Wednesday, February 29, 2012

~ "Be not afraid..."

And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them: and I will be with thee. (Deut 31:23)
He hears our cries!  God does not have a deaf ear when His children are in pain and are suffering.  He lifts us up out of the mud and gives us hope.  The enemy (and his minions) prey on the weaknesses of the chosen.  We all have them, no matter how strong we are, no matter how firmly planted in Christ we are - there are situations that trigger in us panic and fear that can be overwhelming at times.  It is human nature and the fear (regardless of how it is perceived by others) is real.  Our Father in Heaven places individuals in our lives to stand beside us and remind us that all is not lost, that triumph is just beyond the next dawn and that He will stand victorious in the end.  He does not let us go alone and unarmed into battle.  He goes before us, leading the way.  
One of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard is "Be Not Afraid", recorded by the Saint Louis Jesuits.  It reminds us that God will not fail us!  The contemporary accompaniment in today's music would have to be "The Voice of Truth" (Casting Crowns).  Both songs inspire us to hold our heads high and keep our focus on the Lord!  God did not abandon the Israelites and leave them to the Pharaoh...He brought them out of captivity and to the promised land.  He continually monitored Job's situation.  He surely was with Daniel in the lion's den and with his friends in that fiery furnace.  He does that for each and every one of His children!  He is not conned by lies and incessant ramblings.  He deals in truth.  He seeks repentance.  His Word inspires humility and confidence.  His love for us is greater than anyone else's love could ever be!  
We all need to remember that no matter what situation we are facing, because we are children of the King, we do not go into battle alone or unarmed.  God goes with us, as does His army and His righteousness!!!  We have no need to be afraid!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

~ "Here we go again..."

Yea, the Almighty shall be thy defence, and thou shalt have plenty of silver. (Job 22:24)

I'm really trying to stay focused on the positive but the anxiety of another fight for what is rightfully mine is taking it's toll.   I know you think I'm strong (a lot of people do) but what you see on the outside and the torment that runs through me on the inside are two entirely different things.  I cannot keep the thoughts from running through my mind and I also cannot let go of the bad decisions, choices and mistakes.  They haunt (and I do mean haunt) me day and night.  I have to force myself to focus on other things - they invade my dreams.  Knowing that God has a plan for me is often the only saving grace I can find. 

We all face trials and tragedies in our lives.  We face them sometimes as cowardly lions, other times we face them with the courage of Goliath.  There are times when we have the wisdom of Solomon and there are times when we can see only half of the reality as did Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar.  We possess often only the mindset of Thomas, and on a rare occasion, the faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  

Job did not know why he was experiencing the pain and sorrow that was cast upon him.  He maintained his loyalty to God at times, yet complained about being abandoned by God at others.  His confidence in God was undermined. He saw his afflictions as a punishment.  He asked "why"?  He was unable to grasp all that was really happening to him.  What he did not know, what he was not meant to know seriously affected the way he perceived his plight.  He lacked the faith to trust that God has it all under control.

We, too, often lack that faith to trust!  Yes, we have faith in God, faith that God has our best interest at heart, but we lack the faith to trust He does know what He's doing!  We see our suffering as punishment when often it is the enemy advancing full steam!  God loves us.  He can and will vindicate us IN HIS TIME!  

As with Job, we often feel that God has abandoned us - yet in our heart of hearts, we know that He knows every detail of the situation we are experiencing and in that, we pray for Him to rescue us.  We want a life free of pain and suffering, yet that life has not yet come.  That life will be ours when we enter the Kingdom.  Only then will we be free from the wickedness and evil that the enemy throws at us.  Remember, we are tested and tormented because we have been spoken for!  We need to continue to trust the faith we already have in He who created us, and in that lies our peace!

The outcome of any situation (mine included) is known only to God until such time as He chooses to reveal it (mostlikely when a legal determination is made, in my case).  Regardless of what an earthly court decides, my future is secure in Jesus Christ!  My future (the one that really counts) will be spent in the presence of the King!  We all are afforded that same security - you just have to reach out and grab it.  There is joy ahead, there is peace ahead!  In that, we can take comfort.  All of this will end and what will be left will be heaven!

Monday, February 27, 2012

~ "Glorious day..."

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first (1 Thes 4:16)

Once again, God has another plan.  You would think I'd have learned by now that I should not "plan ahead" when it comes to what the Lord has in store for me.  Once again, He and I will go through this new trial together, with Him leading the way.  I will allow Him to guide my steps, calm my heart and hold my hand.  

I put my trust in a human whom I believed was a gift from God.  I was wrong.  Satan tried and tried to keep me in that nightmare, but God had his hand on me.  It had been there for quite some time and he was not letting go!  I believed that abuse and neglect were a natural part of the existence I deserved.  Now, some five years later, someone wants to change the what was agreed to, in an attempt to deny me once again what is rightfully (and legally) mine.  
Being raised in the belief that I was "guaranteed" heaven and that there was no "action" required on my part other than to do what the hierarchy of the church decreed, I was under the mistaken assumption that I was automatically "saved".  Not so.  I had all the knowledge, I knew all the right words, and I knew how to put them in perspective.  What I didn't have was the humility to kneel before Christ and ask Him in.  In that moment, my life changed.  In that moment, I was lifted up into the mercy and grace afforded the family of God.  Had I not experienced those devastating blows, I would never have realized God's plan for me.  He still lifts me up.  He picks me up off the floor as I sob in despair and wraps His arms around me, comforting me, telling me that it will be okay.  Regardless of the outcome, HE will care for me, HE will provide for me, HE will comfort me and HE loves me! 

We all think we know.  We believe so therefore we are saved.  May I remind you that Satan believes!  Belief is not enough.  Submission to His word, His commands and His laws are the beginning, the acceptance - full acceptance of Jesus Christ, is the ONLY way in.  Through Him, and only through Him are we afforded the opportunity to spend eternity with God.  We aren't guaranteed it by birth, or through the church we attend. It is a choice that we make and a promise we fulfill.  It is through prayer and worship that we become closer, it is through the reading and study of His word that we come to know Him.  It is through Christ's death and resurrection that we are offered the gift.   There is no other way.

Today I KNOW where I will spend my eternity.  I no longer "assume" that because of who I am or where and how I was raised that my name will be in the book of life.  I KNOW it's there.  Those of you who aren't sure, those of you who "think" you know...think again!  I would rather lose all of my friends and family by standing up for God than to stand before God with my friends and family and be told I was not known to Him.  What I lose here on earth will be made right before God.  I just have to stand firm and be patient.  God has my back!

Give yourself over to the will of God!  Hit your knees and ask Jesus in!  Be one who will rise on that glorious day when the trumpet sounds and spend eternity in heaven with Him!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

~ "Why??? Because I said so..."

Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)

I love all kinds of music. I listen to a Christian radio station in the car. I've heard many songs that I like, quite a few that I love and some that don't really appeal to me. But the one thing they all have in common is that they praise God!

Last night, while I was searching "You-Tube" for a worship song for today, I came across the song "Why" - written and recorded by Nicole Nordeman. I had never heard the song so I listened. When I tell you that I sat at my computer sobbing, I'm not exaggerating! What a precious gift to be able to write and sing about the most precious gift of all!

We all look at Christ's death from an adult point of view. We imagine in our minds the adults gathered around the cross on the day that Jesus died. We read the words of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John when Jesus cried out to the Father and asked why he had been left alone to die.

Many times when they were little, I would tell my kids to do something and they would follow with that phrase that confounds parents daily - "but, why?" The response they usually got when they were too young to understand was "because I said so". As they got older and could reason and understand what it was I was telling them, I would give them a reason beyond that standard answer.

When Jesus died on the cross that day, he finished the Father's work. He defeated the enemy. His pain became our joy! His death became our life! The scriptures were fulfilled in that instant. His shed blood became the mechanism by which all men are freed from an eternity of separation from heaven. He gave so much for so many, yet he'd have gladly given all for just one! I am one of the ones for whom he died. So are you! The sacrificial lamb - the King of Heaven gave his life for mine! What a precious gift!

Why? Because of the love that God has for all of us! Would you die a horrible death for your child? I know that I would! And in that death I would hope that what ever the purpose I died for would give my child the strength and the courage to live on and let me not have died in vain.

Do you have the strength and courage to be all that your Savior wants you to be? Do you have the strength and courage to share his word and his message of salvation? If the answer to those questions is "no", pray for it! It will come! If the answer is "yes" - then do it with the strongest of heart! Share his word, his death and his resurrection with others! Give back to him who has so unselfishly given of himself!

(reprint from 6/27/10)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

~ "Lord, I need rest..."

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (Matt 5:6)
I come from a place and time where God was a distant entity that occasionally crossed my mind and going to church was something similar to the Chinese water torture that lasted for an hour and bored me to tears.  It was not the "cool" thing to want to go to church - I went because I had no choice in the matter.  In all of that kicking and screaming, the seed had been planted.  It took many, many years for my heart to be open to receive him.  

As I look back on the last five years of my life, the events that caused me to be here had to occur.  Every facet of this journey has been preparing me for the next chapter in my life.  I did not know that when I started out.  The "what if’s" of that time frame are no longer relative questions.  The decisions (be they good or bad) were the right decisions.  The choices I made have brought me to where I was supposed to be at this place and time.  
We go through life interacting with others.  Some of those people are such blessings in our lives that we are taken aback by their love and their loyalty.  There are those, too, whose actions and words cut so deep that we can do nothing but look to the Father for strength and comfort.  They continue to take and torment as they always have, because somewhere in their delusional thought process, they do not see what they do as wrong or hurtful, they see only their perceived injustice to the circumstances surrounding them, which, they themselves have created.  
We are told to pray for them.  In our hunger and thirst, we must pray!  We are told we will be blessed, we will be comforted, we will inherit, we will filled, we will be shown mercy, we shall see God!  
Jesus came to die for us so that we might be with Him.  He knows our pain, our struggles, our suffering - He knows our HEART!  “Be not afraid, I go before you always...”

Friday, February 24, 2012

~ " for Him!!!"

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths. (Prov 3:5-6)

I take what I do very seriously.  Yes, I do throw in a humorous twist occasionally, but never at the expense of our Creator.  My faith is firmly planted in HIM who created me.  Everything I do is because of the strength and knowledge HE gives me.  ALL praise goes to GOD for whatever I do, whatever the outcome.  

Our entire existence is a gift from God.  He blesses us and challenges us to be better Christians than we were yesterday.  The changes that come about in one who is truly born again in Jesus are evident in the ways the carry themselves, their attitude and their demeanor.  Continuing to indulge in the same "bad habits" does not show others a changed person.  Those who do not fully acknowledge him, do not walk the path he has laid before them, find fault with his word or dispute it entirely are not Christians.  You cannot pick and choose which of his commands you will follow and which ones you will ignore.  

Our God has laid it all out for us - from beginning to end - he's held only one thing back.  When.  We do not know when the trumpet will sound.  It could be tomorrow, it could be the next day, it could be before I finish posting this message - but it will sound IN HIS TIME!  Get right or stay lost - the choice is yours!  Continue to walk in you own ways as opposed to his and that light that you see at the end of your tunnel will not be the light of God's promised reward.  Make the commitment, make the change now - while you still have the opportunity to do so.  Let go of the things that do not please him, fashion yourself in such a way that others admire you and want to be like you.  Give up the ghosts of your past and stand with the light of the world.  TRUST in HIM, no one else, and he WILL direct your paths!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

~ "...turn to Him!!!"

Hear me, O LORD; for your loving kindness is good: turn to me according to the multitude of your tender mercies. (Ps 69:16)

Matthew Henry writes: "Whatever deep waters of affliction or temptation we sink into, whatever floods of trouble or ungodly men seem ready to overwhelm us, let us persevere in prayer to our Lord to save us."  The power of prayer is greater than can be believed at times.  

In our darkest hours, in the dead of night, we know that the Lord our God is watching over us.  The temptations that surround us, the images that stimulate need in us, the longings and desires of the heart - they are all known to God.  In the simplest of voices, our faith can be triggered to immeasurable proportions and yet those same, small voices can bring on us a discouraged and battered heart.  What we carry with us is also know to God.  He tells us to come to him and lay our burdens at his feet.  In doing so, we relinquish the power of those "burdens" to him.  He sets things in motion and he sets them in order.  All things in HIS time!  
God shows us mercies each and every day of our lives.  We have access to many avenues of prayer, worship and praise!  He has blessed us with family and friends (and yes, we all have a "family" and we all have at least one "friend" - we only need look to see that there are those around us who love and care about us in the way that "blood kin" cares for one another).  He has blessed us with opportunities to witness that the Apostles themselves would be in awe! 

God is always here.  He's leaning in over your shoulder as you read this (he's whispering in my ear as I write it).  He wants to hear you, he wants to bless you - he wants to hold you and remind you that you are loved.  He wants to pour out his tender mercies and bless you ten time over!  Don't turn away - bow your head now and ask him to stay and guide you the rest of your life.  Even if you've done it before and strayed from the path, he wants you back - he wants you and you need him!  Recommit your life to him today - right here and now and begin a journey that ends in heaven - guaranteed!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

~ "...time with Him!!!"

Look you on me, and be merciful to me, as you use to do to those that love your name. (Ps 119:132)

In this verse, we see David's request for God to favor him.  He comes to our King humbly and graciously petitions him for mercy.  David loved God!  

In all the things we do each day, do we remember to thank God for the ability to do them?  Do we take the time out of our busy schedules and devote even five uninterrupted minutes to praising and thanking him?  Is he an afterthought when we crawl into bed at night?  Do we praise him and thank him for answered prayers with the same fervency that we petition him?  

Most of us will say "yes, I do spend time in prayer - I do spend time praising him and thanking him for all he's given me".  I would include myself in that answer.  I would also say that there are days when I don't spend as much time in prayer as I should or could.  I find other things to ease my "boredom".  My mind wanders to a place where "all is well" and the images there do not fade away and become lost in the surroundings.  And then the reality of this world pulls me back into it and I remember that it is only by the power of God that I am.  How could I ever deny him time?  

Our little "escapes" from this world are okay, so long as they are in moderation and don't take away from what should always be in the foreground of our days...GOD!!!  Once they consume all of our free time, we have none left for him.  He always has time to listen to a prayer or a praise.  We need to set aside the time to spend with him.  

Make the time to spend in quiet conversation with the Lord.  Give him your undivided attention, your uninterrupted praises and the blessings will fall on you like rain.  Give him the glory he deserves and he will in turn call your name! 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

~ "Natacha's Words of Wisdom..."

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (Col 3:2)

"When we fill our minds with the things of God, He will become more important to us...."  that's a lot of power packed in one sentence!!!

Every morning, a friend of mine has a wonderful status line on Facebook that just reaches in and grabs your soul!  This morning's was yet again, inspiring!  When I read it, this verse came to mind.

We all seek out the things in life that make us stand's human nature.  So, how do we change that self-centered need for attention?  Quite simple - we seek out God!  How do we do that - through His word!  Yes, again I'm going to tell you to read your Bible.  Yes, again I'm going to tell you that what you have here stays here (including your reputation, your toys, your photos and all those "things" you've wasted your money on).  "Oh, but I will leave behind a wonderful legacy...I will be remembered for generations after I'm gone".  Okay - what good will that do you if you are burning in hell???

Don't assume that because you say you believe and mumble a few prayers occasionally that you will be counted in...don't assume that just because you visit a church once a week you have a "back stage" pass...don't assume that just because you are kind to animals and give to the needy that you've been excluded from having to praise and worship the Father while here on earth...don't assume that you will have time at the end of your life to accept Jesus as your savior and arrogantly walk through the Gates of Heaven with the same revelry that you enter a room filled with your peers.  Never assume anything - KNOW!!!

Take the time this morning to read Chapter 3 in Colossians.  Take a lesson from Paul...Christ is God, Christ is head of the church (THE church, not YOUR church), be aware of false teachers (man-made religion) and self-made rules.  Live in constant contact and communication with God.  When you do, you will be unified with Christ and with others.

Christ paid for our sin, Christ reconciled us to God and Christ gives us the pattern and the power to grow spiritually.  Once you learn what He is like, you see what you need to become.  Nurture your vital connection to Him!

(photo by Celia Darrigo)

Monday, February 20, 2012

~ "Sonshine on my shoulders..."

And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came to the sepulcher at the rising of the sun. (Mark 16:2)

I've read two emotionally touching status lines this morning (both posted last night).  One I expected to see, the other surprised me.  I am going to steal a little from each, and I know neither author will mind.  You see, they both know and understand that God has a plan for each of us.  

None of us are perfect.  We don't only commit sin, by our very nature, we are sin.  Many of us have led lives that were not pleasing to the Father, we've committed horrific acts in our past and done things we thought were unforgivable.  Then Jesus came into our hearts and wiped away the stain.  He made us new!  We aren't "holier than thou", we are humans - saved by grace!  You may not understand our road, but we do and what's more important - God does!  What we once were, what we once did - we will have to account for - we know that.  What we have become are children of the Living God!  We are not the same despicable people we once were.  We are forgiven and we are doing our best to walk in the ways of our Lord.  We are not perfect, we still make mistakes - but at least we make the effort each day.  Our judge sits on a throne of mercy and grace and we will see the destruction of the enemy!  

Our lives are what we put in the "dash" between our date of birth and our date of death on our tombstone.  Some of us have a wonderful story to tell, some of us have just existed from one day to the next.  When the apostles went to the tomb that first Easter morning, there was no body to be found simply because he had been raised!  We know that the resting place for our human remains will not compare the place our soul goes to!  Our heavenly home will be free of pain and suffering and always bright!  It will be filled with the love of the father and the joy of worshiping him who created each of us.  

As we walk our path in life on earth, remember that we all struggle to overcome "demons" and we all have sadness in our hearts.  We all deal with them differently but the outcome is still the same.  We all live and love the same.  We each take a breath and exhale - we experience joy and sorrow - we need nourishment and sleep and we all will die.  Don't second-guess the fellow next to you - pray for him - you never know what it is that he or she is going through.  

(photo by Celia Darrigo)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

~ "I will CHOOSE to listen and believe..."

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

Of all the verses that convey the love of God, the love of Christ - this one speaks directly to the heart of the enemy.  He cannot have us unless we choose to submit to him.  If we allow Satan to steal our blessings, to kill our faith and destroy our destiny - he still loses!  Jesus came to give us life...ETERNAL life!  We need only look to the cross to see the love that our Father in Heaven has for us...what He will do for us...what He wants for us!  Our blessings on this earth are far more than we deserve and more outstanding and beautiful than anything that the enemy could venture to offer us.  

We often hear the expression that life is "a living hell" - in some cases, that can be true - so many people suffer unbelievable horrors and nightmares in their day to day struggle.  But in all of those struggles - there is God - He will not be sharing the fiery pit with anyone.  Think about that.  Life is hard.  It is full of hurtful, ugly and mean people who want nothing more than to bring you down to their level of misery.  Is that really what you want from life?  Don't you want something better?  Don't you want to be part of the winning team?

A life centered in God and Jesus is not boring, it's not mundane - it is complete!  Those of us who literally "work" for the Lord, do not sit hour after hour with our faces constantly planted in the Bible (yes, we do spend an extraordinary amount of time with the Word) - we don't just read it - we LIVE it (or try to, anyway).  We are still human - we have likes and dislikes, we have faults (some of us more so than we'd really like to admit), we have wants and desires.  What we KNOW is that all this ends - so therefore, material things - things you cannot take with you - are not nearly as important as how we live our lives.  And no, we do not do that without mistakes either...

Balance in all things is the key - a balance between enjoying the pleasantries of this earth - the entertainment, the music, the food, the vacations that we can afford by working hard and the praise, honor and glory due to the Father who allows us to enjoy all of these things.  It's not by luck or good fortune that we are where we are or who we are - it is through the blessings of God that we exist for yet another day.  Does He not deserve our very best effort?

Take a good, long look at your life - what it consists of.  How much time do you spend enjoying the blessings as opposed to how much time you spend thanking and praising God for them.  If you're spending only one hour a week a church, with a bedtime "thank you, God" - and you are spending the rest of your week working, partying and playing - you may want to "rethink" your balance.  God should not be an afterthought...

Christ came that we may have eternal life with Him - that's an awful long time!  Don't spend your life soaking up the earthly joys without storing up the heavenly ones - lay your crowns at His feet.  Give to Him more than you give to yourself...after all...He gave 100% for you!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

~ "Bless the beasts and the children..."

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Gen 1:28)
On October 7, 1997, our 3 year old German Shepherd, "Lady", was struck by a car and killed.  We were devastated.  Not too long after that, an adorable, fuzzy little black lab named "Samantha" came to live in our house.  She was the last litter for her mother and a welcomed addition to our family.  There were times when she could try your patience (puppies have that way about them) - the accidents on the floor, getting out of the house and running down the street in the snow, just doing what dogs do.  She had enough energy for five dogs.  She eventually calmed down (but she never outgrew the desire to run).  She took off on my twice while in Tennessee and the one thing I learned about Sammy was "don't chase her - follow, but don't chase".  She loved car rides - so that is how you corralled her - you simply took the car, blew the horn and opened the she'd climb.  I could go on and tell the stories of Sammy on vacation at the lake, or the chocolate frosting incident right before attending a work Christmas party...but you get the idea.
God tells us that we have dominion over "every living thing" - dogs included.  Sammy was placed in my care and for the past 14 1/2 years, she has been very well cared for.  She is the Alpha Dog in the family and always will be.  I have been blessed simply by her presence in my life.  With her are moments and memories that are irreplaceable.  But lately, she's been telling me that "it's time".  
The tears have been falling since making the decision yesterday morning.  They stop for a bit, but then when I look at her knowing that her life here is done, they begin again.  When someone you love is sick, or hurting, you want their suffering to end - we pray for healings for our family and friends (and yes, often for our pets).  This time, I know that it is not in God's plan to heal or to lengthen her life.  It is her time to go.  One day, all of my pets will go, as will I, as will you, as will this world our Creator has fashioned for us.  
I praise God this morning for the years and the joys He has given my with Sammy!  There were times when I don't really think I could have made it without my dogs' companionship.  They say that a dog is man's best friend ~ she truly is!  She has been loved and she will be missed.
I'd ask that you continue to keep me and my family in your prayers today as we say good bye to a good friend and family member (yes, family member).  My house will be a bit quieter, a bit emptier and my heart a bit heavier - but my life is full and always will be.  There are many things that I have "failed" at - this is not one of them and for that, I know my Father in Heaven is pleased.  I have succeeded in doing what I was called to do in Genesis 1:28.  I have loved and cared for one of His creatures...Farewell, Sammy, you've been one great dog and I love you!

Friday, February 17, 2012

~ "I will lift my eyes..."

To you lift I up my eyes, O you that dwell in the heavens. (Ps 123:1)
We all do it.  We look up at the sky and ask "why?"  I've looked at the ceiling in my house, in my trailer and cried out for help at one time or another.  We lift our eyes toward heaven!  We know that beyond that great expanse known as the sky, is something greater! 
Generally speaking, when looking for something, people never look up.  Christians look up all the time!  They look to the heavens - where their Creator is.  They look to the sky - which was where their Savior ascended to.  They look up - like children at the feet of their parents - they look up to their Father in heaven!
When we cry our for help or for mercy, we are heard.  Our pleas do not fall on deaf ears, nor are they ignored.  They are responded to, maybe not in the way we'd like them to be, but they are responded to just the same.  We most often do not understand the reasoning for what we see as pain and sorrow - the "whys" of our lives sometimes to go unanswered.  It is not to say that there is not a reason for them, for there's just not the right time for it to be revealed to us.  Some things are never revealed.  So we continue to lift our eyes - we continue to cry out - and not without praise and thanksgiving for that which we have while we wait.
As you struggle, know that your fight is not unknown to God.  Lift your eyes, continue to cry out and praise him and he will not leave you abandoned by the side of the road.  He will lift you up out of the pain and set you into the greatest of joys.  Allow your faith to swell inside and carry you safely to his waiting arms.  He's waiting to hold you as you pray...are you ready for him to hear you?

(photo by Warrick Moore)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

~ "Closed on Sunday..."

Hear me, O LORD; for your loving kindness is good: turn to me according to the multitude of your tender mercies. (Ps 69:16)

When we are in the middle of a painful situation, we can't even comprehend it ending or being past it.  The emotional suffering we endure is so great that it is the only thing we can focus on.  Our hearts broken to bits, our tears flowing like water from a broken faucet, we cry out to God for mercy.  "Make the pain stop, please!"  

When we've come through that ordeal and look back, it is almost impossible to replicate the pain in our minds.  We can see it, we can know it - but the pain itself has been replaced by the scars of grief.  God's greater plan for us has more purpose than we can even begin to imagine.  Our wounds are nothing compared to the wounds of the Savior.  His suffering, his death, sets - not only him apart from all others - but it in turn sets each of us who accepts Him - apart from others!  Out of the most horrific trauma, came the most spectacular saving grace known to man!  Redemption of the entire world - past and future - was gained in one profound death!  

It's hard to stay focused in our busy world.  Perhaps in the days when Jesus walked upon it, it was "easier" - there weren't technological distractions to consume their prayer time.  Their focus was still about "family" and their lives were simpler.   Maybe we need to go back to the basics of "Sunday" being family day.  Maybe we need to insist that one day a week we will not work, we will rest, we will worship.  The "blue" laws weren't really that bad, if you take into consideration what they were designed to do.  Our nation, which prides itself on being a "family oriented" nation, has left the family in the dust.  We have become a greedy nation, consumed with that "time and a half on holidays" and the extra money to be made on Sundays.  

God's mercies have always been available to us - Sunday through Saturday, 24/7 - yet we hesitate to ask for them.  His kindness towards us never stops.  He's always ready to bestow some grace upon us - all we need to do is ask!  Find your "family day" and in doing so, spend the time honoring the Father!  Give him all the praises and prayers you can and don't be surprised if your world beings to change!  He wants you in his "family" - he created you in His likeness. He hears you when you cry out to him - listen for his reply.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

~ "Wanting what I can't have..."

It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:
If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:
If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. (2 Tim 2:11-13)

Confusing?  Not really.  Whether we believe or not, our Lord is faithful.  All of his promises will be kept - even to those who do not believe.  Anyone who calls on his name will be heard.  "Where's the justice in that?  I've spent my life believing and worshiping God, and you're telling me that the murderer on death row headed to the chair can call upon the name of the Lord and be saved?"  The answer to that question is YES!  The serial killer, the terrorist, the atheist - they can call to him and he will hear them!  Every person (not just the "good" ones) has the ability to call on the Lord and have him answer.  Remember, God sees sin as sin - there is no greater or lesser sin.  We are all sinners.  We all must go to him through Jesus to be cleansed.

When we look at the sins of others and try to put them in perspective with our own "sins", we are taking the focus off of ourselves.  We are wasting time on something that is not our "job", nor is it our right to do - judging others.  It's next to impossible to avoid it completely.  It's hard to constantly remain focused on ourselves when we live in a society that teaches us to lay the blame anywhere but on our own actions or inactions.  Believing is only the beginning of our journey.  Acceptance and submission to his will and his ways is what we do once we believe.  Its where we must let go of the anger towards others who have more than we do, the ones who get the "breaks", the ones who have more talent in certain areas, the "lucky" ones who do not fear the Lord.  I don't want to show up at the end of my life and have any more to answer for than I already do.  So even when I cannot avoid Satan's temptations, when I cannot say "no" and when my heart is filled with anger and contempt for those around me who constantly humiliate and belittle me (some without even realizing it) - I ask for forgiveness, I ask for strength and I ask for his help!

The "things" that are impossible to let go of in this world, are not impossible to God.  When we grab back the control, we push away the blessings.  Like the pilot who has lost instrumentation and must have faith in the ground controller, we must have faith in our Creator in order to descend through the clouds and land safely.  We can become disoriented in the haze and darkness, but he knows the way. He will carefully guide us to where we need to be.

Put aside the things that draw you away from him.  Give back the control and accept the blessings.  Hold out for the best gift possible.  Let the job of judging belong to the King and accept the life on this planet that is given to you.  Do not envy those who seem to have more, or appear to have it easier.  Know that what you have is exactly what God wants you to have - nothing more, nothing less.  Many times you will find that what "they" have has not come from God.  Let his mercy and grace sustain you and know that it is more than enough and more than you deserve!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

~ "Be mine..."

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity. (1 Cor 13:13)

So many verses to choose from that convey love...this is one of my favorites (as I love the letters to the Corinthians).  In most of my posts, I uses the text from either the New King James Version or the New International Version of the Bible (checking it against the King James Version for accuracy).  I do that because it is easier for those unfamiliar with the Bible to not become discouraged when trying to read and understand the word of God.  Today's verse is straight out of the King James Version.  

The word "charity" means love!  When you perform a "charitable" act, you are doing something out of love.  Christ gave us the most unselfish of all gifts.  His love for us, the "charity" shown us on that cross that was raised on Calvary, is the single most significant showing of affection ever recorded.  It's not about big red heart boxes filled with candy, nor is it about a dozen long-stemmed roses.  It's about the blood that was shed for all.  For each and every one of us was condemned to die, and in that moment, we were delivered!  That, my friends, is love!

I try to find something positive about this holiday of love.  I read one status line this morning that made me laugh - "Singles Awarenss Day" - well, I've spent more Valentine's Days being single than married or in a relationship (which is a lot of Valentine's Days) and I really find it rather depressing.  Even in grammar school, the ritual of handing out little cards to your friends was not exactly something I looked forward to.  I was lucky to get a handful - never any from the "boys" though.  I made it a point to make sure that everyone got one, because I knew how it felt to be left out and didn't want to be the one causing that feeling in someone else.  I remember one boy actually asking me if I gave him the card (thinking perhaps someone was playing a joke on him).  

In the years that have passed since the days of Valentine's Day parties, the years of roses and chocolates, and the joy of sharing this day with someone special, I have come to know one thing.  I have someone who loves me each and every day.  I have someone who thought so much of me that he went to the cross and died for me.  He rose from the dead to make a way for me to be free of death and spend eternity with him.  His love for me transcends all love.  My worth to him is immeasurable.  I AM his!  Without the hearts and flowers and the gooey cards, he has pledged his love to me!  The "arrow through the heart" has been replaced by the piercing of his side.  The roses have been replaced with a crown of thorns.  He speaks beautiful words to me each and every time I open his book.  

Paul tells us throughout his letters that it's "okay" to be single.  It's also okay to be married.  It is a human desire to have a partner.  Those we are bound to here will not be who we are bound to in heaven.  We will not be alone, we will not be forgotten, we will not be left out - we will be (as we have always been) loved!

Monday, February 13, 2012

~ "Adopted in..."

According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (Eph 1:4-6)

What makes being adopted so special?  Well, I could tell you that an adopted child is wanted, planned for and cherished...but so are natural born children.  What makes the difference is that they are chosen!  

There are probably three different directions I could go with this post this morning, but two of those directions are probably not founded in the word, so I will stick to the third...most of us who read this devotion have been adopted into the family of Christ.  We were not born of the line of David, we do not and cannot lay claim to duel citizenship in Israel because we are not Jewish...we do not have the heritage described in the Bible as "God's Chosen People".  We do, however, possess the same rights and bear the same responsibilities as they do simply because we have been adopted into the family of God through Jesus.

"But what does that mean to me?"  It means that we are chosen as well.  A command from the King of Kings has granted us the same rights afforded the descendants of Moses, the descendants of Esther, the descendants of David...a royal heritage!  It also means that we must know who we are, the history of how we came to be children of God and the devotion he expects from us.  We are his heirs and as such, must know him intimately!  We don't get to be children of God simply by someone dumping water on us when we are infants, being dragged to church each Sunday and being forced to memorize answers to questions that have no real bearing on the lives we live.  We become heirs simply by accepting Jesus as our Savior and walking a path laid before us that is one of devotion, honor and praise.  That is what sets us apart.

Knowing that I am a child of God, a princess, daughter of the King, affords me the opportunity to wear a crown.  That crown is similar (but not nearly as horrible and painful) to the one Christ wore.  His crown on earth bore all our sins - the one I wear does not even bear my own sins - but it does bear his name!  I am not worthy to wear is yet God thinks I deserve it simply because I have a certificate of adoption, signed in the blood of Christ.  What better decree could there possibly be?

Don't forget that although you are a Christian, there are some Jewish traditions that are important in your life - there are some very wonderful moments celebrated - some triumphs God has bestowed on his children before the salvation of man.  Take the time to get to know what they are and why they are celebrated.  Don't just pass them off as archaic holy days...remember Jesus was a Jew.  I'm sure he celebrated them (we know he celebrated Passover simply by reading our Bible).  Even the early Christians celebrated the traditional holy was part of their history.

Know your family history, after all, it is now your history as well!  Be proud of the heritage that you've been called to share.  Grab hold of those traditions and celebrate them with for God who made the way to Heaven possible!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

~ "Somebody Bigger Than You and I..."

Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. (Heb 4:13)

As I sat at my computer last night, having my own private meltdown over the events of the day, I learned that a beautiful voice had left this earth to meet with her King.  I was not sad, I was jealous.  She is, right now, where we all long to be - in the presence of God!  

Her life was not ordinary.  From a young age, she was thrust into the spotlight.  She had many demons to contend with; many more than I think she may have been willing to admit to or that we were aware of.  When we are given a gift, one from God, we need to remember that it can be taken away as quickly as we receive it.  We are to use it to His glory, not our own.  

None of us have the ability to hide from God.  He sees us as we truly are.  We can paint an image for those around us, we can dress ourselves up to impress - but God is not impressed.  He is only interested in the content of our heart.  We stand naked before Him.  All of our sins revealed...

I am so thankful that I have a Savior who will stand beside me and remind the Father that these sins have been paid for - by His blood.  No matter how hard I try, there is always a sin that will stand in the way.  I cannot earn that prize, I cannot buy that prize.  What I can do is try to be the woman He has called me to be.  Not an easy task, I assure you.  Serving God is our responsibility now and always.  It is not something for someone else to do.  Spend more time in your Bible and less in front of your computer.  Spend more time with the Lord and less on the dance floor.  Not that either of these things are "bad" - they aren't, provided you reach a balance, not an overabundance of the latter.  Give back to God what He has so freely given to you.  Make your mark in Heaven first, then worry about here on earth.  After all, "here on earth" will pass away (as will the mark you've left on it).  Heaven is forever.

Today's music video is a little different that I am accustomed to's all good, though, it praises God!  In honor and in celebration of a life touch by God early on, we must all realize that He is "Somebody Bigger Than You and I"...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

~ "Drafted..."

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Eph 6:13)

"So...what exactly is the full armor of God?" someone asked.  It is the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of readiness and peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.  

When a country gets ready for battle (usually) they go with the right equipment and the best there is.  You would not send a soldier to fight in a jungle wearing swimming trunks and carrying a water pistol.  How can expect to "repel" Satan wearing flip flops and toting a missalette?  

The FULL armor of God is sparked by prayer.  The soldier's belt is equipped with tool (knife, holster, pistol, extra magazines, hand grenades) and is securely fastened at his waist - easily accessible.  It is the foundation of all the equipment used in battle.  Jesus is our foundation when we stand against Satan.  The breastplate is similar to a bulletproof vest (only not nearly as lightweight as today's Kevlar vests).  Remembering that our own efforts and good works will not protect us, we must make our focus on the cross - the righteousness we seek is found in Christ.  Our preparation for battle must also the Gospel - the life, death and resurrection of Jesus brought us peace with God.  This redemption allows us to fight with boldness, perseverance and peace!  The shield - which was generally used as protection and when overlapped one with another, could form a "wall" of protection against the enemy.  It also would protect them from flaming arrows shot into the air - we cannot rely on our own abilities in this battle against Satan - by Christ alone are we protected.  Our helmet is the source of total deliverance - Jesus IS our deliverance!  The sword is the Word of God - it is a powerful tool when used against the enemy and under the direction of the Spirit is has great power.

In all of that, we see that Jesus is our armor!  He is our truth, our righteousness, our preparation and peace, the focus of our faith, and he IS the Word of God!

My friends, we are already at war, fighting an enemy who is crafty and clever.  Without the protection and guidance of Jesus, we are doomed to fail.  You may not have been called to fight at this point in your life, but the time will come and you must be prepared.  Start shining up that armor so that when your turn to do battle with the enemy arrises, you will already have on the full armor of God!  

Friday, February 10, 2012

~ "...being 'of this world'..."

Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:13)

In all the commentaries I've read on this verse, and what I believe to be true, there are five key points made with regard to being born again.  Salvation comes from the sacrifice offered and the gift given.  It is available to anyone, but not everyone has it.  God offers it to all people of all races and nationalities.  God does not discriminate.  

The Bible tells us that we MUST be born again.  Salvation is not a result of our natural birth.  It is not a lineage passed down from generation to generation. You do not receive it because your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents received it.  No one can give it to you and no one can take it from you.  No one can speak on your behalf in an attempt to secure it for you.  It is a choice, freely and willingly made by you!  

We are sin.  We are creatures of habit.  Over the years I've learned that it takes repetition to both break and make a habit.  If you've spent decades doing something one way and want to change that, it takes determination and steadfastness.  It takes conscious attention to the pattern of what it is you do that you want to change.  When the Holy Spirit enters the picture, the change is almost immediate.  You can FEEL his presence, you can TASTE the joy and you KNOW you have been changed!  But we are human and Satan will continue to tempt us.  He will work very diligently to corrupt what he knows to be "of God".  That is why we MUST be on guard.  The little lies we tell, the things we say, the words we choose and hurts we cause - all need to be given over to God.  The changes we make reflect the lives we lead.  If there is no change, then there is no salvation.  If you say "I'm a Christian" and continue to live the life devoid of God's commands, who are you fooling?  Certainly you are not fooling the Creator!

Being a Christian is an action.  It's not a "right of passage" nor is it a title designed to use to boast of your belief in Jesus.  It is who you are, not what you are.  It's not a box that you check on a social networking site.  It is not something that makes you any greater than the guy next to you on the subway. It is how you live your life and who you give glory and praise to.  It is what you DO and how you do it.  Keep that bloody crown visible, visualize those nail-scared hands and feet.  Run your hand across your own flesh in the place where he was pierced.  When you scrape your leg, imagine his stripes!  Then look to him and praise him and thank him that he took it all on for you!  Do what you do to honor HIM!!!