Sunday, July 22, 2018

Life Is Lived Forward, But Understood Backward

"Life Is Lived Forward, 
But Understood Backward."

Have you ever felt completely and totally alone?  You could be standing in a roomful of people, yet you didn't one saw felt invisible.  This was a description of me in the 6th grade.  My teacher at the Christian school I attended had her favorites....of which I was not one.  I was awkward, shy and felt the sting of being an outsider.  

And I couldn't see past 6th grade.  

I've found in the many years since 6th grade that it's not until we've traveled down the road a bit and stood on that tall mountain we just painfully climbed, that we can look back over the valley and appreciate the reason for the rugged terrain we just walked.  These roller coaster, yellow-brick-road life experiences we survive are all part of God's plan.

"In those days you were living apart from Christ.  
You were EXCLUDED from citizenship.....
you lived in this world without God and without hope.  
But God, Himself has brought PEACE to us."  
Ephesians 2:12-14

He saw our loneliness...our exclusion...our need for a Savior...and what did He do?  He adopted us as His own.  He rescued us from 6th grade. He stared into your lonely eyes and said, "You are now part of my family, sweet child of Mine. You no longer are alone."

I look back on that horrible year....and I recall the emptiness, the rejection I felt.  Little did I know that a year later, having survived the rough terrain of 6th grade, I would accept Jesus as my Father, be baptized in front of those who ridiculed me, and have a part of God gently placed inside me.   He placed His Holy Spirit as a permanent stamp of ownership, a promise really, into my soul that day a year after 6th grade.

I was rescued.....and handed the adoption gift of Peace. 

So friend, whenever you feel unloved, unimportant, or unnoticed, remember to whom you belong to. And remember that life is lived forwards, but understood backwards.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

My Adoption

"Even before he made the world, 
God loved us and CHOSE us in Christ to be holy 
and without fault in his eyes."
Ephesians 1:4

What hope and peace this gives me as a CHOSEN adopted daughter of Gods.  He chose me......why....I'll never know.  I'm weak, have a hot temper, impatient nature, and I take my eyes off Him when Satan distracts me.  Why in the world would He want Liz Etheridge? There are so many better choices out there for Him.....
"God DECIDED in ADVANCE to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.  
This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure." Ephesians 1:5

I visualize Him coming to the orphanage (this earth).  You and me, abandoned and orphaned children, are standing in a line as He looks us over, deciding which is worthy enough to come live at His house.  I see a coy smile spreading across His face....a  "I-know-something-you-don't-know" kind of smile, and as He looks into each of our desperate eyes, He announces, "I pick you all.  I'm closing down the orphanage and you all are coming to live with Me in my mansion up the hill!  You can call me Abba.....Father.....and you are now my forever child."
"He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding....
Ephesians 1:7

He picked us all.....rescued us from a life of abandonment and despair.  But did we, as orphans, also pick Him?  

"If anybody understands God's order for his children, 
it's someone who has rescued an orphan from despair, 
for that is what God has done for us.  
God has adopted you.  
God sought you, found you, signed the papers 
and took you home."  
Max Lucado

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Short Dude, Weird Name, Noticed By God

"Long before Zacchaeus couldn't see Jesus,
the sycamore tree was already
planted to meet his need."

I wish I could remember where I first heard the quote above.  It's been rolling around in my head for years......picturing this Danny DeVito short dude with a weird name in the back of the crowd as Jesus walked by.  Do you see him jumping as high as his squatty little legs would allow, only to see the backs of everyone's head?  

He suddenly remembers the Sycamore tree up ahead and runs to it...climbs up into it as fast as he can.....just in the nick of time to see Jesus coming down the street with the whole town surrounding Him....a town of people that despised this short little crook with the weird name.  He just wanted a glimpse....didn't actually expect Jesus to notice him......after all, he was the guy in town who cheated people....made a life out of using his IRS badge to take their money fraudulently.  But as Jesus approached the corner of Main and Cheater Streets that day, He stopped, looked straight up into the eyes of Zacchaeus and said, "Get on down from there, Zacchaeus....I'm staying at YOUR house tonight."

It always make me smile as I hit the "Play" button of my imagination on this story in Luke and thinking about the part of this cool story we never give much thought to.  That tree.   Imagine what God was thinking as He created that Sycamore tree so many years earlier, knowing full well what it would be famous for one day.  Imagine that without that tree, this story would look much different.

I fast-forward to the present.  I think about all the things God put into place long before I was even born so they would meet the needs on my path now.  He put them there just for me....and did the same for you.  For some it may be a tree to climb to allow eye-contact with Him, or maybe a person stepping into your life story at just the right time.....or for others, it might be moving you from the noise of the city to the quiet of the country where you can hear His voice for the first time.  

God plans these Salvation moments with precision timing......He patiently waits for that day when you will climb that tree he planted so many years ago for such a time as this, look Him in the eye, and hear these words, 

"Today, salvation has come to this house.  
For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost 
(i.e., Lost = You and Me!)." 
Luke 19:9.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Everything You've Ever Wanted Is Sitting On The Other Side of Fear

"Help, God - the bottom has fallen out of my life!
Master, hear my cry for help!
Listen hard!  Open your ears!
Listen to my cries for mercy."
Psalm 130:1

Can you hear the Fear in the Psalmist voice above?  Goodness...I sure can!  I believe I've said those exact words a thousand times to God.  

So, what do you Fear the most?  As for me, I fear grasshoppers, skin cancer and the possibility of floods.  I fear ignorant neighbors who shoot their fireworks inadvertently at my house on 4th of July and I fear not loving the Lord enough.  

Fear is a big deal in the story of us and God. The commandment repeated the most in the Bible is "Fear Not".  I read somewhere that someone once added them all up, and apparently there are 366 “fear nots” in the Bible — one “fear not” for every day of the year — including Leap Year.  Like a parent, daily, telling their child "Don't do that"...... God is constantly, daily, rolling His eyes, shaking His head and reminding us, yet again, that Fear is the opposite of Him.  

Remember; Fear is the "go-to" tool of Satan.....a tool Satan pulls out DAILY and drops on our path.  It's one of his most powerful tools....and it has the power to kill, discourage, destroy, and crush any thread of confidence we have left.  It grips us by the throat and chokes the very breath out of us.  

So what do we do when Fear gets thrown on our path?  What do we have in our tool bag that is bigger and stronger and will overcome Satan's most powerful tool?  Our tool is called Jesus.  Fear trembles in the presence of Jesus.  It's equal to a good soldier fighting with a silver bullet against an enemy using rubber bands.  

And no matter how fearful we may become, we have the promise....the glorious promise.....that nothing in this world lasts forever (my Dad's favorite saying).   Our time on this earth is a minute-in-time compared to the lifetime of eternity in Heaven.  We have nothing to fear......we have the promise of forever as we head for Home, and Home is right around the corner, Friends.  

Lock-and-load Jesus in your life....and the tool of Fear will be rendered useless.