Saturday, June 30, 2012

~ "Do NOT run with sissors..."

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt 5:11-12)

It is very difficult to live in the real world. It is hard to surround yourself with just Christians. At some point, you have to interact with those who do not think or feel about God the same way that you do. Some people will smile and nod when you talk about your love for the Father. Others will ridicule or curse at you and your God! Some people will accept your "faith" as fact, some will not.

While sharing with one of my daughters that God has removed all temptation for alcohol, she looked at me like I had three heads and asked me if all I ever talk about is God. I thought about it for a minute - and the answer is that I can always bring God into any situation. Everything I have today is a gift from God. I didn't get it on my own and I'm alive today because of the grace of God. My life is a testimony to his power and mercy. I don't always walk a straight line, but I try very hard. I do what I believe he wants me to do and he blesses me. I don't always get it right, but he's there just the same. I am human. I make mistakes. I wander through this existence sometimes like a blind man. I bump into things and trip over things, I stumble and fall, but I get up and keep going. Some days I think I've been run over by a rather large truck and left in the road for dead, and then He lifts me up and brushes me off and I continue on. I'm learning to walk. Just like a baby learns, so do we.

Early in our "walk" with Christ, our footing is unsteady. As we grow in faith, our steps become more secure. But like a child who runs and falls and scrapes their knee, we also can get so caught up in the race that we too, trip and fall and scrape our knee! And there is the Father, wiping our tears and putting a band aid on it and telling us it's okay - we'll heal.

There is nothing that God can't do; nothing he can't fix. If we follow him, we follow truth! He lights the path on which we walk and keeps his word. If we choose to walk only partly in the light, we risk slipping and falling into the ditch. Be cautious and be safe. Don't take on more than you can handle! If you're unsure, ask for guidance and help from someone who is more knowledgeable than you. But don't give up! Continue to be an example to those around you! Let them see that Christ's love has changed you and made you whole!

Friday, June 29, 2012

~ "Choices..."

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38-39)

In this verse, Paul reminds us once again that once we are Christ's, we are always his! No matter what happens in our lives, he will watch over us and guide us no matter what comes our way! 

Temptations follow us every day. They come in many forms from the simplest (getting too much change back) to the most serious (I'm not going to give an example for that one - fill in your own blank there). We all have them, temptations, that is. They are those little tiny moments when we say "no one will know" - but we resist because we know that GOD knows. But what happens when the temptation is so strong and our human nature gets in the way of our knowledge of what is right and wrong? If you're like me, you'll spend a day or two rationalizing it, then spend another day justifying it, and then another day wondering if you can change the situation so that it's pleasing to God. By the end of the week, you've spent entirely too much energy on a no win situation! And yet, you still sit there and contemplate doing it anyway!

I've said to myself many times "this was so much easier BEFORE I knew the love of God". It was easier before my conscience would rise up in me and stand firmly planted in my brain. Knowing the right thing to do doesn't always make it the easier thing to do. Our wants and needs are so strong sometimes that it is almost impossible to walk away. Not knowing God's plan for us only complicates the matter. "Is this what he wants for me?" 

Waiting patiently on the Lord is not one of my attributes. My friends will tell you I often act before I think things through. Then I scramble and try to "fix" the mess I'm in. I'm learning. Each day is another opportunity for me to do it God's way. Through prayer, fasting and meditation, I find the way that he's chosen for me. When I don't take the time to pray is when I run into the wall. It's the key to everything in my life. Without it, I'd still be living in the world according to Beth, miserable and in pain. 

To see God's hand in you life, you need to be able to look back at where you once were. Look to where he's taken you from ~ spiritually, not physically. He's taken this used up human being who had no direction in her life beyond that which was right in front of her. He opened her heart to what is good and pleasing to him, he marked her soul with the imprint of his love. He wants only the best for us ~ his best, not ours. Let your little temptations fall away and focus on his love for you. He'll help you through it no matter what it is. He truly loves you! Give him the opportunity to make you shine!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

~ "Is your GPS working properly???"

..But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Tim 8-10)

GPS - "God's Plan of Salvation" - are you following it? Are you on the right road? Have you updated your map recently? Have you keyed in the right destination? The only thing it won't give you is your estimated time of arrival - but be assured, you WILL be on time!

A decision to live ones life for the Lord can be as easy as programing your GPS! I do realize that for some of us, that particular task may present a few problems - especially if your GPS doesn't recognize all the destinations as you know them. Generally it's me with the misinformation and when I finally get it right, it will take me exactly to where I'm going - little flag at the end and all! The same is true with God! Sure, there are speed bumps and wrong turns and detours - but not because God's Plan of Salvation is wrong, usually because I'm not paying attention and miss a turn or think I know a short cut. All the information I need to have to get to heaven is in the Bible. It's not about how many times I go to church, how much money I throw in the collection plate, its about believing and living my life as Christ would have me live it! Its doing what is pleasing to God and following the commands. God's Plan of Salvation is very you believe that Jesus Christ came from Heaven to Earth, died on the cross for your sins and rose from the dead? Are you willing to let him into your heart and let the Holy Spirit work through you? If the answer is yes, you're on the right road! Your GPS is working properly and you will get to your destination. 

In my life, I've chosen to do more than just read the Bible and program my GPS for heaven! I've chosen to share the Gospel with others. In this day of "instant" messaging and "texting", God's word can be shared so much more quickly and powerfully than I ever would have imagined! Like Farrah Fawcett's commercial in the 70's for Faberge Organics Shampoo "I told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on and so on...." and the Good News can be spread to the four corners of the globe! So be a warrior for Christ - set your GPS for heaven and spread the Gospel - tell two friends that Christ died on the cross for their sins and lets see if we can't spread God's Plan of Salvation so we can ALL go home! God has chosen you, but will you choose Him?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

~ "Hearts on fire..."

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me...(John 10:27)

Be so in love with God that you are "ready to charge hell with a squirt gun". That was the message that David Gray gave yesterday! 

All week long I agonized over whether or not I was doing what the Lord wanted me to do. Am I giving my all in all that I do? Could I be doing more? What exactly is my job here on Earth? The answer to that last question is "it's a Christian's job to take people to heaven with them".

In order for John 10:27 to be fulfilled (and it is every day), 3 things must happen. 

First off - "My sheep hear my voice" - in order to hear something, we must be listening. How? Patience! I pray and wait on a answer (he's an on-time God - but it's in his time, not mine). He doesn't always give us the answer right then and there. And sometimes, the answer is "no". We have to be willing to act on his plan for us.

Part 2 - "and I know them" - he knows who we are by the mark our soul! He has tagged us with something set apart from other creatures. Like a rancher brands his cattle, so God has branded us!

Part 3 - "and they follow me" - Did you ever watch ducks on a pond? The mama duck swims out in front and all the little ducklings are in tow right behind her. They follow her pattern on the water meticulously -- they don't deviate from the path she's taking. When one of them does, it swims around in a circle and then finally figures out which directions she went in and then put the outboard motor on to catch up! Don't we as Christians sometimes do that as well? We are secure in our walk and then something catches our eye - and the distraction takes us off the path - when we realize it, we scurry like ducks on a pond to get back on the right track. 

Be bold in your faith - be as believing and convincing as you possibly can! Try to take as many people to heaven with you as is possible! Its really not that difficult. Today I realize that I may be the only person in someone's life who can tell them who Jesus is. Their interaction with me may just be the one that is in God's plan for them! 

While in Tennessee, we were soliciting donations for the American Heart Association. The employee who got the most "hearts" would win tickets to one of the amusement parks . I received many donations (if you donated, you got a paper heart to write your name on and it was taped to the wall) ~ most of them had my name on the back of them! I'm realized that it is as easy to ask people if they'd like to know Jesus, as it is to ask them if they'd like to donate to the American Heart Association. And if they say "yes", the reward is a lot greater than a paper heart and my "bonus" for recruitment will be realized in heaven! 

Be bold for what you believe in! Be listening for your shepherd's voice and walk on the path he lays before you! Am I truly walking in the footprints of Jesus or am I making my own?

Monday, June 25, 2012

~ "Feed my sheep..."

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:17).

And I can see Peter now, rolling his eyes when the Lord asked him that third time "do you love me"! Following the rolling of the eyes would be the deep breath and exhalation of the words "you know I do"!

Christ asks us every day if we love him! And every day when we say we do, his response is the same to us as it was to Peter - "Feed my sheep".

Are we doing our part? Are we feeding the sheep of this world? A friend of mine has a quote published on her profile which reads: "GOD is looking NOT for great people BUT for people who will DARE to prove the GREATNESS of their GOD!!!" 

We are not being called to be in the news daily for what we are doing in the name of God. We are called to plant seeds and it is as easy to do as it is for us to plant the seeds of the virtual farms we play on Facebook or MySpace (or any other social networking site)! One click and its done! And we don't have to harvest those seeds in 4 hours or 2 day - we just need to let people know God loves them and wants them to come to him! Be faithful to that alone and you've accomplished a great deal! Some of us are called to plant seeds, others are called to water them, even still others are called to pick out the weeds and fertilize the crops...the harvesting will be done by the owner, on the last day! 

Be part of the beautiful garden that that is his and you will be part of the most spectacular array of flowers imaginable! No two are the same and yet they are all beautiful and pleasing to the eye of the gardener! God loves us all very much - so much so that he sent his precious son to this once beautiful garden to fight off the weeds and that which destroys so that we may bloom!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

~ "On My Knees..."

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thes 5:16-18)

Pray continually...without interruption. Give thanks in all circumstances (no matter what - good or bad) - why - because God wants us to!

It's easy to pray when things are going smoothly, or when we are happy. The challenge comes when the road is narrow and filled with pot holes. 

We joke about the man in the car with his wife who will not ask for directions and is lost and late on the way to his destination. Isn't that all of us when it comes to prayer? We think we can "fix" or "figure out a solution" all by ourselves. How much easier it would be to pray! The answers will come; they do come! Only when we are on our knees, closer to God than we've ever imagined, can we fully experience all that he has for us! I know its hard - there are days that I just don't have it in me. There are days when I just want to exist alone and not reach out to God. Its only natural to want to turn to the logical solutions (and in some cases that is the answer). But we generally feel that when bad things are happening that God is punishing us ~ not so! He's asking us to reach out to him, so he can teach us something! If we draw closer to him in times of joy, how much easier it will be to draw closer to him in times of sorrow ~ praising him for ALL the things in our lives! 

The man in the car eventually gets where he is going, and he's usually late and harried. I don't think I want to be "late" when it comes to the Lord! Being late in that instance may turn out to be "too late"! Be on time - now - pray without ceasing and rejoice in all that he gives you!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

~ "'When I Must Leave You' and assorted other joys..."

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40)
There is a beautiful poem by Helen Steiner Rice that I keep in a frame on an end table in my den. The first time I read it was after the death of a friend's mother. I do calligraphy as a hobby and back in high school (before you could buy the 'kit', I used the bottle of ink and the nibs) my friend asked me to write the poem out and attach a photo of her mom on the phone. 
I kept that poem trapped in my brain because it was too beautiful to forget. Many years later, I came across a sympathy card carrying the poem. Over the years it has become the one of the "helps" that gets me through grief. 
In my book, I do talk about the many lives I've had the privilege of interacting with over the years that have gone on to be with the Lord. More have left this earth since that book was published.
We will all get to see the glory of God if we believe. In this verse, Jesus is speaking to Mary and Martha and will show them God's mercy by raising Lazarus from the dead. Our time here on earth is short compared to the time we will spend in eternity! Each day is an opportunity of us to love, to work, to live, to share and to prepare! How ironic that this week's focus has been on not knowing when our time on earth will end! The gift of friendship is a wonderful treasure! Let Jesus be your friend and thank him for bearing your sins and grief!

Friday, June 22, 2012

~ "Love means always having to say and mean 'I'm sorry'..."

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.... (1 Cor 13:4-8)
One of the "better known" verses in the bible - often read at Weddings! We learn early in our walk with Christ that God is Love. In my church growing up, across the top of the altar where the big cross hung, was an inscription "God is Love". 

When I chose this verse as one of the readings at my own wedding, I was not as familiar with the Bible and the scriptures as I am today (and I still have a very long way to go). I thought the words were written so beautifully and told my husband and I how to live our lives together. I also thought that if we had "love" we'd be alright and get through anything that life threw at us. In the end, we were both guilty of not following the standard of "love" we pledged our lives to. We failed. 

What I've come to realize in the time since the divorce is that the love didn't fail - the love is still as strong as ever...God is love! If you replace the word "love" with "God" it takes on a whole new meaning...God is patient, God is kind...we are not capable of the unconditional love that is God! We say we are, but deep in our heart of hearts, there is always a bit of doubt, always a bit of jealousy, always a bit of envy. My ex-husband and I failed each other. We chose to walk down separate roads alone (and I do mean alone). What ever reasons either of us chose to present as those responsible for the dissolution of our marriage, the reason was only a symptom of the real problem. Our marriage ended because we did not put God first in everything - because we chose to be envious and prideful and did not protect and trust each other and we did not have hope. The words "I'm sorry" became just words ~ there was no genuine emotion attached to them. 

Like the thief who isn't the least bit sorry he's stolen, only sorry he was caught, we often get caught up in "if I say I'm sorry, all is forgiven". Saying the words out loud without the emotion of remorse attached to them is like putting clean clothes on a dirty body - it only covers the dirt for a little while. In order for all to be "right" we must first go back to the basics - cleaning ourselves before we dress. In the same manner, in order to truly be "sorry" we must first know what it is we are apologizing for. 

Today I try not to hurt people with my words and my actions, but sometimes I do (more often still than I'd like). That "Jersey Attitude" of not entirely thinking through the thought before I open my mouth and let it come out, tends to hurt others sometimes. It's gotten better but it's not quite under control. It may never be, but I'm trying!

Love the things around you that are gifts from God. None of us knows the exact hour of our death but one - and he's not telling. We all imagine we will have that time on our death bed to make our amends to family, friends and most importantly, to God our Father. Today I don't chose to play Russian Roulette in the hopes that the bullet will be the last to come out of the chamber. Make your peace with God now! Say "I love you" every day to those around you. Let hope be your guide and Christ into your heart and you can't possibly lose! Don't tell the world you're a Christian - show the world! Show yourself! You have been called into service and the benefits are out of this world ~ eternal life with Jesus is worth the narrow road we travel. Walk it proudly!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

~ "To sin or not to sin (and to pick and choose)...

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:15-16)
When Christ walked upon the earth, he sat down with tax collectors, prostitutes, adulterers, murderers, and outcasts. He didn't look at the sin itself - he looked to the sinner and offered them eternal life through him! 
We are all outcasts in one way or another. Some of us have features that are hard to look at, some of us don't speak as clearly as others, some of us are missing parts of our anatomy, some of us are less intelligent, some of us are more intelligent, some of us are very tall and some of us are very short. But we all have one thing in common - we are children of the King! We are created in his image! 
When we are small, we are taught how to act when we become adults. The same is true for Christians. When we are new to Christianity (or not even familiar with it) we need guidance. First we need to be born. We need to be introduced to Christ at some point in our lives. For a lot of us, it is from our physical birth. I can honestly say that God was always a part of my upbringing. In my book, I stated that there was never a time when I had not known God. For me, I've always known and always believed that Christ died on the cross for my sins and through his blood I am redeemed. Sometimes people ask me "when did you get saved" and I don't have an answer for them. The only way I can explain it to them is to ask them "when did you realize that your mother was, in fact, your mother". 
I have committed my life (what's left of it, anyway) to sharing the Gospel of Jesus with all of creation - from my little laptop at my kitchen table. Why? Because that is what we are told to do! We are told to preach the good news to all of creation! Men, women, children, murderers, adulterers, prostitutes and all the other assorted "sinners" out there. And guess what? I'm a sinner! God sees sin as sin - no matter what it is - if it's wrong - it's sin. His book is very clear on what is right and what is wrong. There are no lesser or greater sins - it all the same! 
Likewise, it is not my place to judge anyone. That is GOD'S job! Do I? Of course I do - I'm human - but I'm working on it! Carol Burnett said it best in a line from the movie "The Four Seasons" - she was being told by her husband that she was "perfect" - her response to him was very simple ~ "when I am perfect I cease to exist". Truer words were never spoken! Only when God calls me home will I be perfect! 
The bottom line is this: what ever people choose to do in their lives is between them and God. What I choose to do with my life is also between me and God (no one has the right to tell me I'm right or wrong - that is also God's job). I do what I am supposed to do - reach out and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the word of God! Its not about where or when I should do it - it's not about picking the "right" audience for my message of hope to those who do not know it - it's all about Jesus! Its about what he would want me to do! He died on a cross for my sins and for that person who is a mass murderer and that woman who sleeps with everyone and everything, for that man who embezzled millions of dollars from his company, for that person who threw rubbish on the side of the road, for those men who flew planes into the World Trade Center, the children who took a shotgun to school and blew their classmates away and for you! He paid the price for ALL! What ever your sins are, ask for forgiveness and make a conscious effort to move forward from this point on! Share his word with others (even if it is only to share this link with others)...He loves you - love him back!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

~ "Warning: Spoiler revealed..."

But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. (Jude 1:17-23)

The shortest book in the Bible is Jude - it contains only one chapter and 25 verses. Who was Jude? According to all sources and references, he was the brother of Jesus. Although his letter is brief, it is very much to the point and is written to those called by Jesus. He reminds us that we walk among unbelievers. He tells us what we are to do and how we are to do it, being ever mindful of the fact that we are to stay focused on God in our challenge. He reminds us to show mercy towards those who do not believe, yet in that mercy to be fearful of their ways. He tells us to hate the sin, but not the sinner. 

There are many instances in our lives that bring our paths to cross with unbelievers and people who are not washed in the blood of salvation. They, too, are God's children! Some can be saved, others cannot. Jude warns us to be careful when interacting with these people, we should, at best, "put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Eph 6:11)".

Tough job? Not as tough as you might think! Remember ~ we already know how the story ends (the book of Revelation tells us that). There are no spoilers in this story! Jesus WILL come again and Satan WILL be defeated and those who have chosen the side of the worldly and of the flesh will not be invited to the table. For the Lord will meet them (as he will all of us) and his words to them will be "depart from me, I never knew you". What words do you want to hear? Personally, I want to hear "well done, good and faithful servant" so I continue to struggle day in and day out with the temptations of the world. 

In the end, Jesus is all we have. To realize that Jesus is all we need is the part that confounds us. We keep the focus on him, he will keep us safe and we will share in the victory that is his!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

~ "Psssssst..."

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. (Rom 2:1)

Well, that's a hard one to swallow! And we are all guilty of it - if we live in the real world and interact with people, we pass judgement on someone else, whether we want to or not! 

If we partake in gossip, let drama into our lives or share our opinions on someone with others - we are passing judgement. That makes us sinners. The key to this one is to ask forgiveness and make an honest and conscious effort to avoid it. "But how" you may ask...focus on what is good, what is right. Don't seek out the negative in a situation or a person. Walk away from the negativity and turn your heart towards Jesus. Those cute little keychains and doo-dads a few years back that were imprinted with "WWJD" seems like a logical answer to that question. It never easy to walk away from what has become so comfortable in our lives. Drama and gossip become just as much part of our routine as brushing our teeth and combing our hair. 

I try not to be a part of the idle gossip that works its way into my life, but I am not always successful. Innocent conversation between me and a friend is often in judgement of the actions of a third party. I often don't realize that I am gossiping when I do it. Its a mindset I need to work on moment by moment, each and every day. It is not my job to judge the thoughts or the actions of anyone. 

There is an upside to drama and gossip ~ let it be GOOD gossip ~ talk about the good aspects of a person, share the positive and not the negative - the results will amaze you! What may start out as an exercise in futility may turn out to be a goal achieving accomplishment in turning your heart around! The old adage "if you can't say something nice about someone" just may prove to be the saving grace you've been praying for!

Monday, June 18, 2012

~ "...from the dust or from the swamp???"

Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. (1 Tim 6:20-21)

In these two verses, Paul gives a charge to Timothy. He tells him to beware! Science can and will distort your faith if you allow it. In those days, they may not have had "science" the way we understand it today, but they had scholars who studied the stars and the like.

In the King James Bible, "knowledge" is translated from the Greek, meaning "science". In the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary it is stated that: "There was true "knowledge," a special gift of the Spirit, which was abused by some (1Co 8:1; 12:8; 14:6). This gift was soon counterfeited by false teachers arrogating to themselves pre-eminently the gift (Col 2:8, 18, 23). Hence arose the creeds of the Church, called symbols, that is, in Greek, "watchwords," or a test whereby the orthodox might distinguish one another in opposition to the heretical. Perhaps here, 1Ti 6:20, and 2Ti 1:13, 14, imply the existence of some such brief formula of doctrine then existing in the Church; if so, we see a good reason for its not being written in Scripture, which is designed not to give dogmatic formularies, but to be the fountain whence all such formularies are to be drawn according to the exigencies of the several churches and ages."

Intelligent people often need to see proof of the existence of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. They need a "logical" explanation for everything. Sometimes there is no logical explanation. Sometimes all you have to rely on is your faith. Faith in a loving and powerful God who sent his son to suffer and die on the cross for our sins. Its not important to know how old the earth is or to predict when the end will come, unless you are searching for answers. My faith tells me that God created the world in 6 days. The Bible chronology shows me that the earth is a certain age. The Bible also tells me that Christ will return and he will come "like a thief in the night". No one but the Father knows when that will be. The time is now! Give yourself to the Lord and count your blessings, "for you know not when the master of the house will return".

Sunday, June 17, 2012

~ "The Words I Would Say..."

(photo by Celia Darrigo)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (Eph 6:10)
There is nothing greater than the power of God! His love for us outshines the brightest star and the strength we gain by walking in his ways puts us one step closer to our goal. But what happens when we have doubts about our choices in life, or second guess our decisions? How do we know for sure if we are walking on the path God has laid before us or if we are drifting slowly to the left or the right without even realizing it? 
This verse (as well as today's worship video "The Words I Would Say" by Sidewalk Prophets) tells us that "God's got his hand on you, so don't live life in fear"... it's that simple! If we choose to live our lives for God, we can't be on the wrong path! He constantly reminds us that we are his and he will not leave our side. "But what about Satan", you may ask. God knows our weaknesses! He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. 
Each day we are given yet another opportunity to love and be loved. We are given another opportunity to let his light shine in our hearts and in our lives. Don't give up! He has great plans for you! Like the seagulls that walk the beaches and leave little peace signs on the sand, God leaves signs of peace in our hearts! "From one simple life to another ~ come, find peace in the Father!"

Saturday, June 16, 2012

~ "Arriving at home..."

(photo by Warrick Moore)

Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth [day] of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way. (Ezra 8:31)

Several of my friends have been traveling recently.  Their journey takes them only hours as opposed to the four months it took the returning Israelites to travel from Babylon back to Jerusalem.  I can't imagine a journey taking any longer than a day.  If it's going to involve more time than that, I fly.  

God was good to His faithful servants who made the journey back to Jerusalem.  He protected them and kept them from harm.  They were obedient and they were blessed.  I'm sure their journey was anything but a pleasant sight-seeing tour.  I can't imagine making that trip, I'm not even sure that I'd want to!  

Yet, I stop to my comment "I could never do that", I find the answer "but you have".  To go where the Lord sends you is often what we say we will do, but won't.  I have.  I have physically walked away from everything I knew and was comfortable with (much like the Israelites, many of them had never been to Jerusalem, but had been born and had their "lives" in Babylon), not once, but twice!  The first time I did not even realize that it was the Lord leading me.  This last time, I knew.  When I packed up everything and it was loaded into the truck, my heart sank.  Tennessee had become my home.  I had friends, a job, a house, and a way of life that I loved.  I was headed into unchartered territory (for me, anyway).  I was going to a place where I had no friends and no job and a very little amount of money to get me over the hump.  Even now, as I watch that bank account slip into single digits, I know that God will provide for me, just as He provided safety for the Israelites!

How many times do we worry about what might happen to our loved ones?  How many decisions do we make without consulting God?  How many times do we neglect to pray about our problems?  How many times do we try to manipulate people?  How often do we try to do everything ourselves?  This is where our faith comes in!  This is where our trust in God becomes a true trust.  It is in these situations that we must reach out and depend on the Father, because it is in these times that His light will shine on us!  His protection will surround us and His hand will be upon us, just like He did for the traveling Israelites!

Stop depending on yourself or others and start depending on God!  Stop reliving the bad decisions and selfish choices you have made and start thanking Him for continuing to stand by your side.  Offer Him your life and He will bless you!  Do for Him and He will provide for you.   Lift your eyes towards heaven and see the glory of the day that is before you and you will walk securely through the desert and arrive at your destination unharmed.  Trust in Him, have faith in Him and the hand of God will be upon you!

Friday, June 15, 2012

~ "I was wr-r-rong..."

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (Matt 6:12)

When the reality of sin walks across the threshold of your mind, what action do you take?  Do you try to blow it off, ignore it, make excuses for it, rationalize your way around it?  Do you utter the words "that was then, I'm not that way now"?  How do you make it right???

There are instances when the words "I'm sorry" are the only means of atonement.  There are times when those words stick in our throats and we are unable to utter them because of we are so embarrassed and broken by what we've done.  Sometimes there is no way to take back what was said or done.  There is no way to "fix" it.

The remorse and regret we carry with us will also not serve as a tool for forgiveness.  We need to remember to ask, then accept the consequences (either forgiven by those we've harmed or not forgiven).  We humans have the capacity to forgive, yet many choose to harbor ill feelings and resentments towards those who we feel have harmed us by pronouncing sentence on them with the "I'll never forgive you" clause.  How fortunate we are that God does not operate the same way.

We are all sinners.  It's what we do.  Every day we sin.  We need to focus on asking for forgiveness right then and there.  It is the only way to break the cycle of lying, cheating, stealing, fabrication, and the other harmful sins we commit.  Rationalizing them away is not the answer nor is it a solution.  We need to ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten us in the areas in which we are susceptible to the enemy's hold.  

Deliberate disobedience towards what the Father has told us is wrong, is not a sin of omission - it is a sin of selfishness, greed and lust.  It is taking what we want and not considering the effects our actions will have on someone else.  Again, rationalizing that it is ours to begin with, doesn't make it any less offensive to God.  Coming clean is sometimes the only way to quiet our guilty consciences.  Justifying and rationalizing have no place in admitting we were wrong.  Total honesty and humility are the only avenues we have from which to choose.  Forgiveness for what we have done (or failed to do) ultimately comes from the Father.  Our willingness to seek forgiveness is grounded in Jesus.  Gather the strength and courage you need to set each one of your sins against others right.  Call on the power of the Holy Spirit to guide you and strengthen you as you begin to clean up your messes.  One at a time, maybe one each day - but start setting the record straight - you'll sleep better.  Turn the corner today, make a new start and ask that your prayer be heard so that you can continue to walk without Satan dogging you over something you did 20 years ago.  Don't give him any more power over you than he already has!  Give the power back to God, and in doing so, you will glorify His name like never before!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

~ "In the steel of the night..."

Behold, God [is] my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH [is] my strength and [my] song; he also is become my salvation. (Isa 12:2)

Knowing that God has secured a place for us should be of great comfort.  He has promised to care for us, provide for us and that there is nothing we should be afraid of.  There is nothing that man can do to us that God cannot protect us from.  Our strength to walk through this world and do what is required comes from Him.  He is the song our hearts sing and the strength to sing it!

Reaching out in our time of need is a learned behavior.  If we've never gone to Him (if we didn't know we could), if we'd never received a blessing, we could not pour our heart out to Him and ask Him to remove our suffering.  We do know that going through the storm brings sunshine at the end of it, but getting past the waves breaking on our bow and the tossing of ship from side to side while holding our balance is the hard part.  We don't need to do it alone.  We reach out, we cry out and sometimes feel like our words and our prayers fall on deaf ears.  We know that we are to do nothing, yet the world around us is crying out for us to act.  We become desperate and pray that He'll end this trial one way or another.  We become less interested in the benefit we will receive from going through the situation and just want it over and done with.  We want our calm life back!  Being a warrior in Christ's army is not an easy assignment.  The enemy is attacking from all sides and we do not feel the presence of our protector.  

Knowing we have been honest and forthright with our situation to others, doesn't help us as we stand at the edge of the cliff waiting for the bridge to be completed so that we may cross in safety.  The decisions we've made can, in fact, even though made and agreed to as if they would not occur (because of our faith that we would be cared for), come back to bite us as we stand waiting.  Our belief that God will not fail us may not be the belief of those around us - who push and push to cause us to act, rather than wait.  Not everyone we interact with has that same faith in God that we have.  How do we deal with them?  What do we tell them?  

Using the resources God has given us, taking the time to pray about what to do next and holding on to the hope that He gives us through the death of Jesus, we can safely wait on His answer.  He will not abandon us and allow us to fall into the hands of the enemy.  His word is sure.  His guarantee is exactly that - a guarantee!  Put your faith in Him, trust only in Him and He will rescue you from whatever it is you need to be rescued from.  Walk bravely into the world before you and know that He will guide the steps you take and that He has secured a safe haven for you.  When the reality of your life is revealed to you, humble yourself to it and accept the hand you've been dealt - play it for all it's worth!  Whether you are a rocket scientist or a shoe salesman, do the very best you can until you can no longer do it.  Give glory to Him for all He's given you, even if you feel you deserve more or better.  He knows what you need (and what you want).  Don't be disappointed if He doesn't answer your prayer the way you want it answered.  Rejoice that it has been answered and that He has heard you!  Rejoice and be glad - He has made a way!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

~ "Dedicated..."

(photo by Celia Darrigo)

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Rom 12:1-2)

What are you doing to dedicate yourself as a living sacrifice to the Father???  Do you even have any idea what you are supposed to do or why?  There's a lot more to serving as a living sacrifice than attending church on Sunday or reading this post.  Isn't it time you stepped up your contribution?

I found a checklist (or a series of questions you can ask yourself) to help keep you on the path of righteousness (Matt 6:33) and allow your relationship with Jesus to grow.  No, they are not mandatory, but they are helpful.  Be honest with yourself when you answer them, don't look for the technicality in them.  Look at the actual - if you're doing them, you are probably walking the right path...if not, you may want to revisit what it is that the Lord is calling you to do.

  • I am a baptized member of my church
  • I am serving my church
  • I have indicated to God that I will go and do whatever He desires
  • I make spending time with God a priority
  • I purposefully look for opportunities to give financially to God's work
  • I purposefully look for opportunities to serve others
  • I take care of my sins immediately
  • I have a pure thought-life
  • I get along with others
  • I have joy regardless of my circumstances

Some of these I can answer "yes" - some I cannot.  So I guess that means I keep working at it.  This list is not intended for you to run out and join any church or dump all of your money into a non-profit organization.  It's just a guide.  The first three involve a commitment to God.  They acknowledge your belief in Jesus and your faith in His promises.  It's a great place to start.  Once you've accomplished the first three, the next four are on-going.  Praying, tithing and serving are a continuation of the faith we acknowledge in the first three.  Taking care of our sins immediately is also on-going (and rather important).  If each and every time we sin, we stop and ask for forgiveness (humbly and honestly), we will be better equipped to conquer the last three.  

There are no rules to follow other than what is written in the Word of God.  Jesus isn't going to count the number of times you went to church this year as if you had a "quota" to reach.  Remember - entering the Kingdom of Heaven is based on your rebirth, and your faith that through grace you are saved by the blood of Jesus.  What you do will be counted (that's another post), but it will not get you in.

Take the time to get to know God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  The power of prayer, the power of love and the power of forgiveness flow endlessly from the throne.  Do all that you can and then a little bit more!  Be grateful for what you have and that you have the ability to go before Him and ask for forgiveness.  Share His love with those around you and lift your hands in praise!  Dedicate your life and your work; be the imitation of His word!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

~ "Are we there yet???"

Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. (Matt 15:25)

She was not "one of them".  The Canaanite woman was a Gentile, yet she believed in the mercy of our Lord.  She was undeserving (as we all are).  She related her misery (her possessed daughter).  She asked for mercy. She was met with discouragement, yet she persisted.  Her persistence paid off - her daughter was healed because of her faith!

How often to we go only half the distance with our prayers?  We bring our needs to the foot of the throne and get distracted and forget to leave them there.  We entertain a battle of wits with ourselves as to whether or not to leave them there or try again to fix them, walking away with our prayers in our hands and we have the audacity to complain to God when the prayers are not answered!  Our defeatist attitude tells us that "God will never answer this" or "God will never fix this" ... how can He when we won't leave it for Him?  

Our "unspoken" requests, the ones we pray for over and over that go unanswered, may just be that way because our human nature (and lack of patience) causes us to keep taking it back, trying to cause it to happen without trusting in God that it will happen...IN HIS TIME!  If you have a child who keeps bringing you something to fix, and each time they hand it to you, they take it back, eventually you will utter the words "just give it to me already and I'll give it back when it's fixed", thus grabbing it from the child's hands and sending them on their way!  

Stop interfering in God's grand plan of things.  Let Him do for you what He needs to do, what He wants to do - quit trying to do it all yourself.  He doesn't need your help!  Leave it in His very capable hands and walk away.  I always found I could get more done without people constantly bothering me for something while I was doing something else, or by badgering me about when it was going to be ready.  The same questioning words from the back seat of the car while traveling to a vacation spot, having only rounded the corner from home echoing the sentiment "are we there yet".  

God has faith in you, He is patient with you, He is loving and merciful.  Offer Him the same...have faith that He will do what He has promised.  Be patient and wait on His time.  Love Him above all others and remember that He alone determines the course of success you will tread.  Success for you may be different than success for another - but it is all leads to the same place - His Kingdom.  Be grateful for the gifts and blessings He bestows upon you - He has placed them there for a reason.  Remember to thank Him for them as well.  And leave that "unspoken" request at His throne, He'll get to it in His time and it will come back to you better than you could have ever imagined!!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

~ "Never get caught without an umbrella..."

(photo by Zira Harper)

I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. (Gen 9:13)

What started out as a simple comment on a friend's social network status, set forth events that rocked my world one morning.  It all began with a rainbow.  

We all know the scientific definition of a rainbow: an arch of colors formed in the sky in certain circumstances, caused by the refraction and dispersion of the sun's light by rain or other water droplets in the atmosphere.  We learned that in fourth grade.  We also know that the rainbow is a reminder of God's covenant (promise) that He will never again destroy the earth by flood.  When I see a rainbow - I do not think of the scientific explanation - I think to the greater reason - the purpose for it's being - a promise from God!

Throughout the afternoon, there were comments being posted by myself, an young lady and two gentlemen who apparently do not believe in God nor do they have the faith that the young lady and I have.  It was becoming increasing difficult to field their comments, as they were starting to stray from the original topic to the starving children in Africa (which, by the way, I've been hearing about since I was a child myself - usually at the breakfast table when I would cut the crust from my toast), "big bang theory" and "a god" as opposed to "THE God".    Praying for them all the while, my final retort was one that I use quite often..."Satan has been very busy today..." and I left it at that.

We serve a merciful God.  He opens doors that no man can close, and closes doors no man can open.  He enlightens us to what we need to learn, what it is we need to do for Him.  No, He doesn't need our help - He wants our devotion.  He wants us to read His word, answer His call to us and serve in ways no godless individual can.  The sun (as the young lady pointed out) does not "rise" - it is stationary and the earth orbits around it - but it reappears every morning because of God.  He put it there.  He holds it all together, keeps it in place, for our benefit.  

If you go back to the first rainbow (which I'm guessing was probably the most beautiful of all rainbows), you will remember that it came after the destruction of a people totally engrossed in sinful behavior, absent from service to God and devoid of any true and worthwhile causes other than their own.  They had totally discarded God and His commands.  They had cast Him out of their lives and lived in the moment.  Sound familiar???  Throughout history we can see God's hand.  His utter disgust with the people who failed to show Him the reverence He deserved had brought forth His wrath upon the earth.  What we know (from His word) is that there is more to a Boy Scout - "be prepared".  Share the word with those around you - you don't have to win the argument (if it comes to that) - just plant the seed!  Walking away does not mean you've surrendered - it just means you refuse to battle with the enemy.  It only leads to frustration and a battle of words - generally in this case, someone ends up saying something they will later regret.

The bottom line to this entire conversation is another truth I throw out often...we know how the story ends - the victory belongs to Jesus, to God and to those who follow Him.  Satan will be defeated!  That's a guarantee from the King of Kings!  Let them have their refracted light, I prefer my promise...God's promise!
Pray for those who cannot see their way out of the science book and into the Bible.  Pray for those who find it necessary to challenge the power of God and faithfulness of His people.  Pray for those who do not know Him, that they will find Him before it is too late!  Pray for people like my friend, who chooses to continue to be an example of God's love in the lives of those around him.  He is one who truly walks the path of Christ!  He does not choose to bury his head in the sand and ignore the rantings of those who do not believe.  He continues to maintain the spirit of Jesus, teaching and sharing the word of God to those who do not believe.  

God has the entire situation well in hand.  The spiritual gifts He's given each of us help us to be better Christians - doing the work He designed for us.  Some of us preach, some of us run interference, some of us write - but all of us should be praying for all the workers of the Kingdom of God!  The pot of gold that the Irish talk about at the end of the rainbow does exist...not where the bow meets the ground, but rather where the promise of God is fulfilled in each and every one of us - through the faith that we have in the grace that we receive from He who created us!  

Sunday, June 10, 2012

~ "There Will Be A Day..."

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Rev 21:3-4)

So often I long for that day.  When life's trial and the human suffering get to a point where we can no longer bear it, we all long for that day!  "When is it going to end" is usually the phrase that comes out of our mouths.  The answer, we know already is "soon".

In the time between Jesus' first coming and second coming, we are to be prepared and to help prepare others.  We take our cue from Him!  We forgive those who have hurt us, we share what we have with those who have nothing, we pray to the Father, we praise His name, we comfort those who grieve, we spread the Word of God and we remember the sacrifice on the cross.  

In this time, we suffer.  We suffer simply because we cannot see the face of God.  We suffer because of sin.  We suffer because of injustice.  There will be a day when all that is made right!  We will stand in the presence of God and in the fellowship of Jesus, presented as "clean" and we will celebrate the victory!  We will take up residence in the greatest mansion of all - our Father's mansion!  Our inheritance will be given us in full.

The more we give of ourselves to others, the more we will receive.  Our blessings on earth will not compare by any means, the blessings of the kingdom.  How could they?  To see the face of God will be the greatest blessing of them all!  To touch the face of Jesus cannot compare to anything we receive here on earth.  A long awaited meeting by many, I'm sure.  That  one, beautiful and wonderful soul who gave His life for me - who rescued me from the grave, who delivered my from the fires of hell - to gaze into His eyes and say face-to-face "thank you" is worth all the tears I've cried, all the disappointments I've experienced and the broken heart I live with.  He makes all the difference!

"Having joy, regardless of my circumstances" comes in knowing that all of this will end - that all of this will pass away!  It comes from knowing that whatever sins I've committed have been washed away.  It comes in the realization that I am loved and I am a child of the King - making me royalty!  It comes in the glory of His word.  It comes with the beating of my heart.  It comes in the stillness of my soul when He is near.  It is a joy like no other, because in that joy, I know, there will be a day...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

~ "Quick - hide...there's that disgusting beggar again..."

Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? (Hag 1:4)

From the history of the building of the second temple in Jerusalem, we find the repatriated Jews have laid the foundation (Ezra 2:10).  It was quite some time before the construction continued on, all the while, they were building themselves "paneled homes of cedar" instead of the temple.  They had their excuses and their reasons, but they forgot one very important thing - God had commanded them to do it and He would make a way for its completion.  Once again they needed to be reminded.

Aren't we the same?  We know what it is we are supposed to be doing, yet we make sure that we have all we need first!  We live in excess comfort while our neighbor has no lights.  We wear designer clothes while our neighbor picks through the bins at the second hand store.  We dine on fast food 5 times a week while our neighbor eats food from a local food pantry.  We have 15 pair of flip flops (it's a Jersey thing) and our neighbor is barefoot.  We make sure we are very comfortable before we do anything the Lord commands us to do.  No where in the Word of God does it say to fulfill all your wants before you meet the needs of the poor.  

God does not ask us to deprive ourselves.  He asks us to help one another.  If you feel that that check you wrote for the performer that came to your church is helping the needy - and that is all you do - good for you!  A true love offering is one that comes from the heart, to help those in need without them having to do anything to attain it other than being a child of God.  A true giver gives because there is a desire to help one less fortunate.  There are no strings attached and there is no gain that comes from the giving.  There is no "exchange of goods or services".  A true giver does so because their heart tells them to, not their Pastor.  

Somedays I wish I had thousands of dollars to just give to people who needed it, especially when I lay my head down at night in the comfort and safety of my bed, which is in a townhouse and protected by a double lock on the front door.  We keep up appearances for our neighbors and family - "oh, it has to look perfect when they come to visit" -- who are we pleasing?  What airs are we putting on and who are we putting them on for?  It's certainly not for our Father in heaven!  Isn't He the only one we need to impress?  And fancy furnishings and beautiful clothes isn't going to do it!

So those of you who live in your mansions here on earth, those of you who drive your expensive cars, those of you who eat gourmet meals nightly and drink those designer coffees - remember that for each of your "toys" there is someone who lacks the basics.  God has blessed you abundantly -- share what you have with those around you who have not!  Make it a true love offering.  Love your neighbor - help him out!  When you're in the grocery store and the woman in front of you is counting out change for her groceries - dig into your own pocket and help her pay for them.  When you see the person on the side of the road with the cardboard sign - don't think scam artist - think Christ -- would it really kill you to toss a dollar out the window?  Those gifts of love mean more to the Father than the check you write (that is tax deductible).  Share Christ with others - not just on Sunday mornings, but all the time.  Give from your heart - make it a gift that counts!  Do it out of love!