Thursday, March 31, 2011

~ "Unlimited supply, free for the asking..."

For I [am] the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. (Malachi 3:6)

He is always the same. God never changes. From the time he created the earth and its inhabitants, to the present day, he remains exactly as he was and always will be - a loving, merciful King!

Unlike many religions, that "evolve" to fit the changing times, God is steadfast and consistent. His laws, his "rules" remain the same. What was true 4,000 years ago is still true today - what was wrong 4,000 years ago is still wrong today - the mercy and grace he bestowed on our forefathers and the generations that have come before us, he still offers to us today. He is the great "I AM".

The book of Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament. His writings remind us (just as they did the Jews) of our willful disobedience. Like them, we have shown "contempt for God's name, offered defiled sacrifices, led others into sin, broken God's laws, called "evil" good, kept God's tithes and offerings for ourselves and become arrogant." (LASB-KJV) Yet among the wretched, there were and are a few faithful followers, and God did and will shower his blessings upon these people. But not all will see the light, nor will they repent and without that there is no Kingdom for them to inherit.

God calls us to be true to his word, to be faithful in our giving, to be strong in our beliefs and to not waiver. His "church" is not a building, nor is it a certain denomination - his church is built on Christ and his sacrifice and those who believe and follow will inherit. Anything that is in direct disagreement with God's commands is not of God! Again - God remains the same (as do his laws and his commands to us). If your "religion" keeps changing the rules to meet the changing times, my suggestion to you (quoting Pastor Charles Brooks) is to "run for your life!!!"

Be very aware that the enemy wanders freely in some denominations. The praise to God is so overshadowed by the worship and praise to idols and false gods that it becomes impossible to believe that God is even present there at all (but since God is everywhere, he must be there). Salvation and the answer to prayers comes from God through Jesus - by no other means. When you die, you are either in or out - there's no "praying you into heaven", there's not a period of penance nor is there a measuring stick you are compared to - if there were - you wouldn't "measure up" - none of us would!

Give to God what rightly belongs to him: your prayers, your praise, your tithes and your soul! Help others along the way, but do not stop and be convinced to take a detour down their path. Make the effort to have them come with you - to follow Christ! Never stop offering them the way of the cross, never give up! They are worth it - we are all worth something to God, otherwise he would not have sent Jesus to pay the price! And it's not a "buy one - get one free" deal ~ you can't get it for someone, they have to ask for it themselves. Offer them the coupon that entitles them to "eternal life", the coupon that "conquered the grave" - the one that expires upon their last breath - offer them Jesus!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

~ "Made in 'His Image'..."

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)

In this verse, Jesus tells us, without hesitation and without any doubt, one of the "musts" to enter the kingdom. But what does it mean???

Scofield writes: "The necessity of the new birth grows out of the incapacity of the natural man to "see" or "enter into" the kingdom of God. However gifted, moral, or refined, the natural man is absolutely blind to spiritual truth, and impotent to enter the kingdom; for he can neither obey, understand, nor please God". In other words - as we are, we are not worthy - Christ's death and resurrection makes it possible! The nature of our very existence (sin) prevents us from ever fully obeying God's commandments. We can try, we can keep some of them, but chances are we fail. Why? Because we are human. We carry with us the sin of Adam and Eve, who faced temptation and failed miserably. There is a price to be paid for that. It was paid - by Jesus himself when he died on the cross.

History teaches us that many generations have failed at keeping the law of God. History also teaches us (or at least tries to) that God does not bargain. He keeps his word and applies the same measure of to all. None of us is worthy. He is impartial and yet forgiving; his is rigid, yet loving; he asks nothing of us that cannot be accomplished. He asks us for honor and praise, to worship and glorify him and in return he offers us life!

Jesus tells us what it is we are to do and he tells us why. If you can't grasp even the simplest truths, how can you ever hope to understand the magnitude of his mercy? Growing up, any question that could not be answered was responded to with 3 words: "It's a mystery!" I assure you, the answers to all of those mysteries are written down - they are in the Bible - you just need to read it.

We have all tried, at one time or another, to put that six million piece entertainment center together without reading the instruction. We have the "general idea" of how it goes together, we even have a picture to refer to. We assume that there are about 5 million parts we don't really need, so we assemble the thing the way WE think it should go, only to place that $1200 television on it and watch in disbelief as the entire thing comes crashing to the floor. Then we have the audacity to blame the cheap or shoddy workmanship for our own stupidity. If only we had taken the time and had the patience to read the instructions, follow the directions and build it step by step, using all the parts supplied, we would not only have a beautiful piece of furniture, we'd still have that television to put on it.

There are no "extra" or "optional" commands in God's instructions to us. Everything we need to know, what it is we need to do are in his instruction manual. And no more than we could use the instructions from a wagon to assemble a truck, can we use "excerpts" of the Bible to show us the steps to the Kingdom. Don't take for granted that what you "know" will be good enough. Don't assume that God will "let you slide" because of what you were taught or how you were raised. If you've read this post, you have no excuse. You've been told! If you refuse to follow his instructions, continue to seek answers to questions to justify your own actions, you will stand before him and not be known. Stop looking at what others are doing and focus on what you aren't doing. Stop trying to "justify" your actions and "rectify" them. Repent, resolve and rejoice! Let go of what it is that is holding you back from realizing a life filled with the love of God! Open your eyes and see!!!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

~ "Going my way???"

But the Lord said to him, Go your way: for he is a chosen vessel to me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel (Acts 9:15)

Matthew Henry tells us "The teaching of the Holy Spirit takes away the scales of ignorance and pride from the understanding; then the sinner becomes a new creature, and endeavours to recommend the anointed Saviour, the Son of God, to his former companions." Amazingly enough (or not), I had this conversation with someone yesterday. I don't think it gets any clearer than this - this IS what happens when Christ comes into your life! Just as Saul was thrown to the ground and blinded, we, too, experience that overwhelming desire to WANT to do for God! We change - in that moment, Saul became Paul and spent the remainder of his life preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ! In that instant, our focus changes, our "epiphany" takes place and we become HIS! He guides us, he leads us and he strengthens us in our journey. The desire to know more and to tell others about what he has done for you becomes the focus of your earthly existence. That is not to say that your responsibilities (work, home, family, friends) do not enter the picture. Even Jesus enjoyed the company of his family and friends, the occasional celebration and I am sure, a laugh or two. But until you are ready to accept this particular responsibility, it will allude you. You cannot have it both ways. It's either a worldly life or a Christ-inspired life!

The closer you get to it, the more Satan will attack. He does not want you to "give up the ghost" of what has become his playground for many years. He will fight tooth and nail to keep you in his clutches. Only through the strength afforded us through Jesus, can we walk, without hesitation, into the waiting arms of our Savior. The desire (bordering on obsession - but in a good way) to know more about the love of God, the sacrifice of Christ and the message he has for us becomes your focus! Nothing else matters simply because nothing else lasts! When you finally put God first, and follow the path he lays before you, everything falls into place as it is supposed to!

If you don't have a desire to grow spiritually, if you are still living your life in a manner that takes the focus off yourself and places it on him (in an effort to judge his commands to us), if you are picking and choosing which portions of the Bible apply to you, then think are still lost! The fact that you are questioning anything that God offers you should tell you your faith in him is not what it should be.

The Bible IS the word of God -it's not someone's interpretation of events that transpired years ago - it's what's been written by the prophets and the apostles. Even Jews believe the Old Testament to be the Word of God - the Old Testament is a Christian translation of the Jewish "Tanakh". If you don't read it and don't study it, if you don't attend a service that preaches it, you will never grow in FAITH!

Stop looking for the answers that YOU want, look for the truth in the WAY! He is a loving God, a mighty God but he is also a God who demands obedience! He knows that we are not perfect, but with the strength that comes through the Holy Spirit, sent to us by Christ Jesus, we can and do change! Ask him, fervently and sincerely, with all that is within you, to come into your heart and take hold of your soul! Ask him to pour out his healing spirit on you and bring you to your knees - for it is there, and only there, that you will find what it is you seek!

Monday, March 28, 2011

~ "Morning calisthenics..."

For bodily exercise profits little: but godliness is profitable to all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. (1 Tim 4:8)

This afternoon I will be meeting my son and accepting his gift of a gym membership that will take me through the next four months. I have not been to a gym since before I was divorced. I love walking on the treadmill, riding the bicycle and doing water aerobics. "But you can walk and ride a bike without a gym membership, why would you waste your money on that?" Let's just say that it has been my experience (over and over again) that I cannot gauge my own limits when it comes to physical activity. I exhaust quickly and then I am faced with the journey back to where I started. I don't have to do that on a treadmill. I just step off and I'm there!

I don't discourage people from working out, because we are told to keep our bodies in good condition. So many people are "addicted" to working out and looking great. There's nothing wrong with either - the danger comes when that is ALL you do. We tend to worry about our outward appearances when it is what's inside that we should be concerned with. We remind each other that beauty is only skin deep and that we should look to what is on "the inside" of a person (no, not the structure of their DNA).

Paul tells Timothy in this letter that "godliness" is more important that exercise. We know that no matter what we do here on earth, we will die and our bodies will revert to the dust from which it came (in theory, anyway - we've managed to delay that occurrence by the process of embalming). What does not rot, what does not fade away, what lives on forever is our soul! The part of us that is the essence of God will never die! It would stand to reason that we should take better care of our spiritual well-being than our physical well being - but most people don't put as much energy into that as they put into their weight lifting and body building routine.

Spend time with the Lord. Sit down, open his book and read his word. Take the scripture verse of your favorite daily devotional and read the verses around it. Meditate on what is being conveyed in that teaching. Focus on God and his greatness and his power; focus on the mercy he has shown you. Exercise your soul - pray! Exercise your mind - praise! Exercise your heart - love! Exercise your hands - give! Let Jesus be your trainer, let the Word be your manual, let Heaven be your finish line! God wants to welcome you to the winner's circle - prepare to be there and be showered with blessings!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

~ "Jesus, take the wheel..."

And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. (Luke 18:27)

When we constantly feel like we cannot do anything right, when those around us make assumptions and offer the unsolicited criticisms of our lives, when we know deep inside that we aren't living the life we should be or the life we've been "called" to live, when we cry out for answers and can't seem to find them - that is when its time to let Jesus into your life, once and for all!!!

We are all searching for something. Some want financial security (or wealth), some want the perfect job, some want a spouse to "live happily ever after" with, and some just want to be happy. What ever it is you are searching for, you aren't going to find it unless you give yourself over to the Lord. Sure, you may have a great house, a fantastic income and even a wonderful mate (that you probably don't appreciate) - you are never going to be completely happy until you submit to the conviction that God has you under! Yes, I'm talking to you...

I am a "seed planter" - that's my job! I share with you all the wonderful things that can and will happen to you if you accept Jesus into your heart, into your life and lead a life that pleases him. You may think that you "know God" - chances are you know who he is. To you, he has become one of the 500 friends you have on Facebook, or other social networking sites - he's the friend request you accepted simply because you didn't want to hurt his feelings by hitting the "ignore" button. Or perhaps, you added him so you could say "oh yes, he's my friend". Occasionally you visit his page, maybe "like" one of his status lines, leave him a small "token" message (so he doesn't delete you for not interacting with him). You may think you know him simply because he's there on your profile page under the list of "friends". The fact of the matter is, he has been desperately trying to interact with you for quite some time and you keep scrolling by...

God has a way of bringing us to our knees. He offers of a glimpse of what we might have if we submit to his authority - he tells us, with graphic detail, what we WILL have if we refuse. You wonder what it is you are doing wrong; why is your life so miserable, or "why me". You know you aren't as "bad" as some of the people you know (especially the ones who seem to have all the money, the great cars, the good jobs, the perfect "date") - you try to live your life as a "good person" - well, my friend, good isn't good enough! Live your life as JESUS would have you to live it and things WILL change. Accept the gift he is offering you! His is much better than anything you can buy here on earth. And chances are, once you've truly accepted him into your life, that this existence you've been calling "living" will take on a whole new meaning. Your perspective will change. Why do you care what your friends and family think about you? Why is it such a big deal if they laugh at you because you've committed the care of your earthly life to Jesus? I have a new flash for you - you are in great company - they laughed at Jesus too!

Stop where you are and get off this destructive road you are on. Take the one that leads to your eternal reward - put Jesus in the driver's seat - commit yourself to his road, no one else' will never find the happiness you seek - the happiness your friends SEEM to have - because your friends refuse to accept his love - they are on a different road - they are not destined for the Kingdom of God - they are driving themselves straight into hell. If that's the path you want, really want to take - if Satan is who you want to serve, then continue on. But if you are looking for the best, the one and only "accept no substitution" keeper of the Kingdom, then let Jesus take the wheel and steer you towards his rewards for you!!!

(photo by Colleen Costello)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

~ "I had a dream..."

And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. (Luke 1:45)

We are never out of God's sight. Our thoughts and prayers reach out to him no matter where we are and no matter what time it is. We can be wide awake or sound asleep. I've held back on this post for months, once again, I'm going to try and finish it. If it's part of HIS plan, it will be posted - if not, it won't - its just that simple.

God calls us to live better lives and to make that life an example of his love. What we do for his glory returns to us in the form of blessings. He communicates with us through his word, through others and sometimes directly. He WILL tell you what you need to know. Our faith in him and his promises are the cornerstone of our walk with him. Without faith in Jesus, without faith in his word, and without faith that he can do ALL things, we cannot realize the plan he has for us! Nothing is impossible for him!

We think in human terms - linear, probability, statistically, and dimensionally...we think INSIDE the box. God works OUTSIDE the box. The capabilities of our Lord do not fit any standard we can conceive. The accomplishments attained that are outside the box are what we call miracles. How many times have we said "it would take a miracle"??? Well, God still works miracles ever day! I've seen them, I've experienced them and I believe in them and all the possibilities that exist because of that belief. He has reasons for granting and not granting our earnest prayers. Sometimes he says "yes", sometimes he says "no", and sometimes he says "wait".

If you open your heart and soul to what HE wants for you, as opposed to what you want for yourself, some wonderful things will begin to take place. No, not all of your dreams will come true, and sometimes many changes must take place in order for that prayer to be answered. I pray each day for an "unspoken" request. There's a handful of people who know the nature of that request. Occasionally, God will let me know he has not forgotten me and that he will keep his promise. And every time I begin to put it away and walk away from it, he brings me right back to in without any doubts that it is his intention to grant that request...just not now!

My love for God never waivers, my faith in him grows every day. Allow him to work in you and through you. Let those around you see the power of God. Offer your life as a testimony to his power! Live it as he wants you to live it. Don't be afraid to praise him out loud. Don't be too proud to kneel before him and offer your thanks. Put your pretentious attitude on the back burner and be the submissive child he wants you to be. Offer all that you have and all that you are to HIM!!! He will bless you and watch over you. He will hold you up in your time of need and he will give your the gifts he has set aside for you. Continue to walk in his will and you, too, will be blessed...believe that there is nothing he cannot do; believe in his promises to you!

Friday, March 25, 2011

~ "Get the effigies outta here..."

And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went. (Gen 35:3)

"When we have vowed a vow to God, it is best not to defer the payment of it; yet better late than never" (Matthew Henry). Jacob knew he had to do "his" part. Jacob collected all the idols and "strange gods" in his house in order to be right with God. I don't think a lot of you realize the amount of idols and strange gods you have in YOUR house! Take an inventory - you'll be very surprised...

How often do we forget to do "our" part? I used to do that continuously - pray, offer a "barter" for an answered prayer and forget (or just decide not to) live up to my promises. Those were the prayers I refer to as the "Getmeouts" (God, if you 'get me out' of this one...). I don't pray those any more.

Today I offer a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God, through Jesus! I ask for guidance and wisdom to discern his voice from the voice of the enemy. When I fall short of my own expectations and request that he bring me back into his presence (of which I was never out of in the first place), the comfort and warmth that I feel around me cannot be described. It's an awesome experience to feel the presences of God.

Although we cannot all do as Jacob did and build an altar to God, we can make a place for him in our hearts and a place for him in our homes. No, you do not need to build a shrine. A place to worship...a place to go and offer your prayers - a "prayer closet" - a quiet, undisturbed place without distraction. A place that becomes your own, personal sanctuary. Do not fill it with statues and crosses or crucifixes (as they tend to be distracting - and yes, I know what goes through your mind - you will most likely focus on these things instead of your prayers - I've been there, so leave them out...besides, the idea is to talk to God and worship him - not some tacky replica of someone who can't help you and does not hear your prayers).

Go to the Lord your God in prayer and thanksgiving EVERY chance you get. Make time for him and be comforted in knowing HE HEARS YOU!!! Tear down the walls you have built between yourself and God - get rid of the "false gods" and the "man-made idols" - stop offering sacrifices (prayers) to anyone other than God - ask all things through Jesus' name (no one elses) - he's the only one who can offer you salvation! He's the only one who can take your prayers to the Father! Don't let the enemy have any more ground than he already has! Give your life over to Jesus! Live for him, after all, he died for you!!!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

~ "It's time to put God back in the driver's seat..."

My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. (Ps 84:2)

We need God in our lives. Our forefathers knew this, which is why this country's foundation was firmly planted in God. They knew the value of faith, belief in our Creator and the reward for serving him, not a mortal King! Throughout this history of the United States, God played a part, a very important part. His name and his presence were welcomed into every building and home, into every business and school, without hesitation. The "sabbath" was respected, the Bible was a guide to a better life and life in America was good!

Every nation that has risen to greatness, has done so with the Lord leading them. Every great nation that has fallen, has forgotten that they got there by the mercy and grace of God. We will be one of those nations if we do not turn back to him!

David (we assume he wrote this Psalm) longed to be in the presence of God. He longed to be, once again, in the "tabernacle". Matthew Henry writes: "The psalmist here with great devotion expresses his affection, to the ordinances of God; his value for them, his desire towards them , his conviction of the happiness of those that did enjoy them, and his placing his own happiness so very much in the enjoyment of them, AND to the God of the ordinances; his desire towards him, his faith in him, and his conviction of the happiness of those that put their confidence in him.

We, too, should have the same devout affections working towards God that David had. Our desires to please and serve him should come before anything else we do. We should not sit quietly and watch as our God is taken from us by the "kings" of this country. No, we do not have to drag out the soap box or march in protest of certain "atheistic" practices...prayer is a much more powerful tool in fighting the enemy! God demands our loyalty. The wages of sin IS death, but death has been overcome by one for all. Stand tall, stand firm, stand on the rock of salvation and you will see the face of God and live!!! Pray for this country's leaders, that they will turn to God and rebuild this nation so that it will have the power and strength our forefathers wanted for it! Pray for "one nation under God"!!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

~ "He reigns..."

But the LORD shall endure for ever: he hath prepared his throne for judgment. (Ps 9:7)

I was asked a question last night that I wasn't quite sure how to answer. The question was "why are you so religious?" Ironically, I don't see myself as "religious".

What I do and how I live my life are as natural to me as leaves are to a tree. It's just the way it is. Some people tell me I'm "obsessed" with God - not a bad thing in my opinion. Some people just don't want to be bothered with me (and that's okay too). Some people are curious as to what exactly it is that I have now that I didn't have 4 years ago. Some people want what I have but don't want to surrender anything in order to achieve it. Some people just don't care.

When all is said and done, when the final judgement comes, I will be (without any doubt) standing before my Creator with the Prince of Peace standing beside me telling the Father "I know her, she knows me and her debt has been paid - see the scars in my hand - although she put them there, she is forgiven."

I don't recall who said it and in what context it was said but the practice of being indebted to the person who saves your life, in this particular instance, is appropriate. Jesus died on a cross for me, thus "saving" me from the fires of hell. He has, in fact, saved my life! There is nothing I would not do for him. He has given me the same gift he offers to everyone! All he asks is that I serve him!

When judgement comes, will you be able to stand tall in the shadow of Jesus? Will he tell the Father that he knows you? Will he shield you from the destiny that it rightfully deserved? My prayer is that each person who reads this post who has not already dropped to their knees and asked Jesus into their heart will do so. My prayer for those who have been humbled before the King of Kings will continue to look to him for everything. I am "religious" simply because he calls me to be! This man, Jesus, has loved me for a very long time. I could never love him nearly as much! So I will continue to pray, lift my hands in praise and share with everyone (be it through words - spoken or written, or through actions) what he has done for me and what he can do for you!

I hope that this answers the question as to "why". You can still enjoy the pleasures of this world (to an extent and with definite limitations) if you belong to the body of Christ! I don't love Jesus out of fear of dying and going to hell. I love him simply because he is who he is - my KING!

(photo by Scarlett Hodge)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

~ "Seasons change..."

Hear me speedily, O LORD: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit. (Ps 143:7)

When life as you know it suddenly changes, it can be very depressing, especially if you follow a strict routine. Even if you know the change is a "good" change, re-acclimating yourself and finding a new routine may take time and adjustment. We tend to look at things from a perspective of what "works". Once we have a plan, we do many things without thinking. When we have to change that plan, we can stumble and fall, and we can fall into depression. Our Lord knows this! He's waiting for us to ask for his help.

The older we get, the harder it is to accept change in our lives. We are creatures of habit and comfort. We don't always recognize the stress that comes with change (in others, we are fully aware of the stress we feel). The ability to reach out to God during those times can be crucial. It tests the limits of our faith and the belief that things will get better. Be patient with those around you, your change affects them as well. There "routines" have also been disrupted.

Don't allow anyone to bring you to a point where you are so weak and tired that your spirit becomes blackened with emotional pain. Knowing that everything in God's plan is good and that he understands completely where you are is often the only consoling factor in your existence at any given time. Lift up your eyes to the heavens and ask for the strength to continue on. Ask God to help you walk a little further each day until you find the peace that does come in change. Wishing things could be the way they were is not going to enable you to make a "new" way. Take the good pieces of that part of your past and bring them into the present. Once firmly in place, you will, again, be able to walk into your future with your head held high, a smile on your face and a song in your heart!

God knows you are struggling! He's there to carry you if need be. Don't allow the enemy one inch of ground because he will continue to take until there is nothing left. Stand firm in your convictions and do not show one sign of surrender. The only one you should ever surrender to is Jesus! Surrender you heart and soul to his way and you will make a smooth transition. Take the time that you need to be comfortable in his new plan for you. Listen to the advice of your family and friends but rely on HIM to lead you. He loves you. Listen for his voice. He knows his sheep and his sheep know him. And above all, remember - he's brought you this far, he won't leave you here to fend for yourself!

(photo by Lisa Kessel)

Monday, March 21, 2011

~ "Time's up..."

And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. (Mark 1:15)

I love it when people tell me "oh, I have time to repent, Jesus isn't coming back today and I can always go to him on my death bed and be forgiven". It sends a cold chill up my spine and makes me shudder in disbelief at the audacity of the excuses some people have in not turning to the Lord! It makes me want to stand outside with a sign that reads "Mark 1:15" just so that some will google it to see what the verse is. Unfortunately, most of them would chuckle and go back to their solitaire game.

The time is NOW!!! Many have no problem praying when faced with sickness, loss of income, or trials. How quickly the attitude changes when the prayer is answered. Praying each and every day (whether life is "good" or not), reading and studying God's word, thanking him for all that we have and all he has taken from us, is what we are called to do! Believing the Gospel is to follow it's commands and make an honest attempt at living a dutiful life in service to the King. It's not something for "other" people to do - it's for each of us to do!

No, you don't have to get up before the sun and sit and write a devotional. No, you don't have to go door to door telling strangers that Jesus is Lord and that he's coming back. No, you don't have to spend 24/7 with your nose in the Bible. You do have to read it and implement it into your life. The expression "there is no time like the present" is well spoken with regard to your spiritual well-being. "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today" is another well thought out piece of advice. Create a new habit - set your alarm twenty minutes earlier. When it goes off, hit the "snooze" and spend the first nine minutes just talking to God. Thank him for allowing you to wake up. Thank him for the ability to get out of bed. Thank him for the bed you are able to get out of! When the alarm goes off again, hit the "snooze" again and grab your Bible off the night table. Read. Spend the next nine minutes in his word. When the alarm goes off again, get up, turn it off and continue on in your routine. You've just spent 18 minutes with God!

Find what works for you, but work at what you find. Give God the honor and glory for your successes and offer him the praises and thanksgiving he deserves. Don't be afraid to tell him you love him. Don't be afraid to lift your hands in praise! Allow him to strengthen and guide you throughout your day and do everything with the knowledge that he is glorified in what you do! Be a shining example of his goodness! Be who you need to be, for HIM!!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

~ "Mercies in disguise..."

Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets. (Luke 6:23)

Each morning, I thank God for saving me! I thank him for the wonderful opportunity he has given me to share his love with the world. No, my life is not a bowl of cherries. But again, it is not all pain and misery. It is, at times, not the "life" I would like it to be (I'm human, I have wants). There are challenges and obstacles that I'd rather not face. There are mountains I'd prefer not to move.

One day, and none of us knows for certain what day that will be, all of the suffering and desperation we face each day will melt away into the face of one more beautiful than anyone we have ever seen or ever imagined! One day we will rise without pain, walk without needing rest and sing in perfect pitch and harmony. One day we leap for joy and receive our inheritance! One day we will see peace! Sometimes the strength we need comes from knowing that this is not our home. Sometimes its knowing that there is a better place with a loving Father waiting to take us in and celebrate his joy that we have come home.

I sat yesterday and watched the leafless trees swaying in the breeze. I was awestruck when I realized that they were singing to their maker! Each branch, no matter where it's roots are planted, reaches toward the light. They reach up towards the heavens to where God is! This morning a noticed a solitary bud on a daffodil (my favorite by the way). It's laid dormant all winter and has come back to offer it's sweet smell and beauty to the world and to God.

All that we do on earth is seen. Our thoughts and our actions, though unnoticed by many, are not missed even among the flowers that bloom and the birds that sing. From the simplest to the greatest, our God sees it all. Every element in nature answers to him. Every raindrop that falls, does so at his command. His power is beyond that which we can comprehend, as is his love for us.

Do not allow that which is not from his hand disrupt your life. Do not let the temptations of the enemy take your eyes off the King. Keep focused on his blessings, knowing that the pain you suffer here, the rains that pour down, the sleepless nights, and the emptiness you feel just may be his mercies in disguise!!!

(photo by Sandra Wood)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

~ "Learn it, know it, LIVE it!!!"

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God [is] faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear [it]. (1 Cor 10:13)

I was asked a question yesterday with regard to being "saved" and still blatantly disregarding God's commands. The question was (in a nutshell): How can you say you are saved and still have an affair with a married person?

Part of my answer was very simple. I cannot and will not judge another person's spiritual relationship with God. I don't know who is saved and who is not. And it's not for me to decide if they are or not. What I can tell you is that the acceptance of God in you life changes you! Sin is what we are are. The temptations that we face come from the enemy (who is a very busy creature). What we do with those temptations, how we react and the feelings they stir come because we are human. We are fallible. God is not.

When the Holy Spirit is awakened within you, many changes begin to take place. As I've said before, things I once found humorous, I now find utterly disgusting. My priorities changed. My outlook changed. My desires changed. Why? Because the Holy Spirit of God is living in me - no longer laying dormant buried under a ton of indiscretion! Through constant prayer and the study of his word, I began to grow spiritually. What God tells us throughout the Bible is the blueprint to a life that is walked on his path. Salvation is not a light switch that you can turn on when you need to light up your life and turn off when you need to hide in the shadows. Far too many people have gotten the idea that it's okay to deliberately disobey God, confess those sins and move on the the next.

In all of our temptations, especially the little ones thrown at us, God offers us a way out - there is always an "escape pod". We are all tempted - in one way or another. What we choose to do when tempted defines the strength of our character and faith we have in our Creator! We cannot hope to even begin to know anything about God if we don't read his message to us! We don't get there by prayer alone, nor do we get there by constantly trying to outdo the guy next to us!

Place your focus on what it good, what is right - what is of God!!! Read his word daily! Study it and commit it to memory if you can! Ask him for the strength to overcome temptation. Go to him in prayer for everything (even if you think you know the answer). Be alert to the trappings designed to take you away from his will. They can come at you in the most beautiful forms! Don't be too quick to dismiss the knowledge others have gained through the reading and study of his word, when you yourself have not even bothered to open the book! There are no cliff notes available for this one and the abridged version leaves out details that are significantly important to the reader!

Put your life totally in his hands! Let him show you the beautiful life he has waiting for you. Don't waste your time worrying about someone else's salvation - worry about your own - and if you are questioning whether or not you are saved...well, let's just say that you may want to hit your knees and offer your life to him! You'll be amazed at what he can do, even with you!!!

Friday, March 18, 2011

~ "Blessings..."

And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. (Deut 28:2)

Not all blessings come to us in the form of joy or happiness. Most often, our greatest blessings come from disappointments, heartbreak and pain. There's been a lot of talk about the earthquake that rocked Japan recently. Where was God? Why did he do this? Why are these people being punished? The same phrases were uttered almost ten years ago when several planes slammed into buildings killing thousands of people and again just last year when the tsunami hit Haiti.

Our God is a loving God, but he is a stern and might God as well. "But what good can come out of these horrific events?" The blessings received from these "catastrophes" are as individual as the people affected by them. They also do not come immediately (some do, most don't). An ugly comment was posted to a link I shared of a Casting Crown's video of "If We Ever Needed You" inferring that "no sinners" were killed in the collapse of the Trade Center and that my faith and continued belief that God has a plan was "equine defecation". I beg to differ with the author of that comment - ALL those killed on that day were sinners!

Blessings come to us in many ways. They come for only one reason. Blessings come because God bestows them upon us. If it doesn't come from God, it is not a blessing. There are many people who (myself included) will tell you the most tragic events of their lives brought the greatest blessings. Over and over again our heavenly Father shows us his mercy. Some people are just too stubborn to accept it as such and become angry with God and turn away from him. I did. I came to a point where I thought "what kind of God would take a good man from his family and totally destroy another." I hated God, what he had done and what his "disaster" had caused. Then I walked away and began to indulge in things I should not have (making matters worse).

In all of that, I realized that God did not create that particular disaster, but he blessed me just the same. I would not trade the faith I have today for anything - and in order to reach this point in my life, I had to go through those events. Unlike some, I had to be brought to my knees and have everything I ever cared about taken from me. I had to rely on God completely! I had to allow him to change me and my faith in him had to grow. Without that single event, I would not have come to know him the way that I do today.

Take heart and know that there are blessings to be had through tears! Know that God is not "punishing" the people of Japan for bombing Pearl Harbor, it's not a "gay" thing and it's certainly not a "hate crime". He is offering them (and us) a wake-up call. Someday soon his mighty hand will reach down from the heavens and create hell on earth! Turning to him now would be a wise decision! Take that step, make that decision now! Offer him your devotion and praise - worship him and serve him! He is calling YOUR name! Will you answer the call???

Thursday, March 17, 2011

~ "Never, ever EVER give up!!!"

Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded. (2 Chronicles 15:7)

Sometimes we expect much more from ourselves than what we are capable of at any given time. Our wanting to be "perfect" is most often our downfall. When we cannot do things the way we'd like to, when we cannot devote the time and attention to our praises and prayers, we can become discouraged. We often think of others who seem to have it all together: the perfect prayer time, the consistency of their acts, the way it just "comes naturally" to some, yet not to us. If you are like me, you have to struggle to focus on what it is you are reading and not become distracted in the process. I can remember my feeble attempts at studying in high school. The project consisted of setting up my desk, having everything I would need at my fingertips (my soda, my cigarettes, etc). By the time I was ready to study, I'd already lost interest. Even some mornings still occur that way. I may go from the breakfast bar, to the table, to outside - and don't forget to refill the coffee at least twice. All the little things that distracted me from studying still distract me from praising God.

We will never get it right. We do not have the capability to be perfect, nor can we ever hope to attain it while on earth. I no longer strive for perfection. Each day I attempt to be a little more productive than the day before. I strive for progress. I can't afford to beat myself up when I fall short of my own expectations. God knows my heart. He knows that Satan will use whatever device he can to distract me. Even my own body turns against me at time. Making the effort sometimes is the best that I can do.

Reach deep into your being and pull out the parts that do not work right. Fill that void with all that is of God and each day you will find that it's not as difficult as you want to make it. We do that, for the most part, to excuse the defeat within ourselves. We make failure an option. Stop wandering from place to place and focus on what matters - God! Don't allow the enemy the opportunity to distract you from what it is you want to do and know you should do, but can't seem to do! Put it in God's hands, ask the Holy Spirit to bind Satan from your time in his presence. Take the time to walk and talk with the Creator. Take the time to read and study his word. Take the time to be a little bit more focused on Him and not the distractions of life that surround you. Be strong and receive your blessings with both hands lifted to him in praise and thanksgiving! He knows you are trying ~ he won't give up on you - so don't give up on him!!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

~ "Where are those righteous pajamas??? They were here a minute ago..."

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:20)

In the Old Testament, there were three categories of law: ceremonial law, civil law and moral law. Just as that law was misinterpreted then, the same can be said for today. Christ did not come (as he tells us) to destroy the law. We are still bound by the direct commands of God. Jesus followed the moral law - those Ten Commandments still apply. They reveal the nature and the will of God!

But it doesn't stop at following the law. The Pharisees were diligent in their attempt to follow the law, yet they were not "righteous" in so much as they were content to just follow the law and not allow God to change their hearts. It all comes back to the quality of our goodness, not the scorekeeping of how many good acts we perform.

God judges our hearts as well as our deeds. Our attitude (the part people can't see) is what God sees. Our goodness must come from what God does in us, not what we ourselves can do. The hand of God on our hearts is what changes us. Going through the motions will not get us into heaven. Following the law is not enough. The attitude we reflect IS God. Those keychains with the letters ... "WWJD" ... is where the difference comes in. The approval we seek needs to be that of our heavenly Father, not those around us patting us on the back for a job well done. If we are doing in order to make the statement "look at me" , then we aren't doing it the way God wants it done. Boasting is only righteous if we boast in the Lord...what HE has done, not what we have done.

Don't give in to your selfish and self-centered nature. Allow the Lord to work in you and through you. Give him all the glory. Remember that God's law is there as our guide as to what he expects from us. Jesus did not do away with it (many believe that the two commandments: "Love one another as I have loved you" and "Love thy brother as thyself" replaced the Ten Commandments handed down by God to Moses), he gave us a fuller understanding of what is expected of us. To be quite technical, if one follows those two commands, one will be following the Ten Commandments. It's important to know the "law", but it is equally as important to understand why it was made in the first place.

Put the focus of your life in its proper perspective. Follow the path that leads to righteousness, the one that Jesus took. Do for others because it is the right thing to do, not because you want God to see it and applaud your actions. Give until it hurts, pray until you are exhausted and love because Jesus did. Know that God sees it all and will reward you accordingly - and if you're doing it for the reward - stop and start again - do it for the right reason...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

~ "Look out below..."

But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by. Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. (Luke 21: 9-11)

It is not rocket science. Within the last ten years we have witnessed some of these phenomenon and some still doubt that we no longer approach the last days, but are, in fact, living in them. No, we do not know when that day will be, but suffice it to say it is not far off. Don't you think it's time to "get right" with God?

Throughout the history recorded in the Bible, God has given generation after generation the opportunity to come to him, be granted forgiveness and share in the gift of eternal life. More often than not, people turn away until the rain begins to fall and then bang relentlessly on the door begging to come in.

These events foretold by our Lord in Luke's Gospel are unfolding before our eyes. How much more subtile does God need to be before man? This is why it is important to read and study your Bible. This is where we learn the teachings of our God!

God will not change his mind, the scientists cannot prolong the time the earth has left to orbit the sun. Remember, the last time things on earth got this bad, God sent a flood! In comparison - I think the world today has far surpassed even the sinful natures of those who were destroyed then. Look around you! Tell me I'm wrong. Even God's most impressive visual sign to us is being used to portray a lifestyle that is in total defiance of His Word. Even the number of their sightings has dramatically increased since I was a child, or even a young adult. It is not a coincidence!

God has kept his promises throughout the ages. He has always done what he said he would do. Now, it's our turn to stand up and be the witnesses for Christ! It is our job to share the Gospel of truth - that Jesus IS the Messiah, that he died for our sins and still LIVES and he IS coming back to claim what it rightfully his! When the opportunity presents itself, offer the statement. Ask that stranger: "Did you know that Christ died for your sins?" That's all you have to do - it's a real conversation starter!

Keep you sights set on his kingdom. Whatever is coming WILL come. It's only a matter of time before God says "enough"!!! Be ready, be listening, be aware! The worst of the end is yet to come. Don't be left behind!

Monday, March 14, 2011

~ "Don't close your eyes..."

When the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD. (Ps 102:22)

Much can be said about living in the south. For one thing, at 7:45 am, I would not have been subjected to the constant rattle of the jackhammer less than fifty feet from the quiet of my "writing place". Why on earth people feel the need to disturb the world at that hour of the day is beyond me.

The one thing I knew would be a challenge was finding a church. Yesterday's experience was all but reminiscent of the days of my youth. As I told a friend, I was afraid to close my eyes for fear of falling asleep and snoring. I've become very accustomed to lifting my hands in praise, participating with an "Amen" and having a dynamic preacher who does not repeat the same thing over and over again. I also believe that the Word of God needs to be preached from an unedited version of the Bible. In all of that, trying to find something positive to focus on after my first new church visit, has left me with just this: where two or more are gathered...

We are encourage to worship and serve our God as a group as well as individually. There is great joy in being a part of God's family, especially when you gather together to celebrate his love! That was not the case yesterday. I found myself longing for my home church, my friends and my pastor and his family.

When we come upon a situation that is not what we believe the Lord has in mind for us, we have two choices. The first one is to give up entirely and say "to heck with it". The second is to persevere. Knowing that the Lord gives us what we need, when we need it and not a moment sooner than he has to, can sometimes be the "saving grace" in a situation that seems hopeless. We have all experienced that longing for something better. We compare ourselves to others (its human nature). We want to "belong" and we want to "fit in". These days I know that I do fit in - the question is where. No longer having to sell myself short or conform to the disciplines of others, I can wait! The Lord always opens the door for better!

Take the time to find where it is God wants you to serve him. Make the choice based on the beliefs, the teachings and the atmosphere (not the aesthetic atmosphere). Let him lead you to where he wants you to be. Be patient, for he will reveal to you exactly what it is he wants from you! Be open to all possibilities. Be willing to adjust your sails and head into the wind, but don't settle! Open your heart and it will be very clear to you! Be willing to serve the Lord wherever it is he wants you to serve him from! It just may be at that falling down, dilapidated church in the woods that he needs you! Go where he wants you!

(photo by Stephanie Stevens)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

~ "Children of God..."

In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. (1 John 3:10)

How do we know for sure if we are, in fact, a child of God? Well, we are all created by him, so that does make us his, but what John is referring to here is that specialness that sets us apart. That love we share with others, that devotion we render to our God that is above and beyond the thump of our heart beat.

The children of Satan can be just as easily identified if you know what it is you are looking for. Those who dabble in the "dark arts", those who look to the placement of the stars to guide their daily life and determine whether or not they crawl out of bed, those who indulge in what the "future" has to offer them - they are not following the path of righteousness. We are told time and time again that these are devices of the enemy and should not be toyed with, even in jest. One true God ~ that is who we serve, that is whose voice we listen for, that is where our true blessings come from. And those blessings that fall on us do not come from the dead loved ones we have lost - they come from GOD!!!

It is at our Almighty Father's hands that we receive the things that enable us to better ourselves, it is from his graciousness that we are afforded the opportunity of a better job (or a job at all). It is through someone's constant prayer and devotion to the Father (even with the mistakes we will make) that we are acknowledged as "children of God".

The fact that God sent his son to open a door for us. Through Jesus, we can go to the Father and be heard. Through Jesus, we can be assured of a place in heaven. Through Jesus, our prayers are answered. Through Jesus, we are guided and directed in our waiting.

Letting go of the worry and stress that surrounds us and offering it to him because we know that he will provide for our needs and take care of us while we are on this planet, is not as easy as it sounds, but the joy that will fill your heart when you see his hand sculpting your life is indescribable! He loves to hear you rejoice at his great works! Offer to him the praises due him! It is he, and he alone who gives you all you need! Give back to God what he has freely given to you! Be the child he wants you to be, submit to his will and follow his path. Do whatever it is he has laid before you and do it with a smile and a song! (photo by Stephanie Stevens)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

~ "Where have all the flowers gone???"

But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. (James 1:10)

If you grew up in the 60's (or were alive and relatively alert), there is a folk song that still holds it's lesson long into the "now generation". We, as a society, tend to repeat what our predecessors did, without learning from it. In a time when young adults rebelled and we were fighting a war in which we had no claim to stake, the song resonated the reality of the foolishness that seems to find it's way into every generation.

During that time period, an American Indian paddled his canoe through polluted waters, the miniature integrated circuit (or chip) made it's way onto the scene, every woman wanted to be blonde and many believed that God was dead. In fifty years, you'd think we would have learned something!

What is it you strive for in your life today? Is it financial security, wealth, happiness, property, "things"??? All of this will pass away.

Riches mean nothing to our heavenly Father. Our true "wealth" comes by developing a spiritual life, not our financial assets. God concerns himself only with that which lasts - wealth does not last. Why, then, if it's unimportant to God, do we tend to place such a high importance on it and envy and idolize those who have it?

Take a lesson from what others fail to...lift your eyes to the heavens and praise God for his graciousness! All that he gives to you is all that you need. There is nothing to "want" for if your heart and soul are set on him! Focus on getting your "house" in order. Set your sights on the treasures of heaven. Those things WILL last!

Friday, March 11, 2011

~ "The itsy, bitsy spider..."

And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that [it was] good. (Gen 1:25)

God created every creature that walks (or has walked) upon the earth. From the mighty dinosaur to the little ant. They were all created with a purpose and each have a job to do, although we may think that some of them were created to annoy us.

We know that the bees pollenate and produce honey. We know that birds fill the air with the beauty of their flight and the sound of their songs. We have pets that we care for and love (and they love us back). We also know that the insects perform a task that is probably unsettling to most, insomuch as they aid in returning our dead remains back to the earth. All of God's creatures also have a plan.

My oldest daughter will argue with you and tell you that spiders do not serve a purpose and do not have a plan - yet if you watch one spin a web, you can see the beauty and the intricacy of it. Even the most ferocious of beasts have purpose.

God has tasked us with watching over the beasts of the earth. They are our responsibility. We are to see to it that they are protected and cared for - not necessarily as pets, but as inhabitants of this planet. Our greed and our lusts for "bigger and better" have caused serious harm to many (oil spills, deforestation, air pollution, ground pollution, beach erosion, etc). Maybe we need to be more ecologically minded; maybe we just need to be more aware of what goes on around us (as opposed to being the ostrich with our heads stuck in the sand).

Remember that God cares for his creatures (all of his creatures), yet, none more so that us! We are his best creation. We are his "shining stars". His love for us surpasses any and everything - that's why he sent his son to die for us! We mean that much to him! Take the time to look at all the creatures God has created - then look into the mirror and know that you are the best one! You are HIS pride and joy! Honor him by respecting his creations - and that includes respecting yourself! You are worth more than you know! Allow God to show you just how much!!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

~ "In HIS hands..."

Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls [to him] in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. (1 Peter 4:19)

In a message entitled "Dead Man Talking", Pastor Charles Brooks talks about the faith of Abel and how even after his death at the hands of Cain, his voice still is heard throughout the scriptures reminding us what is important to have in our walk with Christ. He closed his message with today's verse.

God calls us to be faithful in all things. He has laid before us, through the scripture, what it is he expects from us. He understands that it is our nature to sin, that's why he sent his son to redeem our souls. Our lives belong to him. What we do should reflect what he wants from us. Life is not a bowl of cherries and we will not always have joy and happiness as we travel our road. He knows that too! Our lives were not designed to be "easy". We cannot do it alone! Those of you who think that each accomplishment you have to your credit belongs to you alone are sadly mistaken. All of our accomplishments in life are a gift from God.

God created the world. He has faithfully ordered it and kept it since the creation. Because we know that God is faithful, we can count on him to fulfill his promises to us. If he can oversee the forces of nature, surely he can see us through the trials we face! Put your faith in him! Set your sights on him. Let your goals be lyrics set to his melody. He will give you much more than you deserve. He will call you "righteous" in faith and bless you abundantly! Our faithfulness to him is often interrupted. His faithfulness to us never is! Strive each day to be more faithful than the day before. Create good habits and follow a routine that begins with praise and thanksgiving to the one who created you! Don't give up! Commit yourself to doing the will of God - let him be your guide and you will be led to a more beautiful relationship with him than you can possibly imagine!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

~ "Thanks for sharing..."

Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints. (Philemon 1:7)

Paul reflected on Philemon's kindness, love and comfort. He had opened his heart and his home to the church.

We, too, should be as Philemon. We should share what we have (even if it's not a lot) with our fellow Christians. We should encourage one another. We should open our hearts and our doors to those around us. We should lift each other up in moments of darkness and share in each others joys!

Sometimes, we become hesitant to reach out to others because of the past (either ours or theirs). Knowing that our great heavenly Father forgives all who ask should be reason enough to offer the same forgiveness to those around us. "But what about those who continually harm us? Do we forgive them and allow them to continue to hurt us?" Yes, we do. We are commanded to forgive 70 times 7 (490 if you want to be specific) - that's a lot of forgiving! Sometimes the person asking for forgiveness needs to see that there are no conditions placed on it other than the promise to try and "sin no more".

We go through life with the mentality of "fool me once - shame on you, fool me twice - shame on me". Imagine if God felt that way about us! Many of us wouldn't stand a chance!

Philemon's generosity and love was the purest gesture of love we can hope to achieve. Open your heart to others, open your door to those in need. Don't take the attitude "it's mine - I've earned it - let them go earn theirs". Give as little or as much as you can. Don't be afraid to give someone the shirt off your back - it's been my experience that when I give my shirt, the Lord gives me a coat! Let God's blessings fall down on you like the rain during a storm. Know that in that "rain" there is power! Power to nourish, power to cleanse and power to grow!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

~ "The GOOD shepherd..."

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-- (John 10:14)

Jesus is our shepherd. He takes care to see that we are not in danger. He searches for us when we are lost. He rejoices when we are found! He feeds us and watches over us. He knows each of us by name. He knows our habits and our faults. He knows how far each of us can go before we tire. He knows which one will be distracted by scents or smells. He knows what we see and think. He hears us when we are content and when we are sad. He hears our cries for help in the dead of night. He has seen the best in us (and the worst). He loves us with all he has. There is absolutely nothing that he wouldn't do for us - in fact, he died for us!

Do you know the Shepherd? Can you hear him calling to you? Have you answered his call or just ignored him hoping he will go away and you can get on with the lifestyle you choose to lead? Have you flatly refused to follow him? Have you committed yourself to another "shepherd" who really isn't a shepherd, but rather a "wolf in sheep's clothing"? Have you chosen the path that is paved and easy as opposed to rocky and hard? Do you believe you have fallen from his guiding hand and won't be accepted back into the fold? Have you given up?

Take heart, my friends! He is never farther away than the sound of your whispered voice. He sits beside you on the subway. He is there when you pour that first cup of coffee. He stands over you when you take that disturbing phone call. He wraps his arms around you when you are in despair. He is there when you get that promotion. He is there when it goes to someone else. He is always there!

Don't be afraid to place your trust in him. He will not harm you in any way! Unlike the enemy, he carries your well-being and your chosen eternity with him in his heart. He wants you to share in the glory. He wants you to be there to see the defeat of the enemy. Give in to him! Listen to the sound of his voice directing your path. Know that he will not mislead you or offer you something he cannot deliver. Know that he loves you more than anything and wants you to learn about his love! Take the time to get to know him and you will forever WANT to be led! Give yourself over to the Shepherd - be a part of HIS flock!

Monday, March 7, 2011

~ "Start digging..."

He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matt 17:20)

I sit here in a place (spiritually, not physically) where I never thought I could or would ever be. With my sinful existence, I never believed that I would ever truly be blessed. That was for "other" people. I was content to say "thank you, God" for what I had and never expected anything else to ever happen in my life besides my death. Today, I can move mountains!

Did God change? Did he submit to my warped way of thinking? Did he change his commands to account for my disobedient behavior? Did he re-write the law to enable me to attain perfection? None of the above! What changed was me! Some changes were immediate, some have taken time and some still have to occur. When I invited the Holy Spirt to direct my path, the force that came with that request can change the ocean tides, the directions of the wind and the contour of the land. All I needed was the willingness! In that moment of acceptance, the all-mighty power of God came and washed me clean. Yes, Jesus died for all those atrocities that were my past. His shed blood has made me clean. I went to him and was reborn through him. I have a Savior in my corner who helps me fight the enemy (who, by the way, has been VERY busy looking to trip me).

Nothing is impossible if you have faith in God. The mountains will move, the doors will open and the road will become straight so that the promise at the end of it can be achieved. Ask the Holy Spirit to change you. Ask Jesus into your heart. Thank God for all he has given you and all that he has withheld from you (sometimes, those are the greatest blessings). Have faith, stand firm and watch the mountain move!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

~ "Destination: Lansdale..."

And the priest said to them, Go in peace: before the LORD is your way wherein you go. (Judges 18:6)

As you sip your coffee and read this morning's post, a new chapter in my life has begun. The many blessings I have received in the past four years have prepared me to continue to do his work where ever it is I am. I left Tennessee with tears in my eyes. I will miss my friends and my church family. But they will be no farther away than an internet connection, a phone call or a web-chat.

When I usually would think of the drive ahead of me, I would become overwhelmed with the thought of being on the road, in the car with nothing but the radio for about 10 hours. The drive through Virginia is long and boring with nothing but mountain ranges on either side of me. This trip was different. I had 3 dogs anxiously awaiting release from their secure little habitat in the back of the SUV. I had a 20 year old behind the wheel, towing two waverunners up the interstate. I also to "share" the music that fills the car - a compromise that I generally don't make. But we survived the trip - a bit frazzled, a bit cranky and a bit frustrated - but safe and in one piece! Praise God!!!

This is in God's plan for me. What I will be doing here is also in God's plan for me. He has graciously blessed me once again with a roof over my head, a beautiful and inspiring view (well, okay - it's not the Appalachian view I've grown accustomed to) and family! The key that unlocked this opportunity was prayer and praise! Prayer for the Lord to open a door and praise for all the blessings he has bestowed upon me. I will continue to do his work, to witness to his mercy and grace and to worship him and only him!

Let God open doors for you! The possibilities are endless!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

~ "God said "GO!!!"

Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt. (Ex 3:10)

Moses made excuses to God as to why he couldn't go to Egypt and liberate the Israelites. God reassured him that he was, in fact, the right man for the job! He reminded Moses that he did not go alone. Moses felt he could not adequately explain who the great "I AM" was. God told him he would give him the words. "What if they don't believe me?" No worries there either - God cannot be intimidated. And finally - Moses was not an eloquent speaker and asked God to send someone else.

It's a good thing that God is slow to anger with all of us when we make excuses to try to get out of doing something. What if Moses had refused God and said "no, absolutely not." How many people have refused God and missed out on so many wonderful opportunities in life?

I am nothing without God's hand. The same hands that molded me in the womb are the same hands that guide me, inspire me and use me for the good of his people. He gives me the words I need each and every morning. He listens to my prayers in the quietness of the night. He wraps his arms around me and holds me when I am trembling. He lifts me up when I can no longer stand. He carries me when I can no longer walk! He has a plan for me.

I think it is safe to say that Moses went "kicking and screaming" into Egypt. He was perfectly content to stay where he was and blend in. He did not have a desire to stand out. His journey was long and hard but he was not alone - he was never alone! All the promises that God made to Moses were fulfilled. He led the Israelites safely out of Egypt. We, too, are called to do something for our Lord. We, too, are called to witness. "But I wouldn't know what to say." No worries there either - God will give us the right words!

Stop looking at yourself through the eyes of terror, inferiority or just plain laziness. Look at what Jesus wants to do through you! Stop making excuses and look to the Lord to give you the right words and a peaceful spirit. Plant the seeds you are called to plant - someone else will do the watering. Know that you do not go alone - you have the greatest traveling companion with you at all times - and he's promised not to leave you! Go!

Friday, March 4, 2011

~ "March forth..."

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matt 6:33)

When we put our earthly lives in order, when all the pieces fall as they should, great things will happen to us! This is not to say that life will be easy or that we will be inherently rich, because most likely it will not be. Our plights and our sufferings will continue. What will change will be our attitude and the ultimate reward.

Yes, there are rewards gifted us while we are here. They come in many different shapes and sizes and are usually viewed by others as "insignificant". We know their significance! We know the price paid in order to achieve them. Some look through these events and do not see the beauty in them. Others complain and say it is not enough. And more still will pass them off as "luck".

When we continue to walk the path our heavenly Father has laid before us in spite of the pain and sorrow we experience, we catch a glimpse of Christ. In doing our part, in seeking him above all others, we taste the fruits of heaven. There is not one of us who does not occasionally wonder what our afterlife will be like. The joy of being in the presence of he who created us will surpass any earthly joy we've known!

Keep your heart focused on the "prize"! Go through each day with the Lord by your side. Allow him to guide you, allow him to comfort you, allow him to strengthen you. Seek him! Live for him! Love for him! Work for him! Breathe for him! Offer everything in your day to him (whether it is full of joy or full of sorrow) and you will share in his greatest gift! Heaven awaits! (photo by Stephanie Stevens)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

~ " think you know Him???"

Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow (Mark 4:3)

Each of us has a "job" to do. We are all sowers. We all plant seeds.

Jesus tells us to spread the Good News! We are commanded to share the Gospel with everyone (that includes those who are commanded to "kill all Christians"). Those "radicals" are also children of God. They have been "programed" to worship another. They have a soul that is reachable. Their belief system can be broken down and they can be persuaded - individually!

We have people (Christians, if you will) right here in our own country that have been "programmed" by their church to worship deities other than the living God! We've seen instances where entire groups of people have been preyed upon and have died in the name of someone's "church". These cults come about when one person takes it upon him or herself to interpret God's word to fit their selfish goal of control! They want to be in charge - they want to be above God! And where does this desire stem from? Take it back to the very beginning, when one angel decided he wanted to be the boss!

Right now, this world belong to Satan and his demonic entities. They wreak havoc and taunt and tempt without regard. They care only about enlisting as many "fallen souls" as they possibly can in their struggle to gain control. In the end, they WILL be destroyed! They sow seeds as well: seeds of hate, anger, despair and irreverent behaviors. No one is exempt from their deviousness. Some of their work is obvious, but a lot of it is not - only a small fraction can identify his work and separate it from that which is of God!

Sow the seeds of righteousness! Take your cue from his word! Read it, study it, bury it in your heart! Take every opportunity that presents itself to the fullest! Be the one who says "no" to the enemy on a regular basis. Fight his sly ways! Remind those around you that only Jesus saves! Remind those around you that all the answers are written in the Bible! All the teachings of "religion" does not take the place of reading and knowing the word of God! Find out for yourself! Don't take my word for it (or anyone else's word for that matter). What good is reading a daily devotional if you don't apply what you read to your daily life? Once again, I encourage you to open that book written by GOD! If you don't own one, buy one! If you don't know what one to buy, ask me - I won't steer you wrong (I have no stock in the publishing companies and I don't get kick-backs from what you buy). Spend time in his word, spend time in his presence! Plant his seeds in the hearts of those you love and of those around you! Be a part of a full and fruitful harvest!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

~ "His eye is on the sparrow..."

Fear you not therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matt 10:31)

What value do we place on our children? They are irreplaceable and they mean more to us than life itself. How much more does our heavenly Father love us!

We face "trials" and problems of everyday life with a guarantee that we do not do it alone. We are watched over constantly and, if we allow him, the Holy Spirit guides us. We have nothing to fear. We are at all times in his sight!

When the anxieties of this world start pressing in, where do you turn? Do you try to sort it all out in your own mind? Do you try to find solutions to issues that you clearly have no control over? I used to...I leave it all in God's hands now! My ex-husband would tell you that when anything stressful crossed my door step - I would shut down both physically and emotionally. I would become paralyzed. I could do nothing (and I'm not stretching that). If he were to come to help my children move me, he would most likely have a heart attack! I have a reputation of leaving the packing to either someone else or the last minute. Not this time! Everything is ready to go, properly packed, stacked and labeled - and I have not packed a full trash can (yes, it's been known to happen).

Before I allowed God to have control over my life, it was a complete and utter disaster. Depression and physical maladies took turns wreaking havoc on my body. Chaos had made it's home in my brain and evil lurked in my heart. I could tell you to visit the enemy and actually make you look forward to taking the trip. My vocabulary consisted of four-letter words and those words could blister paint! I was destined to spend my eternity with Satan himself!

All of that has changed! I have come to realize that I am much more important to God than the sparrows (not that they are not important to Him). I am cherished and treasured. I am loved beyond my own ability to love. I am guarded from the demons that lurk and seek to destroy me. The value of my soul is priceless. My mission is very clear! My work has only just begun!

You, too, have a mission waiting to be accepted. Our heavenly Father calls out to you and asks you to accept his challenge! The children of the living God are doers! Do not sit passively by waiting for someone else to do what he is asking you to do! If you are not part of the solution, then you are a part of the problem. BE the solution! Spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ any way you can! Let others know and see the work of the Lord through you! Prove your worth!