Sunday, July 29, 2012

Falling Short

Can the good you do ever outweigh the bad? There's a verse in God's Word that answers that question: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23.

When I saw this set of scales hanging on a wall in a museum in Ephesus, Turkey, it reminded me of the fact that no matter how much good we try to do in our lives, that good can never outweigh the sin that is our birthright. Think of the nicest, most giving and loving person you know. Now, imagine stacking all the goodness in that person on the upper pan of that scale, while the sin in which we were all born sits on the lower pan of the scale. Whoa, the scale didn't budge. The sin still outweighs all that good. Sadly, we all fall short of that level of perfection. Even that dear person you know is not good enough in themselves. Romans 3:10 goes on to say, "There is none righteous, no not one."

Believe it or not, this is actually a good thing. You see, since none of us is good enough in herself and none of us has the ability to work good enough works to outweigh our sin, we are all equally needy of the salvation Jesus Christ offers through His sacrifice on the cross. This offer Jesus makes to each of us is like no other offer on this earth -- it's free - it's amazing and fantastic and just downright unbelievable. But, believe it you must -- if you want to get that scale working in your favor.

Jesus Christ's offer is one you simply must not refuse. He offers to tip the scale in your favor by taking those good works of yours and replacing them with His perfect work of salvation wrought on the cross. It's a win-win situation and all you have to do is accept His offer of salvation.  It's the only way that scale will ever balance out. 

There's a verse in Psalm 62:9 that's interesting, --"Surely men of low degree are a vapor, men of high degree are a lie; if they are weighed on the scales, they are altogether lighter than vapor." Whether a person appears to be a loser or appears to be wealthy and brilliant -- it doesn't matter, as far as the value of their good works, they are lighter than vapor on the scale of eternity's values. As you can see, eternity's view of a woman/man's life is far different than the world's view. Which view and which set of scales do you think will be used on each of us before the Judgment Seat of Christ?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Happy Birthday, Nathan

This is a Happy Birthday tribute to my dear son, Nathan Andrew.  No, he's not still that little baby I'm holding, but that is my favorite baby photo of him.  I was so happy to be holding my own little boy in my arms.  It's hard to believe how quickly they grow up, but Nathan is a grown man -- in fact, he's right around 6 ft. 4 inches tall -- a far cry from that sweet, little blue bundle.

I'm proud of my boy and the fine man, husband, father and electrician he has become.  May God bless his birthday today and may this new year in his life be filled with good things.  "In all your ways acknowledge Him (God), and He will direct your path" -- that is my birthday prayer for you, my son.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Is it Real or Painted?

Here's the question -- can you tell if this picture is of real flowers or a painting of flowers?

On our journey through life, many people will cross our paths of whom we might ask the question, "Is this person's behavior and words real and true, or are they "painted on," or in other words -- not real and true.  The opposite of real is delusive, fake, imitative, pseudo, untrue and so on.

The picture above is of real pink petunias spilling over the edge of a pot on my deck.  The slight blur to the photo gives it an affect that resembles that of a painting, which I think is kind of cool.  As far as painting a picture of something real -- sure, that is imitative, but everyone who sees it knows that's what it is and accepts it for a painting and enjoys its beauty.  Truth is another story.

The message I find in the whole concept is that sometimes it's really hard to tell the difference between what is real and true, and what is fake and untrue.  The lines are sometimes blurred, just as my picture, just enough to make you question what to believe.  Sometimes, it might not matter so much -- as in this photo, but sometimes it can mean the difference between something good and something bad in your life, or even the difference between your eternal destination.

What happens when you can't tell the difference between true and untrue when it comes to investing your money with a friend and finding out too late he blurred the lines of truth?  How about the car salesman who tells you that used car has been thoroughly checked out and nothing is wrong with it.  You buy the car and it breaks down ten miles down the road.  How about the boyfriend or husband who assures you he is sorry and will never hit you again.  Knowing the truth can often be vital to your well-being. In  John 8:31-32, Jesus said, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Would you agree that a wolf in sheep's clothing is a dangerous example of someone or something pretending to be good and true and safe when the exact opposite is the real truth. The worst of these offenders would have to be those who teach/preach a false, even slightly blurred, doctrine.  Most of us can spot an entirely false message -- it's the blurred messages with bits of truth mixed with well-presented lies that are harder to spot.  There are plenty of deceivers pretending to teach truth and many who believe their blurred theology.  Jesus warned, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves."  But, how can we recognize them?  He went on to say, "You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?...A bad tree bears bad fruit." 

How can people be so deceived?  Jesus speaks of Satan, saying, "When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.  But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me."  John 8:44-45.  As Jesus pointed out, Satan is good at his job -- which consists of lying -- and he has fooled people every day since the day he lied to Eve and she bit into that piece of fruit.  Yet, Jesus, who spoke only truth, was often mocked and disbelieved.  It doesn't make sense, but it is true.

Nicole Nordeman sings a song that addresses the question of what is truth versus what is not truth when it comes to belief in Jesus Christ as Savior (that "eternal destination" situation).  Her song speaks to a non-believer about Jesus, asking, "What if you're right? And he was just another nice guy? What if it's true? They say the cross will only make a fool of you."  Then, she turns the argument around, saying, "But what if you're wrong? What if He's more than enough? What if it's love?" [from song "What if you're Wrong"].

Paul said it plainly in Colossians 3:9, "Do not lie to one another...."  Proverbs 12:22 goes on to say, "Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight."  I like the last part that talks about people who are truthful delighting God.  I want to delight God, don't you?  My picture of pink petunias might be slightly blurred, but let's make sure all our dealings in life are in sharply focused truth.  Then, we can be assured that we will have the joy of being a delight to our Father God.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012


I enjoy looking out the window into my backyard with its peaceful view of green trees, bushes and a sprinkling of flowers. One morning when I looked out there was a leaf stuck to the outside of the glass.

</ The leaf, although a nice enough leaf, did not belong on the window and each time I looked out my eyes were invariably drawn toward it. For one reason or another I didn't go outside and knock the leaf off the window for a couple of days. It just stayed there, stuck to the glass, distracting my eyes from the lovely view outside.

I realized that here again is a message from God's creation -- this one about distraction -- defined as:
---To distract: to draw away or divert, as the mind or attention; to divide the mind, attention, etc. between objects.
---Distraction: that which divides the attention or prevents concentration.

What distracts you from spending time with God? What are the things or activities or duties in your life that cause you to continually say, "I'll study God's Word and spend time with Him after I do this...."? We all have something, perhaps several somethings that too often draw our attention from our beautiful, peaceful, powerful time with God.

Here again is a tool Satan and his henchmen know how to use well. They've been around a long time and they know just which distraction to use with each one of us. What distracts you may not distract me, and vice-versa.

Here's what God says about distraction in Proverbs 4:25-27: "Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil."

Distractions, although innocent in themselves, can do a lot of harm to our spiritual lives. They can keep us from seeing the bigger, better picture God wants us to see by catching our attention and causing us to concentrate on smaller, less significant objects. Distractions can keep us from building a deeper relationship with our heavenly Father. Christopher Columbus once said, "By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination."

What is your spiritual goal? Is it to know God more and better? As our old friend Chris points out, prevail over the distraction and you will arrive at that goal. The prophet Jeremiah echoes that sentiment in 29:13-14: "And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord..."

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fifty Years - and Counting

 Last weekend we enjoyed a wonderful "50th Wedding Anniversary" celebration for Larry's cousin Louise and her husband Ross.  Their children, Jenny and Mike, put together a lovely reception with many friends and family there to offer their congratulations and good wishes.  We were so pleased to be a part of that beautiful occasion.  Ross and Louise are two of God's choice servants and we are so proud and thanful to call them "family."  May God bless you with many more wonderful years together, Louise and Ross!  We love you all!

The Dragonfly

My favorite place to meet with God is at breakfast, sitting at the kitchen table reading His Word and gazing out the window at His beautiful creation.  While I'm always blessed by His written Word, now and then, God gives me a message directly from the works of His Hands - nature.  When that happens, I feel doubly blessed.

Here's the lesson of the Dragonfly that He gave me this morning.  This little guy (being brown, he just looks kind of masculine) latched on to this bare twig sticking from a pot of flowers on my deck and stayed there for about five minutes.  I wondered, why is he just sitting there?  And, what is the life purpose of a dragonfly anyway?  I have no idea, but one thing I do know, God created the dragonfly for a specific purpose and I'm sure that dragonfly fulfills his purpose on a daily basis.

With that in mind, I realized several things:  first, I have no right to judge the dragonfly's inactivity (or what appears to me to be inactivity).  God's purpose for that dragonfly is special to that dragonfly and it is to God alone he answers.  I believe our little friend, D, was just taking a much-needed break.

Secondly, and more importantly since it offers a bigger message to we humans, everyone needs a bit of R & R from time to time (that's "rest & relaxation" - remember those words?).  Included in that R&R is the need for a quiet time to "Be still and know that I am God."

If we don't take occasional and regular times for stillness as little D took, we'll find ourselves becoming frazzled, dissatisfied and with the niggling feeling that something is just not right.  I know, I've been there and it's not a pretty sight.  This Dragonfly has a God-given instinct to stop and be still.  I believe we also have that instinct and need too, but it's been so pushed down by busy lifestyles that it manifests itself as dissatisfaction, etc.  We too often stifle the instinct to "Be still...." and say we're just too busy.

I wonder what would happen to little D if he ignored his instinct and kept flitting from place to place without stopping?  He might just spin totally out of control and drop to the ground.  Do you ever feel like that's what's happening to you?  God has made it very plain - by His very own Words - that we are to "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him" Psalm 37:7 NIV.

Even a few moments alone in stillness with God, worshipping Him and acknowledging Him, will refresh your path more than you can imagine.  Try it today -- even it means going into the bathroom, closing the door, and standing for several minutes in silence and stillness, eyes shut and praising God.  It will help you -- and please God as well.

We all need these times with God to recharge our spiritual and emotional batteries.  Remember the words of Psalm 23:1-3:  "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul..."

These times of stillness with God -- even if brief -- are vital to our well-being.  Thanks for the lesson, little D.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

"Do Not Be Afraid"

I got a kick out of my granddaughter, Kendall, mugging it up for the camera by pretending she was being attacked by an alligator. We were at the N.C. Acquarium in Manteo.  She did a pretty good job of looking afraid. Thankfully, she was never in actual danger and knows to run the other way in the presence of a real alligator.

When we belong to God and trust Him for our safety, He says that we do not need to be afraid. The Psalmist quotes God as saying, “You shall not be afraid…A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you” 91:5 & 7. That's an amazing promise that encourages both peace and trust in Almighty God.

While He promises to keep us safe, that doesn't mean we should put ourselves in harm's way just because we can. In real life, putting your hand inside the mouth of a live alligator would be foolish and not the type of behavior pleasing to God. In such cases, guarantees of safety are off the table.

Even Jesus Himself, when challenged by Satan did not fall for such a ploy (in Matthew 4). Satan said to Jesus, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you, and, in their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'"

It's true that God made that statement (as written in Psalm 91:11-12) offering safety, but it was not given with the idea of testing how far you could go with it. Jesus, of course, knew this, and answered Satan, "It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'"

Rather than test God by seeing how far into danger we can go (like driving too close to the car in front of you), we should live (and drive) responsibly, trusting God to take care of the unknown and uncontrollable aspects of our lives.

I love the verse in Psalm 4:8: “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” God alone is in control and knows every aspect of our lives. I'm so thankful His love can cover every fear -- and take care of our every need.

Friday, July 6, 2012

One in Christ

I recently attended the wedding of Lori and Jon which took place on a sandy beach along the Chesapeake Bay at Fort Monroe. It was a lovely occasion. At the end of the ceremony, the couple took part in a Unity Sand Ceremony. The picture I took above shows the larger container of sand after the couple had poured their individual jars of sand into it, representing the joining of their lives together as one.

It was the first time I'd seen this ceremony and I thought it was impressive. To me, it is a picture of not only the relationship of a married couple, but also the relationship of the believer with Christ. When we accept Christ as Savior, His Holy Spirit comes to live within us. Christ lives in us even as we live in Christ. Just as the grains of sand in the large container can never be separated and poured again into the individual containers, so we will always be a part of Christ and He a part of us.

"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" Ephesians 4:4-6.

Being a part of Christ is a beautiful thing. It also means that we are one in the body of Christ with other believers, and the Holy Spirit that dwells within each of us also dwells in all of us. We are united for eternity. I always thought how wonderful it was that when my daughter Holly lived 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles, I could pray for her and the same Holy Spirit who lives in both she and I would immediately minister to Holly's needs. Jesus said, "Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are" John 17:11.

Being an integral part of something far bigger than yourself is exciting and also offers a great feeling of belonging. Not only that, being one with the Creator of all things is more amazing than we can even comprehend. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" Galatians 3:28.

I see myself as one of those little grains of sand, all tucked away in the midst of God and all the other believers of all time, and I am blown away with the wonder of it all. Anyone up for building a sand castle?