Saturday, December 12, 2020
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
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.
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!
Sunday, November 22, 2020
Each tree is themed. To me, a Christmas tree can tell a story by the decorations it holds. I love all of my trees, but there's one that is actually where my heart lives. It's our keepsake tree. It's the tree that began in December of 1992. Jeff and I got married in November and we received ornaments as gifts. My mother-in-law started a tradition of giving us a Hallmark ornament with our picture every year. This tree started out as a 4 foot table top, but has since grown into the 9 foot tree. The tree if filled with special ornaments from Hallmark keepsakes, vacation destinations, handmade by my children, and ornaments I've inherited after the loss of loved ones. This tree truly is the heart of our home.
As I began unpacking the crates with these precious decorations, the Holy Spirit began to stir my heart with some thoughts. It all came together in my morning devotions when a particular scripture jumped off the page. This scripture pulled it all together for me. This is the story of the eternal keepsake tree.
The Christmas tree is usually an evergreen. This means it never changes color like trees with leaves. This tree is green, even in the coldest and darkest months. This symbolizes eternal life. The lights in the tree are symbolic of Jesus being the light of the world. As I looked at my tree, I realized the tree really symbolizes the cross. Over 2000 years ago, the light of the world hung on a tree to conquer sin and death once and for all.
One morning I was doing my daily Bible reading and I came across this scripture in Isaiah. "Look around you and see, for all your children will come back to you. As surely as I live,” says the Lord, “they will be like jewels or bridal ornaments for you to display." (Isaiah 49:18 NLT) All of the sudden, I looked at those ornaments that are placed so purposefully on my tree and realized we are God's ornaments. Each of us is like an ornament to God. Jesus died for every one of us. Just as my ornaments are from special people and places and given or bought throughout our marriage. We, like these ornaments are different and even though we were purchased at Jesus' death, we are placed on the tree in purposeful locations and are collected over the years.
Thinking about what keepsake really means, I felt the Holy Spirit ask me to separate the word and define each word. The word "keep" is to have possession of. The word "sake" is in order to preserve. Think about that. Jesus died for us so that we could become His "keepsake." First Peter 2:9 says, "But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light." We were chosen by God to be His ornaments to show others the goodness of God. The light of Jesus shines through us, just like the lights on the tree highlight the ornaments. It's really the light behind the ornaments that give them their beauty.
What a picture this is to me of salvation and what Jesus did for us at the cross. As we head into the darkest days of the year and not only seasonally, but truly as we seem to be heading into the the darkest days of this pandemic, it's time for the ornaments of Christ to shine. It's in these times when we can allow the glory of God to work through us giving a lost world hope for the future.
We were are here on this earth for such a time as this. Jesus told us we were the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). It's time for us to shine the love of Jesus to the hopeless, fearful, sick, and the lost. This Christmas, my prayer is that the Keepsake Tree of Jesus would be surrounded with those who choose the gift of eternal life. He said in John 12:32, "And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (NLT) I pray this Christmas the cross shines brighter than ever.
Saturday, November 14, 2020
Tuesday, June 2, 2020
The following thoughts are what was on my heart 10 years ago. I feel that they are more relevant today, than they were then. So much has changed for the worst and has happened in the past 10 years, yet at the same time, we have not resolved any of the issues that are still burning in the hearts of man today.
In recent years, our elections have been very interesting. Some of the propositions we have had on our ballots would have never been considered as early as10 years ago. The television ads that seem to run endlessly during the weeks prior to an election can be a bit confusing. Most of the time I believe the proposition ads talk in circles as to confuse the voter. As followers of Jesus, we shouldn't base our decisions necessarily on moral issues, but on the Kingdom of God principles. What does God's Word say about the things man's law is trying to pass. It would seem that it is "lawfulness" against "lawlessness" and "order" against "disorder."
This week we read 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 and the title of this chapter in my NIV Bible is "The Man of Lawlessness." Verses 1- 12 says, "Now, dear brothers and sisters, let us clarify some things about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we will be gathered to meet him. 2 Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us. 3 Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed—the one who brings destruction. 4 He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God.
Sunday, May 31, 2020
Sunday, April 19, 2020
Over the next few days, something shifted. That peacefulness and stress-less life changed. My dreams have been much more active and I wonder if it could be from the lack of activity that my subconscious is reacting. When this time of isolation began, I had a lot of faith and hope that we were going to see the Holy Spirit move in a new way. We prayed for changed in 2020 and clear vision. We certainly got the change, but as far as the vision goes, it's become more blurred.
The other morning, I woke up completely confused. I had a dream that Jeff and I had a leadership conference in Temecula. Temecula is southern California's wine country. I'm not sure why there except we are either in need of wine or God was speaking to me about that location. Are we, as a church, being put into new wineskins?
But in this dream Jeff kept referring to Isaiah 54:17, "no weapon formed against us shall prosper..." He had made a small paper "knife-like sword." He said, "This is not a sword and this is what most of us carry as a sword." Then out of butcher paper, he made a life-size fencing type sword. He told the leadership that we were going to be making these for each one of us. He had run out of paper and we had to buy it from CVS. It was then I woke up with wonder on my mind.
Was God speaking to us? What are paper swords? I did find it interesting that Jeff kept quoting Isaiah 54:17. I decided to read that verse and it was interesting, which makes me believe now God was talking to me in my dream. It says, "But in that coming day no weapon turned against you will succeed. You will silence every voice raised up to accuse you. These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the LORD; their vindication will come from me. I, the LORD, have spoken!" (NLT). Now the question is what does this mean.
"And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17 NLT) As a Church we need to be eating the Word of God together daily and meeting together via video to continue growing, "‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”(Matthew 4:4). The past 6 years have been training us for this season. Jesus said, "Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword." I believe for us as a Church this means for us to put the word of God at the forefront of our lives. By putting the sword back in it's place, means it should be the first thing we turn to in our minds so we will be preserved and healed at the same time. No weapons of disease or financial loss formed against us will prosper. We will "live by the sword." And specifically the paper sword.
Sunday, April 12, 2020
Thursday, March 26, 2020
It's been two weeks since this "shelter in place" life began. I had heard over the past few weeks that if you needed toilet paper or paper towels, you had to be at the store before it opened. It was time for me to learn the new way of shopping.
When I arrived, there were about 5 cars in the parking lot. I decided that I would sit in my car and wait since there wasn't anyone standing in line yet. I called my mom and chatted for a bit and as we chatted, the cars began to show up. I decided I should go see if these lines were true. To my surprise there was already a line of about 20 people! We were all spaced 6 feet apart. I felt the Holy Spirit remind me to put on the armor of God before I went in. " Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:13-17)
As soon as the clock struck 8:00 am, the train began to roll. I say train because that was exactly what it looked like. All of us with our carts following behind one another straight back to the toilet paper/paper towel section. I was chuckling inside because I really couldn't believe I was actually following a line of people to the toilet paper corner. About half way there, a guy comes around the corner and yells, "well we're out of luck today. No paper goods." I stayed in line because I just needed to see for my self. I think everyone else did too. He was right, the aisle was bare. It was so sad.
I pushed my cart down the aisle with a heaviness in my soul. The store was unusually quiet and the shoppers stayed the appropriate distance from each other. No store clerks walking around either. I picked up a few things that were on my list and decided that I was going to take some time to walk and pray. The final word in Ephesians 6 is "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." I felt the Holy Spirit again tell me to pray. As I traveled up and down the aisles praying in the Spirit, I could literally feel the weight of shame. Ashamed not only for giving into the entitled life that I have been living, but our country in general. I was immediately reminded of 2 Chronicles 7:14 that says, "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." Jeff has often said God gives us to chance to humble ourselves. If we don't do it, then we will be humbled whether we like it or not. That's what I was feeling as I looked at this naked aisle. I was standing there ashamed. I mean, toilet paper? Really? Really.
I repented, in Target of all places. I asked the Lord to forgive me and us, as a country for living so entitled and prideful. As I sit here writing this, my mind is flooding with all the things we've put before God. We have lived in a country that has built idols. Lots of them. From entertainment, sporting events, cellphones, social media, politics, racism, restaurants, coffee, wine, and the obvious, money. Think about it, there's an "iron bull" statue on Wall Street! We live to serve the stock market. It reminds me of the golden calf the Israelites worshiped after they left Egypt. They took the gold and silver they had collected from the Egyptians and rather than give it to God and worship Him, they chose to make a an idol with it. (Exodus 32) When people chose what they thought was right in their own eyes, which we have done, they were called wicked. We've become wicked people because we feed our flesh whatever it wants and now we can hardly find toilet paper to clean up after the waste! And I'm not excluding the Church. As Christians we are no different because we expect our churches to model the world. Are the seats comfortable? It's too cold or too hot in the sanctuary. Who has the best worship? We don't even care what the pastor has to say anymore. It just matters if the church is cool and is it relevant to the culture today. I apologize for my truthfulness, but I know too many people who call themselves Christians that don't even go to church because they've decided the church is full of hypocrites.
So here we are today, March 26th, 2020 quarantined to our homes because of a virus. No more entertainment, sporting events, club sports, school, college, dining out, going to bars and clubs. Even church is closed. Personally, I feel like God is taking this terrible thing that has happened and He's turning it for good (Romans 8:28). He has given us a chance to reboot and to reclaim our lives again. To see that we can live without all the "stuff" and realize what is important. First, that we can only depend on Him for provision, not in our jobs or ourselves. Second, we are now having family time and eating meals together at home. This was always an important thing with God. I mean, the first thing we do when Jesus returns is eat together, "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”" (Revelation 19:9)
I want to close with this. Should this become our "new normal," what are you learning from it? What things have you put before God? I am with you in this. I have complained and put things first, but I really feel like the Holy Spirit is speaking loud and clear to me. This is just the beginning of diseases and virus' to come. Look how easy it is to shut down businesses and jobs. Proverbs 19:21 says, "You can make many plans, but the Lord's purpose will prevail." From the very beginning, He wanted a relationship with us. It's time to get this Nation back under Him. Jesus came so we could have life and life more abundantly (John 10:10). Jesus didn't give His life so we could squander it in the material things. He gave His life so we could live in relationship with God, be blessed and spend eternity with Him. Take some time to think about this. He knows you have the time, because we're in a quarantine. Get out your Bible that's been on the shelf or go to the Bible online and read some "good news." Let Him speak to you and fill your life with His love. Let that become your "new normal."
Thursday, March 12, 2020
In mid January, we were introduced to a new virus called Coronavirus also called COVID-19. I lived through the bird flu, I lived through swine flu and even the Ebola outbreak. But this particular one has people in complete panic.
Today, I was out doing my regular grocery shopping, I couldn't believe how empty the shelves were. I went to four places and each place there was a limited supply or no supply of basic necessities. I had heard the stories of toilet paper hoarding, but didn't think it was really happening in my community. At least the last time I was at the store the shelves were stocked. But today, there was a spirit of fear that seemed to sit on those shelves. It wasn't just empty shelves of toilet paper, the food aisles were also bare. I could not believe what I was feeling as I stood there in the middle aisle as people shoved and pushed one another. Actually, I was stuck because there was a lady on her phone talking about the empty shelves, not paying attention to the people around her and her cart was in the middle of the aisle. A lady behind me said, "can I get by?" It was then I realized how selfish we as humans really are. When we are faced with fear, we become so self absorbed that others don't matter anymore. That's why all the hoarding of basic needs. We don't care if others have their needs met, we just want to make sure we're protected.
As I stood there in that aisle, my heart sank and all I could do was pray and ask the Lord to help us. As a follower of Jesus, I am not supposed to live in fear. I must confess, I do get fearful more than I should about things, but for some reason this is different. I'm not afraid of getting this virus. I'm not afraid of death. What I am concerned is that people who call themselves Christians would play right into fears hands. If we as people of faith fall into this trap of panic, then we are hypocrites. The Bible is the word of God and if we conform to the fear, then we are saying God has no power or authority and His word is void (Isaiah 55:11NLT). We should be the ones bringing hope to the lost. Romans 15:13 says, "Our hope comes from God. May He fill you with joy and peace because of your trust in Him. May your hope grow stronger by the power of the Holy Spirit." It's in these times that we should rise above the occasion and share, but even more "be" the love of God. "There is no fear in love. Perfect love puts fear out of our hearts. People have fear when they are afraid of being punished. The man who is afraid does not have perfect love." (1 John 4:18 NIV)
I want to encourage the Body of Christ that it's times like these that we need to shine like a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14). We need the joy of the Lord to be our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). The harvest is becoming ripe (Luke 10:2). I want to challenge us to speak the word of God out loud daily over our lives, to share the good news of Jesus with the fearful. We've been praying for a revival, it's in these times that it happens. You see, God wants every "last one" of us to experience His love, glory, grace and mercy and ultimately dwell in eternity with Him. He does not want any one to perish (2 Peter 3:9).
Let me encourage you today to live as children of light (Ephesians 5:8). Proverbs 17:22 says that a "joyful heart is good medicine." We can give those who are afraid a dose of joy. Let's overcome this fear with faith and panic with peace. Let the love of Jesus become an epidemic and see lives changed and hope restored to every last one.
(Empty shelves photo: Christy Alesi)