Looking Forward to Our Heavenly Home

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Do you ever just get to the point you ask yourself “Why”? Why am I working so hard to be who God wants me to be? Why am I serving others when there are times I just want someone to serve me? Why do we have to lose people we love? Why do evil things happen to good people?
Let me begin by saying I don’t have all of the answers to your questions of why, but I do have an answer that will help with many of them. It is because since the fall of man our world has been dying. When sin and evil entered our world so did hard work, sickness, pain, separation from God, selfishness, greed, and in the end death. Our gracious God did not want us to live forever in this fallen world, so Jesus came to make a way for us to once again be restored in our relationship with Him. Jesus is our way back to the Father. We try so hard to please Him not because it earns us His love. We already have that, but we serve Him because we love Him. We also tell others because without Him they will not experience Heaven. Heaven doesn’t just start at our death, but it is the peace and joy we experience as Children of God here on Earth. It is the calm assurance of God’s presence in our lives guiding and directing. It is claiming His promises about his strength, provision, protection and love.
When you do die on this earth you will not really die. You will just relocate to your heavenly home. Knowing Jesus and following Him assures us that our residence will be a home prepared by God just for us in His Home. Now that is something worth living for and is the reason that when we start becoming overwhelmed by the why questions here on earth we can raise our eyes to the heavens and thank God for what is yet to come.

I Work for Jesus

I knew it was going to be a good day when the first worker to arrive introduced himself. He had tanned skin with rough hands yet a big smile and he said my name is (said in Spanish) Jesus you know like Jesus in the bible. I smiled big and said, I know Him well. That was how my first encounter with Jesus the worker at our house began. Jesus is the owner of a company that removes Chinese sheet-rock.
Jesus’ team consists of two amazing women and 3 men who tore out the infected sheet-rock. They cleaned up after themselves and left the house spotless. It has taken them 10 days to get the house completely cleansed of the sheet-rock and contaminated building supplies. There were days I would walk into the house, music blaring and the team knee deep in insulation. Every day I came the women would be toting sheet rock out either on their back in cloth sack or by wheel barrow. Now I am a hard worker, but I don’t hold a candle to these amazing women. The men were the climbers and they used anything from ladders to stilts to reach the affected areas. They had mopped every floor, vacuumed every nook and cranny, removed all of the nails and screws and the final step was to wipe down every piece of wood left in the house. They used a steamer with a water solution and sprayed each stud and hand wiped it with a white cloth by hand. I have been blown away each day to see their hard work! They rarely took a break, but when they did you could hear them laughing and having a good time. Yesterday Jesus had joined them and I observed him laughing with them and telling stories as they enjoyed a cool drink on the hot day.
I have pondered their job and I have wondered what made them so precise and work so hard. The answer is they wanted to please their boss. You can tell they respect him and he works hard right along side them.
The bible tells us in Colossians 2:23-24 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. “ Giving our best effort is a reflection of the One we serve. So I guess the real question is, do you daily give your best as working for God? Do people walk into your work environment and say, “wow, he or she works with excellence.” Your Master is right beside you as you work. No not physically in person, but His Spirit is with you. Do you work to please Him? Is your work a witness to who you serve?
I have told Les I would not be disappointed if they were the crew who built the house back because I trust that the work they produce will be done with excellence. Oh that the world around us would see us that way. Oh that each of us would give our very best daily as a gift to the Lord.

Laid Bare

14224825_10154431211033077_5985547938678557975_nWhen we first started this project we had no idea all that would be involved. From the surface the house looked in good condition and foundationally it is. As we removed layers of covering we began to find issues that were a problem that had been masked by carpet, padding, tile, wood, insulation and so much more. One of the first real problems was that the sub-floor was a pressed wood board. For those of us not in construction that means wood chips that were pressed together with some form of binding to form a sheet of wood. They are usually used on roofs but for some reason the previous contractor chose it for flooring. The problem is when it gets wet it molds and eventually it breaks down. Under the carpet in the hallway was black mold. Under the slate tile floor was the same familiar black. The tile floor had a noticeable dip in it. Tile was put down with grout and grout was made up of water and a sand like compound that dried hard. When the tile was laid the floor board had begun to deteriorate. If we had not gotten to the bare floor we would have never known about the mold or the deterioration of the wood. Yes, it is frustrating to know there will have to be even deeper demolition to the property, but I am so grateful to know when we do reconstruct, the black mold will be gone and our health inevitably will be saved.14141787_10154431211998077_7051045299749328399_n
I thought about how spiritually this parallels. On the surface many of us look pretty good. We attend church, say the right things, we may even give and be involved in missions, but under the coverings of our spiritual acts there may be sickness breeding where the eye doesn’t see. God knows though and even if man doesn’t see it still affects our spiritual health and well being. It can be covered for a while, but eventually our life begins to buckle when pushed. The smoothness of our life hits a hiccup then the bitterness, anger, lack of forgiveness, hurt or whatever has been hidden rises to the top and it must be dealt with . Why not do what we are doing with our house. Lay it bare before the Father and allow Him to take away the broken and corrupted. No, it won’t be easy, but you can do the hard work now or wait until everything is falling apart and try to make the repairs then. By that point the problem may be so far gone that the repair will carry deep scars. God can and will heal you and help you through your broken parts. There are many of us who are living examples that God heals and forgives. As we see this house built back, you too can see your life reconstructed with healthy life. Our prayer is that each of us will uncover our own weaknesses and allow God to make us all new. Les and I are praying for you that you will find healing and strength.

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Ezekiel 9-12

Would you know if the Spirit of God departed from your church? This passage is so sad because Ezekiel witnessed the presence of the Lord leaving the temple. My heart aches even as I type that because that once great house of God was now an empty shell. It reminds me of churches around the world including our own country that once held an active body of believers who knew the presence of God in a powerful way now stand almost empty. There may be a handful of people that meet weekly but they no longer experience the power of the Holy Spirit at work. Did the people of Jerusalem know the power of God had left their building? Did they continue to have meetings weekly? Oh Father, help us your church to be so aware when we start doing things our way and in our power we choose to exclude you and your power is not at work among us. Help us to see that our diminishing numbers and zeal for God may be because our churches have become more like a business than a place of worship to the one and only True God. Please forgive us where we have had our own agenda and help us to listen to You. Help our leaders to hear Your voice and lead us to follow You. Then may YOUR presence fill our churches again!

Unless the Lord Builds the House: One Step

Psalm 94:18-19 “When I thought, “My foot slips,”
your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
19 When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul.”

One step, just one step that faltered and the young man’s life was changed forever. We were not at the house the morning one of the roofers lost his footing and tumbled from the top of the roof to the concrete below. We were not informed until days later, but even when we heard our hearts were broken for the young man. They had just started their morning of work. He was on top of the roof with two others. They had turned their heads busy with a project and then they heard their co-worker tumbling head over heels down the valley of the roof. He was able to stop his descent at the edge of the house but was unable to hold on. He landed on his hip and the bone and socket were pushed into his pelvic. Both arms were broken and he had gashes on his head and arms. There was no apparent reason the young man fell. The roof was moist but not wet from rain. There wasn’t a high wind or even distraction from other activity. He just slipped and was unable to keep himself from falling.

As I have prayed for this young man and his family, I have pondered how easy it is to lose footing spiritually. So often we are going along trying to make good choices and out of the blue Satan temps us. It isn’t always a black and white issue. It is more like a small enticement. Before you know it you are tumbling! It may be an email that leads to pornography, a temptation to cheat just once, a small piece of gossip that opens the doors to wrecked friendships and broken hearts. Temptation usually comes with a small slip. We are usually ready for a big issue, but even a minor slip can have huge consequences.

If you find yourself being tempted, stop and look for 3 things:
*A rope to prevent the fall before they happen. God’s word can and should be your security and prevention. As you know and live growing in God’s word, even if you slip you are listening for God’s voice and sense immediately conviction. Quickly confess any sin and shore up your steps.

*A friend can be super helpful. The other roofers were scrambling to help the young man who fell. They had a rope to throw to him, but they were too late. Don’t wait until too late to hold the rope your friends are offering. Hold each other accountable and when needed speak truth to the one walking closely to a slippery spot. Have a rope in hand for those slipping and lovingly help them find firm footing again.

*Be on your guard! Satan would love to take you down! In the case of our young worker he just lost his focus and was not as careful as he should have been. He did not aim to fall, but because he was not as cautious he did. As we acknowledge the enemy’s constant attack we are more prepared. Stay alert! Satan is like a lion seeking to devour the bible tells us. As we look for those slippery spots or areas we may be vulnerable, we will be less likely to fall prey.

When you do slip having faith family around to help you is super important. As faith family we need to be quick to forgive and willing to help restore. We ask you our faith family to pray for the young man who fell. He will have a long road to recovery. Pray for fellow believers you know who have taken a spiritual spill as well and need to find firm footing again. Pray for yourself that you will be able to see the spiritually slippery places before you come upon them and know your Heavenly Father is there beside you to help you over with firm footing.

2 Kings 24-25, 2 Chronicles 36:1-21, Jeremiah 52

Once again we visit the same story we have read earlier this week but found told 3 more times about the fall of Jerusalem and specifically King Zedekiah. After reading this story over and over there are 2 things that stand out.
1. It did not have to be this way. The King chose death of his family, burning of his home and city and the ultimate destruction of the walls and temple in Jerusalem. Jeremiah had told him this would happen unless he surrendered to the King of Babylon. He chose the path of death and destruction.
2. God told this story over and over so that we could avoid the same thing happening to us. When a culture runs from God’s way the end result will always be death, destruction and captivity. Historians would tell you that we study history so we can learn from it and not repeat it. Every great civilization fell from within as it followed pleasure, self indulgence and godlessness. The further our nation gets from a love for God and holding to the founding Fathers’ original intent we too will see our nation slipping further and further into the great decline. The only hope is to turn back to God and to choose to work hard for the common good not selfish gain.
You may be like me in thinking, I am only one person…but it all starts with one. As we commit ourselves to God and His ways we will be a Jeremiah in a land of Zedekiahs.

Give and Take

“I AM NOT HAPPY!” That is how my text to Les began.

I had rearranged my entire schedule, driven back from another state, stayed by the phone expecting a call from the man who was delivering the very storage units that I had told Les from day one I did not want! (I am smiling about it now)

When Les and our contractor determined we would need some type of storage to hold supplies as we makeover the house they determined a steel container would be the best thing. I had already told Les that the one thing I did not want was a big box in my front yard that looked like it fell off of a rail car.

I did not want the neighbors to immediately think we were “That Family” who doesn’t care about their property or the property of their neighbors. Les and our contractor proceeded to convince me of all of the benefits of the very storage containers I said I did not want. They sold me by saying we could convert them (yes 2 of them) into a barn with a roof and a place for the horses to run into. So, I caved knowing at least they would be to the back of the property and out of sight.

You can imagine my horror when I drove out to the house to hang out and wait on the delivery since I had not been called. As I drove up to the drive, the delivery man was preparing to exit my drive having delivered the two storage containers.

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He had dropped them right in front of the house beside the drive! I stopped my car in the middle of the road preventing his exit and turned on the flashers. I stomped right up to the delivery man’s door and said “This Will Not Work!” I was pointing to the horrid boxes bearing the name of a foreign company. My next statement was “Why didn’t you call? I have been waiting all day.”

Immediately the driver realized he was not dealing with a rational woman and he did his best to find some answers. He said “I did call your contractor and he said to leave them here and he would move them to the back in a few days.”

I eyed the containers weighing a ton each and decided it was too late to fix the problem and I could not lift them. I was hotter than the summer heat! I moved my car allowing the driver to leave and fired off the pictures and my “note” to my sweet husband.

He responded with “I will call you.” After a conversation and his allowing me to rant he got in touch with the contractor who got in touch with the right people and before the sun set the containers were moved to the back.

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You may wonder why I share this story. It is because I want you to know that Les and I are far from perfect people who face real struggles just like you. We love each other beyond words, but we don’t always agree. We have learned over the years to respect each other and to give and take when necessary, remembering to always try to honor the Lord and do what is best for our relationship and our family.

Sometimes that means one of us yields our desires so that the best can happen. Marriage can be hard, but the end result is that we want our marriage to represent Christ and the church.

That means:

*love is evident,

*pride is lost,

*humility reigns,

*and our first thought is for others not ourselves.

The further we go with this house I pray that our attitudes toward each other and toward the Lord’s priority in our lives is evident. That is why we chose the theme, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it.” Psalm 127:1

We covet your prayers, and we encourage you to invite others to share in this with us as we all build this house together with God as our lead contractor. I also encourage you to think about the truths we just shared and if they are not evident in your relationships pray about making them priority.

May the house and our relationships be built for His glory be used to make His name great for years to come.

Isaiah 40-42, Psalm 46

It is so easy to get discouraged these days. When we see the violence and ungodliness all around us our courage and strength can be zapped. I could fill pages from the verses we read today that would encourage you. If you are down hearted please go to your copy of God’s word and read them for yourself. Here are the couple I chose.
41:9 you whom I took from the ends of the earth,
and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, “You are my servant,
I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
10 fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

If you are one of those who are discouraged or down hearted I challenge you to take your eyes off of the destruction and violence and focus on God. He is still in control!

Isaiah 38-39, 2 Kings 20:1-21, 2 Chronicles 32:24-33:

Hezekiah was faithful to follow God. Jerusalem turned back to worshiping God alone and they saw God do amazing things because of that. Yet God still tested Hezekiah in many ways. We read this week about how the Assyrian army was camped outside the walls and all looked lost yet God gave victory and He killed 185,000 Assyrians and the leaders who survived fled. In our reading today Hezekiah’s health failed and he was dying. Due to his prayers and tears before God he was given 15 more years to live. Then men from Babylon came to bring letters of thanksgiving to Hezekiah for being healed. God was testing Hezekiah to see if he would be proud about all he had. Indeed he was and showed the visitors everything he had. Isaiah responded what have you done? Those same men will come back to attack and take your riches. 2 Chronicles 32:31 says, “God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart.” Tests are just a part of life. We never get too old to be tested, and the kinds of tests change. I know we have certainly been tested with trying to get this closing on our house done. I pray that I will pass each test relying on the Father, giving Him praise for what He has entrusted to me, and passing the test when my patience and perseverance are tested. May you too find yourself faithful even when the tests come your way.

Isaiah 31-35

It is so tempting the older we get to give up or give over things we have worked so hard to achieve. We think, “is it even worth it?” Our bodies are tired from hard fought victories. We can be wearied and worn out and yet here is Isaiah’s challenge to us.
35:3 Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
4 Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
In the New Testament we are challenged to not grow weary in well doing. Both scriptures are reminding us that there will be difficult and tiring times, but don’t give up, Jesus is going to return. God will send Him and by His might and power He will make all things right. So grab a good meal, take a quick nap and return to today’s battle knowing He is fighting with you and for you. Press on.