Friday, November 30, 2012

~ "All I want for Christmas..."

But now that you know God--or rather are known by God--how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? (Gal 4:9)

We are all tempted by the trappings of what is referred to as the "good life". Plush surroundings, pleasing appearances and comfort attracts us all. "Oh, I would just love to have that" or "that would make my life so much easier" seem to be the recurring phrases uttered this time of year. I think of the many Christmas gifts that did make my life easier - I now use the line "I remember when I had one of those" because I no longer have many of the wonderful gifts given to me. They've either worn out and were not replaced or they remained with my ex after the divorce. There is a small box of sentimental gifts and a nightshirt (the last gift my mom gave me) that my children will have to dispose of after I'm gone from this world. I've learned to live on very little and to expect nothing. Sure, there have been offers to enjoy a better life, but that would mean to walk away from what I know to be sacred and holy, a life style that has made me a better person. I am not willing to trade it for anything.

Many of us have lived (or are still living) tormented and troubled lives. Many refuse to walk away - out of fear, out of weakness - many stay in horrible relationships hoping for a better outcome. What I've learned is that most people do not change. I have changed. My forgiving nature often gets me into more trouble than I need and my desire for everyone around me to find what I have found often leads me down roads I have no business on, simply because they do not lead to the promises of God, but the lies of man. Why should I or anyone walk away from what is holy and good???

It has been a difficult month, but God has shown me once again that I do not ever want to go back to being enslaved, nor do I want to settle for something other than the best. He will continue to provide for me, I will continue to serve Him. If there is a blessing along the way, I'll take it! If there is a battered bridge in my future, I will cross it with care. If there is love out there for me, it will come. Knowing, or rather being known by God, is by far one of the greatest gifts available. If I have that and nothing else - I have it all!!! I have had a taste from the cup of eternal life and desire to keep it.

If you haven't found that perfect Christmas gift under your tree yet, the chances are that you aren't looking in the right place. Let the lights remind you of the Light of the World who came to earth for you. Let the ornaments that dangle from it's branches remind you of the many creations placed here in His care. That angel or star (either one) that sits on the top of your tree - let that remind you of the lowly and great who came to call on the infant Jesus - all were welcomed and all we afforded the opportunity to meet the Savior. You, too, are afforded that same opportunity. Will you choose to continue to be enslaved by the lies and promises of man or will you accept the truths and promises of God - let Jesus be your guide - let Him be that gift you are searching for!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

~ "Weep not..."

And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. (Luke 7:13)

We all know the story of Lazarus. Jesus performed one of His greatest miracles and gave us a glimpse into the power of God - to save souls and preserve life! Here, too, He shows compassion for the widow whose son had died, leaving her virtually helpless. Jesus brought the young man back to life. This miracle reminds us that Jesus cares for His people, for their needs!

So often we mutter the words "I need a miracle". When the impossible stares us straight in the face, our only hope is the saving grace of God! How many nights have you cried yourself to sleep begging God for mercy? How many times have you prayed that your life would turn around and the circumstances of your existence would melt away into a quiet, ripple-free lake of mercy and peace???

Jesus tells us to "weep not". He has offered us salvation! The world was dead in sin until that moment when He paid the price for all. Dead people can do nothing for themselves. They can't even ask for help! God has compassion on us, and sent Jesus to raise us to life within Him. The dead man did not earn his second chance at life, nor can we earn our new life in Christ! We can accept God's gift of life, praise Him for it and use our life to do his will.

Jesus raises the dead every day!!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

~ "Setting the example..."

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity (Titus 2:7)

There is a little bit of life left in all of us who feel we are at the end of the road. Sometimes we struggle for weeks on end looking for that light. Sometimes we cannot even find the tunnel. We often toss and turn thinking about what lies ahead of us tomorrow, losing precious hours of sleep over something we have no control over. Why? Because we are human.

Being an example to others often pushes you so far into the spotlight that you forget that you are in need of the same salvation you tell everyone else about. It sometimes causes you to become empty and barren within. You reach out and find no life line and you feel that all your hard work has been in vain. You feel like a hypocrite. Your thoughts race to things that are not of God and you wonder how you ever got this far from His grace.

Go back to the beginning. Start again. Don’t wait another moment and just dive in and be the example the Lord has created you to be. Lift your eyes toward the heavens, raise your hands in praise, pray! Read His word, study His message and share His love! You’ll be just fine! He will welcome you back as if there was never a separation. He loves you, that’s all you need to have - really!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

~ "Moving mountains..."

That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters into that within the veil; Where the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. (Heb 6:18-20) 
The promise lies in the cross!  Through baptism we repent of our sins, through Jesus' death and resurrection we are offered salvation!  The sacrifice offered for our souls is not one to be taken lightly.  The living God, himself, came to earth and paid for something he did not commit - sin!
Every one of us is born to sin.  Our eyes were opened long before we were conceived.  Whether we tell a lie, set a fire, cause the death of another - it's all sin.  Our gossip, our sick humor, our insensitivity towards others - sin!  Every moment of every day is an opportunity to ask for forgiveness.  But remember, the clock continues to tick...
There is nothing that God cannot forgive!  There is nothing that is impossible for him!  He reminds us of that many times over.  He caused the entire planet to be covered with water and destroyed the multitudes.  He caused the Pharaoh's army to be swallowed up in the Red Sea.  He tested Abraham's devotion to him by suggesting he offer his son as a sacrifice.  He came to earth in human form to open the gates of heaven by allowing the crucifixion to take place.  He raised men dead in tombs, he walked on the water and he moves mountains!
Many of the "mountains" that he moves are not realized by anyone other than the individual he moved it for. He orchestrates his symphony of life for us with such attention to detail, that it is almost impossible to not see his hand at work.  The "coincidences" we see in our lives are "confirmations" of a greater purpose, a brighter tomorrow granted us through Christ!  When we set our focus on God's plan for us, we will see those mountains move.  Sometimes they move slowly, sometimes rapidly - but in either instance, they do move!!!
To walk in the shadow of greatness is a blessing.  There is a peacefulness that surrounds you when you know that God's design cannot be measured, nor can it be touched.  Know what you know!!!  The pieces fall into place like the scattered notes on a sheet of music.  Each note by itself creates only one sound - put them together and you have a masterpiece!  So is the life he has laid before each of us.  Let him do what he needs to do in you and those around you.  Do what he commands you to do and you will be the person who when you put your feet on the floor in the morning, causes the enemy to tremble!  Let him move mountains for you ~ he moves them for me!

Monday, November 26, 2012

~ "Give in or give up..."

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (James 1:13-14)
There are certain things in life that frustrate us, aggravate us, bring out the worst in us and torment us. Satan knows all these things. He uses them to take our focus off of God and plant seeds of doubt in our feeble human minds. He's very good at what he does. 

Being tempted and being tested are not the same, nor do they come from the same being! God does not tempt us with evil, with what is wrong, with what is not "of God". He does not lurk in the shadows thinking up ways to "test" our faith by "temptations" for that which he clearly has told us is unholy. The enemy wants us all - every last one of us! God wants us all as well, and has gone to great lengths to show us the love he has for us.

Our faith is tested through our temptations. When we know (completely and honestly know) that we are in the will of God, those temptations only have as much power as we allow them to have. We have access to a greater power than that which brings on the empty offerings. Sometimes we don't see it right away and sometimes we see it long before it even comes to us - being able to spot the enemy before he reaches you is how battles are won! Any great military force in history was successful because of their ability to strategize. Know what's coming and plan in accordance!

When my daughter tells me that her life resembles a vacuum cleaner hard at work, I offer her, first, the suggestion to put her trust in God. I can seen her eyes rolling through the phone and I even tell her that. I have to suggest God to her first, because he is first! I temper every word with love, offer her advice and remind her of her location (in life, not geographically). And with her, my advice is always the same - get on the right path and start YOUR life, not someone else's. Don't look for the sky to open up and have all the earthly treasures fall on you - it's not going to happen! In the years when she should have been figuring out what she was supposed to do with the rest of her life, she was too busy trying to fix something she didn't break and perform the duties that belonged to BOTH of her parents! Satan ran ramped through our house! When I look back on it, had we both been sucked into the fiery pit, we would have been deserving of it! There was no "God" in our house. There were lusts for money, there was greed, there was selfishness and self-centeredness, there were words of hate and anger shouted at everyone and by everyone who lived there - there was no unity and there definitely was no love. Going to "church" was a punishment both for those being dragged there kicking and screaming and the one doing the dragging. My children learned to hate God, not love him, because of the corrupt family values they were subjected to. 

I am very thankful that I serve a compassionate and forgiving God! His love has changed me! I am not, nor do I ever want to be again, the person who lived in that house. My prayer every day is that my children and my ex-husband will allow God to change them the way he has changed me! My "skeptical" ex-husband thinks of me as "the church lady" and I'm sure is waiting for the "real" me to emerge...this IS the real me! The "me" God intended for me to be when he created me. I am a Princess ~ I'm the daughter of the KING! It would stand to reason that in a perfect world, I would be married to a "Prince" and that my children would also be "royalty" ~ they have only to ask and God will give them their crowns!

When we are tempted, when the enemy is trying his best to tear down what God has built up - be still...because HIS love for you will ALWAYS show you the way! Walk by the faith he's given you! Pray - he has great plans for you and yours! I don't know of any other King who'd put himself in harm's way for his servants...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

~ "One Last Christmas/The Heart of Christmas..."

Dax Locke
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matt 6:3-4)

I know that this is a bit out of character for my daily devotional, but last year, the song “The Heart of Christmas” by Matthew West, the story of Dax Locke and the movie of the same title so moved me, that I felt it was worth sharing. This Christmas Season, remember the "Reason for the Season" - the birth of our Savior - who came to earth to give us a gift - eternal life through his death and resurrection. As many of you know, three years I was touched by another one of Matthew West's songs - "Give this Christmas Away" and joined in Operation Christmas Child (sponsored through Samaritan's Purse) and collected 54 boxes for children who would not have had a Christmas. Over the years, Matthew's devotion to God has poured through in all his songs, but these two songs ("One Last Christmas" and "The Heart of Christmas") continue to garner my support of this project.

God has a plan for each of us ~ a child can touch your heart long after he leaves this world to be with our Father in heaven. It's the season of giving...

Please take the time to visit the page dedicated to Dax Locke, watch Matthew’s videos and if you can’t donate to this worthwhile cause, pray for the Locke family to make their goal of raising $1.6 million to run St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital for a day in honor of their son, Dax...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

~ "I need a bandaid..."

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
"And the Word was made flesh..." - WOW!  Imagine that!  God thought so much of us that he came to earth in human form and to show us that he loves us, then went to the cross and died for us!  We must be pretty special for him to do that!  
The fact that Christ lived among us, as one of us, should tell you that he understands when we pray!  He "gets it" - when our hearts are breaking, when our joy is overflowing - he's been here, he knows!
He also knows what we are capable of, otherwise he would not have commanded that we act accordingly.  We may be wretched sinners but can still strive to be the perfect saints!  We aren't supposed to "give up" - we keep on trying!  If we gave up every time we fell while learning to walk, we'd be lumps still sitting on the floor of our mother's kitchen.  We eventually were able to maintain our balance and put a series of steps together.  But as children, we still fell - how many of you escaped without the super large bandaid across one or both knees?  I know I didn't!  And even now, at the age of 55, I still trip over things that aren't there and sometimes face-plant into the floor or go sailing across the reception area at work, I get up and look around to see if anyone is watching (or laughing), dust myself off and continue on as though nothing happened!  The cuts heal and the bruises fade, but I am wiser and less careless because of it!
Leading a Christian life is learning to walk!  It's learning to walk in the "Word".  It's not a coat we take out and put on to wear to church on Sunday mornings.  It is our way of life.  In every aspect of every breath we take, we emulate Jesus' life upon the earth.  And there is always room for improvement!  There is always the risk of falling or stumbling.  We will make mistakes, we will get hurt, we will hurt others.  Just as our parents would say "this is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you", we will respond to certain situations in a manner that may present as being "cold" or "callous" because our faith in God tells us to "fear not".  Some people don't want to hear what God has to say on certain matters, they just want someone to agree with their point of view.  They want justification for their actions, and sometimes there just isn't any.
Whether we stumble over a pebble, or go rolling down a steep embankment and end up in a ditch, we still have the power to pull ourselves up and continue to walk in the Word.  We have Christ's assurance that he will neither leave, nor forsake us.  It may be a long, painful journey at times, but we are guaranteed a successful ending to the journey.  I will be bruised and bandaged when I reach the gates of heaven and see my Savior's face!  He will comfort me and reward me and I in turn will worship him ~ not from "afar" - but right there at his nail scared feet!  Dare to walk!!!

Friday, November 23, 2012

~ "Tis the season to be greedy and hateful and beat people to death for a pair of socks..."

And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Ghost shall come on you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35)

When people talk about putting "Christ" back in "Christmas", I wonder if they realize that to do that would require people to to not kill each other on "Black Friday"? We have become so obsessed with "bargains" that a day of insanity ensues immediately following a day of giving thanks!  I don't think this is what God had in mind when he gave us our Christmas "gift"! And might I add that I do not miss being in retail, especially today!

Imagine, if you can, the fear in Mary when the angel appeared to her and told her she was going to have a child and he would be the Son of God! Imagine Joseph when he was told in his dream that Mary was "with child" and he should take her as his wife anyway, then to be told the child's name would be "Jesus"! I know that when I realized I was pregnant with my son, I "knew" how I got that way, but yet I wandered around saying to myself "it can't be" ~ "I can't be pregnant". Mary had no such encounter to cause her condition! 

God chooses us for specific work. He knows exactly what he has for us, just as he knew that he had the "perfect" gift for us! He chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus, Joseph to be his guardian and John to be the one to "prepare the way". None of them asked for this gift , nor did they feel they were worthy of it. Instead, they accepted what God gave them and said "thank you" and proceeded to do the best they could with the situation laid out before them. Their "success" came as a result of their attitude; an attitude of love and devotion to God and a willingness to do what he asked of them! 

How much better off we would be to take a lesson in acceptance and love from these three people. Sometimes the best gifts are the ones we don't deserve and never expected! We all have a "wish list" for Christmas gifts. If I don't get what's on it, I won't be disappointed. The ultimate Christmas gift was given to me long before I was ever born, it was chosen specifically for me and I would not trade it for anything! He IS the "reason for the season" because it is HIS birth we celebrate! There is nothing anyone could buy for me that could top that! So while you are wrapping all those wonderfully expensive items you've purchased, remember to wrap your heart around the greatest of gifts ~ Jesus!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

~ "Mules in horse harness..."

For his eyes are on the ways of man, and he sees all his goings. (Job 34:21)
Billy Graham writes: "You can take a man—dress him up, put him in the front row in church, and he almost looks like a saint. He may fool even his best friends for a while, but then put him in his office, or in the club on Saturday night, and you will see his true nature come out again. Why does he act that way? Because his nature has not been changed. He has not been born again." Often, what people see, is not what God sees! The old adage with a twist..."you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool God!"

I remind people all the time that God doesn't bargain. The only bargaining He will do will be to listen to the recommendation of His son, Jesus. If Jesus says "I never knew you", you're done! Off you will go to that fiery pit without an explanation, without a "but, wait" - it will be over before it begins. I shake my head at the way some people carry on all while parading the "Christian" banner. It's very unsettling. God knows your heart. He knows the progress you've made in your walk and although you do not always feel you've walked a straight enough path, although you can see changes that need to be made, God sees the bigger picture. He sees that aching and longing to be in His presence. He sees and feels your pain as you struggle to do what is right in His eyes. He sees your exhaustion, He sees your efforts. However, if you haven't been born again (saved), you struggle in vain. 

Without Jesus there is no eternal life, there is only death and hell left for you. All of your accomplishments here on earth mean nothing. Your good deeds, your successes, they fall in the category of useless. You may have the biggest heart (and some of my friends truly do), but without Jesus, it means nothing. Accepting Jesus as you Savior, as the Messiah, the one, true God, does not mean that you have to give up everything you know - acceptance of Jesus will only add to the wonderful blessings that are bestowed upon you. Acceptance of Jesus will put all that love and all those philanthropic actions into perspective. Accepting Jesus will make you complete!

Don't be "mules in horse harness"...allow the Holy Spirit to fill you and carry you through what is left of your earthly existence. Lift your eyes towards Heaven and know that with each breath you take, your Heavenly Father awaits your arrival. Give Him something to celebrate when you arrive!!! Give Him the opportunity to welcome you home. Give Him the opportunity to call you His child!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

~ "Feed the poor - done; clothe the naked - done..."

It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. (Rom 9:16)
Once again, in this verse, Paul tells us that it is nothing that we do that opens the door to heaven for us - it is only through God's mercy! Why is it that some people think they can continue to live sinful lives and that their contributions to charities and the poor will be what saves their souls?

It comes from ignorance. It comes from being part of a "cult" that does not encourage you to read and study God's Word. It comes from looking for a way to justify an unholy life style. It comes from a point of superiority rather than humility.

You may say, "But Jesus tells us to feed the poor"...yes, he does! He also tells us to forego sexual immorality, adultery and numerous other "sins" of the flesh. Do we listen? Is that what we are dependent on to get us into heaven? He laid the ground rules (job description, if you will). He told us what is expected of us. We are tasked with making the effort. Some of our "sins" we will find the strength to overcome. some we will not - after all, that's what we are - sinners! Not one of us is better than the next, nor are our accomplishments. We do not get rewarded on our job for doing what we get paid to do ~ it's expected of us as employees. And we don't all perform at the same level, our employers take that into consideration as well. The requirement is to make the effort to do the job to the best of our ability!

Once the power of the Holy Spirit has been awakened within us, we DESIRE to do all those things, but it is not what "saves" us. We have a true "want" to be "Christ-like", to act in such a way that is pleasing to the Father. You cannot say "I'm saved" and then go and rob a bank, have an abortion or commit adultery. And don't think you are going to justify any of it to God - he's already covered that and there are no excuses! Those are the things we did before we were awakened to the gift of God's mercy! I know for myself, I cannot, in good conscience, flagrantly disregard what I know to be one of God's commands to me. The temptations the enemy presents sometimes are so enticing that I just want to say "God, please don't look"...but I don't. Why? Because even though I know that nothing I do will ever be good enough, I still want to please him. I want him to see that I am trying!

The shed blood of Christ is what saves us! Only that act by one, sinless man opens the gates of heaven! Anything you do, do for God's glory. If you give to the poor, it's for him. If you help an older person with the groceries, it's for him. If you swallow your pride and apologize for something you've done, it's for him! You don't need a pat on the back from any human being on this planet!

Stop holding on to the false teachings of your youth! Open your eyes and grab hold of the gift of salvation that comes to us through God's mercy! Stop worshiping your "idols" and bow down to the Father and praise his name! Stop allowing the enemy the power to waste your time praying to ANYONE but God, through Jesus! Read and study your Bible - KNOW the Word of God and act accordingly! Give to God what belongs to God - your praises, your love and your prayers!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

~ "But you promised..."

Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. (Ps 119: 49-50)
The sufferings we endure on this planet are nothing compared to what Christ suffered, nor will they last forever - eventually they end and we will be in a place that is indescribable!!! God promised!!!

When my children were little (and some of them still do it to a certain extent), if my husband or I "suggested" that we might do something or take them someplace, it automatically was received and computed by their brain in such a way that when the event did not take place the words "but you promised" came rolling off their tongues. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to explain the difference between a "promise" and a "maybe". Fortunately, we both survived their childhoods! 

God gives us promises through his Word. He spared Noah and his family from the great flood, led the Israelites to the Promised Land, protected Daniel in the lion's den, maintained the line of succession for Christ in Esther, sent his son to redeem all mankind from their sin, re-wrote the law to include all people as the "chosen" ones, and he has graciously told us how this story ends so that we will be prepared and have the facts to make an "informed decision" as to whether or not we want to follow! 

God keeps his promises to us! The Holy Spirit leads us and we have a choice - to follow or make our own path! If we choose to remain in his mercy and grace, no matter what the road ahead of us holds, we know what is at the end of it. It is a hard road, no question about it. It's not supposed to be easy. God never promised "easy". We forget why we are here, what it is we are supposed to be doing while we wait. We are to do HIS work! We are HIS servants! Christ, the King of Kings, the God of Heaven and Earth, the healer, the blessed one - came to earth as a servant of all men! He stepped away from his kingdom and was born to the poorest of the poor, in a place neither you nor I would ever consider laying one of our children to sleep - to show us how it is to be done! He is our example! He is the ideal we should be striving for. We will never find complete and utter happiness on earth - only when we reach the grave will we rest and receive our reward! The prayer we all pray at one time or another: "Lord, I just want to be happy" will come! Some of us are blessed and receive some of that "happiness" while on earth - but we are all promised it in the end if we follow the way of the cross! Its not about what he can do for us while we are on earth (we deserve nothing) - it's about what we can do for him while we are here! Our road is harder because our rewards are greater...

God's promise does preserve my life - my eternal life! Whatever I have here on earth is a blessing to see me through until that promise is fulfilled! He will give me what I need to make that journey so long as I believe, hold fast to the faith he's given me through the Holy Spirit and serve and worship him!

Monday, November 19, 2012

~ "Doubt - the enemy = FAITH..."

Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. (1 John 4:13)

We are told that we are not alone and not forgotten. I've spent the past couple of days totally engrossed in the Word ~ I love His word! I love him! I love to hear about the things he does in the lives of others and I love to tell what he's done in mine!

Shortly after I announced my departure from Tennessee to head for Pennsylvania, a group of women from my church gathered at a small, quiet restaurant to celebrate and give thanks. The testimony offered of the wonderful things the Lord is doing in one woman's life brought tears to her eyes and to many in the room. The joy and sincerity in her praises caused me to reflect on the road ahead of me. The love I felt when I'm in the presence of some of these women was something I'd never experienced. I knew I was going to miss them. And in that fraction of a moment, Satan snuck in and planted a seed of doubt! Was this REALLY what God wanted for me? Did he really want me to pack up and leave this? Yes, he did! It was time.

The enemy will do all that he can to keep us off the path that God has for us! He will tempt us with many things. He will whisper words of doubt into our ears in order to keep us from fulfilling God's plan. But we have a place to go to KNOW God's plan for us ~ his Word! You only need read one verse to eliminate any and all doubt from your mind or your heart.

Wherever we go, whatever we do, we are in him and he in us. We do not go alone! The Holy Spirit truly does live within us and it is there where we draw our strength.  I could not imagine finding a fellowship anywhere else like the one I was a part of. Then again, three years before that, I would have said the same thing. God's plans for us always move us forward, never backward! He only increases our blessings, he does not take them away. Even when the door "seems" to be closing, he will remind you that it is not yet closed and that he is, in fact, in control! Don't allow the enemy to close a door that God has opened by doubting the promise given to you! Rise to the challenge! Draw from the Spirit! Keep going back for more if you need to, but don't give up and don't give in! God's promises are steadfast and secure - they are built on a solid foundation! Take doubt out of the equation and your faith is what remains! And it is more than enough to accomplish whatever it is God has for you!

Praise him, honor him, love him, have faith in him - but don't doubt him! He WILL guide your footsteps all the way to the gate - if you let him!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

~ "There Is A Fountain..."

There Is A Fountain

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thes 5:18)

We are commanded not only to "pray without ceasing"; we are commanded to give thanks. Again, the use of 'every thing' as opposed to 'everything' is significant! We all know it's easy to give thanks for the good times and the good things in our lives. We are to give thanks for the things we feel aren't so good as well. ALL that comes to us passes through the Father's hand first, so why should we not be grateful for the trials?

With each "trial" we grow. We become stronger and better "conditioned" to handle God's call on our lives. There are many things we could whine about and be "depressed" over. Our economy and the current job situation is taking its toll on many people. I'm included in those "many people". Yet, I rejoice!!! Had the elevator construction jobs in NYC not come to a screeching halt, had the pastor of my previous church not left, had I not lost my job, many "things" I have to be thankful for today would not exist! As a matter of fact, had all of those "things" not occurred, you would not be reading this post, simply because this site would not have existed. Giving thanks to God in hard times, giving thanks when it hurts, offering our pain and suffering to the King of Kings is what it's all about! 

So, give thanks! Give thanks for the "fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel's veins"! The greatest of all gifts, something to always be thankful for ~ the salvation offered to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ ~ the guarantee of heaven, not hell! And remember to thank him for every thing else as well! Although you may not see the blessing now, it's there just the same! Mercy is not getting what we deserve; grace is what we get instead of what we deserve. Give thanks in all things - good or bad (for in the end, if it is from God, it is good)!  

The YouTube video featured with today's post was created two years ago.  In some of the photos taken by my friend, Celia, you will see the beautiful Jersey Shore town of Ocean Grove.  Some are taken of the river I grew up on.  Tears came to my eyes when I view this again this morning.  The landscape has changed due to the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, but what has not changed is God's mercy and grace!  That, my friends, will endure forever!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

~ "Do what you're called to do..."

(photo by Lorie Bradley)
For if you altogether hold your peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but you and your father's house shall be destroyed: and who knows whether you are come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14)
When the opportunity presents itself for you to be a hero for God, what will you do? Will you boldly answer it or will you pawn it off on someone else? Will you worry about your own reputation among your peers or will you stand up and stand firm?

It's not "someone else's job" to spread the Good News - it's YOURS! Each of us, as Christians (i.e. "followers" of Christ) we are instructed to tell others about him. It's not going to church on Sunday and dropping your check in the offering plate. It's not being the best dressed in the sanctuary, nor is it having the biggest smile screwed to your face while fighting back the pain you are in so that no one knows. It's doing as Christ did ~ key word here: doing!!!

All things will happen as they are supposed to happen. God will claim victory in the end. Satan will be defeated. Just as Esther was afforded the opportunity to deliver the Jews in the time of King Ahasuerus, thus preserving the line of which Jesus would be born, the King's scepter is also being held out to you! Had Esther not answered the call that came to her through Mordecai, someone else would have. God's plan will unfold whether you choose to be a part of it or not! So why would you choose to be on the losing team? 

Whether you get the giant trophy, the ring with the precious stone in it, or just your name in the commemorative booklet, be part of the winning team! Do your part in the spreading of the Gospel of Christ! We are all called to do something! Find what it is and do it! Stop dragging your feet and sliding on the coattails of the guy in front of you. Be an "Esther" ~ change the course of your own history with one word...say "YES" to the calling placed on you as a Christian! Say "YES" to the voice that has died for you! Say "YES" to the one who created you! Stop trying to "keep up appearances" and looking as though you walked out of fashion magazine. This may be exactly why you are in this place at this time! Be a Nike commercial ~ just do it! 

Friday, November 16, 2012

~ "Be prepared..."

For I have five brothers; that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham said to him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. (Luke 16:28-29)

Some of us receive messages from God throughout our lives; many with more frequency than others could imagine. We are thought by some to be a little crazy when we witness about these "messages". Let me assure you, they do occur and they are real - but they come to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I was taught as a child to pray to and for dead people. Maybe it was to comfort me in their absence, maybe it was out of ignorance on the part of the teacher (which would then bring into question all the teachings they taught). If you read John's entire account of the "Rich Man and Lazarus", it will put to rest those teachings.

Jesus tells us to pray only to the Father, through him! He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us as we walk the path laid before us. What more do we need? Why are we so obsessed with "knowing" our future? Why do some reach out for communication with the dead? What is it that we want them to tell us? And when we do believe that they have "spoken" to us, why is that not enough? (I so love it when the Lord turns on the light...)

Our loved ones are one of two places: heaven or hell - period. There's no middle ground, there's no "praying them into heaven from purgatory", they were either "known" or "not known" to God when they stood before him. There is no hope for them if they were not saved ~ but their life on earth should serve as a lesson to those left behind. Christ tells us, he begs us, he commands us to follow HIM - no one else! Satan's realm is on earth. His deceptive powers are greater (much greater and more cunning) than you could possibly imagine! The trickery he uses is sometimes so sweet and so tasty that we, too, bite into that apple. Trust in what Jesus has told us, trust in the Holy Spirit to lead you, because the antichrist is real, and he will tell you that he is the your eyes and focus on the Word of God - then you will know!

2 John 1: 7-11 tells us this: "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have worked, but that we receive a full reward. Whoever transgresses, and stays not in the doctrine of Christ, has not God. He that stays in the doctrine of Christ, he has both the Father and the Son. If there come any to you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that bids him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."

Be prepared...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

~ "If you're happy and you know it..."

Let all those that seek you rejoice and be glad in you: let such as love your salvation say continually, The LORD be magnified. (Ps 40:16)

God blesses us every day. He allows us to rise in the morning and pour that much needed cup of coffee, sit down and check in with our friends, read a few jokes and perhaps play a few games - all from the privacy of our home, most likely while still in our pajamas. We have a great deal more to be thankful for though...

"No griefs nor poverty can render those miserable who fear the Lord...The promises are sure, the moment of fulfilment hastens forward. He who once came in great humility, shall come again in glorious majesty." (Matthew Henry). No matter what happens in our "day", we have a promise that guarantees it to be better tomorrow. Giving praise to the Father is what our day should consist of. You may say, "how can I do that all day long ~ won't it get in the way of my work?" There are many opportunities throughout the work day to give thanks and to witness to the mercy of God. You'd be surprised at the number of people who will respond back to you with their own testimony of blessings bestowed on them.

Most of us interact with someone during our work day. The smile that you put on your face when you greet a fellow worker can be contagious! There is one woman who works the front end of the grocery store I earned my living in who ALWAYS had a smile on her face. I never saw her frown, or be anything but happy. No matter what kind of day I was having, all I needed to do is see her and I immediately smiled back. She always had an uplifting word or two for me. She was one my reminders that God is good.

What I've learned about "people" is that there is a way into their heart and soul through two words ~ "Praise God"! Instead of using "that's great" or "I'm happy to hear that", try using a phrase that will open the door to the communication of salvation. If the person is "saved", you'll receive a blessing from a fellow in Christ, if they aren't, you may have opened a door for them to ask God into their heart! And don't be discouraged if you get no response at all, some people just don't know how to respond to that statement. 

Reflect the light of God back out to those around you. Be a mirror for his perfect love; let it shine as brilliantly as his stars in heaven! In return you will be warmed by his love for you and he will be magnified!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

~ "Corrupt family values..."

The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that does good. God looked down from heaven on the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that does good, no, not one. (Ps 53:1-3)

Who am I to argue with God? When he wakes me up at 3am and knows that even though I say to him "don't worry, I'll remember" (which he and I both know I wouldn't have) and gives me a title to search out (and a private verse for myself). I scramble for a pad and pen to write it down so I can return the to slumber he gives me.

The purpose of this Psalm is to convince us of our sins. Why are some so bad? Because they do not fear God! Our bad "practices" come from bad "principles". The fruit of sin; to what it brings men, when their hearts are hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." (Matthew Henry) God is merciful towards sinners who believe! He will save us from our own sins, that we may not be held captive by them. From this, the Redeemer, "and you shall call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matt 1:21)"

Is there a such thing as being "too bad to be saved"? Not as far as I can see. God has taken persecutors and turned their hearts! He has turned the hearts of thieves, murderers, prostitutes, liars, and atheists! When we come before him, what saves us from the fires of hell is Jesus! He wraps that clean robe around us and tells the Father that he "knows" us! We are chosen! We are loved! We are entrusted with spreading the Good News. It is for those who do not know the cross that we are to witness to. We can fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, but we aren't winning any souls for him there. We can draw our strength from those with whom we attend church. We can impart our own testimony to them when they are in need of strength, but their souls have already been claimed! 

I often questioned God as to why I must go to work with those who do not know him nor fear him. The "unsaved" have a tendency to try to "draw you in" to their Godless world by means of tasteless humor, gossip, ridicule and anger. God had two purposes for that. The first was to open my eyes to what it means to have to struggle to put food on my table and pay my bills (allowing me to see my ex-husband's life as it were, not to mention showing me how greedy and selfish I really was) and the second was to afford me the opportunity to witness to the goodness that is God! Only then could I successfully climb down off that pedestal I'd placed myself on. Whatever I am, I am still a sinner! Yes, God's love has changed me but I still have a long way to go in the humility department. 

My children hate it when I witness to them, and I've tried to temper that witnessing, holding back what the Lord has laid on me to do! They generally begin a conversation in which they are asking for advice with "Please don't tell me about what God says..." and reluctantly I don't. Why? Because I want my children to come to me. Guess what? God wants my children to come to him as well! He wants everyone to come to him! The unbeliever or unsaved cannot attain salvation through osmosis...yes, the basics of God can be absorbed in their minds, but to be saved requires the acceptance of Christ's death on the cross as the "saving grace" and not just saying the words! A sincere plea for forgiveness and an invitation to the Holy Spirit to begin his work is the beginning of God's fulfillment of his promise!

Take that next step in your walk with Christ! Reach out, even if it's just a little bit, test the waters if you must, but move forward in the work he has set before you! Have a little faith ~ he know's what he's doing, even if you don't!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

~ "The best laid plans..."

Then Esther the queen answered and said, If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request (Esther 7:3)

Most of us know the story of Mordecai. We've read (or hopefully will read) what happens to Haman and how his plan "backfires". At the urging of my Pastor, I've re-read the book of Esther. This particular verse spoke volumes to me!

God speaks to us through his word. Although most of the Old Testament is viewed as a "history lesson", but there's a lot to be learned about prayer and humility. And, once again, enter the Fear of God! Our most powerful, loving Father could show his wrath (nothing we wouldn't deserve), but instead, he shows us mercy and grace. He is able and willing to do anything, regardless of how impossible we may think it is, he wants to give us our hearts desire, even those things we hesitate to ask him for.

Unlike "spoiled" children, we are to keep going to him, we are to keep bringing him our requests. We are to keep talking to him and asking for his guidance and help. The more we walk in his ways, the more we need his guidance and the more we need the Holy Spirit to run interference against Satan. We will never be "worthy" of the the gift given to us, so what makes us think we can "take it from here"???

Know what you know about God's promise to you. Don't let Satan steal your thunder! Don't let him in to dance all over your heart and stomp out God's fire! Believe what you know! Have faith in what you know! God will take care of the small details ~ he always does!

Continue to praise him, continue to serve him. He's looking out for you! His plans for you are many and great and he's calling you out! Bend that knee of yours a little bit and the bucket of blessings just may fall on you!

Monday, November 12, 2012

~ "Don't miss this GREAT bargain!!!"

I will be glad and rejoice in your mercy: for you have considered my trouble; you have known my soul in adversities (Ps 31:7)

My salvation, the most precious of all gifts God has given me, carried a high price tag! It was not something I could have afforded to purchase myself. It is a "one of a kind" gift, and only "one to a customer". It comes with "easy to understand" instructions, but "no assembly required". I don't know if it comes with a "return policy", I have never considered returning it. My devotion to Christ, on the other hand, is "battery operated". It needs to be recharged so that my faith can continue to grow. My faith "fits like a glove" and it does come in "all sizes". It was "made to order". 

When it comes to advertising, we are all attracted to the items that will give us the best buy for our money. When I was younger, the "gimmicks" would usually pull me in, I'd purchase the product, then find out that it was not worth the price I paid, nor did it do what the commercial said it would. Today I am more skeptical about the things I buy. I make sure that what is being sold is, in fact, everything it is said to be. If not, I'm not wasting my money on it.

When I do find a "great bargain", I boast about it, brag on it and suggest it to others. As a matter of fact, I do that on a daily basis! I have found a bargain so great that nothing could ever replace it, it's "guaranteed for life". 

I do rejoice in his mercy! I praise him and he blesses me! He has my whole life in his hands, every moment he gives me is praiseworthy! Sometimes the joy that fills my soul is overflowing! It is in those moments that I know he has called me by name and he hears my prayers. They are the moments that sustain me when I am in pain! 

We do not deserve the gifts God gives us, but he offers them to us just the same. Our souls have been "washed clean" and the "colors (of his love for us) never fade"! Jesus is the "best deal in town"!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

~ "God Bless the USA!!!"

God Bless the USA

Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God [is] with thee whithersoever thou goest. (Joshua 1:9)

The statement "There are no atheists in foxholes" is an aphorism used to argue that in times of extreme stress or fear, such as when participating in warfare, all people will believe in or hope for a higher power. We know that to be the power of God!

"We, the people" are free today because of hundreds of thousands of America Soldiers. They have come from all backgrounds, all 50 states. They are men and women who "write a blank check" to the United States of America. They put themselves in harms way for our security. They live in the deserts, in the snow, in countries that hate them. They leave behind families for our benefit. They love this country so much so, they are willing to die for it! 

"We, the chosen" are offered the gift of eternal life because one man also thought we were worth dying for. He, too, came from a humble background and wrote a check ~ in his blood. He is our strength in times of sorrow, in times of war and in times of joy! We lift our voices in prayer for courage and we persevere. He will not leave us! 

Whatever situation you are facing, go with the belief that God goes with you! Stumble through the words offering praise as you go, if that's what you have to do! He will give you the strength and courage you need to sustain you ~ he always does!

Remember, there are but two defining forces that have ever died for you, Jesus and the American Soldier - Jesus died for your soul, the soldier for your freedom. Thank God today for all he has so graciously given you. Thank a soldier for fighting for your right to thank God!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

~ "Chosen..."

I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Phil 4:12-13)

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." Sometimes it gets a little confusing, but God has a way of working things out to benefit everyone.

When we start a journey, we don't know how or where or when it will end. We have a general idea, we have a goal. Sometimes God changes that without consulting us, sometimes he changes it at our request. 

Paul knew what it was like to be in chains, yet he still preached the message of hope and salvation. He knew what it was to be sick, and still he preached. He did not start out as a follower of Jesus Christ, he started out persecuting those who did. God changed his heart and Paul accepted the change. Through the strength given to him by his acceptance, he wrote to churches and saw many souls saved in the name of Jesus! He witnessed to all that was the Lord our God and gave thanks in everything. He knew the "secret" ~ it lies in Christ's shed blood!

Just as the Israelites smeared the blood of the a slain lamb over the door at the first "passover", the blood of Jesus has been smeared over our soul. We are his chosen ones. We will be spared from the fires of hell because of it! We are instructed how to live, what kind of life to lead, just as the Israelites were, and it is our responsibility to walk in the way that he has laid before us, without changing it. Remember, HIS way, not ours!

We CAN do all things through Christ, who gives us strength! That same blood that Paul wrote about still has the same power today that it did over 2000 years ago! It causes the blind to see and the lame to walk. It opens the door of hope and closes the door to eternal suffering! It is more powerful than any nuclear device on this earth. And once you have been washed in it, you are never the same! 

No matter where I go in life, no matter what road I travel, the Lord goes before me! I follow where HE leads! For he knows better than anyone the desires of my heart and the longings of my soul! Trust in him, do for him, give to him ~ he gave it all for you!

Friday, November 9, 2012

~ "The next assignment..."

And they answered Joshua, saying, All that you command us we will do, and wherever you send us, we will go. (Josh 1:16)
When they answered Joshua, they were acknowledging the call the Lord had for them. They did not want to go, but they went anyway. Fear is our biggest enemy. Fear that we will fail, fear that we will fall, fear that we will be alone. If God can move a mountain, what are we so afraid of?

I've had a week that has been filled with answered prayers - almost all of them at the same time. They were not answered the way I was hoping that they would be answered, but they were answered just the same. I'm waiting on one more confirmation to conclude the final prayer, but with everything else the Lord has done for me this past week, I do not doubt that it will come. 

We get comfortable in our surroundings, we become complacent in our prayers. Sometimes we need to be 'taken and shaken' to the core of our faith. The little things that happen to cause us discomfort are sometimes the "training" we need, or the "proof" we desire to get us to be willing to accept God's plan for us and the calling of our heart for which he so deeply loves. We are human and need to be convinced that we are doing the things that God wants us to do - so much so that we insist on the perfect sign! Not wanting to make a mistake can sometimes cause us to miss an opportunity. I find my peace in the Lord. Whereever I go, he will go. When I say to him "but what about this, or what about that," he reassures me that all will be alright and I will be just fine. We are all given what we need for as long as we need it and it will then be replaced with something new and it will be just as promising and glorious as we allow it to be. We cannot love the gifts of God if we don't continue to follow where he leads us. "And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, [or] to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people [shall be] my people, and thy God my God (Ruth 1:16)"

Sometimes we want to hold out until the last possible moment, hoping for that "miracle" that saves us from what it is we are seeing ahead of us. The reality is that sometimes that miracle happens and we fail to see it because we insist that God do what we want, when he is clearly showing us what he wants! He always knows best, he always answers your prayers and he always finds a way. He will make a path for you and design the circumstances to be all that you need them to be. He will not leave you in the hands of the enemy and he will provide for you! Trust in him, have faith in him, honor and praise him and he will bless you. When your time of exile is over, be wise enough to see the writing on the wall and prepare for the next assignment he has for you!