Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Greatest Gift

The greatest gift I received this past Christmas came in the form of an early before sunrise text.  It read: "I believe God sent you to (my spouse) and I to help protect us and our marriage from Satan."

I laid in bed humbled and quiet at what I had just read.  Tears began to flood my eyes and run down my cheek as I worshiped God thanking Him for using me in such a manner.  Truly He is answering my deepest desire that I become more like Jesus every day.

God's desire for each of His children is that we be formed into the image of His son Jesus.  When we look at each other we should see Jesus.  When the world looks at us they should see the glory of the Father in us!  We are first and foremost representatives of God and His Kingdom.  We are His Ambassadors reconciling the world back to Him through the gospel of Jesus the Christ.

I'd like to thank all of the readers of this column  (God With Us - Shopper Newspaper) who have sent emails, letters and cards.  Your words of encouragement and comments have spurred me on in my press to know God more.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Afterthoughts


Another Easter (Resurrection) Sunday has come and gone.  The props from the plays have been taken down, and the children’s speeches have been filed away till next year’s presentation.  But if we look with our spiritual eyes we will see the message of the gospel with all its drama and passion re-played every day of the year.  And each of us (both Christian and non-Christian) plays a starring role in the ongoing production.
            Some will play the role of Judas Iscariot (the pseudo-disciple), Pilate (the politically correct politician), and the Roman Soldiers (just following orders).  Many will play the role of the crowd who waved palm branches shouting “Hosanna!  Hosanna!” one day and a few days later cried “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”  These players have no love for the risen Christ.  When Christianity supports a cause that they can profit from they shout “Hosanna!”  But when it exposes the true intentions of their heart they shout “Crucify Him!” 
            The disciples, a motley group of men (and women) at various stages of growth will be played by new converts, the immature and the growing saints. Throughout their training they will experience fear and courage, failures and successes, doubts and spurts of faith, but never betrayal in their pursuit to follow Him.
            Another group will be cast to play the role of the Religious Leaders.  They excel in theoretical knowledge of the scriptures but lack an experiential relationship with God. They confine Him to their self-conceived box of traditions and point of view.  Anyone not lining up with their way of thinking is a heretic and must be discredited and stopped.
            And then there’s the role of Jesus.  Every true believer who desires to please the Father will walk in His shoes.  They’ll give up their evenings to share the gospel with those who’re thirsty for Jesus.  They will give up their rights for the sake of the lost who need to see Jesus in them.  They will joyfully partake in the sufferings of Christ, thereby enjoying intimate fellowship with Him. God’s love and forgiveness is clearly seen in their life.
            What’s your role in the ongoing gospel story? Perhaps you’re like Barabbas—scheduled to die, but at the last minute received a stay of execution.  Scripture doesn’t say what Barabbas did with his life after being released.  What will you do with yours?

HE Took The Fall


Since Good Friday Services the song, "Above All" has been playing inside of me.  I go to bed singing the words; I wake up hearing the song playing in my spirit. Yesterday during the last hour of work I unconsciously broke out singing the lyrics in the presence of co-workers I share an office with.  (Fortunately for me it’s accepted that at some point of the work day humming and singing unto the Lord will flow from my mouth.)
            Although the Worship Team at church has sung this song before it never touched me as deeply as it did during Good Friday service. The phrase that speaks volumes of love to my inner most being is: "You (Jesus) took the fall and thought of me, above all."
In that one sentence I see the Lord’s overwhelming love for me!  I know that in His eyes I matter to Him.  I’m not a number, or a statistic, or a reject from the wrong side of the tracks.  It doesn’t matter what others think about me, or my lack of wealth or celebrity status.  I am loved by the God who is above “all things” who thought of me and willing took “the fall” (my verdict of death) putting my needs above all.

 “ABOVE ALL”

Verse 1: 
Above all powers, above all kings; Above all nature and all created things
           Above all wisdom and all the ways of man; You were here before the world began.
Verse 2:
 Above all kingdoms, above all thrones; Above all wonders the world has ever known
            Above all wealth and treasures of the earth; There’s no way to measure what You’re worth
Chorus:
Crucified, laid behind a stone; You lived to die, rejected and alone;
            Like a rose, trampled on the ground; You took the fall and thought of me, Above all.

- written 1995 by Lenny LeBlanc & Paul Baloche 

Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas Blessings

For the past 2 years, for me, Christmas didn't feel like Christmas till after December 25.  Today while driving home from work, I broke out in a medley of Christmas songs, including one I made up out of my love and devotion to Jesus.

I can across an old booklet I did in 2005 titled "Christmas Blessings."  On this last day of the year 2012 at the height of Christmas Joy (for me) I'd like to share the contents of the above booklet.

 
Emmanuel: God with Us
 
Christmas Day was the day the Incarnate Christ came as a babe and dwelt among us.
 
He experienced our life, finite;
That we might take hold of His life, infinite.
 
And we who have received Him as Savior and Lord;
He is more than among us---He is now in us!
 
 
Silver & Gold
(Written as a prayer of blessing to Sr. Pastor Dan & Mrs. Diann Gute on Christmas 2009)
 
Silver and Gold have I none,
But in Jesus the Holy One;
May forever your cup overflow,
His presence everywhere with you go.
 
 
A Father's Love
 
The first time my father ever said, "I love you" was on his deathbed.  I imagined it took a lot of courage for him to say those three powerful words to me.
 
My father died of alcoholism resulting from his failure to follow his heart.  He allowed himself to be forced into choices that were beneficial to the ones doing the forcing, but not to him or to my mother.  His giving in resulted in guilt, anger and frustration; he sought relief through drinking, which only open the door to additional problems.
 
I spent most of my growing up being fearful of my father because the majority of the time I saw him he was in a drunken rage.  But there were times when I suspected that he really did love me.
 
One time in particular, I was 13, he promised to buy me an electric organ for Christmas.  Because of his drinking, my dad was often in and out of work.  My mother's salary was just enough to keep us from being homeless and put food on the table.  There never seemed to be any money for Christmas presents.  An older brother would work odd jobs just so presents could be put under the tree for our younger siblings.
 
One afternoon my girlfriend came over with a Christmas toy catalog bragging about the table top organ her parents were getting her for Christmas.  "What are you getting Ann?" she asked.  "Nothing," I replied, "Christmas is about Jesus' Birthday not mine."  That was my way of explaining why there were never any presents under the tree for us older kids. 
After she left, my father with anger in his voice said, "Do you want an organ for Christmas?"  I hesitated, not wanting to upset him, "Yes sir."  "This year nobody is getting a Christmas present but Ann.  Big Eyes (his nickname for me) you are going to get your organ!"
 
I was ecstatic!  Not only was I getting a Christmas present this year, but I was getting an organ.  Now I can learn to play just like momma (my mother played the piano)! I couldn't wait to tell my girlfriend that I was going to get an organ too.  As Christmas approached I became worried that maybe my father wouldn't be able to keep his promise.  And sure enough Christmas came and there was no organ.  How could I face my friends?  How could I explain why I didn't get my organ?  I imagined them laughing at me and calling me a liar.  "She didn't get anything for Christmas," I heard the voices in my head say.
 
During the entire holiday break I avoided my friends.  Then, a few days before school resumed, my dad came home with a huge box under his arms.  "Here,  Big Eyes, I told you, you'd get your organ!"
My dad didn't get me the table top organ my girlfriend got; he bought me an organ that stood on its own legs with a matching bench and 2 song books.
 
I don't know how he was able to grant my Christmas wish since he was out of work that year.  He had to pass up many a bottle of Jim Bean and Old Grand Dad to pull off such a feat, and I know he couldn't have done it if he didn't love me.
 
Though I no longer have my organ, I do still have the books that came with it.  And whenever I look at its cover I see my little organ standing next to my mom's piano and I remember the joy in my father's eyes as he presented me with my present.
 
Most children blame their parents for them turning out all screwed up because they didn't fulfill their ideal of what their parents should have been, but not me.  I believe that the father God blessed me with help make me a better person.  His life served as a guide for me to correct his mistakes by not repeating them in my life.  And when I look at my children I see that they have corrected my mistakes by not repeating them in their life.
 
I thank God for my Dad, he was a one of a kind father; the kind that God knew I needed.



Monday, April 2, 2012

UNTIL CHRIST BE FORMED IN US


11:00pm: Staring at my reflection in the mirror with tears streaming down my face I cry, I can’t do this anymore. Lord I’m tired. My heart is broken, again. I can’t take it! I don’t want to be here anymore, send me somewhere else. I’ve had it, I’m done with this! Please remove me from this place.

12:00am: I can’t sleep. I keep tossing and turning in bed. Oh God, I know this is where you want me to be, I hear you! But the people you sent me to don’t want me! I’m tired Lord. I’m battered, beaten, and shattered. I’m in agony! They don’t want you or me. Can’t you send me somewhere else? I want to stay and do your will but it’s too painful here. I don’t even want to be in their presence. Their horrid faces and biting words keep replaying in my mind. Lord, I’m not like you.

1:00am: I’m tired Lord. My pillow is wet with my tears. Let your will become mine. Draw me into your inner presence. Help me Jesus; fill me with your spirit, enable me to take it. I surrender; let your will become mine. Heal my wounded and bitter spirit. Mend my broken heart and fill me with your love, forgiveness and grace.
I sleep at last. I see Jesus; He’s kneeling in the dew covered grass beside me in the garden. He’s praying for me. He’s calling out to the Father on my behalf.

2:00am: Thank you Jesus. Thank you for your peace and forgiveness. In you I can stand.

There’s a lot of theological thought on the reason for Jesus’ agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest. Why did He ask the Father if there was another way besides the cross to accomplish His will? Whatever the reason for the struggle (between His humanity and His divinity), in the end Jesus submitted to the Father’s will and went to the cross.
Whatever the reason for our struggle (between our flesh and the indwelling spirit of God), like a woman in labor, we must travail until the essence of Christ be formed in us (Gal. 4:19). Only then can we joyfully follow our Lord in taking up our cross and submit to the Father’s will.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Resurrection Day Thought


I remember years ago many churches for Good Friday Services, did mini preaching presentations on the last 7 sayings of Christ. The explanation for the forth saying, “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?” always confused me.  It was taught that the reason for Jesus’ statement was because at the moment He became covered with our sin God turned His face from Him because a Holy God can’t look at sin.
I struggled with that answer because God sees the sin of mankind everyday! From Adam and Eve’s rebellion, to their son’s act of murder and down through the ages God has looked on man’s sin.  This is why He offered His Son in our place to redeem us from our sins.  It isn’t that God can’t look on sin; it’s that sin separates us from God.  In that moment when Jesus became sin for us; His relationship with the Father was severed.
            “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?” goes even beyond the break in fellowship; it also speaks of His internal agony on the cross as He bore not only our sins but the sins of the entire world; past, present and future.  He became our filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  All of our perverseness, wickedness, rebellion and iniquity fell on Him (Isaiah 53:5).  He became dirty and unclean with our sins.  So agonizing was this experience for a holy and sinless God that the weight of our sins was more torturous than the nails that pierced His hands and feet; more excruciating than the spear that pierced His side.  I believe His divinity was in intense conflict with His humanity when He became sin for us.  That’s why He utters those words.
            In grasping this truth, I began to search myself, looking for signs that I too shared in Christ’s suffering to rid my life of sin.  For the proof that we are partakers of His divine nature is seen in our own internal conflict between the indwelling spirit of God and our old sinful nature.  There should be in each of us a groaning and painful longing for our bodies to be delivered from its present sinful condition (Romans 8:21-23).
            II Corinthians 13:5 instructs us to examine (scrutinize) ourselves to make sure that Christ is being formed in us.  I want to know (by experience) that the RESURRECTION POWER of Christ is at work in me (Philippians 3:10). 

Monday, February 15, 2010

WALKING on the WATER with JESUS


I will never forget that night, it was darker than dark, frightening. Not a star was visible. The wind was howling and blowing with all its fury at the sea, which snapped back in anger with hurled waves that threaten to over turn my boat. The fight was on and I was caught in the middle of their war. Panic gripped me as I looked around me knowing there was no way to escape when I heard a still calm voice say,

"Come, step out of the storm tossed boat and come unto me."

"But the wind, the waves, I'll drown!"

"Come," the voice said, "be not afraid, come, walk on the water with Me."

With my eyes closed I felt my way to the head of the boat. I opened my eyes and before me was a bright beam of light with out stretched arms extended from within. The noise of the angry sea and fierce winds became a dull whisper as I focused on the voice coming from the vision that was before me. I climbed out of the boat and began to walk on the water. I didn't sink, for every place my feet touched, the angry sea became calm, the wind stilled as I journeyed toward my goal, immersed in the presence of God.


We each began our Christian life in a boat that has been constructed by the experiences of those who led us to faith in Christ.  Within their boat we learn about God through the teaching of scriptures and listening to the testimonies of their experiences with the Lord.  We follow the church’s example of prayer, praise and worship.  And we join groups and committees that involved us in fellowship activities and acts of service. However, until we are confronted with a crisis, a "storm" that challenges us to exercise a personal act of faith in Christ, we will continue to only "know of Him" based on other's testimonies intead of "knowing Him" personally for ourselves.

"And many of the Samaritians of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did."
". . . . Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the World." - John 4:39, 42


When the woman at the well met Jesus and believed Him to be the Messiah, the town people came running to meet Him based on the woman's testimony of faith. However, after they had met Him and they communed with Him, they moved from believing on Jesus because of the woman's faith into establishing their own faith in Him as the promised Messiah.
Hence, the testimonies of those who came to know Jesus before us, are to provoke us into developing our own walk of faith in the Living Christ.

"Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him. And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child. Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth." - 1 Samuel 3:7-10

Samuel was presented to the Lord by his mother Hannah in return for the Lord answering her prayer to become pregnant and give birth to a son.  As a child Samuel was trained in the service of the Lord by Eli the Priest, ministering before the altar of the Lord following the example of Eli and the other priests.  Samuel did not know the Lord personally, he only knew of the Lord from what Eli taught him.  When the Lord called Samuel as he lay in bed, he thought Eli had called him.  It wasn’t until the Lord called him a third time, and he said, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” as Eli had instructed, did he come to know the Lord’s voice.

 Samuel’s storm began when God commissioned him to pronounce a message of judgment to Eli and his household.  Eli was his mentor.  He had taught him everything he knew about the Lord.  It was Eli who had instructed him in how to know and respond to the Lord’s call!  How could he tell Eli, whom he loved and lived with, the terrible things that would happen to him?  As he struggled in his fear to “walk on troubled waters,” Eli pressed him to step out of the comfort of their relationship and tell him word for word what the Lord had said.  Samuel took that walk, and at the appointed time, God established him in the office of prophet/priest to Israel ( (1 Sam. 3).

Was this Samuel's only walk on the water with the Lord? No. There were many more walks of faith in the prophet's life. When the Lord instructed him to go and anoint David the next king of Israel who would replace Saul, Samuel found himself once again treading troubled waters. If Saul found out he had anointed David as the next king he would be executed (1 Sam. 16:1, 2). Nevertheless, Samuel took that walk of faith and God protected him from Saul's reign of terror.

Peter, the focus of inspiration for this writing, experienced many walks of faith following his initial walk with Jesus on the stormy Sea of Galilee.  One particular walk of faith began after prayer that included an unusual vision and a command to enter the house of a Gentile soldier and explain the gospel to him and his household (Acts 10).  Homes of non-Jewish people were believed to be unclean, and any Jew who entered their home would also become unclean.  But Peter obeyed Jesus’ call to walk with Him into the house of Cornelius. On that day Peter learned no race of people were excluded from Salvation in Christ as he witness the baptism of the Holy Spirit on Cornelius’ household.

Throughout our Christian Journey we will take numerous walks on the water with Jesus. Each walk will lead to an increase of our faith in Him. Samuel did, Peter did, the town people of Samaria did, many others did, and so will we. In our service unto the Lord, even in our personal life, we will be challenged to step out of our boat of tradition and cross seemingly treacherous waters to know Jesus more.

When cancer developed in my right breast, the Lord showed me in a dream that He would removed the cancerous lump through surgery. But the thought of having surgery frighten me. What if they make a mistake? What if I die on the operating table? I just wasn't ready to put my life into the hands of people I didn't know. So, when one of the doctors in oncology suggested chemotherapy instead of surgery I opt for the chemo.

Following my third treatment, it was discovered that the chemo had shrunk a blood vessel to my heart causing coronary heart disease. All treatment for cancer was stopped as the doctors then began to treat the heart disease. It was finally decided that despite the heighten risk to my life due to the serious condition of my heart; surgery was the only option I had to rid my body of the cancer. Why couldn't God just make the cancer disappear? Why did He choose to heal me through the scalpel of a surgeon? As the scheduled date for the surgery neared I became increasingly distressed and worried until the Lord led me to 1 John 4:1`7, 18.

"Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love."

I had to ask my self, "Do you believe God loves you? Do you believe that Jesus' love will be with you while you're in surgery? Don't you know that because He loves you perfectly (completely without wavering) whatever the outcome of the surgery, be it life or death He will be with you? Hasn't He promised you life after surgery? In the dream, when He reached down and plucked the lump out of your breast wasn't you still alive?" As I answered yes to each question a peace settled over me that I couldn't explain. All I knew was that I was no longer afraid. I was ready to walk on the wind tossed sea of surgery onto Jesus and live. The surgery was a success. With God's hand on the surgeon's hand the cancer was removed and 8 years later, I'm still cancer free and I no longer have coronary heart disease. The damage that was done to my artery was reverse by faith in God's love to heal me.


This booklet and other writings posted at "Christ Made Known In Me!" as well as the site is my current walk on the water with Jesus.

The desire to write a meditation booklet for Leaders in the Making began in 1998 based on personal experience of going through testing and persecutions in my own making. However, I allowed myself to be dissuaded by a close minister friend whose advice I valued. He told me no one would be interested in a testimonial type meditation booklet, or anything else I wrote because I was an unknown with no letters behind my name. Discouraged, heartbroken, and ashamed that I had foolishly thought the Lord had led me to write a meditation booklet that would help others in their walk with Him, I pushed the manuscript aside.

In 1999, a Spiritual Life Skills course I wrote in 1995 for use in our church's social service agency's residential recovery program for substance abusers and ex-offenders was renamed and submitted as a correspondence course to the Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association. IAODAPCA approved the program granting certification with 20 continuing educational units for Counselors I & II. I facilitated the course in seminar format at churches wanting to develop residential programs for substance abusers and ex-offenders as part of their ministry.

From that success, my church commisssioned me to write other teaching/training materials for the ministry that would be used to help fund our outreach programs. My name was never included on any of the material I created. The church's name and its founder received all the by-line credit, which I considered a small sacrifice in exchange for having the opportunity to facilitate the material to God's people.

Each presentation brought positive feedback of renewed purpose; an increase in desire to minister to drug addicts, ex-offenders and their families; and a conscience look at all of fallen and discarded humanity through the eyes of Christ. But the greatest blessing to me came from residents in our own program who after surrendering their lives to Christ, applied His Word (through the teaching material) to their personal situations, were restored back to their families and communities as saved productive and responsible men and women.

In April of 2002, my mother asked if I would partner with her in doing a Leadership Seminar at her church. The response was overwhelmingly intoxicating as I shared insights of growth and understanding from the Word of God received through personal testing and trials in my making to be a leader. At the close of the Leadership Seminar I was stirred to pull out my meditation manuscript, but this time I laid before the Lord, instead of my friend, for guidance.

In February of 2003, I was led to create a web page for witnessing on the Internet. I posted some of my meditations inviting feedback. In May I added a counter to the site, and within the next 30 days I had over 300 hits with positive feedback. As the web page began to expand into a website my burning desire to pursue Christ through writing began to passionately stir in me again. I took an e-workship presented by Sue Butler of Write4Christ followed by another writing e-workshop by Sherry Ma Belle Arrieta of Daily Writes, and joined several Christian Writing Groups to nurture and perfect this gift of sharing Christ through writing.

When I presented the site to my (former) church, the administrative board felt it was a conflict of interest to continue writing for the church and its entities while writing for a personal website. I was asked to make a choice between continuing with the church as Administrative Assistant and Associate Pastor or pursue a writing ministry over the Internet. I chose pursuingt a writing ministry over the Internet.

Why did I choose the writing ministry instead of maintaining a prestigious position in a rising ministry? Because, I discovered p[ursuing Christ His way is spiritually more beneficial in this life and the life to come, than pursuing Him man's way (Matt. 7:21).

Jesus said in Luke 15:27, that not only must I love Him more than family, I must also love Him more than my "own life also." To me, that means I must love Jesus more than my reputation; more than my position; more than my titles; I must love Him more than my "own life also." As the Apostle's Administrative Assistant and His Associate Pastor, I received admiraqtion and respect from other pastors and their congregations as well as civil officials who worked with our ministry in community outreach programs. If I had not been given an ultimatum, I would have tried to fulfill both, but God wanted me to choose.

When I chose God's will for me, I forfeited a much needed monthly stipend, and as of this writing (2003) I have not found employment. The waves and the winds are once again treacherously dashing against the corridors of my mind, threatening me with failure, disconnected phone, and web hosting service, embarrassment and humiliation among the faith community. But I refuse to focus on the "what ifs," I will continue to keep my eyes on Jesus. Though I haven't completed this new and current walk on the water with Him, I know I will, because He is faithful to complete what He has begun in me for His good purpose.

Walking on the Water Update
Appril 20, 2004 -
The waves and the winds that treacherously dashed against my mind one year ago today with threats of failure, calmed to a faint whisper as I forged ahead with my eyes fixed on Jesus.
Not once did Jesus allow me to lack anything that I needed. There was never a break in my phone or hosting service as He miraculously provided the finance before each bill was due.
Christ Made Known In Me! has increased in its Internet circulation as it has been accepted and included in several Christian Web Directories.

PS:
I became employed March 9, 2004

Published Poem: "Presents" (July 2004, Standard Publishing, 04 Christmas Programs for Children)

Article: "Personal Journal Entry: victory over Breast Cancer" (Spring 2004 Exalt, Evangelize, & Edify Newspaper, Milligan College, Tn)

October 2004 - New Job with increased salary

October 2005 - Celebrating 10 years Cancer Free

July 4, 2007 - "A Military Mom's Prayer" published in the book, SECURE THE FORT by Lucy Cain

August 2007 - "Give Mom A Hand" Highlights for Children Magazine

October 2009 - 14 years Cancer Free

TO GOD BE THE GLORY!