Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Battle Won

My heart is so torn today! I’m celebrating for a friend who got to go home today, but I’m also grieving for her family and friends who now have a huge hole in our lives that she filled. Around 4 AM this morning Cindy Ezell won her battle with cancer. She got to leave her physical body behind and soar straight to the arms of Jesus. Cindy was one of those people that loved life, family, and her God passionately. She was a master teacher who taught us faith, hope, love, and confidence in God right up to the end. I learned the news early this morning and later went into the kitchen to do some things. As I was standing at my kitchen sink I flipped to today’s page of my devotional calendar and here is today’s message:

The ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Isaiah 51:11 A

Our joys are made better if there be sorrow in the midst of them. And our
sorrows are made bright by the joys that God has planted around about them.

I thought that was a very fitting tribute to a wonderful lady who did so much to bring joy to everyone around her. Her joy is now complete in the presence of the LORD.

Friday, March 30, 2007

ISWW 2007

Wasn't workshop wonderful this year? Of course, I think we say that every year! This year was somehow even more wonderful than ever before. It's so hard to pick a favorite moment but every class, every keynote, every worship, okay, everything was just running over with God's Spirit. Thursday morning while I was getting ready I read my daily devotional from a book I have. The following is an excerpt from that day's thought:

"He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we'll never settle for less."
2 Corinthians 5:5 (The Message)

"... There's no confusing the present world with the eternal home that awaits you. But, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy a taste right now. Close your eyes.
Think about meeting Jesus face-to-face."

The theme this year was Jesus: The Model, the Messenger, The Mission. That's why it was so wonderful and more. It was all about Jesus and if you were there you did get to see a glimpse of Him face-to-face. I've decided that 2 Corinthians 5:5 is my new definition of the ISWW - "...a little of Heaven in our hearts so that we'll never settle for less."

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Standing Empty Handed at the Cross

In John 20:20 the account is given of when Jesus appears to His disciples after His resurrection. The passage says that He showed them His scars. Not His wounds, but His scars. That’s how it works. Life gives us wounds, God gives us healing, and while we will have scars especially if the wound was a deep one, we are not left with a festering open wound unless we won’t leave it alone. Yes, your mother was right when she told you “Don’t pick at that!” If we accept God’s healing, the wound will heal, but by allowing other people to see our scars they are able to see
God glorified through the wound we suffered. Just as Jesus showed His scars to His disciples, we owe it to each other to not hide behind our “church faces”, but to show each other our scars so that God may be glorified! I love the book, The Scarlet Letter. Wow! That's a powerful book once you get past all of the Old English and vocabulary. Hester and Dimmesdale are perfect examples of what happens when we try to handle our sin ourselves. We are destroyed in the process. Why do we find it so hard to let go of the past and allow it to be what it is - the past. Jesus calls us to daily pick up our cross and follow Him, but how can I if my hands are so full of my own baggage? Imagine packing every suitcase you own, carrying them all at once and then trying to pick up my cross and carry it too!?! In order to carry my cross I have to first lay down all my own baggage. Sometimes we have trouble doing that because our baggage is so comfortable. Don't get me wrong, we usually don't like what it contains - the pain, the tears - but at least we are use to it. It's not part of the great unknown out there. We know what to expect from it and we've grown accustomed to it. It provides us with all our excuses for why we can't be all He has called us to be. Isn't it strange how we pray to God to take away our pain, but then reach out and grab it back from Him. The challenge is to lay it all down at the cross and walk away empty handed so we can pick up our cross. It's not a one time decision, it's a daily choice. Every day we must go to the cross and begin there by laying down our burdens and picking up our cross. That's why the scripture says to deny ourselves and pick up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). Jesus promises in Matt. 11:28-30 that if we will come to Him and lay our burdens down, He will give us rest. He calls us to take His yoke upon us and learn from Him for He is gentle and humble in heart and there our souls will find rest. He promises that His yoke is easy and His burden is light, not because He demands less of us, but because He carries the load with us!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Taking up my cross

Then He said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23) I've pondered this verse for a long time. It streams through my mind, makes my heart race, and my soul long for Him. Every time I think I get it the Spirit reveals more and more to me. I grew up hearing the saying "It's just my cross to bear" when someone was talking about a burden or struggle in their life. They were usually referring to some physical condition or pain, emotional pain, etc... that they had to endure. I don't believe Jesus was talking about our physical life when He "said to them all: Take up your cross." Paul referred to having a "thorn in his flesh", but he never called it his "cross to bear." Fix the mental picture in your mind. A thorn compared to a cross. It really helped me put my fleshly struggles in perspective. So what does it mean????? I'm discovering day by day more and more what it means to me. I have discovered that first I must have the desire to follow Him, "If anyone would come after me..." The desire's not usually the hard part for me (I'm such a Peter!). It's the follow thru that gets me. It's that next part that took me a long time to understand, "... he must deny himself ...". There it is; the step that I so often stub my toe on and stumble. How do I deny myself? Sometimes I get so focused on trying not to sin that the sin becomes bigger than the Savior. In order to deny myself it means I want what He wants for me. It means I long for life in Him not the life I create for myself. Jesus says just a few verses later that to find our life we have to lose our life for Him. That means letting go of things that come between me and my Lord.