Saturday, December 31, 2011

~ "We'll take a cup of kindness..."

And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night to be much observed to the LORD for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the LORD to be observed of all thechildren of Israel in their generations. (Ex 12:41-42)
Although the last day of this particular year most likely occurred in April, the children of Israel, none the less, set out without delay.  It was some 430 years after God's promise to Abraham.  "God's promises are not performed quickly, they will be, in their season. This is that night of the Lord, that remarkable night, to be celebrated in all generations. The great things God does for his people, are to be not only a few days' wonder, but to be remembered throughout all ages; especially the work of our redemption by Christ (Matthew Henry)".
God's promises to us are often long in coming...but they do come!  One of the most wonderful things about our heavenly father is that each day is a new opportunity to walk with him!  The frustration we feel at times, the overwhelming anxiety that comes to us through the world, can all be laid aside in an instant.  Our failures can be turned into successes if we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us.  Each day can be the beginning of a new year without the disappointment that comes from not keeping our resolution.  God is more than willing to wipe the slate clean and allow us to start again.  We just need to have a sincere desire to walk with him and allow him to work on us.
Whatever the new year holds for you is not going to be lessened or multiplied by the resolutions you make tonight and break tomorrow.  God has your year mapped out for you already.  He knows what will cross your path, he's looked at it and deemed it to be in your best interest.  Whether it's a new job, a new home, the birth of a child, the death of a loved one - it's all good.  Rejoice in whatever it is that comes your way! Continue to praise him for everything - even the things that you don't feel are blessings!  Make that prayer list and pray every day.  Pick up your Bible and read it every day.  And if you have a day that is filled with distraction and you forget or can't seem to find the time to meet him in prayer - thank him right then and there - don't give up!    If you feel compelled to make that "New Year's Resolution" - make it one that is worth keeping - make it one that you can keep!  Put "become closer to God" on the top of that list and you will have a year filled with blessings!  Remember, God does great things for his people ~ do great things for God!

Friday, December 30, 2011

~ "Judgements..."

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. (Luke 6:45)

A friend of mine (Grammy Blick) writes a beautiful message each morning (Grammy Blick's Bible Reading - on BlogSpot). Yesterday, her message was titled " Judgement Call". This morning, I was ministering via email before my eyes had fully opened and what was contained in her post came to mind. Take the time to read it. Your time will have been well spent.

I chose today's verse out of compassion for a Godly woman who is suffering silently at the hands of others. The bitterness and anger (not to mention ignorance) that many "Christians" exhibit, is, at times, enough to make me vomit. The horrible, vicious utterings of the uneducated often gives way to a greater misconception...believing that one is favored in God's eyes over another or being exempt from the rules that apply to everyone else. There is not one better or more favored in God's eyes nor is anyone exempt from His teachings. We are all afforded the same opportunity to ask for and receive forgiveness and to be welcomed into the family. We were all there the day the nails were hammered into the hands of our Savior - each and every one of us! No one - not one person, no none - can say they are above the need for salvation.

Take the focus off of those whose sins you find fault with and place is squarely where it belongs - on your own sins. Do not spend your time gossiping about what he or she is or has done - worry about your own failures! As we approach the end of 2011, you may want to consider all that God has done for YOU this year...then take an honest look at what you have done with the gifts He's given you. Have you used them to spread His word, are you doing His work? Have others seen His benevolence in you? Have your words harmed or helped? Have you solved all the problems in this world from the keyboard of your computer? I guess it's time to continue on into the new year with a better attitude and a greater focus on what is important and who we are in relation to the Father in Heaven!

There aren't any exceptions to God's rules. They apply to all, regardless of age or upbringing. They are not to be taken lightly. Salvation comes only to those who seek it, ask for it and accept it. It is offered to all!!! It is free for the asking yet it carried a high price tag. Do yourself a favor this year and live the love given to you so freely! Accept the challenge of being an apostle for Christ...share His story, spread His word - live His truths!!!

(photo by Celia Darrigo)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

~ "The journey begins..."

And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink. (Ex 17:1)

Imagine that journey, if you dare! When we travel, we have most of the comforts of home. We check into a hotel/motel, our beds have fresh linens, the bathroom has clean towels and toiletries, there's a telephone, wifi and a television. We can adjust the heat and the air conditioning to our own personal liking, there's a bucket for ice and hot and cold running water. In the upscale hotels, there's a refrigerator stocked with beverages ranging from bottled water to bottled champagne. We can leave a wake-up call at the front desk and our bed is made up when we leave.

The journey the Israelites were on was frustrating, to say the least. They left the comfort of what they knew at the command of God! They spent decades wandering around in the desert (due to their own defiance, of course). Our journey in life often resembles theirs. Our faith often resembles theirs. Our promised reward is guaranteed, as was theirs. We stumble and fall along the way. We miss the road signs and hit detours. We struggle to find our way back on the right path. It is not always "smooth sailing".

Where ever your journey begins, where ever it takes you - you have the comfort and assurance of knowing that when it does end, when you reach your final destination, you will be afforded the time to rest upon arrival. That, too, is guaranteed!!! Our Heavenly Father knows the struggles of this life. He's well aware of the distractions and pitfalls that plague our journey. He wants us to turn to Him for direction - so what are you waiting for???

Make a new start if you must. Begin today - right now! Re-dedicate your life to Him. He will surely bless your commitment. If you are renewed in spirit, your outlook will also be renewed. Lift up praises and prayers to the Father who sees all and knows all. Give to Him in the same manner He has given to you! Thank Him, ask forgiveness and rejoice!!! Today is when your journey begins. The final destination is Heaven. Walk securely in the knowledge that He is with you, guiding and guarding your every step! Let Him lead...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

~ "KNOWING the Word of God..."

For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. (Matt 22:30)

There was some discussion about attending church services Christmas Eve at a beautiful cathedral in town. It was chosen simply because it "looked" pretty. I'm not opposed to trying new things, provided they believe and give testimony to the Word of I, of course, went to the web site and viewed their "beliefs". Some of them were in line with what is taught. A few were questionable - then, I arrived at this one: "Marriage Love between a husband and wife can become spiritual and continue to eternity." Needless to say, I was drawn to today's verse in scripture.

There is not just one "right" way to worship God. Yes, there are certain criteria to be met, but in general, any "church" whose beliefs are based in the Bible, can offer one the opportunity to worship God in community. However, when the beliefs of that church contradict what is written, beware! We are warned about "false" religions and "false" profits, even the antichrist. They all come wrapped in beauty and promise salvation to those who follow. How can you be sure you aren't falling under their false teachings? Simple - if it does not conform to the word of God, then it won't be from Him. He doesn't change the words to include those who choose to disregard His word as written.

I know that somewhere, someone is rolling their eyes at this one! "It's just what they believe, it's how they interpret the Bible". Interpreting God's word is relatively simple. You read it. If you don't read it, you can't possibly know all that He wants you to know! Not every single scripture verse is preached about in a sermon. If you read story contained in Matthew 22, you will see that Jesus lays to rest any misconception that we will fall under human constraints in Heaven.

Take the time, make the effort to know the Word of God. Read, study, meditate and pray! Don't leave it to me or anyone else to tell you. You can attend church services from now until the day you die and you will not "know" God if you don't read His love letter to you. Don't just go through the motions - open your heart and your mind to what is written. Listen for the sound of His voice in your heart and soul. It's there - it's only as far away as the next page in your Bible..."for many are called, but few are chosen" (Matt 22:14).

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

~ "Treading water..."

And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. (Matt 14:28)

Part of learning to swim is learning to tread water. You must be able to keep your head above water while remaining in the same place. Not as easy as it sounds and can become very exhausting the longer you are in the water - it is actually easier to just swim.

Not unlike the way we often feel when we are waiting on the Lord. When we are moving (doing His work) we are not likely to become distracted. It is in those moments of being "still" that we have the most difficulty. Our brain tells us to move forward, actually, move anywhere but where we are. God tells us to just stand quietly where we are and wait for Him. I have been treading water for quite some time now. Perhaps it's just been time for me to refocus on what it is He'd have me do. Perhaps it's just a time to rest in Him. I sit at watch as the lives of those around me unfold into new and rewarding joys. Still, I wait. I battle the demons that tell me to walk away and I cling to hope of my Savior all while crying out to Him for courage and strength!

Life isn't always fair. Happiness doesn't come with a bow on it, nor is it wrapped up in pretty paper. Salvation, however, comes in the form of a cross. From it's tiniest splinters to the base of it's enormous beams, we can witness and praise the greatest gift of all - the shed blood of Christ. For that, I don't mind standing still for a bit. I know that the life given to me is the life I was chosen to live. The happiness I seek will come at the end of my road. What I seek (what we all seek) cannot be found under a tree or anywhere else but in the company of Jesus! He guides us, guards us and protects us. He calls to us to come meet Him on the water - He renews us and strengthens us. He holds us and shelters us and He has called us "friend".

If you didn't get all the pretty things you so wanted to get this Christmas, remember you did get one thing that you did not deserve - something more precious than gold, sweeter than the fragrance of frankincense
or myrrh! You received an invitation to belong to the one whose birth we celebrate - whose death destroyed sin and whose resurrection opened the gates of heaven! Say "yes" to Him when He calls your name! Walk out onto the water in faith...

Monday, December 26, 2011

~ "One down, one to go..."

And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. (James 3:18)

Have you ever known anyone who claimed to be wise, but acted foolishly? True wisdom can be measured by the depth of one's character. As you can identify a tree by the type of fruit it produces, you can evaluate your wisdom by the way you act. Foolishness leads to disorder, but wisdom leads to peace and goodness. (LASB).

I had the opportunity to receive a gift yesterday that did not come wrapped in paper or adorned with a bow. God graciously answered a prayer this Christmas. As I sat at my sister's, I watched, trying desperately to hide the tears that began to roll down my face. "Making peace" is what the season is all about! I could not have asked for a better gift.

We often say and do things that hurt others. Sometimes we immediately regret the words that fall from our lips yet cannot undo them. Sometimes it takes years for the hurt to subside; sometime it never does. When Jesus told us to "turn the other cheek", He was laying the ground work for peace. He set examples for each one of us about forgiveness while He hung dying on the cross. Yet, far too many times we refuse to follow His lead. Our stubbornness, our pride, tend to get in the way of peace. We don't always have to agree with the motives and methods of others, but we do have to remember that they, too, are children of the King and keeping that in mind, we are obligated to forgive all who harm us and to make peace with one another.

When we begin to take those first steps in forgiveness and peace, we begin a walk that propels us into a greater walk - a walk with the Holy Spirit - a walk of faith in God's promises - a walk with Jesus to Calvary. Letting go of our "old ways" and turning to God for guidance is often not as difficult as we make it. We go to Him broken and we are fixed. We go to Him humbled and we are lifted up. We go to Him teachable and become the very teachers of His love. ALL things are possible!!!

Lift your chin up and let the love of God hit your face! He will broaden that smile that you carry, He will lighten the burdens of your heart and He will bless your life with mercy and grace! He promised...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

~ "The Night that Hope was Born..."

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11)

There aren't too many things I need these days. I have a family, an extended family, I have friends and acquaintances...I have life!!!

When you look at any photos depicting the birth of Jesus, you see a baby wrapped in a blanket laying in a manger. We don't generally think too far beyond the image. What we don't see, what we often have difficulty grasping is that this child is GOD!!! A King for all, the salvation of the world! He was born to die.

If you take anything with you into the new year, take this thought. With all the suffering and horror in the world today, with all the loneliness and despair, with the wars being fought in the name of false gods - there is one who offers salvation to all people! That one is Jesus!!! Only through Him can you be saved. Only through His blood can your sins be washed away. Only through His death and resurrection can you live.

Offer yourself and commit the remainder of your life in service to Him. It doesn't mean you have to give up everything (as the apostles did) - it means to be the shepherds is the field who were blessed, it means the Kings who bowed down and worshipped Him and it means the host of angels singing His praises! Share with all the miracle of Christmas - the true meaning of Christmas!!! Spread that love that came to all people the night that hope was born...share Christ!!!

Merry Christmas...


Saturday, December 24, 2011

~ "The night before Christmas..."

But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (Luke 18:16)
Last year, I had the opportunity to enjoy an evening with my "Tennessee" family.  Good food and laughter are always a part of that experience.  There’s the most adorable three year old (who we will call "G") who never ceased to make me smile ~ and her grandmother (who is like a sister to me) and would I usually end up laughing ourselves into either a painful spasm or the need to change our clothing.  Those of you old enough to remember Art Linkletter will remember the the TV show "Kids Say the Darndest Things".  "G" is no exception!  She would undoubtedly win the prize!  Her innocence and her imagination have brought so much joy into my life!  She told me about Santa Clause making her toys at the North Pole and that it's baby Jesus' birthday.  In those moments I was taken back in time and I remembered my own children anxiously awaiting "Santa".
Jesus tells us the kingdom of heaven belongs to those "such as these".  They are trusting of those who care for them, they believe in what they have not seen, they do their best to be "nice" and not "naughty" (for they know there will be coal in their stocking if they are naughty).  They don't hold grudges, they do not put on aires.  They are satisfied (for the most part) with what they have and are grateful for what they are given.  They live in the moment.  They love unconditionally.  
Amazingly enough, we must trust God (for he cares for us), we must do our best and believe that Christ's blood has redeemed us (for we know there is a hell waiting if we do as we please). We are to be forgiving, we are to be humble.  We should be satisfied with the blessings we have and those we continue to receive.  We must always be prepared for he will come "like a thief in the night".  We should love unconditionally.  The spirit of Christmas is in the joy of giving ~ God gave us Jesus!  

Friday, December 23, 2011

~ "Lord, I lift my friend to you..."

I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil. (John 17:15)
I attended a production at a local Christian theatre called once with the youth group from my church. The story focused on young people, how Satan gets in and temps and twists us, still making a choice and standing for Jesus!  The one thing (aside from the obvious moral of the story) that stuck out was that the characters prayed for their friends to find the Lord.  
My friends are very important to me.  I pray for them daily!  Sometimes there are circumstances that I can do nothing about, and in that situation, I ask God to find their hearts, to touch their lives, to help find their way to  him, and to keep them safe from harm.  
We all have circumstances in our lives that "cloud our view".  We seek the wisdom of the Lord to guide us through whatever situation we are in.  Remembering how much my friends mean to me, I know that they mean much more to God!  That is why I "lift my friends" up to God in prayer!  Sometimes it is the only thing I can do for them.
We are told to pray for others, commanded to by Jesus.  We walk away and want certain people out of our lives because they do not possess the qualities of a "Christian", but do we remember to pray for them to find him?  We don't have to "rescue" them from the world, in most cases we could not.  The changes that take place in our lives when we have a relationship with Jesus come only through that relationship - no one but the Lord could have rescued me (which, he did).  The expression that a "leopard cannot change his spots" is true; but the God of heaven and earth can!  
Today I have two requests for you.  First, I challenge you to pray for a friend or family member that doesn't know the Lord - lift them up by name to Jesus and ask that he come into their heart and take hold of their soul.  Second, I will ask that you pray for one of mine, because "I've done all that I know to do"...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

~ "Ease on down the road..."

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magia from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” (Matt 2:1-2)
They came bearing gifts.  Frankincense, myrrh and  gold. They traveled following a star.  What faith!  I can't imagine going anywhere without a map or a GPS.  Their journey was by caravan (and not the car).  They would travel through enemy territories and the gifts they were bringing were considered expensive.  Yet, they went!
We are the greatest gift we can bring to the Lord.  Our humility, our joys, our sufferings, our praise and our worship - that's all he wants!  US!  Sometimes we are "too busy" to remember him; he never forgets us.  Sometimes we forget to thank him; he continues to bestow blessings on us.  Undeserving as we are, our gifts continue to multiply.  Reaching down from heaven is the hand that formed us.  It's being offered to us in a gesture of love and kindness unlike any other ever experienced.  We are never alone.  We are always under the care of the Master.  Although our journey is not like that of the Magi, it is a journey that will bring us one day into the presence of the most worthy of all Kings ~ Jesus!
When the answer is "no", when the command is "move", when God has another plan for you other than the one you thought it was, accept it and bear it ~ it is in no way a sign of failure, nor is it a "cross" to bear.  It is a gift from God who loves you and wants you to be "wholly" his!  He will give you what you need - keep the focus on him!  Continue to walk in his ways and know that he is pleased with you.  Your sacrifice is never taken for granted in the eyes of the Lord, as long as it is given with honor, praise and humility.  He'll tell you when it's time!  Acceptance of God's plan for you can be a hard decision at times.  With everything he takes from you, he also gives something in return.  Letting go of the things that cannot be changed is the first step in total submission to the will of God.  Let go!  Walk!  Rejoice!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

~ "Well, they look clean..."

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. (John 13:3-4)
What would you do for your friends?  I have one friend that I know, without having to think twice about it, would probably run into a burning building if she thought she could help me!  She encourages me when I am depressed, she makes me laugh, shares my joys and my sorrows.  When I cry, she cries and vice-versa.  We have had our "moments" over the many years I've known her, but we also have many memories.  We have walked together, worked together, we have experienced many of the same "trials" over the course of our lives, we've shared the loss of friends, the joys of birth and "agony of defeat".  If I were to become sick and bed-ridden, she would be on the next plane to take care of me.  
When we think in terms of the friends we have, the defining factor is usually the length of time we've known someone.  I have known this woman for more years than I care to count.  I have another friend, who would undoubtedly do all she could for me and I've known her less than two years.  When I think of Jesus, and his "friends" - he knew them for a relatively short period of time (the Bible bears this out in the accounts of his teaching ministry - which lasted three years) - the image of him washing their feet brings comes to mind.  "No" Peter told him, "I should wash your feet".  Yet, there he was, with his basin and towel, tending to their needs.  He was not only their Savior and their teacher, he was their friend!  
The symbolism of washing their feet reminds us that even though we have been "washed in the blood", we still need to "freshen up".  As Christians, we have to keep washing the dirt off of our feet.  We have to help wash the dirt off of the feet of others as well.  We must forgive!  
If you are looking for that perfect Christmas gift, give a gift of forgiveness to someone.  We aren't perfect, so I know there is at least one person you have not forgiven for something.  In Alcoholics Anonymous they call it Step 9 - "making amends" ~ God calls it asking for and granting forgiveness.  
While on earth, he served!  Now in heaven he is worshiped, yet he still listens to our prayers for forgiveness and in our asking that we be forgiven, he also reminds us that we need to forgive!  Wash someone's feet today, and they may just wash yours!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

~ "The gift that keeps on giving..."

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matt 6:21)

Where do your treasures lie? What is your greatest gift? A friend and I have a running gag - it is referred to as "the gift that keeps on giving". An item purchased for less than $10 and for over two and a half years now we have had more fun with this little piece of foam than I ever would have imagined. When I purchased it, it was done so as a joke. I would have been satisfied with the laughs it received when I presented it but it has paid for itself again and again! There in lies the blessing!

The joy in giving comes not from the cost of the item but from the feeling you (as the giver) receive when it is accepted and enjoyed! Sometimes we give a gift and the recipient is anything but excited. It tends to discourage us, we may feel unappreciated, especially if we know that someone else's gift cost less and is not nearly worth what ours is. Sometimes it's put in the back of a closet and never used. Sometimes it get thrown away. Sometimes, later on, that gift becomes invaluable to he who has received it and it's taken out and becomes their prized possession! Sometimes it doesn't fit and it has to be "grown into". We've all been told "it's the thought that counts".

Often the gift we give is wrapped in the most expensive paper and ribbons (some of them cost more than the gift itself). It generally has a tag attached with the person's name on it and our name as the giver. Then again, sometimes it's given in a white plastic bag.

The greatest gift ever given did not come wrapped in brightly colored paper, adorned with ribbons and bows. It came to us in a lowly manger in Bethlehem. It was not purchased with a credit card, it was paid for in blood. It's not something we take out and wear on special occasions, but something we should wear proudly everyday and at all times! It is our most prized possession (or at least it should be). The more we "wear" it, the better it fits. It sets us apart from others. It is the best gift you will ever receive!

As we approach Christmas, take time out of your hustle and bustle and contemplate what you have done with that "gift". Have you put it in the back of your closet? Have you deemed it to be less important in your life than your job or your "things"? Do you only "wear" it on special occasions? If you have yet to unwrap it, look at the tag attached to it, it says: "Love, God".

Monday, December 19, 2011

~ "Sound judgement..."

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Rom 12:3)

"They asked God to bless them with as many children as He saw fit in His timing." Jim and Michelle Duggar have 19 children. Michelle's recent pregnancy with number 20 has ended in a miscarriage. My heart goes out the the Duggar Family. "Jubilee" is now in God's hands.

My own personal life was touched by four such events. Two of those four pregnancies ended in abortion. Two of those pregnancies ended in miscarriage. There is not one of those children that I do not think about, wonder about or miss. Time has healed the wounds of their deaths, but the scars remain. I would say that this is probably the hardest "post" I've ever written. We tend to keep our "skeletons" locked away in a closet, far from the eyes and ears of those who would judge us. The only judgement that matters knew long before the events occurred that these four children would never breath the air of this world.

"Why?" you ask. The reasons are no longer relevant (they never really were). The decisions were made with sound and logical deliberation, yet in the grand scheme of things, were not the right decisions to have been made at all. For years after the two miscarriages, I truly believed that God was punishing me by taking away those two children in retaliation for my decision to abort two. He has long since forgiven me for my actions and the price for that also came in the form of a cross on a hill in Calvary.

God has blessed me with four beautiful and healthy children. He has blessed me with a precious granddaughter. Knowing that I also have four beautiful children and another grandchild in heaven gives me pause. Whatever their lives would have been no longer crosses my mind. In the same way that the reality of my friend's death was revealed to me, these children also were never destined to be anyone other than who they were. They, too, were called home in His time. They, too, formed a lasting impression on me. God did not punish me or my daughter-in-law by taking children from us. He blessed us with babies He chose to take home with him, just as He has taken Jubilee Duggar home to be with Him.

Whatever your feelings are about this family, their overwhelming number of children, their life in front of the camera, know that they, too, answer to the same authority that you and I answer to. It is not for us to judge the decision they made to attempt to bring forth another child. God did not (and does not) punish us by taking our loved ones away. Right now they grieve the loss of a baby. They need our prayers, not our arrogance. They need our love. The question as to whether or not Michelle should have considered having another child is a moot point. No debate will change that. They have given their lives to God, and God has blessed them many times over. This child was conceived for His glory, by His command and now resides with Him.

Remember that "children are a blessing from the Lord" (Ps 127)...sometimes He chooses to hold them now!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

~ "Still Her Little Child..."

For my eyes have seen your salvation, Which you have prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel. (Luke 2:30-32)
Simeon had received a promise from God.  He would not die until he saw his salvation!  God kept his word!  When Jesus was brought to the temple and upon receiving him and blessing him, Simeon turned to Mary and told her "this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; Yes, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
Although we know very little about Christ's life as a child, being a mother or a father would allow you to "presume" a few things.    I think of my kids. I think of their "firsts" - rolling over, sitting up, standing, crawling... I think of them learning to walk, stumbling and falling.  I think of their little person giggle, the way they spoke certain words, the way they described different things, the first time they called me "Mommy".  I think of their first day of school, how excited we both were (I was not one of those parents who cried).  I think of their birthday parties, their favorite games, the sports they played, the friends they made.  I think of the "private" talks as they got older, the times spent in the car together. I think of vacations.  I also think of the times they were sick, when I would hold their head over the toilet, putting bandaids on their "boo-boo's".  I think of their high school graduations, their chosen career path, their college days.  I think of my son's wedding.  I think of them on their own, perhaps someday raising their own children.  Then I think of Mary.  Jesus was her child, her first born son!  Imagine knowing that that precious child you held in your arms would die for all mankind.  Imagine the panic that set in when she and Joseph realized that Jesus was not with them when returning from Jerusalem.  Imagine the day that he left home to begin his teaching.  Imagine what she felt when he was arrested and condemned to die.  Imagine watching your precious child nailed to a cross.  Imagine that precious child being laid dead in your arms.  
Jesus was born, lived a life and died.  The joy comes from what followed - the resurrection!  Without his birth, there would be no salvation!  Without the life he led, there would be no "model" to imitate! Without his death, there would no hope!   In all the world there has not been one as innocent or one as sacred as "her little child".  God not only gave Mary a gift that first Christmas morning, he gave a gift to all of us ~ he gave us his son.  Our redemption lay in Mary's arms.  God fulfilled the promise to all people that day - the promise of Savior.  
Whatever you are facing this Christmas season, whatever burdens you bear, whatever hardships you face remember this:  It took a miracle for Christ to be born.  Your salvation was guaranteed through that miracle.  If it took faith in a miracle to get you to where you are, what makes you think that same "faith" is not standing beside you?  God's love for us is so great, so unending, and so powerful - who are we to NOT believe he will continue to watch over us until we meet him?  Remember - YOU are still his little child!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

~ "Priorities..."

If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Tim 5:8)
Insomuch as this verse, in context, is directed towards the care of widows, it is by itself a directive for all follow, regardless of the age, condition or circumstances surrounding it.  It takes you to the very heart of the meaning of the word "charity".  God's command here is to do first for those at home, then for those in your community (or church), then for the rest of the world.
Our world has changed a bit since Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, but our obligations and responsibilities have not.  Our society is made of mostly of "double income" households.  Why?  Because we have become a greedy society.  We want!   Plain and simple. 
It all comes down to priorities.  What are yours?  Where do you put the emphasis on what's important and what's not?  And if all you ever do is take, what "treasures" do you have to lay before the Lord?  You cannot go through life expecting everyone else to pick up the slack for you.  You have to make an honest effort.  Feeding the hungry and clothing the naked starts at home!  When you are the "head of the household", your duty is to those who live under your roof.  If you don't take care of them, what you do for those outside of the home means nothing!  And if you have relatives in need, your responsibility should shift to them - after you've met your first obligation.  Once those outside your home are taken care of - then, and only then, will what you do for them be recognized and acknowledged.  Our "works" have to be in accordance with what is defined in the Word. 
The appearances you try to keep up will come back to haunt you.  If you constantly and consistently ignore your responsibilities at home, if you do not "help yourself", how can you think you are in compliance with all that God has commanded?   And if you're one who passes judgement on how someone else defines their priorities, that too will be called into account!  God has also advised us that that isn't part of our job.  Our job is to love one another, and in loving one another, we are to provide for, take care of, pray for, and assist one another in all areas, and not just the ones that get us the tax write-offs.   
If we call ourselves Christians but all we ever think about is "me, me, me" - what are we really saying?  That our family is unimportant?  God first, family second, everything else after that!  Take care of what God has entrusted you with - your immediate family.  Love them, comfort them and provide for them and you will be respected by them and by others.  Default on that obligation and nothing you do will matter!

Friday, December 16, 2011

~ "Show me where it says THAT!!!

By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. (1 Cor 15:2)
I love Paul's letters!  He packed them so full of teaching and love that every time I read one I find something new to rejoice about!  He reminds me here that it is not enough to just believe!  
I have spent a lifetime believing in God and believing that Jesus came to earth and died on the cross to pay for my sins.  It's what I was taught.  It's what I knew.  Salvation is not an "entitlement" that is received because we were sprinkled with water as a child, attended church every Sunday, gave up something for Lent or confessed our sins in a box every week.  As I have so often pointed out, there comes a time when you realize that you want the gift being offered to you and when you receive it, it changes you!  
Sometimes I use my Bible as a reference manual to either confirm or deny what I've been "programmed" to believe.  I follow one general rule of thumb:  if it's not in the Bible - it's not!  I don't argue with people anymore who think they know it all and have all the answers simply because of their religion...I pray for them!  I am not defined before God by the church I attend.  I am not defined by the knowledge I have attained.  I realized that had I died when I attempted suicide in 2006, I would have spent my eternity in hell!  Not because I would have taken my own life, but because I was not saved!  My life never reflected any of the changed behaviors talked about in the Bible.  It reflected those sins that had been forgiven by Christ, but not the changes those sinners made after they were forgiven.  To "go and sin no more" means precisely that - to get off the merry-go-round and walk the straight line.  You cannot say "I'm saved" and continue to live a sinful life!  
To have the "intellectual knowledge" that Christ died on the cross for one's sins does not guarantee a place in heaven.  The "tingles" and "warm fuzzies" one gets when one can FEEL the Holy Spirit at work, those indescribable moments of praise and sorrow that roll into each other and the belief of being created for a higher purpose than the life lived on earth, the acceptance of that knowledge, the humbling of oneself at the feet of Jesus, the desire and willingness to live as Christ lived and to do his work is what defines a "saved" Christian. Don't talk yourself into believing you are in the will of God if something inside of you is telling you that you aren't!  Chances are, if you're having those doubts, that you are not!  Ask him into your life today, offer to serve him in HIS way (not yours) and you will find a life worth living and a place to go home to when it's over!

(photo by Warrick Moore)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

~ "Which way???"

Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments. (Ps 119:66)

Psalm 119 is both the longest psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible. It may have been written by Ezra after the Temple was rebuilt as a repetitive meditation on the beauty of God's Word and how it helps us stay pure and grow in faith. This particular verse reminds us that we don't always make the right decisions or know all we need to know, but if we believe, anything is possible.

Sometimes not knowing what God has called you to do causes you to question every one of your motives. "Am I doing this because God wants me to do it, or because I want God to want me to do it?" Confused? Don't be! God will show you the way simply because you believe and have faith. It may not be in your time or to your liking, but the way will be illuminated!

Take a lesson from today's verse - ask for discernment of His will for you in all that you do. Don't make decisions based on your feelings - make them based on your faith in Him and what He has taught you through His word! He never fails to point you in the right direction...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

~ "All I want for Christmas..."

But now that you know God--or rather are known by God--how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? (Gal 4:9)

We are all tempted by the trappings of what is referred to as the "good life". Plush surroundings, pleasing appearances and comfort attracts us all. "Oh, I would just love to have that" or "that would make my life so much easier" seem to be the recurring phrases uttered this time of year. I think of the many Christmas gifts that did make my life easier - I now use the line "I remember when I had one of those" because I no longer have many of the wonderful gifts given to me. They've either worn out and were not replaced or they remained with my ex after the divorce. There is a small box of sentimental gifts and a nightshirt (the last gift my mom gave me) that my children will have to dispose of after I'm gone from this world. I've learned to live on very little and to expect nothing. Sure, there have been offers to enjoy a better life, but that would mean to walk away from what I know to be sacred and holy, a life style that has made me a better person. I am not willing to trade it for anything.

Many of us have lived (or are still living) tormented and troubled lives. Many refuse to walk away - out of fear, out of weakness - many stay in horrible relationships hoping for a better outcome. What I've learned is that most people do not change. I have changed. My forgiving nature often gets me into more trouble than I need and my desire for everyone around me to find what I have found often leads me down roads I have no business on, simply because they do not lead to the promises of God, but the lies of man. Why should I or anyone walk away from what is holy and good???

It has been a difficult month, but God has shown me once again that I do not ever want to go back to being enslaved, nor do I want to settle for something other than the best. He will continue to provide for me, I will continue to serve Him. If there is a blessing along the way, I'll take it! If there is a battered bridge in my future, I will cross it with care. If there is love out there for me, it will come. Knowing, or rather being known by God, is by far one of the greatest gifts available. If I have that and nothing else - I have it all!!! I have had a taste from the cup of eternal life and desire to keep it.

If you haven't found that perfect Christmas gift under your tree yet, the chances are that you aren't looking in the right place. Let the lights remind you of the Light of the World who came to earth for you. Let the ornaments that dangle from it's branches remind you of the many creations placed here in His care. That angel or star (either one) that sits on the top of your tree - let that remind you of the lowly and great who came to call on the infant Jesus - all were welcomed and all we afforded the opportunity to meet the Savior. You, too, are afforded that same opportunity. Will you choose to continue to be enslaved by the lies and promises of man or will you accept the truths and promises of God - let Jesus be your guide - let Him be that gift you are searching for!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

~ "Weep not..."

And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. (Luke 7:13)

We all know the story of Lazarus. Jesus performed one of His greatest miracles and gave us a glimpse into the power of God - to save souls and preserve life! Here, too, He shows compassion for the widow whose son had died, leaving her virtually helpless. Jesus brought the young man back to life. This miracle reminds us that Jesus cares for His people, for their needs!

So often we mutter the words "I need a miracle". When the impossible stares us straight in the face, our only hope is the saving grace of God! How many nights have you cried yourself to sleep begging God for mercy? How many times have you prayed that your life would turn around and the circumstances of your existence would melt away into a quiet, ripple-free lake of mercy and peace???

Jesus tells us to "weep not". He has offered us salvation! The world was dead in sin until that moment when He paid the price for all. Dead people can do nothing for themselves. They can't even ask for help! God has compassion on us, and sent Jesus to raise us to life within Him. The dead man did not earn his second chance at life, nor can we earn our new life in Christ! We can accept God's gift of life, praise Him for it and use our life to do his will.

Jesus raises the dead every day!!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

~ "Setting the example..."

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity (Titus 2:7)

There is a little bit of life left in all of us who feel we are at the end of the road. Sometimes we struggle for weeks on end looking for that light. Sometimes we cannot even find the tunnel. We often toss and turn thinking about what lies ahead of us tomorrow, losing precious hours of sleep over something we have no control over. Why? Because we are human.

Being an example to others often pushes you so far into the spotlight that you forget that you are in need of the same salvation you tell everyone else about. It sometimes causes you to become empty and barren within. You reach out and find no life line and you feel that all your hard work has been in vain. You feel like a hypocrite. Your thoughts race to things that are not of God and you wonder how you ever got this far from His grace.

Go back to the beginning. Start again. Don’t wait another moment and just dive in and be the example the Lord has created you to be. Lift your eyes toward the heavens, raise your hands in praise, pray! Read His word, study His message and share His love! You’ll be just fine! He will welcome you back as if there was never a separation. He loves you, that’s all you need to have - really!!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

~ "Mary Did You Know???"

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)

I have four children.  Each of them are different from one another.  They have different likes and dislikes; dreams and goals.  Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what their lives would be like today as I held them then.  

I can only imagine the joy that Mary felt when she delivered Jesus in that stable and held him for the first time.  A perfect being born in an imperfect world to save sinners.  That was His destiny.  That was what He came to earth to do.  Redeem.

Never before and never again would there be such a birth.  This baby, whose birth we celebrate each year, was the single most important treasure this world would ever know, yet for so many, it has become a season of trying to outdo last year, desperately seeking to display more spectacular decorations and frantically cramming as much unnecessary stuff in stockings and under a tree as is humanly possible.  Forget it!  You will never top the first Christmas, nor will you ever find a gift more perfect than the one that God gave us that morning.  

Only when she held that baby for the last time did she truly understand the sacrifice.  He was sent here to die for us, for our sins.  She said "yes" to God and watched as that baby hung and died on the cross for all mankind.  She stood in horror as they nailed His hands and feet to what would become a symbol throughout the world for the bridge that was built for us.  In her own personal nightmare came the salvation promised Adam and Eve.  

She could never have known what that child would become.  None of us know what our children will become.  We can hope and we can pray.  We can raise them with the best of intentions - but God's plan for each of them stretches farther than our imaginations.  A mother's love transcends all other love, except for the love of God!  

Mary saw a baby - a tiny bundle of joy - she held Him, nursed Him, cared for Him, taught Him, and loved Him with all of her heart.  She watched as He taught others, fed others and cared for others - in a way that she could never have imagined.  He still loves us with all His heart!

Jesus continues to teach, to feed and to care for all those who call on His name.  He lifts us up in times of heartbreak and comforts us in our sorrows.  He wants all of us to remember the sacrifice He made for each and every one of us.  Will there be room in your heart this year for the gift He gives???

Saturday, December 10, 2011

~ "Mercy implores reconciliation as Christ leads every soul..."

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Cor 5:20)
“The only man who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew every time he sees me, while all the rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them” (George Bernard Shaw).  Isn't that they way some people see us?  They don't believe that we can change and be better people than we were.  They expect that we are still the same "wastes of humanity" we were before Christ's love changed us!  We've been reconciled!  The Holy Spirit has been awakened within us and we are NEW!!!  Why is it that some people think that the "miracles" ended in the last written book of the Bible?
Miracles occur every day and for every person who has the faith to wait for them!  Like the woman who touched the hem of Christ's robe and was healed, so too are we healed!  We are healed through reconciliation.  We are forgiven for our transgressions and made clean!  Our thought process, our desire to do what is asked of us, our willingness to be what God wants us to be all come about because we have been blessed through the power of the Holy Spirit!  Just like our salvation, it's not because of anything we've done!  It's a gift from God!  You can't earn it and you can't buy it!  You can't wrap it up and give it to someone else.  It has to come from the Father, through Jesus!  It's the only thing God will see when we meet him face to face - if the blood of Jesus is not above our "doorway", we aren't getting in!  When that power comes to us, we walk boldly into the world!  
Every aspect of our lives should reflect the love of Christ.  No, we aren't gonna get it right all the time - that's where mercy and grace enter the picture.  Things you once found amusing will embarrass you; some things will nauseate you; and still others will disgust you.  You will walk away from the ugliness and ungodliness of some and your focus will be on what is good!  Your eyes will be opened to what is expected of you (which may not necessarily be what you were "taught").  You will hang your head in shame and ask for forgiveness each and every time you sin, and you will recognize ALL of your sins for what they are.  
Be the ambassador for Christ!  Let those around you see what the Lord has done for you and in you.  Let the changes that have come about through the power of the Holy Spirit be a "lighthouse" that helps to guide lost souls safely to the shore where Jesus waits for them!

Friday, December 9, 2011

~ "Give in or give up..."

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (James 1:13-14)
There are certain things in life that frustrate us, aggravate us, bring out the worst in us and torment us.  Satan knows all these things.  He uses them to take our focus off of God and plant seeds of doubt in our feeble human minds.  He's very good at what he does.  
Being tempted and being tested are not the same, nor do they come from the same being!  God does not tempt us with evil, with what is wrong, with what is not "of God".  He does not lurk in the shadows thinking up ways to "test" our faith by "temptations" for that which he clearly has told us is unholy.  The enemy wants us all - every last one of us!  God wants us all as well, and has gone to great lengths to show us the love he has for us.
Our faith is tested through our temptations.  When we know (completely and honestly know) that we are in the will of God, those temptations only have as much power as we allow them to have.  We have access to a greater power than that which brings on the empty offerings.  Sometimes we don't see it right away and sometimes we see it long before it even comes to us - being able to spot the enemy before he reaches you is how battles are won!  Any great military force in history was successful because of their ability to strategize.  Know what's coming and plan in accordance!
When my daughter tells me that her life resembles a vacuum cleaner hard at work, I offer her, first, the suggestion to put her trust in God.  I can see her eyes rolling through the phone and I even tell her that.  I have to suggest God to her first, because he is first!  I temper every word with love, offer her advice and remind her of her location (in life, not geographically).  And with her, my advice is always the same - get on the right path and start YOUR life, not someone else's.  Don't look for the sky to open up and have all the earthly treasures fall on you - it's not going to happen!  In the years when she should have been figuring out what she was supposed to do with the rest of her life, she was too busy trying to fix something she didn't break and perform the duties that belonged to BOTH of her parents!  Satan ran ramped through our house!  When I look back on it, had we both been sucked into the fiery pit, we would have been deserving of it!  There was no "God" in our house.  There were lusts for money, there was greed, there was selfishness and self-centeredness, there were words of hate and anger shouted at everyone and by everyone who lived there - there was no unity and there definitely was no love.  Going to "church" was a punishment both for those being dragged there kicking and screaming and the one doing the dragging.  My children learned to hate God, not love him, because of the corrupt family values they were subjected to.  
I am very thankful that I serve a compassionate and forgiving God!  His love has changed me!  I am not, nor do I ever want to be again, the person who lived in that house.  My prayer every day is that my children and my ex-husband will allow God to change them the way he has changed me!  My "skeptical" ex-husband thinks of me as "the church lady" and I'm sure is waiting for the "real" me to emerge...this IS the real me!  The "me" God intended for me to be when he created me.  I am a Princess ~ I'm the daughter of the KING!  It would stand to reason that in a perfect world, I would be married to a "Prince" and that my children would also be "royalty" ~ they have only to ask and God will give them their crowns!
When we are tempted, when the enemy is trying his best to tear down what God has built up - be still...because HIS love for you will ALWAYS show you the way!  Walk by the faith he's given you!  Pray - he has great plans for you and yours!  I don't know of any other King who'd put himself in harm's way for his servants...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

~ "The Great Physician..."

But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from there: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all (Matt 12:15)
No one speaks of God's power stronger than the person who has been healed through the power of prayer!  Their testimony to the blessing bestowed upon them by our mighty and merciful God reminds all who hear their words that "The Great Physician" is still on call!  
In the past year, I have heard the words "she is cancer free" and "he will not be having surgery"!  Why? Because God took mercy on these people at the request of those praying for them and healed them!  Never underestimate the power of prayer - it is a mighty tool in the battle against the enemy!  Again I see that "all things are possible" and I lift my hands in praise to him who sits on mercy's seat!  Our Lord is moving swiftly, people are coming to know him and his works are being praised!  
When people ask me to pray for them, or when I feel led to pray for them, it is not just me who prays.  There is a network of God-fearing individuals whose prayers for others is their way of life.  They literally "pray without ceasing".  Sometimes our prayers are answered almost immediately, sometimes it takes a while.  In either case, God hears them and answers them.
Don't give in to your impatience.  Give God the opportunity to answer your prayers.  The foundation your faith stands on is strong and true.  It has stood the test of time and is WORTHY of all praise and honor and glory!  And your faith does not come from a building, nor does it come from a group of people dispensing rules and regulations - it comes from God!  Kneel before HIM, bow down to HIM, no one (and I do mean NO ONE) else!  Remove the "idols" from your life and pray to God through Jesus, and ONLY through Jesus!  Satan's deceptive powers are only as effective as you allow them to be.  Only through the study of God's Word will you be able to identify what is from God!  And if you don't read it, how will you know???  Devote yourself to the Word of God and the Power of God will sustain you!  
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There are 1000 Bibles on today's suggestion is the "Life Application Study Bible" - King James Version. They range in price from $20 - $80 - depending on your choice of print, cover, etc...It is the most widely used study bible out there. When you start to read - begin in the Gospel of Mark first...his is the simplest to get through - then you can either go to John's Gospel or to Genesis. But don't give up and don't stop! What ever "Godly" path you choose in your life, you will meet resistance from Satan - he will hurl things at you that you can't even imagine - stand strong in the faith that you have in Christ's gift of salvation and ask for strength - you'll be just fine!  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

~ "I need a bandaid - again..."

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
"And the Word was made flesh..." - WOW!  Imagine that!  God thought so much of us that he came to earth in human form and to show us that he loves us, then went to the cross and died for us!  We must be pretty special for him to do that!  
The fact that Christ lived among us, as one of us, should tell you that he understands when we pray!  He "gets it" - when our hearts are breaking, when our joy is overflowing - he's been here, he knows!
He also knows what we are capable of, otherwise he would not have commanded that we act accordingly.  We may be wretched sinners but can still strive to be the perfect saints!  We aren't supposed to "give up" - we keep on trying!  If we gave up every time we fell while learning to walk, we'd be lumps still sitting on the floor of our mother's kitchen.  We eventually were able to maintain our balance and put a series of steps together.  But as children, we still fell - how many of you escaped without the super large bandaid across one or both knees?  I know I didn't!  And even now, at the age of 54, I still trip over things that aren't there and sometimes face-plant into the floor or go sailing across the kitchen at work, I get up and look around to see if anyone is watching (or laughing), dust myself off and continue on as though nothing happened!  The cuts heal and the bruises fade, but I am wiser and less careless because of it!
Leading a Christian life is learning to walk!  It's learning to walk in the "Word".  It's not a coat we take out and put on to wear to church on Sunday mornings.  It is our way of life.  In every aspect of every breath we take, we emulate Jesus' life upon the earth.  And there is always room for improvement!  There is always the risk of falling or stumbling.  We will make mistakes, we will get hurt, we will hurt others.  Just as our parents would say "this is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you", we will respond to certain situations in a manner that may present as being "cold" or "callous" because our faith in God tells us to "fear not".  Some people don't want to hear what God has to say on certain matters, they just want someone to agree with their point of view.  They want justification for their actions, and sometimes there just isn't any.
Whether we stumble over a pebble, or go rolling down a steep embankment and end up in a ditch, we still have the power to pull ourselves up and continue to walk in the Word.  We have Christ's assurance that he will neither leave, nor forsake us.  It may be a long, painful journey at times, but we are guaranteed a successful ending to the journey.  I will be bruised and bandaged when I reach the gates of heaven and see my Savior's face!  He will comfort me and reward me and I in turn will worship him ~ not from "afar" - but right there at his nail scared feet!  Dare to walk!!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

~ "Feed the poor - done; clothe the naked - done..."

It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. (Rom 9:16)
Once again, in this verse, Paul tells us that it is nothing that we do that opens the door to heaven for us - it is only through God's mercy!  Why is it that some people think they can continue to  live sinful lives and that their contributions to charities and the poor will be what saves their souls?
It comes from ignorance.  It comes from being part of a "cult" that does not encourage you to read and study God's Word.  It comes from looking for a way to justify an unholy life style.  It comes from a point of superiority rather than humility. 
You may say, "But Jesus tells us to feed the poor"...yes, he does!  He also tells us to forego sexual immorality, adultery and numerous other "sins" of the flesh.  Do we listen?  Is that what we are dependent on to get us into heaven?  He laid the ground rules (job description, if you will).  He told us what is expected of us.  We are tasked with making the effort.  Some of our "sins" we will find the strength to overcome. some we will not - after all, that's what we are - sinners!  Not one of us is better than the next, nor are our accomplishments.  We do not get rewarded on our job for doing what we get paid to do ~ it's expected of us as employees.  And we don't all perform at the same level, our employers take that into consideration as well.  The requirement is to make the effort to do the job to the best of our ability!
Once the power of the Holy Spirit has been awakened within us, we DESIRE to do all those things, but it is not what "saves" us.  We have a true "want" to be "Christ-like", to act in such a way that is pleasing to the Father.  You cannot say "I'm saved" and then go and rob a bank, have an abortion or commit adultery.  And don't think you are going to justify any of it to God - he's already covered that and there are no excuses!  Those are the things we did before we were awakened to the gift of God's mercy!  I know for myself, I cannot, in good conscience, flagrantly disregard what I know to be one of God's commands to me.  The temptations the enemy presents sometimes are so enticing that I just want to say "God, please don't look"...but I don't.  Why?  Because even though I know that nothing I do will ever be good enough, I still want to please him.  I want him to see that I am trying!  
The shed blood of Christ is what saves us!  Only that act by one, sinless man opens the gates of heaven!  Anything you do, do for God's glory.  If you give to the poor, it's for him.  If you help an older person with the groceries, it's for him.  If you swallow your pride and apologize for something you've done, it's for him!  You don't need a pat on the back from any human being on this planet!  
Stop holding on to the false teachings of your youth!  Open your eyes and grab hold of the gift of salvation that comes to us through God's mercy!  Stop worshiping your "idols" and bow down to the Father and praise his name!  Stop allowing the enemy the power to waste your time praying to ANYONE but God, through Jesus!  Read and study your Bible - KNOW the Word of God and act accordingly!  Give to God what belongs to God - your praises, your love and your prayers!!!

Monday, December 5, 2011

~ "But you promised..."

Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. (Ps 119: 49-50)
The sufferings we endure on this planet are nothing compared to what Christ suffered, nor will they last forever - eventually they end and we will be in a place that is indescribable!!!  God promised!!!
When my children were little (and some of them still do it to a certain extent), if my husband or I "suggested" that we might do something or take them someplace, it automatically was received and computed by their brain in such a way that when the event did not take place the words "but you promised" came rolling off their tongues.  There is nothing more frustrating than trying to explain the difference between a "promise" and a "maybe".  Fortunately, we both survived their childhoods!  
God gives us promises through his Word.  He spared Noah and his family from the great flood, led the Israelites to the Promised Land, protected Daniel in the lion's den, maintained the line of succession for Christ in Esther, sent his son to redeem all mankind from their sin, re-wrote the law to include all people as the "chosen" ones, and he has graciously told us how this story ends so that we will be prepared and have the facts to make an "informed decision" as to whether or not we want to follow!  
God keeps his promises to us!  The Holy Spirit leads us and we have a choice - to follow or make our own path!  If we choose to remain in his mercy and grace, no matter what the road ahead of us holds, we know what is at the end of it.  It is a hard road, no question about it.  It's not supposed to be easy.  God never promised "easy".  We forget why we are here, what it is we are supposed to be doing while we wait.  We are to do HIS work!  We are HIS servants!  Christ, the King of Kings, the God of Heaven and Earth, the healer, the blessed one - came to earth as a servant of all men!  He stepped away from his kingdom and was born to the poorest of the poor, in a place neither you nor I would ever consider laying one of our children to sleep - to show us how it is to be done!  He is our example!  He is the ideal we should be striving for.  We will never find complete and utter happiness on earth - only when we reach the grave will we rest and receive our reward!  The prayer we all pray at one time or another: "Lord, I just want to be happy" will come!  Some of us are blessed and receive some of that "happiness" while on earth - but we are all promised it in the end if we follow the way of the cross!  Its not about what he can do for us while we are on earth (we deserve nothing) - it's about what we can do for him while we are here!  Our road is harder because our rewards are greater...
God's promise does preserve my life - my eternal life!  Whatever I have here on earth is a blessing to see me through until that promise is fulfilled!  He will give me what I need to make that journey so long as I believe, hold fast to the faith he's given me through the Holy Spirit and serve and worship him!  

Sunday, December 4, 2011

~ "The Heart of Christmas..."

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matt 6:3-4)

I know that this is a bit out of character for my daily devotional, but the song “The Heart of Christmas” by Matthew West, the story of Dax Locke and the movie of the same title so moved me, that I felt it was worth sharing. This Christmas Season, remember the "Reason for the Season" - the birth of our Savior - who came to earth to give us a gift - eternal life through his death and resurrection. As many of you know, two years I was touched by another one of Matthew West's songs - "Give this Christmas Away" and joined in Operation Christmas Child (sponsored through Samaritan's Purse) and collected 54 boxes for children who would not have had a Christmas. Last year and this year, Matthew's devotion to God has poured through in this song, thus giving way to my support, once again, of this project.

God has a plan for each of us ~ a child can touch your heart long after he leaves this world to be with our Father in heaven. It's the season of giving...

Please take the time to visit the page dedicated to Dax Locke, watch Matthew’s videos and if you can’t donate to this worthwhile cause, pray for the Locke family to make their goal of raising $1.6 million to run St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital for a day in honor of their son, Dax...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

~ "Doubt - the enemy = FAITH!!!"

Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. (1 John 4:13)
We are told that we are not alone and not forgotten.  I've spent the past couple of days totally engrossed in the Word ~ I love His word!  I love him!  I love to hear about the things he does in the lives of others and I love to tell what he's done in mine!
Last night, a group of women from my church gathered at a small, quiet restaurant to celebrate and give thanks.  The testimony offered of the wonderful things the Lord is doing in one woman's life brought tears to her eyes and to many in the room.  The joy and sincerity in her praises causes me to reflect on the road ahead of me.  The love I feel when I'm in the presence of some of these women is something I've never experienced.  I am going to miss them.  And in that fraction of a moment, Satan sneaks in and plants a seed of doubt!  Is this REALLY what God wants for me?  Does he really want me to pack up and leave this?  Yes, he does!  It is time.
The enemy will do all that he can to keep us off the path that God has for us!  He will tempt us with many things.  He will whisper words of doubt into our ears in order to keep us from fulfilling God's plan.  But we have a place to go to KNOW God's plan for us ~ his Word!  You only need read one verse to eliminate any and all doubt from your mind or your heart.  
Wherever we go, whatever we do, we are in him and he in us.  We do not go alone!  The Holy Spirit truly does live within us and it is there where we draw our strength.  Right now, I can't imagine finding a fellowship anywhere else like the one I am a part of.  Then again, three years ago, I would have said the same thing.  God's plans for us always move us forward, never backward!  He only increases our blessings, he does not take them away.  Even when the door "seems" to be closing, he will remind you that it is not yet closed and that he is, in fact, in control!  Don't allow the enemy to close a door that God has opened by doubting the promise given to you!  Rise to the challenge!  Draw from the Spirit!  Keep going back for more if you need to, but don't give up and don't give in!  God's promises are steadfast and secure - they are built on a solid foundation!  Take doubt out of the equation and your faith is what remains!  And it is more than enough to accomplish whatever it is God has for you!  
Praise him, honor him, love him, have faith in him - but don't doubt him!  He WILL guide your footsteps all the way to the gate - if you let him! 

Friday, December 2, 2011

~ "Do what you're called to do..."

For if you altogether hold your peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but you and your father's house shall be destroyed: and who knows whether you are come to the kingdom for such a time as this?  (Esther 4:14)
When the opportunity presents itself for you to be a hero for God, what will you do?  Will you boldly answer it or will you pawn it off on someone else?  Will you worry about your own reputation among your peers or will you stand up and stand firm?
It's not "someone else's job" to spread the Good News - it's YOURS!  Each of us, as Christians (i.e. "followers" of Christ) we are instructed to tell others about him.  It's not going to church on Sunday and dropping your check in the offering plate.  It's not being the best dressed in the sanctuary, nor is it having the biggest smile screwed to your face while fighting back the pain you are in so that no one knows.  It's doing as Christ did ~ key word here: doing!!!
All things will happen as they are supposed to happen.  God will claim victory in the end.  Satan will be defeated.  Just as Esther was afforded the opportunity to deliver the Jews in the time of King Ahasuerus, thus preserving the line of which Jesus would be born, the King's scepter is also being held out to you!  Had Esther not answered the call that came to her through Mordecai, someone else would have.  God's plan will unfold whether you choose to be a part of it or not!  So why would you choose to be on the losing team?  
Whether you get the giant trophy, the ring with the precious stone in it, or just your name in the commemorative booklet, be part of the winning team!  Do your part in the spreading of the Gospel of Christ!  We are all called to do something!  Find what it is and do it!  Stop dragging your feet and sliding on the coattails of the guy in front of you.  Be an "Esther" ~ change the course of your own history with one word...say "YES" to the calling placed on you as a Christian!  Say "YES" to the voice that has died for you!  Say "YES" to the one who created you!  Stop trying to "keep up appearances" and looking as though you walked out of fashion magazine.  This may be exactly why you are in this place at this time!   Be a Nike commercial ~ just do it! 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

~ "Be prepared..."

For I have five brothers; that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham said to him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. (Luke 16:28-29)
Some of us receive messages from God throughout our lives; many with more frequency than others could imagine.  We are thought by some to be a little crazy when we witness about these "messages".  Let me assure you, they do occur and they are real - but they come to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I was taught as a child to pray to and for dead people.  Maybe it was to comfort me in their absence, maybe it was out of ignorance on the part of the teacher (which would then bring into question all the teachings they taught).  If you read John's entire account of the "Rich Man and Lazarus", it will put to rest those teachings.
Jesus tells us to pray only to the Father, through him!  He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us as we walk the path laid before us.  What more do we need?  Why are we so obsessed with "knowing" our future?  Why do some reach out for communication with the dead?  What is it that we want them to tell us?  And when we do believe that they have "spoken" to us, why is that not enough? (I so love it when the Lord turns on the light...)
Our loved ones are one of two places:  heaven or hell - period.  There's no middle ground, there's no "praying them into heaven from purgatory", they were either "known" or "not known" to God when they stood before him.  There is no hope for them if they were not saved ~ but their life on earth should serve as a lesson to those left behind.   Christ tells us, he begs us, he commands us to follow HIM - no one else!  Satan's realm is on earth.  His deceptive powers are greater (much greater and more cunning) than you could possibly imagine!  The trickery he uses is sometimes so sweet and so tasty that we, too, bite into that apple.  Trust in what Jesus has told us, trust in the Holy Spirit to lead you, because the antichrist is real, and he will tell you that he is the your eyes and focus on the Word of God - then you will know!
2 John 1: 7-11 tells us this:  "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have worked, but that we receive a full reward. Whoever transgresses, and stays not in the doctrine of Christ, has not God. He that stays in the doctrine of Christ, he has both the Father and the Son.  If there come any to you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:  For he that bids him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."
Be prepared...