Thursday, November 29, 2007

If God Were on the Ballot, Would You Vote for Him?

There's so much going on with the 2008 election already, and I really pray that we, as Christians, will view the options through a biblical worldview. As believers, our political views will be different from the mainstream secular politically correct mantras. We cannot align with everything going on in politics, but we have certain "unbendables" in our faith, like preserving life and traditional marriage, and this is making us different from the mainstream popular views of our culture. As biblical Christians, we hold to these values because God holds to them, not because our favorite candidate builds a platform on them.

Here are a few questions we need to ask ourselves now, way before election day: Do we vote for the popular guy because he can get elected, or has a great campaign fund, or do we vote for the guy who represents our views and the views of biblical Christianity? Or, do we vote a certain party because we've always voted along those party lines, and don't look any further into the issues? The political arena is getting increasingly hostile towards Christianity. Biblical Christians will immediately be tagged as Conservative Christians. We'll even be scolded as having an intolerant view. We'll be persecuted for creating some sort of agenda just to get our candidate elected. We'll be relegated to one party, and that party will be chastized because we take a stand on the sanctity of life. We'll be persecuted because we actually think God meant that marriage is meant to only be between one man and one woman. We'll be ridiculed because we believe that taking our vows before God means that God is part of our marriage covenant.

Are you ready to take the heat, or are you more willing to get out of the kitchen, and compromise?

Conservative Christians are not republican because they've always been...they vote republican quite often because that's where the biblical worldview is most represented through pro-life, pro- traditional marriage agreement. Unfortunately, I think that sooner than later, we as biblical Christians will not have a candidate that reflects our views on that election day ballot. So, then what?

If there were no party lines, where would you vote, and how would you make your decision?Most importantly, if God were on the ballot, but was the least likely to get voted in by the majority, would you still vote for Him, or would you vote with the surging tide of popularity? Would you stay in the kitchen and take the heat with the Savior who endured the cross on your behalf?

"I'm so done with this!"

Not so long ago I was out of town, driving down the street with friends, and this phrase escaped my lips before I knew it was needing to break free. "I'm so done with all this!" I proclaimed at the top of my lungs.

Mind you, this was not a bad thing, but a God thing. We were in the midst of the writing world, doing what good writers should be doing -- learning the craft and making connections. Yet in the center of this lifestyle of a calling, God pierced my heart.

As my friends looked at me in shock, and wondered if I was really the best person to be sitting behind the driver's wheel, I began to explain...

"I just want to glorify God. Can I please just glorify God? I can't spend my life doing anything less. I ache for the opportunity to share the love of Jesus with people."

That particular day, I was weary from the "stuff" that comes along with being a writer. Not ready to quit or stop working by any stretch of the imagination; ready to take a minute to refocus in the midst of challenges.

See, the writing journey is great. The speaking opportunities are an overwhelming blessing. The whole ministry thing is such a gift from God. Training and hard work are a necessary part of everything, and all of it is a part of how God equips you to do what He's called you to do. But, in any environment where a bunch of people get together who are in the same field, we can get spun up in our own little worlds and forget about God somehow. Well, maybe not forget, but put him on the back burner. He's the root of our message, but we've covered over our roots with our own mission statements, goals, proposals and query letters. We can get out of focus, putting more thought into how we strive to attract the right editor or publisher than taking time to make sure the idea is what God wants us to write in the first place. We strategize, publicize, platformize, marketize, and connectize until it is our name that gets more attention than God's.

Can I ever convey how much I never want to write something that God didn't call me to write?

I know what my own strength can produce, and it's awful. Just words without anointing. I only, only, only want to write the things God has equipped me through His Holy Spirit to pen. Please Lord, keep us all in that mindset, and all in that desire to follow Your calling.

Now, no peanut gallery grumblings here from writers -- yes there is a process, and yes there is work to be done, and yes, the CBA has created an environment where all these things are necessary in order to actually get a contract. But, take a minute to really process these thoughts:

Do we really think that if God called us to write something that it WOULDN'T get published?
It will be done just as He has purposed it.

Also, if we truly seek to glorify the Father, which is His complete will for our lives -- to enjoy and glorify Him forever -- would He forget or neglect to give us the desire of our hearts in His way, will and timing?

So let's relax a bit, and keep God the primary carrot that dangles before us. He is what we'd run around the track to catch. He's what we'd travel the earth to proclaim. It is because of His Word, Son, and sacrifice that we have a message at all.

So, you too can "be done with all this" -- you can recommit to making God the priority, and doing the work He calls you to -- in that order -- no matter what His calling on your life may be.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Birthday Milestones and the Baby Jesus

As the chill of winter dances in the air, we gaze down into the manger and celebrate the child born for our salvation. Each Christmas, cultures around the world have Jesus pictured as a sweet baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, arriving with the misfortune of having a feeding trough suffice as a first crib. We have annual reminders of the tender scene of new parents and newborn life. With the best of intentions, we celebrate the coming of the Lord to earth.

Happy Birthday, Jesus…

Is our focus given to three men, some pricey gifts, and a star? Are the shepherds the main character of our play? Is Mary’s role as willing vessel superseding the lead role? Are the birthday scene and the nostalgia of a tiny babe in a manger all we have to celebrate in this season of Christmas? I pray not.

While God’s fullness of time and the arrival of the long awaited Messiah thrill my heart and yours, may we not merely remember the King of kings as an infant. His season as deity clothed in humanity provided a distinct layer of God’s purpose. It revealed Jesus on the earthly stage, in earthly ministry for us to see. While on this planet, He walked among us as fully God, fully man, but it certainly wasn’t the beginning of His relationship with God…or mankind.

Jesus is. He was. He will always be.

The tapestry of the Trinity; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is woven together, unable to be separated…eternal. Did you know that Jesus was active in Creation? In John 1, we find that nothing that has been created could have been created without Jesus, the Word of God. Nothing. Without Jesus, nothing we know could be.

Mary’s carrying and delivering of Jesus purely birthed the Savior into His redemptive role as Messiah. But oh, He has been with God throughout the ages. God had you and me on His mind way before Creation, and His plan for Jesus on earth was specifically used to reveal His plan for our redemption. As a result of Jesus’ completed work on the cross, and His resurrection, Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father, in victory over death. Through our relationship with Him, we too have victory over the sting of death! Can you imagine the magnitude of this truth? It is simply breathtaking.

Why bring this up at Christmas? We need to live as big-picture Christians. We can’t meander through our lives from one spiritual “dot” to the next, never connecting them to celebrate the whole view of our spiritual walk. We would do well to live in light of the entirety of the gospel, praising God for each event, while being mindful not to separate the plan of God into bite size, unrelated pieces.

Christmas is humanity’s way of recognizing the birth of Christ. Naturally, this would make the celebration of Christmas our way of remembering Jesus’ birthday. On the surface, birthdays are for cake, presents, and celebrations. We check all these blocks each Christmas, don’t we? Presents given to all our friends and loved ones; cookies baked with care for those we want to share the season with. We endure way too many office parties, neighborhood get-togethers and church programs. But birthdays are also a time for reflection; not just for the day of birth, but for all the accomplishments, milestones, and triumphs of the life we recognize.

Think about a child’s first birthday: the first cake, first milestone.
Sixteen: the driver’s license.
Twenty-one: legal age.
Now, ponder those who have walked this earth much longer than we.
Eighty, ninety, even one hundred years of age: oh, the wisdom of a life long lived.
So much to impart on the next generation!

Let’s draw that connection back to the thought of Jesus.
The Messiah, our Savior.
The One who was, and is, and is to come!

We need only look in Scripture to read the ways He has been foreshadowed in the Old Testament, how He walked among us two thousand years ago, and how He will be the path to our victory in the future. How much more we have to celebrate than his manger-laying scene. The spiritual milestones we have in Christ Jesus are simply overwhelming. The reason for celebration, remembrance, and giving is precious.

We have victory unspeakable to celebrate!

This Christmas, I have a challenge for us all. Each time we see a babe in a manger, whether a plastic participant in yard art, designed on the front of a card, depicted in an ornament, or involved in a church scene, let us be reminded of our victory. Praise God for His gift of eternal salvation. Jump for joy that we are not merely celebrating a baby’s birth. You don’t have to wait until spring’s empty tomb display to celebrate the triumph we have through Jesus! Let that vision of the child transform into the victorious Savior within your spirit. May you shine the light that comes from Him ever brightly…bringing hope to those who cannot see His role as Redeemer.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Growing Older Each Day...but Growing Up? Never...

Yes Virginia, she really does refuse to grow up...

New Book Cover!


I'm thrilled to be able to share my new book cover with you.

"Verses We Know by Heart: Discovering the Details of Familiar Old Testament Passages" releases with Randall House January 22, 2008.
This six-week Bible study will carry readers out of a sound byte familiarity with popular verses, and into a deeper understanding of context, meaning, and life application. Plan now to use this resource with your small groups!

It was fun to write, and I pray it will be fun for you as you dive into Scripture.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Traveling Gift Shops

The last few weeks has been filled with early morning and late night air travel and way too many airport gift shops. Unfortunately, our souvenir collection mirrors the gateside gift selections. With a heart to find silly things from far off lands for my child, I have to settle for the shops in my travel path.

In our family room, A Dallas Cowboys football sits next to an Albuquerque coffee mug, placed on a table next to postcard of Indiana. On the couch slumps a kid in a Memphis t-shirt. Oh. I know. It's tragic. But, in the midst of crazy schedules and busy conferences, a regular shopping trip just never seems to work out. I will say, there are some pretty creative gift item producers out there!

Take the armadillo in a can. Now, that was fun. Picture the scene: A tin can with a cute label. An excited kid. The hand crank can opener sliding around the lid, and with the last shred of connection cut, pop! The lid comes off, and a stuffed animal armadillo pops out, welcomed by an excited boy. The best thirty seconds we had all day. I know that little toy is still around here somewhere...really...just don't ask me where it is...

You should have seen the stash I brought home from Guatemala! A flag, a shirt, some cool trinkets, some of the money they use, and the craziest thing: a Pollo Campero water bottle. The Guatemalan version of KFC, we ate at PC more than a few times. It was a cultural thing. I loved it. And, to show Owen the cute graphic of the "cowboy chicken," I stashed an empty bottle in my backpack. Would you believe that the leftover bottle is the thing he talks about most? Who knew.

Deep within my consumer soul, I'd love to simply buy a magnet from each city and move on. But, as a momma, will that really convey my desperate cry of loneliness I felt when separated from my child? No. Somehow the littlest choices fall short. So, footballs, tin cans, and other silly gifts will remain my mode of spoilage. After all, I am the momma. I love to lavish blessing on my kid...even if the mode of conveying love is a little bit odd...or comes in the form of an empty cowboy chicken water bottle.

Colossians Study Blog #11

Colossians 3:18-25
Lesson # 11

Hey friends! Did you miss me?
More importantly, have you missed pondering the passages of Colossians?

I think it is no coincidence that the last verse we looked at was "Watever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father" (3:17, NASB).

See, the past few weeks I've been traveling and serving the Lord through writing and calling. Many times I've thought about this verse, and how it really doesn't matter what we are doing on this earth, as long as we are glorifying God.

How awesome it is to have the honor to glorify Him through sharing His gospel through written and spoken word. Glory to God!

So, this week's passage gives us a little peek in to some practical ways we are to live this Christian life. In contrast to the voices of the world, we as wives are to respect and be subject to our husbands. Not a doormat. A life giving helpmate that recognizes God's design for the home and our life as "one".

Can I digress here for a moment? Ladies - don't talk bad about your hubby while your out with your friends. Don't slam him for every little thing he can't do! As "two that have become one" you not only disrespect him, you slam the bond between you, and really, you bash God Himself...who holds your marriage together. I often jolt myself out of my "picking party" by realizing that God was there when we made our vows, and that He is an active part of our covenant of marriage. So, talk bad about your man, and you're talking bad about the God who joins you! (I know, this is a lifelong challenge for all of us...but it deserved mention...)

Men, as we are trying to do this whole respect and "being subject to" thing, your role is to love us and not be "embittered" against us. Be patient with us! After all, sometimes a little chocolate and a venti latte will change our whole outlook and emotional response.

Give us time, and love.
We're on your side!

Ahh. Verse 20. In our house, with a pre-teen who is just about on the brink of knowing everything there is to know about life, this verse warms my heart. In fact, I think I'll make a refrigerator magnet of this verse today. In large print. "Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord." Yep. God's happy when kids obey their parents.

Can I go so far as to say that God's happy when Momma's happy? Well, maybe not...

We also see that dads need to give a portion of grace and tenderness to their kids, just like they need to do for the women in their lives. How many times have we, as moms, said to our kids, "just you wait until you Dad gets home!" He's the final say on so many issues. Yet here, the Word encourages those same men to have balance in reaction.

Verse 22 has meaning for us today, even though it refers to "slaves". Think of any situation where you have an authority over you. Work place. Ministry. Political systems. Governments. Do just give lip service and shallow agreement to those over you -- serve others and obey authority because you are a person of integrity, and such a response matters to God.

Mean what you say.

Do you notice something familiar about verse 23? It is much like verse 17, isn't it? God is clearly reinforcing a truth so that we understand the necessity of it. "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than men."

Whatever you do.

Even going to the grocery store, or running daily errands. We are a people who should glorify God in all things, and respond in Christian love in every situation. Verses 24 and 25 confirm this thought, by acknowleding that God gives the reward of inheritance to those who follow His ways, and reinforcing that even in the world, we serve Jesus first.

And, to end on a strong note, read verse 25 with me: "For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality."As a parent I've said these type words often.

We are accountable for our actions, and tough consequences follow bad choices.

I pray you have a wonderful week, and I challenge you to look at this passage again in your quiet time this week.

How can you improve your reactions and interactions with the relationships we've mentioned in this lesson?

Colossians Study Blog #10

Colossians 3:14-17
Lesson # 10

Hey Friends!

I've delayed this study blog a few days, as it will be our study for two weeks instead of just one. (I'll be out of town next week)

The four verses at the end of chapter three give us such encouragement and useful tips on how to live the Christian life.

Colossians 3:14 shares with us a glimpse of the power of love in the life of believers - it is our link to Christian unity. Love, lived out as a result of the love of Christ, is the very thing that unifies us in the Spirit! It is our love for Jesus and the relationship we have with Him that keeps us in fellowship with other believers who, as humans, will always fall short in some way.

To me, this is one of the great comforts in our walk of faith - when we realize that Jesus is the only One who will never let us down, and it is thru that knowledge that we are free to accept our fellow man for who they are, and better yet, who they are in Him.

Another key element to this verse is the action that takes place. We "put on" love! It is an intentional effort to clothe ourselves with the love of Christ - to walk it out each and every day.

To live it.

Are you living out the love of Christ in your life?
Does that show your unification with the believers around you?

Verse 15 takes this thought of love and unity one step further -- to the peace of Christ.

Jesus Christ is not only the source of our peace, He is peace! He is the prince of peace.

No matter what we face in life, as Christians we have a direct link to the source of true peace...and His name is Jesus. This in no way means that we will avoid every bad thing in life. It does, however, mean that when everything in our life seems to be turned upside down, we have a Redeemer who loves us, sustains us, and provides a peace that passes all understanding. Jesus is the peace in our storm.

Now, Colossians 3:16 is a favorite verse of mine, and in my Bible study, "Life Principles for Christ-like Living" I take a really indepth look at this passage.

For this quick study blog, let's just look at the key points in the verse. For the Word of Christ to have an impact on our lives, it must "dwell within us" - not a speed reading course, or a skim-thru version of reading the word. Let the truth of the gospel, the Word of God that bears witness to Jesus Christ, dwell in you richly. Jesus is the Word of God, and everything in the Word bears witness to Him! What an honor it is to be able to read God's love letter to us.

One of the greatest parts of our spiritual journey is our connection to the gospel. We are saved, and we are all called to teach and bear witness. As verse 16 reminds us, we have the Word in us, and we also encourage, admonish, and teach others about God. We impact those around us with our faith. Can you imagine? How awesome is God that He allows us to be a light in the world - a witness to His greatness, and a voice in the darkness! Not only that, in this verse He also allows us to build up the body of believers in a variety of ways.

This is an active faith!

Colossians 3:17 sums up our role as followers of God Most High. Not only are we in relationship with Jesus, and redeemed from hell, but we are given a role in His big picture plan. We teach, encourage, admonish, give praise, love, have peace...and we do it all with a very specific give glory to the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord. Verse 17 puts it this way, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father."

Whatever we do, friends.
It all is done in the name of Jesus, to glorify the Father.

The big question this time is simple - are you living in light of verse 17?
Does your life bear the fruit of a follower of Christ, who gives glory to Jesus and the Father in all things?

Colossians study Blog #9

Colossians 3:12-13
Lesson # 9


For this week's Bible study, can I just share with you these two verses?

"So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you." (Colossians 3:12-13, NASB)

Who are you having a hard time forgiving today?
What is stopping you?

Take it to the Lord, and in light of this Scripture passage, ask Him to help you forgive that person - "just as the Lord forgave you."

If we understand this passage, we will see that our capacity for forgiving others occurs in part as a result of our cultivating "a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."

Forgiveness is a challenge, but one God knows and understands.
If it is important to Him, it is important to us!

Colossians Study Blog #8

Colossians 3:5-11
Lesson # 8


I pray you are following along with this group discussion of Colossians. What a powerful and necessary book of the Bible this is for all of us living in today's world. God's Word truly is timeless!

This week's lesson goes into some of the sinful desires and habits of the world. In verse 5, we are urged to "consider the members of your earthly body as dead to..." all these things. We are new creatures in Christ Jesus, and the things of this world should not have a hold on us any more.

But, do we totally conquer the temptations this side of glory? Think about the struggles with sin that you currently experience. As you seek the Lord for deliverance from that struggle, He will be faithful to free you from your sin.

We can see evidences in the church and in the Christian world of believers today who have gotten off track and involved in the things of this world such as adultery, greed, impurity, etc - which according to verse 5 "amounts to idolatry." Idolatry! Anything set above God, or put in place of our worship of God, becomes our idol.

Misplaced worship.

As followers of God, we should be careful to focus our worship on God alone.

Verses 6 reminds us that God's wrath will come to judge the sins of this world...verse 7 reminds us that we were once enslaved by those sins as unbelievers. Do you remember the times of spiritual captivity? The days before your conversion? We were ensnared, yet now we are free.

Are we living like it?

Colossians 3:8-10 reveals why we need to put away the sin of our past - we have put on the new self! We are brand new creatures in Christ Jesus who no longer look to the world for our worth, pleasure, and contentment.

Look at verse 10 very closely - what, or who, are we being conformed into the image of? Let's discuss it!