True Worship

True Worship

During Holy Week we spend time pausing for prayer and reflection on all that happened to our Lord Jesus His last week on earth. Worship comes from the core of who the worshipper is and what God means to them. Worship is not about a place but the posture of the heart. True worship is directed towards God and His message of great love and forgiveness not the messenger. Prayer, praise, poems and music, whether private or corporate, are all forms of expression used in worship. A true worship experience should change your heart and mind because you have spent time in God’s presence.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3  Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” John 12:1-8 (ESV)

This is the second time we know of that Jesus was anointed with a jar of costly perfume. The first time was at a dinner with some Pharisees. A woman with a questionable character entered the place crying at His feet with great sorrow for her sin and in worship of the only One who could forgive and redeem her life. ( see Luke 7:36-50)

In this passage in John, Jesus is spending time with some dear friends before heading to Jerusalem for Passover. Lazarus is resting as close as he can get to Jesus. Mary does what she does best by showing great hospitality and Mary washed Jesus’s feet using expensive nard and tears of love. Mary took the role of a servant by washing His feet; the very example Jesus would soon be giving His disciples .

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” John 12:12-13 (ESV)

How can we show love and gratitude toward our Savior? How should we worship a Holy God?

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24 (ESV)

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 (ESV)

We worship the eternal God and Father Who is Almighty, all knowing and always present. He is our Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer and Friend. Our posture in prayer should be one of awe with hearts wide open. God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to take the punishment for our sin and die in our place. He did this willingly and not because of anything good or deserving we have done but because of Who He is.

Come, let us worship The King.

 

When Godly Leaders Fall

When Godly Leaders Fall

Christians around the world have been grieving the news of sexual misconduct by yet another highly respected Christian speaker and writer. Although he has now passed away some may feel he escaped punishment for his double -life. I am sure he fell on his knees in shame when he met our Savior face to face. My goal in my writing is not to dissect individual lives of fallen leaders but to examine how sin has repercussions that are far reaching. Pastors and church leaders are human too but we tend to put them on a holy pedestal and expect them to have somehow obtained a kind of spiritually impenetrable shield around them. In reality, they need our prayers more than anyone because when they fall from grace many are affected. Shock, a sense of betrayal, anger and a loss of trust in them or the institution they lead are some responses.

King David was a simple shepherd boy turned great warrior because God blessed, protected and made King. In his personal life David was a failure as a husband and father. By the time he was 30 he had seven wives and later added more wives and concubines (at least ten) to his harem. He turned a blind eye when his daughter was raped by a half brother, Amnon. Her brother Absalom took justice into his own hands, killed him and fled. Later Absalom rebelled against David’s authority as king and defiled his fathers concubines. David did nothing to make restitution or reconciliation with his children which almost split the Kingdom. His family was a mess.

Many of us are familiar with the story of Bathsheba. David was home when he should have been fighting with his men. Viewing his kingdom from a rooftop he spied a beautiful woman bathing. Instead of averting his eyes he sent for her and slept with her. Finding out she was pregnant he tried to get her faithful husband to sleep with her as a cover up. When that didn’t work he put Uriah in the midst of battle to die. The prophet Nathan confronted David with his great sin but despite his repentance the baby died. There are consequences to sin.

How many people were affected by this great sin? His trusted guards knew what he did, he was not with his men fighting, he betrayed his wives, had an innocent man killed – Uriah’s family suffered loss – the new baby died and his children had more division. The whole kingdom suffered. Wow – not such a great guy after all.

Why is he called “a man after God’s own heart”? Because David never forgot where he came from and had a deep desire to obey God. He loved God’s Law and had absolute faith in God’s power and protection. No matter what the circumstance were he was always grateful even when on the run from Saul. David pours out his heart in the book of Psalms for us and we can identify with his raw emotion. He truly repented of his sin and accepted the consequences. He was called a man after God’s own heart , not because he was perfect, but because he knew where to turn when he messed up.

That is why we love David. We love his stories of great bravery in fighting the giant Goliath. Do we have “Goliath’s” in our lives and need to depend on God’s deliverance? We admire his ability to soothe Saul with his harp and his great friendship with Jonathon. Are we looking towards God for peace of mind? We learn a great lesson from his sin with Bathsheba….God sees everything and there is no hiding from Him. We live in a broken world with the same flaws, fears and failures as then and there are many life lessons in his story. We love the Psalms that were recorded for us: songs of gratefulness, wonder and praise; prayer for help and courage; psalms of brokenness and repentance. David’s great sin did not diminish God’s love for him or keep God from fulfilling His promises. David’s sin did not take away all the great things he had accomplished either.

So when we hear of a godly man’s (woman’s) fall we should pray for all those affected especially the people working for their ministry. Their sin damages their personal character but not necessarily their message. We need to realize that we all fall short of God’s glory and need to be surrounded by godly people to lift us up. Will your daily prayer be to live a life for God’s glory and be called a man/woman after God’s own heart?

The Garden of My Heart

The Garden of My Heart

gardenbloomMy flower gardens bring my husband and I great joy. They were planted strategically and have spread over time. Easy care perennials bring color at various times of the spring through late summer and annuals show a more consistent pop of color. A bonus to the flowers are the birds and butterflies that have come to our back yard. It is amazing to watch the little hummingbirds flit about, giant butterflies visit and we watch the brilliant goldfinches in our birch tree. Several neighbors have been beneficiaries of bouquets of flowers for their tables.

Taking care of a garden and keeping it healthy takes a little TLC and a watchful eye. My neighbor has a huge vegetable garden that has tripled in size this year. We watched as he built new raised plots, carefully planted, staked and screened in the new beds. He has invested a great amount of time and energy in protecting, watering and weeding .  If it’s so much work why do Gardeners garden?  The answer is, FOR THE HARVEST!

Living the Christian life is like a garden. We need to invest time and energy to nurture our souls and be careful of the things we allow into our hearts and homes.  Social media lacybybugscan steal that precious time and allow a lot of anxiety, negativity and even anger to creep in and eat away. I was not watchful while some insects quietly munched away on my hibiscus bush leaving the leaves looking like lace. Weeds are subtle because they grow slowly and often look like the plant they are next to. To be our best selves we need allow God to work in our hearts, carefully dead heading the things that don’t belong. If we are not careful to read “The Master Gardeners manual” we cannot tell the difference when Satan’s lies blend with the truth.

I think God loves gardens. He placed Adam and Eve in a garden with many kinds of foliage and fruit- not at a seashore resort. Jesus told the parable of “The Sower and the Seed” (Luke 8) to warn against the condition of our hearts and other scriptures are filled with life giving encouragement to help us grow strong.

treebywater

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.2 But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.              Psalms 1:1-3 (NLT)

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing,29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?       Matt 6:26-30 

What is the Kingdom of God? 31 It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds,32 but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.        Mark 4: 30,31

Despite the circumstances we are now facing, we all  have a job to do. We can be water bearers to those who are dry and weary. We can give shade and assurance to those who are confused and angry. Let us share the flowers and fruit of compassion and kindness and be a beautiful bouquet drawing others to Him.

bloom

All Lives Matter

All Lives Matter

I grew up in a family that accepted people of different color as all part of the same human race. We were taught to care for those less fortunate than ourselves and that all life held great value. God created the heavens and earth and filled them with diverse and wonderful creatures.  But mankind was specially created in His own image, male and female. God breathed life into them and they became living souls.  (Gen. 2)  God also gave us free will and the ability to love and be loved. Animals were given to us for food but it has never been acceptable to kill another human being.

Protesters in our streets are carrying signs that say, “Black Lives Matter” and I agree they do!  But Asian, White and Native American lives matter too. Unfortunately in our society and around the world there are many castes, hierarchies and prejudices that pigeon hole a person into what they can do or become.  We in our own wisdom decide if life is valuable or not in quality and quantity of years.

The very definition of infanticide is the crime of killing a child within a year of birth yet we have legislators that feel it’s ok to kill a living infant in a failed abortion attempt or “partially” birthed. How cold, cruel and unfeeling we have become to life!  Eighteen percent of pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) in 2017 ended in abortion – that’s approximately 862,320 in the USA.  Didn’t their lives matter?  Or do we think somehow they don’t matter because they were an accident, a mistake, unplanned and unwanted.

A well beloved surgeon I worked with learned that I had a son with disabilities. He said, “Well, you’re a better person than I am. My wife and I decided that if we knew anything would be wrong with our baby, we would abort.”  I smiled and said, “It’s hard sometimes but so worth it. We have gone places we never would have dreamed of and have met the most amazing people.”  Our son’s life matters and so do the lives of his cognitive and physically disabled coworkers and friends.

Everyone enjoyed the story of P.T. Barnum glamorized in the musical “The Greatest Showman” because “ it fosters hope in dreamers and a sense of inclusion in outcasts, projecting a message that is desperately needed in today’s society. Barnum saw possibilities and beauty in the misfits and outcasts of society and gave them a sense of family.”*** The movie crosses barriers of all kinds and the powerful lyrics to “This is Me” topped the charts. Why?  I believe we want a world of inclusion and peace deep down in our hearts. We want to belong and feel like our life matters.                                                  **quote from Jen Piekarz review

God Himself declares all life to be sacred and planned for a purpose.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15  My  frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.            Psalms 139:13-16 (ESV)

The gospel is the most inclusive doctrine in the world and has an open invitation for all. While Jesus was on earth he lived the greatest example of sacrificial love, compassion and inclusion.  He healed untouchables (ex. lepers), ate with “sinners” of all kinds and hung out with a mixed group that included uneducated fishermen as well as a tax collector. He was not afraid or too proud to speak with half breed Samaritans or Roman Centurions.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life     John 3:16 (ESV)

 Jesus came for ALL. If we could love each other like Jesus there would be no more hatred, inequality or dismissing people as less than. Bullying would cease and understanding would increase.  If only we could grasp the truth that ALL LIVES MATTER.

mixedchildren

A simple song I learned as a child says it all.

Jesus loves the little children

All the children of the world

Red and yellow, black and white

They are precious in His sight

Jesus loves the children of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Clean Sweep

A Clean Sweep

The beginning of a new year gives a chance to look back at the accomplishments and struggles of last year and look forward to the new and hopefully better one. I change the calendar, the checkbook register and get a new “planner”. My husband and I sit down and discuss home improvements needed, taxes and vacations… but not at the same time!

_20180126_094451 (1)January is known for its “white sales” – new appliances, linens and storage containers.  Decluttering, downsizing and organizing guru’s share the latest tips to contain the mess.  Every year we make the same or similar new years’ resolutions because we want to do better, be nicer and feel healthier.

We often deal with the stuff around us but what about dealing with the “stuff” in our hearts? The classic booklet “My Hearts Christ’s Home” by Robert Boyd Munger weaves a story of inviting Jesus in and giving a tour room by room of our “house”. Each room represents a place in our lives but the host balks at letting Jesus see the hall closet.  The stuff in that closet is old and smells bad ; like bitterness, bad habits, past secret sin we hang on to. Only Jesus can help us clean, reorder and restore this closet of our heart.

DSC_0927 (1)  It’s easy to ask God to forgive us for “little sins” of omission or commission. But what if we are honest and go a little deeper? We can try to justify our feelings and actions – but that doesn’t bring peace of mind. The Bible has a lot to say about unclean hearts.  God sees and knows it all and yet we often try to sweep our “stuff” under the rug or hide.

O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you Psalms 69:5 (ESV)

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)

Only God can wash our hearts from all the hurts and hang-ups. He says come – let me remove the “dirt” and cleanse you from the inside out. God desires to restore a right relationship with Him and promises us a new beginning. He is the God of second chances! Even if something seems impossible to forgive (like trying to get red ink out of a white shirt) there is nothing impossible with God.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.       Psalms 103:11-12 (ESV)

prayer in church

Start the New Year off by spending time in prayer and reflection. Let’s open up the closet of our heart and ask God to do a deep cleaning. Sometimes that deep cleaning takes a long time because first we need to recognize our fears, failures and faults in order to let Him work on those areas. The process isn’t easy but it is freeing and satisfying. Let this prayer of David be yours :

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.        Psalms 51:6-10 (ESV)

 

city-2939849_960_720

 

 

 

My “What-Ifs” Went Over the Bridge

My “What-Ifs” Went Over the Bridge

Traveling over the Tappen-Zee bridge I symbolically threw all my “what-ifs” over the railing. That was a long time ago but I still remember it vividly. There comes a time in all of our lives when we need to deal with the things we hold on to that never happened.  Past plans, dreams or maybe lost opportunities can resurface in our minds and cause discontentment in our heart.

Tapnzee-cuomo-bridge_2

We were heading south to visit some dear friends. Paul was driving and our young children were buckled in the back with kids music playing on the radio. We traveled Rte. 95 with all of its twists and turns.  As we went through Bridgeport I saw two of the hospitals where I interviewed as a graduate nurse….but I was never meant to work there.  A twinge in my heart wondered, “what if” I had worked in the Cardiac unit I was hired for? “What if” we had moved to Connecticut? “What if”???

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.         Jer 29:11 (NLT)

My life took a very different path.  I had major surgery right after graduation that took awhile to heal and my now husband had changed jobs to one in Boston.  I ended up training for the Operating room in MA, a career  I have loved for over 34 years.  We bought a nice home and met awesome people at church who are now life-long friends. We were much closer for our children to be loved and spoiled by their grandparents.  Life was different from my simple “what ifs”  but in a good way!

Is it wrong to think back and wonder? Not really. But for me they created a little wedge of discontentment, a feeling that I had missed out on something. It was wrong thinking because I haven’t missed anything – I have enjoyed all that God did have in store for me and my family!

As we passed over the bridge I silently prayed,  “God take all my “what-ifs” because You call me to live in the present and not hold on to the past. Your plan is better than I could ever imagine. Don’t let me feel any regrets or false yearning but contentment instead.” And over the bridge they went.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.         Phil 4:8 (NLT)

Seeds of discontent and comparison should have no room in my heart. Instead I will make the choice to count my blessings. I will choose gratitude and praise towards God for His faithfulness and provision for all of my needs. Satan still uses the same old tactics he used in the Garden when he told Eve that God was withholding something good.  So the next time he whispers in my ear, I’ll tell him to jump off the bridge.

 

gratitude2