Monday, December 31, 2012

~ "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 the children 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!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

~ "Slow Fade..."

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)

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 2012, 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!!!

"Slow Fade" ~ Casting Crowns

Saturday, December 29, 2012

~ "The black hole..."

For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Godly sorrow.  I've experienced that.  I know that many of you have.  It is not regret, but a genuine pain that rips through your heart causing tears to stream down your face.  It comes from realizing the sins of your past.

Often people ask for forgiveness but they are far from sorry for their actions.  To some, they have become only words generated to pacify someone else...not really an emotion that is felt.  Only a true repentance will be accepted by the King.  He knows your heart.  

For many years, I carried the anguish of this day (which occurred over 30 years ago) with me in silence.  Only a handful of people knew the event and it was never spoken about.  I did what, at that time, I thought I had to do.  I believed there was no other choice.  Regret?  Certainly.  Remorse? Absolutely.  Do I still carry the scar?  Yes.  Not so much now, simply because I have forgiven myself...more importantly because God has forgiven me.  Our actions always have consequences whether immediate or delayed - there is always going to be someone to answer to, someone who will hold us accountable for them.  What we get away with in this life we will be called to account for in the next.  That is why it is so important to confess to God the nature of our sins (and yes, I know that he knows them) and be truly sorry for them...sorry for the act, not sorry for the consequence!  It's very easy to get confused on that issue.  True repentance comes from being sorry for the action.  

Take a moment today and ask for his forgiveness for that sin that you have been hiding from the rest of the world.  The one that you feel sets you apart from others, the one that you feel there is really no forgiveness for.  Let down your guard and open your heart to the healer of all things - Jesus!  Let him ease your pain as he reminds you that your sin has been paid for.  Let him hold you close as he wispers in your ear that you are loved in spite of your sin.  Let him bring you the peace that no one else can.  Let him in!

Friday, December 28, 2012

~ "Be a busy body, but not a busybody..."

But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:15-17)

We aren't told once, nor are we told twice - there are many times throughout God's word where we are informed that a sin is a sin is a sin and that all sin disgusts God and that the wages of sin is death, whether you are a murderer or a busybody! We weren't supposed to die. We were supposed to live upon the earth enjoying all that God had given us. Because of the sin of Eve, we were condemned to die. God, being that loving Father that he is and not wanting to be separated from us, made a way for our miserable, sinful lives to be redeemed. He sent us Jesus.

So many people are under the impression that they deserve to go to heaven because of the hell they've suffered on earth. Much of their suffering is self inflicted. If you willingly stick your hand into bee hive and get stung, who do you blame? The bees? Living outside of God's command is pretty much the same thing. In verse 18, Peter asks us "if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" My guess is they won't. 

It's not easy to "walk the walk". The key is to try. We won't get it perfect, we can't. We will stumble and we will fall and the scars we bear are nothing in comparison to the scars Jesus bears that have our names attached to them! Each of us is given the opportunity to come before him, ask for his forgiveness, ask him to walk with us and have the Holy Spirit fill us with the strength we need each and every day, in every situation! Sometimes its prayer that keeps us on the path and sometimes the only thing separating us from the enemy is Christ himself! We are fallible but we are forgivable; we are sinners but we are saints. If we live a life of sin without repentance we are doomed to spend our eternity in hell (and again - it does exist - and it's not here on earth - you only need READ your Bible to find it). 

Don't allow your mind to justify your sin. There is no justification, at least not as far as God is concerned. If we could justify it, he would not have needed to send us a Savior. Our sins are forgiven through the blood of Christ - but acceptance of that shed blood means to commit to the "way". They aren't just words to get you out of hell - they are a way to get you into heaven. Remember: Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake and they all got punished! Where do you think it will get you?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

~ "I will remember you..."

And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed. (Ezekiel 20-43)

Our debt is paid.  Paid for in blood on a cross.  Paid for by a King.  Given to us freely.  The only requirements are that we repent and believe.  We don't have to become perfect (simply because we can't), but we do have to make an honest effort.  

Once we have made that commitment, repented and asked for the courage and strength to walk the path the Lord has laid before us, we see in ourselves all the ugliness that is sin.  We do regret; that, too, is human nature.  We regret the sins of pride and of anger, the thoughtlessness of our hearts.  We strive to be "better people" and to live a life more pleasing than the one we've led up until that moment the the saving grace of Jesus is realized within our complex minds.  

Often our failures and our past mistakes taunt us.  The enemy uses them to distract us and when we begin the cycle of beating ourselves up again for past sins, we risk repeating them.  We forgive ourselves, know in our hearts that we have been forgiven by God, yet still revisit the scene of past crimes in our head - torturing ourselves with the memories, wishing we could change them and right the wrongs, wanting to go back in time and repair the damage, take back the words or actions and maybe even choose a different road.  We seek perfection in our own lives.  We lay demands on ourselves that are impossible for us to achieve.  We set ourselves up for defeat.  

Go forward.  Going back is not an option and no matter how many times you replay any situation, any decision and any outcome in your mind, the results remain the same.  Look to changing what is yet to come.  Learn from your past mistakes.  Know that all you need to do is ask for that same courage and strength that you asked for when you began your journey.  It is always there.  It is always available.  Remember the "old" you but do not revisit those dark days.  Tuck it away and lift up your head.  Walk in the direction of the cross - that is where you will find peace.  That is where your Savior waits!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

~ "Chain gang..."

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. (Ecc 9:10)

In the movie "The Blue Lagoon", Christopher Atkins' character wishes for a book to fall from the sky with all the answers in it.  Fortunately for us, we do have a book with all the answers in it...the Bible.  With the search engines available to us today, we can quickly search out a topic and find the verse we are looking for (and a few more, no doubt).  

It is often difficult for a Christian (who knows that love is a command given by God) to hold a position that requires him to ensure that the workers he supervises are doing their jobs to the best of their ability.  The "secret answer" lies within this verse as well as in Mark 12:17 when Jesus tells us to "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's".  Being obedient requires us to follow the Word of God (and no, we won't get it right every time).  There is always someone in a position of authority over us.  We all have a "boss" of some sort - someone we must answer to.  

Although not always a rewarding position, we are nonetheless instructed to perform our duties (our "jobs") to the very best of our ability.  We may receive a pay check signed by the individual who owns the company, and we are required to perform said duties in accordance with that person's wishes, but we also answer to a higher who's commands are greater.  In all things that we do, we are to glorify God - it is HIS approval we seek, no one else's.  

Make each step count.  Make every chore an offering to the Lord.  Do your eight or ten hour work day for HIS glory - you'll see a change not only in yourself, but in those around you.  Remember, there is "no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave..."

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

~ "Come and worship..."

(from "The Nativity Story")
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. ( Luke 2:15)

He came heal the sick. He came to feed the poor.  He came clothe the naked.  He came to redeem mankind. 

Many people will flock to church this morning out of obligation.  Many will go to celebrate the birth of Jesus simply because they are moved to.  Many will continue on with their day without giving a thought to the reason for the season.  Many will worship from the quietness and comfort of their homes.  "Why can't every day be Christmas" was a song attached to a Christmas movie entitled "The Christmas That Almost Wasn't" hit theaters when I was a kid so many of you would not have every heard of it.  A movie I saw only once, yet the lyrics to the songs and the moral of the story have stuck in my head all these years.  

The verses of Luke, the ones that tell of the birth of our Savior, have been written into children's Christmas shows ("A Charlie Brown Christmas"), they have been etched across the hearts and minds of people everywhere.  God is not gone from this country.  We continue to sing his praises and tell his story.  We continue to pray.  We continue to mourn and try to understand his plan.  There are quite a few people who seem to think that we need to bring God back to schools and other places where he is "not allowed" -- may I remind you that God is everywhere!  The best way to turn anyone's heart is by giving them a gift...the power of giving has an effect on both the giver and receiver.  He lives in the hearts of the children who enter the school, in the hearts of the teachers who educate them.  He lives in the offices we work in.  He lives in the businesses we patronize.  He lives on the floor of the Senate and in the halls of Congress.  He lives in the White House and on Capitol Hill.  He lives where ever a Christian walks...and we are many!

Take some time today and worship the gift of love given to us that very first Christmas morning.  That miraculous birth that occurred for one teach us the true meaning of love.  Take some time today and pray for those who do not know the joy that is Christmas.  Do not let the events of this world overshadow the greatness of what is in the next!  Live it, breathe it, feel it...share it!!!  Merry Christmas!!!

Linus' monologue...

The Nativity Story...

Monday, December 24, 2012

~ "Mary's song..."

(artwork of Joseph F Brickley)

And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.  For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.  And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.  He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.  He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.  He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.  He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;  As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. (Luke 1 47-55).

There is much to be said about being a faithful servant of the Lord.  Often we commit and then fall short.  Our inability to complete the task leaves us with an empty feeling, sometimes one of failure.  Saying "yes" to God's plan (as I've said before) is not always easy.  Sometimes it means giving up what we've become so comfortable with.  It can thrust us into a spotlight we'd rather not be standing in.  It can become overwhelming.  

Mary did not think ahead to what her acceptance of God's will for her would mean.  She, nonetheless, accepted it without hesitation and without questioning it.  This is what a faithful servant does.  How often have we fought with him over some simple part of his plan simply because we weighed the potential outcome and have found it to be too frightening or too difficult?  Where was our faith in that moment?  We know where Mary's was!

Make your commitment to God one that is worthy of the Creator! Make it one that worships him!  Make it your best!  Remember his mercy, remember his blessings, remember the faith that his lowly handmaiden had - let your heart and soul rejoice and accept his calling with the words "behold - be it unto me according to thy word" (Luke 1:38)

He Came...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

~ "A Baby Changes Everything..."

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

There is no other way to heaven then by the saving blood of Jesus.  There is not any one person who is exempt from accepting this gift in order to receive eternal life.  No one can give it to you, no one can accept it for you - it is a decision you, yourself must make...just as Mary said yes to God when he asked her to be the vessel of the King of Kings, you too must say yes to Jesus.

Any parent will tell you that a baby changes everything.  From the moment you know that bundle of joy has been created and it's birth day has arrived, you change.  Once that baby is born, there is no going back - you are FOREVER changed.  You know love that you've never experienced before.  And it is the same with Jesus.  Once you KNOW him, you are forever changed.  

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, remember, that baby who changed everything so very long ago.  The price HE paid for our salvation is a price that cannot be matched by anyone, anywhere or at anytime.  God's gift to us...

"A Baby Changes Everything" ~ Faith Hill

Saturday, December 22, 2012

~ "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).

Friday, December 21, 2012

~ "Another awkward moment in the history of man..."

But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. (Mark 13:32).

Wow!  Imagine that! And as another awkward moment in the history of man comes to pass, we are reminded of one verse that many have conveniently chosen to ignore.  Was there every any doubt in your mind that you would not wake this morning to another day?  Perhaps it was all as simple as the ending of just their calendar.  If we are smart enough to know that December 31 is not the end of the world, why did anyone fall for the Mayan calendar beliefs???  

The world as we know it will end.  God has told us that much.  Jesus has affirmed that truth to be so by reminding us of his second coming.  That day is known only to God!  Are you ready???  Were you ready last night???  NOW is the time to reach out and follow Jesus, if you aren't already doing that!  NOW is the time to ask for forgiveness and strength.  NOW is the time to take that step in the direction the Lord has been pushing you toward.  The day is not over a matter of fact, it is just beginning!  It's the new day, the day in which you answer the call of your heavenly Father.  It is not a lot that he asks...

Take a moment and reflect on what you know of God's word.  If you don't know it, take time to read it.  Allow it to be absorbed into your mind and then allow it to reach your heart and soul.  Fill your day with thoughts of his kingdom and loving embrace.  Imagine, as the child you are, what that moment in time will be like - when you come face to face with your Creator.  Will it be a joyful meeting or a somber goodbye forever?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

~ "The longest road..."

For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogance of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. (Isaiah 13:10-11)

What we have here in Isaiah, is the terrible desolation of Babylon by the Medes and Persian. All comfort and hope failed and it was a general scene of horror. "Those who join themselves to Babylon, must expect to share her plagues...The day of the Lord will, indeed, be terrible with wrath and fierce anger, far beyond all here stated. Nor will there be any place for the sinner to flee to, or attempt an escape. But few act as though they believed these things." (Matthew Henry). 

We, too, as Christian, face some pretty tough roads. We face the disdain of our family and friends who do not believe, or do not follow the way of the cross. We battle the enemy daily in our struggle to walk in the Word. Sometimes we feel alone and unguarded. Our hearts hurt for the promises given to us. Our minds become distracted by the absence of praise to the Creator. We can become despondent, we can become despairing but we cannot be abandoned! Once we have accepted that the shed blood of Christ has freed us, we are his! It is when all these things begin to rattle our cages that we must put on the "full armor of God" (Eph 6:11). Only then are we prepared to do battle with Satan!

God's time to bestow his promises on us are not for us to know. He asks that we walk with the faith he's given us and know that he keeps those promises! He knows our limits and the extent of our strength. He will not delay one second longer than we can bear! He reminds us to "be still". He calls to us for our devotion and our continuing belief in what we've come to know ~ his mercy and grace! 

Many times our road seems to be long and endless. When our journey is dark and dreary, let the SON guide you and light your way! There is a finish line ~ it's at the cross!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

~ "Guess what I just heard???"

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matt 7:1-2)

It is extremely hard not to judge others. We have a tendency to "draw conclusions" based only on what we see or hear of our friends and acquaintances. We make assumptions without knowing all the facts or relying on only one side of a story. It is NOT our place to judge. It is NOT our place to criticize. It is NOT our place to utter the words "I told you so".

Gossip, in its roughest form, is judging. We take what we've heard and proclaim it anyone who might be interested in it, draw conclusions from what we think we know about any given situation, criticize the person or persons involved and follow it up with "I knew that was going to happen" or "I saw that coming"! 

We also tend to delight in the suffering of others when we gossip. Some can't wait to get on the phone and chatter about what they've heard! Shame on us (and don't sit there shaking your head saying "not me, I'd never do that" -because we have all done it)!!! It's human nature! So, how do we stop it? The same way we avoid everything else that God has told us not to do - through prayer (and digging our heals in when it comes to us). Our lives as Christians is ever-changing. We began with the very simple sins (i.e. - those unattractive adjectives that flowed through our speech like water through a sieve), then on to the next and the one after that, and so on. Now it's time to look at the ones that hurt others. Stand firm and say "no" to the temptation to partake the negative; make it a positive. When someone comes to you, or you feel the need to gossip - stop right there! Instead of glibly uttering words that cut someone down or listening to it: lift them up in prayer! Put their plight in God's hands! It's really not that difficult, unless your entire existence is vessel of hurt and pain towards others. 

Do not rejoice in the pain of another. Pray for the strength to keep your big mouth shut. Pray for the persons involved in the gossip. Pray for the ones spreading the gossip. Who better to "gossip" to than the Lord. Tell him! Turn it into a prayer for yourself and others. Thank him for allowing you to bring it to him and ask him to remove the desire to spread it. You can even go so far as to thank him for not allowing that unpleasant situation to be yours! Fill your heart with Jesus and there will be no room for anything else, including gossip! Love one another, pray for one another but don't judge one another!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

~ "Moving on..."

Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) (Heb 10:23)

Let me just say this: God is awesome!!! The changes in my life as a result of his love for me are overwhelming at times! Each day, I learn something new and each day I received yet another blessing. I don't see the changes until I look back at how I handled certain situations in my past. The only word that comes to mind is "wow"!!! I love hearing the Word of God! I love the feeling I get when I enter the sanctuary of the church I worship in! 

We build relationships with people based commonalities: on similar likes, similar habits, job opportunities and physical surroundings. One of my worst habits is burning bridges. It's always been easier for me to be angry and dissolve a relationship than it is to say "I will miss you". While some of the bridges I've burned were definitely deserving of destruction, some were not. Apparently, I needed to learn how to say "good-bye" with tears. I guess sometimes it can be easier to hate someone than it is to realize you love them and miss them. Blaming the other person for all your hurts and your problems relieves you of the burden placed on you as a Christian ~ which is to LOVE! In this situation, there are many I could have blamed for my material losses. I've stopped blaming and accepted that these things had to happen because God has a plan! The words "if only" are slowly being removed from my vocabulary and replaced with "thank you, Lord".

It's not fun to be on the outside looking in. Wanting to be a part of something and being denied for what ever reason can bring on a heavy heart, but with perseverance and faith, anything is possible! Allow God to make the changes in you that need to be made. He's granted your request, he's answered your prayer, now let him mold you into the person he needs you to be for the furtherance of his Word! Know that it's okay to say good-bye and keep the good memories without hiding them under the bad. The only perfect relationship you will ever have is one-sided...the only perfect love, the only perfect promise, the only perfect gift, the only perfect being - is God!

Monday, December 17, 2012

~ "Ch-ch-changes..."

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1)

I do not choose to go back and do the bidding of the enemy today. The joy that fills my soul, even when everything in my life seems to be coming apart and happiness seems to be miles away, is greater than any other love I have ever known! I look for that joy, I seek that "feeling" that embraced me when I realized I was saved! And I don't have far to go to find it anymore ~ it's always there waiting for me to "tweak" it with just the right words of praise to my heavenly Father!

Satan would have me worry and fret, stumble and fall, but the Lord God, through the Holy Spirit, holds me up and helps me to stand firm! He gives me the strength NOT to do certain things and act certain ways and each day that I walk with him, I become stronger and that new way of life becomes more a part of me. It's no longer foreign for me to lift my hand in praise, to say "Amen" when the preacher says something I agree with, or to say the words "God bless you" to a stranger who does something out of kindness! I see how the love of God has changed me. I've witnessed his awesome power at work in my life and the lives of those around me. He has brought me to my knees and opened my eyes to many things. He's given me the courage to walk forward and not shrink from my obligation to him. "He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." (Ps 23:3). Why would anyone who truly knows God willingly want to go back to that existence of emptiness?

There are those whose faith goes far beyond the faith that I have, there are those who struggle to find their faith and there are those who could care less about God, faith or salvation. Pray for them - they need to unlock the door to their heart and soul and allow God to change them! They need the courage to say "no" to the ways of the world, to the ways of their human flesh (pride, envy, gluttony, lust, sexual immorality, anger, greed and laziness). I watch the friends of my past fall away and become distant. I no longer pursue a continued relationship with them simply because there is no longer anything that we have in common. They refuse to give up their old ways, I refuse to give up the Lord! The saying "when you find that Christ is all you have, you realize that Christ is all you need" actually has meaning in my life! Being a Christian is not something I do just on Sundays or in the morning when I write this post. It's actually not something I do ~ it is who I am! 

I continue to pray for my family and friends to allow the Holy Spirit to open their eyes, their hearts and their souls to the way of the cross. There IS joy in pain and there IS hope in the Lord! We have been set free ~ stand firm ~ praise God...and LIVE!!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

~ "Away in a Manger..."

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matt 1:21)

When my ex-husband and I went on our honeymoon, we decided to take a short trip to Virginia Beach before returning home to the Jersey Shore. We drove for hours and both assumed there would be plenty of hotel rooms available at that time of the year. Surprise! There was a convention in town. We were tired and just wanted to find a quiet place to sleep. We ended up in this dingy little hotel where it was anything but quiet! The room was clean, the bed was small, and there was an ice machine in the parking lot. We stayed two nights and then headed home. When I read today's verse, it reminded me of how "plush" that room actually was in comparison to where Mary gave birth to Jesus!

We don't know what lies ahead of us. We have a general idea and we "plan" for our future, but as most of us know through experience, "the best laid plans of mice and men..."

God has a plan for us and in that, we come to him and ask forgiveness for our sins. We struggle and claw our way through this life and sometimes we lose sight of the prize. We need only look back to this verse and remember what took place in order for eternal life to be attainable. Without the birth of Christ, without that first "Christmas", there would be no redemption. There would be no miracles, there would be no healing, there would be no shed blood; and without that shed blood, there would be no salvation! All things unfold at God's design. Each event in our lives occur to bring us closer to His promise for us! The Light of the World, the "Star" of Bethlehem, wants to be a part of YOUR life! Is there a place in your heart for him, or will you tell him there is "no room" for him???

Away in a Manger - Matthew West

Saturday, December 15, 2012

~ "Sandy Hook Elementary..."

(photo by Michelle McLoughlin/Reuters)

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. (Matt 2:16)

I cannot wrap my mind around the tragedy in Connecticut. My first thoughts fall to my son (a teacher in Philadelphia) and my sister (a Principal in Neptune, NJ) and how blessed I am that this incident did not take place in THEIR school.  My second though falls to my family and friends, whose children and grandchildren enter schools just like Sandy Hook Elementary EVERY day and how blessed I am that this incident did not take place in THEIR school.  My third though is one of prayer - for those families affected by this tragedy.  Count your blessings tonight and pray for comfort and strength to those families whose lives have been changed FOREVER, while remembering that NOTHING comes to us that has not passed through the Father's hands first.  

I know that some of you are thinking, "How cold! How could she even think that?"  I talk all the time about "God's Plan".  We know those simple little truths...rain nourishes those flowers that look so beautiful, and other such phrases.  No, God is not punishing anyone - he is a loving God with a design so intricate that we could not even begin to fathom the beauty and wonder of each and every detail he has set in motion.  Sometimes it takes loss to appreciate what you have.  Sometimes it takes pain to appreciate relief from it.  Some times it takes death (more specifically untimely and sudden) to appreciate life.  I know I have shared with you that some years ago, a dear friend of mine lost and infant daughter and could not understand what possible "good" could come from that.  In that moment, her loss reminded me that I had four children whom I loved very much and had begun to take for granted.  Never again would I ever feel or think that way because I realized that we do not control the destiny of our loved ones any more than we can control the rising and setting of the sun.

When incidents like this occur, our focus falls on bumping up the gun control laws.  No, I will not use my post as a forum for my thoughts on that subject.  What many fail to do is to focus on the reason behind the massacre.  What is missing from the individual who turns a gun on a room full of unsuspecting 4th graders?  What "signs" did those close to that individual miss?  What causes a man to "snap"?  Our apathy toward mental illness seems to be that its someone else’s problem.  May I remind us that after the first murder, the defendant asked the question "am I my brother's keeper?"  The answer is found in the question.  

What we can do is pray.  We can become more aware of our own surroundings.  We can take the focus off of our own wants and needs and really see those family members around us.  Remember, those who kill in that manner are also someone's child, someone's family member, someone's friend.  They, too, are God's children.  They, too, have the same opportunity for salvation that we have.  

We can love our children, love our family member and really live each day as if there were no tomorrow.  Hug them, listen to them, tell them you love them and when God chooses to take one of them home, remember - whether you can believe it or not (because sometimes it very difficult to believe - He loves them MORE!

Friday, December 14, 2012

~ "We check 'em in, we check 'em out but in between..."

And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. (Mark 1:15)

Three of us sat at work yesterday during a slow period and discussed our beliefs and thoughts. It's been a long time since I've had that opportunity.  It was not a heated discussion, nor was it out of line in any way.  Three women, three different denominations of faith were represented (I will admit that two of us were raised in the same "religion"), yet all of us were in agreement on one thing:  Salvation comes to sinners who repent and choose to follow Jesus!  It is not inherent, nor is it guaranteed simply by the church we attend.  We talked about Jesus' conception and his brothers and sisters, among other things (I was raised to believe that Jesus was an only child, that Mary had no other children).  We talked about God's love.

Our brief conversation focused around the doctrines of different religions and the promises that lie within the Word of God.  We discussed the sinful people we are and that no matter how hard we try, we will continue to sin until we are made new.  We discussed heaven and being all together in one place, not segregated - where truly all men are created equal!  And we talked about Jesus.  We talked about Baptism.  We talked about praising God!

Although some conversations are better left for outside of the work environment, we are, none the less, commanded to share God's love with one another.  Reaching out to those we know are members of the Christian faith is often harder than witnessing to a non-believer.  The non-believer is looking for something that the believer has already found.  Often, discussions with others of a different "religion" tends to reveal the differences in the small, individual beliefs set forth by that particular denomination, and often that leads to arguments.  It can, if one is not firmly planted in faith (as opposed to religion), become an argument needing to be won.  Interpretation of the Bible (even for the learned scholars) brings about many different views.  One religion says you must confess your sins to an actual person, one says you must confess it to God.  When that happens, I defer (as I did many years ago) to the one place that holds the answer...the Word of God (aka - The Bible). 

Our discussion reminded me that we are all God's children.  We are to do our very best to convey outwardly, towards others, what we believe in our hearts.  We must repent, we must profess and we must witness!  Our time here grows short.  The older we get, the closer we are to the end (and yes, I know, the end can and most likely will come when we are least expecting it).  We are the messengers of Christ.  We are his apostles now.  We are tasked with the same duties as the original twelve men who followed and were taught by Jesus.  Its not something that is left for the hierarchy of any church or the ordained ministers of any particular denomination...we are all bound by God's Word to share the "good news".  Take every opportunity you are presented with and make it count.  Share your love of Jesus with each and every person you can.  Don't focus on what your differences are (because even within the same denominations there are differences) - focus on the one thing that we all, as Christians, have in common - the promise of salvation that came to us in the form of a child that very first Christmas morning.  Focus on that love, and everything else will fall into place.  God promised deliverance...share His promise with others!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

~ "By the way, I've met someone..."

Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. (Prov 4:23)

If we knew the lasting effects of some of our actions, maybe we would think twice about the choices we make. I know that I would have. We sometimes become so lost that we have no clue if we are even moving, let alone what direction we are headed in. Sometimes we can suffer for many years with a guilty conscience, and even when we relieve it, some of its effects will remain in us forever. Once you've committed the act, you cannot undo it - there is no "Edit" tab in life. 

One of the most devastating sins a person can commit, one that will destroy more lives than you could imagine - is adultery. People think that only the "offended spouses" are affected. Not so. The destruction spreads out like the ripples on a pond that has had a pebble thrown into the middle. And when the ripple reaches the shore, it returns toward the center again. The people we hurt begin with our spouse and the spouse of other. The ripples reach down to our children, grandchildren, out to our in-laws and their children, to our siblings and their children, to our friends and their families, to our acquaintances and anyone else we may come in contact with in our immediate lives. Many relationships can be destroyed by one, single encounter. Think I'm exaggerating? Think again!

"Love" is a learned response. Affairs don't "just happen". "Forgiveness" comes when we are truly sorry for our sins and make an effort not to continue to commit that sin again. Adultery is a conscious decision to sin against God and his law. It is a total and willful disregard for his command to us. We use the excuse "I'm not happy" or "my spouse doesn't understand me" or "I just don't love him/her anymore". If you aren't happy in your marriage - maybe you need to discuss that with your spouse, not the guy at the water cooler or the girl in the check out line. Many of us have been misinformed about "being happy". We aren't here to be happy. We are here waiting to for our time to die so that we can claim our inheritance (which for some, the way they live, is gonna be a little on the warm side). Many of us are selfish and greedy and want more and more. Your focus needs to be on God, on where you are headed at the end of your life, not the pleasures of the "moment" - and it is just that - a moment. Life is over in the blink of an eye and eternity lasts forever. If you aren't happy where you are and with whom you've chosen as a partner, either pray to God for strength to fix it or for the strength to walk away. There are certain situations that are acceptable reasons for divorce (abuse, neglect, and adultery from the other spouse - not you). It's all written down in easy to understand instructions - but you won't find them if you don't read your Bible.

When your car breaks down, you don't throw it away and buy a new one - you fix it. When your marriage is breaking down - you find a way to fix it, not a way to justify your affair. And if you've been married five or six times and they all end up in divorce, maybe you need to look at the common denominator ~ you!

Put your faith in God, allow him to guide your path, and pray for strength to endure. It's how he wants it and he gets to make the rules! There are no small sins or big sins - there are just sins! Ask for forgiveness and start to make the effort to lead a Godly life...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

~ "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...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

~ "Ease on down the road..."

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are 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!

Monday, December 10, 2012

~ "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 three 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".

Sunday, December 9, 2012

~ "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!

"Still Her Little Child" - Ray Boltz