Thursday, February 28, 2013

~ "Here we go again..."

(Job questions God)

Yea, the Almighty shall be thy defence, and thou shalt have plenty of silver. (Job 22:24)

We all face trials and tragedies in our lives.  We face them sometimes as cowardly lions, other times we face them with the courage of Goliath.  There are times when we have the wisdom of Solomon and there are times when we can see only half of the reality as did Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar.  We possess often only the mindset of Thomas, and on a rare occasion, the faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  

Job did not know why he was experiencing the pain and sorrow that was cast upon him.  He maintained his loyalty to God at times, yet complained about being abandoned by God at others.  His confidence in God was undermined. He saw his afflictions as a punishment.  He asked "why"?  He was unable to grasp all that was really happening to him.  What he did not know, what he was not meant to know seriously affected the way he perceived his plight.  He lacked the faith to trust that God has it all under control.

We, too, often lack that faith to trust!  Yes, we have faith in God, faith that God has our best interest at heart, but we lack the faith to trust He does know what He's doing!  We see our suffering as punishment when often it is the enemy advancing full steam!  God loves us.  He can and will vindicate us IN HIS TIME!  

As with Job, we often feel that God has abandoned us - yet in our heart of hearts, we know that He knows every detail of the situation we are experiencing and in that, we pray for Him to rescue us.  We want a life free of pain and suffering, yet that life has not yet come.  That life will be ours when we enter the Kingdom.  Only then will we be free from the wickedness and evil that the enemy throws at us.  Remember, we are tested and tormented because we have been spoken for!  We need to continue to trust the faith we already have in He who created us, and in that lies our peace!

The outcome of any situation is known only to God until such time as He chooses to reveal it.  My future is secure in Jesus Christ!  My future (the one that really counts) will be spent in the presence of the King!  We all are afforded that same security - you just have to reach out and grab it.  There is joy ahead, there is peace ahead!  In that, we can take comfort.  All of this will end and what will be left will be heaven!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

~ "Another year later..."

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first (1 Thes 4:16)

God always has a better plan.  I have learned that I should not "plan ahead" when it comes to what the Lord has in store for me.  He and I go through this each new trial together, with Him leading the way.  I allow Him to guide my steps, calm my heart and hold my hand.  

I once put my trust in a human whom I believed was a gift from God.  I was wrong.  Satan tried and tried to keep me in that nightmare, but God had his hand on me.  It had been there for quite some time and he was not letting go!  I believed that abuse and neglect were a natural part of the existence I deserved.  The nightmare didn't end when I thought it would.  Some six years later, I believe it is finally over (but I've thought that before).
Being raised in the belief that I was "guaranteed" heaven and that there was no "action" required on my part other than to do what the hierarchy of the church decreed, I was under the mistaken assumption that I was automatically "saved".  Not so.  I had all the knowledge, I knew all the right words, and I knew how to put them in perspective.  What I didn't have was the humility to kneel before Christ and ask Him in.  In that moment, my life changed.  In that moment, I was lifted up into the mercy and grace afforded the family of God.  Had I not experienced those devastating blows, I would never have realized God's plan for me.  He still lifts me up.  He picks me up off the floor as I sob in despair and wraps His arms around me, comforting me, telling me that it will be okay.  Regardless of the outcome, HE will care for me, HE will provide for me, HE will comfort me and HE loves me! 

We all think we know.  We believe so therefore we are saved.  May I remind you that Satan believes!  Belief is not enough.  Submission to His word, His commands and His laws are the beginning, the acceptance - full acceptance of Jesus Christ, is the ONLY way in.  Through Him, and only through Him are we afforded the opportunity to spend eternity with God.  We aren't guaranteed it by birth, or through the church we attend. It is a choice that we make and a promise we fulfill.  It is through prayer and worship that we become closer, it is through the reading and study of His word that we come to know Him.  It is through Christ's death and resurrection that we are offered the gift.   There is no other way.

Today I KNOW where I will spend my eternity.  I no longer "assume" that because of who I am or where and how I was raised that my name will be in the book of life.  I KNOW it's there.  Those of you who aren't sure, those of you who "think" you know...think again!  I would rather lose all of my friends and family by standing up for God than to stand before God with my friends and family and be told I was not known to Him.  What I lose here on earth will be made right before God.  I just have to stand firm and be patient.  God has my back!

Give yourself over to the will of God!  Hit your knees and ask Jesus in!  Be one who will rise on that glorious day when the trumpet sounds and spend eternity in heaven with Him!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

~ "Time flies..."

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (Matt 5:6)
I come from a place and time where God was a distant entity that occasionally crossed my mind and going to church was something similar to the Chinese water torture that lasted for an hour and bored me to tears.  It was not the "cool" thing to want to go to church - I went because I had no choice in the matter.  In all of that kicking and screaming, the seed had been planted.  It took many, many years for my heart to be open to receive him.  

As I look back on the last six years of my life, the events that caused me to be here had to occur.  Every facet of this journey has been preparing me for the next chapter in my life.  I did not know that when I started out.  The "what if’s" of that time frame are no longer relative questions.  The decisions (be they good or bad) were the right decisions.  The choices I made have brought me to where I was supposed to be at this place and time.  
We go through life interacting with others.  Some of those people are such blessings in our lives that we are taken aback by their love and their loyalty.  There are those, too, whose actions and words cut so deep that we can do nothing but look to the Father for strength and comfort.  They continue to take and torment as they always have, because somewhere in their delusional thought process, they do not see what they do as wrong or hurtful, they see only their perceived injustice to the circumstances surrounding them, which, they themselves have created.  
We are told to pray for them.  In our hunger and thirst, we must pray!  We are told we will be blessed, we will be comforted, we will inherit, we will be filled, we will be shown mercy, we shall see God!  
Jesus came to die for us so that we might be with Him.  He knows our pain, our struggles, our suffering - He knows our HEART! 

Monday, February 25, 2013

~ " for HIM!!!"

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths. (Prov 3:5-6)

I take what I do very seriously.  Yes, I do throw in a humorous twist occasionally, but never at the expense of our Creator.  My faith is firmly planted in HIM who created me.  Everything I do is because of the strength and knowledge HE gives me.  ALL praise goes to GOD for whatever I do, whatever the outcome.  

Our entire existence is a gift from God.  He blesses us and challenges us to be better Christians than we were yesterday.  The changes that come about in one who is truly born again in Jesus are evident in the ways the carry themselves, their attitude and their demeanor.  Continuing to indulge in the same "bad habits" does not show others a changed person.  Those who do not fully acknowledge him, do not walk the path he has laid before them, find fault with his word or dispute it entirely are not Christians.  You cannot pick and choose which of his commands you will follow and which ones you will ignore.  

Our God has laid it all out for us - from beginning to end - he's held only one thing back.  When.  We do not know when the trumpet will sound.  It could be tomorrow, it could be the next day, it could be before I finish posting this message - but it will sound IN HIS TIME!  Get right or stay lost - the choice is yours!  Continue to walk in you own ways as opposed to his and that light that you see at the end of your tunnel will not be the light of God's promised reward.  Make the commitment, make the change now - while you still have the opportunity to do so.  Let go of the things that do not please him, fashion yourself in such a way that others admire you and want to be like you.  Give up the ghosts of your past and stand with the light of the world.  TRUST in HIM, no one else, and he WILL direct your paths!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

~ "...these days of Purim should not fail..."

And that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and that these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of them perish from their seed. (Esther 9:28)

Purim.  What began at sunset last night, continues throughout today for me.  I spent last evening baking Hamantaschen cookies (but I forgot the yeast for the Challah, so we'll forego that this time).  I will be preparing a celebratory dinner at my son's tonight and introducing my granddaughter to the story of Esther.  Yes, I know she is only 7 months old and will not understand a word that I am saying.  Tradition is still tradition.

I know that some of my readers do not understand - yes, I am a Christian.  Yes, my granddaughter will be raised in a Christian faith, but her heritage is shared...she is Irish, Italian, Russian and Jewish!  Just as she will celebrate St. Patrick's Day, St. Joseph's Day (which is her parents' wedding anniversary), Christmas, Easter and all the other holidays and holy days - she will also be exposed to the Jewish traditions and customs of her grandfather and her great-grandparents (with a little help from her Italian Nonna)!

Esther (Hadassah) was an orphan, raised by Mordecai, who won a beauty contest and became Queen of Persia.  Haman (hisssss) convinced King Ahasuerus that all the Jews should be killed because Mordecai would not bow to him, he would only bow to God.  Esther told her husband that she was Jewish and he became angry with Haman (hissss), and the gallows that Haman (hisssss) had built from which to hang Mordecai, served as his own ending.  The Jews were commanded to keep the holiday of Purim forever as a day of thanksgiving and feasting and joy; of sending gifts to friends and money to the poor. And that is just what the Jewish people have been doing for the past 2,400 years!

Without Esther, the line of David would have been destroyed.  Jesus is descended from that line. Celebrate the courage of Esther, the loyalty of Mordecai, the power of God and the promise of hope in Jesus today!  Celebrate Purim with your family!  Remember!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

~ "...turn to HIM!!!"

Hear me, O LORD; for your loving kindness is good: turn to me according to the multitude of your tender mercies. (Ps 69:16)

Matthew Henry writes: "Whatever deep waters of affliction or temptation we sink into, whatever floods of trouble or ungodly men seem ready to overwhelm us, let us persevere in prayer to our Lord to save us."  The power of prayer is greater than can be believed at times.  

In our darkest hours, in the dead of night, we know that the Lord our God is watching over us.  The temptations that surround us, the images that stimulate need in us, the longings and desires of the heart - they are all known to God.  In the simplest of voices, our faith can be triggered to immeasurable proportions and yet those same, small voices can bring on us a discouraged and battered heart.  What we carry with us is also know to God.  He tells us to come to him and lay our burdens at his feet.  In doing so, we relinquish the power of those "burdens" to him.  He sets things in motion and he sets them in order.  All things in HIS time!  

God shows us mercies each and every day of our lives.  We have access to many avenues of prayer, worship and praise!  He has blessed us with family and friends (and yes, we all have a "family" and we all have at least one "friend" - we only need look to see that there are those around us who love and care about us in the way that "blood kin" cares for one another).  He has blessed us with opportunities to witness that the Apostles themselves would be in awe! 

God is always here.  He's leaning in over your shoulder as you read this (he's whispering in my ear as I write it).  He wants to hear you, he wants to bless you - he wants to hold you and remind you that you are loved.  He wants to pour out his tender mercies and bless you ten time over!  Don't turn away - bow your head now and ask him to stay and guide you the rest of your life.  Even if you've done it before and strayed from the path, he wants you back - he wants you and you need him!  Recommit your life to him today - right here and now and begin a journey that ends in heaven - guaranteed!

Friday, February 22, 2013

~ "...time with HIM!!!"

Look you on me, and be merciful to me, as you use to do to those that love your name. (Ps 119:132)

In this verse, we see David's request for God to favor him.  He comes to our King humbly and graciously petitions him for mercy.  David loved God!  

In all the things we do each day, do we remember to thank God for the ability to do them?  Do we take the time out of our busy schedules and devote even five uninterrupted minutes to praising and thanking him?  Is he an afterthought when we crawl into bed at night?  Do we praise him and thank him for answered prayers with the same fervency that we petition him?  

Most of us will say "yes, I do spend time in prayer - I do spend time praising him and thanking him for all he's given me".  I would include myself in that answer.  I would also say that there are days when I don't spend as much time in prayer as I should or could.  I find other things to ease my "boredom".  My mind wanders to a place where "all is well" and the images there do not fade away and become lost in the surroundings.  And then the reality of this world pulls me back into it and I remember that it is only by the power of God that I am.  How could I ever deny him time?  

Our little "escapes" from this world are okay, so long as they are in moderation and don't take away from what should always be in the foreground of our days...GOD!!!  Once they consume all of our free time, we have none left for him.  He always has time to listen to a prayer or a praise.  We need to set aside the time to spend with him.  

Make the time to spend in quiet conversation with the Lord.  Give him your undivided attention, your uninterrupted praises and the blessings will fall on you like rain.  Give him the glory he deserves and he will in turn call your name! 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

~ "Words of wisdom..."

(photo by Celia Darrigo)

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (Col 3:2)

"When we fill our minds with the things of God, He will become more important to us...."  that's a lot of power packed in one sentence!!!

We all seek out the things in life that make us stand's human nature.  So, how do we change that self-centered need for attention?  Quite simple - we seek out God!  How do we do that - through His word!  Yes, again I'm going to tell you to read your Bible.  Yes, again I'm going to tell you that what you have here stays here (including your reputation, your toys, your photos and all those "things" you've wasted your money on).  "Oh, but I will leave behind a wonderful legacy...I will be remembered for generations after I'm gone".  Okay - what good will that do you if you are burning in hell???

Don't assume that because you say you believe and mumble a few prayers occasionally that you will be counted in...don't assume that just because you visit a church once a week you have a "back stage" pass...don't assume that just because you are kind to animals and give to the needy that you've been excluded from having to praise and worship the Father while here on earth...don't assume that you will have time at the end of your life to accept Jesus as your savior and arrogantly walk through the Gates of Heaven with the same revelry that you enter a room filled with your peers.  Never assume anything - KNOW!!!

Take the time this morning to read Chapter 3 in Colossians.  Take a lesson from Paul...Christ is God, Christ is head of the church (THE church, not YOUR church), be aware of false teachers (man-made religion) and self-made rules.  Live in constant contact and communication with God.  When you do, you will be unified with Christ and with others.

Christ paid for our sin, Christ reconciled us to God and Christ gives us the pattern and the power to grow spiritually.  Once you learn what He is like, you see what you need to become.  Nurture your vital connection to Him!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

~ "Sonshine on my shoulders..."

(photo by Celia Darrigo)

And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came to the sepulcher at the rising of the sun. (Mark 16:2)

I've read two emotionally touching status lines this morning (both posted last night).  One I expected to see, the other surprised me.  I am going to steal a little from each, and I know neither author will mind.  You see, they both know and understand that God has a plan for each of us.  

None of us are perfect.  We don't only commit sin, by our very nature, we are sin.  Many of us have led lives that were not pleasing to the Father, we've committed horrific acts in our past and done things we thought were unforgivable.  Then Jesus came into our hearts and wiped away the stain.  He made us new!  We aren't "holier than thou", we are humans - saved by grace!  You may not understand our road, but we do and what's more important - God does!  What we once were, what we once did - we will have to account for - we know that.  What we have become are children of the Living God!  We are not the same despicable people we once were.  We are forgiven and we are doing our best to walk in the ways of our Lord.  We are not perfect, we still make mistakes - but at least we make the effort each day.  Our judge sits on a throne of mercy and grace and we will see the destruction of the enemy!  

Our lives are what we put in the "dash" between our date of birth and our date of death on our tombstone.  Some of us have a wonderful story to tell, some of us have just existed from one day to the next.  When the apostles went to the tomb that first Easter morning, there was no body to be found simply because he had been raised!  We know that the resting place for our human remains will not compare the place our soul goes to!  Our heavenly home will be free of pain and suffering and always bright!  It will be filled with the love of the father and the joy of worshiping him who created each of us.  

As we walk our path in life on earth, remember that we all struggle to overcome "demons" and we all have sadness in our hearts.  We all deal with them differently but the outcome is still the same.  We all live and love the same.  We each take a breath and exhale - we experience joy and sorrow - we need nourishment and sleep and we all will die.  Don't second-guess the fellow next to you - pray for him - you never know what it is that he or she is going through.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

~ "I will lift my eyes..."

(photo by Warrick Moore)
To you lift I up my eyes, O you that dwell in the heavens. (Ps 123:1)
We all do it.  We look up at the sky and ask "why?"  I've looked at the ceiling in my house, in my trailer and cried out for help at one time or another.  We lift our eyes toward heaven!  We know that beyond that great expanse known as the sky, is something greater! 
Generally speaking, when looking for something, people never look up.  Christians look up all the time!  They look to the heavens - where their Creator is.  They look to the sky - which was where their Savior ascended to.  They look up - like children at the feet of their parents - they look up to their Father in heaven!
When we cry our for help or for mercy, we are heard.  Our pleas do not fall on deaf ears, nor are they ignored.  They are responded to, maybe not in the way we'd like them to be, but they are responded to just the same.  We most often do not understand the reasoning for what we see as pain and sorrow - the "whys" of our lives sometimes to go unanswered.  It is not to say that there is not a reason for them, for there's just not the right time for it to be revealed to us.  Some things are never revealed.  So we continue to lift our eyes - we continue to cry out - and not without praise and thanksgiving for that which we have while we wait.
As you struggle, know that your fight is not unknown to God.  Lift your eyes, continue to cry out and praise him and he will not leave you abandoned by the side of the road.  He will lift you up out of the pain and set you into the greatest of joys.  Allow your faith to swell inside and carry you safely to his waiting arms.  He's waiting to hold you as you pray...are you ready for him to hear you?

Monday, February 18, 2013

~ "Bless the beasts and the children..."

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Gen 1:28)

It doesn't seem as though a year has passed since I took our black lab to the vet one last time.  In this past year, there have been a lot of changes.  Life moved forward, as it always does.  My beagles, as I, adjusted to life without "Sammy".  Yet, in the midst of change, there would come more change.  

We never know what path our Lord will lead us down.  That is where our faith comes in.  I was content at my job (not the "perfect" job, but one that paid most of the bills and allowed me to be somewhat self-sufficient).  Financially, things started to turn around with a long overdue settlement going in my favor.  Then, an email from my daughter-in-law that literally changed my life. God's perfect plan, once again!

God often has the same goal in mind for us that we have, however, his timing is generally not the same as ours.  The events that occur, the choreography of his design, bring about a beautiful ballet that we are a part of.  I did not know that  a year later I would be using all the talents and abilities he had given me to comfort others going through that same loss., among other things.

God tells us that we have dominion over "every living thing" - dogs included.  I was blessed simply by her presence in my life. The same holds true for Lilo and Stitch (yes, I know).  Now, there is a new member to the pack - an adorable yellow lab named "Bella" - and she IS beautiful!  She does not look like Sammy, nor was she a replacement for her.  She is as unique and individual as any dog could be.  

I know my Father in Heaven is pleased.  I have succeeded in doing what I was called to do in Genesis 1:28.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

~ "Closed on Sunday..."

Hear me, O LORD; for your loving kindness is good: turn to me according to the multitude of your tender mercies. (Ps 69:16)

When we are in the middle of a painful situation, we can't even comprehend it ending or being past it.  The emotional suffering we endure is so great that it is the only thing we can focus on.  Our hearts broken to bits, our tears flowing like water from a broken faucet, we cry out to God for mercy.  "Make the pain stop, please!"  

When we've come through that ordeal and look back, it is almost impossible to replicate the pain in our minds.  We can see it, we can know it - but the pain itself has been replaced by the scars of grief.  God's greater plan for us has more purpose than we can even begin to imagine.  Our wounds are nothing compared to the wounds of the Savior.  His suffering, his death, sets - not only him apart from all others - but it in turn sets each of us who accepts Him - apart from others!  Out of the most horrific trauma, came the most spectacular saving grace known to man!  Redemption of the entire world - past and future - was gained in one profound death!  

It's hard to stay focused in our busy world.  Perhaps in the days when Jesus walked upon it, it was "easier" - there weren't technological distractions to consume their prayer time.  Their focus was still about "family" and their lives were simpler.   Maybe we need to go back to the basics of "Sunday" being family day.  Maybe we need to insist that one day a week we will not work, we will rest, we will worship.  The "blue" laws weren't really that bad, if you take into consideration what they were designed to do.  Our nation, which prides itself on being a "family oriented" nation, has left the family in the dust.  We have become a greedy nation, consumed with that "time and a half on holidays" and the extra money to be made on Sundays.  

God's mercies have always been available to us - Sunday through Saturday, 24/7 - yet we hesitate to ask for them.  His kindness towards us never stops.  He's always ready to bestow some grace upon us - all we need to do is ask!  Find your "family day" and in doing so, spend the time honoring the Father!  Give him all the praises and prayers you can and don't be surprised if your world beings to change!  He wants you in his "family" - he created you in His likeness. He hears you when you cry out to him - listen for his reply.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

~ "Be mine..."

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity. (1 Cor 13:13)

So many verses to choose from that convey love...this is one of my favorites (as I love the letters to the Corinthians).   

The word "charity" means love!  When you perform a "charitable" act, you are doing something out of love.  Christ gave us the most unselfish of all gifts.  His love for us, the "charity" shown us on that cross that was raised on Calvary, is the single most significant showing of affection ever recorded.  It's not about big red heart boxes filled with candy, nor is it about a dozen long-stemmed roses.  It's about the blood that was shed for all.  For each and every one of us was condemned to die, and in that moment, we were delivered!  That, my friends, is love!

I try to find something positive about this holiday of love.  I read one status line this morning that made me laugh - "Singles Awarenss Day" - well, I've spent more Valentine's Days being single than married or in a relationship (which is a lot of Valentine's Days) and I really find it rather depressing.  Even in grammar school, the ritual of handing out little cards to your friends was not exactly something I looked forward to.  I was lucky to get a handful - never any from the "boys" though.  I made it a point to make sure that everyone got one, because I knew how it felt to be left out and didn't want to be the one causing that feeling in someone else.  I remember one boy actually asking me if I gave him the card (thinking perhaps someone was playing a joke on him).  

In the years that have passed since the days of Valentine's Day parties, the years of roses and chocolates, and the joy of sharing this day with someone special, I have come to know one thing.  I have someone who loves me each and every day.  I have someone who thought so much of me that he went to the cross and died for me.  He rose from the dead to make a way for me to be free of death and spend eternity with him.  His love for me transcends all love.  My worth to him is immeasurable.  I AM his!  Without the hearts and flowers and the gooey cards, he has pledged his love to me!  The "arrow through the heart" has been replaced by the piercing of his side.  The roses have been replaced with a crown of thorns.  He speaks beautiful words to me each and every time I open his book.  

Paul tells us throughout his letters that it's "okay" to be single.  It's also okay to be married.  It is a human desire to have a partner.  Those we are bound to here will not be who we are bound to in heaven.  We will not be alone, we will not be forgotten, we will not be left out - we will be (as we have always been) loved!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

~ "Wanting what you can't have..."

It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:
If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:
If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. (2 Tim 2:11-13)

Confusing?  Not really.  Whether we believe or not, our Lord is faithful.  All of his promises will be kept - even to those who do not believe.  Anyone who calls on his name will be heard.  "Where's the justice in that?  I've spent my life believing and worshiping God, and you're telling me that the murderer on death row headed to the chair can call upon the name of the Lord and be saved?"  The answer to that question is YES!  The serial killer, the terrorist, the atheist - they can call to him and he will hear them!  Every person (not just the "good" ones) has the ability to call on the Lord and have him answer.  Remember, God sees sin as sin - there is no greater or lesser sin.  We are all sinners.  We all must go to him through Jesus to be cleansed.

When we look at the sins of others and try to put them in perspective with our own "sins", we are taking the focus off of ourselves.  We are wasting time on something that is not our "job", nor is it our right to do - judging others.  It's next to impossible to avoid it completely.  It's hard to constantly remain focused on ourselves when we live in a society that teaches us to lay the blame anywhere but on our own actions or inactions.  Believing is only the beginning of our journey.  Acceptance and submission to his will and his ways is what we do once we believe.  Its where we must let go of the anger towards others who have more than we do, the ones who get the "breaks", the ones who have more talent in certain areas, the "lucky" ones who do not fear the Lord.  I don't want to show up at the end of my life and have any more to answer for than I already do.  So even when I cannot avoid Satan's temptations, when I cannot say "no" and when my heart is filled with anger and contempt for those around me who constantly humiliate and belittle me (some without even realizing it) - I ask for forgiveness, I ask for strength and I ask for his help!

The "things" that are impossible to let go of in this world, are not impossible to God.  When we grab back the control, we push away the blessings.  Like the pilot who has lost instrumentation and must have faith in the ground controller, we must have faith in our Creator in order to descend through the clouds and land safely.  We can become disoriented in the haze and darkness, but he knows the way. He will carefully guide us to where we need to be.

Put aside the things that draw you away from him.  Give back the control and accept the blessings.  Hold out for the best gift possible.  Let the job of judging belong to the King and accept the life on this planet that is given to you.  Do not envy those who seem to have more, or appear to have it easier.  Know that what you have is exactly what God wants you to have - nothing more, nothing less.  Many times you will find that what "they" have has not come from God.  Let his mercy and grace sustain you and know that it is more than enough and more than you deserve!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

~ "Adopted in..."

According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (Eph 1:4-6)

What makes being adopted so special?  Well, I could tell you that an adopted child is wanted, planned for and cherished...but so are natural born children.  What makes the difference is that they are chosen!  

There are probably three different directions I could go with this post this morning, but two of those directions are probably not founded in the word, so I will stick to the third...most of us who read this devotion have been adopted into the family of Christ.  We were not born of the line of David, we do not and cannot lay claim to duel citizenship in Israel because we are not Jewish...we do not have the heritage described in the Bible as "God's Chosen People".  We do, however, possess the same rights and bear the same responsibilities as they do simply because we have been adopted into the family of God through Jesus.

"But what does that mean to me?"  It means that we are chosen as well.  A command from the King of Kings has granted us the same rights afforded the descendants of Moses, the descendants of Esther, the descendants of David...a royal heritage!  It also means that we must know who we are, the history of how we came to be children of God and the devotion he expects from us.  We are his heirs and as such, must know him intimately!  We don't get to be children of God simply by someone dumping water on us when we are infants, being dragged to church each Sunday and being forced to memorize answers to questions that have no real bearing on the lives we live.  We become heirs simply by accepting Jesus as our Savior and walking a path laid before us that is one of devotion, honor and praise.  That is what sets us apart.

Knowing that I am a child of God, a princess, daughter of the King, affords me the opportunity to wear a crown.  That crown is similar (but not nearly as horrible and painful) to the one Christ wore.  His crown on earth bore all our sins - the one I wear does not even bear my own sins - but it does bear his name!  I am not worthy to wear is yet God thinks I deserve it simply because I have a certificate of adoption, signed in the blood of Christ.  What better decree could there possibly be?

Don't forget that although you are a Christian, there are some Jewish traditions that are important in your life - there are some very wonderful moments celebrated - some triumphs God has bestowed on his children before the salvation of man.  Take the time to get to know what they are and why they are celebrated.  Don't just pass them off as archaic holy days...remember Jesus was a Jew.  I'm sure he celebrated them (we know he celebrated Passover simply by reading our Bible).  Even the early Christians celebrated the traditional holy was part of their history.

Know your family history, after all, it is now your history as well!  Be proud of the heritage that you've been called to share.  Grab hold of those traditions and celebrate them with for God who made the way to Heaven possible!

Monday, February 11, 2013

~ "Drafted..."

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Eph 6:13)

"So...what exactly is the full armor of God?" someone asked.  It is the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of readiness and peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.  

When a country gets ready for battle (usually) they go with the right equipment and the best there is.  You would not send a soldier to fight in a jungle wearing swimming trunks and carrying a water pistol.  How can expect to "repel" Satan wearing flip flops and toting a missalette?  

The FULL armor of God is sparked by prayer.  The soldier's belt is equipped with tools (knife, holster, pistol, extra magazines, hand grenades) and is securely fastened at his waist - easily accessible.  It is the foundation of all the equipment used in battle.  Jesus is our foundation when we stand against Satan.  The breastplate is similar to a bulletproof vest (only not nearly as lightweight as today's Kevlar vests).  Remembering that our own efforts and good works will not protect us, we must make our focus on the cross - the righteousness we seek is found in Christ.  Our preparation for battle must also the Gospel - the life, death and resurrection of Jesus brought us peace with God.  This redemption allows us to fight with boldness, perseverance and peace!  The shield - which was generally used as protection and when overlapped one with another, could form a "wall" of protection against the enemy.  It also would protect them from flaming arrows shot into the air - we cannot rely on our own abilities in this battle against Satan - by Christ alone are we protected.  Our helmet is the source of total deliverance - Jesus IS our deliverance!  The sword is the Word of God - it is a powerful tool when used against the enemy and under the direction of the Spirit is has great power.

In all of that, we see that Jesus is our armor!  He is our truth, our righteousness, our preparation and peace, the focus of our faith, and he IS the Word of God!

My friends, we are already at war, fighting an enemy who is crafty and clever.  Without the protection and guidance of Jesus, we are doomed to fail.  You may not have been called to fight at this point in your life, but the time will come and you must be prepared.  Start shining up that armor so that when your turn to do battle with the enemy arrises, you will already have on the full armor of God!  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

~ "Prayer for a Friend..."

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

One of my favorite songs, one of my favorite verses.  I have friends whom I've had for years that do not "walk the walk".  They will tell you they are "right" with God, yet all the while they butcher his name (OMG) and selectively obey his rules.  It's heartbreaking.

Last year at this time, we said good bye to the talents of Davy Jones and Whitney Houston.  Each and every day, someone, somewhere says good bye to a loved one.  That pain is immeasurable.  That loss is great.  Some are able to put the pain aside and in perspective, some are not.

There are those, too, who torment and torture us (not literally) so consistently that we believe they'd be "better off dead".  I am embarrassed to say that I know a few of those people.  It was not without much careful thought and reservation that I would pray that God would take them out of the way.  In the many years that have past since feeling that way, I am happy to report that I eventually began to pray that God would change their hearts.  Whether he does or doesn't is no longer an issue - he changed MY heart.  

Yes, there are still those who tend to annoy me, seemingly get in the way of my progress and cause the hair on the back of my neck to stand at attention.  I have a choice today - I pray for them...not that God should take them out of this world, but that he blesses them.  

Do likewise - pray for those who don't seem to know the way - don't give up on them - the Lord didn't give up on you!  

"Prayer for a Friend" ~ Casting Crowns

Saturday, February 9, 2013

~ "You've got a friend in me..."

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose. (Rom 8:28)

All the mechanics of life, all the events that must transpire to bring us to one specific place in time - they are all known to God!  He has scripted them together in a way that only he can do.  All of our trial and tribulations, our joys, our successes, bring us to where it is we need to be when he calls our name.  He puts people on our path that are (as the story goes) there for a reason, a season or a lifetime.  Our time here is short, so we must make the very best of it ~ but making the best of it is not just having a good time, or doing things we know we shouldn't do, wasting time on useless things - it's rejoicing in his gift to us!  

Sometimes it's hard to keep the focus on God.  Our human nature and the enemy pull us away from what it is that he wants for us and from us.  The temptations that surround us every day, the little things that keep us from his Word and from the work he has for us, can often move in on us in such a subtle way that we don't realize it until it is too late to stop it.  That is when we hit our knees and ask for the strength to walk upright.  There is no going back to "fix" what we've broken.  But then again, we don't have to.

There is someone who can make it right, someone who can and will hold it all together for you until you can do for yourself.  That one is Jesus!  And he'll continue to be there throughout your journey, walking right beside you.  God's purpose for your life is ever unfolding, ever changing but the one thing that remains the same is his love for you.  Each day brings a new challenge, a new destination and a new adventure.  Be bold and brave enough to take that first step with him and although it may not be a smooth journey, and it may be riddled with temptation and sorrow at first, it will, nevertheless, be a path to glory.  The "losses" we can attribute to following Jesus are small in comparison to the rewards we will receive!  Let those "so called" friends of yours turn their back on you because you have chosen to follow Jesus!  You will be richer for it when all is said and done!

Don't put off getting to know him another day!  Open your Bible and read!  Read the love letter that has been written specifically for you and know that you are chosen to be one of HIS friends!  And unlike those who are only your friends if you have money or a car or can assist them in some way - he is your friend in all things and his promises are kept!  Turn your life over to his care now!  Let Jesus be the friend you've been looking for!

Friday, February 8, 2013

~ "Anything you can do I can do better..."

Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil. (Jer 13:23)
 No, leopards cannot change their spots - God can, but leopards cannot.  Sometimes the enemy continues to hurl things at us in an attempt to dissuade us from our path.  Sometimes he even wins.  Not today!  Not this time!
We all have that certain person we pray for, hope the best for, would love to see "change" before our eyes...the reality it - they will not change unless God changes them.  And it's not because He can't - it's because they will not accept the gift being offered to them simply because that would mean a lifestyle change...mostly they refuse to give up "miserable" for anything.  They seem to enjoy it!  It draws attention (negative attention, but attention just the same).  Little do these renegades realize the attention they could draw if they put down the sword they use to cut people down with and picked up the crown being offered to them by Christ!
Petty jealousy turns to identity theft (not the kind that takes your social security number and destroys your credit).  Trying to do something better, generally works for a while, but then even that is not enough and they begin to grasp at anything that will make them look and seem larger than life.  Sad, really, that some people do not have enough faith in themselves (not to mention a faith in God) to be able to just be good at one thing - they find the need to be better at everything - it's not determination, or a strong sense of self worth, it's not even a form of flattery.  It is envy - pure and simple - and it has no place in God's kingdom.
Turn your mind and your heart away from those who would bring you down to their level of lusts.  Their lusts are not for material things...they are greater - they are lusts for accolades and pride - neither of which can be wholly achieved through the efforts they employ, because their "passions" were never theirs to begin with - they simply picked up someone else's ideas and tried to make a better statement (crushing and hurting others as they climbed their ladder of unsuccess).  Remember, God knows your heart, He knows your hurt - He will deliver you and in a great way.  Continue to lift your hands in praise (it's not likely any of them will steal that).   God most certainly has a plan for you - ask Him to lead you and be prepared to follow!  Most people will never change but you can change through acceptance of Jesus!  Let Him wash away the spots and change you into the person He needs you to be - not a copycat or an imitation - an original disciple of Jesus!!!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

~"Washed white as snow..."

Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not. (1 John 3:1)

I am a changed person. My attitude, my choice of words, my daily routine, and even my idleness ~ I have taken on a "new" persona. People who knew me before I was chosen, before Jesus accepted me, before God began to use me and before the Holy Spirit enlightened me knew a different "Beth". Some of them preferred that person because I was humorous, sharp-tongued and willing to discuss and partake in the different worldly pleasures with an enthusiastic approach that would surely shake the gates of heaven. I am still humorous but the sharp, cutting tongue and the loud, boisterous party goer have all but vanished. Yes, I still enjoy a good time and I could probably still tell you to make a trip to visit Satan in such a way, that you would pack your bags and look forward to making the trip. The "Scarlett O'Hara" syndrome in me is gone - I don't put off until tomorrow, and quite frankly, I don't really worry about much. When I do worry, I pray. I ask others to pray with me and for me. My faith allows me to know that in all things God will make a way. He always does!

I do, occasionally, find myself at a loss for words and descriptive adjectives that accurately describe the feelings I'm having or the less knowledgeable individuals I have to deal with on a daily basis and when I talk with my kids, I sometimes find myself time warped back to that "authoritative" mother role, but it doesn't last long. The Holy Spirit continues to work in me and helps me to change the things that need to be changed. Sure, Satan tries to distract me, and yes, sometimes he is successful - but not consistently. My friends look at me as if to say "what's gotten into you - you're different". The answer to that is "yes, I am different - I am HIS!!!" How can anyone hope to know me who does not know the Father, the Son he sent here or the Spirit that remains? Only someone who truly knows God, truly lives by the Word, could ever know or even hope to understand me.

If you are reading this, and you have yet to give yourself over God, make that decision now. If you want to have an eternity that is filled with light, hit your knees right now and tell him so! Tell him you are a sinner, that you are not worthy but if he'll have you, you will submit to his will! I've never known anyone to be turned down who has asked for his saving grace with their whole heart! Wait for it, watch for it and in the meantime, study his word! The changes you desire will come...he promised!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

~ "Thou shalt not kill..."

Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet to the nations. (Jer 1:5)

I hope that you have a rather large cup of coffee, because this post will be a little longer than usual. It comes a few weeks after the 40th anniversary of the "Roe v. Wade" decision and a few weeks before the three year anniversary of the death of a hero.

I tell people all the time (and I write it quite frequently) that God has a plan for each of us. Our lives are filled with regret and remorse and sometimes we can't imagine that God could forgive some of the horrible things we've done. As we wander off the path, he makes all things right and sets us back on it, giving us yet another opportunity to be his "prophet". All things are forgivable.

The words "before I formed you" tell us that we are created by God. He has formed us with his hands and blessed us and set us apart from every other living creature on the planet. In both the Old and New Testament, we are reminded over and over that the life carried in a woman's body belongs to GOD! Just as we do! She is the vessel by which it comes to be born. The choices made need to reflect the will of God.

I am not a perfect being. I have children waiting for me to hold them. I am forgiven. In the years following the landmark abortion decision, Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe), stated that she felt her case, "which legalized abortion on demand, was the biggest mistake of [her] life". The same options that allowed me to have a "baby sister" still exist today! Adoption, when handled through legitimate and reputable agencies, is the greatest give you can give your unborn child - because you have given that child a chance to live! 

Over 54 million lives have been taken through abortion since that dreadful day. How many "Einsteins" have we thrown away? How many great leaders have we killed out of convenience? 

There is one angel in heaven who chose to ignore the doctor's suggestion to have an abortion and to carry a child. She suffered with Cancer and was told she could die or they both could die. Today she rests with God, but her almost 4 year old little boy thrives! Cancer eventually took her life, but not before she could leave a legacy of love and hope for others. I never had the privilege of meeting her, but I had the opportunity to get to know her - through her friends, through her husband and through her son! 

What follows is a letter, read from the pulpit of my church on January 23, 2011. It is re-printed with permission of the author. I know that someone reading today's post has an important decision to make.

"When I was 25, I became pregnant, and I wasn't married. The man was an ex-boyfriend who had been manipulative and controlling. Because of his treatment of me, I had broken up with him and turned down his proposal of marriage. his violent and vengeful spirit turned on me, and when he got the chance, he held me down and forcefully raped me. He told me that since he couldn't have me, he didn't want anyone else to have me and that no man would ever want a woman who had been raped. I stupidly believed him, so I didn't say anything to anyone.

When I found out I was pregnant, I hate to admit that abortion did cross my mind. I am glad to say that I never seriously considered it. My mom was very supportive, but my dad didn't believe I was really raped, and after my mom passed away, he turned his back on me. Since he didn't believe me, I assumed no one else would, so I kept silent about the facts. Those who loved me loved me regardless, and several of my friends rightly guessed what happened without my having to tell them.

Because of his violent nature, I have kept the man out of my son's life and have not received child support. Abortion would have been the easy choice. Many people, even Christians would say that it was justified, given the circumstances. I could have avoided embarrassment, abandonment, and financial difficulties, but I would have missed out on the greatest gift in my life. It hasn't been easy, but God has always provided for us, and now He has given us a whole new family at Charity Baptist Church.

I've learned that when you follow God's Word, He will bless you beyond your wildest imaginations. I don't want to think of how empty my life would be without my son."