Mine, All Mine! A Decision for Jesus

“We like the idea of that kind of wedding cake,” Caterer Molly affirmed as she met with the bride and groom-to-be, “But a dessert that everyone gets into looks like someone put their face in it. It doesn’t take long to mess up the entire table.”

Bill suggested instead, “So what do you think if we make individual cakes? You’ll still have a cake topper for your first anniversary. But everyone else will have little cakes. It’s not hard for this small group. Take a look at these pictures of an event we did before.”

The couple leaned forward, looked at each other and broke out in a smile. “Great idea!” they said together.

When the wedding day came at the out-of-the-way resort, Molly and Bill took extra care setting up the cake table. The guests oooed and aaahed at the result.

One school-aged boy asked, “Can I have this one?”

“Sure,” Bill told him. “We made them for all of you.”

“Do I have to share it with my sister?”

“Nope. She can have one, too. There’s plenty!”

Though the boy had attended several weddings with his family, he walked away in wonder, “It’s mine. All mine!” Never had this happened before. The boy settled in the shade of an evergreen tree to enjoy his cake. It was all his!

There are things in the kingdom of God open to all: the offer and acceptance of salvation is not limited to a certain group, race, or people.

“Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”  [Colossians 3:11 NIV]

But when it comes to the door of opportunity to accept or reject Christ, it does come down to a personal decision: it’s yours, all yours! One cannot be a follower of Christ simply because family members or friends are Christians. One cannot travel on the highway to heaven by following others.

To be a Christian, one must accept Jesus as the son of God. Jesus said it many ways. Just a few follow: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” [John 14:6-7]

Just before raising Lazarus from the dead, he told Lazarus’ surviving sister, Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” [John 11:25-26]

Once a person accepts Jesus, his or her journey includes an expert trail guide. And just like the boy with the small cake, that adventure and relationship is between you and Jesus.

You can say with certainty. “It’s mine! All mine!”

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of scores of articles, a half dozen anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and website, www.button-to-god.com. She lives in northeast Arizona with her husband, Ed. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]

Getting Passed in the Race

Life is great and I want everyone to know it! Freddy mused as he cruised his new car into the drive-in. He was out to show off his success. Just a year out of high school, he had a great job, a brand-new fast car, and a cool apartment.

The young man pulled in under the lights at the drive-in in his new 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air. He was dusting the fender of the fiesta cream sedan while bragging to the older man sipping on a milkshake in his Oldsmobile Super 88, “You know, this car is so popular that they can’t make them fast enough.”

“That right?”

“Talk about fast! Why, no one will race me because this sweet baby can really roll!”

But the older man smirked as he slurped the shake and asked, “You’ve never had any takers, huh?”

“That’s right! They just know they’re gonna get beat bad!”

“Hmmm.” He extended his hand, “Harry.” The man thought of the power under the hood of his one-year-old 1953 Oldsmobile. V-8, nearly two tons of power, just under 165 horsepower, and a four-barrel carburetor that meant business.

“Know that new strip of highway not opened yet off Pine Tree Way?”

“Yeah,” Freddy answered, “I’ve run my car on that road dozens of times. It sure is fast!”

“I’ll take you on.”

“You’re kidding, Big Daddy. Aren’t you a little old for racing?”

Harry just smiled.

A couple of friends followed them to the course. One used his headlights to mark the end of the race.

The other friend hollered, “The race will start when you hear this firecracker!”

With a bang, the engines roared and the race started. But Freddy pulled the shifter down all the way and the three-speed Bel Air went in reverse with the tires smoking. He adjusted for his mistake, shifted again and shot forward.

The Olds seemed slow, but shortly, Harry kicked it into the Super gear, and the heavy, powerful sedan easily passed the Bel Air. No contest. Lots of pavement between him and Freddy by the time Harry sped past the finish.

Freddy stopped his Chevy after running the stretch full speed. His jaw dropped with astonishment. An older man in an older car had beat him hands down!

The next week, someone posted a sign on the bulletin board at the drive in: “1954 Chevy Bel Air for sale. Low miles. One owner. Slow.”  It was everyone’s guess that the car was Freddy’s.

Fast or slow? In the race that God has planned for us, does speed matter? Not at all. Just as professional racers in all fields know, ultimately, one is competing against oneself, not others. But in life’s race to heaven, for Christians, the most important thing is to persevere and finish. That is your and God’s victory.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and 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]

Anyone who has ever raced on foot, by bicycle, or in a car could tell you it’s not easy. But strengthened by those who crossed the finish before us, we can be encouraged. With God’s help, the finish is sure as we focus on Jesus.

God’s pit crew and his divine help guarantee a stronger finish in the race than even the fastest of cars!

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of scores of articles, a half dozen anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and website, www.button-to-god.com. She lives in northeast Arizona with her husband, Ed. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]

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All I Can Do Is Pray by Jo Russell

Harv watched his work-out friend, Lenny, arrive at the gym at his usual time. But instead of finding a parking place in the gym parking lot, Lenny had driven his dusty pick-up truck up the road next to the building, looped a figure eight in the grocery parking lot next store, and finally came to a stop at the top of a hillside. He parked, aiming the vehicle down toward the road. It was at the business next door, not at the gym.

When Lenny joined him in morning exercise, Harv greeted him and asked, “Now why did you park over there? You can see there are parking spaces right in front of the gym.”

Lenny responded, “Can’t. The truck will only go forward, can’t back up. Needs transmission work. So everywhere I go, all I can do now is to drive straight ahead.”

Lenny’s truck had been his friend and dependable extra wheels for 18 years. Now it was getting older. It couldn’t do everything it had done before. All it could do is to go forward. It would never be the same again. But the vehicle was still useful.

Thinking on your own limitations, have you ever thought, “All I can do is pray”?

Sometimes when we learn of hardships and challenges that others face, we may feel unable to do much due to limits on time, energy, finances, distance, family responsibilities, or physical limitations. What can we do to comfort them? We may sigh and decide, “I can only pray.”

And it seems like a weak action, lame.

But truly, as a channel and communication tapping into the power of God, it’s decisive, strong, and life-changing.

Many were watching at Lazarus’ tomb when Jesus asked them to take away the stone. Jesus, the Son of God prayed, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here that they may believe that you sent me.” [John 11:41]  He modeled for us his connection and communication with God the Father with prayer.

“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” [Luke 5:16] This comment had followed his preaching and healing large crowds. Prayer gave him power to recharge and refocus, to keep on keepin’ on.

In the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” [Luke 22:42-43]  Even in the last days of his earthly life, Jesus showed prayer clearly as  communication directly with God, bringing comfort and clear answers.

Just as Lenny mourned, “All I can do is go forward,” we may say, “All I can do is pray.” God’s power can move in astonishing ways no one can. It’s more, not less. Prayer moves mountains. It changes us. It brings insight and spiritual growth. Prayer shows the compassion and power of God.

But the difference between Lenny’s power and God’s is in tapping into the power better than any new or used transmission.  “All I can do is pray” is a powerful action.  Don’t belittle yourself when you think it’s the only thing you can do.  Prayer is just the right thing to do.

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of scores of articles, a half dozen anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and website, www.button-to-god.com. She lives in northeast Arizona with her husband, Ed. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]

 

 

 

 

 

Put on Your Traveling Shoes – Or Not By Jo Russell

“I’ve been working on a wish list for a vacation. You’ve got one, too,” Betty sang out with enthusiasm as she addressed her husband, Bill. It had been a lay-back day and a great time to plan while they were relaxing at home. “Where have you always wanted to go?”

“I dunno.”

“No idea at all?”

Bill shrugged.

Betty suggested, “What do you think of going to Washington, D.C. and seeing the monuments and George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon?”

“I get The Smithsonian Magazine. I don’t need to go there. I heard the traffic is terrible. My buddy Pete, who’s been all over, told me I wouldn’t like it. It sounds like a lot of walking.”

“What about going to see the Presidents on the cliffs at Mt. Rushmore. That’s pretty close–just a couple of days drive.”

“I’ve seen pictures. Pete told me he’s been there. He said it’s overrated. Just a bunch of boulders. I wouldn’t like it. I don’t need to see it.”

“But what about seeing the mountain in all its grandeur and size in person? It took the artist 25 years to create it.”

“Nope. I’ve seen all I need to see in the pictures. Also, we wouldn’t have to fight to find a parking place.”

“Where else have you always wanted to go? What about the Grand Canyon? That’s really close from here. ”

He rolled his eyes.

“I’ve been there. I don’t need to go again. Pete said he’s been there. I wouldn’t like it.”

By this time, she was ready to wring Pete’s neck, but also her husband’s. “But you haven’t seen it from the North Rim of the Canyon.”

“I’ve seen the Canyon.  Pete says it’s not worth the extra miles. I don’t need to see it from another road.”

Betty thought hard. She was ready to give his buddy a piece of her mind. No matter how short a distance, Bill had vetoed every idea.

“Bill, I guess you’re not going anywhere. I don’t know who would join you on a field trip across the driveway except the ants.”

Bill’s immovable attitude is nothing new.

Inflexible. Immovable. Rigid. Unyielding.

All these are actions that directly oppose God’s work and plan today as in ancient times.

God’s plan often propels one into the unknown. But when he does this, he is an expert guide and always with us.

Here are the Lord’s words to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” [Genesis 12:1]  God promised that Abram would become a great nation. This was about four thousand years ago. But God keeps his promises then and now.

Abram’s wasn’t just a trip across the driveway or the neighborhood. Abram, Sarai and Lot traveled a journey of some 800 miles from Ur to Haran and eventually to Shechem near Jerusalem. He followed the rivers rather than cross a vast, dry desert. There is a good chance when they left, the three and their servants would have never again seen their parents or family members left behind. Ahead was an unknown, new world. God lead them there.

But the important thing that Abram did was to obey God’s request.

God commanded Moses was to lead his people out of Egypt into the desert. They put on their traveling shoes and learned to depend on God for every need, from protection from enemies, water and food to safe areas as campsites.

When Prophet Isaiah experienced a vision and insight from God about 700 B.C., he felt unworthy to see the Almighty, as well as to speak with him. Angels purified his lips and speech. That’s when God asked, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”  [Isaiah 6:8]

And Isaiah answered, “Here I am. Send me!”

He volunteered for the job without knowing the job description. It wasn’t a five minute job. But he was willing and it came down to obedience to God.

God had asked him to give his people a message they would ignore. He told Isaiah to keep telling them, “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the Lord has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.” [Isaiah 6:11-13]  [Terebinth is a large, spreading tree. No good English translation].

This divine warning came before the people were conquered and the best of them taken into captivity and to Babylon. The tenth refers to the remnant who remained faithful to God.

Is God asking you to put on your traveling shoes and head into the unknown?  Have courage. Trust God. He will help you all along the way. That may include finding a parking place if that’s what you need.

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of scores of articles, a half dozen anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and website, www.button-to-god.com. She lives in northeast Arizona with her husband, Ed. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]