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!


Friday, March 25, 2016

R.E.A.L. Women - Gift With Purchase

This week I worked at the Clinique counter as it was their first week of "gift with purchase." Interestingly enough, it was amazing at the nature of the average person. Most were grateful for their gift, but many were either ungrateful (not happy with the colors or creams) or they were greedy and wanted more free stuff along with their gift.

Today is a day we reflect on the one priceless "gift wi
th purchase" that we did not pay for, but was paid by Jesus because he loved us so much (1 John 3:16). A gift that cost more than anyone could ever pay in this world. Yet, many reject this gift, many are unappreciative of this gift or maybe grateful for the gift, but have put it in the cupboard and forgotten about it.

If you don't even know about this "gift with purchase," it is available right now for you. God loved you so much, that he sent Jesus, perfect in all his ways, to this earth to give his life for you (John 3:16). Don't pass this gift of eternal life up. Ask God to forgive you for everything you've done. There is nothing too great that He won't forgive! "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9. Make this Good Friday your eternal birthday.

In the mean time, If you have received the gift of salvation, take some time today to reflect on how precious it is. How nothing in this world has more value than the blood that was shed for our sinfulness (Isaiah 53). Give thanks that you have received it for free and that you did not have to pay for it yourself! Not only have you been given eternal life, but Jesus said in John 10:10, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." This is the only "gift with purchase" that will change your life!

Monday, March 21, 2016

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Making Mountains Into Mole Hills

 There is a saying when a person faces a challenge in life that fear causes one to make it bigger than it really is.  The phrase is "making mountains out of mole hills."  I must say, fear can do that!

As I was reading in Matthew 17, this passage is an interesting one.  It begins with Jesus taking his disciples up to a high mountain.  While they were there, something amazing happened to Jesus and he was transfigured (Matthew 17:1-13).  

The next portion of scripture (Matthew 17:14-19), Jesus has an encounter with a demon possessed boy. The father of the boy tells Jesus that earlier he asked his disciples to cast out the demon, but the disciples could not.  Jesus rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith and then cast the demon from the boy.

Jesus concludes this portion of scripture with this profound statement.  Matthew 17:20-21 says, "'Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.'"

When I read this, I thought about that phrase we often say, of "making mountains out of mole hills."  Then I wondered if Jesus was really saying that we make mountains in our lives out of our fear, doubt and unbelief.  Jesus starts out by saying they have so little faith.  If we looked at fear more like a mole hill, we would change the world.  But often we let the fear, doubt and unbelief become a man-made mountain, and actually becomes a place of worship for us. I've heard that what you worry about is what you worship.  We build our own high place. We start adding accessories to it, that it becomes greater than it should.



In the days when the Israelites were conquering Israel, God was pretty clear to them that they were to destroy the false gods where the people of Canaan worshipped on the high mountains (Deuteronomy 12:2). You see, only God is to be worshipped on the high mountain.  It takes faith to enter into the presence of the Lord.  God met Moses on top of the Mount Sinai and it was there that He made a covenant with Moses.  The very first commandment being "Do not worship any other gods (Exodus 20:1-17)."  This would include the gods of worry and fear. When Moses came down from the mountain after being with God, the glory of God was all over Moses, so much so his face had to be covered with a veil it was so bright (Exodus 34:29-35).

 Jesus wasn't saying that mountains are bad in Matthew 17.  In fact, he doesn't say speak to all mountains, he says to "this" mountain which I think could be the mountain of fear, doubt and unbelief.  God wants to meet us up on the mountain tops of faith. That is where we are transformed.  

What mountains of fear have you created that need to become mole hills? You can't go around it. You can't go under it.  You can't go over it. You have to just "move" it! Instead, stand on the word of God, enter His presence with thanksgiving and praise and there you will find joy. When we are filled with the joy of the Lord, it reflects our faith.  It's in that high place that we look down from and see that our mountains of fear are nothing but mole hills.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Super Bloom

This week in my news feed, there was an interesting article on what is called "Super Bloom" in Death Valley.  Death Valley is the hottest and driest place on the North American continent. I wonder what the pioneers must have thought after coming through the lush green states like Colorado and Utah to find themselves in this dry desert place. This year, this barren basin is covered in colorful flowers that have covered the hillsides.  This phenomenon is due to the rainfall in the month of October. The last time this occurred was in 2005.


Have you ever felt as though you were in a drought spiritually? Spiritual drought happens when we begin to doubt. When we start to doubt, the high pressure of life holds back the reign of God's presence and the fire of lies begins to burn up the pastures of hope.  Joel 1:19 & 20 says "To you, O Lord I call, for the fire has devoured the open pastures and flames have burned up all the trees of the field. 20 Even the wild animals pant for you; the streams of water have dried up and fire has devoured the open pastures." 

For those of us living in California, we know what it is to conserve water and prepare for fire season. I kind of feel like the Church is living like this too.  We want God's Holy Spirit to come and flood our gatherings, but because we feel like we are living in a drought we are conserving what is inside of us and not allowing it flow out of us.  I think this is why church can become more ritualistic than fresh. 

It's time for a Super Bloom in the church! With the current condition of our world and country, it is time for us to believe for a super natural reign of the Holy Spirit to pour on our drought stricken hearts! This portion of scripture in Joel 2 is speaking of hope to God's people of restoration "Don’t be afraid, O land. Be glad now and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things. 22 Don’t be afraid, you animals of the field, for the wilderness pastures will soon be green. The trees will again be filled with fruit; fig trees and grapevines will be loaded down once more. 23 Rejoice, you people of Jerusalem! Rejoice in the Lord your God! For the rain he sends demonstrates his faithfulness. Once more the autumn rains will come, as well as the rains of spring."

The spiritual weather forecast shows the reign is coming. In Acts 2, Peter quoted this portion of scripture from Joel 2. It says "‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy.  Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. 18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy. 19 And I will cause wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below—blood and fire and clouds of smoke. 20 The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives. 21 But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'" (Acts 2:17-21 & Joel 2:28-31) That day, in Jerusalem, the reign of the God's spirit down poured when, all the people believed (one accord). There was a mighty wind that rained down flames of fire onto their heads, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke in other tongues. (Acts 2:2-4)


That forecast is still for the Church today. It's time we got over our theological differences and just believe that the Holy Spirit can rule and reign today. We can have a fresh reign of God every time we gather. I think the picture of the color in Death Valley is a visual picture of what it looks like when we pray in the Spirit. It's beautiful and breathtaking. It's fragrance over powers the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12) It's the reign that brings healing and hope to a dying world. It is time for the reign of the Holy Spirit to bring a season of "Super Bloom" in the Church!

(Here is the link to a song that is written from Joel 2/Acts 2. "Pour Yourself On Me" (copy and paste: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4iQpFwA_HM)