40 DAYS OF PASSION, WEEK 6

Just hours before His arrest Jesus prayed the most selfless prayer of all.  Knowing what lied ahead of Him, He asks the Father to remove this suffering from Him if at all possible.

That doesn’t seem too selfish does it?  I mean how many of us have asked the question, “Could it be done another way?”  Or made the statement, “I’m willing, but I would love to consider an alternative.”

Jesus knew the pain and suffering He was about to endure.  He was after all, God.  But while being fully God, He was also fully human.  Meaning, not only did He know the pain ahead of Him, He knew He would feel it at its’ fullest.

Yet, out of His LOVE for the Father and for us, He submitted His will, to the will of the Father!

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Week 6-JESUS IS SELFLESS

This High Priest of ours(Jesus), understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin.”             Hebrews 4:15

As we begin another week of social distancing, isolation and having our schedules and lives interrupted at best and possibly turned upside down, isn’t it wonderful and reassuring to know we have a Savior who loves us selflessly and was willing to endure the pain and suffering of the cross for us?

Just a few short months ago my feet were walking though the very garden Jesus walked on His way to the cross.  A garden He had walked in many, many times before!

I noticed as I walked through it that it is positioned on a hill overlooking the city of Jerusalem. I could imagine my selfless Savior stepping down the same dusty path,  stumbling over the same rocks, and positioning Himself under the shade of one of these same olive trees, as He prayed to His Father for the people He loved so dearly, people like me and people like you.

Jesus understands our frustrations, our fears, our anger, our pain and every other emotion we experience. Yet He remained selfless and went to the cross for you and for me!

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JESUS CHOSE SELFLESSNESS OVER SELFISHNESS…THE FATHER’S WILL OVER HIS OWN!

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40 DAYS OF PASSION – Week 5

One week into ISOLATION and how are you doing?  Are you stocked up on toilet paper, bread,  and eggs? When you open your refrigerator or pantry door, do you breathe a sigh of relief, or take in a gasp of air as you realize your supply is running low?  Are you cherishing this slowed down pace, or are you ready to pull your hair out because of it?

And what about WATER?  Were you able to pick up a case of bottled water at the grocery store? Or, did you, like me, watch the cart pass you by as it pushed it’s way out of the store with 12 cases of the last water the store had available?

What causes the eggs and toilet paper to disappear off of the shelves? What makes the bread racks empty after years of excess bread becoming outdated and ending up at the food banks?

And why would we suddenly be out of bottled water when most of us live in counties that typically want to shoot us for drinking from a plastic bottle?

FEAR! That’s what!

Sure, we can say that it’s not really FEAR, it’s just common sense and common decency.

We are stocking up to make sure we have enough for our time of isolation. And we are being decent to those around us by being well-supplied so that we stay isolated and do not leave our homes.

But is that really the reason? Do common sense and common decency cause us to panic and hoard?  No!  The truth is,FEAR does!

I am not going to lie that this is not a scary, weird time. It is typical for us to face a frightening, unknown situation like this and be fearful!  But do we allow that fear to turn into panic or TRUST?  

“NOTHING TESTS OUR TRUST LIKE FEAR.”

I love this quote. We all face fearful situations in life. At times they can even feel life-threatening like an unknown virus…like the Corona Virus we are facing.  

FEAR is a normal human response.  We are faced with something unknown that we cannot control and our lives are turned topsy turvey!  We are fearful.

It is what that fear does to our trust in God that matters!

Do we allow our fear to tear down our trust in God and send us rushing to the store in a panic to buy up the last of the toilet paper and water? Or do we allow the fear to fade into  TRUST in our powerful faithful God?

Hezekiah was a godly King who did what was pleasing in The Lord’s sight! Hezekiah was human just like you and I. He was the King of Judah in Jerusalem when the powerful Assyrian army was threatening and conquering all of the surrounding territories.   

He had to have been fearful as he looked around at his world and saw what was happening. Just like you and I are today! His response both assures us and challenges us.

Hezekiah’s TRUST in God was tested and he initially gave in to that fear and paid the “tribute money” demanded by the Assyrian leader. He even used the silver stored in the Temple of The Lord to pay it!  His fear overtook him and he lost his trust in God.

Soon, Hezekiah’s trust in God was tested even further!

The Assyrian King threatened to shut off the water supply to Hezekiah and his people!

He said they would be so thirsty and so hungry that it would cause the people to revolt against Hezikiah.

Sound familiar? Not enough water!  Water is essential to our very life. Nothing grows without it. When we do not grow food, when we do not drink, we die!

Recently, on my trip to Israel I visited Caesarea. There we visited the ancient tunnels and arches used as water ways to bring the water from it’s source to the king!

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Water is essential to all life!  We cannot live without it!  Both of these ancient kings were living in the desert. Their water ways were vital to their very lives!

King Hezekiah was being threatened with the lives of his people and himself! His water source would be cut off.  Life would cease!

As his trust was tested by fear, his trust grew in the only true life source, God Himself!

Hezekiah turned to God, prayed, and pleaded with Him as he trusted in the power and faithfulness of God.  His fear turned to Trust!  God saved them from the hand of the Assyrians!

BUT BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO TRUST IN THE LORD AND HAVE MADE THE LORD THEIR HOPE AND CONFIDENCE.”                       JEREMIAH 17:7

WE HAVE HOPE TODAY IN OUR CIRCUMSTANCES BECAUSE WE TRUST IN THE LORD OUR GOD!

WEEK 5 JESUS IS OUR LIVING WATER. HIS SOURCE NEVER RUNS DRY!

We have a King today, we are not alone in this crisis! While many days living through it may bring fear, may those days be fleeting as we TRUST IN THE LORD OUR GOD, OUR KING OF KINGS!

The King of Kings, Jesus, went to the cross and conquered death to bring living water to you and me! His supply never runs dry and can never be cut off!

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TRUSTING IN JESUS, OUR LIVING WATER, CASTS OUT FEAR!

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40 Days to Passion-Week 4

UNSTOPPABLE, that is what our God is! Something that cannot be surpassed, stopped or beat!

We wake up today with a new reality. I am not going to call it a “new normal,” because nothing about it feels normal!

We are not supposed to go to work places, we are not supposed to go to school, we are not supposed to go to restaurants, we are not supposed to go to the movie theater, we are not supposed to go to the shopping malls, we are not supposed to go to church…We are being told not to “GATHER!” Last night on our drive home we were listening to a book online. Suddenly, a horribly loud shrill sound came screeching through our phone! Certain counties were being told to stay inside their homes and not go out! The Crisis had reached a pinnacle!

So what happens when we are told to STOP?

Whether it is a virus that is trying to stop us, or fear that is trying to stop us, or negativity that’s trying to stop us, or rejection that’s trying to stop us, or insecurity that’s trying to stop us, or any other issue on the face of this earth…we look to our UNSTOPPABLE God!

On my recent trip to Israel I was “stopped in my tracks,” as I witnessed faithful Jewish believers at The Western Wall.

It is commonly referred to as the Wailing Wall. Daily, and for hours on end, Jewish men and women, separated on different sides, pray repetitively over and over and over again, even nodding their heads up and down as to not lose focus, for God to hear their prayers and answer their prayers!

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They are praying to an UNSTOPPABLE God! Through thousands of years of persecution, rejection, slavery and war, the people look and pray to an UNSTOPPABLE GOD!

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When we are faced with “new realities,“ are we praying harder than ever to our UNSTOPPABLE God? Are we looking to new ways to gather together because our God won’t be stopped?

I am not going to lie! My heart and spirit was grieved and sad this past Sunday when churches had to close their doors and we could not gather together in physical proximity!

But I was encouraged and uplifted when my God proved Himself UNSTOPPABLE!

Church leaders from all over the world prayed to our UNSTOPPABLE God and found creative and alternative ways to bring us all together! Church leaders prayed fervently and worked tirelessly to provide a myriad of online opportunities to allow us to “gather“ together. And God proved Himself UNSTOPPABLE! The number of people “gathering“ online doubled, tripled, and even quadrupled!

Friends, we serve an UNSTOPPABLE GOD! We must not STOP trusting Him, praying to Him and looking for ways to continue being The Church of our UNSTOPPABLE GOD!

As I placed my hand on that wailing wall and touched the very spot that millions of faithful believers have touched and prayed to our UNSTOPPABLE GOD at, I was alone! I was not in my home church folding my hands and listening to an eloquent prayer being shared. I was not in my home church sitting side-by-side with my fellow believers. I was not in my home church listening to my favorite pastor preach the Truth of God’s Word. I was not in my home church raising my hands in worship as I sang along with the worship team. No, I was with thousands, maybe billions of faithful followers of God in my spirit and heart, lifting up prayers to our UNSTOPPABLE GOD!

Then if My people who are called by My name Will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

This verse comes in response to King Solomon dedicating the Temple of God. The very stones that were laid that still mark the spot of the western wall in Jerusalem today!

God’s people cried out…

He is good! His faithful love endures forever!” 2 Chronicles 7:3

Thousands of years prove God‘s faithfulness and His goodness to his people!

Let’s follow Daniel’s example as He prays for God’s deliverance and walks out of the Lion’s den unharmed!

Let’s follow Nehemiah’s example as He prays through discouragement and persecution and rebuilds the Temple of God!

Let’s follow the example of our modern day church leaders as they pray faithfully, demonstrate God’s love to one another by “social distancing,” and gather together in creative and alternative ways, to love and serve our UNSTOPPABLE GOD!

Week 4-‘Jesus is UNSTOPPABLE in conquering death!’

Most importantly, let’s follow the example of Jesus! Our God is so unstoppable that nothing could stop him from conquering death!

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WHEN EVERYTHING ELSE STOPS, OUR GOD IS UNSTOPPABLE!

Our God is UNSTOPPABLE!

Never stop praying my friends! He will heal our land!

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40 DAYS TO PASSION – WEEK 3

I am obsessed with coffee! Not just a little bit but a WHOLE LOT! I like it strong and I like it unsweetened! I love the flavor and I love waking up to the thought of it! I get out of bed much happier and with a bit of a jump in my step, knowing that the hot, decedent, brew awaits me downstairs!

My husband challenged me last week on the word ‘LOVE.”  His opinion was that it is highly overused! And while I agree, it does not even come close to describing the depth of my passion for coffee!

The fact is, I love the flavor and the warm feeling of it going down my throat, but coffee is more than a yummy warm beverage to me. 

I have shared before that I am not a “crack of dawn” morning person. My coffee helps me get up and go downstairs!  My frother has made it even more delectable!  My coffee is also a help to me in not overeating.

I have an obsession with food and the way it makes me feel. AKA, I am an emotional eater!

When I am sad and when I am happy, when I am lonely or when I am overwhelmed. It does not matter. Coffee is a healthier alternative to eating sweets!

Bottom line, I am obsessed with coffee!

And to answer my husband’s question, YES, I LOVE it!

Just to prove my obsession with coffee, this is what it looks like on my desk right now as I’m writing this!

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But to give him credit…Do I love it like I love him?  NO!  Do I love it like I love my children? NO! Do I love it like I love my grandchildren? NO EVEN  CLOSE! And the most important question of all, do I love it like I love JESUS?  My quick reply is NO!  But the true reflection of my love is answered in the time I spend with Jesus, verses the time I spend drinking coffee!

Am I obsessed with Jesus? Does spending time with Him come before everything else in my life? Do I go to church or attend Bible study when it is convenient and nothing else is getting in the way? Or, do I go to church and Bible study first, before any other activity in my life?

The answer too much of the time is also, NO!

Week 3-JESUS’ OBSESSION WAS ME AND YOU

Thank God Jesus was so OBSESSED with me that I was His primary thought on His way to the cross!

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When I walked down the Via Dolorosa, this past November, I passed a Israel Starbucks!  It was not authentic, but it was real coffee! As we walked step by step down the ‘Way of Suffering,’ we hit the coffee spot about half way through. I wanted to STOP!  Unfortunately, no one else seemed to share my obsession for coffee, regardless of what kind. So we kept walking!  I was thankful that others were more obsessed with the journey ahead than I was. 

Truth Bomb

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Jesus was so obsessed with you and me that it took him to the cross!

I want my obsession with Jesus to be greater than any obsession in my life!

Ultimately, I was thankful that Jesus, when He walked this path of suffering that lead Him to His death on a cross over 2000 years ago, was so obsessed with me that He never stopped!

Jesus was so obsessed with you and me that it took him to the cross!

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40 DAYS TO PASSION – WEEK 2

As I walked where Jesus walked, and took each step down the ‘Via Dolorosa’, or

‘The Way of Suffering’, I was distracted from all sides!

On one side of me were several religious groups trying to focus on each station of the cross as they literally picked up a cross and carried it as they walked. On the other side of me were Vendors and Store Merchants crying out to come shop in their shop to get the best deal. They hung items for sale in every brilliant color and gems dangled and glistened in the light. I struggled as I tried to keep my focus on Jesus, stepping where He stepped, praying as He must have prayed for the Father to be with Him, but the distractions were GREAT!

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That scarf over there would be perfect to take home to my mom and sisters! I have always wanted a carved nativity from Jerusalem! A cross necklace would be a great reminder of my trip to Israel! And then there were those shirts! So many of them and each one beckoned to be read and snickered at! They even caught my husbands attention and tickled his funny bone!

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Everything around me was doing it’s best to distract and entice me away from my FOCUS!

I was struggling to stay the course, walk where He walked and speak to Him silently in thankfulness and gratitude for His sacrifice for me.

Week Two-Jesus maintains His focus

My heart was pierced with the truth that JESUS MAINTAINED HIS FOCUS!  Through the cruel treatment, the ridicule, the pain, the torture, HE STAYED THE  COURSE OF THE CROSS.

Do I?  Have I stuck to my commitment for Lent?  Or have I allowed the distractions and enticements that surround me on a daily basis to take my eyes off Jesus?

Jesus maintained His focus and went to the cross out of His love for me. Iwant to keep my focus on Him during this Lenten season and there is only one way to do that!  I must fix my eyes on Jesus!

FIXING OUR EYES ON JESUS, THE PIONEER AND PERFECTER OF FAITH. FOR THE JOY SET BEFORE HIM HE ENDURED THE CROSS, SCORNING ITS SHAME, AND SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE THRONE OF GOD.”      HEBREWS 12:2

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WE MUST FIX OUR EYES ON JESUS TO MAINTAIN OUR FOCUS!

Maintaining our focus in a world full of distractions is not an easy thing to do! But if we fix our eyes on Jesus and look to Him as our source of strength, there is nothing we cannot do!

Through this second week of Lent, let’s thank Jesus for maintaining His focus all the way to the cross. And let’s ask Him to help us keep our eyes fixed on Him as we journey through these 40 days of Lent!

Stay focused my friends!  He is worthy!

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40 DAYS TO PASSION: WEEK 1

Lent begins tomorrow and with it the focus of what we will “SACRIFICE.”

If you are not familiar with LENT, it is simply put, an annual season set aside to fast (give up something for a time) and focus on Christ’s suffering as we lead up to Easter.

It is always ironic to me that even at such a sacred time as this, we tend to focus on self!

What will I give up for the sake of Christ?

How will I suffer through this set aside time?

What will I go without?

What will I give up?

How will it disrupt my routine?

Etc…Etc…Etc…

I, I, I, My, My, My!

Self, Self, Self, Self, and more Self!

This time is often referred to in religious circles as, ‘The Passion of Christ.’  His sufferings and sacrifices on the way to the cross and finally on the cross.

Passion is defined as:” The state of being acted upon or affected by something so deeply that it overtakes us.”

The Love Jesus had for us was so deep and so strong that it compelled Him to suffer and die on our behalf!

This journey that Jesus took to the cross was full of pain, sacrifice, suffering and ridicule!  The factual awareness of this painful journey called the ‘Via Dolorosa,’ Literally the ‘Painful

Way’ or ‘The Way of Suffering,’ became crystal clear to me as I walked it step by step this year during my trip to Israel.

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As I put one foot in front of the other and pictured Jesus stepping on this very same road as He carried His own cross, dripping blood with each and every step from His cruel and brutal flogging and literally dying of thirst as He painstakingly persevered out of Love for me…I was overwhelmed with my own selfishness.

How could I wince at the thought of giving up something as simple as sugar, caffeine, screen time, social media…when Jesus had given up literally EVERYTHING for me!

God laid it on my heart to approach this Lenten season, The Passion Season, with a renewed sense of Passion in my selfless approach to it. 

This year I am not asking God what

I should sacrifice for Him, but instead,

What can I do to focus on your great sacrifice for me Jesus and say, “THANK YOU?”

Will you join me on this journey to the cross for the next six Tuesdays as we walk beside Jesus and thank Him for His sacrifice of Love?

Week One-Jesus Carries His Cross

So, they took Jesus away.  Carrying the cross by Himself, He went to the place called Place of the Skull, in Hebrew Golgotha.”   John 19:17

This week of Lent we’ll focus on the steps of Passion Jesus took for you and I carrying His own cross.  Let’s thank Him for everything else He so faithfully carries for us…our worries, cares, concerns, problems, burdens, you fill in the blank. 

Walk beside Him this week in thankfulness for faithfully carrying His own cross on our behalf and our worries and fears each day!

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JESUS CARRIED HIS OWN CROSS OUT OF LOVE FOR ME!

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WHY WE FIGHT: How To Have A GOOD Fight

Fighting is not fun. It makes us feel uncomfortable at the very utterance of the word FIGHT!

Our minds race back and forth picturing, and at times even reliving, every Fight we have ever had.

But FIGHTING is inevitable. You may not have ‘knock down, drag out’ fights, but we all fight something or someone on a daily basis.  It is, like I said, INEVITABLE!

Why?  Because, from the beginning mankind has strove to go his own way and walk away from God. The first fight occurred between the Creator and His Created Beings.  God told Adam and Eve that they could have EVERYTHING they wanted in the Paradise He created for them, except just one thing!  They wanted the one thing they could not have.

Their fight was against themselves.

Were they going to trust that God was giving them everything good, and saving them from the bad? Or, were they going to give into the temptation that they could be as wise as God and figure it out for themselves? 

That’s right, PRIDE entered the world and PRIDE won!

You and I as God’s created beings, deal with the same issue of PRIDE as Adam and Eve did. We must make choices each and every day to give into our PRIDE or chose God’s way.

Pride says, “that’s not fair, I was here first,” and we throw a nasty look someone’s way and stand our ground in line!  Or, we rev our car engine and pull swiftly in front of the car that cut us off!

Pride says, “I’m smarter than you are, therefore, I deserve to be revered!”

Pride says, “I am better than you are, and you do not deserve my time or effort!”

Pride says, “I deserve to have my needs met and if you are not doing that as my friend or relative or spouse, then I will no longer be in a relationship with you!”

Everyone of these categories of PRIDE produces FIGHTS that turn out BAD!

Bad for our hearts, emotions and feelings, as well as the hearts, emotions and feelings of those we fight with or against. Bad for our world to see and witness as we desire to have a loving witness for Christ. BAD, and even potentially devastating for those we are in relationship with!

Any FIGHT that we engage in that stems from PRIDE is only going to turn out BAD!

So, you may be thinking, Lisa, Where is the Good News?

I’m glad you asked!

Because Fighting is inevitable, we can learn how to have a “GOOD FIGHT!”

In the garden, Adam and Eve chose their PRIDE and it ended up in a BAD FIGHT!  One that separated them from God! 

We want our fights to be good fights so that they bring healing and restoration to our relationships! Had Adam and Eve chosen to have a “GOOD FIGHT”, the outcome could have been very different for them and for us!

This past Saturday night we had a ‘Couples FIGHT NIGHT,’ at our Church!  

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We listened to Dr.’s Les and Leslie Parrott, experts in the field of relationships and married to each other for over 30 years, share on FIGHTING GOOD.

My husbands greatest take away was a Soccer illustration…

“Instead of seeing the other person as OPPONENTS to score against, let’s view ourselves as on the same TEAM!  Let’s pass the ball to each other and work on scoring goals together!”

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WE FIGHT GOOD WHEN WE REALIZE WE ARE ON THE SAME TEAM!

We FIGHT because we see things differently. WE FIGHT because we are DIFFERENT and our perception of things is therefore DIFFERENT! 

This causes us to approach our problems differently and much of the time, when we let PRIDE creep in, we see the other person as nothing but an opponent trying to score against us!

The CORE of a GOOD FIGHT is:

C – Cooperation

O – Ownership

R – Respect

E – Empathy

When we set our PRIDE aside and realize that we are on the same team and our goal is to “score” a good relationship we:

COOPERATE with each other, listening to the others perspective and giving it worth and value.  

OWN our part in the fight; what did we do to offend or hurt, ignore or criticize.

RESPECT the others perspective and point of view.

EMPATHIZE with the others feelings, perspectives and emotions.

If the first man and woman ever created got it wrong, chances are we will too.  But with God’s help we can work harder to get it right and instead of Fighting Bad, we can Fight Good!

God fights for us, so is it not right that we fight for each other?  Fight to have a good and right relationship with all those He puts in our lives!

THE LORD WILL FIGHT FOR YOU, AND YOU HAVE ONLY TO BE SILENT.”  Exodus 14:14

After all, we only get one life on this earth, there are no “do overs!” We should strive to FIGHT GOOD with each other as we live to FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT, and say allow with the Apostle Paul,

I have fought the GOOD FIGHT, I have finished the race, I have kept the Faith.” 

 II Timothy 4:7

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