Friday, December 31, 2010

~ "We'll take a cup of kindness..."

And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night to be much observed to the LORD for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the LORD to be observed of all thechildren of Israel in their generations. (Ex 12:41-42)

Although the last day of this particular year most likely occurred in April, the children of Israel, none the less, set out without delay. It was some 430 years after God's promise to Abraham. "God's promises are not performed quickly, they will be, in their season. This is that night of the Lord, that remarkable night, to be celebrated in all generations. The great things God does for his people, are to be not only a few days' wonder, but to be remembered throughout all ages; especially the work of our redemption by Christ (Matthew Henry)".

God's promises to us are often long in coming...but they do come! One of the most wonderful things about our heavenly father is that each day is a new opportunity to walk with him! The frustration we feel at times, the overwhelming anxiety that comes to us through the world, can all be laid aside in an instant. Our failures can be turned into successes if we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us. Each day can be the beginning of a new year without the disappointment that comes from not keeping our resolution. God is more than willing to wipe the slate clean and allow us to start again. We just need to have a sincere desire to walk with him and allow him to work on us.

Whatever the new year holds for you is not going to be lessened or multiplied by the resolutions you make tonight and break tomorrow. God has your year mapped out for you already. He knows what will cross your path, he's looked at it and deemed it to be in your best interest. Whether it's a new job, a new home, the birth of a child, the death of a loved one - it's all good. Rejoice in whatever it is that comes your way! Continue to praise him for everything - even the things that you don't feel are blessings! Make that prayer list and pray every day. Pick up your Bible and read it every day. And if you have a day that is filled with distraction and you forget or can't seem to find the time to meet him in prayer - thank him right then and there - don't give up! If you feel compelled to make that "New Year's Resolution" - make it one that is worth keeping - make it one that you can keep! Put "become closer to God" on the top of that list and you will have a year filled with blessings! Remember, God does great things for his people ~ do great things for God!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

~ "But I can't...yes, you can!!!"

Because you have kept the word of my patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation, which shall come on all the world, to try them that dwell on the earth. (Rev 3:10)

It is comforting to know that in the end, those of us who have lived by the Word will be spared. But what about those who have not? Many of our family and friends who do not acknowledge the risen Christ as the Savior will be left. That is why witnessing to them is so important! "But I can't witness, it's not something I know how to do?" I said that, too!

On my trip to Pennsylvania on Christmas eve, I was sitting in Charlotte airport waiting for my connecting flight when a young lady sat beside me. She was flying home to Israel. It was obvious she was not going home for Christmas. As we began to talk, I told God "I can't witness to her - I wouldn't know what to say". As usual - he gave me the words. I asked her if she followed "the law" (referring to the Law of Moses). She looked at me and told me she was an atheist. I then asked her if she knew who Jesus was. She said she did, but believes in herself. "Okay, God - now what?" I told her that he believes in her, too. I gave her one of my business cards (which has a picture of the book on one side and my info on the other). She will be looking for me on Facebook, but in order to find me, she has to go to the page for "I talk...God listens". In that short period of time I was able to tell her about Jesus. It was not as difficult as I thought it would be and I wish I'd had more time to talk to her about him! God removed another "I can't" from my life and showed me that "I can!"

We are all given the opportunity to witness to the power of God every day. The fact that we woke up this morning is a good enough reason to praise him! No matter what crosses your path each day, you aren't facing it alone. The Holy Spirit is right there with you, ready to guide you! God calls us to be part of the few - it is only in being part of the few that we become the many! The more people who turn to him, the fewer Satan has to devour. If each day we told just one person about his saving grace, by the end of the year we could have witnessed to 365 people! We don't have to convert them - just tell them God loves them and Jesus died for them...the Holy Spirit will take care of the rest! If you're financially "sound", purchase a few gift Bibles (they're about $5 each) and give them to people who don't have one. Tell them it's God's love letter to them and he wants them to read it. A greater love story has never been written!

Make that your resolution for 2011 ~ sharing God's word with someone. It's probably the only one on the list you've made that has any real value!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

~ "Safe at home..."

And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on... (Gen 28:20)

I thank God right now for returning me safely to Tennessee!!! It's been a very long day since I had to get up at 3am and was in the car for 2 hours driving to Baltimore to catch a flight to Atlanta and then another flight to Tri-Cities in Tennessee. It is certainly a good feeling to be home with my critters and in my "usual" spot for my posting. Not quite sure how this is gonna work when I move. But I'm sure that God knows...he always does!

Sometimes we become so comfortable in our lives that change scares the tar out of us! At least it does me! Having to step off the plane on Christmas Eve in Philly (an airport I'd never been in) was very overwhelming - not because of it's size - because it was unfamiliar to me. Had I flown into Newark Liberty I would have been just fine. We are creatures of habit. We like things the same. When God begins to work on us, most often it's gradual - at least up to that point where we realize he's calling our name. Once we've answered his call - he will help us to become comfortable where ever we are. Being home for Christmas this year reminded me of what I've been missing ~ family!!! Even though my "Tennessee Family" loves me and always includes me in just about everything they do, there is nothing as exciting as seeing the members of the family that holds your memories. To see the "next generation" as they tear open their Christmas gifts, seeing those who were once babies you held with boyfriends is truly a joy! Knowing that God's plan for you includes them helps you to be reassured that you are truly in his will!

There will be a lot of changes in my life in the next few months, but the one thing that will remain the same is my love for God! He will work out the details...I will just go along for the ride and know that whatever he gives me is what I need. There will be a place for me to sit every morning and talk to him, there will be a breathtaking view from my soul to him. It doesn't matter where that physical location is - he will be with me no matter what!

Know that his plan for you is a safe journey home. What he gives you along the way (the sightseeing tour of life) is something you can participate in and rejoice in! It's not always what we think it might be but it's always what he wants it to be! Praise him for everything! He's got your best interest in mind!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

~ "Lay 'em down..."

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. (Acts 10:38)

We all have the need for healing: spiritual, physical, emotional. Whoever says God can't heal them has apparently not met me or read my book. God can do ANYTHING! Sometimes his path for you may not include a healing. Sometimes the healing is a long time in coming. Sometimes its immediate. Nothing is out of his sight and everything is within his power.

Whatever comes your way has passed through his mighty hand first. His love for you has no boundaries. Sometimes we have to "pick up our mat and walk". Having the faith in what is promised to us can be tedious at times. We are an impatient people struggling to wait on a patient God. All things in HIS time. The enemy gets in on occasion and disrupts our lives. He knows our weaknesses and plays on them. Once you've identified the weakness he uses to manipulate you, it then becomes your obligation to avoid it! The Holy Spirit will give you the strength if you ask for it. He will guard you and guide you, but you have to do your part! You have to pray and be sincere in your desire for healing. You have to WANT the change!

Right now I'm struggling with a demon of immense proportions - it's name - cigarettes. I have been their slave for about forty years now. It's time to let it go. Without God's help it is not possible - yes, I have tried the patch, I have tried the gum, I cannot take the medicine and "cold turkey" just makes me nasty. I want to quit. I've asked God to remove the compulsion, yet I still find myself standing in the blowing snow puffing away while Satan laughs at me.

I don't generally ask you to pray for me - today I'm making an exception. I'm asking you to pray that the Lord will no longer allow this demon to be a part of my life. I asking for the desire to smoke to be removed and stay removed. I'm asking for a "healing" and I'm asking for your prayers! I want to live at least another 30 years and I want to live it unchained to a pack of smokes. I know that I can do all things through Christ ~ please ask him to strengthen me and take the desire away! I'm asking him to lift me up out of my own, personal hell. Won't you help me?

Monday, December 27, 2010

~ "Come and sit beside me and we'll talk..."

Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sits on the throne shall dwell among them. (Rev 6:15)

He shall dwell among them...what an awesome thought! To not only be in the presence of my God, my Creator, my Master - but to have him right there - for me to see!!! We see the wonderful miracles that are God everyday - in each thing created - from the tiny insects to the sun and the stars - to gaze upon his face will not even compare to any of the wonders we have been privileged to enjoy!

Right now, I am sitting at a kitchen table about 600 miles from my "normal" writing habitat. I've been in Pennsylvania since late Friday afternoon - my Christmas gift from my children was a flight home for a few days. The joy of seeing their faces through a sea of strangers when I arrived made my heart beat a little bit faster. I can only imagine that feeling when I finally get to meet Jesus and my God!

It's taken me a few days to adjust to being here (as opposed to 'there') - just in time to climb aboard another aircraft to return me to Tennessee. Spending time with family gives me the opportunity to make more memories to hold me over until February - the tears shed when I saw my daughter-in-law's sisters and brothers (and her Mom & Dad, of course) followed by the smiling faces of my own daughters makes me pause and praise God once again.

God's blessings continue to come, in spite of our human compulsion to sin. His forgiveness is constant and his presence is felt no matter where you are. He opens our eyes to what pleases him and what he finds distasteful on a daily basis. He helps us to hold on and find our footing when we are sliding on the ice and in danger of falling. He understands the temptations of the enemy and reminds us of a day when there will be no more. Perseverance and faith become the most prevalent of all our tools to battle Satan. Our strength comes from God and from knowing the victory that lies ahead of us. We can't lose!

Let God's love for you continue to warm your heart and light your way! Let him change in you what he needs to change for your reconciliation with him to be complete! Allow him to open a door that no other being can open and offer you that perfect gift! Accept it now, cherish it now and move into the New Year with a new life ~ a saved life filled with mercy and grace! Move into his life for you!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

~ "By the way, I've met this person..."

Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. (Prov 4:23)

If we knew the lasting effects of some of our actions, maybe we would think twice about the choices we make. I know that I would have. We sometimes become so lost that we have no clue if we are even moving, let alone what direction we are headed in. Sometimes we can suffer for many years with a guilty conscience, and even when we relieve it, some of its effects will remain in us forever. Once you've committed the act, you cannot undo it - there is no "Edit" tab in life.

One of the most devastating sins a person can commit, one that will destroy more lives than you could imagine - is adultery. People think that only the "offended spouses" are affected. Not so. The destruction spreads out like the ripples on a pond that has had a pebble thrown into the middle. And when the ripple reaches the shore, it returns toward the center again. The people we hurt begin with our spouse and the spouse of other. The ripples reach down to our children, grandchildren, out to our in-laws and their children, to our siblings and their children, to our friends and their families, to our acquaintances and anyone else we may come in contact with in our immediate lives. Many relationships can be destroyed by one, single encounter. Think I'm exaggerating? Think again!

"Love" is a learned response. Affairs don't "just happen". "Forgiveness" comes when we are truly sorry for our sins and make an effort not to continue to commit that sin again. Adultery is a conscious decision to sin against God and his law. It is a total and willful disregard for his command to us. We use the excuse "I'm not happy" or "my spouse doesn't understand me" or "I just don't love him/her anymore". If you aren't happy in your marriage - maybe you need to discuss that with your spouse, not the guy at the water cooler or the girl in the check out line. Many of us have been misinformed about "being happy". We aren't here to be happy. We are here waiting to for our time to die so that we can claim our inheritance (which for some, the way they live, is gonna be a little on the warm side). Many of us are selfish and greedy and want more and more. Your focus needs to be on God, on where you are headed at the end of your life, not the pleasures of the "moment" - and it is just that - a moment. Life is over in the blink of an eye and eternity lasts forever. If you aren't happy where you are and with whom you've chosen as a partner, either pray to God for strength to fix it or for the strength to walk away. There are certain situations that are acceptable reasons for divorce (abuse, neglect, and adultery from the other spouse - not you). It's all written down in easy to understand instructions - but you won't find them if you don't read your Bible.

When your car breaks down, you don't throw it away and buy a new one - you fix it. When your marriage is breaking down - you find a way to fix it, not a way to justify your affair. And if you've been married five or six times and they all end up in divorce, maybe you need to look at the common denominator those marriages had in common ~ you!

Put your faith in God, allow him to guide your path, and pray for strength to endure. It's how he wants it and he gets to make the rules! There are no small sins or big sins - there are just sins! Ask for forgiveness and start to make the effort to lead a Godly life...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

~ "Glory to God is the highest..."

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:11-14)

There is no greater joy this this! Our Savior! His life on earth would be short lived in comparison to the "average" human, but then again - he is not the average human! He came with a purpose! He would fulfill the promise made to Abraham! He would deliver ALL men, Jews and Gentiles! He would redeem us through his precious blood!

Christmas can mean so many things to each of us! It can be a day spent with family, it can be a day of solitude. It is generally a day of celebration, but can also be a day of sadness. Rejoice in this day! Give praises to God for his goodness and mercy! He has given us so much more than we deserve!

Celebrate the birth of Jesus in your heart! Let the Holy Spirit fill you with joy in the knowledge that you are HIS! No matter what, no matter how many times you stumble, no matter what mistakes you make, he will lift you up and dust you off and continue to call you to himself! Let his love fill your heart today, let his peace be your peace - even if it's just for today! Remember: God has a plan for YOU ~ Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 24, 2010

~ "Twas the night before Christmas..."

But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (Luke 18:16)

I had the opportunity to enjoy an evening with my "Tennessee" family. Good food and laughter are always a part of that experience. There is the most adorable three year old (who we will call "G") who never ceases to make me smile ~ and her grandmother (who is like a sister to me) and I usually end up laughing ourselves into either a painful spasm or the need to change our clothing. Those of you old enough to remember Art Linkletter will remember the the TV show "Kids Say the Darndest Things". "G" is no exception! She would undoubtedly win the prize! Her innocence and her imagination have brought so much joy into my life! She tells me about Santa Clause making her toys at the North Pole and tells me that it's baby Jesus' birthday. In those moments I am taken back in time and I remember my own children anxiously awaiting "Santa".

Jesus tells us the kingdom of heaven belongs to those "such as these". They are trusting of those who care for them, they believe in what they have not seen, they do their best to be "nice" and not "naughty" (for they know there will be coal in their stocking if they are naughty). They don't hold grudges, they do not put on aires. They are satisfied (for the most part) with what they have and are grateful for what they are given. They live in the moment. They love unconditionally.

Amazingly enough, we must trust God (for he cares for us), we must do our best and believe that Christ's blood has redeemed us (for we know there is a hell waiting if we do as we please). We are to be forgiving, we are to be humble. We should be satisfied with the blessings we have and those we continue to receive. We must always be prepared for he will come "like a thief in the night". We should love unconditionally. The spirit of Christmas is in the joy of giving ~ God gave us Jesus!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

~ "Ease on down the road..."

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magia from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” (Matt 2:1-2)

They came bearing gifts. Frankincense, myrrh and gold. They traveled following a star. What faith! I can't imagine going anywhere without a map or a GPS. Their journey was by caravan (and not the car). They would travel through enemy territories and the gifts they were bringing were considered expensive. Yet, they went!

We are the greatest gift we can bring to the Lord. Our humility, our joys, our sufferings, our praise and our worship - that's all he wants! US! Sometimes we are "too busy" to remember him; he never forgets us. Sometimes we forget to thank him; he continues to bestow blessings on us. Undeserving as we are, our gifts continue to multiply. Reaching down from heaven is the hand that formed us. It's being offered to us in a gesture of love and kindness unlike any other ever experienced. We are never alone. We are always under the care of the Master. Although our journey is not like that of the Magi, it is a journey that will bring us one day into the presence of the most worthy of all Kings ~ Jesus!

When the answer is "no", when the command is "move", when God has another plan for you other than the one you thought it was, accept it and bear it ~ it is in no way a sign of failure, nor is it a "cross" to bear. It is a gift from God who loves you and wants you to be "wholly" his! He will give you what you need - keep the focus on him! Continue to walk in his ways and know that he is pleased with you. Your sacrifice is never taken for granted in the eyes of the Lord, as long as it is given with honor, praise and humility. He'll tell you when it's time! Acceptance of God's plan for you can be a hard decision at times. With everything he takes from you, he also gives something in return. Letting go of the things that cannot be changed is the first step in total submission to the will of God. Let go! Walk! Rejoice!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

December 22, 2010 ~ "Well, they look clean..."

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. (John 13:3-4)

What would you do for your friends? I have one friend that I know, without having to think twice about it, would probably run into a burning building if she thought she could help me! She encourages me when I am depressed, she makes me laugh, shares my joys and my sorrows. When I cry, she cries and vice-versa. We have had our "moments" over the many years I've known her, but we also have many memories. We have walked together, worked together, we have experienced many of the same "trials" over the course of our lives, we've shared the loss of friends, the joys of birth and "agony of defeat". If I were to become sick and bed-ridden, she would be on the next plane to take care of me.

When we think in terms of the friends we have, the defining factor is usually the length of time we've known someone. I have known this woman for more years than I care to count. I have another friend, who would undoubtedly do all she could for me and I've known her less than two years. When I think of Jesus, and his "friends" - he knew them for a relatively short period of time (the Bible bears this out in the accounts of his teaching ministry - which lasted three years) - the image of him washing their feet brings comes to mind. "No" Peter told him, "I should wash your feet". Yet, there he was, with his basin and towel, tending to their needs. He was not only their Savior and their teacher, he was their friend!

The symbolism of washing their feet reminds us that even though we have been "washed in the blood", we still need to "freshen up". As Christians, we have to keep washing the dirt off of our feet. We have to help wash the dirt off of the feet of others as well. We must forgive!

If you are looking for that perfect Christmas gift, give a gift of forgiveness to someone. We aren't perfect, so I know there is at least one person you have not forgiven for something. In Alcoholics Anonymous they call it Step 9 - "making amends" ~ God calls it asking for and granting forgiveness.

While on earth, he served! Now in heaven he is worshiped, yet he still listens to our prayers for forgiveness and in our asking that we be forgiven, he also reminds us that we need to forgive! Wash someone's feet today, and they may just wash yours!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

~ The gift that keeps on giving..."

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matt 6:21)

Where do your treasures lie? What is your greatest gift? A friend and I have a running gag - it is referred to as "the gift that keeps on giving". An item purchased for less than $10 and for over a year and a half now we have had more fun with this little piece of foam than I ever would have imagined. When I purchased it, it was done so as a joke. I would have been satisfied with the laughs it received when I presented it but it has paid for itself again and again! There in lies the blessing!

The joy in giving comes not from the cost of the item but from the feeling you (as the giver) receive when it is accepted and enjoyed! Sometimes we give a gift and the recipient is anything but excited. It tends to discourage us, we may feel unappreciated, especially if we know that someone else's gift cost less and is not nearly worth what ours is. Sometimes it's put in the back of a closet and never used. Sometimes it get thrown away. Sometimes, later on, that gift becomes invaluable to he who has received it and it's taken out and becomes their prized possession! Sometimes it doesn't fit and it has to be "grown into". We've all been told "it's the thought that counts".

Often the gift we give is wrapped in the most expensive paper and ribbons (some of them cost more than the gift itself). It generally has a tag attached with the person's name on it and our name as the giver. Then again, sometimes it's given in a white plastic bag.

The greatest gift ever given did not come wrapped in brightly colored paper, adorned with ribbons and bows. It came to us in a lowly manger in Bethlehem. It was not purchased with a credit card, it was paid for in blood. It's not something we take out and wear on special occasions, but something we should wear proudly everyday and at all times! It is our most prized possession (or at least it should be). The more we "wear" it, the better it fits. It sets us apart from others. It is the best gift you will ever receive!

As we approach Christmas, take time out of your hustle and bustle and contemplate what you have done with that "gift". Have you put it in the back of your closet? Have you deemed it to be less important in your life than your job or your "things"? Do you only "wear" it on special occasions? If you have yet to unwrap it, look at the tag attached to it, it says: "Love, God".

Monday, December 20, 2010

~ "Be a busy body, but not a busybody..."

But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:15-17)

In my Sunday School class, we are studying 1 Peter. Yesterday's lesson was packed full of juicy tidbits and hard facts. Remembering that we aren't told once, nor are we told twice - there are many times throughout God's word where we are informed that a sin is a sin is a sin and that all sin disgusts God and that the wages of sin is death, whether you are a murderer or a busybody! We weren't supposed to die. We were supposed to live upon the earth enjoying all that God had given us. Because of the sin of Eve, we were condemned to die. God, being that loving Father that he is and not wanting to be separated from us, made a way for our miserable, sinful lives to be redeemed. He sent us Jesus.

So many people are under the impression that they deserve to go to heaven because of the hell they've suffered on earth. Much of their suffering is self inflicted. If you willingly stick your hand into bee hive and get stung, who do you blame? The bees? Living outside of God's command is pretty much the same thing. In verse 18, Peter asks us "if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" My guess is they won't.

It's not easy to "walk the walk". The key is to try. We won't get it perfect, we can't. We will stumble and we will fall and the scars we bear are nothing in comparison to the scars Jesus bears that have our names attached to them! Each of us is given the opportunity to come before him, ask for his forgiveness, ask him to walk with us and have the Holy Spirit fill us with the strength we need each and every day, in every situation! Sometimes its prayer that keeps us on the path and sometimes the only thing separating us from the enemy is Christ himself! We are fallible but we are forgivable; we are sinners but we are saints. If we live a life of sin without repentance we are doomed to spend our eternity in hell (and again - it does exist - and it's not here on earth - you only need READ your Bible to find it).

Don't allow your mind to justify your sin. There is no justification, at least not as far as God is concerned. If we could justify it, he would not have needed to send us a Savior. Our sins are forgiven through the blood of Christ - but acceptance of that shed blood means to commit to the "way". They aren't just words to get you out of hell - they are a way to get you into heaven. Remember: Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake and they all got punished! Where do you think it will get you?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

~ "Still her little child..."

For my eyes have seen your salvation, Which you have prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel. (Luke 2:30-32)

Simeon had received a promise from God. He would not die until he saw his salvation! God kept his word! When Jesus was brought to the temple and upon receiving him and blessing him, Simeon turned to Mary and told her "this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; Yes, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

Although we know very little about Christ's life as a child, being a mother or a father would allow you to "presume" a few things. I think of my kids. I think of their "firsts" - rolling over, sitting up, standing, crawling... I think of them learning to walk, stumbling and falling. I think of their little person giggle, the way they spoke certain words, the way they described different things, the first time they called me "Mommy". I think of their first day of school, how excited we both were (I was not one of those parents who cried). I think of their birthday parties, their favorite games, the sports they played, the friends they made. I think of the "private" talks as they got older, the times spent in the car together. I think of vacations. I also think of the times they were sick, when I would hold their head over the toilet, putting bandaids on their "boo-boo's". I think of their high school graduations, their chosen career path, their college days. I think of my son's wedding. I think of them on their own, perhaps someday raising their own children. Then I think of Mary. Jesus was her child, her first born son! Imagine knowing that that precious child you held in your arms would die for all mankind. Imagine the panic that set in when she and Joseph realized that Jesus was not with them when returning from Jerusalem. Imagine the day that he left home to begin his teaching. Imagine what she felt when he was arrested and condemned to die. Imagine watching your precious child nailed to a cross. Imagine that precious child being laid dead in your arms.

Jesus was born, lived a life and died. The joy comes from what followed - the resurrection! Without his birth, there would be no salvation! Without the life he led, there would be no "model" to imitate! Without his death, there would no hope! In all the world there has not been one as innocent or one as sacred as "her little child". God not only gave Mary a gift that first Christmas morning, he gave a gift to all of us ~ he gave us his son. Our redemption lay in Mary's arms. God fulfilled the promise to all people that day - the promise of Savior.

Whatever you are facing this Christmas season, whatever burdens you bear, whatever hardships you face remember this: It took a miracle for Christ to be born. Your salvation was guaranteed through that miracle. If it took faith in a miracle to get you to where you are, what makes you think that same "faith" is not standing beside you? God's love for us is so great, so unending, and so powerful - who are we to NOT believe he will continue to watch over us until we meet him? Remember - YOU are still his little child!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

~ "Priorities..."

If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Tim 5:8)

Insomuch as this verse, in context, is directed towards the care of widows, it is by itself a directive for all follow, regardless of the age, condition or circumstances surrounding it. It takes you to the very heart of the meaning of the word "charity". God's command here is to do first for those at home, then for those in your community (or church), then for the rest of the world.

Our world has changed a bit since Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, but our obligations and responsibilities have not. Our society is made of mostly of "double income" households. Why? Because we have become a greedy society. We want! Plain and simple.

It all comes down to priorities. What are yours? Where do you put the emphasis on what's important and what's not? And if all you ever do is take, what "treasures" do you have to lay before the Lord? You cannot go through life expecting everyone else to pick up the slack for you. You have to make an honest effort. Feeding the hungry and clothing the naked starts at home! When you are the "head of the household", your duty is to those who live under your roof. If you don't take care of them, what you do for those outside of the home means nothing! And if you have relatives in need, your responsibility should shift to them - after you've met your first obligation. Once those outside your home are taken care of - then, and only then, will what you do for them be recognized and acknowledged. Our "works" have to be in accordance with what is defined in the Word.

The appearances you try to keep up will come back to haunt you. If you constantly and consistently ignore your responsibilities at home, if you do not "help yourself", how can you think you are in compliance with all that God has commanded? And if you're one who passes judgement on someone else's definement of their priorities, that too will be called into account! God has also advised us that that isn't part of our job. Our job is to love one another, and in loving one another, we are to provide for, take care of, pray for, and assist one another in all areas, and not just the ones that get us the tax write-offs.

If we call ourselves Christians but all we ever think about is "me, me, me" - what are we really saying? That our family is unimportant? God first, family second, everything else after that! Take care of what God has entrusted you with - your immediate family. Love them, comfort them and provide for them and you will be respected by them and by others. Default on that obligation and nothing you do will matter!

Friday, December 17, 2010

~ "Show me where it says THAT!!!"

By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. (1 Cor 15:2)

I love Paul's letters! He packed them so full of teaching and love that every time I read one I find something new to rejoice about! He reminds me here that it is not enough to just believe!

I have spent a lifetime believing in God and believing that Jesus came to earth and died on the cross to pay for my sins. It's what I was taught. It's what I knew. Salvation is not an "entitlement" that is received because we were sprinkled with water as a child, attended church every Sunday, gave up something for Lent or confessed our sins in a box every week. As I have so often pointed out, there comes a time when you realize that you want the gift being offered to you and when you receive it, it changes you!

Sometimes I use my Bible as a reference manual to either confirm or deny what I've been "programmed" to believe. I follow one general rule of thumb: if it's not in the Bible - it's not! I don't argue with people anymore who think they know it all and have all the answers simply because of their religion...I pray for them! I am not defined before God by the church I attend. I am not defined by the knowledge I have attained. I realized that had I died when I attempted suicide in 2006, I would have spent my eternity in hell! Not because I would have taken my own life, but because I was not saved! My life never reflected any of the changed behaviors talked about in the Bible. It reflected those sins that had been forgiven by Christ, but not the changes those sinners made after they were forgiven. To "go and sin no more" means precisely that - to get off the merry-go-round and walk the straight line. You cannot say "I'm saved" and continue to live a sinful life!

To have the "intellectual knowledge" that Christ died on the cross for one's sins does not guarantee a place in heaven. The "tingles" and "warm fuzzies" one gets when one can FEEL the Holy Spirit at work, those indescribable moments of praise and sorrow that roll into each other and the belief of being created for a higher purpose than the life lived on earth, the acceptance of that knowledge, the humbling of oneself at the feet of Jesus, the desire and willingness to live as Christ lived and to do his work is what defines a "saved" Christian. Don't talk yourself into believing you are in the will of God if something inside of you is telling you that you aren't! Chances are, if you're having those doubts, that you are not! Ask him into your life today, offer to serve him in HIS way (not yours) and you will find a life worth living and a place to go home to when it's over!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

~ "Quick! Get the fire extinguisher..."

Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) (Heb 10:23)

Let me just say this: God is awesome!!! The changes in my life as a result of his love for me are overwhelming at times! Each day, I learn something new and each day I received yet another blessing. I don't see the changes until I look back at how I handled certain situations in my past. The only word that comes to mind is "wow"!!! I love hearing the Word of God delivered by my pastor! I love the feeling I get when I enter the sanctuary of the church I worship in! The thought of leaving that behind makes me sad.

What I have today will all be gone. It's just a matter of time. I understand that and I accept that. It is inevitable. It is part of God's plan. Once again I will start from scratch to build a home and make friends. It will be me and the dogs in a new environment. Although the surroundings will be familiar, most everything else will be foreign. The one thing that will not change, the one thing I will take with me ~ my faith in God and his promise to me! I asked the question last night "If I'm accepting of this plan God has for me, unwavering in my faith, why can't it just happen ~ what more is it that I have to learn here? What else does he want to show me before I leave?" Well, I got that answer this morning.

We build relationships with people based commonalities: on similar likes, similar habits, job opportunities and physical surroundings. One of my worst habits is burning bridges. It's always been easier for me to be angry and dissolve a relationship than it is to say "I will miss you". While some of the bridges I've burned were definitely deserving of destruction, some were not. Apparently, I need to learn how to say "good-bye" with tears. I guess sometimes it can be easier to hate someone than it is to realize you love them and miss them. Blaming the other person for all your hurts and your problems relieves you of the burden placed on you as a Christian ~ which is to LOVE! In this situation, there are many I could "blame" for my material losses. I've stopped blaming and accepted that these things had to happen because God has a plan! The words "if only" are slowly being removed from my vocabulary and replaced with "thank you, Lord".

It's not fun to be on the outside looking in. Wanting to be a part of something and being denied for what ever reason can bring on a heavy heart, but with perseverance and faith, anything is possible! Allow God to make the changes in you that need to be made. He's granted your request, he's answered your prayer, now let him mold you into the person he needs you to be for the furtherance of his Word! Know that it's okay to say good-bye and keep the good memories without hiding them under the bad. The only perfect relationship you will ever have is one-sided...the only perfect love, the only perfect promise, the only perfect gift, the only perfect being - is God!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

~ "The longest road..."

For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogance of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. (Isaiah 13:10-11)

What we have here in Isaiah, is the terrible desolation of Babylon by the Medes and Persian. All comfort and hope failed and it was a general scene of horror. "Those who join themselves to Babylon, must expect to share her plagues...The day of the Lord will, indeed, be terrible with wrath and fierce anger, far beyond all here stated. Nor will there be any place for the sinner to flee to, or attempt an escape. But few act as though they believed these things." (Matthew Henry).

We, too, as Christian, face some pretty tough roads. We face the disdain of our family and friends who do not believe, or do not follow the way of the cross. We battle the enemy daily in our struggle to walk in the Word. Sometimes we feel alone and unguarded. Our hearts hurt for the promises given to us. Our minds become distracted by the absence of praise to the Creator. We can become despondent, we can become despairing but we cannot be abandoned! Once we have accepted that the shed blood of Christ has freed us, we are his! It is when all these things begin to rattle our cages that we must put on the "full armor of God" (Eph 6:11). Only then are we prepared to do battle with Satan!

God's time to bestow his promises on us are not for us to know. He asks that we walk with the faith he's given us and know that he keeps those promises! He knows our limits and the extent of our strength. He will not delay one second longer than we can bear! He reminds us to "be still". He calls to us for our devotion and our continuing belief in what we've come to know ~ his mercy and grace!

Many times our road seems to be long and endless. When our journey is dark and dreary, let the SON guide you and light your way! There is a finish line ~ it's at the cross!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

~ "Guess what I just heard..."

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matt 7:1-2)

It is extremely hard not to judge others. We have a tendency to "draw conclusions" based only on what we see or hear of our friends and acquaintances. We make assumptions without knowing all the facts or relying on only one side of a story. It is NOT our place to judge. It is NOT our place to criticize. It is NOT our place to utter the words "I told you so".

Gossip, in its roughest form, is judging. We take what we've heard and proclaim it anyone who might be interested in it, draw conclusions from what we think we know about any given situation, criticize the person or persons involved and follow it up with "I knew that was going to happen" or "I saw that coming"!

We also tend to delight in the suffering of others when we gossip. Some can't wait to get on the phone and chatter about what they've heard! Shame on us (and don't sit there shaking your head saying "not me, I'd never do that" -because we have all done it)!!! It's human nature! So, how do we stop it? The same way we avoid everything else that God has told us not to do - through prayer (and digging our heals in when it comes to us). Our lives as Christians is ever-changing. We began with the very simple sins (i.e. - those unattractive adjectives that flowed through our speech like water through a sieve), then on to the next and the one after that, and so on. Now it's time to look at the ones that hurt others. Stand firm and say "no" to the temptation to partake the negative; make it a positive. When someone comes to you, or you feel the need to gossip - stop right there! Instead of glibly uttering words that cut someone down or listening to it: lift them up in prayer! Put their plight in God's hands! It's really not that difficult, unless your entire existence is vessel of hurt and pain towards others.

Do not rejoice in the pain of another. Pray for the strength to keep your big mouth shut. Pray for the persons involved in the gossip. Pray for the ones spreading the gossip. Who better to "gossip" to than the Lord. Tell him! Turn it into a prayer for yourself and others. Thank him for allowing you to bring it to him and ask him to remove the desire to spread it. You can even go so far as to thank him for not allowing that unpleasant situation to be yours! Fill your heart with Jesus and there will be no room for anything else, including gossip! Love one another, pray for one another but don't judge one another!

Monday, December 13, 2010

~ "Ch-ch-ch-changes..."

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1)

I do not choose to go back and do the bidding of the enemy today. The joy that fills my soul, even when everything in my life seems to be coming apart and happiness seems to be miles away, is greater than any other love I have ever known! I look for that joy, I seek that "feeling" that embraced me when I realized I was saved! And I don't have far to go to find it anymore ~ it's always there waiting for me to "tweak" it with just the right words of praise to my heavenly Father!

Satan would have me worry and fret, stumble and fall, but the Lord God, through the Holy Spirit, holds me up and helps me to stand firm! He gives me the strength NOT to do certain things and act certain ways and each day that I walk with him, I become stronger and that new way of life becomes more a part of me. It's no longer foreign for me to lift my hand in praise, to say "Amen" when the preacher says something I agree with, or to say the words "God bless you" to a stranger who does something out of kindness! I see how the love of God has changed me. I've witnessed his awesome power at work in my life and the lives of those around me. He has brought me to my knees and opened my eyes to many things. He's given me the courage to walk forward and not shrink from my obligation to him. "He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." (Ps 23:3). Why would anyone who truly knows God willingly want to go back to that existence of emptiness?

There are those whose faith goes far beyond the faith that I have, there are those who struggle to find their faith and there are those who could care less about God, faith or salvation. Pray for them - they need to unlock the door to their heart and soul and allow God to change them! They need the courage to say "no" to the ways of the world, to the ways of their human flesh (pride, envy, gluttony, lust, sexual immorality, anger, greed and laziness). I watch the friends of my past fall away and become distant. I no longer pursue a continued relationship with them simply because there is no longer anything that we have in common. They refuse to give up their old ways, I refuse to give up the Lord! The saying "when you find that Christ is all you have, you realize that Christ is all you need" actually has meaning in my life! Being a Christian is not something I do just on Sundays or in the morning when I write this post. It's actually not something I do ~ it is who I am!

I continue to pray for my family and friends to allow the Holy Spirit to open their eyes, their hearts and their souls to the way of the cross. There IS joy in pain and there IS hope in the Lord! We have been set free ~ stand firm ~ praise God...and LIVE!!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

~ "Away in a manger..."

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)

When my ex-husband and I went on our honeymoon, we decided to take a short trip to Virginia Beach before returning home to the Jersey Shore. We drove for hours and both assumed there would be plenty of hotel rooms available at that time of the year. Surprise! There was a convention in town. We were tired and just wanted to find a quiet place to sleep. We ended up in this dingy little hotel where it was anything but quiet! The room was clean, the bed was small, and there was an ice machine in the parking lot. We stayed two nights and then headed home. When I read today's verse, it reminded me of how "plush" that room actually was in comparison to where Mary gave birth to Jesus!

We don't know what lies ahead of us. We have a general idea and we "plan" for our future, but as most of us know through experience, "the best laid plans of mice and men..."

God has a plan for us and in that, we come to him and ask forgiveness for our sins. We struggle and claw our way through this life and sometimes we lose sight of the prize. We need only look back to this verse and remember what took place in order for eternal life to be attainable. Without the birth of Christ, without that first "Christmas", there would be no redemption. There would be no miracles, there would be no healing, there would be no shed blood; and without that shed blood, there would be no salvation! All things unfold at God's design. Each event in our lives occur to bring us closer to His promise for us! The Light of the World, the "Star" of Bethlehem, wants to be a part of YOUR life! Is there a place in your heart for him, or will you tell him there is "no room" for him???

Saturday, December 11, 2010

~ "Mercy implores reconciliation as Christ leads every soul..."

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Cor 5:20)

“The only man who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew every time he sees me, while all the rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them” (George Bernard Shaw). Isn't that they way some people see us? They don't believe that we can change and be better people than we were. They expect that we are still the same "wastes of humanity" we were before Christ's love changed us! We've been reconciled! The Holy Spirit has been awakened within us and we are NEW!!! Why is it that some people think that the "miracles" ended in the last written book of the Bible?

Miracles occur every day and for every person who has the faith to wait for them! Like the woman who touched the hem of Christ's robe and was healed, so too are we healed! We are healed through reconciliation. We are forgiven for our transgressions and made clean! Our thought process, our desire to do what is asked of us, our willingness to be what God wants us to be all come about because we have been blessed through the power of the Holy Spirit! Just like our salvation, it's not because of anything we've done! It's a gift from God! You can't earn it and you can't buy it! You can't wrap it up and give it to someone else. It has to come from the Father, through Jesus! It's the only thing God will see when we meet him face to face - if the blood of Jesus is not above our "doorway", we aren't getting in! When that power comes to us, we walk boldly into the world!

Every aspect of our lives should reflect the love of Christ. No, we aren't gonna get it right all the time - that's where mercy and grace enter the picture. Things you once found amusing will embarrass you; some things will nauseate you; and still others will disgust you. You will walk away from the ugliness and ungodliness of some and your focus will be on what is good! Your eyes will be opened to what is expected of you (which may not necessarily be what you were "taught"). You will hang your head in shame and ask for forgiveness each and every time you sin, and you will recognize ALL of your sins for what they are.

Be the ambassador for Christ! Let those around you see what the Lord has done for you and in you. Let the changes that have come about through the power of the Holy Spirit be a "lighthouse" that helps to guide lost souls safely to the shore where Jesus waits for them!

(photo by Celia Darrigo)

Friday, December 10, 2010

~ "Give in or give up..."

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (James 1:13-14)

There are certain things in life that frustrate us, aggravate us, bring out the worst in us and torment us. Satan knows all these things. He uses them to take our focus off of God and plant seeds of doubt in our feeble human minds. He's very good at what he does.

Being tempted and being tested are not the same, nor do they come from the same being! God does not tempt us with evil, with what is wrong, with what is not "of God". He does not lurk in the shadows thinking up ways to "test" our faith by "temptations" for that which he clearly has told us is unholy. The enemy wants us all - every last one of us! God wants us all as well, and has gone to great lengths to show us the love he has for us.

Our faith is tested through our temptations. When we know (completely and honestly know) that we are in the will of God, those temptations only have as much power as we allow them to have. We have access to a greater power than that which brings on the empty offerings. Sometimes we don't see it right away and sometimes we see it long before it even comes to us - being able to spot the enemy before he reaches you is how battles are won! Any great military force in history was successful because of their ability to strategize. Know what's coming and plan in accordance!

When my daughter tells me that her life resembles a vacuum cleaner hard at work, I offer her, first, the suggestion to put her trust in God. I can seen her eyes rolling through the phone and I even tell her that. I have to suggest God to her first, because he is first! I temper every word with love, offer her advice and remind her of her location (in life, not geographically). And with her, my advice is always the same - get on the right path and start YOUR life, not someone else's. Don't look for the sky to open up and have all the earthly treasures fall on you - it's not going to happen! In the years when she should have been figuring out what she was supposed to do with the rest of her life, she was too busy trying to fix something she didn't break and perform the duties that belonged to BOTH of her parents! Satan ran ramped through our house! When I look back on it, had we both been sucked into the fiery pit, we would have been deserving of it! There was no "God" in our house. There were lusts for money, there was greed, there was selfishness and self-centeredness, there were words of hate and anger shouted at everyone and by everyone who lived there - there was no unity and there definitely was no love. Going to "church" was a punishment both for those being dragged there kicking and screaming and the one doing the dragging. My children learned to hate God, not love him, because of the corrupt family values they were subjected to.

I am very thankful that I serve a compassionate and forgiving God! His love has changed me! I am not, nor do I ever want to be again, the person who lived in that house. My prayer every day is that my children and my ex-husband will allow God to change them the way he has changed me! My "skeptical" ex-husband thinks of me as "the church lady" and I'm sure is waiting for the "real" me to emerge...this IS the real me! The "me" God intended for me to be when he created me. I am a Princess ~ I'm the daughter of the KING! It would stand to reason that in a perfect world, I would be married to a "Prince" and that my children would also be "royalty" ~ they have only to ask and God will give them their crowns!

When we are tempted, when the enemy is trying his best to tear down what God has built up - be still...because HIS love for you will ALWAYS show you the way! Walk by the faith he's given you! Pray - he has great plans for you and yours! I don't know of any other King who'd put himself in harm's way for his servants...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

~ "Do the words 'Cancer Free' mean anything to you???"

But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from there: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all (Matt 12:15)

No one speaks of God's power stronger than the person who has been healed through the power of prayer! Their testimony to the blessing bestowed upon them by our mighty and merciful God reminds all who hear their words that "The Great Physician" is still on call!

Yesterday I heard the words "she is cancer free" and "he will not be having surgery"! Why? Because God took mercy on these two people at the request of those praying for them and healed them! Never underestimate the power of prayer - it is a mighty tool in the battle against the enemy! Again I see that "all things are possible" and I lift my hands in praise to him who sits on mercy's seat! Our Lord is moving swiftly, people are coming to know him and his works are being praised!

When people ask me to pray for them, or when I feel led to pray for them, it is not just me who prays. There is a network of God-fearing individuals whose prayers for others is their way of life. They literally "pray without ceasing". Sometimes our prayers are answered almost immediately, sometimes it takes a while. In either case, God hears them and answers them.

Don't give in to your impatience. Give God the opportunity to answer your prayers. The foundation your faith stands on is strong and true. It has stood the test of time and is WORTHY of all praise and honor and glory! And your faith does not come from a building, nor does it come from a group of people dispensing rules and regulations - it comes from God! Kneel before HIM, bow down to HIM, no one (and I do mean NO ONE) else! Remove the "idols" from your life and pray to God through Jesus, and ONLY through Jesus! Satan's deceptive powers are only as effective as you allow them to be. Only through the study of God's Word will you be able to identify what is from God! And if you don't read it, how will you know??? Devote yourself to the Word of God and the Power of God will sustain you!

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There are 1000 Bibles on today's suggestion is the "Life Application Study Bible" - King James Version. They range in price from $20 - $80 - depending on your choice of print, cover, etc...It is the most widely used study bible out there. When you start to read - begin in the Gospel of Mark first...his is the simplest to get through - then you can either go to John's Gospel or to Genesis. But don't give up and don't stop! What ever "Godly" path you choose in your life, you will meet resistance from Satan - he will hurl things at you that you can't even imagine - stand strong in the faith that you have in Christ's gift of salvation and ask for strength - you'll be just fine!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

~ "I need a bandaid - again..."

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

"And the Word was made flesh..." - WOW! Imagine that! God thought so much of us that he came to earth in human form and to show us that he loves us, then went to the cross and died for us! We must be pretty special for him to do that!

The fact that Christ lived among us, as one of us, should tell you that he understands when we pray! He "gets it" - when our hearts are breaking, when our joy is overflowing - he's been here, he knows!

He also knows what we are capable of, otherwise he would not have commanded that we act accordingly. We may be wretched sinners but can still strive to be the perfect saints! We aren't supposed to "give up" - we keep on trying! If we gave up every time we fell while learning to walk, we'd be lumps still sitting on the floor of our mother's kitchen. We eventually were able to maintain our balance and put a series of steps together. But as children, we still fell - how many of you escaped without the super large bandaid across one or both knees? I know I didn't! And even now, at the age of 53, I still trip over things that aren't there and sometimes face-plant into the floor or the grass in my yard, I get up and look around to see if anyone is watching (or laughing), dust myself off and continue on as though nothing happened! The cuts heal and the bruises fade, but I am wiser and less careless because of it!

Leading a Christian life is learning to walk! It's learning to walk in the "Word". It's not a coat we take out and put on to wear to church on Sunday mornings. It is our way of life. In every aspect of every breath we take, we emulate Jesus' life upon the earth. And there is always room for improvement! There is always the risk of falling or stumbling. We will make mistakes, we will get hurt, we will hurt others. Just as our parents would say "this is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you", we will respond to certain situations in a manner that may present as being "cold" or "callous" because our faith in God tells us to "fear not". Some people don't want to hear what God has to say on certain matters, they just want someone to agree with their point of view. They want justification for their actions, and sometimes there just isn't any.

Whether we stumble over a pebble, or go rolling down a steep embankment and end up in a ditch, we still have the power to pull ourselves up and continue to walk in the Word. We have Christ's assurance that he will neither leave, nor forsake us. It may be a long, painful journey at times, but we are guaranteed a successful ending to the journey. I will be bruised and bandaged when I reach the gates of heaven and see my Savior's face! He will comfort me and reward me and I in turn will worship him ~ not from "afar" - but right there at his nail scared feet! Dare to walk!!!

(photo by Lorie Bradley)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

~ "Feed the poor...done; clothe the naked...done...."

It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. (Rom 9:16)

Once again, in this verse, Paul tells us that it is nothing that we do that opens the door to heaven for us - it is only through God's mercy! Why is it that some people think they can continue to live sinful lives and that their contributions to charities and the poor will be what saves their souls?

It comes from ignorance. It comes from being part of a "cult" that does not encourage you to read and study God's Word. It comes from looking for a way to justify an unholy life style. It comes from a point of superiority rather than humility.

You may say, "But Jesus tells us to feed the poor"...yes, he does! He also tells us to forego sexual immorality, adultery and numerous other "sins" of the flesh. Do we listen? Is that what we are dependent on to get us into heaven? He laid the ground rules (job description, if you will). He told us what is expected of us. We are tasked with making the effort. Some of our "sins" we will find the strength to overcome. some we will not - after all, that's what we are - sinners! Not one of us is better than the next, nor are our accomplishments. We do not get rewarded on our job for doing what we get paid to do ~ it's expected of us as employees. And we don't all perform at the same level, our employers take that into consideration as well. The requirement is to make the effort to do the job to the best of our ability!

Once the power of the Holy Spirit has been awakened within us, we DESIRE to do all those things, but it is not what "saves" us. We have a true "want" to be "Christ-like", to act in such a way that is pleasing to the Father. You cannot say "I'm saved" and then go and rob a bank, have an abortion or commit adultery. And don't think you are going to justify any of it to God - he's already covered that and there are no excuses! Those are the things we did before we were awakened to the gift of God's mercy! I know for myself, I cannot, in good conscience, flagrantly disregard what I know to be one of God's commands to me. The temptations the enemy presents sometimes are so enticing that I just want to say "God, please don't look"...but I don't. Why? Because even though I know that nothing I do will ever be good enough, I still want to please him. I want him to see that I am trying!

The shed blood of Christ is what saves us! Only that act by one, sinless man opens the gates of heaven! Anything you do, do for God's glory. If you give to the poor, it's for him. If you help an older person with the groceries, it's for him. If you swallow your pride and apologize for something you've done, it's for him! You don't need a pat on the back from any human being on this planet!

Stop holding on to the false teachings of your youth! Open your eyes and grab hold of the gift of salvation that comes to us through God's mercy! Stop worshiping your "idols" and bow down to the Father and praise his name! Stop allowing the enemy the power to waste your time praying to ANYONE but God, through Jesus! Read and study your Bible - KNOW the Word of God and act accordingly! Give to God what belongs to God - your praises, your love and your prayers!!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

~ "But you promised..."

Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. (Ps 119: 49-50)

The sufferings we endure on this planet are nothing compared to what Christ suffered, nor will they last forever - eventually they end and we will be in a place that is indescribable!!! God promised!!!

When my children were little (and some of them still do it to a certain extent), if my husband or I "suggested" that we might do something or take them someplace, it automatically was received and computed by their brain in such a way that when the event did not take place the words "but you promised" came rolling off their tongues. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to explain the difference between a "promise" and a "maybe". Fortunately, we both survived their childhoods!

God gives us promises through his Word. He spared Noah and his family from the great flood, led the Israelites to the Promised Land, protected Daniel in the lion's den, maintained the line of succession for Christ in Esther, sent his son to redeem all mankind from their sin, re-wrote the law to include all people as the "chosen" ones, and he has graciously told us how this story ends so that we will be prepared and have the facts to make an "informed decision" as to whether or not we want to follow!

God keeps his promises to us! The Holy Spirit leads us and we have a choice - to follow or make our own path! If we choose to remain in his mercy and grace, no matter what the road ahead of us holds, we know what is at the end of it. It is a hard road, no question about it. It's not supposed to be easy. God never promised "easy". We forget why we are here, what it is we are supposed to be doing while we wait. We are to do HIS work! We are HIS servants! Christ, the King of Kings, the God of Heaven and Earth, the healer, the blessed one - came to earth as a servant of all men! He stepped away from his kingdom and was born to the poorest of the poor, in a place neither you nor I would ever consider laying one of our children to sleep - to show us how it is to be done! He is our example! He is the ideal we should be striving for. We will never find complete and utter happiness on earth - only when we reach the grave will we rest and receive our reward! The prayer we all pray at one time or another: "Lord, I just want to be happy" will come! Some of us are blessed and receive some of that "happiness" while on earth - but we are all promised it in the end if we follow the way of the cross! Its not about what he can do for us while we are on earth (we deserve nothing) - it's about what we can do for him while we are here! Our road is harder because our rewards are greater...

God's promise does preserve my life - my eternal life! Whatever I have here on earth is a blessing to see me through until that promise is fulfilled! He will give me what I need to make that journey so long as I believe, hold fast to the faith he's given me through the Holy Spirit and serve and worship him!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

~ "One Last Christmas..."

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matt 6:3-4)

I know that this is a bit out of character for my daily devotional, but the song and the story so moved me, that I felt it was worth sharing. This Christmas Season, remember the "Reason for the Season" - the birth of our Savior - who came to earth to give us a gift - eternal life through his death and resurrection. As many of you know, last year I was touched by another one of Matthew West's songs - "Give this Christmas Away" and joined in Operation Christmas Child (sponsors through Samaritan's Purse) and collected 54 boxes for children who would not have had a Christmas. This year, once again, Matthew's devotion to God has poured through in this song, thus giving way to my support of this project.

God has a plan for each of us ~ a child can touch your heart long after he leaves this world to be with the Father in heaven. It's the season of giving...

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This is the video and my new Christmas song - "One Last Christmas." This song is inspired by the true story of the Locke family and their son Dax.

At just thirteen months old, little Dax was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia. He was given two bone marrow transplants as a part of emergency treatment; one from each of his parents. The doctors then told his parents that Dax would most likely not make it to see Christmas.

This song is about the love of a family, and the coming together of an entire community to make sure that this little boy could have one last Christmas. His dad, determined that his son would see Christmas, put up the decorations early. The neighborhood caught on, and did the same. The whole town soon followed suit. A website was built telling his story. Soon, pictures were sent from all over the world of Christmas decorations that had been put up in his honor.

Dax did lose his battle with Leukemia, but not before he got to see one last Christmas. Today, this little boy's legacy lives on, and his parents are making sure it does. They were so touched by the care they received from St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, that they now have a desire to raise enough money to run the entire hospital for one day in honor of their son, Dax. The total cost to run St. Jude's for one day is $1.6 million dollars. Already, they have raised a quarter of a million dollars.

This Christmas, it is on my heart to join forces with the Locke family, and help them in their cause. I would like to encourage you to join us in raising money that will go to an amazing cause in St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital that cares for so many children each year.

To donate now to St. Jude's in memory of Dax please visit:

To read more of Dax's story visit:

Together, we can reach this goal -- and fund St. Jude's for an entire day in Dax Locke's memory!

-Matthew West

Saturday, December 4, 2010

~ "Doubt - the enemy = FAITH..."

Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. (1 John 4:13)

We are told that we are not alone and not forgotten. I've spent the past couple of days totally engrossed in the Word ~ I love His word! I love him! I love to hear about the things he does in the lives of others and I love to tell what he's done in mine!

Last night, a group of women from my church gathered at a small, quiet restaurant to celebrate and give thanks. The testimony offered of the wonderful things the Lord is doing in one woman's life brought tears to her eyes and to many in the room. The joy and sincerity in her praises causes me to reflect on the road ahead of me. The love I feel when I'm in the presence of some of these women is something I've never experienced. I am going to miss them. And in that fraction of a moment, Satan sneaks in and plants a seed of doubt! Is this REALLY what God wants for me? Does he really want me to pack up and leave this? Yes, he does! It is time.

The enemy will do all that he can to keep us off the path that God has for us! He will tempt us with many things. He will whisper words of doubt into our ears in order to keep us from fulfilling God's plan. But we have a place to go to KNOW God's plan for us ~ his Word! You only need read one verse to eliminate any and all doubt from your mind or your heart.

Wherever we go, whatever we do, we are in him and he in us. We do not go alone! The Holy Spirit truly does live within us and it is there where we draw our strength. Right now, I can't imagine finding a fellowship anywhere else like the one I am a part of. Then again, three years ago, I would have said the same thing. God's plans for us always move us forward, never backward! He only increases our blessings, he does not take them away. Even when the door "seems" to be closing, he will remind you that it is not yet closed and that he is, in fact, in control! Don't allow the enemy to close a door that God has opened by doubting the promise given to you! Rise to the challenge! Draw from the Spirit! Keep going back for more if you need to, but don't give up and don't give in! God's promises are steadfast and secure - they are built on a solid foundation! Take doubt out of the equation and your faith is what remains! And it is more than enough to accomplish whatever it is God has for you!

Praise him, honor him, love him, have faith in him - but don't doubt him! He WILL guide your footsteps all the way to the gate - if you let him!

Friday, December 3, 2010

~"Do what you're called to do..."

For if you altogether hold your peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but you and your father's house shall be destroyed: and who knows whether you are come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14)

When the opportunity presents itself for you to be a hero for God, what will you do? Will you boldly answer it or will you pawn it off on someone else? Will you worry about your own reputation among your peers or will you stand up and stand firm?

It's not "someone else's job" to spread the Good News - it's YOURS! Each of us, as Christians (i.e. "followers" of Christ) we are instructed to tell others about him. It's not going to church on Sunday and dropping your check in the offering plate. It's not being the best dressed in the sanctuary, nor is it having the biggest smile screwed to your face while fighting back the pain you are in so that no one knows. It's doing as Christ did ~ key word here: doing!!!

All things will happen as they are supposed to happen. God will claim victory in the end. Satan will be defeated. Just as Esther was afforded the opportunity to deliver the Jews in the time of King Ahasuerus, thus preserving the line of which Jesus would be born, the King's scepter is also being held out to you! Had Esther not answered the call that came to her through Mordecai, someone else would have. God's plan will unfold whether you choose to be a part of it or not! So why would you choose to be on the losing team?

Whether you get the giant trophy, the ring with the precious stone in it, or just your name in the commemorative booklet, be part of the winning team! Do your part in the spreading of the Gospel of Christ! We are all called to do something! Find what it is and do it! Stop dragging your feet and sliding on the coattails of the guy in front of you. Be an "Esther" ~ change the course of your own history with one word...say "YES" to the calling placed on you as a Christian! Say "YES" to the voice that has died for you! Say "YES" to the one who created you! Stop trying to "keep up appearances" and looking as though you walked out of fashion magazine. This may be exactly why you are in this place at this time! Be a Nike commercial ~ just do it!

(photo by Lorie Bradley)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

~ "Be prepared..."

For I have five brothers; that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham said to him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. (Luke 16:28-29)

Some of us receive messages from God throughout our lives; many with more frequency than others could imagine. We are thought by some to be a little crazy when we witness about these "messages". Let me assure you, they do occur and they are real - but they come to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I was taught as a child to pray to and for dead people. Maybe it was to comfort me in their absence, maybe it was out of ignorance on the part of the teacher (which would then bring into question all the teachings they taught). If you read John's entire account of the "Rich Man and Lazarus", it will put to rest those teachings.

Jesus tells us to pray only to the Father, through him! He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us as we walk the path laid before us. What more do we need? Why are we so obsessed with "knowing" our future? Why do some reach out for communication with the dead? What is it that we want them to tell us? And when we do believe that they have "spoken" to us, why is that not enough? (I so love it when the Lord turns on the light...)

Our loved ones are one of two places: heaven or hell - period. There's no middle ground, there's no "praying them into heaven from purgatory", they were either "known" or "not known" to God when they stood before him. There is no hope for them if they were not saved ~ but their life on earth should serve as a lesson to those left behind. Christ tells us, he begs us, he commands us to follow HIM - no one else! Satan's realm is on earth. His deceptive powers are greater (much greater and more cunning) than you could possibly imagine! The trickery he uses is sometimes so sweet and so tasty that we, too, bite into that apple. Trust in what Jesus has told us, trust in the Holy Spirit to lead you, because the antichrist is real, and he will tell you that he is the your eyes and focus on the Word of God - then you will know!

2 John 1: 7-11 tells us this: "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have worked, but that we receive a full reward. Whoever transgresses, and stays not in the doctrine of Christ, has not God. He that stays in the doctrine of Christ, he has both the Father and the Son. If there come any to you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that bids him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."

Be prepared...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

~ "I think this would look better over there..."

That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters into that within the veil; Where the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. (Heb 6:18-20)

The promise lies in the cross! Through baptism we repent of our sins, through Jesus' death and resurrection we are offered salvation! The sacrifice offered for our souls is not one to be taken lightly. The living God, himself, came to earth and paid for something he did not commit - sin!

Every one of us is born to sin. Our eyes were opened long before we were conceived. Whether we tell a lie, set a fire, cause the death of another - it's all sin. Our gossip, our sick humor, our insensitivity towards others - sin! Every moment of every day is an opportunity to ask for forgiveness. But remember, the clock continues to tick...

There is nothing that God cannot forgive! There is nothing that is impossible for him! He reminds us of that many times over. He caused the entire planet to be covered with water and destroyed the multitudes. He caused the Pharaoh's army to be swallowed up in the Red Sea. He tested Abraham's devotion to him by suggesting he offer his son as a sacrifice. He came to earth in human form to open the gates of heaven by allowing the crucifixion to take place. He raised men dead in tombs, he walked on the water and he moves mountains!

Many of the "mountains" that he moves are not realized by anyone other than the individual he moved it for. He orchestrates his symphony of life for us with such attention to detail, that it is almost impossible to not see his hand at work. The "coincidences" we see in our lives are "confirmations" of a greater purpose, a brighter tomorrow granted us through Christ! When we set our focus on God's plan for us, we will see those mountains move. Sometimes they move slowly, sometimes rapidly - but in either instance, they do move!!!

To walk in the shadow of greatness is a blessing. There is a peacefulness that surrounds you when you know that God's design cannot be measured, nor can it be touched. Know what you know!!! The pieces fall into place like the scattered notes on a sheet of music. Each note by itself creates only one sound - put them together and you have a masterpiece! So is the life he has laid before each of us. Let him do what he needs to do in you and those around you. Do what he commands you to do and you will be the person who when you put your feet on the floor in the morning, causes the enemy to tremble! Let him move mountains for you ~ he moves them for me!