Sunday, April 16, 2017

Hold On


There’s no question in my mind that the disciples must have felt these
emotions as they watched Jesus being brutally crucified. What was going on? They gave up everything to follow this man and believed He was the Son of God – the promised Messiah!

Just days earlier, the people of Jerusalem lined the streets while shouting, "Hosanna!" with palm branches and shouts of joy as Jesus made His triumphant entry. But now, there He was, dying a humiliating and horrifying death on the cross. Some of those same people who had earlier hailed Him were now cursing Him and spitting on Him. Some were, along with the disciples, weeping over Him as they still had hope He might be their salvation, their King.

The disciples could not understand at that moment that all was well. They could not understand that the plan was going just as God designed from the beginning of time. At that moment, things looked so dark and discouraging to them…. but resurrection was coming.

Hope was around the corner. If only they had a glimpse of that coming glory!

Friends, if life seems hopeless, overwhelming or confusing, please hold on.

There must always be a death for a resurrection to come.

Death of a dream, death of a relationship, death of a habit that you feel you can never break or even death of our foolish pride – these are types of deaths we all experience in our lives every day.

If only we could have a glimpse of the coming glory! If only we could know that things will get better!

Maybe we cannot understand at those moments that all is well, that things are going just as God designed from the beginning of time. Things may look dark, difficult and discouraging…but resurrection is coming.

Yes, things looked hopeless the day Jesus took His last breath.
But resurrection came. 
And resurrection is coming for you, too.

Hold on.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What if?

This is a note to my friends who follow Jesus. I have had so much on my heart lately that I haven't even known what to say, how to speak, how much to share, how much not to share. It's a weird season for someone who loves communication! I think many of you are right there with me, though. This may take a few minutes, so do me a favor and pray before you read on and don't rush through it. Also, when you see a scripture, don't skip over it thinking you already know it (smile).

Friends, hear my heart when I ask you....

What if, in our desire to help "change the world", we are only making things worse?

What if what we are trying to do actually goes against God's perfect plan for us in such a time as this?

What if it's true that people don't change because someone else imposes morality on them, or because of rules or laws? 

We already know from personal experience that people change when hearts change. And how can hearts change if the focus is always on the outward behavior? Galatians 2:21 says, "I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die." And yet, we focus only on the law when we try to change people from the outside, in.

Of course, my heart's desire would be if the laws of the land lined up with the laws of God! What a beautiful day it will be when that happens! Let's keep in mind though, that even WE cannot keep all those laws perfectly. We know that will not happen completely until Christ returns. In the meantime, I am concerned that our focus is more on law and behavior modification than it is our most important calling of all - to love God and love othersJesus said in John 13:34, "So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.Just as He loved us. That means, in spite of sin. That means, in a broken and deceived state. That means no matter what - unconditional love. 

God knew that people would be most open to His ways and His gospel not through controversy, but through unity and love. He tells us in 1 Timothy 2:8, "In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy." 2 Timothy 2:23-24 reminds us, "Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights.  A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people."

Remember in Romans 2:4? That verse says, "Don't you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Can't you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?" Are we being kind or are we being condescending? Are we tolerating others or demanding that they change and be more like us? Are we patiently praying for and trusting God for their salvation? Are we pointing fingers at others but ignoring the thing that matters most? By the way, the thing that matters most? Love. 
Personally, I'm too aware of my own sin to throw judgment on anyone (Matthew 7:2 makes it clear that the judgment I give to others is the measuring stick that I am judged thanks). Even Jesus didn't come to judge, but He came to save the world from their sin. (John 3:17) That includes me and you.

However, as children of God who have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, we now have God's Spirit, which gives us the ability and desire to obey His Word. Ezekiel 36:26-27 says, "And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations."

Don't miss this: He put His Spirit in us so that we can follow His decrees and be careful to obey His regulations. That means, before this happened, we were unable to do this. People who have not accepted Christ are literally incapable of obeying God's laws that we want to impose on them. It's almost like we are trying to get them to obey our Father, but they don't live in our household. It's crazy to think that when we focus on something they cannot understand or accept, that we could change their hearts. No, only He can change a heart.

Billy Graham said it best when he said,  
"It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict, God's job to judge and my job to love."

Galatians 2:16 says, "We know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Jesus Christ, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For not one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law."  No, actually, people are made right with God and then (and only then) are capable of obeying the law. (On a side note - take a few moments to read all of Galatians 2 if you can - woo baby!!)
Oh, my friends. I am not saying that we lay down and accept things the way they are.  I am
saying just the opposite. But what if getting up and doing something looks different that we thought? What if doing something means we stop being so angry about what is going on around us and started taking inventory of our own hearts? Are we loving people or shoving people? Are we listening or do we just want them to shut up and hear us? Are we showing God's kindness in our lives?  

What if, in the pursuit of holiness and justice, we realized that our hearts are in desperate need of healing, too? 

What if, instead of arguing and shouting, we remember that nobody is ultimately accountable to us, but to God

What if, even though we really thought we were right about something, we realized in humility and admitted that we could be wrong? 

How can we show others His kindness today so that when that day inevitably comes for them, they will hear, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."? 

So what now?!

Here are some practical, Biblical things we can do to show God's kindness and love to others. Once you read through them, if you have any other scriptures you want to share in the comments, please do!

Colossians 3:12-15 "Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in perfect peace. And always be thankful."  

Colossians 4:5-6 "Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive, so that you will have the right response for everyone."

1 Peter 3:13-17 "Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. 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. But do this in a gentle and respectful way.  Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.  Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!"

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Learning to Wait

Whatever we need in today’s world of convenience can be had within minutes, if not seconds. We definitely live in the age of instant gratification.
Need to talk to someone? Pick up the phone. No need for wires anymore. No cords. No dials. 
Need something to eat? Fast food. Microwaves. Boxed, prepared dinners. No need to wait. (We won't get into how unhealthy this can be...that's another blog!)
Want to get caught up on the news? Turn on the TV. Or the computer. Within seconds, you’re all caught up.
Folks, we are losing our ability to wait. And it’s killing us spiritually.
Let’s think for a moment…
Noah waited 120 years from the moment he started to build the ark to the moment God brought the first rain drop.
The Israelites waited 430 years in captivity to the Egyptian nation before God rose Moses up to lead them out of their slavery.
There was no word from God for 400 years until Jesus Christ finally came and fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies as the Messiah.
That’s a lot of waiting. 
A lot of years. Centuries, in fact! We can miss the years and years of waiting as we quickly turn the pages of our Bibles in these stories. But don’t you just wonder what those times of waiting must have been like? Clearly, the promise was not forgotten and there was always a remnant of faithful believers who stayed focused on the promise, while living in what seemed to be silence. But I believe there were many who began to doubt.
Are you waiting on something? I know the struggle of waiting. 
Waiting on a phone call from a doctor with a biopsy result. 
Waiting for a word about whether or not I was being offered a job. 
Waiting on an update from family about a sick loved one.
Waiting on God to handle a situation where I saw injustice. 
I’m still waiting on some loved ones to trust in Jesus Christ.
Some things we wait for are serious and some are just the fulfillment of a dream. Sometimes we’re waiting for God to act when we’ve seen and experienced terrible injustice. 
We often have to wait on God. I’m beginning to realize that in that wait, God is allowing us to be tested. He is growing our faith. He is preparing hearts around us and He’s preparing our own heart, too. He is lining up His perfect timing. 
Sometimes He even gives us an answer we do not want to accept after we wait - but we can trust He is protecting us and lining up His plan in the midst of our heartbreak. God is good. Our disappointments and times of waiting do not change that fact.
The Psalms and Proverbs have beautiful scriptures on how we can wait:
Wait honestly:
I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me. Psalm 69:3
Wait quietly:
I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him. Psalm 62:1
Wait hopefully:
I am worn out waiting for your rescue, but I have put my hope in your word. Psalm 119:81
Wait patiently:
I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry. Psalm 40:1
Wait courageously:
Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalm 27:14
Wait expectantly:
Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:30
Whatever you are waiting for, I want to encourage you to keep believing and use this time of waiting to draw near to God, to learn to trust Him in new ways, asking Him to prepare your heart for the answer. Wait honestly, expressing your feelings to God during those times of weariness. Wait quietly, not complaining to anyone who will listen. Wait hopefully, knowing God hears and God has a plan. Wait patiently, trusting God’s timing is perfect (and usually not the same as ours!). Wait courageously, not fearfully or doubting. Wait expectantly, knowing God is working and He hears you. 
Yes, you can have instant gratification when it comes to waiting on God. But not in the way you might think. You see, it depends on where you choose to place your focus. If you are focusing on what you’re waiting for, you will be disappointed and will not have that instant gratification you’ve probably come to expect in today’s world. 
But if your focus is on God and knowing Him in a deeper way, you will be fully satisfied - instantly - as you seek His face, His purposes and His will. 
Come to think of it, that may just be what you’ve actually been waiting for all along.
Isaiah 30:18 So the Lord must wait for you to come to Him so He can show you His love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for His help.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Is God On Our Side?

When we were talking with the press prior to playing Survivor in China, I was approached by a reporter who was a little cynical about my faith in God.  He mockingly asked me "So...since you're the 'Christian' of the group, does that mean God is on your side?" (then he snickered)  I thought for a moment and then said, "Sir, God is on everyone's side.  I just happen to be on His."  He nodded, the smile left his face and then he said "I hope you do really well, but I don't think you will.  This is a tough game for a girl like you."

As I reflect on that conversation, I must say that I remember thinking he was probably right.  I knew God was on my side.  It didn't mean I would win the million dollars, be the best Survivor player ever or that everyone would love me. God's ways often do not line up with the world's ways. His definition of success is way different. God was not interested in having me "win" or be "successful" in the world's eyes.  He was more concerned with my character and helping me become more like His Son.  I don't have to impress Him, I just have to trust Him.

I did have an amazing, challenging, difficult, beautiful and painful experience in China. It changed my life in so many ways, I've lost count. He gave me opportunities to share His truth, play a game I wanted to play for many years and to this day He still uses that experience to grow me, shape me and challenge me. I'm pretty sure He will continue to use it the rest of my life. I was voted out third, but God was on my side. And He was by my side, too.

He still is.

I listened to the song, "You Are On Our Side" by Bethany Dillon over and over again prior to the game starting and it really spoke to my heart, so I'm sharing it with you below. I am pretty sure it had a lot to do with my quick, heart-felt response I gave to that reporter. It was a song God placed in my heart for "such a time as this".

God loves you, too.  He's on your side.  No matter what you've done.  He loves the widow, the poor, the thief, the whore, the sinner, the saint, the rich....all of us.  The question is not "Is God on my side?"  But rather..."Am I on His?" He is captured by us.  Will we be captured by Him?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

How to Conquer Evil Without Weapons

There's no denying that there is a lot of evil in the world. We see it all over the place and frankly, it can get downright discouraging. But what if there was something we could do to fight the evil without lifting a weapon? Without shouting and screaming or pointing fingers? Without being angry and bitter?

Romans 12:21 says, "Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good."  Among all the fighting, warring, name calling and demoralizing that we are doing  with each other in the world, the Book of Wisdom, God's Word, tells us there is a better way to fight evil. We are to "do good". 

Don't know where to start? Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Students need tutors.
  • Shut-ins need visitors.
  • Sick people need someone to pick up their medicine or take them to appointments.
  • Demoralized people need someone to listen.
  • Pastors & their spouse need encouragement.
  • Ministries need volunteers.
  • Church nurseries, Sunday school and youth groups are desperate for workers who will keep their commitments.
  • Hungry people need food.
  • Unloved people need love.
  • Everyone needs a spiritual mentor.
  • Discouraged people need prayer and support.
  • Elderly friends need rides to run errands and company.
  • Teenagers need guidance & love.
  • Missionaries need financial support, letters of encouragement & care packages.
  • Service Men & Women could use a care package or a letter of encouragement.
  • Everyone needs prayer.
I could go on...and on. But you can clearly see that there's plenty that you can do to fight the evil in this world without weapons, being angry, bitter or demoralizing. God's ways are always best. Pick something on this list or ask Him to show you how you can overcome evil in this world with good - right in your own community!

And watch how He begins to change the world - one good deed at a time.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Religious Rehab

I used to cringe when I saw people with tattoos.  I confess it made me uncomfortable.  I was told that the only people who got tattoos were people who went to prison. When someone would say a "bad word" I would shake my head in dismay.  Drinking alcohol made you a sinner, dancing was for the ungodly and if you wore jeans or shorts of any kind, you were not a real "Christian lady".

In middle school, I was in an extremely legalistic and religious church and from an early age I was told that behavior modification was a big, huge deal and that if you didn't have the right behavior you were to be shunned or avoided.  So I acted accordingly.

Then I rebelled.

I would still pretend to be a "good Christian girl" on Sundays and at youth group activities, but I began making choices that did not line up with the expectation of my church when I wasn't there. I felt like everything I did was judged and I honestly couldn't measure up. Eventually, by the time I reached college, I ran from church.  All the rules were weighing me down.  Religion without relationship always equals rebellion.  All the judgment was making me cynical.  Something was missing and I knew it. I had it backwards. I was trying to change from the outside in, but God wanted to change me from the inside out.

Ezekiel 36:26 tells us that God wants to give us a new heart.  He wants to remove our old, stony, stubborn heart and replace it with a "heart of flesh".  He will put His Spirit in us so that we can obey.  This tells me something huge.  If His Spirit is not in us, we will not obey.  I mean, we can pretend to change.  We can't really obey from our heart though.  We just have an outward behavior modification program of sorts.  It will never last.  If our hearts don't change, our behavior may change on the outside, but all that religion on the inside will eventually lead to rebellion.

In 2003, I gave my heart to Christ and He replaced it with a new heart.  This one wants to obey.  This one doesn't want to judge, shun or wag my finger at anyone.  This one loves deeply.  This one is super-natural and it's Christ in me - the Hope of Glory! This heart knows that an outward appearance of "godliness" doesn't always mean that person is "holier" than another. God is not as concerned with our outward behavior as He is with our heart condition.  If we have pristine behavior, but our heart is still made of stone, God is not impressed.  If we have a new heart of flesh, given to us by Christ, but our behavior is still a work in progress, God is pleased.  It goes against all we think we know!

What's worse?  Someone with tattoos who is still addicted to alcohol but loves his neighbor as himself and pursues Jesus or the one who has a "clean life" and is told to love his neighbor as himself and doesn't?  We usually shun those who do the latter, but isn't it a sin to overlook the addicted and afflicted?  It's so sad to me how we often reject those who are changed more on the inside than they really look on the outside yet, but we open our arms to the ones who are cleaned up on the outside, but are loveless, gossiping and judgmental.  Which one do you suppose Jesus would approve of? (If you still aren't sure you know the answer, read this.)

I do believe God is still working that false religion out of my heart, though.  It's like "religious rehab" of sorts.  Every day I realize I'm still stuck in some of my old thought patterns.  It's a little different now, though.  Now, I find I'm pretty judgmental toward the religious folks. The ones who are still shutting people out.  The ones who are turning people away because of how they look or what they do.  But my being judgmental toward the "judgmental" isn't good, either.  They are only doing what they have been taught to do and they really think they are doing what is right. They are misguided.

Oh, Lord, help me.

There's quite a few of us who have been so "religionized" that we've lost sight of what really matters.  Jesus came to save the broken and the lost, not the ones who think they have it all together.  Even though my new heart does not want to do the same old habits of judging, finger wagging and being cynical, I still do them sometimes.  But it grieves my heart.  And I want to change.  Because Christ has changed me from the inside out, I realize He is constantly changing my heart for people and I want to do things that please Him. He has changed me (and continues to change me) from the inside out.

We all need Jesus.  We are all messed up in some way.  We all have sins we are dealing with.  Are we so worried about being "God's Gestapos" and pointing out the sins of others than we are not allowing Him to show us our own sin?

Oh, Lord, help us all.

You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things...Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God's judgment when you do the very same things? Don't you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to do you? Can't you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?  (Romans 2:1, 3-4)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Yes, I Got a Tattoo Today!

Today I got my first tattoo! Some of you just gasped in horror and others of you want to fist bump me and welcome me into the club. I know the drill.  Actually, I've wanted this tattoo since 2007, the year I was on Survivor China. I wanted to share my "why" before I shared the photo of how it turned out.

I will start my story with a journal entry I wrote just before we were released into the Chinese jungle on Survivor.  We were in China, but we were not playing the game yet (we had about a week or so before the game started but we were not allowed to talk or form relationships).  I wrote in my journal to pass the time and to try to remember every moment as my dream was unfolding.  This particular journal entry really touches my heart...
June 21, 2007
I’m really getting anxious to begin this adventure called Survivor! Can’t wait to get things moving. I must say I’m enjoying the quietness and peace though. I spent some time outside, overlooking the water in the lagoon today and listened to worship music. It’s so beautiful here. I feel like the dragonflies (which are everywhere!) have some significance but I can’t put my finger on it. They remind me of God’s presence and protection for some reason. It’s a strange and yet such a beautiful feeling.
Days later, after I wrote this, I had to giggle when I was placed on the Fei Long tribe, which translated in Chinese means "Flying Dragon". Sure, it could be a coincidence but I don't really believe in coincidences. After all, God is sovereign!

I noticed dragonflies reflect the sun's light beautifully. Their wings almost look like a rainbow in the sun's reflective light, which reminded me of a promise God made back in the days of Noah. I saw many of them at our camp and if you watch the China season of Survivor, you will notice several times where they got an up-close shot of a dragonfly with the camera.

A couple of weeks after I returned from China, I went to visit my sister, Marie in Minnesota. We went up to her husband's family lake house for a few days and while we were sitting in the back yard talking, I saw hundreds of dragonflies again. I told Marie about how I had seen so many in China and showed her the journal entry where I talked about how there was something about them that made me feel God's presence and protection. Just then, as I sat in the grass in the yard discussing my journal entry, a dragonfly landed on my left foot. It just sat there. I was speechless. Then, as if on cue, another one landed on my sister's left foot - in the same exact location! I'm not even kidding. We didn't move and we both held our breath as we watched them sit for about thirty seconds before they both flew off at the same time. We giggled like little school girls who had just been noticed by the good looking quarterback! In that instant we decided that one day, we would tattoo this moment on our feet as a reminder of the beauty of that moment. As if that wasn't cool enough....

I was in Nashville a few months later and Steve Brown with Key Life radio was there delivering a Keynote speech. It was a Christian Radio Broadcasters Conference. He mentioned the dragonfly and when he did, my ears perked up. He was talking about how he read a great book called Brother to a Dragonfly by Will Campbell. He said that Will compares the dragonfly to a brother in Christ. Here's what he said:

Once the dragonfly comes out of the depths and darkness of the deep waters, they are exposed to a whole new world. A waterless world where they can fly and be free! They fly around a bit but then go back and hover over the water, trying to get down to where those they love are stuck in the darkness of the deep water to tell them "Hey! You can fly too! Come out and experience this new life!"

It's like the dragonfly can't help himself. He has seen and tasted what life can be like when he emerged from the darkness, and as if by instinct he can't help but go back to tell others. I can totally relate!

Tears streamed down my face as I realized that those dragonflies in China served as a reminder to me that maybe, just maybe, God had me there because He knows I've got a desire to let people know that there is freedom in the Light. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I reflect the Son's light - just like dragonflies reflect the sun's light.
Marie is on the left - I am on the right. 

This is my heart - to reach those who are living in darkness and show them the truth of Jesus Christ and the freedom that He brings to us when we trust in Him and follow Him. "Come out! Look - there is freedom in this new life - you don't have to live in the deep darkness anymore!"

I should know, I came from deep darkness, too. But now I'm free to fly - free to soar like wings of eagles and experience the freedom in my life that I never knew was possible. Why wouldn't I want to tell others? It's like an instinct. And now, my sister and I get to share this story with everyone who asks us about our dragonfly tattoo on our left foot.  We have been deeply impacted by something and our tattoos are a beautiful invitation to others to ask us about a moment in our lives that took our breath away. And we can share the love of Christ at the same time.

That is why I got a tattoo. :) And I love it.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Busy Signal

Remember the "busy signal"? Ugh. It was so frustrating. Back in the day before our precious little "cell phones", we had to make phone calls on a phone attached to a wall (Egads!) and when we would try to call someone, this obnoxious "beep...beep...beep..." blasted into our ear to let us know that whomever we were trying to reach, well, they're just too "busy" for us right now. It's interesting to me that we never hear the busy signal anymore, yet I would venture to say that our lives reflect more busyness than ever with all of our electronic devices at our fingertips. These days, if you want to reach someone, you will never hear that obnoxious sound.

This morning I was trying to focus in my quiet time with the Lord but first I decided I would open my computer to check my email since I get several quality devotionals sent to my inbox each morning.  I love reading them.  The only problem is, often when I open my laptop, I get sucked into distraction and before I realize it, my "quiet time" has turned into anything but quiet time.  I mean, the room is quiet, but my mind is not.  I've checked my email, my facebook, my twitter and I've caught up with the world's news.  But that time spent, quiet in the presence of Almighty God, is absent and I feel it in my spirit.  I begin to grieve.  I've done it again.  My bible is lying right beside me, unopened.  My heart sinks.

Maybe that is why I feel like when God is ready to "download" some important truths, some foundational precepts, into my heart and mind but He keeps finding a busy signal.  My mind is busy.  So busy, in fact, that I often forget what I'm doing and go off on little rabbit trails in my mind that take me far from the presence of God.  

I read this verse the other day and it sent shivers up my spine:  Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink He will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear Him. Right behind you a voice will say, "This is the way you should go", whether to the right or to the left.  Then you will destroy all of your silver idols and your precious gold images. You will throw them out like filthy rags, saying to them, "Good riddance!" (Isaiah 30:20-22)

So...what was it about this verse that sent shivers up my spine?  Well, it was the part that says, then you will destroy all of your silver idols...".  My MacBook Pro is silver, and it's an idol to me when I choose to spend time with it before I spend time with my God.  Isaiah was saying that once you've experienced the presence of God and the leading of God, you will do away with those silver idols out of a pure desire to hear from Him.  Granted, I'm pretty sure he wasn't talking about a computer in the year 2016, but you get the idea. Once you've tasted what it's like to be in the presence of God, nothing else can compare!  

Please hear me here: I don't believe computers are bad at all - but I do believe that when we choose to use them over spending time with God, that is wrong.  It eats my time up like a moth on cloth.  It distracts me and prevents me from experiencing true intimacy with God.  So, at times, it is my "silver idol" and it must be destroyed. 

Now, please don't think this is as drastic as it sounds.  I'm not going to go blow up my MacBook Pro.  I'm not even going to get rid of it - I need it for the work I do.  But today I'm going to promise God in the presence of those who read my blog, that I will not open it until I've spent my quiet time with Him.  I can feel the difference on those days when He is first and I need that daily.  I'm deceiving myself if I think for one moment that I can do this without Him!  I need the accountability and I need the focus. 

I know He has much to show me and download into my heart and mind and until the busy signal is gone, it will evade me.  So I'm going to free up the line.  I'm going to free up my heart.  I'm going to free up my ears to hear from Him.  Once I've heard from Him, I know I can freely open my silver MacBook Pro and as I hear from the world, my facebook friends, my tweeters and the news, I will be hearing it through the filter of His Truth.

I can already hear Him saying, "I have so much more for you.  You only have to be still and listen." 

So the Lord must wait for you to come to Him so He can show you His love and compassion. For the LORD is a faithful God.  Blessed are those who wait for His help.  (Isaiah 30:18)

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Magic Kingdom

This is a post I wrote a few years ago. Something inside of me wanted to share it with you again today. As we all plan our fun, family vacations this summer may we always remember that the BEST is yet to come....

Let the memories begin!  Disney's motto is written all over the flags that adorn the outside of their theme parks.  We were giddy with anticipation on the outside gates of Disney's Magic Kingdom at about ten minutes until opening time while we slathered sunscreen all over us and prepared for a day of fun as we park-hopped all across the four theme parks.  We decided this would be the cheapest way to experience the parks - and yet it still cost us an arm and a leg for four people.  We'd better have fun! 

Memories of my childhood came flooding back to me like a tidal wave.  We spent a lot of time at Disney when I was a kid - but it was the one over in California (Disney Land).  I teared up a bit as the Mayor came out, along with all of the Princesses and characters waving and welcoming all of us at the gates as we counted down from ten to one and the gates magically opened to our day of fantasy and adventure!

We squeezed through the narrow gates of the park entrance with thousands of other people who imagined this might be a good week to come, since it wouldn't be so crowded (yeah, right - it's Disney!) and were face to face with Main Street USA.  All the people who were working in the stores were standing outside in their fun and bright costumes, waving and smiling - so happy to see us!  

It was all so "perfect".  Walt Disney has managed to tap into something inside of each of us that few people have managed to tap into.  What is it?  Fantasy?  Dreams?  Wishes?  Magic?  It's amazing to me that Walt Disney was fired from a job as a young man for not being creative enough. There's something about this place that makes everyone who goes there turn into a fool to experience it.  We spend outlandish amounts of money for this experience.  We travel great distances.  We purchase over-priced food and souvenirs.  We walk at least ten miles in a day and endure crowds of people that would normally make us run for the hills.  There was even a recent news story of a woman who tried to sell her newborn baby for $15,000 to take her other children to Disney World.  Unbelievable.  I'm telling you - this is powerful.  I'm intrigued.  

As the morning progressed, we found ourselves looking around as we stood in long lines, watching small kids come unglued as they were tired, hot and done with all the "fun".  People were getting frustrated and complaining about the heat, the crowds, the waiting, the price.  Then a minute later they would pose with a Disney character and all would be well - everyone smiling.  

I know I may seem cynical and I sincerely apologize if it seems that way.  But I am really struggling to understand what it is that we are all drawn to in this fantasy world that doesn't really exist?  Where is the authenticity of this fantasy land?  Is it that what we're drawn to, after all - a place where everything seems perfect and filled with joy, laughter and unity?  If so...why are we looking here?

Friends, as much fun as we had in between the frustrating parts of our Disney trip the other day (and I will admit - it was fun - I'm not trying to deny that!), The Magic Kingdom has nothing - and I mean nothing - on The Kingdom of God.  And His Kingdom is one that lasts forever.  I'll never have to go back.  That is something I'm willing to be a fool for.  I suppose that's why I do what I do - speak and write about His Kingdom.  I think this is why Walt Disney was able to tap into that place in all of us that has made his earthly kingdom very rich...we all have a place in our hearts and souls that longs for this Kingdom.

Oh, friend, can't you see it?  Listen....everyone is eager to enter into God's Kingdom and it can only be entered through a narrow gate, but must be entered into by those who are like children (Matt. 5:3, Matt. 7:13 & Luke 16:16) It is goodness and peace and joy - only it's authentic because it's based on God's Spirit, not a fake smile given by someone who's not really feeling joy down deep (Romans 14:17).  It's a place where we will share in God's glory and be where Jesus Christ is (not a fantasy land with a pretend mouse that has a squeaky voice) and it will be unshakable and will stand forever! (1 Thess. 2:12, Hebrews 12:28, 2 Peter 1:11; Daniel 2:44).

Maybe the reason Walt Disney is such a genius is because he's discovered how to market that void in all of us that screams for filling from God and he's shown that when it's tapped into, people are willing to do just about anything to fill it.  It's a place that God put inside of each of us so we would search for Him.  Disney is an expensive and temporary substitute that satisfies us only for a moment...but it can never replace that void inside all of us that is specifically there for God's Kingdom.  We yearn for it with everything in us...and though it cost Jesus everything to offer us this Kingdom, it won't cost us a cent. He just wants our heart.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Do We All Pray to the Same God?

During one of my radio interviews after my appearance on Survivor, one of the announcers at a radio station said to me, "I consider myself a Christian, but I must say I was very disappointed in you for leaving that Buddhist ceremony on Survivor. I mean, we all pray to the same God, right? Would Jesus really have been upset with you for bowing to Buddha and praying?"

I thought about that question. I mean, I suppose you could say some religions do appeal to the same God - God Almighty. However, if you believe that the Bible is God's Word to us, it is very clear that Jesus Christ said in John 14:6, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life - no man comes to the Father except through Me."  He didn’t say “A way, A truth or A life,” He clearly said He is the way, the truth and the life. That tells me there is no other.

So my answer was just that. I told her that we may appeal and pray to the same God, but since the Bible is clear that Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life - no man comes to the Father except through Me," then we need to understand that not everyone is getting through. The only way to get to God is through Jesus.  Jesus is our Mediator!  Without Him, we may have good intentions, but our prayers will not get through.

As I thought about my conversation with the radio host later in the day, I realized that I've actually heard it said a lot - we all pray to the same God, so why aren't we accepting of one another's religions and beliefs and let people do what they feel they want to do.  We are told not to let it divide us, to just allow them to believe what they want to believe.  This is a way to be accepting and tolerant, they add.  

Can I just say that I am so glad that my friends did not allow me to continue to believe that my way was working!  Oh, but by God's grace He sent these precious people into my life to challenge what I thought was true.  I'm so thankful they risked everything to share His truth with me. I could have turned them down, shut them out of my life and ignored them. But I didn't.  The risk of losing me as a friend was nothing to them compared to the importance of showing me the truth. What a gift!

Jesus Christ said, "I did not come to bring peace, but to divide" (Luke 12:51). Why would He say something like that? Perhaps He knew that we would have to take a stand at some point and say that He is the only Way - and not everyone would agree with us, therefore causing divisions. I believe this breaks His heart, but it's something we see every day. It comes down to this important point: Do I believe the Bible is the Word of God, completely true and reliable and that Jesus Christ is who He said He is? If I do believe, then I know that the scriptures are true. HE is the Only Way. Yes, sometimes it will divide.  But sometimes it will show someone we love the important, life-saving truth that Jesus Christ is the only way to God.

It's time to take a stand for truth. That doesn't mean imposing my beliefs on others, or arguing; but it does mean I should be very confident in my beliefs and not afraid to speak truth (with gentleness and respect - 1 Peter 3:16) when necessary.  I didn't get into an "I'm right and you're wrong" argument with the radio host, but I just spoke the Word of God and let it speak for itself. I remembered that Jesus "opened not His mouth" (Isaiah 53:7) when confronted by others. I hope that it planted a seed in her heart. God’s Word has a way of doing that, you know.

Is there a situation in your life today where you may need to take a stand?  Are you willing to stand up and speak truth (in love), even if it means you might be rejected? Jesus is not asking us to do anything He wasn’t willing to do Himself.  Isaiah 53:3 says He was despised and rejected by men.  But we all know that in spite of how it was initially received by people, His stand for truth has opened the door for many to follow Him and have a restored relationship with God through His sacrifice. When asked why He came, Jesus simply said, "I have come to testify to the truth."

Truth wins, friends. Never be afraid to stand for it. 

Got Questions?