creation, the human heart.

Our story begins shrouded in darkness and chaos.  A great and powerful Creator steps onto the stage and with the breath of His mouth, with words rolling from His tongue He creates everything necessary to sustain life – for God always provides before there is an awareness of the need.  (Genesis 1-2) His most beautiful Garden of Eden welcomed the perfect couple formed by His own hands and here’s the unbelievable part, God actually looked forward to times of strolling through the gardens with His newly created friends – until they sinned.  As children often do, they did the very thing God asked them not to do.  They disobeyed their Creator and God.  (Genesis 3) Thus began the distance a perfect, holy God must put between Himself and sin.  He separated Himself from His creation and expelled them from His garden.

But He had an ultimate plan!  Ages and eons pass.  Restoring this relationship was His greatest desire; He truly wanted to have lasting relationships with His creation.  Sacrifices tinged with blood tried to administer a band aide upon the weeping wound of mankind, but the wound was too great and mankind too frail.  With quiet resolve, Creator God activated His grand plan and sent His own Son to pay for the wrongs of mankind, to pay the debt with a final and ultimate sacrifice that no one else could provide.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Darkness covered the face of the earth again as God turned His back on His own Son hanging on a rugged cross while He shouldered the sins of the world.  But a mere three days later, not just physical sunlight bathed the dark world, but Son-light pierced the darkness of man’s heart and birthed a new creation, a spiritual renovation of a fleshly house that now could hold a small part of the great Holy Spirit.  To believe in the work Jesus Christ did on the cross, to accept His plan of salvation would grant life to the deadness of mankind.  “If we confess with the mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we can be saved for with the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation!” (Romans 10:9-10)

     The story does not end here; the story continues far into the future where those spiritual glasses can see the works of God and behold His glory just by opening His Bible and reading for ourselves.  His invitation is not limited to an elite few, but open to all of mankind if we will read His story and follow His teaching.  Won’t you join me in the quest to find not only peace on earth, but everlasting favor and love for all eternity?

Pleasing God? Or People?

2015 002 How much of life is lived with the goal of pleasing others? I might warn you, it’s a dangerous game. I’ve struggled with this goal. And when I fail to gain approval, or heaven forbid receive disapproval, I am consumed with regret. What might I have done differently? I am so grateful of the Bible’s teaching that God loves me INSPITE of my inability to be perfect; He loves me regardless of my shortcomings.
Psychologists say this stems from a lack of self-worth from childhood. I’m not sure I believe that. The oldest of five, from babysitting to housework, I did it all and received a fair amount of praise from my parents. As an adult, from processing mountains of computer information to managing a medical clinic, I’ve been successful. Therefore, is it possible that God has placed within the human heart the desire to please Him, but we get sidetracked striving to please others around us? I’ve found a good example in the man Daniel and his story in our Bible.
When a teenager, Daniel was captured by invading forces and taken from his homeland in Jerusalem. Babylon’s king Nebuchadnezzar desired all the smart, strong, and handsome Hebrew youth be trained in his language and culture so they could serve him. Daniel and three of his friends excelled in every way and eventually, after deliverance from a fiery furnace, were promoted to positions of leadership. Daniel’s ability to explain mysterious dreams impressed more than one king in Babylon. “Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm.” (Daniel 6:3)
Yet, while doing right, Daniel didn’t please everyone. Jealousy reared its ugly head as other governors tried to find fault with him, but no fault could be found in Daniel’s leadership. “Then these men said, ‘We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” (6:5) Daniel’s faithful adherence to the teachings of his God, even his pattern of prayer was so constant, they would have to design a way to trap him within his faith. And they did.
The perfect plan was to condemn anyone to the lion’s den if they dared to petition any other god (other than King Darius) for 30 days. So the decree was established and STILL Daniel knelt and prayed to his God. Soon, the accusers assembled before the king with a charge against Daniel and a broken hearted king commanded Daniel cast into the lion’s den. A sleepless night lay ahead for the king because he cared for his friend Daniel. Hear his call “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you serve continually been able to deliver you from the lions?” (6:20)
If you are familiar with the story, you know God DID deliver Daniel. Even though Daniel did not please all the people all the time, he remained faithful (doing the right thing) and in the end, God established Daniel. We may walk through some periods of fiery trials; times when people don’t approve, but as we remain faithful to God, He will stand for us. If you are walking through a tough time, remain faithful to God’s precepts and strive to please Him first.

Respect the Fence



Respect the Sign

On a recent walk down the lane near my home, I noticed a sign tacked up to a tree. The sign was old and rusty looking, obviously a resident of the tree trunk for some time. It read ‘No Trespassing’ and I knew instantly what that meant. No Trespassing! Regardless of it being old, never mind it was rusted, I could still read the words and I knew exactly what it meant. My mind recalled a Bible verse I had read that morning. Regardless of the age of the Bible, never mind that it no longer is in popular demand, I know the powerful truth of God’s word and age nor people’s disregard of the precious writings will cause me to ignore the truth of its teaching.

People say the Bible is full of restrictions. Perhaps we should take another look at restrictions and determine whether they are bad – or good? Take fences, for example. Fences were first invented to keep something OUT instead of IN the confined space. When the Wild West began to be tamed, ranchers were losing cattle to collisions with new-fangled motorized vehicles. As long as horses and wagons remained the means of getting to town, cattle were not in danger, but once model T’s began cutting across vast rolling hillsides and valleys where large herds of cattle roamed unhindered, ranchers searched for ways to limit vehicles from driving recklessly across their pastures.

God is basically like the ranchers; He wants to protect His children from collisions with wild things. Exodus 20 is filled with fences God has designed for our protection. When God said, “Don’t steal,” He was protecting us from the law and from years in a prison cell. God said, “Honor your Father and Mother,” because He wanted to bring peaceful relationships to the home. The Bible teaches to avoid sex outside of the marriage relationship. That’s to protect us from sexual diseases or the fury of a jealous partner. So why would we be angry with God just because He has put a few restrictions upon us? Are we so eager to have what we desire that we throw caution to the wind risking much for a few moments of pleasure? Could it be that in the simple act of waiting or withholding what we desire the most, we could find the elusive state of contentment?

A popular phrase with Hubby is ‘less is more’. At first I thought He wanted to restrict my purchases, but now I’m convinced his boundaries are a protection, not a restriction. He wants our home to be content with what we have, to be satisfied with what God has provided for us and not to over-extend our budget. In essence, he is building a fence around our finances to protect us from financial stress. Pretty smart.

The next time you feel deprived of some pleasure or longed for item, stop to consider the benefit of living within the guidelines of God’s word. You’ll find many of His restrictions are not written to cause limitation, but to bring protection. His ‘no trespassing’ signs are simply love notes written to protect and preserve the quality of our lives.

“Because of the LORD’S faithful love, we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is YOUR faithfulness! I say: The LORD is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24) Trust Him!