Friday, September 30, 2011

~ "From sea to shining sea..."

Gather together, gather together, O shameful nation, before the appointed time arrives and that day sweeps on like chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD comes upon you, before the day of the LORD’s wrath comes upon you. Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD's anger. (Zep 2:1-3)

"The prophet calls to national repentance, as the only way to prevent national ruin. A nation not desiring, that has not desires toward God, is not desirous of his favour and grace, has no mind to repent and reform." (Matthew Henry).

We are in need of national repentance! If you research and study the rise and fall of great nations, and compare them to the US right now - we are headed for a fall. It may be more serious than many imagine. Kerby Anderson sums it up very well in his piece on "The Decline of a Nation":

The first stage moves from bondage to spiritual faith. The second from spiritual faith to great courage. The third stage moves from great courage to liberty. The fourth stage moves from liberty to abundance. The fifth stage moves from abundance to selfishness. The sixth stage moves from selfishness to complacency. The seventh stage moves from complacency to apathy. The eighth stage moves from apathy to moral decay. The ninth stage moves from moral decay to dependence. And the tenth and last stage moves from dependence to bondage.

Where we are headed is almost a sure bet. We, as a nation, are preoccupied with everyone and everything outside our borders. We feed, clothe, provide expensive medical treatments and other assorted "good deed" to promote "good relations with third world countries". Yes, it is a good thing, however it is not a good thing when those needs are being ignored right here at home! If you look at the shape and condition of this nation right now, you can take any chapter from history and see what is to come. Better yet, take a chapter or two from the Bible. Two very significant occurrences come to mind. One involved a flood, the other involved a tower. Our society makes Babylon look like a kindergarten class.

I don't know the solution, I don't have the answer. I know that I can pray for God's will. I know that I can pray for our president, for congress, for both houses, for my state and of my local government. Yes, they are added to my prayer list. Their hearts need to be touched by the power of God. The enemy runs freely through the government buildings in Washington and elsewhere throughout this country. He runs freely through the streets of the big cities. He directs quite a number of the television programs and movie production companies. He has a seat on Wall Street. He is a very big commodity right now.

There is one thing I do know - that is that my God is greater than any of these leaders. My God can, if He chooses to, remove His hand and watch this nation fall. He's done it before. The slaughter of innocents is nothing new either. It dates back to the very beginning of man's walk after being cast out of the garden. It will continue until the second coming of Christ. The only hope for our nation rests on the power of prayer. Not one of us can afford at this time to withdraw from the Lord! We must be firm in our faith and diligent in our prayers. We cannot afford distractions. We are rounding the corner into yet another election. The candidates are jockeying for position. What are you doing?

(photo by Celia Darrigo)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

~ "Living in sin..."

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (Rom 3:19-20)

The last time I was accused of doing something wrong, I reacted in total disbelief of what I was hearing.  I could not utter a word.  I was appalled at the comments being spit at me by someone who felt I "did him wrong" because I chose to not involve myself in a relationship with him.  I knew he was not sent to me by the Lord (because he does not know the Lord) and his idea of a relationship was co-habitation as opposed to marriage.  Even after I tried to explain to this man that this would not "work" for me, that I was committed to what the Father tells me is right and wrong, he persisted.  He could not seem to understand that everything that I do must be in obedience to God's word. I stopped taking his calls.  Recently, I felt bad that I had abruptly disconnected myself from him and called to try to explain (and see if maybe he's come to know the Lord in the time that had passed).  He called me a phony and a liar and felt that no pastor would tell me that what he desired for a relationship was wrong.  Still standing in the kitchen in shock, I hung up the phone.   Now the enemy has decided to taunt me with this.  He'd like me to believe that I was everything this man said that I was.  I remind him that God has forgiven me for anything I did wrong, but I do not apologize to anyone for my actions that uphold what He has decreed to be in accordance with His law!

The Bible tells us that we will stand hushed and guilty before God.  There will be no excuses or arguments left.  We must all reach the point with God where we are ready to "hang up" our defenses and await His decision.  We must admit our sins (as hard as that might be) to Him.  If you haven't accepted Jesus, do so now.  Stop and admit your sins, ask Him into your heart and begin to walk the path of the righteous.  Once that is accomplished, there is hope!

In verses 20 and 31 (Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law), we see the functions of God's law.  The law shows us where we go wrong.  The commandments remind us that we are helpless sinners and that we must come to Jesus for mercy.  The "moral code" we find in the law guides our actions.  We must uphold God's moral standards if we are to walk the path He's laid before us.  We do not earn salvation by keeping the law.  No one except Jesus ever kept or could keep it perfectly.  We please God when we conform to what He has reveal to us.  Jesus paid the price for our sins.  The price of sin is death.  We have been redeemed.  We have been found "not guilty".  God has wiped away our sins as though they never happened.  

If you continue to live in sin, how can you be forgiven?  You may be able to justify it to family and friends, but not to God.  It's time to make right the sins of your past and your present, acknowledge them, stop committing them and move forward with Jesus beside you!  Give God something to be pleased about in how you live your life!!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

~ "Five truths..."

If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. (1 Tim 4:6)

5 TRUTHS TO SHARE: 1. Prayer prevents panic.2. Count your blessings to forget your problems.3. If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.4. There is no "Key" to happiness. The Door is already open.5. Fear God who saves your Soul, not those who can harm your Body. God has called each and everyone one you, he has hand picked you, chosen you on purpose to walk on the earth with the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead, He has given you authority over the devil, over sin and over anything that dares to come against you. As we begin to understand our identity and who we are in Him, we learn to stand firm determined to run our race with endurance!!!

I stole the above from a friend (yes, I told her I was stealing it). It seemed to go hand in hand with 1 Timothy 4. In his letter to Timothy, Paul tells him (and us) that everything God made is good. He opposes false teachers (as should we). We should enjoy and thank Him for the blessings He bestows upon us (love, food, life, etc) - not abuse them (gluttony, lust, murder). We should use them to honor Him.

These five truths remind us that if our focus is on the Lord (through prayer, honor, faith, belief and fear), there is nothing the enemy has that can take that. He will try to distract us (it's his job). Keeping God in the center of our lives means that Satan is not. He sits on the edges waiting for his opportunity to strike and once he finds a weakness, he hits is over and over again until we crash to the ground. Fortunately, we have Jesus ready and able to put him back in his corner.

We all have a unique road we take each day. We have the same God, but we all have different lives. Some of us work, some of us are retired, some of us are looking for work. Some of us are raising children, some of us are enjoying grandchildren, some of us have no children. Some have financial problems, some do not (you get the idea here). The point is that we need to be headed in the same direction regardless of our circumstances. You may think that because someone hasn't walked in your shoes, they do not understand your needs. They may not - but they do understand the five truths! They can shine a light on the darkness within you and brighten your soul to what God has in store for you if you are patient. Take advice from those who have been in a similar situation, but accept the offering of prayer for your plight from all who are willing to pray for you. Pray for those you cannot help in any other way as well. Share God's word with those who do not know it. Take the time to honor and praise God (even in the storms of life). Keep those five truths always in sight and your road may not be easy, but the load will be lighter...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

~ "Miracle elixir of life..."

While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." (Luke 5:12)

Another verse that goes hand in hand with this (Ps 51:2): Wash away my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. We are covered in sin. We spend our days fighting off Satan's temptations. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail. It's not an easy job (no matter what anyone says). If you live in this world (i.e. - you are not secluded from society while living in a bubble), you face sin and it's consequences. Some people don't reach out to be cleansed, they continue to live in the mud like the swine that Christ sent the demons into (Matt 8:32).

"Leprosy" can be replaced with any diseases (according to the AMA's list). Our Great Physician can and will heal! There are many "apparent" diseases that medical society has given ICD-9 Codes (diagnostic numbering) to. I am not going to get into a debate on what is a disease and what is a tool of Satan. What I will tell you is this: when Jesus becomes your focus, when the center of your life is Christ - all things that are of the enemy seem to fall away. Yes, the temptation to sin will remain (it's inescapable), but the possessions of demons are cast out. No, you do not need an exorcist...all you need is Jesus!

If you think that demon possession is something that occurred only before the coming of Christ, if you think it's all Hollywood, if you think it requires a ritual to send them on their way - think again. Casting our demons out is as simple as calling on the name of the Lord to cleanse us! He can and will if our hearts are right with Him. Often medication and self-help groups only tend to prolong the inhabitance of those demons within us. Having the faith that the cure for what ails us is in the hands of the Almighty and asking for that cure is what is required of us. Our struggles with our "character defects" only prolong the effects of our sickness. We need God to change our hearts, not a book or a list of do's and don't's.

The strength we draw from, the strength that becomes a large part of us can and will slip away if we do not constantly recharge it. Like the sleep at night to rest and restore our physical being, we need the word of God to restore our souls daily. Walk away for a few days and watch as your world begins to take on a life of its own! Keep the focus on the healing that comes from the Creator. Keep the focus on the word of God. Tell the enemy to take a hike, that he'll find no room to "spread out" in you! Stop looking to self-help books for your answers and start looking in the only book that has them all -- the Bible! Go to Him in faith and ask expecting to receive...Jesus is still in the healing, casting out of demons and miracle business - save your money and go see Him! He's the only miracle elixir you'll ever need!!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

~ "For those in full time service to the Lord..."

I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. (1 Kings 3:12)

When we receive the answer to a prayer for a gift from God, we have a responsibility to use that gift for His purpose.  If we've prayed for insight, we should use it to help nurture His people.  If we've prayed for understanding, we should use it to help others understand.  When we pray for patience, we should be willing to sit and listen.  There are no limits to the use of these gifts the Lord bestows on us - it is a continuous and ongoing process.  We don't just "listen" for a day or two, we listen until He tells us we no longer need to listen.  We nurture until there is no one left to nurture.  His work is not 9-5 - it is a 24/7 scenario.  Yes, we do require "down time" and sleep - and there is nothing wrong with having some "personal" time - but we have committed to being His eyes and His ears, His hands and His feet.  

There are some who must work at a "paying" job as well, to provide for our families and our material needs.  That does not excuse us from His work while we toil.  We mustn't pick and choose which of God's children we will minister to.  God has placed them in our lives for a reason and they are (if they come to us, if they are members of our church congregation) our responsibility; we should hear them, help them and lead them in the manner that God has chosen.  Ministering to those with whom you work can be just as important as ministering to those in your congregation.

If you are a pastor - then pastor!  You cannot lead by just standing in the pulpit.  Your church family needs to know that you are there to support and help them.  No more than you would favor one child over another, can you afford to favor one congregant over another.  Just because a woman is a walking question mark, or a man's prayer request seems utterly absurd - does not give you the right to ignore, laugh at or blow off in favor of what seems to be a more aesthetically pleasing request for assistance.  You aren't in it for personal glory - you are in it for God's glory!

Not all of us fall into that "cookie cutter" that many church leaders would like.  Did it ever occur to you that sometime people just need someone to listen to them, to hear what they have to say?  This generally occurs with people who live alone.  Often it is you, the pastor or the mentor, whose ear needs to be bent - simply because the one bending it trusts you and has faith that you will not betray them by gossiping, will not judge them by their actions and can and will offer sound advice if asked for it.  Most of the time, these individuals just need someone to listen!!!

Our heavenly Father listens to all of us all the time - there are approximately 6,964,400,000 on the earth right now.  He hears each and every one of us!  He doesn't take time off, and He doesn't turn His back.  Some of them are caught in the worship of other "gods" - yet He still hears them, He still listens - waiting for them to call to HIM!!!  Some have no "god" - He listens and waits to hear them cry out for the answer to the question "is there anyone out there".  When you ignore the people that God has entrusted to your care, you are telling them that they are not important; that God doesn't think they are important (no, I'm not making this up).  Imagine if you cried out to God and He ignored you.  How would that make you feel???

Solomon was a wise man (he wasn't perfect) - God used him with all his short comings.  Wisdom is only effective when it is put into action.  Knowing what actions are required means little without the will to do them.  God used Solomon's weaknesses and mistakes to magnify his strengths and accomplishments.  Solomon's "sins" helped to make him a better person once he saw the error of his ways.  Don't fall into the pedestal or pulpit trap.  Remember, when Jesus preached, He sat with the crowd!  Sit with your flock, tend to them, minister to them, love them!  God has placed them in your care, He has not placed you there for them to honor!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

~ "Friends..."

I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name. (3 John 1:14)

It is the beginning of another year for me.  I enter into it by telling my friends that in one year, I will have reached the age that allows me to purchase a home in a retirement community (now referred to as +55).  It also brings about the reality that I am approaching the final years of my life - with 54 of them behind me.  I'm okay with that - I have a place to go when this life is over!

Recently, some of my friends have lost loved ones (grandparents, mothers, fathers, even children).  Some have lost close friends.  Once again, "I'm sorry for your loss" does not offer much comfort.  For me, the comfort comes in knowing that for those who are saved, those who made every effort to walk the righteous path of Jesus, I will be reunited with one day!  The time between now and then is the time that is hard.  Knowing their life has ended and I am still left here to do the Father's work leaves me a little jealous.  

In comparison the the amount of time we will spend in eternity, life on earth is but a breath of air.  Our focus seems to be on accomplishing certain tasks today and tomorrow, without much focus on what comes after.  We plan for our work week, for our children's school week, for our vacations, for our celebrations - how do we plan for something that is maybe 30 years out?  How do we plan for what comes next.  If you take your cue from Scarlett O'Hara, you will be terribly disappointed when there is no longer a "tomorrow" for you to worry about it.  Begin to plan today, right now!!!

Most people don't get their lives in order, make amends with long feuding friends, forgive past hurts or any of the other millions of excuses used to separate them from others, until they hear the words "cancer" or "incurable" or "terminal".  Death, my friends, is inescapable.  You will die - I will die!!!  Once that happens, there is no longer an ability to fix what you've broken or mend what you've torn apart.  At the same time, don't deprive someone else of your forgiveness until they are the ones who will soon be parting this world.  Those who ask forgiveness at someone else's death bed strike me as selfish and self-centered.  Sorry, just my opinion.  I have a friend who does that - has nothing to do with her "friends" until she learns they are dying and flies half way around the country to be by their side when they "pass".  I don't understand the purpose to that, nor would I want that insincerity hovering over me while I was waiting to die.  Be my friend NOW while we can still laugh, while we can still make memories.

Jesus calls us to offer peace to others through our friendships.  He doesn't tell us to be busybodies, nor does He tell us we need to know every little detail of every single friend we have.  We are not to be an encyclopedia of information on each and every person we know.  We don't need to have all the information available...we aren't supposed to be "Google".  People will tell us what they want us to know - so don't push it - it's not your job, nor is it your place to be the social guru of your circle of friends.  The statement "it's none of your business" should not be construed as an insult or smack in the face - it's a statement that tells you, quite plainly, that it's information that you do not have a pressing need to know, it will not affect your life or your world in any way and that the person who is telling you that is not comfortable with sharing that information with you for no other reason than it is their choice not to.  Leave it there and move on!  The one who needs to know everything, whose business it is to know everything already knows!  Jesus can handle the situation without your help or advice.  Love your friends enough to respect their privacy.  Love them enough to forgive them and ask for their forgiveness before they are counting the minutes left in this life.  Love them enough to be a true friend - the kind of friend that Jesus asks us to be - loving, respectful and honorable!  

Saturday, September 24, 2011

~ "Tears on my pillow..."

I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.  They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away. (Ps 69:3-4)

David cried until he was exhausted and could cry no longer.  I am familiar with that experience.  It happens more frequently than it used to - yet I continue to lift up my eyes to Him!  I trust in God, as David did, to deliver me.  

Some of us are extremely emotional - we cry tears of joy and tears of sorrow without even having to think about it - they just roll down our faces.  Others never seem to shed a tear (alone or in public) - they seem to be hardened (and yes, many of them are, to the point that they view others' tears as a weakness, or irrational). Our tears are always justified - after all, they are an outward sign of an inward feeling (be it physical or emotional) - no one has the right to tell us they are wrong or uncalled for - NO ONE!!!

We all respond and react differently simply because we are all different.  What one person finds devastating, another will shrug off and move on.  Telling someone their tears are "ridiculous" is ignorant.  Don't get caught in the trap of thinking these people are full of self-pity - most often, they are filled with emotions they do not know how to express any other way.

If God did not want us to cry, He would not have equipped us with tears!  Jesus cried (He wept - John 11:35). Tears are nature's way of cleaning impurities from our eyes, and God's way of cleansing the soul.  There are no tears cried in vain - all are seen and felt by the Father!  As David was mocked, insulted and humiliated, his tears fell.  He still prayed.  We may feel completely beaten down, we may want to give up hope, we may sob into our pillows every night - but it's when our situation seems hopeless, God will hear our prayer and He will rescue us.  When others reject us, we need God the most - don't turn your back on your most faithful friend!!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

~ "Sea of understanding..."

Therefore my people will go into exile for lack of understanding; their men of rank will die of hunger and their masses will be parched with thirst. (Is 5:13)

We do not go through life alone.  We walk side by side with a partner, a guide, a mentor and a protector.  We have human needs and spiritual needs.  Some go through life surrounded by beautiful things and a multitude of friends and acquaintances.  Some go through life with nothing but the promise of a new day.  Too often those who reach out in their loneliness are met with the statement that they "are never alone".  In so much as this is true, for God is always with us, it does not bring comfort to the one who is lacking in human companions or a partner.  Sometimes we say things to others that do not help to console them, but they certainly bolster our own egos because we feel we've offered them a revelation into what is tearing at them - "I'm sorry for your loss" - very overrated.  I'm sorry to say that the same is true for the statement "you are never alone".

When someone says that they "feel so alone" - listen to the words, listen to the emotion behind the words!  They are not telling you that they think God has abandoned them; if they are a Christian, they know very well that our Lord walks beside them and has His arms wrapped around them.  What they are feeling has nothing to do with their faith, their commitment to God or their salvation.  It has to do with a human need.  We were not designed to be solitary.  We were designed to interact with others, physically and emotionally.  We were designed to give and receive love from one another.  

If you can't help a situation, don't hinder it.  Don't indulge in the favorite pastime of telling others you understand, when you haven't got the first clue as to what it is they are experiencing.  Maybe all they really need is for you to listen.  Maybe all they want from you is a hug.  Don't delude yourself into thinking that they do not know God's mercy - they know it better than you think!  They fight each day to live by God's values and standards.  They struggle to remain "honorable".  They are choosing not to turn away and be distracted by the enemy.  Lift them up in prayer, ask God to fill that empty, aching hole and bless them.  They are closer to heaven than they realize (thank you, Jesus) - they just need some love here on earth!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

~ "Dear Government Official..."

“Among my people are wicked men who lie in wait like men who snare birds and like those who set traps to catch men. Like cages full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; they have become rich and powerful and have grown fat and sleek. Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not plead the case of the fatherless to win it, they do not defend the rights of the poor. (Jer 5:26-28)

There is nothing as sad as government that does not recognize and attempt to fix the problems it has created. Our forefathers definitely did not have this in mind, and our heavenly Father abhors it! Every day we hear and read of the injustices being done in the world, in our own country and in our neighborhoods. We see the lack of love for one another in the media and when we look out of our windows. It disturbs me and embarrasses me both at the same time. We live in a country where criminals have more rights than the victims, where illegal immigrants make more money than natural born citizens, where the rich get richer and the poor live in boxes. Ah, the American dream...

It is comforting to know that our Creator will see to it that the evil deeds of men do not go unnoticed. They do not fear Him - they do not know Him. How sad, how truly sad! We hear the words "your vote may make the difference" and "don't complain if you don't vote". We are asked to write to our political leaders, sign petitions and flood the White House with our opinions. I doubt very much that our beloved President ever sees any of the billions of letters sent in by concerned citizens.

There is one authority that does hear every word spoken, reads every letter, answers every plea and has justice ready to be served on those who fail to follow the rules He has laid before us...that one is God! Stop complaining about the economy, stop complaining about what the leaders of this country do (or fail to do), stop making excuses for the way things are, stop twisting and forming opinions that are based on lies - pray! Use the energy for something positive - your soap box stand will not change anything. God hears your prayers and He responds! He rescues those who fear Him, who love Him, who honor Him! Fight the enemy with silence and hands raised to the Father in praise and thanksgiving! Glorify Him, not the enemy. Give God your full attention, your honest and sincere prayers - things around you may not change, but the way you look at them will! He will show you what is truly important, He will give you all that you NEED (not necessarily all that you want). Walk away from the demons of this world and into the waiting arms of the Father. He's been calling your name for some time now, don't you think its time to put the focus on listening to the real voice of truth???

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

~ "For all..."

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3: 8-9)

Yes, there it is in black and white (or white and black - depending on where you are reading it). All of us are to live in harmony with one another! We are to be sympathetic to the needs of one another. We are to be sympathetic to the plights of one another. We are to be sympathetic towards those who suffer from illnesses (and to the issues that cause them). We are to be compassionate and humble - "there but for the grace of God..."! Yes, you could just as easily be the one suffering from the undiagnosed hormonal imbalance as does the one who stands next to you at the family gathering. You could just as easily be the one who has lost everything dear to them and wanders the street homeless. You could be that foreigner looking for a better way. You could be the one who feels alone in a crowd.

Jesus didn't come to save the perfect - He didn't die only for the members of certain religious groups - HE CAME FOR ALL!!! He loves us all! Although we do not always agree with everything others say or do, it is not our place to judge - our opinions are not necessarily God's commands. We all interpret things differently. Loving our brothers and sisters unconditionally (whether we agree with them or not) is what we are commanded to do - we are responsible for our own soul - our decisions are based on our communication with God, not with one another.

Rejoice in the blessings bestowed upon you. They are many, even if you don't see or feel them where you are standing right now. God has designed the perfect path for you and you are obligated to walk it if you are saved by the precious blood of Jesus. We all want to be loved and share our joys with everyone, but the reality is - not everyone wants to share in our joys because they are too busy wallowing in their own misery. Do not let their lack of vision bring you down. Do not let the blinders they have on their eyes blind you as well. Listen to the voice within that says "I am here in the midst of this".

God has spent a lot of time on you. There is no room or time for you to entertain the insults of others, nor the threat from them that something is evil. You know His footsteps. You know His touch. You know the sound of His not hesitate to lie in the gentle embrace of His arms and feel the love He has for you!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

~ "For the husbands..."

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:7)

Gentlemen, if you want your wives to be submissive, love them the same way that Christ loves His church (thank you, Donna).  Being considerate is as simple as remembering to put down the toilet seat...a very small action, but it means the world at 3am in the dark.  Those dirty clothes you took off before you showered belong in a little container referred to as the hamper, not in a pile on your side of the bed or a trail that leads from the front door to the bathroom.  We additionally do not save that little ball of lint that comes from your belly button, yet you continually place it on the sink; please throw it in the trash.  Do not start a project you can't finish in a few days and do not undertake remodeling the house if you haven't got a clue as to what you are doing.  

If husbands who do not treat their wives kindly, their prayers become ineffective, because a living relationship with God depends on right relationships with others.  The respect that you show your wives goes a long way as an example to others.  If you have no respect for yourself, you cannot possibly have respect for your wife.  People you interact with every day, your children, your friends, your extended family, take their cue from you.  Surround yourself with good, godly people - not acquaintances that just attend church on Christmas and Easter. There are 363 other days in the year in which the Lord requests your presence (and not in a building - at His feet).  Our heavenly Father expects you to lead the family, not sit idly by waiting for someone else to take the reins.

Jesus tells us that if you have a problem with a fellow believer, you must make it right with that person before coming to worship (Matt 5:23, 24).  This principle carries over into family relationships as well.  Additionally, if husbands use their position to mistreat their wives (through neglect, abuse, and isolation), their relationship with God will suffer.  You cannot have it all and then some.   

A husband who loves and honors his wife will protect (stick up for her when others try to tear her down), respect, help and stay with her (for better or for worse).  He will not expect her to work a full time job outside the home and a full time job in the home.  He will lighten her load wherever he can.  He will be sensitive to her needs, her "personal" issues (in sickness and in health), and he will relate to her with courtesy, consideration, tact and love!  

In Ephesians 5:31 we read that "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."  The union of husband and wife merges two persons in such a way that little can affect one without also affecting the other.  Oneness in marriage does not mean losing your personality in the personality of the other.  Instead, it means caring for your spouse as you care for yourself, learning to anticipate the other person's needs, helping the other person become all he or she can be! (Life Application Study Bible).

Worship and praise Him together!  Share your thoughts and your dreams with her.  She wants only to see you happy, she wants only for your loving touch and to be by your side.  The material things are not as important to her as you may think that they are - YOU are what is important to her! Don't fail to give her that! Be the husband God has called you to be.  If you do what is commanded of you, chances are that you will not have to fear infidelity, abandonment and divorce.  Let God into your heart and let Him lead.  Let Him have control - put Jesus first in your marriage and it will be a long, healthy and happy one.  

Monday, September 19, 2011

~ "For the wives..."

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. (1 Peter 3:1-2)

Well, I know a few of you wives are going to have a problem with this posting.  If you truly want to walk the path of righteousness, you will need to learn that although society see you as "liberated" and "equal" - God still calls you to be submissive.  That was one thing I refused to accept (thus, part of the reason why I am divorced - yes, there were other reasons). My behavior was NOT reflective of what a good wife should be.  Take a lesson from my book.  When God is not first, when He is not the center of your marriage, it will fail.  

Knowing the word of God and living it is an example that cannot be discounted.  My only regret is that I did not come to know God as I do now before my marriage ended.  There were problems that could have been overcome, there were issues that could have been avoided.  No, I do not take responsibilities for the issues that led to my divorce...we both contributed to that.  I will say that had not made excuses for the issues that ensued and had I invited Jesus into our marriage early on, it would not have ended.  The statement I make when people ask me about my ex is very simple - I have never stopped loving him, I still love him - I just couldn't live with him any more.  Our life had become a nightmare - through the fault of both of us.  We no longer communicated and both fought to be in control.  I suppose there were issues I knew would be "issues" from the very beginning (from those pre-marital meetings with the Pastor).  I never assumed they would work themselves out, I just ignored them.  They were there, eating away for twenty years.  Being submissive to your husband is not slavery.  It is a respect afforded him through the bond of marriage. 

If you must be the example - then be the example!  You may be better "equipped" to serve as the head of the household, but it is not your place!  If your husband will not relinquish his role, you should not stomp your foot and be angry.  It is his God-given privilege.  He may pass some of those responsibilities off to you, knowing that you may perform better in those areas than he will.  Continue, regardless, to be an example of Christ's love and be obedient to God's word (yes, I know they took the word "obey" out of the marriage vows - it should have been left in there, it was there for a reason).  Start each day with loving words towards one another, set the example (if there is none) - set the bar high!  Pray together (and not just at church on Sunday mornings or a memorized dinner prayer) - invite Jesus into your marriage, into your life!  Make Him the center!!!

"That's easy for you to say, you aren't married to the man I'm married to".  No, I'm not - nor were you married to mine.  If I had the opportunity to do anything differently in my marriage, it would be just that - to bring Jesus into it - front and center!  I don't doubt that with Christ as the focus (and not the bills, and the house and a new car or a remodel, or any of the other hundreds of things we put first) we would still be married and living the "happily ever after" scenario.  It's not about you!  It's about serving God!  It's about following His commands and reflecting the love of Jesus in your marriage.  You made a decision "for better or for worse" - regardless!  

If you've made every effort, if you've followed the word of God throughout your marriage, if you've made every attempt to allow the Lord to guide and still make no headway, if all the prayers you've prayed have gone unanswered, if you are continually neglected and abused (be it verbally, emotionally or physically), then, perhaps the Lord HAS answered your prayer - maybe it is time to walk away...but not until you have exhausted every avenue of hope!  You will know, God will show you.  If you haven't - then start now!  Make the effort, follow His word, allow Him in and pray!  If you are hesitating in any way, there may still be a blessing to be bestowed upon your marriage.  Submit and be still!  Accept your place and honor the God who created you.  Be the example Christ calls you to be!  Win them over by your example...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

~ "Behold..."

Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. (PS 24:8)

Everything belongs to the Lord! The mountains, the valleys, the rivers and streams, the rocks and the plants, the strong and the weak. He commands the universe. He guards and protects what is His - what He has created. Nothing happens without His knowledge. We pursue Him, wanting to desperately to be in His will. We humble ourselves before Him in prayer, wanting Him to see us as worthy. We cannot proceed without His undeniable blessings. We belong to Him!

He is there. In all the things we strive for, in the Christians we fight so hard to become. We walk, we fall, He lifts us up. He raises His mighty hand to guard against the enemy that tries continually to drag us away. His voice in our hearts and souls cannot be silenced. He whispers to us in tones we may not audibly understand, but we instinctively know to be His truths and His way. He does not abandon us...ever!

His grace restores and refreshes us over and over again. There is no limit to them. His love for us goes far beyond that of man or woman. When He is present in our lives, the life we live takes on a new and brighter meaning. When He blesses our lives with joy and love, there is nothing that can compare to the fullness we feel. We praise Him and thank Him with tears of joy, vowing never to forget these wonderful blessings He has seen us worthy to grant. Yet, we are human. We will stumble again and we will fall. Yet, He is God. He will lift us up and dust us off, setting our feet back on the path of righteousness that we strive so hard to attain. He is our King of Glory; He is mighty and strong when we are weak. He is our saving grace. He is there for us ~ behold...

(photo by Sandra Wood)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

~ "Authority and submission..."

Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. (Col 3:22-24)

Paul does not condemn or condone slavery, but explains that Christ transcends all divisions between people. "Servants" are told to work as hard as if their "master" were Christ Himself; but "masters" should be just and fair.

Those of you who show up for work late, take short cuts in what's expected of you (whether you believe it's the right way or not), leave your work for someone else or just plain don't put any effort forth - wake up! You are not doing it for the person who owns the business - you are doing it for the Lord. Put all the effort forth that you would if He were running the business and standing over you or signing your paycheck.

We work because we've been banished from the garden. We work because we have sinned. We must provide for ourselves and our families. No, often employers are not "fair".

Those of you who own businesses, who "manage" people, who dictate the scope of the work that is to be done - do it with a Christ-like attitude. Yes, you are the "boss", but you, too, are a servant of the King. Temper your criticisms with love and understanding, with patience and guidance. By all means, if one of your employees is not "doing his or her job", a discussion of the matter would most likely be warranted. Do it with the love of Christ in your heart.

If we could all realize that our Christian "hat" must be worn at all times and in all places, our lives would be better, as would the lives of those around us. Jesus wants us to do all things for His glory, not our own. We can surely find a way, no matter what it is we do, to bring Christ into our little corner of the work place. The "example" of Christ goes a long way in how people react to you and the changes you see may be slow in coming, but they do come!

This may not be the job the Lord has chosen for you - it may be one you've chosen for yourself. This also may be the job He HAS chosen for you - surrounded by people who do not know Him. There is opportunity to bring Christ into the lives of all the people you work with. No, you don't have to go in singing the "Hallelujah Chorus" or "Amazing Grace" - but go with them in your heart! Let the emotion that Christ brings to your life shine through so that those around you can see it and witness it. In time, the attitudes will change - the longer you work for Jesus, the more powerful your silent testimony becomes! Do what is called for in your daily work assignments (unless, of course, they are in direct violation of the commands of God) and do them for HIS glory - not yours, not your bosses, not your "bottom line". Reach out to those along the way who are in need of His saving grace. Show them the way to achieve the greatest promotion of all - the one that bears the scars of mercy and them the way to Jesus!!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

~ "Counting sheep??? Na-a-a-a-h!!!"

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. (Ps 4:8)

I have tossed and turned the pass two nights. Sleep has not come easy. The alarm blaring at 6:20am isn't helping matters either. I am thankful that tomorrow morning I do not have to get up with the birds!

The reason for the lack of continuous sleep is most likely my mind working overtime. It occasionally does that. What comes from those sleepless nights is usually a revelation into what the Lord is continuing to prepare me for. He is drawing me closer still!

Continuing to walk with Jesus can be exhausting, yet in that exhaustion we can find comfort. Once God has revealed to us what He needs for us to see, we can once again, "lie down and sleep in peace". Too often our days are so busy that although we take time out to read His word and pray, the distractions drown out the sound of His voice. Sometimes that sleepless night can be His way of getting our attention and reminding us of His promises and of what is important. Don't discount your dreams, but "test" them as we are instructed to in Thessalonians. Remember that not all dreams are messages from God and that evil can worm its way in there as well. Only through prayer, a constant walk with Jesus and a soul in tune with the Holy Spirit, can we hope to know if they are personal prophecies from God.

Sleep will come - when we lie down in peace, in the comfort of the arms of Jesus.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

~ "Fact or fiction..."

No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. (John 6:46)

There are a few verses that for many years brought the thought "why would the writer put this in here; why would Jesus have said this?" With the skills of Satan, and the often deviousness of adults, "seeing God" can be used as a tool to take the Christian away from Christ. The realization that evil lives among us is something that many people do not comprehend. The power of the enemy and his wantonness to distract and claim as many souls as he can before his reign on earth is ended is also something so many take for granted. This is why we must know the Word of God - why we must read it and study it daily. Although sometimes comforting to have first hand knowledge of things unseen, it can be the most dangerous tool of all. Our faith is based on believing in what we have not seen, taking the Word of God as truth simply because it is. We cannot afford to let it slip away on the whim of madness.

Part of our "punishment" for sin (the first sin in the garden) is absence from God. Yes, Jesus has secured a place for us in heaven, but we cannot enter that kingdom until we are dead (and there are questions surrounding that experience as well - paradise or soul sleep - but that's another post). There is also, as we know from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:26, that there is "no going back" once you've entered - no exceptions! So why do so many believe and support the tales of Satan??? Simply because they do not know the Word of God.

Beware of those who bear witness to having seen the Father. Beware of those who describe the Kingdom of God as having "seen" that as well. Be comforted in the knowledge that there is a heaven simply because it is written in the Word and told to us by Jesus. Remember that in the end times, the enemy will use every available ploy to pull souls away from God. Listen quietly for the voice of truth. If you are truly walking the path of Jesus, the bells and whistles of your early warning system will be activated and the verse of scripture that denounces what you are hearing will certainly flash across the viewing screen in your brain; however, the only way that can happen is if you know those verses. Read the Bible!!! Fill your brain with the truth that is contained within it. It could make all the difference in the world to!!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

~ "Weeping rock..."

Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." (Matt 9:2)

We must be careful not to concentrate on God's power to heal the sick more than on His power to forgive sins.  God's power to heal our physical sickness should be our second prayer...our first should be towards the spiritual sickness - forgiveness of sins.

Too often I've seen people (myself and family members included) walk away from God, swear there was no God, and wander aimlessly because of the unexpected death of a loved one.  I've seen Christians question in total disbelief why God would allow sickness and disease to befall one of their family members.  

Often what I've been able to observe in those around me is the ability to pray for healing, receive a healing and continue to walk in the dark.  When God gives you a gift, accept it, rejoice in it and praise Him for it.  "But I did and she/he died anyway".  Guess what?  We are all going to die some day.  Don't blame God!  Yes, He allows all things to happen according to His design.  He also affords all the opportunity to come before Him and ask for forgiveness long before they go on to meet Him.  

Don't be afraid to tell your loved ones that NOW is the time.  Don't fall into the trap that God ignored your prayer, or that there is no God simply because you or someone you love has cancer, or alzheimers, or any one of a thousand other deadly diseases.  Using the rationale that "I have plenty of time" is ludicrous; today could be the last day you spend on earth.  

Ask Jesus to come to you now.  Open your heart and your soul to His teachings and His way of life.  Put the past behind you and walk forward.  Do not fear death - fear God, whose Son can walk you into paradise or refuse you admission because He never knew you.  Don't wait until you are on your deathbed to call for His mercy and grace.  Ask forgiveness for your sins, humble yourself at His feet and take His hand and finish your walk on this earth blessed.  

(photo by Sandy Wood)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matt 9:13)

Kind hearts and helpful deeds are more pleasing to God than outward ceremony (going to church and professing one's faith). Sacrifice is right, but mercy is first in importance. If we do not show mercy and forgiveness, we do not honor our God. Forgiveness is the key to living a Christ-centered life. We must learn to truly forgive and that doesn't mean to just say "I'm sorry".

For the past three years I have held a prayer request close to my heart. There are days when I tell God to "forget it", but I quickly submit to His will and His authority, knowing exactly what He wants for me and has promised me. I continue to pray.

We all have issues and hurts, losses and hindsight. Often what takes place in our lives is necessary to bring us to our knees and closer to Him. His will for us is paramount. He does not skimp on the blessings He bestows upon us. We are His first priority. He holds us accountable and teaches us many things along the way. When we have completely and successfully learned what it is He is trying to teach us, we receive a blessing so great that the tears roll down our faces. The ultimate joy is realized. While we wait, we pray, we hope and we prepare ourselves both inwardly and outwardly for that day. Then, without the slightest bit of warning, we are blessed. And the process begins again with another teaching.

Hold tight to the promises of God. Know that the teachings in the Gospels are not just stories - but glimmers of hope that were set in motion long before we began to pray. Let the guiding hand of the Father draw you closer to Him. Continue to offer mercy and forgiveness to others and you will be a recipient of the same love. I sit in awe as I see changes in other occur that could only be answered prayers. I watch as God's mighty hand changes hearts and righteousness prevails. God's plans are often realized in the quiet souls who seek Him...

(photos by Celia Darrigo)

Monday, September 12, 2011

~ "Leave Bigfoot in the forest and get on with your life..."

You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other. (Deut 4:35)

It is time to put the focus on doing what is right, what is good, what is expected of us.  It is time to walk away from the anger and the contempt that fills the soul by those who profess to follow Jesus and do not.  It is time to stand up and be counted.

What makes you different from all of those around you?  Is it your height or weight?  Is it the color of your eyes?  Is it the amount of money you have in the bank or the expensive clothing you wear?  The answer is very easy - it is none of these things.  We came into this world naked and that is how we will leave.  Yes, they dress you when they put you in the casket, but you do not take that body to heaven with you.  Once it's dead - that's it - it's dead.  It's discarded like any other useless item you no longer need.  It is left behind (as is your money and your reputation and your accomplishments).  The only thing that goes on to meet the Father is your it prepared???

The company you keep often determines the life you live.  If you hang out with drunks and drug addicts, you begin to think and act as they do, and no matter how "strong" you think you are, the possibility of becoming one of them is statistically greater for you than for those who do not.  If you run in circles with sexually immoral and valueless people, you will take on the characteristics of the same.  If you allow those who have no respect for you to continue to badger and belittle you, eventually you will have little or no respect for yourself - and without respect for yourself, you can have no respect for God!

"Moses urged God's authority over them, and their obligations to him. In keeping God's commandments they would act wisely for themselves. The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom. Those who enjoy the benefit of Divine light and laws, ought to support their character for wisdom and honour, that God may be glorified thereby.  Those who call upon God, shall certainly find him within call, ready to give an answer of peace to every prayer of faith." (Matthew Henry)

Walk in the shadow of the King, not in the shadow of man.  Your neighbor's shadow will disappear (as will yours) when the sun sets...the Shadow of God is always present...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

~ "Wind Beneath My Wings..."

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. (Psalm 91:4)

While scouring the "Legacy" guestbook for my brother-in-law, I came across this message left on the second anniversary of that fateful day:
Dear Chuckie - Well, it's been 2 years and I still have a hard time believing you've gone home. I still marvel at your faith in God and your patience with children and the devotion to your family and friends. I still feel your love all around me. You see, I was blessed - for 15 years you were a part of my life. You were best man at our wedding 16 years ago and you will always be best man in my heart. I never met my real brother - he never came home from the hospital. I did, however, have you - a brother-in-law who will always be my pathway to Jesus. Thank you for giving me back my faith. I will love you and miss you always. You truly are a HERO in every sense of the word. Love, Beth

Our Heavenly Father chose to take that man home to heaven. He will chose to take each one of us home one day. What we leave behind when we go will be our legacy. What I've learned in ten years is that it doesn't matter who approves or disapproves of us, it doesn't matter what anyone else's opinion of us is, whether they like or dislike (or in some instances hate) us. It does not matter if we are different (quirky, odd, or strange). As long as you lift your hands in praise of the Father, as long as you walk a path of righteousness and offer prayers of thanksgiving, as long as you do your very best in everything that you attempt, you will leave a legacy of love!

God is our protector. We who have Jesus will be safe no matter what earthly catastrophe befalls us. He will cover us with his wings, like the helpless eagle at birth, protected by the wings of it's parent. He will shelter us from storms. We are invited to trust in the shadow of His wing of promises, protected from the "prey". Chuck Costello knew this, and he knew it very well. He held no judgment against anyone. He believed and he loved God with all his heart. He prayed daily. He prayed for others.
God is an all knowing and loving God. I don’t profess that I understand all that he does and why. For I see life as a real challenge in many ways. Over the time of forty four years I’ve learned lessons, yet there are many, many, I’ve yet to learn or will never understand. I believe in both God the Father and his son Jesus Christ. I truly believe but for the Grace of God go I. Although I find life hard at times, and a struggle, I’m grateful for all that I have. Although I don’t show it at times or sound like a man of content, for the most part, I am. The meaning of human life to me is just plain learning to love. I feel learning to love is the key to all life, and yet I feel this lesson has been one for me where I still have a long way to go. My faith has taught me to believe in what I believe in. It has seen me through many situations in the past and I believe it will carry me into the future. (Chuck Costello)

Let the love of God fill you so deeply that there is no room for hate, no room for bitterness, no room for anger. Put all the past mistakes you have made and those made by others away. It's what He asks us to forgive, to accept, to comfort, to love - unconditionally. Allow yourself to be comforted by the security of His love for you, beneath His wing and you, too, one day, will walk where only angels 'dare to tread'...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

~ "The last act..."

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. (Matt 24:6)

I do not fear the end.  I welcome it!  The saddest thing is to know of God, but not know Him.  The news is filled with rumors of more terroristic attacks.  

We've seen earthquakes right here in our country in places that usually are immune.  If you look at the USGS earthquake map and listings for the past 30 days, you will be amazed at how many there were right here at home (and NOT in California).  We've endured hurricanes and raging wildfires.  We've experienced flash flooding that is unbelievable.  What more does God need to do to get the attention of His children??? I had someone ask me to pray for them because they are terrified that tomorrow will bring a disaster of unmatched proportions...get down on your knees and talk to God yourself!!!  It's what He wants - it's all He's ever wanted - for us to come to Him, to serve Him, to honor Him!!!

The process is beginning.  The "birth pains" Matthew speaks about are becoming more evident each day.  Sin is rampant. The divorce rate is at 50%.  There are false prophets everywhere.  People are already being killed because they profess their faith in Jesus.  

The time for examining one's faith and beliefs is now.  Waiting until the trumpet sounds will be too late.  God has set the wheels into motion.  He's given us the script by which all these things will occur.  If you don't know your lines, you will not be able to participate in the after party.  "The last act is bloody, however fine the rest of the play. They throw earth over your head and it is finished forever" (Pascal).  The earthly existence we know will end.  It will fade away into dust.  All that will be left is your soul.  Is it prepared to spend eternity in heaven or is it content to burn endlessly in the fiery lake?  The choice is yours...

Friday, September 9, 2011

~ "There was a crooked man..."

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?  (Rom 7:24)

We sin.  We have the opportunity to be rescued from sin.  We have the ability to do many great and wonderful things.  There is not one of us perfect nor one of us incapable.  I'm not referring to accomplishments that we can tack up on our wall - we can all do great things for God in spite of the fact that we are sinners.  What is it you have chosen to do for God?

We all must find the path that God has chosen for us -  not the path we choose for ourselves.  Being a Christian is not an accomplishment on a list with a little box beside it that we check off as having completed it.  It is something we do day in and day out.  No, I am sorry to say that there are times when I do not exemplify the meaning of the word - but I'm working on it.  Satan taunts us, God tests us.  Our faith will continue to grow as long as we continue to nurture it.  I am ever amazed and ever dismayed at some of the things that filter across my news feed on a social networking site I subscribe to.  I just sit and read and shake my head...

We are set free from the chains of death through Jesus.  It no longer has any power over the saved through His blood.  Key word here:  blood!!!  As I have said before, believing is not enough - even Satan believes (and we won't be seeing him in heaven).  We must live a life that glorifies and magnifies the Lord.  It's not a part-time gig.  It's full time - 24/7.  

Reach out for the hand of Jesus to lift you up out of the desperate situation you are in.  Ask Him from the depths of your soul to guide and comfort you.  Take the step forward that He's been pushing you to take.  The one you are afraid to take.  Let go of the things that are holding you back from a fulfilling relationship with Him.  They are worth getting rid of.  Jesus has the power and strength to hold you up when you cannot stand on your own.  God's promises are real - trust them.  

Whatever you do, where ever you go, whoever you meet - take Jesus with you!  He's great company!  He's always listening, but you must take the time to listen to Him - listen to the message He brings you from the Father.  With Him, you cannot fail.  His love will sustain you and you will be successful.  Without Him, you will fail and you will fall - maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow - but you will eventually have nothing to show for all your troubles.  The time is now!  Give it up to the Lord - hasn't He waited long enough for you???

(Artwork by Scott Gustafson)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

~ "Closing doors..."

Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Rev 22:15)

As of late last night, I was accused of being a liar...of not being a Christian, of hiding behind my "church" and using it as an excuse not to engage in something I know to be wrong and against God's commands. I didn't quite understand all the words being spoken to me and they could not be satisfactorily explained to me. All that was said that I was a liar and that I "did someone wrong - twice". It was never my intention to "hurt", but it was my intention to remain true to the word of God - some people just don't understand that.

Part of being a Christian is to reach out to the lost and attempt to bring them into the light. By doing so, we must not compromise our beliefs, nor should we compromise our moral standards. So when do you know when it's time to close the door? This verse of scripture tells us very plainly that we are not to associate with those who are "outside". Sometimes that is a very tough pill to swallow...especially when those "dogs" are people you have known your entire life, members of your family or people that you work with and must interact with on a daily basis.

To knowingly, willingly and deliberately sin is more deadly than the sin itself. It shows a lack of respect for the authority of the God who created us. He knows we will sin, thus the reason He sent us Jesus. When we defy Him outright - when we engage in behaviors and actions that are strictly forbidden and can bring only disgust to our Heavenly Father - we take the chance of closing a door that we need to remain open...the door between Him and us. So, what are our options? Are we to be termed "religious fanatic" and block out every human that does not abide by the letter of God's law? Do we delete people from our lives simply because they sin? Believe it or not, the answer is quite simple.

We don't need the acceptance of any man or woman on this planet. It is nice to have friends - but are they friends or are they they make friends or take hostages? Do they hold your past mistakes above your head or do they forgive and allow a new relationship to develop? Are they participating in and encouraging you to involve yourself in things that you know are forbidden? Are they challenging your beliefs by attempting to convince you that God is wrong and that the Bible doesn't mean what it says or what you know it to mean? If they are, it's time to close the door and walk away.

We will suffer because of Him. We will be ridiculed because Him. We will be laughed at and shunned because of Him. We will be persecuted because of Him. We will live...because of Him - Jesus! Do not let the enemy discourage you from your walk. Don't let him convince you that the "dogs" outside are right and that you are wrong. Stand firm in your faith, stand tall in your devotion to Jesus. Know that the "hurt" you've inflicted can and will be forgiven - all you need to do is ask. Satan would have you relive the guilt for it over and over again, but know that you do not need to explain your actions when they founded on the rock of salvation. He is the liar, not God! Maybe you could have gone about it in a different way, but the fact's done...close the door and walk away! Apologize only for what you do that is wrong - not for what is right...never apologize for being a Christian - and never apologize for upholding the word of God!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

~ "Not the SINNER...the SIN!!!"

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10)

It is not the sinner that God hates - He loves each and every one of us.  It is the sin, itself, that He hates (yes, "abhors" - a word associated with God's feelings, means to "hate" - read your Bible, it's in there in the KJV...).  The sins of the body (as we know from this Chapter in Corinthians as well) are sins we commit with our body - a temple of the Holy Spirit - all other sins we commit are done "outside" the body.  The sexually immoral will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  

Idolators - those who display extreme admiration, love or reverence for something other than God...take a long look at yourselves.  Yes, it is okay to enjoy a concert on occasion, but when your life becomes consumed and you are obsessed with and find your ego inflated by rubbing elbows with celebrities, remember...that is idolatry (it's not limited to praying to statues).  Idolators will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Thieves (and not just the ones who break into houses and take your prized possession) are on the list of those who fall short of God's commands.  Did you know that walking out of the grocery store with more change than you should have, or realizing that your cumquats weren't wrung up, classifies you as a thief?  Did you know that the time you sit at the computer on a social networking site or on the phone while at work is stealing?  Remember - God sees sin as sin - no greater or lesser (no mortal or venial).

Greedy people - those of you who have to have it all at any cost - guess what???  It's a sin!  Those engaged in prostitution (male or female) (and prostitution is not just classified as "sex for money")-- sex is reserved for those given in marriage.  God didn't change his mind on that, nor has He changed His mind on acts of homosexuality (and no, I'm not apologizing for that - I write what God lays on my heart to write - and He's been laying this one on it for quite some time).  There are people in my own family who are committing all of these sins - on a daily basis -- I still love them - God still loves them!  It hurts me to write this next sentence more than they will know but - they will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Drunkards - those falling down, totally inebriated individuals who spend a lot of time bending their elbows and little time bending their knees - they will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Drug addicts - you’re in that category, too. Even those who have put down the drink or drugs and now function as part of a “cult” designed to reprogram them have not fully turned their lives over to God. It is the power of God is what causes those demons to flee - not a self-help book or group (and no, I am not getting into a sidetracked discussion on the AMA’s ICD9 codes for this “disease” either). The swindlers, the liars, the slanderers, those who commit crimes against humanity under a code of ethics not acknowledged by anyone other than themselves.  No, they will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 

So, how do they get in???  They, too, must be washed in the same blood of Jesus.  We can't just go to "confession" once a week, say we are sorry, leave the church and go off and commit the same sins over and over again.  There has to be a commitment to change.  There has to be an abstinence from the sin.  "But what about their right to be happy???"  Nothing comes before God's right to be happy.  Obeying His commandments, following His word, doing what is commanded of us makes Him happy!  "The government says it's okay, so I'm not breaking any laws."  The government is not God - we answer to a higher authority (yes, I stole that line from a Hebrew National commercial).  The government tells us it's acceptable to kill babies (abortion is legal in this country), but it is not acceptable to kill children.  The unborn have a soul and a heart beat - they are living beings created by God.  There is no authority greater than God's! The government picks and chooses which of God’s laws benefit them - we do not have that luxury if we are to follow Jesus.

We could debate these two verses for days and still never reach the end of the discussion.  The bottom line is to change your life (if you are, in fact, any violating these commands).  "Not possible" you say???  ALL things are possible with Christ!  God doesn't ask for perfection - He asks for submission, obedience and honor.  Submit to His authority.  Obey His commands.  Honor His name.  Glorify the Lord with everything you do!  Only then can you enter into the kingdom.  Suffer now (if that's how you look at it) as opposed to suffering for eternity.  God will not compromise and there will be no exceptions made.  His words are written down so there can be no misunderstanding - all you need to do is read!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

~ "Yes, I'm speaking to YOU!!!"

After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thes 4:17)

Much discussion takes place among the different denominations of Christianity. Here it is in black and white (once again, all the answers you need are in the Bible, you just have to read it!).

If you read the words and stop trying to read into the words, you will find that God's word is sure. He answers all the questions (and I do mean all of them) that you could possibly ask if you take the time and look. We will, one day, leave this planet. Some will leave before it's end, some will leave via a pathway to hell and some will be called up into the clouds to meet Jesus and all those who wait for our arrival.

It won't much matter whether you saved enough money for a down payment on a new car, or if you owned a home furnished with precious and priceless items. What will matter is your soul. Have you been preparing it for that day? Have you encountered opportunities to spread the word of God and walked away? Have you chosen to be a spectator? There are no spectators in God's plan. We are all, each one of us, tasked with spreading the Good News through our actions and our attitudes. Watch carefully who you worship and what you present to others as your "god" - the evidence is all around you, as plain as day, and remember, you cannot serve two masters!

Use your talents to glorify the Lord, not bring disgrace upon yourself through them. Lift up your voice in song and praise of He who created you, not the distasteful antics of the lost. Satan's army is growing daily - are you standing firm on the rock? Are you listening for that voice of hope? Do you know from which direction the trumpet will sound? If the answer to any of these questions is "no", my suggestion is that you get busy putting your life in order. Remember, God does not bargain and He accepts no excuses. This may be the only opportunity you have to set what is left of your life on the right path...take it!!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

~ "Labor Day..."

So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. (Gen 3:23)

When Tom Waits wrote the lyrics for the "Dwarfs' Marching Song", aka "Hi-Ho-Hi-Ho", I don't think he could have ever imagined that it would be quoted at least once a day by someone and it would impact society in such a way that we would continue humming and singing it for decades. When Larry Morey wrote the lyrics for "Whistle While You Work", I doubt he realized it's impact either. Two songs written for a Disney movie for kids that have continued to be popular for over 70 years! They capture the spirit in which we should pursue our "work" - whether we work the land or the computer - we should be singing! No, not the Disney classics, the praises of our Heavenly Father!

We were banished from the life of leisure. It is sin that has caused us to labor and work for our daily sustenance. We will continue to labor up until the time we are called home. "Labor" for the Lord is constant and continues throughout our lives. It is not something we can "retire" from, it's a work in progress - always. We are called upon to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all we come in contact with. Until the Gospel has been heard by each and every soul on the earth...and with the technology of the times, that time is coming soon.

Rest today from your labor, enjoy a day with family and friends - but don't forget for one minute that the Lord above has promised to provide for you. If you are unemployed, use that time to honor the God. He will not leave you to starve or go without shelter, although sometimes it seems that way. Submit to His will and His plan for you and you will inherit the kingdom! Trust in Him to make a way for you...He always does! Don't allow the enemy to discourage you from praising God in your sorrows and your disappointments - it is in those times that you truly shine, because God does not abandon those whom He loves!!!

(photo by Heidi Riley)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

~ "The Way..."

It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. (2 Peter 2:21)

In my search this morning, trying to find the verse that I wanted to use, I came across a website that designed as a "do-it-yourself exorcism" blog.  Not only was it absurd, but as I glanced over the comments, they were filled with swearing at one another, name calling and ridiculous suggestions that seemed to come right out of Hollywood.  Needless to say, I sat here shaking my head and moved on.  That experience brought me to today's verse.  

How sad it is when a devoted Christian walks away from all he or she knows and seeks out the enemy.  Many do not ever find their way back.  Peter tells us that it is also sad.  Not only do so many know the way and turn from it, often they will try to bring others along.  My thoughts go to the "cults" of Waco, Tx and other places, where mass suicides took place, where child sexual abuse and control is practiced under the cover of Christianity.  Not all of these cults end up on compounds and dead.  Many still flourish today - in the lime light of public opinion they continue on, denying they are a cult and believing and preaching that their way is the right and only way.  How sad for them - those who have chosen to control the masses through their interpretation of the word of God!

Each of the "leaders" of these cults must have had, at one time, a sound and firm knowledge of the Word. What happens is that they twist and edit it to fit their needs.  They often interpret it as "literal" and "vague" in the same breath.  They make it "say" what they want it to say, not what God wants His people to hear.  They use their authority to persuade hungry Christians to accept their interpretation as law.  They take liberties with the children of God and lead them down a path that is destructive and often, for those who escape it's clutches, it takes years and years for them to sort out what is real and what is true.  They spend a lifetime unlearning and relearning God's commands and blessings.  Many of them never quite get it all out of their system.  They are victims of a crime against God. They want so desperately to be on the righteous path - some of them fear they will never find it.  Although they believe they are forgiven, the still have that tiny bit of doubt that they will burn for all eternity because of the nonsense pounded in their heads over the years.  They wander in and out of church that has imposed more laws on them than the entire US government has in it's 235 years of existence. They have not humbled themselves before the Father because they don't know that's what they are supposed to do.  

All we can do, as Christians who are washed in the blood of Jesus, is help those lost souls through prayer and through continued sharing of the true word of God.  We cannot force them to see the way, we can only point them in the right direction.  Don't give up.  As futile as it may seem at times, they are souls worth praying for, worth talking to.  If their way of life, their worship settings (if they even have any) become too threatening to your Christian walk - continue to pray for them.  You don't have to interact with them - you don't have to "save" them.  That is up to Jesus.  You have planted the seed and shown them through your own walk of faith - the way.  They must find it as you did.  Continued attempts at converting the stubborn (if you are not properly equipped to do so) may lead you down their misguided path.  Stay on the one you are on - as Peter tells us - better that we not turn our backs on what God has commanded.  Jesus is the way, the only way to Heaven.  Let Him be your way!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

~ "Here we go again..."

Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. (Daniel 3:7)

I'd like to tell you a story about three men who refused to bow down - you know them - I mention them often - Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They wouldn't compromise their beliefs and their faith was solid. They knew that bowing down to the image Nebuchadnezzar had built was wrong. They refused. They ended up in a fiery furnace because of it. They stood their ground and God stood beside them. He was pleased with their commitment to Him. He protected them.

What happens when we "say" we believe, we "pretend" to be Christians and we do what we want??? Often, nothing. Many wander through life as mimicking Christians - they do not change, they do not praise, they mumble words of emptiness to God and don't have the first clue as to who He is. Pray for these people, for they are headed down a path that is sure to follow the path of fools. They may end up in that fiery furnace without the protection of the King.

Be genuine, be truthful. Don't speak from both sides of your mouth. If you are a Christian, act like one - make the changes necessary in your life that say without any doubt that you belong to God. You cannot pretend when you stand before Him. Call on the name of Jesus - He will answer! He will protect you. Ask for the strength to walk the path of the righteous, not of the enemy.

That broken heart you carry is evidence that God walks with you. Wear it well! You have earned it! Continue to fight off the temptations of Satan and the demons he brings with him to bury you! He cannot win if you stand with Christ. Walk away from the temptations and stand firm against those who worship anyone other than the Creator. Those false gods come in many shapes and sizes. You will know them by their lack of real beauty. They may glitter and they may shine - but they are nothing compared to the power and majesty of the King! They cannot offer you what Jesus offers you...eternal life! So, be strong and steadfast like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego - and you, too, will not be burned in that fiery furnace. You will stand high on the mountain tops and be counted in the inheritance of a King!

Friday, September 2, 2011

~ "Following the plan..."

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Ps 51:17)

We all do things we wish we had not. We commit sins and need forgiveness. The price we pay is often more than is bearable. There is nothing the Lord loves more than a humbled heart. Unfortunately, the world is not as forgiving as our Heavenly Father is. Often the human price we pay is greater than we could have ever imagined. The expression "you don't know what you've got until it's gone" can often be the hardest penalty we pay for in life for our human wants and desires. If only we could be given another chance, like God gives us, to be reconciled. Mistakes we make on earth often follow us throughout our life, no matter how hard we try to escape their grasp.

Yes, Satan has a hand in this and wants us to be long suffering with regard to our failure or our infidelity. Our choices with regard to extra-marital affairs (as with David) affect not only our lives, but those around us - they produce the same ripples as a stone when cast into a pond. They radiate out from the place of origin until they touch the shore. David new this to be true. He humbled himself before God and asked for forgiveness. Some things are "fixable" - some are not - ALL things are possible with God!

We don't always know what road we are to take. We must rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We cannot put aside His commands to us - doing so brings on pain and suffering we could have avoided. Learning and knowing His "touch" is something that comes with time. The longer we walk in the light, the brighter our path becomes. It is illuminated with the light of the world...Jesus!

Take comfort in knowing that God has forgiven you. Continue to walk in His ways, honor His commands, meditate on His word. He will regenerate that spirit that seems to be dead or dying within you. He will let you know when it is "safe" to move on (if, in fact, that is what you are praying for). He will also let you know, in no uncertain terms, if you are to "wait". He is a very subtle God. As with all of God's intimate messages to you, He will lead you if you are willing to follow. Don't wander off His path for you! Follow the plan and all will be right and His name will be glorified in the end!

(photo by Brad Millaway)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

~ "Real Christians..."

Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. (3 John 1:11)

We all need to blow off steam every once in a while. The direction of that vent determines whether or not what we are doing conforms to commands given us by our Father in Heaven. Even Jesus got angry, so we take our cue from Him.

In the early 1970's, Christians took to bombing abortion clinics. They were appalled by the new law allowing for the abortion of children, who were considered "not human". They killed doctors, nurses, workers, and patients (some of whom were not even being seen in the facilities for an abortion). They destroyed property. The defense of many was that "God told them to do it".

When our anger at certain things or even people causes us to commit acts of violence (or other devious acts) we are in the path of evil. We have succumbed to Satan's power, not the power of God. Our God is a loving, forgiving God - He is judge, jury and executioner alone! He doesn't need our help. As one who has been on the other side of that fence, I am grateful that the Lord allowed me the opportunity to come to Him. I was afforded the opportunity to ask for and receive forgiveness. Not all are that fortunate. I was granted a pardon for my actions. I was given new life through Jesus.

I knew "of" God - I did not know God. I do my very best to walk the path of good, not of evil. I stumble and I fall (as do many of you) more often than I'd like to admit. I sin each and every day. I ask for forgiveness each and every day. The sins of my past are forgiven, but that doesn't mean that they don't occasionally rear their ugly heads. They often haunt my dreams and continue on in the early moments of my day. I can become angry at myself and others all before placing my feet on the floor. All I can do at that point is hand it over to the Lord and ask that He take the guilt and anger from my heart and keep the enemy at arms length.

Continuing to do what the Lord asks of us, to follow His will for us and live a life that is pleasing to Him is not an easy venture. Often we want to walk away. We sometimes fail to see the promises through the dust that swirls around us. They are there - even when we cannot see them or focus on them. The horrors that befall us in our dreams are the demons of our past that still want to lay claim to our souls. They want us to continue to walk in the darkness that once surround us. We walk in the light! We are not moved by the stirring of the enemy. We are protected and lifted out of that dust by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is who dwells deep within us. He is where our strength to continue on in the midst of adversity originates. Continue to follow that which is good - continue to follow Jesus!