Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tuesday's with Jesus #123

#123 "Blessed Hope"
November 27, 2007
"Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near." (Revelation 1: 3)
From Parade magazine comes the story of self-made millionaire Eugene Land, who greatly changed the lives of a sixth-grade class in East Harlem. Mr. Lang had been asked to speak to a class of 59 sixth-graders. What could he say to inspire these students, most of whom would drop out of school? He wondered how he could get these predominantly black and Puerto Rican children even to look at him. Scrapping his notes, he decided to speak to them from his heart. "Stay in school," he admonished, "and I'll help pay the college tuition for every one of you." At that moment the lives of these students changed. For the first time they had hope. Said one student, "I had something to look forward to, something waiting for me. It was a golden feeling." Nearly 90 percent of that class went on to graduate from high school.
A golden feeling...hope. Something to look forward to...something waiting for me...hope. I don't know about you, but I think that life can be a big, fat bully. Trials and tribulations, problems and circumstances, can beat us up and leave some very painful bruises on our hearts. And like a child who gets beat up on the playground and knows that running to Mom and Dad will make it all better, we need to know that there is somewhere to run where there is hope. We need to know that there is more to life than this. Whatever your "this" may be. I don't know about you, but couldn't we all do with some hope today?
I have been studying the book of Revelation in the Bible for the last couple of months. It is a difficult book to say the least. I don't think that any book of the Bible has been so highly debated, has produced more interpretations, or caused as much debate among scholars, as this final book in God's Word. You may take the book literally, historically, symbolically, or futuristically. You may be pre-Trib, mid-Trib, or post-Trib. You may be premillenial, amillenial or postmillenial. My purpose today is not to teach the right interpretation, or to change your mind if I don't agree with you. I believe that I saw something today in this wondrous passage of Scripture that will land a few blows on the bully and send him running home to mama. Jesus Himself has given us hope and a vision to heal the wounds that life so brutally inflicts.
In the very first chapter of Revelation, in the third verse, Jesus Christ says that we will be blessed if we read the words of this prophecy, hear it and take it to heart. I've read that verse many times over the years and often wondered what kind of blessing I would receive just from reading Revelation. Would I be blessed in health? Would my finances prosper? Would my children all come to know the Lord? Would there be peace in my home? What would that blessing be? The Amplified Bible says that I will be "happy, to be envied" if I "heed them [the words of this book], laying them to heart." First of all, I can't just read the book and get the blessing. That's just abracadabra and kind of spooky. The key is to take it to heart.  
After spending weeks reading Christ's messages to the seven churches, visualizing with John the seals, trumpets, and judgements of God on the earth and watching the demise of the dragon (Satan), the beast (Antichrist) and the false prophet, I came to the awesome climax of the story. The Rider on the White Horse, called Faithful and True comes on the scene. (Revelation 19:11) Jesus Christ rules and reigns on earth for a thousand years, Satan and his minions are thrown FOREVER into the lake of burning sulfur (Revelation 20) and then ... there it is...this is better than any suspense thriller you have ever read!
This is only my opinion, mind you, but I believe that I found the "blessing" of Revelation 1:3 today. And I believe it is found in Revelation 21: 1-5. Listen: "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.""  So I ask...Are you getting it yet? The blessing of Revelation 1: 3 is HOPE! When you read the book to the end and take it to heart....there is hope. Something to look forward to. Something waiting for you. It's a golden feeling...hope.
The old order of things will pass away. Your disease is the old order. Your poverty is the old order. Your loss is the old order of things. There will be no death. You will never lose a loved one again. You will never mourn or cry or experience the pain that you are feeling right now. All of your tears will be wiped away and you will never cry again. My precious friend, today's hurt and pain is NOT all there is. There is a bright and glorious future to look forward to. To give you hope. And that's the blessing of the book of Revelation...at least for me.
The last few days have been hard. My family has suffered loss and hurt, pain and uncertainty. We have gone through a roller coaster ride of emotion. But...this is NOT all there is. We have a Blessed Hope in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who is the Glorious Victor over it all. We can endure today because of our vision for tomorrow. I can dare to dream about tomorrow. And maybe that's why I am "to be envied". Because I can look the trials and tribulations and hurt and pain square in the eye and still have hope. There are many more chapters in this story we call life. If you have trusted Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior, today, you have this same hope. You can send the bully back home. You can endure today because you know what the future holds. The Rider on the White Horse, the one whose name is Faithful and True says that He is making all things new. He says, "It is done." There is the blessing of the book of Revelation. Blessed Hope. He is coming soon. And in His own words, "These words are trustworthy and true."
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Donna Schultz
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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tuesday's with Jesus #122

#122 "Matters of Life and Death"
November 20, 2007
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die.." (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2)
I ran into my cousin, Myra, a couple of weeks ago. She's actually one of those cousins who are about third or fourth removed, on my mother's side of the family. She's nice enough, but very chatty. We exchanged niceties.  "How's Mom and Dad?" "How are the kids?" She's had her share of ups and downs in life. But haven't we all? At the end of our conversation she looked at me and softly said, "Wow! Life really turned out well for you, didn't it?" I've thought about those words a couple of times since that day. Life has turned out well for me. Hasn't always been easy. Hasn't always gone according to my plans. But .... it has gone well. There has been "a time for everything". There has been "a season for every activity under heaven".
The activity called "a time to die" is a painful reality in my life today. My father is dying of cancer. He was sent home from the hospital this weekend. There's not much more that can be done. All treatments have stopped and hospice will be helping my mom and dad for however long is needed. I was able to spend some precious time with him last week. Just he and I. Now, you have to understand, that Dad and I have not had a great relationship over the years. This is absolutely not the time to air the details, but let me just say that it's been less than ideal. I have had to receive the love of my Heavenly Father and look to Him and Him alone for my security, my provision, my care and my wholeness. I stopped looking to earthly Dad a long time ago. But somehow, all of that doesn't matter anymore.
What mattered the most to me was to talk to Dad about Jesus. And that's what we did. It's amazing how our priorities change when faced with urgency. Our fights no longer mattered. Our disagreements and differences in how we see things didn't mean a thing at that moment. The conversation wasn't as profound as I imagined it would be. I never used the eloquent words that I had planned. But the power of the Holy Spirit was in that hospital room and He guided our words and gave me amazing openings to talk to Dad about death and Christ. I must confess selfishness. It was probably more for me, and my piece of mind, to be sure that Dad was going to see the face of Christ when he opened his eyes after he died. But I know that it was the most important thing that I could do for him.
"A time to die". It really seems to become a time to look back. Dad talked about regrets that he had about things he had done, or didn't do. He remembered a Christmas tree that sits each year at The Henry Ford where he worked until he became ill. Describing it to me, tears filled his eyes and he couldn't continue. He knew he would never see that beautiful tree again. I heard him tell me that he was so glad my daughter came to see him because he got to see her one last time. I told him he'd see her again...but who knows? What happens now is anybody's guess. What happens now is in God's hands. 
But... I am also absolutely overwhelmed by the fact that while experiencing "a time to die", I am also blessed to witness "a time to be born." A time to look ahead. Both of my beautiful daughters are pregnant! Two precious grandchildren are on the way, one in March and one in June. I cannot even describe to you the joy that fills my heart. My babies are having babies! Isn't that just like God? He is tempering my pain with inexpressable joy! Truly, "weeping may last for a night, but joy comes with the morning." (Psalm 30: 5)  I don't know that anything can come close to the feeling I had when I held my children in my arms for the very first time. But I'm beginning to think that this is going to come pretty darn close. I can't wait to feel the softness of a baby's skin. And that smell. There's nothing like the smell of a precious baby. I long to whisper "I love you" in their ears. And to tell them that there is Someone who loves them even more than their Grammy. And I can't wait to watch my girls, as they love and care for their own children. Two babies...my "double portion". The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is giving me the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (See Isaiah 61: 3, 7)
There is a time for everything. A season for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. Hasn't always been easy. Hasn't always gone according to my plans. But, this is the stuff of life. This is the circle of life. And....life HAS turned out well for me! It will turn out well for you too.
Have a blessed Thankgiving!
Donna Schultz
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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tuesday's with Jesus #121

#121 "Stand Up, Pray and Be On Your Way!"
November 13, 2007
"And because the Lord had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year." (1 Samuel 1: 6-7a)
Scripture Reference: biblegateway.com
Two women. Married to the same man. One had children, one had none. Hannah was barren. The Bible says that the Lord "closed her womb". To add insult to injury, her rival taunted her cruelly, rubbing it in. (The Message) Hannah did nothing but cry. She couldn't eat. She couldn't sleep. She was depressed, despondent and discouraged. I can't say that I blame her. It's bad enough to long for what you don't have, to yearn for your heart's desire. It's another thing to have the exact thing you want, flaunted in front of your face day after day. What do we do when other people have the one thing we desire with our whole heart? What do we do about Peninnah?
What do you do when you're waiting for your Boaz and you're always the bridesmaid and never the bride? What is your response when your car is held together by duct tape and paper clips and your friend pulls up in their shiny new sports car? You don't need a sports car, for heaven's sake, you just need a car that RUNS! And how about that lady in your Bible Study who just got back from a long, expensive vacation? The only getaway you need is five minutes alone in the bathroom away from those screaming kids. And money for a vacation? What's that all about? How about money for groceries and bills and more bills and wait...more bills. Think about your own situation that fits this scenario. Not everyone around you is a Peninnah, deliberately provoking you. But it irritates you all the same. "What about ME?" You can weep. You can stop eating. You can throw a pity party. You can look depressed and let everyone feel sorry for you, or...you can do what Hannah did. I think she just got sick and tired of being sick and tired.
By definition, provocation moves a person to an action or a feeling. Therein lies the choice. Will provocation incite you to anger and resentment, self-pity and depression, or will it stir you to action? And will your action be positive or negative? If you've already determined that you've been provoked to move in the wrong direction, don't get down on yourself. Hannah started out that way too. But there was a point where she got fed up. She pulled herself up by her sandals and began to walk in a different direction. I hope that you have read the Scripture Reference by now so that you have a feel for the whole story. If not, please go back and read it now. My desire is for you to see Hannah's strategy and learn it for yourself, because the proper response will produce the most amazing results.
Verse 9 of our text tells us that "Hannah stood up". I don't know what happened at that dinner table on that particular day, but something inside Hannah said, "that's enough!" Enough with starving herself. Enough with crying. She wiped her eyes, blew her nose, pulled herself together, and set off on a course of action to the only place where there was any hope of getting help. The temple. The place where the Lord was. I don't know what your situation is today, but are you ready to say, "that's enough!"? Don't let your personal Peninnah provoke you to wrong action. Divine provocation will drive you to God. Hannah stood up. Will you?
Next, Hannah prayed. She told Eli, the priest, that she was "pouring out [her] soul to the Lord." This was no mealy mouthed prayer. So intense was Hannah's silent prayer that Eli noted the movement of her lips and assumed that she was intoxicated. Verse 10 says that "in bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord." I'm sure that she told God of her desire to have a child and how disappointed she was. I'll even bet that she spent some time tattling on Peninnah. You may not be this unspiritual, but I've tattled to my Daddy on a few people before. And in her prayer she proved that she knew a little about her God. She asked Him to look on her, to remember her and to give her a son. She knew that He was always watching over her. She knew that He would never forget her. And she knew that He was the Giver of every good and perfect gift. The Giver of Life. The Giver of All Things. Hannah prayed. Will you?
Knowing what she knew about the God she prayed to, caused her to take the last step. "Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast." (v.18) The Message says, "she ate heartily and her face was radiant." It reminds me of a verse that I was memorizing over the weekend in 2 Timothy 1:12. "...I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day." She was fully persuaded that the God of the Universe had it all under control. She was so convinced that she could now eat, and her countenance lost its look of depression. Are you convinced that when you pray, God hears? Are you convinced that He is in charge? Are you convinced that He answers prayer? Then go on your way. Eat. Smile. Hannah did. Will you?
Don't let your Peninnah provoke you to wrong action. Let Divine Provocation drive you to God. Stand up today, my friend. Dust off your slippers and go. Go to the place where you know God is. Maybe it's your favorite chair by the window. Maybe it's by the water's edge. Maybe it's a literal closet. Even if it's in the bathroom with the kids waiting outside the door....go! Pray. Pour out your soul to the Lord. Tattle if you want to. Lay it all out before Him. That's what relationship with Him is all about. Then, wash your face, have something good to eat and rest in Him. Go on your way, fully persuaded that He is able to do what you've entrusted to Him. Exceedingly, abundantly more than you could ever ask or think! (Ephesians 3:20) Hannah received her son, Samuel, whose name means "heard of God". Your Samuel is on the way, because, like Hannah you "asked the Lord for him." (v.20)
Donna Schultz
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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Tuesday's with Jesus #120

#120 "Contented Thankfulness"
November 6, 2007
"...for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Philippians 4: 11-12)
I come to you today to say, "Happy Hallothankmas!" In case you haven't noticed, Halloween was last week and wouldn't you know it, suddenly it's Christmas! The trees are going up in the malls and grocery stores, the local radio station is playing Christmas music 24/7 and we are reminded daily that we need to clean our carpets, whiten our teeth, get our hair done and all the other ridiculous things they tell us to do before Christmas. Over the years it's become a blur to me. What happened to Thanksgiving? Can anyone tell me? I don't think that the turkeys are even scared anymore! Is it just me, or wasn't Thanksgiving a separate holiday? A time to reflect and be ... well...thankful?
As I ponder this conundrum, it seems to me that we are a discontented people. Is there such a word as "discontented"? I don't know, but I say that's what we are. We are not content. We live in a world that has increasingly pushed the notion that more is better. And in the pursuit of "more", we live our days like a whirling dervish until we collapse at the end of every day, just to get up again and start all over. Besides the fact that we just don't have the time, our quest for more means that what we have in the here and now isn't enough, and as a result we're not thankful. You cannot be thankful when you are not content.
In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul said that he had learned the secret to being content in whatever circumstance he was in. Rich or poor, full or hungry. He was referring to money in this passage, but generally the principle is the same. Being content is having a rest or quietness in your mind in the middle of your present condition. It is a sense of satisfaction which holds the mind in peace, restrains complaining and is totally independant of external circumstances. It's having a moderate degree of happiness, no matter what's going on around you.  Changing circumstances did not affect the inner contentment Paul enjoyed. At times he experienced great hardships, financial and material needs. At other times, he lived in abundance. But he learned to be content, abasing or abounding, through Christ, who gave him strength. And that made Paul a thankful person. How about you?
Paul wasn't on a pursuit for more. Well, not in the way we are anyway. He told the Corinthian church that he had resolved to "know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." (1 Cor 2: 2) Listen to these words: "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things." Lost? Do we ever seek to lose?  He goes on to say that he "considers them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him." (Philippians 3: 8-9) The Greek word for "rubbish" is "skybala" and it means street filth or dung. In case you aren't aware, dung is animal excrement. Paul considered all of his losses as nothing more than a big old pile of manure! He was content in his circumstances, pursuing higher things, and a thankful person. What about us?
Now, I am not saying that you should not have dreams and goals and want good things for your life and the lives of your loved ones. I'm not saying that at all. But is that your primary pursuit in life? And as you pray and plan and dream for the future, are you content with where you are today, right here and now? Because today is a precious gift from God. Where you are and what you have ... today...are you content? Or do you have a grumbling, complaining spirit? The endless pursuit of more, with unthankful hearts for what we have, leads to discontent and we cannot celebrate Thanksgiving because frankly, we're not thankful. We don't own enough, make enough, have enough, or see enough results in our lives to be thankful. And even if we do, we're too darn busy to even notice!

Philip Parham tells the story of a rich industrialist who was disturbed to find a fisherman sitting lazily beside his boat. "Why aren't you out there fishing?" he asked. "Because I've caught enough fish for today," said the fisherman. "Why don't you catch more fish than you need?' the rich man asked. "What would I do with them?"
"You could earn more money," came the impatient reply, "and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish, and make more money. Soon you'd have a fleet of boats and be rich like me." The fisherman asked, "Then what would I do?" "You could sit down and enjoy life," said the industrialist. "What do you think I'm doing now?" the fisherman replied as he looked placidly out to sea. Our Daily Bread, May 18, 1994. My point exactly!!
Might I suggest that when you get into bed tonight, you look over at that spouse of yours and be thankful. He or she is the one God has given you. There might be more handsome, richer, savvier guys out there or more shapely, prettier women, but be thankful for the one God has blessed you with. Some of your friend's children may be smarter, be accomplishing more, maybe accepted into a better college, but those are the children God has given you. Love them, cherish them, be thankful for them. If you are reading this right now with a roof over your head, be thankful. It means that you are warm on this cold November day. It means that you have heat and electricity and for goodness sake, the luxury of the internet. You're not living under a bridge waiting for the soup kitchen to serve your next meal. Piles of laundry represent family members that you have to care for. Dirty dishes mean that you had someone to share a meal with.
Circumstances might not be ideal today where you are. There may be real financial need or sickness invading your body. Relationships may be out of whack and it may seem that there is no hope and certainly, not much to be thankful for. But 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says to "give thanks in ALL circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Sounds like a command to me, not a suggestion. Ask God to show you the "secret" that Paul talked about. The "secret to being content".
Tomorrow I'm going to pull my Thanksgiving decorations out of storage and display them inside and outside of my home. I will not let this holiday become a blur with the rest of the world. I hope that you will do the same. My precious friend, slow down. Take some time to pray. Take some time to ponder your life. Be content in whatever situation you are in today. And by all means, be thankful. Just maybe, as Christians following our Savior and obeying His Word, we can bring this holiday back after all.  
Donna Schultz
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