Thursday, June 30, 2011

~ "Oatmeal and memories..."

If we believe not, [yet] he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. (2 Tim 2:13)

There are three boys turning 12 today. They came into this world a few months early and a year after their mom lost a set of twins. They are miracles. They exist because their parents had faith. They exist because of the promises of God. Knowing that each of them are now strong, healthy, and approaching on their teenage years, causes one to pause and remember their entrance into this world. The early days were far from easy and sleep was a priceless commodity. I can remember coming home after working a midnight shift, sending my daughters off to school and then crossing the street to help feed breakfast - an event that usually required me to chip the oatmeal off my glasses and my badge (thank goodness that police uniforms are machine washable). It's been four years since I've seen them.

Each of us has a role in life. We fit into it like the pieces of a puzzle. Each one is just a little different than the other, insignificant by itself, some discerning features (perhaps a few different characteristics) yet when assembled, becomes a beautiful picture. Such is the family of God. We are each different yet we combine to make an image that reflects the light of the world. We are not alone, although there are times when we feel that way. We are one of many, yet we are indispensable. We cannot be left alone and shine, even when our faith seems to be vacationing on a distant planet! God is ever faithful; Jesus cannot and will not leave our side. We are His and we are of Him. In the same way we cannot walk away and leave those who have touched our lives (for they are always a part of us - in our thoughts, our minds, our memories), Jesus cannot walk away from us. Even when we feel alone, we are not. We are in His sight every minute of every day.

Don't let the disappointments of life cause you to lose faith. Don't give up. It's those disappointments that build strength. There is something to be said about getting up, dusting oneself off and trying again. There are three boys who are living proof that although disappointments and heartbreak may come your way, if you are persistent, if you have faith, all things are possible. Just ask Matthew, Timothy and Christopher...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

~ "Arriving at home..."

Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth [day] of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way. (Ezra 8:31)

Several of my friends have been traveling recently. Their journey takes them only hours as opposed to the four months it took the returning Israelites to travel from Babylon back to Jerusalem. I can't imagine a journey taking any longer than a day. If it's going to involve more time than that, I fly.

God was good to His faithful servants who made the journey back to Jerusalem. He protected them and kept them from harm. They were obedient and they were blessed. I'm sure their journey was anything but a pleasant sight-seeing tour. I can't imagine making that trip, I'm not even sure that I'd want to!

Yet, I stop to my comment "I could never do that", I find the answer "but you have". To go where the Lord sends you is often what we say we will do, but won't. I have. I have physically walked away from everything I knew and was comfortable with (much like the Israelites, many of them had never been to Jerusalem, but had been born and had their "lives" in Babylon), not once, but twice! The first time I did not even realize that it was the Lord leading me. This last time, I knew. When I packed up everything and it was loaded into the truck, my heart sank. Tennessee had become my home. I had friends, a job, a house, and a way of life that I loved. I was headed into unchartered territory (for me, anyway). I was going to a place where I had no friends and no job and a very little amount of money to get me over the hump. Even now, as I watch that bank account slip into single digits, I know that God will provide for me, just as He provided safety for the Israelites!

How many times do we worry about what might happen to our loved ones? How many decisions do we make without consulting God? How many times do we neglect to pray about our problems? How many times do we try to manipulate people? How often do we try to do everything ourselves? This is where our faith comes in! This is where our trust in God becomes a true trust. It is in these situations that we must reach out and depend on the Father, because it is in these times that His light will shine on us! His protection will surround us and His hand will be upon us, just like He did for the traveling Israelites!

Stop depending on yourself or others and start depending on God! Stop reliving the bad decisions and selfish choices you have made and start thanking Him for continuing to stand by your side. Offer Him your life and He will bless you! Do for Him and He will provide for you. Lift your eyes towards heaven and see the glory of the day that is before you and you will walk securely through the desert and arrive at your destination unharmed. Trust in Him, have faith in Him and the hand of God will be upon you!

(photo by Natacha Hall McDonald)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

~ "I was wr-r-r-r-rong..."

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

When the reality of sin walks across the threshold of your mind, what action do you take? Do you try to blow it off, ignore it, make excuses for it, rationalize your way around it? Do you utter the words "that was then, I'm not that way now"? How do you make it right???

There are instances when the words "I'm sorry" are the only means of atonement. There are times when those words stick in our throats and we are unable to utter them because of we are so embarrassed and broken by what we've done. Sometimes there is no way to take back what was said or done. There is no way to "fix" it.

The remorse and regret we carry with us will also not serve as a tool for forgiveness. We need to remember to ask, then accept the consequences (either forgiven by those we've harmed or not forgiven). We humans have the capacity to forgive, yet many choose to harbor ill feelings and resentments towards those who we feel have harmed us by pronouncing sentence on them with the "I'll never forgive you" clause. How fortunate we are that God does not operate the same way.

We are all sinners. It's what we do. Every day we sin. We need to focus on asking for forgiveness right then and there. It is the only way to break the cycle of lying, cheating, stealing, fabrication, and the other harmful sins we commit. Rationalizing them away is not the answer nor is it a solution. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten us in the areas in which we are susceptible to the enemy's hold.

Deliberate disobedience towards what the Father has told us is wrong, is not a sin of omission - it is a sin of selfishness, greed and lust. It is taking what we want and not considering the effects our actions will have on someone else. Again, rationalizing that it is ours to begin with, doesn't make it any less offensive to God. Coming clean is sometimes the only way to quiet our guilty consciences. Justifying and rationalizing have no place in admitting we were wrong. Total honesty and humility are the only avenues we have from which to choose. Forgiveness for what we have done (or failed to do) ultimately comes from the Father. Our willingness to seek forgiveness is grounded in Jesus. Gather the strength and courage you need to set each one of your sins against others right. Call on the power of the Holy Spirit to guide you and strengthen you as you begin to clean up your messes. One at a time, maybe one each day - but start setting the record straight - you'll sleep better. Turn the corner today, make a new start and ask that your prayer be heard so that you can continue to walk without Satan dogging you over something you did 20 years ago. Don't give him any more power over you than he already has! Give the power back to God, and in doing so, you will glorify His name like never before!

Monday, June 27, 2011

~ "In the steel of the night..."

Behold, God [is] my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH [is] my strength and [my] song; he also is become my salvation. (Isa 12:2)

Knowing that God has secured a place for us should be of great comfort. He has promised to care for us, provide for us and that there is nothing we should be afraid of. There is nothing that man can do to us that God cannot protect us from. Our strength to walk through this world and do what is required comes from Him. He is the song our hearts sing and the strength to sing it!

Reaching out in our time of need is a learned behavior. If we've never gone to Him (if we didn't know we could), if we'd never received a blessing, we could not pour our heart out to Him and ask Him to remove our suffering. We do know that going through the storm brings sunshine at the end of it, but getting past the waves breaking on our bow and the tossing of ship from side to side while holding our balance is the hard part. We don't need to do it alone. We reach out, we cry out and sometimes fell like our words and our prayers fall on deaf ears. We know that we are to do nothing, yet the world around us is crying out for us to act. We become desperate and pray that He'll end this trial one way or another. We become less interested in the benefit we will receive from going through the situation and just want it over and done with. We want our calm life back! Being a warrior in Christ's army is not an easy assignment. The enemy is attacking from all sides and we do not feel the presence of our protector.

Knowing we have been honest and forthright with our situation to others, doesn't help us as we stand at the edge of the cliff waiting for the bridge to be completed so that we may cross in safety. The decisions we've made can, in fact, even though made and agreed to as if they would not occur (because our faith that we would be cared for), come back to bite us as we stand waiting. Our belief that God will not fail us may not be the belief of those around us - who push and push to cause us to act, rather than wait. Not everyone we interact with has that same faith in God that we have. How do we deal with them? What do we tell them?

Using the resources God has given us, taking the time to pray about what to do next and holding on to the hope that He gives us through the death of Jesus, we can safely wait on His answer. He will not abandon us and allow us to fall into the hands of the enemy. His word is sure. His guarantee is exactly that - a guarantee! Put your faith in Him, trust only in Him and He will rescue you from whatever it is you need to be rescued from. Walk bravely into the world before you and know that He will guide the steps you take and that He has secured a safe haven for you. When the reality of your life is revealed to you, humble yourself to it and accept the hand you've been dealt - play it for all it's worth! Whether you are a rocket scientist or a shoe salesman, do the very best you can until you can no longer do it. Give glory to Him for all He's given you, even if you feel you deserve more or better. He knows what you need (and what you want). Don't be disappointed if He doesn't answer your prayer the way you want it answered. Rejoice that it has been answered and that He has heard you! Rejoice and be glad - He has made a way!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

~ "There Will Be A Day..."

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 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 21:3-4)

So often I long for that day. When life's trial and the human suffering get to a point where we can no longer bear it, we all long for that day! "When is it going to end" is usually the phrase that comes out of our mouths. The answer, we know already is "soon".

In the time between Jesus' first coming and second coming, we are to be prepared and to help prepare others. We take our cue from Him! We forgive those who have hurt us, we share what we have with those who have nothing, we pray to the Father, we praise His name, we comfort those who grieve, we spread the Word of God and we remember the sacrifice on the cross.

In this time, we suffer. We suffer simply because we cannot see the face of God. We suffer because of sin. We suffer because of injustice. There will be a day when all that is made right! We will stand in the presence of God and in the fellowship of Jesus, presented as "clean" and we will celebrate the victory! We will take up residence in the greatest mansion of all - our Father's mansion! Our inheritance will be given us in full.

The more we give of ourselves to others, the more we will receive. Our blessings on earth will not compare by any means, the blessings of the kingdom. How could they? To see the face of God will be the greatest blessing of them all! To touch the face of Jesus cannot compare to anything we receive here on earth. A long awaited meeting by many, I'm sure. That one, beautiful and wonderful soul who gave His life for me - who rescued me from the grave, who delivered my from the fires of hell - to gaze into His eyes and say face-to-face "thank you" is worth all the tears I've cried, all the disappointments I've experienced and the broken heart I live with. He makes all the difference!

"Having joy, regardless of my circumstances" comes in knowing that all of this will end - that all of this will pass away! It comes from knowing that whatever sins I've committed have been washed away. It comes in the realization that I am loved and I am a child of the King - making me royalty! It comes in the glory of His word. It comes with the beating of my heart. It comes in the stillness of my soul when He is near. It is a joy like no other, because in that joy, I know, there will be a day...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

~ "Dedicated..."

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Rom 12:1-2)

What are you doing to dedicate yourself as a living sacrifice to the Father??? Do you even have any idea what you are supposed to do or why? There's a lot more to serving as a living sacrifice than attending church on Sunday or reading this post. Isn't it time you stepped up your contribution?

I found a checklist (or a series of questions you can ask yourself) to help keep you on the path of righteousness (Matt 6:33) and allow your relationship with Jesus to grow. No, they are not mandatory, but they are helpful. Be honest with yourself when you answer them, don't look for the technicality in them. Look at the actual - if you're doing them, you are probably walking the right path...if not, you may want to revisit what it is that the Lord is calling you to do.

I am a baptized member of my church
I am serving my church
I have indicated to God that I will go and do whatever He desires
I make spending time with God a priority
I purposefully look for opportunities to give financially to God's work
I purposefully look for opportunities to serve others
I take care of my sins immediately
I have a pure thought-life
I get along with others
I have joy regardless of my circumstances

Some of these I can answer "yes" - some I cannot. So I guess that means I keep working at it. This list is not intended for you to run out and join any church or dump all of your money into a non-profit organization. It's just a guide. The first three involve a commitment to God. They acknowledge your belief in Jesus and your faith in His promises. It's a great place to start. Once you've accomplished the first three, the next four are on-going. Praying, tithing and serving are a continuation of the faith we acknowledge in the first three. Taking care of our sins immediately is also on-going (and rather important). If each and every time we sin, we stop and ask for forgiveness (humbly and honestly), we will be better equipped to conquer the last three.

There are no rules to follow other than what is written in the Word of God. Jesus isn't going to count the number of times you went to church this year as if you had a "quota" to reach. Remember - entering the Kingdom of Heaven is based on your rebirth, and your faith that through grace you are saved by the blood of Jesus. What you do will be counted (that's another post), but it will not get you in.

Take the time to get to know God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The power of prayer, the power of love and the power of forgiveness flow endlessly from the throne. Do all that you can and then a little bit more! Be grateful for what you have and that you have the ability to go before Him and ask for forgiveness. Share His love with those around you and lift your hands in praise! Dedicate your life and your work; be the imitation of His word!

(photo by Stephanie Stevens)

Friday, June 24, 2011

~ "Are we there yet???"

Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. (Matt 15:25)

She was not "one of them". The Canaanite woman was a Gentile, yet she believed in the mercy of our Lord. She was undeserving (as we all are). She related her misery (her possessed daughter). She asked for mercy. She was met with discouragement, yet she persisted. Her persistence paid off - her daughter was healed because of her faith!

How often to we go only half the distance with our prayers? We bring our needs to the foot of the throne and get distracted and forget to leave them there. We entertain a battle of wits with ourselves as to whether or not to leave them there or try again to fix them, walking away with our prayers in our hands and we have the audacity to complain to God when the prayers are not answered! Our defeatist attitude tells us that "God will never answer this" or "God will never fix this" ... how can He when we won't leave it for Him?

Our "unspoken" requests, the ones we pray for over and over that go unanswered, may just be that way because our human nature (and lack of patience) causes us to keep taking it back, trying to cause it to happen without trusting in God that it will happen...IN HIS TIME! If you have a child who keeps bringing you something to fix, and each time they hand it to you, they take it back, eventually you will utter the words "just give it to me already and I'll give it back when it's fixed", thus grabbing it from the child's hands and sending them on their way!

Stop interfering in God's grand plan of things. Let Him do for you what He needs to do, what He wants to do - quit trying to do it all yourself. He doesn't need your help! Leave it in His very capable hands and walk away. I always found I could get more done without people constantly bothering me for something while I was doing something else, or by badgering me about when it was going to be ready. The same questioning words from the back seat of the car while traveling to a vacation spot, having only rounded the corner from home echoing the sentiment "are we there yet".

God has faith in you, He is patient with you, He is loving and merciful. Offer Him the same...have faith that He will do what He has promised. Be patient and wait on His time. Love Him above all other and remember that He alone determines the course of success you will tread. Success for you may be different that success for another - but it is all leads to the same place - His Kingdom. Be grateful for the gifts and blessings He bestows upon you - He has placed them there for a reason. Remember to thank Him for them as well. And leave that "unspoken" request at His throne, He'll get to it in His time and it will come back to you better than you could have ever imagined!!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

~ "Never get caught without an umbrella..."

I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. (Gen 9:13)

What started out as a simple comment on a friend's Facebook status, set forth events that rocked my world yesterday. It all began with a rainbow.

We all know the scientific definition of a rainbow: an arch of colors formed in the sky in certain circumstances, caused by the refraction and dispersion of the sun's light by rain or other water droplets in the atmosphere. We learned that in fourth grade. We also know that the rainbow is a reminder of God's covenant (promise) that He will never again destroy the earth by flood. When I see a rainbow - I do not think of the scientific explanation - I think to the greater reason - the purpose for it's being - a promise from God!

Throughout the afternoon, there were comments being posted by myself, an young lady and two gentlemen who apparently do not believe in God nor do they have the faith that the young lady and I have. It was becoming increasing difficult to field their comments, as they were starting to stray from the original topic to the starving children in Africa (which, by the way, I've been hearing about since I was a child myself - usually at the breakfast table when I would cut the crust from my toast), "big bang theory" and "a god" as opposed to "THE God". Praying for them all the while, my final retort was one that I use quite often..."Satan has been very busy today..." and I left it at that.

We serve a merciful God. He opens doors that no man can close, and closes doors no man can open. He enlightens us to what we need to learn, what it is we need to do for Him. No, He doesn't need our help - He wants our devotion. He wants us to read His word, answer His call to us and serve in ways no godless individual can. The sun (as the young lady pointed out) does not "rise" - it is stationary and the earth orbits around it - but it reappears every morning because of God. He put it there. He holds it all together, keeps it in place, for our benefit.

If you go back to the first rainbow (which I'm guessing was probably the most beautiful of all rainbows), you will remember that it came after the destruction of a people totally engrossed in sinful behavior, absent from service to God and devoid of any true and worthwhile causes other than their own. They had totally discarded God and His commands. They had cast Him out of their lives and lived in the moment. Sound familiar??? Throughout history we can see God's hand. His utter disgust with the people who failed to show Him the reverence He deserved had brought forth His wrath upon the earth. What we know (from His word) is that there is more to a Boy Scout - "be prepared". Share the word with those around you - you don't have to win the argument (if it comes to that) - just plant the seed! Walking away does not mean you've surrendered - it just means you refuse to battle with the enemy. It only leads to frustration and a battle of words - generally in this case, someone ends up saying something they will later regret.

The bottom line to this entire conversation is another truth I throw out often...we know how the story ends - the victory belongs to Jesus, to God and to those who follow Him. Satan will be defeated! That's a guarantee from the King of Kings! Let them have their refracted light, I prefer my promise...God's promise!
Pray for those who cannot see their way out of the science book and into the Bible. Pray for those who find it necessary to challenge the power of God and faithfulness of His people. Pray for those who do not know Him, that they will find Him before it is too late! Pray for people like my friend, who chooses to continue to be an example of God's love in the lives of those around him. He is one who truly walks the path of Christ! He does not choose to bury his head in the sand and ignore the rantings of those who do not believe. He continues to maintain the spirit of Jesus, teaching and sharing the word of God to those who do not believe.

God has the entire situation well in hand. The spiritual gifts He's given each of us help us to be better Christians - doing the work He designed for us. Some of us preach, some of us run interference, some of us write - but all of us should be praying for all the workers of the Kingdom of God! The pot of gold that the Irish talk about at the end of the rainbow does exist...not where the bow meets the ground, but rather where the promise of God is fulfilled in each and every one of us - through the faith that we have in the grace that we receive from He who created us!

(photo: My "double" rainbow - taken in June 2009 - in Jersey)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

~ "Quick, hide - there's that disgusting beggar again..."

Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? (Hag 1:4)

From the history of the building of the second temple in Jerusalem, we find the repatriated Jews have laid the foundation (Ezra 2:10). It was quite some time before the construction continued on, all the while, they were building themselves "paneled homes of cedar" instead of the temple. They had their excuses and their reasons, but they forgot one very important thing - God had commanded them to do it and He would make a way for its completion. Once again they needed to be reminded.

Aren't we the same? We know what it is we are supposed to be doing, yet we make sure that we have all we need first! We live in excess comfort while our neighbor has no lights. We wear designer clothes while our neighbor picks through the bins at the second hand store. We dine on fast food 5 times a week while our neighbor eats food from a local food pantry. We have 15 pair of flip flops (it's a Jersey thing) and our neighbor is barefoot. We make sure we are very comfortable before we do anything the Lord commands us to do. No where in the Word of God does it say to fulfill all your wants before you meet the needs of the poor.

God does not ask us to deprive ourselves. He asks us to help one another. If you feel that that check you wrote for the performer that came to your church is helping the needy - and that is all you do - good for you! A true love offering is one that comes from the heart, to help those in need without them having to do anything to attain it other than being a child of God. A true giver gives because there is a desire to help one less fortunate. There are no strings attached and there is no gain that comes from the giving. There is no "exchange of goods or services". A true giver does so because their heart tells them to, not their Pastor.

Somedays I wish I had thousands of dollars to just give to people who needed it, especially when I lay my head down at night in the comfort and safety of my bed, which is in a townhouse and protected by a double lock on the front door. We keep up appearances for our neighbors and family - "oh, it has to look perfect when they come to visit" -- who are we pleasing? What airs are we putting on and who are we putting them on for? It's certainly not for our Father in heaven! Isn't He the only one we need to impress? And fancy furnishings and beautiful clothes isn't going to do it!

So those of you who live in your mansions here on earth, those of you who drive your expensive cars, those of you who eat gourmet meals nightly and drink those designer coffees - remember that for each of your "toys" there is someone who lacks the basics. God has blessed you abundantly -- share what you have with those around you who have not! Make it a true love offering. Love your neighbor - help him out! When you're in the grocery store and the woman in front of you is counting out change for her groceries - dig into your own pocket and help her pay for them. When you see the person on the side of the road with the cardboard sign - don't think scam artist - think Christ -- would it really kill you to toss a dollar out the window? Those gifts of love mean more to the Father than the check you write (that is tax deductible). Share Christ with others - not just on Sunday mornings, but all the time. Give from your heart - make it a gift that counts! Do it out of love!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

~ "Oh, this is terrible - what am I doing wrong..."

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isa 40:30-31)

God renews our strength continually. Just when we think we cannot face another challenge by the enemy, our Father pours out His strength and fills us to the brim. When we are afraid - He makes us fearless. There is nothing we cannot accomplish. We can soar and we can stand tall. We can find the inner strength. All we need to do is wait for it!

It is in those moments when we utter the words "I should have stayed in bed" that we realize without trial and opposition, our lives would be boring. There would be no defeat, but there would be no victory. If there weren't struggles to encounter, there could be no gratitude for seeing them through to completion. Each of our lives has been touched by one victory that has changed us. That victory is the promise of a new life. It is the promise of hope that cries out to us when we want to give up. It is the light that shines on our darkest hour. It is the ability to choose between Him and the enemy. It is the knowledge that someday this will all end and we will become perfect once and for all.

When we sin (or stumble and fall), God has made a way for us to get back up, stand tall yet again and walk confidently into the next challenge. His forgiveness is forever grounded in Christ. Our strength is renewed each and every time. There is nothing too hard for Him. He sets us aside as He lifts us up. He dusts off the dirt and washes our faces strewn with tears. He holds us and comforts us. He places us back on the battlefield rested and refreshed. We walk with a King. Nothing touches us that has not been known to Him first. He knows what we need, He knows what we want. He also knows what is not in our best interest.

Have you ever stopped to wonder why certain prayers go unanswered - why it's always "someone else" who gets the breaks, someone else who wins the lottery, someone else who has the perfect mate? We think sometimes that God has forgotten us, how we struggle and what we do for Him each day. We look around at those who do nothing and have more. We struggle and fight our way through the crowd for a scrap of bread and watch as others throw away an entire loaf. Our reward will come, in His time, not ours. Our prayers are all answered - sometimes the answer is "no". But don't give up, don't give in! Choose to soar - choose to run to Him, choose to walk His path - you will not grow weary and you will not become faint - you will have what is needed to succeed...if you have Jesus!

Monday, June 20, 2011

~ "If you build it..."

They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required (Ezra 3:4)

When God's people returned to Jerusalem after their captivity, they began to rebuild the temple. Even before it was completed, their resolve was to glorify God. They feared God above all people. They knew and obeyed His word. They served Him! Sometimes we need to take a lesson from those who have walked the path of God before us.

We should never hesitate to glorify our Father in Heaven. After all, all things are because He commanded them to be. The house we live in, the job we hold, the family we have - all written long before we were conceived. Each and every one of us has a duty to offer to Him the glory for it all.

Fearing God and being afraid of Him are not the same. I am not afraid of God (I am afraid of snakes) - so long as I do what He command me to do there is nothing to fear! The fear of God (knowing what he can do) comes into play when we become cocky in our attitude and need to be reminded that we serve Him - not the other way around. All that we are, all that we have, again, comes from Him. There is no accomplishment made that is not given us by God. The talents we use to complete a task were by His design. Nothing we do is done alone. When we forget that, we begin to walk a very thin line - and the enemy waits for us to fall off so that he can sneak in an claim the victory.

Secure a better understanding of God's word - of who He is and what He wants from you! He will guide each step you take, every decision you make and you will know God. Obeying His word is sometimes harder than it seems when the human wants keep getting in the way. Follow all the rules. When you do, there will be treasures built up in heaven (and sometimes here on earth) that will be worth something. You will not have paid for them with deception or lies. They will be honest gains.

Serve the God who created you. Serve Him through your actions and through your words. Use every opportunity you encounter to share His wonderful gifts with others. Be patient enough to wait on His love for you. Know that in all things, He should come first. Remember to thank and praise Him for all He gives you (and for all He takes away from you). We see only what is directly in front of us - He sees it all.

Above all, remember that He will not fail you, He will not let you down! Be as the captives who returned to Jerusalem and Judah - resolve to glorify God, fear Him above all people, come to know and obey His word and serve Him with your whole heart. It's really not as difficult as it seems. Make it a part of your life and your life will be filled with blessings. Do not take what is not rightfully yours and do not let the enemy convince you otherwise. God has His mighty hand on your shoulder - let Him direct you and use you for His glory - not yours!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

~ "You Found Me..."

The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. (John 1:45)

Do you remember the day that Jesus found you? I surely do! It was not the day that I actually accepted His love, mercy and grace, but it was a day that I will never forget! In my fear I cried out for help and my prayer was answered. There stood a fisherman, whose footprints led me out of what I believed to be certain death. It wasn't until many years later that I would accept Him and walk with Him.

We are all on His list of people to find. He wants each of us to come to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him. It may not be a life filled with bling and joy, but it is a life filled with unbreakable promises! Once He has captured your attention, you cannot walk away because you know that at any moment your life could change again and you want Him to be a part of it - whether its a joyous change or a terrifying change. You know that even in the worst situations, He is there with you, holding you up, holding you tight and not letting you go.

Our Heavenly Father reaches down each day and blesses us. He has blessed me with a job (finally), He has blessed me with family and friends, I have a roof over my head and food on the table. There is a car outside and the gas tank is not riding on empty. He always makes a way for each of us, we just have to be willing to wait on His timing (which is always perfect). He also blessed me with a father on earth who spent many years working hard to put food on the table and provide for us. We didn't have the niceties of this world, but we had love, discipline and we were taught about God. I hated that discipline when I was a teenager - I cherish it now because it prepared me to do the work I do for the Lord. My Dad (aka "Nick") loves me very much. I used to tell people that he had a strange way of showing it (because I very rarely got my way). My Father in Heaven rarely gives me my own way, but I know He, too, loves me and has my best interest in hand.

God blesses each of us with a father (whether he is attentive to our needs, loving and caring or not). Without him, we would not exist. If you carry bitterness in your heart, bitterness will follow you. Let it go! Remember that God's plan for you sometimes includes a trial or two, a pain or two and disappointments. Without them, we could not appreciate the blessings He bestows upon us. If He hasn't found His way into your heart yet, it could be that you're hiding it from Him. Don't be angry at God for the way things have turned out, rejoice that He's looking for you and wants so much to find you! He's been trying to get your attention for some time now. Allow Him in - you'll be very glad that you have!

(photo - with my Dad 1970's)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

~ "Weave a life that's blessed..."

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23)

Sometimes we cannot find the fruits of the Spirit in our day to day lives. It's not because they aren't there, it's because our minds are focused on other things! More and more we realize that we need to find that quiet moment in our day to focus totally on Him and allow His love to wash over us completely.

In a perfect world, there would be nothing but the fruits of the Spirit. Even though we do not live in a perfect world, we answer to and serve a perfect God. All His gifts are available to us at any time. We just need to seek them. The phrase "love means never having to say you're sorry", is, in fact, a lie. Love means just that - saying you are sorry for all the sin, for the lack of faith, for the impatience, for the roughness and rudeness for the laziness and discontentment that finds its way daily into our lives. To say that we love God and then deliberately and willingly hurt others by our words or actions, requires us to go before the Lord and ask for forgiveness. Love means to always be willing to say you are sorry, it means to make an honest attempt to correct whatever defect of character you possess, it means to forgive and forget and to try to understand the needs of someone else, it means to listen and to comfort, it means to be sincere and honest, it means to encourage and support.

Knowing that Jesus loves us isn't enough. We have to love Him back. We do that through the daily trials of this life by not giving up and by putting Him above all else. We do that by always being conscious of those around us and the pain they may be silently enduring. We do that by reaching out to others to share His promise and the Word of God. The Holy Spirit bestows gifts upon us...spiritual gifts as well as our talents and abilities. If we use them to share His kingdom with others, we are showing our love for Him. If we continue to make the effort to set our goals in Him, and not the world, we are showing our love for Him. If we comfort another or lend a hand to someone in need - yes, we are most definitely showing our love for Him. Just as you show love for your family and friends, you should show love to your Creator in Heaven. Praise and thanksgiving, honor and glory - always and at all times belong to Him! Your life will get easier when your focus is on His plan for you, not yours! His is by far the better plan, so allow yours to be interwoven with His and the tapestry created will not only be unique, but blessed!!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

~ "But I don't know how to whistle..."

I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. (John 9:4)

We all have chores to do. There are things we are commanded to do every day and although we will not be punished for not doing them, we are cautioned about "idle hands". We are told that our works are not what gets us into heaven, that it is our acceptance of Jesus as our Savior and our faith in Him that opens the door. Works are necessary and go hand in hand with grace. You will not receive a paycheck if you don't have a job, no matter how much work you do. You need to have the job in order to receive the pay, but if you have the job and don't do the work, you won't have a paycheck.

Grace and works are two separate entities, yet they work together. Having one without the other isn't going to cut it. The grace comes from God, the works are produced through the faith we have in Jesus. They don't have to be as self-sacrificing as some will tell you...they need to be sincere and humble. They are those nameless acts we do for others, for His Kingdom. They are the ones we do not choose to take credit for, because we aren't looking for accolades from anyone here on earth. He sees our heart in all matters. He knows what intentions we have when we enter into the commitment. It is there that our true worth is measured.

What we do while we are here, we do for His glory. Each and every thing we touch and every word we utter should reflect His love for us and our devotion to Him. When the trumpet sounds, and we are called to account for our actions, will you not only know the words you are supposed to know, but will you have the humility to bow your head and ask one final time for forgiveness? If you've never asked, now would be a good time to start. If you've never accepted Christ as your Savior and asked the Holy Spirit to guide and enlighten you, now would be the time.

Be "hired" into the working family of God. Do the "work" assigned to you each day. You will receive your compensation for doing so, with a magnificent bonus when your work is done! Do it willingly, do it lovingly and you will be blessed accordingly! You won't find a better opportunity and He doesn't really care what's on your resume...they all read the same; they all carry the same qualification - sinner.

Rest in the knowledge that He will provide whatever is needed in your earthly life to sustain you - you may not make a fortune, but fortunes aren't what they appear to be. Do what He asks you do to and you will have a life that is filled with blessings from above. Do everything with Him in the foreground. Do it because He asks you to do it, not because it may get you a bigger room in that mansion. Keep your heart and mind focused on Him. His promises are far greater than the money that is insured by the federal reserve. No one on earth can match His benefits and He doesn't tax your earnings and turn around and give them to someone who chooses not to work. We all have a job to do here, so get busy doing them! He's all about equal opportunity! He does not discriminate. The only personal reference He checks with is Jesus, so if you don't know Him, I'd suggest you become familiar with Him! He's easy to reach - just call His name - He'll hear you!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

~ "You talk...God listens"

Pray without ceasing. (1 Thes 5:17)

Constant communication with the Lord? Is is possible?

It is not possible to turn off your brain. You are constantly thinking about something. When your mind isn't being focused on work, school or the operations of your home, instead of allowing it to take you down some past or distant road or to the "what might have beens", allow it to take you to a place of communication with the Lord. Your words to Him do not have to be eloquently structured or passionately written to be prayers. Sometimes the simplest "help me, Lord" is all you need to convey your heart's desire. Besides - He already knows what you're going to ask Him. He knew it before you even realized you needed or wanted it, so your request comes as no surprise to Him, so don't worry about how you word your prayer (with all the "thee's and thou's"). Talk to Him, just like you talk to your friends.

There are times when we should follow a formalized style of praying (in, our "prayer" time, with our family, or at church services), but for the most part, there are many hours in the day when we can be praying and not have it be as structured as so many believe prayer is. While driving in the car, listening to a Christian radio station, singing along with the music - that's praying (if you are glorifying God and praising His name). There are also times when your mind begins to drift to situations and problems you may have in your life - for me, when that occurs, it's usually mixed in with "Lord, what should I do about this?" or "Lord, can you help me to see what I'm missing here?" When I sit at the table eating (and it's usually alone), my thanks go to Him for the food I'm eating and the conversation with Him continues. Any quiet time can be spent in prayer.

Even in a large gathering your mind tends to wander at times - let it wander to Him! He's a great listener and loves it when your thoughts are of Him! Point your emptied mind in the direction of His tender care and He will direct your path. Allow yourself the opportunity to be in constant communication with Him and you will see that the worries of the day seem to fade away into the nothingness that they truly are. Remembering that this is not our home and that the longings we feel that we cannot name just may be for the gates of heaven, makes your prayer all the more spectacular. If it comes from the heart and not from a book, it's your prayer to Him.

Reprogram your mind (if you don't already do it) and instead of the daydreams of what you wish your life was like, take that opportunity to thank Him for what it is like and for what it is not like. Take the time to refresh your love for Him as opposed to worrying about something you can do nothing about. Stop asking Him to fix the world and just tell Him you love Him. Stay the words out loud if you have to - don't take for granted that He knows you love Him (which, by the way, He does) - profess your love for Him daily! Just as you like to hear those words, God likes to hear them, too!

To pray without ceasing is not impossible. Nothing is impossible! Offer to God your prayers of thanksgiving, your prayers of sorrow and your prayers of need in Jesus' name! Talk to God...He listens!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

~ "Enough with the lies already!!!"

In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God. (Jer 50:4)

he fall of Babylon immediately followed by the return of the exiles homewards, in tearful procession, because they went as penitents; and yet with joy, because their faces were toward Zion. The cessation moreover of the schism between Israel and Judah was one of the signs of the times of the Messiah (Isaiah 11:12-13), and symbolically represented the gathering together of the warring empires of the world under the peaceful scepter of the Church's King. (Barnes' Notes).

It seems to me that God has always done two things when it comes to his chosen people. He has always reminded them (rather harshly at times) that He is their God and they are to serve only Him and that anyone who dares to hold them captive or try to destroy them as a nation will meet with their own destruction. Throughout history (and throughout the His word) there is constant and overwhelming evidence that any nation given to persecuting the Israeli people has met with annihilation. We need only read His word to see that God will ensure their safe return to Him. Once again, we see in this verse, His compassion for His people and His anger at those who do not listen.

The same holds true for us. We have our moments when we go "weeping" - seeking His justice on those who "persecute" us. We ask why. We continue to follow a path that is often blown over with dust and dirt and we walk and walk until we see the faint light of day reaching over the edge of that road. He speaks to our hearts and reminds us we are His, all while we suffer and struggle to maintain our balance between this world and His commands. We often take two steps forward and three steps back. Yet we continue to take steps. We are constantly reminded of our failures and the inability of others to see the changes made in our lives. We are forever tortured by the remnants of our past that seem to follow us into ever circumstance we encounter. They are never forgotten, they are never erased. We cry out for justice and the silencing of their lying tongues and we are met with silence.

The justice we seek, the half truths and flat out lies that continue to find their way back into our lives and all laid on a balance on a human plane; which, in itself, is exactly what we should expect since we are in fact, human! God's justice is often long in coming, but it does come. Remembering the times in our lives when had the justice others though we deserved been levied should cause us to stop and be a little more patient with those who now seek to destroy us through their words and actions. Had God rendered the judgement they sought on us, would we be where we are now? Praying the our Heavenly Father turns their hearts and silences their lies is the only justice we dare ask for.

Take heart! Their persecution of you will not last forever. It never has. God has removed the stains and washed you clean with the blood of Jesus. He will do the same for those who continue to seek to bring you down to their level, if they ask Him to. They may only be moments away from accepting Jesus - remember, our God knows all things! Our human imperfections cry out for justice, our souls cry out for His peace! Continue to pray for their acceptance of Him and the Lord will guard and protect your soul from the enemy. Be as patient as the Israelites held in captivity by the Pharaoh, be as long-suffering as the captives of Babylon, be as steadfast and unwavering in your faith as Job and be as compassionate as Jesus. Your justice will come - in His time and in His way - not yours!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

~ "Off to a college open house I go..."

Wherefore [is there] a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing [he hath] no heart [to it]? (Prov 17:16)

We pay for knowledge. Sometimes we pay for knowledge in an area that we have no business being knowledgeable of. Sometimes we pay for stupid knowledge (if there is such a thing). My parents spent thousands of dollars to send me to good schools (and we all know how that turned out). I probably would have received a better education had I gone to public school with my friends. Needless to say, it's all water under the bridge at this point. Some years ago, in the early days of "on-line learning", I came across a "school" that offered me a college degree for the courses I'd already taken and my work experience. I read and read and it seemed above board. I had no clue they were not accredited (I didn't even think to check to see). I filled out their long form and paid them a fee for my degree. They sent me a beautiful piece of paper, offered me a class ring (at a cost) and even invited me to a commencement ceremony in Sioux Falls, SD. That wasn't necessary. I needed the degree and at the age of 40, marching with 23 year olds didn't appeal to me. A year later, I applied and was accepted to a funeral school in NYC and began attending classes. The price we pay for "wisdom" is sometimes greater than the money we lay out.

Needless to say, the degree was a sham. The knowledge I possess, the wisdom I've acquired, do not need a piece of paper for me to know my own worth. I have no piece of paper that tells me I belong to Jesus and that I am valued by Him. That is my most important asset. It is far greater than a "sheepskin", more important than any degree I could ever earn, and it comes with a guarantee to "live happily ever after" in the next life. Yes, it would be wonderful to be counted among those who have studied hard and earned the distinction of "Bachelor", "Master", or even "PhD" - but I rather like my distinction ... "CoG" (Child of God).

We all have a dream or a goal for our lives. Logistics play a big part in what we become and why. If you are in the right place, at the right time - you can succeed. The right place is at the foot of the cross...the right time is now! God has a way of sorting out what's important and what's not. We just need to be patient and wait on Him. With all the phonies out there, wisdom is sometimes lost on trying to be more like them than more like Jesus. God doesn't seem to mind that I am not "institutionally qualified" to write this devotional every day. It doesn't seem to bother Him that I possess only a high school diploma and some college credits. He inspires me every day and takes me places in His word that I can only imagine. He offers me opportunities to teach others about Him (without a teaching certificate) and He allows me to care for those around me, offer them emotional support and sometimes just listen when they need to vent (all without a psychology degree).

A formal education is required for many professions that one may want to pursue. There is only one profession that enables you to enter the kingdom of heaven - a profession of faith! There are no formal education requirements for that! The only education you need to be accepted into His kingdom can be found in the Bible. It is to know and believe that Jesus is our Savior, that He died on a cross for our sins, that He rose from the dead and lives in Heaven with the Father, and that He is coming back to claim what is rightfully His. Ask Him into your heart and soul today, and you, too, can gain wisdom for yourselves and others through the Word of God...and when your day to graduate arrives - you will receive that distinction with honors

Monday, June 13, 2011

~ "To Whom It May Concern..."

And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel. (Ezra 3:10)

When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, they (Zerubbabel and Joshua, the heads of the community) set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the Lord after the ordinance of David. They praised God while laboring. If only we would do the same, imagine the spectacular work we could do!

I've spent the past few days complaining about not having a job, feeling frustrated at constantly having to fill out information that's contained in my resume (sometimes on three different job sites for one job) and not hearing back from any of them. A friend of mine gave me some suggestions and I spent most of yesterday rewriting my resume. I keep asking myself, another friend and God - what am I doing wrong? Believe it or not, I was even turned down for an "online" writing job with the comment that I have no writing experience! I suppose they are right, since all my inspiration for these devotions comes from God.

The piece I keep forgetting is that the right job will come to me, at the right time - God's time. He knows my needs and He won't forget me. That's a good thing to know, for I am slowly coming to the bottom of the barrel that holds the money. The hardest time to wait on the Lord is when you know that His intervention is needed, and needed very soon. That is when our faith in Him must truly shine through and we must stand firm on His promises.

The trials and struggles we face sometime cause us to stop and ask why. Asking why is okay, so long as we don't stop and dwell on the problem, but push forward in search of a solution. Sometimes the solution is to sit quietly and be patient, sometimes it is to try something different. In either case, doing what the Lord asks of us first, is the key. If we aren't praying, then we aren't talking to Him. If we aren't reading His word, He can't communicate with us. If we aren't listening for His voice - we may miss it. If we aren't open to receive His gifts, if we aren't watching - they may just slip through our fingers.

Being aware of God's mercy and grace in our every day lives is just as important as knowing His promises. Each day presents another opportunity for us to go to Him, on our knees, and ask for strength and guidance. Yet we continue to make excuses as to why we cannot and expect Him to just continue dropping gifts on us. When we allow ourselves to get into this position, we've allowed the enemy to access our fear and doubt, thus diminishing our level of faith in God.

Send the enemy on his way! Tell him to go, for he'll find no worshipers here - here he will find a child of God - loved and protected, faithful and humbled at the sound of His great name! He will find a child of God who is willing to meet whatever trial comes with a head held high and eyes gazing on the heavens! He will find no solace here, no compassion, no friend. He will find only one who lives for Jesus. He will find me, at the foot of the cross where my salvation came - praying to my Father in Heaven - giving glory and praising His name!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

~ "Brave..."

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)

He most certainly does! He loves us that much! And how do we repay Him for that? We don't - we can't!

What we can do is glorify His name! We can offer our prayers to Him. We can do our very best to lead a better life. We can care for our environment, we can take care of our children. We can take care of the elderly - we can take care of each other. But we cannot do anything that will be payment enough for the gift we have received through the death and resurrection of Jesus! In the same way our own children cannot ever repay us for the nights we sat up with the when they were sick, the nights we worried and waited by the phone, the values we've taught them or the anguish we've felt over some of their choices - we cannot repay God for the love Christ showed us when He went to that cross. All we can do is try to imitate His life. A faint copy at best, we are sinners and we know it. We can't use it as an excuse not to worship and not to try. Doing the very best we can in spite of that truth is what makes us special!

We cannot conceive of the measure of love that exists in heaven until that day when it is our turn to enter. We know that there is great love there - our faith tells us so. We cannot rush the events that will take us there (although sometimes we'd like to). We cannot buy our way in nor can we buy anyone else's way in (not ever our children) - we all have the same "paid in full" ticket accessible to us. Whether we choose to accept it is another story all together.

We can show others our love and devotion to Jesus through our actions, through our words. "I want to be like that person" are the words we should want to hear. We shouldn't bother ourselves with wanting to be someone else. Who we are is who God made us to be. Remembering that Christ had no material possessions other than the clothes on His back, should help us in realizing what is truly important. We have so much more than we deserve. We should step out into today brave and confident, knowing that our Father in Heaven has something very special in store for us! We'll never know what it is if we don't take that first step! Be brave! He's got great plans for you!!!

Saturday, June 11, 2011


For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul. (Jer 31:25)

As God's chosen people were encouraged by the promise of "something new" - we, too, are encouraged by the reality of that promise. We can take refuge in the strength and power of God Almighty and know that He keeps His promises to us and that our lives, though short in comparison to our afterlife, can be made serene in the knowledge of those promises!

When our lives fall into turmoil, when we can't seem to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we must rely on our faith that God did not bring us this far only to leave us here to fend for ourselves. He will provide for us. He will bring us through the storm and the sunshine we experience will be warm and soothing. The softening of our hearts sometimes involves laying everything at His feet and walking away. Sometimes there is nothing we can do but wait.

We "are as weary travellers passing through a waste howling wilderness" (Gill's Exposition). Our Heaven Father refreshes us with His love and mercy. We need only take the time to remember where it is we once were in comparison to where we are. Satan would have us believe that we were better off where we were. All of our needs were met through our sinfulness, but we lacked the most important of all needs - the need to know God. Total reliance on Him is not an easy feat. It can seem frustrating and long suffering. His promise to replenish our sorrowful soul can seem to take forever. The cry "how much more, Lord" will pierce the silence of our prayers and praises. The words "I can't keep doing this" are echoed from a depth of pain we did not know even existed. We wonder where He is and when He is going to reach down and "fix" what we have so irresponsibly broken or thrown away. We call to Him to ease our suffering and dry our tears. We come close to walking away, yet something always draws us back. His promise.

Regardless of what you want to happen, something inevitably does - and it's by far more than we need and better than we imagined. So, hit your knees, sing His praises and offer your prayers. He has promised to refresh our weary souls and replenish our troubled spirits. He will not fail you - He never has. While you're waiting - continue to pray - continue to lift up to the heavens all that you have within you. Show your Creator the stuff you are made of - the good, the patient and the persistence of your love for Him. He'll show you the serenity that comes from knowing Him. Take a deep breath and relax - you're in great hands!!!

(photo by Kathy Hill)

Friday, June 10, 2011

~ "An open letter to my son..."

Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim 2:1)

Thirty-some-odd-years-ago, God blessed me with a little baby boy. The first nine months of his life, I saw nothing but his tonsils. Yes, eventually, he slept through the night. At the age of seven he was balancing my check book. He was eleven when his first of three sisters made their appearance. He was a great help to me with them and he's still their favorite brother!!! He graduated high school with the opportunity to go to any college in the state that he wanted - he chose a college in Pennsylvania. While away from home, he experienced some traumatic events. It didn't deter him. Also, while away at college, he met a beautiful, talented and intelligent woman, whom he later married. He didn't graduate from the college he had originally chosen, yet he went on to be a teacher (of math, no less).

He and his wife have built a life for themselves that include all the family members from both sides. When we get together, it's just one family! I have been privileged not only to watch my own daughters grow into beautiful young women, but to watch my daughter-in-law's sisters and brothers also grow to be beautiful and talented women and handsome and talented men. In about a month's time, I will hold my granddaughter (and have the honor of spoiling her rotten). My son went back to school to earn his Master's Degree in Education (something both my father and sister possess). Today I will be in the audience when he receives his degree. He will "walk" at the commencement ceremonies of his original college choice - Drexel University. I could not be more proud!

So, included in this little history lesson, are some words of advice and wisdom:

Be strong in the Lord! Do not let the trial of this life wear you down or discourage you. He has promised to take care of you, protect you and provide for you! He will not abandon you! You are one of His greatest creations! There is nothing you cannot accomplish with His help! There is no one who loves you more! Who you are, what talents and abilities you possess, are your gifts from God. What you do with them is up to you. Whatever you do in life, do it to glorify He who created you! That is your gift to Him! Remember always to praise His name, not use it in vane. Remember always to thank Him for the many blessings He bestows upon you, don't take them for granted. Remember always to love those around you as He loves you (even though sometimes it's hard to do). Remember to give back a portion of what you receive - it shows honor to the One who created you. Remember to pray, to offer thanksgiving and praise - He loves to hear the sound of your voice! Rejoice in your accomplishments, for it is by God's divine grace that you have succeeded!

We all have our moments of joy, some more than others, but remembering who should receive the glory for all of our accomplishments is sometimes more important than the accomplishment itself. God has a plan for each of us. Whichever path you have chosen to follow in this life, make sure that it leads to Him in the next!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

~ "Depression and despair..."

Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun. For there is a man whose labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man that hath not laboured therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil. For what hath man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun? For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity. (Ecc 2:20-23)

Matthew Henry writes: "To those that are accepted of the Lord, he gives joy and satisfaction in the knowledge and love of him. But to the sinner he allots labour, sorrow, vanity, and vexation, in seeking a worldly portion, which yet afterwards comes into better hands. Let the sinner seriously consider his latter end. To seek a lasting portion in the love of Christ and the blessings it bestows, is the only way to true and satisfying enjoyment even of this present world."

When we focus on the negative of any given situation, we fall into a depression. Our feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy can overtake our world if we are not careful. There are times when we cry out for help and feel left alone. Sometimes the depression we experience parallelizes us to the point that we can no longer even get out of bed. We can become despondent and desperate. We want only for the nightmare to end and our lives to become what they once were or what we've always dreamed they should be.

It's not an easy place to be. It's not an easy place to come back from. There are constant reminders of your failure and many times you are labeled by those around you as a "nut job". You take two steps forward and three steps back. You never quite reach the simple goals you set for yourself. What one person considers "routine" can present the biggest stress and panic in your life. Your family and friends begin to slowly back away, not knowing what to do or say for fear of making your situation worse or simply because you have become too much of a burden for them to deal with (that's their problem, not yours - yet it affects you).

Focus on what is true, what is constant and what will never fail - God! Climb! (I know, easier said than done) Don't give up. It may take days, weeks or even years to reach the top of the hole you are in, but seeing the sunlight as you place your hand on the firm ground that is above your head is worth the fight. I know. I've been there. There was a time when I could only get out of bed to use the bathroom or grab something to eat. I could not shower, I could not leave my house...there were days when I couldn't leave my room! Walking the 25 steps to the mailbox was unheard of! Getting in the car...not a chance!

Surround yourself with people who understand, do not judge and do not criticize you. Pray. Ask Jesus to guard you and the Holy Spirit to strengthen you. Find a way even if you feel none exist. God will not leave you in that pit any longer than you can bear. He will not abandon you! Lift your eyes to the heavens and thank Him for the hole you are in before you ask Him to get you out of it!

How ever long it takes, is also part of God's plan. There may be things you need to learn, there may be ties you need to cut. He'll tell you, if you listen. He wants only the best for you. Don't give up - the top of that hole may be there the next time you reach up your hand!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

~ "Ever faithful..."

Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. (Heb 11:11)

Faith is believing that God can and will do the impossible. There is nothing He cannot do. When you feel that desperate tugging at your heart, that it's all "ruined" and that you have once again doubted everything promised...look up! He know your strengths and weaknesses. His promises are ever-present and always fulfilled. He has not abandoned you. His timing is perfect. You just need to sit quietly and wait.

So many devotions I've read tell me that the storms I'm passing through are necessary. They tell me that after the storm comes the calm. They tell me that my Heavenly Father will reward my faithfulness and my days of darkness will shine bright again.

But what happens when we wait and wait and see our world crumbling - what happens to our faith??? When we feel left alone for so long, our faith in His promises can sometimes wane. We become frustrated, sometimes angry, sometimes terrified. We know the logistics of what we "need". We understand the human necessities. "Does God really want me to not live where I live?" "Does God want me to live in a box?" "God is not gonna dump a bag of money on my lawn." "God is not gonna tell that employer to hire me." I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.

It's not about what God isn't going to do. It's about what He can and will do in His time. It's about what He wants for us, not what we want Him to want for us. It would be very nice if God's plan and my wants were one in the same and if He could see His way clear to allow that to happen right now, I would be forever grateful! That statement puts conditions and limitations on God (something we do not have a right to do, nor is it a very good idea). Let's go back to the fact that He knows our needs. Why do we ask for things we already know He knows we need (confused???). When the table is set, and the food is on the stove - how many times do your children (or did you as a child) come to the kitchen and ask if they are going to eat? Mine did it every day! The answer is "of course I'm going to feed you!"

Of course God is going to provide for you! He will feed you, clothe you and comfort you! We don't have to ask for those things! What we do need to do is go to Him in humility, asking for His protection and preservation of our soul - of our faith! If we have faith that the sun will rise in the morning (because we've seen the evidence of that promise), why is it so hard to have faith in His other promises to us? How many times has God provided us with the "proof" of His benevolent nature and blessings in our lives? How many "miracles" has He performed? How much more proof do we need to know that He is not going to leave us to alone to fend for ourselves?

Relax and rejoice in His word! When your faith starts to fall away because you feel your cry for help has yet to be answered, know that He's heard you - He knows!!! And if your world should come crashing in on you yet again, know that that, too, is part of His plan! He's got something much better for you and you aren't paying attention! Put your faith in perspective with your heart's desires. Have the faith that can and will move mountains (as Sara did). Know that where there should be nothing - God can make something! His promises are sound! Look to the sunrise if you have doubts and know that before the sun sets, all things that are of God will be accomplished!

(photo by Celia Darrigo)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

~ "Even while we sleep..."

I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, [even] where Satan's seat [is]: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas [was] my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. (Rev 2:13)

The circumstances that surround our lives most often determine who we are. God knows our "works". He knows the the temptations we face, He knows our "human" condition. He took all that into consideration when He sent His Son to die for our sins. He knew, simply by our nature, that we could never atone for them, that we could never be truly free from them and because of that, He made a way for us to be forgiven.

Satan's seat is here, on earth. Everything that is evil and ungodly is of him. He wants us on his path, not our Heavenly Father's path. He will do anything to bring us to his level of being (away from God, sinful and lustful). He takes full advantage of those who have not been exposed to God's good graces and do not know His word! He is not stronger than God (for nothing is), but he preys on those of weak mind and spirit. Guard your heart and soul from him. Know the name of your Creator and the one who has been ransomed for you - JESUS! He, alone, will send the enemy on his way. With the mention of His name, the beast must leave.

It's very hard sometimes, to be in a place where sin and godlessness is ever present. You can feel the "evil" around you. Know that God is everywhere! There are no "do not enter" signs that pertain to Him. Satan has no hold over Him and if we place ourselves in His care, the enemy will have no hold over us! Just as there is nothing that can keep a mother from their sick child, nothing can keep God from us! He is beside us up until the end of our days - sometimes guiding us, sometimes waiting for those who have yet to accept His Son to cry out to Him. He does not abandon us simply because of a "location". Remember, Jesus entered the homes of "sinners". He told his Disciples that He came "for the sinners, not the righteous". If you look at that statement, you will realize none of us are righteous (at least not now anyway). He came for all of us - each and every one. He is where sin is - He is where sin is not! There is no "holy ground" while Satan sits outside the fiery lake. He and his hoard of demons wander the earth in search of victims. God still walks beside them (even the worst of them) until the end.

Don't fear the darkness in the night - no matter where you are, you are not alone. You are a child of God and He has not abandoned you (although sometimes it feels that way). He will call your name until such time as you are no more and come face to face with Him. Find Him now, for tomorrow may be too late!!!

Monday, June 6, 2011

~ "Why do hospitals always smell funny???"

And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. (Acts 28:8)

Jesus still heals. He still guides the lost, hears their cries in the middle of the night, comforts them in their hour of need. When your chest is heavy and the pain seems to be unbearable, He will be by your side to comfort you, to hold you and to love you.

When your child is sick and the doctors cannot figure out what is wrong, helplessness takes a hold of you. You google their symptoms and seek the advice of your "medical" friends. You rack your brain trying to figure something out...THEN you turn it over to the Lord. Why do we do everything backwards??? Instinct causes us to pursue the "logical" and "written" answers as opposed to reaching out to the Great Physician.

Finding your way back to He who created you can often be fraught with false starts and failed attempts (in our own eyes). We forget that we are human and burden ourselves with wanting to be perfect in His sight. We distract ourselves with wanting to be "the best" as opposed to just being His. He wants only for us to come to Him. We need to bring Him our prayers and our praises, shutting out that which takes away from His purpose and plan for us. The enemy is always at work, doing everything he can pull our focus off our Father, yet we fight out way through, finally reaching His feet.

There is nothing that has enough power to keep us from truly submitting ourselves to His care. He waits for us there. Fight back the beast that wants so desperately to keep us from Him. Call, cry or scream out to Him - drowned out the voices of apathy that keep you company in your moments of despair. Call on His amazing grace to see you through!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

~ "East to West..."

As far as the east is from the west, [so] far hath he removed our transgressions from us. (Ps 103:12)

He has torn the veil in the temple from top to bottom. He has forever removed that which separated us from God. He as released us from the law. He has us right we did not earn. He has made a promise He will keep.

"As far as the east is from the west - As far as possible; as far as we can imagine. These are the points in our apprehension most distant from each other, and as we can conceive nothing beyond them, so the meaning is, that we cannot imagine our sins could be more effectually removed than they are. The literal meaning of the Hebrew is, 'like the distance of the east from the west' or, 'like its being far' (Barnes' Notes on the Bible).

Jesus' selfless act freed us. There is no hoping any longer, only a guarantee. He came to make us righteous in the eyes of God. His sacrifice was the atonement for our sins - He is our sacrificial lamb. No longer do we go through the rituals of old, Jesus changed all that! He re-wrote that law when His life literally hung in the balance been then and now.

We are reminded over and over not to change the word of God - not to make it "more convenient" to accommodate. Under no circumstances are we to deviate from it, add to it or take away from it. That command is for all people. We are to worship no other god. That command, too, is for all people.

What works today will work tomorrow. Do not hesitate to point out discrepancies in what you see that is wrong, but do not shrink from hearing the criticisms for your own short comings. If what you are doing is contrary to what the Lord commands, and someone calls you on it - thank them, accept their warning and work on rectifying the inadequacy. Don't overlook the opportunity to better yourself.

How far is the east from the west??? From one scarred hand to the other...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

~ "All the king's horses..."

Then went Haman forth that day joyful and with a glad heart: but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king's gate, that he stood not up, nor moved for him, he was full of indignation against Mordecai. (Esther 5:9)

Outraged is probably an understatement of what Haman felt when, after feeling so superior because he'd just been invited to a banquet by the Queen of Persia (along with the King), he passed through the gate only to be reminded of Mordecai's refusal to bow to him as he passed. He was bound and determined to get rid of Mordecai and all the Jews who refused to bow to him, or anyone else for that matter. He went home and at the suggestion of family and friends, built a gallows to hang him from. He'd had enough of Mordecai's insolence.

Meanwhile, back at the castle, King Ahasuerus could not sleep, so he called to have his chronicles read to him and thus realized he'd never honored Mordecai for saving his life. Oh, what a plot we have building here!

When we look at the events that took place in a matter of hours, we can see God's hand swiftly orchestrating every detail of what was happening. We see the results of pride and the blessings of humility in one fell swoop. We, of course, know how this story ends - Haman did not. His pride so blinded him that he truly believed he was "all that and then some". How sad that this man, who was so highly respected by the King, thought that he was as great as the King. What he would learn as he hung on the gallows he had built for Mordecai was that you should never underestimate the power of God when the lives of his people are threatened.

Our heavenly Father protects all of us who come to Him and honor Him. He's made a way for justice to be served and the humble to shine as bright as the stars He's placed in the sky. He will not allow His people to perish from this earth before His appointed time. He will cut down anyone who stands in His way - be it by the means of a gallows or plagues, earthquakes or raging waters. His power is not to be tested. In the end, He will be victorious! He will set all of the records straight and the sentences He passes down on all people will reflect their level of guilt with regard to the entire matter. Refusal to submit to His commands can leave an entire nation mourning. Do all that you can do, to the very best of your given abilities to place yourself in the presence of the Father in a humble state. Do not raise your head up at any time. Listen for the sound of His voice in your soul. He will justify you and vindicate you. He will protect you and defend you. Make your actions (or inactions) reflect His will for all people - not just the ones you like. Remember, he loved Haman as much as He loved Mordecai - the difference was that Mordecai loved God - Haman loved Haman.

Don't get caught up in the "political" trappings of this world. Pray for their conversion, pray for their acceptance, pray for them to use the power given them by God in a manner that shows honor to God. They need our prayers now more than ever before. Add their names to your daily prayer list and lift them up to the King of Kings! They are passing through that gate where Mordecai sits...

(photo by Sandra Wood)

Friday, June 3, 2011

~ "So, how do I get to heaven???"

And if by grace, then [is it] no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if [it be] of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. (Rom 11:6)

Confused??? I was too, until I re-read it a few times (and read some commentaries on it). Paul always manages to get his point across without room for argument and with the deepest meanings. What we need to remember first, was that Paul is using this particular verse to dispel the misconception that we are justified by obedience under the law. He reminds us that it was by God's design that the Jews were spared before the coming of Christ. If it were by works, it would constitute debt rather than favor in God's eyes. "The idea of being saved by merit contradicts the very idea of grace (Barnes' Notes on the Bible)."

We did not earn the cleansing blood of Jesus. We do not earn our way into the Kingdom. It is by grace, and the acceptance of that gift that we are made clean and become worthy to enter Heaven. We could never pay the debt, so it was paid for us. Yes, we are still obligated to live a life that exemplifies God, but we cannot master that life simply because we are human and we are sinners. Our "good deeds" count for something, but they are not what gets us in the door. Jesus gets us in - belief and faith in Him, and Him alone - acceptance of the sacrifice He made on our behalf. Those "good deeds" or "works" we do, are the crowns we lay at His feet. They are what we offer to Him as the smallest token of our gratitude for what He has done for us - His death freed us from the gates of hell, from a hold on our soul by the enemy. His resurrection guarantees us, through the grace granted us by God, a place in His mighty Kingdom. There's no other way in!

Once you understand and believe that it is by grace alone that you can enter, the desire to "outdo" the Christian next to you fades into the sunset. Your jealousies and delusions of "being better than" the next guy become a fleeting chapter in your book of life. The only person you need to be better than is the person you were yesterday. You cannot "impress" God with your works - He knows you better than you know yourself and if your motives are, in fact, to impress Him - you just blew it! Do what He calls you to do, live how He asks you to live - offer Him your everything and your nothingness and your gift will be accepted. Do it for HIS glory, not yours. Accept His gift (grace) and you will be saved from the torment of hell.

So, how do you get to heaven? Your journey starts at the foot of the cross.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

~ "Be Not Afraid..."

Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now,for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. (Luke 6:20-22)

People we love die. Each person experiences the death of another in his or her own way. What someone means to you is not necessarily what they mean to another. The relationships differ with the individuals involved. I talk about death of loved ones in my book. There were many, sometimes, too many to think about. Each one was different. There are some that stick with me more vividly than others.

When Lazarus died, did Martha and Mary tell Jesus that his loss was not as great as theirs? Of course not! He shared in their grief! His relationship to Lazarus was different than that of Martha and Mary, but he shared in that same loss. His love for Lazarus was no greater, nor was it less than theirs was. Each "love" is different and although you may not have the same relationship with the "dearly departed" as someone else, you do experience it with the same intensity. Is a mother's grief for her dead child any different than the grief a child feels at the death of it's mother? Can an uncle's death be as equal in pain as a father's death? Is the death of a woman's husband a greater loss to her sisters and brothers and their spouses than it is to spouses of the dead man's brothers and sisters?

Death is removing the link from a chain that connects us to one another. Each person's place in the chain may differ from your perspective, but it is the same link!

Jesus tells us to share in our joys and our sorrows! He does not want us to "make light of" the grief of others because they were not related by "blood" or did not share the same relationship as someone else. Do not try to understand the depth of someone else's grief - you can't. Accept it and offer comfort. The heart knows no boundaries either in life or in death. Be honored that that life affected someone else enough that it is missed. Be gentle and caring and willing to try and understand their loss as well. Whether you realize it or not, they too, have suffered greatly!

Jesus tells to not to be afraid - that he is there waiting for us. Our worthless flesh will become the dust it came from, but our precious souls will soar with him in all his glory. Put aside your bitterness and your petty jealousies - they aren't nearly as important as you think they are. Forgive those you feel have wronged you intentionally - they may have, but they may not have (only one knows for sure). Love those around you while you have them here - offer them the opportunity to see the face of God if they do not know him. Don't waste your time worrying about the dead - it's too late for them! Pray for the living so that they may "see the face of God and live!!!"