Wednesday, October 31, 2012

~ "Seeing is not necessarily believing..."

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen [are] temporal; but the things which are not seen [are] eternal. (2 Cor 4:18) ~ (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) (2 Cor 5:7)

Praising God is one the most joyful things my soul can do! Most of my friends and all of my children tend to shy away from my "Praise God"'s and my shouts of "Amen", not to mention the strange looks I get when I lift my hand in praise during a worship service. They just don't understand that feeling of seeing God's handiwork in events in my life and in the lives of others, nor do they comprehend the obligation we have to praise him in everything! 

I love God! I love that he loves me so much he sent Jesus to pay for my sins! Not something I could have accomplished on my own! But my responsibility to worship and praise does not stop at the acceptance of the gift he has given me, because everything he gives me, everything he takes away from me also is a gift! Being called to witness to the power of God is something every Christian has an obligation to do! How do we do that? By our actions, by our choice of words, by the life we lead ~ by our walk in faith!

Not everyone is "called out" to a specific area (for lack of a better word) of evangelism. Not everyone can preach, not everyone can sing, not everyone can write. We don't all have the same spiritual gifts, but we are all called to worship and tell others about Jesus! We are called to be part of a family of believers whose responsibility it is to offer praise and thanksgiving for that which has been so freely given us. We did not pay the price for our salvation, therefore it is free. Free to anyone who accepts and believes. But don't deceive yourself in thinking that you will not do anything other than believe! My plan was to worship quietly and praise him from the solitude of my room. God had something else in mind for me! I refused to be a "Jesus freak" - they weren't "cool", and I was always about appearances. I think the greatest compliment I ever received came from an old friend when we reconnected recently - her message to me stated "I see you're a 'Jesus freak' like me!" 

When God enters your heart, you change. Only God knows the work he has in store for you - and it could be as simple as telling someone "Jesus loves you". As you grow in faith, you begin to realize what is truly important and what is "bling". "I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind." (Ecclesiastes 1:14)

This life, this existence will all fade away. The earthly legacy we leave will only be realized by a hand full of people, because we are the "small dogs". The true destination is heaven, where we will see all that we have not seen with our eyes, but have seen with our hearts! Let God lead you to where HE needs you - not to where you want to be. Walk in faith, walk in love, walk in joy, in praise and in thanksgiving - but walk!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Oh, Sandy, maybe, someday..."

(This photo was taken at the same beach
 as the photo on the cover of my book)

The disciples were amazed. "Who is this man?" they asked. "Even the winds and waves obey him!" (Matt 8:27)

As I scrolled through the status lines and images posted by family and friends this morning (after working 16 hours and then sleeping for 4), I felt blessed beyond the imagination.  Many of my friends lost trees, fences, and one actually lost her roof.  My youngest daughter works in a grocery store and could describe the customers as simply crazy.  "We aren't going to die" she said!  Another friend marveled at others who were buying frozen foods and refrigerated items.  This type of generated storm usually causes power outages - all their goods will spoil.  The supermarkets (contrary to what they want you to believe, are price gouging - $6 for a $3 case of bottled water.  Still another friend asked what one would take with them if forced to evacuate.

We plan for hurricanes and blizzards, we have emergency totes for earthquakes and tornadoes.  In these little satchels we carry important papers, priceless memorabilia, flashlights, batteries, radios, and other assorted goodies.  We keep it nearby and check it occasionally to insure that the contents are in good repair.  Regardless of the memories attached to certain items, everything we own can be replaced.  Eventually, even the treasures you pass down to your children and their children will be tossed in the trash.  It's a fact of life.  Right now I have 2 totes filled with photos of people I do not know.  They belonged to my grandmother's second husband - my mother kept them, now I have them - soon they, too, will be hitting the trash bin.

In all this planning, we might take it one step further - preparing for death is not something that one does after they are diagnosed with an incurable disease or life-threatening illness - preparing for death begins now.  Jesus calmed the storm and the sea that night on the boat with His disciples.  Let Him calm the storm within you!  Open your heart a little more to accept the tranquil waves of His love for you.  He will not desert you in the storms that come into your life.  He sitting right beside you as you read this.  Ask Him to come into your heart now and begin a greater walk, topped off with a happy ending!

The Bible is your emergency kit.  Everything you need for survival and eternity is in it.  There is a light that will not extinguish.  There is evidence of your birth right or your adoption papers.  It contains your passport to heaven.  There are images of those loved by God etched on it's pages.  There is food for thought and for the soul.  Be as prepared for the day you meet Jesus as you are for the "natural disasters" that befall you.  Prepare your soul, prepare your heart, prepare your mind!

Monday, October 29, 2012

~ "Promises, promises..."

And every living substance was destroyed which was on the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark. And the waters prevailed on the earth an hundred and fifty days. (Gen 7:23-24)

When God "fixed his bow in the sky" after the great flood, he did so to remind us that he would never destroy the inhabitants of earth again by water. That rainbow is the "sign" attached to the promise. That sign is also a reminder - a reminder that although it will not be destroyed by water, Christ is coming to back to claim it. Like anything else miraculous that God does, some people don't see the beauty in the promise, just the beauty in the sign. 

Rainbows are beautiful! They are one of God's promises to us. I've noticed a greater number of rainbows in recent years. When I was a kid, if I saw 3, that was a lot. Now it seems I see them with greater frequency than ever before. I'm not going to presume that it means anything, although I know for myself, when I would constantly warn my children and they failed to listen to what I was telling them, they experienced the "wrath of mom". 

Just as the rainbow reminds me of the destruction and a promise, so too, does the cross. In that one act of unselfishness, Jesus destroyed the barrier that keeps us from God. His blood washes us clean of our sins and makes us presentable to the Father. The promise of eternal life comes to light in that one, true sacrifice. 

God's word is true. His authority is mighty. His love for us is immeasurable. He calls out to you now, as he does every day, to turn your hearts and your lives towards him, to do what it is he would have you do. In the end, he is all that matters. Just because you don't always see a rainbow, doesn't mean that the promise has been broken.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

~ "I Refuse..."

I Refuse - Josh Wilson

Why shouldest thou be as a man astonied, as a mighty man [that] cannot save? yet thou, O LORD, [art] in the midst of us, and we are called by thy name; leave us not. (Jer 14:9)
Our Father in heaven has interrupted my morning post to bring you a very special announcement. I don't always "hear" the voice of my Creator, but when he very boldly gives me a message, I humble myself to it!

We all have feelings. We all (hopefully) want to be better today than we were yesterday. We struggle, we crawl, we climb, we cry, we laugh, we regret, we want, we live and we die. The images of our pain come crawling back to us in the dead of night. The mistakes we've made haunt us. The hurt we've caused others paralyzes us. The worldly desires that we struggle to let go of become the very chains that bind us. The "image" we want to portray to the world, the wanting to be in the spotlight, draws us away from our real calling. The one God chose specifically for us. 

Some people will never open their eyes and see "the plan". Their jealousy cuts both ways. Not only does it hurt the one who is jealous, but it damages to the point of obsession the one they are jealous of! I don't have to worry about anyone stealing my thunder today, but I never really did ~ I never considered myself someone anyone would be jealous of. Everything I do is done for God's glory - not mine! He gives me the inspiration and let's me share the spotlight for a brief moment or two and then I step out. I sit and I watch others trying to "find themselves" ~ I'm very blessed - I know who I am and in what direction the Lord is leading me because I was open to receive his gift. I accepted it on his terms, not mine! To "be still" requires us to be patient. He will open the right door at the right time. Modest and clean living, devotion, simple as opposed to extravagant, focusing on what you have and being satisfied with it are all attributes of a Christian. Bigger and better comes in the next life! 

Stop trying to outdo the guy next to you! Don't "vulturistically" look to take someone else's spotlight ~ find your own, answer YOUR calling, not the one someone thought was theirs and threw by the side of the road! Chances are they left it there for a good reason! Refuse to be anything but what God calls you to be!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

~ "How to lose friends and disinterest people..."

Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Rom 1:32)

We can no longer sit on the fence or refuse to see God's hand in EVERYTHING. Some people see only what they want to see, praise only what they want to praise and do whatever it is that "feels good" at the time. If it comes down to choosing sides, I must go with the side of truth! It's about finding the right path to heaven - the one without continuing to do as we please and blame it on the Creator for "making us that way", it's about the ultimate sacrifice of letting go of the human trappings of wants and desires. We all WANT to be happy, to be accepted, to be loved.

Sin involves choice. God does not look favorably upon the habitual, unrepentant sinner. He has no place for them in his kingdom...and it's HIS kingdom, he gets to make the rules and whether we like them or not, they are HIS rules and we can either follow them willingly, or find some other "god" to meet our daily needs. But be reminded, there is only one, true God and his WORD IS LAW! I'm not about to impose my creative license of what he MIGHT mean! He's very specific and to the point; he doesn't leave room for doubt.

I've made a lot of wrong choices, bad decisions and have caused hurt and pain to others over the years. I made mistakes, I still do. The difference is that today, I am forgiven, my actions are called into question by one whose authority is greater than any man, woman, or child I have ever met or will ever meet. It is HIS approval that I seek, not that of my family and friends. In the end, he is all that matters! He is the one to whom I must answer. Acceptance sometimes means rejection. If I accept what is of God, then I must reject what is of Satan - for there is no middle ground, there is no "fence" to sit on.

Jesus calls us to be witnesses to his love. God sees sin as sin (be it murder, lying, stealing, blasphemy, or sexual immorality) (and that "mortal" and "venial" sin I was taught about is pure hogwash). Time and time again, he has wiped out entire nations for their flagrant disregard of his word. Failure to follow his law is sure to bring the death of a nation.

It's time to wake up and start to take responsibility for all of our actions in all of our affairs - not just the ones that we feel like tackling or the ones that won't lose us any friends. Just because it "feels good" doesn't mean we have the right to "just do it". Our sinful pride tells us that we have a "right to be happy" - but that does not come before God's right to be happy. Society's acceptance of sin changes; God's does not! We are told to abstain from what is sinful in nature - even if that means to harness what "comes natural" to an individual. God loathes the sin, not the sinner. Be abstinent in what is not pleasing to the Father and your blessings will multiply. Be engulfed in your sin and nothing you do will please him.

Christ is coming back! He will bring with him the judgement of the world and all that are in it. Are you ready to stand and be judged? Can you honestly say to him "I didn't know it was wrong?" Pray for strength now, pray for forgiveness now and get off that path you are on and find the one that leads to the Promised Land. It may not "feel" as good as the other path, but the reward at the end is eternal. That feeling will last a whole lot longer! Pleasure on earth is nothing compared to the pleasure that waits us if we accept and follow.

We each have our own "cross" to carry - but nothing will ever compare to the cross of Calvary. So take a deep breath and put that sin in its rightful place. Ask for strength to lead a life that is pleasing to God from this moment on and you will be protected! You may still be tempted, but you will have the strength to stand and face the enemy and say "my King has saved me and I am his"!

Friday, October 26, 2012

~ "Trinity..."

That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man...(Eph 3:16)

Roughly translated, this verse is asking that the Lord strengthen us from within by the Spirit! It is something we all need if we are to get through this earthly existence. We need to call on the Holy Spirit to give us strength in our times of doubt, our times of trouble, our times of pain and our times of anger. 

That was something I could never quite "get". I understood the "Father" - God, the creator, the ultimate authority. I understood the "Son" - Jesus, the man God sent to be crucified on my behalf. But I never understood where the "Holy Spirit" played into all of this. My image of him is a dove, descending upon the apostles with a ball of fire in a picture I'd seen somewhere. 

The Holy Spirt is that part of God that lives in each of us. It is where our strength comes from. "But doesn't our strength come from the Lord?" you ask. The third part of the trinity IS the Holy Spirit - just as Jesus and God are one, the Holy Spirit is also one with them! He is whom God sent to guide us until Christ's return. He didn't leave us alone to cry to the ceiling - he sent us a part of himself that lives in each of us, waiting to be awakened and nurtured. We nurture that Spirit through the Word ~ falling in love with God all over again! His are the arms that lift us up when we are too tired to walk. His are the arms that hold us when we cry. He is God, he is Jesus, he is the Spirit. That spirit dwells in each of us and we have an obligation to release it by loosing the chains we place on it! The chains of "consensual" sin, of greed, lust, immorality, and flagrant disregard God's word. Once awakened, we realize that God IS all we need, all we want, all we desire! The "wants" of the flesh are still there, but the power they have over us seems to take a back seat to the desire to be closer to God! "Oh, Satan, you are in trouble now" is the thought that came to my mind when I realized (truly realized) that God IS a part of me, that Jesus IS a part of me through that power of the Holy Spirit! He gives us the strength to stand up and say NO! It's the ultimate power trip! To know that I have the power of God living within me has to be the best "high" ever! The realization that I was created in God's image is one thing, but to truly understand and know that he lives within me is something that cannot be described - it has to be experienced!

Let yourself find that Spirit of God - let it fill your soul with the power of God - there is nothing you cannot do when led by the Spirit! He will open doors you never knew existed and your walk upon the earth will be changed forever!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

~ "No coincidences..."

(photo by Wally Pacholka) that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love...(Eph 3:17)
No, I did not plan to put this verse here. I never plan anything ~ I leave it all in God's hands. My guess is that he wasn't done telling me what he started yesterday.

The other day, while spending a few quiet moments with a friend, she had asked me how I live alone. I was honest, I told her the truth. Somedays are easy, some days are hard. I try very hard to put all of my trust in God, but the bottom line is, I am lonely. We began to talk about God's love being sufficient - which, of course, it is. My comment to her (as the tears began to roll down my face) was that "if we are created out of love, why, then, would we not want love?" I do pray that the Lord will send me a companion. 

We desire the "human" love of others, we desire a companion, a partner to get through this world with. Today, Christ does dwell in my heart - through faith by the power of the Holy Spirit! What I believe, what I know to be true of God's love for me, is that it is something that cannot be touched by anyone or anything! There is no comparison to make when it comes to him sending my Savior to lay his life down. His love is endless. His gifts to me are priceless. 

Once we are "established" in his love for us, the possibilities are limitless. But we have to get to that point first! Here comes that nasty word again - waiting - on God's perfect timing in our lives. We may be ready, but perhaps the "partner" he has in mind for us, is not. I know he's not going to send me someone I have to "fix", someone I have to "teach" - he will send me someone who is right for me out of his design, not out of the world's design. He will send someone I can grow with, spiritually; not someone who will drain all the "spirit" from me. He will not send me someone that will leave me "unequally yoked". He will send someone who will lift me up, not put me down. He will send me someone who will love me for me, the person I am today. 

God's love does sustain me. In those quiet hours of the night when my mind wanders to him in prayer and I tell him what it is that I would like, I know that he does hear and does know and has in mind for me something so perfect, that I could never have found on my own anything better. He has brought me to this place and time in my life for a reason. I don't question it. He knows why. And in all of that, I will continue to lift up his name in praise, witness to those I can and give him my full attention! 

Let Christ dwell in your heart. Let your faith in him and the love he has for you be enough to sustain you. He has plans for your life - he will not fail you!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

~ "When did THAT happen???"

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. (Ps 73:23-24)

I love the Psalms. They are songs of praise from a time before Jesus walked the earth. I can remember my earliest reading of them and it goes back to high school. If you've read my book, it was not a very pleasant time for me. I found peace in the rustic knowledge that God would take care of my enemies by some of the words written therein. I'm happy to say that I have grown a bit since then, both spiritually and emotionally!

It is very comforting to know that I am not alone as I walk through life. I feel blessed to have the relationship with Jesus that I have and only want to make it better. I ask him to "empty me of me so I can be filled with" him. Knowing that he will "save a place for me" in his company when my time comes, knowing that "my chains are gone" and that he is "everything to me" brings me a joy of both heart and soul. He is "everything that I live for" and that he will "lead me with strong hands" as I continue my walk. The music of today's Christian artists gives testimony to greatest man who ever lived and to the one who sent him! 

When we turn our lives over to the Lord, changes occur in us that we are unaware of until we look back. When we face temptations and come through them, we do so by God's mercy and grace. The struggles of life seem to become greater (because Satan is busy trying to break us down), yet we are not alone. We have but one, true God who is everything, does everything, knows everything. We cannot hide our hearts from him. And, believe it or not, he knows that confusion we feel, the frustration and despair as well. He wants for us to want him to be a part of our lives. He knocks at the door to our heart and soul and says "trust me". 

Let your faith be the guiding force in your life today. Know that he has a greater purpose for you and that all you do should be for him. Once you get that part right, there is nothing to fear! Sing praises to his glory, pray for his people, guard your heart from Satan and be honest enough with yourself to know what is from him and for him ~ he'll take care of the rest! Don't let the enemy live rent free in your soul. A price was paid for that already and he doesn't have the bill of sale - that, my friends, belongs to Christ!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

~ "If you build it..."

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. (Heb 13:2) 
I love it when God opens my eyes to something! It's a feeling like nothing I've ever experienced.

This verse goes to the heart of our Christian responsibility. Our job is to spread the Good News, informing others of the one, true God and all he has so mercifully given us. Someone has to introduce them - after all, someone introduced us to Jesus, so therefore, we have a responsibility to do the same for others. We don't get to pick and choose who those "strangers" are, or do we?

We have an opportunity to present ourselves as good and faithful servants to the world (or our little corner of it). We have an obligation to at least attempt to inform those less fortunate that God loves them and wants them to be part of his family through the shed blood of Jesus. We are blessed to have a loving, compassionate, merciful and patient God. Yes, his justice will come to those who deny him; however, instead of wasting our time condemning their "false gods", maybe we should be telling them about ours! Even more so, maybe we should be showing them! After all, condemnation is not our job either!

There will always be evil upon the earth (until Christ comes and reclaims it). As long as Satan has ammunition to play with, there will circumstances that distract us from the way of the cross. I realized as I read the Matthew Henry's commentary on this chapter, and I am guilty of neglecting my duty as a Christian by the outrage in my heart over the construction of a building! I have allowed Satan to worm his way into my attitude through a few bricks.

God has a plan. He is a God of justice and mercy. None of us know what he has in store for us, or for anyone for that matter. We are commanded to pray for one another, not just Christians, not just our friends and not just the ones we feel like praying for. We are to pray of everyone, in every walk of life, in every area of belief. It just may be that our prayer is the one that "sets the captives free" (so to speak).

Christ came to bring salvation to everyone: Jews, Gentiles, Muslims, Buddhists, Agnostics, and even Atheists! We don't get to choose who gets saved and who doesn't. All we get to do is bring the message to others. God will take care of the rest. When I sit and take a hard look at why I'm opposed to this building, it has nothing to do with the god they will worship or the individual people that will worship there. It's about what their "religion" has become known for. It's not about the violence and death brought about by their teachings. For me, it's very, very personal. It's about the death of one man, one Christian man, who left behind a family that still grieves his death.

The cut beneath the bandaid will only heal if you don't pick at the scab. Leave it alone and it will get smaller until it is gone, pick at it and it gets bigger and bigger - eventually healing, but leaving an ugly scar. Their god is one of anger and hate, of terror and murder. Give into it and they win. Pray for them and we all win! Be willing to entertain the stranger, you may find that he likes your God much more than his own!

Monday, October 22, 2012

~ "Oh, the Lord is good to me..."

And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all you his servants, and you that fear him, both small and great. (Rev 19:5)

Did you know that praising God for what you have, is praying for what is yet to be done for you? When we take the time to praise him, we are telling him "thank you" in its highest form! Who are we, if all we ever do is ask for this and ask for that, and don't stop to say thank you for any of it? Are we the selfish children of our youth who always "got" the breaks, always "got" the best of everything, always "got" the perfect prom date without being sensitive to the needs or wants of others? Are we those who flaunt what the have in the face of every person whoever looked down on us? Are we the jealous ones, the proud ones or the selfish ones? I hope not!

Giving thanks to God for what he has done is an acknowledgement to him (not that he needs any pats on the back) that we are truly grateful! The expression "don't tell me that you love me, show me" comes to mind when I think of praising God. By lifting our voices in song, lifting our hands in praise, we are thanking God for all that he does for us. Uttering the words "thank God" in random situations, when one is not actually thanking God for anything, but rather using a phrase out of habit, doesn't count! Our praises of thanksgiving should be heart felt and joyful and directed solely at him! 

Don't be embarrassed or ashamed to raise your hand in praise when you experience a miracle. Do not hesitate to lower your head in prayer. Everything that comes to us, comes through him first! We are not alone! We are loved and cared for by one who has supreme knowledge and a wealth of resources far beyond anything we can imagine. Someday, EVERY knee shall bow! Start practicing it now and it won't be foreign when that day come! Thank him, praise him and love him as if each breath he gives you, each prayer he answers, is the best ever!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

~ "What Love Really Means..."

(my granddaughter)
And we have known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16)
John has a habit of repeating to us over and over again that God is love and that he loves us! We know the full measure of God's love for us. He sent his son to suffer and die. We drove the nails into his hands by our sins. The pain and suffering was caused by all of mankind, not just those who came before him. He has paid for the sin we will commit tomorrow! 

We have God's assurance that he will not abandon us. Each day is an opportunity to become closer to him through prayer and meditation on his word. We have a greater purpose than we realize. 

In him, there is strength. Our humble beginnings as infants in the world, and as infants in his word, soon change. We grow and become rebellious teens, questioning everything. Our quest for knowledge of him never ends. As we reach our early adult years, we feel we can tackle the world - that we know better than others, we have more energy than those who have been around for half a century. As we reach that half way mark, we begin to balance our lives more completely. We begin to realize that our lives are nothing without him! He has guided our every step by his design of life for us. As we reach our "senior" years, we know our time is short and that soon we will be with him for all eternity.

God's plan for us is loaded with love! He's packed us full of compassion, understanding and wisdom - we just need to tap into it! He has a story that needs to be told. He asks that we tell the world about what he has done for us. Each of us has a few "miracles" stored up inside that no one knows about! Those instances where there is no logical explanation; the ones we feel no one would believe are the very ones he wants us to share! There is great power in testimony! There is great love that brings about the miracles in your life. 

We are loved - not by what we have done or what we may become - God has shown us that love - in Jesus!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

~ "Here comes the rain again..."

And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. (Rev 8:6)
The power of God is mightier than any other force imaginable. His truths are not to be taken lightly and his judgement will be swift and powerful! He will come and take back what is his in all his righteousness! On that day, we will wake to the sound of trumpets. Will we be counted in the numbers of the many or the few?

When I read the Book of Revelation, I marvel at what John records. If you can imagine this man, some 2000 years ago, walking into the future earth, what is a natural observance to us would be down right incomprehensible to John. The modern conveniences of today would surely cause him to be mildly concerned. The homes, the cars, the planes, the ships, the clothing (or lack of it), the weapons - none of which would look remotely familiar to him, and would be difficult to explain. 

The time is coming for us to leave this place and go on to the promised land. Unlike Moses, who was under the "law" - we have the privilege of being under "grace". We have but one decision to make - we have become the "chosen" through the blood of Christ! Do we acknowledge and accept the gift of salvation with the same attitude by which it was given? Do we see through the eyes of love that gave us that gift? Do we want to be the continued vessel of Christ's unselfishness for us or do we just want the reassurance that in the end we'll be included?

I don't want to be a part of the madness that will most assuredly ensue when the trumpets sound. I want to be safe in the presence of Jesus! I fear for those who will be left behind - family and friends who do not know the Lord as I do. Those who want the best of both worlds, will not have it. To believe means to make the changes (or at least attempt to make them) that we are told about in the Bible. It means to lead a Christian life in all aspects (work, home, church, recreation) and those changes need to be genuine. You can't fool God! He knows what's in your heart! 

Make the decision to follow Christ and you choose life. Make the decision to choose what is worldly and you will surely die. The joys and the sorrows of this life cannot compare to what we are promised. Lead by example, love without hesitation and praise without embarrassment. Don't be the one left standing alone. Stand out, be noticed ~ be noticed as a follower of Christ! Know that where you are going is a much better place than any of the joys the trappings of this world could give you. Don't be jealous of those who steal your thunder, pray for them, that they may see, as you have seen, what is truly a "Godly" work! There are more storms coming; be smart enough to come in out of the rain if you don't have an umbrella!

Friday, October 19, 2012

~ "Are you sure you want to delete this? It cannot be recovered..."

Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:10-13)

Do I believe? Of course I do! Do I know? Again, of course I do! I am not that talented a writer. Do I sometimes doubt? Yes, I do! We all do, it's human nature to doubt ourselves. I sometimes have an image of standing before the gates of heaven waiting on the Lord and I abruptly hear "nope, sorry, don't know ya". And, if you hear the words "if there's one here who's not sure" enough, eventually you may just think to yourself - "is that message directed at me?" Our own insecurities tend to get in the way sometimes, especially if every promise ever made to you has been broken.

When you walk in the ways of the Lord, you leave Satan very little to tempt you with. I'm learning that. When I put my foot down and say "no, not gonna happen because that's not me anymore", Satan has to become a little more creative. He has to attack the very thing that keeps him from successfully distracting me - the knowledge that I am included in that promise of eternal life! The question that arises is "but what if I'm not REALLY saved?" 

After mulling it around and bouncing it off of a couple of friends one night, God smacked me in the back of the head. It's not about the work I do, it's not about the contributions I make, it not even about the life I lead (though, that has become more pleasing to God than it ever was). It's not about anything I do - it's about what he did! He sent his son, Jesus, to pave the way for me. He is the way I get there, nothing I ever do will be good enough. It can't be - if it were that easy, he would not have had to be nailed to that tree. Like clicking the "delete" button in the little pop-up window that says "are you sure you want to delete this", my sins are gone for good. All of this is possible because of Jesus.

The blood of my risen Savior, Jesus, deletes all my sins. Gone, without a trace. I am clean and ready to be presented to God. I have no doubts that Jesus came to save me, I never did. The doubts I have come from a human thought process and from continually hearing the words "not good enough" throughout my life. Having to re-program my thinking to excluded the promise of salvation in that thread is sometimes challenging, but not impossible. When my thoughts drift to that area, it doesn't mean I'm not saved, it just means I'm human (and that the enemy is hard at work). God will always find a way to remind me that I'm his! We all want to know for a fact, beyond a shadow of a doubt, with the utmost in confirmation, that we are, in fact, HIS, that his promises are true and that he's not going to change his mind. John gives us that confirmation in these verses. We are the "you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life!" Our sins may be deleted, but the promise stands for all time!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

~ "I'd hate to say 'I told you so'..."

For truly, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and you know. (1 Thes 3:4)

To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Walking the Christian path will be met with obstacles almost daily. Sure, we have a few good ones, generally when we become complacent in our journey. Matthew Henry writes "If the devil cannot hinder ministers from labouring in the word and doctrine, he will, if possible, hinder the success of their labours. No one would willingly labour in vain. It is the will and purpose of God, that we enter into his kingdom through many afflictions."

We are given the opportunity to spread the word of God everywhere we go. Our actions (as we already know) speak louder than words. We must be important if Satan keeps trying to distract us, to get in our way, to bring us down! I always looked at it as a punishment for past wrongs. I know now that I am forgiven for those sins simply because acknowledged I was wrong and asked for forgiveness. The "lost" wander around in their own "stuff" - some of it good, some of it not so good. But I wouldn't trade places with them, not for all their worldly possessions! The question I frequently asked was "why, Lord?" The answer was generally the same - "why not?" Every time I resign myself to spend the day in prayer, something seems to get in my way. It's almost as if the devil is waiting for me to walk through the gate that separates my den from the rest of the house with the cup of coffee in hand. No sooner do I sit down and open the Bible when the distractions begin. The phone rings, someone comes to the door (which almost never happens, so when it does, I'm amazed), or I get a text message from someone. Before long, I've wasted precious time I was planning on spending with the Lord. Satan has succeeded in hindering the "success of my labors", but he has not won! When things begin to look really bleak for him, he throws objects of desire at me. That's where knowing what is of God and what is of Satan is important. 

God has specific guidelines for us to follow. We can ensure the success (not the comfort) of this life by practicing them. Coming from the generation of "free love", I'm here to tell you - it's not free! It has a price, just like anything else in this life. The question you need to ask yourself is: "what will this cost me?" If the answer is "nothing" - then it's "of God". God's gifts don't carry price tags. They come to us and are given to us freely; not because we deserve it, but because we are loved and we are his. The price was not discounted, the purchaser paid a very high price for those gifts. God may be in the "fix-it" business, but we aren't! We cannot "fix" something in the hopes it will fit into our lives. The only thing we can fix is our relationship with HIM! We can make it better simply by turning to him in praise and thanksgiving, just as we do in our time of need. Jesus is asking for your devotion and dedication all the time, not just when it's convenient for you. Give him what rightfully belongs to him! Give him your life! After all, he gave his for you!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

~ "Remind me again..."

(My Baptism - 2009)
All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus' words, acknowledged that God's way was right, because they had been baptized by John. (Luke 7:29) 

John preached repentance and reformation of heart and life. He was the "the one who came before" - he was the last prophet. Although he does not have his own "book" in the Bible, his work is described quite specifically. His job was to "prepare the way" for Jesus' coming. 

The first step in any Christian's life is acknowledgement that Jesus died for their sins. In baptism, we die to self. It is a public sign that we identify with Jesus' life, death and resurrection. Baptism doesn't save us nor does it bring forgiveness of sins, because we are "saved" the moment we repent and turn to Jesus for forgiveness. The thought process I was raised on was that if you weren't baptized, you weren't getting into heaven. Remember the thief crucified with Christ? "This day you will be with me in paradise." 

Knowing and believing that Christ's death - his shed blood and resurrection brings us the promise of eternal life, is the only way to heaven. In our baptism, we acknowledge openly and publicly that knowledge and belief. No one can speak for us, act on our behalf or consent to our "future" acceptance of Christ as our Savior. It is a decision we, ourselves can only make. Baptism is but a symbol of that acceptance. 

Don't get hung up on "the 'to do list' to get to heaven" teachings. The only item that should be on there has already be completed. It was completed some 2000 years ago when a carpenter from Nazareth named Jesus was nailed to a tree. All we have to do is believe!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

~ "The end is near..."

And cried with a loud voice, and said, "What have I to do with you, Jesus, you Son of the most high God? I adjure you by God, that you torment me not." (Mark 5:7)

Satan knew who Jesus was. He knew that he was there to put an end to his folly. He knew that once Jesus shed his blood for sin, the end was inevitable.

The worse society becomes, the closer we are to the second coming. The enemy is pulling out all the stops in his campaign to win souls away from God. He tempts us with money, power, fame, self gratification, immorality and much more. He does it in such a way that if you aren't watching, he can slip in and put the screws to you and before you realize it, it is too late to correct the wrong.

We must stop, right where we are and ask for the blessings of the Father on our sinful ways. We must keep a constant watch on our lives so that they do not become overrun with what is not of God. That silly little man in all the natural disaster movies with the sign that reads "the end is near" is going to be standing there saying "I told you so" when the end is here! Don't worry about what God has planned for your human life. Don't waste time praying for the house on the beach with the picture perfect sunrises. Don't compare your sufferings to those of your friends who seem to have been given more than what you perceive to be "their fair share". God has one purpose, one goal in mind for you. He tells you "be still". He wraps his arms around you and allows you to rest your head on his shoulder and sob if that's what you need to do. He has brought you to where you are for a reason, just as he has brought others to where they are. His reasons for each are different, but they are all the same. Anything that brings us closer to him is his will for us; anything that pushes us further away, is obviously not.

If you waste your time praying at an empty grave, praying to anyone other than God, you will receive nothing. No one hears those prayers. The only one who can intercede for you is Jesus. Put down your shiny beads and statues to fallen men. Pray to the one who CAN hear you, who WILL intercede on your behalf. Jesus! Let him take your request to the Father. The time for false doctrines needs to end. Celebrate the victory over death that Jesus won! Honor the one man who can hear you, not the many dead ones who can't. Don't look for signs and "appearances" of your lost loved ones - they don't exist. Where they are, they cannot hear you. Let their lives be an example to you. Let their deaths be a warning for you. Give all your prayer to Jesus and all your praises to God! Salvation can only come to your through the belief in the cross! Eternal life is a gift of the Father, through Jesus, to you - no other way.

Monday, October 15, 2012

~ "Sunsets..."

(photo by Celia Darrigo)
Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. (James 5:14-15) 

I am constantly receiving messages to pray for friends who are sick.  Some have minor illnesses, some have cancer. I cannot tell you the number of people on my daily prayer list who are sick. There are just too many! Although we no longer take our sick to the church for anointing, we can ask God to heal them, to bless them, to find them if they are lost and to comfort them. Miracles still happen, its just that the credit is usually given to the doctor and not the Great Physician! There will be a time in each of our lives when the Lord says "no, not this time". Most of us will have lived out a full life and be ready to go. But what about the young children, the babies, the infants who never had a chance to live? How can they possibly have completed their lives?

About 17 years ago, a good friend of mine lost her infant daughter. She had been born prematurely and lived only 4 months. The question she asked herself was "why?" She could not understand God's plan in her daughter's life and in her death. What good could possibly come from this? At that time in my life my focus was on the important matters of maintaining a household, struggling with acquaintances that were bound to destroy my reputation, an unemployed husband, a son in college and a part time job that was costing me more money to go to than I was bringing home. I had forgotten that my responsibility to my children was more important than the other things I worried about. God was not a priority then, but in that moment, God gave my children their mother. In that death, I realized how precious my children were to me and how blessed I was to have them. My devotion to them changed. I became a better mother. 

We are called to pray for others, be they sick, struggling, lonely or lost. I pray for healing and for God's will in the lives of those listed on my prayer list, and I pray for each one by name. When I hear of a healing (, I raise my hand and "praise God"! I am not ashamed of my God and will praise him no matter where I am or what I am doing! He's merciful and gracious and deserves our praises no matter what he does or doesn't do and no matter where we are when we hear about it! 

The "sunset years" of our lives can be anytime - they can be in our 80's and 90's, in our 30's and 40's, in our teenage years or even in less than a day. Our lives are fulfilled when God says they are. I do not fear my "sunset" because the "Son sets" waiting for me! 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

~ "Prayer for a Friend..."

Prayer for A Friend - Casting Crowns

I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil. (John 17:15)

A few years ago, I attended a production at a  Christian theatre called with the youth group from my church. The theatre does a number of different productions throughout the year and in keeping with the "season". The story focused on young people, how Satan gets in and temps and twists us, making a choice and standing for Jesus! The one thing (aside from the obvious moral of the story) that stuck out was that the characters prayed for their friends to find the Lord.

My friends are very important to me. I pray for them daily! Sometimes there are circumstances that I can do nothing about, and in that situation, I ask God to find their hearts, to touch their lives, to help find their way to him, and to keep them safe from harm.

We all have circumstances in our lives that "cloud our view". We seek the wisdom of the Lord to guide us through whatever situation we are in. Remembering how much my friends mean to me, I know that they mean much more to God! That is why I "lift my friends" up to God in prayer! Sometimes it is the only thing I can do for them.

We are told to pray for others, commanded to by Jesus. We walk away and want certain people out of our lives because they do not possess the qualities of a "Christian", but do we remember to pray for them to find him? We don't have to "rescue" them from the world, in most cases we could not. The changes that take place in our lives when we have a relationship with Jesus come only through that relationship - no one but the Lord could have rescued me (which, he did). The expression that a "leopard cannot change his spots" is true; but the God of heaven and earth can!

Today I have two requests for you. First, I challenge you to pray for a friend or family member that doesn't know the Lord - lift them up by name to Jesus and ask that he come into their heart and take hold of their soul. Second, I will ask that you pray for one of mine, because "I've done all that I know to do"...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

~ "Faith..."

For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. (Rom 4:13) 

What do we get when we have faith? Is there anything tangible about it? Can we grasp it in our hand and say "look, I have faith"? Of course not! The word "faith" is defined as "a belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence". In the fields of science and math there is only absolute. If it cannot be defined, it cannot be...or can it???

Abraham was not promised to be heir to the world or the father of nations because of the law. It was a promise made by God because of the faith Abraham had! We are made that very same promise. Through that same righteousness of faith, we are afforded the opportunity to attach ourselves to a promise of great proportions! We take God at his word! Our faith provides an explanation for what is not explainable, it provides hope and promise where there seems to be none, it is seeing physical healing and not chalking it up to science or previously erroneous test results, it is the foundation of our KNOWING that there is a brighter tomorrow. All the promises of the Bible will come to pass before this story ends. Those who think our faith is but a dream and that when we die, that's it, are in for a very rude "awakening" afterwards! 

God calls us to have faith in his promises. He has given us the outline of what's to come and we will wait on him. We will worship, we will serve - through the pain, through the trials - without breaking down, without giving up. We, like Abraham, are the heirs - given the world through Christ's death and resurrection! 

Let them mock my belief, let them mock my "faith", because for a Christian, faith is as tangible as a toaster. It is REAL, you can feel it, you can see it, you can have it, you can know it and although you cannot hold it in YOUR hand, faith tells you that He holds you in his!

Friday, October 12, 2012

~ "Now auditioning for parts in the final episode..."

I have seen the burden God has laid on men. (Ecc 3:10)

I think it's safe to say that we can all say we have seen the burden God has laid on us. We can thank Adam and Eve for that. We live in a world filled with pain, suffering, sorrow, and more. It was not God's intent. He had a nice spot for us picked out in Eden and somebody decided to listen to a snake.

It's not all bad, but our lives were not "designed" to be lived this way. God's plan was for us to spend eternity in a beautiful place, surrounded by beautiful things, no labor, no crying, no death, joy, peace, security and love. Because of the sin of the first, we, the many, endure hardship, loss and pain. We have stress and worry far greater than any other nation has ever faced. We fear our Social Security won't be there when we reach retirement age, we worry that the market will crash again and we will lose all our investments, we worry that our children and grandchildren will have enough natural resources to sustain life on this planet (I, just for the record, do not worry about that particular one - God WILL provide). We work at jobs we hate because we need the money, we spend hours trying to figure a way out from under and we try to hold onto every last drop of sanity in the process. Cheer up! We still have the opportunity to spend eternity in a beautiful place!

Everything changes, "to everything there is a season". The statement a lot of us make is "I just want to be happy!" How can we even expect to have constant happiness when everything around us is changing? God brings each of us to our knees at one time or another. What we choose to do while we are on them is totally up to us. He gives us all the opportunity to have faith in him! My mother used to tell me to "make my own happiness, it shouldn't depend on anyone but you". We all have the capacity to do what is right, what is good. We should jump at the chance to do so!

"Then let us seize the favourable opportunity for every good purpose and work. The time to die is fast approaching. Thus labour and sorrow fill the world. This is given us, that we may always have something to do; none were sent into the world to be idle." (Matthew Henry).

Don't let yourselves be idle. Be a part of the cast in his production. Be vigilant and be wise, be brave and be strong - be something, be anything, but do not be discouraged. He's coming for us! You cannot afford to ignore this casting call. His victory over the enemy will be sweeter than anything imaginable. The "cast party" afterwards will be well worth it!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

~ "Enough with the clanging bell already!!!"

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Heb 13:16)

When we were younger, we did "nice" things seeking the approval of others. As a child, we would perhaps go the extra distance and actually clean out the junk under our beds to hear Mom say "Wow, you did a great job!" At work, we put that added touch to our current project for two reasons, because it makes the difference in the job we are doing, and to hear the boss tell us "wow, you did a great job!"

In our daily lives, we all have obstacles that evidence the need for "good works". We see the homeless or "down on his luck" soul standing outside Wal-Mart with the sign "will work for food", we stand behind the mother at the check out line counting pennies to make the total of her grocery bill. Most of us have been in a place of financial struggle at one point in our lives, and those who haven't may get there some day. God provides for our needs. How? Maybe by us throwing that $5 bill out the window to the man with the sign, maybe pulling out a quarter to hand to the woman in the grocery store. Not all of God's miracles come directly for above. Most of the time, they come to us through others. 

We are called to be self-sacrificing (which is defined as the sacrifice of one's own desires, interest, etc., for the sake of duty or for the well-being of others). As a parent and "former" spouse, I understand that completely. Christ's death on the cross was both a sacrifice (in the literal form) and a self-sacrifice! His life for our sins! Big self-sacrifice! 

Sharing with others is a Christian fundamental. Christ shared himself with us and for us, what makes us think that we are not tasked with the same responsibilities? Did he not say to clothe the naked, feed the hungry and love others as he loved us? 

As the colder months approach, as the season of "spend all your money on everything for everyone" approaches, let your heart lead you. Make it an offering of the greatest proportion! Sometimes it's a check, sometimes it's a room, sometimes it's a shoulder and sometimes it's a prayer. None of it goes unnoticed, especially when it is out of genuine love and concern for another. Share what God has given you and he will give you more. Hoard what you have and you will lose it. God's love is best spread around, encouraging others to see the true meaning of the word "sacrifice". Don't be afraid to reach out and love someone as Christ would have. Be that "cheerful giver" and God will undoubtedly say "wow, you did a great job"!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

~ "All day, every day..."

(Mt. Sinai)
And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD has said will we do, and be obedient. (Ex 24:7)
The Israelites promised to be obedient to God. Some seven chapters later, Moses finds them not as he left them (dutiful and obedient). While he was conversing with God, the Israelites got tired of waiting and decided to do it their way. God was not happy with this and sent Moses back to them. Moses wasn't too thrilled with them either.

We, as Christians, want to be obedient to the word of God. We know that we cannot be perfect, but that doesn't dissuade us from trying. We, too, get tired of waiting for the answers to our prayers. We want our answer from God immediately. We don't want to wait until next week! God asks us to be patient. Sometimes our human impatience gets in the way and we choose to do what we want to, whether it is God's will or not. Nine out of ten times, we make the situation worse than if we had just waited on the Lord. 

Being obedient to God is to follow his word without hesitation, live our lives by the laws he has laid out for us. Though not always successful, we are given the opportunity to try. When we fail, his grace and mercy sustains us! He doesn't want to punish us, he loves us! When we continue to commit the same sin over and over again for either lack of self control or blatant disregard, he's not happy with us either. We need to learn to restrain ourselves and turn to him for strength. Only through his strength are some trials in life overcome. 

Interestingly enough, the chapter and verse are "24:7" - an expression we use quite frequently. This verse should be a reminder to us that "all that the Lord has said, we CAN do" all day, every day! Through prayer and meditation on his word, and through Christ, we can be better Christians, lead better lives, and serve in a greater capacity. Although his plan for us may not include all the things we would like it to, it contains everything we need it to. He has our entire existence mapped out for us, we just need to give him our hearts. 

God has a beautiful place prepared for us in heaven. It is not a Burger King; we don't get to have it our way. We get to have it through faith in Jesus Christ, and ONLY through the belief that he shed his blood on Calvary for our sins. Just as salvation cannot be earned by good works, neither does it need good works to be maintained or sustained. Good works and changed lives are the inevitable results of salvation. 

Reach out to Jesus and let him take your hand and lead you to your destiny. Let him work through you and there will be rewards you can't even imagine! Answer the call of a higher authority! Be a Christian that exemplifies Christ!