Praying in My Little Red Corvette… Actually, My White Hyundai!

adult automobile automotive car

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Every morning after dropping Paulo off at school, I immediately start saying my prayers…out loud…in the car! Today, I was feeling a little weary from a mentally-exhausting day yesterday. I said, “Lord, I am so sorry, but I just want to listen to some good music right now to decompress. Please accept what I normally say as my prayers, as my prayers today.”
 
Then, Prince came on the XM 80s channel and I thanked God for the creativity He gave Prince, so I could enjoy his music. He was blessed with so much talent. God gifts. Then, I started thanking God for giving each and every one of us different gifts–gifts we can share with others! It could be the gift of playing musical instruments, accounting abilities, acting as a good coach, or just being the go-to person when someone needs a meal during a trying time. Can any one person possess all of these talents? NO WAY!!! We all need each other, even if we don’t know each other.
 
This “laziness” in prayer I experienced was actually a good thing–it led me to WORSHIP Him! And to THANK Him! And to PRAISE Him! Isn’t that what we are supposed to do when we pray? That, Folks, is how the Holy Spirit works. Always inspiring us, even when we don’t have the energy to put words together for prayer. Oh, and that thing I said about our different talents? It reminded me of a very popular scripture:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:1 (NIV)

So, my friends, “Let’s Go Crazy” recognizing and appreciating the God-given talents of everyone we encounter! Next time you hear “I Would Die 4U,” think on the face of Jesus–and worship Him, thank Him, and praise Him.

Advertisements

Who? Me? Read the Bible?

photo of child reading holy bible

Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

Inspired by Matthew 11

“I don’t get it.  I read the words, but they don’t make sense.  I’ll never be a Bible scholar!”

Frustration can easily set in for a Bible newbie.  Often we start out reading the good book in order, beginning with Genesis.  Not too bad.  We understand creation, Adam and Eve, and Noah.  Then, we start getting into Abraham sacrificing his only son Isaac on the altar and start questioning:  Why would God ask him to do such a thing?  We eventually find out it was a test of faith for Isaac.  As we get deeper and further into the Bible, it can all seem like a lot to process.  It’s hard to get over the “thees” and “thys” if we’re reading the King James version.  Often, we just give up.  We don’t feel like we were God’s intended audience or maybe He wrote it for smarter people to interpret for us.

Nothing could be further from the truth!  Look at Matthew chapter 11.

“At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.  Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” (Matthew 11:25-26)

See, Jesus explained that God has made things clear to regular people–not just those with a Divinity degree.  Sometimes, when we have that “childlike faith”, we simply understand.  If it still feels as clear as mud, try another version of the Bible for a while; or, cross-reference versions.  You don’t have to buy all of them–at least buy one hard-copy version that you love.  Then, mark it up!  Underline, write in the margins, make your own notes.  You can go to websites like Bible Gateway to see verses in all versions.

The Bible version I use in my blog is the NIV or New International Version.  Some people say the King James Bible is the most accurate, but I don’t have time to have to work through the Old English.  Other readers favor the Amplified Bible or The Message.  These versions include expanded text and easier language.  Just to give you an example of how those Bibles present the above verse, Matthew 11:25-26:

King James Version
“At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.  Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.”

Amplified Bible
“At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth[I openly and joyfully acknowledge Your great wisdom], that You have hidden these things [these spiritual truths] from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to infants [to new believers, to those seeking God’s will and purpose].  Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.”

The Message
“Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: “Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You’ve concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work.”

When you keep reading through the Bible, you will see connections and words echoed in the Old Testament and New.  Remember that story about Abraham and Isaac?  When Isaac asked Abraham where the lamb was for the burnt offering, “Abraham answered, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” (Genesis 22:8)  Doesn’t that sound like what God did for us?  He provided Jesus, the lamb of God, as a sacrifice, to save us from death. That sentiment is echoed many times throughout the Bible.  Every time you come upon it, you will feel like you are “getting it”.

God will make His meaning clear to you.  Keep reading the Bible! The more you do, the more He’ll reveal to you.  The Bible is spiritual milk.  It will feed you and help you grow as a believer.  Don’t be intimidated.

 

 

2 Things We Don’t Speak Of…But Should

black and white black and white depressed depression

Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Inspired by Matthew 10

There are two things a person should never speak of:  religion and politics.

Many Christian people subscribe to this personal philosophy.  I don’t.  To find out why, just crack your Bible open to Matthew, chapter 10.

Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.  But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33)

God wants us to talk about Him (the religion part).  Yes, this is uncomfortable for many to do.  We come up with a lot of excuses:

— “I don’t want to impose my religion or my God on anyone.”
— “What if I’m known as a “Holy Roller” or “Jesus Freak”?
— “That’s personal.”

When we share the gospel, we are not forcing our faith on others.  Instead, we are giving them a chance to hear about our Father.  Next, we testify how He has worked in our lives and the lives of others we know.  Then,  we allow the individual to decide if they would like to learn more.  You are a walking advertisement for God.  You aren’t selling religion–you’re helping to save souls.

Holy Roller.  Jesus Freak.  If someone calls you that, say “Thank you,” and mean it!  We should wear those titles with even more pride than “Packers Fan” or “Stay-At-Home Mom” or “Honor Roll Student”.  Since we are to find our identity in Christ, those titles are fitting!

Sharing religion is personal.  Yes.  When we talk about our experiences with Him, it is.  However, God is not just our own Father.  He is everyone’s Daddy–even the people who don’t know about Him!  We can’t be selfish.  We need to share Him like we shared our earthly fathers with our siblings.

One of my all-time favorite movies is “Elf”.  Believe it or not, Buddy the Elf gives us a good, albeit, awkward, example of a testimony on how he found his father and his love for him.  Remember the part when Buddy’s father asks him perform his singing telegram?  Here’s what he “sang”:

“I’m… I’m here with my dad. And we never met. And he wants me to sing him a song. And, um, I was adopted. But you didn’t know I was born. So I’m here now. I found you, Daddy. And guess what? I love you. I love you. I love you!”
(Elf, 2003)

Christians, God wants us to talk about Him, but it doesn’t have to be in a singing telegram.  He also wants us to talk about politics.  We don’t have to specifically mention political parties or candidates’ names, but we absolutely must express how we feel about issues, especially those pertaining to abortion, marriage, and religious freedom.  Write and call our government representatives regarding their votes on these issues.  Enlighten those running for office how we feel about these hot topics.  Also, we should feel an obligation to inform our fellow Christians of where these candidates stand on the issues, so they can make informed voting decisions.

Talk about religion and politics.  They’re not taboo.  It’s what God commands us to do.  If we recognize Him in this life, He will recognize us in the next!  Wear your “Hello! My Name Is Christian” sticker with honor!


Elf. (2003). [film] Directed by J. Favreau. (USA): New Line Cinema.

Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves

coins

Photo by Riya Kumari from Pexels

Inspired by Matthew 9

I never thought “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves”, a 1971 hit song by Cher would pop up in my mind while reading the Bible, but here I am writing about it!  The song describes the singer’s colorful family and how they earn a living…and how they are judged by it.

Matthew chapter 9 takes us to an intimate dinner at Matthew the Tax Collector’s house.  You could say these are the “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves” of the Jesus Era.  The guest list baffled the Pharisees:

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:10-11)

Jesus responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Matthew 9:12)  Jesus knew His followers, “the healthy”, bought into his message and would go wherever He was preaching.  He wanted to reach the “spiritually sick”.  He met them where they were.  By doing this, He was able to show love, share His message of hope, and encourage them to transform their lives.  If He sent them a dinner invitation, do you think they would consider themselves worthy to dine with Him?  He had to go out there and actively pursuit them.

We, too, as followers of Christ, must go reach the hopeless, right where they are.  There could be church on every corner and yet there could be a junkie or a call girl right across the street from each one.  Just because there is a building doesn’t mean they will enter it…even if they know it would be good for them.  As my friend, Christian author and blogger Rivera Douthit recently taught at a speaking engagement I went to, we must “Take the church to the people.”  We need to stop worrying what other people will think.  Hurting people–whether behind bars at jail, in a strip club dressing room, or on a street corner covered in newspaper–need Jesus.

I am a huge fan of helping people where they are.  When we do this, every time we leave them, we lower the drawbridge to get out.  They might not be ready to leave their situation, but they are ready to hear more about Jesus’ love and redemption and hope for the future.  We must return to them, crossing the drawbridge we left down.  In time, they could be ready to leave their shelter of hopelessness and cross over the drawbridge to freedom.  Without leaving a bridge for them to cross, their only options are a.) stay in their sinful, hopeless life; or, b.) plummet to their demise.

Jesus is life.  We can be the bridge.  We mustn’t avoid the gypsies, tramps, and thieves around us.  We must embrace them with the same love Jesus gives us.

“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
Leviticus 19:18 (NKJV)

satan is Smiling

black and white person feeling smiling

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

Inspired by Matthew 8

Two girls
from Bartow, Florida,
11 and 12 years young,
conspired to kill innocent schoolmates
in the bathroom,
drink their blood,
and then, 
kill themselves.
To school they brought kitchen knives,
a knife sharpener,
a pizza cutter,
scissors,
a goblet.
A robocall from school alerted a parent her child was not at school.
She was.
Thus began the search for the girl.
She and her friend were in the bathroom…
waiting.
Ready to carry out their plot.
Ready to kill.
Ready to die.
For satan.

 

This is not the plot of a teen horror flick.  Sadly, on Tuesday, this narrative was carried out in live action.  Praise the Lord, the police found the girls before they could harm anyone or themselves.  How could something as sinister as this even come about?  When I was their age, I was sitting by the radio, waiting for my favorite Duran Duran song to come on the radio so I could hit “Play” and “Record” simultaneously on my stereo!  I was playing Mad Libs with friends.  Cheerleading and practicing back walkovers on my grassy front yard.  Riding bikes to friends’ houses.  Fighting with my older sisters to use our shared phone.  Today’s children do not share such a wholesome youth.

Were these girls demon-possessed?  It is very possible.  Media accounts detail some interesting facts in their story:

  • They devised their plan after watching horror films;
  • They searched the internet for ways to kill with a knife, while blood-letting quickly;
  • They believed their murders (sins) would get them into hell;
  • They scrawled violent song lyrics on their murder map;
  • They Snapchatted clues about the planned murdering spree.

I believe there are dark forces in this world.  They want your blood, but they want your childrens’ even more.  The hook comes from music, movies, and social media.  Oh, and you know the über-cool teen store Hot Topic?  They now sell Blackcraft brand clothing.  Dress your darlings in Baphomet, pentagrams, and “Lucipurr”!  If my child came home with a hoodie that read “Unholy”, I would have to perform my own unholy ritual of burning it!

All teens and pre-teens will say, “I don’t get affected by this stuff.”  I pray they don’t.  Maybe the parents of these young murder plotters heard that line, too.  We need to be proactive as parents and know what they are listening to, watching, and buying.  We need to teach them the Word.  And we 100% need to FROG–Fully Rely On God.  We must pray to Him specifically that our children will not get involved with the dark arts.  Innocent colored stones to create a certain feeling can quickly become a hex on someone.  Pray without ceasing for your children’s protection from possession.

Scared yet?  Never fear.  In Jesus, there is always hope.  Evil can still be cast out.  Spiritual scars can be healed by the Lord.  Matthew chapter 8 contains a lot of healing of the people:  physical and spiritual.  Jesus drove out demons–on more than one occasion.  “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.” (Matthew 8:16)  Jesus even healed possessed men and put their demons into swine. (Matthew 28-34)

If you don’t believe Matthew, you can read what Mark had to report about Jesus casting out demons.   Here’s Mark 1:25.  “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.”

There’s also Mark 32-34:  “That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.”

The Gospel of Luke also contains references to Jesus’ healing of the demonically-possessed, and there are many examples of this in the Old Testament, as well. But what about the modern age, today?  Does this still happen?  Yes.  The Catholic Church continues to train priests in exorcism.  That alone tells you satan is still seeking souls to snatch; and, demons are being driven out.

Fight him.  Pray.  Read the Bible.  Fill your eyes and ears with good things and discard the bad things.  Grow your faith and cultivate it in your kids.  Speak life over your children, so death cannot take root.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
(1 Peter 5:8-9)

 

Judge Judy, Judge Kavanaugh, and Jesus

judge-gavel-and-law-books_4460x4460

Inspired by Matthew 7

Look.  I know this sounds like the opening line of a really bad joke:  “Judge Judy, Judge Kavanaugh, and Jesus walk into a bar…”  Okay.  I’ll stop!

Matthew 7 begins with a verse a lot of people on social media like to throw around in their cyber-debates:

Judge not, that ye be not judged.

When I read this verse, I must admit, I let out a slight, “Ugh!”  I hear this all the time, always with the addition of, “Don’t judge me!”  So, how do we interpret these famous words of Jesus that everyone likes to throw around liberally?

First, let’s go back to Moses in the Old Testament book of Exodus.  Moses just explained to his father-in-law Jethro he became a judge. “Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will.  Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.” (Exodus 18:15-16) 

Jethro advised him, “Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him.  Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave.” (Exodus 18:19-20)  That sounds a lot like what Judge Judy does in her small claims court show..without calling the people dummies!

Going back to Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1, we shouldn’t judge others unless we are willing to be judged in the same way.  He further adds if we have a plank in our eye, we shouldn’t tell someone of the speck in theirs. (Matthew 7:4)  Exodus 18 tells us how to be a judge–remind people of God’s instructions.  The Bible, then, is where we find the basis of of righteous living.  When people say, “Don’t judge me,” don’t–on trivial matters.  However, when we Christians see that someone is committing sin, shouldn’t we be like Moses and remind them of God’s decrees?  Yes!  It is our duty to help other Christians stay on the correct path.  Now, if someone is not Christian, perhaps we should “hold the scold” and first lead by example.  In other words, try to live the holy (plank-less) life you think they should be living.

So, when do we get to the Judge Kavanaugh part?  Oh, I just threw that in for a laugh!  Well, since you asked, I will say when people pass judgement on others, they need to judge people fairly and by the same standards.  Judge K was guilty of sexual assault before he could ever try to prove innocence in the court of public opinion.  His accuser fueled the #MeToo movement as it was starting to fade to mere embers.  The mainstream media demonized the man prior to the Senate confirmation hearings.  Likewise, some people refused to listen to the accuser’s side of the story.  Now, less than a month later, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has been accused, also, of sexual assault.  This time, the accuser is a gay man.  There is no #MeToo or #HeToo movement.  In fact, there is nothing.  Crickets.  The mainstream media has decided to completely ignore this accusation.  Judgement in these two cases is different, and that is not just.

Friends, we are living in volatile times.  Let’s try to fix our eyes squarely on Jesus.  Then, we will be less likely to judge.  But when we see our brothers in Christ falling from grace, let’s fix their eyes on Jesus, too.


Judging is such a difficult topic to interpret and deal with.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!  Please comment below.  Thanks!

The Progression of Prayer

man praying

Photo by Key Notez on Pexels.com

Inspired by Matthew 6

God is great,
God is good.
Let us thank Him
for our food. Amen.

Remember this little prayer?  Maybe you recited it as a child or you are teaching it to your toddler now.  It’s a simple prayer with good bones.  Let’s examine:

God is great,
God is good.
(Give praise to God)
Let us thank Him
for our food.  Amen.
(Give thanks to God)

This is a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.  This is how all prayers should begin.  We tell God what we think of Him and then we thank Him for being the provider of everything:  food, family, freedom, anything!  Being a child’s prayer, it is adequate.

As we become more mature in the faith, our simple prayer must also evolve to something with a little more meat and meaning.  Jesus helps us to expand on our prayer in Matthew chapter 6.  This is the perfect model of prayer, the “Our Father”.  People of all Christian denominations learn this prayer when they are young.  We recite it, but do we ever think about the meaning of it all?  Let’s break this down, too.

Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name,
(Praise Him)
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
(Recognize His power)
Give us today our daily bread.
(Thank Him for what we have and ask Him for what we need)
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
(Ask Him to forgive us of sin and help us be forgiving to others)
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
(Ask Him to help us avoid future sin)

We can recite the “Our Father” prayer, placing emphasis on key words; but what if we used it as a blueprint?  We have a customized prayer to God!  We all have different qualities we admire about God.  He has manifested Himself in different ways to each of us.  Certainly, we have unique requests and distinct reasons for thanking Him.  Shouldn’t each of our prayers to Him be original?  I would imagine God Our Father would relish prayers that are as diverse as His children.

Once we become comfortable praying the way Jesus modeled, we can progress to praying with other people and journaling our prayers.  God wants us to grow and not remain stagnant in our relationship with Him.  Prayer is the way we can speak with Him.  The more we do it, the closer we will be with Him.