Friday, May 17, 2013

What Do I Do With This Cross?

I was wandering around my home trying to figure out what to do with this cross.   My daughter had given me a beautiful wood and metal cross at Christmas.   Christmas had come and gone... several months ago.  

It was way past time to find the perfect spot for it in my home.

I carried it around with me to every room.   I tried it in an empty corner... or on a wall next to a picture.  After about 30  minutes of going in circles in my house holding this beautiful cross in my hands, I finally found the perfect spot.

Yes, the cross has become a decoration.   They are so beautiful!   We hang them on our walls, set them on our tables as a centerpiece, wear them around our necks, on our wrists, on our feet.   They sparkle and shine as jewelry.   They are painted and decorated gloriously!

For quite a while, this has bothered me.    The symbol of Jesus' sacrifice...  the cross which is an instrument of torture and death has been turned into a decoration, an ornament.

I cringe to see a cross necklace around the neck of someone and hear foul language slip from their lips or see unholy actions in their day to day lives.

Profane..  that's what it is....  blasphemous.   

What is that old saying?  "Point a finger at someone and four fingers are pointing back at you."

The question of what to do with The Cross is asked.   Jesus said
"take up your cross and follow Me".      

He didn't say 'take up His cross'.  He said 'take up yours'.   Mine.  My cross.  

Some of us may have a hard time figuring out just what is our cross actually anyway?  Some of us think that our cross is the life that we live, the joy and hardships we go through along the way.  I've heard people say "Oh, it's just my cross to bear" when something goes wrong in their life. 

Think about it.   Jesus' entire life and ministry was  His cross.   His earthly ministry culminated in His death.

It's what He was put here to do.

I have come to determine that my cross is not the life I live.   My cross is the life of Jesus in me.  My cross is the ministry of lifting up and encouraging others as I walk with Jesus.

My cross is not what has gone wrong.  It is the only thing that is right.

It is what I was put here to do.

That is the mission that He has entrusted to me.  Yet it is not my mission.  It is His.

Sometimes it is not easy to be encouraging.  It is not easy to be like Jesus.   Especially when I am not " feeling " it.   Especially when I think that I am the one that needs to be lifted up and encouraged.

Those are the times that I am trying to live 'my' life.  I want to be put on display, praised, to be the center of attention, a decoration in the perfect spot that pleases the eye and enhances.   I, me, my, mine.

In my thinking, that attitude is just as bad as wearing a beautiful diamond cross around my neck and blaspheming God with my words and actions. 

The "me" attitude profanes what Jesus did for me.   I might as well trample on Him with my perfectly pedicured flip flopped feet that are decorated with those pretty little rhinestone crosses.

Jesus had times when he was not "feeling" it.   The night before His crucifixion he prayed "take this cup from me".... but then He said  "nevertheless."

Nevertheless.   That is an entire lifetime right there.  An entire mission or ministry.  Nevertheless.
It didn't matter how Jesus felt at that time.  What  mattered is that He chose to do the will of the Father regardless of what it cost Him.

I confess... it seems I have more of  the "me" life in me than I do of Jesus.   If I am filled with me, there is no room for Jesus. 

I want to have a "nevertheless" life.  A life where Jesus is the center of attention, the beautiful decoration and the focal point; what people see when they look my direction. A life where it doesn't matter what I want but I count the cost and say "Nevertheless, not my will... not my life... not my idea or desire... but Yours, Lord."

Now that's the perfect spot for my cross. 

"...for you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."  (Colossians 3:3)

"Oh the wonderful cross.  Oh the wonderful cross.
Bids me come and die and find that I may truly live."

Precious and beautiful holy Father, please help me to stay hidden in You and live the life of nevertheless... crucified with You.   Amen.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Smoke of Worship

How do I worship You O God
Through the fog of praise
And vague understandings?
My mind cannot conjure the image of You,
Though Your Spirit within swells joy at Your Name.
You are elusive and shaded from vision,
Yet one in spirit and love and truth.
Even covered by the smoke of worship
The weight of Your righteousness is crushing,
Breaking the shields covering my unbearable truth,
My face unable to hide from You.
Yet the balm of Christ’s blood covers
And You claim me as Your own.
One day… one day the haze and fog of smoke …gone.
One day… one day to know as I am known.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Who Turned Out the Lights?

Don’t you hate it when the electricity goes off and you are in the dark?

You scramble to light a candle, or feel your way through the dark to that multi-purpose drawer that holds the flashlight.   Of course, once you find it amongst all the other gadgets, tools and junk that has accumulated over the years, the flashlight usually has dead batteries and you are still in the dark.  

Pitch black.   Can’t see your hand in front of your face.   Dark.

I much prefer light.

God is light.

Darkness is sin.

So why would we want to sin?    Why would we  want to walk in the dark?  You can’t see where to put your feet.  You can’t see what is in front of you.   You stumble around.  So it is with sinning.

We may not like it, but we are all born in sin and are natural darkness dwellers.   If we don’t admit to that one essential fact of our life, we can not know any truth.

Fortunately, there is a way out of the darkness.

But first:    Why would we try to deceive ourselves about our sin?

Well, for one thing, if I have convinced myself  that I am a good person and if I believe that I am not living in sin, then  there is no action required on my part.     I don’t have to change my life, my habits, or my activities.  I can carry on in a false state of safety and comfort.

It’s kind of like eating a gallon of  Blue Bell ice cream every day and thinking that I won’t gain weight (or get sick).    The  consequences of over indulging are there whether I want to believe it or not.   Before long I will have gained 20 pounds, and it is evident for all to see. 

Romans 8:1 says “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...”

If we  admit to being a sinner, we are agreeing with God  that we deserve condemnation.  But “there is now no condemnation (from God) for those who are in Christ Jesus...”

So, who’s the liar?

If I say I am a Christian, yet live in the darkness of intentional sin, then I am living a lie.   My entire life is based on a lie. .   But, if I say I don’t sin, then that makes God the liar.

If God lies about one thing... anything..., then ALL of His word is a lie and it has no ‘place’ (no meaning, no power, no basis, no function) in our life.

I have good news for you.    God is not a liar.

He is not the flashlight with dead batteries.  He is the broad light of day.  He is the sun at its zenith!   He has absolutely nothing to do with darkness.   He is the complete opposite of dark.

Where does that put you?    He has provided a way, through Jesus to step out of the darkness of sin and into the light of His love.

If you are in the dark, who turned out the lights?  Here’s a clue:   God didn’t flip the switch.

Lord, I pray that your light will shine in the hearts of each of us to convict us of the darkness of sin in our lives, and to change us into reflections of You.   May we live in your light and truth.   In Jesus Christ’s precious and holy Name.  Amen.

1 John 1: 5-10   “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.    If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.    But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.    If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.   If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Seriously Stinky!

funny zombie photo: zombie m_dc516d49ad840be91c7a6c53852bbd46.gif

I have to tell you.  It's plain.  It's simple.   It is Truth.

"For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son  that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but  have everlasting life."  (John 3:16) 


Think about this.   God created the universe, the world and everything in it including the human race.   You can believe otherwise if you want to, but I fear that you will wake up the other side of the grave one day and be sadly mistaken.   Very sadly.

Anyway, on with my story...      Have you ever made anything?   Have you ever created anything?   I mean even a sandcastle, a house of cards, sewn a stitch, baked a cake, painted a picture, planted a seed?   If so, you will know what I mean when I say you feel like these things belong to you.   You feel like you can do whatever you want with them, but no one else better touch them.  You have a sense of ownership.

In the same way, God owns us.   He created us.   He can do what He wants with us and expect what He wants to expect  from us.  He can display us for all to see or He can toss us in the trash can as unacceptable.

Fortunately for us, He created us so that we could have a relationship with Him, not just be objects on a shelf or zombies without a brain.     He gave us the ability to choose.

Unlike zombies, we get to choose a lot of stuff.   We choose what we do, where we go, the clothes we wear, our friends, our lovers, our entertainment, our idols, our enemies, and so on.      Unfortunately, way back somewhere in time, the original non-zombie people that He had created chose wrong.  They chose to do something that He told them not to do.  

So, in order to rectify this wrong choice which, by the way, has affected every creature ever born, causing all of us to have this ugly putrescent stench which we can't get rid of no matter how much deodorant we use or perfume and cologne we spray on ourselves.    We kinda stink in God's nose like an old walking dead zombie as a matter of fact.  Ewwwwwww.... !   In order to rectify all of this, God sent His most precious possession.   He sent Himself in human form.  A human without the horrible death smell.

He sent Jesus as a sacrifice to die a tortuous death.   He did this because pouring out His own holy blood was the only thing that could remove the stench and make us acceptable to be near Him again.    He loves us so much He would die just so we could come near to Him again.    No, we are not zombies to Him.  We are precious to Him.

However, His sacrificed blood did not remove the choice.    We still have that.   We get to choose the type of relationship we are going to have with God.   Because we all have a relationship with Him either as a blood bought child or as one of His disobedient creations that refuses Him.  Remember?  He created us.. He can do what He wants because He owns us.     He even gave us some rules about having a good relationship with Him.      It is a list of  "Do This and Don't Do That" and all will be well with God.

So far none of us have been able to live a life without breaking most all the rules.  We should all be judged "Guilty - Life in jail - NO parole".

It is simple.   All we have to do is choose to believe in the Son and then we will have eternal life.    Of course, there is more to it than that.   Because if we choose to believe, then we also are choosing to believe everything that God said and did.    We can't believe part of it and not all of it.  We are choosing to believe that we MUST live our lives according to His rules.  We are choosing to believe that we contain a rotten death stench within that can not exist in God's presence unless He removes it.

So here's the gist of it:

  • We have a stench that God calls sin.

    There is nothing we can do about it.

    God sacrificed His only Son for us.  He spilt His holy blood.  

    In order to honor the sacrifice of Jesus, God says that those of us who choose to believe in Him are covered by that blood sacrifice and our stinking sin is forgiven.  (That means God forgets it  ever happened and we no longer are a horrible smell to Him.)

    In order to receive this forgiveness, we have to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and died for us    AND we have to ask God to forgive us and save us from separation from Him (also known as Hell)... He saves us from hell through the blood that Christ spilt.

    Then we have to choose to repent (turn away from) our old sinful stinky life and begin living a life that  pleases God.  (still not easy, but it is doable.)

    We have to keep on choosing God over our natural desire to be stinky.   This is a life long process.
Good news!   Once you choose Him, God will be right there with you every day...helping you.

This sounds like a lot of hooey to some of you.

To others it sounds like there is a hope for you after all.   Yay!!!!

I promise you.   Seriously!  This is unchangeable truth.

There is no escape from God.

You are not a brainless zombie dancing in a graveyard.

One way or the other, your relationship with Him is your choice.     

Monday, April 8, 2013


Today is an important day.   It is an appointed day.    It is the day that my new grandson will be born!!  It is a birth day!!

Colt Daniel Ellis will be brought into the world today.   His birth is not a random thing.    God has formed him and created him and appointed him to be born in this time and in this place.

The Lord of all creation has a purpose and a plan for this new little one.

My prayer, as for all my grandchildren, is that this child will seek the Lord and know Him.   Serve Him. Live in Him.   Fulfill the purpose for which he is created.

Welcome to the world, precious one.

"and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children.' "Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness  through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead."  (Acts 17: 26-31)

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunrise in Ur

(Written Easter of 2009, Tallil AFB, Cob Adder, Iraq)

I am living on Tallil Air Force Base, Iraq.   It's Easter.  We had a sunrise service.

Services were held at the archaeological digs where they have excavated the home of Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees.  This site is right outside the gates of our base.

In a few weeks, the U.S. government is going to hand this piece of property back to the Iraqi government. The opportunity to tour the site will be gone. (at least for the time being) Possibly the opportunity to worship the LORD at this site will not occur again this side of Jesus' return.

How honored and humbled am I that of all the people in the world and all the people in time, I was allowed to participate in what could be a once in history event.

I know I haven't done anything to deserve such a thing. But I am so grateful that God included me.

There were maybe 200 people attending. A praise team was playing acoustic guitars and leading us in worship and then one of the chaplains stepped up to a podium, opened his Bible and read Holy Scripture there on those age old grounds. We sang again  and I could not keep from crying as I sang along with the others praising God in this place where God spoke to Abraham, "Go!"    

The chaplain stood on the reconstructed wall of the ancient home of Abraham and presented the Word of God.   Adam and  Eve.... to Noah... to Abraham.... all the way to Jesus.   He explained the covenant God made with Abraham and how we are a part of that covenant.  He shared about the resurrection of Jesus.

He asked us to respond to him when he proclaimed "He is risen!" and the congregation would loudly respond "HE IS RISEN INDEED!" It became the theme for his message.   It is the proclamation of Easter!   

The sun has risen in Ur.     God's covenant promise to Abraham continues to be fulfilled.

I can't explain how filled with the Holy Spirit I am... how He pounds in me with every breath.   What words could I use to describe such an incredible resurrection morning in which I am privileged to stand on this spiritually holy place?


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Other Side

"When Jesus saw the crowd around him He told his followers to go to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you any place you go”.  Jesus said to him, “the foxes have holes to live in and the birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to rest his head.”    Another man, one of Jesus’ followers, said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”   But Jesus told him, “follow me and let the people who are dead bury their own dead.”  Matthew 8: 18-24

I want to follow Jesus to the other side of the lake, the other side of the world, the other side of this life.        He tells me to follow Him and let the things of this world take care of themselves.  He tells me that it is not easy... that every living creature has a place to call home except those who follow Him. 

However, if He tells me to go to the other side, then it means that I will get there.  It might not be an easy trip. I may not be able to see the road ahead of me.  There won't be any shortcut.   But there is no doubt about it.   I will get there.

"Let the dead bury their dead."

I am following Jesus Christ.