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What’s so good about Good Friday?

Do you ever find it odd that we call today Good Friday when very little good that happened that day? Jesus started His week entering Jerusalem to shouts of praise and “Hosanna to the King!” but by Friday He stood bruised and beaten before a judge, awaiting His sentence of death.

None of this was a surprise to Jesus. This was the culmination of His mission – His ultimate purpose in coming to earth, but knowing the purpose didn’t make it easy or less painful. Remember Jesus was fully & completely man. He was as human as you and me.

Jesus felt every time the whip hit His skin and broke it open.

The air stung his wounds but they didn’t stop.

Over and over He was lashed.

Jesus felt the thorns press into His scalp, burying themselves into His skin for the duration of the day.

He felt each fist that struck His face

…but He never showed anger towards His enemies. He stood there and took it.

The mocking of the soldiers hurt too. While Jesus had the love of God and knew that the words weren’t true they still impacted Him. Perhaps the worst pain of all was watching each of His disciples flee from those who arrested Him, fearing the same fate for themselves. And then Peter. The friend who just the day before had declared his allegiance to Jesus denied that he knew Him three times.

It’s difficult to comprehend the physical pain Jesus went through, but when I stop and think about it I am so grateful He went through with it all.

He didn’t have to, you know.

Then there was the long walk up the hill towards the place He would die. Think of the pictures and films you’ve seen of Jesus carrying, or perhaps dragging the cross to Golgotha. That cross, likely weighing over 100 pounds, pressed down on an already weakened Christ as He moved toward His last hours. At the top of the hill Jesus stopped walking and allowed nails to be pounded into His hands and feet, hanging Him on that same cross He carried.

Jesus walked that road for you and for me.

At any time Jesus could have called an end to all of this. All the while Jesus hung on the cross people taunted and teased Him to save Himself, or call the angels to take Him down off the cross. What His mockers didn’t realize that Jesus could have. At any moment He could have proven He is God and didn’t have to hang there.

But He didn’t.

When Jesus Christ called out from the cross “It is finished!” He was speaking of death’s curse over the earth. The curse of death came when Adam and Eve chose to sin. From that moment on we have been separated from God’s perfection by sin – our sin. Jesus lived His life on earth without sin, then allowed Himself to be killed as the final sacrifice for each of us.

This is the GOOD that came from Good Friday!!

Any man, woman or child who believes Jesus is Christ our Savior and accepts Him as Leader of his or her life will also conquer death and will live forever in a perfect Heaven.

On this Good Friday, take some time from your Easter preparations to relive the events of Christ’s crucifixion and reflect on the price Jesus paid. He paid that price for you! I’m so grateful He did.

Oh Jesus, how could You have made that long walk to Your death? You were weak from beatings, weary from mocking, and weighed down by both the cross You carried and the sins of every person who ever lived or will live.

I am humbled and so grateful You made the choice to endure this for me and for each one who believes. Thank you hardly seems like enough.

Lord, please never let us forget the price You paid and the pain You endured to save me from eternal death. I can never fully comprehend and thank You seems like hardly enough, but it’s all we have to offer. Thank You for the cross. Thank You for the price You paid. Thank You for loving us more than we can comprehend.

 

As Easter weekend approaches with the Easter eggs, chocolate bunnies, and family time, please take some time to consider the price Jesus paid to make this Easter more than a celebration of Spring. If all of this talk of the cross, Jesus’ sacrifice and the free gift of Salvation doesn’t make sense to you, please ask me, or seek out someone who can answer your questions.  Make this Friday the best Friday you’ve ever experienced, and this Easter one you’ll never forget.

Blessings to you all!
Paula

 

 

 

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Color Outside of the Lines!

I appeal to you therefore, brothers,by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:1-2 ESV

Do you like to do paint-by-number or color-by-number pictures? I used to enjoy them when I was a kid, diligently working to make my finished project look like the one on the box. I still enjoy the relaxation that coloring in coloring books brings me. There’s no pressure to decide what I’m going to draw or color, I just fill in the lines. It helps relieve stress I might be carrying and gives me a sense of satisfaction to complete a picture. What I didn’t realize is that I sometimes try to live my life as if it were a picture to be colored or a paint-by-number to be filled in.

Life is not intended to be color-by-number! Romans 12:2 urges us to offer our bodies as sacrifices, not conforming to the pattern of the world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds. Patterns presented in the form of other people can be helpful guidelines, but God didn’t create me or you to be an exact pattern of another earthly person. Striving to duplicate the life of another only brings us stress and a sense of failure. If you and I don’t allow God to put His unique touch on us, the picture of our lives won’t turn out the way He intended.

Have you ever been to one of those painting places where everybody paints the same picture guided by an instructor? At the end of the class time no one’s painting looks the same although they all worked off of the same example. I believe the Christian life is meant to be similar to this. God has given us commandments to follow and examples in other faithful Christians who came before us, but God never intended for us to be those other Christians. God meant for us to look at the example that they set and how they point back to Him, helping us live and serve God and others better.

When we present ourselves to God day by day and ask for His guidance on how we can best serve Him we will find freedom in being who God created us to be. As we work and play alongside other Christians we will find how we complement each other and can encourage each other through our journey. Our differences can strengthen our relationships as we learn from each other and allow fellow believers to fill in spaces of our pictures where we are lacking color or shading. We will find our lives to be fuller and more satisfying, both to us and the Lord.

I encourage you today friends, don’t try to live your life as an exact duplicate of anyone else but Jesus! Look at who God has placed in your life as positive examples and ask Him how you might add some of what they have to your picture, and don’t be afraid to color outside the lines! Let the Lord show you where you are limiting yourself by trying to conform to a pattern He has not intended for you and push beyond those limits. Watch how your unique strengths and even weaknesses can be used to make you a beautiful picture, pleasing to the Lord and encouraging to others.

Go wild today and paint a beautiful picture!!

Blessings…
Paula

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Saving Daylight?

This morning at 2am, while most of us slept, Daylight Savings Time arrived for another year. I’m not as big a fan of daylight savings as some people are. It’s not that I don’t like the extended daylight at the end of the day. It’s great to have it lighter when I head home from work, and nice to be able to go for a walk or do some work outside after supper. However, more light later in the day means sacrificing light earlier in the morning, and it’s easier to get up at 5am knowing the sun is soon behind me.

No longer. It will be the end of March before the sun rises before 7am and the end of April before it is up before 6am. So it’s an exchange really, we don’t actually gain any daylight when we change the clocks, we just take it off the top of our day to add it to the bottom. But, when I stop grumbling I remember that with this switch also comes hope that Spring will soon arrive, and I begin to think about Spring and Summer activities. I plan for the gardens and flowers I’ll plant. I plan for trips I want to take and waterfalls I want to explore. And as I plan, I try to remember Jesus’ words:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.  James 4:13-16

I don’t think God is against setting goals and making plans for our days. It seems to me that if we are to serve Him effectively we need to think ahead a little. But our plans should always be subject to His revisions or allowing Him to strike them completely. To make the most of our days we should always start with a conversation with the Lord, both talking AND listening to see who He would have us touch and how we can best serve Him.

We also shouldn’t leave that conversation in the morning. We need to be in touch with God all day to adjust our attitudes and actions to match what He would have us do. I often struggle with this one, getting to the end of the day and looking back, seeing too late opportunities I missed because I wasn’t paying attention. That makes me sad. I’m going to work on doing better.

So my friends, whether you like this springing ahead stuff or not, allow yourself to take the time to think about today and what the Lord has for you. Do the good He has for you this day, and go to bed tonight with the peace of knowing you’ve done the best you could for Him.

blessings and peace to you!
Paula

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Valentine’s Day Perspective

How I used to dread Valentine’s Day! For weeks before February 14th I pined and pouted, miserable at every commercial for jewelry and every comment from friends about what they would be doing to celebrate with their sweethearts. I didn’t have a sweetheart and it made me miserable. I wanted to be in love and for someone to be in love with me. I wanted a reason to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Over the years I stopped whining long enough to look around me. What I saw were many others who were alone on Valentine’s Day. Some had never been married like me, but others were alone because of divorce or widowhood. I saw them not only lonely without their loved one on Valentine’s Day but also with bittersweet memories that sometimes made the day even more difficult than mine.

I also discovered something else. While there are many happy marriages with sweethearts rekindling their love each Valentine’s Day there are many married couples who won’t be celebrating Valentine’s Day together. They are struggling to stay together and to rediscover their love for each other.The proclamation of a day of love will not magically fix things between them.

All of this observation has me looking at Valentine’s Day differently. Yes, I still wish I had a sweetheart, but not just for Valentine’s Day. A friend of mine commented the other day that if you’re in love with someone you should show it every day and you shouldn’t need a holiday to tell you to express it. I agree! And this applies not only to a significant other, but all of those whom our lives touch.

Now when I look towards Valentine’s Day I seek ways to brighten the day for others. I think about those around me who will be lonely and without celebration and do what I can to make their day better. For me it’s baking cookies and making valentines or dropping an e-mail or note in the mail. Praying for others is also critical because where I can’t physically touch lives God can through His all-encompassing love.

If you have a sweetheart and look forward to celebrating Valentine’s Day I’m not suggesting you tone down your celebration or don’t share your love with others. Your relationship can be an inspiration to others. But as you look ahead to the big day I ask you to also look around. Find someone who may be alone or lonely in the midst of a relationship and reach out to them. A phone call, note or even a little chocolate heart can make all the difference in their day.

The greatest Valentine any of us can receive is the love of God, and of His Son Jesus Christ who showed the ultimate love by coming to earth and living a perfect life, only to take the sins of all mankind when He died on the cross. If you don’t know this Love I pray that you will give your heart to Jesus and know the love that never fails not only on Valentine’s Day but every day of the year.

Happy Valentine’s Day to each of you. May this year be one of expressing love not only to your sweetheart but to each person you touch. You could be the missing peace to someone’s Valentine’s Day puzzle.

blessings and peace to you…

Paula

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Twinkle Lights

One of my favorite things to do at Christmastime is to sit with all the lights off in the living room except the Christmas tree. It’s a great time to relax and unwind, or in the case of this morning, to wake up gently with the warm glow of colorful lights. It’s also a time to remember. Our tree is filled with ornaments with a story. Some Mom has had since childhood, others acquired through the years at places we’ve visited or to remember a benchmark of our lives. The memories bring to mind all I have for which to be thankful, and also remind me to pray for those I love, or those I may not even know who are not enjoying the beauty I am this season.

This year our tree has twinkle lights. The lights dance through the tree, adding character and dimension. As I study the movement of the lights I realize that they are really just blinking lights scattered throughout the tree, causing a whimsical effect that is rather mesmerizing. Since each light goes out at a different time the tree is never dark and there isn’t an absence of light. In fact, my attention is drawn more to the tree than other years because of the unique pattern.

As I pondered the tree this morning I thought about how God calls us to be like these twinkle lights in a couple different ways. First, we are called to be God’s light to a world so filled with darkness. Jesus directs us to this in Matthew 5:14-16.

You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5: 14 & 16 (NIV)

How can we be that light? By allowing God’s love and goodness to shine through us. A smile to a stranger, a kind word for a store clerk or a small gesture of assistance or concern to someone you encounter shines a light in the darkness of the world. So often people are concerned with only themselves and in a hurry to get to where they are going or move on to the next agenda item that acts of kindness sometimes get pushed aside. But these acts are never overlooked by those who receive them. Think of a time someone smiled at you when you were navigating your way through a busy store, or allowed you to have a prime parking spot they could have taken. How did that affect the rest of your day? Similarly, not only will the light you shine impact the recipient in the moment, but often it will provide a warm glow for some time.

The other lesson I got from the twinkle lights this morning is the importance of preferring others. If each of the twinkle lights didn’t stop shining for a moment the tree would have a different look to it, and wouldn’t draw my eye to them the same way.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)

Similarly, when we step aside, keep our mouths shut and encourage others to shine in the ways they are gifted, it allows God to be more effective in His work. This scripture is not suggesting that we shrink back and belittle our own abilities, but to not always need to be the center of attention or have things done our way. God has created us to work together and He is pleased when we combine our gifts with others to reach more people with the message of His love and salvation. Sometimes God even has a blessing in store from us through someone that will be missed if we don’t let them shine.

We are so close to Christmas, and the days often get more rushed and we may become less thoughtful of others and more centered on ourselves. Let’s remember the lessons from the twinkle lights as we encounter others through the next few days. Be God’s light, and allow others to shine theirs as well.

Blessings and peace to you!
Paula

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God’s Strange Ways

Have you ever wondered what God is doing in your life? Have circumstances come about that don’t make sense to you from an earthly perspective? I know I’ve had times when I just don’t understand what God might be up to in my life.


This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  Matthew 1: 18-21

Imagine being Joseph amidst the circumstances of the birth of Jesus. His quiet carpenter life was interrupted by an angelic visitor. His plans for marriage were turned upside down and he found himself at a crossroads – believe the angel and accept God’s mission, thrusting his life into an unknown future, or reject the angelic message and move on  with his quiet life. We spend much time considering Mary’s role in the birth, and rightly so, but do we consider that Joseph was also chosen? He had the role of raising, protecting, and educating Jesus. Remember, Jesus was fully man, so he needed the direction of an earthly father.

The song by 4Him, A Strange Way to Save the World gives us an imagined glimpse into Joseph’s thoughts. He had spent 9 months facing questions and side-glances by his neighbors and friends. Even his family probably thought he was crazy for choosing to take Mary as his wife despite the circumstances. He must have wondered, “why me?” a hundred times through those months, but I think perhaps that question developed from a whining tone to an astonished sense that he was chosen above other men he may have felt were more deserving. And then, in a stable in Bethlehem, a long way from home Joseph looks down at this child – God’s Son and wonders again, “why”? What a responsibility! Was he up to the task?

Are you at a place in life where you are asking, “why me” this Christmas? Maybe your question has a whining tone to it. You’re in a place you don’t want to be, especially at this time of celebration, and you can’t imagine how God could have something good planned through your current circumstances.

Perhaps your “why me” comes from a place of believing God is working in your life but not picturing how it will all come together. Maybe you are in the midst of a contemplative Christmas, wondering what the new year will hold. You don’t really believe that God can use you for something important…or you don’t realize that just by serving Him faithfully you are doing important things.

The Christmas story is a beautiful story of God using ordinary people to accomplish His extraordinary purpose. Joseph is not mentioned again in Scripture after Jesus’ childhood, but that doesn’t mean he was not still used by the Lord. God’s plan for saving the world was certainly strange from an earthly perspective, but that seems to be the way He works.


For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:25.

If this Christmas finds you contemplative or asking “why me?” I hope you will choose to trust God in the midst of it. Press in closer to Him and accept that God’s plan for your life might not make sense to you He wants to use you for important purposes if you allow His hand to guide you.

Blessings to you as you celebrate this Christmas!
Paula

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Magnificat

The Magnificat is taken directly from Luke 1:46-47. It is a powerful expression of a young woman who has put her full trust in the Lord and His plans for her.

As I reflect on the lyrics of the Magnificat I can’t help but wonder at the precious state of Mary’s heart and desire that for myself.

It is remarkable to me that this young woman whose life had just been turned upside down would have an attitude of praise and openness to whatever God willed in her life. She was facing several months of people not understanding what was going on in her life and inside her body. Certainly some would not believe that she was still pure and the child growing within her was from the Holy Spirit – a gift, not a shame.

In spite of whatever Mary’s external circumstances were her heart was filled with joy and gratitude. We don’t see Mary taking credit for being good enough to be the mother of Jesus but rather a humble spirit and wonder that Her Lord would choose her for His remarkable plan. And she gave all the glory to Him.

Here is a link to one of the most beautiful renditions I have heard of this song.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TEL_7TS5FE

Reading these lyrics and listening to the song reminds me I also have much for which to glorify the Lord. He has also looked on me with kindness and mercy and has done great things for me. Too often I forget to give Him the glory for who I am and who He is creating me to be.

I also have been reflecting on whether or not I allow God to put His Spirit inside me to use me as He desires. Am I open as Mary was to carry out His plan for me or do I drag my feet, ignore His voice or shrink back from fear?

How about you?

God’s plans for us are not always grandiose but they are always important. Whether it’s taking the time to listen to someone who needs to talk, lending a hand to someone as they carry packages or dropping a note in the mail or sending an e-mail to let someone know you are thinking of them and praying for them, little things can make a difference and may be just the touch from God someone needed.

And like Mary, God may have something bigger planned for your life. Are you open to Him using you to lead others to Christ, to go to the mission field, lead a bible study or write a book? Don’t let your opinion of yourself and your abilities hinder what the Lord desires to do through you.

My greatest desire this morning is to keep the attitude of Mary’s Song in my heart and carry it in my spirit not only throughout today but each day of the coming year.

“For He has looked with mercy on my lowliness.”

“And Holy…Holy…Holy is His Name.”

Praying for blessings and peace in your life this Christmastime. 

Paula