Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Mothers Pain, A Father's Love

Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” – Luke 2:34-35

I recently read a mother of a man my age reminding her son to bundle up when he was flying home from a hot climate and to land in bitter cold.  It warmed my heart because I could relate to her feeling of love for her child.  The heart of a mother is always with her child.  Whether they are close or far away, we are always caring, loving, and worrying about our children. My own kids laugh because when they leave the house I always say “be careful”…as if they would be completely reckless if I didn’t utter those words! But that’s part of the caring for them. Sometimes, even when they’re in their 20’s, you can’t quite let go of their little hands in your heart.

Mary was no different.  This young girl who gave birth to Jesus had already endured such pain to this point in the story of His birth.  She’d no doubt been shamed by those that knew of her pregnancy.  She’d had to leave her family to travel with Joseph, her fiancĂ©.  Riding a donkey as tradition says, or walking (the scripture doesn’t say which) on her trip to Bethlehem at full pregnancy could not have been a comfortable one.  And having a child in a filthy barn full of animals without even a midwife was surely not how she imagined to give birth to the Son of God!  Yet, this was the plan for her life, and she accepted it. 

But can you imagine how she must have felt hearing Simeon in the temple express to her what she already knew! He told her that her child was the Christ!  Oh how she must have glowed, filled with love that only a mother can feel when she looks at her child. 

But then to hear Simeon tell her that “yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul ALSO”, must have taken the breath from her.  After all, the angel that announced her pregnancy had said she was blessed among women, favored by God, the mother of the “Son of the Highest”, and God was going to place Him on the throne of David. There was no mention of swords!

Moms, for a moment imagine yourself in her shoes.  You have your baby in your arms, now about 40 days old, full of innocence.  You go to the temple, a place to connect with God.  Then a total stranger, yet one that is renowned as a prophet, tells you that your son will be pierced with a sword – and your own soul too?  What would you do?  I believe I’d take my child and go into hiding, protecting him throughout all his days from such a fate.  A mother will do anything to protect her child, including give her own life. 

From His very birth, the love for Christ separated people.  It separated Mary from her family as her love for him was greater than her shame.  It separated Joseph from his hometown of Bethlehem when in his love for Christ, they fled to Egypt to prevent Him from being killed by Herod.  It separated the disciples that followed and loved Jesus from the rioting crowd that wanted Christ crucified.  And even today, it separates families, nations, and continues to create war. 

The good of God is at war with the evil of the world.  For Christ to be our Savior, there has to be something to be saved from. But what He is saving us from is ourselves – our own evil. 

You see, there were other mothers in the crowd at the crucifixion too.  Jesus’ sword pierced side no doubt ripped through Mary’s heart and pierced hers as well, just as the prophecy of Simeon had foretold.  But there was no sympathy from the other mothers.  Yet as strong as her love was for Jesus on that day, there was one love expressed that was even greater than that of His mother.

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” – John 15:13

The love of Christ will always be the strongest love we can receive.  It took becoming a mother for me to realize what true love really is.  But I am convinced that the love of God is greater.  I cannot imagine the love of God, giving His son, allowing Him to leave the glory of Heaven where He was worshipped by angels, to save me from myself.  That kind of love is beyond my full understanding. 

Christmas can be a difficult time for many.  This year, rather than focusing on the stress of buying and giving, cooking and serving, coming and going, take time to rest.  Meditate on the love of the God that holds the universe in place.  He loves you enough to give His Son, to watch Him suffer and die, just so that He could love you eternally.  May that love bring your heart joy!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

As a Man Thinketh

“Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his THOUGHTS;
Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.” – Isaiah 55:6-8
I was listening to a book this morning called “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen, and heard the old proverb “As a man thinketh, so is he”.  It was taken from Proverbs 23:7.  The thought behind this is that we are what we think.  All we feel, all we do, originates from our thoughts. 
Coming to this passage in Isaiah, I noticed something as only God could have planned it.  He says for an unrighteous man (those that have not received Jesus’ righteousness) should forsake his THOUGHTS. He could have said his ways, he could have said his words, he could have said he needs to change his heart.  But it is with meaning that he says THOUGHTS. 
Thoughts.  They’re what binds us to what we think we believe.  They bind us to what we feel and how we choose to live. 
If you think you are hungry, you eat.
If you think you’re unloved, you love less.
If you think you’re successful, you are.
If you think you are going nowhere, you don’t achieve anything.
If you think you’re somebody special, you react to that thought daily.
Thoughts don’t begin in the brain, but in the heart.  Your heart determines what you believe. And though you may try with all your might, you cannot change the way your heart feels on your own.  Only God can change a heart.

Ezekiel 11:19 says “Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts follow the desire for their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord God.

A heart of flesh in exchange for a heart of stone.  A heart of stone is solid, unchangeable, hardened, the true description of a hard hearted person.  But a heart of flesh feels and reacts.  The heart of flesh receives a new spirit – the Holy Spirit – by which we are changed to understand God’s ways (“he will lead you into all truth”). 
In the verse 8 of Isaiah 11 God says “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways”.  The only way your thoughts can be transformed is by a transformation of your heart.  The only way your heart can be changed is through a new Spirit.  God’s thoughts are different from ours.  For Him to transform you into what He wants you to be (for your own benefit), it starts with a new Heart that accepts new thoughts.
“As a man thinketh, so is he.”  If you’re not who you want to be, you have to start with God in your heart through acceptance of Jesus’ righteousness to change who you are.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Edification, Patience, and Grace

"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” – Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV)
Maybe I’m getting old and mean.  I hear that happens to people my age.  Or maybe that’s just an excuse, and maybe I’m just not as full of God’s love as I need to be.  But for some reason lately I’ve found myself frustrated and yes, sometimes just hateful.  I say things that are harsh, and don’t deliver grace when that is what God has extended to me.  Today I came across this verse.  It stuck out because I just last week corrected someone for not thinking in terms of “edification” (that very word) rather than controlling their actions.
Edification means to build up.  I like that Paul attached the adjective “necessary” to it.  We all need building up at some point in time, and usually after we’ve failed in some way.  Imparting grace means to speak in a forgiving manner, as God would speak to us when we fail.  God’s ways are full of grace and gentleness.

I’m reminded of the story in Matthew 18:21-35 of the King who decided to collect from all who owed him anything.  One of the men owed him a large amount of money, and couldn’t pay.  So the King ordered that he, his wife, and his children be sold into slavery to pay the debt.  Now, to me that sounds like very harsh punishment, don’t you think? What better way to hurt a man beyond repair than to inflict harm on his wife and children!

But when the servant pleaded with the King to be patient, he had mercy on him and forgave the entire debt.  All he wanted was patience, but the King gave him grace, undue favor. 
We’ve all been given that grace by God through Christ that profess to be His children through salvation.  We didn’t deserve it, we didn’t earn it, we didn’t even ask for it until He drew us to Him.  But He was both patient with us, and gave grace.

Far too often, I find myself, and maybe you find yourself too, giving less grace to others than I should.  I give less patience, and am more like the King who wanted to just sell them all!  The servant who was forgiven did the same thing.  He immediately left the king and went to someone who owed him.  When that person could not pay, he had him thrown into prison until the debt could be paid in full.  Even when the servant begged “Be patient with me, and I will pay it”, he would not relent of his decision, and threw the man into jail. 
But…the King (think God) heard about it.  He called the servant he forgave before him and said “Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant just as I had mercy on you?” And then, the King threw the servant into prison.  Just the servant, and not his whole family.  But he had him tortured until he had paid the entire amount.

Jesus finishes the parable by saying in verse 35 something we all need to consider in our daily frustrations and anger. He said “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
Ah, did you notice what Jesus did there?  He added “from your heart” as a clause to the forgiveness.  Oh, we can all offer lip service forgiveness.  But the problem with lip service forgiveness is that it’s not real, it’s not grace, it’s fake!  True forgiveness does not hold a record of the things we forgave.  While they might be in our memory, we don’t drag them up.  We CHOOSE to go past them, and extend grace. 

Friends, edification requires grace.  To build another up after they have done something wrong to you or someone else, you have to extend grace.  Instead of staying mad, you have to build a bridge and get over it!  God doesn’t like it when His children grumble against each other.  In fact, in verse 35 He expresses His distaste for it by saying that He will not forgive us in return.  And that, my friends, is a torture equal to that which the King imposed on the graceless servant. 
I need God’s grace and forgiveness far too much to rob myself from it.  How about you?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Lies, Lies, Lies

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” – Ephesians 4:25

I recently watched a TED talk called “How to Spot a Liar” by Pamela Meyer.  In it she said one thing that stunned me.  Why? Because it’s TRUE.

We all lie.  Continually.
Imagine for a minute that your life is a journey down a long path, and lies are blockades you cannot see behind.  Here’s one, there’s one, there’s three to the left, there’s a bit one up ahead, and so forth.  Can you imagine how many lies you’ve heard and believed that have taken you off the course of the life God planned for you?  Can you imagine the possibilities if we were all truthful with each other in the smallest things?

I think we lie most because the truth is painful.  It’s either painful to the one that has to tell it, or to the one that has to hear it.  That being said, we are told to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16) with those around us.  Can we not communicate the truth with the softness of a dove and wisdom? 
Here’s what happens in relationships when a lie is told.  Sure, sometimes they’re believed at that point, and nothing happens.  But sometimes, and more often than we will realize, they’re not.  When someone catches you in a lie, they don’t come up to you and say “Hey, the other day you said blah blah blah, and now I know that wasn’t the truth.”  Because we all lie, they just take mental note of it.  What’s that mental note say?  It says “Don’t trust them, they lie”.   All it takes is one lie to break someone’s trust.  One. 

Some are more forgiving than others.  For me, honesty and trustworthiness is of big value in my relationships.  Yes, I want to know if the dress makes me look fat – and I even want to know how fat.  But do I want to hear “Oh my gosh! That dress shows every roll on your body!”  Well of course not.  What I’d like to hear is something more like, “You know, I’d bet you have a dress that fits you better than that one.  It’s just not a good cut for you.”  Now see the difference?  The second statement is wise and as harmless as a dove. 
How important is it that we be truthful to each other?  According to God, it’s important to make His top 1o list with “Do not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16).  It also makes the list of the 6 things that God HATES in in Proverbs 6:19.  Moreover, in God’s eyes, if you’ve not kept all the commandments, you’ve broken them all.  (“For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” – James 2:10).  Sin is sin.  And sometimes I don’t think we consider lying a sin.  I think we’ve brushed over it, coloring our lies as white lies, gray lies, or…wait…hmmm….  Isn’t it odd that we never talk about black lies, but stop at gray? 

There’s a book by Dr. Brad Blanton called “Radical Honesty: How to Transform your Life by Telling the Truth”.  The title itself says everything.  Honesty will transform your life!  Holding it in high value will change those that you care to call friends – and determine who you want to be your friend.  It will fix relationships that are on the brink of crash and burn.  It will abolish the stress you feel because you’ll be able to put it on the table and deal with it.  You see, God’s hatred of lying comes from His love for us, as do all the things that He’s asked us not to do. 
I’m going to suggest that, as the old saying goes, “today is the first day of the rest of your life”.  How about today we begin being radically honest.  Let’s take time to find the words to say what needs to be said with wisdom and gentleness.  It will change our lives.



Sunday, September 24, 2017

Love Begins with Self

“…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:17-19
The desire to love and be loved is one of the innate characteristics of God that was given us when He created us in His image.  Paul understood that, and in writing these verses in Ephesians 3 desired that we would know the love of Christ, yet also describes it as the love that “passes all knowledge”. 

It seems like a catch 22 situation.  He wants us to know the love of Christ, but then tells us we’ll never understand it.  So what’s the point of trying to understand what we cannot grasp?  Sometimes it’s not the destination, but the journey that brings meaning to our lives.  It’s trying to understand it that will give us what we need.  Though we will never fully gain the knowledge of His love, we will understand in portions that will feed our souls.

We will do just about anything to be loved.  In fact, we’ll do things we would not normally do, things we would be ashamed of, things that take us from who we are - to who we don’t want to be.  I’ve found this is far less true of those who are rooted in the love of Christ.  Knowing His love, His unconditional love of us as who we are, fulfills our desire to be loved.  Along the way, we fall in love with Him, which fulfills our desire to love.

No, that doesn’t mean we stop loving others at that point and focus all our love and desire on Christ.  He himself did not want that. In John 13:34 He “commanded” us to love one another  - not as we choose to love - but even as He loves us.  That isn’t possible if we don’t understand His unconditional love.
It’s a forgiving love.
It’s a selfless love.
It’s love when they are unlovable.
It’s love when they are disobedient.
It’s love when they ignore us.
It’s love when they treat us unfairly.
It’s love when it’s not returned.
It’s a love without end.
Until we know the love of Christ, we cannot truly love as Christ loved us.  Christ “commanded” this kind of love purposefully.  This is the kind of love that allows us to be ourselves, the persons He made us individually to be. 

Look at those around you.  God made some introverts, and some extroverts.  He made some funny, and some don’t have a funny bone in their bodies.  He made some creative, and some without creativity.  He made some great with their hands, and others great with their minds.  He made some to love adventure, and some desire life without excitement.  These variations were purposefully given to us.  But without knowing His love, we will strive to be whomever those around us want us to be instead of the person He created.

God has specific plans for all of us.  His plans require the creative, the adventurous and less adventurous, the quiet and the talkative, those who crack jokes and those who laugh at them, those who give hugs, and those who give handshakes.  We are all specifically designed like a finely tooled part of a complicated machine.  We fit together to become the people He wants us to be. 

But when a mother desires the love of a man so much that she becomes less of a mother, God’s plan for that family is broken.  When a father desires the love of a friend more than that of his family, God’s plans for that family is broken.  When a mother is consumed by the love of her child over the love of her husband, God’s plan for that family is broken.  Broken families….do you know any? 
It all starts with wanting the love of another so much that you are willing to change who you are.  Sure, you can live that life for a while.  But eventually – YOU will surface - and you may not be loved in return.  The antidote is knowing the love of Christ, which allows you to LOVE yourself and love Him more than anyone else.  When you love yourself, you are not willing to drop who you are to please others because you find value in yourself.

Paul expresses that until we know the love of Christ, we cannot “be filled with all the fullness of God. What is the fullness of God?  Simple.  God is love. (1 John 4:8)  A lot of us have gone out into the world to love without having the tools to know how to love correctly.  The good news for you is that it is never too late to discover the love of Christ.  Read His book, the Bible, and discover His love.  Reach out to His people and feel that love.  Experience it.  Dive into it as if it were an ocean!  It will transform the way you feel about yourself, and how you love in return.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

God’s Warnings About the Solar Eclipse

And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the Lord your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage…..For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” – Deuteronomy 4:19; 24

On Monday, August 21, 2017 the sun and moon will do a special little dance called a “solar eclipse”.  The longest totality will be visible only 30 minutes from where I live.  This has brought hundreds of thousands of people to this area, threatened gas and food shortages, overwhelming internet usage and outages, and even power outages.  Grocery store shelves have been emptied, traffic has been backed up, and literally, I think some people have lost their ever loving minds over this!  Sorry not sorry.
That all just makes me wonder…how many of those people truly realize who is responsible for such a beautiful display of nature?  Many will say “Mother Nature”, to which I say…exactly WHO is that?  Others will fail to give creation a creator at all.  How disheartening it is to know that God is denied praise for such a beautiful moment in history.

God warns us not to give our worship to such a display of beauty in the sun, moon, and stars, but what is worship?  What would make the eclipse event that we’ll soon be enjoying into a moment of idolatry?  What would cause God to see it as our worship of the things He created, rather than honoring and praising Him for what we will see?  It’s simple.
If we leave God out of it, if we fail to give him the praise and honor only HE deserves, then it’s idolatry.  If we praise how beautiful the light rings are, how perfectly placed Bailey’s beads are, the magical effects of shadow snakes, and its full effect on animals and nature, and don’t give God the Creator the praise, we’ve robbed him of our worship.  Serving the things of the world that we see, even for a brief moment without giving him the praise is idolatry.  Something as simple as a sunset with vibrant colors can be idolatry if we give our hearts over to love the sunset, and fail to love the God who created it. 

This may seem petty to you.  It may seem like “OMG! Another Christian trying to be legalistic and throw a bunch of rules down our throats (insert rolling of eyes!)” Ya know what…I don’t care as much about your opinion as I do your disrespect of Him, so I will tell you the truth.  Now it’s up to you to determine what you will do with it.  He is a “consuming fire, a jealous God” and the One I love. 
To me, the eclipse will just be another way He shows us His magnificence, and His infinite wisdom in the creation of our world.  He didn’t have to give us the beautiful colors, sun rays reaching out like light shining through crystals, or create in the animals the mysterious ways of reacting to the eclipse.  It could have been just a simple as a shadow coming across a light bulb.  But NO! He did much more!  He made it something mysterious to see, something to be in awe of.  And why?  Was it for the animals to see? No, it was for US, His beloved.  How pathetically self-centered we would be if we didn’t give him the honor and praise for what He has given us.

If I have observed the sun when it shines, or the moon moving in brightness, so that my heart has been secretly enticed, and my mouth has kissed my hand (thrown a kiss);  this also would be an iniquity deserving of judgment, for I would have denied God who is above.” – Job 31:26-28

I will give Him my worship and adoration for what I see in the Solar Eclipse.  Will you?

photo creds: National Geographic





Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Grace Trumps Sin

“…But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,  so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Romans 5:20-21

Grace is so misunderstood.  I think it’s because it’s a gentle, quiet characteristic of God.  It’s not filled with fear, like God’s wrath.  It’s not to be avoided, and neither could we.   We don’t consider its value because it’s free.

Romans 5:20 says that “where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.”  Consider the power of sin, and that is where you’ll see the value of Grace. 

Sin is ever present around us.  I’m convinced that every bad thing in this world is because of sin.  Violence, famine, health issues, relationship issues, wars, hatred – if it’s bad, it’s root is in sin.  I think the reason the Garden of Eden was paradise, a true utopia, was that there was no sin, and grace was at its fullest measure there.  God even walked with them in the cool of the day.  How beautiful is that visual?

And to understand that God sought with all He is and all He has power over to give us back that grace that we divorced ourselves from through sin is nothing shy of the most misunderstood love.  So many think that by believing in Christ we miss out on life because we are not to continue living in sin.  The fact is that life isn’t what it was meant to be without Christ. It’s meant to be peaceful, full of love and kindness, care free – like Eden.

Romans 5 goes on to say that when sin reigned over us by causing death, “even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”.  We were made to be eternal beings, God breathing His own eternal breath into us.  But through our sin, we lost that eternal life, and death entered into us.  What sin cost us, grace through God’s perfect plan for Jesus to be our sin sacrifice restores.  John 3:16 reiterates Romans 5 by clearly says that believing in Jesus we “shall have eternal life”. 

You want your utopia back?  You want your peace back? Grace is the cure.  Jesus is the way.  His Holy Spirit is your guide.

If I can just mingle a little rock and roll in here, I’ll quote Prince who said “Dearly Beloved, we are all gathered here today, to get through this thing called LIFE.”  How you get through it is up to you.  The struggle is real, but so is grace.  Grace abounds.  Grace trumps sin.



Thursday, August 3, 2017

Need your Joy back?

“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.  This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” – John 15:11-15
God instructed me to search the Word for the phrase “My Joy” today.  This is where it lead me.

How wonderful that Jesus Christ would be concerned not only for our salvation, which He gave His life for, and put down His crown in Heaven to come to provide us, but He also wants us to have that same JOY as He had! He then tells us what it takes to have that heavenly Joy on earth. 

I’m just going to say it.  Seeing and hearing all the drama and hardships within relationships these days, we all – self included - need to take His advice and find the Joy that He had.  Seriously, I wonder if we grasp the worth of what He’s saying?  Do we understand that NO ONE has ever lived with the adversity and hatred that was spewed out on Jesus?  And yet, He loved us all.  Yet, He had JOY.  Don’t we all want that?

Joy isn’t the same thing as happiness.  Happiness is based on events.  I can be unhappy on a bad hair day.  But JOY – it has roots deep in our soul.  JOY is not determined by events.  Your JOY isn’t up for grabs when people put you down or you feel slighted.  JOY is that deep down peace and ‘all is right in the world’ feeling you have in your soul.

Jesus breaks it down for us by first saying that we must have peace through selfless actions for each other (“love one another as I have loved you”).  When’s the last time you did something for someone else without ulterior motives or anything to gain?  If you can’t remember, today is a good day to do that.  Find a total stranger and just determine to put a smile on their face.  There’s a unique feeling you get that is fueled by love when you know you’ve improved someone else’s day.  Try it and see.

But Jesus goes even further to tell us how to be His friend, and be in unbroken fellowship with Him.  It’s pretty simple – do as He has taught and is teaching.  He says we’re His friends “if you do whatever I command you.”  The Holy Spirit has been given to us that have accepted His salvation as our guide and our measurement of truth.  Listen to His Spirit in you and follow that lead. 

If you follow the Holy Spirit’s lead….you won’t be as easily taken down by what others say or do because you WON’T CARE!  People’s opinions become very small in the light of what the Holy Spirit of God requires.  Ask yourself instead, “but, is God happy with me in this matter?”  Release yourself from public opinion.  It is a prison cell without a door.

Instead, study God’s word to find approval. 2 Timothy 2:15 says “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman who needed not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  Get rid of the desires to please people by feeling no shame through pleasing God.  In the end, people’s opinion will not be the judge of your life – God’s opinion will.  I think we all place too much value on pleasing people, and when it becomes more important than pleasing God, they become our lord and master.  There is no Joy to be found in pleasing people, because it’s here today and gone tomorrow.  Instead, follow Christ’s instructions, and do whatever HE commands you and has taught you.
Joy is described as “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness”, and is even said to cause “tears of joy”, to bring jubilation, triumph, and delight.  Are you living with joy in your day to day life?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

My Redeemer

“For thus says the Lord: “You have sold yourselves for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.” – Isaiah 52:3
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” – Ephesians 1:7

I carry a lot of coupons in my purse.  But this morning while praying God gave me an analogy of those coupons.  I wasn’t even thinking of them – but that’s where He showed up. 
Those coupons are NOTHING.  They’re just worthless paper, UNTIL I redeem them.  Then they could be worth 30% off at Kohl’s, or $3 off dinner at Red Lobster, or $1.00 off laundry detergent.  But until I redeem them, they’re worth no more than what they’re printed on, which is just cheap paper.  Often they expire before I redeem them, and then there’s nothing I can do about it.  They have no value at that point.

In Christ we are all offered redemption, the redeeming of our soul (worthless) for something greater (forgiveness and grace).  Many daily die without Him, which is like those coupons I let expire.  No worth was ever in them, because we are unworthy of God’s fellowship without the forgiveness of our sins.  His sacrifice on the cross, His blood, provides redemption.  But it must be used!  It won’t come to you unless you ask Him to redeem you, to be your sacrifice.
Mark 8:36 says “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”  I can redeem coupons all day long, but there is nothing of more value than having a redeemed soul.  It’s not just an insurance plan against hell, its fellowship daily while you’re alive with God.  Don’t wait till it’s too late to ask for it.  You’re missing out on living a redeemed life, having God within you (the Holy Spirit) to guide you, His grace to provide for you and lift you.    

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Focusing on Christ


“You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.” – Isaiah 26:3

It has been said that to know Christ is to know peace.  Without Christ in your life there can be no peace as it is only the relationship with Christ that brings peace with Father God (Ephesians 2:14).  But even with Christ in your life, even with peace in your soul, we must conquer the battle of our minds that wars against all peace. 

Isaiah describes this peace of mind as “perfect peace” because our mind becomes focused on Christ and we trust all things to Him.  Consider what He is saying.

When you’re worried about finances – the Lord is our provider, Jehovah Jirah.

When you’re worried about your health – the Lord is our healer, Jehovah Rapha.

When you’re feeling defected by the enemy – the Lord is our banner of victory, Jehovah Nissi.

When you’re feeling lost and without direction – the Lord is our shepherd, Jehovah Rohi.

When you’re feeling brought low by the sin that encompasses you – the Lord is our righteousness, Jehovah Tsidkenu.

There is no need we have that our Lord does not fulfill.  But how do we keep our mind focused on him?  What exactly do we think about?  Do we think of the various paintings and human ideals of what He looks like?  I believe we should think on the things we know are true about Him.

Think about His miracles.  Imagine yourself in the role of the one who received the miracle. 

Think about His wisdom.  What parable did He teach that speaks to your situation?

Think about His care for children, the widows, the poor, and the helpless.  We’ve all been one of these as some time.

Think about His tears over the death of His friend Lazarus.  God’s word says He is our friend as well.

Think about the simple matter that He knew where the fish were when the disciples were fishing, and told them where to throw their net. 

Think about what makes Him smile.  Yes, I think Christ did smile, and even laughed.  He was fully man and fully God.  Consider the “camel through the eye of a needle” parable.  Where would you start at pushing that camel through?  Seriously, that’s hilarious.

Whatever issues face you, your peace will always be found in looking to the One who can change it.  Prayer will ease your worries as it allows you to communicate with God, and lay it down.  But without focusing on Him, you may pick it back up and it will control your mind.  This is how satan seeks to enter in.  If you cease the worried thoughts, and replace them with pure Holy thoughts of Christ, placing all your trust in Him, there will be no worry. 
Will your problems go away?  One thing for sure, they won’t be as painful over you.  Jesus did say that a man who doubts shouldn’t expect to receive anything from him.  TRUST Christ, lean on Him, put your mind on Him when those worries begin to fill your heart with worry.  He is our perfect peace.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Squirrels and Birds


Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4

One of our favorite things to do here around the house is just to watch the wildlife.  We put out corn in two squirrel feeders, bird seed for the birds, and just sit and watch them.  We listening to the birds sing, watching for the occasional rabbit or wild turkey to come around, and pass the time in complete peace.
But lately we’ve had a lot more squirrels than usual.  I counted NINE hanging out around the feeding tree.  Many of them are very small, just babies, and we love to watch them hop through the yard precariously to the tree and eat from their little hands.

The birds are amazing to watch.  Yellow Finches, paired with Blue Birds and red Cardinals, just make my eyes happy!  We watch the tiny Titmouse as it hops down the tree, and then back up the tree the same way.  The red headed woodpecker we do believe it has gotten drunk of humming bird juice, as he wants to punch holes in our aluminum gutter.  He sounds like a machine gun going off in the middle of our peace and quiet! 
And yes, the humming birds.  They are so greedy for the sweet water we feed them that they cannot even move far from the feeder.  We watched as one would come drink for a while, then go rest in a tree branch while watching the feeder.  The moment a fellow hummingbird attempted to get a drink, he would buzz in and attack to shoo all others away.

If there’s one attribute that squirrels and birds have in common, I would say it is selfishness.  The squirrels will run each other and even the occasional rabbit away from the food.  They eat on separate sides of the tree, knowing that if they are seen, it’s time to scamper up the tree to safety, and wait until their foe isn’t watching to move back down to the food.  The birds will swoop in, get the food, and fly away, or as the Blue Jay’s do, fend off any others that dare eat!
This past weekend while we were watching the birds something happened that was amazing.  In the midst of good conversation with our friend Megan, a cardinal did something that stopped us midsentence!  He came down the tree, got a few seeds of food, and then carried it up the tree to give it to another cardinal – from one beak to the other.  He did it several times as we sat there just in awe of the love he was showing to the female cardinal.  It was fascinating because it was so unlike all the others we were watching.

I do believe God never shows you anything like that in life without using it to teach you a lesson. 
Days later I’m reading His word and they come back to mind – the greedy squirrels and birds, and the two cardinals.  We’re all much like the greedy ones, and sometimes – possibly rarely even – like the cardinals.  We look out for our own interest before anyone else’s.  Think about it.  When we cut the pizza, do we pull the piece with the most pepperoni to our plate?  Do we look for the best piece of fried chicken and put it on our plate before anyone else can take it?  Of course we do! 

But it doesn’t stop at food.  We fail to share our time.  Perhaps that’s one way in which I am the greediest.  I enjoy time with my hubby and alone time so much that I rarely spend it with anyone else.  We also fail to share God’s word.  Seriously, if you know it and don’t share it, that is sin, for James 4:17 says those “who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”  We fail to give as much as we should of what we control.  Yet by keeping it, we only hurt ourselves as it begins to control how we live and pulls us away from God’s plan.
Jesus continually teaches us to “love one another as I have loved you”, and “love thy neighbor as thyself” and to “look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others”.  Galatians 5:22 gives the fruits of the Spirit, purposefully naming LOVE as the first. 

When Paul speaks of Timothy in Philippians 2:19-24 he compares him to the rest saying of them, “For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.  Can that not be said of all of us? 
We need more Timothy’s in this world.  We need those who will show others love, instead of being self-centered.  We need those who will give not only of their possessions, but of their hearts and their time. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Be an Elijah

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.  Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” – James 5:13-18

As a church, I think one of the greatest ways we doubt God is in healing.  We pray for our friends and family to be healed, and they sometimes get better, and sometimes get sick again, and sometimes die sick.  Yes, death is part of God’s plan, and sickness opens the door to Heaven sometimes. 
But when our brothers and sisters are sick, how often do we DO WHAT GODS WORD SAYS.  How often do we take them before the spiritual leaders of the church, anoint them with oil in the name of Jesus, and pray over them that their sins be forgiven and God release them from that sickness? Rarely.

Yet, God’s word says this is the path to them being healed.  Confession leads to healing! 
“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”  Oh, don’t go looking for someone who is without sin in this world to pray.  You’ll never find them!  Look for those who are righteous!  We who have been saved by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, are the righteous!  Our fervent – never give up – prayers can change circumstances.  I’ve seen it far too many times.  Yet, our faith puts a leash on our prayer life, because we only trust God for the things we can believe He will do. 

Stop putting God in a box!  Take Him out of the boxed in reality of your mind and realize that with God, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.  Realize that He is the same God that listened to Elijah’s prayers, and He is listening to yours.  James 4:2 clearly says that we do not have the things we desire because we do not ASK.  We don’t ask because we have no faith that God will give us our petitions.  And yes, some of our petitions are based on our own selfish desires, and no friend, you won’t get them.  God is a good Father, and He knows when the million dollar lottery will cause you to walk away from Him, turn on your friends and family (or they would turn on you), and He forbids such evil to come into your life. 
We’ve all read Psalms 37:4, which says “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”  But we’ve misunderstood this verse to say that whatever our heart desires, God will give.  NO.  When you delight in the Lord, he gives you the DESIRES of your heart, and they align with His purpose for you, which is to give you a hope and a future, making you into what He designed you to be.  It’s not the foolish desires of your heart he fulfills.  How horrible that would be if He did that for each and every person who prayed for them! Think about that for a while. 

Elijah prayed EARNESTLY (continually, without fail, never giving up on God) that it would not rain, and God stopped the rain for three and a half years!  But why did God do it?  Because when Elijah asked for it, it was to make a believer out of Ahab. His words concerning the matter point to God’s abilities, not his own.  He said in 1 Kings 17:1 “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.”  Immediately God provided water for him, and food. He continued to provide for him during the drought.  Elijah had a full ministry within the drought years.  This was God’s purpose!  It wasn’t simply to say “OK Elijah, whatever you want son, I’ll just give it to you.” No, Elijah was praying in accordance to God’s desires that had been placed in his heart.  And God delivered!
Elijah seems like a man far above any man we know today.  Who of us could pray this prayer and God answer, we think.  Yet, God’s word clearly says “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours”.  Now, why would James make that point if it wasn’t to say to us, to even say to me, “Faithie, you CAN BE an Elijah!”.  The only difference is us, in me even, and Elijah, is that we have not allowed God to invade our hearts to the point of changing out desires into His so that all our actions become God’s actions.

If you want to see the impossible, believe in the one who can do the impossible.  Let Him give you desires in your heart to see His will.