Saturday, April 30, 2011

~ "Whispering hope..."

And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. (1 Kings 19:11-12)

Elijah thought he was all alone in service to God. He looked for the Lord God in all places, but found him in that "still small voice". What he didn't realize was that he was not alone, there were thousands who had not bowed to Baal and kept the commandments of the Lord. Elijah chose to work alone. He paid the price for that with isolation and loneliness. How many of us "choose" to work alone when it comes to serving the Lord? Elijah was the most famous and dramatic of Israel's prophets. He predicted (through the power of God) the beginning and the end of a three-year drought. God used him to bring a son that was dead back to life for the child's mother. He stood for God and was victorious over the priests and false gods of Baal and Asherah. Elijah appeared with Moses and Jesus in Jesus' transfiguration.

How often do we feel we are alone in our witnessing? How often do we think we are fighting a losing battle when it comes to some of the people we feel compelled to witness to? How often do we wait for the "sign" from God that tells us we've done enough? As with both Elijah and Moses, God will provide the words and the revelations we need to witness. Truly our strength for that comes from He who created us. Many times we listen for the sound of seventy-six trombones and hear only a piccolo.

What we learn from Elijah is that we are never closer to defeat than in our moments of greatest victory. We know that we are never alone, no matter how isolated and withdrawn we feel we are because God is always with us. And as with Elijah, sometimes God speaks to us in quiet whispers as opposed to thunderous shouts. Listen for God to whisper to you!

Friday, April 29, 2011

~ "The _ _ _ _ _ is yet to come..."

Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. (Jude 1:7)

Matthew Henry tells us that "pride was the main and direct cause or occasion of [the Israelites'] fall". We are also reminded that "the destruction of Sodom is a loud warning to all, to take heed of, and flee from fleshly lusts that war against the soul". Far too many "Christians" believe that they can commit whatever sinful acts they desire and will still enter the Kingdom of God upon their mortal death. They lay the blame for their acts on the teachings of their religious leaders. The "blame" falls on both.

As God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because their inhabitants were so full of sin, so, too, will He sentence people to hell for rejecting Him. This is taught throughout the scripture and is a lesson that should have been learned, yet people continue to live in deliberate disobedience to God's commands. Sinners who do not seek the forgiveness of God will face eternal separation from Him. This is Jude's warning to us: all who rebel against, ignore or reject God will be punished and it will not be a slap on the wrist. Yes, God loves us very much and wants more than anything to offer us His limitless mercies. No, He will not bend the rules for anyone, for as He is merciful, He is also just. That should be evidenced by the fact that He did not bend them for His chosen people, so why, therefore, would you think He would bend them for anyone else.

As we begin to witness the fulfillment of what is prophesied in the book of Revelation, turning to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, would be a very wise decision to make. Those of you who think that hell is here on earth may want to reconsider.

God sees all things. You cannot hide from Him anymore than Adam and Eve could hide from Him; no more than Cain could hide from Him; no more than the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah could hide from Him. He KNOWS your heart. He knows and understands the "lusts" of men and He will continue to forgive those who repent and refrain from their ungodly acts. Ignore Him and you will surely spend eternity away from Him and in the company of others like you.

Walk away from the preachers and teachers who are telling you what you WANT to hear. I know that it is often hard to do what is right in God's eyes, but it is, nonetheless, what you NEED to hear that will save your soul and bring you back into communion with Him.

It is not too late to come to know Him, to ask His forgiveness and to live a life that pleases Him. These "natural disasters" are only a sample of what is to come. Choose to be counted among those who serve. Choose to live a life that may not be pleasant and may be extremely hard at times, but knowing that in the end, you will be rewarded. Walk by faith - total faith that He will do all that He has promised. This life is not the one that matters, but what does matter is the way you live it!

(photo by Zira Harper)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

~ "Pick one..."

For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever. (Micah 4:5)

Turn from all of them now. Do you spend more time sitting at your computer than you do in prayer? Are you too busy being entertained by "other" things to spend time with the Lord? Are you looking for relief from your problems and "addictions" through some external means? Does your belief in your "right to enjoy life" and "be happy" get in the way of worship to the King? If you've answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may want to re-think your choices. The living God of heaven and earth needs to come first. All these things (when done without moderation) take you away from God. They are designed to do so. They are a temptation and a distraction that some of us cannot afford to partake in. Yes, God wants us to enjoy ourselves; no, I'm not suggesting you throw your computer or television out the door...but you cannot serve two!

In my Bible study yesterday (obviously I'm in Micah), when I read this verse (for which there was no footnote in my Bible) the word "whoa" came audibly out of my mouth. I stopped and read it again and stopped right there to meditate on it. There is nothing that cannot be accomplished through prayer - NOTHING! God can and will remove your defects of character if you come to know Him and build a relationship with Him through Jesus. I am living, breathing proof that God is still in the "miracle" business. When the Holy Spirit is awakened in you, you become NEW! You are born again!!! Those temptations will continue to be a thorn in your side, but you will have a new strength - a greater strength because it is not your own strength that you rely on - it is HIS strength that sustains you and carries you through.

If you are that bored...get a job. If you can't get a some volunteer work. If you can't do volunteer a friend. If you can't help a yourself! Get a life - get a life that glorifies God! Don't have an existence that is comprised of the couch and the television or the chair and a computer. Take your many gifts and share them with others. Give back some of what the Lord has given you. Do it with a smile on your face. Do it with a song in your heart. Do it with praise on your lips. God likes it when we do for others! Stop feeling sorry for yourself and your situation and quit making excuses for why you "can't" - get off your gluteus maximus and allow God to show you that you can!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

~ "Bound for Heaven...Ask Me How!!!"

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, [though] thou be little among the thousands of Judah, [yet] out of thee shall he come forth unto me [that is] to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth [have been] from of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2)

"Micah warns the Jews (of both the northern and southern kingdoms) of what continued disregard for the commandments would bring. But much of the book is devoted to the wonders of the third Temple - to be built at the time of the redemption. Perhaps what has kept our interest in this book so strong over the centuries is the clear prediction that at no time in our long, long exile would G-d ever push us away completely... we will never be totally wiped out." - (Rabbi Boruch Clinton)

The "third" temple has been built. It is not a building accessible in ways we view physically entering into something. It is entered into by faith. The Messiah they wait for has already come. He has brought with Him redemption and forgiveness. My fear is that what is prophesied of the "beast" (in Revelation) will be viewed by many to be the Messiah they have waited for.

In the Jewish community, Micah is considered to be one of the "Trei-Assar" (or Twelve Prophets). They acknowledge that Micah transmitted the word of God as it was given to him. Christians believe the same.

In His own words, Jesus tells us that His "kingdom" is not of this world. This world is wrought with ugliness. God has prepared yet another "promised land" for ALL His people. Only those who accept Him (Jesus) as the Messiah will enter. All people will either acknowledge Him or suffer the consequences. Centuries of ignorance will not be an excuse accepted by our mighty King. Putting it off until tomorrow will could also seriously impact your final destination upon your death.

Accept the fulfillment of the prophecy of Micah as having occurred over two thousand years ago. Open your heart and ask the Lord your God to enlighten you. Revelation is not just for the learned scholars of the law. It is for all of us. If you truly desire to know the truth and accept that truth, God will cause you to find the answers to that which you seek. You only need to ask!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

~ "Lovely weather we're having..."

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Rev 21:4)

If you have not read the book of Revelation, my suggestion is that you read it soon. Actually, my suggestion is to read all the books contained in the Bible, And, no, it doesn't tell us when the end will come, only what to expect. I remember my mother witnessing to me when I was all of 17 years old. I remember reading it and looking for some of the "signs" listed within its pages. I could find none. Now I can find many. The horrors of this world will end, but not before they get worse.

My family life was not one of joy and blessings, as you might imagine. It was one of rigorous beliefs and structure. It was, at times, one of punishment and absence. I did know that I was loved, but that didn't mean I got away with anything - as a matter of fact, I was frequently punished for the actions (or inactions) of others who lived in that house. There was no sympathy for sickness or pain and no comfort for the hurts a young woman experiences. There was death and there was abuse and there was no relief.

All those components make me who I am today. Combined, they help me to minister to those around me with an attitude of knowledge -- I KNOW the pain they are in, I've experienced it first hand. Never in my 20's did I think that what I was living through would ever end, nor did I think it would ever be of any use to anyone (not even me). I was wrong. God used all those things to bring me closer to Him and to help me bring Him to others and to comfort them in their sorrows. I would not wish any of it away, simply because it would change who I am.

This verse in Revelation is one of hope. Not just hope for the end of the world, but hope for each of us as we travel the life laid before us. Even in our darkest hour, our most painful experiences, the light of Jesus shines through and touches us. He is there, holding out His hand, asking us to take it and walk with Him. He will open your eyes to the glory that can be experienced in your pain and suffering. He will reward you with joy and happiness and blessings if you follow Him. No, it is not an easy life, as I've said many times, but it is certainly worth it. Coming to the end of your road, the one you have chosen to walk will give you perspective on one thing...Jesus! Where does He fit into your life? Does He have a place in your heart? Can you feel Him comforting you? Do you want to know Him before you meet Him?

Spend what ever time you have left in devotion to Him. Dedicate the rest of your life to His service, even if it's from the confines of your sick bed. Ask Him to hold your hand through what is ahead of you. If you ask for a "cure", don't become bitter if the answer is "no", His purpose for you is greater than your own selfishness. Do not be afraid, but do not hesitate to ask "why". It is not punishment for your sins that He gives you, it is strength for your soul. Have faith, believe and trust in Him. Someday soon, you will no longer suffer, there will be no pain and you will be in the presence of HIM!!! The wages of sin is death. The reward for following is eternal life. Come to know Him now, and like the thief beside Him on the cross, you will be with Him in paradise!

Monday, April 25, 2011

~ "Well, that puts a different spin on it..."

Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. (James 5:8)

I spent my weekend cooking and watching the miniseries "Jesus of Nazareth". When I first watched it, many years ago, before I was as well-versed in the scripture as I am now, I was fascinated at the production. This weekend, I saw the errors and flaws. No, I am not taking on a new job as movie critic, but I was able to see the "Hollywood" as opposed to the truth. Sometimes I think that can be said for a lot of things we watch.

There is no substitution for the Bible. God's word in man's hand...a love letter to you! It should be the most read book in your possession. Unlike other books I own, I can re-read this and find something new every time. God's word has withstood the test of time. I used to hate history, I could never see the purpose to learning what happened a thousand years ago on the other side of the world. I love the history in Bible, how the stories of Daniel, David, Ruth and Esther (and many more) are told. The power of God in all their lives. I love the wisdom of Solomon and the Psalms of Praise. I love the law and the prophecy written there and the fulfillment of them from Matthew through Jude. I love that God has given us yet a final prophecy through Revelation. I love that He opens my eyes to what will come. What part will I play in all of this? What part will you play?

Get rid of the false gods in your life - all of them! Depend on the Lord, do His work, answer His call. He will lead you and provide for you. He will show you the way if you let him!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

~ "Children of God..."

And as they were afraid, and bowed down [their] faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? (Luke 24:5)

Praise God in all his glory for today we remember that we are no long dead! We have been given new life in eternity! Jesus lives! Let your faith come alive today! Let His love shine down on you and lift up your voices and hands in praise and honor!

It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles (Luke 24:10). Imagine the joy that filled their heart when they remembered that Jesus told them He would rise again!

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." (Luke 24:36). I do think that I, myself, would have fainted! Through the locked door He appeared assuring them that the scriptures, had in fact, been fulfilled!

Our sins were buried with Him and we no longer must suffer eternal damnation. With a humble heart and a righteous spirit, we come before Him and offer Him our lives. He has opened the gates of Heaven. He has opened our eyes so we can see. He has restored our hearing so we can hear. He has covered us with His blood so that when the angel of death approaches, he will pass over us and we will be taken home to be in His kingdom.

Do not hold on to the things of this world, because they will not last. Do not make work and money your god. Leave everything and follow Him! His gift is greater than any fortune you could amass here on earth! Do not look to be rich and powerful here - remember, this is not our home! Look to serve the Lord, your God, in anyway he sees fit to offer you. He will provide for your needs. He will bless your life! Remember that He has done all these things for you! Continue to do for others because it is what He asks of you, not because of what you will gain from it. Let yourself be led to a place of true happiness - let yourself be led by Jesus!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

~ "Sitting Shiva..."

And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. (John 19:38)

He was placed in a borrowed grave. He was wrapped in accordance with Jewish tradition. Their mourning had begun. I don't even want to think of what when through their minds. Their teacher had been crucified, were they next??? Would the Romans trump up some charges on them and condemn them as well??? They sat in fear and waited.

"Sitting Shiva" is generally a week long mourning period for the Jews. Most all regular activity is interrupted and the family "sits" and mourns. It is their custom. It generally takes place in the home of the family of the dead loved one. Jesus had no home. He had no material possessions other than the clothes on his back and the sandals on his feet (and "lots were cast" for them by the Roman soldiers).

I can picture Mary, holding on to the belief in what her Son taught. I can see her remembering the words of Simeon as he had told her when Jesus was circumcised that "a sword shall pierce your heart". I can see her remembering that day when she greeted Elisabeth and witnessing the hand of God in the child she was to deliver, who would "prepare the way" for her own child. How do you let that go?

Although Jesus had told them He would rise from the dead, they would not completely grasp the miracle until Sunday morning. Their time of waiting would be agonizing. Did they give up hope that He would accomplish what He had said???

We, all too often, expect that our prayers will be answered immediately (or within a hours, maybe a few days). So many events need to transpire in our own lives sometimes before our prayer can be realized. We may be ready to receive our blessings but we are told we must wait. God's timing is always perfect, just as it was in this situation. Having faith is sometimes very hard. We want so much to believe that God will answer us and deliver us. We can watch the towers come crashing to the ground around us and we see the hand of God so plainly that if we were to tell others they would either laugh at us or have us committed to an asylum somewhere.

Have the courage to have the faith God asks you to have. Have the faith that He will give you the courage that you need. In all things, remember that Jesus did rise and lives waiting for you to make a commitment to Him ~ do it today!!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

~ "It is finished..."

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, "It is finished": and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. (John 19:30)

One might think that in that moment, all time stood still. On the contrary; at that moment we know that a centurion standing there acknowledge that He must truly be the Son of God; the curtain in the temple was torn in two; the earth quaked and the sky drew dark. Then came the task of laying his body to rest before sundown for the Sabbath (which tells us most specifically that Jesus died on a Friday).

For Jesus, it was finished. He had become the sacrifice for us all. His redeeming blood that was poured out for us, lie at the foot of that cross on Calvary. They took His body away and laid it in a borrowed tomb. They said their "goodbyes" and left weeping. There were guards placed around His grave - not out of respect for who He was, but out of fear that His disciples would steal His corpse and proclaim His resurrection.

The work of His disciples was just beginning. Your work is just beginning. If you have chosen to follow Christ, you are His disciple. You will continue to learn and continue to teach and share with others the power and the beauty of the cross. What took place on that hill so many centuries ago completed the covenant God had made with all people (not just the Israelites). The opportunity to walk with the Lord is one of honor and joy. It is not, by any means, an easy life. It is full of potholes and detours. There are temptations that fall in front of you every day. There is an enemy at work that seeks to destroy you. He doesn't give up.

If you need strength to get through - look to the cross. If you feel you don't have what it takes to follow - look to the cross. If you fear giving up everything you believe to be true because something is tugging at you - look to the cross. No matter what comes across your path today (and everyday) - look to the cross. It is there that you will find the answers to the questions. It is there that the truth is!

Jesus died on that hill for you. He died there for me. Let today be a day of fasting and prayer for what was so freely given. Let today be small "token of appreciation" for the man who was buried with our sins. Let today reflect the love He carries for all of us. Let the salvation delivered on that day, fill your heart and soul with joy and love. Let His blood wash over you and let him carry your sins away.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

~ "Glory in the highest, YOU reign!!!"

Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: and thy glory above all the earth (Ps 108:5)

It must be an important's in the Bible three times! There are some very beautiful songs in contemporary Christian music which also incorporate this verse into the lyrics. I had the opportunity to spend some "quality" time in my travels yesterday listening to the praises of our King! The radio station I listen to is pulling out all the stops this week with music that brings tears to my eyes in joy and thanksgiving!

Because God does not break his promises, because He offers us every opportunity to make our lives right with Him, because He is truly a loving God - we owe Him our praises! Not just on Sunday, not just when it's "convenient" - at all times and always! We are the children of the greatest King to ever walk the earth. Our wedding celebration to him will be bigger and better, by far, than any that has come before! We are the bride! We will walk with Him in His kingdom! We are pledged to Him and He to us! There is none like Him!

Our fate was determined long ago on a tree at Galgotha. The blood that was shed there was for our benefit alone. Dance! Sing! Praise! Be prepared for the day when He comes to greet you face to face! It will be here sooner than you realize! Like a third grader waits for the end of school, so do we for the day of His coming! The only difference in that is that summer vacation ends, eternity does not! Prepare for the day when the Lord God calls you home! Be ready to stand before Him and beside Him. If you've dedicated your life to Him, accept His word by faith, when you stand there, your judgement will be "not guilty". Beware of the enemy - he presents his case in a most capricious manner.

So today, remember to shout "Glory in the highest - YOU reign!!!" Prepare yourself for what is right and holy. Seriously consider offering Him a day of fasting tomorrow! It really isn't that difficult. Give Him one day for the many He's given you! Each time you feel the need to "eat" - let those hunger pains be a grim reminder of the pain Jesus endured for you that day (I'll take hunger pains, thank you). Offer a sacrifice that means something - don't just go through the motions...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

~ "For my sisters in Christ..."

Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. (Prov 31:29)

God always lets us know if we're on the right track. My last few days have been spent beating back Satan and his band of demons. He gives me the words I need to defend my faith but he also places people in my life to assure me I am still doing what I'm supposed to be doing and all while doing it in his good graces!

There are a few women in my life that are there simply because God has placed them there. They possess knowledge that I do not. One of those women has the unconscionable task of listening to my rants while I think out loud. One of them often provides much needed feedback and reassurances. One of them passes on my prayer requests to my home church in Tennessee. To say that my strength comes from the Lord is an understatement. In all that I do, and sometimes I do more than I realize, He is there, guiding me. He has sent these women to help me, to lift me up and to share a part of their lives with me that offers me more validation and satisfaction than I could have imagined. God speaks to me through them at times and I don't tell them often enough how blessed I am to have them in my life.

Through laughter and tears, they listen. They pray. They love. These are women I have come to know in the past four years. Their faith in God and their knowledge of His word never ceases to amaze me. They walk in the light, not through it or around it, not under it or over it ~ qualities I find very appealing and desire to have. They do not gossip, nor do they judge. They offer all that they have in terms of support whenever I need. They are never too busy to talk and don't forget to call me back. They know what words I need to hear and how I need to hear them, but it's not instinct, per se, that they possess, they are actually a channel through which the Holy Spirit speaks.

Always be listening for God to speak to you. His spirit will enlighten those around you to get his message to you. Keep good, Godly people in your life always! They aren't there for anything you have or could give them - they are there, like my friends, because God has placed them there. Do not hesitate to reach out to them when you are in need spiritually. You'll be amazed and blessed both at the same time. Don't wish that you had "met them sooner" - you have met them at just the right time - God's time!

(In a more personal note, which is not something I generally do - I could never thank you enough for being part of my life, nor could I ever thank God enough for bringing you into it - to SW, KS and LR - I love you - God has blessed me greatly!)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

~ "When God has another plan..."

Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. (James 2:18)

Well, I wrote this and waited for the photo to upload -- and guess what - the computer shut down and all that remained was the photo. God has a plan, and apparently it was for that message not to be posted. So, I will start again...

I had begun with the fact that faith is not an science, but it is "exact". In all that we do in our walk upon the earth, God has a purpose. Be it in our job, our family, those we meet or even having to rewrite a post - His ultimate challenge to us is to have faith in Him! To believe is not to see, but to experience and "know". Like Thomas and his disbelief until seeing, we are blessed that we can believe and be in awe of that belief! In the same manner, our faith is not just believing in what we have not seen, it is the culmination of all things (what has been told to us by others, what we "feel" and what we know to be the word of God). You cannot expect to experience faith in something or someone if you haven't got a clue as to what it is you are supposed to be experiencing. In the same way you cannot know what it is to be "drunk" (unless you've been drunk), you cannot expect to know Jesus unless you take a chance to get to know him, intimately!!!

You can read, you can study, you can debate the existence, but you cannot dispute the fact that I believe! You will never convince me that you are right and I am wrong, simply because I walk by faith - faith in God, faith in Jesus and faith in the Holy Spirit (who guides and enlightens me). That doesn't make me ignorant, it makes me blessed!

If you let go of the fact-finding studies and obsession with disproving the existence of God, you are left with only faith. There must be a theory in order for it to be disproved. Jesus is not a theory! He is a man who came to earth with a sole purpose. He is real, he did die and he did rise from the dead in order to fulfill God's covenant with all people. I accept gravity at face value because it is absolute. I dispute Darwin's theory of evolution for two reasons: because it is not absolute and because of one book - the Bible. Countless books and decades of research have come into being because of first thirty-one sentences written in that one book!

I do not feel the need to debate my belief in God. I don't owe an explanation of why I believe or what I believe to anyone. I am, however, obligated to offer to my readers the opportunity to get to know the Creator; to have a relationship with Jesus and to introduce them to the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has lifted me up out of the sewer and placed that burden on my heart. My ex tells me "you have everything"...he's right - I have everlasting life in Jesus - what more could I possibly need???

Monday, April 18, 2011

~ "His last supper..."

And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover. (Matt 26:19)

For many years, I celebrated both Jewish and Christian holy days out of respect for what God had done throughout history. No one could ever answer my question of "where does it tell me in the Bible that I don't honor all the holy days?" I've since found out where, but at times it doesn't prevent me from still doing so. It's like anything else - it's done to honor God and celebrate deliverance. And yes, I can still cook a mean Passover Seder.

When we think in terms of "The Last Supper" - what we imagine and what actually took place are probably two entirely different things. All we tend to remember of that meal is that at that time, Jesus offered us the "new" covenant. I'm quite sure that their meal consisted of more than bread and wine, after all, it was Passover. I can imagine him sitting at the table with his Disciples, enjoying matzo ball soup, a lamb dinner, perhaps some gefilte fish, some borscht, some tzimmes, and some birmuelos or ingberlach for dessert. We all envision his "breaking of the bread" to be a rather large loaf of white bread, but the reality is that is was most assuredly unleavened bread (ie - matzos).

When we celebrate our holy days (or holidays), many of us do it as an excuse to get the family together, tell stories of the "old days" and sit and eat a good meal. In essence, that is exactly what Passover was - with one small was to honor God who delivered the Israelites out of Egypt. It reaffirmed God's covenant with them and remember all he had done for them. Why then, should we not remember to tell the story of God's new covenant with us? Why should we not make every meal a celebration of our deliverance? Well, Jesus reminds us that we should do it - he even tells his Disciples such at his last meal - to do this in remembrance of him. The Lord's Supper should be a reverent and solemn occasion, not a cattle call. It's not something required to get you into heaven, nor is it a "must do" once a year. It does not have to take place within the confines of a church, nor does it have to be conducted by the church hierarchy.

Gather with your family and friends and celebrate the new covenant, the shed blood of the lamb, and mark your heart with it - it has been shed for you! Give to God what rightfully belongs to him - your praises and your song. All of eternity does not afford us enough time to give thanks for that one act or redemption - so start now! "Worthy is the lamb who was slain..."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

~ "Strong Enough..."

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor 12:9)

Are you strong enough to face even the most terrifying experience that God lays before you? The young woman who today's "Worship Video" was written for, when faced with an inordinate amount of surgeries to repair a broke leg, had the answer. At nineteen, she laid in a hospital bed after a car accident that has, to date, required 13 surgeries - "The Lord doesn't put anything on us that he doesn't think we're strong enough to handle" were the words her mom - her words: "He must think I'm pretty freakin' strong".

We all face challenges and trials in our lifetime. Our question is generally "why me". No matter what road God leads us down, he has a plan and a purpose for doing so. He opens doors that would not normally be opened to us, he never leaves us to struggle through on our own. He will lift us up and carry us through if we ask him to! His mercy and grace are more than enough to get us through anything.

My family is asking "why her, why now"? It is not for us to question the workings of God. It is not for us to doubt that he has a plan for her as well as the rest of us. In this verse, we see that Paul would "rather glory in (his) infirmities". It is in those infirmities that God offers us the most strength. We have to reach for it! We have to grab a hold of it with both hands and not let go. We have to come to him in humble and honest prayer (talking to him, not mumbling scripted jargon and rhetoric). Be sincere, be faithful...he's opening a door for you to come to him and experience first hand his saving grace and his miracles. Don't miss this opportunity; he may not offer it again!

Praise him for what he has already given you! Ask him to heal whatever has come to fall on this love of your life. Don't be discouraged if your prayers are not answered immediately, be persistent, "pray without ceasing". Know that the greatest of all physicians is handling this case. Also know that his answer may be "no". Don't let that cause you to turn away from him, turn towards him even more. He is calling your name. He wants you to go to him and go, ask and when he returns that miracle you are praying for, do not forget and walk away...continue to walk with him. He's a powerful ally and loves you very much. Answer his call!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

~ "Let my people go (or "Revenge is a dish best served by God - Part 2")..."

Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say. (Ex 4:12)

What is revenge??? Defined, it is "To inflict punishment in return for (injury or insult); to seek or take vengeance for (oneself or another person); avenge." The thesaurus gives vengeance and avenge as "synonyms" for revenge.

Throughout the Bible we are told of God's wrath, how time and time again he has avenged his people! We don't have to read any further than Genesis when Cain killed Abel - God's vengeance towards him for killing Abel (and sevenfold to anyone who killed Cain) caused him to be cursed and "when thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth." (Gen 4:12)

Then a while later in Genesis we have Noah and his task; we also have the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah. If we stroll over to Exodus, we find a whole boatload of opportunities offered to the Pharaoh to release from bondage the Israelites. How many times was he asked??? How many plagues visited him??? What was the ultimate sacrifice??? And did they learn their lesson??? I now direct your attention to the parting of the Red Sea (and subsequent demise of the Egyptians who thought it would be a good idea to pursue the Israelites - aka God's People!!!) And the vengeance continues!

God does not deal in "karma". He deals in mercy and grace for those who follow his path and obey his laws. He offers eternal life, free of charge (paid for in blood - for us - by Jesus), if we accept that gift of grace through faith. He deals in vengeance when his authority is opposed and he can do that - he is GOD - he makes the rules and even tells us the consequences if we don't follow Jesus (and I think it's a safe bet that the fiery lake that John tells us about in Revelation is a tad bit hotter than the Jersey Shore in August).

Don't ever presume to tell anyone what God does or doesn't do if you haven't read his book. It's called "The Bible" and it's written with you in mind. Check it out, it's a rather good read, if I do say so myself...but that's just my opinion. You may find that the targets of his vengeance are those who blatantly disregard his laws (as in Leviticus 20). If you aren't convinced after reading this post that God does, in fact, take revenge for his people, continue on the path you are on and you will experience his wrath, first hand. As in Nehum 1:2, ‎"God [is] jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and [is] furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth [wrath] for his enemies."

Friday, April 15, 2011

~ "Revenge is a dish best served by God..."

Then the king returned out of the palace garden into the place of the banquet of wine; and Haman was fallen upon the bed whereon Esther [was]. Then said the king, Will he force the queen also before me in the house? As the word went out of the king's mouth, they covered Haman's face. (Esther 7:8)

As any of my young friends can tell you, Esther is my favorite heroine. She was a "no-nonsense" woman who had courage beyond any woman and faith and beauty that matched. If you don't know the story of Esther, it's worth the study and I strongly suggest it a "definite read".

Politics. That's pretty much what brought about this event. How many times are we told to "think before we speak/act"? Haman (whose name, when read aloud, is generally followed by hisses) had pretty much sealed his own fate. His attitude was that of pompousness and arrogance and he really believed he was "all that". Enter Hadassah (aka Queen Esther of Persia), winner of the King's beauty contest, woman of God, orphan and champion of her people. On two separate occasions, Haman has been put in his place and did not get what he thought he deserved (but did actually get what he really deserved). His character reminds me much of a righteous bully, insomuch as HE thought he was righteous. In his powerful position and prosperous life style, what he failed to realize was that he picked the wrong fight and the wrong person to fight against - God.

"Those that are most haughty and insolent when in power and prosperity, commonly, like Haman, are the most abject and poor-spirited when brought down. The day is coming when those that hate and persecute God's chosen ones, would gladly be beholden to them. The king returns yet more angry against Haman. Those about him were ready to put his wrath into execution. How little can proud men be sure of the interest they think they have! The enemies of God's church have often been thus taken in their own craftiness. The Lord is known by such judgments. Then was the king's wrath pacified, and not till then. And who pities Haman hanged on his own gallows? Who does not rather rejoice in the Divine righteousness displayed in the destruction his own art brought upon him? Let the workers of iniquity tremble, turn to the Lord, and seek pardon through the blood of Jesus." (Matthew Henry).

What was true then, still holds true today. DO NOT think for one minute that justice will not be delivered to those in power who persecute the children of the King. His judgement will be for those who have faithfully followed him against those who have continually tortured them. I shudder to think of what is to come (and the light is shining on what is already happening). But even in their terror, they cannot bring themselves to see the hand of God. They continue on in their nazi fashion and beg for the assistance of those they have so indignantly blown away. Not until God is ready for it to end, will it end. Jesus is coming back and he will see the gallows of righteousness erected and those who have not met his commands will see their lives pass before them as they hang.

Continue to pray for those in power - all over the world, not just in these United States. The war we are fighting is nothing compared to the war that is yet to come. The enemy is gathering his forces, but to no avail. In the end, when all the blood has been spilled on the battlefields, the King will march across them gathering up those who fought the good fight. In the end, he will be victorious! In the end, all things will be as they were foretold. Decide now which side you are on. Decide now which battles are worth your energy. Instead of criticizing and critiquing - pray! Keep your opinions to yourself and your eyes open. Like Haman, they will be dealt with appropriately!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

~ "Another fine mess..."

Hear, O LORD, [when] I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. (Ps 27:7)

"What am I supposed to do, Lord?" A prayer we've all prayed at one time or another. "Am I making the right decision, Lord?" Another one. "Is this what you want from me, or is it what I want for myself?" There are many more.

Sometimes we begin asking for guidance before we even need it, sometimes we ask when confronted with a situation, and sometimes we ask afterwards. That last one tends to be me a lot of the time. Yes, I pray daily. But sometimes get so "caught up" in what sounds good at the time, without thinking it through, and act impulsively - then I go to the Lord in prayer. It are those desperate cries that we utter that often need the most attention. Fortunately, our King does not roll his eyes and tell us "I told you so". With a gentle and loving hand, he reminds us that we did not consult him first, this may not be part of his plan and he wants us to back out gracefully and return the power to him.

Our human impulses often take us to places we think we want to be and then when we are there, realize that is not where he wants us to be. So how do we "fix" that? We don't. He will. Most of the time this comes when we get tired of waiting. We need to learn to trust him just a little more. He has promised us he will never leave us, so why do we doubt that he will? He has promised to take care of us, so why do we fear he won't? Other people, other humans like ourselves, have a tendency to push us to make decisions that will satisfy and pacify them - these are not necessarily decisions that we are comfortable with, nor are they truly what we want to do, but feel we have no choice in the matter - maybe because they do not walk as closely to God as we do.

If you truly want to follow Jesus, if you want him to lead, you have to allow him the room to walk and work. He will take hold of your life if you let him. Stop interfering in what he wants for you by injecting what you think you want (or what others think you should be doing). Let him have the lead; then follow. Somethings aren't meant for us to accomplish. Some things aren't as important as others would have you believe they are.

Be patient and wait on him. When you become frustrated in that waiting period, pray. Offer him prayers of praise and thanksgiving for what he has already done for you. Many of us forget that it took a long time for us to reach the place we are in (and that can be either good or bad). Don't add to your "drama" by engaging in things not of God, things he may not necessarily want for you or things you feel you "need" to do to please others. Please one person. God! He will take care of the rest. Do what he asks of you and everything else will fall into place as it's supposed to. Let your faith in him take hold of you and don't let the enemy get in there with a wrench and loosen all the bolts. Be strong and patient. Pray and wait. Look for his footsteps and follow in them. He's been knocking on the door to your heart for a long the door and let him in!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

~ "'Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home..."

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things (Acts 17:24-25)

What do you bring to the Lord as your sacrifice? No longer are we compelled to offer the sacrifices of our ancestors. Jesus offered that final "blood" sacrifice on our behalf. So, again I ask, what do you bring to the Lord as your sacrifice?

Many Christians find it only necessary to act as such when they show up for church on Sunday. I have even heard some say that they are "going to church to pray to God" or "to be with God". Their phrase "I have to go to church" fits right in with "I have to go to work". It's a chore to many, an obligation they really don't want to do, but do it because of some bent or twisted belief system that has become as reflexive as the patellar reflex and serves only to insure that they are still functioning. Some don't even know why they go - they just do it because they're told if they don't they will go to hell.

God does not live in churches. He is there (he is everywhere) but he is not restricted to a manmade building. He is not now, nor has he ever been (nor will he ever be) contained by anything! Nothing can hold him (as firmly evidenced by the resurrection). He wants for nothing. All things are his, as he has created them. So what could you possibly do or give to him that he cannot do or give himself? You!

He wants us to come to him - to lift up our hands in praise, our voices in song and to tell others about him. Everything else that we do (our tithes, our "good deeds") serves no purpose, gains no "brownie points" if we are devoid of faith. We do not enter the kingdom of heaven based on good works (Eph 2:9). It is by grace and grace alone! He died for YOU. As individual as you are, so is the sacrifice that was rendered on your behalf. If you were the only sinner on the planet, Jesus would have gladly gone to the cross for you, yet you cannot bring yourself to bow before him and ask his forgiveness. What stands in your way? Very simple - your pride. Lose it - it's not worth anything in heaven, and it's worth even less in hell.

Don't let the fear of ridicule stand between you and God. Remember, they ridiculed Noah, they ridiculed Moses, they ridiculed Jesus...what a great group of people to be associated with!!! Give him your life today. Offer yourself to him for the sacrifice he gave for you. Ask him to take the lead and then follow! There is no meeting him halfway - you have to go all the way to the foot of the cross. It is there that you will find the faith you need to receive the grace you desire. Go!

(photo by Celia Darrigo)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

~ "The Guiding Light..."

‎"I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, In paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them And rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, And I will not leave them undone." (Isaiah 42:16)

No, we aren't going to discuss the old soap opera that my mother and grandmother watched without fail. In this verse, God speaks to his people. He tells them that he will remove the obstacles that lie before them. In this verse, we see that if God brings you to it, he will lead you through it!

So often we get to a point in our walk that we become frightened and discouraged. We feel alone. We question whether or not we really are on the road he has chosen for us and wonder if somehow we've managed to take a detour and not even realize it. Well, even if we did, God will guide us through that forest and make "straight" the way. Remember, we are human and make mistakes. We also have a very cunning enemy working against us at all times. He will use what ever device he can to convince us that we are not loved by God, not protected by God and not saved by grace through God. He will tell us that we are not accepted into the family of God. He will taunt and tempt us when we aren't sure what we are to be doing. He will lay the carrot with the string attached to it in front of us and continue to drag it a bit further from our reach each time we come close to it. God doesn't work like that. He waits patiently for us to realize who it is we're dealing with, accepts our humble apology for doubting and continues to lead us on, all while Satan stands defeated in the shadows.

Waiting on the Lord is sometimes frustrating. We feel we should be "doing" something and all the while we are being told to "be still". There is a reason for the waiting. Maybe our next blessing isn't quite ready for us, maybe we aren't quite ready for it. Maybe we need to search our soul for healing before moving on, maybe we need to become a bit more patient than we've been. Maybe our faith needs to grow, maybe our lives need to change.

Once we have committed to HIS way, he will not ever forget us. We are set aside as princes and princesses - we are children of the King. We will receive our inheritance when the time is right and not a moment before. We are never out of his sight. With each and every step we take, his light guides us, it shines so often only on the step we are about to make contact with, but it still shines. He lights our way. He is our way. Don't forget that. Continue to hold him up as your King! Lift up your voice in praise and glorify him! Do what ever it is he's asking you to do, even if he's asking you to wait!

Monday, April 11, 2011

~ "AAUGH!!!"

Do all things without murmurings and disputings (Phil 2:14)

Most people know the slogan for Nike Footwear. The words "just do it" appear beneath the "swoosh" logo that denotes Nike. It's easily recognizable and usually when seeing it, one automatically recalls the command. Why? Because it was such a profound statement and unique logo that it stuck with you. It wasn't something we were overly conditioned to seeing - it was something different and creative and it attached itself to our consciousness.

When we see a cross, we think of Jesus. Our mind automatically recognizes that our Savior was crucified to pay for our transgressions. It should be ever present in our minds, in all that we do, but it isn't. We most often lose sight of it when we are frustrated, when we are lonely, when we are hurting and even when we are content. When we are tired, our focus is on sleeping. We can see nothing else but the pillow and the blankets. All we want is to be safely tucked into and wrapped in the soft warmth and peaceful slumber that regenerates us without any action involved other than closing our eyes. We wake restored and refreshed! Sometimes we have to fight to keep our eyes open long enough to make it there, making the actual act of falling asleep much more anticipated and more greatly desired. Yet, when we were children, the last place we wanted to be was asleep! We hated the though, some of us pitched a fit and going to bed was worse than a prison sentence. We whined and complained and fought and ultimately found ourselves either sore from a pop on the behind or sobbing into that pillow. Had we just done as we were told in the first place, there wouldn't have been all drama that surrounded the command to "go to bed".

In the same manner, we have been commanded to follow the Word of God. He's given us step by step instructions and even sent Jesus to show us how to do it. Yet, there are some that still insist on doing what they want, when they want and then have the audacity to call themselves "Christians". There are those, too, who complain and moan over having to go to church, make excuses as to why they can't open the Bible and read it, have no time to pray and don't really see the point in being involved in anything other than their own little corner of the world.

Knowing that I will never be good enough to enter the kingdom of heaven, knowing that no matter what I do, it will never be good enough does not discourage me. I continue to push through the moments of apathy and mental paralysis that accompany those moments (sometimes hours, sometimes days) because although I will never be good enough, Jesus is, and he is in me, and I am in him. We are a team. Sometimes I lag far behind and have to run to catch up, but he does not desert me. He waits for me to come to him. I do not murmur and grumble at the path I've been chosen to walk - after all, I was given the choice to follow or to stay where I was - lost and condemned.

Sometimes its not in what you do, but in the attitude you do it with. Don't let your attitude towards prayer be one of loathing or complaining - do it with a song in your heart, with a joy that you are able to call upon his name and he hears you. If you're having trouble with it - ask him to help you. He never gets tired of hearing your voice. Make time for him every day. Make him your number one priority. Step away from the computer long enough to offer him praise for the fact that you have one! Offer him praise for the roof over your head. Offer him praise for the food you eat, the "things" you have and the blessings he bestows on you (especially since you don't deserve them). For without him, without his guiding hand and loving touch, you are sure to become an easy target for the enemy. Be strong, don't give up hope, he has great plans for you!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

~ "7 X 70..."

Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (Matt 18:22)

God made a way. In Jesus lies our guarantee. Follow his example, listen to his words, write them in your heart.

There is nothing wrong with being a little angry, provided your anger is properly directed and channeled. Jesus got angry at the money changers in the temple. He turned over their tables and caused a scene. Then he proceeded to heal the blind and the lame.

When Peter asked him "how many times, Lord" - Jesus not only gave him an answer, he gave him something to think about. No, we are not supposed to keep track until our forgiveness thermometer reaches 490. If you have that much time on your hands and the ability to keep a running total of forgiveness in your head, you may want to take a tally of how many times you have been forgiven. "Forgive and forget". Don't drag the ugliness out the next time you have a disagreement or a fight with someone. Wipe the slate clean - after all, that's what our heavenly father has done for us!

Begin today. Forgive it all and turn the page in your journal of hurts. It doesn't matter if the people you have hurt forgive you. It matters that you forgive them. Confusing? Not really. Shine the light on your own heart for a while. See where your own demons hide. Look to Jesus to open your eyes. Look to Jesus to soothe your broken heart. Look to Jesus to give you the strength to overcome whatever it is that is holding you back.

We all have painful memories that most of the time we remember only from our own point of view. We generally fail to see the opposing view point simply because our own injury is what takes precedence. We don't see the reasoning (whether logical or illogical) behind the action that caused those painful words or actions to be inflicted on us in the first place. What you see as being done out of spike, may have, in fact, been done out of pure love. It may have been done out of fear, or even out of genuine ignorance. Let it go. It's what's holding you back from a true love ~ God's love!

More often than not, when you "turn the other cheek", you will find a "kiss" is planted there. Be open to receive it - and in order for that door to be opened, you need to step far enough away from it so that it can swing wide and let the healing love of Jesus enter your heart. Take a risk, take a chance...forgive!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

~ "Get the "L" outta there..."

Him hath God exalted with his right hand [to be] a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. (Acts 5:31)

"Through Jesus we have the destruction of the power, the pardon of the guilt, and the cleansing from the pollution, of sin." (Clarke's Commentary). In other words - forgiveness! Without Jesus there is no forgiveness. Without Jesus we would be sentenced to an existence away from God. Without Jesus, there is no worthy sacrifice.

With all that goes on in the world today, with all the "signs" of Jesus' second coming, one would think that many more people would have "wised up" to the fact that no one gets out of here alive and that if they don't "bow down" now - they will eventually and then it will be too late. Imagine standing before God and being told that although you were a "good person", you never acknowledged nor praised nor humbled yourself before him at any time during your life on earth. Imagine being told that theirs was, at best, a feeble attempt at prayer and that never once did they turn to him and rely on him for anything other than money and power. If you can even try to comprehend that they are also told they had no "faith" in him, only in themselves and their ability to manipulate the system and others to achieve greatness. Continue on and try to visualize the Creator reminding them that they kept only the laws they felt applied to them and that they followed and worshiped the enemy all of their lives.

Going to church does not get you into heaven. It does not grant forgiveness of sins and if you follow a law not handed down by God, chances are, you are headed straight for the fiery lake. No one has the authority to re-write God's word, nor does anyone have the authority to decided what is applicable and what is not. If it's in the Word, then it is the "word". Little People have a saying: "if the world doesn't adapt itself to you, adapt yourself to the world". Apply that to the commands of our Father in heaven; just leave out the letter "L".

Talk to God. Pray. Make every effort to walk the path of HIS righteousness, not your interpretation of it. If a murderer flees the jurisdiction of his crime, goes into hiding and lives a life free of crime for twenty or thirty years, is he still not responsible to pay for his act? By the same token, if you deny God and live by your own rules, will you still not answer for your life? You cannot break the laws of God and expect to get away with it. The only chance you have is the forgiveness offered to you, from God, through Jesus. If you don't ask for it you will never receive it. My suggestion is that you stop living in the "real world" and start living a life for him! It's not all that difficult - it just takes humility, patience and trust. It's not about money, power and control - it's about faith, hope and love. Give it a try before it's too late!!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

~ "At the foot of the cross..."

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (Matt 6:12)

When I learned these collected verses in Scripture, more commonly known as "The Lord's Prayer", it was never explained to me - "just learn it". They were words mumbled without emotion. When I look at this verse today, I see the essence of forgiveness. It does not represent a chain of events that occur because God forgives me. It's not "God forgive me and I'll forgive others". The reality of this verse (which I prayed many, many times) is that God will forgive us in the same way we forgive others. We are commanded to forgive! What we don't forgive in others, is not forgiven in us. Jesus' words, not mine.

All through his teaching on forgiveness, Jesus reminds us that we are to forgive EVERYONE and we are to forgive EVERYTHING! There is nothing so great that cannot be forgiven. We tend to think that by being saved we are automatically forgiven for what we do whether we ask for forgiveness or not. We can do whatever we please, hurt whoever we want, take whatever we need...we consider it a "given". It may be a "given", but is it "forgiven"???

We are made in the image of the Father. We walk a path that is often strewn with thorns and rocks, potholes and crevices, and yet we still manage to get from one place to another on our journey. We get there by the grace of God. These obstacles build faith and character. There are many people along that path that throw rocks at us. They trip us and distract us. We must forgive them in order to proceed. They don't need to accept our apology or our forgiveness, but we need to offer it. Our forgiveness comes from the Father. In the same way that Christ offered forgiveness for his executioners, "Father, forgive them", we, too, must offer that same unconditional forgiveness. If Christ could forgive those who nailed him to that tree, we can forgive that "lapse in judgment" of those around us. Sometimes what we see as innocuous, other see as injurious. Once again, perspective takes the lead.

Forgive as you wish to be forgiven. Let go of the "sin" that binds you to the enemy. Let go of what holds you back from experiencing the true joy and love that comes from the Father. Allow the Holy Spirit to lift the vail of torment from your soul and let the blood, once again, wash over you. Rejoice in the power that is in forgiving. Stand at the foot of his cross and you can forgive anything!

(Photo: "At the Foot of the Cross" - Joseph Bradley)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

~ "Tickets, please..."

I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. (1 John 2:12)

Hmmm, "little children"??? Yes, "little children"!!! I've read several different commentaries on this particular verse. They are divided in their meaning of this translation. Some say it refers to "all" of the new Christians, some say it refers to the children of the Apostles and some say it is literally referring to children. In any case, and I choose to go with Matthew Henry's commentary in which he states "The youngest sincere disciple is pardoned: the communion of saints is attended with the forgiveness of sins. Those of the longest standing in Christ's school need further advice and instruction. Even fathers must be written unto, and preached unto; none are too old to learn."

We come into this world as sinners. We leave this world as sinners. It is through no fault of our own, but each of us having a free will to either answer the call of Christ or ignore it, is what sets us apart from one another. I was raised to believe that if babies were not baptized they went to "limbo" (which has since been disbanded). Quite frankly, I have no idea where they go now (according to the church of my upbringing) but in the words of George Carlin "I hope they promoted them all". I personally find it very hard (I always did) to imagine that God would send an innocent creation of his to hell (or anywhere else, for that matter) simply because no one sprinkled water on them before they died. If that is the case, explain to me where all the children of "spontaneous" (miscarriages) and "induced" abortions go. Baptism doesn't forgive sin - it represents repentance. It does not absolve you of anything. The only one who can forgive you of your sins is God! Yes, Jesus had the authority (and still does) to forgive sins - why??? Simple - he IS God. Forgiveness is a pardon we received from God.

When we confess to our Creator our shortcomings and our failures, we admit that we've violated his law and thus are asking that he graciously remove the sin - if we are sincere in our request, it is forgiven. The ritualistic acts designed by churches to offer forgiveness in an attempt to control its populous are, in itself, blasphemy. No one, and I do mean NO ONE can forgive but the Father! No one can act as an intercessor for forgiveness but Jesus. When we ask others to forgive us for "wrongs" committed against them, can we be sure they have truly forgiven us? I know for myself, there were times when I was apologized to and I verbally accepted the apology offered, but in my head told myself "I will never forgive them for that". I'd hate to think that the resentment I continued to carry kept that soul from heaven. The only guaranteed forgiveness we can seek is that of God.

Don't let the false teachings of others keep you from enjoying an eternity with God. Walk in his light, follow his path, ask for and offer true forgiveness (even if you aren't asked for such). Stop building a wall between you and God. Stop using the teachings that aren't from his word as a means to step over his truths. There is only one way to heaven and that's through Jesus. You cannot buy forgiveness and you cannot sell it. It's a gift, as I often said, already paid for, in blood...Jesus' blood. Let it wash over you and cleanse you! Belong to the true inventor of forgiveness - belong to Jesus!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

~ "That'll leave a mark..."

But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matt 6:15).

How many times have you heard someone say, or said yourself "I will never forgive them for that"? The expression "those who live by the sword will die by the sword" can be applied to this verse. We all sin, we all hurt other (intentionally and unintentionally). Most often it is the "unintentional" ones that we don't even realize we've done. Our emotions are as individual as we are. How we respond to offenses against us is also as individual as we are. Some we can brush off without any effort and there are those that we carry around and they can fester like a wound who's scab we continually pick at and refuse to let heal. In both cases, when it finally does, it leaves and ugly scar that is a constant reminder of the injury. Sometimes its the magnitude of the wound that leaves an ugly scar. In either case, it's there to constantly remind us of our injury.

Jesus tells us that unless we forgive those around us who have "trespassed", God will not forgive ours. Forgiveness doesn't come from a box with a curtain dangling in front of it, it comes from our Creator. It comes from our "repentance". When we are sorry, truly sorry for what it is we are seeking forgiveness for, we are told to present it to the person we have "wronged" and asked forgiveness. "But what if they refuse to forgive me" - I refer you to today's verse...

There are many people I've harmed over the years. Many have gone on to their graves "guilty" of some real or perceived atrocity in which I refused to offer forgiveness. There are some that I will never be able to ask forgiveness of as well. There are things I've said and done in my lifetime that I cannot take back. There are sins I've justified in my mind that have snowballed into greater problems than if I'd have just admitted them back when it all began. Some of them are over 40 years old. How do we ask forgiveness for those? What is it we have to do to be forgiven?

There are some who would say that we need to ask for forgiveness "no matter what". There's another step in Alcoholics Anonymous that reads: "Became willing to make amends to such people except when to do so would injure them or others." Causing more problems while lightening your own burden seems to be a bit selfish. I can't imagine that God wants us to hurt others in an attempt to secure forgiveness for a sin against someone who doesn't even know we've committed against them. Quietly, prayerfully and sincerely ask Jesus to carry your petition to the Father. Then, let it go. I know, easier said than done. We tend to torture ourselves (I do, anyway) with the sins of our past. We also tend to harbor resentments from it as well. More often than you can imagine, the "hurts" we've incurred (as well as the ones we've inflicted and can't seem to let go of) are not even recognized as such by the other party as having occurred. Again, our own emotional ties to those hurts hold us captive in their little chambers in our hearts and minds. Open the door and let them out. Send them on their way and know that you've been forgiven. Send them on their way and forgive the offender. Give them over to Jesus - let him take them from you and make more room in your heart for HIM!

Put the ghosts of your past in their proper place and receive the blessings from Almighty God that he so wants to pour out on you. Let this be the day you stop beating yourself up over an event that lasted all of 30 seconds decades ago. Forgiveness is yours for the asking - so ask!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

~ "Oh, I'm just so hungry..."

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace (Eph 1:7)

There's that word again...BLOOD! It boggles my mind to think that some churches will not allow the word "blood" or any songs containing the word "blood" to be part of their service. "It's offensive to children". I received a post card in the mail the other day announcing the performance of a "family friendly" reenactment of the crucifixion. "Family friendly"??? Have they even bothered to see what's on television that kids watch??? Oh yeah, that's why we have problems - the violence we grew up with on television. Without the blood there would be no sacrifice. Without the blood there would be no forgiveness. I also received word that one of the larger denominations now tells its parishioners that they shouldn't fast - "it's not healthy". Yes, I did roll my eyes at that one!

Forgiveness comes to us through the shed blood of Jesus. There is no other way and there is no "nice" way to put it. The image of my Savior, nailed to that cross for me, is all I need sometimes to remember how blessed I am. There is nothing I could sacrifice that could even come close to that. Christ became the ultimate "sacrificial lamb" ~ the resonance of the bloody offering by Able, the bloody offering by the Israelites before their escape from Egypt! We are no longer bound by the "law" to sacrifice a living animal, but we are bound by the "law" to offer prayer and to fast. Fasting is an act of humility before God. It is not something we do to get something in return. We've already received that which we fast for. It's not a "political" statement. Jesus tells us to do it so that no one knows we are doing it - only God! It's a way to remember the sacrifice of blood - when those hunger pangs kick in - remember the pain of Christ! Your pain is nothing compared to that!

In all that Jesus has done for us, is it asking too much to show your devotion to him by going without? Obviously, if you have a physical ailment that would prevent you from fasting, it would be ill-advised to do so - but how many of us make up excuses why we can't fast? We don't fast out of selfishness. Imagine if Jesus decided on "Good Friday" that it was "not convenient" for him to offer himself as a sacrifice for all mankind. Stop looking for a way around the commands of God and start living a life that is pleasing to him! Offer a small, but meaningful sacrifice and glorify God! Put your whole heart into it and it will be accepted as Able's offering was. If you can take a "mental health" day off from work occasionally, why can't you take a "spiritual health" day instead - it's much more rewarding!

In all that we do, if we show true honor and praise to the Father, we will continue to be blessed. If we whine and complain about it, know the rest. Set aside one day, one complete 24 hour period for God! Offer it for all he's done for you. He'll accept your offering - he promised!

Monday, April 4, 2011

~ "It's always about the blood..."

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. (Heb 9:22)

Our forgiveness comes from God - through Jesus' sacrifice. There is a line from one of my favorite television series in which one of the characters says "it's always about the blood". Blood is what nourishes our bodies. It supplies oxygen to our vital organs and removes the carbon dioxide. The exchanges of these gases takes place in the lungs - the literal "breath of life".

Jesus came to us in human form. He experienced all that we experience - the temptations, the need for nourishment - anything "human". This man did nothing to warrant the execution he received. He did it for us. He willingly went to the cross to open the gate to heaven and to offer forgiveness to all of us. He allowed the "life force" to be completely drained from his body. His lungs ceased to move air and his heart stopped beating. The same hands that healed were pinned above the level of his heart with nails similar to railroad spikes. He hung there until the last drop of his blood had left his body. And in that moment - he paid our debt!

Open your eyes to the sacrifice of Calvary. Use that as your measure of forgiveness toward others. What is there on earth that cannot be forgiven??? Is there anything so vile and ugly that you cannot release from your heart? There shouldn't be. Sin is sin - whether it's pocketing a piece of candy from the local convenience store, or the multi-billion dollar bank heist. Sin is sin - whether its an intentional harmful word or murder. Sin is sin - whether its of omission or commission. It can be and is forgiven if we ask. But in the asking, the effort to refrain from committing it again must also be present. Remission of our sins means we are released from the debt, obligation and penalty that would normally be expected from the commission of such. We are no longer required to pay for them - Christ did that for us. We are, however, accountable for them. We will answer for them, but those who have been "washed in the blood of Calvary" will stand, with Jesus, forgiven.

Continue to forgive those who ask; forgive those who don't ask! Those who crucified Christ did not ask for (nor did they feel the need for) forgiveness, yet he gave it to them willingly while he hung there dying. Ask God to remove the stubbornness from your heart. Let go of the anger that continues to cause you pain. And if you aren't sure if you can forgive that unspeakable hurt - you need only to look to the cross for your answer...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

~ "The Change..."

God shall hear, and afflict them, even he that abideth of old. (Selah) Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God. (Psalm 55:19)

So, are you one of the ones who has the bumper sticker, the keychain and the Icthys on the back of your car? Are you the one who wears the "WWJD" bracelet, or the tee-shirt that says "Jesus - the REAL thing"? Do you wear the cross or crucifix around your neck so that everyone knows you are a Christian? Do you think that makes you a Christian? Do you think that will get you into heaven? Do you think it tells others that you believe?

Well, it may tell others that you believe, but it won't tell them you are a Christian - especially if you are wearing all the of above and while driving down the interstate and someone cuts you off, you offer them half of a "peace" sign. Being a Christian is about the change the takes place within you, not the changes you implement to your appearance or personal property. Take a good, long, hard look in that mirror and be totally open and honest with yourself. Have you made the change?

Are you continuing to use profanity? Are you continuing to engage in activities that take you away from Christ rather than bringing you closer to him? Do you still refuse to forgive those who have wronged you in some way? Are you constantly searching for something and can't seem to ever be satisfied? Have you turned into the very thing you hated in someone else?

God is not looking for an advertising gimmick. He doesn't need a slogan and he doesn't want groupies. He wants you! He wants you to humbly kneel before him, confess your sins and ask for forgiveness. He wants you to open your eyes and your heart to his words and his teachings. He wants you to accept Jesus as the one, true Savior who conquered the grave and opened the gate of Heaven. He wants you to forgive those who have wronged you and ask for that same forgiveness. He wants to bestow blessings on you, more than you can imagine - but he won't - not until you being to show "a life that's undergoing a change". If God is truly "living" inside you, there has to be a change!

Stop looking around and judging others faith or belief - look at yourself. Look at what you are doing and what changes you are making that cause you to "stand out" as a follower of Jesus. It's not about drawing attention to yourself, it's about drawing attention to the grace of God that lives inside of you!!!

Salvation does not come from "believing" in Jesus - even Satan believes in Jesus (and he's not going to heaven). It comes from accepting and upon that acceptance, a change. It is something you can feel, it is something that grabs a hold of you and doesn't let go. It's a constant desire to be in the presence of the King. It's with you where ever you go and what ever you do. It's different than your conscience and it is not a facade. It's real! It's alive and it grows every day. The world does not revolve around you and your quest for happiness, or the constant yearning for justice for those who have hurt you or harmed you. The focus of salvation is what was done for you, that you could not do yourself, that you could never achieve on your own - it lasts a life time and it demands your constant attention! Your battlefield is life - each event that rises up and triggers a reaction that takes you away from the light - only with the help of the Holy Spirt and faith in Jesus, can you ever come to know the perfect love of the Father! Make that change! Walk in the light, fear God and find the strength to stand up to the enemy and live!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

~ "Assembly of the clones..."

I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream. (Amos 5:21-24)

"God dislikes mere outward conformity to His requirements. He requires inward reality." (Responding to God's Faithful Intervention - Minor Prophets - Part 1). Once again, we see that God does not just want us to "go through the motions". He wants us to be sincere in our offerings and our worship. Just as the Israelites would reap the punishment for their lack of genuine worship and praise, so will we. He wants us to incorporate him into our lives, not just write a check or show up Sunday morning for service. He wants to hear our voices lifted in song. He wants us to praise and worship him everyday - not just on special occasions. He wants our loyalty and our humility. He wants us!

Many of God's "followers" are no different than the followers of a blog or a newspaper column. The read, they digest, they sip their coffee and that's it. They do nothing to change the course of their lives and offer nothing more than an opinion of what they've read. There are those who will find fault no matter what is written, and they take ever opportunity to spin their ugly impressions of it, showing others how moronically stupid they really are.

God calls us to repent, to change and to move forward. He places people in our lives to help us reach that path of righteousness. No, he does not expect us to be "perfect" - he expects us to try! Force yourself to do something for God today - something that is a true sacrifice, not just a token "I gave that up for Lent" offering. Make it a sacrifice of the heart. Make it the "perfect" offering to show how much you love him and how grateful you are for his gifts to you. Don't make excuses for why you can't; find a reason that you CAN! If you're having difficulty with that one, I can offer a suggestion...what better reason could you have to sacrifice something that is so dear to your heart, so all-important to your way of life that is greater than the sacrifice of Calvary? Jesus gave his all for us - every fiber of his being, every drop of blood in his veins, every breath that was within him - he gave it all for us!

God is calling you. Offer him more than your favorite beverage; give him more than the tip you leave your waitress, truly praise him, from your heart, with the songs you sing. Talk to him in prayer (really talk to him, don't just utter memorized words). Give freely to him what he has freely given to you - make him the center of your life 365 days of the year starting with today! Don't just conform - integrate him into your life completely and make your sacrifice a worthy offering of love, honor and praise!

Friday, April 1, 2011

~ "Don't be the fool..."

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. (Ps 51:10)

Clark's Commentary on the Bible reads: "A right spirit within me - רוח נכון ruach nachon, a constant, steady, determined spirit; רוח נדיבה ruach nedibah, a noble spirit, a free, generous, princely spirit; cheerfully giving up itself to thee; no longer bound and degraded by the sinfulness of sin."

When we accept that Jesus died for us, when we walk into the sanctuary of his love, our steps become more confident, our hearts free from doubt and our determination to lead a life that is pleasing to the Father is undeniable! I've mentioned the changes that take place in people who have completely given themselves over to the care of God. The desire to "do the right thing", at times, is overwhelming. It can be frightening and it can be uplifting and liberating at the same time. To walk in His ways doesn't mean we will not sin, because we will continue to sin up until the day we die. We no longer place ourselves in compromising situations, we have a respect not only for God, but for ourselves as well. The misconception of the "right to be happy" tends to take many from the path of righteousness, simply because they believe they are entitled or "supposed" to be happy here on earth. The Bible reminds us that we are "aliens" here - this is not our home. Our life, as it is now, because of the sin of Adam and Eve, is not designed to be happy - in Genesis we are told that "cursed [is] the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat [of] it all the days of thy life" (Gen 3:17). We will labor and struggle from our first breath to our last. That is not to say that there will not be joy and laughter. But if you are looking for that sweet life, the one without any problems, the one filled with joy and happiness, that perfect relationship, then look up!

Maybe the prayer you should be praying is today's verse. Instead of looking for a better mate, a better job, a better home - be content with what you have and look to God for a changed outlook, deeper response to his love for you. In your attempts to gain "bigger and better", are you pushing out God? Has he not provided you with all that you need? Does he not continue to afford you the opportunity to open your eyes and realize what he has done for you? If you are saying to yourself right now "God has not done anything for me, I've done it myself" - think again. God has enabled you to attain what you have simply because you have it. If you turn your back on him now, if you walk away now, the one you will serve from this point out will be the enemy. And yes, life on earth may seem like "heaven on earth", but that is the only piece of heaven you will ever see. If you play with fire, you will eventually get burned (ask the fire eater at the circus - I'm sure he can tell you). If you continue to look elsewhere for your happiness, you will find only temporary euphoria.

Give up the desire for a "happy life" and you will have it. Understand that the sins that bind you to this world can be overcome. Reach out to Jesus and he will lead you to a place where you will not "want". Be steadfast in your desire to know him better, be courageous in your battle with the enemy because you do not enter the battle alone...he will give you the strength to overcome your adversary and you will walk hand and hand with him into glory!