Bible Study and Teaching, Inspire

Birds in Flight

Bird iStock_000002531168LargeI enjoyed a “pre-saved” holy moment that gave me a glimpse of God as the author of life.  Raised an aetheist, as a sophomore in college, I was bothered by the conversion of my skeptical father to Christianity.  Billy Graham’s book How to Be Born Again was a best-seller that year, so I decided to purchase a copy to gain insight into my father’s newfound faith.  Spreading out a blanket on the shores of Lake Michigan, I pulled out my book for a leisurely read.  An excerpt from chapter 3, “Does God Really Speak to Us?” made me blurt out loud, “Yeah, right!” Graham proposed that God was the Creator who speaks to His creatures through creation; “In its own language, nature speaks of God’s existence, whether it is the cry of a baby or the song of a meadowlark…the instincts of a bird within his plans.”

Arrogantly, I decided to put creator God to a test, challenging, “If you formed the instincts within a bird and want to show me that You are sovereign over all, then influence the bird tweeting in the distance to sing a little song for me by landing upon the tree I’m sitting under.”  Fluttering out of the distance, a small gray swallow came into view.  Then he lit upon the branch above my head and chirped a happy melody.  Closing the book ceremoniously, I thought, Maybe God really does exist and has created me for a purpose.

Just like that, in a holy moment, God had sprung the lock on a college coed’s closed mind with His unseen hand of providence.  I began attending Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California, and two months later I offered my heart to the Lord.  My experience is evidence that holy moments are designed to draw us closer to the Holy One.

God is creator of heaven and Earth, sovereign over all He has made. And his creations, from the stars at night to the birds in flight, are evidence of His divine nature. Paul tells us, “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20, NIV).  Nothing, not even the fall or the flight of a sparrow, escapes God’s all-seeing eye. And He uses the intricacies of nature to get the attention of his ultimate creation, humanity. People like you and me are much more valuable to God than a flock of sparrows (see Luke 12:7).

Inspire

Late for Practice

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When I was a brand-new Christian, I loved hearing about the extraordinary events that happened in the lives of ordinary people like you and me.  One of my favorite real-life tales took place in Beatrice, Nebraska.  The story begins in a little church called West Side Baptist that was known for its choir.  Like clockwork, the choir members practiced at church every Wednesday night at precisely 7:20 P.M.  But on March 1, 1950, everyone had an excuse for being late, from the sopranos to the basses.

Marilyn Paul, the church pianist, fell asleep after dinner, so she and her mother were late.  Ladonna Vandergrift, a high school sophomore, was having trouble with her homework, so she ran behind schedule.  Slowed down by car trouble, a married couple that provided transportation for several other members of the choir meant that a whole carload would be delayed.  Amazingly, 20 people, including every singer, the choir director, Reverend Walter Klempel and his wife, were all late.  And all of them had excellent excuses.  At precisely 7:25 P.M., the time when chorus rehearsal should have begun, not one soul was in the choir loft-and that had never happened before.

That peculiar night the church furnace ignited a gas leak in the basement of the west Side Baptist Church and the whole building burst into a blaze.  The furnace room was right below the choir loft-where the choir should have been singing!  The walls collapsed outward while the heavy roof crashed straight down in a deadfall.  The blast forced a nearby radio station off the air and shattered windows in surrounding homes.

If Marilyn had been the only survivor, she might have assumed that there was nothing uncommon about an after-dinner snooze. (And personally, I’ve never thought car trouble constituted a miraculous turn of events).  No high school student in his or her right mind would consider homework the handiwork of God.  But on May 1, 1950, if you belonged to the choir at the West Side Baptist Church in Beatrice, Nebraska, the most ordinary excuse became extraordinary evidence of God’s using everyday circumstance to accomplish His will.  Perhaps statisticians could calculate the exact odds of all these random events occurring simultaneously, yet it seems safe to say that chances are one in a million that the entire choir would arrive late on the same evening!  All these years later, the still-surviving members believe that their ordinary circumstances were an act of God.

Perhaps you’ve always assumed that supernatural surprises only happen to old, dead saints.  That’s not true!  Holy moments take place in everyone’s life-because holy moments are meant to point us to the Holy One.  They are God’s way of drawing back the curtains in heaven so that we can see Him moving behind the scenes and moving all the scenes that He’s behind.  When unbelievers experience holy moments, it is God’s way of getting their attention too.  He’s showing them that he’s in on the act and longs to be Director of all their tomorrows.

Inspire

Heaven Sent

iStock_000006748253MediumNothing seemed out of the ordinary that bright Sunday morning as I jogged down the same route I had taken the previous six days of my vacation in Honolulu. It was a picture-postcard day in paradise. As I ran, I passed surfers catching blue-green waves tht would eventually crash and subside on the sandy shores of Waikiki. I followed a course past touristy Kalakaua Avenue, through exotic Kapiolani Park and up the stark volcanic slopes of Diamond Head.

Suddenly, trouble in paradise hit hard. Ouch! At the halfway point of a five-mile excursion, I stopped dead in my tracks. The mother of all charley horses gripped my left calf – I was paralyzed with pain. Stumbling, then fumbling for a nearby wall, I did every conceivable stretch in a desperate attempt to loosen the unrelenting cramp. Nothing worked. I was two-and-a-half miles away from my hotel with no money for a taxi, so I began hobbling toward my final destination.
After navigating several blocks in agonizing discomfort, God tapped me on the shoulder-or should I say, spoke to my heart: Lenya,why don’t you pray? Why didn’t I think of that sooner? Then I asked Him, “Lord, help! I can’t make it back without damaging my leg further. Please send me help or heal me. What should I do?”

Through the park, strewn with palm trees and fragrant plumeria blossoms, I spotted a bright banner stretched across a minibus: Heaven Sent. I smiled at God’s sense of humor and His impeccable timing. What was the minibus doing smack-dab in my path? Should I limp up and knock on the window? Then the rest of the sign came into focus: Heaven Sent Mobile Massage Therapy. “This is too good to be true,” I mumbled. Then I wondered, could this be a holy moment orchestrated by God’s good hand?

Just then a local named Bunny Gabaylo stepped out to ask if I needed help. A pleading request tumbled out of my mouth. I’ve just injured myself running. I’ve got two more miles to go. Could you work out the knot in my calf? The problem is, I’m not carrying any money to pay you.” He simply handed me a flyer, and said in Pidgin English, “It your lucky day. I offering two-minute massage free to first-time customer.” Bunny, a licensed massage therapist, worked on my calf for nearly 20 minutes applying shiatsu acupressure, deep-tissue massage and Tiger Balm. While I lay on the padded exam table, listening to Julio Iglesias over the high-tech sound system, Bunny graciously offered his healing touch. When I noticed a picture of Jesus on the wall of his minibus, I said, “Are you a Christian?”

He affirmed that he was and added, “I should be at church, since it Sunday. But a friend invite me to Kapiolani Park for race that end here today.” When I stood up, I was overjoyed to discover that my gait had straightened out and my leg was greatly improved. I thanked him and offered to send a check in payment for his services. But Bunny refused, saying, “This is my calling. No charge for you.”

The next two miles seemed more like two blocks as I delighted myself in the Lord who had granted me the desires of my heart by answering my prayer the precise moment it was uttered. I asked God for help during a time of need and He provided an answer that was truly heaven-sent!

The divinely appointed meeting with Bunny was not my first holy moment, and God has showered me with many others such moments since then. All these events have convinced me that they are available to anyone, from unbelievers to those who are passionate about following God-and He can send holy moments to many people simultaneously. Holy moments are God’s subtle way of getting our attention. They serve as a sweet reminder that he is near. I am not more special than anyone else-our heavenly Father doesn’t play favorites. However, I’ve developed a sensitivity to holy moments because of a scripture that became my life’s verse many years ago.

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and he shall bring it to pass. (Psalm 37:4-5)

Meditating upon Psalm 37:4-5 opened my eyes to the ways that God moves among us. He longs to intersect our paths with his heavenly interruptions.

Church Body, Inspire

One Way

For the 60’s generation that dropped out, turned on, and tuned in Chuck Smith pointed them to Jesus with an contagious smile and a finger pointed heavenward.

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Society marginalized the long-haired, hippie freaks, but Pastor Chuck opened his heart and church doors to their exuberant, alternate music and groovy way of dressing. While experimenting with “free love” they discovered authentic love in the pages of a little black book. For God is love. The combination of unconditional love and Smith’s magnetic presentation of the Bible launched the first wave of the “Jesus Movement.”

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Pastor Chuck Smith moved to heaven today. Because of his ministry, I went from bartender to Bible study leader. I left drug use and promiscuity to become spirit filled and experience incredible intimacy in Christ. May I suggest that we bring back a favorite gesture of those days? In honor of Chuck’s new residence in heaven, let’s point others to Jesus with the “one way” sign! 👆

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Inspire

Be Still

Sitting still requires relinquishing your chaos to a God who cares and is in control. Take time to climb onto His lap. Rest your whirling head on His chest. As your heart beat and breathing begins to mimic His calming rhythm, hear His gentle voice say: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

Family

My Pampered Pooch

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Which kind of pet owner are you? The first type treats their animals, well, like they’re animals. You provide the basics of kibbles and water. They must serve a function like guard dog, egg layer, or milk producer. You don’t abuse or neglect them. However, they stay where pets belong-outside! My stepfather held this austere philosophy. Suffice it to say, as long as I lived in his house, I never owned a pet. As a tweener girl, I envisioned Lassie, Flipper, or Black Beauty. Why, these pets where your BFF’s.

The second kind of pet owner treats their animal like Paris Hilton. They travel in designer handbags; have encrusted collars; and enjoy pet play dates. They bear touchy-feely titles like “sweetie pie,” “snuggles,” and “mama’s little baby.” Table food? Oh, they eat like royalty. Sleeping arrangements? Right on their master’s bed with matching silk jammies. That’s how I treat our Welsh terrier, Mack. He gets a fresh latte every morning; a walk along the bosque at noon; and biscuits in bed as a nightcap. Go ahead, you can judge me. I’m that kind of dog owner.

Honestly, if you were a pet, which kind of owner would you prefer? Me? I’d be Hotel Tycoon, Leona Helmsley’s, Maltese lap dog named “Trouble” who inherited $12 million at her owner’s death. Believe it or not, as a Christian, that’s exactly the kind of care you receive from Jesus, your Shepherd. His flock never lacks a thing. They drink from still waters the likes of Perrier. They take naps in pastures as idyllic as the English countrysides. When predators appear, He stands guard.Best of all, He restores their soul. In other words, He cares about their deepest, emotional needs.

Take a minute to read Psalm 23. Get to know this Good Shepherd. Follow Him wherever He goes. Even in the deepest valley, He’ll make sure that goodness and mercy follow right behind you. One day you will live in His house forever.

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Rejoice in her boundaries

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original digital collage by Khanh Dang and Lenya Heitzig

How do you deny past problems access to your forwarding address? Here’s my advice, don’t dwell in the past; you don’t live there anymore. Past, by definition, is something that no longer exists. You can’t bring it back. You can’t change it. You can’t even revel in its glories. Even the star quarterback eventually gains weight while the prom queen ages. All of our bygone days, the good, the bad, and the ugly, are now merely reflections in a review mirror.

Anyone who’s tried to forget the past by sheer determination discovered it multiplies by epic proportions. For instance, the moment you tell yourself, don’t think about creepy gnomes, the more you fixate on them. And then your dreams are riddled with the vexing little bearded guys wearing green waistcoats and pointy red hats. This phenomenon is known as the “ironic process theory” which simply explains the minds tricky way of creating obsessive thoughts despite trying to oppress them.

So, how can you conquer the past? Step ahead! The best way to conquer an old habit is to replace it with a new one. Want to stop swearing? Start praising. Jesus explained, “Bless those who curse you” (Luke 6:28). Need to quit biting your nails? Try painting them pink instead. Follow Paul’s example to “put off the old…and put on the new” (Col. 3:9-10).

The virtuous woman conquered her anxiety, too. “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs with no fear of the future” (Prov. 31:31:25, NLT). She used her past to prepare for the future. As a result, she was fearless.

When the past comes knocking, you don’t have to answer. Why? You’re not home—you’ve moved on and left no forwarding address.

Inspire

Worship

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What was her work? Worship. Exorbitant, extravagant, extraordinary worship. She broke her box of blessing, that alabaster container full of precious perfume and poured it on the Savior…anointed Him in love. What can you do for Him today? Reckless love!

Inspire

Wait

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God answers every prayer with a “yes” or a “no” or “wait.” Waiting isn’t passive, it’s active. It includes the anticipation of a Christmas morning and the application of knowledge that leads to graduation day. You don’t wait on the fickleness of fate, you wait on the faithfulness of the Lord!