Tuesday, April 30, 2013

~ "Laudate Dominum..."

O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.
For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD. (Ps 117)

I love classical music (especially Mozart).  At one time, I had a complete library of CDs of Mr. Mozart's pieces.  One of my favorite pieces is "Laudate Dominum", which is the Latin translation of Psalm 117 and Gloria Patri (a doxology used in some Christian liturgy).  A few years ago when I attend my youngest daughter's choral concert, I was both entertained and impressed at the musical selections chosen for this event.  They lifted their voices and  they praised God with "Laudate Dominum" (and probably didn't even realize it).  Let me remind you, my daughter attended a public high school!  So this was, without a doubt, a surprise!

What I walked away with that night is that God's word IS being spread in places where it is theoretically against the law...and it is being spread in the talented voices of our young people.  God loves to hear our voices in prayer; He loves to hear them lifted in songs of praise!  

God's mercy toward us is great!  His forgiveness of our human nature is unfailing.  We are His creation and He loves us with a passion that is stronger than any man-made laws.  His Word will be spread in the company of those who do not believe in Him, who do not know Him and who want to silence Him.  Don't be afraid to tell someone that He is real; that He does "exist"; that He LIVES!!!  Share His good news with your friends and family!  Give everyone the opportunity to know and serve the Lord who came to bring salvation to Jews and Gentiles alike!  The Messiah HAS come, He has torn down the curtain in the temple and made a way for ALL of us to talk to God!  We are righteous through Jesus!  So, praise Him, love Him and share Him!!!  His love and truth endure forever!!! 

Monday, April 29, 2013

~ "My help comes from the Lord..."

photo by Celia Darrigo
And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. (Acts 22:10)

"Okay, Lord, now what???"  These were the words uttered l when I found that my income had been reduced to nothing once again.  I wanted to shout to the heavens that I had done everything He's asked of me and now I'm in worse shape than I was two months before.  I wanted to tell Him that I don't feel His presence like I used to.  I wanted to tell Him that I'm afraid.  I wanted to scream at Him for allowing all the things that have happened in my life to happen.  I wanted all the suffering to end and to just be done with all of this.  But God has a way of making your see with your soul what you cannot see with your heart, your mind or your eyes.  He does whisper in sweet, soft tones and reassures you that everything will be just fine if you trust in Him.

My response to that whisper was very simple:  I trust in you, Lord, it's the people around me that don't have that same level of trust in you, nor do they think for a minute that you can and will provide for me.  I have to deal with them on a daily basis and it's getting tough.  I know I am where you want me to be, but right now I don't know what to do...PRAY!!!

The very essence of our faith lies in the belief that everything will work according to His plan.  When we give ourselves over to Him, do what He asks us to do, will He not see that we are cared for???   Will He not wrap His heavenly arms around us and protect us from the earthly enemies that seek to destroy us?  Will He not make our seemingly horrific situations a testimony to His good works?  Will He not preserve us as we wander around in the furnace???

I laughed to myself when I remembered that some months before, a friend and I were talking about "faith".  My comment to her was "I want faith like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego."  In Daniel 3:26, their faith protected them from the fires of the furnace and they walked out unharmed  - they didn't even smell like smoke!  My desire was to have faith like that!!!  Well, in order to have faith like that, one must endure similar situations and not "cave" under pressure.  

I am not now, nor will I ever be, a "perfect" worshipper.  I don't always take the time to sit and offer Him the praises He deserves.  I make excuses for my short comings some days, I ask forgiveness for them and begin again.  What I don't do is walk away.  There have been moments in the past that I have been angry with God, disappointed, I've felt rejected and left alone.  I will even go so far as to say there were moments of hate directed towards Him as a result of certain situations I found myself in.  But no matter how miserable life on earth got, God never left my side and continued to whisper those words I've become so familiar with..."I am here - you are MINE".

Whatever you face, you do not face it alone.  Reach out the Lord of heaven and earth and entrust your soul to Him.  Hand over your problems and your worries.  He'll shine them up and hand them back to you so that you can see what needs to be done, if anything does, in fact, need to be done.  He will offer you the solutions you need if you're listening.  They may not be the ones you were hoping for, but they will be the ones that are right for you.  Trust in Him, have faith in Him - listen...

Sunday, April 28, 2013

~ "Non-negotiable..."

The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger. (Job 17:9)
The NIV translation of this verse reads: "The righteous keep moving forward..."

God always has a plan.  He always provides for your needs.  He never fails.  

Our brains often conceive only one side of a situation.  We more often than not see the "bad" side - the depressing side - the sacrifice that we may be called upon to make.  It's part of our nature.  Sometimes, though, He may offer you a glimpse of what the other side of that situation may be - the optimistic side.  

I am not an optimistic person 90% of the time.  I see the good in others, but never in myself.  I see potential in others but most times fear the worst for myself.  I struggle to believe that I do deserve good things in my life and that I am worthy of respect and love.  I dread the redundancy of many of routine and annoying habits of others.  I am not a child.  I am a dependable adult.  I give 100% almost 100% of the time.  I do, like everyone else on the planet, have my moments.  Those moments of weakness, of insecurity, of anger and of hurt.  I reach out, often lash out at those around me.  My close friends know it and understand it for what it is.  God understands it and accepts it. He created me in His image, therefore, I know that it is all good.  We have witnessed His anger, know of His hurt - as far as insecurities...no, I doubt God Himself has them.  We've witnessed Jesus' moment of weakness in the garden, yet He did, in fact, find the strength to carry out His mission.  We've witnessed His insecurity - on the cross at Calvary - crying out to His Father as He feared He'd been 'forsaken'.   

I, like Job, like Christ, like any one of God's chosen people - will keep moving forward!  I will take what He gives me and I will be grateful because it is all a blessing.  It may not always be the gift or the blessing we'd like, but it will be the one He's chosen for us - I chose to accept God's will today on God's terms...non-negotiably!  Are you willing to do the same???

Saturday, April 27, 2013

~ "Today's trifecta winner is..."

And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matt 19:28)

The Apostles had shown their respect to Jesus, as the first that followed Him, and to them He promises not only treasure, but honor, in heaven. We, too, have been given the opportunity to follow.  We, those who follow and are faithful, will also receive our reward.  Whatever the Lord bestows upon us will be more than we deserve.  We are sinners, all of us, and will deserve nothing.  Even our entrance into Heaven was paid for by someone else.  Who are we to become greedy over what we will receive when we get there?  I'll be happy just to BE there, I don't really much need or want anything other than that.  If sweeping the streets or cleaning the toilets in heaven is my job, I will go well prepared.  

We all regard many "duties" as being beneath us.  For some reason, society has put it out there that mopping floors, cleaning bathrooms and shoveling horse manure are positions for uneducated or ignorant people.  The wages paid for these jobs will barely put food on the table for the worker, let along an entire family.  There are many jobs that do not cover the cost of living.  There are many that quadruple it for doing absolutely nothing.  Fortunately for us, Heaven isn't achieved through "works" and you don't need a college degree nor do you need to keep a minimum balance in your bank account to enter.  As long as you accept Jesus as your Savior and believe that His blood has cleansed you, walk by faith and bow only to Him, you are in harmony with the saints of Heaven.  There is no credit check.

All that we give up to follow Jesus will be returned to us many times over.  Some of us have given up our friends whom we have known for a lifetime, some have given up family (both blood family and acquired family), some have given up lifestyles and homes, some have given everything.  Those of us who can actually admit that our lives are much better and fuller with Jesus in it, as opposed to the "privileged" one we'd become accustomed to, will tell you that is it worth it.  Our moments of joy and happiness may be short lived, but our eyes are not focused on the present - they are focused on HIM.  We live each day in hopes that "today is the day" and wait with an anticipation that is ten times greater than that of a five year old on Christmas Eve...He is our life, our joy, our hope!!!

Decide.  Make a choice.  Choose Jesus over everything else and everything else will fall into place.  Walk out in front with Him and you will reach the finish line and hear the praises of those who have gone before you.  There are no losers in God's race - everyone comes in first and no one is left behind.  The winner's circle is large enough to accommodate everyone who participates.  There is a crown for all of God's people and reserved seating elsewhere for those who choose to be spectators.  Answer the calling of the Holy Spirt and lift your eyes toward heaven.  Your King waits there...

Friday, April 26, 2013

~ "What faith can do..."

And though I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. (1 Cor 13:2)

Having faith in the "good" times is easy...our faith is tested during our struggles.  Many of our gifts are given to us simply to show us that we "can".  If you grew up like I did and lived the life that I have lived, having "faith" in anyone or anything was hard.  I was always being "let down".  Additionally, there are times when I think that if "they" could blame the state of the economy, the war(s) we are currently involved in, the horrific gas prices and a million other things on me, "they" would!  Yes, Satan has been a very busy little creature these past few days.  But I am not amused.  I am, quite frankly, shaking my head in disbelief!  

The word "charity" doesn't just mean giving to the poor.  To be charitable towards someone is to be kind, is to have a kind or lenient attitude towards, or to be mild and tolerant in judging others.  Since Jesus tells us it is not our job to judge, my guess is to go with the kindness and be a bit more lenient.  I also will go so far as to say that to be open-minded would be yet another angle of charity.

Hate and disgust tend to feed off the continued circle they create.  They are also both very addictive insomuch as if you hear blame laid on someone for something long enough, you will cease to draw your own conclusions and just flat out blame that person without even thinking the matter through.  It hurts the one it is directed at.  They no longer have a defense that will be listened to simply because your mind has been made up.  No matter what they do - they are, and always will be wrong!

So what do you do???  Consider the source of the uncharitable act.  Be "kind and lenient" towards their stupidity, be "tolerant" of what they have learned as a result of their surroundings.  Forgive them for their ignorance.  Pray that God will open their eyes and that they will humble themselves before Him (an apology to you would be nice, but it's not always necessary). 

In this verse, we see that we can have everything and still have nothing.  If we continue to pass blame on others, fail to see the pain we cause others and refuse to accept the fact that we may be wrong, we have nothing.  Charity, as I've said, isn't just giving money or time to a worthy cause.  Charity is love - love towards one another.  Love begins with those around you.  Try to put your own selfishness aside and look at what they might be dealing with for just a second.  If you have faith in God, you can and will move mountains.  If your trust is in the Creator, what could possibly happen to you that He can't handle?  Don't discount the faith someone else has in God...maybe you need to try it on yourself.  Maybe you need to "give up the ghost" of your dead religion and try worshiping the LIVING God for a change.  Maybe you need to have just a small sliver of faith in something other than yourself or your wallet.  Remember, you were a part of the decision that was made so don't be so quick to dump the blame on someone else.  Accept your responsibility in it, answer for it, ask God to forgive you for ever doubting in Him and have a little patience...THAT's what faith can do!!!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Daily Devotionals from April 26, 2013 and beyond...

I have reached a point in time where I will no longer be posting on any place other than my web page (www.italkgodlistens.com).  That post will be shared on Twitter "italkgodlistens".

~ "Being accountable..."

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!  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

~ "Promises, promises..."

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 22, 2013

~ "At the foot of the cross..."

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (Matt 6:12)

When I learned these collected verses in Scripture, more commonly known as "The Lord's Prayer", it was never explained to me - "just learn it".  They were words mumbled without emotion.  When I look at this verse today, I see the essence of forgiveness.  It does not represent a chain of events that occur because God forgives me.  It's not "God forgive me and I'll forgive others".  The reality of this verse (which I prayed many, many times) is that God will forgive us in the same way we forgive others.  We are commanded to forgive!  What we don't forgive in others, is not forgiven in us.  Jesus' words, not mine.

All through his teaching on forgiveness, Jesus reminds us that we are to forgive EVERYONE and we are to forgive EVERYTHING!  There is nothing so great that cannot be forgiven.  We tend to think that by being saved we are automatically forgiven for what we do whether we ask for forgiveness or not.  We can do whatever we please, hurt whoever we want, take whatever we need...we consider it a "given".  It may be a "given", but is it "forgiven"???

We are made in the image of the Father.  We walk a path that is often strewn with thorns and rocks, potholes and crevices, and yet we still manage to get from one place to another on our journey.  We get there by the grace of God.  These obstacles build faith and character.  There are many people along that path that throw rocks at us.  They trip us and distract us.  We must forgive them in order to proceed.  They don't need to accept our apology or our forgiveness, but we need to offer it.  Our forgiveness comes from the Father.  In the same way that Christ offered forgiveness for his executioners, "Father, forgive them", we, too, must offer that same unconditional forgiveness.  If Christ could forgive those who nailed him to that tree, we can forgive that "lapse in judgment" of those around us.  Sometimes what we see as innocuous, other see as injurious.  Once again, perspective takes the lead.

Forgive as you wish to be forgiven.  Let go of the "sin" that binds you to the enemy.  Let go of what holds you back from experiencing the true joy and love that comes from the Father.  Allow the Holy Spirit to lift the vail of torment from your soul and let the blood, once again, wash over you.  Rejoice in the power that is in forgiving.  Stand at the foot of his cross and you can forgive anything!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

~ "Tickets, please..."

I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. (1 John 2:12)

Hmmm, "little children"???  Yes, "little children"!!!  I've read several different commentaries on this particular verse.  They are divided in their meaning of this translation.  Some say it refers to "all" of the new Christians, some say it refers to the children of the Apostles and some say it is literally referring to children.  In any case, and I choose to go with Matthew Henry's commentary in which he states "The youngest sincere disciple is pardoned: the communion of saints is attended with the forgiveness of sins. Those of the longest standing in Christ's school need further advice and instruction. Even fathers must be written unto, and preached unto; none are too old to learn."

We come into this world as sinners.  We leave this world as sinners.  It is through no fault of our own, but each of us having a free will to either answer the call of Christ or ignore it, is what sets us apart from one another.  I was raised to believe that if babies were not baptized they went to "limbo" (which has since been disbanded).  Quite frankly, I have no idea where they go now (according to the church of my upbringing) but in the words of George Carlin "I hope they promoted them all".  I personally find it very hard (I always did) to imagine that God would send an innocent creation of his to hell (or anywhere else, for that matter) simply because no one sprinkled water on them before they died.  If that is the case, explain to me where all the children of "spontaneous" (miscarriages) and "induced" abortions go.  Baptism doesn't forgive sin - it represents repentance.  It does not absolve you of anything.  The only one who can forgive you of your sins is God!  Yes, Jesus had the authority (and still does) to forgive sins - why???  Simple - he IS God.  Forgiveness is a pardon we received from God.  

When we confess to our Creator our shortcomings and our failures, we admit that we've violated his law and thus are asking that he graciously remove the sin - if we are sincere in our request, it is forgiven.  The ritualistic acts designed by churches to offer forgiveness in an attempt to control its populous are, in itself, blasphemy.  No one, and I do mean NO ONE can forgive but the Father!  No one can act as an intercessor for forgiveness but Jesus.  When we ask others to forgive us for "wrongs" committed against them, can we be sure they have truly forgiven us?  I know for myself, there were times when I was apologized to and I verbally accepted the apology offered, but in my head told myself "I will never forgive them for that".  I'd hate to think that the resentment I continued to carry kept that soul from heaven.  The only guaranteed forgiveness we can seek is that of God.  

Don't let the false teachings of others keep you from enjoying an eternity with God.  Walk in his light, follow his path, ask for and offer true forgiveness (even if you aren't asked for such).  Stop building a wall between you and God.  Stop using the teachings that aren't from his word as a means to step over his truths.  There is only one way to heaven and that's through Jesus.  You cannot buy forgiveness and you cannot sell it.  It's a gift, as I often said, already paid for, in blood...Jesus' blood.  Let it wash over you and cleanse you!  Belong to the true inventor of forgiveness - belong to Jesus! 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

~ "7X70..."

Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (Matt 18:22)

God made a way.  In Jesus lies our guarantee.  Follow his example, listen to his words, write them in your heart.  

There is nothing wrong with being a little angry, provided your anger is properly directed and channeled.  Jesus got angry at the money changers in the temple.  He turned over their tables and caused a scene.  Then he proceeded to heal the blind and the lame.

When Peter asked him "how many times, Lord" - Jesus not only gave him an answer, he gave him something to think about.  No, we are not supposed to keep track until our forgiveness thermometer reaches 490.  If you have that much time on your hands and the ability to keep a running total of forgiveness in your head, you may want to take a tally of how many times you have been forgiven.  "Forgive and forget".  Don't drag the ugliness out the next time you have a disagreement or a fight with someone.  Wipe the slate clean - after all, that's what our heavenly father has done for us!  

Begin today.  Forgive it all and turn the page in your journal of hurts.  It doesn't matter if the people you have hurt forgive you.  It matters that you forgive them.  Confusing?  Not really.  Shine the light on your own heart for a while.  See where your own demons hide.  Look to Jesus to open your eyes.  Look to Jesus to soothe your broken heart.  Look to Jesus to give you the strength to overcome whatever it is that is holding you back.  

We all have painful memories that most of the time we remember only from our own point of view.  We generally fail to see the opposing view point simply because our own injury is what takes precedence.  We don't see the reasoning (whether logical or illogical) behind the action that caused those painful words or actions to be inflicted on us in the first place.  What you see as being done out of spike, may have, in fact, been done out of pure love.  It may have been done out of fear, or even out of genuine ignorance.  Let it go.  It's what's holding you back from a true love ~ God's love!  

More often than not, when you "turn the other cheek", you will find a "kiss" is planted there.  Be open to receive it - and in order for that door to be opened, you need to step far enough away from it so that it can swing wide and let the healing love of Jesus enter your heart.  Take a risk, take a chance...forgive!

Friday, April 19, 2013

~ "Let my people go (or Revenge is a dish best served by God - Part 2)..."

Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say. (Ex 4:12)

What is revenge???  Defined, it is "To inflict punishment in return for (injury or insult); to seek or take vengeance for (oneself or another person); avenge."  The thesaurus gives vengeance and avenge as  "synonyms" for revenge.  

Throughout the Bible we are told of God's wrath, how time and time again he has avenged his people!  We don't have to read any further than Genesis when Cain killed Abel - God's vengeance towards him for killing Abel (and sevenfold to anyone who killed Cain) caused him to be cursed and "when thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth." (Gen 4:12)  

Then a while later in Genesis we have Noah and his task; we also have the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah. If we stroll over to Exodus, we find a whole boatload of opportunities offered to the Pharaoh to release from bondage the Israelites.  How many times was he asked???  How many plagues visited him???  What was the ultimate sacrifice???   And did they learn their lesson??? I now direct your attention to the parting of the Red Sea (and subsequent demise of the Egyptians who thought it would be a good idea to pursue the Israelites - aka God's People!!!)  And the vengeance continues!

God does not deal in "karma".  He deals in mercy and grace for those who follow his path and obey his laws.  He offers eternal life, free of charge (paid for in blood - for us - by Jesus), if we accept that gift of grace through faith.  He deals in vengeance when his authority is opposed and he can do that - he is GOD - he makes the rules and even tells us the consequences if we don't follow Jesus (and I think it's a safe bet that the fiery lake that John tells us about in Revelation is a tad bit hotter than the Jersey Shore in August).

Don't ever presume to tell anyone what God does or doesn't do if you haven't read his book.  It's called "The Bible" and it's written with you in mind.  Check it out, it's a rather good read, if I do say so myself...but that's just my opinion.  You may find that the targets of his vengeance are those who blatantly disregard his laws (as in Leviticus 20).  If you aren't convinced after reading this post that God does, in fact, take revenge for his people, continue on the path you are on and you will experience his wrath, first hand.  As in Nehum 1:2, ‎"God [is] jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and [is] furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth [wrath] for his enemies."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

~ "Revenge is a dish best served by God..."

Then the king returned out of the palace garden into the place of the banquet of wine; and Haman was fallen upon the bed whereon Esther [was]. Then said the king, Will he force the queen also before me in the house? As the word went out of the king's mouth, they covered Haman's face. (Esther 7:8)

As any of my young friends can tell you, Esther is my favorite heroine.  She was a "no-nonsense" woman who had courage beyond any woman and faith and beauty that matched.  If you don't know the story of Esther, it's worth the study and I strongly suggest it a "definite read".  

Politics.  That's pretty much what brought about this event.  How many times are we told to "think before we speak/act"?   Haman (whose name, when read aloud, is generally followed by hisses) had pretty much sealed his own fate.  His attitude was that of pompousness and arrogance and he really believed he was "all that".  Enter Hadassah (aka Queen Esther of Persia), winner of the King's beauty contest, woman of God, orphan and champion of her people.  On two separate occasions, Haman has been put in his place and did not get what he thought he deserved (but did actually get what he really deserved).  His character reminds me much of a righteous bully, insomuch as HE thought he was righteous.  In his powerful position and prosperous life style, what he failed to realize was that he picked the wrong fight and the wrong person to fight against - God.  

"Those that are most haughty and insolent when in power and prosperity, commonly, like Haman, are the most abject and poor-spirited when brought down. The day is coming when those that hate and persecute God's chosen ones, would gladly be beholden to them. The king returns yet more angry against Haman. Those about him were ready to put his wrath into execution. How little can proud men be sure of the interest they think they have! The enemies of God's church have often been thus taken in their own craftiness. The Lord is known by such judgments. Then was the king's wrath pacified, and not till then. And who pities Haman hanged on his own gallows? Who does not rather rejoice in the Divine righteousness displayed in the destruction his own art brought upon him? Let the workers of iniquity tremble, turn to the Lord, and seek pardon through the blood of Jesus." (Matthew Henry).

What was true then, still holds true today.  DO NOT think for one minute that justice will not be delivered to those in power who persecute the children of the King.  His judgement will be for those who have faithfully followed him against those who have continually tortured them.  I shudder to think of what is to come (and the light is shining on what is already happening).  But even in their terror, they cannot bring themselves to see the hand of God.  They continue on in their nazi fashion and beg for the assistance of those they have so indignantly blown away.  Not until God is ready for it to end, will it end.  Jesus is coming back and he will see the gallows of righteousness erected and those who have not met his commands will see their lives pass before them as they hang.  

Continue to pray for those in power - all over the world, not just in these United States.  The war we are fighting is nothing compared to the war that is yet to come.  The enemy is gathering his forces, but to no avail.  In the end, when all the blood has been spilled on the battlefields, the King will march across them gathering up those who fought the good fight.  In the end, he will be victorious!  In the end, all things will be as they were foretold.   Decide now which side you are on.  Decide now which battles are worth your energy.  Instead of criticizing and critiquing - pray!  Keep your opinions to yourself and your eyes open.  Like Haman, they will be dealt with appropriately!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

~ "Another fine mess..."

Hear, O LORD, [when] I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. (Ps 27:7)

"What am I supposed to do, Lord?"  A prayer we've all prayed at one time or another.  "Am I making the right decision, Lord?"  Another one.  "Is this what you want from me, or is it what I want for myself?"  There are many more.

Sometimes we begin asking for guidance before we even need it, sometimes we ask when confronted with a situation, and sometimes we ask afterwards.  That last one tends to be me a lot of the time.  Yes, I pray daily.  But sometimes get so "caught up" in what sounds good at the time, without thinking it through, and act impulsively - then I go to the Lord in prayer.  It are those desperate cries that we utter that often need the most attention.  Fortunately, our King does not roll his eyes and tell us "I told you so".  With a gentle and loving hand, he reminds us that we did not consult him first, this may not be part of his plan and he wants us to back out gracefully and return the power to him.

Our human impulses often take us to places we think we want to be and then when we are there, realize that is not where he wants us to be.  So how do we "fix" that?  We don't.  He will.  Most of the time this comes when we get tired of waiting.  We need to learn to trust him just a little more.  He has promised us he will never leave us, so why do we doubt that he will?  He has promised to take care of us, so why do we fear he won't?  Other people, other humans like ourselves, have a tendency to push us to make decisions that will satisfy and pacify them - these are not necessarily decisions that we are comfortable with, nor are they truly what we want to do, but feel we have no choice in the matter - maybe because they do not walk as closely to God as we do.

If you truly want to follow Jesus, if you want him to lead, you have to allow him the room to walk and work.  He will take hold of your life if you let him.  Stop interfering in what he wants for you by injecting what you think you want (or what others think you should be doing).  Let him have the lead; then follow.  Somethings aren't meant for us to accomplish.  Some things aren't as important as others would have you believe they are.  

Be patient and wait on him.  When you become frustrated in that waiting period, pray.  Offer him prayers of praise and thanksgiving for what he has already done for you.  Many of us forget that it took a long time for us to reach the place we are in (and that can be either good or bad).  Don't add to your "drama" by engaging in things not of God, things he may not necessarily want for you or things you feel you "need" to do to please others.  Please one person.  God!  He will take care of the rest.  Do what he asks of you and everything else will fall into place as it's supposed to.  Let your faith in him take hold of you and don't let the enemy get in there with a wrench and loosen all the bolts.  Be strong and patient.  Pray and wait.  Look for his footsteps and follow in them.  He's been knocking on the door to your heart for a long time...open the door and let him in!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

~ "Running in place..."

Boston Skyline
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (John 13:34)

Today's post started out in "Numbers", then "Genesis" and a few other places -- the greatest command given us by Jesus I found in the Gospel of John...love one another as I have loved you!

As I scrolled through my friends "status lines" on Facebook last night, the one that touched my heart most was that of my niece: "Eleven years go by and you think you're fine, that despite profound loss you came out unscathed. Then you see the explosion...the smoke...people falling, running, screaming and you realize you're a lot less ok then you previously thought."

Reality has a way of catching up with people.  We witness, far too often, the anger and hatred of others.  We build cities we believe impervious; we don't think it will ever happen again; we watch in disbelief as part of our world crashes to the ground.  We ask for prayers for those affected by a tragedy.  

Pray for all people at all times - not just when tragedy strikes.  Love all people at all times - not just when the mood strikes you.  Lift your voices in praise of the Father for all things at all times!  Remember, the greatest commandment of all is to love another as Jesus loved you!  Let go of the anger and the hate and fill your hearts and souls with nothing but love!  Pray for the victims and their families -- let God worry about the justice!  

Monday, April 15, 2013

~ "Tis grace that brought me safe thus far..."

photo by Celia Darrigo

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things (Acts 17:24-25)

What do you bring to the Lord as your sacrifice?  No longer are we compelled to offer the sacrifices of our ancestors.  Jesus offered that final "blood" sacrifice on our behalf.  So, again I ask, what do you bring to the Lord as your sacrifice?

Many Christians find it only necessary to act as such when they show up for church on Sunday.  I have even heard some say that they are "going to church to pray to God" or "to be with God".  Their phrase "I have to go to church" fits right in with "I have to go to work".  It's a chore to many, an obligation they really don't want to do, but do it because of some bent or twisted belief system that has become as reflexive as the patellar reflex and serves only to insure that they are still functioning.  Some don't even know why they go - they just do it because they're told if they don't they will go to hell.

God does not live in churches.  He is there (he is everywhere) but he is not restricted to a manmade building.  He is not now, nor has he ever been (nor will he ever be) contained by anything!  Nothing can hold him (as firmly evidenced by the resurrection).  He wants for nothing.  All things are his, as he has created them.  So what could you possibly do or give to him that he cannot do or give himself?  You!  

He wants us to come to him - to lift up our hands in praise, our voices in song and to tell others about him.  Everything else that we do (our tithes, our "good deeds") serves no purpose, gains no "brownie points" if we are devoid of faith.  We do not enter the kingdom of heaven based on good works (Eph 2:9).  It is by grace and grace alone!  He died for YOU.   As individual as you are, so is the sacrifice that was rendered on your behalf.  If you were the only sinner on the planet, Jesus would have gladly gone to the cross for you, yet you cannot bring yourself to bow before him and ask his forgiveness.  What stands in your way?  Very simple - your pride.  Lose it - it's not worth anything in heaven, and it's worth even less in hell.  

Don't let the fear of ridicule stand between you and God.  Remember, they ridiculed Noah, they ridiculed Moses, they ridiculed Jesus...what a great group of people to be associated with!!!  Give him your life today.  Offer yourself to him for the sacrifice he gave for you.  Ask him to take the lead and then follow!  There is no meeting him halfway - you have to go all the way to the foot of the cross.  It is there that you will find the faith you need to receive the grace you desire.  Go!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

~ "The greatest of these..."

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13)

In a rare and quiet moment yesterday, I had the opportunity to reflect life, in general.  Where I fit into the world in the grand scheme of things.  What really matters most in life is not so much how well we do our job, how neat and clean we keep our homes, whether or not we are good cooks or talented writers.  It's not really all that important to pay our bills all the time on time (although it is a good thing) and it's not that important to be frugal or painstakingly accurate.  What matters most in life is love!  

The ability to love and be loved is a gift afforded us by our Father.  Jesus taught us the true meaning of love when he went to the cross for our sins.  There is no greater love than that!  So, what do we do with it?

The definition of love in the dictionary describes only an emotion - we know without any question the definition of love - patient, kind, confident, unassuming, humble, restrained, respectful, calm and cheerful.  Our Savior reminds us that regardless of where we go or what we do, if we have love, we'll be okay!  But...love is not just red hearts and arrows - it is a culmination of all the behaviors Paul tells us about in this chapter of Corinthians.  

Being part of a large family for the past 17 years has afforded me the opportunity to learn that there can be love in all times - not just the good, not just the joyful - but in the hard times and embarrassing ones as well!  Take a lesson from this chapter in Corinthians and reach out in love to those around you!  Give as much as you receive, rejoice in all things and love without hesitation!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

~ "The guiding light..."

"I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, In paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them And rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, And I will not leave them undone." (Isaiah 42:16)

No, we aren't going to discuss the old soap opera that my mother and grandmother watched without fail.  In this verse, God speaks to his people.  He tells them that he will remove the obstacles that lie before them.  In this verse, we see that if God brings you to it, he will lead you through it!

So often we get to a point in our walk that we become frightened and discouraged.  We feel alone.  We question whether or not we really are on the road he has chosen for us and wonder if somehow we've managed to take a detour and not even realize it.  Well, even if we did, God will guide us through that forest and make "straight" the way.  Remember, we are human and make mistakes.  We also have a very cunning enemy working against us at all times.  He will use what ever device he can to convince us that we are not loved by God, not protected by God and not saved by grace through God.  He will tell us that we are not accepted into the family of God.  He will taunt and tempt us when we aren't sure what we are to be doing.  He will lay the carrot with the string attached to it in front of us and continue to drag it a bit further from our reach each time we come close to it.  God doesn't work like that.  He waits patiently for us to realize who it is we're dealing with, accepts our humble apology for doubting and continues to lead us on, all while Satan stands defeated in the shadows.  

Waiting on the Lord is sometimes frustrating.  We feel we should be "doing" something and all the while we are being told to "be still".  There is a reason for the waiting.  Maybe our next blessing isn't quite ready for us, maybe we aren't quite ready for it.  Maybe we need to search our soul for healing before moving on, maybe we need to become a bit more patient than we've been.  Maybe our faith needs to grow, maybe our lives need to change.

Once we have committed to HIS way, he will not ever forget us.  We are set aside as princes and princesses - we are children of the King.  We will receive our inheritance when the time is right and not a moment before.  We are never out of his sight.  With each and every step we take, his light guides us, it shines so often only on the step we are about to make contact with, but it still shines.  He lights our way.  He is our way.  Don't forget that.  Continue to hold him up as your King!  Lift up your voice in praise and glorify him!  Do what ever it is he's asking you to do, even if he's asking you to wait!

Friday, April 12, 2013

~ "Aaugh!!!"

Do all things without murmurings and disputings (Phil 2:14)

Most people know the slogan for Nike Footwear.  The words "just do it" appear beneath the "swoosh" logo that denotes Nike.  It's easily recognizable and usually when seeing it, one automatically recalls the command.  Why?  Because it was such a profound statement and unique logo that it stuck with you.  It wasn't something we were overly conditioned to seeing - it was something different and creative and it attached itself to our consciousness.

When we see a cross, we think of Jesus.  Our mind automatically recognizes that our Savior was crucified to pay for our transgressions.  It should be ever present in our minds, in all that we do, but it isn't.  We most often lose sight of it when we are frustrated, when we are lonely, when we are hurting and even when we are content.  When we are tired, our focus is on sleeping.  We can see nothing else but the pillow and the blankets.  All we want is to be safely tucked into and wrapped in the soft warmth and peaceful slumber that regenerates us without any action involved other than closing our eyes.  We wake restored and refreshed!  Sometimes we have to fight to keep our eyes open long enough to make it there, making the actual act of falling asleep much more anticipated and more greatly desired.  Yet, when we were children, the last place we wanted to be was asleep!  We hated the thought, some of us pitched a fit and going to bed was worse than a prison sentence.  We whined and complained and fought and ultimately found ourselves either sore from a pop on the behind or sobbing into that pillow.  Had we just done as we were told in the first place, there wouldn't have been all drama that surrounded the command to "go to bed".

In the same manner, we have been commanded to follow the Word of God.  He's given us step by step instructions and even sent Jesus to show us how to do it.  Yet, there are some that still insist on doing what they want, when they want.  There are those, too, who complain and moan over having to go to church, make excuses as to why they can't open the Bible and read it, have no time to pray and don't really see the point in being involved in anything other than their own little corner of the world.  

Knowing that I will never be good enough to enter the kingdom of heaven, knowing that no matter what I do, it will never be good enough does not discourage me.  I continue to push through the moments of apathy and mental paralysis that accompany those moments (sometimes hours, sometimes days) because although I will never be good enough, Jesus is, and he is in me, and I am in him.  We are a team.  Sometimes I lag far behind and have to run to catch up, but he does not desert me.  He waits for me to come to him.  I do not murmur and grumble at the path I've been chosen to  walk - after all, I was given the choice to follow or to stay where I was - lost and condemned.  

Sometimes its not in what you do, but in the attitude you do it with.  Don't let your attitude towards prayer be one of loathing or complaining - do it with a song in your heart, with a joy that you are able to call upon his name and he hears you.  If you're having trouble with it - ask him to help you.  He never gets tired of hearing your voice.  Make time for him every day.  Make him your number one priority.  Step away from the computer long enough to offer him praise for the fact that you have one!  Offer him praise for the roof over your head.  Offer him praise for the food you eat, the "things" you have and the blessings he bestows on you (especially since you don't deserve them).  For without him, without his guiding hand and loving touch, you are sure to become an easy target for the enemy.  Be strong, don't give up hope, he has great plans for you!