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Surprising a Loved One

17 May

I wrote this for our church blog.

Tabernacle for Today

Two-red-heartsEphesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Yesterday was Mother’s Day.  Everywhere I went this weekend, I saw preparations being made to surprise mothers.  At the Navy Exchange flower shop, in the Navy Exchange cologne section, at the bakery where I went to help a friend select her wedding cake.

I love surprises.  Chances are you do, too.  We love to get surprised.  We also love to surprise our family and friends.  This love of surprises seems built into us as a human race.

We often speak of God as the One who provides the pattern for all earthly fathers and truly He is.

However, there are some attributes of God that are very different from earthly fathers, too.

For example, have you ever thought about the fact that we can’t surprise…

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Defeating Fear

3 Nov

Reblogged from our church blog. One of my series of posts on my breast cancer experience almost five years ago.

Tabernacle for Today

Revelation 1:17b, 18:  And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, “Fear not, I am the first and the last:  I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”

In most discussions of fear, someone quotes I John 4:18 about perfect love casting out fear, reminding us that fear is not the ultimate state we wish to attain.  True enough, but most of us find ourselves in truly fearful situations, at least once in a lifetime.  I was there just under four years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  And I could have tried and tried all day to perfect my love and cast out my fear but I would not have prevailed.  I needed to have the Lord draw near to me and personally tell me “fear not.” …

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Wisdom to know the difference

19 Oct

Is there one “best way” to evangelize the lost? I would assert no, since everyone is not an exact copy of every other person!

Tabernacle for Today

“And of some have compassion, making a difference:  and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” (Jude 22, 23).

I had a discussion on-line yesterday with one of my best friends, who lives far away, on this very topic.  She had put up an article about ensuring that our friends know how to be saved.  She likened it to chasing after someone who is walking into traffic, pulling that person back.  She reminded us that that action might not be gentle at the time, but it would be very necessary.  And she was, oh so right!  We pull people out of the fire when they are heading into it!

We segued from that point to the next point–that we tend to get unbalanced in our evangelism.  We have those who go house to house and boldly talk to strangers…

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Growing In Grace

19 Oct

When we speak of “grace-filled living,” what does that look like? A starting point to the conversation . . .

Tabernacle for Today

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To him be glory both now and for ever.  Amen.”  (II Peter 3:18)

This glorious Lord of ours wants us to grow in grace as we grow in knowledge of Him and of His ways.  If He wants us to do that, how do we know when we are growing in grace?  What if we are actually going backwards and becoming graceless at certain stages of our lives?  How can we tell if that is happening?  How can we be sure, at any given point in time, that we are growing towards Him in grace?

Is it possible to find out God’s ways, through the Scriptures, and to live them, and thus to live what we could term “grace-filled lives”?  I believe we can.  First because we are commanded to grow in grace, but also…

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What is Shame?

19 Oct

I personally do not believe in saying, “You should be ashamed of yourself.” That statement never produces change in the person hearing it. How much better to realize we all stand condemned before the righteous Son of God and to show appropriate humility and willingness to help people change, as we all need to do.

Tabernacle for Today

I Corinthians 4:13, 14:  Being defamed, we entreat:  we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.  I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.

I Corinthians 6:5, 6:  I speak to your shame.  Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you?  no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?  But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.

Hebrews 12:2:  Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

What is shame?  When someone says, “You should be ashamed of yourself” what is that person requiring, or trying to require, of…

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Enough to Go Around

8 Oct

It is never the wrong time to talk about God’s love.

Tabernacle for Today

I John 4:7, 8:  “Beloved, let us love one another:  for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.  He that loveth not knoweth not God for God is love.”   

I have two little friends at church—the little girls in families with whom I have recently spent some time Christmas toy shopping.  Both of them like to “give sugar” and I am rather fond of carrying them around on my hip.

I have noticed one thing about these two little ones.  These two little girls understand that the fact that they are both special to me doesn’t reduce the store of love I have for each one separately.  Some adults have long ago forgotten the childlike simplicity of this approach to love in the Body of Christ.

You see, outside of the exclusive relationships in Christ’s Body (marriages, parents with their children…

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For you, I’ll always care…

29 Sep

Another one of my posts from last year on the church blog. About loving the lost as God loves them.

Tabernacle for Today

“Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?  saith the Lord God:  and not that he should return from his ways and live?”  (Ezekiel 18:23)

“Breathe on me, Breath of God, Fill me with life anew, That I may love what Thou dost love, and do what Thou wouldst do” (hymn by Edwin Hatch/Robert Jackson)

My nineteen-year-old son had a series of “lovies” in his younger years.  A couple of them are still memorable to me.  First, he got attached to a blanket he called “special geggie” when he was around two.  It had been handmade for him when he was born by my friend Kathy and it went with us everywhere.  Consequently, it had to be frequently washed.  It surprisingly did hold its colors and texture well, despite the wear and tear.  As time went by, I found myself growing attached to that blanket, too, to…

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28 Sep

In conjunction with my post today about not sharing people’s personal thoughts, hopes, dreams, and fears with other people, I add this piece from our church’s blog. I wrote it last year. It is always good to remember to encourage each other.

Tabernacle for Today

“And so I charge thee by the thorny crown,
And by the cross on which the Savior bled,
And by your own soul’s hope for fair renown:
Let something good be said.”

(Old hymn, words by James Whitcomb Riley)

How often do I, as a blood-bought, ransomed child of God remind other believers that that is what they are, too?  How often do I encourage others (which is, by definition, pouring courage into them)?  How often might I do the opposite and be a discourager?
Nobody sets out to discourage others, but the truth is that all of us do it on occasion.  I have to pay attention not just to what I say to others but to the way I say it.  I have a very quick way of speaking that can come across as rather glib, if I am not careful to maintain eye contact and to really…

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But My Family is So Different From Anyone Else’s . . .

22 Sep

For Sunday morning, one of my favorite posts from our Tabernacle Baptist blog. Yes, I wrote it, but I also lived it. God still uses John 9 to calm me, grow me, and just, in general, love on me! He is wonderful!!!

Tabernacle for Today

John 9:1-3:  “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.  And his disciples asked him, saying, ‘Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’  Jesus answered, ‘Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents:  but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”

I have a friend who recently married into a blended family situation.  When issues first arose with one or the other of the children, she wrote that she and her husband needed to “find our new normal.”  I love that.  Not only do I love it for my friend’s family, I love it for my family, and I love it for every brave, struggling Christian family out there.

Normal looks so different in every home.  While there are inviolable principles of Scripture that should instruct every home that claims His Name…

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Christian Friendship: A Refreshing Drink of Water and More

2 Sep

This post, from our church blog, referred to a visit I made to California almost a year ago. I visited the same friend in Ohio just last week, and had exactly the same impressions. As I did visiting friends in Illinois earlier in the week. God is so good to give us lifelong companions in the faith!

Tabernacle for Today

Proverbs 25:25 says:  “As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.”
Proverbs 27:17 says:  “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”

I was able to prove the truth of both of those verses this week by a reunion with one of those “iron sharpener” friends out in California.  I was on a business trip and was not sure until the very last few hours that we were going to be able to pull our reunion off, but pull it off we did, as she drove in for more than two hours from the California desert to meet me at my hotel near the Los Angeles Airport.
While I appreciate many things about my friend, several stand out.  We always pray together, we always do a devotional together, sometimes just spontaneously picking up God’s Word and sharing a passage…

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Radical Obedience to the One who Radically Loves Us

20 Aug

This is the third in a three-part series on my breast cancer experience four years ago. Reblogged from our church blog.

Tabernacle for Today

Ephesians 3:14-21:  For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.  Amen.

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Prison Grace

19 Aug

This is Part II of my three-part series on facing breast cancer four years ago. It first appeared in our church’s blog on 05 JAN.

Tabernacle for Today

“Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.”  (Philippians 1:7)

Did Paul really just say that?  That the Philippians were partakers of two types of grace in his life, one of them having to do with his bonds?  Philippians is one of Paul’s prison epistles—he wrote it while imprisoned.  I have been to one of Paul’s prison stops, the dungeon in Rome where both he and Peter were purportedly held, at two different times, of course, until their executions.  If not the exact dungeon, the features of this former prison, the Mamertine, are similar enough that scholars from all denominations, Baptist to Catholic, hold that it is the place where Paul ended his days.

Paul used…

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Graduation Meditation

5 Aug


Those of you who went through Joey’s graduation with us in June will find this familiar.  I read it at the ceremony.  Photo credit for Joey’s graduation picture goes to Josh Savage:

Every baby needs a nickname in utero, especially those whose gender isn’t going to be known until birth.  In early 1992, the child became known as “Thumper” or, more properly, “Thumper the Wonder Baby” for several months before his parents found out his gender at birth.  Truth be known, the massive internal soccer matches that gave him the nickname “Thumper” also convinced his parents early on that he was going to be a boy.

Every child needs a song that is special for Mama to sing him, and his turned out to be the one that has been chosen many times in other families, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.  You make me happy when skies are gray . . .”

Every child provides moments of joy and hilarity while young, moments which remain forever as perfect gemstones in his mother’s necklace of memories.

That first Christmas pageant at about age four in which Jojo joined all the other little sheep with cotton batting ears and tails.  Things were going along normally and then one little sheep realized that Mama was sitting in the choir loft and that he would rather be with Mama than with that shepherd anyway, so-o-o . . . he crawled over in that direction and . . . suddenly, two little sheep’s ears and a sheep’s tail popped up amidst the choir robes of the sopranos up in the choir loft.  “Hey, Mr. Shepherd, you lost one over here . . .”

Then there was the time that Mama was promoted to commander on a drill weekend, but then had a mandatory military dining-in until 1:00 AM.  She walked into the house in exhaustion to find her father, her husband, and her seven-year-old son all lined up on the couch, wide awake, awaiting her return, like a scene out of “My Three Sons.”  That night Mama still had to awaken at five and, when she did, she noticed that her wily little seven-year-old had managed to sneak into their bed and replace their pillows, so that both parents woke up with their heads on his back.

Every child has strengths and challenges.  Hearing the words “communication disorder” when a child is four years old is definitely a challenge.  It meant he would not always understand what his parents were trying to convey to him.  It meant that his parents would not always understand what their child was trying to convey to them.  An additional challenge, as though life wasn’t already challenging enough.  But also a growing awareness that everyone faces a challenge of some sort, earlier or later on.  No one leaves this planet unscathed.  And the challenges, for those who believe, turn out to be the fingerprints of God on their lives.

And still those moments of joy and hilarity, amidst the challenges, because a child is, after all, first a child, even when facing a challenge that has a long technical name.

And even in the midst of a communication disorder, the language of love is clearly understood.

There were moments of sheer clarity, like the time a young Jojo walked in to find his mother in tears and said, “Don’t cry, Mommy!  I’m always smiling.”

There were quieter times, like when Mommy slipped on black ice outside the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg on New Year’s Eve, falling down a flight of stairs toward the river, and six-year-old Joey came slowly down after her, sitting down up against her on the bottom step, and waiting with her silently until her friend found them there.  Mommy, with her little protector.

Then there was the time when Joey was nearly grown, when another technical medical term had entered the family’s life and Mama was undergoing chemotherapy.  While having a particularly bad night after her third chemo session, she became aware that her little protector was at work again when her sister-in-law left the bedroom after tending to her and nearly fell over him in the doorway, sleeping across the entrance to his Mama’s room, like a shepherd guarding his sheep.

And, in the end, we see grace, so much grace.  Grace to have a child, grace to raise a child, grace to face medical diagnoses in that child.  Grace to face life-threatening illnesses in one of the parents.  Grace to embrace the life that God has brought that family, our family, and to realize it is just the path we are meant to travel safely until one day our Saviour brings us to our eternal home.

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