CAUTION: Offense Straight Ahead

I viewed a video a few weeks ago by a pastor warning against having a spirit of offense. I must admit, at first I was a bit stymied by what he meant. Over the next couple of days I mulled over and prayed about what this pastor said in his short 5 minute video.

I found this on lifehack.org. Although it is humorous, it is also a very true definition of what it means to have a spirit of offense.
” It’s called Offend-initis, a skin condition whereby the thickness of our skin melts away to the point where everything offends us. Symptoms may include: hurt feelings, indignation, irritability, disappointment, grumpiness and an all-around allergic reaction to anyone who says or does something we don’t like.”

Let’s face it… it is very easy to contract Offend-initis. Everywhere we turn there are individuals, groups, organizations and public officials who are saying and doing things that offend us as Christ followers. We are told our beliefs are narrow-minded at the very best, and downright absurd at the very worst. Our desire to defend our beliefs often makes us respond as offended people, but I would echo the pastor’s words that we need to stop having a spirit of offense.

Instead, think about who and what is really being maligned in our present culture/society.

It is the Lord God Almighty, and the truths taught in the Bible! Even though we find ourselves the target, we need to pray we will not be offended! I know this is counter to everything we feel in our spirits when we are targeted. But our underlying, ongoing desire is to see God lifted up as we pray for everyone who is on the offense trying to fight against the God of the universe and His ways.

Having a spirit of offense creates an ongoing atmosphere of animosity and stress for us and those around us. However, defending God and our beliefs, as given the opportunity, creates an atmosphere of possible change….change that will be God honoring and not offensive to God and His truth.

Thanks for letting me share my heart. Please let me know if I can pray for you in a specific way during this very difficult time in our nation and world. The best way to do that is to fill out a contact form on my website: www.caringhansen.com

HOPE For These Troubled Times

This year has been a year of great change, confusion, frustration, fear and uncertainty for the future. Every year has its challenges for us… whether personal, familial, financial or a host of other possibilities. However, 2020 has heaped challenge upon challenge on each of us, which at the very least, is exhausting. 

What if I said I had the answer to these questions and that there is hope in that answer… but, I didn’t share the answer? I wouldn’t be a good friend, would I? I am sure you are thinking, how can I be so prideful as to say I have the answer?! Well, let me rephrase the first part of that sentence.  – What if I said I thought I had the answer to these questions and that there is hope in that answer? The response is still the same, isn’t it? I wouldn’t be a good friend if I didn’t share what I thought was the answer.

I know that many, or even most, of you who read my blog are Christians, but the Lord has laid this on my heart and so, in this post I am going to share, as graciously as I can, the reason for the hope I have within me. Do you know what being a Christian really means? I doesn’t mean I am better than you, or that I think I am better than you. It doesn’t mean that I have to follow a list of do’s and don’ts. AND, it definitely doesn’t mean that I live perfectly – not even close! What it does mean is that I have believed what the Bible says about who Christ was and is, and that I have made a decision to live my life as a follower of Christ.

The “plan of salvation” are some scripture verses that explain who God is, who Jesus Christ was/is, who we are to God and how we can be saved unto eternal life by simply believing that Jesus is who the Bible says he was. Here are those verses.

John 3:16 “For this is how much God loved the world—he gave his one and only, unique Son as a gift.  So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life.”

John 14:6 “Jesus explained, “I am the Way, I am the Truth, and I am the Life. No one comes next to the Fatherexcept through union with me.”

Romans 3:23 “…for we all have sinned and are in need of the glory of God.”

Romans 6:23 “For sin’s meager wages is death, but God’s lavish gift is life eternal, found in your union with our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One.”

Ephesians 2:8,9 “For it was only through this wonderful grace that we believed in him. Nothing we did could ever earn this salvation, for it was the gracious gift from God that brought us to Christ!

Romans 10:9,10 “And what is God’s “living message”? It is the revelation of faith for salvation, which is the message that we preach. For if you publicly declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will experience salvation. The heart that believes in him receives the gift of the righteousness of God—and then the mouth gives thanksto salvation.”

John 1:12 “But those who embraced him and took hold of his namewere given authority to become the children of God!”

I too have had many times of feeling hopeless and fearful of what is ahead of us as a nation and world during this time. I am not immune or somehow exempt from these feelings because of my faith. However, what I do have is a hope that I can draw back to each time I feel overwhelmed by life’s circumstances.

I do not want to alienate you or offend you. My sole purpose is for this post is to share what I feel is the most important thing I have ever shared with you. I will joyously answer questions if you want to ask me more about this “plan of salvation”.

I am praying for each of you who read this because, in this uncertain time, we can all use some prayer.

I Haven’t Been Practicing What I Preach

Practice what you Preach

I have been struggling the last couple of months with the circle of life.

Within just 36 hours of my mother’s death we were overjoyed with the announcement that our first grandchild was on its way.  But somewhere
in the midst of the emotional roller coaster of life, during those days, I found myself dealing with feelings that I didn’t even know were there. Feelings of discouragement and disappointment and disenchantment.  Brutally honest rantings with God regarding MY choices for the end of my own life.  I want to leave this earth for my heavenly home while I am still a vital part of society and my family.  I don’t want to be a burden and overstay my welcome here below.  …sound familiar?

This week while struggling to pray, in this emotional state, the Holy Spirit whispered “you are thinking too much of the creation and not enough of the Creator”.  What a hard pill to swallow – not just because it was true…but because I have admonished and encouraged women I mentor and teach to not think more of themselves, as the created, than they do of their Creator!   …yet I was doing exactly that…and it somehow felt justified.  After all, with all that has transpired in my life these last several months; wasn’t what I was feeling just part of being human? Yes! But it really was nothing more than a “righteous” pity-party.  I say “righteous” because I really did desire to be “morally right” and focus on God and not on myself – but in the midst of real-life events and human emotions and feelings….I lost sight of my Creator.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying that I am over all these feelings now and thinking only of God.  What I am saying is that I am choosing to place my focus in a different place than I have been.  I do not know what life will look like for me in the next moment, hours, days, month and years.  AND, even if I saw it all I wouldn’t understand or comprehend what my Creator was doing in, and through, my life.  That is what we grasp for.  But for all our grasping, we come away empty-handed with bleeding fingertips.  God says “the peace of God which passes all understanding will keep my heart and mind through Christ Jesus”. Phil 4:7   There is only one way to have that peace.  It is not focusing on me, myself and I!

If you have followed my blog much you know that I love the words to old hymns.  I found myself quietly singing the words to the last verse of “My Jesus I Love Thee” while lying in bed last night.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

The only way I will “love my Creator God in life and in death” is by thinking more of Him and less of myself.  This is my constant prayer and HOPE.

Spiritual Dehydration

Today as I reflected on my life over the last few weeks, I realized that not only are we in the heat of summer here in Colorado, but I have also been in the heat of LIFE.  It is the kind of heat that exhausts, unmotivates, discourages and suffocates.

No matter the day on the calendar; winter, spring, summer of fall – the heat of LIFE can come on any day…and continue for a season.  I am not talking about the tragedies, injuries, illnesses and losses one experiences throughout life.  Even though each of us have personal experience with one or more of these – I want to focus on the normal, daily life regimens, duties, routines and responsibilities, because these can quickly “dehydrate” us spiritually.

When the heat of life’s “urgent” comes in unending waves it doesn’t take long for me to begin to dry up spiritually.  Oh no…my salvation and sanctification have not dried up.  God is not mad at me.  I am not sinning and feeling guilty about that sin.  However, I begin to just survive. Every day I feel a bit emptier emotionally, physically, socially and professionally.   In my busyness I sweat (literally and figuretively).  By figuretively, I mean that I sweat out the “water” that is essential to staying hydrated spiritually.  I am suffering from spiritual dehydration.

Even though I am writing this more for myself than any of you, but I believe this is a spiritual state most all of us can identify with.

Isaiah 41:18 says “I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” – ESV

How do I draw this water from the fountains, pools and springs?  Through quiet communion with my Lord and savior Jesus Christ.  During times of prayer….and it pours onto me when I am simply still and allow the Spirit of God to fill me.

Did you know that once you realize you are thirsty you are already on the way to dehydration?  …I thirst.  AnGlass of Waterd, I am thankful that I know I thirst.  That means that I will seek out this precious spiritual water. Just the image of this glass being filled with pure, refreshing water makes me physically thirsty from the day’s heat.  But, I am much more thirsty for the restorative water of the Spirit of God filling my life.

I must quit writing now because I am headed to grab my Bible, sit awhile and read and pray…and BE STILL while I am filled.

The Sacred and Supernatural

A few weeks ago I was reading a devotional article about John 21:3.  In it, the author wrote:  “There was nothing wrong with Peter, Jesus’ disciple, needing to fish.  It was his occupation.  We all have things we need to do each day.  Whether we are a boss, an employee, a student, a mother or father, Jesus wants to be there.  We often differentiate the secular from the sacred and the natural from the supernatural.  This story highlights that all is sacred and all is supernatural.  Jesus just needs to be invited into each situation.”

These few sentences totally captured my attention.  As the writer and teacher of Sacred Identity, a study that teaches Christian women about their inward and outward beauty, I was intrigued and immediately challenged to get a better grasp on what this looks like – flesh it out.

I have never journaled on a regular basis but I went and found a beautiful pink leather journal a co-worker gave me for Christmas and on one side of the page wrote “Sacred” and on the other side “Supernatural”.  I made a promise to myself that for at least a month I would find something sacred and something supernatural in every day and journal it.

What an incredible experience and blessing this has already been to me.  I am seeing that all IS sacred and all IS supernatural.  Somedays I have a hard time deciding which of my two experiences to write on which side.   And, even more exciting is the fact that I am never at a loss for what to write.  I have invited Jesus to be in each situation – and I am seeing things differently than before.

Take for instance what I experienced during one of my morning walks last week.  As I was walking I was suddenly aware of the light breeze moving through my fingers as my arms swung at my sides.  It was somewhat of a surprise I admit, and this caught my attention – so I questioned inwardly why it was a surprise.  I realized that this was one of the first mornings since late last fall that I had been able to go walking in our beautiful Colorado foothills without gloves.  I had become unacustomed to feeling this.  But, instead of just being delighted by the reality that spring is arriving – I was struck by the fact that the little breeze was God’s wind.  God, who made the earth, the wind and the fire!  That shouldn’t sound hokey…it should cause awe and sweet worship!  Man can only take the air God made and move it around to create breezes.  God makes wind!

book-journal-03 (1)

 

What an exciting journey I am on – and, I already know I will continue journaling the sacred and supernatural things in my life each day long past the end of this month.  Would you join with me and take the challenge to find something sacred and something supernatural in every day?  I know it will give you new prospective, JOY and blessing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Encouragement and Enrichment from Hymns of Old – Part 4 (final part)

…a series on words/phrases from old hymns to encourage and enrich.  old hymnal

 

“To God be the Glory”

Several weeks ago our pastor began to sing this hymn toward the end of his sermon and the phrase “opened the Life-Gate that all may go in” caught my imagination.  I knew I had to share this hymn with you as the last in this series because it tells us how we can know we will spend eternity with God in heaven.

This hymn was written by the famous blind hymn-writer, Fanny Crosby in 1872.   I am going to share the words of the first verse and chorus with you, because they are so powerful – but, I will change some of them to be easier to understand than the Old English it was written in.  I want to then focus on the phrase I referred to at the beginning: because it will encourage and enrich your life, in a way nothing else can,  IF you take it to heart and act on it.

To God be the glory, great things He has done,
God so loved the world that He gave us His son (Jesus).
Jesus gave up his life on the cross as an payment for sin – mine and yours,
…and with his death and resurrection he opened the LIFE-GATE that all can enter in.

Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord – let the earth hear God’s voice.
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord – let the people rejoice.
Oh, won’t you believe in God the father and Jesus God’s son
And then you can give God glory – for the great things He has done.

Have you ever heard the word “gospel”?  Do you know what it means?  It refers to the “good news” – the Biblical account of  Jesus coming to earth – born of a virgin, living a perfect life and then being killed and buried…only to rise from the dead in order to pay for your sins once and for all.  The Bible says that if you believe the gospel you have salvation (saving faith from your sins and the consequence which is eternal death).

If you are a sci-fi fan you may watch Stargate.  For those of you who have never watched the show, let me explain that there is a “gate” that opens up and allows people to travel from one galaxy to another or one time-continuum to another.  It is a very ethereal gate through which you pass from somewhere else in time and space back to the present time on earth – or vice versa.  (For those of you who are hard-core sci-fi fans, I apologize if I have described this “gate” in a less than adequate way.)

Picture with me a gate that is not hard to open in one direction…yet impossible to open the other.  This Life-Gate is exactly like that.  Unlike the Stargate, the Life Gate is a one-way gate.  If we believe the gospel we walk through the gate to forgiveness of sin and eternal life.  The gate never opens back up the other direction, no matter what we do.  AND, it is yours to walk through by simply believing the Biblical message about Easter.

The movie “Son of God” has been in the theaters for several weeks now.  If you have had a chance to see it, or possibly “The Passion of the Christ” that Mel Gibson produced a number of years ago – you are familiar with the story/plot.  This story/plot is this gospel message I keep referring to.

If you have already believed and walked through the Life-Gate I know you are praying for others who haven’t, to do so when they read this.  If you have not believed before, for whatever reason; put your disbelief aside – believe – and walk through the Life Gate.  Come…join me and millions of others who, over the course of history, have believed the gospel.

The Bible says that when someone walks through the Life Gate the angels rejoice.  As humans, rejoicing often leads to singing.  Perhaps it is so with the angels, too.

…and so, we end this series “on a good note”!

Encouragement and Enrichment from Hymns of Old – Part I

old hymnal …a series on words/phrases from old hymns to encourage and enrich.  
“Sweetest Name”

I have had a certain phrase rolling over in my mind these past few days from the old hymn “Sweetest Name”.  It has been such a blessing to me and I wanted to share it with you.  However, before I could get this post written, we had communion at church – and one of the songs the pianist played was “Wonderful Grace of Jesus”.  As I inwardly sang the words she played the melody to so beautifully, I realized that this hymn also had words that encourage and enrich.  …and so begins a short series.

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know; fills my every longing…keeps me singing as I go.”  This is the final phrase of the chorus of “Sweetest Name” – a hymn written by Luther Bridgers in 1910.

I want to focus on just the middle four words “fills my every longing” because I believe most of us have at least one longing – and probably more than one.

Longing is defined as a yearning desire.  And yearning is synonymous with craving, ache, burning, hunger, thirst. Each of those words create vivid word pictures…some similar – and some quite different from each other.  To yearn is often used when referring to emotions and relationships; a craving can be associated with addictions; and to ache – well, that is used to describe emotions and relationships, but it also brings up thoughts of chronic illness and pain.  To burn, connotes discomfort of some sort or an insatiable desire; while hunger and thirst both make one immediately physically or spiritually hungry or thirsty when they contemplate the word.

I believe it will take just a few seconds for you to identity at least one longing you currently have.  You probably have several.  Whether relational, spiritual, physical, emotional or a combination – this word L-O-N-G-I-N-G is such a perfect description of itself.  A longing is not easily or quickly satisfied…it is long in coming, and perhaps will not be satisfied in a way we thought it would or should.

Then how in the world can a songwriter be so bold as to write that Jesus can, and does, “fill my EVERY longing“?  Mr Bridgers was acquainted with longing.  He was a minister who lost his wife and children in a fire while he was away visiting aging parents in 1910. That same year he wrote this song.  He knew…and wanted others to know, (you and me) that his yearning desire, his constant craving, his aching heart, his burning wish, his hunger and his thirst to have his beloved family back – had been realized, filled, satiated and completed by Jesus!

Did that mean he just suddenly stopped grieving and/or never thought of his lost family again?  Oh, I can’t imagine that was the case. I DO know that it meant that he knew within the deepest parts of his being that His God and Savior understood, cared and had supplied the grace and hope that satisfied.

Remember when I wrote “A longing is not easily or quickly satisfied…it is long in coming, and perhaps will not be satisfied in a way we thought it would or should”?  As humans we reason, rationalize and try to fix things ourselves or make things happen. However, Jesus satisfies our longing(s) when we trust Him with them, knowing that our human way of looking at things is short-sighted, often irrational and imperfect at its very best.  His ways are never short-sighted, never irrational and always perfect!  Jesus satisfies our longings when we place our focus, whether consciously or sub-consciously, on Him and His ways.

I have often told others that when I write I am so blessed myself – and, this is one of those times when I am finding it nearly impossible to stay at the computer because my soul is bursting with joy and hope because of who Jesus is and what He has done, is doing and will do for myself and others during my lifetime.  I want to simultaneously jump up and down, run around, drop to my knees in adoration and utter words of gratitude and praise to my Lord and Savior – the God of Heaven and Earth!

Perhaps I digress, but think of the words to another song with me for a moment:
“Who can take a sunrise, sprinkle it with dew, Cover it with choc’late and a miracle or two
The Candy Man, oh the Candy Man can – The Candy Man can ’cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.”
A dewy sunrise covered in chocolate and miracles – now that’s sweet!

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know; fills my every longing…keeps my singing as I go.”

How much sweeter to have my longings satisfied!  Jesus, your name truly is the sweetest name I know.

May I Be as it Becomes You

past-present-future

Unusual title? Yes…but, I think you will see why I chose this phrase for my title in a moment. This double entendre phrase has much to think about in both contexts.  But, first I have to clarify that “YOU” in the phrase refers to God, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Now you are starting to get it, right?

Next, I need to explain the meaning of the word “be”.  It has many meanings, yet the one that is the most interesting, the most pertinent to this phrase – and the hardest, is “to remain unmolested, undisturbed, or uninterrupted”.

God calls us to simply BE.  We get so caught up in the DO that we forget to BE….  “Being” is not thought of as an active verb, yet to remain unmolested, undisturbed or uninterrupted in our walk with the Lord, requires a great deal of action.  That action is stillness.  Oh, that is so hard!  We want to be running, or at least walking for the Lord.  That feels “Christianly” and it suits our humanness perfectly.  It holds the connotation that if we are doing for the Lord we must be pleasing the Lord.

Both contexts for this phrase will obliterate the idea that we can, should or must do anything to please the Lord.

May I be as it becomes YOU: The first context is so simple…yet hard to grasp. As we are quiet and still remaining:

unmolested by the world’s influence

undisturbed by the trials and tragedies of life

…and uninterrupted in our focus on God we will become more like Him.

Remember your teacher in elementary school correcting you when you asked “Can I please go to the restroom”?  What was the correct way to ask that question?  “MAY I please go to the restroom?”  Because it was not a question of if you were capable of walking to the restroom, but rather, if you could have permission to leave the classroom.  I know it seems like a silly memory to bring up, but notice the phrase is, “May I be as it becomes YOU”.  In other words, we have the capability to fulfill the rest of the phrase.  It is within our grasp, not because of something we are doing, but because of our “BEing”.

I am not suggesting that we wil ever become God or “a God’ like those in the New Age movement teach.  What I am saying is that as we are still and allow Jesus to work in our lives we will become more like Him in our daily thoughts, actions and reactions.  There will be  less of us and more of Him showing to others.  We are being as it becomes Him.

Perhaps a somewhat old-fashioned, but very descriptive word in this next context is “becomes” or “becoming”.  It means to flatter a one’s appearance or to be suitable, fitting and appropriate.  This second context of this petition: “May I Be as it Becomes You”, is simply an admittance that we desire to be becoming to God.  Flattering to God’s appearance because we are suitable, fitting and appropriate.  That is such a beautiful thought to me. That I could be flattering to God, suitable, fitting and appropriate seems an impossible feat. And, it is without the precious work of Christ on the cross. Because of Christ, God sees you and me through the blood that Jesus spilt and our image is pure, spotless and without blame -flattering or becoming to God. So, the second half context of this petition is already a reality if we have believed in Jesus as our savior.

Did you get what I just said? The second context doesn’t have anything more to do with what I do, or don’t do, than the first context did. What a resting place! What a joy! Not “CAN” I Be as it Becomes You…but rather “May” I and the Fathers says “Yes, not only may you – but you ARE”.

“In Holy Array Out of the Womb of the Morning”

Sunrise-and-Clouds1I have been reading through the Psalms and admit I am completely captivated by this phrase along with the words that precede it.   The word picture Psalm 110:3 depicts in the Amplified version is so beautiful.  It reads “Your people will offer themselves willingly…in the beauty of holiness and in holy array out of the womb of the morning…”.

I have known for many years that followers of Jesus are to offer themselves to God.  But, this verse describes this offering in such vivid language that it has taken on a whole new meaning for me.  We are to offer ourselves willingly.  Why?  Because it is an offering.  Webster defines offering as “the act of an offer” and “offer” is defined as “to present as an act of worship or devotion”.   If we offer ourselves unwillingly it is not truly an offering because is it not an act of worship or devotion.  It is a contrived act, often with ulterior motives.

For me, the real elegance (if I can call it that) begins to unfold with the rest of the verse.  We offer ourselves willingly…in the beauty of holiness and holy array.  God is HOLY, but we are holy also as His followers – we are sinners, forgiven because of God’s mercy and grace.  We are clean and pure, spotless and holy.  Can you think of anything with more beauty than that?  But wait, it goes on with…and holy array.  What an incredible word to use here because it means “to dress or decorate especially in splendid or impressive attire”.   We offer ourselves willingly in holiness, because God has made us holy – AND that holiness is in the form of holy array.  We are dressed in holiness.  It covers us – decorates us, splendidly.

But there is more because that holy array is out of the womb…..  I have never thought of my offering to God in these terms before.  A womb is “a place where something is generated”.  This entails action.  Think about a babe in the womb.  There is constant activity as cells divide, entire blood systems form along with organs, hands and feet.  The “place where something is generated” in this verse is talking about the action of Jesus Christ being crucified, buried and resurrected from the dead in order to decorate us in  the splendor of holiness.

Finally, it is out of the womb of the morning.  Morning is the “first of beginning period of anything”.  This entire phrase has a circular motion to it!  We offer ourselves willingly, as holy offerings to God, dressed and decorated in splendid and impressive attire.  That impressive attire comes from God himself and it was generated in the womb that represents salvation – the action that was the beginning of our ability to be holy and thus offer ourselves willingly to God.