Friday, June 28, 2013

~ "But God, you don't understand..."

But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matt 13:23)
Understanding what Christ wants from us is easy. He wants our love, our dedication and our prayers. He wants us to plant seeds in others. He wants us to be obedient to his word. He wants us to have faith and to keep the faith we have! It is human nature to doubt, but then where would we be if we always doubted everyone or everything? The motives of others are not for us to worry about. Their judgement will come in his time as well as our own. We don't always go about things with the "proper motives", we justify what we do under the mistaken belief that it is for the "greater good". 

Stop where you are and look at yourself. Are you everything that God wants you to be? Have you done something thinking you are "helping God" keep someone on the right path, when in reality you were just trying to control a situation that was none of your business? I know that I have. I hang my head in shame sometimes when I think of the things of tried to accomplish in HIS name. 

The bright side is, he is a forgiving God. Let go of what it is that you feel you need to control or keep tabs on. Don't let the enemy convince you that it's your place to stick your nose in where it doesn't belong. The only place your nose belongs, in some situations, is pressed against the palms of your hands while you ask for forgiveness and mercy. God knows all things, he knows your heart and what you were trying to do (even if you weren't going about it the way he wants you to). Ask him to heal, or mend, or enlighten the person you are trying so desperately to keep (or get) on the right path. Ask him to open their heart to what it is they aren't seeing. Be strong, stand firm and lift up your voice to him ~ he hears your pleas and cries! He has promised us eternity - what more could you possibly want?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

~ "Why is your head stuck in the sand???"

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. (3 John 1:11)

There's a great country song entitled "I Saw God Today" - is has some really nice lyrics and talks about seeing God in the eyes of newborn baby, an old couple holding hands, etc. 

When we deliberately do things and say things that hurt other people, when we refuse to yield to the forgiving of those who have wronged us, when we stand in our righteous beliefs of worldly affairs and do not look at the person and remember that they, too, are one of God's creations - can we say we know God?

We can walk in the ways of Christ and yet still be dead. We can profess our love for the Lord and be empty. So," what do I do", you ask. Be brave in your walk! Forgive those you would rather see suffer for what they've done to you! Remember, that no one can hurt you unless you allow them to. To continue to harbor resentments against people takes up space that could be used to love them! Jesus loved all men, even Judas! 

Find one good thing about the person that keeps you from giving yourself fully to God. Give yourself a reason to forgive. Walk with your head held high and don't let their lies or their blind interpretations of you or a given situation cause you to wallow in anger and resentment! Forgive them and ask God to bless them! Today, make it about someone else and it will come back to you multiplied many times!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

~ "Along for the ride..."

An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered. (Proverbs 11:9)

Some time ago, I had the unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on your perspective) opportunity to have information shared with me under the code of silence so that I do not continue to be a topic of discussion among a select group of people.  The revelation made me both boiling mad and unbelievably hurt.  Follow that up with a nightmare about my ex and you have the makings for a not-so-good-start to that moring.  My original view was that I could honestly say it was easier to handle simply because these people are not "Christians".   However, as I relieve this particular nightmare (over and over again), that statement offers me no comfort simply because we are all children of God and are created in His image. 

I often write about how we learn and grow through our reading of God's word.  We also have (as parents or even future parents) the obligation to rear our children to respect those in authority, to respect the law and obey it, to not expect the world to revolve around us and to keep opinions to oneself unless specifically asked for them.  I was raised by a Marine - I know I do not have to elaborate on that one - I raised my children the same way.  I'm not one for sugar coating anything (as you can tell by reading my posts) and when I speak, I use as few words as are necessary to convey the point I am making - I could never be a politician (although I did run for a seat on our township committee some 20 years ago).  I don't believe in taking you around the world with a story - I get right to the point and make it clear what's expected.  From time to time I question my inability to add a touch of "Southern" to my "Jersey" - my years in Tennessee did teach me that the tone of my voice is often what puts people off -- even when I try to say it "nice" it still comes out like a "bark".  

So, what do I do?  I look to our Heavenly Father.  I read His Word and in that I find that I am His daughter.  I find that my heritage is one of a blunt, up front and and to the point Father who loves me without question.  The guidelines He lays before me are very clear.  There's no question of what is required of me and my opinion is welcome, but not necessary.  He has the final say, regardless of what I may think or feel.  He knows my heart.  He can look beyond the "rough" exterior and see the true me.  I cannot hide from Him.  He doesn't use a lot of words (there are over one million words in the English language; there are a mere 12,143 in the Bible).  He is a God of mercy and understanding, yet He is a God of justice and straightforwardness.  He reminds me that my life here on earth is short and that I will be with Him for all eternity.  He tells me that ALL things are possible through Jesus and that I have been chosen.

Today is a new day.  It's a chance to step forward and realize all the untapped potential within you.  Strength comes in knowing you will succeed in God's plan - you cannot fail!  Lift your eyes toward heaven and praise the God who gave you life, know that HIS plan is greater than any condescending remarks or the ignorant babble another human could possibly make.  Don't dwell on the hurt, but remember the feeling.  Walk with your head held high because you are a child of the King!  Your life may not be all that you'd like it to be now, but the next life will be perfect!  Guaranteed!!!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

~ "Sticks and stones..."

Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Tim 4:11-12)

When I was young, whenever someone would make fun of me, or tease me, or ridicule me or any of my friends, we had a phase we would retaliate with: "Sticks and stones may brake my bones, but names will never hurt me." Unfortunately, names and words sometimes hurt more than sticks and stones because they cut deep and leave scars unseen by the eyes of men. 

It is very difficult for the young people of today (or any day, for that matter) to be accepted among their peers as prayer warriors, followers of Christ and believers who walk in the word. It's not the "cool" thing to do (sorry, young people, but I'm not really up to speed on what word you would use here - so I'm going with one from my generation). Some teenagers and young adults need to "fit" into the world - they don't want to be laughed at or made fun of, so they have a tendency to conform to fit into their circle of friends. Its easy for us (as mature adults) to sit back and tell them they need to live their own lives and not worry about what other people will say or think of them. Easier said than done. We all strive for the approval of our peers, no matter how old we are. We continue to associate with the same people who have used us, tormented us, and shunned us at times because we weren't quite at their level (be it higher or lower - in their opinion, that is). Its frustrating to watch someone continue to associate with people you know have no respect for them and try to be a "part of" that group of individuals who truly have nothing nice to say about them and include them only so that they have someone to talk about or laugh about. 

In Paul's letter to Timothy, he reminds him that "godliness has value for all things". The words we speak, the phrases we use, do define the person we are. Our actions do speak louder than words as well. It's not easy to be a teenager or young adult in today's society, but it is possible to be a godly teenager or young adult! Choose your words wisely, choose your friends wisely and your choices will be many, because God will bless you throughout your lives. Be the one who has the opportunity to say "I started it,...before it was all the cool new thing." Be a champion - for Christ!

Monday, June 24, 2013

~ "I will not be moved..."

My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. (Ps 62:5-7) 
“If the gospel isn't good news for everybody, then it isn't good news for anybody. And this is because the most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people and convince them to join. It is when the church gives itself away in radical acts of service and compassion, expecting nothing in return, that the way of Jesus is most vividly put on display. To do this, the church must stop thinking about everybody primarily in categories of in or out, saved or not, believer or nonbeliever. Besides the fact that these terms are offensive to those who are the "un" and "non", they work against Jesus' teachings about how we are to treat each other. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor, and our neighbor can be anybody. We are all created in the image of God, and we are all sacred, valuable creations of God. Everybody matters. To treat people differently based on who believes what is to fail to respect the image of God in everyone. As the book of James says, "God shows no favoritism." So we don't either.” Unknown Author.
We all have moments when our faith is tested.  We can recall some instances more clearly than others, but they are usually the big moments in our lives when it is very obvious that the evil one is lurking.  It's in those small, "it won't make a difference" moments that our faith is really tested!

To know when NOT to say something, or to not react is a true testimony to the rock we stand on!  Biting our tongues can speak volumes!  THAT shows the world who we live for, what we are made of!  

Bring Christ everywhere!  Take his love with you no matter where you go and what you do!  Let others see Christ in you - that's the solid rock I stand on!  His grace lifts me up and carries me when I know I can't do it alone. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

~ "You Just Want It To Stop Hurting, You Just Don't Care How Anymore - by Al-Vis"...

Al-Vis and Me - 2009
And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. (Matt 27:5)

A very good friend of mine wrote today's "guest" devotional (it wasn't planned this way and I know he won't mind that I've borrowed it).  He gets to the heart of things in this piece (which he published on his blog "".  So, without further ado - I give you "Al-Vis"...

I have been hearing and responding to several online and offline posts lately in which some friends have been in terrible despair. One such person ended her life. Others have been contemplating it.

While others take on a “holier than thou” attitude (meaning, in this case, “stronger than you”) I am very sympathetic to those who have gone down such mental paths. Not only have I contemplated it but I have several friends who went thru with it, and succeeded.

Back when I was a Woolworth manager, of a wealthy northern New Jersey town, I had a young lady on my staff, whom we’ll call Andrea. Andrea was extremely pretty, came from an upper-class family and had all the advantages of such- plenty of boyfriends, social status, popularity. She was also very unhappy.

I was going thru a tough time myself, since my first marriage had broken up. I had moved to the Somerset County area to try to be physically away from the situation with my first wife, and for the most part it was a very nurturing and healing atmosphere. But I still cried myself to sleep every night. I remember thinking “Am I ever going to stop crying? What will it take?”

Somehow, on a slow night, Andrea and I got into a discussion of her personal life (she was still in high school but was somewhere near a senior, and I was still in my twenties, so we weren’t far apart age-wise). Somehow the situation turned to my personal situation and hers. Anyway, at one point she said something to me that stuck with me ever since:

“People want to commit suicide because they just want the pain to stop. Mental or physical. They non’t care how, they just want it to stop. And they don’t think it will ever stop hurting, so that’s the only way they can think of to get it to stop.”

When people commit suicide, others can be very judgemental: “How could he/she do this to his/her kids? Why didn’t he/she get help?” and on and on.

But someone who is in pain isn’t always thinking rationally. They can’t ask themselves these questions.

There have been several times in my life when I “just wanted to the pain to go away.” Not just after my first marriage, but even as recently as earlier this year after a brutal split with a tremendously talented singer, who turned on me after I left the band. With no music career left and no way to get one back my despair was palpable. And though it NEVER crossed my mind that I just wanted it to stop, I remembered back to the time when I did just want it to stop.

No one wants to go to bed crying every night. No one wants to wake up crying. No one wants to get up and leave their desk at work, or even walk off a stage, because they can no longer keep their composure. But sometimes life hurts. So sometimes people want to pick up that gun, or that bottle of pills, or make that jump. They don’t care anymore how they can get it to stop hurting, they just want it to stop hurting.

And you can try to reason with them: “Things won’t always be this bad.” “Think of your family.” “Count your blessings.”

But by the time the person has chosen that bottle or that gun or that bridge to jump off, all of these have been thought of already. The pain won’t stop. That’s all he/she knows. This will make it stop.

I wish all of you who stand in judgement of such feelings could get into the minds of those with these feelings (and maybe this little piece will help you). If you know someone like this, they don’t need rationalization. They don’t need to know whom that are hurting besides themselves. Maybe they need a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on or a hand to squeeze the pain away. But they don’t need your judgement. God will judge them and all of us. And he will see that, at least for a while, the pain was too much to bear. So someone jumped or swallowed a bottle of pills or stuck a gun inside their mouth. Maybe He will forgive.
But all we can do is try to understand, and maybe help anyway we can. We cannot know what is in a person’s mind, or broken heart. All we can do is to try to get them to understand that they don’t have to suffer alone, that we can give them our love and compassion, whether or not they appreciate any longer.

Even in our most powerless moments we still have ourselves. And that in itself is no small remedy- in fact it might mean the difference between life and death to someone at some point.

Friday, June 21, 2013

~ "Oh be careful little fingers what you key..."

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. (Ex 20:16)

Lies. They distort the truth and hurt the one they are being spread about. We are commanded not to lie about others. Our recollections, our interpretations of situations, the selective memories we hold on to, and our need to be accepted sometimes cause us to forget the reality of a relationship and replace it with what our minds and our hearts can deal with. We get over the hate, but we never get over the love.

When relationships fail, we lash out in anger and in pain. We say things we might not normally say, we do things that we later regret. The biggest obstacle in our path at that point are the lies of others. The hurts they continue to heap on the pile (some without even knowing it) create an anger and pain that causes us to want to seek revenge. And in a time when we should have been defended, we find that we are punch line to their jokes. 

It is at those times that God lifts us up and reminds us that we are loved! His love comes to us in many ways. Even though the words of some cut us down, in that same moment, the actions of others lift us up! We all have moments when we are "insane" (some of them last longer than others) and we eventually become grounded again. The hurts come when the lies we are tagged with do not go away. Some people feel the need to continue to be the grammar school bully into their adulthood. They aren't happy unless they're tearing someone else down. My friends, know that God has a plan for them, too! 

True friends, like true love, comes from the heart. God's goodness and mercy will always outshine the deeds of the evil one! Accept the hand you are dealt and pray for those who continue to hold on to their hurtful ways, they are known to God and he will deal with them in his time!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

~ "The gift that keeps on giving..."

... If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (Rom 12:6-8)

A catchy little jingle "Be all that you can be" was used some years ago to encourage young men and women to join the Army Reserves. God asks us to "be all that we can be" as well. He asks us to use our gifts and our talents to serve him by helping others less fortunate, less knowledgeable, and less able. Do we do it? Do we do it with a smile? Does it come from our hearts?

Sometimes God allows us to be in certain situations so that others have the opportunity to rise above their own selfishness and self centeredness. Reaching out to someone who was hurting and heal their pain was something that Jesus did on a daily basis. It didn't matter who it was, his touch made people whole. His love continues to do that. He reaches out through each of us to others. We are the vessel through which his love is spread. We need to reach out to our family and friends and let them know we understand their pain, their losses, their situations and their plights. Every situation is an opportunity to see the power of God at work. It doesn't matter if their situations are self-created or the result of a catastrophe not of their control; what matters is that you lift your head up long enough to acknowledge that you care. Sometimes that's enough to keep people on the right path. But know that we are not stupid by nature and that most people can differentiate between a vain attempt to help and a true gift of love and compassion. Do it with the right intentions, do it with a smile in your heart - do it out of love, otherwise, it means nothing! 

Make a difference in the life of someone you know! It will come back to you when you least expect it!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

~ "...from dust or the swamp???"

Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. (1 Tim 6:20-21)

In these two verses, Paul gives a charge to Timothy. He tells him to beware! Science can and will distort your faith if you allow it. In those days, they may not have had "science" the way we understand it today, but they had scholars who studied the stars and the like.

In the King James Bible, "knowledge" is translated from the Greek, meaning "science". In the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary it is stated that: "There was true "knowledge," a special gift of the Spirit, which was abused by some (1Co 8:1; 12:8; 14:6). This gift was soon counterfeited by false teachers arrogating to themselves pre-eminently the gift (Col 2:8, 18, 23). Hence arose the creeds of the Church, called symbols, that is, in Greek, "watchwords," or a test whereby the orthodox might distinguish one another in opposition to the heretical. Perhaps here, 1Ti 6:20, and 2Ti 1:13, 14, imply the existence of some such brief formula of doctrine then existing in the Church; if so, we see a good reason for its not being written in Scripture, which is designed not to give dogmatic formularies, but to be the fountain whence all such formularies are to be drawn according to the exigencies of the several churches and ages."

Intelligent people often need to see proof of the existence of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. They need a "logical" explanation for everything. Sometimes there is no logical explanation. Sometimes all you have to rely on is your faith. Faith in a loving and powerful God who sent his son to suffer and die on the cross for our sins. Its not important to know how old the earth is or to predict when the end will come, unless you are searching for answers. My faith tells me that God created the world in 6 days. The Bible chronology shows me that the earth is a certain age. The Bible also tells me that Christ will return and he will come "like a thief in the night". No one but the Father knows when that will be. The time is now! Give yourself to the Lord and count your blessings, "for you know not when the master of the house will return".

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

~ "I was w-r-r-ong..."

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

When the reality of sin walks across the threshold of your mind, what action do you take?  Do you try to blow it off, ignore it, make excuses for it, rationalize your way around it?  Do you utter the words "that was then, I'm not that way now"?  How do you make it right???

There are instances when the words "I'm sorry" are the only means of atonement.  There are times when those words stick in our throats and we are unable to utter them because of we are so embarrassed and broken by what we've done.  Sometimes there is no way to take back what was said or done.  There is no way to "fix" it.

The remorse and regret we carry with us will also not serve as a tool for forgiveness.  We need to remember to ask, then accept the consequences (either forgiven by those we've harmed or not forgiven).  We humans have the capacity to forgive, yet many choose to harbor ill feelings and resentments towards those who we feel have harmed us by pronouncing sentence on them with the "I'll never forgive you" clause.  How fortunate we are that God does not operate the same way.

We are all sinners.  It's what we do.  Every day we sin.  We need to focus on asking for forgiveness right then and there.  It is the only way to break the cycle of lying, cheating, stealing, fabrication, and the other harmful sins we commit.  Rationalizing them away is not the answer nor is it a solution.  We need to ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten us in the areas in which we are susceptible to the enemy's hold.  

Deliberate disobedience towards what the Father has told us is wrong, is not a sin of omission - it is a sin of selfishness, greed and lust.  It is taking what we want and not considering the effects our actions will have on someone else.  Again, rationalizing that it is ours to begin with, doesn't make it any less offensive to God.  Coming clean is sometimes the only way to quiet our guilty consciences.  Justifying and rationalizing have no place in admitting we were wrong.  Total honesty and humility are the only avenues we have from which to choose.  Forgiveness for what we have done (or failed to do) ultimately comes from the Father.  Our willingness to seek forgiveness is grounded in Jesus.  Gather the strength and courage you need to set each one of your sins against others right.  Call on the power of the Holy Spirit to guide you and strengthen you as you begin to clean up your messes.  One at a time, maybe one each day - but start setting the record straight - you'll sleep better.  Turn the corner today, make a new start and ask that your prayer be heard so that you can continue to walk without Satan dogging you over something you did 20 years ago.  Don't give him any more power over you than he already has!  Give the power back to God, and in doing so, you will glorify His name like never before!

Monday, June 17, 2013

~ "Lies..."

They only consult to cast him down from his excellency: they delight in lies: they bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly. (Ps 62:4)

David knew.  He knew the words, the hurts and the frustration.  We don't all fall prey to the lies of others, to the consorting of thieves that try to steal the glory and turn successes into failures.  No, not all of us.  But those of us who do, often have difficulty understanding "why".  I have difficulty understanding "why".  Is it jealousy?  Is it fear?  Are they just mean, angry people?  Do they take delight in making others feel miserable?  And the questions go on and on.

When God is not a part of someone's life - when they do not KNOW Him, they are generally aligned with the enemy, even if they don't know him or believe in him.  They tend to think that what they've learned (the clawing of one's way to the top) is the normal behavior for humans.  After all, they've seen it in movies, read it in books and watched it on the news.  They feel they deserve the best whether they've earned it or not.  And no one deserves better than them.

Most insecure people (insecure in their own persona) believe that the best way to feel better about themselves is to make others feel worse.  Some don't even realize they are doing it, simply because they want what they want and can't fathom any other way to get it besides lying.  They are afraid of the truth. They are afraid of being "found out" - so they lie and continue to lie, building their house brick upon brick with deceit and fabrication as the mortar.  How sad.

I have far too many examples to share, far too many hurts piled up in my vast wealth of experience.  And they continue.  From one day to the next - second guessing my authority, taking advantage of my naivete or generous nature - they lie to me.  They lie about me.  

I'm told I am strong (not so strong as you may think, but strong just the same).  I cry.  The tears fall and the hurt comes.  The one thing that keeps me going day in and day out is knowing that my Judge is righteous.  My reward will come, in time - HIS time.  My days are numbered, as are everyone's.  My God knows my struggles, He knows my hurts and most importantly, He knows my heart.  He knows yours, too.  Hang in there...they cannot lie to HIM!!!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

~ "Psssssst..."

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. (Rom 2:1)

Well, that's a hard one to swallow! And we are all guilty of it - if we live in the real world and interact with people, we pass judgement on someone else, whether we want to or not! 

If we partake in gossip, let drama into our lives or share our opinions on someone with others - we are passing judgement. That makes us sinners. The key to this one is to ask forgiveness and make an honest and conscious effort to avoid it. "But how" you may ask...focus on what is good, what is right. Don't seek out the negative in a situation or a person. Walk away from the negativity and turn your heart towards Jesus. Those cute little keychains and doo-dads a few years back that were imprinted with "WWJD" seems like a logical answer to that question. It never easy to walk away from what has become so comfortable in our lives. Drama and gossip become just as much part of our routine as brushing our teeth and combing our hair. 

I try not to be a part of the idle gossip that works its way into my life, but I am not always successful. Innocent conversation between me and a friend is often in judgement of the actions of a third party. I often don't realize that I am gossiping when I do it. Its a mindset I need to work on moment by moment, each and every day. It is not my job to judge the thoughts or the actions of anyone. 

There is an upside to drama and gossip ~ let it be GOOD gossip ~ talk about the good aspects of a person, share the positive and not the negative - the results will amaze you! What may start out as an exercise in futility may turn out to be a goal achieving accomplishment in turning your heart around! The old adage "if you can't say something nice about someone" just may prove to be the saving grace you've been praying for!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

~ "Dedicated..."

photo by Celia Darrigo
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Rom 12:1-2)

What are you doing to dedicate yourself as a living sacrifice to the Father???  Do you even have any idea what you are supposed to do or why?  There's a lot more to serving as a living sacrifice than attending church on Sunday or reading this post.  Isn't it time you stepped up your contribution?

I found a checklist (or a series of questions you can ask yourself) to help keep you on the path of righteousness (Matt 6:33) and allow your relationship with Jesus to grow.  No, they are not mandatory, but they are helpful.  Be honest with yourself when you answer them, don't look for the technicality in them.  Look at the actual - if you're doing them, you are probably walking the right path...if not, you may want to revisit what it is that the Lord is calling you to do.

  • I am a baptized member of my church
  • I am serving my church
  • I have indicated to God that I will go and do whatever He desires
  • I make spending time with God a priority
  • I purposefully look for opportunities to give financially to God's work
  • I purposefully look for opportunities to serve others
  • I take care of my sins immediately
  • I have a pure thought-life
  • I get along with others
  • I have joy regardless of my circumstances

Some of these I can answer "yes" - some I cannot.  So I guess that means I keep working at it.  This list is not intended for you to run out and join any church or dump all of your money into a non-profit organization.  It's just a guide.  The first three involve a commitment to God.  They acknowledge your belief in Jesus and your faith in His promises.  It's a great place to start.  Once you've accomplished the first three, the next four are on-going.  Praying, tithing and serving are a continuation of the faith we acknowledge in the first three.  Taking care of our sins immediately is also on-going (and rather important).  If each and every time we sin, we stop and ask for forgiveness (humbly and honestly), we will be better equipped to conquer the last three.  

There are no rules to follow other than what is written in the Word of God.  Jesus isn't going to count the number of times you went to church this year as if you had a "quota" to reach.  Remember - entering the Kingdom of Heaven is based on your rebirth, and your faith that through grace you are saved by the blood of Jesus.  What you do will be counted (that's another post), but it will not get you in.

Take the time to get to know God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  The power of prayer, the power of love and the power of forgiveness flow endlessly from the throne.  Do all that you can and then a little bit more!  Be grateful for what you have and that you have the ability to go before Him and ask for forgiveness.  Share His love with those around you and lift your hands in praise!  Dedicate your life and your work; be the imitation of His word!

Friday, June 14, 2013

~ "Are we there yet???"

Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. (Matt 15:25)

She was not "one of them".  The Canaanite woman was a Gentile, yet she believed in the mercy of our Lord.  She was undeserving (as we all are).  She related her misery (her possessed daughter).  She asked for mercy. She was met with discouragement, yet she persisted.  Her persistence paid off - her daughter was healed because of her faith!

How often to we go only half the distance with our prayers?  We bring our needs to the foot of the throne and get distracted and forget to leave them there.  We entertain a battle of wits with ourselves as to whether or not to leave them there or try again to fix them, walking away with our prayers in our hands and we have the audacity to complain to God when the prayers are not answered!  Our defeatist attitude tells us that "God will never answer this" or "God will never fix this" ... how can He when we won't leave it for Him?  

Our "unspoken" requests, the ones we pray for over and over that go unanswered, may just be that way because our human nature (and lack of patience) causes us to keep taking it back, trying to cause it to happen without trusting in God that it will happen...IN HIS TIME!  If you have a child who keeps bringing you something to fix, and each time they hand it to you, they take it back, eventually you will utter the words "just give it to me already and I'll give it back when it's fixed", thus grabbing it from the child's hands and sending them on their way!  

Stop interfering in God's grand plan of things.  Let Him do for you what He needs to do, what He wants to do - quit trying to do it all yourself.  He doesn't need your help!  Leave it in His very capable hands and walk away.  I always found I could get more done without people constantly bothering me for something while I was doing something else, or by badgering me about when it was going to be ready.  The same questioning words from the back seat of the car while traveling to a vacation spot, having only rounded the corner from home echoing the sentiment "are we there yet".  

God has faith in you, He is patient with you, He is loving and merciful.  Offer Him the same...have faith that He will do what He has promised.  Be patient and wait on His time.  Love Him above all others and remember that He alone determines the course of success you will tread.  Success for you may be different than success for another - but it is all leads to the same place - His Kingdom.  Be grateful for the gifts and blessings He bestows upon you - He has placed them there for a reason.  Remember to thank Him for them as well.  And leave that "unspoken" request at His throne, He'll get to it in His time and it will come back to you better than you could have ever imagined!!!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

~ "Never get caught without an umbrella..."

photo by Zira Harper
I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. (Gen 9:13)

What started out as a simple comment on a friend's social network status, set forth events that rocked my world one morning.  It all began with a rainbow.  

We all know the scientific definition of a rainbow: an arch of colors formed in the sky in certain circumstances, caused by the refraction and dispersion of the sun's light by rain or other water droplets in the atmosphere.  We learned that in fourth grade.  We also know that the rainbow is a reminder of God's covenant (promise) that He will never again destroy the earth by flood.  When I see a rainbow - I do not think of the scientific explanation - I think to the greater reason - the purpose for it's being - a promise from God!

Throughout the afternoon, there were comments being posted by myself, an young lady and two gentlemen who apparently do not believe in God nor do they have the faith that the young lady and I have.  It was becoming increasing difficult to field their comments, as they were starting to stray from the original topic to the starving children in Africa (which, by the way, I've been hearing about since I was a child myself - usually at the breakfast table when I would cut the crust from my toast), "big bang theory" and "a god" as opposed to "THE God".    Praying for them all the while, my final retort was one that I use quite often..."Satan has been very busy today..." and I left it at that.

We serve a merciful God.  He opens doors that no man can close, and closes doors no man can open.  He enlightens us to what we need to learn, what it is we need to do for Him.  No, He doesn't need our help - He wants our devotion.  He wants us to read His word, answer His call to us and serve in ways no godless individual can.  The sun (as the young lady pointed out) does not "rise" - it is stationary and the earth orbits around it - but it reappears every morning because of God.  He put it there.  He holds it all together, keeps it in place, for our benefit.  

If you go back to the first rainbow (which I'm guessing was probably the most beautiful of all rainbows), you will remember that it came after the destruction of a people totally engrossed in sinful behavior, absent from service to God and devoid of any true and worthwhile causes other than their own.  They had totally discarded God and His commands.  They had cast Him out of their lives and lived in the moment.  Sound familiar???  Throughout history we can see God's hand.  His utter disgust with the people who failed to show Him the reverence He deserved had brought forth His wrath upon the earth.  What we know (from His word) is that there is more to a Boy Scout - "be prepared".  Share the word with those around you - you don't have to win the argument (if it comes to that) - just plant the seed!  Walking away does not mean you've surrendered - it just means you refuse to battle with the enemy.  It only leads to frustration and a battle of words - generally in this case, someone ends up saying something they will later regret.

The bottom line to this entire conversation is another truth I throw out often...we know how the story ends - the victory belongs to Jesus, to God and to those who follow Him.  Satan will be defeated!  That's a guarantee from the King of Kings!  Let them have their refracted light, I prefer my promise...God's promise!
Pray for those who cannot see their way out of the science book and into the Bible.  Pray for those who find it necessary to challenge the power of God and faithfulness of His people.  Pray for those who do not know Him, that they will find Him before it is too late!  Pray for people like my friend, who chooses to continue to be an example of God's love in the lives of those around him.  He is one who truly walks the path of Christ!  He does not choose to bury his head in the sand and ignore the rantings of those who do not believe.  He continues to maintain the spirit of Jesus, teaching and sharing the word of God to those who do not believe.  

God has the entire situation well in hand.  The spiritual gifts He's given each of us help us to be better Christians - doing the work He designed for us.  Some of us preach, some of us run interference, some of us write - but all of us should be praying for all the workers of the Kingdom of God!  The pot of gold that the Irish talk about at the end of the rainbow does exist...not where the bow meets the ground, but rather where the promise of God is fulfilled in each and every one of us - through the faith that we have in the grace that we receive from He who created us!  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

~ "There will be a day..."

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Rev 21:3-4)

So often I long for that day.  When life's trial and the human suffering get to a point where we can no longer bear it, we all long for that day!  "When is it going to end" is usually the phrase that comes out of our mouths.  The answer, we know already is "soon".

In the time between Jesus' first coming and second coming, we are to be prepared and to help prepare others.  We take our cue from Him!  We forgive those who have hurt us, we share what we have with those who have nothing, we pray to the Father, we praise His name, we comfort those who grieve, we spread the Word of God and we remember the sacrifice on the cross.  

In this time, we suffer.  We suffer simply because we cannot see the face of God.  We suffer because of sin.  We suffer because of injustice.  There will be a day when all that is made right!  We will stand in the presence of God and in the fellowship of Jesus, presented as "clean" and we will celebrate the victory!  We will take up residence in the greatest mansion of all - our Father's mansion!  Our inheritance will be given us in full.

The more we give of ourselves to others, the more we will receive.  Our blessings on earth will not compare by any means, the blessings of the kingdom.  How could they?  To see the face of God will be the greatest blessing of them all!  To touch the face of Jesus cannot compare to anything we receive here on earth.  A long awaited meeting by many, I'm sure.  That  one, beautiful and wonderful soul who gave His life for me - who rescued me from the grave, who delivered my from the fires of hell - to gaze into His eyes and say face-to-face "thank you" is worth all the tears I've cried, all the disappointments I've experienced and the broken heart I live with.  He makes all the difference!

"Having joy, regardless of my circumstances" comes in knowing that all of this will end - that all of this will pass away!  It comes from knowing that whatever sins I've committed have been washed away.  It comes in the realization that I am loved and I am a child of the King - making me royalty!  It comes in the glory of His word.  It comes with the beating of my heart.  It comes in the stillness of my soul when He is near.  It is a joy like no other, because in that joy, I know, there will be a day... 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

~ "There's that man again..."

Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? (Hag 1:4)

From the history of the building of the second temple in Jerusalem, we find the repatriated Jews have laid the foundation (Ezra 2:10).  It was quite some time before the construction continued on, all the while, they were building themselves "paneled homes of cedar" instead of the temple.  They had their excuses and their reasons, but they forgot one very important thing - God had commanded them to do it and He would make a way for its completion.  Once again they needed to be reminded.

Aren't we the same?  We know what it is we are supposed to be doing, yet we make sure that we have all we need first!  We live in excess comfort while our neighbor has no lights.  We wear designer clothes while our neighbor picks through the bins at the second hand store.  We dine on fast food 5 times a week while our neighbor eats food from a local food pantry.  We have 15 pair of flip flops (it's a Jersey thing) and our neighbor is barefoot.  We make sure we are very comfortable before we do anything the Lord commands us to do.  No where in the Word of God does it say to fulfill all your wants before you meet the needs of the poor.  

God does not ask us to deprive ourselves.  He asks us to help one another.  If you feel that that check you wrote for the performer that came to your church is helping the needy - and that is all you do - good for you!  A true love offering is one that comes from the heart, to help those in need without them having to do anything to attain it other than being a child of God.  A true giver gives because there is a desire to help one less fortunate.  There are no strings attached and there is no gain that comes from the giving.  There is no "exchange of goods or services".  A true giver does so because their heart tells them to, not their Pastor.  

Somedays I wish I had thousands of dollars to just give to people who needed it, especially when I lay my head down at night in the comfort and safety of my bed, which is in a townhouse and protected by a double lock on the front door.  We keep up appearances for our neighbors and family - "oh, it has to look perfect when they come to visit" -- who are we pleasing?  What airs are we putting on and who are we putting them on for?  It's certainly not for our Father in heaven!  Isn't He the only one we need to impress?  And fancy furnishings and beautiful clothes isn't going to do it!

So those of you who live in your mansions here on earth, those of you who drive your expensive cars, those of you who eat gourmet meals nightly and drink those designer coffees - remember that for each of your "toys" there is someone who lacks the basics.  God has blessed you abundantly -- share what you have with those around you who have not!  Make it a true love offering.  Love your neighbor - help him out!  When you're in the grocery store and the woman in front of you is counting out change for her groceries - dig into your own pocket and help her pay for them.  When you see the person on the side of the road with the cardboard sign - don't think scam artist - think Christ -- would it really kill you to toss a dollar out the window?  Those gifts of love mean more to the Father than the check you write (that is tax deductible).  Share Christ with others - not just on Sunday mornings, but all the time.  Give from your heart - make it a gift that counts!  Do it out of love! 

Monday, June 10, 2013

~ "If you build it..."

They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required (Ezra 3:4)

When God's people returned to Jerusalem after their captivity, they began to rebuild the temple.  Even before it was completed, their resolve was to glorify God.  They feared God above all people.  They knew and obeyed His word.  They served Him!  Sometimes we need to take a lesson from those who have walked the path of God before us.

We should never hesitate to glorify our Father in Heaven.  After all, all things are because He commanded them to be.  The house we live in, the job we hold, the family we have - all written long before we were conceived. Each and every one of us has a duty to offer to Him the glory for it all.  

Fearing God and being afraid of Him are not the same.  I am not afraid of God (I am afraid of snakes) - so long as I do what He command me to do there is nothing to fear!  The fear of God (knowing what he can do) comes into play when we become cocky in our attitude and need to be reminded that we serve Him - not the other way around.  All that we are, all that we have, again, comes from Him.  There is no accomplishment made that is not given us by God.  The talents we use to complete a task were by His design.  Nothing we do is done alone.  When we forget that, we begin to walk a very thin line - and the enemy waits for us to fall off so that he can sneak in an claim the victory.

Secure a better understanding of God's word - of who He is and what He wants from you!  He will guide each step you take, every decision you make and you will know God.  Obeying His word is sometimes harder than it seems when the human wants keep getting in the way.  Follow all the rules.  When you do, there will be treasures built up in heaven (and sometimes here on earth) that will be worth something.  You will not have paid for them with deception or lies.  They will be honest gains.  

Serve the God who created you.  Serve Him through your actions and through your words.  Use every opportunity you encounter to share His wonderful gifts with others.  Be patient enough to wait on His love for you.  Know that in all things, He should come first.  Remember to thank and praise Him for all He gives you (and for all He takes away from you).  We see only what is directly in front of us - He sees it all.

Above all, remember that He will not fail you, He will not let you down!  Be as the captives who returned to Jerusalem and Judah - resolve to glorify God, fear Him above all people, come to know and obey His word and serve Him with your whole heart.  It's really not as difficult as it seems.  Make it a part of your life and your life will be filled with blessings.  Do not take what is not rightfully yours and do not let the enemy convince you otherwise.  God has His mighty hand on your shoulder - let Him direct you and use you for His glory - not yours!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

~ "What am I doing wrong???"

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isa 40:30-31)

God renews our strength continually.  Just when we think we cannot face another challenge by the enemy, our Father pours out His strength and fills us to the brim.  When we are afraid - He makes us fearless.  There is nothing we cannot accomplish.  We can soar and we can stand tall.  We can find the inner strength.  All we need to do is wait for it!

It is in those moments when we utter the words "I should have stayed in bed" that we realize without trial and opposition, our lives would be boring.  There would be no defeat, but there would be no victory.  If there weren't struggles to encounter, there could be no gratitude for seeing them through to completion.  Each of our lives has been touched by one victory that has changed us.  That victory is the promise of a new life.  It is the promise of hope that cries out to us when we want to give up.  It is the light that shines on our darkest hour.  It is the ability to choose between Him and the enemy.  It is the knowledge that someday this will all end and we will become perfect once and for all.

When we sin (or stumble and fall), God has made a way for us to get back up, stand tall yet again and walk confidently into the next challenge.  His forgiveness is forever grounded in Christ.  Our strength is renewed each and every time.  There is nothing too hard for Him.  He sets us aside as He lifts us up.  He dusts off the dirt and washes our faces strewn with tears.  He holds us and comforts us.  He places us back on the battlefield rested and refreshed.  We walk with a King.  Nothing touches us that has not been known to Him first.  He knows what we need, He knows what we want.  He also knows what is not in our best interest.  

Have you ever stopped to wonder why certain prayers go unanswered - why it's always "someone else" who gets the breaks, someone else who wins the lottery, someone else who has the perfect mate?  We think sometimes that God has forgotten us, how we struggle and what we do for Him each day.  We look around at those who do nothing and have more.  We struggle and fight our way through the crowd for a scrap of bread and watch as others throw away an entire loaf.  Our reward will come, in His time, not ours.  Our prayers are all answered - sometimes the answer is "no".  But don't give up, don't give in!  Choose to soar - choose to run to Him, choose to walk His path - you will not grow weary and you will not become faint - you will have what is needed to succeed...if you have Jesus!