A Strange Place to Find a Gift

black gift

I was looking for a specific verse this morning on gifts, and through my word search I glanced across a gift in the book of Revelation. My first thought was “That’s a strange place to find a gift!” And so my curiosity got me and I had to follow it through. It was not the kind of Christmas message I had planned on receiving this morning, it would more than likely fit into the Halloween season. I like the gift stories with happy endings; no happy ending here.

Revelation 11

And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.

10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.

11 And after three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.

Wow! Did you catch that? Here we are in the latter days of the world, the end times, and the two prophets which God had warned them would come have been murdered. A prideful, arrogant world leaves their bodies lying in the street and celebrates around them; SENDING EACH OTHER GIFTS! Oh my goodness… how wicked does this world get that we go from celebrating life, to celebrating death?

Not so long ago, in the year of my salvation, 1996; I would read the book of Revelation and it would read like a sci-fi flick. I could barely imagine the reality of it. Now it reads like yesterday’s news. Truth? So how is this a Christmas message? Thanks to the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ our Lord, I’ll have no part of this story. This is one gift that you should make sure that you, your family or friends have no part of. Their celebration only lasts a few days until God breaths the life back in those two prophets, then I figure the arrogance and prideful attitudes were drained from their day like the color from their face when they realized “their back!”

I know that’s not a very Merry Christmas message, but it’s one I want to take to heart as I celebrate the Holidays. I want to remember not only what I’ve been given, but what’s been taken away. God is so good…I am so not. I deserve the worst, yet He has afforded me the best. Merry Christmas Child of God!!!!! Thank Him and Praise Him this wonderful, blessed season of gift giving and receiving.

How much do you own?

divine real estate

I need to share a story, totally stolen from my Pastor’s sermon yesterday, which I’m sure he stole from someone else’s sermon which they stole, and so on and so forth; just a vicious cycle of thievery but a great illustration none the less…

There was a wealthy, farmer in Texas who owned a large and productive ranch but he didn’t know Jesus. He invited the local pastor over one day, and desiring to impress the minister he walked him across his well-manicured lawn. He pointed to the east and told the man of God, “Look out there Pastor, as far as you can see to the east, I own it!” Then he pointed to west, and proclaimed again, “And Pastor, as far as you can see to the west, that is mine too,” he boasted proudly! He did likewise to the north and to the south.

The old Pastor without hesitation said, “That’s great!” But pointing skyward he asked “But how much property do you own there?”

There is wonderful humor and great truth in that tale. It will no doubt be one of my favorites for a long time. I get in a whiny way and wish that I had better, and more and greater and in reality I have all that I need and so much more than most that I’m ashamed that I ever complained. The Pastor’s message was right on time for me… they usually are. I’m sure I’m not the only one that gets their eyes so focused on the earth they lose sight of Heaven.

I turned 52 this year, it seems but yesterday that I was 16 and now I minister to 16 year old who refer to me as “Miss Shari” like a saintly old grandmother. Actually that’s a slight exaggeration, they are kind, but it’s quite apparent that the generation gap is looking more like a canyon. My heart breaks for them… because the world is so competitive for their soul. If it competes for mine the way it does at my age, I know, with as young as they are the competition is much steeper.

The world tells them they need the best car, the biggest house, the greatest technology and it’s wrapped up with a bow waiting for them to launch towards it, all with the intention of taking them further and further away from the will and way of God. It is my job as well as every other Sunday School Teacher and Youth Minister to draw their minds to Christ, which we know to be the greater wealth… but Satan is a sly dog.

So the farmer story hit too close home for me because I had turned into a whiny, sniveling brat who had desires that were obviously not of God or He would have already given them to me. And I’m pretty sure He doesn’t give them to me because I have the attention span of a puppy in a room full of squeaky toys. True story. The more bells there are ringing in my life the less time I spend with the giver of all. The difference between the farmer and I is that I own as far skyward as you can see, but I forget to brag about it.

So today I’m looking up… to where my riches lie.

In the book of Luke 24 verses 51-52, Jesus is traveling the last few steps on earth during this era of time:

And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:

He’s coming back folks! The disciples knew it and they not only returned to Jerusalem with great joy, they spread that great joy. Tell someone today about the real estate deal of a life time that they’ll miss out on if they don’t know Jesus!

Did you think that God had forgotten you?

isaiah 40

I must confess there have been times that, although I didn’t think the Lord had forgotten about me, I may have thought He was tired of hearing from me. After all, I grow weary of people whining, just think about how many whiners the Lord listens to each day! I was in one of those modes yesterday… whine, whine, whine… I got sick of listening to myself. Praise the LORD it’s Sunday! I needed a spiritual kick in the pants and Isaiah gave me one this morning when I read his words in chapter 40.

Isaiah 40

21 Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?

22 It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:

Have ye not known? That was a real bell ringer for me this morning. “You know the answer to this Shari, you’ve heard it again and again from the beginning of your salvation and from the beginning of time God has preached it to men. I understand everything you’re going through.”

And He does! The ignorance of men never ceases to amaze me, self-included. We think we catch God off guard by our day to day musings of life, and the scientific world thinks that the answers to creation lies in a text book, when there in verse 22, long before Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and they thought he would surely sail off the end of the earth; Isaiah proclaims that God “sitteth upon the circle of the earth.” Hmmmm…. and exactly how did he know that. And how is it that Job said that God “hangeth the earth upon nothing” In Job 26 verse 7? That coming from the oldest book in the Bible. Oh how I need this reminder this morning!

God knows everything I’m going through. He doesn’t mind if I whine… well maybe He does, but He tolerates me just the same, I’m not the first He’s heard. You really should read all of Isaiah 40 for your own encouragement today, but by way of brevity to start our day I’ll skip to verse 28-31. The latter of which is one you’re most likely familiar with. But listen to the words leading into it…

28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.

29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.

30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:

31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Have we not known and heard that that God is eternal? You can’t get to be eternal by growing tired… that’s a long time. We grow weary, even the young grow weary and some just collapse along the way but God does not. He is there listening to us, encouraging us and cheering us on until we reach the day that we shall be with Him.

Are you waiting? As in serving not as in sitting. It is those who serve God that renew their strength. I’m headed to church today to serve Him in whatever capacity He will allow. It is there that I get my battery recharged and refueled for the week to come. I hope today finds you in the house of the Lord!

Going off the Grid

off the grid

Some may or may not have noticed that my posts have been somewhat sporadic of late. Although family responsibilities have attributed to some of my time away, it has more often been an intentional time off the grid. I needed some time to reconnect with the creative side of me that social networking sometimes consumes. I’ve painted a little, gotten to know a girl named Miriam, worked on some book material, wrote a song, picked and grinned and just overall enjoyed the time…it was long overdue… and not yet finished.

In Matthew 14:22 it says “And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.” Constrained meaning He had to force them to go.

Jesus had just lost His cousin and friend John the Baptist, He’d had compassion on the multitude and healed the sick, He’d fed 5000 with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes…. I’m exhausted just writing the words. He’d been through the wringer in His personal life and in the ministry and so had His friends. The day to day issues of our lives are much the same if you’re involved in ministering to people; there comes a time when you just have to get away. It’s unfortunate that I don’t have a mountain to steal away to, I have a kitchen table; so that has to do and it does. My grid’s not very big, so it doesn’t take me too long to go off the grid and get back.

Jesus’ grid must not have been very big either…

23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.

24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.

Jesus wasn’t gone very long until His friends were facing contrary times again. That’s life, is it not? We’re coming out of one trial and going into the next. There’s an occasional reprieve but they’re rare; granted most are minuscule  in comparison to the trials of other people, but they’re ours and it daunting none the less. It takes its toll on you emotionally and physically and above all spiritually. So what’s a gal to do?

Go off the grid for a little while, and not just 15 minutes or an hour. Find yourself some serious time, get your bible and gather your gifts… and allow God to minister to your soul. Gifts? Mine was a paint brush and canvas, a guitar and a computer. All things that I already had… God’s generally already given you what you need. Just go. Take the phone off the hook, or at best check caller I.D. You know the calls you shouldn’t answer!

As I said… I didn’t have a mountain or a hotel to go to… although that would have been nice! All I had was a kitchen table and it was very nice. I really didn’t even go off the grid, just to the edge of it away from the hoopla of life. You can do it! Let me know how it goes.

Would Your Bells be Ringing?

sound of grace

I’m often shocked at just how unholy I am. Christians all play the “flesh” card, touting that the Devil made us do it, or the Spirit is mighty but the flesh is weak theology; which is true but doesn’t justify sin. The truth is we’re all just sinners.

1 John 1:8 says If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

So now that we’re all on the same playing field let’s Praise God for New Testament times for I am certain I wouldn’t have made it past the door as an Old Testament priest.

Exodus 28:33-35

And beneath upon the hem of it thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the hem thereof; and bells of gold between them round about: A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about. And it shall be upon Aaron to minister: and his sound shall be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the Lord, and when he cometh out, that he die not.

I can’t hardly hear a jingle bell ringing that I don’t think about that text and the weight that was upon the man of God that entered into the Holy of Holy’s. The reasoning behind those bells was that should they stop ringing they would know the Priest had not been right with God and had been killed. They would then drag him out by a rope that was placed around him prior to entering the room. Anybody up to that test today? Umm…. I’m thinking no. Praise God for the grace we live under today!

I would give you a running list of my sins but I try to keep this blog post to 500 words. As I said in the opening paragraph, I’m shocked at how unholy I can be. Put me in the right setting with the right conversation and I’ll chime in to the juiciest gossip you’d like to know. I won’t start it, but I’ll certainly listen in and respond accordingly. I’m highly opinionated, which is also translated as pride sometimes, I can get a little self-righteous. And then I go into a place like the correctional facility (aka prison) that I went into last night and I realize that the only difference between me and the fellas in that prison is my clothes were cuter and I was allowed to leave. Humbling…

So this Christmas when you hear the bells… Take a few minutes to thank God for Grace!