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Posts Tagged ‘Mighty God’

4197o3w9xeL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_[1]I recently read After Easter by Jeremy R. Howard and Doug Powell and this is a review of the book.

This may seem a little late since Easter is long past, but truthfully you could read this book anytime and be amazed all over again by the miracle of the cross.

A new Christian will read this book and journey from the Garden to the Cross, gaining a good understanding of how the whole redemption story came to be. A seasoned Christian will read the book and be refreshed in remembering the significance of why the Son of God had to die. Both will be humbled again by the realization that He did it for us.

I like how this book gives scriptural and scientific evidence for the events that led to the empty tomb, and even gives clear details of how the early church began and took the mission of Christ seriously.

The book can be read in a short period time but that certainly doesn’t indicate it is shallow. Quite the opposite. The depth of detail contained in its 60 pages is amazing. I would highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to boost their witnessing ability. It would make a nice gift and should certainly be in every church library.

I am a Lifeway/B&H blogger and received a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

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We hear the word ‘glory’ so often it sometimes becomes a bit hard to define in the spiritual term. What is image[1]glory anyway? Can you truly see glory? And if you can – how would you describe it?

I love our motorcycle rides this time of year because the beauty in the landscape is just breathtaking. So all week I was looking forward to Saturday. Imagine my disappointment when I woke to fog and mist shrouding everything. However, this does not deter my husband in anyway so we leathered up. I always pray at the beginning of the ride for God to show me something amazing along the way. Yesterday I prayed especially for God to show me glory despite the fog and dark skies. (Honestly, I figured in order for Him to answer this prayer He would have no choice but to do away with the fog and give me sunshine and clear skies. How clever of me, right?)

We were just a few minutes on the road when the skies did open up to what promised to be a gorgeous day and I thought, now that’s glory – blue skies, sunshine and a wispy cloud now and then.

But down the road a few miles the fog set in again and pretty soon all we could see was well – fog with a few shadowy tree outlines buried within. We decided to keep going hoping things would change. (I can smile when I say that because my trusty electric jacket was keeping me toasty despite the chill in the air.) As we started over Blewitt Pass things did change. There were places where the sun would break through for a few minutes and shine on the rich autumn landscape and I thought to myself, now that’s glory.

Then the fog would close in again. We came around one corner and though we were still in fog, there was one spot where a break allowed sunlight to come through like a spotlight. You could see the rays radiating down and where they touched on a patch of meadow the colors were enhanced in such a way they shimmered – green grass touched with moisture, red and gold trees surrounding the patch. But it was better than that – standing right in the middle of the scene was a soft eyed doe, just frozen there enjoying the beauty. And – it was even better than that because at her feet was a small pool of rainwater and her reflection was clear as day. And I thought – now that’s glory.

We moved on, the mist closed in again. But a few miles down the road the fog was gone and brilliant sunlight highlighted the amazing fall landscape of red and gold and green and yellow and every shade in between. And I thought – now that is really glory.

But coming around a corner there was a stand of trees that hadn’t even begun to turn. They were still green and lush as if they had ignored the change in the weather. Right in the middle of that stand of green was one small maple – every leaf the brightest yellow. Kissed by brilliant sunlight it was almost blinding. And I thought – that truly is glory.

The realization suddenly came to me that glory is not in a beautiful landscape or the sun or the moon or the stars – the glory is that God chooses to reveal Himself through these things. Glory is in the fact that with our common human eyes – we can see God in the things around us He created. All things move and breathe and shine and shimmer because of Him. We won’t see glory in all its fullness until we meet Him face to face. But in His mercy He gives us glimpses and tastes and touches along the way.

We live life in a fog of busyness, stress, pressure, grief, bitterness, fear, anger, troubling news headlines, soaring highs and plunging lows. The only way we will see glory day to day is to choose to see it. We must believe God is always just a mind shift away waiting to show us He is bigger and better, more powerful, life giving, battle winning, promise keeping and hope shining in the dark. He is the beauty around every bend in the road.

Even more amazing about God and His glory – not only do we get to see it, but we get to be it. Matthew 5:16 says “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

We are to be the small maple among the forest of evergreen, standing out and shining that blinding light of Christ in us to a lost, broken, dark and suffering world. What a gift! What a privilege! What an amazing God to come up with a plan like that.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

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imagesQARDRAR3Having just finished our first and very successful Community Outreach Harvest Party at church I’ve been contemplating all the parts and pieces, comments and participation that made up this event.

It was a ton of work. Planning meetings and prep and set up just about did me in. And then just keeping things running on the day of the event challenged us all.

It took a ton of prayer and faith. You never know how these things will go. You can invest a lot of time and money and see no result or you can plan for a few and end up with a bunch.

It took a ton of courage. My least favorite thing in the whole world (with the exception of peas and squash) is going door to door to hand out flyers. But – I did it and found it not nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be.

It took a ton of risk. We risked doing away with our regular Sunday morning church service to move out of the building into the parking lot to try to catch the attention of the neighbors. But just like in the stock market, sometimes risk pays off. And it did with this event. We had fun and made contact with several families we otherwise would not have.

The biggest lesson for me and I hope for others was – church isn’t all about a nice comfortable seat in a nice sterile sanctuary where you sit back and get fed. Just consider the early church and the effort it took to get it going.

In order for the first churches to get off the ground 2000 years ago, a ton of work went into the preparation. The disciples had to plan long journeys on foot, by boat and maybe on horseback. They had to map out the most efficient route and plan for finding provision and shelter along the way. A mission trip back then wasn’t jump on a plane and be on the mission field in a few hours. It took months, years even, just to get where they were going.

The startup churches took a ton of prayer and faith. After all, they were trying to change hundreds of years of tradition and belief, ritual and law. They were leaving loved ones behind, possibly to never see them again. They didn’t have a Bible to carry along with them to pull out scripture when they needed it. They were speaking the words that would become the Bible and they were praying they got it right.

To preach the word and start up new church cells took a ton of courage for sure. As evidenced in scripture, the disciples suffered much for spreading the gospel. They were beaten, imprisoned, spit on, mocked and even martyred. No doubt their families suffered as well by association.

And without doubt, risk was involved. What if no one listened? What if their friends and family turned against them? What if, what if, what if? They experienced the misinterpretation of what they had preached and had to go back and re-teach. They ministered in violent times – where the innocent were tried and convicted and crucified. Many of them had seen that firsthand!

The early church services were held on hillsides, beside sick beds, under open skies and hidden away in secret sanctuaries. They happened on stormy seas, on sandy beaches, and on crowded streets. Wherever the Word of God was offered – be it verbally or through a smile or a healing touch, by laughter and fellowshipping with the Godly men who made it their mission to teach, through soft words of comfort in tough times or shouts of joy in a baptismal stream – wherever, church happened.

The only place it probably didn’t happen back then was in cushioned chairs surrounded by painted walls and controlled temperatures.

Even though we didn’t have “church” as we have come to know it last Sunday, as my pastor said, “We were church – to the friends and neighbors who came and saw God’s people reaching out.”

Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. Luke 14:23

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images7SXM6CQUI recently returned from a 12 day motorcycle trip that encompassed over 4,500 miles and a full range of sights and weather. Since it was in the upper 90’s when we left Yakima, I almost considered leaving my electric jacket home. But – praise the Lord, I changed my mind.

We hit rain as soon as we hit Montana. Our plan was to spend three or four days in that state but, after two solid days of drizzly, chilly rain we changed our plans and headed south. I’ve never seen the Utah National Parks and have always wanted to. My brother-in-law was riding with us and he is a great travel companion as well as a wonderful tour guide. He’s spent a lot of time in Zion, Bryce, Arches and the rest of that area so I knew it would be a great experience.

I also counted on better weather. After all it was the desert. Warm and dry had to happen, right? Wrong. We spent three days touring the parks and those three days racked up record rainfall for that part of the country. Just my luck.
Instead of looking like a cute biker chick, I looked like the Pillsbury doughboy in my multi-layered attire (undershirt, long sleeved shirt, sweatshirt, vest, electric jacket, leather jacket and rain gear).

Not that we didn’t see some beautiful sights. There were sun breaks now and then but very little clear sky and plenty of storm clouds moving in and moving out. On our third day we were in Moab, Utah and we woke to an absolute downpour. Water was running in rivers down the street and the sky was very dark with no sign of clearing any time soon.

I was not happy. I had been praying for better weather and I’d even elicited the prayers of friends back home. But God hadn’t answered – at least not in the way I wanted Him to. I was more than a little disappointed in His response In fact, I caught myself being a little ‘gritchy’ with Him, reminding Him I only get one real vacation in a year and I needed it to fill my expectations which were relaxing and staying warm and dry. Was that too much to ask?

We had to rebook the hotel for one more night because it was too dangerous to travel on a bike. By mid-afternoon we were tired of sitting around and my brother-in-law consulted his trusty weather app, noting that a clearing was forecast for a few hours before another storm moved in. We decided to leather up, throw in the rain gear and take our chances. The weather did improve and we actually had sunshine by the time we reached Arches National Park. We pulled into a viewpoint, pulled off our coats because the temperature was rising rapidly, and began to explore.

That rainbow of reds and golds is truly beautiful in the sunlight and we were met with breathtaking sights at every turn. There’s something thrilling about climbing around on those huge sandstone rocks and peering into crevices and arches. I was itching to follow a trail of rock cairns and talked my brother-in-law into accompanying me. He kept reminding me that the farther down into the hole we climbed the more difficult the trip back would be. But I couldn’t stop. Those markers just drew me.

Thank goodness they did because after about 15 minutes of hiking we rounded a corner and were met with a most astounding sight – a waterfall. Now how rare is that – finding a waterfall in the desert? And it wasn’t just a waterfall. Evidently it was an area that collects any kind of moisture that comes along because it was a real life oasis with a tree and some grass and some blooming plants. Surrounded by dry sandstone for as far as you could see, it stood out in brilliant shades of green and just took your breath away.

I had to sit down on a rock and admire the miracle. The thought came to me that a waterfall in the desert doesn’t happen without rainfall in the desert. In fact, I never would have experienced such an amazing sight had I not suffered through three days of wet riding!

And isn’t that just like God to answer your prayer in a completely unexpected, refreshing, soul stirring way with a not so subtle reminder that He always comes through, the storm always passes, the sun always comes out and the reward of staying the course is worth the painful journey.

My desert encounter made me thankful for God’s wisdom and for the way He plans surprises for me around every turn. It touched me so much that I almost didn’t complain a bit when the last two mornings on our trip the temperature registered only 20 degrees as we hit the road. (Even an electric jacket has a hard time counter balancing that!)

I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. Isaiah 41:18:

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Finally, we have our first blanket of snow. Nothing like the huge crippling dumps they’ve been having back East. But enough to cover the bleak brown of frozen earth with a breathtaking mantle of white.

I was out late the night it began snowing, inside and unaware of what Mother Nature was doing. While I shared a bible study lesson with my ladies, she was not so gently sifting the fluffy white stuff down around us. The landscape had changed drastically when we left our study and walking out into it took our breath away – partly because of the great beauty and partly because of the bitter cold wind swirling ice particles around in a high energy ballet.

Driving home was a bit of a challenge but at the same time I had to rejoice in the beauty. When I turned up my long driveway I actually stopped the car for a few minutes. Nothing had traveled the drive since the snow started falling so it was an absolutely perfect diamond studded, blindingly white carpet stretched out before me.

I stopped because I didn’t want to ruin the scene with tire tracks. Eventually I moved on, keeping my eyes on the perfection ahead rather than the ruts left in my wake.

That scene is such a perfect picture of our life in Christ once we’ve accepted His blanket of forgiveness. In the first covering of cleansing we stand in dazzling perfection, every sin covered by the grace of God. But soon something comes along to interrupt that perfection leaving tire tracks. The devil sends someone to drive across our flawless landscape.

We aren’t ruined but we’re changed, not quite as peaceful and perfect.  Before we know it, we’ve become a crisscross of hurts and damage, mistakes, sin and sorrow.  It’s critical that we choose to keep our eyes looking ahead to the vision of dry earth completely transformed by a white gown. Don’t look in the rear view mirror to the blemishes.

The only cure for tire tracks – a new snowfall. With our God there is an endless supply of cleansing – spring, summer, winter and fall. It is suspended there waiting for us to call out. As soon as we do the gates of heaven will burst open and release an abundant supply.

Silent and soft, it’s always in the forecast. The more we need the heavier it falls. It will drift into every scarred and broken crevice, settle in every valley, make the mountaintops more thrilling, fill the empty spaces, hide the ugly places.

It’s God’ forecast of forgiveness.

God’s blizzard of blessing.

God’s amazing Grace.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18

 

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Holding Hands with Elderly PatientYou can’t turn around today and not hear talk about the Affordable Care Act.  You will hear it referred as the hope of nations all the way to the worst idea in history.  Heated arguments from both sides abound.

As a Human Resource Director I am especially buried in the struggle to understand the new law and how it will impact my company and my employees.

We all know the complications that have risen to the surface as the government tries to implement the ACA. It’s the typical “someone thought it was a great idea but then everyone stopped thinking.”  All we really know is it’s supposed to cure the ills of the healthcare system, it is going to cost a fortune, nobody has figured out for sure how to make it work and someone has to pay for it and that someone is us.

Oh yes, and one more thing we know – the promises made over the last few years regarding the ACA are being broken right and left.

If only we could wake up and recognize that affordable care isn’t an original idea at all.  It’s not new. It’s not a breakthrough plan that has to be implemented at a high cost and mountain of frustration.

God came up with the idea of affordable care long, long ago.  Matthew 25:40 outlines that plan.  “…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Galatians 5:22-23 gives us the tools to make it work.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

1 John 3:17-18 explains how to pay for it in a manner that won’t rob Peter to pay Paul. “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

And Galatians 6:9 tells us what to do when it looks like God’s Affordable Care Act isn’t working.  “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Don’t get me wrong. I know there is a problem with out health care system.  I know some aren’t getting the care they need and others are squandering the care they get. I just don’t believe any system will work without the principles of Christian love and compassion as the foundation.

We can’t force people to care. We can’t tax people and hope that makes them compassionate. We can’t talk pretty promises and expect people to buy into them blindly.

The only way to fix something that is broken is to first apply the healing ointment of Christ’s love.

We don’t need Obamacare.  We need O-God-help-us-care!

 

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MP900070786[1]Like many other areas this time of year, we are battling wildfires which thrive on vegetation dried out by the hot summer sun. Two large fires, one to the south and one to the north have painted our skies with a hazy smoke cover.

The strong smell of burning timber and the fine film of ash that settles everywhere are clear evidence that those fires continue to rage and a barrage of firefighters fight to save homes and control the burn.

Ash is certainly a symptom of troubled times. The Bible refers to ashes as a symbol of repentance and grief. Men dressed in sackcloth and ashes when crying out to God as an outward sign of their humility and sincerity in their need for mercy.

For the last few evenings I’ve walked out on my deck to watch the sunset. It has been overwhelmingly beautiful, the smoky haze creating vivid reds and pinks as the sun sinks behind the hills.

I am reminded over and over of the phrase “Beauty for Ashes” when evening falls and I’m surrounded by the artistry of God where light through ashes creates a priceless masterpiece.

God always uses the tough and tragic times in our life to move us to a place of beauty if we let Him. Job suffered greatly and was restored to a point far beyond his losses. Moses was exiled from his beloved home only to return as the Deliverer of people. Joseph’s story is a classic tale of beauty for ashes.

The common threads between these stories, and many others, are acceptance, obedience and unwavering faith. God always wants to bring us to a better place but He needs our cooperation.

If the sun refused to shine because the smoke blocked its rays, none of these gorgeous sunsets would occur. If I refuse to trust and do what I am called to do because tears are the order of the day, I will never experience God’s great mercy that picks me up, sets me on my feet again and allows me a vision of my future made more brilliant because it’s been washed by those tears.

I’m thanking Him today for this reminder, handed to me as I stand on my deck on a soft summer evening, watching the miracle of ashes for beauty.

Is 61:3 :…and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness  instead of mourning, and a garment of praise  instead of a spirit of despair.”

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