God isn’t as religious as you think He is.

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“It is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32

This statement might just be among the most anti-religious things Jesus is recorded to have ever said. In one sentence, Our Lord turns over the tables of our religious presumptions and drives out the money changers of self made religion.
The words of Jesus here, must have made every Pharisee in town feel squeamish. He says something here that flies in the face of two prevalent forms of religion. In one joyful declaration or Lord knocked the legs out from under what I call, “The probationary gospel” and the “Cash and Carry Gospel.” Both of these are rampant in our culture today, and are as deadly to the soul today as they were in Jesus day.
1. “The probationary gospel” is a lie that portrays our heavenly father as nothing more than an irate deity, fuming over us with his bony finger poised over the Hell-button, just waiting for an excuse to drop the trap door open and send us screaming into the abyss. It’s a probationary gospel because it is entirely dependent on our good behavior. Imagine God saying to us at conversion, “Alright you little sinner. You’re forgiven for now, but if you don’t keep it clean you’re going back to the darkness.” It’s a fake gospel that says, ” If you die having even the smallest sin unconfessed, you’re going to hell !” Really? A salvation that is only as strong as my ability to confess? A gospel that depends on my goodness is no gospel at all.
Jesus says, “It’s your father’s good pleasure…” Your father was and is pleased to give you the kingdom. His salvation is not an act of obligation, but of divine love. If you are saved you are not on probation. You are not under the wrath of God any longer. God is your father and He is pleased to give you his kingdom and everything that comes with it. This leads to the second point.
2. “The cash and carry gospel” otherwise known as the health and wealth gospel. There are many preachers who are selling the gospel short, by making it primarily about money and health and material things. While I have no problem believing that God will meet all our needs and even give an abundance at times, the notion that the kingdom of God is about material things falls short of the message of Jesus.
The Pharisees loved money. If Jesus message had been about wealth and financial gain, they would never have crucified him. They would have flocked to him. I fear today that many preachers would have quite a following of Pharisees had they preached their messages in his day. The gospel is not about making it in this world, but in the next. Jesus said, “Its the father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” The kingdom of God is what is being offered here, not the kingdoms of this world.
The message of the gospel is not about how God can make you wealthy, healthy and successful in this life. Too many people become Christians because someone told them Jesus could improve their lives. While that is certainly true, that is not what makes the gospel good news. The good news is that we have an eternal kingdom that never fades, an eternal hope with greater riches than this world could ever offer.
Our lives are hidden with Christ (Col. 3). When prosperity preachers offer us mansions and cars and money they are thinking too small. If you read the verses that follow Luke 12:32 you will see Jesus inviting us to strip ourselves of any concern for material things and go after the real riches found in him. Paul tells us that “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink (i.e. material things) but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)
Friends, Jesus came preaching a message that is liberating to the soul! It liberates us from legalism and materialism, among other things. He liberates us by showing us a father in heaven who is not nearly as religious as we are. God is not religious, God is love. He is Holy love. He calls us to free ourselves from the bondage of sin and self, by faith in him. When we turn to Him by faith we find a heavenly father who takes great pleasure in giving us a kingdom that never fades, never falls, never dies. He’s not inviting you to the burden of religious duty or the greater burden of materialism. But to the freedom and joy we were created for. This comes only through turning by faith and surrender to Jesus Christ, who died to open the door for us.

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53 and counting….

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I turned 53 yesterday. That puts me two years away from a senior citizen’s discount. I’m trying to wrap my brain around the fact that in seven years. Lord willing, I’ll be sixty. Say what? After 50 birthdays start to become more and more important. (insert chuckle here)

It’s kinda weird to celebrate 53 years, partly because I still feel much younger than that. Even though it takes me longer to get up out of a chair, and I’m getting used to the fact that I can’t read anything without whipping out my reading glasses, I still feel pretty young. I still have lots of energy…most of the time, but I go to bed much earlier now than I did just a few years ago. But whatever delusions of immortality I had in my twenties are long gone. I know that one day this earthly life will come to an end, and statistically, that could happen in just a couple of decades, despite my hopes of living to be a hundred ( I think that would be very cool but only God knows about that.).

It’s kinda creepy to think about your life ending, but at my age I can’t help but at least tip my hat in acknowledgement to that weird guy with a sickle, standing in the shadows. I know one day he’s gonna come knocking and escort me to glory. Fortunately, because of Jesus the trip will be a short passage into life. I think if it weren’t for Jesus I would be in great fear of death. How sad it would be to think that my life was just an existence until death. But I have great hope that this short life is just  a warm up for eternity.

However, despite my great hope, I still feel some apprehension about the future. I’m done looking back with regret about the past. I’ve looked back and seen God’s hand on my life and for that I give thanks. God has blessed me beyond my expectations. But I can see also that I wasted a lot of my life being way too self concerned. God has graciously worked in and through this little clay pot of a life despite some basic mistakes. Here’s a short list of things I could get really depressed about if I tried.

  1. Too much talking. Too little listening.
  2. Too many hours spent on computer games. Too little on relationships.
  3. Too much time looking for affirmation. Too little time giving it.
  4. Too much self preservation. Too little self sacrifice.
  5. Too much concern for appearances. Too little concern for substance.
  6. Too much convenience. Too little perseverance.
  7. Too much fear. too little faith.
  8. Too much self. Too little others.
  9. Too much resentment. Too little forgiveness.
  10. Too much flesh. Too little Spirit.

I’ve spent enough time thinking about previous years and how I could have given more and loved better. I wept. I’ve confessed. I’ve mended fences…or at least tried, some refuse to mend. But as the Bible says, “There’s a time to weep and a time to laugh.” I’m done trying to fix yesterday. It’s time to move ahead into the life God has for me and my loved ones.

The great news of the Gospel is that God is always calling us forward to new life. I’m ready to move into the gift of life with a new zeal for God and His kingdom. In my short 53 years, despite all the ups and downs, one thing has remained. Jesus Christ, my wonderful savior has held my hand all the way. His love is greater than my regrets, stronger than my fears, and more powerful than my insecurities.

He has been unswervingly faithful and undeniably capable in all situations.My king has kept me in His nail scarred hands even in my worst moments. He has given me a wonderful family, amazing friends and tremendous opportunities. The great news is that no matter how long I live on this planet the best is always yet to come. Quite frankly, I have no intention of winding down at this point. My God has given me a great gospel to preach and a great life to live and I feel that I’m just now getting started. I want the second half to be greater than the first. I want my life to burst with God’s glory so brightly that you’ll have to wear sunglasses to my funeral!

If you have read this far, thank you for indulging me. I want to encourage you to live your life completely for Jesus Christ. He is the very ground of your existence. He is the reason for every breath you breathe. He alone can give meaning and lasting purpose to your life. In fact, He alone can give you your life. To Him be the glory now and forever. Amen.

 

 

 

 

When you can’t snap out of it.

“Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara, for the almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” (Ruth 1:20)
She started out as Naomi (meaning pleasant) then became Mara (meaning bitter). Maybe you know what that’s like. Earlier in your life you were living a pleasant life. Things were good. Dreams were fresh. Your heart beat with hope and purpose. But then dreams went sour and times became hard. Now you’re name seems to be changing to Bitter. Your biggest dream now is to make it through another day. Even the tears are getting old.

Naomi was grieving deeply and her name changed to reflect her pain. But she learned as she wept that God loved her no matter what her name was. Eventually the sun would shine on her dreams again, but that’s not my point today. the point is that the same God who loved her in the pleasant days, loved her through the bitter ones.

There was no quick fix for her, but there was steady love from the father even in the pain. Today you may not find a quick fix to your pain, but know this that the same God who loved you in brighter days loves you right now in your brokenness.

He’s not waiting or you to hurry up and snap out of it. He’s just sitting quietly at your side holding your hand until the sunrise. And what a sunrise it will be.

“Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara, for the almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” (Ruth 1:20)
She started out as Naomi (meaning pleasant) then became Mara (meaning bitter). Maybe you know what that’s like. Earlier in your life you were living a pleasant life. Things were good. Dreams were fresh. Your heart beat with hope and purpose. But then dreams went sour and times became hard. Now you’re name seems to be changing to Bitter. Your biggest dream now is to make it through another day. Even the tears are getting old.

Naomi was grieving deeply and her name changed to reflect her pain. But she learned as she wept that God loved her no matter what her name was. Eventually the sun would shine on her dreams again, but that’s not my point today. the point is that the same God who loved her in the pleasant days, loved her through the bitter ones.

There was no quick fix for her, but there was steady love from the father even in the pain. Today you may not find a quick fix to your pain, but know this that the same God who loved you in brighter days loves you right now in your brokenness.

He’s not waiting or you to hurry up and snap out of it. He’s just sitting quietly at your side holding your hand until the sunrise. And what a sunrise it will be.

Swaziland Mission 2016

In 2010 I began a journey of taking the gospel to the nations. Every two years people like you have given sacrificially to enable me to fulfill my call. Kenya in 2010, India- 2012, Niger 2014 have been life changing kingdom expanding events. Now in 2016 I have the opportunity to go once again. Click the link below to learn about this exciting opportunity to spread the good news of Jesus in a world that needs hope.

https://www.gofundme.com/swaziland2016

Former atheist astrophysicist, Sarah Salviander, explains her journey to Christianity.

This is a powerful testimony. A must read, especially for those who doubt God on scientific andbphilosophical grounds.

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Testimony of former atheist Sarah Salviander. She is a research scientist in astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Texas.

“I was born in the U.S., but grew up in Canada. My parents were socialists and political activists who thought British Columbia would be a better place for us to live, since it had the only socialist government in North America at the time. My parents were also atheists, though they eschewed that label in favor of “agnostic.” They were kind, loving, and moral, but religion played no part in my life. Instead, my childhood revolved around education, particularly science. I remember how important it was to my parents that my brother and I did well in school.

I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, a time when science fiction was enjoying a renaissance, thanks largely to the popularity of Star Wars. I remember how fascinated I was by…

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Special Guest : Tamara Shoemaker, author of Kindle the Flame!

Kindle the Flame

2bw-cropIt’s my privilege to introduce to you one of my favorite authors. Tamara Shoemaker has just released a great new adult fiction book, entitled, “Kindle the Flame”. It’s filled with everything you want in a great book: action, romance, mystery, and lots of imagination. This book is fun, and exciting. Tamara knows how to write in a way that engages your heart, soul and your mind. Read my interview with her and consider taking a look at this and other works she has done.

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I have to begin by asking the obvious: how did you get started writing?

I’ve been filling up notebooks since I was a kid old enough to read. I vividly remember wishing so badly to own The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner that I checked it out from the library, got a legal pad from my dad, and began to write the the entire book onto that lined paper. I don’t think I ever finished it, because we had to return the book to the library, but the seed of an idea was born. What if, instead of relying on other books for my entertainment, I just made up my own stories and put them on paper? My little author heart beat faster.

So that’s exactly what I did. Anne of Green Gables was another favorite book of mine, and in that story, Anne started a story club with her friends. They’d write stories together and share them among themselves. I thought that was a great idea, so with my friends, I started a story club, too. I think it lasted about a week on my friends’ parts, but I enjoyed it so much, I kept writing long after the others had stopped.

The first book I published, I wrote on a dare. My husband and I were discussing the ridiculousness of me writing a book, and he dared me to write one. So I did. It was on my lunch breaks at work, and occasional evenings at home, but bit by bit, that book came together. 

In building the world for Kindle the Flame, how did you get your ideas? Did you draw from other sources or do you just make it all up? 

In Kindle the Flame, there’s an entire roster of mythological creatures that are common to most books in the genre: dragons, ogres, trolls, direwolves, etc. I freely used those creatures in my book, but I tweaked them according to my world that I built. For instance, I introduced four kinds of dragons in my book, a Mirage (a dragon coated with mirror scales that can turn invisible with the twist of a scale), an Ember (a dragon with flaming scales), a Poison-Quill (a dragon with poisonous spikes that will explode off the dragon when they’re upset), and a Nine-Tail (a dragon with nine tails tipped with razor sharp points and capable of moving independently of one another).

So yes, I borrow from some of the same common source material from which a lot of other fantasy writers borrow, but I also do a lot of making up my own stuff. 🙂

What are you hoping this book will do for the reader? Is this purely entertainment or are you hoping to inspire something in the reader? 

When I offered ARCs (Advance Review Copies) to readers, I had several nearly decline, saying they were not a fan of the fantasy genre. For one reason or another, most agreed to review anyway, and to a reader, they let me know that even though they don’t enjoy fantasy, they still enjoyed my book. They identified with the characters, enjoyed the nuances of relationship in the story, and rooted for the themes behind the story line: redemption, sacrifice, overcoming evil.

In other words, I’m hoping to entertain readers, but I’m also hoping that readers will identify with the themes in the book, and come away thinking about those same themes that may be evident in their own lives.

Tell me about yourself, family, interests, anything. 

I spend most of my days herding cats… er, children, ages seven, five, and three. Between that and trying (and failing) to maintain order in our home, I write. I love to write, so that’s what I spend most of my time doing. On the rare occasion that I depart from the darkened regions of my writing cavern, I love tinkering around on the piano, and burning various foods in my oven while I continue to convince myself that I can bake.

What’s next? 

Coming right up! The first book of the Guardian of the Vale trilogy, Mark of Four, will hit the market on Cyber Monday in November. It’s an urban fantasy set in post-apocalyptic earth, and the new source of power is the elements: Air, Fire, Earth, and Water. Elementals can wield one of those four, depending on their bloodlines, but…

Alayne Worth can wield all four. No one knows why. But all the powers in CommonEarth, both good and evil, want her gift. How will she survive the earth-shattering struggle for the power she possesses?

Kindle the Flame

A girl who never fit in, a young man forced into an outcast’s life, a boy raised without a community, and a ruler who holds the key to their destinies…

Kinna has a Pixie she can’t train and a head full of doubts. Her worst fears come true when she fails the Tournament entrance test. She flees her Clan in disgrace, inexplicably drawn to a Mirage, a rare Dragon she has no business training.

Ayden is cursed—anyone he touches turns to ash before his eyes. He hides amongst the Dragon Clan with the only creatures he cannot hurt. When Kinna frees his favorite Dragon, his world turns upside down.

Cedric grows up in isolation, fostered by an outcast Centaur. When tragedy strikes, he ventures into a strange new world of Dragons, political intrigue, and magic.

Sebastian’s country hovers on the brink of war. Chased from his rightful throne, he schemes to retake his kingdom by any means possible, even if it threatens an ancient agreement that underpins the foundation of his realm.

Only by examining their pasts will these four find their futures. But will they survive the fires of discovery?

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Tamara Shoemaker lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband, three children, a few jars of Nutella, and a never-ending carafe of coffee. She authored the Amazon best-selling Shadows in the Nursery Christian mystery series and Soul Survivor, another Christian mystery. Her fantasy books include the beginning of the Heart of a Dragon trilogy: Kindle the Flame, as well as the upcoming Guardian of the Vale trilogy.

Follow her on social media:

Twitter: @TamaraShoemaker

Website: www.tamarashoemaker.org

Facebook: www.facebook.com/tshoebooks

The Invisible boy on the train track.

An invisible boy traipses along a deserted railroad track. He looks as far down as he can see, wondering what it was like, back in the day, when this track was filled with steel cars and hurried passengers. The smell of railroad ties intertwined with the whir of passing cars along the highway draws him further down the line. He’s surrounded by activity, but on that empty track he feels disconnected from it all. He wonders how far he could walk and how long he could be gone before anyone noticed his absence. He’s afraid to walk too far. He’s afraid his suspicions will be true. He’s afraid he’ll discover he could walk to China and the world would just keep moving like the traffic on the highway. Oblivious. Preoccupied. Not even aware he was gone.  But one day he decides to give it a try. He gets out on the track and walks. Alone. Invisible. Disconnected from the world speeding around him. Tired of being invisible. He just wants someone to see him. So he walks.

He walks for miles, waving at the oblivious passers by, imagining they’re waving back. As he travels along the track he leaves his home far behind, occasionally wondering if any of his siblings are looking for him. Once in awhile he thinks he hears a voice calling him home, but when he turns around to look no one is there. Must have been imagining things. So the invisible boy walks on. He walks on hoping someone will be able to see him. As he gets a little older and wiser he decides maybe it’s his own fault no one can see him there. He’s not trying hard enough. When you’re invisible you have to work a little harder to be noticed.

So be starts turning somersaults along the track. He discovers that when he’s performing, he becomes visible. But when he stops, he’s gone from sight again. So it’s best to keep doing tricks along the track.  Maybe if he turns enough really good flips the by passers will take note and someone will join him on the track. It works, well, sort of. At first no one seems to care about his attempts at acrobatics, but as he perfects his art, people start to notice. The slowing of traffic and the photos being taken by amused drivers, give him reason to flip even more. Finally, someone has noticed the invisible boy! So he flips more, turning and twisting, jumping and throwing himself in all directions, whatever it takes to keep the growing crowds cheering. But a boy can only turn so many flips before the has to slow down and rest. Then they’re gone again. Seems like all they wanted was the show. When he looks up from his rest he is invisible again.  His aching joints and the dimming of the sky  make it clear to him that he has wandered farther down the track than he thought, and the time has gone by faster than he imagined. He has spent way too much time doing tricks for attention. Eventually the time comes when he just can’t keep up the show. All he can do is keep walking. At the end of the day he’s still an invisible boy walking along the tracks. Disconnected. Invisible. Tired of turning flips. Wondering if anyone out there is able to see him.