Saturday, July 22, 2017

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional: Wonder Woman

This summer, the blockbuster hit at the theaters is the movie "Wonder Woman." I happen to see it twice.  I will say that the first time left me energized. But seeing it a second time with my daughter, got me thinking. 

I don't want to give away the plot, but what I will say about the story line is Diana does not yet know what she has been created to do. Her mother was fearful that if she ever found out that her purpose was to fight, she might lose her.  One of the endearing lines that her mother says to her as she is leaving the safe haven was, "You have been my greatest joy, but today you are my greatest sorrow." As I sat next to my daughter now that she is an adult, I could feel her mother's heart.  Letting your children go as they walk out their purpose is bitter sweet. I'm sure God must have felt this way when He sent His one and only Son to earth to save us.

But as Diana begins to discover her strength and courage, her destiny begins to unfold. Her mother didn't want her to know that she was created as "a weapon" against the god of war. Only she had the power to defeat him.  Her mother never wanted her to be exposed to evil, but as her purpose would have it, she finds herself wanting to stop evil in the world.

The cinematography was spectacular with all the choreography and special effects. But there were key weapons and words used in this movie that seemed to parallel with what the Word of God says. While watching her "get after it" I believe the Holy Spirit impressed on  me the real power we women have in the Holy Spirit. She carried a magic lasso that was truth, a shield and a sword, wrist bands of power, and upon her head a kind of crown that gave her authority. You are probably getting where I'm going with this. She was dressed to some degree in the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17)  She discovered that one has to "believe in" and "love" in order to conquer evil.  1 John 3:23 says "And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us."

As a women of God, we too are like "Wonder Women." We were fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)! When you think about it, in the very beginning, the woman (Eve) was the first to stand before the one who is evil and would bring sin and death to the earth God had created (Genesis 3). But, the climax of this story we are living in, is that Jesus conquered sin and death because of God's love for us (John 3:16). First Corinthians 15:53-56 says "For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory.'55 'Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?'56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

We have been called to be warriors not worriers, especially we women.  We have adopted worry as a badge of honor. It is a lie.  The truth is we have been crowned with glory and honor, Psalm 8:5 says "You (God) have made them (us) a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor." We've been given authority in Jesus name. In Luke 10:19 Jesus says "I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you." In order to do this God gave us spiritual armor that we are to put on daily. Ephesians 6:11 says "Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes." Lastly, one of our most important weapons is prayer.  Ephesians 6:18 says "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people." It is time for us to rise up to the purpose we have been created for. To carry out God's purpose of redemption of mankind.  Matthew 28:19 & 20 Jesus tells us "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. 

Wonder Woman was fearless, bold and always ready to face the enemy. If we put our complete trust and hope in God, we too can be Women of Wonder. Others will "wonder" where our strength comes from. It comes for the power of the Holy Spirit in us as it says in Romans 15:13 "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Jesus already won the battle that gave us the victory, all we have to do is "live it out"! We have been created in God's image (Genesis 1:27) and ultimately be transformed into Christ's likeness (Philippians 3:20-21).  

In closing, going back to what I said about what I felt in my heart seeing this with my daughter, it's my responsibility to train her to be a wonder woman. The only way I can do that is if I am living like one. I want to encourage you today, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then lets unite and work together to prepare for that glorious day when Jesus returns for his Bride. If you are reading this and not yet a follower of Jesus, then you can become one right now.  All you have to do is surrender your life to him, ask for forgiveness and believe on the name of Jesus Christ who saves! We are victorious in Him who saves!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Stars and Stripes Forever

When I was a child, the 4th of July celebration was as memorable as Christmas.  We would spend the day at my grandparents house. While my grandma and great grandma would be preparing the dishes for the barbecue, my grandpa would be building the platforms for the firework show he would put on for us and the neighbors.  My grandma always bought the largest box of fireworks and what a show we'd have.  Living so close to Disneyland, it made for some competition.

My sisters and some of the neighborhood kids would dress up as patriotic forefathers and parade up and down the street singing patriotic songs, like "God Bless America," as the sun was setting.  This was the opening act prior to the firework show.  I can remember so vividly how grateful we all felt living in the land of the free.  We would carry a large flag. We carried that flag with pride because we were proud to be Americans.

Our flag is dressed and carries an attitude of what it stands for. One of the nick names for the flag is "old glory". Adorned with stars and stripes, the story of our country is told. The stars represent the 50 individual states and the red strips for the thirteen colonies and the white representing courage. There are some who believe the color red represents the blood that was shed for the freedom that we have in this great nation today.

The atmosphere in our country today is very anti Christian. It is "politically incorrect" for me to share my faith, except in the context of church functions. To be honest, I'm a little uncomfortable writing this blog because of those who disagree with me. I've realized when one side is outspoken, the other must be quiet. When I visited the Mayflower and heard why those people came to this country, it was for religious freedom. In the last 15 years, the name of Jesus is used more as a curse word than one that will set one free.
Before long, it won't be legal for me to profess Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior in public. I can say that I am a Christian now because I live in a free country. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I thought about the "stars and stripes" of my faith. the "stars" in my faith represent couple of things. One when God promised Abraham a large family, He told him he would have as many as the stars in the sky . (Genesis 15:5) These stars are symbolic of the Jewish people who are God's chosen people, which is the line of people Jesus came from. The next symbol of a star is the "Star of David." I was told by our tour guide in Israel that the Israelites needed a symbol to represent them. They were forbidden to carve any images out of wood or stone so instead they chose the symbol of this star. Unsure as to why this kind of star, it is possible that three of the letters in David's name in Hebrew together form this symbol. It could also reflect back to the promise God made to Abraham of his children being like the stars in the heavens.

But another star spoken of in the Bible was the star that lead the wisemen to the King of the Jews. (Matthew 2:2) The star that lead them to Bethlemham also called the "City of David" where Jesus, the Son of God was lying in a feeding trough wrapped in swaddling clothes (burial cloth) in a stable. (Luke 2:7). Last but not least, in the book of Revelation, Jesus is called the " bright morning star" the "offspring of David." (Revelation 22:16)

The stripes on the other hand tell a different story. Isaiah 53:4-5 says it all.
"Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed." (NKJV) The stripes only Jesus could carry for us. The red stripes represent his blood that was shed for our sin and sickness, but the white stripes represent the forgiveness and peace that we can receive when we believe in the sacrifice he made for all of mankind. Because of all those stripes we are healed and free from the bondage of sin in our lives.

Unlike the days that our forefathers formed this great nation, they were "united as one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."  What is bothersome to me is the heart of where Americans are now. Like the days of Noah and Sodom and Gomorrah so shall it be when the Son of Man comes. (Luke 17:26) The issues we face today have divided us which will surely bring us down. But hopefully to our knees! Jesus said in Matthew 22:25 "
Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand." But don't lose heart, Jesus came that we would have life and life more abundant. (John 10:10). We don't put our hope in man because man is human. Psalm 42:5 & 6 says, "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and 6 my God."  Remember those who put their trust in God, our faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1 NLT) A life in Jesus is for eternity. His stars and stripes are forever!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - A Heart to Heart (Valentines Day)

This photo has a very special meaning. In 2007, Jeff and I had the privilege of going to Israel. On the third day of our trip, we went to "Peter's Primacy" on a beach in Galilee. This is the location where John 21 happened. My Bible subtitle's it "Breakfast by the Sea." 

As we were walking back to the tour bus, I noticed these two rocks on the gravel beach. They looked like hearts and one having a hole in it. This is the place where Jesus had his "heart to heart" with Peter. 

In John 21, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, Peter goes back to what he knows, fishing. After fishing all night, Jesus calls out to Peter and the other disciples and asks them if they have caught anything. A familiar call, as this was what Jesus said to Peter the first time he met him. Jesus tells them to throw their nets to the right side of the boat and suddenly their nets were full.

Jesus had breakfast waiting for them as they came ashore. The key portion of this passage is the heart to heart that Jesus has with Peter. "After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. 16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. 17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep." (John 21:15-17)

This is intimate conversation Jesus had with Peter shows the love that Jesus had for Peter, despite all of Peter's mistakes. Jesus loves us too despite all of our mistakes. All of us are born with a hole in our heart, that only Jesus can fill. It's a hole that will make you whole. Jesus loves you no matter what. The question he asks you on this Valentine's Day is "Do you love me?"

Monday, February 13, 2017

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Field of Weeds

We've had an unusual amount of rain this year.  Our state has been in a drought now going on six years.  We've had water restrictions for the past year and many  homeowners have removed their grass/landscaping and replaced it with plants that don't need much water.

Today, as I took my lunch break walk, I noticed this field of weeds.  The weeds were at least 3 feet in height.  Usually this lot is dry and filled with dirt and just random patches of weeds.

This reminded me of a movie back in the 80's called "Field of Dreams" starring Kevin Costner.  As I thought about the title of the movie, while looking at this field of weeds, it was a teaching moment.  The rain has been amazing.  It has greened up the hillsides that are often brown, it's cleaned the air and most importantly is getting us out of the drought.

As I looked at this field, it reminded me that along with the goodness of rain, the unwanted weeds also grow.  As we go along in life, we have dreams that we hope will come to pass.  As we allow God to reign in our life, often those unwanted issues in our lives will begin to sprout.  So much so that sometimes it can be overwhelming. Often times, we choose to let the weeds grow because "at least they are green and living."  But weeds are not the same as a true plant or tree.  Weed roots are short and suck the life out of the real plants that are trying to grow. A plant's roots go deep into the soil and eventually produce something sturdy and healthy.

Many times, we trade our dreams for the weeds, just because it's too much work to remove them.  Your back begins to ache, it's dirty, there are worms and snails that surprise you as you dig around in the dirt, but those weeds will never die unless you pull them from the root. 

This field was a good reminder to me today, that as I continue to trust God with my dreams and allow Him to reign in my life, the weeds are going to grow with my dreams. My responsibility is to pull the weeds, God's responsibility is to grow the dreams.  One of my favorite Proverbs is "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life." (Proverbs 13:12)  It's going to take a lot of work to keep the weeds from choking out my dreams, but I'd trade a field of weeds for a field of dreams any day! 

Monday, November 21, 2016

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - 1620 to 2016

This week we will gather around our tables with so much food, that we will be eating leftovers for the next few days. In our family, we go around the table and share our personal "thanks" for people and things that happened over the past year. I remember as a child my sister and I would dress up like pilgrims and put on plays for the family. I always loved thanksgiving because it was the beginning of the most wonderful time of the year.

This summer we had the opportunity to see the Mayflower and Plymouth rock. It was a little disappointing compared to what I remember reading in the history books in school. The actual Mayflower was really not much larger than a large yacht. The accommodations were definitely not your luxury cruise line and no bathrooms! The Mayflower set sail across the Atlantic ocean from England to the new world in 1620.  The pilgrims wanted to leave England so they could be free to worship as they wanted.  I learned so much this trip about the pilgrims and who they were.

The pilgrims had left England earlier and moved to Holland for a short time because they were unhappy with the way the Church of England had become.  They wanted to be free to worship as they had and left the country in order to do so.  The King of England had requested them to return and nothing had changed. They were under such oppression, they were willing to venture off to an unknown land.  If they had only known what the trip ahead of them would be like.  It is thought that the King wanted them to go to the new world to stake out some land. It's hard to believe things could have been so terrible that they were willing to risk the unknown.

For three months they lived on this tiny boat carrying 102 passengers and about 25-30 crew and 3 of them were pregnant women.  One baby was born while on their voyage.  I never thought about it, but they traveled during hurricane season!  They didn't have doppler radar back then to help them navigate weather.  I can't even imagine what it was like sharing a small boat with all those other people.  No privacy and no dramamine!

I can't imagine that life could have been so bad that they would rather sail across a big ocean just for religious freedom. It must have been pretty difficult. It's sad to think how often we take our religious freedom for granted. When they arrived, they set foot on Plymouth rock, which now there is not much left of it. The rock broke when they moved it to the center of town as a reminder of what they endured and the reward. After centuries of visitors, this little rock is all that is left.
This story reminded me of a passage in the Psalms that we read every Thanksgiving eve.  It's Psalm 107.  It begins with "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south." (Psalm 107:1-3)  I wonder if the Pilgrims thought about this passage while crossing the endless ocean. Later in the passage, it says "Some went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters.24 They saw the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep. 25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. 26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. 27  They reeled and staggered like drunkards; they were at their wits’ end.28 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress.29 He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. 30 They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven." (Psalm 107:23-30)
I am sure, after 3 months on the sea, they were beyond grateful to see this new land that greeted them.  It wasn't long after they had arrived the harsh winter came and diseases took the lives of most of the people. All that they gone through to get to the new world and then they didn't live to see their dreams fulfilled.

This story touched me as I listened to the lady at the tourist center tell me all of this.  I had no idea and to be honest never really thought much about it.  But it has changed my perspective of what people are willing to endure for freedom.  

The pilgrims landed in the new world in 1620.  Here we are 2016, almost 400 years later, still celebrating their victory.  I am thankful God has blessed us with this great country! I am grateful for those who had the courage to make the journey and prepare the way for us. I am grateful that to this day we still have the freedom of worship! I am grateful for those who gave their lives to keep our freedom!

Jesus did that for us when he came to earth as a man.  He stepped down from Heaven to the depths of the earth.  He calmed the wind and seas. He healed the sick. He saved the lost. Then he was willing to go to the cross to bring us out of our distress.  Because of his willingness to give his life for us, we will one day be in our desired haven called Heaven and gather at His table for the Wedding Supper of the Lamb and give Him thanks! (Revelation 19:9) Oh what a Thanksgiving day that will be! One that will last for eternity!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family and may God Bless America!

Friday, July 29, 2016

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Pageant of the Master

So many times when I am reading my daily devotional, it lines up with something that is actually happening. The other day when I was reading Isaiah 22, I came across verse 13 that says, "Let us eat and drink," you say, "for tomorrow we die!" I wasn't sure why that scripture caught my attention, until later that evening.

We had friends who just happened to get tickets, invite us to see "Pageant of the Masters" in Laguna Beach. If you have never seen this way of displaying art, it is spectacular. They have taken famous paintings and sculptures and have recreated these life size pieces of art using people. It is absolutely amazing! It just so happened the theme for 2010 is "Eat, Drink and be Merry." That was no coincidence. That was God bringing something to my attention.

We sat there in awe of the amazing artwork. Not only were we admiring the original artists work, but even what the contemporary artists had done using real people to portray the people in the painting. I started wondering how long it takes them to dress them up and how much practice it must take to get them posed picture perfect. I'm sure when the cast members are being painted and dressed in their costumes, they aren't telling the artist who is doing their work what to do. Not to mention that they have to stand still for a minimum of 3 minutes while posing in the painting or sculpture for the audience.
They probably have to sit there quietly for hours while they are being transformed into a piece of art. Rather than complain, they are willing to be uncomfortable for those hours just because it is an honor to be apart of such an amazing event.

As I was sitting there admiring this work, the Lord reminded me of what I had read that day.
In chapter 29, verse 16 this particular verse talks about a potter and clay. This took me to Isaiah 45:9-12. It says, "“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’ 10How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father, ‘Why was I born?’ or if it said to its mother, ‘Why did you make me this way?’” 11 This is what the Lord says— the Holy One of Israel and your Creator: “Do you question what I do for my children? Do you give me orders about the work of my hands? 12 I am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it. With my hand I stretched out the heavens. All the stars at my command." (New Living Translation)

What is it about our human nature that we always question what God is doing in our lives? He says right there in verse 12 that HE is the one who made the earth and the heavens and created people to live in it. That word live is very important. God didn't just create people, but He designed our lives. Living the life God has given us every day is a stroke on the portrait He is painting. Each one of us has a unique life that is being painted by the Master. Why is it that we think we can argue with the Potter? Yes, sometimes it hurts when we, like clay, are being stretched and pulled and even put into the kiln. It's then our paint colors become more vibrant. But there are times when we are softly stroked with the tiniest of detail because our Creator is so particular with His artwork. Ephesians 2:10 says "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (NLT)

But what about when we find ourselves broken in some way?  All of us have chips (unforgiveness) and broken pieces (hurts) in our lives.  When we come to God broken and unrepairable, this is when we get to see Him make the greatest masterpiece of all!  When we can bring our broken pieces to Jesus and lay them at his feet, we get to see the most incredible work of art when he places them in such a way, that we become even more beautiful than the original piece! Jesus died so that we could live a life to it's fullest! (John 10:10)  God takes the broken pieces of our lives and makes a beautiful mosaic. 

If we would rest knowing that He already has our lives, or I should say, the portrait of our lives sketched out, then there would be less stress and less wresting in our souls. I admit, it is not easy, but in the grand scheme of life, our lives would be rest assured. Isaiah 64:8 says, "Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand." Our lives are on display for all to see in God's "Pageant of the Master" where life becomes art.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Apart or A Part

Recently, I had a dream that I was in a room with tables of glass containers filled with water.  Each container had a twig or branch in the container.  After waking from this dream, the verse from John 15 came to mind, "For apart from me you can do nothing."

For several days now this has been weighing on my spirit.  Going back to John 15, which in context is Jesus sharing with his disciples, the importance of being connected to him and to some degree one another. So was God speaking to me in this dream? Or have I watched too much HGTV and the use of greenery as decorative items?

The passage in John 15:1-9 reads "'I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.'"  (NLT) This is a very powerful message that Jesus is sharing with his disciples. 

As I have spent several days, meditating on this passage, I think God was showing me something that has happened in the Church.  These containers of individual branches are many believers today.  I often meet people who would say they are Christians, but haven't been connected to a church in years. They may visit a church once every 3 or 4 weeks, but never commit to anything. As a pastor's wife, I've seen people leave a church to search for something that meets their need and spend years looking and never connecting.
These branches may thrive for a season.  Much like evergreen plants can thrive after being cut for a long period of time. Eventually, like everything, it dries up. I think sometimes people think visiting church every now and then keeps them filled up. It's reminds me of a vase of flowers.  When a flower is first cut, it drinks up the water that it needs to keep vibrant. There have been times when I've poured out old water and re-cut the tips of my flowers to try and keep them longer.  But even then, the water becomes stale and smells to high heaven and the flowers die. I think this is what happens to many Christians when they cut themselves from the vine. 

The illusion of being a lone branch in a container of water is that you are thriving. Much like the photo above. It looks green and seems to be just fine.  In just a little while, that lone branch is going to stop taking in the water and wither. The other container will do just the opposite. This vine has roots and has more than one branch connected.  This is a better picture of what Jesus was talking about in John 15.  Where does it say in this passage that not being connected is going to keep one fruitful? It doesn't, it says just the opposite.  I think this goes for those who, like in this picture, look connected by being regular attenders in a church, but don't serve or give themselves to the community God has placed them. In this passage, Jesus says "branches" not branch. To me this means we are to be connected with others. There's a fine line to pruning and cutting off.  When a branch is dead on a vine, it gets cut off and thrown away.  When a healthy branch gets pruned, it's still connected to the vine.  It's just the part of the branch that is beginning to die and needed to be trimmed. Which goes back to why we need each other to keep us spiritually healthy. Others see what we can't.

Instead, it's our responsibility to make sure we connect or get grafted into a church body. Instead of us asking the question, "how can this church serve me?" we should ask "what are my gifts and where can I serve this church?" The photo on the right is a picture of an olive tree in the garden of Gethsemene.  A new vine has been grafted into an old vine trunk.  It's amazing to me how this can be done.  Both the old and new get their strength from one another and can continue to thrive. 

There is an urgency in the world today for Christians to unite. When the Holy Spirit was moving in Acts 3, it was because the Church was united and serving one another.  There are too many "lone branches" out there.  I think that is what God was showing me in my dream with all those containers of branches. I want to encourage you today if you are a "lone branch" there is a body of believers who need you! Stop listening to the voice of the enemy telling you that you are doing just fine not being a part of a church community. The voice that says you can be a Christian and not have to be involved in a church. That is a lie! It's a lie because Jesus said, "For apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5) It's time to be "a part" and bear fruit together!