Thursday, January 31, 2013

~ "The waiting game..."

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

I think perhaps that some things in my life are there just to remind me that I am not perfect, do not always make wise decisions and cause me to remember that His will be the final word. Yes, things could be a lot worse in my life. He reminds me that some things weren't worth the energy I put forth in praying for them, that He has a better plan for me and sometimes we require things to become "absent" from our lives before we realize how truly blessed we are. Such is the case with me.

Praying for God to return a "gift" once given, simply because I thought that was what HE wanted (and what I thought I wanted) some years back, allowed me to see exactly what it was I was praying for.  I was asking Him to return my suffering and my pain - the same suffering and pain He rescued me from simply because others said it was the right thing for me to do.  When you are new to walking with the Lord, you often ask for assistance from those who have walked a bit longer.  Their advice is not always in line with what God wants for you.  Only you will know if it's right. We pray, we wait, we pray... 

In that time of waiting, the Lord is preparing us, molding us into the fighter we need to be, the lover he wants us to be, and the saint we have to be in order to accept whatever it is that comes our way. The shining example (although still a sinner) of his love and grace does not happen over night. It takes time. It takes practice. It takes faith! And still, even when we think we have reached the place that we need to be, God's timing is not our timing and in that,
 we must continue remain patient and faithful to His word and his commands. Sometimes He needs to remind us of these things.

Whatever path we are on - be it by His leading or our insistence, we will ultimately reach our destination. He is God - He could rearrange the stars if he chose to! There is nothing that He cannot or will not do for you when you walk in His ways. And occasionally, we need a shove to get us started again when we've been standing still. Satan so loves it when we get tired of being patient. It's an opportunity for him to step in diminish our hopes. Stand firm on God's promises to you! Stand firm in His Word! His love for you does not change - but your perspective may! Hold on to the faith you had when you first started your journey and His love will shine on you as it always has - it really never left you, you were just too busy to look up and see the light surrounding you!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

~ "Life in the big city (aka 'not included')..."

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Rev 20:6)

Much of my life was spent as the "tag-along", the one that was not really included in things, but out of pity or compelled by a parent or guilt, others often had me along for the ride. Being outside the circle is not a fun place to be. 

More recently, my contributions have been acknowledged, my intelligence and my gifts are appreciated and I have not been passed over.  My ideas are received and implemented!  I have been recognized.  Someone finally realized and acknowledged that I had been passed over many times and that I bore the scars of defeat.  I've been given an opportunity to shine!!!

I am a person, a human being created by God with many good and likable qualities. I have talents and skills that others may or may not have, and I have some that are unique to me. I have abilities that cannot be measured in human terms. I also have something many may never have.

In the Book of Revelation, John tells us that we, those who have accepted and humbled ourselves to the power of God and allowed Jesus to work through us by the Holy Spirit, will be included! We will not be left out, be second guessed or be there simply because some one feels sorry for us. We will be there because we are his! We have been claimed and acknowledge as children of the King! The "hurts" of this world will fall away and all we will see will be HIM!!!

Today I am part of that inner circle - the one that includes me even though I am a sinner, even though I am not perfect...I am part of that circle because I am a sinner! I belong to the body of Christ and with that comes a responsibility and a reward. Both are much more desirable than any of the circles of this life. That's not to say that I still do not want to be part of the human inclusion, I just doesn't seem to matter as much anymore.

Hold tight to your faith and believe that you will be cared for, watched over and included! Give to God the praises that belong to him, give your heart and soul to the Lord and thank him for everything. Remember, we could not cherish our inclusion in his kingdom as much as we do, if we had not faced rejection or exclusion that this life has given us.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

~ "Accountability..."

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:19-21)

In all the sins we commit, the ones done in ignorance are our greatest downfall. We do many things without thinking about them. We figure them to be harmless and "in fun". Whether you believe in them or not, is not the sin - and I will tell you that they are real and should be cautiously stepped away from, because they are not gifts of the Holy Spirit, they are tools of Satan. We have been desensitized to many of them through television and movies and we do not realize the dangers inherently present when we dabble in those dark arts.

Reading your daily horoscope is just as dangerous to your inheritance as practicing black magic. You may laugh and say "oh, it's harmless". I'm here to tell you that it is very harmful. We are cautioned many times to not engage in witchcraft, sorcery, divination and the likes many times throughout the Bible. If it is harmless, why is it in there as many times as it is? It is written in both the Old and New Testaments and it is forbidden. It's final destruction of souls is revealed in the Book of Revelation and it has been the forerunner in the great flood and the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah. The "power" that comes with this "gift" does not come from God! 

If you're stumbling over this post and are seriously considering no longer reading the rantings of a crazy woman, I urge you to stop and examine your motives for wanting to do so. Is your decision being influenced by your own ignorance to the Word of God? Have you thoroughly thought the process through and are you refusing to enter into a covenant of love and devotion to our Lord and Savior? There is no middle ground - there are only two to choose from - God or Satan. You cannot have it both ways, no matter what you tell yourself. 

Pack up all that is not holy and head for the trash can outside. Turn your focus to God - let him direct you, not some inspiration devised by Satan and designed to take you from the presence of the one who created you! Allow the Holy Spirit to strengthen you. Submit to the one who can and will give you all things good and plentiful - in his time!

Monday, January 28, 2013

~ "Skeletons in the closet..."

For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Ecc 12:14)

If you died tomorrow, would you be ready to account for your life? Twenty-seven years ago today, seven young, intelligent and vibrant people "slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God". Nineteen years before that, three other astronauts were caught in a tragic fire that claimed their lives as well. There have been other losses of life in our quest to "conquer" space and in each death, the question that come to my mind is not about our exploration of space, but were they truly prepared to meet with God on that day?

With the acceptance of Jesus as our Savior, God has forgiven our sins. That is not to say that we are not accountable for them. What answers will you give for those "secret" things you've done? Our lies and self-justifications will not satisfy the Creator of all things. Like our earthly parents, our heavenly Father will want to know why!!! What were your motives? What did you hope to accomplish? Was it worth it?

Only God knows the exact moment that our death will come. He gives us more than enough time to give up our sinful ways. There are so many things we are told not to partake in throughout the Bible, yet some focus only on the Ten Commandments, and some ignore them completely and focus on the two that Jesus gave us. In either case, many of us have broken every single one on them, and some, on more than one occasion. And those with the pious attitude of "well, I never did that" should be careful not to look at what they think makes them better than others by not having committed as particular violation of the word of God, but to look at what they have done that has so disgustingly betrayed the one who made them. We are all sinners, we are all guilty of sin and we will all be judged accordingly. We will answer for everything (good and bad). We all have an appointment with God. We are all accountable!

Do not consider yourself to be "above" anyone because of your religion; as a matter of fact, do not consider yourself to be above anyone period. The tiny details of Satan's lures of us are described in God's Word - the only way you will know them is if you read it. They are not generally preached about from pulpits and altars for fear of giving too much information, losing congregants or scaring people away. I can honestly say that the church I attend is not of that mentality. My pastor preaches the Word of God from the Word of God! He holds nothing back and does not care who he offends by doing so - which is how it should be. If you are offended by what is in the Bible, you might want to examine why you are offended! 

Remember, although you are forgiven (provided you've accepted Jesus into your heart), you are accountable. As each of your "secrets" come to your mind, ask yourself "why" and be honest enough to account to yourself for them. In doing so, you may just open the door for a greater walk now! God won't desert you! He promised!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

~ "I Am New..."

(photo by Celia Darrigo)
Buried with him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised him from the dead. (Col 2:12)

Who I am today is not who I always was. The suicidal person, the person who drank, the person who used countless words of profanity as part of her daily language, the selfish and self centered individual who inhabited this body no longer exists, except in the memories of those who have not yet come to the realization that with the acceptance of Jesus into one's heart, comes change! I am new! These changes are not something you can attain without the power of the Holy Spirit. You cannot just "walk away" from your past and become someone you are not. Your true colors will always shine through. The demons of your past will still attempt to influence your behavior, but you can, with the help of God, be changed, transformed, re-made!

When you continue to surround yourself with those who do not fear God's hand, do not see the workings of the enemy, do not choose to worship a living God, how can you possibly expect any changes to occur? How can you even begin to hope for the gift salvation offered to you if you refuse to ask for it? 

Our Lord comes to us with a promise and a gift. He offers it to us at no cost - as I've said before, it's been paid for, and we couldn't afford it anyway. We do not deserve it. We are sinners. Once we accept that gift, we become forgiven, redeemed and remade - not before. Going through life alone is hard, but not compared to an eternity of being denied a place in the kingdom of God. We only get one shot at life in this world; we are afforded many opportunities to bow down and worship our King. One day, the opportunity will have passed you by if you continue to "wait until tomorrow". There is no time like right now to ask Jesus into your life. Call out to him and he will hear and answer you. Come with a humble heart and accept him in a way your soul has longed for your to do! Be made new by the power of God! Be made whole, be made righteous and just in his eyes. Become worthy to serve, holy and accepted, beloved. Hide yourself in Christ and take on the image of the remade, become new!

"I Am New" ~ Jason Gray

Saturday, January 26, 2013

~ "One day..."

These things said he: and after that he said to them, Our friend Lazarus sleeps; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. (John 11:11)

People we love die. The memories of the time we've spent with them can sometimes become permanently etched in our minds. We can remember certain moments more vividly than others and over time, some of those memories fade. Knowing that they are in a "better place" is sometimes the only comfort we have. Our own selfishness in wanting them here with us, for what ever reason, tends to compound our grief, especially when they have not lived what we consider to be a full life.

We have many little "quotes" that we use to eulogize those wonderful and special souls. We will say that "only the good die young", or that "we have an angel looking down on us". I have many "angels" who have gone on from this world, and some of them never even had the opportunity to finish high school. Their lives on earth were finished and God called them home.

In my book, I wrote of two very special young ladies whose lives crossed my path. I am forever grateful to God for the time spent with them. I have glad that I could call them "friends" then, and a joy does fill my soul when I remember those moments. 

God has a plan for each of us, just as he did for Lazarus. Jesus raised him from the dead, he brought him back to life. We, too, will die and we, too, we will be raised again. We will meet our Creator and all the worries and sorrows of this world will be finished. There is no greater joy than knowing that in the end, a promise will be fulfilled! Jesus saw to that! He took on all of our sins and paid the price - all we have to do is have faith and believe. Believing in what Jesus did for us, truly accepting it, changes you. The choices you make are seen through different eyes than the ones you once saw the world through. Everything you involve yourself in, every facet of your existence is changed. You begin to live as Jesus would have you live. Some submit to his will early on in life, others when they are old and gray, and some never get there. Accepting the will of God into your life and all that goes with it can be challenging. It can cost you more than you ever would have imagined - but it is most assuredly worth it! For myself, had I not walked the path laid before me, I would not have a relationship with God. He gave me many opportunities to fall to my knees and accept Christ into my heart - and I refused. I turned away from him and ignored his invitation.

Don't let another day go by without telling him you love him and without completely giving yourself over to his care! Better yet, don't let another moment go by! Hit your knees right here and now and ask him in. Ask him to awaken in you the power of the Holy Spirit and fulfill your destiny in a most powerful way. Share his Word with others. Pray that the remainder of your life here on earth will be the life he wants for you, not the one you want for yourself. Whatever you were will be forgiven, and you will have the opportunity to spend your eternity with him! Knowing that God has something truly spectacular in mind for you, I urge you to humble yourself to his calling. Yes, you!!! Answer his call now ~ a wonderful gift awaits you!

Friday, January 25, 2013

~ "Holding out for the real deal..."

Knowing, brothers beloved, your election of God. (1 Thes 1:4)

God loves us. He loves us so much that he sent his son to die on the cross for us. Did we deserve it? Absolutely not! Do we realize it? Some of us do - some don't. Will we answer for our sins? I believe we will. We will go before the God of Heaven and have to account for what we've done, what we've failed to do and why. At the thought of that prospect, the first thing that comes to mind is fear! The good news - we've already been forgiven so there will be no "punishment" (unless, of course, you aren't saved - then you're in over your head) - we couldn't possibly sustain the punishment for our sins. Jesus took care of that for us.

In a discussion yesterday, I told of the thoughts that often cross my mind about reaching heaven. The sorrow that fills my heart sometimes is overwhelming. I am sorry for the hurts I've caused, the lies I've told, the life I led. I realized the mistakes I've made and know that I cannot undo them and can't get that precious time that I spend away from God back. I even went so far as to admit that at times, I want to be there to see the judgement of those whom I have continually begged to "get right" stand before Almighty God and try to explain why they chose not to listen. That, I believe, will be the final validation of my work on this planet. Those thoughts do not last long because that is not why I do this. I don't write to see souls condemned to hell, I write to see souls saved to Christ. In a second look at that situation, I become grief stricken at the thought of those who choose not to acknowledge they are sinners and in need of God's mercy and grace burning in hell for all of eternity.

The ventriloquist who came to my church in Tennessee gave us a likening to eternity...imagine a bird filling up the Grand Canyon. He will fly from San Diego with one grain of sand in his beak, drop it in the ravine, fly back to the beach and repeat the process until the entire canyon is filled. When he has finished that task, my friends, is just the beginning of the time we will spend in Eternity.

God has chosen you to be part of the few. He wants you to come to him on your knees and offer him praise and thanksgiving for all he's done for you. He wants you to rely totally on him for all things in your life (something I, myself, am having a hard time with right now). Having the faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and truly believing He will provide and take care of you is one of the greatest examples of a faith to strive for. I want faith like that!

Don't let the words of the mindless influence your walk with God. Don't let those who want to control your thoughts and the way you worship God convince you there is any other way to heaven. There isn't. Do not be an "assembly line" Christian who spouts "canned prayers" and participates in meaningless rituals. Be bold enough to say "no" to those who want you to conform. There are literally hundreds of "cookie cutter" religions, purporting that theirs is the one, true faith. Think for yourself. Question what you've been taught and reach out to the Holy Spirit for the answers! He will enlighten you if your mind is open. Your answers will come. They may even come to you through one of these posts! Be open-minded enough to believe that God uses his people to spread his truth. Read the Bible. If it's not in there - it's not God's word! Be wary of those who change, add to or take away from his Word (Rev 22:18). Above all, have faith and believe! Follow where he leads and you will be led to a beautiful eternity with him!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

~ "The last crusade..."

For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. (Heb 10:37)

This verse still holds the same caution it held the moment it was written! He is coming back! He will not delay. It will be in his time and we need to be ready!

I have had discussions with some of my friends about the ability to accept Jesus on their death bed. Some of them actually think they will wait until that moment. In other words, live a life of sin and disobedience and when old and dying in their beds, say - "Here I am, Jesus, I believe!"

There are a few problems with that school of thought - but the one that I use to try and convince them that the time is now is this (and I never take on the argument that he could come back within the next five minutes). I remind them of friends that have been killed in car accidents, who have had massive heart attacks, who have been victims of random and fatal crimes. They didn't get a "death bed" to die on. There fate was sealed with a tragic death and if they were of the same thought process in waiting to accept Jesus - it never came. I am forever grateful that the Lord has chosen to wake the Holy Spirit within me and grant me the opportunity to repent and be saved! As I've said before, the mercy of God is so great! In my suicide attempts (as written in my book), had I died then I would not be spending eternity in heaven for one simple reason. Although I believed in Jesus, believed he died on the cross to open the gates of heaven - I had not accepted him as my Savior, I did not understand the concept of humility and I did not live by the standards he asked me to live by. I didn't have a clue!!!

Today, no matter what crosses my path, I have a belief and a faith! Yes, the sins of selfishness and despair still rear their ugly heads at times, but the "armor" I wear today protects me and shields me from acting upon them. In my prayers and in my reading of the Word, I find the strength to continue on through the torments designed by Satan in an attempt to win me back. I can't and won't afford him the opportunity to gain an inch of ground on my soul! 

Prepare yourself for what is to come ~ and it's coming soon! Even if Jesus doesn't come today, you could just as easily meet him today! My soul is prepared ~ is yours?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

~ "Endless possibilities..."

Jesus said to him, If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes. (Mark 9:23)

Satan is unwilling to be driven from those that have been long his slaves, and, when he cannot deceive or destroy the sinner, he will cause him all the terror that he can. That is why we need to be relentless in our prayers for those who newly "born again". It is far to easy for them to slip back into their old ways and sinful devotion to things that are not of God. It frightens me to think sometimes that many of the people I know have been so taken in by the enemy's lies. And those that question their faith and begin to break away are drawn back in to blinded beliefs, making it almost impossible for them to ever truly know the Lord. Key word - almost!

Only one saves! Only one should be prayed to. Only one will intercede on our behalf. Jesus! In Christ alone is our salvation! It's hard to unlearn what's been learned, but it is not impossible if the want and desire are there. It is not impossible to turn from years of idolatry disguised as true worship of the King. It is, however, highly unlikely that if one continues to be part of a herd of cattle, that they will ever become one of the sheep. Only through prayer and perseverance will they break free. When I think of the hold that Satan once had on me, I am even more appreciative of the saving grace afforded me through my belief in Jesus! But again, believing is not enough! Satan believes is Jesus, but he's not going to heaven. He will be cast down, as will those who follow him. Their ignorance will be their undoing. They will not be a part of the great kingdom because although they may believe, they have chosen not to follow. They've found a better way (in their opinion - and it's an express elevator DOWN).

I pray for those I know who do not "get it" - the ones who have been brainwashed into believing that the rules and regulations set forth in the Bible were not written for them! With all of the effort made to convince them otherwise, they still hold tight to their "hokey" beliefs and pagan worship covered over by a thin layer of truth. They will face judgment and it will be the saddest day of their entire existence - they will not hear the words they truly believe they will hear and will spend the remainder of their eternity away from God.

All things are possible! In his own words, Jesus tells us that! He assures us that we are fighting the good fight and our efforts are duly noted! The cares of this world will pass away and we will be in his presence forever. Never let go of the promises made to you by our Father in heaven. In his time all things possible will come! It's been sealed in blood - Christ's blood!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

~ "It's all there in black and white..."

And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great to the ends of the earth. (Micah 5:4)

In the fifth chapter of Micah, we find a prediction of the troubles of the Jewish nation; the promise and birth of the Messiah; his victory over the enemy and the destruction of the enemies of the church. In verse 4, we see that he will be a glorious prince and that his "subjects" will be happy under his government. He will stand and feed, that is, he will both teach and rule, and continue to do so, as a good shepherd, with wisdom, and care, and love. 

And so it was, and is! Throughout the Old Testament we can find the promise of a Savior. Every recorded moment of his life was foretold. They knew he was coming, they knew how he would come and that he would die for their sins. Yet, so many of them chose (and still choose) to not believe. We, too, have the same advantage that our counterparts in the Old Testament had. We, too, have a reference of what is to come. It is written in the Gospels, in the letters written by the Apostles and in the book of Revelation. He is coming back! Our Messiah will return and take with him all those who have accepted him and honored him by keeping his commands. Yet so many fail to see or refuse to bow down and humble themselves to him. 

Our world can become so frustrating at times that we just want to "go home". We pray and we plead to our Father in heaven to end our human suffering, to send us a "miracle". Sometimes he does, but in most cases he gives us the strength to persevere. Sometimes it is moment by moment, trial by trial and inch by inch. He will not forsake us, regardless of what the enemy tries to imply. 

Let that shed blood of Jesus continue to be the strength you draw on. In every aspect of your life, know that you are loved and cared for, you are valued! Give him the praise and honor he deserves and whether you realize it or not, the blessings will wash over you like the waves on the sand. Your situation may seem desperate and hopeless, but it is in that desperation and hopelessness that you will find him! Reach out to take hold of what is yours! Let your faith in his promises sustain you and walk with your head held high - look back at those footprints in the sand and know that you are being carried and his glory will shine through the darkness and light your way!

Monday, January 21, 2013

~ "Road construction ahead..."

Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:2)

Some days its hard to keep the focus on Jesus. When everything in life seems to be falling in on top of us, that's when we need to reach out and hold on a little bit longer. We know there is joy at the end of the trip, but in the midst of the journey, sometimes we encounter road construction. A good friend of mine has a CD out and the title song is "Road Construction". The song talks about how no matter what road this gentleman takes to get home, he encounters some form of delay or detour, but he just finds another route to get there. I think we have all encountered that same dilemma in our walk with Christ.

There are times when we feel like we're never going to reach our destination. The length of the journey seems to be a long and frustrating one as we struggle to deal with the realities of this world and long for the joy of the next. What helps to keep us focused on Jesus is that promise! The enemy laughs at us in our desperation. He offers us solutions that are not really solutions, just white-wash over the immediate needs we are facing. Our faith reminds us that all our needs WILL BE MET! For as individual as we are, so are our needs. God knows them all. And our relief will not come a moment sooner than necessary. Like the spoiled child, we want it NOW! We want the reassurance that we're not being forgotten! We want center-stage with Him! 

What we tend to forget is, that a very long time ago, a man waited on God's timing and although the journey he walked was long and hard, the end result was joy! The anticipation of impending "doom" in our lives cannot compare to that one life! He took on the burdens and the sins of this world, not for himself, but for each and every one of us. We are redeemed through his suffering. We are protected by his word. He is the voice of truth that cries out to us in our moments of despair ~ the one, true, living God of all who waits on us to come to him; not the other way around! He will mend our broken hearts, heal our battered lives and sooth our emotional pain, but only when we humble ourselves to him will we see the true joy in the cross! 

Take the first step. Don't worry about the detours. Watch the road ahead of you, not the one behind you. It doesn't matter where you've been, only where you are headed! Each step you take brings you closer to home ~ the place where Jesus lives! 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

~ "Every Season..."

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. (Ecc 3:1-8)

Well, I know I've written a devotional on these verses before, but for some reason known only to God, I can't seem to find it.  I'm guessing that means I'm supposed write a new one!  Those of you who grew up in the 60's will remember well the song "Turn, Turn, Turn" recorded by The Byrds.  It is taken entirely from the verses above (so, in essence, God wrote a folk song).  These verses give us the a subtile look into the timeline God uses for each of us.  No, he does not give us dates, but he does tell us what our journey will be.

From the time we are born to the time we die, we have a destiny designed for us specifically.  Each facet of our lives is scripted by him.  He created us.  We know that there are times in our lives that are pleasant and there are times that are sad.  We rejoice and we mourn.  We laugh and we cry.  We give and we receive.  And so goes the verses.

Throughout all of our lives, there is one constant - that is our creator.  Our Father in Heaven has designed a way for us to join him in his kingdom.  That "way" is the only way!  Through Jesus' death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, we are given the opportunity to follow.  We have been called.  

Every "season" that comes our way is one blessed by God!  From the warmth of a summer day, to the cool breezes of autumn, to the bitter cold of winter, to the NEWNESS of spring. Christ's blood makes us new.  One day we will be completely new - but only after we have experienced all seasons of our lives.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

~ "Hope doesn't know defeat..."

For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? (1 Thes 2:19)

We have been blessed. We have hope! Even when we have been surrounded by the troops of the enemy, we know that with perseverance and faith we will emerge victoriously! Although we wait for that coming and at times it seems that it will never come, we know that it will and Christ will reclaim what is rightfully his! 

We have a tough "row to hoe". But the crop we plant will be harvested to heaven and our toils will be no more! We will, someday, walk with the King in all his glory and be forever in his presence. It is in Jesus that we place our hope. It is for his glory that we do all that we do! With the Holy Spirit to guide us and give us strength, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish in his name! He does not abandon us, ever! 

We have been chosen to live a life that reflects his love. It is not an easy life. It can be lonely and desolate at times. It can be filled with the anger and rage of those who do not understand why we continue to rejoice in our sorrows and why we do not pursue the recourses of man for justice. Some things are better left to the justice of God. We may entertain the thoughts of earthly righteousness, but we do not act upon those thoughts. We leave it all in the hands of the Almighty, and in that, he is pleased. He will provide for us, he's promised that. He keeps his promises. Nothing is impossible and our cries are heard, our tears will be dried and our prayers will be answered! 

God has already given us the greatest of all gifts ~ he's given us Jesus! Through that promise our hope and faith are restored fully to what it is he represents! Eternal life! There is no other power on earth or in heaven that can match that! Although our human wants and needs cry out to be met, our souls are secure in the fact that we are bound for the city of eternal light! Our comfort on earth is not guaranteed. And all of the events of this world cannot break us down if we don't allow them to! 

Pray for the strength to continue to place your hope in Jesus! Pray that others will see the "error of their way" and come to him for forgiveness. Pray for the courage to walk the path of his righteousness and spread the gospel to all. Pray for his will in your life. 

My hope is in my Savior - my savior is Jesus Christ!

Friday, January 18, 2013

~ Coloring INSIDE the lines...

Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil (Is 1:16)   

Of all the commentaries I've read on this particular verse, Gill's Exposition seems to hit the nail on the head:  "Cease to do evil; either from ceremonial works done with a wicked mind, or from outward immoralities".   

We can pray on our knees and praise God until the cows come home, but if we are living in sin, refusing to bend towards what is commanded of us, we are not living in his will.  You can't say you are faithful to God if you are living a life that contradicts what he asks of you!  We will never lead an entirely sinless life, but we are commanded to ~ that means we have to try.  It means to abstain from what is "evil" or has the appearance of "evil" -- what is wrong, what is immoral and what is not "holy".  And how much more vulgar is it to actually go through the motions and present yourself to be something that you are not?  There is a "human" law against impersonating someone in power; how much more dangerous it must be to impersonate a Christian!  I don't think I want to be judged in THAT court!    

There are some things that just cannot be reckoned with either in our minds or in the reality that is given to us in God's word of truth.  When a child first picks up a crayon and begins to color, the scribbling is always outside the lines.  As he becomes more proficient with the crayon, the artwork begins to fill the object with more color inside and less outside.  Once he has mastered the skill - very rarely does the crayon stray from within the boundaries laid before him - however, it does occasionally cross the line, but not nearly as often as it did when he first began to color.  The same is true for our Christian lives!  When we first begin our walk with God, at the first acceptance of Jesus as our Savior, we begin to learn what it is that is expected of us. With prayer and strength from the Holy Spirit, we change.  Our focus becomes that of "Godly" things - we learn to stay within the boundaries of his Word.  Even "seasoned" Christians sin!  God knows this, he understands this.     

We need to come to a point where everything we do is within the command of our heavenly Father, not the church we attend or the people we surround ourselves with.  We won't always get it right, but we need to strive for it just the same.  We can't change what God's word means or interpret it to fit the decisions we make.  Our choices need to reflect the Word!  Remember, one day you will stand before him and he will judge your actions (or inactions).  Call upon the Holy Spirit to give you the strength to do what is right, not what is easy! Coloring outside the lines may get you noticed, but it won't get you anything of value!  Focus on coloring within the lines and with his mercy and grace, you will see a beautiful picture of love - God's love! 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

~ "Regret..."

Who is a God like to you, that pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retains not his anger for ever, because he delights in mercy. (Micah 7:18)   

There is no one who can match the compassion and power that is God!  Every sin we commit is wiped away - gone.  He doesn't hold it in his pocket and throw it out at us the next time we sin and he doesn't throw it in our face and offer it to us a proof of a failure.  It is gone, as though it never happened.  Forgiven!     

We hold onto our own sins, we relive the nightmare over and over again.  We continually cry out "if I'd only done this" or "if I'd not done that".  We beat ourselves up with the mistakes of our past.  Everything we have been and done makes us who we are - it brings us to our knees in the presence of the one, true God!  He's forgiven us, now it's time to forgive ourselves.

The hardest part of accepting the forgiveness of God is to realize that we must also forgive ourselves.  The saying "what's done is done" is a grim reminder that our lives have been a so full of irreverent actions and bad decisions that we can't see our way clear of them.  We are constantly reminded of our failures (by society, by our family, by our friends) and sometimes we lack the courage (and the faith) to actually believe that God has forgiven us!  We are afraid to move forward.  We stand trapped in our past as if it could be fixed by revisiting it in our minds. 

Nothing can change our past.  We can't wish for God to turn back the clock and relive the events and do them differently.  We only get one shot at life!  The good news is, we don't have to go back and "fix" the wrongs - God has forgiven them through Jesus!  The Holy Spirit will guide us as we continue on - and we will look back, we will regret (no matter what we tell others) - it is human nature.  Everything we have experienced in our lives brings us to the foot of the cross.     

Take the "regrets" and turn them into praises to the Father!  Let them be a reminder of where we've been and a warning to where we no longer want to go.  Take a deep breath and thank him for bringing you through it, praise him for his forgiveness, honor him by "turning over a new leaf".  Keep his love for you where you can feel it at all times.  Don't hesitate to cry out to him when you feel alone or frightened that you may be tempted to repeat those same sins.  His love for us is forever and always and it always starts right now!  Allow the Holy Spirit to take your hand and lead you ~ God's promises are for today!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

~ "Does anybody hear her..."

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. (Phil 2:3)

Some are damaged...some are broken. When we refuse to love others, care for other's spiritual well-being simply because they do not fit into our cookie-cutter idea of Christian, we may be turning away some of the most profound and courageous followers, leaders and teachers of the message that Christ brought us - to love one another! Do you fall into that category??? Has that one person who shows up to church on Sunday who seems to be a bit needier than the rest of the "new comers" just rubbed you the wrong way? Is there one person you just can't seem to bring yourself to talk to because once you begin the conversation, they continue to ramble on making no sense at all - they just talk? How about the one who isn't quite appropriately dressed or voices the boisterous laughter that does not fit with the conversation? Guess what? They are all children of God - sons and daughters of the King - they are entitled to the same crown that you are - are you willing to help them achieve it? If not, perhaps you need to reexamine your commitment to our Heavenly Father.

Those who come to us "looking for something better" generally do so because life has inflicted so much pain and torture on them that they are incapable of trusting anyone. They are terrified of the possibility that they will once again be tossed back into the sea of the forgotten. They are lonely and they are hurting. The old saying "never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes" applies here. You do not know what sequence of events has led a person to where they are. You may have never been down their road and, in some cases, I'd suggest you pray to God that you never are. 

We stand on our soap boxes demanding a stop to bullying in schools. We also stand there proclaiming an end to racial injustice and prejudice. We protest the removal of God's word in public places. Yet, when we are faced with that one individual - the one who truly wants to know God, serve God and has so much to offer, we size them up, make our own determination as to their appropriateness and turn them away or ignore them simply because they do not meet OUR standards. They meet God's standards - isn't that enough? Take a second look - remember that you will one day stand before the Father and He will remind you. Open your eyes and your heart - give a little more, go the extra mile - offer it up as a sacrifice to the living God who made you if you must - put "Christ" back in "Christian" (not just "Christmas"). 

If you have not had the opportunity to do so, take it now and watch Casting Crown's music video "Does Anybody Hear Her". There's a powerful message in it - one that goes hand in hand with today's verse. Put your own self-centered attitude on the back burner for one day - reach out to that person that hides in the back of the church or the one who just can't seem to muster the courage to walk through the door. Give of yourself as Christ did - hear what that person is not your heart!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

~ "There's a place for us..."

(photo by Celia Darrigo)
And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. (Matt 1:35)

Even Jesus needed a quite place to pray.  Sometimes, even in our own isolation, we need to get to a place where we CAN pray.  When I was young, in my late teens and early twenties, I would hop in the car and take a ride to the beach (it was only about 3 miles from my house).  In the dead of winter I would drive down there, park my car, get out and sit on the jetty and just talk to God.  I would tell him what was bothering me, tell him what it was I needed and he would listen.  The silence was interrupted only by the crashing waves along the shoreline.  Sometimes I really miss those nights because it was in those moments that I truly felt the presence of God around me.
I don't always "feel" his presence around me, but I know that the Holy Spirit is there.  My faith tells me so.  Sometimes I get to a place where I cannot stay focused on my prayer time, where the emotional and physical exhaustion takes over and the prayer that comes out is "God, I just can't right now - please help me".  I am never out of his sight.  He understands and knows that eventually, whatever is going on in my life that is keeping me from focusing, will pass.  It always does.  I don't have to be perfect before him.  My words do not have to be eloquent when I pray.  Sometimes they are fragmented thoughts, at best!  It's how I present myself to him when I pray - humbled and unworthy of all he's done for me.  
In those moments when you cannot find the words and you stumble through the prayers you are offering, remember that he knows what it is you want to say.  Don't turn away because you have a few days connected in which you have not been able to offer your prayers and praises in the way you have become accustomed.  Continue to give him what you are able to and, in time, the rest will follow.  As I've said before, he knows your heart - he knows that "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak".  
Search out that place that you need to find to be alone with him in prayer.  Let the things that are troubling you fall away.  Put the images of your past to rest and focus on the day ahead of you.  He has a greater plan for you today!  Accept it with the humblest heart you can summon and he will know you have done the very best you can! 

Monday, January 14, 2013

~ "Trinity...not trilogy!!!"

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen. (Matt 28:18-20)

Jesus spoke to his disciples and gave them instructions before his ascension.  These three verses are the key to what it is we are supposed to be doing while we wait!  Please note that it doesn't say we are to spend our time playing video games, or clubbing, or glued to the front of a television set.  Those things should be for our "entertainment on occasion", not our way of life!  It seems that many of us do the reverse.  We spend more time watching television, playing our games, going to clubs and movies, shopping for things we don't need, and other assorted things then we spend with the Lord.

"Teach all nations"...we have the opportunity to share the Gospel with many different nationalities and faiths right here in the United States.  This country is a melting pot of races and religions.  We condemn the teachings of some because they do not believe that the Bible is the Word of God.  But what are we doing to enlighten them.  What are we afraid of?

My religion reflects my beliefs, it is not the foundation they are based on.  My beliefs are based on what is written in the Bible (and not just certain parts of it - ALL of it).  There is no one else and there is nothing else - no rule book, no code of conduct, no additional appendices - everything I need to know is there!  Too often my adoration the Holy Trinity was overshadowed by "dos and don'ts" created by mortals.

"Baptizing them" John did!  It comes when we can fully accept and understand what we are committing to.  No one can accept Jesus as my Savior on my behalf no more than they could take my place in hell (if that's where I was going).  It's a decision of choice and the conviction of our souls that brings us to the waters of baptism.  Being baptized does not guarantee reserved seating in heaven.  It symbolizes the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and our desire to be "born again".  It is a commitment we make in the knowledge of the salvation it represents!

"Observe all things"...all the teachings of Jesus, all the commands and the life style he's laid before us.  Remember, Satan wants us all.  He can and will use any device necessary to lure us away from what Christ asks of us.  Whether we like them or not, that is what we are commanded to do.

"I am with you always"...Nothing we do or don't do goes unnoticed.  Nothing we face is faced alone.  Every breath, ever step, every tear, every outburst of laughter - Jesus is right there with us!  The word is "always" - not "sometimes", not "when you remember to call on me" - he is ALWAYS with us - "even to the end of the world."

So get up off your seat and open the book!  When you've successfully opened the book, open your heart.  Allow the Holy Spirit to do the work in you that he needs to do to prepare you for what lies ahead!  It's not guaranteed to be easy (if something is worth having, it's worth working for)'s guaranteed to be worth it!  Give him the glory he deserves from you.  Sing him the praises of your heart and soul!  Honor him by honoring his commands!  Respect his word by respecting yourself! Allow the living God to live in you!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

~ "Score!!!"

Warwick Wildcats after winning the regionals for the
International Silver Sticks Competition

"And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully. (2 Tim 2:5) [Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. (2 Tim 2:5 NIV)]"

"As our trials increase, we need to grow stronger in that which is good; our faith stronger, our resolution stronger, our love to God and Christ stronger." (Matthew Henry)

Right now, there is a group of young men who have practiced and played hockey together for quite some time.  They are approximately 16 and 17 years old.  They have played hockey for many years (if you can accumulate "many" years at their age).  They learned to play this game when they were younger and as a result, they are in currently Canada, competing for the title of Champions this weekend.  They practice together, travel together and enjoy each other's company off the ice.  They play by the rules.  They have a love for the game and devotion and dedication to their sport that is unsurpassed.  They are individuals, yet, they are a team!  They know their sport as well as any professional hockey team and they play their game with a passion.  They are the Warwick Wildcats.  They come from different backgrounds, they all have their own lives, families and "baggage" (for lack of a better word).  When they step on the ice - they become ONE!  They respect their Captain!  They respect their coaches.  They exhibit patience and dedication.  They play to win and give 100%.  

We also are individuals, yet we are part of a team.  We have learned the "game" (through our study of God's word).  We have practiced (through imitating Christ's example).  We, as Christians, must be faithful to our Captain. Our desire must be to please Christ. "We are to strive to get the mastery of our lusts and corruptions, but we cannot expect the prize unless we observe the laws" (Matthew Henry).  We must play by the same rules we tell others about - love they neighbor, do unto others and so forth.  Not everyone who claims to be a Christian lives a "Christ-centered" life.  Some are merely "Sunday Christians" who do not live the word of God nor practice the teachings of Christ outside of church. "But those who strive lawfully shall be crowned at last" (Matthew Henry). Jesus tells us that the "last shall be first".  If we want to enter the kingdom, we must do the work.  In order to achieve the prize, we must play the game (you don't get trophies for sitting on the sidelines cheering the team on).  We must do the work Christ has called us to do in order to receive the rewards offered to us for doing so - patience and dedication (along with practice) will bring us to that place.  "Together with our prayers for others, that the Lord would give them understanding in all things, we must exhort and stir them up to consider what they hear or read" (Matthew Henry). Play to win and give 100%!!!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

~ "No but's about it..."

(photo by Celia Darrigo)
Therefore I say to you, What things soever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them. And when you stand praying, forgive, if you have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. (Mark 11:24-26)
There are some things we don't want to forgive.  We want to hold on to them and use them to justify our bitterness or our anger.  "But Lord, look what he did to me!  How can you ask me to forgive him?"  Our wanting justice for injustice would be more easily explained if we turned it around and pointed it at ourselves.  There is not a one of us alive who has not, at one time or another, caused these same feelings in someone who are we to demand forgiveness when we choose not to forgive?
People hurt us.  Sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.  Either way, we are told to forgive and to leave the "yeah, but" out of it!  I'll be honest, that's not generally what I want the Lord to tell me.  What I want to hear (sometimes) is that I am right and they are wrong and God will take my side.  Guess what?  There's a good chance that the other person is wanting the same thing!  Guess what again??? He takes the side of truth!  When we come to that point, we are being told to put our house in order, for he sees ALL!!!  We need to let these things go.  God's justice and man's justice are not the same.  Our society is governed by the concept of "innocent until proven guilty" -- in God's eyes, we are all guilty.  There is no probation, no plea bargaining, no commutation of our sentence - we have received the death penalty and we will die!  The only thing that saves our ugly selves is the cross and that will only come AFTER our mortal lives are finished. Jesus paid for our sins as well as the sins of those who hurt us.  Each and every low life, reject, snob, or mean-spirited person who has caused us pain has already been forgiven if they are a true follower.  The question is - are you a true follower?  Have you forgiven them without wanting anything for it?  Have you put aside the desire for "them getting theirs"?  Have you stopped  envisioning them standing before God and witnessing them having to answer for what they've done to you?  
Today is the day to let it all go!  Forgive it all - no "but's" about it!  When you start to revisit that act in the screenplay in your mind, re-write it!  Let it play out on a happy note!  Who cares if there's no dramatic climax to it!  Quite frankly, I prefer no drama!  Allow yourself to be secure in the knowledge that you are forgiven, and in being forgiven - pay it forward and forgive those who have hurt you.