Monday, August 28, 2006

Philippians 1 - It's all about LOVE!

Remember the silly game with a daisy - he loves me, he loves me not? Our study this past few weeks of the book of John told us unequivocally that HE LOVES ME!

In the book of Philippians, Paul and Timothy begin their letter to the church in verses 9-11
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover's life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.

In verses 27-30 Paul exhorts the church "Meanwhile, live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ. Let nothing in your conduct hang on whether I come or not. Your conduct must be the same whether I show up to see things for myself or hear of it from a distance. Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people's trust in the Message, the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they're up against: defeat for them, victory for you—and both because of God. There's far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There's also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting. You're involved in the same kind of struggle you saw me go through, on which you are now getting an updated report in this letter."

As Paul writes, he is actually in prison and he speaks of the power that he has been given to witness about the love of Jesus. He isn't speaking theoretically about suffering. He is suffering daily, but still using that to give glory to God and to speak of the power of Jesus in his life.

Today, may I share the good news in all that I say and do. Not flinching or dodging in the slightest if I am up against opposition. The good news is love and acceptance and as we learned about in John 21 yesterday - abundance. Bring it on!

Chicke Fitzgerald
John 21 - Abundance

This chapter begins with a simple story of God's extravagant love for us. The disciples had been fishing all night without any luck. This is how we often feel when we try and try to meet up to the expectations of others or what we believe is God's expectation of our behavior. Under our own power, we just can't do it.

John 21:6 He said, "Throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens."

They did what he said. All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren't strong enough to pull it in.

But when we call on Him and allow Him to lavish us with His love, he gives us a full net -- if only we will fish on the other side of the boat.

When He talks to us, He often asks us to do things that are the polar opposite of our nature. But in doing those things --- we receive His gift of abundance.

Matthew 5:3 "You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

4 "You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

5"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.

6 "You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.

7 "You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full,' you find yourselves cared for.

8 "You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

9 "You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.

10 "You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.

11-12 "Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Today I pray that you will listen to His Word in your heart -- fish off the other side of your normal boat. And just simply say "BRING IT ON LORD"! Accept His abundance, His extravagant love.

Chicke Fitzgerald

Saturday, August 26, 2006

John 16-20 The Word is our Speed Monitor

Today I was driving into our subdivision and they had put a speed monitor on the main boulevard as you drive in. The immediate effect of the speed monitor is to show you your speed in relation to the speed limit, which invariably is too high. So.... when you see the monitor, you slow down.

It occurred to me that the Word is like the speed monitor. There are warnings about how we should behave and an outline of what is good and right. It is the Holy Spirit's role to keep us focused on God's Word and to remind us what Jesus was teaching when He walked the earth.

John 16:8-11"When he comes, he'll expose the error of the godless world's view of sin, righteousness, and judgment: He'll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted.

In John 16, Jesus is trying to help the disciples understand what is about to happen when he is crucified. He talked them in parables and they struggled to understand. When he finally spoke plainly, they ultimately grasped what he was trying to say.

John 16:32-33 I've told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I've conquered the world."

This verse is at the heart of my faith. I am so thankful for his gift to me and my ability to be unshakable and assured - DEEPLY AT PEACE. Even in the midst of difficulties, I can remember that He conquered the world, so I don't have to!

In Gethsemane the night before he was crucified, Jesus prayed for the disciples, and he also prayed for us. His prayer was simple:

John 17:21 The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you.

I know that you know what it feels like to be at odds with others, perhaps even with your spouse or best friend. There is nothing worse --- and nothing better when you reconcile and become one heart and mind. That is what He wants for us.

In John 18, Jesus was betrayed by Judas and delivered to Pontias Pilate. Pilate handed him back to the Jews and offered a pardon, but he was betrayed a second time when they asked that Barabbas, a freedom fighter be pardoned instead. In John 19, Pilate knows that Jesus is in fact the son of God and he is afraid and tries again to pardon him. But in the end, he is more afraid of the people than he is of Jesus, so he gives in and orders him crucified.

John 19: 16-19 Pilate caved in to their demand. He turned him over to be crucified. They took Jesus away. Carrying his cross, Jesus went out to the place called Skull Hill (the name in Hebrew is Golgotha), where they crucified him, and with him two others, one on each side, Jesus in the middle. Pilate wrote a sign and had it placed on the cross. It read:

jesus the nazarene
the king of the jews.

20-21Many of the Jews read the sign because the place where Jesus was crucified was right next to the city. It was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. The Jewish high priests objected. "Don't write," they said to Pilate, "'The King of the Jews.' Make it, 'This man said, "I am the King of the Jews."'"

22Pilate said, "What I've written, I've written."

Who are we to deny Jesus, when in His presence, the highest law of the land knew Him to be the Son of God?

Throughout the balance of chapter 19 and the account of His death, over and over, the old testament scriptures were confirmed. The account even contains a statement of its accuracy and the words that "it was told so that you would hear and believe".

John 20 - Resurrection!
1-2 Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone was moved away from the entrance.

John 20 is the story of Jesus being raised from the dead. Resurrection. Life in exchange for death. This is the culmination of our faith -- the promise that He has for us. We no longer have to live in sin, in separation from God, in the mundane and the lack of purpose. We live because He lives! The chapter ends with Thomas, known forever as doubting Thomas, questioning the resurrection unless he sees Jesus with his own eyes and touches the hole in His side.

John 20:29 Jesus said, "So, you believe because you've seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing."

30-31 Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.

I pray that in revisiting this familar story, you will be convinced in your heart that He is not only Messiah, the Son of God, but that if you never have said out loud that you believe, that you will now do so and that you will know real and eternal life, the way he personally revealed it. And that you too will be unshakable and assured - DEEPLY AT PEACE. Even in the midst of difficulties, you too can remember that He conquered the world, so you don't have to!

And, the next time you see a speed monitor, you will be reminded of the importance of staying in the Word and listening to the Holy Spirit who is here to remind us to love, so that we can be loved.


Chicke Fitzgerald

Monday, August 21, 2006

Weekly Reflections - Communication and Homework!

The Lord has been dealing me with how we all communicate together in our family. Expectations, even those as simple and mundane as when to do something or when to be ready to go somewhere or who is responsible for something like homework, when unspoken can create strife and even chaos.

This morning was the first Monday after the first full week of school for our kids. While the children's nanny regularly does homework with them after school each day, normally in their previous school, they didn't have weekend homework. Well, this morning, we looked in Kiera's binder (way too late I might add) and found that there was homework that was not done from last week. The bottom line was that Kiera forgot about it and we didn't provide the safety net for her in checking it earlier in the weekend when we could have done something about it.

A valuable lesson was learned by all, but a painful one for an 8 year old that doesn't yet have a solid relationship with her new teacher.

Lord, help Kiera to learn how to ask for help and how to not be embarassed in front of her new friends. Ease her frustration and help us to help her succeed, instead of being quick to point out her failures and not accepting our role in managing the change that she is experiencing.

Chicke Fitzgerald

John 15 - I am the Vine and you are the branches
Several years ago Michael and I went to Napa Valley to one of our favorite wineries and had the pleasure to be a part of the harvest. Now, for those who don't understand what that entails, I have put together the pictures above of our actual journey through winemaking.

We arrived that morning at the winery and it was raining. The ground was not only damp, it was soaked. Thankfully Michael had urged me to wear boots -- really ugly boots... I saw other women in sandles and although it was much more stylish, I was very happy later when I saw what it was like to walk through the vineyard. Life lesson number one. When your husband tries to get you to be practical, it is a good idea to listen. Later on I swear I had five pounds of mud caked on each foot. Needless to say, the women in sandles were not happy campers.

First thing when we got into the vineyard, they gave us the clippers and taught us how to cut the grapes -- close to the vine. As we started cutting, it was immediately apparent that the grapes closest to the vine were the most succulent. Those that were out on long branches were stunted in their growth and not at all sweet. I knew immediately that God was teaching me a lesson about His love and that if we stay close to Him, we will bear sweet fruit in our lives.

John 15 begins with a story about God as the vinedresser and that as the vines are growing, He must prune them in order that they would bear more fruit.

We know from our many trips to Napa that it is very true in the natural with the vineyards, that those that are pruned produce so much more fruit. It is hard though when we are the subject of the pruning! But again, we saw that the branches that had missed the pruning were not only not yielding good fruit, but they were a sickly yellow green instead of the beautiful deep green of those that had been pruned.

Verses 5-8 of John 15 talk about how separate from Him we can't produce anything and that we may as well be thrown to the bonfire. Conversely if we abide in Him, He will abide in us and we will bear fruit! That fruit is LOVE, joy and peace.He wants to teach us how to love like He loved us.

Chicke Fitzgerald

John 14 - I go to My Father's House

In John 14 Jesus talks of His Father's house and how there are many rooms there and that He was going to prepare their rooms, and would be back for them.

It is amazing to me that the disciples didn't figure out that speaking of natural things was His way of helping them to more easily understand the spiritual world. They continued to try to interpret him literally. They wanted to know where the road was that would take them there.

In verses 6-7 Jesus said, "I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You've even seen him!"

8 Philip said, "Master, show us the Father; then we'll be content."

9-10 "You've been with me all this time, Philip, and you still don't understand? To see me is to see the Father.

This chapter is chocked full of very practical instruction - about loving, about prayer, about the Holy Spirit who He said He would leave behind to take care of us. The Holy Spirit's job is to make everything plain to us.

Lord - open our eyes to your Word. Teach us to listen and hear and understand. Teach us to love like you love us. Give us your peace.

Chicke Fitzgerald

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Weekly Reflections and John 9-13 The Healer

This week I traveled to Mexico City on business and missed updating the blog daily, so today I am catching up with the 5 chapters from 9-13 in the book of John.

The first chapter of this week's study continues the theme of Jesus quietly demonstrating His power by healing a blind man. Again, the Pharisees attacked Jesus, this time for healing on a Sunday.

In verse 39 of chapter 9 Jesus says "I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind." 40 Some Pharisees overheard him and said, "Does that mean you're calling us blind?" 41 Jesus said, "If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you're accountable for every fault and failure."

Jesus had a way of plain speaking that cut right to the heart of the matter. This angered the Pharisees, because they knew that he was right. Amongst the Pharisees were some who knew instinctively that the good things that Jesus were doing had to be of God.

In John 10 Jesus continues his plain way of communicating - first beginning with an allegory about sheep and a gate and the role of the shepherd in protecting the sheep from those who would come to steal and harm. The people didn't understand what He was trying to say, so He spoke even more plainly about the fact that He was the gate and the good shepherd. The Pharisees were angry and even tried to stone Him. In this chapter Jesus also talks about laying himself down for the sheep, which was another allegory about being nailed to the cross. At this point, it wasn't time for this to happen, so the end of the chapter says that Jesus slipped away back across the Jordan river.

John 11 is the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. It is interesting that first upon being told that he was sick by his sisters Mary and Martha, Jesus elected to wait a few days before coming to the town where they lived. By the time He arrived, Lazarus was dead. Jesus knew that this was the chance to reach Jews who previously just would not believe. After all, who could deny that someone who was dead was now alive?

Here I was struck by the fact that something bad had to happen to allow God to be glorified. How many times have you heard people say "Why would God allow this to happen?". Whether cancer or a tragic accident, each thing that creates deep need is an opportunity for God to show His power.

Even though Jesus knew that His own life would be in danger by performing such a stark miracle, he called to Lazarus, dead for 4 days, and he came back alive. The word spread and Jesus went to a place where He would be safe with the disciples until it was time.

He knew the "script" and the perfect timing of God's plan, so He was at peace.

John 11 begins with the story of Mary annointing Jesus' feet with precious oils. She came under criticism for that move, with Judas who would betray him saying "why didn't you sell the oil and give the money to the poor?". Again, knowing the script, Jesus said that Mary was honoring Him and that the poor would always be there, but He was not going to be with them much longer.

Meanwhile, the Pharisees were plotting to kill Lazarus, as he was drawing much attention to Jesus - the last thing that they wanted!

When it was time, Jesus returned to Jerusalem. He was greeted by people who had heard the first hand account from Lazarus. This angered the Pharisees even more, as if they needed igniting. Yet some of them did believe, but "were afraid of getting kicked out of the meeting place. When push came to shove they cared more for human approval than for God's glory."

In Chapter 12, verses 44-46 Jesus summed it all up when he cried out, "Whoever believes in me, believes not just in me but in the One who sent me. Whoever looks at me is looking, in fact, at the One who sent me. I am Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won't have to stay any longer in the dark. 47-50"If anyone hears what I am saying and doesn't take it seriously, I don't reject him. I didn't come to reject the world; I came to save the world. But you need to know that whoever puts me off, refusing to take in what I'm saying, is willfully choosing rejection."

Chapter 13 takes us to the upper room where the infamous Last Supper would be served. Jesus begins by washing the feet of the disciples. In verse 10 Jesus said, "If you've had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you're clean from head to toe. My concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene."

The chapter continues with the recognition of Judas as his betrayer, in fulfillment of the prophesy in the Scriptures. Then he lays down his instructions to them - a New Commandment:

34-35 "Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other."

The final verse in this chapter is about how Peter will deny Jesus before morning. We know what is coming and so did Jesus.

On Friday I had lunch with my friend Thristene who just returned from 2 1/2 months in Mozambique. As I've written before, she was part of an amazing missions community there where people were regularly being healed miraculously. She herself prayed for people in Africa whose eyes were opened after being blind. This is Chapter 9 in action - TODAY, not 2000 years ago. Someone sitting across from me eating Mexican food in a restaurant in Tampa, not Jesus.

In Chapter 13, verse 19 Jesus said
"I'm telling you all this ahead of time so that when it happens you will believe that I am who I say I am. Make sure you get this right: Receiving someone I send is the same as receiving me, just as receiving me is the same as receiving the One who sent me."

Thristene was one of many in Africa who were sent to minister to the local people. Their ministry reached literally hundreds for the Lord. It isn't about the miracles, although as shown in these few chapters in John, Jesus clearly saw the value of miracles in making people believe.

It is about love - Jesus loving people enough to stop, listen, touch, pray, heal. Healing not only their bodies, but their lives - cleansing their hearts and filling them with life - removing the effects of death. We can be the man who had been blind, we can be Lazarus.

Jesus is here today. Let Him touch you and be your healer.

Chicke Fitzgerald

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

John 8 - Words Drawn on the Ground

This chapter begins with Jesus teaching in the temple. I found it striking that as the Pharisees taunted Jesus, trying to trip him up by bringing an adulteress to him, and initially all He did in response was draw in the sand.

The text never says what he wrote, leaving us to wonder whether he was writing what he wanted to say to her or whether he wrote what he wished he could say to the Pharisees.

The entire chapter they challenged Him and tried to twist what He said. He retorted that if they questioned Him, they questioned His Father who sent Him. This angered them even further.

He also angered them by declaring that Abraham was not the Father that He referred to but it was Father God.

He also talked of a freedom that they could not understand.

34-38Jesus said, "I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. A slave is a transient, who can't come and go at will. The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house. So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through. I know you are Abraham's descendants. But I also know that you are trying to kill me because my message hasn't yet penetrated your thick skulls. I'm talking about things I have seen while keeping company with the Father, and you just go on doing what you have heard from your father."

Let's not have thick skulls. He loves us. God loved us enough to send Him to give us freedom.

Thank God!!!!

Chicke Fitzgerald

Monday, August 14, 2006

John 7 - Unbelief

Under the backdrop of the first few chapters of John which describe the undeniable miracles that Jesus performed, this chapter is filled with accounts of the unbelief of the religious leaders.

They were intimidated by him and truth be known, jealous of the attention and devotion showed by the popular masses. They continued to talk about the fact that nothing good could come from Galilee and even started connecting the dots to the promise that the Messiah needed to come from Bethlehem and be from the line of David.

Well, as we know from the popular retelling of the Christmas story and from the account in Matthew 1 about Christ's lineage, these things and many other promises from the Old Testament were in fact fulfilled in Jesus. But clearly they didn't have a quick way to validate these claims, so they had to go on what they heard and records passed down from generation to generation.

But the fact is that their hearts were hard and they didn't really want to believe that it was true. They found more satisfaction in criticism and unbelief, yet He still publicly promised again living water to them if they would only believe.

37-39 On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says." (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were about to receive. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.)

If you look back at the beginning of John 7, Jesus said to His brothers, as He had said to His mother at the wedding where He ended up turning water to wine, "It is not yet my time". There would come a day when He would be revealed to them all and at that time they would have to choose whether or not to believe.

Choice -- that is at the heart of Christianity. It is not thrust on us by our birth. We are given a choice. We can believe based on the evidence -- or not. After all, we can't see the wind, but we see its effects daily.

Yesterday there was a story on CNN about a little girl in Oregon that had been suffering from aplastic anemia - a rare form of cancer that attacks the blood system. One day before her bone marrow transplant was scheduled, they did a test and the cancer was GONE. No evidence of the disease. The doctor said that she couldn't explain it. The mother said that it could only be explained by their faith. So many people had prayed for little Victoria and her mom gave the glory to God in front of the millions that would view the video.

Skeptics can choose to refute this current day evidence of the power of prayer and the power of the One sent by God.

As for me and my house -- we believe in the power of prayer and will continue to pray for those that we know that are battling cancer and ALS, for our new friend Mike from the boat club that is having back surgery tomorrow, for those battling hopeless situations in their careers and relationships, those that are facing financial crisis and for those that need direction in their lives - you know who you are! And a special prayer today for my niece Sarah who is going in to check on the progress of her skin grafts on her left arm.

May the power of the owner of the cattle on ten thousand hills be evident in your life, give you faith and give you peace and clarity.

Chicke Fitzgerald

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Weekly Reflection - Faith Lessons from a Boater

This weekend we went on a boat trip with a boat club from our boat manufacturer, Regal. It was a gorgeous, albeit hot, weekend for boating. During our trip home from Longboat Key to Tampa today I had a lot of quiet time to reflect. From it comes my Sunday reflection Blog!

This was our first trip with our new color GPS (global positioning system for you non-boaters) on our 26 foot Regal cruiser. It was a good thing that we had it, because our depth finder has been broken for some time and one thing you need to know at all times when you are boating is how deep the water is in relation to the draft of your boat (how far the boat extends down into the water). We need a minimum of just over 3 feet to be safe.

On the way down to Longboat Key, which is near Sarasota, we followed our neighbors Gene and Linda. I told Michael that I thought that following was a good idea, since we didn’t have a working depth finder. He agreed, as the depth finder on our new GPS doesn’t work over 20 mph.

It wasn’t until we got to Longboat Key that we found out that theirs wasn’t working either! At one point we came dangerously close to running aground, just as we were pulling into the marina!

Faith lesson #1 – Following someone else is not always a good idea if you don’t know their depth
In life, as in boating, if you choose to follow the behaviors and attitudes of others, it is good to first know where they stand in their faith. Not only do they live a life of faith, but how deep are they in their walk with the Lord? It is best to take responsibility for your own life and your own faith and if anything is out of order in your life – get it fixed!

When you travel in a large body of water like the Tampa Bay or the Gulf of Mexico just past the Sunshine Skyway bridge enroute to the Intercoastal Waterway (which is quite wide at spots) like we did on this trip, conventional wisdom would indicate that the shortest distance between two points is as the crow flies.

The quickest way to get in trouble boating is to go as the crow flies or to rely on what you see above the water to navigate. Even though you can see many miles in front of you, there can be many shallow points. The price you pay in hitting them is not just having to slow down tremendously (or worse stopping instantly), but also that you may take in dirt into your engine’s intakes.

We have had two occasions where we took sand or dirt into our engines and each time it cost at least “one boating unit” to fix the problem (the euphemism for boat is “bring on another thousand”, so a unit is $1000). It is often faster (cheaper and safer) to go around the shallows and come back around using the channel markers.

Faith lesson #2 – Trying to take shortcuts in our faith can be dangerous
If we believe that we know best and do not follow God’s directions and guidance, then often we are stopped cold in our tracks. We then need help to pull ourselves out and if we got “dirty” in the process in our hearts and in our minds, there is cleanup to be done. Fortunately for us, getting clean is not an expensive process as it is with a boat, as Jesus has already paid for our sin and all we have to do is ask and he forgives.

Now I’ve made it sound really dangerous and difficult to boat. Well, it would be if there weren’t boating charts and GPS systems that show an image of the charts on the screen. On the way down to Longboat Key as I mentioned, we were following friends who had been there before. That was good, as we didn’t have to study the charts to see the destination in relation to our starting point. What we did do was turn on our GPS, which tracked our progress and the exact track we took on the way down. Since the GPS was new, we saw landmarks on the track, but could not see the depth indicators like you do on the paper charts. Michael hadn’t had time to study the GPS unit as it was just put in earlier in the week.

As I said, Gene and Linda cut a bit too close as we were going into the marina. Our GPS does have a depth finder built in, but it only works below 20 mph, as the “chatter” stirred up by the engines causes it to malfunction when you go fast. But as we were cutting into the marina, we heard the depth alarm and slowed way down. Now Gene’s boat is a couple of feet longer than ours but has basically the same depth, so we knew if we stayed right in his wake (directly behind him), that we would be ok. If he ran aground, we would too and if he got through, so would we. So we cautiously followed, at a safe distance.

Faith Lesson #3 – Our charts and depth finder are found the Word of God.
If we are zipping along too fast in our lives though we tend to not have time to get into the word and to focus on our destination. And if we are following the lives of others we run the risk of not listening to what God wants for us specifically and if they run aground and we are right behind, it could be catastrophic. Also, we may not be able to hear the depth alarms if we are operating in the “shallows” of life. Actually the word shallow is perfectly here. If you read my blog from a few days ago, I stated that the Enemy’s chief goal is to keep us in the shallows. He doesn’t care if we get “dirty”. The Enemy doesn’t want us where the living water runs swift and deep – where the water is clear and pure. But that is precisely where God wants us to be.

The next chapter of the story is that when we took the time to go through the GPS unit, we found that we could display the water depths on the unit itself, so even though the depth finder didn’t work, we could safely navigate our way home.

One of the first times we went boating we were in a neighbor’s boat and he had a GPS where we tracked the trip out and followed it on the trip back. Well, we forgot one important thing – the tides. When we went out, it was high tide (deeper water) and the trip home was at low tide. So even though we thought we were operating safely, we had a rude awakening when we ran aground. It took five of us in the water pushing and a boat to tow us out to deeper waters. Had we not done that, we would have had to wait for the tide to rise (could have taken hours!).

So today, even though we followed our path from Friday, we adjusted for the portion of the path where we knew Gene had cut too closely near the marina and we had to adjust all of the depths on the chart down about 1 ½ feet for low tide. The saying live and learn is appropriate here!

Faith Lesson #4 Overlay God’s Word into your spirit
If we study God’s Word and pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us in all that we do and say, that is like the chart overlay on the GPS. We will sense when we are getting in shallow water by what we have studied and we will hear His “depth alarms” when we are treading where we shouldn’t.

Just because we’ve been through a certain situation before, it is possible for there to be things that we aren’t immediately aware of that cause it to be different. Sometimes God wants us to learn something different, so he urges us to go another way. Listening to His voice is the safest way to navigate, particularly through tough times.

They say that following the straight and narrow path is a good thing to do. Well, as we were coming past Bradenton and entering back into the Bay, there was one section that was indeed straight and very narrow. We had to slow down and be very careful. If someone was going too slow and we wanted to pass, we couldn’t give them a very wide berth, so we had to pass very slowly. When we were going through that area, the water just to our right and left was extremely shallow. Normally the flat bottom fishing boats, catamarans and jetskis are ok in that water, but since it was low tide, today we saw a jetski aground with two people pushing it!

As you are navigating in waters such as this, one of the most important things to watch for are the channel markers. Any regular boater can tell you that “red, right, return” is the most essential thing to memorize. What that says is that where you see channel markers, the green one will be on your left and the red one on your right, when you are “returning”. Now I’m not going to take this blog to go into detail as to how you can tell when you are returning (because obviously it isn’t personal to you!), but suffice it to say that you need to stay in between the two channel markers in these areas, as to be outside of them will take you into shallow water.

Faith Lesson #5 The Fruits of the Spirit are our channel markers
To stay in the deep and clear water, we should follow Galatians 5: 22-23 The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Seeing these in our lives signals that we are following along the right path – listening to and obeying God’s Word.

The red markers that signify shallow, dangerous waters are those highlighted in Galatians 5: 19-21 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

We are home safe and sound. I pray that this Blog blessed you. May God’s tender hand be on your life this week, showing you the way.

Chicke Fitzgerald

Saturday, August 12, 2006

John 1-6 A Glimpse of His Power - Wine, Spiritual Food and Drink
As I went back this week and caught up on my reading of John, I was stunned by the simplicity of what happened in these chapters of John and how clearly it showed the nature and the power of Jesus.

First, in John 1 is the story of his encounter with John the Baptist and then the recruitment of his disciples. John knew Jesus right away, as God had told him and he listened and recognized the signs immediately when he saw Jesus. Then, two of John's disciples hear about Jesus from him and go seek out Jesus for themselves. When they ask Jesus where He lives, He says "come and see for yourselves". One by one after spending time with him experiencing Him for themselves, they tell their friends and family that Jesus is the Messiah that was promised to them and they choose to follow.

I highlight the action words because it shows us what we must do. We need to know what to look for (the Word helps here), we need to not only listen and see what He does for others, but hear and experience His power in our lives. Then we need to tell others so they can choose. That is what we are called to do. Simple!

At the end of John 1, one of the disciples, Nathaniel, was skeptical, first of the fact that He was from Nazareth ("Can anything good come from Nazareth?" he says, laughing) and second because Jesus made a comment about where Nathaniel was from and what his nature was and he didn't believe that Jesus could know anything about him because he hadn't previously met him. Jesus made a simple statement about something in Nathaniel's past and immediately Nathaniel said that he believed that Jesus was who He said that He was.

Verse 51 give Jesus' response to Nathaniel "You've become a believer simply because I say I saw you one day sitting under the fig tree? You haven't seen anything yet! Before this is over you're going to see heaven open and God's angels descending to the Son of Man and ascending again." History would prove this out for Nathaniel.

The bottom line from this encounter is that it is possible to see Jesus and even to marvel at His works, but even if you have never "met" Him, He knows you intimately.

Then John 2 is even more incredible. It tells a very simple story about a wedding. Mary, the mother of Jesus, knows of His power. After all, she has observed Him and God's power in her life since the moment that she was told that she would conceive. At the wedding they ran out of wine. Mary knows that Jesus has the power to even deal with something this mundane. He resists her, but she knows (e.g. has the faith) that He will take care of it, so she goes and instructs the servants to fill the stoneware pots with water. Not just a few - six, each holding 20-30 gallons! You know the rest, he turned the water to wine and not just the same wine that they had been drinking - really superb wine. In our vernacular, that would be about 480 bottles of fine wine!

Now think about it. What are you running out of in your life today. Can you ask, believing that He will fill you up? And can you get the stoneware pots of your life ready to receive it? He is ready and able to fill your need. Get ready - He will give you "exceedingly abundantly" over and above what you ask.

I already commented on John 3 yesterday, so I'll move on.

John 4 begins with Jesus rejecting religious scorekeeping by the Pharisees, who were trying to compare Him and John the Baptist. John had already told them that he baptised with water to cleanse outside and it was Jesus that used the Holy Spirit in order to cleanse the inside.

After this, He moves on to Samaria where He runs into a woman at the well and asks her for a drink. He knew she had a difficult past (5 husbands) and in fact was living with a man who wasn't her husband. But he did not shun her, as other Jewish men would have. He shared with her the secret of the living water that he could pour on her life that would cleanse her and free her from all of the things in her life that kept her from finding peace.

We then move from living water to a story where Jesus' disciples talked about getting food and He said that He had food that they knew nothing about. Taking Him literally, they thought that someone had brought him food. He told them that bread only feeds our bodies, but the kind of spiritual food that Jesus wants us to have feeds our soul. That food found in doing what God wants for us to do.

The balance of Chapter 4 has us back in Jesus' home territory and He began to get frustrated that the people there demanded signs and wonders in order to believe. But once again, when someone needed something, He put his own frustration aside and healed the sick son of an official of Capernaum. Simply by His word he declared that the child was healed and the man traveled back to his village and servants met him and said that the child was better. It had occurred at precisely the time that the Word went forth from Jesus the day before.

Can we hear and observe and learn here? Jesus is the Word - a powerful Word that can create wine from wine - that can clean on the inside, not just the outside - a Word that can heal terminal illness. All we have to do is ask - make Him aware of our need and believe that He will fill the need. If we seek after Him, He will make sure that we are fed and that we are not thirsty in our souls.

In Chapter 5, the healing Word continues in this story about a man that had been sick for 38 years, unable to walk. He was trusting in a pool at Bethesda, renowned for its healing power, but he had no one to put him in when it stirred (which apparently signified that the healing spirits were there). Jesus just told him to get up and walk. And he did!

Jesus faced much rejection throughout the balance of Chapter 5, mostly from the religious ones who called themselves the church. Jesus makes it very clear that He was sent by His Father and that by rejecting Him, they reject God.

John 6 begins with the miracle of the loaves and fishes - taking 5 loaves and 2 fishes and feeding 5000 people. But backing up, Jesus asked Philip, one of His disciples, where they could buy bread for the large crowd. Don't miss this! The Word says that he did this to stretch Philip's faith, as he "already knew what He was going to do". The Word recounts that they all "ate as much as they wanted". When they were done, they used baskets to gather the leftovers. There were 12 baskets filled!

Now I don't know about you, but I have had times when someone showed up unexpectedly at dinner time and in the natural, each person barely gets enough to feel satisfied, let alone eating as much as they want. And leftovers aren't generally a factor in such a situation.

There was a need - God knew how big a need it was. The disciples couldn't see how it could be done, but it just happened at the Word of Jesus. This is amazing power and it is still available to us.

But still they didn't believe what they saw......

John 6:35-38 Jesus said, "I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don't really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don't let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me.

39-40"This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed—not a single detail missed—and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole. This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time."

I want to be alive and whole. I want to run to Him, have him hold me and not let go. I want to accomplish His will - not to be religious, but because He knows better - He sees farther. He won't miss a single detail.

I want to live forever, not in this world that houses sickness, sin and disappointment, but I want to see His face and be reunited with loved ones that loved Him and live with Him. I want to see my mom and dad again and thank them, as they loved with with His love - total, utterly unconditional love. I pray that I learn to be that kind of a parent.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Chicke Fitzgerald

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Distractions and the Wind - John 3
We are back and I now need to get back into the swing of things - back to my Blog and back to the Word - today John 3.

It is SO easy to get distracted from the things that are important. And my journey detailed in this blog is an essential part of my life and it is important to be faithful in creating the chronology of God's work in my life so others can see as well as hear that it is a living work, not just theoretical.

The cruise was a good distraction - from work, from pressures of life and it was good to get away with the whole family.

We took Fidelia (our nanny of 7 years) and Michael's mom. The kids had a blast, attending Camp Carnival most days. We cruised the Eastern Caribbean this time - Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Martin. My favorite is always the days at sea. I read 3 novels and managed to stay off email for 6 of the 7 days (big accomplishment....).

My niece, Sarah, is on the mend. Thanks for all that prayed for her. They were able to save her arm. This past week they did reconstructive surgery and once the cast is off, she begin physical therapy to regain its use. She has been very brave.

When we returned from the cruise I immediately went on the road to Boston and then got distracted again upon my return by preparations for the school. The kids started today at Cambridge School after years at Montessori. It is the first time that we needed uniforms. And the school supply list was long enough to choke a horse. More distractions!

Last Sunday God spoke very strongly to me that there is a line in our lives and particularly in our interaction with others, but our behavior and our reaction to distractions was also key to the message.

Above that invisible line is the mundane, the superficial, distractions from spending time with Him and meaningful time with each other. And of course it includes sinful behaviors as well. For Christians, Satan loves to keep us in the mundane, superficial layer where we can at least say we are not living in sin and feel sort of good about that. He loves to keep us busy, so that we cannot enjoy intimacy with each other.

Below that line is intimate conversation and relationship, both with each other and with Him. We have to work hard to stay focused on the "below the line" deep, rich life that God wants us to lead.

Another way to put it is the way that it is discussed in John 3, today's scripture for the study we are doing at Real Life Church. Jesus talks to Nicodemus about the spirit world and the natural world. He is trying to describe to him that he needs to be "born again" or born of the spirit. He needs to live below that line in a life of intimacy and understanding of the power of God. Believing in the unseen, versus relying on the natural and what you can see.

v7-8"So don't be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be 'born from above'—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it's headed next. That's the way it is with everyone 'born from above' by the wind of God, the Spirit of God."

I know many people who have been put off by the term born again, but I am a living testimony of what it is like to be given a second chance. Without going into my whole story, I made some very bad choices as a teen and when I realized what the consequences could have been, I did a 180 degree turn in my life, away from sin and toward intimacy with the creator of the world. Now I know that every day I can start fresh even if I screw up or get distracted, taking advantage of the power that is available to me as a daughter of the king.

Those of us in Florida have all seen the power of the wind that Jesus was talking to Nicodemus about, embodied in hurricanes. How cool is it to see the unseen power of God, stronger than the wind - bringing about positive change instead of destruction!

This chapter of John contains one of the best known versus of all - John 3:16. Here it is in the Message - through to verse 18:

16-18"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

Wow, so our choice is wholeness, rightness and acquittal - from sin, from mediocrity, from the mundane and the superficial. We can choose intimacy and depth - peace and clear direction from the creator of the universe.

But lest we forget that every choice (or the lack thereof) has consequences, this passage reminds us that we were living under a death sentence before choosing to follow God's Word and to accept His Son as Messiah, Savior and Acquitter.

John 3:34-36"The One that God sent speaks God's words. And don't think he rations out the Spirit in bits and pieces. The Father loves the Son extravagantly. He turned everything over to him so he could give it away—a lavish distribution of gifts. That is why whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever! And that is also why the person who avoids and distrusts the Son is in the dark and doesn't see life. All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that."

As for me and my house - we will serve the Lord and gladly accept his lavish distribution of gifts!

Have an amazing day.

Chicke Fitzgerald