The Disguise of Vanity

My momma, a beautiful woman inside and out, would spend at least an hour everyday doing her hair just right. She had a standing weekly appointment with her hair stylist and was part of the last generation of women who carried over the bouffant hairdo from the sixties into the nineties! Each night after her hair appointment she would pin curl her hair in order to keep the shape. In the morning she would tease and back comb the top, sweep her bangs to the side and all those pin curls she would tease and flip up individually. I’m exhausted just remembering this!

I’ve never considered my momma to be vain. Certainly many of us have a daily routine that includes styling that makes us feel good about ourselves, however, there is always the danger of going to far and falling into the trap of vanity.

In our verse Paul is telling the Corinthians that the apostles proclamation of Christ’s resurrection from the dead and their faith is in vain if they do not believe in the resurrection. He is telling them that their faith is ineffective, foolish and worthless. This is exactly what vanity does to our true identity in Jesus. Vanity attempts to cause us to believe our identity is ineffective, foolish and worthless.

How do we protect ourselves from this sneaky and subtle ploy of the enemy of our soul? Consistency is the key by reading and studying God’s word. Asking the Holy Spirit to highlight what He wants to speak to your heart through His word [I like to take Scripture that speaks to me and turn it into personalized prayer on neon colored 3×5 cards], through prayer, here again, asking the Holy Spirit to lead your prayers and taking time to listen to what God is speaking to your heart. When we commit to practice these disciplines we begin to understand the work God has carved out for us to accomplish. The power of the Holy Spirit [the same power that resurrected Jesus from the dead] causes us to be steadfast, immovable and always excelling in the work of the Lord.

…because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58c.

Stay tethered to Jesus because you my friend are priceless.

Shalom!

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Self Righteous or Righteousness?

…and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.

Ephesians 6:14b.

Righteousness is one of those words that has been misconstrued through generations and cultural preference. Like many words it has lost its true meaning and has been skewed to fit a cultural climate. Some, perhaps many, might say born again believers are self righteous. That followers of Jesus feel they are morally superior. [If you feel this way, I am sorry and hope you can forgive anyone who has caused you to feel this way]. The truth is those who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior are challenged by moral behavior just as anyone else who walks this planet. The difference is followers of Jesus have the help of Holy Spirit to guide them in and to desire a righteous lifestyle.

Several years ago I heard from a sermon that we never take off our breastplate of righteousness. Through the years I have often thought about this and realize this thought doesn’t resonate with me.

When you make a choice to follow Jesus [asking for the forgiveness of your sins and committing to learning about and living like Jesus] righteousness becomes your identity in Jesus. You have the divine approval of God; you are approved in His sight. Therefore, you cannot loose your righteousness. Sin, however, causes a break in our fellowship with God and He graciously offers the gifts of confession and repentance and Holy Spirit is faithful to help us confess and repent and we enjoy restored communion with God.

The breastplate of righteousness is God’s divine approval of all who believe in Jesus, however, Paul tells us to put on the breastplate of righteousness. This is an action we are instructed to take. The breastplate of the Roman soldier described in the Armor of God passage in Ephesians [Ephesians 6:10-17] was meant to protect a soldier’s heart. Paul encourages us to put on God’s righteousness to protect our hearts. When we actively choose to spend time with Him by reading and studying His word and through prayer and praise we are protecting our heart from a thief who wants to steal Truth from us.

The breastplate of righteousness is a choice. Will you go about your day believing you have everything under control? Or, will you seek Holy Spirit lifting your arms and choosing to have Him fit your customized breastplate over your head, cinching it into place, protecting your heart as you choose to ask Him to continue to guide you in living a life of freedom?

Choose well. Chose wisely.

Shalom!

Merry Christmas!

The Weight Of It All

Solomon had twelve officials over all Israel, who provided food for the king and his household…1Kings 4:7a.

Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty cors of choice flour, and sixty cors of meal, ten fat oxen, and twenty pasture-fed cattle, one hundred sheep, besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fatted fowl…1Kings 4:22,23.

Those officials supplied provisions for King Solomon and for all who came to King Solomon’s table, each one in his month; they let nothing be lacking. 1Kings 4:27.

Can you imagine the people power and resources that were needed for these provisions? A cor is approximately 6.24 bushels of dry weight. One bushel, depending on the commodity, can be between 20 and 6o pounds. Thirty cors of choice flour good easily have weighed 11,232 pounds on the high end.

Yet, these twelve officials let nothing be lacking. They even provided barley and straw for King Solomon’s horses and swift steeds [he had forty thousand stalls of horses and twelve thousand horsemen].

They gave all this to a human king.

I wonder, especially in this season of celebrating the birth of our heavenly King, who gave his life so we could live, what can you offer-what can I offer that nothing is lacking from His kingdom, for His glory?

What If?

It hit me not like a ‘ton of bricks’ but as a quiet subtly. I sat down and asked Him to highlight something for me. As I was drawing close to the end of my reading I thought perhaps today there wouldn’t be a revelation. As I read the verse it jumped off the page at me. Why hadn’t I noticed this verse before?

For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead!

Romans 11:15

Paul is talking to the Gentiles and basically telling them he hopes his ministry to them causes envy among his own people for the sole purpose of their salvation. That if the Jews rejection of Jesus as Messiah causes people around the world to confess, repent and choose Jesus, their acceptance of Him leads to their salvation.

What if Israel’s acceptance of Jesus, right here, right now ushers in a grand spiritual awakening-a revival of proportions yet to be seen? What if their proclamation of Jesus as Messiah opens the floodgates of heaven and the great outpouring of Holy Spirit is realized (Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17)?

Pray for peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper. O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces. Psalm 122:6,7.

God’s word instructs us to pray for peace for Jerusalem. What if we also added prayers for the salvation of Israel? What if our prayers for their salvation is a key that unlocks divine mysteries waiting to be discovered? What if Israel is the remnant chosen for such a time as this?

What if?

Fully Convinced

Locks. Maybe you’ve seen them. They seem to show up on bridges almost everywhere. In fact, on the Brooklyn Bridge it is against the law to secure them to the bridge, but the posted signs, stating as much, do little to deter people. They appear in assorted sizes and colors quietly proclaiming the promise of the ones who locked them to the bridge of their love for one another. To trust each other with their heart.

Over the past several weeks God has reminded me of His promises in His word. Below I share a few that have resonated with me once again.

In that day– “Sing about a fruitful vineyard: I, the LORD, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it. Isaiah 27:2,3.

I have prayed Isaiah 27:2,3 for my children often throughout the years. It is comforting to picture my children as that fruitful vineyard with God watching over them and watering them continually with His presence and guarding them day and night so no one may harm them.

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. Joel 2:25.

Several years ago I was in the middle of a health crisis that seemed like it would become and remain chronic. Then…then God. He had given me the word restore for that year and shortly after I heard a sermon on Joel 2:25. THEN I went to a writers conference and saw this.

But this is what the LORD says: “Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save. Isaiah 49:25.

The following year God gave me Isaiah 49:25. Not only does God promise to set captives free and return the plunder the enemy stole, He contends with those who contend with me and saves my children. Contention in my childrens lives trickles into my life and I love how I can rest in this promise that God contends on our behalf.

Placing a love lock on a bridge won’t guarantee forever love or trust between the ones who locked them there but when we allow the truth of God’s promises to settle in our heart He teaches us of His love and trustworthiness and we can be fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised because of His unconditional and lavish love.

Counting Sheep

She stood just outside the make believe perimeter. A part of, yet not. She longed for their companionship, their understanding, their love and their acceptance. She doesn’t remember, really, how she came to be where she currently found herself—on the outside.

She had known this group for years. Her children grew up with their children. They had shared graduations, children getting married, the birth of grandchildren along with close calls and the grief of losing loved ones.

These were her people, her community, her tribe. Yet somehow she felt so disconnected from them. Did anyone notice? Did anyone care? Was anyone praying for her? Would anyone reach out to her?

In this moment she felt like the one lost sheep that unknowingly wandered away from the flock and couldn’t find her way home. She needed help, yearned for it, for someone in her tribe to help her find her way back into the fold.

Then Jesus told them this parable: “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the pasture and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, comes home, and calls together his friends and neighbors to tell them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my lost sheep!’ In the same way, I tell you that there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous ones who do not need to repent. Luke 15:3-7.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep is addressing the lost sheep as a sinner that is found and saved. But what about those within the Body of Christ? The ones that aren’t lost physically or spiritually rather emotionally. The ones that once were included but now feel disconnected not sure why nor how to reconnect.

Surely Jesus wants us to go after those within our believing communities that have lost their way, to ‘find’ them and carry them back to the fold.

Jesus wants us to be inclusive not exclusive.

If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both. 1 John 4:20.

Who is Jesus asking you to include in your circle of friends/influence? More importantly, what will you do?

Heavenly Appearance

I’m sure you’ve heard of her. She has the figure that has been impossibly unattainable since the day she arrived on the shelves of toy stores. What was most likely meant to bring little girls hours of make believe fun has become the subject of poor taste and irresponsibility to generations of young girls and women striving to look like her. And it doesn’t end there. In the late 70’s early 80’s a plastic bust was made of this doll with hair that could be styled and makeup to be applied teaching little girls how to eventually do this for themselves. Nothing wrong there.

I experimented with makeup my later years in high school and I have absolutely nothing against wearing makeup. Wearing makeup makes many women feel special. I’m so practical in my ways that applying makeup is more a chore than satisfying. Our two daughters went through the teenage phase of heavy makeup [my husband would always tell them, “don’t ruin the Rembrandt!”] to their beautiful natural look with the occasional application.

Then Daniel asked the guard whom the palace master had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, an Azariah: “Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. You can then compare our appearance with the appearance of the young men who eat the royal rations.

Daniel 1:11-13a

Some theorize that Daniel and his friends chose not to eat the meat from Nebuchadnezzar’s table because of the possibility that it had been offered before idols. Others believe that their decision had nothing to do with vegetarianism. Still others theorize that because Daniel and his friends were held against their will they took the opportunity to exercise the few choices they had and preserve their distinct identity. They chose to stand apart from all the other people around them by choosing to eat food that would cause their appearance to look healthier.

There is something deeper in this story. The spiritual appearance of Daniel and his friends. In addition to requesting a veggie only diet to improve their appearance they had a relationship with God. One in which they honored and revered Him resulting in an outward appearance that couldn’t be matched regardless of dietary habits.

Precious Friend. Jesus loves you and when you allow Him to settle in your heart something happens. The power of Holy Spirit begins to transform you from the inside out and your appearance takes on one of heavenly dimensions. Your appearance shines with the joy of Jesus in your heart. No coverup is needed because He infuses you with His confidence and boldness.

Don’t ruin the Rembrandt.