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DOES GOD REALLY LOVE US?

Today, on this Good Friday, I share the words of my Daddy who passed away in September 2008. He loved his Lord and today he rejoices in Heaven.

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I say look to the crucified Jesus. Look to the old rugged cross.
By every thorn that punctured his brow,
by every mark of the back-lacerating scourge,
by every hair of his beard plucked from his cheeks by cruel fingers.
by every bruise which heavy fists made upon his head, God said, “I love you!”

My Daddy Easter 2007. He was battling cancer.

By all the spit that landed on his face,
by every drop of sinless blood that fell to the ground.
by every breath of pain which Jesus drew upon the cross.
by every beat of His loving heart, God said, I love you.

– Billy Lobbs

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JUST IN CASE I SCREW IT UP

bible-instruction-manualI don’t know about you, but my list of life screw ups is long and filled with more ‘what were you thinking’ moments than I care to recall. But amidst all my screw ups, there are a few things I have done right and the birth of my daughter, Jamie, tops the list.

In case you didn’t know, detailed instructions are included in packets of birth control pills,

“Take one pill at the same time each day. Failure to follow prescribed instructions may result in pregnancy.”

Oops, were you talking to me? And so, Jamie became an unexpected, but welcomed gift to her dad and me. It is one of the few times in life I’ve had no regrets about not following directions. But that hasn’t always proven to be the case.

The telling evidence that I don’t like to read directions is found in a file drawer in my office. It is filled with manuals and instructions sheets in original unopened plastic sleeves. The folders include everything from warranties to how to change the blades on the lawn mower I purchased 20 years ago. For all I know, the instructions for my 1975 birth control pills are probably in that drawer.

So what compels me, maybe you too, to hoard papers and booklets we have no intention of reading? Maybe it’s the just in case I screw it up back-up plan for those times we fail to assemble and repair things on our own; without directions.

In our spiritual life we often try to navigate our way without directions or a manual. After all, our life is busy with kids, work, shopping, and homework. Who has time to pull out instruction sheets or manuals when most of us don’t even have time to get a decent amount of sleep?

We have to make time.

When the kids are fighting and you are ready to explode, when you have worked 12-hours and still have to pick up the kids from daycare and grocery shop, read the manual. It offers directions on how to overcome the chaos of life, ways to maintain inner calmness and brings encouragement to the soul.

That manual is the Word of God and it includes detailed instruction sheets on how to avoid screw-ups in our life. There are directions on how to live a balanced life, tips on time management, sibling rivalry and more.

The Word of God should never be a just in case I screw it up back-up plan; it should BE THE PLAN! It’s an instructional manual for life.

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ROTE LISTENING

rote“So, the grandkids are coming over Sunday night?” It was a rhetorical question and a recap of the conversation my husband and I had ten minutes earlier; the one about the grandkids coming on SATURDAY night.

 “Are you serious?” The irritation in my voice coupled with a piercing glare clearly indicated this question annoyed me.

And why wouldn’t it? Our conversation about the grandkids had fully covered all the details, but it was now apparent his focus had been on the Master’s Golf Tournament and not me. My words had fallen on deaf ears; my husband’s rote responses had been appropriate and perfectly timed.

I’m sure Jesus has encountered these same rote conversations with us. In our preoccupation with the busyness of life, we often fail to listen and our conversations with God become one-sided. We hear what we want to hear and dismiss the rest.

“…a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest…”
The Boxer Lyrics/Simon & Garfunkel

Consider the number of times you have turned to someone and asked, “Were you talking to me?” They look at you in disbelief and their facial expressions alone confirm the truth; yes, they were talking to you but you weren’t listening.

A self-absorbed lifestyle cripples us to the needs of others and we listen to their conversations by rote. Then, there are instances we listen by rote because the person talking has nothing substantial to share but idle chatter.

My grandma was a professional chatterer. The only way to survive her continual chatter was to acquire rote listening skills, which my grandpa did.  After 50-plus years of marriage, grandpa could have authored a best-seller book titled, Surviving Idle Chatter.

No one wants to listen to idle chatter. If we desire to capture the attention of our listener, we must have something of value to share.  If not, we get tuned out and the listening channel is changed to rote; or in my case, the Master’s Golf channel. Make no mistake, God is not a God of idle chatter. When you talk to God, be ready to listen. When he talks with you, turn off the rote remote.

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SALT IN MODERATION

Salt of the Earth

I took a bite from a slice a pizza and gagged from the excessive amount of salt. How could our favorite local pizzeria produce a great pizza last week and an over-salted pizza this week?  The change in taste was so exaggerated I felt the restaurant manager should be notified; so I placed a call.

The manager stated there are different pizza cooks on any given day. He would check into the day and time the pizza was ordered to determine who had been over aggressive with the salt. I thanked him for his time and ended the call; but not without apprehension about future orders.

Salt is good when used proportionately.

It is a preservative and flavoring necessary to our survival. But salt is easily diluted by water and when that happens, its valuable mineral properties are greatly diminished. We no longer have the proper balance needed to maintain a healthy life.

It’s possible to oversaturate ourselves with salt which depletes bodily fluids and causes dehydration. To get an idea of how the life juices can be sucked out by dehydration, look no further than dried fruits and veggies.

Spiritual salt

The Scripture gives reference to Christians being the salt of the earth. But what does this mean?  Is it possible, like the pizza cook, to over salt our life? And if that is true, I can only assume that lack of salt produces a life that lacks flavor and zest.

My grandma taught me that a few pinches of salt were enough to season the dish being served. I believe the same is true of our Christian walk. We don’t want to lose our flavor and zest because we allow ourselves to be diluted by the world. On the other hand, we don’t want to over salt our life into spiritual dehydration. It is only when we proportionately salt our life with the Word of God that we will have a balanced and healthy Christian life.

Don’t over indulge in salt like our local pizza cook, use moderation.

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HANDLEBAR SCARS

handlebar_scarsI heard the scream for help and ran outside to see what was going on; I didn’t have to go far before panic gripped me. My four-year-old daughter’s face was covered with blood as she rested limply in the arms of a neighbor girl.

“It was an accident, Jamie fell off the handlebars of my bike and her head hit the sidewalk.”

As neighbors began to arrive on the scene, I barked out orders,

“I need cold compresses, towels and someone to drive me to ER!”

The sight of copious amounts of blood caused my adrenaline to kick into overtime; even more so when it’s your own child. For the first time, I understood the urgency felt by ER physicians and nurses as they are forced to make life-saving decisions. They act with mercy and reserve judgment until all the facts are known.

A blood trail followed me as I rushed into the emergency waiting room; my daughter cradled in my arms. The clerk at the reception desk handed me a clip board with pen and calmly said,

“I need you to complete these forms and provide me with your health insurance card. Bring them back to the desk when you are finished; once I confirm coverage, your paperwork will be sent to the ER staff.”

Was she joking? I have a four-year-old child screaming at the top of her lungs, bleeding from the head and she wants me to fill out paperwork. Obviously, this lady doesn’t have children because moms don’t hand other moms a clipboard when blood is dripping on the reception desk. Thankfully, an ER physician noted the situation. “We can handle the paperwork later,” he told the clerk, and escorted us into a room to assess the wound.

Let’s replay this in a spiritual scenario.

You are riding along on the handle bars of life when you fall off suddenly and hit pavement face first. The head wound is a gusher and as the blood flows it blocks your vision and you panic.

You arrive at the altar of God’s ER reception desk and cry out for mercy. Dr. Jesus, the attending physician, hears your cries and immediately begins to assess the damage.

Diagnosis: Lack of judgment
Cause: Riding on life’s handle bars instead of steering them which hindered their ability to navigate in the right direction.
Treatment Plan: Remove debris; clean and stitch the wound. Instruct patient in the proper way to ride the bicycle of life and that both hands should remain firmly gripped to the handles that steer and guide their path.
Discharge Plan: Forgiveness by grace, with no penalty or charge for service if primary care physician is Jesus. Keep injured area clean so healing can occur; sutures will dissolve over time with minimal scarring.
Fee for Service: Paid in full at the cross

Thankfully, the injury to my daughter’s head only required a few stitches; but, I had no way to know the depth or degree of the injury until the wound was cleaned by the physician.

That’s what Jesus does when we arrive at the ER altar desk. He takes a look at our physical, emotional and spiritual injuries and determines a course of action. He removes our debris, cleans our wounds and sutures our injuries. With follow-up treatment and loving care, Jesus restores the handlebar scars of our life.

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HONEST ENGINE

IMG_8695Honest engine is like the triple dog dare of telling the truth. So when my granddaughter, Olivia, brought me the broken candle and used the term honest engine, she expected me to believe her.

“Honest engine, NeeNee. Fischer and I were jumping on your bed way over there and this just fell and broke.
“Really, Olivia?”
“Yes, NeeNee. It really did. I can’t imagine how it happened.”

I might have believed her if the bed wasn’t a good 15-foot away for the overturned candlestick. But, to Olivia, her made-up story seemed believable. She even convinced her brother, Fischer, to tell the same story. Does any of this remind you of two other people who also conspired to lie about something they did?

“Honest engine, God. Adam and I were just standing next to this tree when an apple fell to the ground.”
“Really, Eve?”
“Yes, God. It really did. I can’t imagine how it happened; but I didn’t want it to be wasted, so Adam and I had a taste.”

When I hear “I can’t imagine how it happened” anywhere in a sentence, I tend to assume that someone is trying to hide the truth.

There is an old English proverb that states, ‘the eyes are the window to the soul.’ This saying stems from a passage in the Bible, Matthew 6:22-23. When I was a kid, my mom told me she knew when I was lying by my eyes. My mom was one smart lady. She saw my face as a picture of my mind and my eyes as its interpreter.

When Adam and Eve conspired to lie to God, they were both exiled from the Garden of Eden. When Olivia and Fischer conspired to lie to NeeNee, they were both exiled from jumping on my bed.

“…be sure your sins will find you out.” Numbers 32:33

It is foolish to play the dog-dare honest engine card with God.

“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Proverbs 28:13

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WRITE-OFFS

taxreturnLiving debt-free is a way of life for me and my husband. It hasn’t always been that way. We have both had plenty of lean years in which we acquired credit card debt, drove cars with bald tires and purchased gas with the deposit money from returned soda cans.

I am thankful we can live debt-free, but having no expense write-offs at tax time can be a liability. With no expenses to declare against our income, our debt-free status increases our tax liability.

We have no children to declare, no mortgage interest and earned interest on retirement funds place us in a precarious situation with the tax collector, Uncle Sam. Our debt has been paid in full; we have a clean slate. We are no longer enslaved to things purchased on extended credit, college educations, car payments or a mortgage. Instead, we are enslaved to the laws of government bureaucracy that penalize a debt-free lifestyle.

Jesus came to redeem us from the law.

God sent His only Son, Jesus, to earth to pay our debt of sin. His shed blood washes our life clean; we are no longer indebted to the interest premiums of sin. A debt-free life in Christ generates benefits not penalties. You reap eternal life; earthly investments in the Kingdom of God yield untaxed dividends and late fees on unpaid sins are forgiven.

And then…

Satan and his evil bureaucracy arrive on the scene in an attempt to keep us from living free from the debt of sin. He longs to enslave us by the law and keep us indebted to the sins of our past. He charges late fees and collects interest on unforgiven sin; his ultimate goal is to keep us in bondage to the law, not grace.

“For Christ is the end of the law, with the result that there is righteousness (forgiveness) for everyone who believes.”
Romans 10:4
When filing your heavenly tax return, be sure to check the box that reads:

DEBT IS FORGIVEN. ANY PENALTIES OR LATE FEES DUE SHOULD BE SENT TO

 

IRS (Internal Redemption Services)
CO: Jesus, Purchasing Department
777 Redemption Road
Heaven, ETERNITY