Friday, April 18, 2014

His Masterpiece



http://www.freeimages.com/photo/740784
For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.  Ephesians 2.10 (NLT) 

We are God’s masterpiece . . .  

There are three determining factors that collectors use to determine whether a piece of art is truly a masterpiece or not. 

1.       Who made it?

2.      How many of them are there of it?

3.      How much is someone willing to pay for it? 

You are God's Masterpiece . . .

The God of the Universe, the one who hung the stars in space and spoke the world into existence . . . created you! He formed and shaped you.  He knows everything about you . . . even how many hairs you have on your head. 
 
He is a true Master of His artistry. 

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.  You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.  You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.  Psalm 139.13, 15-16 (NLT) 

You are one-of-a-kind.  There has never been and never will be another person on this planet exactly like you.  You are unique, special and inimitable! 
 

Your heavenly Father loved you so very much that He sent His one and only Son to die in your place.  All the gold, silver, or precious jewels on this earth could not buy your freedom.  It was the costly price of His precious blood that ransomed you.  You didn’t deserve it, you can’t earn it . . . it was an unconditional gift of love.   

A gift freely given.  It only awaits the receiver’s acceptance. 

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors.  And the ransom He paid was not mere gold or silver.  It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.  1 Peter 1.18-19 (NLT) 

God thinks you are worth it!  

You are His masterpiece . . . You’re one-of-a-kind, made by Him and purchased at an outrageous price.  

Costly. Priceless. Unfathomable. Grace.
 
Amazing!
 
 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Companionship of Joy and Pain

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment.  Romans 5.3-4 (NLT)

I don’t know about you but when I’m going through a really difficult time, I don’t jump up and down and celebrate the fact.  I’m more likely to turn tail and run.  To get as far away from my problem as possible, even if all I can do is remove myself emotionally. 
http://www.freeimages.com/photo/845220

Recently, I watched a friend bury his beloved wife.  They were soul mates who had journeyed together for over forty years.  
 
His heart is cracking apart with grief.  The loss and loneliness are a crushing burden he carries every day. 

It seems almost sacrilegious to read this verse about rejoicing when we face trails in respect to my friend's circumstance. Does God really expect him to rejoice in this devastating sorrow?  
 
Is my friend celebrating his loss, NEVER. 
 
But I do see him rejoicing.  Rejoicing in the years he had . . . rejoicing in a God that gives and takes away . . . rejoicing in what is to come.

How??

It’s easy to think of joy as an emotion of happiness.  In fact, the dictionary describes it that way.  But joy is so much deeper.  According to God, we can experience joy in the deepest of sorrow.  In excruciating pain there is joy. 

Ephesians 1.5 says this, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

Do you see the joy and pain in this verse?  God’s adoption plan was sending His only Son to die in our place.  What pain!  What sorrow! 

Look what He says next, “He wanted to do it and it gave him great pleasure!”

Pain and Joy.  Seemingly so diametrically opposed to one another and yet, at the core of God’s rescue plan for us!

Why should this journey of following our Savior be any different?
 
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  1 Peter 4.12-13(NIV)

Ted Dekker in his book, “When Heaven Weeps” writes about our death as a follower of Jesus, as our Wedding Day and Jesus’ death on the cross was our grand wedding announcement.  (I love this!)

Sorrow and Joy. 
 
Tumbling around together in this unpredictable life.

So how can my friend know joy in such a great time of sorrow? 

Because he’s chosen a life of TRUST.  He’s living what he believes.  It’s at the core of who he is.  He KNOWS God is not a cruel and unjust God who delights in bringing sorrow upon those He’s created but a God who is GOOD all the time.  He’s discovered the joy of embracing God’s work in his past and it is his stronghold for the future.

JOY comes from knowing God and trusting His way.  Joy comes from the deep springs of the soul.  It doesn’t happen overnight, it’s developed over time as we grab hold of HIS hand and put one foot in front of the other.  As we walk His way.

Jesus said in John 16.33 (NIV), In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
 
 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What's On Your List?


I dug out an old post from the archives for this week.  I hope that it challenges you as it did me.  I don't think I can ever be reminded of this enough.

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/293052
If you knew that your house was going to burn down and you could grab just a few things, what would be on your list?   Family pictures?  The car parked in the garage?  A brand new couch you’d finally found after looking for 3 years?  Your Bible?   Your dog?


My husband’s brother and his wife had their house burn a few years ago.   It was early morning, everyone was sleeping.  Praise God everyone woke up and was able to get out of the house.  When the volunteer fire department got there they asked them, “What do you want us to save?”  They wanted their family photo albums, something they knew they couldn’t replace.


After losing pretty much everything they owned they realized that what they had on this earth wasn’t nearly as important as what they were laying up in heaven.  And they left a well paying job, family members and a church family to serve God in Wyoming.

 
Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”


In the movie, Schindler’s List, Oskar Schindler, a wealthy German businessman "employs" Jewish people to work in his factories during the Holocaust.  At first he is only concerned about making money and being successful but as time goes on he begins to realize that when he requests someone to work for him he is literally saving their life.  By the end of the movie his whole focus has turned from being successful to saving as many Jews as possible by putting them on the "list" (of workers).

The Original List

There is a gripping scene in the movie where Schindler gathers all of his Jewish employees together at the end of the war.  The Jews he saved give him a gift - a gold ring with a Hebrew inscription, "He who saves one man, saves the whole world."   Overcome with guilt at the way he wasted so much money and could have saved so many more, he looks down at a pin on his jacket and yanks it off.  There is a desperate misery in his eyes as he says, “This would have bought one more person, I could have saved one more person?” and he falls to the ground racked with bitter agony because he chose his pin over saving another human being.


As I watched this scene with tears running down my own face, I couldn’t help but wonder if when I get to heaven I won’t feel the same way.  The money I spent on a sweater I just had to have or the time I felt prompted by God to speak to a friend about Jesus and didn’t, that I will be standing in heaven, racked with my own agony and guilt over the fact that I could have helped bring more people into the Kingdom of Heaven and chose a sweater or my own comfort over them!

 “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will be also.”
 
What's on your list?   What do you treasure?  Where do you spend your time, your thoughts, your energy – is it on yourself, the things you own, your own comfort?


There’s only one thing we can take with us to heaven – other people.  


Lord, teach us to set our affection on things above and not on things of this earth.  Show us how to treasure what You treasure.  May we never lose sight of what is truly important – loving You first and then loving other people. 



Monday, March 24, 2014

The Many Facets of Pride


Pride, the down fall of mankind.

 It was pride that caused Adam and Eve to eat the apple.  It was pride that got Lucifer thrown out of heaven.  It was pride that drove the Pharisees to crucify Jesus.

And pride has been the bane of my existence since well, FOREVER.

I first recognized the boastful, arrogant, and haughty facet of pride in my heart.  It was easy to identify and begin to root out. 
 
But there are other types or pride in my spirit that are not so easily recognizable.  They talk a good game and cloak themselves in what, at first glance seems virtuous, but underneath is really just pride.

One of those is a pride that is often mistaken for humility.  It’s masked by what can be perceived as modesty.   This pride demeans the possessor, puts them down and declares they are no good.  This isn’t modesty or humility it’s pride. 

“How,” you say?

Let me ask you . . . What is pride?

When you strip all the trinkets and gadgets, bells and whistles away, pride at its core says what? . . .

“I’m god and You’re not.”

Think about it!  When we proceed to mock and criticize ourselves, we are really criticizing the God who made us.  We’re setting ourselves up as god because we know better than Him.

There’s another facet of pride that is hard to identify and easily justified . . . 
 
Self-absorption. 
 
This pride masks itself in being concerned about what others think.  Caring more about our own reputation, our own promotion than we do about God.  It has an unquenchable thirst for affirmation.

Lately, this aspect of pride has risen its ugly head in my life.  I’ve found myself jealous at the blessings of others, envious of their recognition, and hungering for affirmation like a man who’s gone days without food.  I’ve spent countless hours feeling sorry for myself, wondering why no one appreciates me for who I really am.  I question why all the good I’m doing is seemingly going unnoticed. 

One Monday morning, a couple of weeks ago, I was driving in to work.  It’d been a lonely weekend and I was having a grand pity party in my car.  In the middle of feeling sorry for myself . . . “Nobody loves me, nobody appreciates me, nobody cares about me” . . .  I felt the Lord speak in His gentle and quiet way, “Kristi, why are you looking to others?  LOOK AT ME I’m all you will ever need.” 

It was as if He reached down and with the touch of His finger on my chin, turned my face to look at Him. 

Why is this truth so hard to remember and so easy to forget?

Why do I think approval, affirmation and success will satisfy the hunger of my heart? 

Look what the writer of Hebrews admonishes us to do, Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, FIXING our eyes on Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of faith.  Hebrews 12.1-2

Lord Jesus, I let go of the pride and egocentricity of my heart.  Teach me to FIX my eyes on YOU.  Let me be stuck like glue on You!  Amen.

 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Live Free!


http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1294766

Did Jesus say . . .  

“I died so you could be miserable?"

"I gave up everything for you to live in fear?"  

 "I went to the cross so you might be chained to your sin?”

How ludicrous! 

And yet, don’t we often live trapped in fear, broken and enslaved? How worthless this priceless gift becomes when we choose to live as slaves!  

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.  A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”  John 8.34-36 (NLT)

Jesus died to set us free! 

He rose from the grave to set us free! 

He lives to set us free!

A friend of our family was a hoarder.  She had lived that way so long, her house was bursting at the seams with all the stuff she had collected over the years.  Knowing she was in trouble, she reached out to my mom for help.  After hours upon hours of work, with a select number of friends who were willing to volunteer their time, they sorted, purged and cleaned her home.  

When our friend returned, she flew into a rage and demanded that everything be put back right where it had been!

 How similar this story is to our own journey with God. . .  

 We call on Him to rescue us from our depravity.  

 He pulls up from the pit of our own making, removes ours chains and washes us clean.  

Then we turn right around and wallow in the filth and wrap back up in the shackles of our shame and guilt. 

 Why?

Because it’s familiar. . .   

Because it’s what we’ve always known . . .  

Because we feel naked without it . . .  

The TRUTH is we aren’t naked and we aren't imprisoned!  

So release the chains of your guilt.  Embrace the freedom.  You've been forgiven.

It's time to forgive yourself and LIVE FREE!