Gifts

Nailed It!

Nailed It BestJesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. -John 8:34-36

My pastor gave a sermon a couple of weeks ago in which he noted that the more convinced we are that we are wretched sinners in need of a Savior, the more we will serve Jesus with the passion of our lives. Luke 7:47 says “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

In our modern culture I wonder if we appreciate how serious sin truly is. Since the beginning of God’s law, mankind has been pushing back, re-interpreting and just plain fooling ourselves that we didn’t hear God quite right. Adam and Eve and that apple, Korah and his upstart followers, David and Bathsheba, Ananias and Sapphira and the lie about their gift. The world reads those stories and their take-away is that a ‘loving’ God would never be so harsh and full of wrath. God must be a narcissistic megalomaniac to demand such strict adherence to his Word, especially knowing full well that humans are natural sinners. Perhaps you’ve had that thought yourself? I know I’ve wrestled with it.

Here are a few points to ponder as you wrestle with the holiness of God and the seriousness of sin:

First of all, God is God and we are not.  in Isaiah 55:9 God says, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Proverbs 30:3-4 reiterates this from the human perspective:

I have not learned wisdom,
    nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One.
Who has gone up to heaven and come down?
    Whose hands have gathered up the wind?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak?
    Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is the name of his son?
    Surely you know!

It is unimaginably presumptuous for any human to think that we could even begin to understand God or His ways with the 3 pounds of gray matter in our skulls. God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and eternal. He somehow created everything out of nothing. He is waaaay too big and all-everything to even be conceptualized by us. In many ways it’s like trying to teach algebra to your dog. Algebra exists and its principles describe aspects of your dog’s life, but it will never be understood by your dog. However, out of His love for us and desire for relationship, He has revealed some things to us. He has placed eternity in our hearts. He has given us a conscience which understands the concept of right and wrong although we are free to override it. And He has spoken to some of us and in that way given us the Holy Scriptures containing everything we need to live our best lives. Who but the Inventor could really know that anyway? Yet from the beginning of time until now we have been trying to ‘backwards engineer’ humanity and work God right out of the equation. It’s as foolish as removing the batteries and expecting the gadget to operate properly.

Secondly, God is immutable - unchanging and unchangeable, and that quality is also true for His Holiness. Holiness is the perfection, or wholeness of God. It is a state of being. Instead of viewing holiness as God’s Law - as a set of arbitrary ‘rules’ which could be adjusted by the Author, I suggest that it is better to view holiness the way we view Scientific Law – a set of rules that describe reality in a true, universal and absolute way which are discovered rather than invented.  Isn’t it odd that we readily accept Scientific Law but so often challenge God’s Law? In Sunday School I use the analogy of space to demonstrate this concept. ‘No man may come to the Father except through Me’ has been scorned as highly intolerant for centuries. Yet, consider this statement, ‘No man may get to the moon except with a spacesuit.’ Who would challenge that? That is not an intolerant statement barring those without spacesuits from access to the moon. It is also not a statement that overlooks or rules out other valid ways of getting to the moon. Rather it is a mere statement of fact based on unchangeable Laws of Science that describe reality in a true, universal and absolute way. Heaven cannot contain even the tiniest amount of sin. The only method for sinners to enter Heaven, therefore, is to be covered by the sinless blood of Jesus. Why? I don’t know. It just is. Why is the universe expanding faster and faster rather than slowing or contracting? I don’t know. It just is.

Finally, sin is death. Sin isn’t ‘like’ death, sin IS death. It is the thing that ended immortality in the Garden and gave us a life-expectancy. As sin increased, so did disease, war, hatred and everything that is not Good. Sin is highly corrosive and highly contagious. The more it eats away at us and spreads amongst us all over our world, the more evil there is, because evil is the absence of Good. Sin opposes, corrupts, condemns and seeks to destroy Good. God is Good. And sin opposes and seeks to destroy God. It’s difficult to see how a lie here or there, a little bit of cheating or stealing, some pre-marital fun or exploring other religions could make us enemies of God. But those are evidence of our sin condition, a condition that eats away at our soul, turning us away from God and Good, making us slaves to our own pride and pleasure. The only way to regain ‘Goodness’ was to buy us back - redeem us from slavery to sin. And that is what Christ has done. Sin held us hostage, but He ransomed us with His sinless blood. He paid off our ransom and debt and nailed it to the cross, marked ‘paid in full’ for all in Heaven and earth to see. We’ve been bought at a price – a very high price. Why was that the only way? I don’t know. I don’t claim to understand it, but I believe it.

PRAYER:

Father, forgive us, for truly, we know not what we’ve done. Amen.

Stay Blessed,

Jen Jahromi


RECONCILED, REDEEMED, RENEWED

 

Reconciled Redeemed RenewedWe all know the story of the cross and what Jesus accomplished there…but do we really? I find that every year I must ponder anew the profound work that was done on our behalf. I can usually focus on one aspect of the glory of the cross, but it’s much harder to comprehend just how much we needed it and all it accomplished for us – and of course, how much it cost God and Jesus to provide us with such an incomparable gift of love.

RECONCILED

Through the cross, we are reconciled to God. Sin is serious. Really serious. We tend to minimize sin because it is so intrinsic to our nature. But Heaven is a thoroughly holy place and not bit of sin can be there. So our sin has corrupted us, and made us unable to be with our loving God in a sinless Heaven. I like to think of this like the fact that there is no air on the moon. It’s just a fact, and there is no way to get to the moon without a spacesuit covering you. Jesus is our ‘spacesuit.’ His precious, sinless blood covers us and provides a way for us to come into the presence of God. But sin didn’t merely prevent us for entering Heaven. Our sin is also a conscious choice to disobey God. Our sin breaks our relationship with God. Through the cross God made a way for us to be forgiven, so that we can receive all the blessings and love that He wants to pour out over us.

Colossians 1:22  Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.

REDEEMED

Through the cross we are redeemed from slavery to sin and the condemnation of the law. Sin broke our relationship with God. But it also broke us and our ability to relate to others. When God freed the Israelites from Egypt, they had been enslaved for so many centuries, that they did not know how to live on their own. They needed a lot of rules for living as their own nation, set apart and dedicated to God. On the mountaintop, God provided them: the 10 Commandments, plus some 650 more. The goal was to create godly people, but instead, their inability to keep those laws only showed them how sinful they truly were. Soon they became enslaved by the law, making even more rules so that they could keep the first ones and still failing, still mistreating one another. At the cross, God redeemed us from our slavery to sin and to the law. With Jesus’ sinless blood he bought us back, paid our outstanding sin-debt and made us free.  We do not have to remain in our sins for life, or until the next scapegoat, we do not have to feel guilt and shame and condemnation. No, through confession and the Holy Spirit, we can go boldly before the throne of God, our loving Daddy, ask for forgiveness, and it will be granted.

Galatians 4:4-6 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

RENEWED

Through the cross we are continuously renewed to become more Christ-like. We are broken people. Our original designer and creator made us to be perfect and live forever. We allowed sin in, and it corrupted our code like a malicious computer virus. It touches every aspect of our lives. But Jesus’ blood on the cross, spilled for us, provided a way of healing and restoration. The Holy Spirit now lives in us, and like hundreds of ‘nanobots,’ He searches out ‘corrupted code’ and restores it to the original, perfect design. This, however, is a life-long process. Our brokenness is extreme, and sin still corrupts us. But as we confess, ask for forgiveness, forgive others, pray and build our relationship with God, we gradually become more like Christ, the only existing perfect model. As we are daily renewed and transformed into holy people, we develop tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. We learn to make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends us. Above all, we become love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And we let the peace that comes from Christ rule in our hearts, because as members of one body we are called to live in peace. And we learn to always be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15)

Colossians 3:10-11 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

 

A gift of this magnitude cannot be earned. It cannot be bought. It can only be accepted freely, with humility, because we know the cost was extreme. But God’s love for us is more extreme.

Hosanna, Hosanna!

Jen


Who Needs Luck?

Irish Frienship Wish15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way.

~ 1 Peter 3:15-16

I’m a holiday person…perhaps too much. I just always loved the colorful classroom decorations for the various holidays as the year wore on, and especially all the symbols. St. Patrick’s day has lots of lucky symbols: four leaf clovers, rainbows, pots of gold and horseshoes.

I have no idea where the idea of ‘the luck of the Irish’ came from. But it does make me wonder if, indeed, there is such a thing as luck. I used to believe in that kind of stuff, but as a Christian, I find myself much more skeptical of luck, coincidence, and even fate or destiny. I now believe much more in blessings, God’s will and the hope of the blessed assurance.

Ultimately, we know that bad things still happen to good people. And we know that even as believers we have little control over our destiny, as God holds the future in His hands, and He is historically tight-lipped about what the future holds. Further, we know that we are endowed by God with free will to make decisions and choose how to live.

So then, how are Christians different than anyone else? The answer is in what we believe and how that belief changes how we view things. Non-believers may see themselves as victims of venomous fate, or see themselves as naturally lucky or cursed, or believe that all they have is due to their own hard work and smarts. But what happens when the luck runs out, or the business fails, or they fail? When things look bleak, who do they turn to? Where does their help come from? I can tell you from past experience, they are hopeless. They have nothing to put their faith in that is firm and unshakable. They can ‘hope’ that things get better, but unlike Christian ‘hope’ they have no assurance of a loving God who sifts everything through His perfect will and “plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Christians who truly believe and behave like God is control have no fear of the future while the world is in chaos and anxiety is pervasive. Christians who know God is in control don’t need to hoard or save excessively. They get on their knees, and then they get to work. And eventually this calm assurance begins to attract the attention of others. And when others ask about your ‘luck’ or your hopeful assurance, be ready to explain it. Be ready to explain that Christ’s death on a cross of shame freed us to live a life reconciled to God, as his precious children. And because we can trust Him to bring something positive for our benefit out of every situation, because we can rely on Him to lead us in His will, we never have to be anxious, we never have to feel hopeless. Our help comes from the Lord, maker of Heaven and earth. Our feet will always be on the solid rock even when the storm is raging around us. And when our time comes, sooner or later, to leave this earth, we know for sure that a glorious Heaven is waiting for us.

So, who needs luck? Just give me Jesus!

Top ‘o the Mornin’ to ye,

Jenny 

May there always be work for your hands to do.

May your purse always hold a coin or two,

May the sun always shine on your windowpane.

May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain,

May the hand of a friend always be near you,

May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

 


Seed of Faith

Spring Flowers…What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. ~1 Corinthians 15:36

I am not a gardener. I have probably drawn more flowers than I have ever successfully grown. I call myself “the accidental gardener” because most of the things that pop up out of our garden are a complete surprise. One year we left the Halloween pumpkins out too long and the next Fall, to my amazement, there was a crop of mini pumpkins which somehow planted, watered and grew themselves.

My lack of a green thumb aside, I love to watch things grow. I cheerfully anticipate the first crocuses of Spring, the hyacinths, tulips and daffodils of Easters past, and the buds on the trees. Spring brings a colorful renewal of life from gray, dead winter that practically preaches its own sermon.

The Bible is just FULL of verses, analogies and parables about seeds and growing. Like seeds, we also grow – not merely physically, but spiritually. And we need ‘good soil’ and ‘water’ and ‘nurturing’ in order to flourish and produce a harvest. Additionally, just as in nature, we must die to our old state (like winter) in order to experience rebirth and resurrection (like spring). And like seed, God’s kingdom starts small, growing in one heart, but increases exponentially as it ripens and is spread to become a blessing and harvest for many. Jesus and the Apostles used parables and analogies around all these various concepts to try to illustrate God’s kingdom and our part in it.  Here are a few of my favorites to ponder:

The Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:3-8, 13-20)

3 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

13 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

The Parable of the Growing Seed (Mark 4:26-29)

26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

The Parable of the Mustard Seed (Mark 4:30-32)

30 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

John 12:23-25

23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

1 Corinthians 3:6-7

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

The Resurrection Body (1 Corinthians 15:36-39,42-44)

36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

1 Peter 1:23

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11

10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

Like a fruit, our seed of faith can grow and produce more seeds of faith for us to scatter and plant to create a harvest of more believers which grows the kingdom of God and produces more fruits of the spirit and more righteousness that eventually comes closer to bringing God’s kingdom to earth as it is in Heaven! What a wonderful blossoming of faith that will be.

Blessings of buds and blossoms,

Jen 


Facing Mortality

Young ManTherefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. ~2 Corinthians 4:16-17

Lent, and Ash Wednesday in particular, are the one time of year we are confronted with our mortality. Most people prefer to think on that subject as little as possible. Death is an inconvenience to all we hold dear: family, work, meaning, control, freedom, etc. But make no mistake, it is a fate that all of humanity WILL share. Pondering that and making a decision about our eternal destination will either bring us to the cross in humility or send us running into the world to try everything under the sun.

My mother-in-law has end-stage lung cancer and dementia. As unwilling spectators of her decline, there has not been much dignity in death. As hard as it is to watch, though, I am mindful that she is still a beloved child of God with a home in Heaven, and that one day, sooner or later, this may very well be my own fate. God was well aware of this progression, and through Solomon, he gave us a poetic look at our inevitable decline in Ecclesiastes 12.

12 Remember your Creator
    in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
    and the years approach when you will say,
    “I find no pleasure in them”—
before the sun and the light
    and the moon and the stars grow dark,
    and the clouds return after the rain;
when the keepers of the house tremble,
    and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,
    and those looking through the windows grow dim;
when the doors to the street are closed
    and the sound of grinding fades;
when people rise up at the sound of birds,
    but all their songs grow faint;
when people are afraid of heights
    and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms

    and the grasshopper drags itself along
    and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
    and mourners go about the streets.

Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
    and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
    and the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
    and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

 

(My Transliteration)

Remember God and make a decision to follow Jesus while you are young before you get old and it’s too late, and the time comes when you find no pleasure in life.

Before your mind becomes clouded and your mood depressed.

When your hands tremble and your legs and back stoop.

When your teeth are too few to chew your food well, and your eyesight grows dim;

When your hearing fails and sounds are hard to hear;

When you wake up early in the morning and at the smallest sound;

When fear of falling and of crowds keeps you from going out;

When your hair turns white, and you’re your vigor and desire to be active are gone, and you no longer care for the things that once brought you joy.

Then you will die, and people will mourn for you.

Remember God now and be reconciled to him before the silver cord of your lamp is broken and your golden light goes out forever, before you can no longer be filled with the water of life, and your body becomes dust, and your spirit returns to God for judgment.

 

Yes, we were created to be eternal beings, but because of our choice to sin, we have become mortal beings, living in our ‘earth tents’ for just a short time. And this tent will wear out.

But death is not an ending, it is merely the beginning of a new chapter. As the Bible points out, a seed seems dead until it bursts forth with a seedling. (1 Corinthians 15:36) Similarly, we will receive a new imperishable body and be reunited with the Lord. How all this comes about is still a bit of a mystery. But the Bible does say, “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” ~2 Corinthians 5:1.

For those who have chosen to fear God and accept Jesus as the Lord of their lives, taking his light yoke as willing bondservants, a glorious new beginning awaits us: ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” ~Revelation 7:16-17 And as Sara Groves sings, “I know to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord, and from what I know of him, that must be very good.” (What Do I Know).

Blessings of Abundant Life,

Jen

 


A Love Letter from God

Love Letter from Christ - FrontLove never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up. Love never comes to an end.... So these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the best one of these is love.

– 1 Corinthians 13:7-8,13

Valentine’s Day…some loathe it, some love it. I’m in the latter category. Despite the claims that it is a ploy created by card companies to sell more cards, I’m still all for a day that begs you to tell those you love how you feel. Besides, selling cards is also MY business! But honestly, I chose cards because I really, truly believe there are not enough kind words and encouragement out there. We all would love to have one more chance to send a dearly departed loved one a goofy, sappy valentine card with some groaner of a pun, i.e.: I love you a latte! ☕

My hubby and I are not the most romantic people. We appreciate the little things and honestly, most Valentine’s Days pass without a romantic night out, flowers or gifts and definitely without boxes of chocolate! But we do take the opportunity to fill a card, or perhaps just a note paper, with the mushiest, most sentimental expressions of affection and gratitude. We like to pretend it’s a contest to see who can make the other cry (I ALWAYS lose), but actually, it’s a much-needed anchor in a stormy world full of vicissitudes. I still have all those cards in a drawer. Every now and then I read over them, remembering the tough years and the good years, and you could never tell which was which from those cards because they all affirm the love and the value of the relationship despite the current circumstances.

While my hubby was away for National Guard training, we wrote many letters to each other. Because of our separation, the letters were filled not just with love and encouragement, but also with promises and hopes and plans for the future. We both remember the excitement we felt when we read those letters.

God, himself, decided his precious creation – us – needed the same sort of kind words, promises and encouragement. So, he wrote us a love letter. A love letter 66 books long: The Holy Bible!  The Bible is truly a love letter from God. In it, he writes about the value of having a relationship with us, his hurt and disappointment when we rejected his love, and his joy at being loved by us. He also enumerates promise after promise concerning giving us all the best things this life has to offer, things like joy, hope, faithfulness, salvation, protection, and eternal spiritual life. And because we are currently deployed far from home, separated from him, he tells us how much he longs to be together with us, and how he has wonderful plans for our lives and a place prepared for us so that we can be with him forever.

In the good times and the tough times, his promises stand. His love and faithfulness remain as a beacon of hope and strength while we’re apart. And like my Valentine’s Day cards, his words are a sure and steady anchor in a world full of uncertainty, chaos, distractions and temptations.

With love,

Jen


A Traveler's Tale

A traveler was walking through the wilderness. As he crested a rocky hill, he heard a weak, desperate bleat. Going over to a low thicket he spied a sheep hopelessly caught in the thorns. Pulling out his multi-tool, the traveler quickly cut away the thorns and freed the sheep.

“How did this happen?” the traveler asked.

“Oh,” began the hurting sheep, “I was with the flock, being led by the shepherd, the same as every day. Then I saw a rabbit over here eating some tasty looking berries. I wandered over here to have some. They were farther in the thicket than I thought, and I scratched my nose and legs. Worst of all, the berries were bitter and terrible. When I tried to leave, I realized I was stuck, and I didn’t even know which way the flock went. All I want now is to get back to the shepherd.”

“Everything will be alright,” said the traveler. “I know the way to the Shepherd.”

They continued down the road together and eventually came to a town. As they strolled down the main street, they heard the sound of loud sweeping down a side street. Turning to check it out, the traveler spied a silver coin in the dust at their feet. He stooped to pick it up and noticed that the face on it seemed to be crying.

Bemused, the traveler said, “Well, how did you get here?”

The face on the coin blinked and said, “I belong to a poor widow. I am her dearest treasure. She was counting me and the other coins when a chariot rode by at top speed and rattled the table. I fell off, and as luck would have it, I landed on my edge and rolled right under the door. Now I’m lost! I’m lost and I’ll never be found!

“Everything will be alright,” said the traveler. “Nothing can truly separate you.”

The traveler took the coin to sound of sweeping where there was a joyful reunion. After a small neighborhood celebration, the traveler invited the widow to come along with them. He promised her that where they were going, all that she had would always be enough. She gladly accepted.

They continued out of the town and out into the countryside dotted with farms. As they passed close to one farm they noticed a loud grunting of pigs. Turning to look, they saw a young man with a pail full of rotted fruit balancing on a hay bail to feed a group of excited pigs. As he swung the pail, the momentum carried him over the fence and into the pigpen, full of mud and filth.

“Do you need some help?” asked the Traveler, kindly.

“I’m beyond help,” cried the young man. “I’m beyond hope!”

“Not at all,” the Traveler reassured him. “Where we’re headed, everyone gets just what they need. It’s a place full of help, full of hope and full of love. Would you like to come with us?”

“You don’t want me. I was so selfish. I rejected my father and demanded my inheritance. I left him to go my own way. I was going to make it big, but I spent all I had trying to impress strangers, doing things I don’t even want to remember. They all left when the money ran out. Now I’m alone with no family…just pigs.”

“Sounds like what you really need is forgiveness,” offered the Traveler. “I promise you will find it where we’re headed.”

The young man climbed out of the pigpen and joined the band on their way. They traveled a long time, with the mysterious traveler telling them wonderful stories of the place they were headed. Finally, on a hill, far away, they saw an estate. As they got closer, they saw an old man running out to meet them followed by a trail of servants.

“Oh! I’ve been waiting for you all!” He cried, embracing them one by one. He had the servants place a robe on them. Finally, he embraced the muddy young man.

“Father? Father!” the youth cried, as the old man embraced him.

"All is forgiven, my dear son."

The old man wiped tears from his eyes. “We shall have a great feast! You will all be washed and dressed in fine linen. You’re part of the family, now. I have special rooms, prepared just for you. Whatever you need, just ask and it will be given!

And the sheep that wandered found a home. And the coin that was lost, was given a special place of honor. And the son that willfully rejected his father, was forgiven and reunited with his loving family.

Adapted from Luke 15

“In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10

Whether you wandered away, distracted by the world with its charms and its worries, or got lost because of an unfortunate decision or mistake, or willfully rejected the Father and His love, remember, there is always a place for you in the Father’s house. Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened. Your inheritance of grace, mercy and forgiveness are waiting for you.

Blessings,

Jen


New Year all Year

0210131602aHappy New Year! What again? Yes, Tuesday began the Lunar New Year – Year of the Tiger. Supposedly, the tiger is commonly associated with something like bravery, courage and strength, and can also be viewed as an uplifting animal that can give people hope. Another animal that can give people hope is Punxsutawney Phil, that prognosticating groundhog who will either predict a longer winter or early spring.

In just a few more months at the Vernal Equinox, spring will arrive and with it, Nowruz, the Persian New Year. And then a season later, in September, Rosh Hashana will bring the Jewish New Year.  So, if you’re having trouble with your resolutions, you have plenty of opportunities for a ‘mulligan’ or do-over!  For that matter, as the saying goes, ‘tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life!’ So every day is the day to start.

Jesus was all about the fresh starts. In fact, that’s why He came. You mess up, you make a big mistake, you make a bad decision…the world might never let you forget it, but Jesus will forgive and give you a clean slate. Confession will cover you in His grace and God will see only His righteousness, not your sin.  For anyone who has lived with shame and regret, this is such a wonderful experience to let go of the burdens of sin weighing you down!

People seem to love the next new thing: new cars, new homes, new cell phones, the latest fashions, new vacation destinations, new crossword puzzles… New can be really exciting. And now the New Thing can be YOU!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

…Put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, (Colossians 3:9-11)

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)

So, whether you are looking forward to dancing dragons, groundhogs, bunnies or the Year of the Tiger, make sure that for you and your family this is also the Year of the Lamb – the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and who is just thrilled to take away YOUR sins and give you a fresh start full of courage, strength and hope.

Blessings of Newness,

Jen


Spoon Story

Spoon1Once upon a time there was a spoon. The silver smith put his mark on it and finished polishing it, adding it to the box as the last piece in the silverware set to be sent to the palace for the king. There the spoon was useful, being taken out and polished regularly to adorn the table at fancy parties and dinners for heads of state. Over time the spoon was nicked and taken out of rotation. It sat unused for the longest time. At last, one day it was grabbed by the king’s small niece who took it out into the garden to serve tea to her dolls. As she was cleaning up, she dropped the spoon by the vegetable garden. There it lay in the sun and rain until the gardener spotted it one day. Since it was tarnished and nicked, he used it to dig out stubborn weeds from around the lettuces. As winter came on the spoon ended up in the garden shed. There it sat, blackened and bent, until one day a youth spotted it and took a closer look. Using his apron, he rubbed the spoon until its silver began glow. Putting it in his pocket he decided to make a gift of it to his pregnant wife. By the fire in their tiny home, the youth applied polish and rubbed and worked until the spoon was nearly like new. On Christmas morning he presented it as the first gift to his newborn son. After feeding two generations of that family, it was once again consigned to tarnish in a drawer, where one day, not recognizing its worth, it was put in a bin to be donated to charity. It found new life at the jail, feeding those who were justly and unjustly imprisoned, including an old silver smith - a Christ-follower who refused to renounce his faith. As he turned the spoon over, he smiled, recognizing his own makers’ mark, and bowed his head to thank God for His provision, even in jail.

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.  ̶  2 Chronicles 16:9

We are that spoon. We are no longer our own because we have been bought at a price. So, whether our calling is ‘high’ such as serving a king, or ‘low’ such as serving a prisoner, either way we are serving the Lord. Over the course of our lives, we may be used in many different ways. Sometimes we may be called to use our expert talents, and sometimes we may be just an extra set of hands. But in any case, we yield our will, our hopes and our desires to the will of the Master. Daily, we must choose to be used by God in whatever capacity He needs. We cannot see the big picture. We may never know, on this side of Heaven, what our obedience resulted in. Our job is simply to trust the Lord with our lives and to do His good will, carrying out the good deeds He prepared in advance for us.

Although ‘living for the Lord and yielding our will’ is a simple concept, living it out day by day is very challenging. Daily, we need to crucify our ego and will and pick up our cross to follow Jesus. It’s hard to be inconvenienced for the Lord, to give up our money and ‘stuff’, to be available when needed, to be unappreciated by others, to be persecuted or mocked. It’s even harder when we can’t see the point or know what the plan is. But this is what we are called to. Myself, I wonder almost hourly if I’m up to it. I fail more than I succeed, but I succeed more than I used to, and there is evidence of progress.

PRAYER: Make me a tool in the Master’s hand, and let me never desire to be anything more. Amen.

Humbly yours,

Jen


Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God

Seek Ye FirstYou will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. -Jeremiah 29:13

There’s a lot in the Bible about seeking. Some of Jesus’ greatest parables are about seeking. Seeking is a very intentional act. Just ask those who seek out rare birds, rare coins or other collectibles.

My son recently sent me a photo of the china cabinet in a home where he spent Christmas. My husband only saw the cabinet, but what my son and I saw was the impressive multicolored collection of Fiestaware in that cabinet. Only a seeker-collector would appreciate the value of what, to others, would just be pretty (or pretty old) pitchers and plates.

Seeking is also the only way to find God, and ‘collect’ spiritual truths. Hard-hearted people will not turn to God. These people are so sure of themselves, their intellect, the correctness of their point of view, that they will not be open to anything that doesn’t fit their philosophy. Remember Pharaoh? Remember Nebuchadnezzar? Remember Pontius Pilate? Unless something happens to change them, they will never be open to the possibility of the supernatural, miraculous or Divine.

Seekers are open to options. They may be seeking in all the wrong places, but they are open to the wonderful mysteries of the Universe. I was this type of teenager. I was convinced there was more to life than just what we see, but I looked for it in eastern philosophies, tarot cards, astrology and crystals. And here’s the thing: because there IS more than just this plane of existence, and because it IS possible to know the future, and because spiritual energy is real, those philosophies are not total malarkey. But they are potentially dangerous, and God tells us to stay away from divination (even the name tells us we are treading too close to God’s sacred territory).

I eventually found my way to the Truth. And when I found Him, my soul leapt just like John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb. There is something about the Gospel and about the Truth of Jesus that calls out to us across time and space and rings true in that eternity that God has placed in our souls. When you find this Truth, you know that you know. And as the scales fall from your eyes, you see the same world in whole new way. For me it was like finding that particular puzzle piece that suddenly makes the colors and shapes of the other pieces fall together. The spiritual truths have been falling into place ever since. Christian musician Keith Green described it this way: “Like waking up from the longest dream. How real it seemed, until Your love broke through…”

If you’ve found the Truth, then your seeking isn’t over. Daily seek for God in his Word, seek for God through prayer, seek for God through your service to others. These are the ways we reap the blessings that God promises to us. If you know seekers who are still looking, share with them! You have the answer they're looking for. If you haven’t experienced faith as a relationship with the Truth, seek and you will find! Knock and the door will be opened to you. Seek God with your heart and soul and He will reveal himself to you and show you the way to Jesus and to the mysteries of His kingdom.

Finding Jesus and beginning an exciting, wonderous journey with Him is the most valuable find you fill ever make. It is more precious than pearls, gold, or any 1940s pottery or rare bird. Of course, you’ll still have time to add to those other collections, just remember to seek God’s kingdom first. (It's probably not under the bed.)

Blessings,

Jen


Don't Look Back

MountSodom061607
Lot's Wife on Mt. Sodom

17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”… 26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. --Genesis 19:17,26

New Year is generally a time of reflection. It’s a time to consider goals reached or not, decisions made, outcomes achieved and begin a plan for the coming year. Usually, I’m all for that kind of thinking. A little analysis can go a long way in helping to correct your course to a brighter future. But as I stand at the cliff edge of 2021, unlike Lot’s wife who just had to have one last peek, I am content to shake the dust off my sandals and make a fresh start into 2022.

Lot’s wife is a wonder to me. First of all, there she is still on Mount Sodom. I’m pretty sure that isn’t actually her, but it IS a mountain of salt, nonetheless. And why did she have to become a pillar of salt? Was it symbolic? Was it a punishment? Or was it just a consequence of whatever mechanism God used to rain down sulfur from the sky? If you read the story carefully, you see that they had all made it safely to the next town, so she wasn’t worried about her daughters’ safety. No, she disobediently looked back of her own accord.

God frequently reminds us that His ways are not our ways. We like to pause and reflect, tidy up loose ends, find ‘closure.’ But how many times does God and Jesus tell us to move on without a thought to the past?

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” --Luke 9:59-62

 

30 “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! -- Luke 17:30-32

 

18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. -Isaiah 43:18

 

25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
    fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
    and be steadfast in all your ways.
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
    keep your foot from evil.

-Proverbs 4:25-27

Perhaps the lesson here is that although the past is defined as "gone by in time and no longer existing", it can still hold our imaginations captive. The past is something that should be forgotten, but unfortunately, a lot of people let it define them. When God calls us into His service, He wants the Holy Spirit to teach us, not lessons of the past. It’s too tempting to use lessons from the past as a roadmap to the future. This is the problem with ‘self-help’ – if your ‘self’ could have ‘helped’ you, you wouldn’t need the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to daily renew your mind and spirit. You wouldn’t need God’s mercy which is new every morning.

God has called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. We need to move forward in the light and not let the darkness of the past concern our thoughts. Maybe this is true more for looking back to our sinful, pre-saved lives and habits. Was Lot’s wife tempted to long for the rough, sin-filled life of Sodom? Remember how the Israelites longed for Egypt’s leeks and garlic even in the midst of God’s miracle exodus? Or maybe she just couldn’t trust God in the midst of the chaos.

If we continue following, He’ll continue leading, and the lessons we learn along the way will be just what He’s trying to teach us now. We won’t need a compass or a map.

Each day has enough trouble of its own. --Matthew 6:34

Maybe that is the real the takeaway for 2021.

Blessings,

Jen