Friday, December 14, 2012

WHY WE LOVE THE NUTCRACKER PRINCE



Most little girls dream of a hero.  It could be daddy or a teacher or even a pop star crush.  But somewhere in our hearts hides a nagging nightmare that we are going to need help, we are going to need to be rescued.  The nutcracker ballet is one little girl’s elaborate dream of her hero.   He does it all.

First he is a soldier and saves her from danger.  Then he transforms into a hot looking dude revealing that he was secretly a prince all along.  How’s that for a mystery date?  He dethroned the evil empire so he now has acquired a jeweled crown.  Yet he presents it to her, showing that he is humble and generous.  That crown is apparently a marriage proposal and proof of his love and dedication to her alone.  He escorts her to a better land where they rule together in sweet prosperity as prince and princess.

It appears to be such a simple story and a great excuse to stage talented dancers, gorgeous costumes, and a timeless symphony.  But if you stop to think about it, it illustrates the deep desire to be unconditionally loved, rescued, and honored.

For me, those silly looking nutcrackers are a reminder of the true hero of Christmas, the unlikely prince born in a manger.   He grew up to defeat evil and overcome death.   He sent his Spirit to marry with ours in unconditional love called grace.    And he prepares a future kingdom of perfect peace. 

So let’s celebrate Christmas.  Let’s celebrate with nutcrackers and ballets.  Let’s celebrate with trees and penguins and snowmen.  Let’s celebrate with gifts and music and movies.  Let all creation rejoice!      

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Our Steps to Success - Industry and Education or trust and rest?


That is what we grew up trusting, that and hard work.  If you need more, simply work harder.  Give more, be more, know more.  As I was growing up I do not remember ever seeing any adult praying for a financial need, did you?   

I found out we could pray for any sort of need when my first child was an infant and he needed healing.  Prior to that I felt alone in my pain.  I had learned to take care of myself and comfort myself.  I was doing my best to “buck up”.

We learn self-reliance.  We think it is our only option.  Our society applauds the “self-made man”, the winner.  We learn to take, and to grab, and to compete.  We resent others who achieve more, and we look down on those who have less.  We learn that to be independent is to be strong.  But it is an illusion.  God says his strength is perfected in our weakness.  

Oh, he lets us try it our way.  He lets us do our best.  Go for it and knock ourselves out.  But is it our hard work and effort that makes God happy with us?  So if we sacrifice ourselves more can we actually save ourselves?  

Think about it.  Can we ever provide all that we need?  Can we rise to the place that we don’t need God?  Should we try? 

It is not much different than Adam and Eve.  God gave them everything and met their every need.  And they had the freedom to pursue their passions.  They did not have to work for food, shelter, or security.  They “worked” at their passions.  They could create and make art and music and build things.  They could explore their world and each other.  They could get to know God and learn from him.   They were to fill the earth with their family.  They were to be kings of the earth.  The animals were tame and obeyed them.  The weather was not hostel.  They could build homes and cities and amphitheaters.  Whatever they felt like doing.  They were not chained to a job. 

How different from the way we live under the curse.   The curse that said the earth will not naturally provide for you anymore.  We were sentenced to hard labor.  "By the sweat of your brow you will eat".  It begins to crowd out our time with family and friends and our passions, and even God.  Why?  Because Adam and Eve did not trust God’s love and provision for them.  They believed God’s enemy.   They wanted more.  They wanted to be their own Gods.   They made their own decision with the reasoning of their minds.  Even though God said not to do something, it seemed ok to them, so they went ahead.  Then God said have it your way and he took his blessings and disappeared, literally. 

Well, we know that in his mercy he did not take all of his blessings away.  And he has been reaching out to us throughout the ages.  He is the one offering us a way back… a way to balance and peace, with our trust in God and nothing else.

So if it is not hard work to the point of sacrifice that pleases God, what does? 

Faith.  Without faith it is impossible to please God.  Our real job is to hear God’s voice in this lost world - to get to know him and to put him first in our lives.  Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to make it possible for us to do it.  This is one of the ways he has set the captives free.  His yoke is easy and his burden is light.  Matthew 11:29 … Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Who is at the top of that ladder you are climbing?  Is it You?  Money?   God?   Just make sure you are on the right ladder.

Thorns of Love?



On the cross Jesus was crowned by the very thing that did not even exist when God created the earth.  Thorns were not in the original creation story.  They came about after man’s rejection of God.  Thorns were not God’s plan for man.  In Genesis 3 we read that thorns grew on the earth for the very first time after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.

Thorns represent the cursed earth.  Now I ask myself…Why would Jesus be crowned with something that represents the curse?  Why did Jesus allow the cursed thorns to draw blood from his head?  His perfect, sinless, blood dripping from his head by the very thing that man’s disobedience brought to the earth.  What irony! 

It is yet another reminder that He came for us in spite of our rejection of God.   God sent him to accomplish a very wonderful and loving task.  To show us a way back to God.  Man’s ultimate sin is being his own God.  It is our mistrust of God that makes us act as our own God, yet in doing so, we elevate ourselves above God.   Our thoughts are evidenced by our actions and called "sins".  We do our own thing.   We are in charge.  As humans, we do not naturally submit to our creator.  That is something we learn to do.  Then we call it "wisdom".  Adam’s self-leadership is what originally brought thorns to this earth. 

It was Jesus who showed us that we humans need our heavenly father to lead us.  And God accepts us back into his family if we make Jesus our leader.  We do this by acknowledging that we know very little compared to what God knows.  We need God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  We come 4th in the rankings.  And we always will.  No matter how good or smart we get, we need to know that we will never elevate ourselves above God. 

So consider Jesus, who loves us even though we did nothing to earn it.  And by remembering the sinless blood streaming down his face, and knowing he is wearing a crown made of human rebellion, we can see clearly the powerful symbolism.

Now living simply becomes about gaining wisdom through everyday experiences and talking to God as we go.  But until the day Jesus comes back to earth to govern here… our roses will always have thorns.

Come Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Why we proclaim the Blood of Jesus



As unusual people, we Christ followers sometimes speak or “plead” the blood of Jesus over a person or situation. Now I know that this is going to seem far-out to some of my friends, but we Christians have experienced some supernatural things. Think about it. We have been influenced by things we cannot see with our eyes. We have felt the Holy Spirit of Jesus in such a real way that we invite him to be the leader (Lord) of our very lives.

We believe in angels. We also talk, (I mean pray), to Jesus who is a person in another dimension. We even believe that a spirit helped human beings write a book that has eternal meaning. All pretty supernatural, don’t you think?

The blood of Jesus is a symbol, a symbol of his life. (Life is in the blood.) He was obedient to God even unto death in fulfillment of the plan that God devised. That makes him the mediator between God and us. His success became our success. What he accomplished also gave us victory. We are his way in. He is our way up. The earth that has been largely taken over by evil will someday be taken back by good. Now he has authority in the earth if we invite him.

Authority over whom, one may ask? Sorry guys, but there are opposing forces at play here. The good book says…For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places (air). Ephesians 6:12

Backstory: Adam was given the earth by God. He then obeyed God’s enemy which allowed Satan to take Adam’s power. Jesus later came and gave us back authority on the earth if we partner with Him. Sounds like a great movie. Good versus evil and all, but we’re in it too because we have to choose our leader, Jesus or Satan. But Satan is sneaky. Because being your own leader is still like being on his side. Being your own God is his thing. Satan is going down and he wants to take human beings down with him.

1 Peter 5:8 reminds us to be clear minded, and stay on guard; because your adversary the devil, is as a roaring lion, sneaking about, seeking whom he may devour.

So speaking the blood of Jesus as a confession, or prayer is one good way for a Christian to bring God into a situation where we suspect that evil forces are causing trouble for someone on the earth.

Speak the blood of Jesus over the things you are struggling with today.

Remember too that His blood is not like our blood. Our blood is tainted with the rebellion of our first father, Adam. Jesus was born of a virgin so his blood was clean like Adam's was when God first breathed into him. Jesus's blood was pure and innocent and sent from heaven. We must wonder if the very Spirit of God was pulsating through his veins. Then his blood became a visual of his sacrifice for all of us when Jesus held the cup of wine and asked us to always remember what he was about to do just before he allowed his life blood to be spilled.

Epic.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

What does God want from us?

He wants us to learn… He wants us to learn…That we need him to be our king. That although we may become smart, strong, and great kings. He will always be smarter, stronger, and greater. He wants us to realize that He is our leader and we should never try to rule above Him, on earth, or in eternity. He wants us to learn…That things on the earth are not the way that they could have been if Adam and Eve would not have rebelled. Once upon a time earth was a lot more like heaven. Earth is now full of war, selfishness, and arrogance (racism). It is the result of mankind being in charge of earth. But none of that is in heaven where God rules. He wants us to learn…To be a peacemaker. We will be peacemakers when we are living in the heavenly dimension. Hopefully we can bring some of that to earth right now. Jesus was not an expert sword fighter. He did not invent martial arts. He was able to speak the words of the bible to quiet his enemies. He wants us to learn…That we are not alone on the earth. That God can be our king right now. He is a friend that sticks closer that a brother. (Proverbs 18:24) The Holy Spirit is our invisible friend who is inside our head and heart if we have invited him in. We can each have conversations with Him in our minds, without even speaking. He wants us to learn…That he loves us like a good father loves his child. Like a mother is consumed with affection for her newborn. Yet, even more. Because we do not see many parents who love as deeply as God does. Maybe it is not possible. Our parents are damaged by living on earth. If they don’t know Father God’s unconditional love for them, then they can’t give it either. He wants us to learn…That God will not give up on us. His offer to us never expires. His love never stops. No matter what we might experience in this messed up world, he is still waiting for us to turn to him and say, “Help me. Be my leader. I was not made to be king. I want to follow you. I can’t do this alone. Thank you for loving me like a son (daughter)”. He wants us to learn…That Jesus is the way. (Plain and simple, catchy and cliché.) The father made it easy. Follow Jesus and you are on the right track. Jesus knew how to please the father. Obedience even unto death because he knew there is new life after death. Adam messed it up, but Jesus got it right. He wants us to learn…That the bible is our gift. Jesus used the scriptures. We use the scriptures. The Holy Spirit uses the scriptures. Some scholars say it is flawed. I don’t know. All I know is that God uses it to communicate, and confirm the things he is saying to me, and doing on the earth. There are lots of voices speaking to us. You know it is God if it does not contradict the bible. He wants us to learn…what justice is. No one can ever accuse God of being an unfair ruler of heaven. When people realize that God is King they also instinctively know they deserve punishment for their rebellion. But God answered in love. He let Jesus be the payment for our punishment. Now we are completely guilt free.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Adjust your Sails to Catch the Spirit



Sailboats are beautiful. It is so relaxing to watch them glide through the water, letting the breeze carry them. I have felt the Lord reminding me to be a sailboat, led by His Spirit.

Go With The Flow- I am a planner, a controller. If I were in a ship’s crew I would be the navigator. I want the Lord to show me the destination and I will help and direct until we get there. Upon arrival, we promptly set a new goal. I have good intentions. But I think I will try sailing in a way that allows the Lord to be the navigator and make changes to my direction as we go.

Listen to the Breeze- Learn to hear and respond to the leading of the Spirit. God’s spirit has been poured out on the earth. It’s everywhere. It is in you. So it is everywhere you are, always whispering. We don’t have to set a meeting, or go through certain prayers, or read 2 chapters. Just have a willing and open heart. Many times we sail along with the Spirit and don’t realize it until we look back. I wasn’t sure at the time, but yes, the Lord was there and He led me through those waters. From my experience the Holy Spirit will definitely do a few things. He will draw us into the bible, either by reading or by listening. He will be gentle and loving, not demanding or condemning. Our challenge is to be led by His breeze and not to be blown about by all the other distractions on the lake.

Don’t be a Motor Boat- It is awesome to serve the Lord. Our zeal makes us want to get up and DO something for God. Accomplish some real change for Christ! I want that so badly. But we humans can get into such a hurry that we become the leader. I am profoundly guilty of this myself. Our service for God can actually cause us to disconnect from the flow of the Spirit. Turn off your motor and sail for a while. See if the wind is blowing fast and furious today, or if it is time to just float and enjoy the sunshine.

Like Flags of Glory- I have this vision of many sailboats on the lake. Moving like choreographed dancers. Their sails are all different colors. They are high and beautiful. It is peaceful. It is joyous. It is God moving among his people, the church.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It’s Valentines Day… Again


One Valentine’s Day I was at my grandparent’s house when Grandpa proudly brought home a giant heart shaped box of chocolates for Grandma, just like he did every year. He set it on the counter in front of her and she cordially smiled and said, “Thank you.” I was very excited to see all that candy and wondered why she didn’t seem to be. What a grand gesture he made! Then I noticed that, just maybe, she seemed a little more like an obligation than his passion?

Just like Grandma I am not one of those predictable wives that wants the same gift every year. My interests are constantly changing. For a few years I really wanted Lowrey’s Chocolates and it was the only time of year I got them. Some years I longed for a rose, some years I craved a weekend away, one year it was a really soft caramel-colored stuffed bear. The point is my poor husband cannot cruise on this. He has to be in tune to me daily. You see, if I am wishing for chocolate covered strawberries and he gives me Whitman’s chocolates it just magnifies the fact that he is not intimate with me. Maybe life is too busy and pulling us in different directions, or maybe something else has taken the place of me being the apple of his eye. But something is off. And even though I will stay married and eat my yummy candy, I will probably have a little ping of sadness in my heart.

Intimacy is not quick, it is not easy, and it is not for cowards.

The husband and wife relationship is God’s way of showing us a glimpse of what our relationship with Him could be. The Holy Spirit is not saying the same thing to us year after year. We are growing and our world is constantly changing. If our conversations with God and our prayers are the same as they have always been, maybe we are causing that little ping of sadness in God, an unfulfilled longing, a missed connection. Maybe something else has taken priority in our lives and God is not number one. Maybe we are too busy or preoccupied running our own lives to daily connect and be intimate with our Heavenly Father.

Being together is not the same thing as being connected. A man can be in the room with his wife and not know what is going on in her heart that day. We know God is always with us. But unless we talk to Him and listen to Him we may never truly connect.

How wonderful a wife feels when her husband shows her that there is nothing more important than her and he will not allow anything to come between them or their time together? She can rest in his love. She can feel safe and she will bloom. And her greatest desire becomes blessing him. And the cycle of love spirals upward.

Yet God has done that very thing! He will not allow anything to separate us from his love. But we have free will. What will we allow? Will we protect our time with God? Will we turn our thoughts to Him? Will we cultivate a love that spirals ever upward? Just like the wife, the Holy Spirit longs for true intimacy. After all, we are the church, and the church is the bride of Christ. Is there anything more intimate than that?