The Journey

A new journey begins today; the annual spiritual pilgrimage to the cross. For Christians around the world, today marks the beginning of the Lenten season, the 40 days leading up to Christs’ crucifixion.

Many people will celebrate this season by giving something up for Lent, a symbolic representation of a sacrifice made in their own lives to acknowledge the sacrifice Christ made for us. While a humbling and copacetic recognition of His sacrifice, I challenge you all to go deeper this Lent.

As I was cleaning files in my home office a few weeks ago, I came across a Lenten Devotional journal I had received long ago from Insight for Living ministries. This journal will be the basis for my journey this Lent, and I invite you all to come along!

My journey for Lent begins with a funeral; a funeral for a lovely Christian woman who fought a hard battle with cancer and went home to be with Jesus last Saturday. We will miss her greatly, but are so very thankful that we know where she’s gone and we will see her later in Heaven. It is because of His sacrifice that we have the promise of eternal life

I hope you’ll join me in reflecting on the words in today’s devotion. Sin is serious business, and the price that He paid so we wouldn’t have to is enormous. At the very least, let our hearts be humbled today as we begin our spiritual journey.

Blessings,

SB

Copyright 2018 Journey For Life. All rights reserved

Make good choices.. Love, Mom

After a brief text exchange with my college son last night regarding various recent events in his life, he replied, “I’m making good choices, mom”.

When our children are young, we make their choices for them, but as they begin to grow up, they need to begin making choices of their own so that we can help to teach them the difference between good choices and bad choices. We’ve all made bad choices, and so will they. It’s funny, though, how our perspective changes once we are the parent. The truth is, we don’t like to see our kids make choices hat we know will lead them through heartache because we know it will be painful. Worse yet, they could make a choice from which is hard (or impossible) to recover.

When the time comes for them to be completely independent (which, although sad in some ways, IS what we want for our children) I want them to be prepared to think through the consequences of all of their decisions. One method I have used is this admonition: MAKE GOOD CHOICES.

Life is all about choices. I have seen people make some very, very good choices in life, and I have seen people make some very, very bad choices. For every choice car we make, there are consequences. If we are forward thinking enough, we can think about what tho consequences might be given choice A or B, which may help guide us to the best choice. Ultimately I know my children will own their own choices, both big and small. Who to marry, field of employment, place to live, church to attend. I want to equip them with all of the tools to make the very best decisions. But how do we do that?

1. Teach them to think and seek advice from wise people.

The Bible is full of wise advice, as well as examples of good and bad choices. Life, too, is full of good and bad choices. It’s important to talk with our kids about choices we see others make, and point out alternate choices that could have been made to affect different outcomes. This process will help develop critical think skills essential in making good decisions.

Finding other people who can be trusted with choices is also important as we teach our children; people other than their parents who they can trust (face it, when our kids are working hard to prove their independence they may not seek our advice).

2. Let them fail. (This is hard)

This advice is hard to execute because we want our children to have everything better than we did. If we can teach them to own the consequences of their choices in the smaller, seemingly insignificant choices , they will be better equipped to own the big ones too. As we’re teaching them, it is important to refrain from the dreaded, “I told you so” responses that do nothing for building healthy relationships. Let them discover, on their own, consequences from negative choices. Again, this helps build their own decision making process.

3. Love them

Most importantly, continue to love them and keep open relationship, even if the choices they make are different than those you would have made. This step is particularly difficult if their choices are poor, but even more important in this case. Our kids have got to know they always have someone who will help them in time of need.

4. Model itWhether we like to admit or not, our kids follow our lead; the good as well as the bad. For this reason, it is equally important for us to model the lessons we are trying to teach. MAKE GOOD CHOICES.

copyright 2018 Journey-For-Life. All rights reserved

Please follow my journey!

Between Jack Daniels and Jesus

Every year in April, our church hosts the annual Blessing of the Bikes.  It’s an event that started when 4 bikers from the church approached the pastor with an idea to bring their friends to church. The first year, there were 162 bikes, and our town wondered what in the world was going on as they all rolled through.  Over the years, that event has blossomed and is very well-known in the area.  Our town actually sends the Mayor and emergency workers now, and even shuts down traffic for a while, to allow the event to be held.  It’s a completely free event, because, in the words of our pastor, “so is a gift of salvation”.   This year, on the 20th anniversary, we estimated approximately 15,000 bikes piled in – to our parking lot, and the adjacent streets, and the parking lots along the highway.  Figuring many bikes had 2 riders, we’d say there were A LOT of people who turned out for the event.  For the past 13 years, I have had the privilege of participating in the music for the service.   This year, our good friend Dave Smith, sang a song called “Jack Daniels & Jesus”.   I’m pretty sure there wasn’t another church in the country that sang that song on Sunday.

(By the way, I think there’s a message in here somewhere about starting a “movement” – it doesn’t take something BIG to make something BIG – it just requires someone to dream it and make it reality).

I am watching life unfold for several young adults – some of them are making some very good life decisions, and some of them are making some incredibly bad life decisions, some of them very, very public, and some of them very private.   My heart breaks.   In almost all of the cases, I say to myself, (and I’ve heard their parents say), “but they were raised differently than that”   and then I remember the words, “somewhere between Jack Daniels and Jesus” and remembered that we’re really ALL somewhere on that journey.   I haven’t had Jack Daniels in over 30 years.  One REALLY BAD experience with it all those years ago, and I can’t even smell the stuff to this day…. And I was raised differently than that…. Still, I made some poor life choices along the way – hopefully, ones that I have learned from, and that have made me stronger.  By the grace of God alone, He brought me through those poor choices and gave me a second chance, or maybe a third and fourth.   And, by the grace of God, He will bring those folks through their choices as well, allowing U-turns to correct their course.   Pray for them, will ya?

 

Resolve

At 13 she gave her life to Christ, determined to live a life to honor God for her whole life.  At 23 she met the man of her dreams and married him.   He, too, loved Jesus. Within the first five years of their marriage she suffered three miscarriages.  At 28 she and her husband adopted a beautiful baby boy and named him David.  When David was three years old there was a terrible fire at their home.  She was burned over 80% of her body trying to smother the flames the engulfed her beloved son.   He did not survive.   She spent six weeks in the hospital, refusing the morphine offered her because she didn’t like the way it made her feel.   Doctors visited from all over to observe her healing, amazed that she had survived.  They told her she was a “miracle'”.   She knew that God was with her. Her faith unwavering, her inner resolve and refused to allow her to succumb to her injuries.  

Four months after losing their son, they adopted a beautiful baby girl with big brown eyes.  Almost two years later, they adopted another baby girl, and it seemed as if life was normalizing, as much as it does after the death of a child.

Three years after adopting their second daughter, her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Unwavering faith, the two of them remained strong in their relationship with one another as well as with God.  

After five years in remission, her husbands’ cancer returned with a vengeance, this time taking his life and leaving her to raise two small children. 

Undaunted on the outside, the inner strength of this woman taught her daughters that belonging to Jesus does not shield us from bad things happening.  Instead, she couldn’t imagine going through these battles without Jesus.  

It would have been easy for her to become a victim of any one of the difficult life circumstances, let alone all of them.  Undoubtedly there were moments of doubt along the way, but her obligation to her children – to instill in them the faith she clung to – motivated her to show strength.

In some ways, people would argue God didn’t hear her prayers, but she knows that He did.  He answered them in ways that He knew would ultimately be best for His purpose.  

Copyright Journey-For-Life. 2017. All rights reserved. 

Isaiah 54 (the living translation)

Future Glory for Jerusalem
1″Sing, O childless woman,

you who have never given birth!

Break into loud and joyful song, O Jerusalem,

you who have never been in labor.

For the desolate woman now has more children

than the woman who lives with her husband,”

says the LORD.

2″Enlarge your house; build an addition.

Spread out your home, and spare no expense!

3For you will soon be bursting at the seams.

Your descendants will occupy other nations

and resettle the ruined cities.

4″Fear not; you will no longer live in shame.

Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you.

You will no longer remember the shame of your youth

and the sorrows of widowhood.

5For your Creator will be your husband;

the LORD of Heaven’s Armies is his name!

He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,

the God of all the earth.

6For the LORD has called you back from your grief–

as though you were a young wife abandoned by her husband,”

says your God.

7″For a brief moment I abandoned you,

but with great compassion I will take you back.

8In a burst of anger I turned my face away for a little while.

But with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”

says the LORD, your Redeemer.

9″Just as I swore in the time of Noah

that I would never again let a flood cover the earth,

so now I swear

that I will never again be angry and punish you.

10For the mountains may move

and the hills disappear,

but even then my faithful love for you will remain.

My covenant of blessing will never be broken,”

says the LORD, who has mercy on you.

11″O storm-battered city,

troubled and desolate!

I will rebuild you with precious jewels

and make your foundations from lapis lazuli.

12I will make your towers of sparkling rubies,

your gates of shining gems,

and your walls of precious stones.

13I will teach all your children,

and they will enjoy great peace.

14You will be secure under a government that is just and fair.

Your enemies will stay far away.

You will live in peace,

and terror will not come near.

15If any nation comes to fight you,

it is not because I sent them.

Whoever attacks you will go down in defeat.

16″I have created the blacksmith

who fans the coals beneath the forge

and makes the weapons of destruction.

And I have created the armies that destroy.

17But in that coming day

no weapon turned against you will succeed.

You will silence every voice

raised up to accuse you.

These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the LORD;

their vindication will come from me.

I, the LORD, have spoken!

Thoughts and prayers

I read a tweet shortly after the reports of the mass shooting in a church near San Antonio, that said, “thoughts and prayers failed again.”  My heart is broken.

Did our thoughts and prayers fail?

I’ve spent evenings this weekend watching episodes of horrific real life stories on ID TV, which left me thinking about all of the evil that exists in the world.   Episode after episode, incredible stories of wives who murdered their husbands, boyfriends who murdered girlfriends, friends who murdered friends.  While I find the stories fascinating, I must admit that the sheer volume of stories of such violence is alarming.  These are only the ones they’ve publicized.  Our morning news is polluted with acts of violence. I can understand why someone could draw the conclusion that our prayers failed.

Just weeks after the Mandolay Bay shooting, once again the nation mourns a tragic mass shooting, this time in San Antonio.   We post photos on our Facebook profiles that say, “pray for San Antonio”.

The tweeter’s words are haunting.  Really haunting.  His words make it sound like God has failed us, that our prayers are futile. Have we become so calloused from continued exposure to such evil in our world that our words sound shallow?

Did our thoughts and prayers fail?

Is God turning a deaf ear to our prayers?  The Bible tells of growing evil in the last days.  Though we don’t know when it will be, the book of Revelation is clear that there will come a time that God will say enough is enough.  God is a just God.  However, God wishes that all would come to know Him.

Our message in church today was centered on 1 Corinthians 16:9 “because a great door had been opened and there will be many who oppose”.  As we do more of God’s will, we often face more adversity.  Conversely, in the face of adversity, there are often doors of opportunity to share our faith with others.

At the risk of sounding trite by saying “pray for San Antonio”, I know that the community is grieving this evening, just as the communities of Las Vegas, New York, Columbine, Paducah, South Carolina, Florida, and countless other communities who struggle to understand the evil that lurks among them.    Hard to understand, for sure.  We may never understand in this side of heaven the extent of hatred of the Evil One that permeates our world, but know this: your prayers are not futile, and they haven’t failed.

I will continue praying for the people who have endured evil in this world, that they may know the peace that passes understanding that comes only through our Lord  and Savior Jesus Christ!

I leave you with this challenge today:

As you listen to discussions around the water cooler this week,  keep you eyes opened for the doors of opportunity to open to share a time when God heard your prayers; not only heard them, but answered them; not only small ones, but big ones, too; perhaps even during a time of adversity when it seemed He wasn’t listening.

See, we are His witnesses.  A witness is someone who testified what they have seen.   As believers in Him, we have seen him answer prayers.  It is our duty not only to continue praying for a lost world, but to share with that world what He has done for us individually.

No, our thought and prayers have not failed. Let’s bless others this week with stories of how He has answered our prayers.
Blessings,

SB
Copyright Journey-For-Life. 2017. All rights reserved. 

Bent Nails

Theology in Nails?

There are many theological references one can make about nails – the obvious one relating to the nails that pierced Jesus’ hands.   However, during my basement remodel project, I thought about a different theological application of nails… the bent ones.  Been there?  (This picture is actually from google images, but it COULD have been taken in my basement – except that I’ve already gotten rid of the evidence… except one, which is my favorite.  I will save that for another time.   hahah)

 

bent nails

I’m probably the only one that does this, but when you’re pounding a nail in, and you can feel it starting to go south on you…. do you a) stop hitting it, pull it out, (mumbling curse words under your breath – or straight out loud) and get a different nail b) hit the nail from a slightly different direction, hoping to correct it and get it “back on track” or c) continue hitting, hoping for the best?   I’ve done all of the above.   And honestly, when I’m doing item b above, I am thinking to myself (Every time), “this is probably what God is doing right now…. Hitting me upside the head from a different direction, hoping I will ‘get it’ this time”   and then I’m sad when it goes completely south.  Every once in a while, I’ve been able to correct a south-bound nail – and I am ecstatic!   And I think, “VICTORY!!!”    and I wonder if God gets just as ecstatic when someone “gets it” – the Bible tells us there is rejoicing in heaven when a sinner comes home – I believe that is true..  You see, the cool thing about God is that, no matter how crooked the path, He always allows U-turns.   There are times when it takes us getting “hit with a hammer” to really get what God is saying to us.   No matter how bent the nail, Jesus can restore us for His original purpose.  

 Copyright Journey-For-Life. 2017. All rights reserved.