Category Archives: holiness

As you have believed, so let it be done…

Lent Lenten Sermon Roman Centurion Soldiers Jesus Christ Christian Confessional LCMS Lutheran_zpsj8ppveigWhen Jesus heard this, He was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” Matthew 8:10

Jesus was amazed by what He just heard. A centurion, and in case you didn’t know that means a Roman, not just any Roman, a Roman soldier, a commander in fact, had shown more faith than ‘anyone in Israel’. Yes, a Roman military commander just approached Jesus and asked Him to heal his servant.

I want to provide you a little context, the Romans were the occupying force in Judea at the time. They were not liked, they knew they were not liked. The Jews of the time considered the Romans beneath them. When at all possible the avoided contact of any kind.  The Romans were significantly outnumbered in Judea however, possessed the most technologically advanced and well-trained military in the world. A Roman centurion was proven on the battlefield, and as such, put in command of 100 soldiers, men who were there to subdue the population, by force if necessary. The centurion who approached Jesus was just such a man.

Along comes Jesus, He heals the sick and the broken, causes the blind to see and the lame to walk. His fame had been spreading across Judea to the point that a Roman centurion heard what He could do, was doing for the most unlikely and unlikable people. So, one of the most disliked men in Judea approached Jesus and asks for help.

I am ALWAYS struck by who Jesus reaches out to, who He calls, who He heals. It’s NOT the elite (Paul being the exception), it’s the least, the lost and the unlikely. In the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus says He came to heal the sick not the well. Jesus came to those that were rejected, despised and considered unclean. He came to those who had nowhere else to turn, but they had hope.

They flocked to Him, they surrounded Him, they broke through roofs to get to Him. What He had was all they wanted. A Samaritan woman, a tax collector, a leper, the possessed and the dead, if Jesus could heal them, why not a Roman servant? So, the centurion went, knowing the hatred these people felt for him, knowing he would probably be sent away but, he wasn’t. Jesus was going to come to his home.

I can only imagine what that centurion thought, “what, wait… you’ll help?” However, the centurion also knew that asking Jesus into his home could open up a whole can of problems not just for himself but for Jesus as well.

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” Matthew 8: 8-9

Jesus was AMAZED by the faith of this centurion. He understood who Jesus was and what He could do. His belief in Jesus saved his servant.

Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment. Matthew 8:13

A Roman Centurion, the most unlikely of candidates for Jesus mercy but, is he really that unlikely considering who Jesus is? Jesus doesn’t make the distinction; Roman, Jew, adulterer, drug addict, thief, lonely, disabled, downtrodden, abused and unloved…Jesus answered the request of a Roman soldier, one possibly responsible for the death of Jewish people, is there anything that can keep us from the love, grace and mercy of Jesus Christ?

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 8:38-39

NOTHING!

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Salt Free Seasoning…why?

salt substitute“Therefore, salt is good; but if salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? “It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 13:34-35

Salt is the seasoning of life. Salt enhances flavor, dries and preserves food, salt is everywhere. In the Old Testament, salt was regarded as a necessary ingredient of daily food and as such a required part of all sacrifices offered to God (Lev 2:15). As Christians we are called to be the salt of the earth, to bring the flavor of Jesus to a tasteless world.

Think about it, we spend so much time, energy and money trying to find meaning, and purpose in our lives (flavor). We are constantly making substitutions for the real thing. We look for satisfaction in relationships, entertainment, careers, possessions and substances but we never find true fulfillment in them.

I remember when my father was told he needed to cut back on his salt intake. This was not a pleasant conversation to have with my dad because this man LOVES salt! He loves salt as much as I do. My mom had to get very creative with alternate ways of seasoning food. Our table had ‘salt alternative’ in the shaker (yuck), she used a LOT of garlic and onion and then she discovered Mrs. Dash Salt Free Seasoning. Man were we excited. It was so colorful, so well advertised, packaged beautifully and man on man did it look good on your food…it wasn’t salt.

I recall my dad saying how he liked it, that it made the food taste great, very flavorful. He put on a good face and utilized all the flavor alternatives that were presented to him, although I have to say the salt alternative was terrible. Even Mrs. Dash didn’t cut it…dad still wanted salt.

It’s really amazing to me that this is how so many people go through life, substituting anything and everything for what will truly fill them, fulfill them, restore them, and make them whole. If we are truly to be the salt of the earth, to bring Jesus to the world, then we need to be just that. Not a salt alternative, not a salt substitute… the real salty deal.

Salt is an enduring mineral that can’t spoil. We are to be the same to the world. Salt and light; flavor and good news, one can’t be separated from the other. The world is full of all kinds of ‘alternatives’ to what will truly satisfy. The word alternative has its roots in medieval Latin alternativus, meaning ‘purporting to be a superior choice to what is in general use.’ I can tell you from first hand experience, Mrs. Dash is not superior to salt, nor are worldly alternatives superior to Jesus.

If you want to enjoy all that life has for you, to be whole, restored and complete, don’t turn to an alternative that is ‘reported’ to be a superior choice, go to the truly superior choice, the only choice, Jesus!

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding,  he[c] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” Ephesians 1:7-10

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Jesus’s Emergency Room

ER1Hospitals, I grew up in one, and no that is NOT an exaggeration. It’s also not a stretch to say that it was partly because my mother worked there and partly because I was the clumsiest tomboy that ever waltzed through the Verde Valley, (notice the emphasis on was).

My mother worked at our community hospital for over 37 years. She held just about every non-clinical position possible. From unit clerk, nursing assistant and financial services representative to patient advocate. Needless to say if you ever found yourself there, you would have probably met my mom. The most memorable of her roles, for me, was when she was the admissions clerk in the Emergency Room. She would come home with stories, (never sharing identifying information as my mom has the highest of integrity when it came to hospital rules even before HIPPA was HIPPA), that seemed almost too odd to be true. We often joked that one day she needed to write a book because reality is so much more interesting than fiction.

She would enthrall us at the dinner table with stories about people with strange pets hidden in their clothing, obscure illnesses, gory injuries and sometimes people who just wanted someone to talk to. My mom was the first person they met when they walked through the sliding glass doors with “Emergency Room” written in big red letters. I can still remember the sound of those doors, both coming through as a patient as well as visiting my mom.

I was talking with a friend this week about how churches today are like hospitals. Jesus didn’t come to heal and save the well, but the sick and broken. In Matthew, Mark and Luke Jesus stated that it was not the healthy that needed a doctor but the sick. This same statement is made in three of the Gospels, perhaps it is an important concept He wants us to grasp?

Matthew 9:11-13 –  When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. “But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2:16-17 – When the scribes who were Pharisees saw Jesus eating with these people, they asked His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus told them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” 

Luke 5:30-31 – But the Pharisees and their scribes complained to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

We all need to see our churches for what they are, hospitals, full of the sick and the broken. Our front doors should read “Emergency Room” in big red letters. 

Most of the time mom’s stories were of the usual suspects, drunk driving, sick children, motorcycle accidents, and the occasional broken bones, injuries and illnesses that were easily diagnosed and treated. Then there were the stories that baffled, the patients who come in covered in blood that would bring everyone running to the rescue, only to find the cause to be a small cut that was quickly repaired, no stitched required. Then there were those who came in looking ok, walking in on their own looking relatively healthy, who then collapse on the floor, almost dying in the waiting room from internal bleeding.

“You just never can tell”, she would say, “until the doctor can take a close look.”

Our doctor is Jesus. The Healer, The Great Physician, He raised the dead to life and restored the broken to their families and communities. Hospitals are no place for the faint of heart, they are messy, often loud, emotional, chaotic, and full of sick people. But, that is what we are here for isn’t it?

Luke 6:32-36“But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and the evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”

We talk about being accepting, we create ministries to reach out to the broken and lost of our communities, but then we complain about the mess. The Kingdom needs more hospitals, we need to be ready, willing, and able to accept everyone who walks through our doors, no matter how bloody or messy they are. It’s not easy, Christ told us it would not be easy. However, He was also very clear with our job description.

Matthew 28:19-20 – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

As a follower of Christ, this is my job! It’s not always easy. I ask daily for God to give me His heart, His eyes and His hands to work in His hospital. I love nothing more than to see His people turn to Him and be healed. That, in and of it’s self, is worth every uncomfortable, chaotic and messy moment.

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Freedom from not Freedom to…

 

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened  by a yolk of slavery. Galatians 5:1

What does it mean to be free? Jesus speaks frequently in the Gospels of the freedom He brings, but what does that mean to us today? Free from what, free from whom? The Bible tells us we are free from sin, we are free from the result of sin which is death. We are free to live in a way that gives glory to God.

The simplest way for me to state this is we are free…to live! I am free to speak the truth (in love always), I am free to make decisions that will bring my spirit joy, not my flesh. I am free to live without the constraints that hold me hostage; fear, anxiety, worry, jealousy, hate, judgement, lust. These things cause my soul to hurt, the restrain me to a way of thinking that is both self-perpetuating and self-destructive.

Have you noticed when you allow these thoughts to take you hostage, to encourage sinful behavior, you feel trapped. You feel guilt, you want to hide what you thought, what you did in a hope that no one will see and God won’t notice. Yea right…like He won’t notice! But still we try to hide what we’ve done, which encourages dishonesty, anxiety, worry, and the cycle continues. This is how you are held in bondage.

Christ died to free us from this. We have already been forgiven! We have been freed from this cycle, we can chose to turn toward Christ and live in a manner that doesn’t lead us down this wide windy road to death. We have been freed to not live by the tenets and precepts of this world.

We don’t have to strive to achieve what the world tells us to. We are free to love and care for people. We are free to put our families first, we are free to be happy with what we have, regardless of what others have.

Romans 5:8 tells us, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

While we were still sinners, striving to achieve a world view expectation of who we should be and what we should want, Christ went to the cross with the image of our face in His heart.

The freedom that Christ bought with his sacrifice makes me want to enjoy every blessing He has to offer, not to waste a moment. We have freedom chose life over death…what will you do with it?

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“We praise You when we win, and we praise You when we lose.”

we winWinning and losing, successes and failures, raises, promotions, houses and cars it’s how we keep account of how we are doing in life. Are we getting ahead are we falling behind? James writes, ” My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to you him.” (James 1:2-5)

No, it doesn’t mean we are supposed to be happy when trials happen to us. What James is telling us is to consider the trials as a means by which the Lord can work in our lives to help us grow and become the people He created us to be. I know that the thought of considering the hardest times in our lives as blessings, is difficult. I have lost a child, she was 13 when I lost her, and I did not consider it joy. I did not praise God for that trial, I did not see how anything good could come from that single event. In my wounded heart I felt only my pain. It took me many years…many years, before I was able to look at that trial as something God used to make me more like Him. God not only used that experience to do His perfect work in me, he also fulfilled one of His many promises to, “work all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

What I have found is that in times of trial, disappointment, confusion, or anxiety we need to praise God, not for the circumstances but because He is God! It is in and through those moments that God shows us what He can and will do in our lives. He will provide; a way out, triumph, clarity and calm if we ask it of him. “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let no that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:6-7)

Recently I was driving to the office and i received a phone call. One I had been very anxious to receive. I had been working on a project for months, and this call was going to either let me know that my team and I had been successful or unsuccessful. I will let you know that there was a lot riding on this project, so my anxiety level was a bit high. The phone call unfortunately did not turn out the way I’d hoped, we were not awarded the project. It was in that moment I felt compelled to praise God. No, I did not jump for joy, no I did not skip or dance or throw my hands up in the air. I simply thanked God for what He was doing. I know that He has greater plans for me, plans far greater than I could imagine. I praised and continue to praise Him for what He is doing with my life. Yes, that contract would have been remarkable, something never done by my division. I would have received many kudos and much recognition. Even knowing that, I know that what is in store is better.

I love movies and there is one from which I frequently show clips for team building and motivation. There is a scene in ‘Facing the Giants‘ where Coach Taylor explains his new team philosophy. In this scene he is explaining to his team of high school football players that life is all about God, not us.  He stated toward the end that “if we win, we’ll praise Him, if we lose, we’ll praise Him.” Coach is resolved to give it all to God and by doing so accept everything God has for him.

Back in that moment in my car, it would have been easy to feel discouraged, disappointed, be angry, yell out ‘why not, we worked hard, we deserve it’. Instead, I chose to pray and to praise. God is always God, not just when times are good, and everything is going our way.  In fact, often times it’s when things seem the darkest, the most unbearable that God’s love, light and blessings flow out in ways we could have never expected.

I choose to praise Him when it’s good and when it seems bad, because I know that He is sovereign. There is nothing that escapes His notice or care. I know He wants only what is best for me and loves me too much to do less. Laura Story’s song ‘Blessings‘ says “We pray for blessings, we pray for peace, Comfort for family, protection while we sleep, We pray for healing, for prosperity, We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering, And all the while, You hear each spoken need, Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things.”

Once we can start to see past the immediate pain, fear, anxiety and discomfort of our situations and begin to recognize that God is at work in those moments, we will be able to consider it joy that He is active and working in our lives.

Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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No word from God will ever fail!

my ways are not your way

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

If God is for us, who can be against us…Powerful words, words full of promise and commitment. Words to encourage and assure us, words that fully express God’s passion for His children. Just a few verses later it states, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? – Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37

So, if God is for us and nothing can separate His children from Him, then why are we so fearful? Why do we doubt His love and His care? Why do we think and act if things are either out of His reach, to big for Him to handle or too small for Him to care?

Is it a lack of faith? I believe that, at least in my life, it’s a lack of understanding. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

I don’t understand why I had to struggle so much in life; death, loss, more death, trials and tribulations…why? I asked that a lot. What I have experienced recently however, is a growing sense of who God is, through my relationship with Jesus Christ, and through that, a better knowledge of how little I know, or as Socrates put it, “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.”

Isaiah 41:10“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

I can’t comprehend the passion and fullness of God’s love, or of Jesus’s sacrifice for me. I can only understand through the lenses of my life’s experiences, without the Holy Spirit. And there it is…with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in my life I can begin to experience and understand God’s ways, who Jesus is, and through that the unthinkable grace that’s been given to me.

Cory Asbury expresses this so well in his song Reckless Love“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine. I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.”

God is sovereign. Nothing gets by Him, nothing is beyond Him, nothing surprises Him, and He can and will work ALL things for His Glory and our good. More than that, there is nothing that will surprise Him, shock Him or rock Him.

Jeremiah 32:27“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?

So, back to my point, if God is with us who can be against us? Knowing that there is nothing God can’t do, nothing is too big or too small for His attention and that He will always provide for our needs, then why do we still doubt and fear? I believe it is because we have a very hard time, without the help of the Holy Spirit, fully comprehending who He is.

The remedy is easy, get to know Him better. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom to discern His ways, pray for understanding, read His words. None of us would attempt to write a biography on a famous individual without spending considerable time with that person, reading about them, studying their actions and decisions. Why then do we throw our hands up in the air and yell, “why Lord”, when we haven’t been intentional in our efforts to know him better?

The key is being intentional, you can’t read a scripture, pray Sunday morning then throw your hands up that it’s not working. It takes time, effort and commitment…the fruits of which however, will be immeasurable; thirty, fifty and a hundred-fold more than you could ever imagine.

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Bringing Holiness Home

holinessYes, my title is a bit misleading, Holiness should begin at home.

I was doing some reading last night on the word Holiness. Biblically it is primarily used as a descriptor of our Lord however, I did find a definition that I believe accurately portrays our journey toward personal holiness. “Personal holiness is a work of gradual development. It is carried on under many hindrances, hence the frequent admonitions to watchfulness, prayer, and perseverance.”

This past week has been full of the activities of life; work, kids, Father’s Day, Church activities and opportunities. It struck me as Pastor was talking Sunday about the position of blessing and responsibility parents hold to be Godly examples that it is much easier for me to focus on The Father while going about my church opportunities than it is when I’m home with my family. How backwards is that!

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4

So, I shared my struggle with a friend and she too experiences similar challenges. At church we are surrounded with the sacred; our brothers and sisters in Christ, prayer, scripture, study, worship, teaching, the Holy Spirit is there…we expect him to be there. As I spend more time focused on knowing Jesus better, I experience the sacred in so many areas of my life, outside of church. But, when I get home to my place of comfort where I can relax, I let small things slide, react to quickly, in the familiarity of the environment I focus less on the example I should be.

I don’t enter my home expecting… inviting the Holy Spirit to be there. I ask him to be with me when I study the Word, pray and work on Church business, but do I ask Him to be in the midst of my conversations with my husband and children, my responses and reactions to them? I desire to have the same expectation of Jesus working in my life at home as I do everywhere else.

In Deuteronomy 4:9 it says, “… take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children—”

It’s easy to step into our old selves when we are faced with the day to day activities of life. It’s easy to let slide. My struggle is that it’s too easy with those whom I love the most, and feel the most comfortable. But, it’s those same people who need me the most to be a Godly example…my family. I should share my prayer time with my children, teaching them the importance of spending time with Jesus so He can be part of their everyday lives, daily. I need to walk into my house expecting Jesus to be there, because He is!

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:14-17

If, indeed, personal holiness is a work of gradual development carried out under many obstacles, then I must dedicate more time to watchfulness, prayer, and perseverance in my home and with my family.

Contrary to my opening statement, holiness begins at home. Even when it feels like your words fall on deaf ears or your actions go unnoticed, seeds are planted, little eyes are watching and ears are listening. Your faithfulness and obedience will bear fruit in yourself and your family.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

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