Push The Reset Button

standard January 10, 2018 Leave a response

It’s only the second week of January and it’s already hard to keep those New Year’s Reflections going. Right? I decided to take a much-needed break from sugar and by day four, I was showing all the symptoms of being “hangry.”

The ushering in a of new year means that we have a chance to push the “RESET” button on our lives and start living the way that we know that we should:

A little less cake, and a lot more salad.

A little less TV watching, and a lot more walking.

A little less sleeping in, and a lot more trips to the coffee pot.

But the new year also brings a chance for us to focus our hearts and minds on the Lord. God says in Ezekiel 36:26,

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.

 I love that!

He gives us a new heart; one that desires to bless the Lord and bless others. And He gives us a new spirit, so that we can have the power and strength to live our lives to the fullest.

So, what is it that you desire to accomplish this year, Friend? Take a moment to push that RESET button and ask that the Lord would put His heart and spirit in you.

Let’s resolve to make 2018 the best year yet as we strive to live with a little less self, and a lot more of Jesus!

Not Finished Yet

standard January 3, 2018 Leave a response

Can you believe that another year has passed us by? Wow! That went quickly!

I do love a shiny new year, with all it’s potential and possibilities. I like seeing the months laid out and the calendar start to fill up with coffee dates, kids’ activities, conferences, and even project deadlines.

I feel such expectant hope at all that God is going to do in 2018 and I can’t wait to get started.

However, I still need to be mindful of the good work that God has already begun in me.

Philippians 1:6 says,
     “We can be confident that He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

That simply means that God will be faithful to keep on developing us to our fullest potential in this coming year as well as the ones that follow, if we let Him. Even if we didn’t realize all our goals in 2017, we can rest assured that there is grace for 2018 and move forward with confidence knowing that God will keep working in us.

We’ve got to do our part to keep on shining in this new year. And as we reflect the light of Christ then others will see the good work that is in us and they will give glory to the very one who started it in us – God the Father. Isn’t that beautiful?

This year let’s resolve to be lights that shine brightly and then let’s keep on pointing others to one who started it all: our faithful God.

Bringing Him Our Treasure

standard December 20, 2017 Leave a response

 

No nativity is complete without the wise men coming by camel to bring their gifts to Jesus.  Am I right?

Matthew 2 tells us the wise men followed the eastern star and when they found the baby they worshipped him and opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts:  gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Notice that they didn’t bring a whole convoy of objects. They brought a representation of their very best gifts. They chose to bring quality over quantity.  They presented Him with the things that they truly treasured.

What is it that you treasure? Take a moment to think about it. What would your gift be and how you can present it as an offering to your King today? It doesn’t have to be elaborate or perfectly wrapped. It just needs to be meaningful.

Maybe it’s taking the time to serve at the local soup kitchen and offering a kind word to those you meet. It could be as easy as slowing down enough to listen to someone who is struggling this season. Or it could be as difficult as giving up that treasured parking spot you’ve been waiting on at the mall (gasp!).

Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the season rob you of bringing your very best gifts. Resolve to choose quality over quantity. And remember, when you take the time to love others in His name, you bring something so valuable: a treasure fit for a King.

(The above painting is by Joellen Lee who uses her gift to bless others. )

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

standard November 29, 2017 3 responses

One of my favorite Christmas carols is “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.”

Last fall I stood at the top of the Bethlehem Hills in Israel and experienced where these angels would have heralded the birth of our Savior to the shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night. It was surreal to say the least.

However, in the near distance there is a beautiful mountain where Herod the Great had his servants chop off the top and resurrect a palace for himself there named Herodium. The audacity of Herod’s attempt to exalt himself above all others was glaring.

What struck me as ironic was that just a few miles away from Herod’s stately palace, there were angels proclaiming the arrival of the true king. One that was humble enough to be born in a manger and die on a cross for your sins and for mine.

Philippians 2 says this of Jesus’ act of humility:
For this reason God also highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Is that not the most glorious thing you have ever heard?

No one ever puts a picture of Herodium on their Christmas cards. That’s because the true king came and His name is above every other name. His name is Jesus. 

Hark! The herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn king;
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Abide

standard November 8, 2017 2 responses

My nephew Jeremiah was barely a month old when I had an opportunity to babysit him for the afternoon. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on him for a few hours and kiss on his sweet round cheeks.

If you’ve ever been around a newborn, then you know that they typically only eat and sleep which was just fine with me because I was ready to do some cuddling.

After feeding Jeremiah, he immediately went to sleep on my chest and his soft breathing in and out lulled me into a state of rest. With each sweet snore that he made my soul became more and more still.  As I soaked in the moment it reminded me of what it means to truly abide.

Jesus tells us in John 15:9:

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.”     

The word “abide” in the original language also carries these definitions: to remain, to dwell, and my personal favorite, to be held.   

When you wake each morning take some time to spend with the Lord. As you do, you will feel that love growing stronger with each passing day. Jesus loves you so fully and completely.

Just as Jeremiah was content to be held and loved on by me that afternoon, allow yourself to feel the love of your Savior.

Just Abide.

Even If

standard October 18, 2017 20 responses

Sometimes you’re walking through life and it all makes total sense. A fall breeze is blowing and you’ve got your windows down and your favorite song is blasting on max volume.

And then there are times when absolutely nothing makes sense. You were minding your own business, but suddenly your legs were kicked out from under you, landing you flat on your behind wondering what in the world just happened.

How could your circumstances have changed so drastically within a 24-hour period? It’s a valid question and it’s one that I wish I had the answer to.

I’m sure Martha and Mary felt somewhat similar when they were just trucking through life in the quiet town of Bethany, enjoying being a part of this new movement called “the Way” that heralded Jesus of Nazareth as the long-awaited Messiah.  When all of a sudden their beloved brother falls ill. And it’s not a “he’ll sleep it off and be better by tomorrow” sort of sick, but it’s evident that he has a life-threatening illness that requires immediate attention. They do some quick thinking and send word to their friend Jesus and ask Him to come on the double!

Jesus receives the message and this is His response: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.” (John 11:5-6)

Wait. What??

One of His very best friends is sick, SO He stays put?  What kind of sacrificial love is that? That seems a little counterproductive, wouldn’t you say?

By the time Jesus gets there Lazarus is dead. Not just any kind of dead either, but dead-dead. Like four-day-old-stinking-in-the-grave dead. It’s bad. And Martha let’s Him know it.

Where have You been? If you would have been here, He would not be dead!

Adding to His mysterious behavior, Jesus replies in the most cryptic way. “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Umm, yes…I think I do. But my brother’s still dead and I’m beyond devastated.

To say that we believe when life is good doesn’t take much faith.  But we have to be willing to ask ourselves this question when life throws us that inevitable curve ball.

Do I believe this?

Because believing Jesus is the truth is easy enough UNTIL…

your brother dies;

you miscarry that baby that you waited and prayed for;

your spouse confesses the unthinkable to you;

…THEN it’s personal.

But faith is believing EVEN IF…

your brother stays in the grave;

your arms remain empty;

your spouse refuses to come home;

…Trusting in His sovereign plan.

Jesus never said that life would be fair. In fact, He was perfectly straightforward when He told us that in this world we WILL have trouble, but we are to take heart because He has overcome the world! (John 16:33)

He is still the Resurrection and Life, EVEN IF life does not work out the way we thought it would.

Jesus eventually kept His promise to raise Lazarus from the dead with the purpose that God would be glorified through the act (take time to read this incredible story in John 11 if you aren’t familiar with the details). Both Martha and Mary received their miracle that day when their brother was resurrected and reunited with them. However, this was not the case for my sister and me.  Why did God allow Lazarus to live and Jeremy to die? This is a question that I have often pondered and I still do not know the answer to. Nevertheless, I had a choice to make, just as you do.

When He says that He is the Resurrection and the Life and He then asks me, “April, do you believe this?” I answer Him wholeheartedly:

Yes, Lord. I believe You are the One who holds the resurrection power.

I believe You are the only Way to eternal life.

I believe You are the Truth.

Even if…

(“Even If” by Mercy Me)

An Anchor for the Soul

standard August 8, 2017 2 responses

Summertime is in full swing, as is the air conditioning and the consumption of sweet iced tea.  Here in the deep south, one of our favorite summer pastimes is to take long boat rides down the river, sometimes water skiing for hours on end, and other times fishing until our heart’s content. It is always great fun to slather on the sunscreen and fellowship with friends and family, enjoying the day without a care in the world.

However, I know firsthand that in an instant the weather can change and a severe thunderstorm can appear out of nowhere.  This exact thing happened when I was on a family redfishing trip in the deep marsh off the coast of New Orleans.  One moment we were soaking in the warmth of the sun, and the next we were fleeing to find shelter from the pelting rain.

We raced to the nearest boat dock and hurriedly put our anchor down to keep us from slamming into danger.  And as we huddled together waiting for the storm to pass, we were thankful for the sense of security that the anchor provided us with while we waited and hoped for the sun’s return.

This situation reminded me of the imagery of a sure and firm anchor that the writer of Hebrews gives to illustrate the promises of our faithful God.

“So that…we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. We have this hope – like a sure and firm anchor of the soul.” (Hebrews 6:18-19)

He lets us know that when the storm rages, it requires more of us than simply to remember the promises of our unchangeable God, but we must also “seize the hope set before us.”  We reach out our hand and take hold of something sure and firm.  Something that is bigger than the wind and the waves. It is hope.

It is hope that centers us.  Hope that keeps us from crashing into the bank.  Hope that keeps our eyes on Jesus instead of our circumstances.  Hope as an anchor for our frightened soul.

The storms of life will undoubtedly come our way, usually when things are moving along just fine.  We may be caught off guard at first, wondering where is God in our time of need.  But then we remember that He has given us His promises as something firm and sure to keep us centered.

He has given us hope to seize.  He has given us Jesus as an anchor for our soul. 

God, You are my refuge when the storm rages. Help me to seize the hope that You have given me and to look to Jesus as the sure and firm anchor for my soul. Amen.

Dear Teenage Girl, Don’t Believe Everything You Read…Teen Vogue is NOT Your Friend

standard July 21, 2017 4 responses

Dear Teenage Girl,

Yes, you, the eleven to seventeen-year-old girl. How are you doing? I mean, how are you REALLY doing?

It’s hard to know in today’s world, isn’t it? You are constantly being bombarded with pressure to conform…which boots should you wear in order to keep the fashion police off your back, what’s the right makeup to apply in order to make your eyes smolder, what are the most beneficial after-school activities to choose in order to boost your college applications? And now, thanks to an outrageous article by Teen Vogue, you are being encouraged to consider having anal sex as a form of pleasure.

Never mind that fact that your actual body is changing at a rapid rate and now you have these things called hormones that are constantly causing your feelings to take you on a roller coaster ride. You obviously don’t have enough on your plate because Teen Vogue thinks it is necessary that you be educated on the “benefits and positives when it comes to anal [sex],” despite the fact that you will undoubtedly come into contact with fecal matter. But don’t worry, Darling Heart, according to the brilliant writers there, “It’s NOT a big deal. Everyone poops. Everyone has a butt.”

Oh, Sweet Girl, please, please, PLEASE do not believe everything that you read in a magazine that only has one objective in mind: to take your money! They could care less about you and this lovely yet fragile time in your life called adolescence.  The media has long been aware that “sex sells” and for years they have been pulling out all the stops, but I would venture to say that this is taking it to an unprecedented level.

I am not a doctor, nor do I claim to be one, but I am smart enough to know that having a penis enter a young girl’s rectum can have serious medical ramifications.  But again, I’m not a doctor.  However, here is a link to the Medical Institute’s take on The Consequences of Heterosexual Anal Sex for Women in case you want to get the hard facts.

But that’s not why I’m writing you this letter, Dear One. I’m writing because I see you and your precious heart.

You see, the enemy (aka Satan or the devil) will do everything in his power to convince you that you are anything but precious. He’ll say things like:
you’re ugly,
you’re fat,
no boy would ever want you,
your daddy hates you,
you better get some while you can, because life is short,
your boyfriend is going to break up with you if you don’t have sex with him,
you’re just a prude,
EVERYONE else is doing it so why shouldn’t you,
haven’t you heard? Anal sex is now vogue!  

Let me be crystal clear: every single word that Satan utters is a LIE. He hates you and he would love nothing more than for you to hate yourself as well.  He knows that if he can get you to buy into the culture of the world and have you slip further and further down that rabbit hole, then the less effective you will be for the Kingdom of Light (which he hates even more than he hates you).  And before you know it, you find your precious heart surrounded by intense darkness.

But hear this, Love: you have a Fighter! There is someone who is willing to stand up for you, to take the enemy out and beat him to a pulp for talking to you like that.  He is furious that you were made to feel insecure and ugly for a single second and He says things like:
you are beautiful,
you are worthy of honor and respect,
you are captivating,
there’s nothing that you can do to separate you from My love,
I have the most amazing plans for your life,
you’re irreplaceable,
I created the wondrous art of sex and I can’t wait for you to experience it with the one I have chosen for you in marriage.
And He does not think these things only because He wants something from you. He thinks this way about you because HE CREATED YOU!

This is not a fairytale that is too good to be true. Your Fighter (unlike your enemy) does not lie.  But he does want you to know that the fact that He has chosen to protect you from harm comes at an enormous cost.  Yet to Him, the cost is worth it. YOU are worth it. You are worth every drop of blood that spilled from His body. You are worth every bruise He incurred. He endured every brutal blow to His body with your life in mind. Do you believe Him?

Dear Teen Girl, you are going to have to make many choices in the years to come. Some will be easy, like which mascara to use. But some will be harder, like how to say no to mind-altering drugs or sexual activity with a boy you think is really hot. You are going to have to learn how to balance fun with homework. You’ll have to figure out who are your true friends versus those who only want to use you for something. You’ll need to discern what is the best use of your time and energy.

But the most important choice that you will ever make is to take your Fighter up on His offer of eternal life and learn how to walk in the light day by day.

Will it be easy? No, my love, I’m afraid it won’t.  There will be parties that you will inevitably be excluded from. There will be boys who will drop you once they figure out you won’t put out. But will it be worth it to live in a constant state of love and acceptance instead of self-loathing and despair? Absolutely, without a doubt.

So, here’s what I want you to do from this moment forward: I want you to first ask your Fighter, Jesus Christ, into your precious heart you if you haven’t already. Next ask Him to lead you as you learn to navigate how to live IN the world without being consumed by its culture. Ask Him to put His beautiful LIGHT inside of you so that you can shine brighter than any vogue model ever could.  And then tell your friends not to believe everything that they read in a self-serving magazine that says that anal sex is awesome. We all know that’s just a load of crap.

With much love,
April Rodgers
Reflecting Light in Everyday Life
The Lord your God
wins victory after victory
    and is always with you.
He celebrates and sings
    because of you,
and he will refresh your life
    with his love.
Zephaniah 3:17 (CEV)

To Be Known

standard May 31, 2017 8 responses

I recently visited my favorite coffee shop to grab a cup of coffee and work on some writing for a few hours.  I remember feeling adventurous that particular day, so I decided that I would try something new off the menu.  When I reached the counter I had made my decision and thus confidently placed my order, not realizing that I had ordered off the Frappuccino side.  The friendly barista looked sideways at me and asked, “Is this for you, Honey, or are you ordering for someone else?”

I was a little taken aback, but I replied, “It’s for me.”

To which she said, “Oh no, Sweetie.  That’s a frozen coffee, and you like your coffee hot.  How about I make you a Flat White.”  It was a statement, not a question.

Dumbfounded, I replied, “Okay. Let’s do that.”

Moments later, she carefully handed me the steaming mug of coffee sprinkled with raw sugar. I took sip of the velvety coffee and then looked up at her and said, “It’s just right.”  She nodded and moved on to the next customer, obviously pleased with her work.

I sat down at the table thinking how nice it felt to be KNOWN. It reminded me of the psalm that King David wrote about how wonderful it is to be known by the Creator of the earth.

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.

Psalm 139: 1-5 (NKJV)

The phrase “to be known” signifies how a friend or companion would know us, meaning that “God is not confined to heaven…indifferent to human concerns.” [1] Isn’t that an amazing thought?  God knows us intricately, and not just because He formed us, but also because He is our friend.  He knows what makes us feel happy or sad, excited or scared, loved or rejected.  He truly cares about these things, and He wants us to bring our victories as well as our fears or failures to Him.

Which brings us to the next point: God wants us to KNOW Him! You may be familiar with the verse Jeremiah 29:11, but let’s explore verses 12 and 13 as well.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

But wait! It gets even better. The Lord says to Jeremiah in Chapter 33:3:

‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

Wow! How is that for an incentive to get to know God better?

Somehow it is easier to comprehend that the God who created all things knows who we are, but it’s a little more difficult to grasp that He wants us to know Him as well. But He does and that’s part of what makes the Gospel so beautiful. The more we know Jesus, the better we know the Father and have access to the Holy Spirit.

So how do we go about knowing God better? Jesus tells us that we only need to ask, seek, and knock, and the door will be opened for us to find Him (see Matthew 7:7-8). Engaging in prayer and reading God’s Word are two ways that we can form and sustain a relationship with Him.

What a precious gift that we get to be friends with the Almighty! It is a divine feeling to not only KNOW Him and receive deeper insight, but also to feel that we are truly KNOWN.

Oh Lord, I call out to You like David did: search me and know my heart! You know my hopes and dreams, fears and failures, and You love me the same. Help me to remember to call on You, knowing that You will listen and answer me. What a reward it will be to gain knowledge of great and unsearchable things! I want to know You better, Lord. Amen.

[1] Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Vol. 5, 208.

 

The Marvelous Cornerstone

standard April 12, 2017 2 responses

Last fall I sat on the Southern Steps in Jerusalem. These steps are remains of the Temple, God’s dwelling place on earth. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I had butterflies in my stomach, sensing the Lord’s presence, knowing that I truly was on holy ground.

(The Southern Steps leading up to where the Temple would have been.)

(Part of the original wall. The first layer is almost as tall as I am.)

(Ruins of the Temple.)

These were the same steps that Jesus and other Hebrew boys would have climbed as a child to sit under the teaching of a well-respected rabbi. They are the same steps where the Jewish Pilgrims would gather to sing the Song of Ascents, moving up step by step as their lips sang the praises of Psalms 120 through 134. And they are also the same steps that supported Jesus’ feet as His authority was challenged by the chief priests, scribes, and elders within days of His crucifixion and resurrection.

Jesus. God in flesh. The maker of heaven and earth who spoke creation into existence. This very same Jesus is now being disrespected on the steps of His very own Temple.

And in response Jesus tells a graphic story of a man who owned a vineyard. The man makes all the necessary preparations in order to have the vineyard succeed and he then leaves the vineyard in the hands of capable farmers. When the man sends one of his slaves to collect a portion of the harvest, the farmers beat him and send him away empty-handed. This happens again and again until eventually the farmers start killing the slaves until the man is left with only his beloved son to send. He thinks, “Surely they will respect my son.” But, of course, they didn’t. They killed him and threw him out of his own vineyard. Despised and rejected.

As you and I read this story from Mark 12, we have the hindsight to know that this exact thing will happen to Jesus just days later and we want to shout to the chief priests, “Don’t do it!! He’s the Messiah! He’s come to save you, His chosen people.” But the actual audience doesn’t get what Jesus is telling them. However, He knows just how to get their attention…by quoting Scripture. Jesus asks them point blank, “Have you not even read this Scripture:

‘The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the chief corner stone;
This came about from the Lord,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

And immediately the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders would have known that Jesus was quoting Psalm 118. It’s a Psalm that they would have known in its entirety. Listen to what it says and allow the magnitude of Jesus’ point to register within your spirit:

This is the gate of the Lord;
The righteous will enter through it.
I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me,
And You have become my salvation.
The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief corner stone.
This is from the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day which the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:20-24, emphasis mine)

How many times have we woken up to a beautiful day and said, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it,“? I know that I’ve used it thousands of times, especially when trying to wake up my children. And on another note, I’ve always wondered why Good Friday was called “good” when it was the day that our Savior was brutally killed and thrown out of His own creation. But I never thought to put the two together. How could the day that Jesus died on the cross be a day worthy of rejoicing?

Sitting there on those Southern Steps is when I finally realized that the day that the Lord has made, the day that was worth rejoicing over, was in fact Good Friday!! Yes, it was the day that the cornerstone was rejected, but it was also the day that salvation came for all people. And it was totally the Lord’s doing. This is so profound!

Jesus Christ alone is that cornerstone, the firm foundation on which we place our hope. The cornerstone should not be your parents, or your spouse, or your kids, or your friends, or your job, because Lord knows they will let you down and your foundation will crumble. There is only One who will never let you down and His name is Jesus. Don’t be like the chief priests and reject the very One who gives life. Put Him at the center of your life and build around Him.

As we prepare to celebrate our risen Lord this Easter weekend, I pray that we will remember the magnitude of the rejected stone who endured so much on that Good Friday. It truly was a day to rejoice and be glad.

Because that chief cornerstone was rejected, you and I have an opportunity to receive our salvation. Because His hands and feet were nailed to the cross, you and I are able to enter through the gate of the Lord. Because of the Lord’s doing, you and I have a reason to rejoice. And the cornerstone that is Jesus Christ is so very MARVELOUS in our eyes!

(A replica of a cornerstone in Jerusalem.)