Sunday, October 31, 2010

~ "Lord, I lift my friend to you..."

I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil. (John 17:15)

Last night, I attended a production at a local Christian theatre called "Lamplight Theatre" with the youth group from my church. The theatre does a number of different productions throughout the year and in keeping with the "season" did "Freak Show" last night. The story focused on young people, how Satan gets in and temps and twists us, making a choice and standing for Jesus! The one thing (aside from the obvious moral of the story) that stuck out was that the characters prayed for their friends to find the Lord.

My friends are very important to me. I pray for them daily! Sometimes there are circumstances that I can do nothing about, and in that situation, I ask God to find their hearts, to touch their lives, to help find their way to him, and to keep them safe from harm.

We all have circumstances in our lives that "cloud our view". We seek the wisdom of the Lord to guide us through whatever situation we are in. Remembering how much my friends mean to me, I know that they mean much more to God! That is why I "lift my friends" up to God in prayer! Sometimes it is the only thing I can do for them.

We are told to pray for others, commanded to by Jesus. We walk away and want certain people out of our lives because they do not possess the qualities of a "Christian", but do we remember to pray for them to find him? We don't have to "rescue" them from the world, in most cases we could not. The changes that take place in our lives when we have a relationship with Jesus come only through that relationship - no one but the Lord could have rescued me (which, he did). The expression that a "leopard cannot change his spots" is true; but the God of heaven and earth can!

Today I have two requests for you. First, I challenge you to pray for a friend or family member that doesn't know the Lord - lift them up by name to Jesus and ask that he come into their heart and take hold of their soul. Second, I will ask that you pray for one of mine, because "I've done all that I know to do"...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

~ "Just a reminder..."

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15)

Many homes display a verse of the Bible, or a blessing or a prayer. In my kitchen is a little plate that belonged to my mother which has a "kitchen prayer" etched on it. In my hallway is plaque (broken and glued a few times) that also belonged to her which reads "God Bless Our Home". There are a few other treasures, but the one that inspires me the most it the verse painted on the wall over my front door. It wasn't something I bought, or something someone gave me, it's only sentimental value is that it reminds me who I serve.

No matter where we go in life, no matter what we do, we are responsible for our attitude and behavior. We can lay the blame for poor health on our environment or our genetics, we can blame our financial failures on the constantly changing economy, we can find an excuse for everything that is wrong in our lives, but we cannot shirk our servitude. We are commanded to serve but one God, the God of heaven and earth. The God who created us in his image, the God who brought a flood upon a sinful world, the God who brought the Israelites out of bondage, the God who sent his Son to die for all mankind, the God who will reclaim his people and lay to rest any doubts unbelievers may have!

God does not ask us for much, yet he asks us for everything! Confused? It's quite simple once you begin that journey. If you've ever been married, it's easy to say the words "I Do" but the feeling and meaning behind those two words is enormous. In that statement, we commit to love, to honor, to cherish, to lift up, to support, to defend, to praise, to share, to care for, to laugh with, to cry with that partner for the rest of our lives. None of us ever says the words "till divorce do us part" - the words are "till DEATH do us part".

The same is true for our statement of faith: "Jesus is my Savior". We are to honor him, to cherish him, to lift our voices is praise, to stand strong in his word. In that statement, we commit to love all as he did, to care for others as he did, and to serve no other. His promise to us is that he will not leave us, or forsake us and we are his! We are his bride! We are his beloved! The words "till death do us part" do not apply here, because upon our "physical" death, we will become one with him in heaven.

Understanding all of that gives us a bigger picture of what those four words really mean. Saying them is the statement of faith, acting upon them is what makes us faithful! All that I have today is by God's design. He's given me everything I need simply because he loves me! He knows the plans he has for me and until those plans are revealed, I will serve the him. He tells me he has plans to prosper me and not to harm me and give me hope and a future, so as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!

Friday, October 29, 2010

~ "When did THAT happen???"

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. (Ps 73:23-24)

I love the Psalms. They are songs of praise from a time before Jesus walked the earth. I can remember my earliest reading of them and it goes back to high school. If you've read my book, it was not a very pleasant time for me. I found peace in the rustic knowledge that God would take care of my enemies by some of the words written therein. I'm happy to say that I have grown a bit since then, both spiritually and emotionally!

It is very comforting to know that I am not alone as I walk through life. I feel blessed to have the relationship with Jesus that I have and only want to make it better. I ask him to "empty me of me so I can be filled with" him. Knowing that he will "save a place for me" in his company when my time comes, knowing that "my chains are gone" and that he is "everything to me" brings me a joy of both heart and soul. He is "everything that I live for" and that he will "lead me with strong hands" as I continue my walk. The music of today's Christian artists gives testimony to greatest man who ever lived and to the one who sent him!

When we turn our lives over to the Lord, changes occur in us that we are unaware of until we look back. When we face temptations and come through them, we do so by God's mercy and grace. The struggles of life seem to become greater (because Satan is busy trying to break us down), yet we are not alone. We have but one, true God who is everything, does everything, knows everything. We cannot hide our hearts from him. And, believe it or not, he knows that confusion we feel, the frustration and despair as well. He wants for us to want him to be a part of our lives. He knocks at the door to our heart and soul and says "trust me".

Let your faith be the guiding force in your life today. Know that he has a greater purpose for you and that all you do should be for him. Once you get that part right, there is nothing to fear! Sing praises to his glory, pray for his people, guard your heart from Satan and be honest enough with yourself to know what is from him and for him ~ he'll take care of the rest! Don't let the enemy live rent free in your soul. A price was paid for that already and he doesn't have the bill of sale - that, my friends, belongs to Christ!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

~ "If you build it..."

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. (Heb 13:2)

I love it when God opens my eyes to something! It's a feeling like nothing I've ever experienced.

This verse goes to the heart of our Christian responsibility. Our job is to spread the Good News, informing others of the one, true God and all he has so mercifully given us. Someone has to introduce them - after all, someone introduced us to Jesus, so therefore, we have a responsibility to do the same for others. We don't get to pick and choose who those "strangers" are, or do we?

We have an opportunity to present ourselves as good and faithful servants to the world (or our little corner of it). We have an obligation to at least attempt to inform those less fortunate that God loves them and wants them to be part of his family through the shed blood of Jesus. We are blessed to have a loving, compassionate, merciful and patient God. Yes, his justice will come to those who deny him; however, instead of wasting our time condemning their "false gods", maybe we should be telling them about ours! Even more so, maybe we should be showing them! After all, condemnation is not our job either!

There will always be evil upon the earth (until Christ comes and reclaims it). As long as Satan has ammunition to play with, there will circumstances that distract us from the way of the cross. I realized this morning as I read the Matthew Henry's commentary on this chapter, and I am guilty of neglecting my duty as a Christian by the outrage in my heart over the construction of a building! I have allowed Satan to worm his way into my attitude through a few bricks.

God has a plan. He is a God of justice and mercy. None of us know what he has in store for us, or for anyone for that matter. We are commanded to pray for one another, not just Christians, not just our friends and not just the ones we feel like praying for. We are to pray of everyone, in every walk of life, in every area of belief. It just may be that our prayer is the one that "sets the captives free" (so to speak).

Christ came to bring salvation to everyone: Jews, Gentiles, Muslims, Buddhists, Agnostics, and even Atheists! We don't get to choose who gets saved and who doesn't. All we get to do is bring the message to others. God will take care of the rest. When I sit and take a hard look at why I'm opposed to this building, it has nothing to do with the god they will worship or the individual people that will worship there. It's about what their "religion" has become known for. It's not about the violence and death brought about by their teachings. For me, it's very, very personal. It's about the death of one man, one Christian man, who left behind a family that still grieves his death.

The cut beneath the bandaid will only heal if you don't pick at the scab. Leave it alone and it will get smaller until it is gone, pick at it and it gets bigger and bigger - eventually healing, but leaving an ugly scar. Their god is one of anger and hate, of terror and murder. Give into it and they win. Pray for them and we all win! Be willing to entertain the stranger, you may find that he likes your God much more than his own!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

~ "Oh, the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord..."

And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all you his servants, and you that fear him, both small and great. (Rev 19:5)

Did you know that praising God for what you have, is praying for what is yet to be done for you? When we take the time to praise him, we are telling him "thank you" in its highest form! Who are we, if all we ever do is ask for this and ask for that, and don't stop to say thank you for any of it? Are we the selfish children of our youth who always "got" the breaks, always "got" the best of everything, always "got" the perfect prom date without being sensitive to the needs or wants of others? Are we those who flaunt what the have in the face of every person whoever looked down on us? Are we the jealous ones, the proud ones or the selfish ones? I hope not!

Giving thanks to God for what he has done is an acknowledgement to him (not that he needs any pats on the back) that we are truly grateful! The expression "don't tell me that you love me, show me" comes to mind when I think of praising God. By lifting our voices in song, lifting our hands in praise, we are thanking God for all that he does for us. Uttering the words "thank God" in random situations, when one is not actually thanking God for anything, but rather using a phrase out of habit, doesn't count! Our praises of thanksgiving should be heart felt and joyful and directed solely at him!

Don't be embarrassed or ashamed to raise your hand in praise when you experience a miracle. Do not hesitate to lower your head in prayer. Everything that comes to us, comes through him first! We are not alone! We are loved and cared for by one who has supreme knowledge and a wealth of resources far beyond anything we can imagine. Someday, EVERY knee shall bow! Start practicing it now and it won't be foreign when that day come! Thank him, praise him and love him as if each breath he gives you, each prayer he answers, is the best ever!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

~ "Here comes the rain again..."

And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. (Rev 8:6)

The power of God is mightier than any other force imaginable. His truths are not to be taken lightly and his judgement will be swift and powerful! He will come and take back what is his in all his righteousness! On that day, we will wake to the sound of trumpets. Will we be counted in the numbers of the many or the few?

When I read the Book of Revelation, I marvel at what John records. If you can imagine this man, some 2000 years ago, walking into the future earth, what is a natural observance to us would be down right incomprehensible to John. The modern conveniences of today would surely cause him to be mildly concerned. The homes, the cars, the planes, the ships, the clothing (or lack of it), the weapons - none of which would look remotely familiar to him, and would be difficult to explain.

The time is coming for us to leave this place and go on to the promised land. Unlike Moses, who was under the "law" - we have the privilege of being under "grace". We have but one decision to make - we have become the "chosen" through the blood of Christ! Do we acknowledge and accept the gift of salvation with the same attitude by which it was given? Do we see through the eyes of love that gave us that gift? Do we want to be the continued vessel of Christ's unselfishness for us or do we just want the reassurance that in the end we'll be included?

I don't want to be a part of the madness that will most assuredly ensue when the trumpets sound. I want to be safe in the presence of Jesus! I fear for those who will be left behind - family and friends who do not know the Lord as I do. Those who want the best of both worlds, will not have it. To believe means to make the changes (or at least attempt to make them) that we are told about in the Bible. It means to lead a Christian life in all aspects (work, home, church, recreation) and those changes need to be genuine. You can't fool God! He knows what's in your heart!

Make the decision to follow Christ and you choose life. Make the decision to choose what is worldly and you will surely die. The joys and the sorrows of this life cannot compare to what we are promised. Lead by example, love without hesitation and praise without embarrassment. Don't be the one left standing alone. Stand out, be noticed ~ be noticed as a follower of Christ! Know that where you are going is a much better place than any of the joys the trappings of this world could give you. Don't be jealous of those who steal your thunder, pray for them, that they may see, as you have seen, what is truly a "Godly" work! There are more storms coming; be smart enough to come in out of the rain if you don't have an umbrella!

Monday, October 25, 2010

~ "Are you sure you want to delete this, it can't be recovered..."

Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:10-13)

Do I believe? Of course I do! Do I know? Again, of course I do! I am not that talented a writer. Do I sometimes doubt? Yes, I do! We all do, it's human nature to doubt ourselves. I sometimes have an image of standing before the gates of heaven waiting on the Lord and I abruptly hear "nope, sorry, don't know ya". And, if you hear the words "if there's one here who's not sure" enough, eventually you may just think to yourself - "is that message directed at me?" Our own insecurities tend to get in the way sometimes, especially if every promise ever made to you has been broken.

When you walk in the ways of the Lord, you leave Satan very little to tempt you with. I'm learning that. When I put my foot down and say "no, not gonna happen because that's not me anymore", Satan has to become a little more creative. He has to attack the very thing that keeps him from successfully distracting me - the knowledge that I am included in that promise of eternal life! The question that arises is "but what if I'm not REALLY saved?"

After mulling it around and bouncing it off of a couple of friends yesterday afternoon and last night, God smacked me in the back of the head. It's not about the work I do, it's not about the contributions I make, it not even about the life I lead (though, that has become more pleasing to God than it ever was). It's not about anything I do - it's about what he did! He sent his son, Jesus, to pave the way for me. He is the way I get there, nothing I ever do will be good enough. It can't be - if it were that easy, he would not have had to be nailed to that tree. Like clicking the "delete" button in the little pop-up window that says "are you sure you want to delete this", my sins are gone for good. All of this is possible because of Jesus.

The blood of my risen Savior, Jesus, deletes all my sins. Gone, without a trace. I am clean and ready to be presented to God. I have no doubts that Jesus came to save me, I never did. The doubts I have come from a human thought process and from continually hearing the words "not good enough" throughout my life. Having to re-program my thinking to excluded the promise of salvation in that thread is sometimes challenging, but not impossible. When my thoughts drift to that area, it doesn't mean I'm not saved, it just means I'm human (and that the enemy is hard at work). God will always find a way to remind me that I'm his! We all want to know for a fact, beyond a shadow of a doubt, with the utmost in confirmation, that we are, in fact, HIS, that his promises are true and that he's not going to change his mind. John gives us that confirmation in these verses. We are the "you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life!" Our sins may be deleted, but the promise stands for all time!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

~ "There will be a day..."

Repent you therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. (Acts 3:19)

Most of the time, when I hear that alarm clock, I am not "refreshed". I have learned not to hit that "snooze" button and take an extra 9 minutes. I have also gotten beyond the point of picking the thing up and slamming it against the wall. I have matured, accepted the fates of my life that required me to crawl out of bed and start another day.

I have found that everyday I can be "refreshed" in Jesus! His love for me continually lessens my pain, my fear, my burdens! Knowing that there is a design I'm not aware of that will all make sense to me in the end, gives me the courage to start another adventure with him at my side. Even if I'm hesitant and not quite sure of the steps I am taking, he gently nudges me a little more forward. Somedays I do retreat and say "no, I'm not doing this" or "no, I can't do this" and he reminds me that I can. Somedays it's not what I want to do, it's not the answer I'm looking for - he reminds me that it is what he wants me to do.

I'm learning not to argue with him - I never win. I no longer stomp my foot on the floor like the spoiled three-year old and say "no". I know he has my best interest at heart even when I don't think so. He has great plans for me! His work in me is not done yet. I have seen the full measure of his love for me, evidenced by the fact that I sit here and type this note. Had I continued on the path I was on, one thing is certain - I would not be here. Looking back at what my life might have been like had I stayed married is not a journey I care to take anymore. I know where the road would have ended. I'd like to think that things could have worked out, but the reality is that they wouldn't have. I no longer look at my divorce as my own personal failure. It took two people to bring my marriage to ruin - not just me, not just him. It was a combination of two lives that had ceased to be one. In all honesty, I'm not sure we ever were "one".

God has very specific plans for each of us. He designed them long before we were born and knows each step we've ever taken and those that are to come. At our asking, he walks beside us. If we're cautious, we will not fall (we may stumble, though). The bumps in the road remind us we are not perfect and that one day everything will change. There will be a day when all of this is gone and we will see Jesus face to face! The mistakes we make, the sins we commit, are washed away in the blood of the Savior. He is constantly forgiving all of our shortcomings. His compassion for us is unfathomable! He fights our demons and pours light on us that is so bright that even the dust that surrounds us shines! Soak it up, take it in and shine it back on him! He will come for us, because he said so!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

~ "I'd hate to say I told you so..."

For truly, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and you know. (1 Thes 3:4)

To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Walking the Christian path will be met with obstacles almost daily. Sure, we have a few good ones, generally when we become complacent in our journey. Matthew Henry writes "If the devil cannot hinder ministers from labouring in the word and doctrine, he will, if possible, hinder the success of their labours. No one would willingly labour in vain. It is the will and purpose of God, that we enter into his kingdom through many afflictions."

We are given the opportunity to spread the word of God everywhere we go. Our actions (as we already know) speak louder than words. We must be important if Satan keeps trying to distract us, to get in our way, to bring us down! I always looked at it as a punishment for past wrongs. I know now that I am forgiven for those sins simply because acknowledged I was wrong and asked for forgiveness. The "lost" wander around in their own "stuff" - some of it good, some of it not so good. But I wouldn't trade places with them, not for all their worldly possessions! The question I frequently asked was "why, Lord?" The answer was generally the same - "why not?" Every time I resign myself to spend the day in prayer, something seems to get in my way. It's almost as if the devil is waiting for me to walk through the gate that separates my den from the rest of the house with the cup of coffee in hand. No sooner do I sit down and open the Bible when the distractions begin. The phone rings, someone comes to the door (which almost never happens, so when it does, I'm amazed), or I get a text message from someone. Before long, I've wasted precious time I was planning on spending with the Lord. Satan has succeeded in hindering the "success of my labors", but he has not won! When things begin to look really bleak for him, he throws objects of desire at me. That's where knowing what is of God and what is of Satan is important.

God has specific guidelines for us to follow. We can ensure the success (not the comfort) of this life by practicing them. Coming from the generation of "free love", I'm here to tell you - it's not free! It has a price, just like anything else in this life. The question you need to ask yourself is: "what will this cost me?" If the answer is "nothing" - then it's "of God". God's gifts don't carry price tags. They come to us and are given to us freely; not because we deserve it, but because we are loved and we are his. The price was not discounted, the purchaser paid a very high price for those gifts. God may be in the "fix-it" business, but we aren't! We cannot "fix" something in the hopes it will fit into our lives. The only thing we can fix is our relationship with HIM! We can make it better simply by turning to him in praise and thanksgiving, just as we do in our time of need. Jesus is asking for your devotion and dedication all the time, not just when it's convenient for you. Give him what rightfully belongs to him! Give him your life! After all, he gave his for you!

(photo posted by Joe Grant)

Friday, October 22, 2010

~ The affair..."

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38-39)

I have a confession to make. I am in love with a wonderful man! He's not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill kind of guy. He is very strong and fearless. He came into my life many years ago and I just kept pushing him away. He wasn't exactly what I was looking for. He was persistent. Although I was not interested in him, he wanted me in the worst way. He continued to give me gifts even though I rejected his love and advice. Every time I needed something - there he was! He wasn't annoying, if that's what you're thinking - just very subtle.

I would see him occasionally, secretly, so as not to alert my friends. I was embarrassed to tell anyone how I truly felt about this man. I was afraid they would laugh or tell me I was weird. I still could not bring myself to admit to anyone how deep my feelings for him were. I couldn't admit them to him either. I do think he's always known and that's why he continued to pursue me. I guess he was just waiting for the right moment in my life.

A little over three years ago, I left everything I had and knew in my life. I wasn't running from him, though. In all honesty, I think I was running from what I had become. He had helped me get out of my marriage but when I couldn't find a new home that he approved of, I headed south in a motorhome. I settled here, in Tennessee, and he followed me. He continually took care of the little things in my life that I was unable to take care of. He made sure that I had a place to live, enough food to eat and enough money to survive. When things would get really bad, I'd call on this man, and he'd help me. He eventually found a way to invite me to visit his house. I didn't see any of the beautiful, ornate items I'd seen in his old house. It was very plain and sparsely decorated. He began to show me, as opposed to telling me, how much he truly loved me.

I don't know when I fell in love with this man, I don't know when he first reached in and grabbed a hold of my heart and said "you are mine", but his love has captivated me and I am his! This man's love is greater than any that I've ever known, greater than the love of any child I've ever held in my arms, greater than any possession I could ever hope to acquire. He's done more for me than any other man ever could or ever would. He puts up with my attitude and my sometimes ranting and raving like a mad woman. He's listened to me scream at him when I'm in pain, he's wiped the tears of sorrow from my face. There is nothing he wouldn't do for me.

I'm no longer embarrassed to call him "mine", I do not apologize to anyone for what he's asked me to do. He will continue to take good care of me for the rest of my life on this planet. And when I take my last breath here, he will take my hand and walk me into paradise. He will show me the scars on the hands that have so lovingly held me, I will look fondly into the eyes that have loved me since before I was born, and I will spend eternity this man, who, unlike any other man I've ever known, thought I was worth dying for! He's always looking for someone to love and take care of the way he takes care of me - give him a call - his name is Jesus!

(Photo by Robert Darrigo)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

~ "Remind me again..."

All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus' words, acknowledged that God's way was right, because they had been baptized by John. (Luke 7:29)

John preached repentance and reformation of heart and life. He was the "the one who came before" - he was the last prophet. Although he does not have his own "book" in the Bible, his work is described quite specifically. His job was to "prepare the way" for Jesus' coming.

The first step in any Christian's life is acknowledgement that Jesus died for their sins. In baptism, we die to self. It is a public sign that we identify with Jesus' life, death and resurrection. Baptism doesn't save us nor does it bring forgiveness of sins, because we are "saved" the moment we repent and turn to Jesus for forgiveness. The thought process I was raised on was that if you weren't baptized, you weren't getting into heaven. Remember the thief crucified with Christ? "This day you will be with me in paradise."

Knowing and believing that Christ's death - his shed blood and resurrection brings us the promise of eternal life, is the only way to heaven. In our baptism, we acknowledge openly and publicly that knowledge and belief. No one can speak for us, act on our behalf or consent to our "future" acceptance of Christ as our Savior. It is a decision we, ourselves can only make. Baptism is but a symbol of that acceptance.

Don't get hung up on "the 'to do list' to get to heaven" teachings. The only item that should be on there has already be completed. It was completed some 2000 years ago when a carpenter from Nazareth named Jesus was nailed to a tree. All we have to do is believe!

(Photo: My Baptism - April 5, 2009)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

~ "The end is near..."

and cried with a loud voice, and said, "What have I to do with you, Jesus, you Son of the most high God? I adjure you by God, that you torment me not." (Mark 5:7)

Satan knew who Jesus was. He knew that he was there to put an end to his folly. He knew that once Jesus shed his blood for sin, the end was inevitable.

The worse society becomes, the closer we are to the second coming. The enemy is pulling out all the stops in his campaign to win souls away from God. He tempts us with money, power, fame, self gratification, immorality and much more. He does it in such a way that if you aren't watching, he can slip in and put the screws to you and before you realize it, it is too late to correct the wrong.

We must stop, right where we are and ask for the blessings of the Father on our sinful ways. We must keep a constant watch on our lives so that they do not become overrun with what is not of God. That silly little man in all the natural disaster movies with the sign that reads "the end is near" is going to be standing there saying "I told you so" when the end is here! Don't worry about what God has planned for your human life. Don't waste time praying for the house on the beach with the picture perfect sunrises. Don't compare your sufferings to those of your friends who seem to have been given more than what you perceive to be "their fair share". God has one purpose, one goal in mind for you. He tells you "be still". He wraps his arms around you and allows you to rest your head on his shoulder and sob if that's what you need to do. He has brought you to where you are for a reason, just as he has brought others to where they are. His reasons for each are different, but they are all the same. Anything that brings us closer to him is his will for us; anything that pushes us further away, is obviously not.

If you waste your time praying at an empty grave, praying to anyone other than God, you will receive nothing. No one hears those prayers. The only one who can intercede for you is Jesus. Put down your shiny bead and statues to fallen men. Pray to the one who CAN hear you, who WILL intercede on your behalf. Jesus! Let him take your request to the Father. The time for false doctrines needs to end. Celebrate the victory over death that Jesus won! Honor the one man who can hear you, not the many dead ones who can't. Don't look for signs and "appearances" of your lost loved ones - they don't exist. Where they are, they cannot hear you. Let their lives be an example to you. Let their deaths be a warning for you. Give all your prayer to Jesus and all your praises to God! Salvation can only come to your through the belief in the cross! Eternal life is a gift of the Father, through Jesus, to you - no other way.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

~ "and as the sun sets over Thompson Park..."

Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. (James 5:14-15)

In the past 12 hours, I have received 4 phone calls asking me to pray for someone who is sick, 2 of them have cancer. I cannot tell you the number of people on my daily prayer list who are sick. There are just too many! Although we no longer take our sick to the church for anointing, we can ask God to heal them, to bless them, to find them if they are lost and to comfort them. Miracles still happen, its just that the credit is usually given to the doctor and not the Great Physician! There will be a time in each of our lives when the Lord says "no, not this time". Most of us will have lived out a full life and be ready to go. But what about the young children, the babies, the infants who never had a chance to live? How can they possibly have completed their lives?

About 15 years ago, a good friend of mine lost her infant daughter. She had been born prematurely and lived only 4 months. The question she asked herself was "why?" She could not understand God's plan in her daughter's life and in her death. What good could possibly come from this? At that time in my life my focus was on the important matters of maintaining a household, struggling with acquaintances that were bound to destroy my reputation, an unemployed husband, a son in college and a part time job that was costing me more money to go to than I was bringing home. I had forgotten that my responsibility to my children was more important than the other things I worried about. God was not a priority then, but in that moment, God gave my children their mother. In that death, I realized how precious my children were to me and how blessed I was to have them. My devotion to them changed. I became a better mother.

We are called to pray for others, be they sick, struggling, lonely or lost. I pray for healing and for God's will in the lives of those listed on my prayer list, and I pray for each one by name. When I hear of a healing (as I did last night at work), I raise my hand and "praise God" (which I also did while simultaneously slicing roast beef)! I am not ashamed of my God and will praise him no matter where I am or what I am doing! He's merciful and gracious and deserves our praises no matter what he does or doesn't do and no matter where we are when we hear about it!

The "sunset years" of our lives can be anytime - they can be in our 80's and 90's, in our 30's and 40's, in our teenage years or even in less than a day. Our lives are fulfilled when God says they are. I do not fear my "sunset" because the "Son sets" waiting for me!

(Photo by Barbara Berry)

Monday, October 18, 2010

~ "Down at fractal rock..."

For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. (Rom 4:13)

What do we get when we have faith? Is there anything tangible about it? Can we grasp it in our hand and say "look, I have faith"? Of course not! The word "faith" is defined as "a belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence". In the fields of science and math there is only absolute. If it cannot be defined, it cannot be...or can it???

Abraham was not promised to be heir to the world or the father of nations because of the law. It was a promise made by God because of the faith Abraham had! We are made that very same promise. Through that same righteousness of faith, we are afforded the opportunity to attach ourselves to a promise of great proportions! We take God at his word! Our faith provides an explanation for what is not explainable, it provides hope and promise where there seems to be none, it is seeing physical healing and not chalking it up to science or previously erroneous test results, it is the foundation of our KNOWING that there is a brighter tomorrow. All the promises of the Bible will come to pass before this story ends. Those who think our faith is but a dream and that when we die, that's it, are in for a very rude "awakening" afterwards!

God calls us to have faith in his promises. He has given us the outline of what's to come and we will wait on him. We will worship, we will serve - through the pain, through the trials - without breaking down, without giving up. We, like Abraham, are the heirs - given the world through Christ's death and resurrection!

Let them mock my belief, let them mock my "faith", because for a Christian, faith is as tangible as a toaster. It is REAL, you can feel it, you can see it, you can have it, you can know it and although you cannot hold it in YOUR hand, faith tells you that He holds you in his!

(Photo: In a "fractal", the entire image is made up of exactly identical component images. With applications throughout the science world, it was almost as revolutionary a concept as the theory of relativity. Its application goes far beyond science, to philosphy, religion and even politics. The term "fractal" was coined by BenoƮt Mandelbrot in 1975, who died on October 14, 2010.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

~ "Lessons learned from a Lousy Day (by Matthew West)..."

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:11-12)

If you haven't heard of Matthew West, check him out at "". He's a phenominal musician, devoted husband and father and an amazing Christian example. He posted the following note on October 13, 2010, and I thought I'd share it with you...

Ever have one of those days when you find yourself repeating the sentence, "Surely, it can't get any worse.". And then it does??? And then you say it again... And then it gets worse again?! You know what I'm talking about? Well, today was one of those days for me. The setting? Atlanta airport. The villain? Delta Airlines. First, one delay, then another, and another... Until finally, they announced my flight to Asheville had been cancelled.

There were no other flights that would get me in in time for my scheduled performance. And this wasn't just any performance. This was a special invite from a very important retailer that could really help my new record and my career. This was a big deal. Standing in the long line of people waiting to be re-routed, the reality began to sink in that I had spent all day in this lousy airport only to fly right back home, thus missing my very important performance. They nice lady at the help desk said, "I'm sorry for your delay.". I smiled and responded, "Delta just hurt my career today." once again, she apologized. But as I walked away, I realized what a foolish statement I had made. That statement was evidence of my lack of trust. Trust that God is in control. I was trapped in this headspace, thinking God would allow some airline the power over my career. As if God is less powerful than an airline, or maybe unaware of all that is taking place. And to think, just yesterday the band and I had a devotional on the topic of thanking God for our problems. Boy, that's a tough one!

Now that my nerves have subsided, and my worried mind has settled a bit, I am reminded that I serve a God who is far greater than a cancelled flight, or a missed opportunity. I serve a God who knows EVERYTHING. I serve a God who has my best interests at heart at all times. I serve a God who is always at work, orchestrating even the smallest details of my daily life.

And guess what? The same can be true for you. God knows you, He loves you, and He wants what's best for you. Who better to trust your life with, but the Giver of Life Himself!

Don't let your "could it get any worse" circumstances get in the way of the promise that:
1. It could always be worse... And 2. God is in control. Not you! (talking to myself)

No matter what I tried, I could not make an airplane fly me to Asheville today. And I have to rest in knowing that God is not surprised, and His plan is still very much in tact. So is His plan for your life.


(Photo with Matthew, December 2009)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

~ "Now auditioning for parts in the final episode..."

I have seen the burden God has laid on men. (Ecc 3:10)

I think it's safe to say that we can all say we have seen the burden God has laid on us. We can thank Adam and Eve for that. We live in a world filled with pain, suffering, sorrow, and more. It was not God's intent. He had a nice spot for us picked out in Eden and somebody decided to listen to a snake.

It's not all bad, but our lives were not "designed" to be lived this way. God's plan was for us to spend eternity in a beautiful place, surrounded by beautiful things, no labor, no crying, no death, joy, peace, security and love. Because of the sin of the first, we, the many, endure hardship, loss and pain. We have stress and worry far greater than any other nation has ever faced. We fear our Social Security won't be there when we reach retirement age, we worry that the market will crash again and we will lose all our investments, we worry that our children and grandchildren will have enough natural resources to sustain life on this planet (I, just for the record, do not worry about that particular one - God WILL provide). We work at jobs we hate because we need the money, we spend hours trying to figure a way out from under and we try to hold onto every last drop of sanity in the process. Cheer up! We still have the opportunity to spend eternity in a beautiful place!

Everything changes, "to everything there is a season". The statement a lot of us make is "I just want to be happy!" How can we even expect to have constant happiness when everything around us is changing? God brings each of us to our knees at one time or another. What we choose to do while we are on them is totally up to us. He gives us all the opportunity to have faith in him! My mother used to tell me to "make my own happiness, it shouldn't depend on anyone but you". We all have the capacity to do what is right, what is good. We should jump at the chance to do so!

"Then let us seize the favourable opportunity for every good purpose and work. The time to die is fast approaching. Thus labour and sorrow fill the world. This is given us, that we may always have something to do; none were sent into the world to be idle." (Matthew Henry).

Don't let yourselves be idle. Be a part of the cast in his production. Be vigilant and be wise, be brave and be strong - be something, be anything, but do not be discouraged. He's coming for us! You cannot afford to ignore this casting call. His victory over the enemy will be sweeter than anything imaginable. The "cast party" afterwards will be well worth it!

Friday, October 15, 2010

~ "Enough with that clanging bell already, here's a dollar..."

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Heb 13:16)

When we were younger, we did "nice" things seeking the approval of others. As a child, we would perhaps go the extra distance and actually clean out the junk under our beds to hear Mom say "Wow, you did a great job!" At work, we put that added touch to our current project for two reasons, because it makes the difference in the job we are doing, and to hear the boss tell us "wow, you did a great job!"

In our daily lives, we all have obstacles that evidence the need for "good works". We see the homeless or "down on his luck" soul standing outside Wal-Mart with the sign "will work for food", we stand behind the mother at the check out line counting pennies to make the total of her grocery bill. Most of us have been in a place of financial struggle at one point in our lives, and those who haven't may get there some day. God provides for our needs. How? Maybe by us throwing that $5 bill out the window to the man with the sign, maybe pulling out a quarter to hand to the woman in the grocery store. Not all of God's miracles come directly for above. Most of the time, they come to us through others.

We are called to be self-sacrificing (which is defined as the sacrifice of one's own desires, interest, etc., for the sake of duty or for the well-being of others). As a parent and "former" spouse, I understand that completely. Christ's death on the cross was both a sacrifice (in the literal form) and a self-sacrifice! His life for our sins! Big self-sacrifice!

Sharing with others is a Christian fundamental. Christ shared himself with us and for us, what makes us think that we are not tasked with the same responsibilities? Did he not say to clothe the naked, feed the hungry and love others as he loved us?

As the colder months approach, as the season of "spend all your money on everything for everyone" approaches, let your heart lead you. Make it an offering of the greatest proportion! Sometimes it's a check, sometimes it's a room, sometimes it's a shoulder and sometimes it's a prayer. None of it goes unnoticed, especially when it is out of genuine love and concern for another. Share what God has given you and he will give you more. Hoard what you have and you will lose it. God's love is best spread around, encouraging others to see the true meaning of the word "sacrifice". Don't be afraid to reach out and love someone as Christ would have. Be that "cheerful giver" and God will undoubtedly say "wow, you did a great job"!!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

~ "All day, every day..."

And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD has said will we do, and be obedient. (Ex 24:7)

The Israelites promised to be obedient to God. Some seven chapters later, Moses finds them not as he left them (dutiful and obedient). While he was conversing with God, the Israelites got tired of waiting and decided to do it their way. God was not happy with this and sent Moses back to them. Moses wasn't too thrilled with them either.

We, as Christians, want to be obedient to the word of God. We know that we cannot be perfect, but that doesn't dissuade us from trying. We, too, get tired of waiting for the answers to our prayers. We want our answer from God immediately. We don't want to wait until next week! God asks us to be patient. Sometimes our human impatience gets in the way and we choose to do what we want to, whether it is God's will or not. Nine out of ten times, we make the situation worse than if we had just waited on the Lord.

Being obedient to God is to follow his word without hesitation, live our lives by the laws he has laid out for us. Though not always successful, we are given the opportunity to try. When we fail, his grace and mercy sustains us! He doesn't want to punish us, he loves us! When we continue to commit the same sin over and over again for either lack of self control or blatant disregard, he's not happy with us either. We need to learn to restrain ourselves and turn to him for strength. Only through his strength are some trials in life overcome.

Interestingly enough, the chapter and verse are "24:7" - an expression we use quite frequently. This verse should be a reminder to us that "all that the Lord has said, we CAN do" all day, every day! Through prayer and meditation on his word, and through Christ, we can be better Christians, lead better lives, and serve in a greater capacity. Although his plan for us may not include all the things we would like it to, it contains everything we need it to. He has our entire existence mapped out for us, we just need to give him our hearts.

God has a beautiful place prepared for us in heaven. It is not a Burger King; we don't get to have it our way. We get to have it through faith in Jesus Christ, and ONLY through the belief that he shed his blood on Calvary for our sins. Just as salvation cannot be earned by good works, neither does it need good works to be maintained or sustained. Good works and changed lives are the inevitable results of salvation.

Reach out to Jesus and let him take your hand and lead you to your destiny. Let him work through you and there will be rewards you can't even imagine! Answer the call of a higher authority! Be a Christian that exemplifies Christ!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

~ "Where there is smoke..."

Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. (Prov 13:10)

Did you ever get into an argument with a stubborn person? Even when they are wrong (and know they are wrong), they continue to hold on to their version of the truth and walk away rather arrogantly leaving you standing there shaking your head in disbelief. They are the kind of people who make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. They are "prideful" people (not "proud" people). They tend to believe they are superior and have no use for anyone "beneath" them. They are never wrong, always right and their opinion is the only one that matters. They become authorities in everything they do, and nothing you say is going to be of value to them, because they know it all.

Being open to the possibility that one may be wrong, asking for suggestions and opinions of others, not knowing everything calls for wisdom. People "who ask and take advice, that will consult their own consciences, their Bibles, their ministers, their friends, and will do nothing rashly, are wise, as in other things, so in this, that they will humble themselves, will stoop and yield, to preserve quietness and prevent quarrels." (Matthew Henry) .

This is not a bad thing. It's okay sometimes to be quietly right, especially if it's an argument you cannot win even if you are 100% right. The question we are told to ask ourselves in any given situation is "will it matter 5 years from now"? Some things, yes, are worth fighting for. Our belief in God is worth dying for. But the average "quarrel" is nothing more than an attempt by the enemy to bring about discontentment in your heart. Like the smoke of a fire, it has to somewhere, hopefully it will dissipate quickly but the more it smolders the worse it gets. Eventually the fire does go out and the air clears.

God calls us to be wise in his ways. He calls us to honor his word and believe that he has a plan for each of us. He reminds us that we are here for a short time and that we have work to do in spreading his word. His truth is the only truth that matters. The only argument worth getting involved in, the only one worth using oxygen on is the one that is about HIS existence, HIS love, and HIS glory! And even at that, you can state your case and be called a liar and told that God does not exist, that he's a fictional character in some book and none of it is real. If that is the case, you put on your "wisdom hat" and offer them this statement: "I want you to remember these words, because someday you WILL meet him face to face, and HE will remember them, I guarantee it."

Our task is to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. We don't have to convince them that it's the best deal around - after all, we aren't called to be car salesmen, only witnesses. Our eternity is not contingent on how many souls we bring to the Lord, it is determined only by the acceptance of him as our Savior. Don't waste precious time arguing with an idiot. Chances are, God will show them the error of their ways and one of two things will happen: they will come to know Jesus as their Savior and the gift of salvation will be theirs or they will hear those words "I never knew you". God's justice is forever, as is his love. Don't let the ignorance of others consume your thoughts or emotions - it's just not worth it. Don't count it as a loss, count it as a blessing and move on! God has something very special planned for you and he wants to give it to you, but if you're stuck in neutral, you won't get there! Walk "proudly" to your next adventure in life. Hold your head up high and know that you did the very best you could and you will see the beauty of the love that is God!

(Photo by Colleen Costello)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

~ "God, why can't they ever forgive me???"

Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. (2 Cor 7:8-9)

I can remember my mother telling me as she would discipline me that "this hurts me more than it does you". Not until I was a mother did I understand that statement.

When we say "I'm sorry for my sins, Lord" do we mean it or are we just saying it so that if we die we can tell the Father - "hey, I apologized for that!" True regret of the heart needs no words. The feeling of "what have I done" sometimes is overwhelming. At first we will try to brush it off and justify our actions, but then, if we are truly sorry, we lower our heads and say "I've sinned, please forgive me." Then comes the hard part - making it right again. Some of us cannot ever make it right, somethings cannot ever be undone. But there can still be forgiveness. There can still be healing. And true love offers forgiveness of all things! I recently received two very disturbing emails with allusions to my past that were, at best, inaccurate. They hurt deeply and caused an anger I've not felt in quite some time arise from somewhere in the bottom or my feet and overflowed out the top of my head. At the same time, there was an equal amount of hurt and pain that this person thought so little of me that they felt the need to share these words with another. Of course, my first reaction was to sit down with my poison pen and retaliate. But God has blessed me with some very level headed friends who have reminded me that it's best to let it be. The person who sent me them, also sent me her reply to these letters and her words were tempered with love and compassion. She challenged the writer of these despicable exaggerations to focus on the good that must have been there, the changes that had obviously taken place and to examine their heart. She took the focus off the negative statements and challenged the writer to find the positives. She very inventively quoted a verse in the Bible reminding this person that God has asked many to do things that, to some, would border on the insane.

We can use the tools God gives us to benefit ourselves and others. We can take a lesson from Paul and know that although the harsh reality of discipline seems long suffering, it is not. The pain of the scolding fades, but the memory of the event remains very present in our lives. We, as Christians, must push through the hard times and find the joy. It comes in the form of love from the Father. The purpose of discipline is to learn from our mistakes. If we do not learn, then we are not sorry and cannot overcome the corrupt feelings we harbor. Forgiveness of others is something we cannot afford to neglect. Pray for those who hurt you, pray for those who hate you, pray for those who lie about you, pray for those who love you. None of us are above being forgiven and therefore should not consider ourselves to be above forgiving. There are two unequivocal truths in life: 1) We WILL die; 2) We WILL face the Creator and have to answer to HIM. Is your heart right with God? Have you done ALL he's told you to do? If not, you'd better get to work on it, for he will come "like a thief in the night" and it will be too late to say "I'm sorry".

(Photo: Ross Parry Synd:: One of the hate mail letters sent to a family in Stainforth, South Yorkshire, 2009)

Monday, October 11, 2010

~ "That CD is stuck in that same spot again..."

For there is not a just man on earth, that does good, and sins not. (Ecc 7:20)

We can play that "righteous" tape over and over again in our heads, and we still will come out with the same ending. Jesus saves, God wins!

No matter what we do upon this earth, no matter how "good" we are, we still sin. We try to justify it in our heads, try to play out that we are better than we are, but we are not! The only thing that gets us into heaven is Jesus! His shed blood washes us white and gives us the "get out of hell free" card in the end. Some of us are more prone to certain "sins" than others. Some of us are habitual liars and can't seem to get the story straight (be it for our own desire for sympathy for what we've gone through, or just out of habit because we have no self control any longer). Some of us are gossipers who constantly feel the need to talk about those who rub us the wrong way to others. I think it makes them feel better about themselves when they place the focus on someone else. Some of us have "potty mouth" and every other word that comes out of it belongs in the toilet. We use the excuse "that's just how we talk here". Some of us are having sex outside of marriage (yes, it's in the Bible, so don't roll your eyes at me). Some of us are having adulterous affairs. Some of us are physically abusive to others. Some of us are emotionally abusive to others. Some of us are neglectful of our duties and responsibilities to our families. Some of us are self centered and egotistical.

Guess what? There is hope for us! It comes in the shape of a cross! It comes with 3 rather large nails and a crown of thorns. It's the ultimate sacrifice for our souls! We are called to live a "Godly" life. Though impossible, it's not a declaration that we don't have to try. We can live a lie, or we can live a life that is pleasing to him. When the power of the Holy Spirit is fully realized within you, the WANT to be a better Christian begins to shine through. Sure, there are going to be those moments of temptation and you will spend hours justifying your actions to the Father, but in the end you will humble yourself and admit you were less than you should have been and less than you could have been. If you continue to walk with Jesus, your life WILL change. His presence in your life causes you to be more aware of what you do and why you do it. He opens doors as you go through life, walking with you all the way. From the moment you asked him into your world, into your life, into your soul, he doesn't let you go. He keeps at you, pushing, loving, teaching and reaching out to you. He knows you cannot be perfect, that's why he built that bridge in the first place. He wants you to come to him, on your knees and humble yourself before him. Tell him you're a sinner, ask for his forgiveness and he will bestow upon you mercy and grace far beyond what your imagination can muster. Keep the enemy at bay, tell him you are a child of God and that Jesus is your Savior! Ask him to come and redeem you from yourself and anything is possible!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

~ "Don't laugh at me..."

Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. (Luke 23:11)

When we can't take the pain anymore, where do we go and what do we do? The focus of the news recently has been the suicide of a young college student. I understand better than most the want to end life...I've BEEN there; many of us have! We cannot lay the blame on others! The events that surround the pain may be horrific, but the want to end one's life comes from utter desperation, feeling unloved and not knowing what to do or where to turn!

We have all had "bullies" in our lives at one time or another. We strive for acceptance in our lives from the time we learned to crawl. Some people do not become the "targets" of the bully until they are older and more "seasoned". Some of us were taunted and teased from as far back as we can remember. On Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs pyramid, love and belonging falls in the middle, with self-actualization at the top and physiological needs at the base. His study was not conducted with the "average" human in mind - he conducted his study with the top 1% of college students back in 1954 (before most of us were born).

We, as humans, are responsible for our own actions. We draw our strength from our friends and family, we trust them, we love them. But we were not the first or the only ones to be "mocked". History and the Bible teach us that MANY were mocked, made fun of, tortured and killed for their beliefs and ostracized by society. Many of us have overcome the callousness of others and become husbands, wives, parents, grandparents, educators, healers, experts in our fields and more. We all have "skeletons" in our closets. We've all done and said things we wish we hadn't and many of us will regret some of those things until we die.

The single most important thing to remember is that we have a choice today! We have a God who loves us, forgives us, blesses us and provides for us. Our strength comes from him! We are all created in his image (Gen 1:27). Without his presence in our lives, we become susceptible to the enemy. Our remorse and regret over the choices and decisions we make in life are not to be taken lightly. Each of us has our own level of tolerance. We can only take so much until we "snap". Fortunately for us, God's tolerance of us is greater than some of us are willing to admit. His forgiveness of our sins goes far beyond what the human mind is capable of understanding. We start by learning to forgive ourselves, love ourselves and walk forward in the knowledge and belief that God has given us each a life worth living and a soul worth dying for!

Although some people may laugh at you today, you can come to know the full measure of love in Jesus by remembering that they laughed at him as well, and he reigns on high waiting for you!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

~ "An education of heart, mind AND soul..."

And Jesus answering said to them, Do you not therefore err, because you know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? (Mark 12:24)

Thinking on human terms can cause us the most discomfort in our walk of faith. We cannot think outside the box, nor can we possibly begin to imagine what our "eternal" existence will consist of. We talk of meeting loved ones gone before us, being reunited with husbands and wives, and the occasional hope of "not running into so-and-so" when we get there. If we read God's word, we find that not only will we be in the greatest presence imaginable, we will have a new name and a new body!

There are many passages in the scriptures that are often taken out of context and used to justify actions and beliefs. One cannot grasp the true meaning any book or the passion of the author by reading just one or two lines in the middle of it. The joy of reading a mystery comes when you begin to put the pieces together when you've reached that last chapter. Remembering who the key characters are and what their role has been throughout the story helps you to draw the conclusions the author brings you to in the final pages. The same is true for the Bible.

Unless we put ourselves into the word of God from beginning to end, we will never comprehend the entire story. We, as a nation, place a very high value on education. We go to and send our children to college to learn more about a particular field of study and become "experts" in such. We take the classes and do the homework, learning as we go. Ninety-eight percent of the time, we trust that the teacher or professor instructing us knows the material better than we do (which is why we go to them in the first place). We do not open a complex physics book and automatically know how to work the problem. When we began to learn math, we started by first learning the numbers and their sequence. Then we learned how to add and subtract. You can't multiply and divide without knowing addition and subtraction. Once we mastered all of that, we moved into negative and positive numbers, then algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and then on to physics. Never once did we question the formulas used to arrive at the conclusions.

When we begin to study the Bible, we begin with the basics. God created us, he loves us, we sinned, he sent us a Savior, who died on a cross, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and is coming back to get us. Our education or "accumulated knowledge" of God should not end there. It is not enough to just know the basics.

If you don't already read your Bible or participate in Sunday School class, start! Trust your education of God to the professionals. You would not hope to gain a law degree simply by watching "Law and Order", you would not be licensed to practice medicine by watching "Gray's Anatomy" and you will not know the Lord if all you do is show up to church on Sunday and daydream for an hour! Read his word, study his works and come to know the ways of God from the ways of Satan. Your life after death depends on it!

Friday, October 8, 2010

~ "It's now or never..."

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be you steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Cor 15:58)

Not everything that the Lord calls us to do is easy. Sometimes the work can be frustrating and may seem unrewarding. When your voice is not heard, or it is misinterpreted, people become angry and hurt. Most people don't want to know what God really thinks of what they are doing. They wander around on the earth doing and saying what they please and figure that it won't matter because they are going to heaven anyway. Just believing in God and knowing that Jesus is your Savior is not enough. There's a feeling of joy in your soul that comes with the acceptance of Christ. The Holy Spirit fills you will a desire to drop immediately to your knees and worship him! It is evidenced in the way you live your life. The changes that take place almost immediately let people know that you have changed. Your desire to know more about he who created you and he who died for you become overwhelming. The want to change everything that is not pleasing to him becomes almost an obsession. The desire to please him supersedes everything in your life.

When we become comfortable in our salvation, we forget the little things he asks us to do - like be a witness to others, no matter what. Sure, we can temper our witnessing with love most of the times, but there are certain times when we feel we must draw the line in the sand and plant our feet firmly in Christ. Taking a "stand" against what is not of God generally doesn't cause too many problems; people look at you and figure you're just a little "off". It's those bigger, more controversial issues that test your faith. Those are the issues that may cause your friends and family to storm off in a huff or just "delete" you and never want to hear from you again. Sometimes people just don't want to believe what they are doing is wrong and that God does not approve because they somehow got the mistaken impression that they were promised joy and happiness while on earth. If you read the Old Testament, you will find that there was not a lot of joy and happiness for the Jews. They spend much of their time in bondage or traveling and serving others. Those who obeyed God's law, saw the fruits of their obedience, those who did not were ultimately destroyed. God is not above destroying nations, especially when they blatantly go against his law. With all the immorality and sinful lusts of this world, there are the few who struggle to do the right thing, to be the Christian they are instructed to be and to take a stand against the enemy. He will make every effort to destroy that which is good and bring about an abomination of disease and pain in order to further his cause. The results of our actions (or inactions) will be legacy left to our children.

What we do for the Lord is never a work in vain, so long as we do it with his blessing. He gives us the ability and the means to spread his word so that when he returns there will be no doubt that others have been told exactly what it is he wants them to hear. It can be a very thankless job from the standpoint of humans, but it is a very urgent request that comes straight from the Creator and is one that is not to be bargained with or ignored. Give yourself over to the only authority that matters, the authority of God, the authority of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Holy Spirit. In the words of one of our slain presidents, "let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation" of Christians, who will not be silenced by the enemy, who will stand up for what is right and will praise God for all he has so freely given by doing what is right, what is good and what is holy - in HIS eyes!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

~ "God, grant me the serenity..."

Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place. (Ps 28:2)

In our moments of pain, we cry out for help. We ask to be rescued from the hurt, from the sorrow and from the consequences of sin. God hears our prayers. He continues to give us the strength we need to get through yet another day. The expression used in Alcoholics Anonymous is "one day at a time". Recovering alcoholics are encouraged to not look too far into the future and to take things as they come. Some days, they take things "one minute" or "one second" at a time, because they become overwhelmed with the prospect of even "one day". This "slogan", as it is termed, can apply to anyone.

We can be submerged into a sea of "what if's" when we begin to look at any given situation. It's easy to turn our hearts to prayer in the minor catastrophes of life, or when we want to say "thanks for listening". Our true test of faith comes when we are bombarded with pain and suffering beyond what we believe is bearable! Remember, nothing touches us that has not passed through God first. Whether we are on the mountain top or in the valley, we know we must head for the river when the storm rolls in. That is where we find our peace. That's where Jesus is!

He's calling to you! He wants a relationship with you that is more than just "God, if you get me out of this one..." He wants you to bring all your little aches and pains, all your small and large successes to him! He wants to give you the kingdom. He wants you to know that he loves you and he understands! He came to earth in flesh and blood and shed it all for you! He wants to give you so much more!

Start today, start right now! Let the Holy Spirit fill you with a true love of God! Don't worry about what the rest of your friends or family think about you (I'm known as the "crazy church lady" - doesn't bother me a bit). In the end, all that matters is what GOD thinks of you! Be that good and faithful servant and praise his name, thank him for the pain and the hurts, because I can guarantee that when all is said and done, you will be smiling! Don't let the storms in life drown you. Let the water of salvation wash over you and know that you are part of a much bigger picture, God's picture!

(Photo by Tracey James)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

~ Earthen Vessels..."

Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh [but] in vain. (Ps 127:1)

One of the very first Christian albums I ever heard (aside from my Nana's recording of "The Old Rugged Cross" recorded by Elvis Presley) was "Earthen Vessels", recorded by the St. Louis Jesuits. My parents purchased one when it was released in 1975. My mother also purchase the sheet music and I purchased my own copy of the record in 1995. The album contains some very peaceful and beautiful arrangements. One of the songs is taken directly from Psalm 127.

When we are troubled, when we feel we are falling, we are told to go back to the cross - to go back to where we first met Jesus. For many of my friends here in Tennessee, they can tell you the date and the day and some even can tell you the time they "got saved". I cannot. Not that it wasn't important (because salvation is THE most important treasure in my life), but because in being raised in a Catholic, emphasis was not put on acknowledging that, there was never an opportunity to make a conscious decision to accept Christ as the Savior. It was understood.

In searching for that one, precise moment in time when I accepted Jesus (so as not to be different from all of my Christian friends) I realized that God knows when it was! Then, I remembered this album. I remembered the feeling of awe that hit me when I first began to know Jesus. Everything I have, everything I am is because Jesus loves me! Everything I become is because he allows it to be. My salvation comes in the form of a gift from God. His mercy and grace in my life is the ultimate joy. Without him, all I do is worthless.

Do not let your good works fall by the wayside. Do not boast that you've given to an organization or helped that family or even that you help at the homeless shelter on Thanksgiving. Give him the glory for all that you do, for without his gift of salvation and your acceptance thereof, all you do is in vain. Be the anonymous giver and your acknowledgements will reach the top of the mountains!

Photo by Celia Darrigo

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

~ "I'd like to thank the academy..."

For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid on me; yes, woe is to me, if I preach not the gospel! (1 Cor 9:16)

Why do we share the gospel of Christ? Do we do it because we think we will reap some sort of benefit by it? When we hear the word preached to us, do we give our praises to the minister sharing it? Are we looking for accolades from others when we explain particular verses that they do not understand? Do we want to hear the praises for what we are doing?

We all love to hear we've done a good job and receive a pat on the back. There is nothing wrong with that. When we begin to do the work of the Lord, we are no longer the authors or the songwriters or the speakers. We are the vessels of the living God. We share his word with others. He enlightens each of us as we perform our duties to him. All the talents God has given us can be used to spread his word. My opinion is that is why he gave them to us in the first place. We can do a good job at our "livelihood" but an even greater job if we mix in praise and thanksgiving along the way! Temper your work with love of Jesus! Bring him into every facet of your life. In the grocery store, at the ball game, at the PTA meeting, at the party! There is always an occasion to bring Christ into daily life - as a matter of fact, it is our Christian obligation!

The time is short! Don't be afraid of what your friends and family will say about you for praising God for his blessings. Go where he tells you to go, do what he tells you to do and constantly give him the praise of it all! He wants us to be strong in faith and bold in our testimony of his mercy and grace in our lives. Don't sit back and wait for someone else to do it! Let the peace of knowing the Lord begin with you! Share his love with everyone you meet! Don't be afraid - the worst thing that will happen is that your praise will fall on the deaf ears of your fellow man ~ but know that God hears it all and remembers! He knows your heart and your soul and wants to meet with you and tell you how special you are. Give yourself the opportunity to hear those words "well done". Do it out of love for HIM, not out of self centeredness for yourself. Put your talents and your spiritual gifts to work for a good cause - HEAVEN!

Monday, October 4, 2010

"I'll have a side of cranberry sauce with some rat dressing please..."

When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:10-11)

Jesus had such a way with people! His method of teaching surpasses any teacher I ever had. His forgiveness of us goes beyond the scope of understanding. Here was a woman, caught in adultery and was going to die at the hands of man. After all, it was the law.

Jesus taught us that we are to forgive all things (not just the little ones or the ones that we think aren't that bad) - we are all sinners, we all have gone against the laws of God and the laws of man. When Jesus told her to go and sin no more, he gave her a hall pass. She would continue to sin (we all do) but at that point he wiped her slate clean. When Peter asked "how many times" do we forgive - Jesus replied "seventy times seven", which if my math is correct, that would be 490! I'm sure he didn't mean that number specifically, but even at that, its a lot of forgiving!!!

When we come to know the love of Jesus, we want to follow his way, we want to walk as he would have us walk. Forgiveness is ours for the asking. If we try and fail, we know that we can start over again. But what if we fail to try? What if we just give up and say "forget it, it's too hard, I can't do it" and just continue on in our sinful ways?

God does not expect us to be perfect, he expects us to do our best, to keep going to him for strength and courage and love! He has an unlimited supply and wants to share it with all of us! All we have to do is ask! Confess your sins to him and let him wipe your slate clean today - be washed in the blood of Jesus and the salvation that is promised because of it! Give glory to him in all you do and ask that he protect you and guide you as you journey through life. His love and forgiveness are eternal! He's proven that! Jesus' death and resurrection is the ultimate sacrifice of forgiveness. We all sin. Let's try to be more forgiving of others and remember that unlike those whose sins were written in the sand, ours are written in his blood!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

~ "Legacy..."

His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord. (Matt 25:23)

On October 3, 1954, Mildred McTague and Nicholas Amatelli began to leave a legacy. I don't know what their early years were like. I do know that they both believed in God and taught me that Jesus died for my sins. I know they were both "born again" and that my mother loved Jesus up to the moment of her death. I know he walked her into paradise. My father still carries his faith with him and God has blessed him many times over. I am a part of their legacy. I also know that when my ex-husband and I began to leave our legacy, we never imagined it would be one of divorce that we leave to our children. God has a plan!

What will we be remembered for? I'd like to think that I will leave a legacy of love - for Christ! I'd like to think that in all my sins that have been so graciously washed away, I could give something of honor and value to my King! I sit here each morning and ask the Lord to enlighten me - to put his words in my posts. I want to hear those words "well done" so I do my very best to be his hands and his feet. I want the world to know that Jesus is my Savior and that he can be theirs as well!

We are all blessed each and every day! We have a gift that many do not choose to accept! I hear people say they don't need God - they're doing just fine without him! Imagine how much better their lives would be if they truly believed in and trusted in HIM! Take the time to leave a legacy of hope, a legacy of love for Jesus! Nicole Nordeman's recording of "Legacy" reaches into the very essence of what our lives can be if we just give all the glory to God! I want to be that "child of mercy and grace who blessed your name unapologetically". I want to hear "well done, good and faithful one".

Point to him in everything - give the glory and honor to the King of Kings! Leave your offering - leave THAT kind of legacy!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

~ "Wanted: "Partner (no prerequisites or experience required)..."

He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matt 10:37)

The single most important love in our lives, the one that makes all the difference, the one who will ALWAYS be there is Jesus! There is nothing greater than his love for us, there never will be. As humans, we get lonely, become bored and miserable and we reach out for that human companionship. As Christians, we follow a different set of instructions on life than someone who does not believe or is not saved. God had them written down for us so we could refer to them often. Our lives are his, they are not our own. He gives us the opportunity to make the right choices (free will). Are the choices you are making the ones that put him at the top?

Love. An emotion, a feeling, a desire. We all want it, we all need it. When we stray away from what it is that God tells us, when we rearrange his word to fit our actions - we are in essence telling him that his love is not enough. We cannot justify our sinful existence. We need to continue to set the example that Christ set. We are to live our lives for his glory, not our own, not our children, not our parents, nor our friends and acquaintances. The misconception we have is that no matter what we do, we are forgiven. Our actions always speak louder than words. What we do, what we say reflects the level of acceptance of God's word to us. If you were to pick and choose which of the laws that you feel should apply to you and disregard those you feel do not apply to you, you would undoubtedly end up behind bars somewhere. Why do you think that its okay to pick and choose the laws of God? Who has the greater authority here? As I've said before, being a Christian is the hardest thing I do. It breaks my heart to see my family torn apart and living the way they do. The only thing I can do for them is be an example to them and pray for them. I love them unconditionally, just as Jesus loves me - however, my love for him has to be my number one priority! He has to come above and before everything that I say and do. Soliciting love from sources other than what is acceptable to God is not going to win me anything but sorrow. Looking for people to fill the void, looking for anyone to be my "partner" is not going to work. I am partnered with Christ! He will meet my needs until I die and as long as I follow the plan, I'm going to be okay. Sure, I'd love to find someone and be able to end the story with "and they lived happily ever after".

I had that once. We did not put God at the top and needless to say, it came crumbling down around us and on top of us. I loved that man very much, still do, but not before the love I have for God! He has given me a new life and if I'm to walk it alone, so be it. I cannot engage in any relationship that does not compliment my love of God and my faith in Jesus! It just won't work! Searching for the answers is as easy as opening up your Bible to Ephesians 4:2: be completely humble and patient. God has plan. Give HIM your love and he will fill you to the brim with his! Stop looking for Mr/Ms Right and let his love sustain you. Only then will you find a suitable "mate" to walk your earthly existence with!