Opened Gates

In the last book in the Bible, called Revelation, we see an amazing picture of God’s perfect city.

We believe when the end of this age has come, God will create a new heaven and a new earth. This is a picture of that new city.

Rev 21:22-27 "I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life."

Before Jesus came into the world God’s relationship with us had many conditions and rules. If you’re ever curious what those rules are you can look for one of the earlier books in the Bible called Leviticus. The list kept getting longer and longer as people had to put more rules on themselves in addition to the rules God put on them since no matter how many rules there were, we kept breaking them. The system was God-given but a temporary fix. I’ve said in the baptism classes I've taught for children, it was sad for the animals who were substitutions for what Jesus was going to do on the cross.

The exclusivity of the group God (the Israelites) had selected to be the chosen few was great. You could be adopted into the Israelites but there were always limitations on how one could approach God. Even the Israelites in good standing with their Creator couldn’t get direct access to Him, they had to go through priests.

When Jesus died for our sins, when he took the ultimate consequence for our sinful nature, something supernatural shifted in our relationship with God. Those who believe Jesus’ sacrifice was for them and wanted to align themselves with his mission were no longer slaves to sin and we could surrender ourselves to him. We could get access to an amazing, challenging relationship with our Creator.

Those who have been living in alignment with Jesus for a long time often have a difficult time remembering what it feels like to be without him. We forget that we have to reach those who are far from God with the hope we have. Our habits and traditions can become a stumbling block for us reaching out to those around us with the hope we have.

In Revelation when it talks about the nations bringing their glory and honor into God’s new city, what do you think that looks like? Can you imagine the cultural differences all standing shoulder to shoulder in awe and worship of God?

I can get mighty uncomfortable when I get into a cultural context that differs from my own. And to clarify, this is a difference in cultures not defined by skin color. I have friends of different melanin levels than my own, but many of those friends have kids the same age as my kids, have careers and passions similar to my own, dream the same dreams I do. We share a similar cultural context.

I was raised in a family with lots of kids, dad worked outside the house, mom kept the house amazingly clean on her own, and we didn’t have a lot of stuff. Even our yard didn’t have a lot of the toys, equipment that you would have expected. I’ve never asked her about it, but I sense it was because the less you have the simpler life is. We didn’t have a lot of extra cash to spend but we did do some great family vacations-very thoughtfully.

Compare that to some friends of mine who have two kids, mom hires a maid to keep the house clean (I have some theories on why that is a great idea if you have the budget for it), and they have lots of extra things inside and outside the house. Think huge play forts. This family has a beach home and takes vacations frequently.

Do you think this is a different type of cultural context than what I was raised in? You better believe it. And our melanin levels are comparatively the same. My friends are Catholic background, I have a Protestant background. They have two kids, I have more. Did we find a way to be there for each other when life got difficult? Absolutely.

When God sees his new city, he sees a version of people who give each other permission to be themselves and find common ground in their love of Him.

Why is this important? The alternative is saddening. The Holy Spirit is at work to draw all people to align themselves to the mission of Jesus and we get the privilege of having first-hand knowledge of what that looks like in our lives. We can have the open gates described in the New City because the glory of God is our light and the Lamb is our lamp.

Before Jesus Christ, the temple was Members Only. And to be part was a long process. This gate has been flung wide open. Who needs to hear it?


Copy Cat

I have an experiment for you. Grab a piece of paper and a pencil and try to draw the following: Four straight lines, all connected. Above that, three straight lines, all connected. On the lower right side is a rectangle, slightly above the rectangle to the left is a box. On top of the second figure (the one with three straight lines) place another rectangle.

Go ahead, draw it. The simplest of all shapes; rectangles, triangles, squares. If placed correctly they could look like a house. I'm guessing that if you took the time to try drawing by my "blueprint" you either got frustrated and stopped or came sortof close to a house-type structure.

With my instructions you could draw anything, really. It may take awhile for me to get you to do it just right, but eventually we could come up with a fairly decent drawing. But if we were to take that picture to an art gallery and hang it up, who would get the credit for the picture? Me or you?

When we raise our children, we have a picture of what they could be, We see their strengths and weaknesses and know what sort of career they could be really great at. But our picture is not always what our child ought to become. It is tempting to see successful people and force our kids to pursue that greatness. And like an artist taking directions from an outside source, our child could try to build their lives exactly the way we see fit- but never quite be able to live up to the perfect picture in our minds. Because it isn't the will of God for their life.

What we must do is give them the proper building blocks, the basic shapes if you will, then let them become what God needs them to be. Because in the end, our child will have to give an account for his or her life. We can over-control and fear the building process in our children, or we can be a witness and stand alongside them in prayers and encouragement.

There is the letting go I have yet to experience (but very closer now with an 11 year-old), when my kids enter their teen years, to let them develop as they need to and yet maintain the role of authority/protector over them. I can't let go or force them into my vision of my desires for them, but what I can do is stay faithful to the "basic shapes" and trust the scripture when it says"train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." And realize that over time God will take over the parental role as the kids becomes independent.

The one thing we must never let go of, though, is the responsibility of being an example. And that is the best we can do for our children, become a blueprint of a surrendered life. A holy life set apart to the glory of God.



I was reading Genesis 1 today and realized that I serve a very giving God. He made the world, the universe, every living thing, and then gave it to mankind to take care of. He gave us the law, the rules that order how our world works and how our bodies work. But the greatest thing He gave us was Himself.

In the garden with Adam and Eve, He walked among them and had relationship. After evil entered the world, He allowed us to be miserable for awhile and work life out the best we knew how- then came God in Flesh; Jesus Christ.

Jesus came as a giving God as well. Giving not only unconditional love, but also rebuke, healing, encouragement, discipline. And then His life.

All this made me realize how selfish I am. Here, God did this great thing in giving us the world and all it's inhabitants and Jesus gave his life, yet I only think about wanting more for myself. More for my kids, more for my family.

Give and it will come back to you- that's a promise in the Bible. But again, sometimes we only give so it will come back, not because just as God gave us unconditional love, we can do the same. What failures we all can be at re-gifting God's amazing love, yet God is faithful and gently reminds us to continue on faithfully giving, even when it isn't deserved.



Sold-out Christians who have been hard-working, so perseverant and hand-to-the-plow focused, may have forgotten the excitement of serving Jesus, stepping out in faith to see God do big things in our small efforts. Being uncomfortable in their walk at times to allow a personal faith in God to expand the Kingdom.

Willie Robertson and his Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty were on a sitcom last week for a guest appearance. One of the characters on the show was questioning the meaning of life and they gave him scripture and God's solution to life's purpose. Even quoted a chapter and verse out of Mark. I was blessed the network "allowed" it, and yet a little uncomfortable because it is not something I'm used to seeing. Mostly, I was impressed that Willie And Si did not forget why they were Christians - even when being paid to memorized a couple lines and be on Prime Time television.

I have seen people who have been in the ministry for over thirty years still excited about their work. How do they do this? And when we learn the right steps to take, can we stay committed to live our faith?

I have learned that it comes down to two basic disciplines:

1. Having a purposeful prayer life

2. Remaining faithful to reading the Bible

American culture tells us that God doesn't matter and living for yourself is the most important thing. It is an empty existence, though, and never satisfies the soul. Not to mention, doesn't guarantee you a home in Heaven when you die as well as peace, joy and hope while you live. It doesn't make sense to those far from God. It takes a real step of faith, but when Christians are bold about their faith and encouraging to others, it is not as scary to the unbeliever.

Romans 1:16-17 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”


Lovin' the Unseen God

I'm curious if becoming a Christian is somewhat like an arranged marriage. I've never been in an arranged marriage- I had a blind date once that was a disaster- but there is that intriguing mystery of thinking about what it would be like. In some parts of the world it isn't unheard of, so it's conceivable that some day I might meet a woman who entered into an arranged marriage. Until then, I'll just have to use my imagination.

Perhaps the groom is one that she's heard stories about, but has never met. She may have a picture of him, or even chaperoned visits, but not the opportunity to really know him until the "I do's." Whether he's nice or distant remains to be seen. How long would it take to fall in love with a stranger? How long until that stranger has learned to love her, too?

One difference between the arranged marriage and our relationship with God? He doesn't need any effort to fall in love with us! He is madly, deeply, head-over-heels in love with us! It may take effort on our part, but none on His. He loved us before we were even born because God is love. It is His character and He cannot deny Himself.(Sidenote: He loves us enough to hold us accountable, too!)

I John 4:9-10 "By this the love of God is revealed in us: that God has sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins."

God may not need to figure out this "love thing" toward us, but we have a lot to learn on how to love Him. We do this through the strength and power of the Holy Spirit. Not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Living God! I'm getting excited just writing this out! It is an exciting journey to get to the understanding that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead can work in our lives (Romans 8:11). The most important thing the Spirit's power will teach us is how to love, because the greatest commandment is to LOVE. Mark 12:30 says we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. It is out of this love that God can use us.

Like any relationship, it will take work to learn how to love God with all that we are. It takes discipline, hard-work, and sacrifice. But as we keep our eyes fixed on God's love for us and really make an effort to spend daily time with Him, it won't be a burden, it will be a blessing! Some brides are terrified of their arranged marriages and at one point in time people had to be afraid of God. He was so perfect that only a few people could be in His presence. After Jesus, though, all that fear is gone and we can come to the Altar of Commitment fearless, balanced with awe and humility. Read the scripture below and allow yourself to fall in love a little more with the God who sacrificed so much to reach us.

Hebrews 12:18-24 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.


My Plank

A good friend of mine (I'll call her Ann) is planning on moving to her "home country" in a few months. I'm sad, yet excited for Ann and her family, they will be able to experience something that not many do, and strengthen their family ties. But still, I am a bit selfish, I want to keep my friend where she is and with our wonderful routine of Tuesday coffee. It's been a four-year friendship that will probably survive the move and be stronger for it, but for busy moms like us it's hard to maintain a relationship without coffee and conversation (or the like). Ann's plan is for the move to be temporary, however, I know that there are no guarantees in life, and a year could turn into two or more. My biggest concern is that she may be leaving without having a relationship with God through Christ Jesus. I have been sharing my faith and reason for the hope I have with Ann for years. And what's great is I have seen a big difference in her. She used to look at me incredulously whenever I talked of answered prayer and "leaps of faith", now she actually requests prayer. Early on I shared the plan of salvation with her using stir sticks and coffee cup lids, but whenever I ask if she'd take the leap to accept Christ's plan for her life it's not time. And now, time is running out. It's time for me to be bold and loving, waiting for the Holy Spirit's timing. It's interesting to me that I am always encouraging others to share their faith, be bold for the sake of the lost, and yet wimp out with Ann. God has been dealing with me in regards to the specks in other people's eyes and needing to take care of the plank in mine (See Matthew 7). I wonder why it is that even though we are great friends, it's still scary to speak up. Maybe in the back of my mind I have a reality check that I could be rejected for sharing the love of God, but I need to push past my self-centered thoughts and focus on the goal: another soul saved. Pray for me, and pray for "Ann". God is at work in her life, it's about being sensitive to her needs with a great dose of patience and wisdom. Who are you praying for? When do you need to be bold, or wait for the proper time?


Capital C

Today at our MOPS meeting a friend shared the testimony of God at work through her (young) husband's battle with cancer. One of the things that stuck out to me was that she and her husband, early on, decided not to make cancer the "capital C" in their lives, instead keep Christ the center. This is possible through any trial, not just cancer. There is so much that takes over our lives that is not as important as our relationship with Christ. I'm sure all of us struggle with this on different levels, keeping Christ the "Capital C." It's an interesting thing that when a major trial comes our way, it is sometimes easier to rely on Christ alone. Our frailty as humans must depend on the strength of our Creator. When things are good, the priorities change a little, the One who will never leave us or forsake us slips to the side. He takes second, third, or worse to the temporary highs and lows in life. Solomon wrote to "catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyard..." Spouses, kids, health goals, work deadlines, even preoccupation with the future eats away a little bit at a time. Sooner than we realize it's been days, then weeks of neglected Bible study and intentional prayer time. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." That part about giving thanks and being joyful is possible, through trials, and in times things are so peaceful and good that we don't feel we "need" God. What we ought to do is prevent other things from eating away at our God-first priority, ahead of the good and the bad. As we are tempted to allow priorities to shift, keep our minds obedient to the Bible. Keep Christ the capital C.