Standing in Awe

lightning4Two extraordinary events happened this week that made me long for the Lord’s return.

Monday night we had strong thunderstorms in Memphis. The thunderstorms weren’t the strange occurrence, but the non-stop flickering of lightning in the sky was something I had not seen before. It was as if the heavens were communicating something grand was about to happen.

As I peeked out my window to watch, I was overcome with awe by the beauty and “strangeness” of it. God was giving us a grand display of His power and glory. I secretly hoped that it was a prelude to His returning for us.

Star of Bethlehem 2015Tuesday night there was another unusual phenomenon. Jupiter and Venus came so “close” together that they appeared as one bright, shining star in the east. Many believe it was this same occurrence that the Bible refers to in Matthew 2:2 when the magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem and asked, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

Just as the star over Bethlehem led the magi to worship Him, seeing this “star” Tuesday night led me to worship Him. As I stood gazing at the bright “star” in the east, I imagined what it would have felt like following that star to Bethlehem to see the Messiah, the King who came to this earth as a baby for you and me.

I found myself also asking, “Lord, the bright star in the east, the star of Bethlehem, was a sign of your first coming. Could it be that this event is ushering in your second coming?”

I turned around and behind me was the bright moon, beautiful in its brilliance. I felt like I could reach out and  touch it. I was overcome with emotion and wanted to fall to my knees in worship. It made me long for the day when we will see Him face to face and enjoy the majesty of the mansion He’s preparing for us.

We don’t know when the Lord will come back. Only the Father knows the day and time. But these two events this week made me long for that day more than ever. As I’ve been pondering His return, it’s also made me diligent in praying, “Lord, I want to live my life as if You’re coming back today.”

What difference would it make in your life if you knew He was returning today or this week? We don’t know when He will return, but we know He will. This week was a precious reminder that I should live every day as if it could be today. It could be.

If you saw the “star of Bethlehem” this week, what were your thoughts? How did it impact you?

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The Sweetness of Adoption

Hobson and Hannah

Hobson and Hannah

Adoption is something that has become near and dear to my heart. My niece and her husband adopted three children a year apart, whom we love with all our hearts. Multiple families in our church here in Memphis have adopted one or more children. It’s so sweet to see these little lives thrive in a good, stable home environment with loving parents.

I haven’t adopted children, but last Friday, I adopted two little kittens about eight weeks old. Having them in my life has made me ponder the sweetness of adoption, not only from an earthly perspective, but also from a heavenly perspective. As I look at these two sweet little kitties, it’s made me think of my adoption in Christ.

These two little kittens had a hard life before I adopted them. They were within 24 hours of being euthanized before a rescue organization pulled them out of the animal shelter and placed them in a foster home until they could find a permanent home. They had no hope apart from being adopted. In the same way, life apart from God is hard and we have no hope without Him. Thankfully, He adopted me and gave me hope for a future with Him eternally.

As I’ve spent time with these kittens, I have grown to love them. I have told them I will love them till the day I hold them in my arms and they take their last breath (and even after that). I will treat them with kindness and goodness and give them special treats from time to time. I hope that they will grow to love me the more they get to know my love for them.

But I also realize there will be times I will have to allow painful things to be done to them, like shots and surgeries. I’ll have to tell them “NO!” to something they desperately want to get into. They will not understand my actions and will question my love for them in those times.

But I know the bigger picture. It’s not good to let them play with the blinds cords because they could choke themselves. They don’t see the danger of chewing electric cords – they just see how much fun it is to play.

God has reminded me this week – that’s a picture of His relationship with me. I want to do things and God says no; and I don’t understand why He’s withholding something “good” from me. Or I don’t understand why He’s allowing me to go through something painful. I question His love for me. But, He can see the bigger picture. And what seems painful and unloving is for my good. He knows what’s best for me, just like I know what’s best for my adopted kittens.

As I look at my adopted kitties, I am reminded of my adoption in Christ and it makes me so thankful for my Father who loves me and cares for me far more than I love my kitties.

“In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will…” (Ephesians 1:5).

I’m thankful for adoption!

 

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Saying Goodbye To A Precious Pet

Peyton

 

I had to make a heart-wrenching decision today (Thursday). My vet and I agreed that the time had come to put down my sweet 15-year-old cat Peyton. But we are waiting till tomorrow (Friday). I wanted one final night with this precious, faithful companion.

For those of you who have put pets down, you know the emotions overwhelming me as I write this. But I want to turn this into a positive in the midst of the pain. I want to honor Peyton by sharing some of the lessons she has taught me over these past 15 years. (Yes, God has used my cat to teach me.)

 

 

  1. Be faithful to those God has put in your life. Peyton has been faithful to me since day one. She is really a one-person kitty. She loves me and only me. She doesn’t shower love on the cat sitters or friends or family who come to visit. She is loyal to her owner.
  2. Enjoy God’s creation, especially the little things we often take for granted. Peyton is happiest when she is sitting outside, watching the birds, bugs, trees, flies, whatever is going on out there. She could spend hours at a time just laying there on the patio basking in God’s sunshine and enjoying the breeze on her face. It doesn’t take alot to make her content, even when she’s not feeling good.
  3. Rest is a good thing. Peyton knows how to rest and can tune out distractions all around her. She makes sure that rest is a vital part of her day. And she only wakes me up at night when she hears me moving. She knows I need rest, too.
  4. Embrace every day you have with those you love. You never know how long you have left together.
  5. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord. (Job 1:20) All things are created by Him and belong to Him. He’s allowed me to enjoy Peyton for 15 years, and now it’s time to let her go. Thank You, Lord, for these 15 years with her.

One of my professors in seminary discussed the question of whether or not animals go to heaven when they die. We don’t know for sure, but he shared a verse from Revelation 5:13 he uses to answer that question.

The setting is around the throne in heaven. “And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.'”

It gives me hope that Peyton will be there. I am so grateful that God blessed me with this precious companion for these many years.

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Knowing God Through His Names

The Cry of My HeartGod has given me a passion for writing Bible studies. As the Women’s Ministry Director at First Evangelical Church in Memphis, I get to do that as part of my job. Last year I had the opportunity to write a study on the names of God for our Women’s Bible study.

Yes, I know… there are  several studies already out on the names of God, but they weren’t the right fit for where I wanted to take my women in the study of this topic. So, I began the journey of writing a study on the names of God.

He taught me so much through this, and I can honestly say it drew me into a more intimate relationship with God. His names revealed His character and attributes to me in a fresh way.

Perhaps you are longing to grow more deeply in your relationship with God. The Cry of My Heart: Knowing God More Intimately Through His Names is designed to meet that need through a nine-week study of the names of God. By exploring twelve of the names by which God makes Himself known, you will get to know Him better and see how each name hints at a characteristic fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  You can use this study in your times alone with God or with a small group or women’s ministry Bible study. (It’s available on Amazon.)

Studying His names drew me into a sweeter, more intimate relationship with God. I pray that it will do the same for you.

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If Only I Had . . .

(This is a repost from 2012. As I’ve been working on a lesson on the sovereignty of God today, I was reminded of this post from several years ago. Thought I’d share it with you again.)

Waiting in LineHave you ever had a “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” day? This is a day in which you second guess yourself and the way you did things because the results were not what you had hoped for. If I would have done this… I should have done that… I could have done that, and wish I had… Things would be different if I would have…

I had one of those days this past Friday as I had the privilege of driving to downtown Memphis to sign up for my week of jury duty. Memphis does this differently than the other cities where I have lived. Instead of getting a summons to appear on such and such a date for jury duty, you get a summons to appear at a set time on a certain day to sign up for a week you want to serve. It sounds simple, right? Wrong.

This was my first time to get a summons for jury duty in Memphis and so I was not sure what to expect. Even though friends told me to take my calendar, and sit on the outside, I was not prepared for what transpired that afternoon. Over 4000 people were there, all trying to get their “perfect” week. There was a system we had to follow, but it didn’t go as smoothly as one might think from the directions. Competing with 4000 people to get your preferred week is no easy task.

I had two weeks out of the choices given that would have been a good fit for my schedule, but I was too far back in the line to get those weeks. I finally got the last week offered, but it was my last choice.

All the way home, I kept saying, “I should have gotten in line right away, even though I didn’t want the first week called. I could have gone to the other line which was probably shorter and maybe I would have gotten my choices. I should have sat on the outside of the room instead of the center of the room. I could have stayed and pleaded with the judge for another week. If I would have sat on the far side of the room, I would have had a better chance.” You get the idea.

Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve . . . We can say it all day long, but it’s not going to change the situation. What’s done is done. Get over it, I kept telling myself.

What are some lessons we can learn from these “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” days when we wish we had done things differently?

  • Remember that God is sovereign. He is ultimately in control and will cause “all things to work together for good to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). We can’t change what’s in the past, but we can trust that God will use it for good in some way.
  • Learn from this experience and do it differently next time. Don’t make the same mistakes twice. Next time I get called downtown to sign up for my week of jury duty, I know exactly where I am going to sit and which side of the room I’m going to move toward to stand in line. I know what I should do and could do and will do.
  • Tell others what would benefit them before they go through a similar situation. Prepare them and help them avoid the mistakes you made.

The next time you find yourself saying, I could have . . . I should have . . .  if I would have . . . Stop! Trust God to use this for good, and let Him teach you from it.

What has God taught you from your “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” days?

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When Mother’s Day Can Be Tough

mom at luauSunday is Mother’s Day. I realize that Mother’s Day can be difficult for women for different reasons. Some long to be a mother but can’t have children. Some have estranged relationships with their moms or children. Some, like me, have recently said goodbye to their moms. God knows what is going on in each of our hearts, and He cares.

This will be the first Mother’s Day without my mom on this earth. There’s a part of me that is sad as I think about the special memories with my mom.

But my heart is also filled with joy as I picture mom with Jesus and experiencing things far more glorious than I can ever imagine. I would not want her back here in the state she was in. She is where she longed to be, and I can celebrate with her this Mother’s Day.

I am so thankful that God allowed me to move mom to Memphis five years ago so I could see her every day these last five years of her life. I am thankful He allowed me to be with her when she stepped into His presence on December 19, 2014.

I am grateful for the way God used mom in the lives of those she was around wherever she was – assisted living, nursing home, hospital. Her smile ministered to others even when she couldn’t say a word.

So, as I look ahead to Sunday and the focus on mothers, what can I do to make this day special without my mom (or children)?

  • Give thanks for my mom, even though she’s no longer with me physically.
  • Reflect on all the things my mom taught me, not just through her words, but through her life.
  • Give thanks for the spiritual moms in my life.
  • Thank Him for the spiritual children He’s given me.
  • Pray for those I know are struggling this Mother’s Day.

To all of you moms, Happy Mother’s Day!

What is one word you would use to describe your mom?

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Impossible?

impossibleThis morning I was reading Jeremiah’s prayer beginning in Jeremiah 32:17 – “Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You.”

That doesn’t mean God WILL do everything I want Him to, but He CAN do anything. I may look at a situation as impossible, but nothing is impossible for God.

I was convicted this morning as I thought about this. When I find myself in a seemingly impossible situation, I sometimes assume it’s too big for God too. But it’s not. He may choose to handle it differently than I would desire, but nothing is too difficult for Him.

Are you struggling to believe that God is bigger than something in your life? Are there things you’re not even asking God to do because you doubt He will (or can) do it?

I wrote in my journal a list of things I had to admit that I had stopped praying for because I didn’t think God was going to do anything about it. And then I wrote down things I felt were “impossible” apart from God’s hand intervening; things that are beyond my ability that only God can do. And I began praying for those things.

I know God CAN do all of them, but they may not be His will, and I have to trust that His plan is perfect, even when it’s not according to my desire. My part is to pray and ask, with pure motives and in faith, believing that God can do anything and then trust Him with the result.

I realize how much I put God in a box, not even bothering to ask Him to do something because it seems impossible or too big. But when I do see God answer and work in impossible situations, it brings me to my knees in praise and thanksgiving and awe of just how powerful our God is.

Is there something you’ve stopped praying for because you think it’s impossible? Why not take it to the Lord now? Acknowledge that nothing’s impossible for Him, and trust Him for the result.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.” – Ephesians 3:20-21

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Making a Difference

make a differenceWhat do you think of when you hear the names Corrie Ten Boom, Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, Jim and Elisabeth Elliott, or Billy Graham? What comes to my mind is that they each made a difference with their lives, a difference of eternal significance. Most of us, in all likelihood, will not be big names like that, but we can still make a difference with our lives.

Nehemiah is a great example of someone who made a difference. As I studied the first two chapters of Nehemiah, I noticed ten things he did that enabled him to make a difference. He gives us a great example to follow.

1. Look beyond. (Nehemiah 1:1-3)

It’s so easy to get tunnel vision and focused on what’s going on in my small circle of life that I never look beyond my “world.” Nehemiah looked beyond his comfortable setting and  saw the needs outside. His heart was burdened, and he stepped out to do something about it.

  • Do I look beyond what’s going on in my life and see the bigger picture of what’s going on?

2. Commit to prayer. (Nehemiah 1:4)

Nehemiah was burdened for Jerusalem, and he committed himself to prayer – not just occasional prayer, but faithful, consistent prayer for four months, night and day.

  • Am I a faithful, fervent prayer warrior?

3. Focus on who God is. (Nehemiah 1:5)

Nehemiah faced a situation he knew he couldn’t solve or fix by himself. But he also knew nothing is impossible with God. So he went before God in prayer and focused on His attributes.

  • Do I believe God is big enough to do the impossible if it’s according to His sovereign plan?

4. Stay humble. (Nehemiah 1:6-7)

He humbled himself before God and acknowledged He was God’s servant, confessing his sin and the sin of his people. It’s so much easier to put the blame on someone else and we’re often tempted to make ourselves look better than others, but Nehemiah didn’t do that. He included himself as part of the problem. Even though he was in a position of prestige and honor, he humbled himself.

  • Do I let pride convince me I’m better than others?

5. Stand on the promises of God. (Nehemiah 1:8-11)

Nehemiah “reminded” God of His promise to Moses. He knew God’s Word and believed God would be faithful  to do what He said He would do.

  • Do I believe God is faithful to do what He says He will do?

6. Wait on God’s timing. (Nehemiah 2:1)

Nehemiah didn’t jump out prematurely and try to take things into his own hands, but instead waited on God’s timing. He waited four months before saying anything to the king as he prayed, and God used that time to prepare both Nehemiah and the king for the day Nehemiah would present his request.

  • Do I get impatient with God’s timing and try to take things into my own hands in my timing?

7. Take risks. (Nehemiah 2:1-2)

Nehemiah was willing to take a risk by going before the king and asking for something that seemed impossible, apart from God’s hand. He was willing to show his true emotions to the king, even though that could cost him his job or his life.

  • Am I willing to take risks regardless of the potential outcome?

8. Boldly ask. (Nehemiah 1:11; 2:4)

He boldly prayed for something he knew he wouldn’t be able to accomplish on his own. He boldly asked for something from the king that could have had negative consequences, but he still asked.

  • Do I ask boldly of God and man, or do I assume it would do no good to ask?

9. Do my part. (Nehemiah 2:6-8)

Nehemiah did his part to be ready to answer questions when he went before the king. He knew what was necessary to make things happen.

  • Am I doing my part of what God wants me to do while He’s working?

10. Give the glory to God. (Nehemiah 2:8)

Nehemiah knew his success depended on God’s help. He didn’t pat himself on the back for being a great prayer warrior, or for being so smart, so wise, so prepared. He gave the glory entirely to God.

  • Do I tend to take credit for something God did?

Nehemiah made a difference of eternal significance with his life. We can too. Will we?

 

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Can Women Speak in Church?

tape on woman's mouth jpgThis past Monday night I spoke to a group of women on some of the difficult passages in the New Testament concerning women and the church. One of the issues that we addressed was the issue of women being told to keep silent in the church.

Paul talked about this in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35: “Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says. And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.”

Does this passage prohibit women today from speaking in the church service? Can we not share a testimony or story of how God is at work or read a Scripture passage or pray aloud?

Paul obviously didn’t mean that a woman couldn’t speak at all in church because he talked about women prophesying and praying in 1 Cor. 11:5. So what did Paul mean?

In the Greek culture at that time, women were not allowed to confront or question men publicly. Apparently, some of the women thought their Christian freedom gave them the right to question the men in public worship. The women were disrupting the service by asking questions of their husbands inappropriately, perhaps trying to dominate the conversation or arguing with their husbands about the teaching. This was causing division in the church and disrupting the service.

The Greek word for “silent” used here is also used in 1 Corinthians 14:28, referring to the silence commanded of the person who desired to speak in tongues but without an interpreter present. Obviously, this didn’t mean that this person was never to speak in church, but only to remain silent when certain conditions were not met so that the church service would not be disrupted.

The speaking to which Paul referred was inappropriate speaking that would disrupt the worship service. The purpose of Paul’s words was to promote unity, not to teach about the role of women in church. Paul was not forbidding all speaking by women, but speaking that creates a disturbance in the service.

The timeless principle we can take away from this passage is to avoid doing anything that would disrupt worship. Sometimes, that may mean we need to be quiet.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

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Hope in the Midst of Darkness

good-friday-crossesAs we approach Easter weekend, I wonder what the disciples must have felt on the day Jesus was crucified. I put myself in their places this morning, imagining the emotions and thoughts I would be experiencing had I been there when Jesus took His last breath on the cross.

Would I have been overwhelmed with thanksgiving and hope in light of what His death would bring? Or would I have been feeling just the opposite?

  • Disappointment
  • Doubt – Were you really who you said you were?
  • Questioning God – why?
  • Fear of the future without Him
  • Perhaps even anger

It was a dark day, but the darkness wouldn’t last forever. The darkness was necessary for the joy to come three days later.

If the Crucifixion hadn’t happened, we’d have no hope for the future. This life would be all there is, and as good as it gets. The Crucifixion wasn’t the ending; it was just the beginning.

As we find ourselves in dark times, overwhelming situations in which we see no hope, remember the significance of Easter. Because of the death and Resurrection of Jesus, we have hope. No matter how hard life is on this earth, there will be a day when we will no longer remember the pain and suffering. We will be in the presence of the One who went through pain and suffering to give us eternal life.

I was by my mom’s side this past December when she took her last breath on this earth and stepped into her Savior’s presence. Last year was a season of “darkness” as I watched her decline and suffer. I frequently asked God why, and I questioned what He was doing. But when mom took her last breath, I knew she was free from this suffering and experiencing life beyond anything I could imagine here on this earth – all because of that dark day on Calvary and the Resurrection three days later.

I can’t imagine living life without the hope that Jesus died to give us. May we rejoice this weekend as we contemplate all that Jesus did for us and what that means for each of us personally.

He is Risen!

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