Wednesday, August 31, 2011
He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. (Ecc 3:11)
We continually search. Reason: this is not our home! In all the things we do for the Lord (our services to His glory) - we are still longing for satisfaction. You see, God has set a glimpse of eternity within us. Like a homing pigeon, we strive for and continue forward waiting for that day when we finally make it home!
As we grow older, we look in the mirror (some of us, anyway) and see the toll that time has taken on us. We see the gray hairs, the lines on our faces, the thinning skin and watch as the muscles of our body begin to slowly lose their firmness (unless, of course, you are obsessed with body building and appearances). Some become overly depressed when a birthday approaches, taking on the characteristics of a deranged lunatic - sobbing and ranting about getting old. Some spend their money for face lifts, eye lifts, tummy tucks, liver spot removal and other assorted goodies. I've always found a good eyeliner, some blush and a little mascara is more than enough for me. I don't need to look young anymore. I am young on the inside! I am new on the inside. One day, I will be perfect!
Each day brings us closer to our death. For some, it will be today, for others, tomorrow - most of us have a bit of travel before that day arrives. On that day, our judgment day, we will stand before the greatest power in the universe and answer for our lives. Fortunately, we have a great defense attorney - with every sin we've ever committed, with every infraction of God's law, He will show the nail scarred hands, the pierced side and the marks where a crown of thorns once was placed. We will receive a verdict of "not guilty" - even though we are not worthy!
There is nothing wrong with a good cardio walk, we are to keep our bodies in good condition. They are a temple for the Holy Spirit. There is also nothing wrong with a little moisturizer, it keeps the skin healthy and just the mere act of rubbing it in, stimulates the skin cells and circulation. Good hygiene is important! To become so overly concerned - vanity - is where the problem lies.
Remember that the time you spend in front of that mirror, the hours you spend exercising and "perfecting" your body, is time that you could be spending with God. Get to know Him. That body you work so hard to keep young, will eventually fail you and you will die. That soul that you neglect, the part of you that belongs to the Father in Heaven, is what's important! Nourish that - exercise that!!! That will never fail you! That is what will go on into eternity (be it heaven or hell).
Make time for Jesus. Make time for the Word of God. Find the beauty within you - deep in your soul. Stop searching and trying to beautify the exterior...worry about the interior! Vanity is a sin in itself. Step away from the mirror long enough to examine what cannot be seen by anyone other than you and God...
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. (Prov 29:15)
Parents of young children often grow weary of disciplining them. They feel like all they do is nag, scold, and punish. When you are tempted to give up and let your children do what they want, or when you wonder if you've ruined every chance for a loving relationship with them, remember that kind, firm discipline helps them learn, and learning makes them wise. Consistent, loving discipline will ultimately teach them to discipline themselves. (Life Application Study Bible).
We try to teach our children many things. They do not always understand why we do what we do. Often a wedge is placed between two parents who disagree on parenting issues. A child learns at an early age which parent to ask permission from with regard to less appropriate or more dangerous circumstances. My children were no exception. The problem comes in when decisions are made by one parent without consulting the other. There is often the honest "I didn't think you would mind" rationale, and there is the sneaky "don't let your mother/father know". There are a few others that tend to be a bit more sinister that involve other members of the extended family.
The attitude you bring to the decisions that are made regarding your children should be that of love, caring and understanding. Having their best interests at heart, knowing what they need (as opposed to what you want for them) should be the rationale you use in making your decision. In this same Proverb, King Solomon also tells us that making the same mistake over and over is an invitation to disaster. (Prov 29:1) Eventually all people (adults and children) have to face the consequences of refusing to learn. If their mistake is refusing the parent's authority or God's commands, in both cases, the consequences can be especially serious. In the end, they may be turned away. The human heart can take only so much pain and abuse before it breaks completely and becomes hardened.
Take a lesson from the Book of Proverbs and be diligent in your child rearing, not lazy. The diligent become rich, they are prosperous and are fully satisfied. Do not sit idly by as your children throw their lives away. Step up and offer direction, encouragement and support (whether they want it or not; whether they take it or not). They may not thank you now, but somewhere down the road they will understand why these things were important for their future. Don't walk away, don't be discouraged - God placed them in your capable hands and it is up to you to help mold and shape their future.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)
There is much to be said for education...especially if you want a good job, a specific career and a rewarding future. There is much to be said for enjoying your work as well. If you've read my book, you know I was not one who was big on school (I hated school - couldn't wait to graduate and get out into the real world). I was never destined to make the "big money". I am not dumb or stupid, nor am I lazy. I've pursued the "higher education" and been successful. The truth be told - I like what I do. I really did not need a college education to it. Peter and John were considered "uneducated", yet Christ chose them and they succeeded at what they did. They were not dumb or stupid either, and they definitely weren't lazy!
Not everyone can be a scholar. Not everyone is cut out for college, prep school, or other educational institutions. I encourage many to attend and pursue their dreams. Reach for what it is you want to achieve, with Jesus at your side.
To those young people headed off to college, take with you your values and your morals. There is much to be said for the adventures you will encounter, but there is much more to be said for the strength and courage to withstand the distractions and temptations that go along with it. Do not compromise anything in order to "fit in". Continue to be children of God, reading His word and doing all that you do for His glory. Don't allow yourselves to become stagnant in your devotions. Seek Him in all things - including your education!
Those of you who are secretly saddened by your failure to go to college, or the inability to maintain the grades required to continue your education, don't be discouraged. Each of us has a purpose in life. Some are not meant to have a degree granted by a college. Someone has to be the checker at the grocery store, someone has to make the pizzas and the hoagies, someone has to collect the garbage, someone has to mop the floors, someone has to drive the buses, and someone has to build the elevators. We all have a purpose in life - find yours and do it to the best of your ability. God's plan for you may be just to be of service to others. Maybe your plan includes being the one who always has a smile on their face for the customers at the coffee shop when they get their morning coffee, maybe your plan is to greet each passenger who steps into your bus with a cheerful "good morning" or "have a nice day". Whatever your plan is - whatever God's plan for you encompases, do it with joy and with a song in your heart. Far too many people are miserable doing what they do...love what you do and do it well and give thanks to God for your ability to do it!
Spread God's word no matter what your occupation is - you don't have to have a Master's degree to tell people that God loves them, that Jesus died for them and that the Holy Spirit guides them! And when you pack up your books to take to school - make sure that your Bible is one of them. Read it every day - even if it's just for a few minutes - don't put that part of your education on the back burner - that's one thing you can never be over-educated in and there is always something new to learn! Praise Him and thank Him for all He's given you and whatever choices you make, will be the right choices for you!
Sunday, August 28, 2011
For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. (Gen 7:17)
This past week has seen the power of God, yet many still do not hear His voice. Earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricane Irene have not moved the people to give up their pursuit of all that is unholy. Only those in the direct path of the catastrophy have bothered to call on the name of the Lord - and in that, many called on them to save their property, as opposed to their souls.
There is nothing I own that is not replaceable. There is nothing I own that I can take with me one I die (not even my Bible). I sat and watched people prepare for this Category 1 hurricane that hit the Jersey Shore last night. They boarded their windows, stocked up on water and bread. They entered this storm with the same mentality they do most things..."it's all about me and mine".
I sat here last night, watching them issue a tornado warning in my area. I unplugged my television and computer and went to bed. I did not have anything to fear. If the waters rose and flooded my home, if the tree out front fell over on my car, if the wind took my fence, if the power went out - I had my Savior! I knew that if I did not wake up in my bed, I would wake up at the feet of Jesus! There is much to be said about planning - but the greatest planning need you have is for your soul.
Take the time to seek God. Spend time in His word. He wants so much to include your name in the Book of Life. Our days on this earth will end. There will be no second chance once that occurs. Give yourself over to Him now. Walk His path and He will protect you as you praise Him through the storms that come into your life. There is SONSHINE just beyond the clouds!!!
(Photo: Ocean Grove Auditorium - Hurricane Irene - photo by Tracey James)
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. (Prov 26:20)
What we say probably affects more people than any other action we take. It is not surprising, then, to find that Proverbs gives special attention to the words and how they are used. Four common speech patterns are described in Proverbs.
The Controlled Tongue: Those with this speech pattern think before speaking, know when silence is best, and give wise adivce.
The Caring Tongue: Those with this speech pattern speak truthfully while seeking to encourage.
The Conniving Tongue: Those with this speech pattern are filled with wrong motives, gossip, slnder and a desire to twist truth.
The Careless Tongue: Those with this speech pattern are filled with lies, curses, quick-tempered words - which can lead to rebellion and destruction.
The first two should be copied, while the last two should be avoided. (Life Application Study Bible)
We all know people who irritate us. The do and say things that cause a reaction within us equivalent to nails down a blackboard. Talking about every little irritation only keeps the fires of anger going. Refusing to discuss them cuts the fuel line and makes the fires die out. Does someone continually irritate you? Decide not to complain about the person, and see if your irritation dies from lack of fuel.
We cannot force others to see the sin in their lives. Some just refuse to accept that they are wrong and that their way of life does not honor God. Their obsession with popularity and rubbing elbows with those placed on pedistals is may affect how God sees them, but it doesn't affect how God sees you! He knows that you have walked away from what is not pleasing to Him; He knows you have tried to show others that what they do is not glorifying to Him. The expression "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink" applies here.
Lift them up in prayer, limit the interaction you have with them but do not give in to the desire to discuss their irritating lifestyle with others. It serves no purpose. I'd like to say that I am above that, but I am not - I, too, am human and often find the need to have my thoughts on the lifestyles of others validated. It's not something I'm proud of, and it's something I'm working on. Only through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit can we ever hope to relinquish the conniving tongue or the careless tongue.
Friday, August 26, 2011
The disciples were amazed. "Who is this man?" they asked. "Even the winds and waves obey him!" (Matt 8:27)
One of my Tennessee friend posted today's verse in her status line on Facebook. With the anticipated arrival of "Irene" on the east coast, many of my friends are preparing to be without power or be evacuated. My youngest daughter works in a grocery store and could describe the customers as simply crazy. "We aren't going to die" she said! Another friend marveled at others who were buying frozen foods and refrigerated items. This type of generated storm usually causes power outages - all their goods will spoil. The supermarkets (contrary to what they want you to believe, are price gouging - $6 for a $3 case of bottled water. Still another friend asked what one would take with them if forced to evacuate.
We plan for hurricanes and blizzards, we have emergency totes for earthquakes and tornadoes. In these little satchels we carry important papers, priceless memorabilia, flashlights, batteries, radios, and other assorted goodies. We keep it nearby and check it occasionally to insure that the contents are in good repair. Regardless of the memories attached to certain items, everything we own can be replaced. Eventually, even the treasures you pass down to your children and their children will be tossed in the trash. It's a fact of life. Right now I have 2 totes filled with photos of people I do not know. They belonged to my grandmother's second husband - my mother kept them, now I have them - soon they, too, will be hitting the trash bin.
In all this planning, we might take it one step further - preparing for death is not something that one does after they are diagnosed with an incurable disease or life-threatening illness - preparing for death begins now. Jesus calmed the storm and the sea that night on the boat with His disciples. Let Him calm the storm within you! Open your heart a little more to accept the tranquil waves of His love for you. He will not desert you in the storms that come into your life. He sitting right beside you as you read this. Ask Him to come into your heart now and begin a greater walk, topped off with a happy ending!
The Bible is your emergency kit. Everything you need for survival and eternity is in it. There is a light that will not extinguish. There is evidence of your birth right or your adoption papers. It contains your passport to heaven. There are images of those loved by God etched on it's pages. There is food for thought and for the soul. Be as prepared for the day you meet Jesus as you are for the "natural disasters" that befall you. Prepare your soul, prepare your heart, prepare your mind!
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Fret not thyself because of evil men, neither be thou envious at the wicked; For there shall be no reward to the evil man; the candle of the wicked shall be put out. (Prov 24:19-20)
We have something greater than the homes built on the ocean, the ones that overlook beautiful lakes, larger than the ones that adorn the hillsides - we have a home in Heaven.
Envying those who seem to have more doesn't really get us anywhere. They aren't going to share any of it with us, nor do they even realize how much their sinful pride has interfered with their everlasting life. They see and do what they want and they reach out for bigger and better things, placing themselves in debt. Not a material debt, mind you, but an eternal debt. They somehow believe that eternal life is like winning the lottery. They have a winning ticket so collecting the prize money is all they have to do. They believe, so therefore, they are guaranteed. They do not (actually some refuse) to worship God! They use His name in vain, they offer nothing in the form of assistance to those who have less - they live only for themselves.
I do not want to be that kind of person - actually, I never did. I have nothing because I give freely. I always have. Wanting to do the things that are pleasing to God is more important to me than having a new car, a bigger home or designer clothes. The luxuries of life no longer impress me. I am impressed by only one - Jesus!
"We must not in any case fret ourselves, or make ourselves uneasy, whatever God does in his providence how disagreeable soever it is to our sentiments, interests, and expectations, we must acquiesce in it. Even that which grieves us must not fret us; nor must our eye be evil against any because God is good. Are we more wise or just than he? If wicked people prosper, we must not therefore incline to do as they do." (Matthew Henry)
(photo by Celia Darrigo)
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it. (Isa 25:8)
We are blessed because Jesus conquered death! We are blessed because we no longer have to fear the dust of the earth or the heat of the fires of hell. We are blessed because someone loved us so much that there was nothing that would not be done to free us! We are blessed because we are washing in that precious blood.
There is one final victory (one that we can already lay claim to) -- the abolishment of Satan! He will join all those he has so cunningly stolen from the arms of the Father. He will spend all of eternity in that fiery lake! He will no longer be the tempter that he is - he holds no power over those who are born again and he MUST leave at the sound of the great name of Jesus! To witness his condemnation to hell will be the day that all men cry out in praise to the King! A final justice cast down from heaven!
I do not fear the grave. I do not pray for those already gone. I pray for those who wander the earth thinking they have all the answers when they don't even know the questions! I do not fear death - in fact, I welcome it! It is in death that I will forever be in the most beautiful place imagineable. It is in death that I will no longer suffer. It is in death that I will come face to face with my Savior. It is in death that I will reach my goal...to be with God!
Take the time to lift your hands to the Father! Don't hold back! Shout your praises so all can here! Do not hesitate to announce to all the world that you are a soldier of Christ! Spread His love, share God's word! Stand firm in your faith! Accept whatever comes your way as a gift from God who created you - be it pain and suffering, loneliness, isolation, condemnation by those around you, cruel treatment and abuse - praise Him for it all! It is in all these things that we become stronger warriors!
God's promises are true - His word is clear! There is one joy that is immeasurable - to be in the presence of the King!!!
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD. (1 Sam 15:25)
There are several problems with Saul's repentance. "He besought Samuel only, and seemed most anxious to stand right in his opinion, and to gain his favour. He excuses his fault, even when confessing it; that is never the way of a true penitent. All his care was to save his credit, and preserve his interest in the people. Men are fickle and alter their minds, feeble and cannot effect their purposes; something happens they could not foresee, by which their measures are broken; but with God it is not so. The Strength of Israel will not lie." (Matthew Henry).
Saul had become both rebellious and stubborn. God took away his kingdom. Rebellion against God is perhaps the most serious sin of all, because as long a person revels, he or she closes the door to forgiveness and restoration with God. God was not rejecting Saul as a person; the king could still seek forgiveness and restore his relationship with God, but it was too late to get his kingdom back. If you do not responsibly look after what God has entrusted to you, you will eventually run out of excuses. All of us must one day give an account for our actions.
Sometimes we are more concerned about what others think of us than we are with the status of our relationship with God. We are afraid that we will not be liked or included in worldly affairs. I think I would rather be excluded here than excluded in heaven. It's important to know that what we do or don't do does affect our eternal reward. We also suffer loss of blessings here on earth, as Saul did. We cannot expect to keep all that God has given us if we don't care for it. It is in those times that we see the strength of God's power and unwaivering spirit when it comes to His commands to us. We can ask and be forgiven - but we may not always have returned to us that which we have so recklessly thrown away. Acceptance of that truth is often hard, and tends to put us in the same category as Saul. We don't need the approval of those around us when we walk in the shoes of Jesus. We need the courage to stand in them, and that only comes from the devotion and respect for the God of all creation.
When God says "no" - accept it. Consider it a blessing. Walk away with your head held high and know that you are accepting the consequences of your actions or inactions. It doesn't mean He loves you less, it just means that this is what He deems "right" in your life. You may not have all that you want or desire, but you will have all that you need. Again, happiness is not a right guaranteed us. No where is it written that we will be happy and will not suffer. Loneliness is one of the hardest "crosses" to bear, yet we all, to some extent, endure a loneliness and longing from time to time. Remembering that this is not our home helps to walk through those moments. It won't last forever. It will last only as long as we can bear...God knows our limits!
Talk to Him today - tell Him your fears, tell Him your troubles - let Jesus carry your burdens and you will make it through another day. Someday all this will vanish and you will be in the presence of the mighty King - and none of this will matter, except for your accounting of your actions. When it comes to that one weakness that draws you away from God every single time you come in contact with it, lift it up to Him! Let Him know that you need His mercy and grace to overcome the temptation or the desire to walk away. He will not walk away from you! He will lift you up and hurl you over it and you will land safely on both feet. There is nothing He will not forgive, but there is no guarantee that what is lost will be returned to you. Accept that and move forward - don't look back and don't give up. He has a plan for you, just not the one you recklessly through away.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. (Neh 8:6)
Being raised in a church that does not allow for participation other than what is scripted by the leaders made for a very stunted born again Christian. It took a long time for me to be able to utter the word "Amen" during a worship service. It took even longer for me to be able to raise one hand toward the heavens and sing praises to God...even longer still for me to raise them both! Even the prayer meetings I had attended back in the late 70's did not allow for me to praise God the way I do now! I love going to church and lifting my hands with my fellow Christians in praise and worship!!!
Ezra was the priest of the people of God. He knew the law and was committed to study, follow and teach God's Word. He is credited with leading the second group of exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem. It is thought that he may be the author of both books of Chronicles. He was concerned about keeping the details of God's commands. He was sent by King Artaxerxes to Jerusalem to evaluate the situation, set up a religious education system and returned with a firsthand report. He worked alongside Nehemiah during the last spiritual awakening recorded in the Old Testament.
We must, as Ezra teaches us, have a willingness to know and practice God's Word. This will have a direct effect on how God uses one's life. The starting place for serving God is a personal commitment to serve Him even before you know what the service will be. It is not a personal achievement, but rather a personal commitment to live for God - that is what is important. True leaders (in the Bible) don't realize the impact their lives had on others. They were too busy obeying God to keep track of their successes.
Make the change, make the choice - serve and worship God openly, willingly and lovingly! If you can't do that comfortably in the church you currently attend (or your "religion" has stunted your ability to look beyond that which is written by it's leaders), find a new one! Find one that truly teaches you to be of service. Find one that welcomes your praises of the Creator! Find on that preaches from the Word of God! The Old Testament is not filled with "fire and brimstone" - it is filled with miracles, love and praises. It is a testament to the power and the justice of God's hand. It is filled with songs and wisdom, heroes and heroines whose lives were dedicated to the one, true God! It is filled with examples of dedicated individuals whose faith was great and firmly planted in the coming of the Savior! Spend time in the Word of God - all of it, not just the story of Jesus. Shout your "Amen" loud enough to shake the foundation of Heaven, raise your hands high enough to be seen, let the tears of joy roll down your face as you realize the magnitude of the one who created you! Praise and serve as Ezra did!
Saturday, August 20, 2011
To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. (2 Cor 2:10-11)
Once again we are reminded that the enemy will not shrink from using any device to lure us away from God. His cunning, sly and almost honorable tactics are seen as worship and praise by unsuspecting and misdirected Christians. I cannot emphasize this enough (nor could Paul). Be careful - VERY CAREFUL - that your religion is sound and that its teachings - ALL OF ITS TEACHINGS - are based in the word of God!!!
Once you leave this life, you do not get a second chance to do it "right". There is no purgatory and there are no excuses acceptable. Too often the hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention when I listen to others tell me how they've asked someone other than Jesus to intercede on their behalf or on the behalf of a loved one. Too often I've seen family and friends give their acceptance to sin and all it's trappings in the name of fun, or even worse, someone's "right" to be happy. Take your cue from the Bible. It's not a book we need to evaluate as being accurate or out dated. The lessons we are given is the guide our heavenly Father has decreed we use to fashion our lives. There are no mistakes in it and it is not outdated. Some times those lures used are beautiful, joyful and seem innocuous. In that lies his plan. He is the master of deception. He creates false images and visions and has a whole army of creatures just like him (demons) to help do his work. He's held generations captive without their even knowing that they were not only on the wrong page, but they weren't even in the right book!
Stop fueling his army, stop bolstering his lies! Take a lesson from Paul with his second letter to the Corinthians - forgive in Jesus' name, pray in Jesus' name, worship God and God alone, offer nothing to anyone other than the Creator of all things through Jesus, whose blood sets you free! Be wary of any "saint" or "blessed" individual that is said to offer you saving grace, peace or salvation - they cannot! Praying to them only stands to strengthen Satan's army. Find your sin and cut it loose - find that false god you worship and get rid of it! The dead cannot hear your prayers, nor can they offer any defense to the Father on your behalf. Pray to the one, true God - through Christ who reconciles us before Him! Anything other than that is feather in the enemy's cap! Have no greater love for anything earthly above that which should be given to God. Let His light be the spotlight that attracts you - no one elses! His light will shine forever!
(photo by Rosemarie Scott)
Friday, August 19, 2011
Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. (Prov 18:21)
"A man may do a great deal of good, or a great deal of hurt, both to others and to himself, according to the use he makes of his tongue.Many a one has been his own death by a foul tongue, or the death of others by a false tongue; and, on the contrary, many a one has saved his own life, or procured the comfort of it, by a prudent gentle tongue, and saved the lives of others by a seasonable testimony or intercession for them. And, if by our words we must be justified or condemned, death and life are, no doubt, in the power of the tongue." (Matthew Henry).
Many of us are guilty of one or two of these - some are guilty of all. It is very rare to find someone has not indulged in any. I had the privilege of knowing a woman whose attitude, whose demeanor, whose undiminished loved for others, reached out to those around her and left an indelible mark so subtile, that she will not be forgotten any time soon. Diagnosed with cancer four months ago, she perservered and held out, all while comforting those around her, choosing to leave this earth on God's terms. He blessed her with a loving family - children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Anyone who met her was immediately welcomed and accepted, loved and included. She taught her daughters how to be good mothers, she taught her grandchildren the meaning of family, she gave her great-grandchildren a wonderful legacy of love. These attributes will live on long after they say their final goodbye to her.
I'd like to take a lesson from the life and death of Sally Moore - to live and to walk with God each step of the way, to trust in Him for all things and to cherish His many blessings regardless of the storms that bring them. What you say, what you don't say, how you say it and the impact it has on those around you are often the most important lessons you can teach someone. The respect you have for others reflects the respect you have for yourself.
Know that God's plan for you may not be the one your family would like, but it is the one He has chosen for you. Accept His plan without question. Adhere to His teachings without shortcuts. The banquet that is prepared for you IS yours! No one else can or will answer on your behalf. Ask forgiveness for all of your shortcomings now. Make a conscious effort to lead a life that is pleasing to the Father; help others to learn from your mistakes; and above all, praise Him for all He has so graciously blessed you with!!!
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus. (Acts 18:21)
Every step, every event, all are in God's hands. Nothing happens that He does not "will". We are born and we die at His appointed time. Not a moment sooner or a moment later. Each minute, each second of every day of our lives is orchestrated by Him. Each sunrise and sunset, every drop of rain - at His command.
The mistakes we make (or "wrong choices") are also seen by Him and understood. He gives us the opportunity to right our wrongs, mend our ways and strengthen our faith. We have an allotted time here on earth do accomplish all the things we are supposed to accomplish. We do not leave this world only to have an "encor". Once we go, that's it - there is no second chance to right a wrong, to mend a fence or to offer one last bit of advice or wisdom.
Paul spent the final years of his life spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. He spent many of those years in prison. He spent all of those years in service to God. He looked for opportunities to serve, to plant seeds, to see the conversion of many. How many of us can say that we look for places to serve, that we reach out to share the Gospel with everyone we come in contact with?
Take your cue from Paul. You don't need to be constantly traveling from place to place, but you can spread the love of Jesus to someone new every day. When you finish your transaction at the grocery story, tell the clerk to "have a blessed day". When someone holds a door for you, tell them "God bless you". His blessings are not reserved only for sneezing. Be willing to share His love with others by your words. Don't be afraid to let people see that you love God...share that love openly with others. Don't be embarrassed - Jesus was not embarrassed to die on that cross for you, so don't hold back or hesistate to share it. Before your ship sails, remember to impart God's love with one more person...
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? (Mark 4:38)
At this very moment, I can understand the frustration that Jesus must have felt when his disciples woke him with regard to the storm. They were terrified and felt it was of the gravest importance to wake Him up. I can see Him sitting there uttering the words "you woke me up for that???" With a wave of His hand, the sea was calmed and if He's anything like me, He probably couldn't go back to sleep.
The difference that lies between us is quite simple - He is God - I am not. With a patience that surpasses all, He calmed the storm, quieted the sea and reminded His disciples that they had nothing to fear. He quiets the storms still, in our hearts and in our minds.
Knowing that the Lord is ever present, carefully watching over us and guiding us is a great comfort. We know that so long as we follow the plan and trust in Him, there is nothing to fear. What we often see as a major problem, turns out to have a very simple solution. The storms that come into our lives are nothing compared to the hurricanes we once experienced before we surrendered to the Lord. The waves that crash around us do not pull us under - in fact, they lift us up.
We also know that God's blessings come to us in many forms. For what ever reason, I was awakened earlier than I had planned. That gives me another hour or so in the day to honor and praise Him! That is a blessing at any time! Things don't often go as we had planned, but they go as God has planned. To say "rejoice" is probably an understatement. We are told to "rejoice in all things".
Getting angry at things we have no control over is Satan's way in. Take all unexpected occurrences that might tend to upset you and turn them into something to thank the Lord for!!! It not only puts a positive spin on your day, but it upsets the enemy immensely. Even if you don't feel like offering it as a "praise", do it anyway -- eventually, you will be doing it and meaning it! Praise Him in the storm and it will be so much easier to praise Him in the sunshine!
Monday, August 15, 2011
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. (Heb 8:13)
I love consistency. I am not much of spontaneity. When someone or something gets in and takes my routine and either messes with it or disrupts it totally, I never seem to get back on track. I'm thinking that comes from many years of inconsistency, of not "knowing" and of worry. I have a schedule of daily events that I have down to a science. The older I get, the less I like surprises!
We are fortunate in that Jesus' love for us does not change. His word does not change. Men may think that He has evolved into a more liberal and accepting God, but what was true 2,000 years ago, what was "law" then, what was wrong then, is still wrong today. He still hates sin and still has the same list of "don'ts". Where we as humans come off thinking we can change them never ceases to amaze me.
We wake up each morning with the opportunity to offer praises and thanksgiving for all we have received. We have many moments throughout the day that we can go to the Lord and ask His blessing, ask for guidance, ask for mercy. We have day after day to offer prayers for our loved ones, our friends who are sick. We can pray for healing and we can pray for acceptance of His will in the lives of others. At any time, we can go to Him, with any number of requests or praises. There is no limit.
In knowing all of that, still many do not go to Him with praises, nor with gratitude for what has been received or what will be received in the future. For many, it is only when times are tough, when someone is sick or when the consequences of their actions are bearing down on them. Some don't even go to Him then!
Don't wait until you are in need to go to the Lord. Go to Him when you are not in need, when your cup is full, when your life is "consistent". Thank Him daily for all the little things in your world that you take for granted. Thank Him for the ability to crawl out of bed and plant your feet on the floor - some people can't do that, some people never could. Thank Him for the ability to rebrew that pot of coffee that came through looking like dirty water, some people don't have anything but dirty water to drink. Thank Him for all things! Praise Him for all things. Honor Him every day by reading His word! Let it flow over you, let it become a part of you. His love for you never changes and there are no hidden clauses or small print. It's consistant! It's constant! Be willing! He will light your way and guide you through whatever you are facing. He will not change His mind and He does not lie! He is fair, He is loving and He is worthy!!! He is God!
Sunday, August 14, 2011
He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart. (Prov 11:29)
One of the greatest resources God gives us is family. The family provides acceptance, encouragement, exhortation and counsel. Rejecting one's family - whether through anger or through an exaggerated desire for independence - is foolish becuse you cut yourself off from all they provide.
We know that individuals in a family branch out and become their own individual families in time. Children grow, make choices and take what they have been taught with them when they begin their own families. The one constant thing that remains throughout, or should remain, is the love that is generated. That is not always the case. Some families are estranged, some are tenuous, some are divided. What is evident in each person within that family, with each individual who enters into that family and with each new birth are the fingerprints of God.
Like fingerprints, there are no two alike. We are created so uniquely that the expression "God broke the mold" tells us that we are a masterpiece that cannot be duplicated, copied or cloned (regardless of what science tells us - because even identical twins have the same DNA, yet they are often as different as night and day). Whether we are created by a natural act or through the knowledge of science - we are created by God - who infuses our lives with a soul so brilliant and special that He came to earth as one of us, suffered and died and rose from the dead to guarantee us forgiveness for the asking and an eternal life to follow.
God has certainly left His mark on each and every one of us. We are created in His image and we are received in love. We often are that son or daughter who has strayed and gone off to do his or her own thing, only to realize that the true happiness we are seeking can only be found when He is a part of our lives. The homecoming we receive on earth cannot hold a candle to the homecoming we will receive when we reach our eternal destination!
Make the effort to let those in your family know how important they are to you. God lets us know every day how important we are in His. He blesses us with the morning, gives us rest through the night. He brings the rain to provide nourishment for the beauty that surrounds us. He gives life to new creations and takes others home to their reward.
Take the time to tell your family that you love them. If you're not close or you've been at odds with parents, wtih brothers or sisters - find a way to close that gap. They won't always accept the effort you make, but at least you will have made it. The time we spend on earth with those we call family, is short in comparison to the time we will spend in eternity. There may be a long period of time before we meet them again so let those you love know NOW that they are important. In your family, strive for healing, communications and understanding...after all - you are covered with the fingerprints of God!
Saturday, August 13, 2011
And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them. (Rev 14:13)
Preaching the Gospel shakes the foundation of the enemy and hastens his downfall. Those who align themselves with him should be prepared for a long and miserable eternity. Those who trust in the Lord, who believe and have faith in Jesus Christ, will finally rest and be free from sin, temptation, sorrow and persecution. Their works will follow them as a testimony to their faith, they will be the proof of having lived and died in the Lord.
This is why we are to share the Gospel of Jesus! His gift of salvation needs to be offered to all. I disagree with the belief that everyone knows who God is, who Jesus is. Many may know of them, but they do not know about them. There are many people who do not read, who have no access to the world outside of their community or have been raised by atheists or non-believers. They do not know the Lord, nor do they know of Him. We have our work cut out for us.
Not all who preach are enlightened by God. Not all who preach follow the plan His has laid out for them. Accepting God's will in all things is important for leading and teaching others about His promises. We have the opportunity every day to share a little of those promises with others. Those who preach have a greater obligation to those whose spiritual well being in placed in their care. They cannot afford to "blow off" any of God's faithful followers for any reason. No matter how needy, no matter how ridiculous and no matter how over bearing some people may be, they are children of God and those in leadership who fail to minister to all who seek to be ministered to will be called to account for it. No, they are not expected to be perfect, but they cannot pick and choose which of God's children they will make time for and which ones they will ignore and make excuses to for not providing guidance to those who come to them. It's not about building a bigger chuch, a louder choir or increasing the number of congregants in the pews. It's about serving and ministering to the ones that are already there.
Don't make the mistake of many servants of God. Take the time to acknowledge all who seek to know Him, or ask your assistance in helping others come to know Him. We are not all as persuasive as those educated in the Word of God, we are not all trained to quickly answer the questions of the lost. There is a reason why they were chosen to lead - when they do not, their apathy leaves a very bad taste in the mouths of those seeking to understand the word and those who sent them there in the first place.
We are all in the customer service business for God. Some of us answer the phones and direct the callers to those better equipt to handle their needs. Some of us can take care of the minor issues, but there are times when someone more knowledgeable, more experienced, is needed to take care of the situation. We cannot afford to be like the big monopoly businesses...where a few lost customers is no big deal - every lost customer in God's business is a lost soul. One less soul to enter the kingdom and rejoice in the promises of God. The leaders of the church that are willing to take that loss, who walk away, don't return a call, don't truly have the best interest of all those of Jesus' flock whose care has been entrusted to them, are not leaders that I'd want to be listening to. Those called to that ministry need to have and use all the tools - not just the ones that are easy, glamourous or endearing. God's work is not easy, it is not glamourous and it is a 365 day, 24 hours a day assignment. There are no vacation days.
So when someone asks you to explain something, when someone wants to know the Lord better, take the time to guide them. If their questions or their needs fall beyond the scope of your understanding, be sure that whomever you send them to will be willing to hear them, willing to help them and willing to take the time to love them. The Kingdom of God is at hand, those who are reaching out for it need to be met with love and compassion and not ignored and pushed aside for a bigger, or better "save". Remember, Christ told us to "let the dead bury their own" - worry more about the living and proclaim the Good News of Jesus to all who want to hear it!
(phot by Dan Weir)
Friday, August 12, 2011
And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun. (Ecc 2:10-11)
None of us are perfect. We all have our moments when we look down at those who do not have as much as we have (and for some of us, that's really a stretch). We all categorize people into groups and classes. We are a people obcessed with success and preoccupied with making more money. We are never satisfied. We want more today than we had yesterday. We devise ways to hold onto what we have and look for loopholes around every corner. Some of us take it to the extreme, others moderately and benignly cover our greed, and still others need to hang on to the little we have for the rainy day. In all this, many forget two important truths: we can't take it with us; we are to give to the works of the church of Christ (not necessarily a "church" building).
What do you ask God for? Do you ask for a bigger home, a better job, a new car, fancier clothes? King Solomon asked God for wisdom. The problem with his request was that although he recognized the need for wisdom to rule his kingdom, he had already started a habit which would make his wisdom ineffective for his own life.
We are reminded by his decision to go against not only his father's (David) last words, but also God's direct commands, how easy it is to know what is right and yet not do it. How often do we make excuses for our actions (justifying them to others)? How often do we know the "right" thing to do and choose the easier? How often to we turn our backs and walk away? How often do we shake our heads at the ways of the world and point fingers as opposed to taking responsibility for our actions or inactions, and spend time criticizing others all from the comfort and safety of our living room couch?
Often we received a gift or a blessing that we believe has come too late. We will mumble the words "where was this yesterday" and be sullen and disappointed that we didn't receive (or realize) it sooner. Nothing that the Lord does for us is ever "too late". Realizing the error of our ways, the sins of our past and what we had and chose to throw away, is often the greatest blessing we could ever receive. Letting go of the past (not being able to change or fix things) is only as hard as we make it. Sometimes we don't want to let go, because in letting go, we must stop waiting for that miracle that takes us back in time and enables us to change our own course of history. God's plan for us included that time frame. Those events, when combined with His plan for our future, helps to make it more of a blessing, for we realize the value of the lesson we've been taught, the wisdom we have acquired and the journey that brought us both.
Our blessings do not come from the wealth or "pretty things" we acquire. Our money does not buy happiness, it buys things that make us smile for a while and those things become dull and boring. God's blessings are always new, they always shine and they are always perfect. They are often not tangible in this life, yet they are essential to living a compleley fulfilled life in Jesus. So, don't ask for the material things you'd like to make your life "easier" - ask for the wisdom and the strength to accept what you have and be blessed by it. Let go of your "failures" and walk toward the successes that the Lord has waiting for you! Take a lesson from the life of Solomon. Learn the lesson of repentance now, not later, for although you know the actions required of you, it means little without the will to do them.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
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 40:31)
Sometimes people try to pressure us into things we either don't want to do or aren't comfortable doing just yet. We "wait upon the Lord" because it has been our experience that the Lord will let us know exactly what it is we are supposed to do. He reveals His plan for us in pieces - one at a time.
In everything we do, we should seek God's will. When we wait and pray for His guidance, we do become stronger. We become the servant He wants us to be and we will being doing the work that He wants us to do. His will, as we already know, is not necessarily our will or our choice. We often ask for what we think we want, only to be shut down and locked out. When we willingly go where He sends us, our journey is often a bit bumpy to start (mostlikely because we are fighting Him). Once we realize that we are where we are supposed to be, the sunlight begins to pour through that crack in the ceiling and light up the room with a light that is brighter than we can imagine.
To say that we can do all things through Christ is not an exaggeration. We were created by a supreme being who knows the limits of our strength and depths of our souls. There is nothing that we cannot accomplish with Him by our side. We CAN move mountains, we CAN walk on water, we CAN overcome our fears and weaknesses! We are the instruments of God! We will not fail! Our life giver does not give us more than we can endure. When we think we can't, He knows we can and reminds us that we do not do it alone - we do it through His almighty power because it is His plan we are carrying out. It is only when we try to do it our way and alone that we are unsuccessful.
It may not be the glamourous life we'd like to think we deserve. Remembering that we deserve nothing, everything from then on out becomes a blessing. The instinctive power that is built into the fabric of our being is often the working of the Holy Spirit guiding us. That "bad feeling about this" that flows over us is often the caution tape placed before us to show us where not to go. If we are patient, and wait and pray, God will show us the route without hesitation - patience being the key. There are rarely decisions that need to be made in a split second. There is always time to pray.
So take the time to "wait upon the Lord". Take the time to pray and ask for guidance. Enlist the power of the Holy Spirit - it is where our inner strength comes from. Be a shining example for all to see. Do not compromise your beliefs or your way of life to fit in or to accommodate someone else. Stand your ground, stand tall. The rock you stand on has already been sacrificed. There is no need to sacrifice anything else because His will stand the test of time and is the greatest of all sacrifices ever offered. When all is said and done and your light begins to shine, you will soar on wings like eagles and you will be greatly blessed!
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD. (Ps 150)
The last psalm of the book...could it be any clearer that we are to praise Him??? David introduced music into the Tabernacle and Temple services. I'm sure it was loud (look at the list of instruments played throughout the Psalms). Rejoicing and singing, glory to the Lord!!!
Regardless of the road we chose early in our walk, we all eventually find our way onto His path, if we are persistant and allow ourselves to be led. Once we are forgiven, once we are born again, we will forever be compelled to praise God and do His work. Once the Holy Spirit fills you, you cannot walk away. There can be instances of deliberate disobedience, but none as great as what they were before we reached out and accepted the hand of Jesus. And in those moments of disobedience, we immediately know, without question, that we need to ask for forgiveness and strength to continue on and not repeat that same "sin" again.
Our temptations will never end. Satan will taunt and temp us throughout our journey. He looks for any opportunity to drag us away from the light. He whispers in our ear that we are a failure, we are not worthy (which, we aren't, but we've been redeemed), that we can have a better life on this earth if we ignore many of God's commands, that success is all about power and wealth, that we deserve some measure of earthly royalty and that we can be happy!
We weren't put here to be happy! We were put here to serve. Our lives were not meant for laboring, our "comfortable" lifestyle was ended with the first sin - the sin of disobedience that removed our ancestors from the Garden of Eden. We cannot get that back while on earth. That will come when our bodies die and our soul moves in to receive our eternal gift...but until then we will work, we will struggle, we will serve, we will praise, we will pray and we will sin. We will ask for and receive forgiveness, we will be blessed and we will be loved by Him!
So sing songs of praise, dance and shout "hallelujah"!!! Lift your voice and your hands, tap your foot, sway to the rhythm. Dance to the beat of His drum, not the enemy's! Look beyond that which Satan sends in an attempt to defeat you. Walk away from it, pray for it and learn from it. You may not deserve the hurt and pain others heap upon you, but you can, nonetheless, grow from it and turn it into a mighty blessing! Sometimes it's very hard, because often those who strike the hardest blow are those closest to you. Yet, in all of that, remember Jesus - He forgave His betrayer, He forgave His crucifiers, He forgave them all. He hung on a tree for our transgressions as well as those who sinned against God centuries before and for centuries to follow. There is no greater love than that! Praise Him - for He has set you free!!!
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Gen 1:28)
God has tasked us with caring for His children and His creatures. We are to make sound decisions with regard to both. We know that our children are our responsibility. That's a given. We bring them into this world without opinion, teach them through our example and love them like there is no tomorrow. There are those who do not "love" their children in a manner that is acceptable to God (or man for that matter). There are children abused and murdered everyday by the people entrusted with their care. They will be judged accordingly.
God's creatures, the birds, the fish, the beasts, the dogs and cats, the hampsters and gerbils, the little white mice...the ones we have "tamed" and turned into housepets, are also ours to care for. We live in a society that exploits, mistreats and abuses that which we are also commanded to care for. We (as a people) have caused the extinction of certain animals due to greed, selfishness, and carelessness. We have scientifically re-bred species to produce "uber-pets" and out of laziness have caused hundred of thousands to cats and dogs to be euthanized each year. We have created a "profit" margin for many to exploit in the buying and selling of "pure-bred" animals.
When you sit and look at both children and pets, they want only to be loved and cared for in a manner that reflects joy and pride. They don't need to be (nor do they want to be) told they are bad or useless. They do not ask to be condenmed for mistakes they make (or the accidents they have). They are completely at the mercy of God (and our fallable human hands).
Take the time to instill values and morals in your children. Take the time also to love and care for God's creatures. It's not an "either or" situation - we are commanded to do both. Be willing to listen to the voice of God with an open heart and mind. He will guide you in the decisions you make regarding both. Pray for the courage and strength to give them the best that there is (not necessarily material), they deserve the best for they, too, were created by God. We are to be responsible parents and pet owners, not baby factories and critter hoarders. Care for both as God has commanded. Make their world a better place because you are a part of it. Do not take for granted that they are "yours". He will bless them, He will bless you!
"Bless the beasts and the children, for in this world they have no voice, they have no choice..." (music and lyrics by Jr Botkin and Barry De Vorzon).
Monday, August 8, 2011
Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength. (Neh 8:10)
"The people wept openly when they heard God's laws and realized how far they were from obeying them. But Ezra told them they should be filled with joy because the day was holy. It was time to celebrate and to give gifts to those in need." (Life Application Study Bible)
We know that "faith without works is dead" and we know that "not by faith alone" will we enter. They go hand in hand. We know that Ezra was the "religious leader" and Nehemiah was the layman, not a member of the religious establishment or a prophet. It was his relationship with that caused him to devote his life to doing God's will in the secular world. We are all called to serve, in one way or another. Some are called to the ministry of preaching, some are called to feeding the poor, but we are all called and commanded to spread the Gospel. We cannot be content with just sitting back and letting someone else do it. That's not to say that we must go stand on a street corner and preach "the end is near". We can spread the Gospel through our actions; through what is seen by others in us.
I have a friend who once told me that they are "saved" but told me "I'm not doing what YOU do". What do I do that is so embarrassing or "uncool"??? I write - that's my ministry - but I live (or try to anyway) a life that reflects the life of Jesus, I abide by the law of God and my morals and values will not be called into question by Him. I have the Holy Spirit guiding me and Jesus to intercede for me. He blesses my life every day. I am not outwardly impressive and inwardly barren. I have joy within that is perfected by Jesus.
Happiness is not what this world is about. It is not what we were put here for and it is not a "right" we are entitled to. Trying to logically understand God doesn't work, it never has and it never will. We are called to be faithful. We are called to be submissive. We are called to serve. As I have said so often, you cannot sit on both sides of the fence. You either are or you are not. You actions reflect the changes of your soul. If the Holy Spirit dwells within you, you cannot continue to pursue a "material" life. "More, more, more" of what the world has to offer means less of what God has in store for you. Being satisfied with what is given you creates a peace within you. It brings about a relief of having to be "successful" and "rich". You no longer find the need to be "popular" or "admired". You are good enough just the way you are.
Count it all joy! If you are walking with Jesus, it's the ultimate joy! Your journey will end in everlasting joy. If you are standing on the promises, you do not stand alone, but in great company. You may not be the richest, strongest or most popular person on this plane, but you will be among those whose lives encouraged others, whose actions gained them recognition and whose service and submission has caused them to receive the greatest standing in the house of the Lord. It all began with faith: faith in God! Faith that He would not let them down. Faith that He would uphold the truths of His word. One day, all that you have worked for, all that you have accumulated and all that you have devoted your time to secure will be gone. What will you have left to offer to God as a testimony for your life on earth???
Sunday, August 7, 2011
The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. (Zeph 3:17)
When we think in terms of weights and measures, mass and density, there are so many things that fall under the term "almost impossible". I am reminded of the story of a home owner who bought a house with a rather huge boulder in the basement. No one could remove it. There was no way - the greatest minds in the area had not be able to come up with a way to reduce the size of the boulder without destroying the house. One young man, not too swift on his feet, came to the home owner and proposed that he could take care of it. The home owner agreed, thinking if the smartest people in their fields could not figure a way to get it out, this poor soul will be wasting his time, but if it makes him happy - go for it! The young man was in the basement for days. Finally, he emerged and told the home owner he had taken care of the problem. Amazed, the home owner went to his basement to find the boulder had vanished. He asked the young man "how" he did it! The young man looked at him and very sincerely said that the hardest part was getting started, but one he had begun to dig, the boulder slowly began to descend into the hole. He had not removed it, just moved it from above the ground to beneath the ground.
We look at what we believe cannot be done! We are the ultimate pessimists when it comes to what our Creator can do. We serve a God who can and will move mountains for us. He wants us to succeed. He wants us to reach our final destination joyfully, praising His name as we go! He offers us so many opportunities to serve Him. Our mountains don't generally move all at once, although it is not impossible (as many of us know first hand). They move slowly, sometimes only inches at a time, but they do move. We must have faith that they will move, that God has had a plan for us long before He created us.
In the hours and minutes of our day, remembering who it is we are here to serve and what it is we are called to do is paramount! Nothing that passes through our lives is insignificant. Each moment, each event has a purpose. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we learn, we grow, we stumble, we fall, we rise, we bow, we worship and we praise! We are held steadfast by the rock - Jesus, our foundation! He is as close to you as you are to your keyboard and He never leaves your side. He is sitting with you when you are stuck in traffic, He is there when you are afraid. He is there whenever you need Him (which in my case is quite frequently). He reaches out His mighty hand and calms the storm within you and settles the wind around you. He is God - a God of love and understanding, of acceptance and forgiveness. He is never-failing! Surrender your life, your work, your soul to His way, His saving grace will fill you and you, too, will be able to move mountains!
Saturday, August 6, 2011
But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. (Matt 1:20)
Deep in thought and utterly confused, Joseph weighs the prospect of marrying a woman who claims to be "with child" and he knows with all certainty that he is not the father! His upbringing, he knowledge of the law and his devotion to God tell him that this woman is not worthy of becoming his wife. His heart tells him otherwise! God sends His angel to assure him that it's okay to take her as such and raise the child as his own. Answering God's calling is not generally an easy task. The initial "yes" that we commit to is simplier than the journey itself. It is often frought with trials and adversities that most people would not only walk away from, but run away from! Yet, here stands Joseph - steadfast and willing. He answered God's calling with a "yes".
We don't always know the reasons for our trials, we generally don't realize them until we are over our heads and sinking fast! God lifts us up out of them at the precise moment we realize the truth surrounding them. To "serve" Him is what the bottom line is. How and where and through what means we accomplish that is generally left for Him to decided. He does not come to us with a basket of goodies and ask us to choose which of those we would prefer. He gives us what we need to get us through to the next leg of our journey. Our journey has but one purpose: to lead others to Christ on our way to the kingdom.
How wonderful it would be to spend the remainder of our lives captivated by the loving surroundings of only other Christians. There would be no temptations, there would be no inconsistencies, there would be no struggles - for if all are believing and all are knowing - there is nothing to "teach". Our examples are our greatest teaching tool. How we live our lives, how we present ourselves to those who do not walk in the light gives them a hunger for what we have that they do not. Although we may be suffering on the inside, we must always present the attitude that all things of God are good!
Love of money is one of the greatest tools the enemy uses to lure God's children into his army. The want for "more" can lead us down a path that constantly takes us from the work He has for us. He will provide what we need. Our "comfortable surroundings" will come, but not in this world, not in this life. They will come to us when we have completed our work here on earth. Sometimes the "dreams" we have become more important than the work we do. The focus is placed on achieving that goal as opposed to what takes us there - the road. Those we meet along the way, those who do not know the power of the King, must be introduced to His mercy and grace - sometimes that is a visible introduction. As with Thomas, seeing is believing. When others see that joy in you, it bears witness to a greater providence. Those who have so much more materially than you, may not even look down at you because they feel there is no need to! In order to get their attention, you must be braver, stronger and more devoted than you believe you can be! Every single action is taken into account. Every single word you utter is heard.
There are some people who will never be reached, some who just will not shoot a look in your direction, some who will continue to insist that their way is the only way and your way is for others - not them. They believe that they are above because of who or what they are - and there is nothing you can do to convince them otherwise. They want to stay with their head buried in their bank account and do their Daffy Duck impersonation (it's mine - all mine)! They do not share, the do not reach out, the do not worship the God of Heaven - they worship only their money and the false teachings of their church.
Jesus tells us that we cannot serve two - only one! Which one do you choose? Will you be Joseph and forego the pride or will you choose the easier, softer road, the one lined with good intentions? I choose Joseph's road! Acceptance of God's plan for me regardless of what it may look like to others and most likely narrow and hard to navigate at times. The blessings are real and the reward is great! Eternity is a lot longer than the time we spend here. Make the best of it, make it count, make it His way and not yours! Make it last!
Friday, August 5, 2011
And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:7)
Being blessed by God is a wonderful experience. So many receive blessings and don't even realize that it is from God that they come. The atheist, who is suffering greatly, who receives a healing; how do they explain it? Who do they blame when the illness strikes (they can't blame God - they don't believe in Him!). Karma??? The alignment of the stars??? What? Who?
I watch each day as missionary friends I have tell of the numbers of lives being dedicated to Christ! The acceptance of Him as the Savior and the praises to God for the saving of these lost souls. I see young people (and I mean young people - some not even in high school) witnessing to the power of God amongst their friends, winning souls for Jesus! I see the word spread every day. Far too many people have no idea how important their decision to not worship and praise Him is with regard to their eternal life or just do not care because that "holier than thou" attitude has been burned into their brain by the authority of their church. Those in "authority" would not recognize Satan even if he did show up in a red suit with horns and a pointed tail! They teach lies and give a false doctrine and their followers are just as arrogant as they, because they have been taught to be. Their church is the "one, true church" that sets them apart from others. What they do not see, what they do not realize is that Jesus is the one, true church!
It saddens me to see so many gifted and talented people, wealthy and resourceful men and women, wandering this earth not spreading the Good News! These are not the atheists - they believe in God, they believe in Jesus - but they are not commited to either - the Holy Spirit was bestowed upon them by their church when they were all of 11 or 12 years old. They don't know any better (nor do they care to). They never have a challenge to overcome, there are no trials in their lives - why - because Satan does not need to lure them away from God, he already has them in his fold - and they do not even see it!
Spread the Gospel of Jesus! Praise the Lord your God! Lift your hands to Him who reigns - the King of Kings, the salvation of your soul!!! Each day still, the word of God is spread to others! The kingdom grows a little more each day! Soon He will have all He will ever have and the end will begin. The trumpet will sound and His voice will wake the dead...but not before they have all been offered the chance to be redeemed by the blood! Be obedient to your King and to His word, not to the teachings of man!
Thursday, August 4, 2011
He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God (Rom 4:20)
When I think of the faith of those who have walked with God (yes, we all know I think of Esther), I think of the task that lie ahead of them in relationship to the faith they displayed. Abraham was no exception. God asked him to sacrifice his son! Abraham did not question and did not hesitiate. He followed the directions of our heavenly Father. No, he did not sacrifice Isaac - but he was willing!
The past few days I have been reluctantly accepting what I perceived as God's plan for me. It was not something I was jumping up and down at, as a matter of fact, I began the task while sobbing uncontrollably over a situation I had no control over! I was willing.
In all the trials that come our way, whether we like them or not, we are called to be willing and humble servants of the Lord. He knows best what we need, where we should be and He knows what He asks may be the last thing in the world we want to do. Yet, in that willingness, He shows His mercy. That is where our faith takes a giant leap. When we completely trust in God, agree to His terms and comply. This is not to say that our faith will keep us from pain and distress. It may be we need that to grow spiritually. What ever God commands us to do is always in our best interest, whether we see it or not.
There's a line in my book that I don't use anymore..."God, if you get me out of this one" has been replaced with "Jesus, where ever the Father sends me, I will go". The willingness to serve is greater than the want for comfort. He has opened my eyes to a small piece of His plan and it is now time to impliment it. It is time to start walking the walk and accepting the life He has laid before me. You, too, have a life that is being laid before you. Don't pray for Him to change it - pray for the courage and strength to accept it! Offer Him what He is due - your praises and your gratitude! He will see you through the storm and guide you safely to land, but do not try to bargain with Him - remember, God doesn't bargain.
So today, lift up your eyes to the heavens and thank Him for what He has given you and for what He has taken from you - it makes you who you are - a child of the King! He will not leave you to starve, He will not leave you to the enemy and He will not forget to bless you with more than you deserve. Give to Him your best and your reward will come. It may not be "all that and then some" - it may just be "enough" - but you will know that you have seen the love of the Father!!! His love for you is greater than any other! You mean more to Him than any of His other creations! Allow Him to work in you and you will be blessed!
(Image: "Abraham and Isaac" by Sir Anthony Van Dyck)
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
But unto the tribe of Levi Moses gave not any inheritance: the LORD God of Israel was their inheritance, as he said unto them. (Joshua 13:33)
Although we are mostly descended Gentiles or adopted children, not part of the division of the lands to the twelve tribes, we receive, as did the Levites, the greatest of all God's treasures, the inheritance in the kingdom of heaven! We can lay no claim to any earthly treasure given to us. There is nothing promised to us in the way of property or possessions. Yes, as with the Levites, we are rich in grace. We are servants who have no title to anything worldly. All that we may possess is lent to us by our Father in Heaven. He does not give us anything that we can keep or take with us into the next life. We have the greatest of all gifts, because no one can tax it, no one can destroy it, no one can take it from us - the gift of eternal life.
Our spoils of war are the scars we bear that no one sees. They are the heartbreaks we live with and the disappointments we try to hide from others. Our battles are often long and seemingly endless. We fight an enemy so devious that we don't always see that it is he we are fighting. He comes at us often through beautiful words, longings and lusts reminding us of what we do not have, that others do have - as if God had forgotten about us, or found us less deserving of relief or joy than those around us. Satan tortures us with things of beauty and ease, tries to find a weakness to play on (and we all have them).
We pray for an easier life. We pray for peace of mind. We pray, sometimes, for just a little bit more than we have, we pray for an end to the suffering and the torment by the enemy. We move about, sometimes paralyzed and unable to pray, yet always with our thoughts towards heaven and it's maker. Our rest is interrupted by nightmares and terror at what may lie ahead, all while knowing that we will survive it, because in that survival lies the promise. That promise that we are loved, that promised that we are accepted, that promise that we will be blessed and that we will, when this life is over, be in the presence of our inheritance!
For far too many years, I have spent this day wiping tears, remembering moments and imagining what life would have been like had God's plan not taken a sweet, caring soul from this world when He did. In those thirty-eight years, she has never been far from my thoughts, nor from the thoughts of those closest to her. Her laughter lives on in each of us and our hearts long to hear one more word or have one last glance. She is in the greatest place imaginable, in the presences of our mighty King. She took nothing with her, yet she has more than she will ever need. Like those of us still left here, she battled the enemy and fought the demons and was triumphantly received into a place of honor and glory for all eternity! She has received her inheritance and patiently waits for us to receive ours.
God's plan for us may just be to walk with Him each day until the time comes for us to receive our inheritance. We may never be the great orator, the popular celebrity, or the rich philanthropist we might like to believe we could be. We may never own more than the clothes on our back, we may never be the one who gets "all the breaks", and we may never be anything more than a footnote in someone's family history - but we are destined for greatness, in a quiet and subtle way - we are destined for heaven - there is no greater inheritance than that!
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Blessings are upon the head of the just: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked. (Prov 10:6)
If you are like me, you probably look around sometimes and wonder why you are chosen to accept hardship. I mean, I know the reason (because it's God's will) , but there are days when I cry out to heaven and say "enough - I can't take any more pain!" Jealousy begins to crawl up my spine and I tell God that I am faithful, my life reflects change, my desires are to be of service to Him in whatever setting He places me, yet I cannot help but wonder why so many who do not, are apparently living a better, more comfortable existence that I am. Their focus is not on Him, their "gods" are everything but Him, yet they prosper and smile and continue to be comfortable in their mansions, while I sob myself to sleep each night.
I tell myself all the things I need to be reminded of - that it is not an easy road to be of service to the Lord, that His blessings will come and that they will be greater than I could have ever imagined, that this life will end and that pain will end with it - that my name is written in the book of life and that I will sit at His feet and worship Him for all eternity. It's very hard to see the promise through the tears.
Laura Story's song, "Blessings" just keeps resonating in my mind. Our blessings most generally do come as a result of tears, our healing through pain. We acknowledge that the greatest members of that "inner circle" have endured the most suffering! Yet, in all of that, we can still ask and pray for relief from the burden, only, once again, to acknowledge that "His will" not ours, be carried out. It would be a pleasant experience to have His will and mine be one in the same, but that generally does not happen. So I will go where He sends me.
Remind yourself that life is not always what we expect, that changes occur to strengthen us and that God will not give us more than we can bear (although, sometimes I think He pushes us to the very brink of despair). The trials and torments of this life do remind us that we are foreigners in this place - this is not our home - we will be lifted up into His majesty and presences and all will be right! So when your chest is heavy, when your sobs are long and the tears have no end - know that He is right there with you, waiting to bless you when you accept the road He's chosen for you.
Monday, August 1, 2011
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (1 Thes 5:18-21)
While laying in bed last night, trying not to think about what lies in my immediate future, my mind drifted back to last year at this time. My world was being tossed around like a big beach ball, my heart couldn't take any more hurt and pain and I was literally crying out to God to rescue me and take me home. Several years before that, I had also done the same thing, attempted suicide because the pain was so great and I could see no other way out - I wanted to be in heaven with Jesus, where I knew I'd be comforted and loved. And many years before that, I lost a friend in a tragic car accident. August has never started with anything other than pain and suffering for as far back as I can remember!
I've been thinking about those "heroes" in the Bible lately. What their lives were like, what it was really like to "talk to God" and receive an answer. Yes, God still answers our prayers - through the Holy Spirit, He communicates with us, but I mean truly hear (audibly) His voice!!! I always think of Enoch first - for he walked with God and "was no more". I have realized that God is a God of "second chances" (and third, forth, fifth and so on). I gaze on the names listed in the "Hall of Faith" in Hebrews 11 - what an awesome bunch of people! Yet, before their great faith thrust them into that chapter, they had to be given a "second" chance. Abraham - the father of faith - lied, and God used him to start a nation! Moses - a prince and a murderer and God used him to rescue the Israelites. Jonah - turned his back on God (by not going to Nineveh) and He used him to save a city. Isaiah pouted in the desert and Jacob was a deceiver (regarding Esau), Gomer was a prostitute and Sarah laughed at Him! Yet all of these people found favor in God's eyes!
God uses people to spread His word. He doesn't go for the "pretty" (except for Hadassah - remember, she won a beauty contest), He doesn't go for the great orators (Moses had a speech impediment), He doesn't go for the "muscular" (David slew Goliath with a stone) - what He goes for is the heart! He's not impressed with anything material so don't think you can buy God's attention. (Yes, the tithes you place in the offering plate please Him, but they don't set you apart from anyone). He wants us to ask Him in and do something we cannot do ourselves. "Create in me a clean heart" - requires God's action, not our own.
So, in what we know (that God's plan is not always our plan), we must walk forward, ever faithful, regardless of what lies ahead. We must encourage others as we go (even if we, ourselves, appear to be in a hopeless situation). We must give a good testimony (God has done some marvelous things in our lives - we need to share that regardless of where we sit right now). We must say "yes" to Jesus every day. We must remember that all lost people are children of God, waiting to be found. We are being sent to "open their eyes" and see them delivered from the authority of Satan. They are prisoners of war and Satan fights to hold onto them, just as he fights to win us back.
"Why do so many bad things keep happening to me?" Simple - because every true believer is under attack by Satan! So when the pressure from the enemy continues to cause you to stumble - get right back up because that means you are doing something right! Maybe you are destined to be a great leader. Maybe you are destined to lead only one life to Christ. Whatever His plan is, we are to endure the hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ - there in lies the reward! Remember, Heaven sees your heart!!!