Saturday, December 08, 2007


Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. – 1Corinthians 12:7

This is possibly the biggest re-gifting faux-pas ever. Especially since it’s true:

Christmas, 2005:
A friend of mine got tired of her husband taking pictures on his 35mm camera, and developing 20 pictures of his thumb, and 4 pictures of what actually were passable photos of what he was shooting. To top it off, he always had double prints, and had a hard time throwing away the 40 prints
of his thumb, because after all, he paid good money for the developing.

For his Christmas gift that year, she bought him his first digital camera. He was thrilled! He took more pictures than ever before, and could delete the bad ones without the guilt of having paid good money for developing. And his wife was thrilled – no more pictures of her hubby’s thumbprint!

June, 2006:
The wife was going on a “weekend away” with her girlfriends. Her loving hubby said, “Why don’t you take my digital camera. I’m not going to be using it this weekend anyway. And here are some extra batteries so you don’t miss a single memory.” So off she goes for the weekend. She took some pretty fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime pictures of her friends having a great time and made memory books to share with her friends.

November, 2006:
My friend hints to her husband that she’d like to have a digital camera of her own, similar to the one that he has.

December, 2006:
My friend unwraps an early Christmas gift from her loving husband. To her amazement, it’s a very familiar looking digital camera. Yes, folks, the dashing stud that she married re-gifted to her the very same camera that she gave him last year for Chr

You should have seen her reaction in the picture that he took on his new, better camera that he bought for himself. But he deleted it before he showed it to her.

Here’s proof that Santa Claus watches you. The new doghouse under the tree that Christmas had her husband’s name on it, while the tag on the cozy slippers said “Happy Paw-lidays to Brutus.”

There is another well-known story about re-gifting that happened 2,000 years ago in a far-off city called Bethlehem. The story is about a young boy who heard the announcement of a king being born. Everyone was bringing their best gifts to place before the baby, gifts fitting of someone born to royalty.

But being just a lad himself, the young boy couldn’t afford to give the finer things that people usually give to a prince. The only gift he had was to share his talent of music. He picked up his drum and drumsticks, and went with the others to honor the baby. And he shared his talent with his greatest performance ever. In fact, his was the only gift that brought a smile of approval to face of the infant king.

God gave so much to our lives. He gave us the baby Jesus, who grew up and gave his life for us. And by our accepting Jesus, we gained gifts through the Holy Spirit.

I challenge everyone this Christmas season to re-gift to God what he gave to us. Discover and develop your God-given gifts, and use them for His glory to further the Kingdom of God.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Just Prove It - Part 2

I apologize for this post being so long overdue. Here is an update to the "Prove It" dilemma from back in September:

The shiny new promotion that I sent my application for never called me for an interview. (My company hires for promotions from a "ranking list", interviewing from the candidates in the top three ranks of applicants after initial qualifications testing and screening interview. Apparently, I don't rank high enough for consideration.) I guess I didn't have the right key to Door #1.

That left the options of "more of the same", or the demotion and pursuing God's call for my life.

About a week or so after the "Prove It" post, I was given the opportunity to interview for the demotion. I thought, "Wow ... this is really happening!"

The managers in the office where I was working really, really, REALLY wanted me to pursue more of the same, because "You're good at what you do." I was afraid to tell them "Yeah, but I'm not happy at it ... in fact, I want to take a step backward." I didn't want to face their disappointment. But now I had no choice. I had to tell them.

What I wasn't quite prepared for was the reaction of the manager of the office. "Good for you!" she said. "You know, if I hadn't been in this position as long as I have, I would have done the same thing a long time ago. You've got guts, girl!" Wow. Thanks, God. That wasn't so bad.

The night before the interview, I was afraid. Not nervous. Afraid. Am I really doing the right thing? I pretty much know the caliber of candidates in the hiring pool for this position. None have the qualifications and abilities that I have. The hiring managers both know me. I have a 99.9% chance of getting this position. If I do this, there's no turning back.

I thought of my options again. Whether I choose to go through with this interview or not, I'm going to be pursuing God's plan for my life. The issue is do I want to do it while I am under the same kind of stress I've been having the past couple of years with no end in sight, or while I am doing something that will free me emotionally?

"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?" (Luke 11:11-12)

If I ask God for an egg, I should expect an egg and not a scorpion. And when He gives me the egg, accept it, and forget about the scorpion. Either I trust God, or I don't.

I went through with the interview. And got the demotion. And accepted the position.

Next is to break the news to the employees. None of them (except for two or three) have any idea that I've even thought about this change.
How do I tell them? What do I say?

Leave it to the office manager. She told them at the end of a staff meeting, and said it so much better than I ever could have. Of course, many were surprised. But nearly all were supportive, especially since it was a change that I wanted and had prayed for.

I have been on my new job for about six weeks now. The transition was so seamless, so flawless. So many details were taken care of, even details that no one could have anticipated. No individual or team of people could have orchestrated these events any better. God's hands were all over this change. Within a week, my husband and closest friends could see a positive change in me. The transition time was exciting and nearly effortless. I've been on such a spiritual high! It's been awesome! And God gets all the glory!

God is leading me toward a new adventure of investing more time with
our youth group, particularly in leading a teen girls' Bible study. Not even a year ago, I would have given a blank stare - perhaps even the dreaded "stink-eye" - to anyone who dared to suggest that kind of adventure for me. But God's timing in all of this wasn't for 2006. It is for 2007/2008. The tools for equipping and training me for this are readily available to me. It is up to me to put the tools to work, and trust that the Holy Spirit will do the heavy lifting.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

2 Corinthians 12:9 -- But [God] said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. (NIV)

The thing that you think is holding you back might be the very thing God will use to make great things happen. Can you think of any examples of this from your own life? From the lives of others?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Several people have said that when you start to journal, write down something every day. It doesn't have to be the 3-page entry. Start simple, perhaps three ways God has specifically blessed you or specifically worked in your life today. Here are my answers. (Of course, there were countless more, but I'm listing only three here.)

  1. An awesome assistant at my job who stepped up to the task of organizing an area of my new workspace, without my having to ask, and with minimal direction from me, which frees me to fit in to my new job more effectively

  2. Knowing that my very good friend has people she can count on and turn to when she needs to feel loved

  3. Allowing myself to be used by God to encourage a colleague during a meeting where she was feeling anxious

What about you? What are your answers?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Just Prove It.

When anyone strives to follow God's will in his or her life, there's a certain amount of trust that you need to have in the Almighty. In Jeremiah 29:11 God tells us "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

OK...... God's plans for us are good...... I can hang with that....... We can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. But what about the times that I'm not sure I'm living my life in line with God's plans? What if I want something a little more solid than a promise? What if a "sign" from God isn't enough? What if I want to see some solid proof? And if I need "proof," do I really trust God?

About six weeks ago, I felt pretty sure that I was heading down the road that God has for my life. But to continue on this road would mean that I would be making some tough decisions concerning my job and time commitments -- decisions that once they're made, there's no turning back from. Do I apply for Job A, which would mean a promotion, different responsibilities, more money, and a relocation? I'm good at my present job, and with my knowledge and experience I would have a lot to offer the new position. Seeking a promotion would be the natural next thing to do on my job. Or, do I apply for Job B, a demotion with less pay, but frees my mind and energy to develop and use my gifts and abilities to serve God more?

To buy more time in making a decision, I applied for both. I must be the only person I can think of who would apply for both a promotion AND a demotion, in the same company, in the same week. Right around this time, I am filling in at a neighboring office, filling in for the same job classification as my 'home' office. Guess what? This neighboring office has a position open, and the office manager is hoping I'll consider applying for it.

I feel like I'm on the game show "Let's Make A Deal." Do I choose Door Number 1 - The Shiny New Promotion; Door Number 2 -- More of the same of what I've been doing the past 4 1/2 years; or Door Number 3 -- the door covered in blood -- what some would see as "giving up what I've worked so hard to accomplish" and living more for God, but not sure exactly what it will mean?

My choice is to take what's behind the door covered in the Blood of the Lamb -- Door #3.

In praying for guidance, I didn't simply "give it to God." I didn't ask for a "sign". After all, this is going to mean some changes for me. I want proof that this is what's in God's plans. I don't know what kind of proof I'm looking for, or even if I'd recognize the proof if it were right in front of me. I just trust in God enough that he will not be subtle in showing me the direction He wants me to take.

Bringing you up-to-date, God has in fact started showing me proof. Door Number 2 is definitely closed. About a week ago, the manager of the office where I am on loan to informed me that the opening in her office is no longer available, and has been re-allocated to another facility.

No word yet on the other two opportunities.

God is amazing!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

If your house was burning down and you only had time to save one thing, what would it be?

Without question, I would want to get my journals. Hopefully I would have a blank one to record my experience of watching everything else burn down.

Nowadays, blogging seems to be a popular way of people keeping journals. E-mail is the preferred way to correspond between family members at a distance. But with the way electronic media (computers, discs, etc.) changes at seemingly a moment's notice, how much of what is communicated by computer will be even readable in five to ten years? Face it, it really wasn't that long ago that computer storage discs were 3 1/4" discs encased in plastic of the color of your choice. And some of the computers now don't even have the disc drive to play them!

In case you have haven't heard, America has men and women serving in the front lines of a war. In past wars, our soldiers would communicate with loved ones by what is now known as "snail-mail." Those precious letters penned by the hands of young men in life and death situations became valuable pieces of history to their loved ones, and in some cases were handed down from generation to generation. How much of our current history is being lost by the "delete" button, or by a hard-drive that unexpectedly crashes?

Even for those who are not serving our country, how many photos will our grandchildren not be able to see because the digital technology of today will have gone the way of the 8-track or Beta-Max?

I'm not saying that anything in my personal journal (or on my blog, for that matter) is so profound that it's worthy of winning a literary prize. I don't even know if they'll ever be read by anyone else. But I choose to write in my journal anyway. Maybe it's just my way of seeking to be immortal.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Name Calling

In reading the Bible, especially in a lot of the Old Testament books, you often come across lists of names. Lists of genealogies and families; lists of people who were assigned different tasks. In some places, the lists seem to be endless. And for many of the people listed, that's the only time they're mentioned in the Bible. "These are the family members of so-and-so." And that's the last you hear of them.

Back in the day when "Burnt Offering" wasn't just for dinner, people chose the names of their children very carefully. For example, one name that became well-known a few years ago, but certainly didn't make the top 10 baby name list, was Jabez. The Bible says that his mother gave birth to him in pain, and gave the child the name Jabez, which sounds like the Hebrew word for "pain". Even today many people carefully choose the names for their children, partially for what the name means. I have a cousin whose parents named him Jeffrey (God's peace) Newell (Christmas). Since he was born in mid-April, I doubt that the name had anything with the time of year of his birth.

I once heard a preacher on the radio go through King David's ancestry. The meanings of the names of these people were preserved throughout history, and the names in the sequence of genealogy told a beautiful story of how God wants nothing more than for his people to be reconciled with him. But for many others, the "once-and-done, one hit wonders" mentioned in the Old Testament, the meanings of their names have been lost.

Why was God so intent on including so many individuals in the Bible by name?I believe that it's to emphasize that He loves and values each and every one of us, whether our name is well-known or obscure.

Some of us know the meanings of our names, including our family names, and have an idea of what our parents had in their hearts and minds when our names were given. Others, as in my case, only have part of the story. Through no one's fault, I do not know the meaning of my given family name - Thuente. So, in a way, I can relate to some of the men and women of Biblical times -- a name that's hard to pronounce, not much easier to spell, and really kind of clueless as to what it means. When I had the privilege of choosing my surname when I got married ("Uht"), the name thing didn't get much better. Sure, it's shorter, and even fits nicely in a monogram. But it didn't move me closer to the front of the alphabetical lineup, and still had that Old Testament, hard to say, hard to spell, undefinable syndrome about it.

But there is good news! God knows my name -- MY name! -- and he knows yours too. Not only that, he knows how to spell it right, and knows how to say it without having to be corrected. And when I finally meet him face to face, He will be able to tell me what my name means. Until then, by believing in Jesus, I have the right to bear the name "child of God".

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Good Day

My pastor and really good friend Chris Logan recently asked the question on his blog,

"What makes for a good day?" When you get to the end of your day, what allows you to be able to say: "Today was a good day"? Is it that the day went smoothly? Is it that you had everything go the way you wanted? Is it that the day was problem free?

When I look back at the best of the "good days" that I have had throughout my life, the one thing they all have in common is that they were spent, at least in part, with people who were uplifting. Whether I was with a group of people, or one or two others, or even reflection time alone with God, the "good" part of the day was the part that was invested in the relationships.

"The reality is that we live in a world where we deal with problems, and conflict, and struggles, and frustrations, and heartache."

Many people (ok, ALL people) at one time or another ask the question, If God is so good, why does he allow suffering? This past weekend, I saw a clip from the movie "Shadowlands", where C.S. Lewis is giving a lecture. In this particular clip, he says, "I don't think God wants us to be happy. I think that God wants us to love, and to be loved."

The most perfect way we can love and be loved is to be in relationship with God. Even in the midst of all the problems, struggles, conflict, etc. etc. we can still have a GOOD day, simply by allowing ourselves to be truly loved by Love Himself.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Religion vs. Relationship

I recently had the opportunity to teach the youth group at my church. Now, I am not accustomed to being around teenagers for any longer than 10 minutes at a time, so it was a bit of a stretch for me to actually willingly volunteer for this task.

The topic was “What happens after we die?” The youth leader got a list of questions from the group and emailed them to me. Being teens, the questions ranged anywhere from “Do we get what we want (video games, etc.)?” to “How do you know if you are going to heaven or hell?” All the questions were serious, but the youth leader admitted that some were a bit out-of-the-box. (A complete list of the questions is available upon request.)

To make the lesson interesting, I had one of the group choose a question out of a basket, and I answered it. The first question was “How does God judge us for entrance into heaven?” I told a story about a man who died and was met at the gates of heaven by St. Peter.

“Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.”

“Okay, the man says, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, not even in my heart.”

“That’s wonderful,” says Peter. “That’s worth three points!”

“Three points?” he says. “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service.”

“Terrific!” says St. Peter. “That’s certainly worth a point.”

“One point? Golly,. How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.”

Fantastic, that’s good for two more points,” he says.

“TWO POINTS!?! At this rate the only way I get to get into heaven is by the grace of God!”

“Come on in!”

The point being that God is not some “great scorekeeper in the sky,” and that entrance into heaven is through accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Other questions were chosen from the basket … Are there animals in heaven? Can we fly? Do we eat? Can you start a family in heaven? Can you see God? Can we play sports? Can we get kicked out of heaven?

We got to the question “What is the religion in heaven?”

I asked them what they thought the answer was. Some said “all religions” … some said “Christian” … being that this was at a Presbyterian church, a couple of the youth proudly shouted, “Presbyterian!” …

“There is no ‘religion’ in heaven. It’s about a relationship with Jesus.”

Next question. “If you are good and bad, do you end up in a ‘middle place’ between heaven and hell?”

I had a Holy Spirit moment … I got my Preach on!

“It’s not about whether you are good or bad. Everyone is “bad” … we all have sinned … just look at the “wrongdoings” sign. (click on the picture for a full view.) That sin is what separates us from God. But it is through our relationship with Jesus that the “wrongdoings” are removed … once and for all. It’s the relationship that opens the door to heaven. God is not the Great Scorekeeper in the Sky, counting up your points until you reach 100. You either believe in Jesus and are welcomed in to heaven, or you don’t, and you spend the rest of eternity separated from God. You have a choice … what’s it gonna be?”

As I was finishing my point, I found myself with about 15 pairs of teenage eyes watching my every move. I even heard a couple of AMEN, SISTAH’s. I knew I had it in me … I just wasn’t expecting it to come out right then.

Why do I tell this story?

Because religion can be complicated. Do we kneel? Do we stand? Do we baptize by sprinkling, or full-immersion? Are we allowed to dance, or is dancing discouraged? Can we eat meat on Good Friday? And what if I never speak in tongues? None of these issues are matters of the heart. They are not relevant to the story of God’s unlimited love for us. Love is about relationships, not rules. God knows that we all will break the rules. That’s why he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him will have everlasting life.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

From the heart

As Christians, we rejoice when we accept Jesus into our hearts. When Jesus lives in our hearts, the heart of Jesus lives there also.

When we act from the heart, whose heart are we acting from?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Just Learn To Pray

Yesterday afternoon I stopped by White Point. There I have a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean, the Palos Verdes shoreline, and Catalina Island, and nothing man-made to interrupt the scenery. Genesis 1:2 says that “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Perhaps that’s why White Point is one of my favorite places to visit when I want to spend time with God.

It had been a couple of months since I had taken the time to quiet myself and listen for God’s small, still voice. I wasn’t feeling troubled, but at the same time I didn’t sense the communion with God that I enjoy. As I stood at the railing over the bluffs, I wondered why I had allowed so much time to go by? I had been so busy with work, home, and church. I felt as though I hadn’t had any deep God time in so long. I hadn’t spent much time in prayer; hadn’t journaled; my latest blog posts were taken from journal entries that were months old. My God time had been limited pretty much to church activities, and singing to what I heard on the car radio and cd player, and reading God’s Word but not meditating. I was starting to become a “look at me” Christian, wanting to do things for God, but forgetting that He wants us to do things WITH Him. How did I let things get that way? And it happened so fast!
It’s hard to explain, but God had been kind of like a wristwatch. You have it on all the time, but you don’t use it 24/7. And even though you don’t use it, you feel like something’s missing when you don’t wear it, until finally you don’t miss it at all.

“Life would be so simple if we all just learned to pray.” The statement doesn’t say “learn how to pray.” It says “learn to pray. I know how to play chess. I know that the object of the game is to put your opponent’s king in a position where it is unprotected. I know what moves the different pieces can make, that a knight moves in an “L”, the bishop moves diagonally, and the queen, well, the queen does whatever pleases her (almost). But there’s a difference between knowing how to play chess and actually playing the game. Similarly, we know how to pray. Jesus taught us with The Lord’s Prayer. We have “formulas” for prayer. For example, ACTS -- Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. But what good is knowing how to pray if we don’t do it?

In many social circles outside of Chess Club, chess is not the game of choice. Likewise, away from church, prayer is not the “in” thing to do with our friends. Why do people shy away from praying with others? Because for some, it seems foreign to us. We don’t see it done enough to feel comfortable without someone coaching us. The tendency is to treat prayer as if it were for show… a competition of sorts.

When a baby “talks” to his parents, those unintelligible gurgles are the sweetest sounds to a mom or dad’s ears. The words don’t matter. What matters is that the baby is communicating with the parents that brought him into this world. It’s the same thing with prayer. Prayer is communicating with the God who knew us since before he created the world we live in. Our words don’t have to be fancy, educated words. Our words don’t even need to make sense -- God gave us the Holy Spirit to intercede on our behalf. What matters is that our communication with God is genuine, and from the heart.

Don’t think you can pray out loud for someone else? Next time you’re with friends, turn to one of them and say, “I thank God that you’re my friend! And I hope God is good to you today.” ….. Guess what….. You just prayed for your friend!

See, it’s not so hard, is it?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

After Good Friday - Part 2

Reflections on how it might have been after Jesus died ... from Peter's perspective:

I’m thinking I should get a new boat. Not that there’s anything wrong with this one. I’ve had some pretty awesome experiences with Jesus on this boat. But now, my Lord is … dead. I never thought it would happen. Not like this.

I remember the first time Jesus noticed me. It was about three years ago. I was on this same boat, cleaning my fishing nets. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men!” I wasn’t sure what he meant by that, but I was ready to find out. I knew that there was something different about him, and it was something I wanted, even longed for.

He loved people, more than he loved himself, it seems. I a while back, The Twelve, as we’re sometimes called, were with Jesus by the Sea of Galilee. We spent most of that day being followed by throngs of people, many of them wanting to be healed. And Jesus healed a lot of people that day. We tried to get away to a mountainside, just to get some rest from all the activity. That didn’t last long. Next thing we know, there must have been at least 5,000 people starting to settle on the mountainside around us. So, what does Jesus do next? He asks us where we can get food for the crowd. I’m stunned. What is this? The world’s biggest picnic? I don’t say anything. Philip tells him that even if there were a market close by, it would cost eight months salary to even begin to feed them, and we just don’t have that kind of money on us. My brother Andrew points to a kid in the front. “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Well, you’ve probably heard the rest of the story. It really was the World’s Biggest Picnic!

That wasn’t the only time Jesus did the “impossible.” I don’t even think the word was in his vocabulary. He did unheard of things like walking on water, and turning water into wine at a big wedding. He changed a lot of people‘s lives. And I’ll never forget the time he took John, James and me to the mountaintop, and the three of us stood and watched while Jesus actually had a conversation with Moses and Elijah! That moment was so incredible, I haven’t been able to talk to anyone about it to this day!

He had a kind of “sixth sense” about him. He kept talking about things that were to come, foretelling the future. Looking back at this past week, he seemed to be acting kind of strange. It’s as if he knew all along what would happen. Especially at dinner in the Upper Room the other night. He predicted who would betray him. He knew he would be executed. And, this one I still find hard to believe. He even knew that I would deny him -- three times -- before morning! I said I would die for him. And I turned my back on him. I feel so ashamed.

I believe that Jesus was the Son of God. I’ve seen to much to believe otherwise. I can't imagine going back to my life the way it was before I met him.

I only wish he were still alive so I could tell him how sorry I am for not taking a stand for him.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


My friend John asked for suggestions for blog topics. Knowing that he tends to have deep blog posts (with the exception of the Pirates song), I suggested "integrity" for his next topic. (Click here to go to John's blog. But finish reading mine first, ok?) Since I needed to post something on my blog as well, we agreed to blog on the same topic. And post it tonight.

I suppose I could have backed out, and chosen a different topic, or not blogged at all, but then, what would that say about my integrity?

Not quite sure where to start, I went to, and found out what "integrity" is, and found out that it's defined as:

1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished.
3. a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition.

It came as no surprise that my picture was not next to the word ... I don't always stick to moral and ethical principles ... I'll be honest -- I'm not always honest ... If I were "undiminished" I'd have accomplished "great things" already in my life ... I sometimes don't feel "whole" ... and I am definitely am not "perfect" ... I don't always follow through with what I say I will do, or with what people expect of me. Oh, I try, but I have more failures than I can count.

If entry into heaven were based on what qualities we possess, I think Integrity would be one of the requirments. On our own, we can't live up to the perfect level of integrity that the God of the Universe requires and deserves. And since God wants us all to go to heaven, I think he'd be pretty lonely up there, all by himself.

I can only think of one person who fits that definition (sorry, Mom & Dad, not you, but you're almost at the top of the list). That person is Jesus Christ. We have a model of what integrity is supposed to look like. But we fall short of that standard. When we confess our sins and failures to live as people of integrity and accept Jesus into our hearts, and change our ways to follow his example, we also are forgiven of that shortfall. He becomes our "lifeline," making us blameless and perfect in God's sight.

"For God so loved the world (you and me) that he gave his one and only Son (Jesus) so that whoever (you and me) believes in him shall not perish, but (you and I) will have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world (you and me) but to save the world (you and me) through him."

I need my Savior so much!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Isn't it strange?

Isn't it strange how a 20 dollar bill seems like such a large amount when you donate it to church, but such a small amount when you go shopping?

Isn't it strange how 2 hours seem so long when you're at church, and how short they seem when you're watching a good movie?

Isn't it strange that you can't find a word to say when you're praying, but you have no trouble thinking what to talk about with a friend?

Isn't it strange how difficult and boring it is to read one chapter of the Bible, but how easy it is to read 100 pages of a popular novel or ZANE GREY book?

Isn't it strange how everyone wants front-row-tickets to concerts or games, but they do whatever is possible to sit at the last row in Church?

Isn't it strange how we need to know about an event for Church 2-3 weeks before the day so we can include it in our agenda, but we can adjust it for other events at the last minute?

Isn't it strange how difficult it is to learn a fact about God to share it with others, but how easy it is to learn, understand, extend and repeat gossip?
Isn't it strange how we believe everything that magazines and newspapers say, but we question the words in the Bible?

Isn't it strange how everyone wants a place in heaven, but they don't want to believe, do, or say anything to get there?
Isn't it strange how we send jokes in e-mails and they are forwarded right away, but when we are going to send messages about God, we think about it twice before we share it with others?


Thursday, April 26, 2007

After Good Friday

At the close of the Good Friday service, you challenged us to meditate on what it would have been like for the disciples to see their Leader put to death. So, I put myself in the place of Mary (Martha and Lazarus' sister), and came up with the following:


What a Passover this has been! Martha and I have had so much preparation to do. This year’s celebration meant so much more than in the past. We’ve had so many blessings!

When our brother Lazarus died, we hoped Jesus would be there to say good-bye before we had to bury him. Those two had always been such good friends. Martha and I even sent someone to find Jesus to tell him that Lazarus was dying, but he didn’t come right away. And when he did arrive, it was too late. We had already buried my brother.

My sister was very gracious to the Teacher when he arrived to our home. But not me. I couldn’t help but think that if he had been here sooner, Lazarus would still be alive. After all, he gave sight to a blind man; surely he could save the life of a sick friend whom he loved dearly. I could see the sadness in his eyes. In fact, he did what I’ve seen few men ever do. He wept. When I took him to the tomb where we placed Lazarus, he asked something most sane men wouldn’t ask. He wanted the stone rolled back. Is he a mad man? My brother - Jesus’ friend - died four days ago! Doesn’t he realize how bad it will smell? And what does Jesus think he can do now anyway? Make Lazarus get up and walk?!?

But that’s exactly what he did. All Jesus had to do was speak. “Lazarus, come out!” And out comes my brother, who we knew was dead, walking! A mad man couldn’t bring a dead man back to life, especially after that much time!

I remember the first time Jesus came to the house. Martha is such the homemaker. She had to make sure everything was perfect for our guest. But I couldn’t help but sit at the Teacher’s feet and take in every word from him. Martha couldn’t stand it. She even asked Jesus to send me back to the kitchen! Do you know what he said? “Martha, Martha," my Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

But it was taken away from me. Jesus is dead. He did what only God could do with Lazarus, but couldn’t save himself. His mother and the other Mary anointed him and buried him, just like Martha and I did with Lazarus.

When Jesus first arrived at our home after we buried Lazarus, he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” I could believe in that when Jesus was here.

I don’t know what to believe any more.

Praise be to God that we do not have to go through that confusion! He Is Risen! Hallelujah!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Signs of Easter, Part 2

Earlier this week I pondered what if someone stood on a corner with signs saying "He Is Risen" and "Hallelujah!"

The signs were made, and I recruited some youth from my church to wave the signs. Not only did they wave the signs, they unashamedly shouted, "JESUS LOVES YOU!" "JESUS DIED ON THE CROSS FOR YOU!" "HE IS RISEN!" "HALLELUJAH!" "HONK FOR JESUS!"

Drivers honked their horns and waved. One guy driving a pick-up truck shouted and pumped his fist in agreement as he drove by. I know this guy. "THAT'S MY NEIGHBOR!"

A broken-down car chugs by. "GOD HAS A CAR FOR YOU!"

Someone drove by in an old, beat-up looking motorhome. "GOD HAS A HOME FOR YOU!"

A man riding a bicycle whizzes by. "GOD CAN HELP YOU WITH YOUR PROBLEMS!"

"I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom. What's more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it's the same as receiving me." (Matthew 16:2-5, MSG)

I want to be more like these kids.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Garden

A while back, I read a work by Max Lucado called "Come Home, God Is Calling". In Chapter 3 of the piece (starting on page 9) is a reflection of Christ's arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before the crucifixion (John 18:1-9)

As I read it, I placed myself in the story. I was there, with the disciples. I witnessed the soldiers - speira - no fewer than 200 men, all of them armed, all of them surrounding us.

"Who are you looking for?" Jesus asked.
They answered, "Jesus from Nazareth."
"I am he," Jesus said.

When Jesus said, "I am he," they moved back and fell to the ground. All of them.

I moved back and fell to the ground (in this scene as it played in my mind). When Jesus speaks, Satan falls. Why then, if I were with the disicples and with Jesus, did I fall back? Why didn't I remain standing?

Because I am a sinner. Yes, I've been saved through faith in Jesus, saved by grace. But I am also human, tainted by sin. That sinful nature in me, that weakness that Satan knows so well, is why I fell back when Jesus spoke.

Jesus spoke again. "If you are looking for me, let the others go."

The soldiers let us go. They let me go. Rather than stay with Jesus, stay with my Savior, I ran. Fast and hard. I was awed by this display of divine power, yet at the same time, I was afraid.

When Jesus speaks, Satan falls.

"If you are looking for me, let the others go."

Satan thought he ahd captured and defeated his enemy. Through what Jesus did on the cross, he defeaten Satan (not that Satan had a chance in the first place).

When Satan knocks on the door, ask, "Jesus, can you get that for me?" After all, it is Jesus that Satan is looking for. It is Jesus that Satan still , to this very day, is trying to stop. Satan torments you and me because he knows that it's in our hearts that Jesus dwells.

And when Jesus speaks, Satan falls. Every time.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Signs of Easter

I was driving home today and found myself "thinking outside the box".....

You know those signs that people get paid to hold and wave back and forth on the street corners? The ones advertising everything from PIZZA to TAX RETURNS DONE to CARS FOR SALE to CELL PHONES....

What if....

On Easter Sunday, two people dressed as ANGELS waving signs that say "HE IS RISEN!" and "HALLALUJAH!", and someone dressed as the RISEN JESUS waving from a street corner.

It might not be "politically correct" to promote Christmas. But I haven't heard any uproar about promoting the RESURRECTION of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Inscription on artwork: "For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. - Romans 14:9"

Artwork "Risen" by David Sorensen

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Reassurance of the promise

I was held captive, with no way out
except to give in and self-destruct.

I cried out to you, and you set me free.
I asked you, "Will they be coming back?"

As You embraced me, you said, "Yes, they will,
as sure as I'll be with you when they return."

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. -Deuteronomy 31:8

Monday, March 05, 2007

What do you need?

One of the greatest spiritual needs we have as Christians is to simply “need” God. We need the assurance of the unconditional agape love of the Father and all that it implies: Nothing -- and He does mean N O T H I N G -- can separate us from His love. As long as we continue to allow God to fill our needs, we will enjoy the comfort and security of his refuge. And no matter how far we stray from the protection afforded to us in God’s fortress, He will joyfully run to us with open arms and say, “Welcome Home!”

If God’s fortress is such a safe place, why would anyone want to leave? Why would anyone walk away from that kind of love? One reason may be that we believe that “something, somewhere, out there” can fulfill a need that we think we have. Often, that perceived need is a selfish desire; sometimes we believe that “out there” the need can be met faster or better than God can. Whatever it is, if it is a need that we look to have fulfilled away from God, we risk falling into sin, and separation Him, and away from the safety of His fortress and security of living in His love.

After a while, we find ourselves trying to fill our needs only to have them time and again come up empty. We start to make wrong decisions. We search for comfort in a bottle; in debt; in a high; in the arms of a stranger. The happiness is temporary. The satisfaction is fleeting. The more we search for fulfillment, the emptier we become. Safety and security are only as strong as the walls we build around ourselves. And we can’t help but think that there has to be more to life than this. We convince ourselves that we’ve fallen so far that God wouldn’t -- couldn’t -- possibly want anything to do with us.

So how can we ever become right with God again?

The truth is, we can’t. At least not on our own. The almighty Creator of the Universe could say, “Those people got into their mess…let them stay there.” But he doesn’t say that. He loves us too much to let us wander forever.

God loves us.
He loves us so much.

He loves us so much that he sent his one and only Son so that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Did you catch that?

God sent his son to save us from our separation from our creator!

Do you know what that means? Do you really get it?

Remember when you lived in the safety and shelter of God’s fortress? Everything you ever needed was yours, just for the asking. That’s because the Creator of the Universe had you and me in mind and loved us before he even created the universe!

That means we don’t have to be wandering in a desert of emptiness, trying to find fulfillment in things that will leave us wanting more. God knows exactly what we need, because we are “fearfully and wonderfully made!” Just read Psalm 139.…and believe!

And believe in God’s son Jesus. He’s the way that God provided for us to fill the need to be reunited with our loving Creator.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

God of Wonders

I recently had the privilege of watching the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean. It sounds a bit strange, since the Pacific is to the west, and the sun rises from the east. But from a cruise ship off the coast of Ensenada, Mexico, every direction is the Pacific Ocean.

Those that know me well know that one of the places I feel closest to God is when I am gazing at the ocean. When I listen to the waves crashing against the shore, I can't help but think that the sound is the same as when God put the first waves in motion thousands of years ago. When I catch a glimpse of sea mammals migrating along the coast, I marvel at the wonder of how they just know when and where to swim each season. And there is nothing like the colors displayed by the sun setting (or rising) in concert with the clouds, and it's a brand new light show every morning and evening!

While God has filled our world with these natural wonders and more, what marvels me even more is how such a creative God, the Creator of the Universe, chose you and me as his most beloved in his universe. But in our sinful nature, we are cut off from God. Yet, the Bible tells us that even in our most unlovable state, God so loved the world that he sent his only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16-17). At the Last Supper, Jesus told us what exactly God had in mind when he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to the disciples, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:27-28)

Through the brutal death of Jesus on the cross and the amazing resurrection, all who believe in Jesus to save them from their sin can be restored to a right relationship with God. I never cease to be filled with wonder when I think about that.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 -- A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? (NIV)

There may be days when work feels like a curse. There may be other days when you feel great satisfaction in what you do. Believe it or not, both come from God. How can you make God a bigger part of your work life?

This is something that I have struggled with, and I'd like your input.

Whether you're an office worker, or farmer, or constructin worker, or medical professional, or race car driver, or professional surfer, or student, or stay-at-home mom... or whatever you do for income...

How do YOU make God a bigger part of your work life?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Acts 20:36 -- When [Paul] had finished speaking, he knelt and prayed with them. (NLT)

Sometimes very simple acts share your faith very powerfully. Praying with a spouse, a friend, or your family will bring the presence of God into their lives. How is your personal prayer life? How is your prayer life with your spouse? With your family?

Let me know what you think.