Sunday, September 30, 2012

~ "Don't Laugh At Me..."

"Don't Laugh At Me..."

Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. (Luke 23:11)

When we can't take the pain anymore, where do we go and what do we do? The focus of the news recently has been the suicide of a young college student. I understand better than most the want to end life...I've BEEN there; many of us have! We cannot lay the blame on others! The events that surround the pain may be horrific, but the want to end one's life comes from utter desperation, feeling unloved and not knowing what to do or where to turn!

We have all had "bullies" in our lives at one time or another. We strive for acceptance in our lives from the time we learned to crawl. Some people do not become the "targets" of the bully until they are older and more "seasoned". Some of us were taunted and teased from as far back as we can remember. On Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs pyramid, love and belonging falls in the middle, with self-actualization at the top and physiological needs at the base. His study was not conducted with the "average" human in mind - he conducted his study with the top 1% of college students back in 1954 (before most of us were born). 

We, as humans, are responsible for our own actions. We draw our strength from our friends and family, we trust them, we love them. But we were not the first or the only ones to be "mocked". History and the Bible teach us that MANY were mocked, made fun of, tortured and killed for their beliefs and ostracized by society. Many of us have overcome the callousness of others and become husbands, wives, parents, grandparents, educators, healers, experts in our fields and more. We all have "skeletons" in our closets. We've all done and said things we wish we hadn't and many of us will regret some of those things until we die.

The single most important thing to remember is that we have a choice today! We have a God who loves us, forgives us, blesses us and provides for us. Our strength comes from him! We are all created in his image (Gen 1:27). Without his presence in our lives, we become susceptible to the enemy. Our remorse and regret over the choices and decisions we make in life are not to be taken lightly. Each of us has our own level of tolerance. We can only take so much until we "snap". Fortunately for us, God's tolerance of us is greater than some of us are willing to admit. His forgiveness of our sins goes far beyond what the human mind is capable of understanding. We start by learning to forgive ourselves, love ourselves and walk forward in the knowledge and belief that God has given us each a life worth living and a soul worth dying for! 

Although some people may laugh at you today, you can come to know the full measure of love in Jesus by remembering that they laughed at him as well, and he reigns on high waiting for you!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

~ "Wanted: Partner (no experience required)..."

He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matt 10:37)

The single most important love in our lives, the one that makes all the difference, the one who will ALWAYS be there is Jesus! There is nothing greater than his love for us, there never will be. As humans, we get lonely, become bored and miserable and we reach out for that human companionship. As Christians, we follow a different set of instructions on life than someone who does not believe or is not saved. God had them written down for us so we could refer to them often. Our lives are his, they are not our own. He gives us the opportunity to make the right choices (free will). Are the choices you are making the ones that put him at the top? 

Love. An emotion, a feeling, a desire. We all want it, we all need it. When we stray away from what it is that God tells us, when we rearrange his word to fit our actions - we are in essence telling him that his love is not enough. We cannot justify our sinful existence. We need to continue to set the example that Christ set. We are to live our lives for his glory, not our own, not our children, not our parents, nor our friends and acquaintances. The misconception we have is that no matter what we do, we are forgiven. Our actions always speak louder than words. What we do, what we say reflects the level of acceptance of God's word to us. If you were to pick and choose which of the laws that you feel should apply to you and disregard those you feel do not apply to you, you would undoubtedly end up behind bars somewhere. Why do you think that its okay to pick and choose the laws of God? Who has the greater authority here? As I've said before, being a Christian is the hardest thing I do. It breaks my heart to see my family torn apart and living the way they do. The only thing I can do for them is be an example to them and pray for them. I love them unconditionally, just as Jesus loves me - however, my love for him has to be my number one priority! He has to come above and before everything that I say and do. Soliciting love from sources other than what is acceptable to God is not going to win me anything but sorrow. Looking for people to fill the void, looking for anyone to be my "partner" is not going to work. I am partnered with Christ! He will meet my needs until I die and as long as I follow the plan, I'm going to be okay. Sure, I'd love to find someone and be able to end the story with "and they lived happily ever after".

I had that once. We did not put God at the top and needless to say, it came crumbling down around us and on top of us. I loved that man very much, still do, but not before the love I have for God! He has given me a new life and if I'm to walk it alone, so be it. I cannot engage in any relationship that does not compliment my love of God and my faith in Jesus! It just won't work! Searching for the answers is as easy as opening up your Bible to Ephesians 4:2: be completely humble and patient. God has plan. Give HIM your love and he will fill you to the brim with his! Stop looking for Mr/Ms Right and let his love sustain you. Only then will you find a suitable "mate" to walk your earthly existence with!

Friday, September 28, 2012

~ "The doctor is IN..."

And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick. (Matt 14:14)
The word "cancer" strikes fear in the hearts of many - why? Maybe it's because there is no cure, maybe because it can be painful, maybe because it can be fatal. We all support the "find a cure for's". I can't imagine anyone saying "no, I don't think I want them to find a cure for it". Medical science has made great strides in the treatment of cancer. Many lives have been "cancer free" after radiation, or chemotherapy ~ but still there is no cure. 

What about the individual who goes for a scan, and amazingly enough, when they are re-scanned, there is nothing there? Was it really there to begin with, was it "just a shadow", or was it a miracle? We all have one story or know someone who does! I tend to go with the latter. Jesus is the Great Physician. He healed many while he walked on this earth; he still heals! 

Whatever it is that tests your faith today, be strong! Whatever physical ailments come your way, know that it's all been reviewed by your Creator before it touches you! He's in control! The Great Physician is always on call and you have a direct line to him! You can use the generic prescription (prayer). Oh, and by the way, your bill has been paid, in full!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

~ "The ball's in your court..."

He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor. (Prov 21:21)

When we repent, we are seeking righteousness. As our days on earth dwindle (and they all do, to one extent or another), we become more focused on what it is that is important. Our priorities change with age. From childhood, to teenage years, to young adults, to mature adults, to prime-time and into our twilight years - we tend to let some things go and attach ourselves to newer, more important matters. There is a "like" on Facebook - "Remember when picking which color crayon was the biggest decision you had to make". As our lives progress, our decision and responsibilities become more complex. The one thing that remains unchanged throughout our lives is the love of Christ! His love never changes.

The decisions we make today reflect the choices we made yesterday. Our lives belong to him. What we do should glorify him. Our paths are intertwined with his mercy and grace and we should walk it with our heads held high, because we are forgiven! If you've accepted Christ as your Savior, then choose to follow! Don't just sit on the side lines and watch as others participate in life! There can be a full and enjoyable life led as a player on Christ's team! Get up, get out and get going! Time is of the essence here - you cannot afford to sit this quarter out! Seek out that which is good, be truly sorry for your sin, and the gifts of both heaven and earth will be yours!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

~ "I will not go quietly into the night..."

(photo by Celia Darrigo)
I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? (Ps42:9)

Matthew Henry writes: "The way to forget our miseries, is to remember the God of our mercies." If we spend all our time begging God to answer our prayer, what are we doing while we wait? 

I've been praying for one very specific unspoken request for over three years now. I've shared it with some, but not many. God tells me to wait, so I keep waiting. It hurts occasionally, but my faith in God's divine providence is greater than the pain. I try to focus on the many blessings he's given me (and not the standard "roof over my head", "food on the table") - I look to the times when I didn't get what I deserved! Those times when things could have or should have ended up a lot worse than they did. Then, I look to the cross. I've been given the gift of eternal life! I am a Princess - the daughter of the King. I will spend forever in the presence of God - what could be greater than that? 

Our sins are forgiven because we are washed in the blood. We have human wants and needs that can and cannot be met sometimes. God knows this; he understands the pain. When people tell lies about me to others, when they refer to me as the "nut job", when they forget to "remember when" - it's okay! God has a plan for them as well! My concern is my relationship with God. He knows me, he loves me, he cares very much for me. I could give him everything I have and it would never make a dent in the debt that Jesus paid for me! All my sins, washed away - every single one of them! How blessed we are to have such a merciful God! Let his love put a smile on your face as well as within your heart! He knows, and he has not forgotten!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

~ "I had a dream last night..."

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. (Jer 29:11-12)

God promised Israel he would not abandon them! He promises us the same! Although the Old Testament is viewed by some as a "history lesson" - there is much to be learned from history! The suffering of God's chosen people show us that we are in good company when we hurt - WE have become his chosen people! We who believe and have faith will one day be in his great presence! 

When we are in pain, when we hurt, when we are depressed, angry or even resentful - we have a place to go to be comforted! We have a direct line to the King of Kings; as a matter of fact we are IN the direct line of the King of Kings! Through the Holy Spirit, he sends his love and his message of hope. He has great plans for all of us! He holds our future in the palm of his hand. We need only reach out to him and give him our undying love! 

God hears us when we pray! He listens to our words and feels our hearts beating. He wants us to come to him and be his completely! He loves us! He's not spiteful or inconsiderate and does not laugh at us when we fall. He has great plans for us, just as he did for the Israelites ~ our destiny lies in him! Let him comfort you in your time of need and thank him joyfully for it! He is the first line of defense we have against the enemy and the only way to him is through Jesus! Put on the full armor of God and be strong in faith ~ it's what he calls each of us to do! We are rapidly approaching the end of days ~ have you dreamed THAT dream? Will you stand your ground for God? Will you hear the trumpet when it sounds? Are you ready???

Monday, September 24, 2012

~ "Manufacturer's recall..."

Me at age 11...

After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward. (Gen 15:1)

I received a beautiful birthday card a few years ago from a dear friend. Today's verse was on it, as well as this sentiment: "Always remember, when God made you He did so wth a purpose and a plan. He saw all your days before you lived one of them and placed over you the covering of His protective love. He has allowed nothing to come into your life that has not first been screened through that love. His hand has remained upon you to this very day. He calls you by name. You are His beloved child... the apple of His eye... the delight of His heart. Today you are in the exact place He wants you to be, and tomorrow He will be with you as He has always been-- in goodness, in kindness, in faithfulness." (Written by Roy Lessin) 

We may not know or understand God's plan for us, but he does! We spend our lives briefly on this planet. We have a very small window of opportunity to come to know and love him and share him with others. Knowing that he already has my life all worked out for me is comforting and as well as knowing also that nothing that happens to me has not been "pre-approved". He loves me, and I him! All that he does, he does for me! He protects me from the enemy and strengthens me every day. There is nothing he can't do! The faith I have in his love and his word tell me that he does know my name and does want to be with me, and I with him! 

He's laid my life out before me, all I have to do is follow the breadcrumbs and I will be home safe! It's time to lay down our "Issacs" before him and be blessed! Jesus IS coming back!!! ARE YOU READY! Spread his word NOW! In the crazy "Likes" of Facebook let me close today's thought with this: "My Father says that if I spread his word and do his work, I get to spend eternity with him - want to join me?"

Sunday, September 23, 2012

~ "Starry Night..."

The Orion Nebula
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor 9:7)

Why do some grumble on Sunday morning? Why is it we'd rather stay in bed than get up, get dressed and get out? The excuses are many: "I only have two days off from work, I need my sleep"; "I got home late last night;" "I have things I need to do;" or the ever popular "I just need a break this week!" The interpretation of this verse concerns money. It can be applied to all aspects of Christian life. Giving money to your church helps to support it. It pays the bills, it goes to support missions, it pays the pastor's salary (if he's a full time pastor), it helps those in need and it allows for repairs and replacement of the church property. But what about what you give that is intangible? What do you give to help support your church from the gifts God has been so gracious in giving you? Are you a talented musician who could be playing an instrument on a Praise Team? Do you have a voice that could be used to sing hymns and contemporary songs during the service? Are you a financial genius who could be helping them better use the tithes and offerings received? Are you a fluent in sign language and could perhaps translate the message to the deaf (thus drawing them into the service and helping to spread the word to them)? I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

On Sunday mornings, I get out of bed, pour a cup of coffee, and sit at the table and post the worship video for the day on my Facebook page. Usually, I have an idea of what video I'd like to use. Then I find a verse that compliments the video, write the message and post it and THEN I get to go to church! I don't HAVE to go to church, I WANT to go to church! I get excited when I begin to think about what I'm going to learn in Sunday School (yes, I am 55 years old and I still go to Sunday School). I get even more excited when I think about sitting with my friends (and sometimes family) while the preacher delivers his message about God! I look forward to worshiping God!

We are fortunate to live in a country where we can openly worship our God! Too many people in the world cannot. There are places on this blue marble that you can be put to death for owning a Bible. They are smuggled in and buried in the back yard. They come in a page at a time in some places. These Christian commit the verses of the Bible to memory because they have to ~ because that is the only way they can keep it with them at all times! Yet, we still complain and whine!

God loves a cheerful giver! Not just the ones who "cheerfully" place their tithes in the offering plate - the ones who give their time and their talent to rather large task of spreading his word. Give your 'life to the only one who makes the moon reflect the sun'. He's given us so much more than we deserve! Let us be cheerful givers; giving to others what he has so freely given us!

Starry Night - Chris August

Saturday, September 22, 2012

~ "The DARK side..."

(photo by Celia Darrigo)
He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’” (Mark 7:20-23)

Did you ever try NOT to think of something? Trying to "put it out of your mind" or an "image that will stay with you" is sometimes an exercise in futility! The harder we try not to think about it or recall the image, the more present it becomes! Our sinful nature rears its ugly head yet again.

In these verses, we are told some of what I believe are the deadliest sins imaginable. These are the ones that corrupt our being to the point of fighting an uphill battle to keep them at bay! This is where the Holy Spirit comes in and helps us out! 

Evil thoughts - "oh, I wish a piano would fall on their head". Sexual immorality - "it's okay, I love you". Theft - "they have plenty, they'll never miss one". Murder - self explanatory. Adultery - "my spouse doesn't love me". Greed - "I want it ALL!" Malice - "Kick Me!!!". Deceit - "call now, we only have a few left". Lewdness - "How about some fries to go with that shake". Envy - "why can't I be that important". Slander - "Well, I heard...". Arrogance - "I'm better at that than anyone". Folly - "I wanted to see what it felt like".

We all do it to some extent - it's part of being human. Some of us can add all of these to our vocabulary, while others only one of two. Some of us do these consistently, while others rarely. The point is, none of us are any better than anyone else! We are all equal in the eyes of God - the only difference is that some of us have chosen to profess our faith in him and follow Christ! And being "saved" doesn't mean you can go off and do whatever you please because you have a guaranteed ticket to enter the kingdom! We battle these demons each and every day. The thoughts that run through our heads are known to God! He sees and hears every thought we have! 

God knew this! That is why he sent us a Savior - Jesus Christ! Without his death for our sins and resurrection to give us life again, we would be doomed to spend eternity in hell. We cannot ever be good enough, we can never measure up to the standard he set! We try and we constantly correct ourselves because we know that in the end, we will rest in his hands - the ones with the scars from some rather large nails! Remember to thank him today for that - without it, we'd be lost souls burning for all of eternity. Trust in him, let go of your doubts and become one with Jesus - he's real, he's alive and he loves us!

Friday, September 21, 2012

~ "Crossing the bridge (aka A Message to Young People)..."

(photo by Celia Darrigo)
We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. (1 John 5:18)

Being "born again" means literally to be "born from above", to have had a change of heart, a spiritual transformation! It means we have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior and that we are "saved" by grace from death (yes, our physical bodies will die, but our soul belongs to God and will never die).

When we have been re-born in Christ, we will continue to sin - what we have a problem with are the "deliberate" sins. We have a hard time justifying our actions when we know it is NOT of him! Many religions have different views on certain secular activities, not to mention their interpretations of certain passages in the Bible. I won't go into them here, but God's word is sound. It's not a fairy tale, it's not a "suggested" way of life - it is a love letter from God to us! He tells us EXACTLY what he wants and expects from us, his children. Those of you who think that because of the "changing times" from the time the Bible was written until today, that you can "edit" his word and fit it to meet your way of life, need a wake up call! 

Young people - keep yourselves safe from the ways of the world - they are Satan's way (and yes, my friends, he does exist and wants you in HIS army, not God's). Again, "SPOILER REVEALED" - God wins!!! I know how hard it is to be faithful to God's law, to his word! I know all about pier pressure and I also know that even when you succumb to it, you are never fully accepted as part of that "group" - why, because you are NOT part of that group! You are a child of God and he lets you know that by the uncomfortable feeling that arises in you when you do what you know is not pleasing to him! It gnaws at you and eats away at your conscience until you accept that this is NOT what God wants for you, and now you feel damaged and hurt and realize you have been led astray! "But how do I go back - what will my friends say?" I'm here to tell you that they may leave you in the dust today, but 10, 20 or maybe 30 years from now, they will have a respect for you that will blow your doors off! They will come to you and want what YOU have because of the way you live your life, because of the joy they see that comes from knowing the Lord! I know that is no consolation to you now, but someday, when you are sitting on the other side of the bi-focals, you will understand. 

Do what is right in God's eyes! If you're living with someone, sleeping with someone, using his name in vain (OMG, Holy "whatever", and the like) - make the change NOW! Be brave and have faith in him! He won't let you down, I promise! It may be rough going at first, but I haven't seen or heard of anything better than his love yet, and I doubt I ever will. You cannot pick and choose which of God's rules you follow - you know that what you are doing is wrong, but you pretend you don't know - ignorance is no excuse - remember - God does not bargain! Do what you have to do to get out of the fire! Fall to your knees and ask his forgiveness and guidance! Seek out those who have the devotion to our Lord that you want - learn from them! Give yourself to the winning team, from what I've read, the victory party is to die for! Cross the bridge to salvation and become born again in HIM! Ask him to lead and be willing to follow and all the riches of heaven will be yours one day!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

~ "Off to Neverland..."

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Gal 2:16)

Okay, so if we don't get to heaven by our works (Eph 2:9) and we don't get there by following the "law" - how do we get there? We get there because we have faith in Jesus and because he's already paid the price for our sins! Believe - and fear not! As a child of God, and having been born again through his death and resurrection, we have been saved from death ourselves. We walk around on this planet and spread his word, we have the belief that he is who he says he is and we, too, will come to be in his presence completely!

Try as we might, we cannot always follow his word to the letter of the law - we are sinners by nature and therefore it is impossible to be good and just all the time. We struggle, we suffer, we fall - but when we do - we get right back up and ask for forgiveness, ask for his mercy and the strength to continue on - until we fall again. And we will fall, over and over again. We also rebel - not wanting to give in to the will of the Almighty! Wanting the control and the power to do it "our way". We interrupt his work with our own meddling and then we have the audacity to get mad when he doesn't answer our prayers quickly enough or when he tells us to "wait". We need to be in HIS will, not our own.

Strive to be in the direct will of God! Through prayer and patience, we can ask for forgiveness and focus on staying in his will - compromise is not an option - we trust by faith, so have the faith to trust in him!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

~ "Pray for one another..."

Therefore take to you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that you have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job. (Job 42:8)

God told Eliphaz that he was angry with him and that he was to bring an offering and that JOB would pray for him. He and his friends did as they were told, and Job prayed for them and God accepted his prayer! 

We all pray for ourselves far more than we pray for others! We tell people "I will pray for you", utter a short "Dear Lord, bless this person" or "Heavenly Father, guide this person" - but when we pray for ourselves, we fill it with each and every detail that we want God to hear. Job, who was blessed man and lived a righteous life, was tortured by Satan, yet found the strength to pray for others and continue to worship God! He never (almost, but not quite) accused God of being unjust and in the end, when God restores him, he lives on for another 140 years! He told God he was not worthy yet in that moment he was humbled!

I have a small binder that sits on my coffee table. In it are the names of the people I pray for every day. The obvious names (my father, my children, my extended family, close friends and their families) are at the top of the first page, followed by childhood friends, neighbors, co-workers, Facebook friends and so on. I know that I don't spend as much time in prayer for those names as I do for myself. 

We've been told to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thes 5:17), we've been told to "pray one for another" (James 5:16) and we've been told to "stand perfect and complete in his will" (Col 4:12).

Intercessory prayer is the greatest tool that we possess! It allows us to go before God on behalf of someone else. To ask him to bless them, to comfort them, to heal them, to guide them! We already know that we are blessed and loved! We know that our perfect King will watch over us and protect us because we are his! He knows our heart (as he knows our name) - step out of the "ME" box and fill it with prayers for others! It is a blessing to be able to pray for someone other than ourselves - put yourself between your brothers or sisters and God! Go on THEIR behalf to the Lord and, like Job, you will not only hear the voice of God, but see his face as well!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

~ "What are your spiritual gifts???"

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

We all have different talents. Some of us sing, some of us sew, some of us can cook, some of us are athletic, some of us are computer geniuses, some of us are math whizzes and some of us are artists. But our talents are not to be confused with our spiritual gifts! Those are the gifts that God gives us to spread his word and do his work. They are categorized as Ministry Gifts. They are listed in Romans 12. There are 12 of them. While on a Women's Retreat,  I inventoried my ministry gifts. I answered a series of questions which, when tallied, gave me an idea of which areas I was best suited to serve in. After spending time in prayer and honestly and accurately answering the questions, I have found (once again) that I am doing what I'm supposed to be doing (who knew???) My results came very close in three areas: "Helps" - someone who is motivated to provide assistance to someone in leadership (as opposed to completing the actual task), "Service" - someone who has the ability to perform tasks with joy that benefit other and meets practical needs (with disregard to personal health and comfort I might add), and finally, "Prophecy" - someone who has the ability to proclaim God's truth without compromise. There were others that I scored decently on, but these three were at the top. 

When we read all of Romans 12, we learn that God has a plan for us and that there are duties in the ministry that he calls us to. Some are called to teach, some to lead, some to give financial support, some have compassion, some are shepherds, some are evangelists and some encourage. Like a "real" job (secular, that is), if we aren't doing what we are good at, we don't do it quite as well as if it were something our talents complimented. The same is true for our work in the ministry. God has given us certain "spiritual gifts" that he wants us to use. We can't all be leaders! We can't all have the spotlight - that's reserved for Jesus - but what we do to spread his message of salvation brings glory and honor to God, which is as it should be. 

Find out what your spiritual gift is and use it! Don't sit back and watch the rest of the others do everything. If your spiritual gifts aren't being used, or the people in your congregation don't want you to use them, find one that will! God wants us to work for him, he didn't give us these gifts to sit in pews and become frustrated. Spread his love, spread his word! Be his, totally and completely! 

["Ministry Gifts Inventory" by Michael Miller, available through LifeWay Church Resources at]

Friday, September 14, 2012

~ "I just need to get away..."

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. (Luke 6:12)

Even Jesus needed some quiet time away. We all need time to "regroup", collect our thoughts, map out our immediate future and take a break from the craziness that is in our world. We call it a retreat. It affords us the opportunity to make the world stop for a day or two and just reflect on what the Lord has given us and study his word without the interruption of the phone, the job or the family. It gives us the opportunity to get to know our fellow Christians a little better and for them to know us. We can let our hair down (so to speak). 

Like anything else in life, sometimes our prayers become routine and our study time is interrupted with thoughts of cleaning, washing the car, running to the mall, picking up the kids, and other mundane tasks. Before we realize it, we have strayed from the word, can't remember what we read and have to start over again. When that starts to happen, I know it's time for a weekend away.  Normally, I would head to the Jersey Shore for that, but this weekend I will be headed out to Lancaster with some of my family. We will eat, sleep, laugh and get to just spend time together.

I read my Bible every day; not just to find a verse to post here, but to hear what God has to say to me. I've come to the conclusion that without constant attention to his word, I may miss something he needs for me to know. When my distractions cause me to read the same verse in a chapter three time, when I can't focus on any of the reading in my morning routine, I know it's time for a change, a recharge, a new focus. I can't afford to "go through the motions" - life is too short and eternity too long to risk missing the scripture that he has attached my name to. 

Take time out of your routine to spend it with a group of GODLY men or women and re-energize your spirit. There is always time for God! It doesn't have to be a weekend away, it can be as simple as an hour or two at a table in the park. Go where there is no distraction from life. Leave the cell phone off and the laptop home. Talk about what God has done in your life, learn a new way to worship him, spend quiet time in his word, rejoice and praise him for what you have, what he's taken from you and what he's yet to give you! 

With that said, there will be no posts this weekend (Saturday, Sunday & Monday - Sept 15-17) as I will be away and the laptop will be at home. Remember me in your prayers, as I remember each of you everyday! Have a blessed weekend and I will post again Tuesday morning! God bless you!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

~ "Once upon a time..."

(taken September 13, 1987)
And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. (2 Tim 2:24)

When I chose this verse, my aim was towards children. God had another plan. I did not realize the date until I began to type the title. Once again, it is HIS message, not mine.

When I read the verse this morning, my thoughts went immediately to 1 Corinthians 13 (Love is patient, love is kind...). This verse is a little more instructive as to how to be all those things in 1 Corinthians 13. Matthew Henry writes: "The more we follow that which is good, the faster and the further we shall flee from that which is evil." 

Resentment, hatefulness, bickering, fighting, arguing - all Satan's tools. "How do I not fight, not argue, not be resentful?" I'm still working on that! I've been told that I have an "abrasive" personality. I don't mean to come across that way and I will chalk it up to it being a "Jersey thing". When I examine what is in my heart, I must admit that I can, in fact, be a bit stern and strict with my tongue (just ask any of my kids). I know there are better ways to get my point across without being short (not in stature). I have never been known for sugar coating anything - it is what it is! I expect people to accept me the way that I am with the declaration "that's just me", yet I am not always willing to accept others as they are. I want them to change immediately into who I want them to be and to do it my way. Not going to happen. 

What difference does it make how you get from point "a" to point "b"? The goal is to get there! We all have one thing in common - we believe in God, we believe that Jesus came to free us from sin by the shedding of his blood. Some of us choose to take the "scenic" route on our journey towards God - some of us take the "freeway", some of us take "toll roads" (yes, that would be me) and some of us take the "interstate". The journey we take has heartache, destruction, construction, but it also has some joy, peace and love. When I look back at my road, I see many of these obstacles - I can point them out with perfect clarity. I can identify which ones led to the devastation of my marriage, the separation from my family and friends and the isolation I am surrounded by. But I can also identify the joys and loves I've experienced with that same intensity. I could sit and ponder the "what if's" and dream of what life would have been like had the unsettling events been smoother, but it will not change them. 

We have a choice today. We have a choice to be less critical of others, to be more loving towards friends, family, co-workers and strangers. We can teach others to love Jesus by loving him in them and not feeling sorry for ourselves for what we don't have. God gives us all we need! If it's his will, it will be done, no question about it! Focus on being the teacher to those around you and at the end of the day, there will be a bright, shiny apple sitting on your desk! Be the teacher God wants you to be - teach with your heart!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

~ "Okay, now what???"

Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right. (Ps 106:3)

We can't possibly do all that is right all the time. To do that would make us perfect - and we are not! Matthew Henry writes "None of our sins or sufferings should prevent our ascribing glory and praise to the Lord. The more unworthy we are, the more is his kindness to be admired." We are very unworthy - fortunately he is a forgiving God. He teaches us lessons we never knew we needed to learn. 

My mother always told me that "honesty is the best policy"; she also told me if I told the truth, I wouldn't be in trouble! Not necessarily fact in that statement. There are always repercussions for our actions, especially the ones in which we are wrong. The excuse that we only "crossed the line a little" is of no consolation. Like anything else in this world, wrong is wrong - there is no gray. Sin is sin - doesn't matter how big or little it is - it's wrong, we know it and we do it anyway! So how do we get to right when all we do is wrong? We get there by admitting we're wrong, setting it right and asking forgiveness. There is no way to go back in time and "right" all the "wrongs" so we have to accept that God will forgive us and move forward. Turning over a new leaf only works if we leave it alone once it's done. We can't say we are sorry today and turn around and do the same thing again tomorrow - we have to make an honest, conscious effort to do right and be right! 

I cannot lie - just ask my ex! I always get caught in it, so I don't do it! It's very hard to remember what you told someone and the truth always manages to spill out. Even the simplest little "white" lies have a tendency to trip us up. It takes less energy to tell the truth and you can always remember it because it is, in fact, what happened. 

God knows our hearts. He knows when we are truly sorry for things we've said and done. He's waiting on us to ask him to help us NOT do it again. Even if some of the things we've done are "good" deeds, if they were against policies and laws (even man-made), it doesn't make it right if we weren't supposed to do them in the first place. Giving food to the needy is a laudable gesture, giving food to the needy that is destined for the trash (but is not "really" trash) is also a laudable gesture (and most likely the best use of it, since it's not taking anything from anyone's pockets), but if it's against "company policy" and is considered by them to be "stealing", it is wrong (and can be very costly if you were the one who was caught doing it). The rationale "it's only one candy bar; it's only a soda - it won't break the company" or "the boss said it was okay to do it or take it" is not an excuse - especially when you've been already told it's not okay! Some people tend to point fingers and throw others "under the bus" to take the focus off themselves. They allow others to take the blame for things they are also guilty of and lie to protect themselves. Pray for these people - for they do not know God! 

God calls us to be honest in all matters! He holds us accountable for everything we say and do! Fortunately we have the robe of Jesus to be laid on our shoulders when we are presented to God in our final judgement. Knowing that we've done the right thing is not always consoling, especially if in doing so we've hurt others. But knowing that God has a plan for us outside of that situation gives us the courage to continue on, asking for grace and mercy as we go. It brings us back to where we need to be, where we are supposed to be and where HE wants us to be - in his presence.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

~"Forever changed..."

(composite created by Katie Costello)

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  (1 Cor 15:52)

We wake up every morning not expecting the unexpected.  We go through our morning routine without thought, without hesitation.  Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that the beautiful September morning 11 years ago would forever change my life. 

I can play it out - that scenario - over and over's not something I forget (or ever will).  Each hour of the day, the words spoken between my then husband and I, my children, my sister-in-law, my family  and my friends are forever etched across my heart.  Time has healed the wound, but the scar remains.  Somedays the pain of the aftermath is so intense, it's nearly impossible to bear.  Chuck's death was the final blow to a marriage already on the rocks.  What I did not know, what I could not have known was that God did, in fact, have a plan...

The events that change your life for the better are often the hardest.  We've all read the cute sayings that tell us of the Father's love for us through the storms in our lives - but when we are in them...well, we really can't even imagine a blessing.  I never did - I thought God hated me.  Why else would all this horror be unfolding before my eyes?  How wrong I was.

Today I am alive!  I live for Him and do His work daily.  I have been undeservingly blessed in more ways than I can count!  Today I celebrate life ~ a life centered in Christ!  The greatest gift He ever gave to me came from one of the most horrible acts ever endured by one man...the gift of Calvary.  To me, September 11th will never be remembered as "the day the towers fell" is the anniversary of the death of my brother-in-law, Chuck Costello, who was in the South Tower when it collapsed. Honor those who died, pray for those left behind, and never forget those families lives were forever changed...

Monday, September 10, 2012

~ "Who are you???"

(photo by Christina White)
This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. (John 3:10)

God's love is the purest of the pure! There is nothing that compares to it - it is perfect. But in our less than perfect world, we meet, and often entertain, that fallen angel - Satan. He has tempted and tormented even the greatest of prophets, not to mention the fact that he tempted our Savior in the desert! The expression "if it feels wrong, it probably is" is a good way to measure what is God's way and what is the devil's way. 

How do we reach those whose "barometer" does not calculate good and bad in the same way ours does? How to do we bring those "children" to the righteousness of God? We do it by example. We hold out our hands and offer them God's love through his word, through the works of Jesus and that love that sets us free. We become the people they aspire to be. When others can see Christ at work in us, it is the greatest testimony we can offer. 

When we are called to a function that undoubtedly has every eye in the place on us, we tend to put on our best behavior (not to mention, our best clothing). We want to do everything perfect and not make mistakes and we hope that any mistakes we make either go unnoticed or are dismissed without incident! If we used that same portrayal of ourselves as Christians, there would be people lining up at the altars to be be saved! People would immediately turn their lives around, not because of our witnessing, but because of the example we have become! When the unstable "nut job" becomes the stable, upright and forgiving person (all without the aid of medications), people become curious as to what brought about the change! But not everyone will embrace that change. Those who want to stay in their "high places" and refuse to come down from their "thrones" are the ones who continue to follow the way of Satan. Their unforgiving way, their continued mocking of what is God's will show you who they are. They are the ones who will call you a "Jesus Freak", "the Church lady", the "nut job" or they will simply "ignore" you! They do not want to know God the way that you do! They profess that they are children of the King, yet do not do his work. They put on their best, go to church on Sunday and call themselves Christians for an hour, then it's back to swindling their employers or employees out of money, gossiping about those no longer included in their group of friends, and looking down their noses at what they choose not to associate themselves with.

Put on your very best YOU every day! God has blessed you with the gift of salvation! He has opened a door for you, now open your heart for him! Lift up your head and walk forward, for when your head is lifted, your eyes are on the kingdom! 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

~ "Heart Like Mine..."

Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress. (Ps 17:3)

There isn't anything that the Lord does not know about each and every one of us.  He has known us since before we were born.  He knew the day we would make our way into this world, He knows he exact moment He will call us home.  He knows every step we have taken and every step that is to come.  He knows every thought, every regret, every lie, every sorrow, every joy, every doubt and every dream.  He KNOWS our heart!!!

When we step out in faith, He is there with us.  He has created us and we are His.  What we do, in every aspect of our lives, should reflect the love poured out for us on Calvary.  No, it is not easy...but it's worth it.  We stumble and fall each and every day of our lives.  The obstacles thrown at us by the enemy often discourage us, but can never consume us if we have our sites fixed on God.  Through Jesus, we can weather any storm.  We can grown in love and be blessed beyond our capacity to imagine because HIS love for us is greater than any of our transgressions.  Forgiveness comes to each of us when we accept Jesus as our Savior and make a commitment to walk with Him.  

We each have those moments when we feel lost, left behind and alone.  We want so desperately to be "back" in His graces - the truth is, we were never out of His graces.  As Him to guide you through whatever "storm" you are sailing in.  Ask Him to renew your faith.  Ask Him to open the heart he knows so well and fill it with courage to break out of the "funk" you are in.  Don't allow the depression over your past to consume you - ask Jesus to step in and take control.  Rededicate your life to Him and to His work.  Go back to the basics - the "knee" time as opposed to "me" time.  There is nothing more important that HIM! 

Take the time - read His word.  Allow Him to "prove your heart" and make you whole.  He is all you need.  

Saturday, September 8, 2012

~ "Following the plan..."

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 7, 2012

~ "Okay God, I'm listening..."

(photo by Celia Darrigo)

The LORD will fulfill [his purpose] for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever--do not abandon the works of your hands. (Ps 138:8)

God loves us! He has made us perfect through salvation. Only a true believer can boast of that perfection. We are not perfect on earth, but will be perfect in heaven. No matter how hard something appears, God is right there with you! We are not alone!

We cannot sit on the fence when it comes to our belief in Jesus! We either believe it all or we are doomed to suffer the fate of the unbeliever. Much of what we see and know of the miracles of Jesus are quite unbelievable (in a human sense). How could one man feed so many, heal so many and know so many? How could he walk on water? How could he change water into wine? Why does he want me to follow him?

My heart knows the love of Christ! My spirit cries out for his comfort in times of heartache. His word tells me I will be rewarded for my undying love for him. I do what I do because God asks me to! He reaches out to each of us in different ways. Some are asked to build homes for homeless, some volunteer their time giving comfort to the elderly, some shelter animals, some spend time helping children, some preach, some write. 

Whatever it is that the Lord calls you to do, do it with joy in your heart. Don't grumble and complain. Go at it with the understanding that what you are doing is for him, not the praises of those around you. Be humble in your work. Your praise will come from him in his time. God's given each of us a gift. Use it to better the world around you, not for your own reward, but for his! He needs us to be his completely - not just on Sunday mornings! 

Read his word - the Bible is where we find that! Listen to what he's telling you! Do what it is he's asking you! Find a routine that suits you - morning, afternoon or evening. Give him your undivided attention (after all, he gives you his). If you don't have a Bible, you have an internet (the fact that you are reading this tells me so) - google an on-line Bible. Whether you use a reading plan or just open and read is up to you. We cannot be in the word if we are in the world. There is an answer for everything in there (trust me, I've read it cover to cover several times - it's all in there). 

Don't abandon your work for him because you don't have the time - there is always time for Jesus! Let his love wash over you, just as the waves wash over the shoreline. You will not be disappointed!