God’s loving questions

“He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemptiontherefore, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 1:30-31 (RSV)

Jesus is the source of our life, and all our wisdom, righteousness and sanctification comes through Him. If there is any wisdom, it comes from Jesus, if there is any righteousness, it comes from Jesus, and if there is any sanctification, it comes from Jesus. The devil always tries to distort or reverse God’s truth, by either convincing man that he can be all of the above without any help from God, or that he is a hopeless cause and will never meet God’s expectations. These two extremes are illustrated in the Garden of Eden. The same serpent who lied in the Garden, is the same devil who speaks these lies to us today. He perpetuates the lie that we need to save ourselves without God, or that we are too far gone to be saved at all. The serpent told Eve that she and Adam could be like gods. That led them to think they didn’t need God and could become their own gods. After they ate the forbidden fruit, they had such anxiety about being naked, that they sewed themselves a covering made of fig leaves. By making their own coverings, it shows they were still trying to save themselves. Finally, when they felt they were beyond saving, they simply hid themselves in the Garden, but God never stops pursuing us, even when we are hiding, because love never gives up. Love always pursues the one who is loved and hopes to bring restoration and renewal. Since God is love, He kept calling them, asking “Where are you?” Their answer to God was that they were afraid because they knew they were naked, and then God asks“ Who told you that you were naked?” God showed His love to them through His questions. The whole conversation between God and the first couple are still relatable today. Jesus taught us that people are like lost sheep, but God seeks them out, calling to them every day, “Where are you?” He already knew where Adam and Eve were, but He is loving us through His questions. When we are discouraged and sad, God is right there, asking questions. When He asks where are you, it’s for us to realize where we are currently hiding. When He asks us who told us the lie that is controlling our mind, He wants us to know it wasn’t from Him, and that His truth will set us free. As He asked Adam and Eve, who told them they were naked, He also asks us today, “Who told you I can’t help you? or “Who told you that this situation is hopeless?” Maybe He asks us “Who told you that you are not smart enough, healthy enough, spiritual enough or good enough?” He wants us to know He loves us as we are and to listen to Him, not the old lies of the enemy. We are meant to come as we are to Jesus, who is our source. Everything is through Him and for Him. In Him we are fully redeemed, and through Jesus, God gives us His wisdom, strength, sanctification and righteousness. It doesn’t come from ourselves, it is amazing grace. As we yield to His power which is made perfect through all of our weaknesses, we really can do all things through Christ. Therefore, if there is any boasting to be done, we boast in the Lord and what He does for us. God can change anyone’s fate if He chooses to. He is the source of our life, our health, our wisdom and our future, not our genetics, our past history or whatever we think we are currently lacking in our lives. 

Jesus, thank you for being our source of all wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and our complete redemption. We cast out every lie that resides in our minds, and surrender our weaknesses to you, so that your power can be perfected in us, to fulfill the perfect and good plans that you have for our lives. Amen 

Be somebody’s angel

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord.”

Isaiah 55:8 (RSV)

My friend, Michelle, once saved a total stranger’s life, by using the Heimlich maneuver. She was at a gas station pumping gas and saw a man choking in a car next to her. She rushed over, took action and saved his life. The man was so grateful to her afterward, and I never forgot that story since the day she shared it with me. 

Sadly, Michelle couldn’t save herself, when she was unable to breathe from a blood clot which infiltrated her lung exactly two weeks ago. Her sister quickly drove to her house to bring her to the hospital but Michelle collapsed walking outside her front door. Paramedics tried to resuscitate her but she died in the ER. It’s a heart breaking story, not just because she was my friend, but because she was a caring, generous person with a great sense of humor, who loved all babies, children and animals, and she had so much more to live for. The man she once saved will never know her fate, but is probably still sharing the story of how a total stranger once saved his life when he was choking. I happen to believe that angels surround all of us every day, and we may have been unknowingly spared from accidents or tragedies, due to their intervention. In some instances, the angels that God sends our way are people, who are at the right place at the right time, reacting to someone’s desperate need, doing whatever it takes to save a life. Some people are the givers of help and some are the receivers. There is so much we will never have answers for, since God’s thoughts and ways are not like ours, but what we do know is that God is good, and He loves us more than we could comprehend. We were all meant to keep on living our lives with faith and hope, keeping the memories alive of those who have blessed us, by celebrating their life instead of their death. Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive, so Michelle must be receiving her blessings, especially for that day she gave a total stranger his chance to go on living. It’s more blessed to count what was given, rather than what was lost. 

We can prepare ourselves to step into action when God sends us to someone at the right place at the right time, whether we give physical, spiritual or emotional support to them, through our words or deeds. 

Lord, instead of looking for the reasons why there are so many sorrows in this world, help us to see an opportunity to be somebody’s angel each and every day. Amen

For the good (a Memorial)

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28 ( NASB)

I’m repeating a story,  I once told before, but with some revisions, because it seems fitting for Memorial Day. My oldest brother, a caree Air Force  pilot, was stationed in South Korea in 1982. At the time, I was a busy, young mother of two year old twins, when I received a devastating phone call one day. I was informed that his plane went missing while on a routine mission as an instructor pilot. In his last radio transmission he said, “I’ve got a problem,” as his F-16 jet disappeared from radar. During the search mission, we were hoping and praying he ejected from the plane and would be found alive. Ten days later, we were notified that the plane was found, crashed into a granite mountain. Unfortunately, he did not eject and his wife began planning a funeral at their home base in Florida. Ted was only thirty five and had served in the Air Force for twelve years. We learned a few years later that there was an electrical wire chafing problem common to that particular plane model, which all airplane mechanics were well aware of. On that day, in mid flight, the prolonged chafing  wires in his jet had abruptly severed. His wife did what she could to bring publicity to the faulty electrical system in the F-16 fighter jets at the time. She eventually won the legal battle, after an investigation led to the discovery of mechanics’ training videos, which proved there was a  wire chafing problem in F-16s. The truth was revealed and they succeeded in changing the accident report to not being “pilot error.”  My sister in law was invited to tell her story on the Diane Sawyer show and soon afterward, Disney Productions contacted her to propose making a movie to recreate the story. The movie was made based on the legal battle that followed his crash, and it was released in 1989 for HBO, called “Afterburn”. Laura Dern won a golden globe award, in playing my sister in law. My brother was a recent college graduate, when he was drafted during the Viet Nam war. Ironically, he decided to join the Air Force to increase his chances of survival. It turned out he absolutely loved flying and decided to make a career out of it. Since he first joined, I felt a burden and sense of urgency to pray for him, long before the accident ever happened. I used to write him letters reminding him to call upon Jesus, if he was ever in danger. I had a most unusual concern for his soul during those twelve years, and I believe the Holy Spirit laid him on my heart to regularly pray for him. I’ll never know why things ended as they did, but I do know that no one just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and all lives mean more to God than being victims of random tragic circumstances. The days of our life are written in God’s book at the moment of our conception. I believe this because of the words in Psalm 139:16; “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book, before one of them came to be.” I choose to believe that God is always good, and that He loves us, even when the unexplainable happens, and I don’t need to know why it happened. God made us, our days are written in His book, and He can bring good out of any tragedy. All He asks of us is that we trust and believe in Him, all the days of our life. 

Lord, thank you for loving us since our earliest beginning, and we trust that you know how to work all things out for our ultimate good. Help us to always love and trust you, and send your comforting presence to those who are remembering their own loved ones today. Amen

In memory of Ted and all loved ones who have gone before us.

Capt. Ted Harduvel

(Oct. 28, 1947-Nov. 15, 1982)


Grace for the humble

“Or do you suppose it is in vain that the scripture says, He yearns jealously over the spirit which he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace; therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

James 4:5-6 (RSV)

Ke Huy Quan, was a Vietnamese refugee, who came here on a boat with his family in 1979. He lived in poverty, without many things we take for granted. He got a slight break as a child actor with his role in the Indiana Jones movie sequels. After those roles, however, he was never called for any movie roles again. In adulthood he finally got a break, and last year he won an Oscar for best supporting actor in a movie, called “Everything, everywhere all at once.”

I have not seen the movie but I saw an interview with Ke telling his story of being a child refugee. He does not appear to have a Christian faith, but from watching the interview, I realized that there is a basic lesson for all people to learn, about waiting and persevering, even after a series of disappointments. He went from such a humble struggling beginning in life, to finally being a successful Oscar winning actor. He is very tender hearted and teared up many times, telling his story, and I thought about it from a Christian perspective. 

God loves to exalt the humble, and He works in a person’s life, hoping they would look to Him and know He is the one who gave them their success. How much more is God willing to exalt those who already believe in Him, when circumstances have brought them to a low place in life ? It seems like those low periods in life are temporary, not permanent, when we persevere in believing. The scripture says that God is jealous for His Spirit which He meant to dwell within us. Once God has exalted someone’s life from a humble circumstance, to a successful one, He is longing for them to receive His Spirit. He wants to dwell with us and in us. We all love the true stories of people who found success after a humble beginning. We can only pray that they will recognize the one who lifted them up beyond their early hardships. God opposes the proud but gives His grace to the humble. 

Lord Jesus, you humbled yourself for our sakes, and now you search the earth for humble hearts. Hear our prayers, and as your Spirit dwells in us, teach us humility, lifting us up in your compassionate grace. Amen

Hearts of fire

“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished.”

Luke 12:49-50 (NAB)

This scripture verse is what coined the phrase, “Baptism of fire.”  Jesus said the words in this scripture as He anticipated the pain and suffering of His cross, which needed to be accomplished, before the Holy Spirit would come and fill all believers. 

In proclaiming that He came to set the earth on fire, sounds different, compared to His usual sermons on peace, love and forgiveness. Fire represents the intensity of His suffering, but it also represents the intensity of God’s love for the world. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son. That is red hot, intense passionate love, not a passive, wishy washy, lukewarm  commitment. Jesus wanted His soul saving, life changing intense fire to spread throughout the earth. Fire is an element of the intense passion of God’s love for us. John describes seeing Jesus in Revelation, with fire in His eyes and telling His church, 

“I wish that you were hot or cold, but because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth.” 

(Revelation 3:15-16)

That’s an intense statement, and a reminder to guard against becoming lukewarm. Most believers are not tempted towards the most extreme sins, like murder or adultery, but becoming lukewarm is a slow subtle drift away from His fire. His Holy Spirit is within us and He can keep our inner flame burning, so that we don’t cool off. God gave us free will and His Holy Spirit, so both need to work together. We are meant to cooperate with His grace, just as it takes two to make a marriage work. It also takes our cooperation with the Holy Spirit to not become lukewarm. Jesus also said “ If I do not go away, the Comforter will not come.” Sending His fire at Pentecost, was a seal of our salvation. The Holy Spirit came in the form of fire over each one in that upper room. God chose to use the element of fire, because fire can bring warmth, comfort, and light in the darkness, which His Spirit does for all of us who believe. Fire can also be uncomfortable and burn, especially to unbelievers, because the Holy Spirit is always convicting the world of sin. He still wants to spread His fire across the earth, but the condition on which that fire will burn is through each individual life. As we keep trusting and cleaving to Jesus, the heat of His passionate love burns within us, keeping us from drifting into that lukewarm state. 

Jesus, thank you for your Holy Spirit, and help us to fully embrace your intense passionate love for us, so that your fire can spread from our hearts to touch the hearts of all those we encounter in our lives. Amen

A chat with Jesus

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.

Jeremiah 29:12 ( RSV)

I was driving on my day off yesterday and started talking to Jesus, and I said, “You know Lord, it would be nice if you could sit in my passenger seat and we could just chat while I drive.” After that, I began to think of  instances with other people, where I tended to talk more than listen. I always feel compelled to give the right answer to someone or to teach something. I think I’ve been this way all my life, whether with my children, husband or my friends. As I was driving, I thought about my listening skills, and realized there’s a lot of work to be done there. If a person feels listened to by someone, they will return to talk more. If they feel more talked at, than listened to, they will probably not seek to develop a friendship. Last weekend at a family party, I was speaking to my nephew’s wife, who is a professional counselor for trauma victims. We discussed a light range of subjects, but I so enjoyed talking to her, that afterward I pondered what a great listener she is. Then I sensed the Lord telling me that a good listener can be like a gift to someone, and there are moments in people’s lives when being heard means more than receiving all the right answers. As these thoughts filled my mind, while driving, I asked, “Am I currently having a chat with you, Jesus?”

I probably was, so I decided to ask Him to grow and develop my skill in listening. Having all the right answers are for tests and game shows, but when it comes to relationships, sometimes people just need to be heard. As I looked back at my life, I may have missed some opportunities to listen, but the beauty of abiding in Jesus, is that He  isn’t looking for perfect people, who never make mistakes, just teachable people who can learn from them. Our whole life is a process of growing and developing skills, and even babies fall many times when they are learning to walk. It’s never too late to become better, and Jesus will point out areas in our lives to improve on, especially when we practice His presence and have a chat with Him. At that moment while driving, I briefly glanced at the empty passenger seat and said, “Thanks for this chat, Jesus, I hear what you are saying to me.” When we realize that the divine second person of the Holy Trinity, became a man in order to personally interact and speak with humanity, He is the same today, and still reaching out to chat and interact with each one of us. 

Jesus, thank you for raising us up again, each time we become discouraged from failure. Open our hearts to your presence and incline our hearing to your daily chat with us, and show us how you are making us better people. Amen

The rejoicing to come

“Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.”

1 Peter 4:12-13 (NAB)

We all have fluctuations of highs and lows throughout our lives, and the highest and best moments are a foretaste of the joy that we will one day experience in heaven. Any experience of loving and being loved here on earth is just a small foretaste of the greatest love we will ever know in the presence of Christ one day. Our lowest moments and most fiery trials are a reminder that we are engaged in constant spiritual warfare, and Peter tells us not to be surprised by these trials. He assures us that a time of rejoicing will also come. Paul reminded us that we should never let down our guard, but always wear our helmet of salvation and hold up our shield of faith, while keeping our sword in hand, which is the word of God. The enemy of our soul is always trying to rob us of the most valuable thing we have, our faith. It’s the same old enemy who tried to rob Jesus in the desert. Many scriptures remind us to anchor ourselves in Christ so that we can withstand the attacks of the enemy.  The church is referred to as the bride of Christ, but it’s not the time for putting on formal wedding garments just yet. Jesus loves His church, and we are His betrothed bride to be. Our future hope is to be united with Him, but for now, we need to wear the clothes of soldiers, not brides. We are God’s army, prepared to fight whatever spiritual battles are necessary to stay faithful to our bridegroom. For now, we keep our shield of faith held up, and our sword of the Spirit in our hand, while we fight the spiritual fight of faith. When Jesus returns He will prepare a wedding feast in Heaven, and He told a parable about wearing the proper garments for that wedding feast, by being spiritually sober and alert for His return. Whether we are on a mountain top at a high point of our life, or in the lowest valley, fighting for our faith, we will win the battles by staying dressed in the protective armor of a soldier and giving God all the praise. The Holy Spirit is with us and leads us to victory both on the mountain tops and the lowest valleys. 

One day it will be time to change our clothes. We will change out of the soldier’s armor and put on our formal wedding garments, which are purified and cleansed by the precious shed blood of the Lamb. 

As a bridegroom knows His bride, and looks forward to seeing her in her wedding gown, Jesus knows each of us personally and longs to see us on that day. He will call us by name as He gazes at us, and there can be no greater feeling than to be seen and known by Jesus in His presence. It’s the introduction to an eternal life of perfect joy. We will be taken up to a realm, we have long contemplated, but finally will know, with a joy that surpasses any earthly rewards or pleasures. We only see these truths through a glass now, but on that day, we will see face to face. In this life, we get a taste of love, but on that day we will know the fullness of love in the presence of Jesus. Until then, we keep our armor on, go where His Spirit leads us and fight the good fight of faith, planning for and envisioning our future wedding day with Jesus. Amen, come Lord Jesus. 

Tapestry thoughts

“At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.”

1 Corinthians 13:12 (NAB)

My mother was a talented seamstress, water color artist and also gifted in the craft of embroidery. She once made me a beautiful tapestry embroidered picture which I still have in a frame. As I looked at it one day, I thought of the well known metaphor of the tapestry. The backside of an embroidered work of tapestry appears as a complicated mixture of multi colored threads that make no sense. No picture can be seen from looking at the back of a tapestry, but from the front it is a beautiful work of art. In the same way, we cannot make sense out of illnesses, losses and tragedies we experience, but there may be a front side that we will one day see and understand more clearly. People of faith trust that there is a design to the mixture of sorrows woven throughout a lifetime, like the threads in a tapestry. To have faith in God, as a Master designer has been proven to be healthier for the body and mind, but it’s essential for the soul. 

Jesus never promised a trouble free existence, but He assured us that God wants to lift our heavy burdens. I said something like this once to a lady who lost her husband but didn’t have faith in God. She asked, “How is losing someone I loved lifting my burden?” As I started to explain my point, I decided instead to gently acknowledge her suffering, and made one final comment, telling her God loves her and that I would pray for her. After our conversation she thanked me for the kind words, but I realized how much harder life is for someone without faith in God. The tapestry metaphor doesn’t only apply to those who have lost a loved one, it refers to any loss that is confusing or hard to understand. It can refer to the loss of a relationship, loss of health, or anything in life that puzzles us and leaves us with unanswered questions. Without faith and hope in God, no one could survive the sorrow that a loss can cause. The tapestry reminds us that people of faith trust in a Supreme Designer, even when we can’t see the front side of His design. For now it looks like a mass of jumbled threads or a blurry reflection in a mirror, but we believe that God is the designer of the tapestry in each life and through faith in Jesus, He will take any loss and turn it around for the good of someone’s eternal soul. Looking at the backside of the tapestry of Jesus’ life on earth, the unbeliever would say He was a victim of injustice, torture and murder through a political system that needed to be overthrown. He definitely was a lamb led to the slaughter, but the front side of His life tapestry reveals a completed and beautiful work of salvation. We see in Him the love and mercy of God, who never stops weaving opportunities for us to draw nearer to Him during our lifetime. The backside view looks like a tragedy but there is a front side to every life story. Let’s anchor our faith in the one who knows how to weave the purpose and colors of the threads in our tapestry. Sometimes we may protest the color of thread He chooses, but He knows how it will work into His beautiful design and benefit our soul for eternity. 

Lord Jesus, we will continue to pray for your design to be completed, and by faith we trust that we will see clearly one day, the front side of your perfect design in the tapestries of our lives. Amen

Woman you are freed

“And there was a woman who had had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years; she was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called her and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.” And he laid his hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight, and she praised God.”

Luke 13:11-13 (RSV)

We’ve all heard of cases where a person has had symptoms for years, with no guaranteed treatment or cure. The woman in this story had a severely bent spine, walking crippled and bent over for 18 years. I occasionally see an elderly person walking severely bent over, which reminds me of this story. Even today, once the problem persists for that long, surgery would be a risk with no guarantee of healing. God knows what the past years have brought into everyone’s lives, and He has compassion for everyone’s situation. Being severely bent over could also be a metaphor. One may walk straight and healthy, but have a soul that is bent over and crippled. Something that happened in their past could leave them crippled spiritually. I’ve known two people in my life who have had a negative experience as a child with a church minister. They are resistant to going to church or seeking a relationship with God, ever since. They are bent over spiritually and will not look to Jesus, but my hope is that they will listen to His words one day and be saved. Jesus spotted the woman in the crowd, bent over and suffering. She was too bent over to look at His face, so she settled for just hearing Him speak. Jesus had His eyes on her, and called her over to Him. He called her to come to Him, instead of walking to her. There is an element of faith that requires action, even the smallest act of bringing oneself to Jesus. When she came to Jesus, He spoke to her before ever laying His hands on her. Jesus told her she was set free from her infirmity. This is why I see this particular healing as a metaphor for something deeper involving the healing of the mind, soul and spirit. After He declared her free, Jesus laid His hands on her and she immediately straightened up and was healed. This story illustrates that an inner healing precedes a physical one. It can be any area of our lives, in which we restrict our faith, and allow ourselves to remain bent over. Whatever it is physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual, or all of the above, Jesus is always calling people forward to Himself. He wants every believer to live a fully abundant life and only He can free us of anything that holds us down. God has always known what has hurt us, what we need, who we need to forgive, and He is our only hope for true freedom and inner healing. Listen to Jesus calling us forward to Him, instead of looking downward, dwelling on who or what has hindered our freedom. He will replenish whatever we were robbed of, and restore and straighten whatever has grown crooked over the years.  Surrendering to Jesus breaks all the invisible chains and He has declared us set free. He invites us all to a more abundant life than we currently have.

Lord Jesus, help us to hear you calling us forward, so that we will look up to you, no longer restricted by any wounds from our past. You have declared us free and your hands are laid upon us to abundantly restore our mind, body, soul and spirit. Amen

Changed into His likeness

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 3:18 (RSV)

To become a historical character as a part of a living museum, was the classroom assignment given to my granddaughter’s 5th grade class. The students were to choose any famous character in history, become that person and present the life story of that person to their class. They made their own posters displaying the famous quotes by their person, and concluded with a final speech explaining who they are and what happened in their life. It was as if each student was briefly changed into the likeness of the person they chose to represent. 

My granddaughter chose Anne Frank, the Jewish teenage girl who kept a diary while hiding from the Nazis during the Holocaust. Her young life sadly ended along with millions of others, but her diary was found and published for all to read. Emery, my granddaughter, represented her character by telling Anne Frank’s story in the first person and made posters displaying quotes from her diary. It was an interesting classroom assignment and I was proud of the great job she did. 

In thinking about a project like this, I realized we are all working on a similar project throughout our lives, except the person we represent is Jesus. Our goal is to be transformed into His likeness, one degree at a time. Instead of making posters with His famous quotes, we are living posters of what Jesus taught and lived. We don’t have to pretend to be someone we aren’t, because the Holy Spirit is genuinely changing us into His likeness, as Paul writes, from one degree to another. It’s like a life long classroom project, in a different kind of school, one that develops the character of saints, instead of simply accruing knowledge. We are all reflecting Jesus to the people we encounter as we tell His story, and become more like Him over our lifetime. The due date for this assignment is different from person to person. Our project due date is unknown because it’s the day we will each be called home to meet the Lord, when He tells us how well we did in representing Him.  Unlike the fifth graders who did their own hard work on their projects, we are receiving help with ours, because we could never do it in our own strength. God wouldn’t call us to do or be something without empowering us with the ability to achieve it. Jesus left us a helper, the Holy Spirit, who is patiently working to renew and change us one degree at a time into the likeness of Jesus. We have only one lifetime to get our project done right, to meet our due date and hear Jesus say “Well done, good and faithful servant.” It’s the goal of every believer in the classroom of Life 101.

Lord, remove anything that veils us from seeing how your glory is working in our lives and continue to mold us into your likeness, by transforming us one degree at a time. Amen