Archive | May, 2011

Reflecting His Son

27 May

   Be Holy for I am Holy.
 I Peter 1:16

The following is the devotional that I shared two weeks ago at a friend’s church in Lawrenceburg, IN.

You know what it’s like when you first move … you must find new doctors, dentists, hair stylists, and the list goes on and on.  For those of us who move to a different state, some of those chores are even more dreadful.  Last fall, right before our auto insurance was about to expire, we took care of getting our drivers license, insurance, and then plates.  I had been out job hunting that day, so dressed in my nice professional attire, I made my way to the MVD.  I waited in line to take the short test, waited in another line to have my picture taken, and waited again to pick up my license.  As I finally walked out to my car with my new photo ID, I chuckled to myself as I looked at the picture.  The silly computer operator messed my picture up!!  You know when you are working with photos and you don’t grab the corners of the picture just right? You end up squishing the picture or, as in my case, you chub it out!   There was my face with chubby cheeks!  Hehe!!  Oh well!  Next, I needed to run my new license over to an insurance agency where we were getting a quote ~ they were waiting to add my license number to their form.  I walked in with my card in hand and quickly explained how goofy the photo looked … all because the employee at the MVD wasn’t too computer savvy.  The woman on the other side of the counter looked down at the photo … looked back up me … and back at the photo and said  ~ I think it’s a good picture!   Seriously?   I shrugged her comment off, figuring that she had left her reading glasses back at her desk.  It certainly was NOT a good picture!   Ok … now jump ahead through the calendar a few months to February.   I was hired for a temporary position in theYork County Administrative Center, requiring that I wear a photo ID badge.  I marched up to the second floor where the HR department was and once again stood before a camera and smiled.  The nice woman on the other side of this counter handed me my new card … and oh my goodness!  There were those same chubby cheeks again!!  Could both of these people be that irresponsible with their technique of transferring pictures onto cards?  Honestly!  As I walked down the steps and back out to my car, a light bulb clicked on.  Maybe it wasn’t the workers after all.  Is it possible that I could really look like that?  I mean, I look into a mirror a gazillion times a day!  We all do!  I haven’t really noticed that my cheeks are that chubby.  Sigh!!  But I suppose it’s possible that now at the age of 50 and the metabolism not being what it used to be, this could be a true reflection of how I really look!  Wow!   Thinking back about as I stood there in front of the camera, my image was reflected on the lens of that camera and was captured on the computer, that then printed out my picture on those ID cards.  The lens was able to reflect  my dark hair, my pretty outfit, and my chubby face, but it was unable to reflect who I really am.  Who I really am on the inside.  Just to make this clear … we ALL reflect what’s on the inside of our hearts to the world around us.  WHAT we reflect is our choice. 

When we stand in front of the mirror every day, we check that reflection to see how we look … really messed up, cute, blah, just ok, or even attractive  … or NOT attractive.  And if we find that we are not, then we do what we can to fix that, don’t we?  We would never think of leaving the house first thing in the morning without looking in the mirror to make sure everything is in its rightful place.  Now I did say attractive.  I don’t necessarily mean that we are hung up on making sure we are drop-dead gorgeous, because at this age, I guarantee that is not even a possibility.  But I do try to look pleasant and nice-looking  ~  which when turned around says looking nice.  Even the word appealing is appropriate here.  If I were to walk out of the house and enter the front of door of my work place in my grungy but comfy sweats, a big t-shirt, and my hair caught up in a hand band  …  oh and in my monkey house slippers, I would not be considered attractive, nice-looking or appealing … meaning that those I work with would not necessarily want to be around me.  We all can agree that we want to look nice, right?  And pleasant?  And appealing.  All are synonyms for ‘Attractive’. 

 Let’s take the word attractive to a deeper level.  The inside level.  At any given moment, whether you have taken the time to look in the spiritual mirror or not, you are reflecting the inner you.  Who you really are.  Scripture says in Matthew that the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man `unclean.’  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  These are what make a man `unclean’.

Notice that scripture doesn’t specify that evil is just the things we do or the words we speak … what makes a man unclean comes from his heart.  It’s a heart issue.  What does your heart reflection look like?  Is it attractive?  Is it appealing?  Does it make other people want to be like you … or to have what you have inside?  As hard as we might try to reflect holiness, if the foundation of a holy heart is not reality, then reality will eventually always be reflected.

The first chapter of 1 Peter, verses 15 and 16 are stated very plainly when scripture simply says Be Holy for I am Holy.  God’s design is that we reflect His Son.  It is His design that we choose to confess our sins and repent of them, which means to turn away from them, and then to allow God’s Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

A synonym for reflection is image.  Genesis 1 says that God created man in His own image.  That image or reflection of God became tarnished and messed up because of the sin that took place in the Garden of Eden. 

Later in scripture, we know from the Christmas story that Jesus came as the New Image or Reflection of God  ~  in Colossians 1 it say that He is the image of the invisible God … or I like to say He is God with flesh on.  Jesus came to restore us back to our original image before sin …  by dying on the cross, by His resurrection from the grave, and by leaving us His Holy Spirit to fill us and dwell inside of our hearts.  Be Holy for I am Holy.

There’s another story in the New Testament about the religious leaders of that day who were more interested in rules and regulations than in a relationship with God   ~  They came to Jesus, trying to cause trouble by asking Him about paying taxes.  Jesus held up a coin and asked them … whose image is on this coin?  They answered “Caesar’s”.  So Jesus said … “Give to Caesar what belongs to him and give to God what is God’s”.  As beings who are fashioned in the Image of our Creator, God longs for us to give back to Him what is His, and that is ourselves.  Our image, purified by the blood of Jesus, then reflecting God’s image … Be Holy for I am Holy.

 There’s an old hymn of the church, entitled “O To Be Like Thee”  here are the words …

  1. Oh! to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer,
    This is my constant longing and prayer;
    Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
    Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.(Chorus) 
    Oh! to be like Thee, oh! to be like Thee,
    Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
    Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
    Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
  2. Oh! to be like Thee, full of compassion,
    Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
    Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
    Seeking the wand’ring sinner to find.
  3. Oh! to be like Thee, Lord, I am coming,
    Now to receive th’ anointing divine;
    All that I am and have I am bringing,
    Lord, from this moment all shall be Thine.

I’ve talked a lot about mirrors, reflections, images, being attractive and appealing … but the most important truth that I want us to grasp a hold of is that it’s all about Jesus.  It certainly doesn’t have much to do with our outward appearance, how we fix our hair or how flat our bellies are.  Yes, these things have their rightful places in our daily routine of our social life and being healthy, but what matters most is our appearance on the inside.  Attitudes, bitterness, moods, unforgiveness, and the list goes on and on … the things that will distract, taint, and hinder the reflection of Jesus. 

When your world sees the spiritual mirror of your life, what does it see?  Is the reflection distorted, blurred, and hazy due to the source of the image being broken?  God is extending an invitation to make your spirit whole.  He wants you to bring your sin and lay it at the foot of the cross  … so what you reflect is no longer yourself and the sin that tarnishes your true image, but you reflect God’s Son … Be Holy for I am Holy.

Here’s a song by the Cathedral Quartet, sung by Roger Bennett who died 4 years ago from cancer.  “When the World Looks at Me, Do They See Jesus?”  Click here to listen  May it challenge your heart and even stir you enough to pray about your own reflection to those around you.

Until next time,
Debbie

Completely

20 May
 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your mind and with all your strength. 
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 
There is no commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:30-31

 

I was honored with an invitation to be the guest speaker at a ladies’ annual spring banquet last Friday night.  The church was located back in my old tromping grounds of southern Indiana, so I was blessed beyond measure to have 12 of my dearest friends from the Cincinnati area come and see me!  The evening’s festivities began with cupcake chat, singing, and a delicious dinner.  What a joy it was for me as I sat there eating, talking, and listening to the different conversations around the table … trying to soak up every moment of being with my friends so I could tuck away the evening’s morsels of memories and savor them later. 

Most of the gals, plus my Momma!

With satisfied and full tummies, we all made our way back up to the sanctuary for the remainder of the evening.  Moments before I was introduced and welcomed to come up front, a young lady began to sing a very special song.  As the music started to play for her accompaniment, my heart began to swell and my eyes began to fill.  I sat there in that pew, totally transported to another time and another place. 

The time was September 13, 2006 and the place was Higher Ground Conference and Retreat Center in West Harrison, Indiana.  Having packed every item we owned, leaving behind our place of ministry in Albuquerque, NM for the past 9 years and friends too many to count, a new life was before us.  After traveling for 3 days and 1400 miles, we were almost there.  As I followed behind the big yellow moving truck and exited off the interstate, I slipped my Sandia Women’s Retreat 2006 Worship CD into the player and found this special song on purpose.  The message of the words penetrated my being as I once again had to let go and surrender everything to His control.  With tears streaming down my face, we pulled onto the grounds of our new home, ministry, and life.  I sang this song as an act of worship … my heart filled with sadness in leaving friends and ministry behind, and my soul filled with the uncertainty of a new place, new work and ministry, and new people.  Right there in that moment …  Click here to listen

COMPLETELY 

The secret of life is letting go
The secret of love is letting it show
In all that I do
In all that I say
Right here in this moment

The power of prayer is in a humble cry
The power of change is in giving my life
And laying it down
Down at your feet
Right here in this moment

(Chorus)
Take my heart
Take my soul
I surrender everything to your control
And let all that is within me lift up to you and say
I am yours and yours alone
Completely

This journey of life is a search for truth
This journey of faith is following you
Every step of the way
Through the joy and the pain
Right here in this moment

(Chorus)
Take my heart
Take my soul
I surrender everything to your control
And let all that is within me lift up to you and say
I am yours and yours alone
Completely

Right here, right now, and for the rest of my life
Hear me say

(Chorus)
Take my heart
Take my soul
I surrender everything to your control
And let all that is within me lift up to you and say
I am yours and yours alone
Completely

I am yours and yours alone
Completely

 

As I sat there last Friday night once again listening to this song, I could still smell the freshly mown grass, I could see the deep plush green of everything (as opposed to the very little green and mostly brown that we had grown to love in Albuquerque), and I could still feel the intense ache, fear, and loneliness that enveloped me at that moment in 2006.   But as that young lady continued to sing, my Jesus wrapped His arms of love around me and whispered in my ear … “Look around you.”  There I was, literally surrounded by 3 rows of women who specifically came to see me.  These weren’t just any women.  They were the ones I rubbed shoulders with on a regular basis … at work, at district functions, Munchy Monday, … all from my life at Higher Ground.   We have laughed together, cried together, prayed together, and lived life together.  They were the result of my letting go, laying it all at His feet, and saying I am Yours and Yours alone … completely.  

I am overwhelmed with how personal and loving my Jesus is to me.    He took the past 5 years, placed it all in a box for me, and wrapped it up with a nice pretty bow on top.  He placed a tag on the outside and wrote “I love you, Debbie!” Those girls, especially, know what that means to me.  They are the jewels inside that shine above all the other stuff. 

With tears still in my eyes, it was my turn to come up front and speak.  Temporarily laying my notes to the side, I had to share my journey through those last 5 minutes and express my love in return to my Jesus.     

Take my heart
Take my soul
I surrender everything to your control
And let all that is within me lift up to you and say
I am yours and yours alone
Completely

I am Yours and Yours alone
Completely

I will share the rest of the story … next time.
Debbie

A Mother’s Day Prayer

8 May

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
3 John 1:4

Happy Mother’s Day!

Moms sacrifice body, emotions, and mental stability in order to nurture and love another human being.  There are as many different scenarios as there are moms.  Every unique experience  could be written and sold as a best seller to those in their own world.  The following is a borrowed story, penned by a dear friend a few years ago on Mother’s Day.  His short narrative tugs at my own heart strings as I celebrate this special day in honor of my Mom and my own motherhood …

“Swept Away

There is a two hundred year old stream side mill in Allentown, New Jersey, known as the Black Forest Restaurant.  Featuring German cuisine, it is a favorite eatery for my wife.  So that is where we headed to celebrate Mother’s Day 2008.  Patsy has been and continues to be a great mom, and it is always a wonderful privilege to honor her.

Surrounding the restaurant are a variety of small shops filled with antique and artsy stuff.  They are a magnet for my wife.  Beyond the shops is a winding path that parallels a noble brook.  It is a magnet for me.  So we bid farewell to one another and became temporarily lost in our respective magnetic fields.

As I followed the wood-chipped walkway through springtime’s blossoming flora, I inhaled deeply the sweet elixir of wild rose and honeysuckle.  Blackbirds, robins and sparrows sang joyfully from behind leafy curtains.  I stopped to listen to the chorus of a favorite hymn, and that is when I heard the cry.

Baby Duck

Rapid-fire peep-chirps of distress were coming from somewhere upstream.  Listening to determine the precise location, I soon became aware that the source of the siren was approaching.   And just then, riding on the current, coming around the bend, floating down stream was recently hatched duckling.  Most likely this little peep had wandered too far from his brothers, sisters and mom and had been taken captive by the rushing madness of a storm swollen stream.

For the next twenty minutes I tried desperately to rescue the little fellow while the current whisked him farther from home.  Unfortunately the creek’s bank became too muddy and steep, and stream-side’s briars became impenetrable.  There was nothing left to do but stand and listen as the peep-chirps faded.

Following the path back to civilization I could not help but contemplate about Mother’s Day, families, and the currents of this world that too often sweep our own children into danger.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children!”
Deuteronomy 6:5-7

Therein is our hope! 

Your servant in Christ – Pastor Bieber”  **

Mother’s Day is a special day of celebration!  Celebration of our moms for their love, their prayers, their care, and their gift of life to us.  It is also a day of celebration for the privilege and the awesome responsibility for the priceless and eternal gifts God gives to us as mothers.  This tender little story will always tug on my Mommy heart as I daily spend time on my knees for my children and their loves, just as I’m sure my own mother stays on her knees for me and my brothers and our families.  The undercurrents of life are strong, but there IS hope when we love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength.  Join me today as we celebrate our moms, and as we continue to pray for our families.

Until next week,
Debbie

** Del Bieber is Pastor at Tom’s River, New Jersey Churchof the Nazarene
You may subscribe to his written stories by contacting Pastor Del at trnazarene@juno.com
You may also subscribe to his podcast (you listen to him read his stories) at http://jerseypilgrim.blogspot.com
Thank you, Pastor Del!