Wednesday, January 7, 2015

~ "Good works..."

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."  (Matt 5:16)

All that we do that is good glorifies God.  Being a Christian, doing what we are commanded, makes us an example of Christ's love on earth.  When we offer a hand to a neighbor because they need it, when we donate our used clothing to a shelter, when we donate that $1 at the check out, we are performing good works that are visible by others.  No, it's not bragging or boasting - it's simply letting others see the Lord working through us.

Paying it forward is also a good work.  Have you ever received a "gift" from a friend when you were struggling financially?  If you have, pay it forward when you are financially sound again.  My grandfather kept a $20 bill in his shirt pocket (back in the early 60's, that was a lot of money).  There was one man at work who would come to him at the end of the week and ask to borrow it.  He would then pay it back on payday.  He did this for years.  He continued to "lend" this man money until he realized that if the man didn't need to pay him back, he wouldn't need to borrow it every week.  He made a contribution to this man's life that I'm sure he has never forgotten.

Good works isn't always about money.  It's a ride to work when your car is down.  It's helping the senior citizen bring in her groceries.  It's shoveling the snow from the walkway of the young man with a broken arm.  It's bringing soup to someone who is sick.  It's anything that helps someone else.  It resonates in heaven like a song.  It glorifies God!

Take the opportunity to do something for others - don't do it because you have to do it, do it because it pleases God!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

~ "When friends must leave you..."

"He is not here; for he is risen, as he said.  Come, see the place where the Lord lay."  (Matt 28:6)

When I was 15, my friend's mother committed suicide.  When I was 16, one of my friends was killed in a car accident.  When I was 17, one of my friends died from spinal meningitis.  When I was 18, another friend was killed in a car accident.  When I was 19, one of my friend's died from cancer, one committed suicide.  Six friends in 5 years - I wasn't even 20 years old and had been to more funerals than some people attend in a lifetime, and the numbers didn't stop there.

Some people have asked me how long it took me to get over these deaths.  Well, to answer that honestly would be to say that I haven't.  For the most part, four of them aren't thought of as often.  They were friends, but not close friends.  The other two - not a day goes by that I don't think of Colleen or Donna.  I don't sob like I did back in the 70's, 80's and early 90's.  Yes, some 30 years!  There has always been a picture on the wall or on an end table for me to glance at.  I spent many days just sitting at their graves talking to them as the tears rolled down my face.

So what changed?  This verse!  The reality was that I was here and they were gone.  I could have spent another 30 years sobbing, but I did not.  The power of God is an unbelievable power.  He can heal your heart and will heal your heart when it's time.  Life goes on.  We make new friends and build new memories.  At 16 and 17, I felt like I'd never be able to make new friends...I did.  I thought I'd never be able to tuck their memories away and pull them out every once in a while.  I didn't think I'd ever stop crying.

God reminded me that they are safe, with him.

For many years, I had spent the anniversary of their death wiping tears, remembering moments and imagining what life would have been like had God's plan not taken such sweet, caring souls from this world when He did.  Their laughter lives on in each of their friends and our hearts long to hear one more word or have one last glance. They in the greatest place imaginable, in the presences of our mighty King. They took nothing with them, yet they have more than they will ever need. Like those of us still left here, they battled the enemy and fought the demons and were triumphantly received into a place of honor and glory for all eternity! They have received their inheritance and patiently wait for us to receive ours. 

God's plan for us may just be to walk with Him each day until the time comes for us to receive our inheritance. We may never be the great orator, the popular celebrity, or the rich philanthropist we might like to believe we could be. We may never own more than the clothes on our back, we may never be the one who gets "all the breaks", and we may never be anything more than a footnote in someone's family history - but we are destined for greatness, in a quiet and subtle way - we are destined for heaven - there is no greater inheritance than that!

It's okay to cry when your heart is broken.  Nothing anyone will say can make it better.  Only in God's time will you be able to remember your friend with love and laughter.  There is no time limit on ends when it ends!

Today is the 13th anniversary of my brother-in-law's remains being unearthed at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.  There are no tears, only joy that he was able to be laid to rest in someplace other than the dust of the Trade Center.  He, too, is with Jesus, waiting on his family to join him there.  I look forward to that!

Allow Jesus to enter your heart and heal it.  I won't be today and it probably won't be tomorrow, but the healing will HIS time!  

Monday, January 5, 2015

~ "Comforting words..."

Are God's consolations not enough for you, words spoken gently to you? (Job 15:11)

When we are hurting, sometimes the "comforting words of others" can be more of a hinderance than a help. People often do not understand the situation, or they believe that "you shouldn't be that upset over it". Not everyone reacts to the same situation in the same way. Our reactions are as individual as we are. And is there nothing more devastating than hearing the words "is that all" with regard to our plight???

We all have the "know-it-all" friend who has all the answers. I have several. I learned a long time ago that if I don't involved them in my problem, they have no input. I also have a few friends that never judge or ridicule me because of what I see as "traumatic". They offer support and remind me that there just may be a divine reason for the place I'm in. Sometimes all we want to hear from someone is "I understand", and sometimes we don't want to hear anything at all - we just need to share it.

God has a reason for the path we are on. He adjusts our journey with every step we take. We ask "why me". It's okay to do so ~ even Jesus asked "why". Maybe God has no desire to teach "them" anything. Maybe they wouldn't listen if he did. If we are still and listen, we WILL hear his comforting words, we WILL feel his arms as they wrap around us. Remember, we are his! Our souls are comforted by his promise to us, but sometimes our human "dust infused" minds can only grasp the realm of the earthly distractions that torment us. It doesn't mean we've been forgotten or left behind - it's just all part of being human!

Even though we are not worthy of the gifts we receive, we are continually blessed and cared for. Our lives may not be the "shining examples" we would like them to be, but we are, none the less, redeemed!!!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

~ "Love perfected..."

But whoever keeps his word, in him truly is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. (1 John 2:5)

Some days are easier than others - it's a "given". We take into each new day the experiences and lessons learned from the day before. We grow a little more each time we fall and summon the courage to stand again. God's love for us is our foundation.

There are many days throughout the year that hold significance to us individually and as families. Some of those days hold painful memories, yet in those painful sighs, we can still see the hand of God and the gift of love he offers us. A disobedient lifestyle offers no respect for our Creator, who IS worthy of our obedience. "Those who walk in hatred and enmity to believers, remain in a dark state. Christian love teaches us to value our brother's soul, and to dread every thing hurtful to his purity and peace. Where spiritual darkness dwells, in mind, the judgment, and the conscience will be darkened, and will mistake the way to heavenly life. These things demand serious self-examination; and earnest prayer, that God would show us what we are, and where we are going." (Matthew Henry)

Why would you willingly and knowingly walk away from the grace of God? The temptations of the enemy, the "carrot" he dangles in front of us, is sometimes so enticing that we must immediately hit our knees and ask God to intercede! The power he yields in our defense and on our behalf cannot be measured in any terms (human or inhuman). The decisions we make may take us out of the will of God, but they cannot take us out of the reach of God. Like the concept of "infinity", so great is God's love! 

Be true to the Word of God! Keep his commandments. Walk in the light he gives you! Know that wherever it is you are walking, it is never completely dark and you are never alone! He is the light that guides us and he never leaves our side! Allow him to use the experiences of yesterday to lead you today! Fall into his waiting arms!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

~ "Only Jesus saves..."

Therefore all things whatever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. (Matt 7:12)

There is no question as to who holds our salvation ~ it is Jesus! It is accomplished through his death on the cross and his resurrection from the grave. Acceptance causes an awakening within you that cannot be denied! There are no questions - there is a definite knowledge. As I've said before, if you are questioning whether or not you are saved, chances are you are not.

Jesus tells us to do unto others as we would have others do unto us. What does this mean? It's a command to live (to the best of our ability) the life that he lived without wanting accolades for doing it. Doing something because it is the right thing to do, not because of the rewards it will bring to us, is what a Christian life is all about. It's not how much money you dump into the collection plate, it's not what you give to charity, it's about doing it because Jesus did it.

How many times do you fail to take the opportunity to show Christ's love here? Do you avoid reaching out your hand to someone because deep inside you really don't want to hear their story? We are called to love one another - to "do unto others". We are to be the hands and feet of our Lord even though we are imperfect ~ we are to love because he loved and just like he loved (unconditionally). We are to give because he gave, just like he gave (everything). We are to reach our hand out to the lost because in reality it is his hand and only his hand can save! Do it because Jesus did it, because it is what he wants from you! Thank him for the opportunity to show another his love! Remove the facade and become a true follower of Jesus Christ! If you can't feed his sheep, then at least find them and point them in the right direction. Continue to be all that he calls you to be and do it willingly and with a smile on your face. God has plans for them as well...

Friday, January 2, 2015

~ "Why can't every day be Christmas???"

"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)

Thoughts roll around in my head as I'm reading this verse and then even more so when I've finished.  We've just come through the "giving" season once again and some of us are disappointed, feel unloved or even unfinished.  Maybe we didn't give as much as we wanted to, maybe we didn't receive as much as we felt we deserved and maybe some of us are still waiting for that "delivered by 12/24" gift to arrive.  We've maxed out our credit cards for "one more gift" and tremble with fear as we look at the balance.  We open our bank statements and shudder.  Where did all our money go?  What were we thinking?

Charity does not mean money.  Charity and love are interchangeable words.  Both are the translation for "agape".  It's a state of mind; a mentality of kindness and benevolence.  Without charity, without love, we are nothing.  We don't do to be recognized for what we've done.  We do for others because it is the right thing to do.  Being charitable is how we show love for others.  Giving because it needs to be given.  Doing because it needs to be done.

Charity does begin at home in your heart, not your wallet.  It is not limited to those who have done good things for you, it encompasses those who have not.  It's a reflection of God's love.  It is the change made by living for Christ!  It is a blessing that is paid forward by being compassionate and understanding.  Sometimes charity is money, but most often it is caring for others, praying for others and helping those less fortunate than you.  It's taking a meal to the widow on your block.  It's helping that stranger struggling with her 2 small children and groceries.  It's helping to make someone's struggle a little less overwhelming.  And yes, sometimes it's a bouquet of flowers or helping to pay a bill.

Take this opportunity to show a little charity.  Do a little something for someone you know who could use it.  Do something for someone you don't know.  That Christmas feeling of giving will remain in your heart and you will keep the spirit of Christmas alive in your life each and every day!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

~ "Remind me who I am..."

And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry. (Gen 8:13) about starting off the new year right!  God kept his promise to Noah.  He spared him and his family.  He brought them through the storm and gave them continued hope that in following his law, he would protect and bless them.  I'm sure that the time spent on the ark was challenging, to say the least.  
So, here we are, at the beginning of another year.  We've talked about resolutions and what changes we can make in our lives that will reflect praise and glory to God.  If we look back on all the hard times we encountered over the past year, we may become disappointed and sad!  They may have been difficult, they may have challenged our faith, they may have been physically demanding, they may have included loss or fear and they may have included the closing of doors ~ but we did not face them alone!  We never face anything alone!
In each of our "sufferings", we've received a blessing.  Sometimes they aren't as obvious as we'd like them to be, but they are there, just the same.  There are so many analogies with regard to transformations that take place to make something beautiful that I can't even pick one.  The beauty that lies deep within us comes from a place of glory!  It's not something that can be stolen from us.  Our gifts from God may be "often imitated, but never duplicated".  We have been chosen to do whatever it is we do for him.  We are original!  Our uniqueness in the way that God sees us sets us apart from all others!  Being a Christian is not something you can fake your way through.  You either are or you are not!  He always lets you know where you stand with him - there are never any doubts!  
God will continue to guide you through this new year.  There will be storms to bring you closer to him, there will be blessings to praise him for.  Your attitude towards them is what will make the difference.  Make it an attitude of prayer no matter what!  Always try to see the silver lining in the storm clouds, look for the flower blooming just beneath the snow and open your heart and soul to the goodness that is God!  Make a conscious effort to feel the loving arms of Jesus wrapped around you and listen for the whisper of the Holy Spirit as he guide you.  Make this year a year of praise for all things, not just the ones that bring you joy.  Look for that rainbow which reminds you of his promise.  Spend time in prayer and spend time in the Word!  Just as he kept his promise to Noah, God will surely keep his promise to you!
Happy New Year!