Sunday, September 20, 2015

Run YOUR Race

A bicycle race took place in our area yesterday. The day was sunny and overly warm, but that didn't stop hundreds of cyclists from pedaling mile after mile through the Texas hill country. Down one country lane and up the next. Past detour signs and spray-painted arrows on the road marking the way. Only one person eventually came in first, but I have a suspicion most of the participants were simply happy to have competed and completed the race.

So the past few days I've been pondering the parallels between living life and running a race:

  • A route is marked out by those in charge. They know where the finish line is and the best way to get there.
  • A prize awaits the winner.
  • There are hazards, distractions, and all manner of obstacles between you and the finish line. 
  • It often takes years of training and hard work to win the prize.
  • You can't run someone else's race. 
  • You need the right equipment if you want to win. 
  • If you get lost, you should retrace your steps and get back on the right path. 

God has already marked your race route. From the moment you were conceived, he knew you and he knew how your life would turn out. "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb...All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." (Psalm 139: 13,16) God has a plan and purpose for each of his creations. "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good work, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10) There is work to do -- and races to run -- that God has already prepared. It's up to us to be in relationship with him so we don't waste our time running the wrong race.

God has an eternal prize waiting for us. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:24 "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." Every person on earth is running a race, but only a few will actually win. Jesus himself said, "For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:14) The promise of eternal life in the presence of God is the prize we should all be striving for.

When obstacles get in the way, keep going. We may have to hurdle obstacles both large and small in this life, but we can't let them trip us up. "You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?" Paul asks in Galatians 5:7. Notice he asks "who?" Other people will often get in your way of the prize. Satan, too, will try everything he can to thwart you in your race. Keep Truth in front of you and kick everything else out of the way!

Winning a race takes perseverance. Olympic athletes train for years and years before they get a chance at the prize. While salvation through Jesus Christ happens the moment we confess our sins and accept him as Lord in our lives, most of us still have a lot of life to live and races to run before we reach the pearly gates. "...let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." (Hebrews 12:1-2) Perseverance, baby!

I can't run your race and you can't run mine. Comparing ourselves to others is futile at best, dangerous at worst. Each of us is unique. Each of us, as the scriptures above prove, has a race marked out for us. While I may secretly wish my race looked like someone else's, I really have no idea the struggles, hurdles, and pain they've gone through to get to the point where my path crosses theirs. "Now the body is not made up of one part but of many...God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be." (taken from 1 Corinthians 12:14-31) As with a body, different parts preform different functions. The body wouldn't be complete without each one.

God will equip us with what we need to win the race. Having the best equipment goes a long way to helping someone win a race. God has provided everything we need to win our prize. "Put on the full armor of God...the belt of truth buckled around your waist...the breastplate of righteousness...your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace...the shield of faith...the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (taken from Ephesians 6:10-18) A racer set on winning the prize will never, ever leave home unequipped.

Sometimes we lose sight of the finish line. Even racers with the best intentions get lost. Especially when there are lots of twists and turns and detours on the route. When a racer is lost, one of two things has to happen. Someone needs to go find him, or he needs to turn around and go back to where he took a wrong turn. Jesus, in his great love and compassion, reminded us that a Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine safe sheep to go find the one that is lost. "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over the ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." (Luke 15:1-7) But rather than waiting for someone to come find you, wouldn't it be better to head back on your own once you recognize your wrong turn? "When he came to his senses..." the prodigal son went home. (Luke 15:11-32) Get back on track! The prize is just ahead!

Racing is not easy. It takes hard work. It takes training. It takes keeping your eye on the prize. You have to stay on the marked route and not get distracted or lost. But once you cross that finish line...


Let the celebration begin!

This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, United Kingdom, Germany, Pakistan, Ukraine, South Africa, France, China, Hong Kong, Portugal, Cote d'Ivoire, Indonesia, Singapore

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sonograms, Tumors, and Why Abortion is NEVER the Right "Choice"

The most recent damning video released against Planned Parenthood and its practice of harvesting and selling baby body parts is beyond horrific. I cried and cried and cried at the image of the tiny little boy, lying in a medical dish of some sort, while listening to a former abortion worker describe the horror of seeing and participating in cutting open the face -- the FACE!!!--- of a tiny little boy probably very  much like the one shown in order to harvest his brain.

There are not enough words to describe the disgust, the anger, the heartbreak I feel watching these videos. Like you, I am fully aware that abortions happen every single day. Like you, I've read articles or heard speeches or even watched a video or two about why abortion is wrong. But never has it been so real. Never has it been so despicable. Never has it hit me to the point of deep, deep grief for the precious lives that are being treated like scientific experiments.

Let me tell you a story...

Way back in the fall of 1992 we were thrilled to learn we were expecting our second child. Having been through this before just a couple years prior with our first son, I had no reason to think everything wouldn't be completely normal with this pregnancy. At six weeks along, I went for my first doctor's appointment. My sweet mother-in-law accompanied me so she could keep my toddler, Taylor, occupied while I went in for a sonogram. I couldn't wait to see the tiny pulsating "blob" on the screen and maybe hear its heartbeat. Laying on the table as the nurse smeared cold gel on my flat stomach, I wondered who was inside of me! Was it another boy or a maybe a little girl this time? Time would tell. This appointment was strictly about confirming that yes indeed I was pregnant and to get the ball rolling.

Dr. Kaplan, with his South African accent, chatted with me as he swirled the sonogram device across my abdomen. After a while, though, he quit talking. He stared at the screen intensely as he kept running the little device over the same area. When he began to frown, fear started to rise in my heart.

Something was wrong. I could tell just by looking at him. Was my baby all right?

Finally, he moved the device way over on my side, nodded, and then went back to the troubling area. After what seemed like eternity, his eyes met mine.

"The good news is you are pregnant," he said, swishing the device on my side again, where the familiar little bleeping blob resided.

Pure relief flooded me. My baby were there, safe and sound. But just when I started to relax, he moved the device back to the top of my stomach.

"But I'm afraid this," he said, pointing to a large, dark area, "is a problem."

"What is it?" I asked, completely baffled.

"It's a tumor."

I can't remember how the rest of the conversation went exactly, but suffice it to say it was not good news. The tumor was directly behind my uterus. It was the size of a plum. Dr. Kaplan calmly laid out my options:

1. Terminate the pregnancy, remove the tumor, and go on with life.
2. Wait until the first trimester was over and then do surgery. It would require lifting out the uterus with the baby inside through a huge incision to remove the tumor. There were, of course, risks involved. I could lose the baby. The tumor could grow and spread while we waited. Recovery would be horrendous due to the large incision on a growing belly. The baby could suffer damage. Etc. Etc. Etc.

I don't say this to pat myself on the back like I'm some kind of saint or something, but I never ONCE thought about myself and the dangers to my person. My thoughts were 100% for my baby. Termination of the pregnancy was not ever an option. God planted this precious life inside me for a reason. He created the little boy or the little girl with His own hand. Yes, I was frightened about how all this was going to turn out, but killing my baby before it ever drew a breath was unthinkable.

The next weeks were filled with anxiousness but also with trust in God and a whole lot of prayer! We had all our family and close friends praying. I'm sure the words, "Not my will but thine" passed over my lips a multitude of times.

The day for our second sonogram arrived. Brian and I went to the doctor alone, leaving Taylor with Grandma Shocklee. There would be serious decisions and plans to make regarding the surgery and moving forward. When the doctor began the sonogram, Brian and I fully expected to see the dark mass, maybe even bigger. I think the doctor expected that too. But as he swirled the sonogram device over my still fairly flat stomach, what we saw is still imprinted in my memory.

A perfect little person, facing us on the screen, literally DANCING! Not big enough to require being tucked in the normal fetal position yet, this little person's arms and legs were moving like crazy. He seriously looked like he was dancing. We heard his heart beating. We saw his little hands and arms and legs and feet.

He was 13 weeks gestation. The same age as millions of babies when they are aborted.

It was Dr. Kaplan's turn to be baffled. He looked and looked for that tumor, but it wasn't there. I think he was an atheist, but when I shared that people had been praying for this very thing, he seemed a little impressed.

On May 22, 1993 our Austin James Shocklee arrived 3 1/2 weeks early but perfect in every way. He's grown into an amazing young man with God-given gifts and dreams. Our lives would not be complete without him. While I would have been justified in the eyes of the world to have an abortion due to the danger to my own health, I would have missed the miracle that God wanted to do. Not only did He remove the tumor, but He gave us a beautiful, healthy baby boy.

I realize my story does not look like others. Our baby was very much wanted and planned. But an unplanned baby is still just as precious. An unplanned baby is still a baby. An unplanned baby was created by God, so it is IN FACT a PLANNED baby!

No matter the circumstances of a pregnancy, one thing remains absolutely certain. Abortion is NEVER the right answer. Never.

Friday, August 7, 2015

A God-Stirred Spirit

There is a verse tucked away at the end of the first chapter in Haggai that, I believe, if we got down on our knees and prayed for this very thing, it would rock our nation. Our world! Revival would happen in every heart, in every home, in every church.

Before I quote the verse, let me give a little background. Haggai was a prophet of the LORD. He and the exiles had returned from Babylon where they'd been held captive for years and years. If you know your biblical history then you know that the Babylonians destroyed King Solomon's beautiful temple before taking the Israelites captive. Now, the children of God have returned to their beloved city and are beginning to rebuild their lives.

But, like most of us, they focused on rebuilding their own homes first. Certainly they needed a place to live and sleep and be, and God no doubt understood they needed to take care of personal business. But eighteen years have come and gone since their return. When are they going to start work on God's house? "Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?" God asks in Haggai 1:4, revealing his impatience with their selfishness. Rebuilding the temple, God's dwelling place, was not their priority. And if rebuilding the temple was not a priority, it kinda makes sense that ultimately GOD was not their priority.

(Definitely begs the question: Where are MY priorities?)

"You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is ever warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them in a bag with holes." (Haggai 1:6)

Life, God seems to be saying, will always use up our energy. We will always have bills, always need groceries, always get hungry, always be tired. There will always be problems to deal with. Are those good enough reasons to neglect the LORD? To neglect the LORD'S house?

Something had to change if the LORD'S temple was going to be rebuilt. The Israelites were too self-centered, too tired, to manage it on their own.

And that leads me to the verse that holds the key. The power.

"And the LORD stirred up the spirit  of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God." (v.14)

The government, the pastors, and the people. All stirred by God to move!

Can you imagine what the world would look like if we asked God to stir up our spirits the way He stirred the spirits of those folks? Can you imagine how many lives would be changed? How much kingdom work would get done? How much evil would be thwarted? Apathy would be non-existent. Desensitization would be reversed. The orphan would be fed. The poor would be clothed. Churches would be fully funded because everyone would tithe as they should. Huge changes could take place, all because God stirred the spirits of His children.

Beginning today, I am going to pray for that very thing! That God would stir up my spirit, and your spirit! That He would stir the spirits of our pastors and spiritual leaders. That he would stir the spirits of our government  leaders, including those who want to be the next President of the United States. We need men and women in leadership who are stirred up! We need men and women who will listen to God and obey Him (v. 12).

Will you join with me and pray for a mighty stirring throughout the world? Beginning in our own hearts!

This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, Japan, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, China, France, Canada

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Hold Planned Parenthood Accountable!

There are no words strong enough to describe the horrific, depraved practice Planned Parenthood is undertaking. That is, the illegal sale of human body parts. Precious little baby body parts. Torn from their mother's womb in the name of Women's Rights. Abortion is murder. It is the taking of an innocent life in the most horrific way imaginable. It is the mutilation of a human body. Yet abortionists are not satisfied with simply destroying life. They want to maximize the profit to its fullest, disgusting potential.

Help stop this shameful, diabolical practice. Watch and share the video.

God bless the precious, innocent souls being sacrificed for monetary gain.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Goodbye, Sweet Boy: Copper, The Fastest Wiener Dog in Texas

With broken hearts and deep sorrow, we said goodbye to our beloved Copper today. Once known as The Fastest Wiener Dog in Texas, he lived the last eight years of his life the way a retired champion should -- sleeping, eating, and enjoying his family. Without a doubt, Copper was the sweetest, smartest, most loving dog who ever walked -- and ran -- the earth. God blessed our family mightily when He gave us Copper. We will desperately miss the little fellow. 
Copper Ebenezer Shocklee was born on January 2, 1999. When he was seven weeks old, he came to live with us, his Forever Family. Full of energy and playfulness, we immediately fell in love with him. It wasn't long before he was chasing tennis balls and other toys, and we couldn't help but notice how fast he ran on those short legs. 

When he was a year old, he was invited to enter the Wiener Dog Nationals race in Houston. Out of a field of 65 dogs, Copper came in 2nd, with his "cousin" Simba Shocklee coming in 1st. In April 2000, Copper and Simba competed in the Buda Wiener Dog race with 200 other dogs. Simba came in 1st, Copper came in 2nd.

It would be the last race Copper ever lost. 

That summer Copper won the Summer Invitational Wiener Dog Nationals race in Houston, earning a spot in the annual race in January where cousin Simba reigned. Although that race was close, Copper pulled ahead and won, beating Simba and 63 other dogs. We were hooked! Copper competed in the Houston race one more year, the Buda race six more times, and a race in Belton, winning every single time. He was featured on CBS Sunday Morning, On the Porch with Jim Swift (KXAN Austin), several local news programs, and in newspaper articles. The last year he competed in the Buda race, it had grown to a field of 600 dogs! Copper was an old man compared to the other dogs and the competition was gunning for his title, with some dogs coming from as far away as Florida. But even though he'd slowed down some, he still managed to come in first, winning by a nose. His legend lives on in the hearts and minds of those who love a good wiener dog race. No dog has beaten his record of wins in the Buda races and we proudly doubt anyone ever will. We retired him in 2007, but he enjoyed chasing a ball and favorite squeaky toys in the backyard for many years to come. 

We, his family, will cherish our memories of our beloved Copper, knowing we were the lucky ones the day we saw an ad in the newspaper advertising Dachshund puppies for sale. There will never be another dog like him.

Rest in peace, sweet boy. You've earned it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Unsearchable Things

Search engines are my friend. I love that I can type in just about any question or subject and get an answer or information within moments. Sometimes I miss the days when a trip to the library was a necessary event if I needed to do some research or wanted information on a topic that interested me. But I must admit the convenience and the vastness of the information on the Internet amazes and thrills me daily.

So it makes sense that a phrase I read in Jeremiah the other day would stop me in my happy tracks:

"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3

That is the LORD speaking to Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a prophet of God in the days leading up to and during the years Jerusalem was attacked by King Nebuchadnezzar. God's warnings through Jeremiah were ignored by the people of Judah and they suffered because of it. Many lost their lives, their homes, their families. Some, like Daniel, were taken into captivity to Babylon, while others rotted in prisons. Ultimately, the beautiful temple and the City of David were destroyed, all because of the disobedience of God's chosen people.

Yet in the midst of all the turmoil and uncertainty, God tells Jeremiah something utterly amazing. Not only about what can happen when someone is obedient to God, but about God himself. He promises to reveal "unsearchable things" to Jeremiah.

Unsearchable things.

I don't know about you, but those two words absolutely, positively hold me captive! Think about it. There are things about God and about the world and about who knows what that are unsearchable. No earthly search engine created by man knows these things! No library has a book on them. Only God knows them and he's willing to reveal them to Jeremiah. All Jer has to do is ask!

If you look up the word unsearchable, this is the definition you find: "Not capable of being searched or explored." Understand those first two words: Not. Capable. The things that God wanted to reveal to Jeremiah were things that he as a human was not capable of knowing on his own. They were not something he could search for either, because, as we see at the end of that verse, they were things he didn't know. And remember, Jeremiah wasn't an ordinary guy. He was God's prophet. God spoke to and through Jeremiah. If anyone would have known these unsearchable things, it would have been Jeremiah.

Is your mind whirling, wondering what these unsearchable things could be?

Isaiah 40:33 (ESV) says God's "understanding is unsearchable."

David tells us in Psalm 145:3 (ESV) that God's "greatness is unsearchable."

Job said the number of God's years was unsearchable and that we "know him not."

And Paul writes in Romans 11:33 (ESV): "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and unfathomable his ways."

God had a message for the people of Judah and he needed Jeremiah to understand it. I think God has messages for people today, too. His promise to reveal unsearchable things was made to Jeremiah, but I believe God actively wants to reveal himself to us in the same way. Sending his Son Jesus into the world is evidence that God wants a personal relationship with each of us. His Spirit is as close as our breath when we put our faith in Christ.

I, for one, want to know and experience everything God wants to reveal to me, including unsearchable things.


This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, Ukraine, China, France, Greece, Indonesia, Russia, Nigeria, Turkey, United Kingdom, Brazil, Germany

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

When God Calls You Home...

We lost a dear friend from our college days yesterday. Allyn Pepper went Home to be with our Lord Jesus. He'd fought a fierce battle against brain cancer for many months, but through it all he remained an amazing inspiration to me and countless others. His Facebooks posts were filled with scripture and encouraging words, evidence that Allyn was hanging on to God's hand through the storm he and his family had to go through. His testimony is so powerful and beautiful, and I'm so glad he shared it on YouTube. Allyn is now enjoying the sweetness of heaven and the presence of our Lord Jesus. It doesn't get any better than that!

We will miss you, dear friend! Can't wait to see you on the other side. Our hearts and prayers are with your family.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Does God Watch Over Us?

Last year was not a good year for our sheep. We started losing lambs in February 2014 and it didn't stop until April. Coyotes, bobcats, and even some wild hogs killed every single lamb that was born during the winter and spring. It was a sad, depressing time for us. Each day we would hop into the 4-wheeler to check on the sheep, wondering who would be missing from the group. I'd taken to naming the babies as they were born, but after Gimpy, Valentine, and Junior all went missing, I stopped giving them names. It was just too hard on my heart. When the easy-pickings-lambs were gone, the predator started on the ewes. Our herd dwindled down to what we referred to as "the lucky thirteen." Thirteen very skittish, unhappy survivors.

Mighty Hunter and I knew we had to do something or else the entire flock would be wiped out. But what? How do you protect sheep on 400 open acres of land, bordered by property dense with trees where all manner of predators live? We tried traps, snares, hired guns, and cameras, but still the sheep disappeared one by one. 

Then one day I read an article about guard llamas. Llamas have a natural alertness to their surroundings. They dislike dogs and are not afraid to attack a coyote or any other predator that threatens. The more I read, the more I liked the idea, so I passed the information on to the property owners. It was soon decided we needed a llama! 

One week later, Jaxx arrived at the ranch. We moved him and the sheep to a pasture a few days before Easter 2014 so they could bond. And you know what? We haven't lost one sheep since that day! Our herd is now up to 35 sheep, with all kinds of sweet babies. They are happy, content, and not the least bit afraid. Instead of staying huddled together in a tight group, they spread out to graze and bask in the sunshine. The lambs love "Uncle Jaxx" and follow him around when their mama's are busy eating. 

It's amazing what a difference one year and one llama made!

I can't help but think about how our Great Shepherd is always watching over us the way Jaxx watches over the sheep. Like our sheep, we are often in danger even when we don't realize it. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that our adversary, Satan, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. In Job 1:7, Satan describes how he stays busy: "...going to and fro on the earth, and walking up and down on it." And you know he is doing his best to wreak havoc in our lives while he's here!

Like our sheep, we need a protector. We need someone who will stay alert to dangers we can't see or anticipate. We need someone who isn't the least bit afraid of the enemy and is willing to do battle for us. I don't know about you, but I need someone who is willing to keep his eye on me 24/7/365 so I don't get myself into trouble! All too often we try everything but God.

Psalm 121 (NLT) pretty much says it all:

I look up to the mountains--does my help come from there?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. 
He will not let you stumble, the one who watches over you will not slumber. 
Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. 
The LORD himself watches over you!
The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade. 
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.
The LORD keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. 
The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go.
Both now and forever. 

So on those days when you wonder if God is watching over you...on those days when you're frightened and feel alone...on those days when you sense the enemy is near...know without a doubt God is right there. He will never leave you or forsake you.

Rest in that peace.

Jaxx and his peeps, er, sheeps ;)

This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, France, Russia, Philippines, China, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Romania, Ukraine 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Beautiful Story of Adoption

This is such a beautiful story of little Jacob's adoption, but it's also a story of how each of us is adopted into God's family when we acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives. 


This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, Philippines, France, Germany, Italy, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Kuwait, Poland

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 the Garden of Eden?!

Genesis chapter two is one of my favorite chapters in the entire Bible. Why? Because it goes into detail about how and why God created Adam and Eve and what his plan was for them. With Valentine's Day just a few days away and the release of a movie that is a shameful, distorted lie about what sex should look like, let's see what God says about sex.

"The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (2:7) The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (2:15) The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper for him." (2:18) So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. (2:21-22)

Think of it! God didn't want Adam to be alone so he fashioned the most perfect companion for him. A woman. She was similar to him in many ways, but oh so wonderfully different in others. Then God himself brought the woman to Adam! What a beautiful picture of God's love and faithfulness. That, my friend, is what every marriage should look like. God at the center of two human beings fashioned for one another.

Now comes the best part!

"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame." (2:24-25)

"One flesh." 


"No shame."

This is God's perfect plan for sex, folks! Adam and Eve were naked. Adam and Eve became one flesh through sexual intercourse. Adam and Eve felt no shame. Keep in mind this all happened before sin entered the world. Adam and Eve had sex in the garden and there was no shame in it whatsoever.

No shame.

Let that sink in for a moment. We are a generation that is bombarded by sexual images all day long. On TV. In movie theaters. On our computers and phones. In books, magazines, and newspapers. And the vast majority of it is shameful. Sinful.

There is no shame in sex the way God intended it--between one man and one woman who are committed to one another through marriage. Anything outside of that is a distortion of the original plan. God created sex for us to enjoy. He wants us to enjoy being with our mate intimately. But when sin entered the world, sex became one of Satan's favorite tools to destroy our relationship with God and with one another.

Sex was God's gift to Adam and Eve. There was nothing shameful about it. Don't accept anything other than God's gift when it comes to sex. If you're married, keep only unto your spouse. Work at your marriage if it's not what it should be. If you're single, abstain from all forms of sex. If you have same-sex attraction, you also need to abstain. God has a plan for your life and same-sex union is not it. Seek Him only.

We may not be able to return to the perfection of the Garden, but we CAN choose to keep ourselves pure and holy for the God who created us!

This week's Prayer Shout-Out Countries are:
USA, Germany, South Korea, Australia, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Netherlands, Russia, Kuwait

Thursday, February 5, 2015

That Pesky Thing Called Obedience

Why is being obedient so hard sometimes?

It really shouldn't be hard, you know. Do what you're told to do. Period. Do what you know is right. Period. Yet how often are we guilty of doing the exact opposite?

To trace our heritage in disobedience you've got to go all the way back to the very beginning. To the very first people God created. Genesis 3 tells the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, a perfect paradise where they walked with God in the cool of the day. Yet despite the perfection, despite the daily presence of God, Adam and Eve disobeyed. They sinned.

And that, my friend, is exactly what disobedience is. Sin!

1 Samuel 15 truly spells out what disobedience looks like and what its consequences will be. God has given the order to destroy the Amalekites because of the way they treated the Israelites when God delivered his people from Egypt. Samuel tells Saul exactly what to do: kill everyone and everything. But Saul disobeys. He takes the king captive and allows his men to keep the best of the livestock. He even sets up a monument in his own honor. Talk about arrogance! God hates our disobedience. He told Samuel he was grieved that he'd made Saul king.

But guess what? Saul didn't even recognize his disobedience! He had to be told by Samuel that what he'd done was wrong! And even then, it took quite a bit of convincing before he conceded. But the damage was done. God removed Saul from his position and gave it to David, a man after God's own heart.

Does that sound like someone you know?

Or maybe you're the one living in disobedience?

You know what is right and yet you don't do it. But still, you claim to be doing what is right and good! I've "been there, done that." God has had to thump me more than a few times to get me to see that what I was doing was not what he'd told me to do.

Each and every day we need to check our lives for disobedience. When you find it, get rid of it! Stop doing whatever it is you're doing that you know is wrong. Even if that means major life changes have to happen. DO IT! It is far better to live in obedience to God than to live in sin with man!

And remember: disobedience to God is sin!

I'll leave you with Samuel's words about this:

"Does the Lord delight in burnt offering and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry." 1 Samuel 15:22-23

This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, United Kingdom, Australia, India, Russia, Germany, Japan, Indonesia, China

Saturday, January 10, 2015

"Everything Is Meaningless!"

I'm not sure if those are the best or worst words to start a new year off. I will let you decide for yourself.

"Meaningless! Meaningless! says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!"

Those words come from Ecclesiastes 1:2. The author was most likely King Solomon, a man often given the honor as being the wisest man in the world. God himself gave Solomon his wisdom in 1 Kings 3:12. Solomon understood he couldn't rule a nation without it (wouldn't that be refreshing?!), so instead of asking for riches and the like, he asked God for wisdom. And you know what God did? He gave him wisdom AND untold riches. Pretty cool, huh?

But it is the words in Ecclesiastes that have me pondering this morning. A new year always does this to me. I wonder what the next twelve months hold for me and my family. I look back and wonder what I should have done differently in the year gone by. But more and more, the older I get, I find myself in total agreement with the Teacher.

Everything is meaningless.

To get the full meaning of the author's words, I encourage you to read all twelves chapters of Ecclesiastes. Not to be rendered hopeless, because he sees everything as meaningless, but to understand what he had discovered through all his years of  living life. A life full of "great projects" that included building houses and reservoirs, planting vineyards and orchards, owning slaves and having servants, keeping huge flocks and herds, and amassing more silver and gold and kingly treasures than anyone on earth. He had singers and entertainers and more wives than one man needed (700 to be exact!). His was a life of ruling over people, studying nature and science, and enjoying the fruits of wealth. He was not idle or lazy. He tried a life of "folly" and found it lacking.

But still, at the end of the day, he found everything in life to be meaningless.

"What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?" (v.3)

"I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind." (v.14)

It would easy to become depressed if one took the Teacher's words to mean life as a whole had no meaning at all. That everything we accomplish, dream, attempt, fail at, strive for, hope for, is meaningless. But to me, that isn't what he is saying. To me, he's saying everything in life is meaningless without God.

"I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. (3:14)

"Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God." (5:7)

"When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work--this is a gift from God." (5:19)

And ultimately, his conclusion in chapter 12, verses 13 and 14:

"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil."

My conclusion is this:

All the "stuff" we think is so important, the things that take up so much of our time -- jobs, relationships, money, material possessions, vacations, movies, clothes, cars, houses, books, pets, even dreams and ambitions -- are meaningless...without God. As the Teacher says, we all have the same destiny, which is death. God will judge every deed we do during our time on earth. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be standing there in the puddle of a meaningless life.

My NIV Bible sums it up like this: Life not centered on God is purposeless and meaningless. Without him, nothing else can satisfy. With him, all of life and his other good gifts are to be greatly received and used and enjoyed to the full. This book contains the philosophical and theological reflections of an old man, most of whose life was meaningless because he had not himself relied on God as he should have.

I am a wife, mother, sister, employee, friend, author and dreamer. None of those things are going to make a huge difference in the masses of this world. All of those things in the grand scheme of life truly are meaningless. But because I have declared God as LORD of my life, they take on an eternal meaning that is worth far more than any earthly praise or compensation could ever begin to satisfy.

So my New Year's resolution? To continue to live my meaningless life to the best of my ability, serving and loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and body.

How about you?

This week's Prayer Shout Out countries are:
USA, Poland, Germany, France, Singapore, Australia, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Philippines, India

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Christmas Greeting from the Ranch

Dear Family, Friends, and all those in between,


It's hard to believe this will be our third Christmas here on the ranch! It's been a wild and crazy adventure, for sure, but we are truly enjoying ourselves. Suffice it to say, we know we are abundantly blessed by our loving Father in heaven. To live and work in this beautiful have everything we need and a lot of what we enjoy watching our handsome sons grow into amazing young be loved by family and friends...and most importantly, to know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior...we are truly and marvelously blessed! Our prayer for you in the coming year is that you too will know Immanuel -- God with us (Matthew 1:23) -- and feel his power and love moving in and through your life each and every day. May you and yours experience the JOY of CHRISTmas all year long!

Here's a little holiday humor from the ranch. Enjoy!



On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me....

...ONE sweet old Dachshund who used to run fast. 

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

...TWO wily coyotes and ONE sweet old Dachshund who used to run fast. 

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me....

...THREE prickly porcupines, TWO wily coyotes, and ONE sweet old Dachshund who used to run fast. 

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

...FOUR stinky skunks, THREE prickly porcupines, TWO wily coyotes , and ONE sweet old Dachshund who used to run fast.

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

 ...FIVE feral hogs! FOUR stinky skunks, THREE prickly porcupines, TWO wily coyotes, and ONE sweet old Dachshund who used to run fast. 

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

...SIX spitting llamas, FIVE feral hogs! FOUR stinky skunks, THREE prickly porcupines, TWO wily coyotes, and ONE sweet old Dachshund who used to run fast.

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

...SEVEN clucking chickens, SIX spitting llamas, FIVE feral hogs! FOUR stinky skunks, THREE prickly porcupines, TWO wily coyotes, and ONE sweet old Dachshund who used to run fast. 

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

...EIGHT rattling rattlers, SEVEN clucking chickens, SIX spitting llamas, FIVE feral hogs! FOUR stinky skunks, THREE prickly porcupines, TWO wily coyotes, and ONE sweet old Dachshund who used to run fast. 

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

...NINE gobbling gobblers (at the window), EIGHT rattling rattlers, SEVEN clucking chickens, SIX spitting llamas, FIVE feral hogs! FOUR stinky skunks, THREE prickly porcupines, TWO wily coyotes, and ONE sweet old Dachshund who used to run fast. 

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

...TEN jumping deer, NINE gobbling gobblers, EIGHT rattling rattlers, SEVEN clucking chickens, SIX spitting llamas, FIVE feral hogs! FOUR stinky skunks, THREE prickly porcupines, TWO wily coyotes, and ONE sweet old Dachshund who used to run fast. 

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

...ELEVEN rascally raccoons, TEN jumping deer, NINE gobbling gobblers, EIGHT rattling rattlers, SEVEN clucking chickens, SIX spitting llamas, FIVE feral hogs! FOUR stinky skunks, THREE prickly porcupines, TWO wily coyotes, and ONE sweet old Dachshund who used to run fast. 

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

...TWELVE (actually 23) black belly sheep, ELEVEN rascally raccoons, TEN jumping deer, NINE gobbling gobblers, EIGHT rattling rattlers, SEVEN clucking chickens, SIX spitting llamas, FIVE feral hogs! FOUR stinky skunks, THREE prickly porcupines, TWO wily coyotes, and ONE sweet old Dachshund who used to run fast!!!!!!!!

Merry Christmas from the Ranch!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Exactly how far is the East from the West?

I admit it. I'm a star-gazer. You? I positively love looking at a dark night sky, filled to overflowing with tiny pin-pricks of light. Living out in the country, far, far away from city lights, I'm astounded on moonless nights how many, many stars I can see! And what's even more astounding is there are billions and billions of stars I can't see.

Did you know that new galaxies are being discovered as science and scientific knowledge increase? This latest discovery claims that "four unknown galaxy clusters, each potentially containing thousands of individual galaxies, have been discovered 10 billion light years from earth."

Can you imagine?! Four "new" galaxies that potentially contain thousands more galaxies! Wow!

I have to chuckle at the use of the word "discovered" as though we are the first to know about those galaxies. We aren't. God breathed them into existence. Angels no doubt enjoy their beauty. Maybe even the folks in heaven can look down and see them. We may be the first people on earth to know about them, but Someone knew about them the moment He created them.

So, with the discovery of new galaxies, and the potential for more discoveries of more galaxies in the future, it makes me wonder...exactly how far is the east from the west? What do I mean? Psalm 103:12 says, " far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."

Often people--including me-- read that verse and think in earthly terms. Spherically. Like, if you start out walking from your house and head east, will you eventually run into west? Even the Message Bible, which I love, says, "as far as sunrise is from sunset." But God is so much bigger than our little world here on earth. His thoughts are so much grander than ours. (Isaiah 55:8-9) When God tells us he has removed our transgressions--our sins--as far as the east is to the west, I believe he's speaking in terms similar to the discovery of new galaxies. Can these galaxies, added to the galaxies that are already known and those that are unknown, be measured? Can you go from the east of one galaxy and get to the west of another? I don't think so. As far as we know, all these galaxies go on and on and on, unending. Infinite.

That is the distance between God's east and west. Infinite. When we accept Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives and believe that his death on the cross freed us from our sins and paid our debt, God takes our transgressions and --- if you will indulge me --- balls them up into a tight wad like a piece of garbage and flings them as far as an all-powerful God can fling something.

As far as the east is to the west. 

And once he has flung my sin and your sin away, do you think he's going to go searching through the galaxies and stars and planets to find them again? To remind you of how much you messed up? No. He's not. When God removes your transgressions, your sins, your screw-ups, your messes....they are gone! The enemy will remind you of them and try to make you feel unworthy and worthless, but God won't. Because once he has flung them into the infinite space that is 'the east to the west,' he chooses to remember them no more.

"I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more." Isaiah 43:25

Next time you look up at the stars, rejoice in how far the east is to the west! Rejoice that God has removed your transgressions so far that they can never be found again. If you haven't asked Jesus into your heart and repented of your sins, you can right now. Then imagine God wading up all those sins and flinging them across the galaxies!

Hmm, I wonder if that shooting star I saw the other night is actually someones transgressions flying through the galaxy? ;)

This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, Sweden, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Argentina, Ghana, India

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The REAL Book of Life

A new animated movie is coming out in a few weeks called, "The Book of Life." Seeing the previews and reading the plot summary online, it looks like an innocent enough hour or so of entertainment. There's a hero, a heroine, a villain, quirky characters, and lots of adventures in other make-believe worlds. Good triumphs over evil in the end, I assume, with the young couple living happily ever after. Doesn't sound like something that would have me riled, right?

But it does. It has me very, very riled!

Not the movie itself, but the title. The Book of Life.

If it riles you too, read on.

If it doesn't rile you, read on.

To understand the significance of those four words -- The Book of Life -- we have to look to God's word, the Holy Bible. Most of our knowledge about the real Book of Life is found in the book of Revelation. Jesus, who gave the "revelation" to the apostle John while he was exiled on the rocky Greek island of Patmos sometime around AD 95, gave us quite a lot of information about the real Book of Life.

In the first letter to the seven churches (and to us), Jesus says, "He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life..." (Revelation 3:5) That tells us a special book, a book like no other, exists in heaven. Jesus called it the "book of life." By his own word, we know names are written in this book. Whose names? Our names! The names of people who have lived and walked on this earth. People who have believed and trusted in God. People who have not "soiled their clothes" (Rev. 3:4). They -- and we -- are the "them" in verse 5.

Some people speculate our names are written in the book of life at birth. Some believe our names go into the book when we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Some people mistakenly believe that once your name is in the book, it can't be removed. They site Jesus' words in Revelation as proof, but in Exodus 32:33 God makes is abundantly clear that is not true:

"The LORD replied to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book."

This is the very same book Jesus spoke of. King David also mentions names being blotted out of the book in Psalm 69:28 when crying out to God about his enemies: "May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous."

The apostle Paul wrote about the book of life to the church in Philippi when speaking of faithful folks who'd helped him on his journey. He says of them, "whose names are written in the book of life." (Philippians 4:3) Paul didn't have the benefit of reading Jesus' revelation to John when he wrote these words, so obviously the book of life was something that Jews already knew about and believed in.

Daniel's prophecy may be part of the reason. In Daniel 12:1, Daniel writes this about the end times: "At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people --- everyone whose name is found written in the book of life --- will be delivered." 

Woohoo! Praise God!

If the usage of the term "book of life" for a childish movie didn't rile you at the beginning of this post, I hope you are gaining understanding about why it riled me. The Book of Life is nothing to make light of! The Book of Life is real! Names are written down by God's own hand in this precious book! Names are blotted out by God's hand too. This book is THE most important book that has ever existed! I firmly believe the Enemy of this world is laughing his head off because a stupid movie millions of people will see has hijacked the name of the Lamb's book, perfectly setting up an entire young generation of kids (and adults) to misunderstand what the real book of life is all about.

I leave you with John's vision of heaven from Revelation 20:12-15 and 21:27 and ask you one very important question: Is your name in the Lamb's Book of Life? It matters, my friend. It really, really matters.

"And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."

"Nothing impure will ever enter [heaven], nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life." (21:27)

This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, France, China, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Germany, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Nigeria, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Canada