Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Dr. Seuss Logic of Prayer

Do it here. Do it there. Do it everywhere. 

In a boat, with a goat, on dry land surrounded by sand. In the sun and when it snows, when the leaves fall and when the Spring bud grows.

In a church, in a car when you have to drive far. In the shower, feel the Spirit’s power. Do it silently, or do it out loud, when you are alone or in a crowd.

Do it here. Do it there. Do it everywhere.

The Doctor Seuss logic of prayer is quite simple, our dialogue with God begins with being in prayer every day, all the time, anywhere. As we are commanded in I Thessalonians 5:17-18 we are to “Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Simple. Right?

Then why do we struggle so much with having prayer be our first resort and not our last? Why do we not want constant communication with the Lord?

Well, let me speak for myself and maybe some of my struggles will ring true with you.

When a crisis arises, I am often so caught up in the details, and headed right into panic mode that I don’t “stop, drop, and pray.” I am wanting to remedy the situation using my own skill set, instead of relying on God’s. I go into containment mode. Contain the problem. Contain my emotions. Contain my outward appearance so that I “seem” to be in control for those who may be witnessing the discomfort of my life play out. Just contain.

Why do I think I can do all of this myself?

Because Satan is constantly whispering little lies into my soul. He is telling me, “You got this girlfriend.” And, that is an utter lie, which goes against all God says and commands. Which leads to the understanding of why we, as women of God, are to be praying without ceasing. It is only then that I can hear God’s voice over that of Satan.

Were I not to have been in constant contact with God, I would not have been able to discern or even know His voice. Prayer gives you wisdom. Prayer gives you power. Prayer gives you peace. Prayer gives you the ultimate control over any situation which you may face.

Imagine for a moment - this is something I do very regularly - that you are a hot mess. Your hair is in knots and greasy having been left uncombed for days and your clothes are a mess, there are even smudges of mascara under your eyes. Knowing ALL this, and being in this state, you can BOLDLY approach the throne of God with your prayers. In fact, God commands you to. You can run right up to Him as He is seated on the dais as king ruling over the universe.“Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment]”, as Hebrews 4:16 tells us.

Just for a moment let that image fill you. You are a daughter of the King, and He so wants you to come to Him prayerfully, in all circumstances. Just. As. You. Are.

I know you may not feel worthy of this privilege or the right to approach God. Because of circumstances, because of personal failures, because of lacking the right words. But, let me just tell you because I have been where you are - at times in even worse circumstances than some of you - despite it ALL you are so incredibly blessed. Wow! If you could only see the blessings. You have direct access to the God of the universe. All the time. Any hour. Any Day. Any moment.

So come as you are. From near or far. Pray when you’re busy, pray when you’re slow, pray when and wherever you go.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

You Are Beautiful!

Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your Lord. Psalms 45:11

Today as I was waiting to check out of the grocery store I was reading the headlines of several magazines. They all had something to do improving yourself, focusing mostly on the outer self. Do this and you will lose weight. Use this product and you will look younger. Claiming we are too fat, too skinny,  too old looking, too____. I am sure I do not need to go on, as women we are very aware of the headlines and messages we get on a daily basis.

In fact, this world has so many messages of what beauty is and isn’t that it can be confusing and overwhelming. We come to believe so many lies. We look in the mirror and feel as if we don't measure up. But the lies don't just stop with our outer body, does it? No, unfortunately, the world has all kinds of standards we feel pulled toward our marriages, parenting, careers and so on. Somedays it's just exhausting. 

Sweet sister, would you allow me to encourage you today with the truth? 

You were created in God's image and He made you perfectly. You are beautiful just the way you are. Do not listen to the messages of the world. Remember that He created you in His image and as a daughter of God you are beautifully created. Furthermore, God is far more interested in our inward beauty than the outer. We need to stop looking to the world for standards of beauty or success. We need to embrace Christ and His gospel which tells us that He is at work in our innermost to beautify us with the grace of His Spirit. True beauty reflects Christ. 

Our beauty is most evident, and God is most glorified when we are totally saturated with His Spirit. His desire for us to allow The Spirit to live in and through us as we walk in our marriages, parenting, careers, and life. 

So, today can we just take a moment and remember all that God created is good. (Gen 1:31) He is enthralled by your beauty, don’t you just love that? He made you beautiful. He is making you and your life to beautifully reflect Him (not the world). 

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL...
  • He has made everything beautiful in his time: also he has set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God makes from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
  • Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. (Proverbs 30:31)
  • She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. (Prov. 31:26)
  • Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. (Ps. 34:5)
  • For we are God’s masterpiece... (Eph. 2:10)
  • And to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:24)
  • For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col. 3:3)

Saturday, February 23, 2019

In Defense of Life

Abortion has again become a hot topic because of the outrage (or celebration) on social media regarding the bill passed in NY that allows late-term abortions and now no longer counts killing a pregnant woman as a double homicide by defining a person as "a human being who has been born and is alive." This was closely followed in VA by a similar bill.

In this time of human history, when semantics are used to justify the murder of millions of the most innocent and defenseless people, we need to be prepared to discuss justifications for the pro-life cause. Here are a few of the arguments used in favor of “choice”, and some resources to refute them and defend the pro-life view:

Referring to the baby as "fetus" or "blob of tissue"
  1. Can a woman be pregnant with something that is not human? The answer is obvious. Taking it further can be helpful - that blob of tissue contains unique human DNA from the moment of conception - it contains the plans for the color of eyes, hair, and so on - all of the features of the person when fully formed.
  2. Life begins at conception - the cells begin to divide and grow, and that is what scientists agree to be the definition of a living being.
  3. Define the word "fetus". The stages of human development are this: fetus to newborn to toddler to young child to adolescent and so on.
  4. Ultrasound images of fetal development: Frist Trimester images of Your Developing Baby.
Referring to abortion as an act of mercy for a child who will be born with a genetic disorder:
  1. Reference famous people with genetic disorders or chronic illness who have contributed great things to humanity. Link here.
  2. What about older adults or those who battle chronic illness? Do you believe their life is worth less than yours and therefore worthy of elimination?
It should be the woman's choice to do with her body what she wants, especially in the cases of rape and incest.
  1. The baby is a separate being from its mother that contains unique human DNA. It will contain the woman's DNA, but it is entirely unique to the fetus. The baby is only connected physically to the woman for nourishment, it is not her body. In fact, it does not share her blood supply and if by some accident the mother and baby's blood is mixed there can be serious complications.
  2. Going back to stages of development - what about a 2-year-old who is the product of rape or incest? Do we have the right to murder her?
 The child will be born into poverty and will not have what it needs to survive, the parents cannot provide for the baby
  1. Adoption - although not an easy process, emotionally or physically, it allows the child LIFE.
  2. Pregnancy centers support the mother and father through pregnancy and after with counseling, referrals, providing for material needs and parenting classes - Care Net, Bright Hope.
  3. What would you consider a woman who had only enough for one to eat and gave it to her child? What would you consider her if she took it for herself and watched her child starve? When you love someone more than yourself, as so many mothers do, you are willing to sacrifice what you have and your own comfort for theirs. Abortion allows the mother (and father) to avoid their own sacrifice and instead sacrifice the life of their child.
This last point allows for an easy transition to a discussion of God's sacrificial love for us. He is a God who loves enough to give the life of his most precious son for us. For us, people who naturally put ourselves in his place with a desire to govern ourselves and make choices for our lives outside of his will and plan so we can feel we are in control.

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." -Romans 5:6-11 
I would encourage you to remember to support our local pregnancy centers in any way you can - even if we all do a small part, we will be making a great difference in preserving precious lives! Bright Hope Pregnancy Support Center - www.brighthopecenters.org, offices in Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton.

I would also encourage you to do your research - this presentation by Stephanie Gray gives many good examples of how to engage people in a conversation, rather than confronting or attacking (Stephanie Gray: "Abortion: From Controversy to Civility" | Talks at Google). It is so easy to get defensive because most people on either side of this issue feel very strongly about what they believe in.

 A great book that is helpful for planning how to effectively discuss what you believe is Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Gregory Koukl (Available at Christian Books)

Finally, remember grace for all, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Romans 3:23-24

 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." Ephesians 6:12-13

You have the knowledge, you have the resources, and you have a God who is on your side. "What then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31

Please feel free to share in the comments your experiences in discussing pro-life versus pro-choice views and resources that can help us to be effective in defending life. 

References:

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Jesus is Love: A Valentine’s Day Example for All of Us to Follow

Valentine’s Day is less than a week away. What was launched as a Western Christian feast day honoring one or two early saints named Valentinus has become a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and romantic love in many regions around the world. For those of us who will be alone on this special occasion during which the people of this world have set the expectation that we will celebrate the romance in our lives, Valentine’s Day is just a little scary. It doesn’t have to be if we shift our focus and use this special holiday as an invitation to grow in our love for our Heavenly Father and follow His guidance about loving the people of this world.

As my faith in God and my knowledge of our Heavenly Father has grown, so has my understanding that He loves us, and He has chosen us. Even if we are not involved in romantic love, we will always be loved by our Heavenly Father. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross is the ultimate expression of His love. If we accept the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, nothing will separate us from the love of our Heavenly Father.

As we read of Jesus’ life in the Bible, we grow in our understanding that Jesus is love and that He models for us an aspirational standard of that emotion. As the Bible tells the tales of how He healed and protected those suffering from disease, injuries, and persecution, we see His love. Did He chastise the sinful? Sure, but He also loved them, and He forgave them if they repented.

Jesus sets an aspirational standard for a forgiving and merciful love of others, one that we should follow. He gives us a love that never ends. As we love the people in our world, we will be a vehicle for drawing them to Him. In fact, Jesus calls on us to love others in His Word:

Matthew 22:34-38
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
 In fact, in Matthew 25: 34 – 40, we hear from Jesus that we love Him by loving the people of this world. He emphasizes that in verse 40.
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”
 In Ephesians 4:2, we gain some guidance about how we should love others.
 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Humility is the key to unity, and I now believe that prayer is the key to humility. My passion for praying for others has grown out of my recognition that I cannot offer the perfect love which He gives me in my own strength and with my own wisdom. Prayer is the difference between the best I can do, and the best God can do. Prayer softens my heart, downloads His wisdom, develops my patience, exposes my fear, challenges my thinking, and points me to the ultimate covenantal relationship with the One who loves all of us in the purest, most self-sacrificing way.

In fact, as a woman who once struggled with how I cultivate a love for our Heavenly Father in my own sinful heart, I found prayer as the vehicle for making that happen. I prayed to Him to help me love Him, and He honored that prayer.

Today, I find that I grow in my love for Him as I get to know Him better by spending time in His Word. Those strides are affirmed in Proverbs 8:17.
"I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me."
Every morning as I am in His Word, I continue to grow in my knowledge of Him. As I read the tales of all that He has done for us, my love for Him continues to grow. As I dance and sing to Him on my worship walk, I giggle as I think, “I’m dating God right now.”

In fact, as Jesus tells the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25: 1 – 13, I am encouraged to keep growing my relationship with the Lord so that I am ready when the bridegroom, i.e. Jesus Christ, comes! I want to know Him, and I know that He knows me. I want to love Him more and more, and I know that He loves me. How I grow in my relationship with Him is by growing in my knowledge and wisdom, by being obedient to His commands, and by investing my talents in furthering His kingdom here on earth and serving others. If I do that, He is pleased and my love for Him grows as I know Him more deeply.

One of the most compelling publications about our Heavenly Father’s love which I have ever read is Father’s Love Letter. This year marks the 20th anniversary of this powerful reflection on our Heavenly Father’s love, which integrates insights from dozens of verses from His Word into a letter from Him to all of us. A 20th Anniversary edition, both written and video, can be found at this link. As we approach Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to read His love letter to you and know how much our Heavenly Father loves you, sister in Christ!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Where There Is Pain

The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the word "love” and look on things as if man were the center of them. Man is not the center. God does not exist for the sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake. "Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the divine love may rest "well pleased".” ― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Pain, and loss, and brokenness have existed since the beginning of time. And while mankind may struggle in disparaging the existence of man and God, and God before man, the whole of the universe set into motion by a flick of His wrist, a glimmer of will across His all and everything minds-eye- and the universe, snaps into orchestral harmony- we cannot argue that pain has always been. No discussion with an atheist or even grieving heart-wide-open-baby-Christian has been without, “then why? Why if we have been created by and for a God (THE God) who loves us, why would that same God of love and joy also set sorrow and pain in the souls of so many?” And really, why not just do without? Why not just leave that one out, or those ones who would perpetrate it upon us if pain in and of itself is necessary? And we do see that pain is necessary, in the sense of self-preservation, and if you’ll allow it, divine creation. Without nerve endings to allow the pain which radiates and screams as we burn our hands on an oven, we may very well continue to drive that lacking sensation until the limb is no more. We need pain. Pain is our central alarm system. “Stop! Stop it! Don’t do that or things cease to work right!”

But what about emotional pain? What is its necessity? Does a mother need to experience the searing and abrupt, unjust loss of her child for things to work right? Does the lack of hope; black, bleak hopelessness… do we need that? To function? The hopelessness that leads us to drug abuse, to poverty, to suicide, to unspeakable evil? What about that could we ever need? Why? Because when those things exist, we can agree that the mechanisms within the human soul which differentiate healthy pain and scary pain, in some capacity, are already not working right. Things have ceased to work correctly when we have taken our lives or the lives of others or experienced the brokenness of failed marriages, abandoned children, drug and alcohol abuse. These things, and these people- they have pain and they are broken.

And here is where I am stricken- things cease to work right where there is pain.

I see the hand of God in all things. I see His hand at work in the trees, I can feel Him at work as I watch my children mull over a math problem. I almost feel like loving Jesus is the continuous up-springing of awareness of His everywhere and everything, and His purpose; of His hands. The winds of life, the proverbial breath of His lungs. It wasn’t always the case, though. I’ve had  “God is a bully” moments, too. Hard teenage and pre-adult years, teeming with anger and resentment of that same all-seeing, all-knowing, coming and going, and intentional God. Infidelity despite children, knees with broken skin, begging Him to relent. Make it stop. “This isn’t fair.”

And yet today, I sit in a cacophony of grace, and goodness, and mercy. Jesus, the mercy. I tap at this computer on a day mixed with both joy and sorrow simultaneously, with my coffee sitting too cold, among the voices of three and not two, in a home that we own, on the anniversary of my children's adoption. Grace, and goodness, and mercy. Divorce, and sorrow, and pain. Lord- searing, tearing pain. But He said it, “You will live.”

Where joy and sorrow meet is the place of the fulfillment of every promise God has ever bestowed upon mankind. Pain, and its necessity, is what grabs our attention. What calls us to cease. What conditions us to wait. On who or what? Eventually, on HIM and on His goodness, so separate from our own.

“I can’t see, what’s in front of me, still I will trust you. Steady grace that keeps forgiving, steady faith that keeps believing, lead me on.” 
“Steady Heart”, Steffany Gretzinger

In this ringing and relentless weight of pain left in the wake of Jen's passing; in losing any of those that we cherish,  I am plagued by that sensation. In my conscience, these words, “Things cease to work right, without pain. Without correct observance of that pain. Without pursuing the root of that pain.” And what follows that has baffled me and left me confused, but grateful; ashamed, but so hopeful, “But God.Is.Good.”

It feels so counterintuitive to speak, to allow, to further the thought. Seconds beyond the shock-loss of a friend, “God, I know this feeling. I have felt this, and I know that you will do something good with this current pain.  Don’t take it away, but Lord, it hurts. Give us YOU. Show us your kingdom work at hand.

And He will. And He does. And He will continue to. We need only praise Him in the wait.



Saturday, December 15, 2018

Choosing Christ-Focused Peace During The Holiday


Photo by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash
As my thankfulness swelled in me during the Thanksgiving holiday, my heart began to feel the surge of the Christmas season craziness. The annual holiday To Do list registered in my mind, and my heart started racing. I typed my list in order to not forget a thing and to begin seeking an opportunity to squeeze it all in during the normal busyness of my life. As so often happens, my mind did not focus on the reason for the season in the midst of the chaos.   

Fortunately, the Bible in a Year study landed me in some verses in the Psalms that remind me that I have the ability, with God’s help, to choose my focus and still my heart. As I pray every day on my knees, I ask God to help me control the chaos and find peace and joy in this season in which we celebrate the birth of His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Psalm 122:8
For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.”

As I read this verse, I notice that it does not say, “peace be with you,” which is a phraseology on which I lean heavily during my conversations with family and friends. It says, “within.” Maybe this is a sign that, despite the chaos around us, we can still have peace in our hearts. 

Psalm 131:2
But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, 
like a weaned child is my soul within me.  

Notice the first “I” in that verse. Peace is our choice! We can choose to let the mayhem consume us, or we can choose to manage it with His help. Every day during this special Christ-focused season, I remind myself that my heart should be celebrating the gift He gave us in His Son, Jesus Christ, and not be completely consumed by the stress of my To Do list. 

I wholeheartedly believe that finding peace during the holiday season pandemonium that our culture has habituated in our lives requires help from our Heavenly Father. The enemy wants us to think we can do it by ourselves because he knows we can’t. Thank God, we have access to a never-ending peace, love, and joy supplier. And, during this wonderful season, we bring joy to the chaos by asking for His help in managing the work and focusing our heart in thankfulness on Him and the blessings He has given us through His Son. 

When you are making your dozens of cookies for the endless Christmas cookie platter, what is your focus? Do you envision the joy these sweet treats will bring your loved one or do you focus on all the effort that creating them will take? Choosing your focus does help. 

When you consider the limited resources that you have, do you push the boundaries and overspend, or do you buy just what the resources God provided you will allow? Certainly, generosity does bring everyone joy for a moment but can result in anxiety when the first credit card bills start arriving. 

Do you tend to overfill your precious Christmas holiday time, or do you set boundaries about what is on your list? Choose carefully. Involve your loved ones in the difficult decision-making. And make the decisions that will bring everyone the most joy.   

I may have made these wise choices all sound so easy, but I know from personal experience that they are not. In fact, the only reason that I have raised these three suggestions is that these situations are routinely an issue for yours truly. I have found that I can ask for His help not only in making my decisions but also in finding joy in the outcomes. A large measure of that joy is generated when I focus on the special gift that this season celebrates and swell with jubilation about what His gift and sacrifice have made possible for all of us. Maybe a daily reminder of that Christ-focused peace is just what is needed to surmount the holiday season pandemonium. 

Dear Heavenly Father, I am so grateful for Your gift of Your son, Jesus Christ. As I celebrate His birth this Christmas holiday season, please guide my choices so that they bring joy to me and my loved ones and focus all of us on You and Your Son throughout this holiday season and our lifetime. Amen.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Reconciling with Myself and Embracing a New Life



2 Corinthians 5:17-19

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

Anyone who has read one of my Cornerstone blog posts knows that I am highly efficient at beating myself up. It’s so easy to dwell on and be consumed by a sinful past. But that’s not how God views us. When we seek His forgiveness, accept the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us, and embrace the new life that we have in Him, we are a new creation. He tells us that “the old has gone, the new has come!” 

When I read 2 Corinthians 5: 17-19, I am reminded that I am a completely new woman, not just a reformed or rehabilitated one. I am re-created as a child of God. These verses tell us that, in accepting His sacrifice and in believing in Him, we have not merely turned over a new leaf. We have begun a new life under the dominion of our Heavenly Father and with the support of His enduring and transformative love. 

Unfortunately, this newness is something I often forget. As I read these verses, I am reminded that God has given us the ministry of reconciliation, and He has committed to us the “message of reconciliation.” For some of us, that message of reconciliation not only involves our relationships with Him and others, but it also applies to our relationship with ourselves. After all, if God is not counting our sin against us, why should we?

The tendency to beat ourselves up is one that will wear us down and become a barrier to our peace and our service to Him, as we think that no one like us is worthy to be His servant. But in 2 Corinthians 5:20, we find that, when He changes us, He also uses us. As we reconcile with Him and with ourselves, we gain the new privilege of encouraging others to do the same. This new reconciled me is now God’s ambassador, an authorized representative, and a messenger from Him to others. With love and compassion, I can encourage others to join me in being blessed by a relationship with Him. My reconciled me becomes a catalyst for others to commit to walking in faith. As God’s ambassador, I also have the responsibility to continue to strengthen my walk with Him by growing in my knowledge of His Word and in my faith in Him and His promises. 

What a privilege you have been given, Lori! Stop beating yourself up! Let your past go and move forward in your new life, in which you are committed to growing in your knowledge and faith, and to being an ambassador for your Heavenly Father!  

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise You and worship You and am so grateful that You have re-created me as Your child. I am new in You, and just as You love and have forgiven me, I need to do the same for myself. Dwelling in the past and focusing on a woman who doesn’t exist anymore just disheartens me, turns my focus away from where it should be … on You, and prevents me from making a difference for others. I am grateful, dear Lord, for Your grace and mercy, and I will embrace the new life You have given me through the sacrifice of Your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.