Road Closed

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The road near our farm is closed temporarily at the railroad crossing and I am glad, because they needed to close and repair it, the crossing was terrible. It is necessary to make a better way going forward. The signs went up early this morning including  a sign two miles north at the detour turnoff. 

And guess what? No great surprise, cars, tractor trailers and other various vehicles continue to drive up to where the road is closed at tracks, slow down and turn around.  Which is fascinating,  since the road was clearly designated closed a few miles back up the way.  I find it particularly intriguing because I have done this very thing myself, and not so long ago. A  friend and I were taking a drive trip to a local Amish country store. Several miles from our destination the road was closed due to a bridge repair.  I took the road immediately to the right complaining the detour wasn’t marked. In fact,  I lamented loudly about it. Whined is another word describing what I did the entire time, “Why didn’t they mark the road closed by the freeway?” and blah, blah, blah ad nauseam. Finally, I turned around and drove back to the original exit by the freeway, only to discover there was  a sign that said, “Road closed 5 miles ahead.”

Of course there was.  It was only because I was so busy yapping with my friend and NOT paying attention, that: I. Had. Missed. It.  

And then there are the times that I just know better, Right? And stinking  thinking or just flat out denial takes over and I deceive myself into believing, “ Perhaps they are ‘just kidding!’” Right. Eye roll.  So I drive up just to make sure.   I am not making this up. Sometimes,  I am: Just. That. Stupid.  I don’t know any other honest way to say it.  And, I am ashamed to say, in both instances, my first reaction is annoyance and my second is to blame someone, anyone, other than the true source of the problem. Which. Is. Me. 

Roads are closed and signs are posted to warn us in advance for many reasons.  To keep us from driving off a cliff.  To point us in a better direction.   Because there is perhaps danger ahead or something new and better happening like construction.  Unfortunately, we often  fail to heed the warnings.

Gee this sounds familiar.  

 Lets see,  which road closed signs have I ignored or denied in life?  Here’s the short list: Obedience to and respect for parents, those in authority and to the Word of God. I have  been disrespectful and unkind to others;  dishonest – taken things that weren’t mine to take in whatever form that manifested itself;  I was sexually promiscuous before marriage. People pleaser. Prideful. Made poor health choices. Yada, yada, yada. Blatantly disregarding the solid ground of objective truth that would take me a better way; or simply oblivious because I was distracted and mesmerized, heeding the shifting sands of the culture around me.  Sometimes knowing in my head  I should make better choices  or other choices. And. Just. Not. Doing it.  It’s always the same three things that trip you and me and everyone else up. The lust of the flesh. The lust of the eyes and pride of life.  Every time. And I know God closes certain roads because he loves us and he is just, because they are  terrible options. Sometimes closure is necessary in order to make a better way going forward.

And of course we  complain (whine) the entire time that the road should have been better marked farther up the line. It was. Our first response is to blame everyone else, including God, because we were distracted or because we deliberately chose to ignore the signs.  And our stinking  thinking  or just flat out denial takes over and we think, “ Perhaps God was ‘just kidding!’” Right. Eye roll.  And there it is. The crux of the problem.  We think we know better than God. 

What’s a body to do?  First of all stop blaming God and others for the situation(s) we find ourselves  in. We are only fooling  ourselves if we think we weren’t warned five miles back up the road.  Second, turn back around to God. Jesus is watching and waiting for our return. And he loves and forgives us if we admit our mistakes. He then invites us to follow and walk with him on a different road by: accepting his forgiveness and grace and letting God be God. Making amends to others we have hurt and offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us. Next, we stay connected to him at the hip through prayer, study of his Word (truth) and fellowshipping with others on the same right road, also known as the church.  Finally, in  order to stay on the right road and keep what we were so freely given, we must give it away by carrying the message to others .  

Then and only then will we find ourselves on the right road that leads to life! No longer on the closed road that leads to death. 

And that my dear friends, is a reason to be joy filled always, 

Christine Davis.  

Past History

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 A while back a girlfriend and I were sharing some stories from our past with one another. We alternately giggled and shuddered at our adventures of days gone by, and at the end of our conversation we agreed we were grateful we are who we are today and not who we once were. We no longer resembled the people we used to be. Those parts of our lives were past history. 

Thank. The. Lord. 

In case you didn’t know it, I have past.  Some of it is nice and shiny and some of it I am not very proud of. Which is likely true for all of us, at least if we are honest with ourselves.  Today when someone asks, “How are you?” I reply, “Better than I deserve!”   Which can throw people for a loop! This elicits all types of responses such as, “Oh, you deserve good things” or “Why would you say that?”  or “Well, you may not, but I deserve good things.”  Whatever the reply, mine is always the same, “I was wicked when I was young.”  That’s the truth, even though I could not or would not recognize it at the time. Just as true, is the fact I am no longer who I used to be, that person is dead and gone. Past history, in the rear-view mirror.  Those are the earlier chapters in the story of my life and today’s chapters are being written as the new creation I have become in Jesus Christ.  My hope for those who knew me then, in my wicked days, is that they get to know the new me; the real me.  The person God created me to be. 

However, I wouldn’t be who I am today without being the person I used to be, even if that wasn’t the best version of myself. Today my worst past history is my best asset because it created my need to be redeemed by Jesus Christ.   

Yes, you read that right.  My worst past history is my best asset because it created my need to be redeemed by Christ. 

Redeemed is a churchy word for rescued or saved.  You may be asking yourself; how can you make such a statement? What do you mean your worst past history is your best asset?!   I can say that truthfully because I have decided to take God at his Word and accept the grace and forgiveness, he offers me. Which is what being born again is all about.  Dying to my old sinful self, rising to new life in Christ. This is the beginning place for clearing out the garbage of my past and moving toward living a joyous, happy and free life where my identity comes from Christ, not from me. The churchy words for this process are confession and repentance. Repentance is turning back to God and admitting he knows what is best for me.  Confession means I admit the rotten things of my past.  Then and only then does my past history cease to hold power over me. And then, and only then, can he use it all to draw other lost folks back to himself.  It is really quite remarkable, this Gospel of Jesus Christ, this good news. 

 Unfortunately, I used to hit a snag at this, the very best part. Instead of accepting God’s grace and forgiveness, I chose to hang on to it and let it rot me through with the disease of shame and guilt.  The ugly stuff of my past – the churchy word here is sin- used to keep me trapped because I thought if it saw the light of day, people and God would think less of me.  With God’s help, I now understand what other people think of me is none of my business.   If I try to make it my business, I proceed to hop on the never-ending merry go round ride of “people pleasing”.  Been there, done that, ain’t going back. God, on the other hand, already knows what I’ve done, was with me while I was doing it, and loved me through it. And if I ask, he forgives me.  He patiently waits for me to recognize my train wreck attempts at running the universe. He waits patiently for my return back to him.   And when I do, he runs at me arms open wide. You see, God has forgiven and forgotten my past, therefore so can I.    

I came to Jesus and was baptized at the ripe old age of eight, and promptly abandoned and rebelled against him much of my life. I have plenty of dirty laundry, some of which you’ve already read about. Many of those are the same stories that made my friend and I laugh and cry.   After I got married and had kids, I swung back to being less wicked (or so I thought) and going to church.  Over time I developed a pretty good case of the “holier than thou’s”.  I thought that being a Christian meant you put your butt in a pew on Sunday and lived as a “good person” who believed in God while doing whatever I wanted the rest of the week. Well that’s stinking thinking. What exactly does “good” mean and who decides? How good is good enough?  Are 999,999 good deeds enough? Or does it mean I am one good deed short, and when I die St. Peter meets me at the Pearly Gates saying, “Sorry, you don’t qualify, you needed one million. No get out of jail free card for you.”  I was deceived into thinking I am not as bad as…you fill in the name. And At least I don’t… you fill in the action. Truth is I am as bad as… you fill in the name and I did… you fill in the action.   As good as I might like to think I am, I am still stained by sin. But when I claim Christ as my Savior and standard, I claim him as the LORD of my life.  Which, in layman’s terms, means he’s the Boss.  With a capital B.  This is incredibly costly; in fact, it costs me living my life on my terms. Dying to myself is painful and frankly, some days, it’s a struggle and I’d just rather not! He warned me to count the cost before following.

 Here’s the thing, my worst stuff is transformed by God, not by me, into my best stuff because he uses my worst stuff, the wickedness he redeemed me from, to bring other lost and hurting people back into the right relationship with him through Christ. I used to try to be perfect, I call myself a recovering perfectionist and I am really glad I am no longer trying to be perfect.  Because most people can’t relate to perfect.  But they can relate to falling short of the mark, making mistakes, being hurt, hurting others and the like. That’s where who I used to be comes in handy.   They see who I am today, not perfect, but standing on solid ground by obeying The Boss.  They see the joy and freedom I have and how I am no longer a victim of my past, what I have done or what’s been done to me.  They see me freed of the chains of my past and they want what I have and been so freely given. 

And that brings hope to hurting souls. 

My job is to love people and to point them to Jesus, not to fix them. That is his job.  And most of the time, sharing my past history with others who are struggling is just the right medicine.  

The churchy word for this is called Christianity. God, through Jesus Christ, takes those people who choose to give up their lives to gain their lives by following him; and he frees them from shame, guilt, pride, and breaks the chains of sin. You see Jesus’ worst thing is our best thing. The worst thing that ever happened to Jesus was to die a criminal’s death on the cross, because the sin he bore was mine. And yours.   And folks, that past history, right alongside his resurrection, is the best thing that ever happened to this wicked old girl and this wicked old world. 

If God does that with and though his one and only perfect Son, imagine what he can do with and through us!

Which gives us lots of reasons to:

Be joy filled always, 

Christine Davis

 

The Impostor

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Our horse Peppy, barn cat Eric Liddell and I have a morning ritual.  I show up and feed Eric, put a halter on Peppy and lead her over to the pasture where I set her free to spend a good part of her day grazing. Afterward, Eric magically appears and I pick him up and carry him back to the barn. He loves to be held and petted and would have me spend my entire day sitting on a bale of hay doing just that; but this day something was off from the moment I scooped him up.  He was edgy and tense and dug his long, sharp claws into the palm of my hand, drawing blood. Surprised by this, I dropped him to the ground scolding and as he skulked off, I asked myself, “What just happened here?”

I returned to the house to disinfect and bandage the wound and went about my day. Later that same morning I headed back to the barn to get the lawn mower and noticed Eric lying near the back tire sunning himself.   I called his name and as I walked toward him, he jumped up and ran across the empty horse lot.  I could not for the life of me understand what on earth was going on with my normally friendly cat.  I followed, calling him by name. Finally, he stopped and lay down on a patch of grass near a grain bin.  I sat down too not far from where he was to let him come to me, continuing to call his name.  It was then I noticed something moving off to my left. Turning I was stunned by what I saw, the real Eric Liddell walking towards me! He knew his name and his masters voice and he came when called.  Then it hit me, this other cat, this impostor, this poser, was the cat who clawed me, not the real Eric Liddell! I was, for one of the few times in my life, speechless! The two cats were identical; they were exactly the same size and the same color. This impostor looked just like my cat! But he wasn’t my cat.

He’s not the only phony around. In fact, the oldest impostor has been around since the dawn of time.

I find it fascinating in Genesis chapter three Adam and Eve weren’t afraid of the very first impostor, the serpent. In the Biblical narrative the deceiver appears to be someone they both knew and trusted who tempted them into playing God. At first blush deciding for themselves what was good and evil didn’t seem like a big deal. I think the words he used were, “Did God really say?”

Until it was a big deal. In fact, the decision they made to disobey God was the second biggest game changing deal in all of history. It was, after all, the decision that caused all of mankind and creation to fall from grace. The choice that placed the entire universe and each one of us who were to follow after under a curse, the curse of sin (rebellion against and separation from God) and death. It was a bad deal. And still is, a very bad deal.

It’s not like they (we) weren’t warned.

“You will surely die” is a pretty clear.

The reality is that The Satan is The Tempter and he doesn’t usually come knocking dressed in ugly.  The choices we constantly face, to obey God or to go our own way almost always come packaged pretty nicely, often closely resembling the real thing.  But they aren’t the real thing; but instead a distorted reflection of the real thing.  A few examples might include confusing lust with love, shaming with discipline or doing whatever we want (autonomy) with freedom. Who we listen to, look at and follow matters; and for much of my life I couldn’t see the enemy because I was too busy running with others who were also running with the Impostor.  The enemy my soul (and yours) still uses the same old disguises century after century and we keep falling prey to the same old bait and switch schemes.

What’s a body to do?

If you don’t claim to follow Jesus, I can’t help you other than to say look at the evidence and give Jesus, who is the real deal a chance.  However, if you have said yes to Jesus listen up.  Following Jesus has plastered a target on your back and now that you are no longer running side by side with that fallen former angel of light, he will come after you because he despises nothing more than obedience to the one true God. He will go to any length to keep you where he is, trapped in bondage and misery. And like the cat who looked just like my cat, but wasn’t my cat, he will leave you scratched, bleeding and asking yourself, “What just happened there?” The Apostle John summed up what the Impostor’s wardrobe looks like: 

“For all that is in the world, the lust of eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. “1 John 2:16  

The wolf in sheep’s clothing comes only to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus came to show us the way, provide the truth and give us life.  And we will know who we are following by the fruit we produce. Those who know the Master’s voice will come when He calls us to virtue not vice; peace not strife; truth not falsehood; joy not sorrow; love not lust; kindness not cruelty; unity not division. Jesus didn’t come to make us good, which is one of the biggest lies we fall for, because I will never be good enough to earn my way to God.  He came to restore our relationship with the God of the Universe and to resuscitate us from death to life through his life, death on the cross and resurrection, which is the number one biggest game changing event to ever happen to this planet.

The look alike Eric Liddell hung around for a while and was gone later that same day. He showed up one more time a few days later and hasn’t returned.  And Paul reminds us that if we resist the devil, he will flee from us. As I follow Christ, each day the impostor in me dies a little more and the new me raises to new life in Christ a wee bit more. Nothing more authentic than that.

And that my friends, gives us every reason to want to:

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis

 

Risky Business

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True Story from a few years back…
 
In the fall we take part of the corn field behind our house out for silage to feed cattle during the winter months. Prior to this I typically walk my dogs down a nearby country road on leash.  But when the field is opened up, I give them the treat of being off leash, which they love.  Who doesn’t love freedom after all?  I have faith the dogs will come back to momma when they go off exploring in the field or waterway, because they have proven trustworthy in this regard.   Our lab Ali, loved to follow her nose.  But she could have cared less about chasing birds or small creatures.  Now Bandit, our beagle something mix, is the exact opposite and if he spots a bird or critter, he is OFF in hot pursuit. 
 
Late one fall evening we took off in the field.   We got to the other side where there is a grassy waterway and our typical turn around spot.  Ali and I start back while Bandit heads up the waterway a piece where the still standing corn takes him out of my field of vision.  I figure he will catch up and Ali and I keep walking.   Suddenly, I hear him barking and turn around to see this short, thirty-pound dog chasing a full-grown doe.   He is in full pursuit mode and both are headed for the fence next to the railroad tracks.  So, I think to myself, ” Deer will leap the fence, dog will turn around and come back.”  Lab and I keep walking toward home.  After a few minutes I turn back to see what is happening next and low and behold the beagle is running back up the waterway…. with a buck in hot pursuit of him!!!   My next thought is, “He got himself into this, he’ll get himself out. ”  
 
Faith is a risky business. It is really trust in action;  trusting in something that you can’t see as the writer of Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

That little dog chased that deer because he had not a single doubt in the God who created him. Who created him to be, a pursuer of other critters! No matter the size.  He didn’t stop for a minute to get my blessing for chasing that doe.   He didn’t think about the fact he weighed 200 lbs. less than the other animal, he followed the deep calling of his DNA to hunt.  

The flip side of faith is the risk part of the deal.  He wasn’t expecting the buck.   Faith and risk are directly connected with one another.   

Faith means not being able to see around the corner, yet trusting in the Power greater than you to see you through.   Listen closely, commitment is involved here. There must be a buy into something, right?    It is said that faith is courage that has said its prayers which means there is an action step required on our part, which is the buy in or faith.   Stay with me…the Bible is full of examples of regular folks, against all odds stepping out in faith and having, well, simply miraculous results!  Think of the story of David and Goliath for example.   David was a young adult and he had gone to the battlefield to take lunch to his older brothers who were part of King Saul’s army.  He was hanging out there when he heard Goliath hurling insults at the Israelite army.  He, like my dog Bandit, never thought twice, he had long ago placed his trust God.  For David it was a matter of acting on that already established faith.  He had already placed his faith, which gave him the courage to take the risk.  
 
Now think about this.   You know how mean older siblings can sometimes be.  David had just announced he was going to go kill the enemy’s giant soldier; the one who terrified the best of the king’s men.  With a slingshot, no less.  He had to take a lot guff from them.   Not only them but likely others in the army too.   It took faith and courage for him to take the risk of doing what GOD wanted him to do and not to buckle under pressure, caring more what his family and friends thought.   You see, he knew that the battle was Gods, not his and that God was going before him.  That is the substance of faith in God.  The knowing, the certainty. 
 
 We know how the story ends.   The giant face plants dead in the dirt at David’s hand.
 
It is not easy to step out of our comfort zones into where Jesus is. Freedom is the most difficult and paradoxical gift God gave to humans and the most important. We must be free to choose or reject God, because love by compulsion isn’t love at all, it is being a robot. Freedom and change are scary and faith is a risky business because we may just turn into the person God created us to be. The alternative is robbing ourselves of an amazing opportunity if we cling only to what is safe out of fear.  Let me ask you, how big is your God?  When we take risk firmly grounded in truth and step out into the unknown it means giving up managing outcomes.  Every time I place my faith and trust in God through Jesus Christ the end result is far better than anything than I could have imagined, dreamed or manipulated on my own. Which is a good deal, a God deal.
 
Back to the dog story.
 
So, I took a risk, letting them run off leash means I could lose them.   But for them it means freedom and exploration and to me it was worth the risk.   Now I faced losing that little dog.  I said a prayer and trusted he could out run the buck and his antlers and find his way home. 
 
And he did.   Panting and tired he emerged from the cornfield just about the same time we got to the edge of our lawn.   
 
And I am pretty sure he was smiling.
 
Faith, it’s a risky business.
 
Be joy filled always,
Christine Davis
 

Back to Basics

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The old story goes:   

 A rich industrialist from the North was horrified to find a Southern fisherman lying lazily beside his boat smoking a pipe.  “Why aren’t you out fishing? asked the rich industrialist.

“Because I have caught enough fish for the day,” said the fisherman.

“Why don’t you catch more than you need?” asked the industrialist.

“What would I do with it?” asked the fisherman.

“You could earn more money,” was the reply.

“With what you sell your extra fish for you could get a better motor and boat; you could go into deeper waters and catch more fish.  You could buy nylon nets.  You could catch more fish and make more money.  Soon you could have two boats, then a fleet of boats, employees, and a real business.   Then you would be rich like me.”

The fisherman asked, “Then what would I do?”

The industrialist said, “The you could sit down and enjoy life.”

The fisherman said, “What do you think I’m doing now?”

Huh.

I had some low back pain back in 2013 that became acute a week before Thanksgiving.  My current profession is personal fitness trainer.  I teach my clients to keep a strong core to keep the low back healthy and I practice what I preach.   Having a surgery earlier that spring forced me to cut back on my core work and muscles became weak.   Injury happened.  

  I also teach my clients that all movement originates from the navel center area of our torso.  I got to prove that theory.  With my low back pain, just about every move I made hurt, including sneezing. Smiling, however, was pain free.   I did the usual self-care, doc, chiropractor, physical therapy.   Progress was slow and I spent a lot of time flat on my back, which is difficult for me because I like to be on the move.  My health care providers decided an MRI would be prudent and I took a trip to visit my neurosurgeon.  There I got good news, was no surgery was necessary. He said I was just going through a rough patch and he told me to rest as much as I could and to take the rest of the month off from work. So, I did.  I cut out almost all activities and I got better.  I got better not just physically, but I also got better mentally and spiritually.  I began to appreciate once again having time to spare.

 In addition, I came to the realization that previously, I had little or no space in my life.  

I came to see I had been afflicted with the distraction of busyness. And during my recuperation period, I began to understand and appreciate the less is more philosophy.

I had been given a great gift.

Not long before this experience, I had recognized modern conveniences and culture had added to my problem of over busyness.   Because I felt our society pressured me to believe I “needed” things and experiences in order to make my life richer and to be happy.   But the truth was, these things robbed me of my life because I packed in more and more stuff and activity.  

Modern life is part of the problem and most especially the fake news that I had to be a human doing in order to have worth in our world.   I had lost sight of what it means be a human being.

During this forced down time I came to understand I had fallen prey to similar stinking thinking about finding God.  I erroneously thought that in order to find God I must pretend to act like him. Well, running the universe is a big job, let me tell you.   I thought I had to be on five committees, sing on the praise team, read the latest and greatest Christian author, and run myself ragged in the middle of it all.  I had little time left for a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ or to study his Word. Which wasn’t working so well.  So, I guess he put me in time out.  

I also saw I was under the misconception that I had to be Wonder Woman. The culture I lived in told me that in order to have value I had to be Super Mom, Wonder Wife and Career Queen, and I had bought the lies hook line and sinker. I ran on that treadmill for a long time, until I had the gift of forced rest and space entered back into my life.

 I have since decided to hang up the cape and store those boots in the closet. With zero regrets.  In fact, it forever changed my life for the good. Which an encounter with Christ always does.

And I fell in love with time again.  Because I was no longer racing against it and it was no longer my enemy.  

 I came to the conclusion that my theme for the rest of my life is back to basics. The most important thing is this:   To love God with every fiber of my being, and my neighbor as myself.  And just who is my neighbor?   Everyone, especially the difficult folks.   I can’t do that if I got no time to listen to God to help me do it. 

Doesn’t mean I become a couch potato, at least not all day.  But perhaps some of the day.   Doesn’t mean I am not working, but today I work smarter and not harder, letting God lead the way. It doesn’t mean I won’t be involved in worthy causes, just those I feel God calling me to.  No more guilty “yesses.”  You know, the yes that you really wanted to be a “no thank you”.  I operate by the less is more plan.     

 Shall we join the fisherman from the story above and realize that we don’t need to overdo in order to enjoy life?  Shall we follow Christ and make time to love the One True God with all of our being and our neighbor as our self? 

Might be just what the Great Physician ordered. 

Let’s get back to basics, shall we? 

Be Joy Filled Always,

Christine Davis

A Day In Hell

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He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended to hell.The third day he rose again from the dead.

 Apostles Creed

A few years back we had a black cat named Clarence.  Clarence was an indoor/outdoor cat on our farm and we let our cats be free to roam the entire farm; but we also liked them to be in the house at night.  One-night Clarence didn’t come when we called.   We called and called his name, no Clarence.   We looked all around the farm, still no Clarence.   Days passed, and we had begun to think that perhaps he was lost forever.

     Five days after Clarence went missing; a utilities truck pulled into our driveway.   The fellow inside jumps out and asks if it would be okay if he drove across our front lawn and into our field.   I said, “Absolutely”, and then I asked him, “Is there a problem with a power line? “ No,” the man replied, “You see, we have gotten several calls to help a cat stuck on one of the electrical poles in your field and we have come to rescue it.”  My heart leapt!! Could it be??? This was a miracle!   Never in my wildest dreams could I

 have imagined this rescue.   Dead on the road, yup.   Lost forever, you bet.   But not this!! So out to the field we go. And low and behold, there was Clarence way up high on the cross beam of an electrical pole.   Clarence the cat could not save himself, but love and a power greater than himself could. What a crazy and wonderful true story of love and divine rescue.

 The story of the Christian faith is just as crazy and wonderful!  God created the human race in His image and He had given mankind a beautiful garden in which to live and the freedom to roam anywhere we wished with one restriction.  

“And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’  Genesis 2:16.

when you eat of it you will surely die

WHEN  

Not if. 

 

you eat of it

He knew we would.

And we did.

 

you will surely die

Make no mistake.  The mortality rate for human beings is 100%.

 From the moment Eve took the first bite it was the beginning of the end.  God called; we didn’t come.   The eternal garden party was over. Sin and death were now our destiny, a destiny of our own choosing, a self-imposed hell.  We fell for temptation by the rebel leader and the consequences were separation from the presence of God, exile from the garden, and death.   Life on earth became a temporary assignment.  Out of the garden we went.

Now at the very same instant that sin and death came into life, the search and rescue mission was also born.  Immediately God sought us when we didn’t come when He called; for the very first time in the garden as we hid in the bushes ashamed of our treason.  God was on a mission, a mission with a single purpose: to seek and save us from our own self destruction and from the enemy of man, Satan. 

God called our names and pursued us in many ways from burning bushes to parting seas, to commandments etched in stone by the very finger of the Ancient of Days.  But we just couldn’t seem to grasp the idea that what he was after – was us!  He wants a personal relationship with each and every one of us.   Somehow in the midst of it all we fell upon our own sword.  We began to worship the rules and our life on earth, forgetting that we are spiritual beings temporarily housed in a human body.   We wrongly think that if only we are good enough, or successful enough, or own the finest house that we win the game of life, and then God will love us.    What we can’t seem to grasp is that HE ALREADY DOES; He loves us unconditionally.  And it is that undeserved love or grace that makes us want to mend our ways.  We only need accept it and give it back to Him and to others.

The whole Old Testament is full of His attempts to love on us and our failures to reach out and take that love.  At the very moment in time when it seemed as though we were lost forever, spiraling downward into a hell of our own making at breakneck speed, that God put His plan into action.   He knew the world needed help!   A savior!  The smoke signals were floating up to above from our puny planet!  We simply could not save ourselves! God knew in His heart there was only one way.   It was a plan that was predicted, yet very few would recognize as it unfolded.   God Himself would come down and save us. 

So He did.   But not in the way anyone was expecting.    Riding in on a white horse, wiping out the bad guys?  You bet, we would buy that plan. A conquering hero, yes of course that is how He would come to us.  But the God who made the sun, moon and stars, formed into a fetus and born to a mom and dad just like you and I?  No way, that’s nuts!  The voice that spoke the earth, sea and sky into being speaking truth face to face with the beings He breathed life into? Naw.   The hands that healed the lame and opened the eyes of the blind took the nails and felt pain?  Crazy making stuff.  But oh my yes that is just exactly what he did.  And the God- Man Jesus died, just like you and I will someday die.   But the big difference is this:  Jesus, God with skin on, died on that Good Friday so very long ago to pay the ransom note for our freedom.  The very freedom we can use to either come back into the presence of the Father through Jesus Christ or use to reject Him, and therefore choose hell.  

        Today is that silent day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  Have you ever wondered where Jesus was on this day?  The Apostles Creed tells he descended into hell.  Christ spent the day in hell separated from God the Father and the Holy Spirit, for the first and only time.  Because he loves us, and Romans tells us that God will go to any length to find us. We serve a God who has been to hell and back for us. 

      And if we are honest, the hell in our lives has been largely of our own making.  Yes, we not only choose hell on earth, but we also choose hell for eternity. It is a choice WE are free to make. Worship God alone, accept Jesus the God man’s grace and give it way to others.   That is it.  These are the keys to the kingdom. God doesn’t put us in hell; we are free to walk up to the counter buy the one-way ticket ourselves. 

    God makes easy terms to those who wish to find him. He calls us by name.  Sinner come home.   Tomorrow we will celebrate Easter and new life in the Spirit!  The proof is the empty tomb.  God is not dead!  We follow a living, loving God who loves us enough to live, to die, to spend a day in hell and rise from the dead for us.    What a crazy and wonderful true story of love and divine rescue. 

 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long: we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.   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 8:35-39 (NIV)

Christ is risen!  

Be joy filled always, 

Christine Davis   

Darkest Before the Dawn

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“Love divine has seen and counted every tear it caused to fall; and the storm which Love appointed was it choicest gift of all. “

Anonymous

    A short ten days ago there was a foot of snow on the ground and it was negative fifteen degrees. Tomorrow the high is to be seventy-seven and except for a few remaining small dirty piles, the snow is gone. Spring came just like that; change can happen fast and be dramatic.

   The darkest time of day is just before the dawn. It seems to me the month of February is similar, oftentimes it is the coldest and harshest time of the year, right before spring. Just as the sun rises faithfully each and every day, spring arrives faithfully each and every year.  Just when we thought we were doomed to cold gloomy weather for all of eternity, suddenly, it is sunny and forty-five, and just like that winter is over.

      Spring brings hope for better days, when we least expect it.  

     Jesus Christ brings hope for better days when we least expect it.

    It had to have been that way for Simon Peter.   Mere hours before at the Last Supper, Jesus had warned him Satan was after him and had asked to test him, to sift him like wheat.  That doesn’t sound good.  Jesus reassured Peter that he had prayed for him that his faith would not fail and that he would turn back and be a refuge to his fellow believers.   Peter couldn’t believe what he was hearing!  He told Jesus he was ready to do time behind bars or die for him!   Jesus, being God in the flesh knew how it would go and told Peter the truth he didn’t want to hear, that he would deny knowing Jesus, not once, not twice, but three times before the rooster would crow.    

     Fast forward to the third denial, the rooster crows and Jesus turns and looks directly at Peter.   Peter instantly knew he had failed Jesus.  It had to be the lowest point of his life.   He wept bitterly. Can’t you see the scene in your minds eye?   Peter was caught in a trap he couldn’t spring, hopeless, lost and alone in his pain.  This is last Luke tells us about Peter until after the resurrection which means he wasn’t there for Jesus during the trial,  the whipping, the crucifixion or at his death.   The next time we meet up with Peter is Easter morning.  He must have holed up somewhere in self pity and pain.  About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!”  Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed.  The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.  Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. Luke 22:59-62 (NIV)

      Boy does that sound familiar.

     There have been times in my life that seemed as though I had layer upon layer of trouble and that it would never end.  Sometimes the pain was a consequence of my own behavior and other times the pain was due to circumstances beyond my control. Either way, there I was, teetering on the edge of darkness, thinking that my life would always be like this.   It looked as though there was no way out or through, no end in sight and there was no hope.   In the midst of pain and pity I too have denied and abandoned Jesus; and although he has looked straight at me he has not abandoned or denied knowing me and I have wept bitterly at this realization.  I have learned some hard truths when the dawn arrived:

       1) Satan is after me and I will have trouble, he has asked to sift me like wheat.

       2) That Jesus is praying for my faith not to fail and that I turn back to Him;

       3)  I am not alone.  Ever.

       4) Nothing lasts for ever; so much depends on my attitude and my fortitude.

      5)  That if I am willing, God will take my worst moments and use them for good.

     The next time we meet up with Peter is that first Easter morning; the women have gone to the tomb to take care of a dead body and not only do they discover the stone is rolled away and the tomb empty, but they come face to face with an angel, a messenger of God, who reminds them what Jesus had told them before he died. He told them that he would be given over to evil men to be crucified; he would die and be buried and that on third day he would rise again.  The women race back to where the disciples are hiding out and everyone thinks what they are saying is baloney, everyone except Peter that is.   Jesus had prayed that his faith would not fail and it didn’t.  From coward to courageous leader I am able to recount this story today because Peter didn’t throw in the towel in his darkest hour.   How many times did I cave in to fear- False Evidence Appearing Real-?  How many times have I forgotten the rest of the story, Jesus is praying for me and I missed out on the reward as a result of giving up too soon?  When I gave up on a relationship because it seemed impossible?  Dropped out of school just before I got that degree?   Gave up on a child, spouse, relative or friend who seemed too lost to save?   Gave up on my dreams because of unexpected twists and turns in the road of life or because it just seemed too crazy or I was just too lazy to pursue it?    Way too many times I am sorry to report.

   Like the arrival of spring, our delivery from darkness can happen fast and be dramatic if we don’t let our faith fail. The reward of seeing the darkness through is the beauty of experiencing the rising of the Son and new life in him which is unlike anything you have ever known.  Remember, Jesus is praying for you and it is darkest just before the dawn.

Be joy filled always, 

Christine Davis

 

Give Me Liberty

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Not long ago I read young adults are living at home with their parents at a higher rate and for longer periods of time than ever before. 

I don’t get that. From an early age I craved liberty.  I couldn’t wait to grow up and move out and be my own boss.  Home had boundaries and I craved independence from those boundaries. I wanted to do what I wanted to do.  Most parent’s goal is to have their children grow up, move out and become responsible citizens. As I gaze into the rear-view mirror of my life, I have no doubt, no doubt, my parents were ready to see me go.  If I were them, I would have been ready for me to go.  Let’s face it, no matter how great the parent/child relationship, starting about the junior year of high school, you just start getting on each other’s nerves. It’s supposed to be that way so the apron strings are easier to cut and parents are ready to let the chicks fly (or in some cases push them) out of the nest.     

I moved to the town where I planned to attend college one week after I got my high school diploma. It wasn’t due to a bad home-life, I had wonderful parents. I was the problem not them, thinking I am free at last!!  There were no text messages or even telephone answering machines back  in the stone ages when I was a young adult.  I talked to my folks by land line when we happened to catch each other or communicated by snail mail.  Helicopter parenting didn’t yet exist. That came with my generation, because we didn’t want our kids doing what we did.  The sorry truth is I didn’t handle my own freedom very well and sometimes I still don’t. Much, but not all, of the time I confused liberty, another name for freedom, with autonomy.    

The summer after my sophomore year in college I chose to live at home one more time, and since my behavior was rather sophomoric (translated immature) in nature, it was a tough summer for both me and my folks.   I wanted to live in their house and do what I wanted to do.  Which didn’t work very well.  And the funny thing was, my folks who were the truly the good guys, were the bad guys (fun haters) in my messed-up brain.  Thankfully, for both them and me, in the process of time I had my come to Jesus moment and no longer live that way.  Thank. The. Lord.  I am not perfect, but in Jesus Christ I am new creation.  And today I can see it isn’t just me who thought and behaved this way.  A few years back I attended a wonderful stage performance with a very ominous underlying message.   It took a famous children’s book/movie and made all the bad guys the good guys and all the good guys the bad guys.  It was a great performance. But it’s not a great thing in real life.  I used to live that way which was a bad deal for me and for others.  And, I can see that stinking thinking wasn’t just mine and is, like a bad virus,  spreading from person to person in our world today. And is far more dangerous than any virus. But it’s nothing new, I read about it cover to cover in the Good Book.  

Like the stage production we have it exactly backwards. Me depending on me or other humans to decide what is right and wrong is simply a pig wearing lipstick. It may look good, but it is still a pig. Or worse.  It’s more like a piranha that eats alive everything in its path. And it is an old, old story of great deception.

During the American Revolution, Patrick Henry declared, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”

Freedom can only exist within a moral framework and for a period of my life I lost sight of that.  I cannot do whatever I want, which is the definition of autonomy.   But I sure behaved as though I could.  Our culture promotes this type of thinking and behavior, which isn’t a new concept, by the way. In fact, this is merely old news presented as new news to a different generation of humans. King Solomon nailed it when he said there is nothing new under the sun. The new old news is called free will and is also known by the name original sin.  And as our founding father so wisely understood, it is either liberty or death.  Folks, we were warned about this long before America became a sovereign nation, in the opening pages of the number one best-selling book of all time, God’s Word to us, the Bible.      

God offers us a better way, freedom with boundaries and he started with just one just one.  Don’t try to be him. If we want to live in his presence, we can’t do whatever we want by deciding what is right and what is wrong or we will pay with the ultimate price, our lives.   We were (are) warned in plain words, “you will surely die.”    There it is, liberty must have boundaries or it blows up like a bomb in our faces.  Earthly parents have boundaries because they love their children and want to spare them misery and suffering. So does our Heavenly Father.  Humans desire freedom. But independence from God leads to death to those created in his image. And this death meets us while we are still in the land of the living, its tentacles reach beyond physical death and kills  joy, hope, love, relationships, trust, peace, patience, kindness and so on. All the things that make life worth living.   Our “independence” from God only leads to being a slave to fear, anger, resentment, pain, suffering and ultimately a slave to death itself.  I can’t live in God’s house and do whatever the heck I want.     

Our liberty does not depend upon us, but it does depend on us depending on and trusting in God through Jesus Christ and his finished work on the cross. My question therefore is, in whose house are you living these days?

Give me liberty, or give me death.

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis

 

Monkey See, Monkey Do

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A standard rule of parenting is, “Do as I say.”   Obedience is one the most important things a parent can teach a child.  But by far the most important standard of parenting is, “Do as I do.”  What parents do while their children are watching is far more important than anything, they tell the child to do because actions speak a far louder volume than words.  Saying one thing and doing another is hypocrisy. Teaching a child to obey what you say and living out the very things you ask of your child are two very completely different things. One teaches your child you are good for your word. The other does not.

Why does this matter you may ask? Because other people and the world have a profound influence on us and the choices we make. Growing up, when asked by my father why I had done something, and usually it was something stupid, often my reply was, “Because so and so was doing it.”  His response was nearly always, “Monkey see, monkey do.  If they jumped off a bridge would you jump off too?”  Bet you’ve never heard that before, or said it yourself.  Roll of the eyes. But Dad was right, other people have a powerful influence on the choices we make.  The most influential people in a child’s life are typically are parents first and foremost, then siblings, other close relatives, classmates, teachers, the culture we live in, our coworkers and spouses.  Did I trust my father and mother, absolutely.  Why?  Because I knew them,  and because the large majority of the time, they did what they said and asked of me.   Did I obey them?  Some of the time. Did I watch how they lived their lives, you bet I did.

In addition to being influenced, we are also influencers.  I watched my parents and my kids watched me. We don’t live life in a vacuum and we are constantly watching others and others are constantly watching us.  Let that penetrate your mind and heart for a minute or two. In that case, we better get it right on both sides of the aisle, because this is powerful, life-changing stuff.  With potential for both for good and for bad.

At first, as a young adult I was a real moron.  I promptly went out and did exactly the opposite of what I was supposed to do.   Because that is what we humans do. We rebel. We cannot escape it because rebellion is hard wired in our DNA.  And there is a name for it, sin.  And the result of my willful disobedience was to promptly fall flat on my face, because in the end you cannot escape the entailments of sin.  The good news is my parent’s legacy of faith they instilled and modeled to me and had a lasting effect and I had it to come back to when life became unmanageable.  Why does this matter?   Not because it makes anyone holier than thou, but because it’s not enough just to believe God exists.  Christianity is no theory; it must be lived. And it requires obedience, obedience that Jesus himself modeled for us.

A standard rule of being a child of God is doing as he says and more importantly as he does.  What he says and has already done is given to us in his Word, the Holy Bible.  Obedience is one the most important aspects being a follower of Jesus Christ. Christ is to be trusted first and obeyed next; we can’t be hearers of his Word only; we must be doers as well.  In the here and now. Here and now I have to pray for my enemies; bless those who curse me; deny my own selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed wants, need and desires and do what he calls me to do.   To be humble, not a bragger. Serve others and share what I have received. Monkey see, monkey do. Jesus promised me (and all who desire relationship with him) if we seek him, we will find him. And he will give to us his Holy Spirit to live in us when we make him Lord of our life to aid us in being transformed into his likeness.  Cause I. Can’t. In. And. Of. Myself.  Self-reliance will fail me every time. Obedience coupled with the Spirits aid never fails.

Obedience is not a great recruiting slogan, but it is life changing if and when you decide to surrender to him.  It shocks me how few Christians actually read and study the Bible on a regular basis in order to know God and his will for us. Far too many rely on the “cherry picking method” finding verses to suit our needs, rather than to step into the knowledge of the whole God story.   And therefore, I am not surprised at how many folks are misinformed and uninformed about what it actually says.  And does in us, when we give ourselves over to it’s truth.  Take for instance the common phrase “the angry God of the Old Testament.”  That’s not at all what I or many other well-respected scholars and theologians down through the ages read and see. (I am certainly not either a scholar or theologian, just in agreement with them).  God sets the standard for doing what he says he will do and being who he says he is.  What the Word tells us of is a loving, grace filled, slow to anger Creator God of second chances who lays out clear boundaries for those created in his image (that is you and me), who isn’t afraid to follow through with consequences and discipline, even when its hard and we don’t agree with it or like it. I also see the human race is a pack of mistake making, rebellious people he keeps loving,  so much so he shed his precious only Son’s blood to save. 

Because actions speak a far louder volume than words.  

Monkey see. Monkey do.    

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis

 

Tempus Fugit (Time Flies)

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We have several wind-up clocks in our home; two floor clocks and one wall clock.   I have grown to depend upon the soft tick-tock of the wall clock, the chimes of the floor clocks throughout the hour and the strikes telling me the hour. These are sounds which help me mark time throughout the day. On the face of one of the floor clocks are the words Tempus Fugit, which are Latin for time flies, and it sure does. Tick, tick, tick.

We just crossed into a New Year and decade.  Seems like it was just yesterday we turned the page on a new century; that was twenty years ago.   Remember all the Y2K Chicken Little “the sky is falling” hype?   Being the cornball, I am, this year I had fun saying, “I will see you more clearly next year in 2020.” Get it?  Nudge, nudge, 2020 is perfect vision… drum-roll, kaboom. Seriously, as a kid way back when, 2020 seemed like a distant dream and boom!  Here we are and I am nearly threescore years old.  If you don’t know how old that makes me, you’ll just have to look it up.  Tick, tick, tick.

All kidding aside, whether or not we recognize it, time is one of our most precious commodities.  Like money, I only get to spend it once. Unlike like money, I can’t earn more time. I am ashamed to admit I have spent some of my time coins pretty poorly.   There has been time squandered on activities like drunkenness and gossip and debaucherous behavior, I must admit I was wicked when I was young. And then there is wasted and lost time; time I could have and should have spent better loving on family and friends and pointing others to Jesus. Then there is the worthless time I have frittered away surfing the net or thinking badly, okay, I’ll say it, hating others in my mind and heart.  I must admit that I wish in many ways I could have a do over.   But that is just not in the cards for days gone by.  Tick, tick, tick.

The good news is that each and every day that I wake up I get the opportunity for a do over.  A chance to spend my time on the things that matter most, that is, if that is what I want to do. Which involve loving God first and people next.  When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus (God with skin on) said to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all you mind and all your soul. And to love your neighbor as yourself. That all the prophets and the law hung and these.  Tick, tick, tick.

For some reason, the last half of my tank of gas in my vehicle goes faster than the first.  From what I have experienced so far,  I believe this to be true for my ride through life as well.  Perhaps, I would do well to do what He who spoke Creation in to being suggests.  

Love God with all that I am and love my neighbor the way I would want my neighbor to love me.  Tick, tick, tick.

Because, time, after all, truly does fly.

Be joy filled always, 

Christine Davis