It's Why We're Here

What prompted God to make man in the first place?

He had everything. He'd already made a ton of animals to display his incredible creativity. He'd colored his Earth every imaginable hue, tossed waves into the oceans, and set the planets spinning in their orbits. So it wasn't boredom or loneliness.

It wasn't due to a lack of anything, because the very nature of God is to be all-sufficient. So what was left? Why did He want a man in His own image?

The first hint is in the first chapter of Genesis. Ever notice how involved with Adam that God continued to be? He didn't stop with bringing him to life.

Look how many verbs are used in connection with God's activity toward man: He took the man and placed him in the garden...He brought the animals to him to see what he would call them...He caused a deep sleep...

Even after the creation of Eve, God
came down in the "cool of the evening" to walk and talk with them.
That pokes a few holes in the Deist theory that a Supreme Creator set the world in motion and then took a long vacation.

We get a very clear picture of a doting Father, delighting in his children. He didn't need Adam to name the animals. He didn't need Adam's help to tend the garden. What he delighted in was the relationship. He continually initiated conversation and interaction with the first humans.

So what did they talk about?

Think about your prayer times. Adam had no needs, so he couldn't ask God for anything. He had not sinned, so he didn't need forgiveness. He had no desires that weren't being met, no fears, no worries. There was no one he needed to intercede for, no Aunt Agnes in the hospital, Bob Brown's knee surgery, or his cousin's step-mother's uncle who lost his house. Those are the items that usually clutter up our time with God and we call it communication.

So what did God and Adam talk about?

We have reduced the art of prayer to an information exchange, done in the quickest possible time. If we aren't begging God for something, we assume there is nothing more to discuss. How it must hurt our Heavenly Father.

I think God looked forward to those daily strolls through the garden, listening to Adam's excited chatter the way a proud parent listens to a beloved child's discovery:

"Look at that red bird, Yahweh! I haven't seen one like that yet! Wow, you are so creative!"

"Did I tell you about these luscious green balls I found yesterday? I think I'll call them grapes. I ate a whole vine full!"

"I'm re-thinking the whole hippopotamus name. Kinda long, don't you think, even though it does seem to fit."

God is a person. He can enjoy, take delight, find humor, and look forward to things just like we can. He delighted in simply spending time with this created being that He loved like His own Son without prayer requests, bargaining, or angry demands.

And God doesn't change. He still likes it. He enjoys spending time with his children, watching us discover the mysteries He's hidden on the globe for us to find. Hearing our excited chatter as we seek Him out to share it with Him.

How much enjoyment are you giving God?

Things I've Learned From My Dogs

This is a re-post from last year. If my schedule ever slows down again, I'll get creative.

Yankee and Babe have become a great source of inspiration as I watch them do stupid dog things that often parallel the stupid human things I do. Here are a few of the things I've learned from watching them:

1. Jealousy is unbecoming.
2. No matter how much barking I do at the irritations of life,
nothing really changes.
Noise and fuss do not equal control.

3. My food dish will be filled no matter what I do or don't do because Somebody loves me in spite of my messes.
4. Being put outside for a while is not the worst thing that can happen. I'll live through it and life will be good again.
5. There is no sense in growling at children. It ticks everyone off and they have long memories.
6. I can sleep on the floor to make a point, but the only one who gets the point is me.
7. There's plenty of room on this couch for both of us. No need to be touchy.
8. A humble hand-licking goes a lot farther than a snooty pout.
9. Grooming only hurts for a little while and I'm always better for it.
10. There are times when you have to go to the vet, and at those times it's better to trust my Master's wisdom than the scary sights and sounds all around me.

Have You Dropped a Stitch?

I used to knit and crochet. Back in the olden days when I actually had time to sit around!

I once crocheted a baby afghan and was about 2/3 of the way into it when I noticed I'd dropped a stitch way back there somewhere.

Now the afghan was shrinking! It looked perfectly fine unless you tried to fold it in half, then the discrepancy was painfully obvious. One end was markedly narrower than the end where I'd started.

I thought about ignoring it, but what was the point of finishing a crooked afghan? So I started pulling on the yarn and unraveled that thing all the way back to where I'd first messed up. Yes, it took longer, but when I finished I had something I could be proud of.

Sometimes we get the idea that God is not interested in the minute details of our lives. We have an unspoken rating system: big decisions merit prayer, little ones are up to me.

I'm not sure that's accurate. I am currently reading through Exodus (well aware that the tedious chapters of Leviticus are ahead). When the O.T. launches into all that meticulous detail, I tend to zone out. But since all Scripture is there for us to learn, I asked God to show me what he wanted me to learn from it.

As I read about God's instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle, I was struck with how detailed it was. God was passionately concerned with every facet of it from color, to texture, to smells, and to size and shape. He was REALLY into it! God got excited about His house and making himself available to his people. He wanted them to know he cared very much about every tiny detail and was keeping watch to see that they obeyed Him.

I think He wants us to know that too. There is no area of our lives off-limits to God. No decision too small or thought too insignificant for Him to care about it.

If He cared enough to instruct Moses on the exact color and design of a priest's robe, then He cares what you're wearing on that important interview. He cares what you wear to church. If He insisted on nothing but the purest gold for His utensils, then He still insists that you give him your very best in everything. He knows the difference.

Sometimes we think we can get away with offering God something we care little about. We give him our castoffs, our discarded ideas, our half-hearted efforts. We give him a couple of hours on Sunday morning and think He's satisfied.

God is very much into details. Jesus hammered that point home when he told his followers that "the very hairs of your head are numbered." Can you be any more detailed than that?

Satan wants you to believe that you're "bothering God" with your puny problems and after all "God helps those that help themselves." You won't find that nonsense in the Bible, even though it's quoted as though it was inspired.

God helps those who throw themselves at His feet and beg for mercy, admitting their inability to help themselves. He wants us to share with Him our every thought, our puzzling circumstances, our decisions at those forks in the road.

He never drops a stitch, but he cares a lot when you do. He'll whisper that it's okay, just go back and do it again. This time follow the Pattern and you'll create something worth keeping.

At Cross Purposes

We see crosses everywhere. Gold ones dangling between buxom breasts, wooden ones stuck to the tops of churches, and painted ones adorning business presumably owned by Christians.

Fancy, pretty, ornate crosses are clutched by the masses as though simply the shape possesses magical powers . In modern society, the cross has come to symbolize something mystical, almost like having a personal genie. Once again, Satan has twisted truth until it satisfies our basest selfishness because he rightly knows that when he makes it all about US, we buy it every time.

When Jesus told his followers that if any of them truly wanted to be his disciple, they must "take up your cross daily and follow me" he wasn't offering to be their genie.

We often assume what he meant was bearing our own burdens without complaining. Or giving up something worldly for his sake. But that's only a tip of the iceberg.

The cross always stands for death. Cruel, purposeful, agonizing death of something found to be abhorrent. The cross did not save us. It had no power in itself. It was a means to an end that Jesus chose while every fiber of his humanity cried out to do otherwise.

When he tells us that in order to follow him we must also take up our cross, he means that like him, we must die. Our self-life must be crucified along with him, or we will never be all that he calls us to be. We might look good on the outside, but until we've taken up our cross, we're just putting on a show.

We don't hear this preached much anymore--dying to SELF. It doesn't play very well in hedonistic American culture. The sermons we want are the ones about God meeting all our needs...or taking us to Heaven...or defeating all our enemies. We like those!

But Jesus preached a different sermon and his is the only way to truly experience any of the above. To take up your cross is to do as the Apostle Paul said and consider ourselves "crucified with Christ." Jesus didn't come to tame our flesh. He came to kill it. And until we allow him to kill it, we have no more power inside us than we did before. His Holy Spirit gets a chair in the corner of our hearts while our flesh rages on as before. That won't work.

If you want God to do amazing things in your life, through you and in you, then you must die. No fence-straddling. No holding on to "just a teensy gray area." No passionate interest in anything but Him.

And we cannot do it. We absolutely cannot make ourselves die to SELF.

That's why we need the cross. Remember, it symbolizes purposeful, painful killing of something we consider abhorrent. Until we recognize that all that ME we once found so appealing is really our enemy, we won't be willing to let it die. We cling to SELF like the last parachute in the biplane.

"That's what makes me ME!" we whine.
"You have to look out for Number One, or nobody else will."
"I have a right to be proud of myself for all I've accomplished."

"Take up your cross daily and follow me," Jesus said. He emphasized the word daily because he was well aware of our tendency to go back on our commitments. Dying to SELF is a daily reckoning. As an accountant tallies up the books each day, we must allow God to examine our hearts and see what might be amiss.

Have we gone back to bragging on ourselves?
Have our once-pure motives turned selfish?
Is our desire for acclaim getting out of hand?

Next time you see a cross, let it be a personal message from Jesus to you. Are you dead yet?

The Overlooked Commandment


What command appears in the Bible more than any other?

Did your mind flit to the Ten Commandments? The Great Commission?

Did you assume it was "Don't"?


There is a one-word command used more often than any other throughout the Old and New Testaments, yet it is rarely ever considered, much less obeyed.

That word is Remember.

God begins much of His instruction by first commanding us to remember. "Remember when I..." "Remember how I..." "Remember your God..."

He knows we need a basis upon which to place our ongoing obedience and that basis is to remember how He provided, comforted, defended, inspired, strengthened the last time.

Yet, when faced with another hurdle, we cower in fear, certain we've been deserted. No wonder God gets fed up with our lack of faith. We refuse to remember all He's already done.

When you hit the wall this week and another blow knocks you breathless, let your first response be to remember all God has brought you through thus far. That little word holds the key to facing with confidence whatever God allows in your path.

He wants us to Remember that regardless of how it looks, He's always been there and always will be.


I Have a Right to Be Entitled

They scraped and saved and did without. They wrangled deals until the day came when they could afford it. With tears of joy, they presented their beloved daughter with the gift of a lifetime.

Her face said it all as she squealed with delight. "Oh, finally! Cool! I can't wait to tell my friends!" She whirled away from her parents and raced into the house.

Mom looked at Dad. "I guess she liked it. She seemed happy."

Dad's smile wavered and his eyes followed his daughter's quick exit. "Yeah, she seemed to...Surely she'll know now how much we love her. You think she does?"

Mom swallowed hard and followed his gaze. "Surely."

Through the open window came the sound of an excited voice. "It's awesome, Jill! Not the color I would have chosen, but still...I'm gonna look so cool! Everyone will be so jealous. It's about time I got it. I don't know why it took so long. You wanna go out tonight and show off with me? This'll make ol' Shelly eat her words about me. I'm gonna..."

Do you see something wrong with that scene?

If you've ever been on the parents' end of it, you see the problem right away. An ungrateful spirit and an entitlement attitude on the part of the daughter.

But have you ever been the daughter?

As I read the story in Exodus about Moses whacking the rock to bring forth water for the thirsty Israelites in the desert, I wondered: Why did God always change methods every time he did a miracle or gave a great gift? He rarely did things the same way twice. One time he had Moses whacking the rock, the next time speaking to it.

When Jesus healed someone in the New Testament, you just never knew how He was going to do it. One time he touched them, one time He merely spoke. One time He made mud out of spit and smearing it on a blind man's eyes. But why? Why alter the methods so drastically?

Because God is the parent of a bunch of ungrateful, self-centered children
with entitlement attitudes.

We beg Him to bless us, give us what we want, and we often do it with an attitude of expectation. We call it faith, but it's not. It's entitlement. As though the mere presence of a desire obligates God to give us what we want.

I believe He keeps us guessing because He wants us to want Him, not just His gifts. As soon as we think we know how God is going to work, we become complacent. We presume on God. He becomes merely the source of blessing rather than the object of our desire.

Because He kept the Israelites guessing, they never knew what was going to happen and they had to keep trusting, keep seeking, keep asking and keep their focus on Him rather than his gifts.

As long as Jesus kept switching methods, the people saw that there was nothing magic in the act itself. No hidden cameras. No sleight of hand. They could never duplicate his miracles, because the power was in Him, not his methods.

So what about you?
  • Have you developed a tendency to seek God because of what He can do for you, rather than for the joy of His presence?
  • Is your prayer life more like a letter to Santa?
  • Has God's past provision made you complacent, rather than grateful?
  • Do you assume that because He blessed you once, He is obligated to repeat it?

Is your relationship with God similar to that of the ungrateful teenager toward her parents?

All the girl had to do was run back outside and throw herself into her parents' arms, thanking them and promising to use this gift in a way that would make them proud.

Do you need to do the same thing?

Get It Right Or Leave

The young man strode forward, purpose written on his clean-shaven face.
"Miss, you need to wear something more decent when you come to church," he scolded.

The teenage visitor blushed and glanced down at her mini skirt. Her friend gaped at the man and then scowled at the badge that hung from his neck: Greeter.

He gave a satisfied nod and then strode back to his post by the door.
God's work had been done.
"I visited that church on the corner, and let me tell you..." Mrs. Do Right cocked a knowing brow at her three brunch companions. "Fellas wearing caps backward, kids eating in the sanctuary, girls in shorts...There were even MOTORCYCLES parked out front!" She shook her head in disbelief. "In MY day you acted your best when you went to church or people would talk about you."

Widow Smugly nodded in agreement. "I heard they even skipped church services last month when that tornado tore up Smallville. The leaders went over there to pass out water or some such nonsense. Can you believe that? No services on Sunday!

"Our dear Pastor Lawly would never allow such goings-on at our church. He respects the Lord's house. When they asked to borrow our baptistery, he was smart enough to tell them "no way!" He would rather use it for storage than let a part of God's house be used by such...such...ungodly people. They baptize in the lake. Can you believe it? The lake! How unspiritual!"

The four remaining members of the Ladies' Circle clucked at the foolishness of that disrespectful bunch on the corner and the holiness of Pastor Lawly, thankful they would never be caught transgressing the rules. No sir, you'd never catch them breaking tradition.
If that sounds ridiculous, it shouldn't. In fact, it's the norm. And it's been going on since Jesus walked the earth. He was the One who started the trend that people like Mrs. Do Right will never understand.
(Luke 13)
Jesus held up a hand and the crowd grew silent.

"Woman, come here."

Every head turned to watch the crippled woman as she shuffled toward the Teacher. Her back was bent in half. She had seen nothing but feet for 18 years.

His hands touched her back and his words echoed over the breathless throng. "Be freed from your sickness," He said.

She began to straighten, her eyes widening as they sought the face of the one who had spoken. His smile said it all.

Murmurs rippled through the crowd and a man shouted, "Glory to God!"

"Now just one moment!" came a strident voice from the back of the room. "What's going on here? This is the Sabbath! Who do you think you are, healing people on the Lord's day? What blasphemy! What an outrage!"

The synagogue official shoved through the crowd and came nose to nose with the One they called the Teacher. "There are six days when you can work, and this isn't one of them. If you're going to go around healing people, then do it on one of those days, NOT on the Sabbath!"
When we read that story we rightly feel shock at the callousness of that official. But how many times are we guilty of the same thing?

We cling to our traditions, our denominations, our version of the "right way to do things." We easily take offense at others who hold to different traditions or none at all. We each believe to the core of our beings that we are RIGHT and others are wrong. WE hold the truth and our rules are there for good reason. Our convictions should be yours, regardless of your need or where you've come from. Either become like us or there's the door.

OF COURSE the choir must wear robes!
OF COURSE we sing all four verses of Peace Like A River every time after communion!
OF COURSE the children must sit in church after first grade. Who cares if they're learning anything. That's the way it's done.
OF COURSE the men wear suits and ties and the ladies wear long skirts to church. Go ahead and buck tradition, you'll get THE LOOK. You won't do it again--IF you come back.
If Jesus came to your church, what traditions might he trample?
Would you be the one frowning?


Are You A Bumper Sticker?

Saw an interesting sight today.

A little red pickup idled in front of me at the stoplight. The back glass and tailgate were plastered with bumper stickers complaining about our government, spouting anti-American sentiment, and decrying foreigners taking American jobs. The driver's opinions were loud and clear. But as he pulled away, I had to laugh. The pickup was made by Toyota.

It made me think.

How many times are we quick to shout our opinions and defend our value system, while making life choices that cause others to wonder if we mean it? It is no longer unusual to read of a Family Values Politician being forced out of office because of an illicit affair. Or a left-leaning legislator with his finger in the profits of an overseas sweat-shop.

Wouldn't it be great if every one of us lived exactly what we said we believed? What if we never had to voice our opinions because our daily choices clearly reflected our heart values?

Jesus told his disciples that the world "will know you are Christians by your love."

Is that what we Christians are known for now? Or do our anti-everything slogans define us? Have we gained the reputation for being all talk and no show?

Jesus also said, "You are my disciples if you do what I command you."

He didn't say much about angry marches, shouting matches, or Bible thumping. He had a lot to say to the religious elite who spouted self-righteous jargon while oppressing the poor. I wonder how much of that ancient Pharisaical attitude has crept back into modern life?

How about your life?

Are you so busy defining what you're against and what others should do that you've neglected to take a hard look at your own selfish tendencies?

Be sure you're not a bold-faced bumper sticker on a Toyota.