Monday

Tea Parties and Worship -- Taking Your Imagination for a Walk

I recently had the pleasure of watching a tiny girl host an imaginary tea party. 

With delicate movements, she skillfully filled each invisible glass with invisible tea. She doled out invisible cookies onto invisible plates and sampled her invisible delicacies with obvious delight. She said please and thank you to invisible guests and smiled charmingly at their silent answers. Her powers of imagination were astounding for one so young, and I was delighted to be invited to the soiree.

We expect children to use their imagination, and we recognize this as a mark of intellectual growth. Grownups, however, often set their imaginations aside. We choose to concentrate on the “real” world—the things we can see and touch. We forget there is a greater world beyond us.

Today, perhaps inspired by my recent tea party hostess, I dusted off my out-of-shape imagination and took it for a walk. We were responding to an invitation that read like this:

“Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts. Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.” 

As we strolled down Psalm 96 Lane, my Host gently prompted me,

Let the heavens rejoice. 

I imagined what it might look like when the heavens rejoice.

In my mind’s eye I saw sunbeams shining from behind clouds like giant spotlights. I visualized the silent symphony of a yellow/orange sunrise dotted with black silhouettes of soaring geese. I pictured the extravagance of a setting sun painted with a hundred shades of pink and purple.

This is what it might look like when the heavens rejoice.

Let the earth be glad. 

I imagined what it feels like when the earth is glad. I suspect the sun shines warmly upon us, and the breeze blows sweet and refreshing across our faces. The fragrance of rain-dotted earth, flower-strewn paths, and rushing mountain streams fill our nostrils with sensory delights.

This is what it might feel like when the earth is glad.



Let the sea resound, and all that is in it. 

Resound means to ring with sound—loudly, boldly, extravagantly. When I picture a resounding sea, my ears echo with the noise of frothy waves breaking on rocky cliffs. I see a mammoth whale launching itself into the air in a powerful arc and crashing into the water with mighty splash. I picture pods of smiling dolphins dancing on their tales in a delicate, choreographed ballet, the air filled with their clicks, and chirps, and laughs.

This is what it might sound like when the sea resounds.

Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. 

What might it look like when the fields and everything in them is jubilant? Jubilant means to be filled with joy, to exult in triumph and satisfaction. My mind’s eye sees miles of golden fields dipping and swaying as the wind keeps time with its wheat stalk baton. I see spotted fawns prancing and dancing with cotton-tailed bunnies. I watch as a flock of crows rise as one amidst a cacophony of flapping wings and noisy squawks. I see mighty elk rear back, tuck their heads, and connect with a crash that rattles their powerful antlers.

This is what it might look like when the fields are jubilant.

Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy. 

What might it sound like when the trees of the forest sing for joy? I picture a grove of yellow Aspen trees, their heart-shaped leaves jangling in the wind like a million topaz jewels. I see the massive redwoods bending their heads, whispering the secrets they’ve gathered over the centuries. I hear the cicadas, tree frogs, and nightingales singing us to sleep with their woodsy lullaby.

This is what it might sound like when the trees of the forest sing for joy.

“Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts. Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth. (Psalm 96:8-9)

When was the last time you worshiped the Lord? If it’s been a while, why not open your Bible to Psalm 96, take your imagination by the hand, and walk through the beauty of his holiness? And if your imagination needs a little jump start, spend some time with a child. There’s a very good reason their angels always see the face of God.


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Thursday

How to Protect Yourself from an Extra-Marital Affair

The media continues to buzz with stories of notable Christian men caught in or confessing to adulterous affairs. These men's families are destroyed. Their ministries are thrown into turmoil. And the world, the flesh, and the devil carve notches into their evil belts and smile.

Adulterous affairs seldom make our local news unless the people involved are high profile citizens, but the effect of their sin is equally devastating. I’ve seen smart men and women who love God risk their families, ministries, careers, wealth, and reputations because they’ve become emotionally involved with someone other than their spouse.

The why is complicated, but I think I discovered a clue to the how during my quiet time.

Job was a righteous man, by God’s standards, one who “feared God and shunned evil.” He was committed to purity and took special steps to avoid temptation and lust. “I have made a covenant with my eyes,” he said. “Why then should I look upon a young woman?”

He recognized what many people forget—that when we allow our eyes to go places they shouldn’t, our minds, and often our bodies follow closely behind. Jesus said, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mat. 5:28).

Listen again to Job, “If my step has turned from the way, or if my heart walked after my eyes,” (Job 31:7). “If my heart walked after my eyes. . .” What a painfully accurate description of what happens when people commit adultery.

Think about David and Bathsheba. David saw her on the roof bathing. Instead of turning his eyes away, he continued to look. His lingering look led to lustful thoughts, which led him to covet Uriah’s wife, which led him to commit adultery.

I wonder how many sins we could avoid if we didn’t allow our hearts to walk after our eyes.

Dave Carder is the author of Close Calls! What 
Adulterers Want You to Know About Protecting Your Marriage. His book contains the list, “19 Danger Signs of Close Call Relationships.” Based on years of counseling research, he’s identified the actions that often precede extra-marital affairs. The list is eye opening and frightening.

Even more eye opening is his description of how subtly and innocently most extramarital affairs begin. Because men and women are thrown together so much more in today’s society than they used to be—at work, the gym, and yes, even at church, the possibility for temptation is higher than it’s ever been. It’s not unusual that men and women spend more time together every day with someone other than his or her spouse.

This opens up a whole new world of temptation. Regularly working together on business projects, working out at the same gym, and even ministering together on a worship team or a church committee throws members of the opposite sex together in ways that didn’t happen 40 years ago.

I’ve included Part I of Carder’s interview with Moira Brown below. If you’re reading by email, CLICK HERE TO VIEW Dave Carder’s interview. It contains wise advice about how you can protect your marriage against adultery. You owe it to yourself to watch it, then share it with your spouse and other people you care about.

Getting married takes work. Staying married takes even more work. But it’s worth it. May we heed the wise warning of 1 Peter 5:8:

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.”



 


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Monday

Chocolate Crying Days -- Planned Parenthood and Abortion

There are days when all I want to do is eat chocolate and cry. Sometimes I eat chocolate then cry. Sometimes I cry and then eat chocolate. And sometimes I cry while eating chocolate. 

Yesterday was a chocolate cry day. As I typed, there were tears threatening to tumble from my eyes. Three Snickers wrappers sat next to my computer. They were as empty as I was. 

I’m a tenderhearted person. I do my best to avoid sad animal stories, news reports about cruelty to the elderly, and documentaries about child abuse. I know it’s out there, and I’m committed to do whatever I can to prevent it, but I can’t know the details. They linger in my mind, haunt my nights, and, yes, bring about chocolate cry days. 

This is why I’ve been diligently avoiding the Planned Parenthood videos. I understand the tragedy of abortion. I was nine years old when Roe v. Wade promised a new kind of reproductive freedom to women. 

As an unsaved teenager, I bought the “progressive freedom” lie hook, line, and sinker. If I’d gotten pregnant out of wedlock like some of my friends did, I’d have driven down to the nearest abortion clinic, handed over my $350, and signed the paperwork to “fix my problem and get on with my life.” This makes me just as guilty as anyone who’s actually had an abortion, I think. Didn’t Jesus say if we commit sin in our hearts, we’re as guilty as if we’ve actually done the deed? You’ll never hear condemning words from me if you were deceived into having an abortion. 

But today, while I was working on the Internet, there they were—horrible, graphic pictures of tiny little baby parts swimming in blood. 

And my heart broke. 

My heart broke for the young women. 

Pregnant, scared women who have been lied to and deceived into thinking abortion will make their problems go away, when in reality their problems will have only just begun. No one tells them their abortions will haunt them every day of their lives. That they’ll see their babies’ faces everywhere they look. That they’ll track their children’s ages and imagine what they would have looked like at 3, at 5, at 13, at 18. That they’ll suffer guilt, depression, and shame. 

And my heart broke for the babies. 

Nearly 50 million babies aborted since Roe v Wade legalized abortion*. Stalin killed 4-10 million Russians, and they called him a murderer. Hitler killed nearly 10 million Europeans, and they called him the master of genocide. Doctors kill 50 million babies, and they call them women’s rights activists. 

These babies were future fathers and mothers, teachers and nurses, scientists and Sunday school teachers. They were someone’s sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. They were tiny, perfect, beautiful people who died before they lived in what should have been the safest place in the world—their mothers’ wombs. 

And then my heart broke for our world. 

So sick and depraved that we murder our infants in the name of women’s rights and sell their body parts on the black market while the collective conscience looks the other way. 

We do not deserve God’s mercy. 

Yet he offers it freely. 

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;” says the Lord, “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness” (Eze. 36:26-29).


Chocolate and tears won't save us. New legislation won't save us. Protests won't save us. Only God can save us—our nation, our families, our children, and the babies who have no voice but our own. 

Father, I pray you will have mercy on our souls. Sweep across our nation with the power of your Holy Spirit. Break our hearts over our sin. Lead us to confess and repent. Remove our hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh. Save us, Father, for you are our only hope. 

In the mighty name of Jesus I pray, Amen. 


*http://cnsnews.com/news/article/nearly-50-million-abortions-have-been-performed-us-roe-v-wade-decision-legalized


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Thursday

5 Surprising Things that Happen When We Read Our Bibles

I try really hard not to say, “You should . . .,” because it seldom goes over well. 

Whether I’m talking to my husband, my adult children, or my friends, the words, “You should . . .” usually invite heated discussion rather than speedy compliance. Even as a writer, basic blogging courses teach, Never make your reader feel as though you’re preaching at them. As I’ve matured, I’ve learned to use the subtleties of communication to change an imperative into an option. “Perhaps you’d like to consider . . .” or “Have you thought of . . .” 

But today, I’m breaking all the rules. Because it’s important. Because I’m passionate about it. Because your spiritual life depends on it. Here goes: 

You should read your Bible every day. 

And here’s why—surprising things happen when we read our Bibles. Here are five of them: 


1. We have more peace. In this frantic, stress-filled world in which we live, who wouldn’t like more peace? Peace, in its truest form, isn’t the absence of strife; it’s the gentle resting of a child in the arms of her father. “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble,” Psalm 119:165 tells us. When we read God’s Word, he reminds us he is in control, and we are safe. 

2. We live a purer life. Think of the ills that plague our society: murder, rage, adultery, gossip, promiscuity, abortion, alcoholism, drug abuse, robbery . . . I could go on forever. Applying God’s Word to our lives protects us from these. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word,” says Psalm 119: 9. 

3. We experience God’s provision. “No good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless,” Psalm 84:11 says. This is a conditional promise—if we live blamelessly (not perfect, but diligently trying to obey God), God will meet our needs. And we cannot live blamelessly without spending time in God’s Word. 

4. We experience deeper and more satisfying relationships. How many times, when we’re struggling to be a good spouse, parent, family member, or friend have we said, “I just wish there was a book I could read”? Well, there is—the Bible. The best relational advice in the world is sitting quietly on the pages of Scripture just waiting for us to read and apply it. 

5. We talk with the God of the universe. When we pray, we talk to God. When we read God’s Word, he talks to us. Think about how excited you’d be if you could talk to the wisest man in the world. Now multiply that wisdom by a gazillion, and you get a glimpse of what happens when we spend time in God’s Word. In addition to wise counsel, God’s Word speaks love, tenderness, encouragement, hope, and perspective. 

I hope by now you understand why I broke my rule and told you, “You should read your Bible.” And I also hope, as you’ve read five of the surprising things that happen when we spend time in God’s Word every day, you’re intrigued and challenged to read your Bible every day. Of all the disciplines of the spiritual life, daily Bible reading is the one that will impact your life in the most amazing ways. 

My short list is incomplete. I’d love to hear about the benefits you’ve discovered as you’ve read your Bible. Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. If you're reading by email, CLICK HERE to leave a comment.

And if you'd like to hear a lovely musical rendition of Psalm 84, I invite you to worship with Jason Silver.






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Monday

Someone's praying for you

There are times in a person’s life when it’s hard to pray. Times of confusion and chaos. Times of loss and grief. Times of panic and fear. Times of hopelessness and struggling faith. 

When the circumstances of life squeeze hard and leave us gasping for breath, it’s hard to form specific, faith-filled prayers. When the events of a crisis speed past us, and we feel like a puppy that wandered onto the interstate, the mental concentration to petition heaven just isn’t there. When we’re holding on to life and sanity with all we have, and all we have isn’t much, there’s little energy left to claim God’s promises. 

This is when the prayers of others carry us. 

I’m very fortunate to have brothers and sisters in Christ who pray for me and with me. It is a great gift. I hope you have mighty prayer warriors in your life, but if you don’t, do not despair. Every believer has the greatest prayer warrior in the world interceding for him or her. Romans 8 tells us his name—the Holy Spirit. 

The third member of the trinity, God himself, prays for you. 

In the dark night of the soul, you are not alone. The Holy Spirit of God is there to strengthen you, guide you, sustain you, and ask God the Father for exactly what you need to make it through. Listen to Romans 8:26: 

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” 

When we are confused, afraid, weak, and hopeless, God himself, through the person of the Holy Spirit, prays for us. 

Not only prays for us, but searches our hearts so deeply that he knows everything in them. He sees our fears, our pain, our guilt, and our shame. He is intimately acquainted with all our ways, but instead of condemning us, he uses his knowledge to pray for us. 

And he prays for us according to God’s will. 

Because I am mortal, I have limited understanding and wisdom. When I pray for others, I’m not always sure of what to pray. I don’t know what’s best for my friend who’s struggling in her marriage, or my neighbor who’s stuck in a dead end job. I don’t know how to counsel my husband who’s making significant life decisions. 

But God is all knowing. We never have to fear that the Holy Spirit will ask for something on our behalf that isn’t God’s best for us. We can trust him. Here’s proof from Scripture: 

“And he (God) who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will” (Romans 8:27). 

If you’re struggling today, cry out to God. Cling to him in faith, knowing that as you pray, and even if you are unable to pray, God the Holy Spirit is praying for you.


“Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. 
He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. 
They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. 
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men” 


(Psalm 107:28-31)



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