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Christmas Grace

The Season of Christmas is not over for the church.We still have much to think about and much to celebrate.The Twelve Days of Christmas, also known as Christmastide, is celebrated in the church from December 25 through January 5.Christmas isn’t officially over until January 6 when the Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated.I heard a new Christmas Anthem that opened my heart to the reality of Christmas.It is entitled Christmas Grace, and the songwriter wrote it for her granddaughter.In it she tells of the wonder of Christ.One line in the song states: Grace to share our frailty, understand our fragile lot; Jesus laid aside His power to be helped, trained, and taught.To know the sting of hunger, feel the pain of grief and loss, God’s Son allowed Himself to be born for us!He traded heaven’s majesty, He left His glorious throne for wood and hay and rubble, as hell of flesh and bone.The Lord Almighty locked in a single time and place.This is Christmas Grace!(Ruth Elaine Schram, The Lorenz Publi…

Advent 4--Love-The Greatest Virtue

I don't recall where I heard the story, but I remember that a missionary was asked by a child to draw a picture of love.The missionary thought for a moment and considered drawing a heart—a well-recognized symbol of love. A heart did not seem to express the kind of love she had come to know as God’s love.She inwardly asked God to inspire her when suddenly she thought of the perfect picture of love and it was the easiest picture to draw.She simply drew a cross. I may have forgotten where I read that story, but I have never forgotten the wonder of her answer.God’s love for us is so vast, yet it can be communicated in such a modest symbol.In fact, the reason we know this esteemed virtue is because God is the architect of our world and love is the foundation of every cell.Corrupt as we all are by sin, there are hints of love in the most heinous places on earth.Love is the force that holds back God’s wrath. I love the season of Christmas when I see so much love overflowing in so many plac…

Advent 3--JOYFUL EXPECTATION

The first week of Advent found me double-booked with activities that included two opportunities to share about the work that God did on our summer mission trip and another opportunity to share the Gospel with a group of senior adults.On top of that there were regular teaching sessions and several parties to attend.Though I had to prepare food, devotions, lessons and talks, I cannot contain the joy that was mine for the privilege of sharing with others how God was near to me.It is what Paul felt in his Philippian jail where he wrote, Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near (Philippians 4:4-5). Joy which results from winning the national championship, landing the big job, or winning the grand prize dream trip is easy to understand.It is when joy comes from unexpected circumstances that it becomes God-given joy.It is this kind of joy that we celebrate on the third week of Advent when we light the third candle which t…

Advent 2--The Face of God--PEACE

Recently I had a conversation with someone from another country who did not grow up hearing the Christmas stories about Jesus.She asked me an interesting question.She asked me if I could show her a picture of God. Like any good-hearted American I pulled out my Iphone and googled picture of God.Up came several famous ones—like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel painting.As I showed them to her, I told her about the Bible and the Ten Commandments, explaining that the first four Commandments talk about our relationship with God.I explained that God is the one who told us not to make an image of Him.I told her about Noah wanting to see Him and how God hid Moses in the crest of a rock and passed by so that he saw His back as He passed by.God did this so Moses could see Him and live.Our sin keeps us from being able to see God.She replied, He doesn’t let us see Him because He loves us.Yes, I answered. She commented:I know that you feel Him in your heart, I can sense that when you pray.I told her th…

Advent 1--Are you Ready?

It’s the first week of Advent and no one expects you to be ready for Christmas, but if you are not ready for Advent you will miss this amazing spiritual oasis in the middle of a season full of pressure, empty promises and stomach aches.The Advent Season begins with HOPE.You light the first candle hoping in the promises of the prophets of old that have yet to be fulfilled—His second coming to rule the world in peace, and the ones that were fulfilled in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus on earth. If you live your life focused on the words of Jesus, Advent Season might show you that you are ready.Jesus didn’t create a church calendar.It was put together by our church fathers who wanted to give us a way to focus on the life of Christ through special Feast Days and Seasons that celebrate Jesus’ life.We definitely need it and it is biblical.They followed the pattern of a calendar year that God Himself set up for us in the seasons by giving us spiritual seasons to deepen our in…

Authentic Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the most important subject that I ever write about.I have never written a book that does not include the subject of forgiveness.I’m not surprised that a radical format for forgiveness is paramount in the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray.You can pray it so remotely that you don’t realize what you are praying, but the reality of your life requires that you learn not only to be forgiven but to forgive.You learn most fully what it means to be forgiven by none other than the act of forgiving. Have you realized that yet?When teaching on marriage my husband says: Forgiveness in marriage ought to come as naturally as breathing and practiced almost as often (Dr. Brian Newman).I would add to that:Daily forgiveness through the power of Christ ought to become as natural as breathing and practiced almost as often.Not only marriage requires forgiveness but also the simple act of driving down the block.Yes, there are degrees of forgiveness—it is a more monumental experience to forgi…

The Give Me God

In the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, He encourages us to ask God for what we need.He also teaches us what we need.Of course what we need is far different than what we want. Most of us learn to pray about what we want.I can still remember the first time I felt God answer a personal prayer that I had prayed.I was in third grade.We were all standing up in a line having a Spelling Bee.I was so afraid that I would be mortified by being the first one who misspelled a word.I didn’t know what to do so I turned to prayer.I had just become a Christian the year before and I guess I had leaned somewhere that when you need something, you can ask God to give it to you.I was as desperate as any little third grade girl could be over the prospects of messing up first.I don’t remember how far I got in the Spelling Bee but I do remember that I wasn’t the first, or second, or third one out.I was so amazed.I couldn’t believe that the God of the Universe had listened to my little prayer. From that time on,…

Wanting God's Will Doesn't Come Easy

God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven seems like a prayer that should flow from the lips of any believer.And it does.Those of us who repeat the Lord’s Prayer in unison or in our hearts do so often without thinking.Perhaps our souls sense that is a good idea for God’s will to be done and we leave it at that.We ask from a soul that is more aware of the grocery list we need to make after we finish our prayer than the notion that God may have a will for us in heaven. It’s all fine and good to pray for God’s will until you let your soul really think about it.If we are honest, most of us ask for God’s will so that we can understand what He has in mind and then choose whether we will go along with it.That’s not what Jesus is teaching us to pray.He wants us to pray like He did.He knows that praying for God’s will to be done is not always easy.In fact, this is the one prayer of all the prayers that Jesus prayed in which we can see His humanity more clearly.In the Garden of Gethseman…

God’s Love for Cities

Civilization is God’s idea.Cities are vital to God’s plan for the world.Jesus taught us to pray that His Kingdom would come (Matthew 6:10).Why?How does God want us to love cities and His Kingdom as much as He does? God loves, loves, loves Jerusalem!There is no doubt that the place on this earth most sacred to God is Jerusalem.Jerusalem is still the center of the nation of Israel to this day, though it was hundreds of years after the Israelites went into the Promised Land before they captured this city. What was Chris Tomlin thinking about when he wrote these lyrics? You're the God of this City
You're the King of these people
You're the Lord of this nation
You are …
For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater thing have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d61LamkXfwk&noredirect=1 Was he connecting to the heart of God for the city?Was he getting what Jesus mea…

The View from Heaven

There’s something very important that we need to remember about God, according to the prayer Jesus taught us to pray.We need to remember where He is—He is in heaven. When we pray to God our prayers will fare better if we orient ourselves to God’s perspective.His viewpoint is from heaven.Ours is limited to earth.We have gravity, landfills, wars, rape (dare I go on?) to block our view.He sees all of that and more, but seeing it does not block His view of what is possible.He is not limited by gravity, landfills, wars, etc. When we pray to our God Who is in heaven, we are not praying to a god who is detached from earthly limitations.He is well aware of the painful realities that He never wanted for us.They break His heart more than ours because they never were a part of His loving, good plan from the beginning—yet when these painful realities became a part of the life He gave us, He gave us the remedy in His Son, Jesus Christ. Our God is in heaven.Jesus isn’t asking us to see God as separate…

God's Decisions

Sometimes it is hard to become a fan of God’s decisions.We don’t always understand them, especially when bad things happen.There are those times when something that you really wanted went to someone else, but the in the end you can see how you are better off without it.There are a whole lot of situations in life that just don’t make sense, no matter how you look. Thomas a Kempis makes it simple for us.He writes: It is best if we accept God’s decisions without complaint.Do not ask him to defend his actions, or to explain why one person is favored and another seems slighted.The answers to those questions go far beyond our comprehension.This is true, but it’s hard to get to this place.It is a place of great confidence in God. I believe that is why Jesus taught us to pray Hallowed Be Your Name.For our prayers to make any sense, we must come to a realization that God is above all thinking and reasoning.We must make room for an awareness for the utterly amazing quality of the God we are prayi…

The God They Gave You

In our efforts to open our hearts, minds and spirits to God in our lives, one of the major obstacles is the image of God we have unknowingly created.Thomas Keating says, The spiritual journey has a great difficulty in getting off to a good start if we are carrying a load of unexamined and unquestioned negative attitudes toward God.[i]      No one is immune.We each create an image of God out of our childish experiences and also through the way we saw our authority figures in our lives.That is not God.That is the God they gave you.Most often the spiritual journey is about breaking away from that God into ever broadening experiences. Jesus taught us to see God just as we see Him.He gives us a great tool and spiritual exercise that will aid us on our spiritual journey of knowing God for who He really is.Matthew 6:6,9 are parts of Jesus’ teaching about prayer, But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in sec…

Solid Rock

Jesus is our solid rock.Those words can roll off your tongue, especially if you are familiar with the Hymn—On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand!It’s quite another reality to let its truth sink into your mind and soul.Apparently God wanted to me have a rock lesson. When I was 16, I had my first experience of rock climbing and repelling in Wyoming.I wasn’t crazy about the climbing, but I loved repelling.After the terrifying moment you leap off the cliff, you find your fears relieved as you lunge into a great adventure.If you are willing to let go of your fears and trust the ropes to hold you, you can feel the thrill and freedom of defying gravity.I often refer to this experience in counseling people as I tell them the only way to feel God’s love is make the leap of faith.In repelling the ropes don’t feel like much assurance when you are standing on the cliff.It’s only when you step off the cliff that you realize how strong the ropes are to hold you.In an effort to repel every decade of my li…

Miracle Cure

My friend asked me to listen to some audio teaching about healing.She wanted me to help her evaluate the biblical foundations of what is being taught.It’s always a good idea to have someone else consider the teachings you are receiving, especially if they seem a little on the radical side. The thing about miracles is that Jesus did say that our faith is vital to experiencing them—some of the greatest faith around was from Gentiles who came to Jesus for healing (Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-28 and the Roman Centurion in Matthew 8:5-13). There are times when the person being healed is not mentioned to have faith (healing of paralyzed man in Luke 5:17-26), rather the healing results from the faith of the friends.Other times, faith is not attributed to anyone around or even the person being healed (as in the case of the man born blind in John 9 and the man at the pool of Bethesda in John 5:1-15).By the way, how ignorant of God can you be after he healed you from a lifetime disease?Appa…

What I Least Expected

Isn’t it just like God to show up in the place where you least expect Him?I did expect to feel a connection to God when I went to preview a movie that will be coming out on October 7 called The Way.I knew the basic plot of the movie—that it involved a grieving father and the well-known Christian pilgrimage across the country of Spain called The St. James Way (El Camino de Santiago).In fact, the pilgrimage has been on my list of dream trips What I least expected was to be so amazed by the real life faith expressed by the movie’s star Martin Sheen and to be impressed with the family connection and closeness experienced by Martin and his son Emilio Estevez (of Breakfast Club fame) the writer and director who also appears in the movie.This preview was arranged in Dallas where the Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez met with audiences after viewing the movie to discuss the story behind the movie.At the beginning of this conversation I was surprised that I would hear about real, vital faith and…