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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Jesus' Mercy Compels Us to "Go and Sin No More"!

John 8:3-11, "As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd,“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery.The law of Moses says to stone her.What do you say?”
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman.Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.  And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
No one knows for sure what Jesus was writing in the dust of the ground when the Scribes and Pharisees threw the woman at His feet. Many speculations have been made and so I will add my two cents based on what I know about God and His word.
Jesus being 100% God, when He stooped down, MAYBE He was writing each name of the woman's accusers, beginning with the eldest...and then MAYBE he wrote her name? After all, the Son of God knows every person's name (read Psalm 139 and Isaiah 43:1). Knowing one's name is a sign of relationship. So maybe Jesus was wanting to convey, "I know YOU and desire a relationship with you. I did not come to condemn anyone, for all have sinned. I desire to show MERCY and GRACE to all who believe in Me." 
If He was spelling out each person's name, did they watch in disbelief and wonder what was going on? Did they whisper to one another, "How does He know my name?" Again, if this was the case, I can only image what was going through their minds.
Not recognizing His mercy, these men were bent on pointing their finger, judging and condemning this woman. After all, The Law of Moses permitted them to stone 'such a woman'...Their religious pride blocked them from seeing their own sin and it demanded an answer from Jesus.
Jesus stood up, looked them in the eyes and spoke, "Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone."
One by one these religious men dropped their stones and the people in the crowd dropped their heads, because they were SINNERS too. Jesus was the only One in the crowd that had NEVER sinned.  So being without sin, He was the only One with the right to throw the first stone... As a matter of fact, He had the right to condemn all who were in the crowd that day. But instead Jesus, sinless Son of God, showed them all mercy. Mercy rippled through the crowd that day and the woman, broken and ashamed, immediately felt His mercy and recognized Jesus as Lord when He said to her, "Nor do I accuse you. Go and sin no more." I wonder how many others HEARD his words of mercy and were impacted for all eternity that day?

You see, people have not changed. We are quick to point the finger and judge someone else's visible sin, all the while acting as though we are innocent because our sins have not been exposed. We are quick to say in our condescending voice, "I can't believe they did that! I would never do such a thing!" or "She thinks she's holier-than-thou". People, no matter which direction you are pointing, it's still a judging finger!

Nor had God changed! Through His Holy eyes, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him" (John 3:16-17). 

Jesus' words of mercy echoes throughout all time and humble, repentant hearts will hear Him say, "Go and sin no more." This doesn't mean we will never sin again, it simply means that we desire to turn from our sin and live according to God's will, not our own. I know personally, when I sin, it breaks His heart and therefore, breaks mine. However, when we continue a sinful lifestyle, it magnifies US and diminishes Him! The watching world only sees, "God doesn't have the power to change lives." Mercy changed the adulteress woman that day! Mercy gave her a new identity when Jesus compelled her to turned from her sinful life and follow Him.  Mercy calls each of us to do the same! After all, we are all "adulterous" people in need of His mercy!

Mercy is not giving people what they deserve. Grace us giving us what we don't deserve.
"But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not  on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy" (Titus 3:4-5).
"For by grace you have been saved through faith" (Ephesians 2:8).

Father God, forgive me for pointing my finger and acting as if I do not sin. I know I am a sinner saved by Your grace. Forgive me of my hidden sins and the sins that are exposed. Help me to go and sin no more so that the world watching sees the power of Your saving grace! Empty me of self, filling me with Your Holy Spirit so that I can be used by You to draw others to Your Majesty!
Lord, help me to extend mercy and grace to others and love all people as You love a sinner like me. In Jesus' Name I pray!

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Christmas Miracle!

Around this time 5 years ago, my mom was diagnosed with with stage IV lung cancer. The Doctors only gave her 6-8 months to live so I was determined to be with her as long as I could, no matter the cost. My husband and children stayed in Florida while I traveled to Missouri to be with my mom. I was truly blessed by my work which allowed me to transfer to a center close to my mom :)
As many of you know with Christmas, there is an added pressure to work more so that you are able to buy your loved ones gifts. Well, all our money went to me traveling and helping my mom with her prescriptions. On top of that I was only able to work about 20 hours a week because I took mom to her doctors appointments, radiation treatments, and to the hospital.  

With Christmas just a few weeks away, I was going to have to tell our kids that they wouldn't have any Christmas presents. I remember talking to my daughter on the phone and telling her that I was praying for a miracle and that we simply couldn't afford gifts this year. She said, "Mom I just want to see grandma and you for Christmas. I don't need any gifts."
I,of course, cried! I said, "Baby, God knows our heart's desire and He will provide according to His will. If He wants you all to be here, He will get you here!"

A few days later I received an email from my daughter's cheer-leading coach. She asked,"How can we pray for your family and what is one thing that each of your kids really want for Christmas? We want them to have something for Christmas so where can I send the presents? We know your family is going through a lot right now and we want to help lighten your burden."
I was humbled and began to weep. This woman barely knew us. We had only been in Florida and at Westminster Academy a few months. "Why would this family want to do this?" Many thoughts went through my mind. What can I ask her to pray about and what do my kids really want...I replied to her email with a few prayer requests and a couple items my kids had on their list. 
The only thing I wanted for Christmas was to have my family with me in Missouri. The reality of this happening seemed impossible! I prayed and others were praying for God to make a way...and I'm here to SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOF TOPS, He made a way! My husband was called to the office of the Head Master, and the school provided the money for us to purchase plane tickets for all four of our kids! That's right! GOD MADE A WAY! Not only that but within a week, a package came to my brother's home for my kids! 
Matthew 19:26, "But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

One tradition that our family looks forward to every year; we all gather around the tree and under our tree we have a manger scene. We then read Luke chapter two, praise God for sending Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, and then each of us take a piece of paper and write something we want to give to Jesus for His birthday.

Christmas 2008, in Richmond, Missouri, my kids and I sat in my brother's living room before everyone got up and did just that but without my husband, who was coaching an all-star game in South Carolina, and
without the manger. It was sad because he wasn't there but it was still a very special moment. My oldest son read the story of Jesus' birth, we thanked God for all that He had provided us, then we gave our "gift" to Jesus.  After lots of tears my kids opened their gifts from "Santa" and we were all full of joy, unspeakable JOY!

We can never repay the kindness and compassion that was shown to our family during one of the most difficult times of my life! I can never give a monetary amount of money to suffice the purchase of four plane tickets to get my kids to Missouri from south Florida that Christmas day. I will always be full of gratitude towards these "strangers" that took the time to pray for us and then became the vessel for God to answer our prayers and allow our kids the opportunity to spend Christmas with their grandma!

Christmas is about being a vessel to bless another...whether you know them or that vessel for God to answer someone's prayers. Then you will understand that it is more of a blessing to give than receive! Maybe you can be the answer that allows for a Christmas Miracle! 
Blessings to you and yours during this Christmas season!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

CHRISTmas for the CHRISTian!

The Lord was speaking to my heart about how we, as Christ followers, celebrate the birth of our Savior that Holy Night thousands of years ago. Why do I get sucked into what everyone else does or expects during a time that should be sacred to the Believer?
The awe of Jesus' birth has been replaced with awe of Santa Claus...the treasured gifts of the wise men have been replaced by mountains of gifts under our trees...the wonder and fear of the shepherds that Holy Night has been replaced by the wonder and fear of missing out on a one night sale...and The Spirit of CHRISTmas has been replaced with the Magic of the Holidays.

We live in a country that has commercialized Christmas; therefore, the TRUE meaning has been belittled and even cast out of our society. We say, "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" and celebrate with Santa, elves, decorated trees, lights, outdoor pop-ups, and presents galore. We're willing to go into debt, and not pay our bills just to buy more stuff and call it "celebrating" Christmas. Oh, and then, we add a little "baby Jesus in the manger" nativity set and even attend a Christmas service just to suffice our Christian religion.

But what if there were no Christmas trees, decorations, lights, Santa and his elves, no presents...What would the American Christmas look like? Would there be a "Christmas spirit" or would the holiday seem bleak? Unfortunately, I believe that if we did not celebrate the commercialized holiday, there would be a "dark cloud of Holiday despair" among Americans, yes, even Christians.

I have personally experienced this, "dark cloud of Holiday despair" when we couldn't afford the gifts our children put on that infamous list. As a parent of four, I often do whatever it takes to make Christmas special for my kids, and I get stuck in "commercial land" and believe they will only be happy with lots of gifts under the tree on Christmas morning.

I even went back in time to my own childhood, where a single mom on welfare raised her kids to the best of her ability and resources. I remember when we didn't have presents under the tree, and I thought Santa only visited the rich kids, or I must have been on Santa's naughty list A LOT! This commercialized holiday we call Christmas, has become a time of depression for many adults and sadness for children for various reasons.

Worst of all, when people from other countries see our Holiday celebrations throughout the month of December, they believe we are celebrating the coming of the New Year...How sad to think that we have become so materialistic that this once Christian nation is no longer shining forth the birth of God's One and Only Son, Jesus. Instead we scream "Bigger is Better", accumulate as much stuff as you can and if your home can't fit it all, go out and rent a storage unit...SAD!

How do you feel about our commercialized American Christmas? How do you and I make it truly about Christ and His Holy Birth? When it's all said and done, The Greatest Gift you and I can give to a hurting world is the True meaning of CHRISTmas lived out in our lives, after all we are CHRISTians!

I hope I am not the only one who feels this conviction??

"Oh Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining
 It is the night of our dear Savior's birth"