Joy Comes in the Mourning

Today October 26, my parents anniversary. I’m headed to my husband’s parents home to help care for his Dad because he is not doing well. I began my journey with a stop to fill up the gas tank and realized today’s date. I decided to make a quick trip to the local store to pick up some flowers to take to my parent’s graveside to honor them on this special day- it’s only a few minutes out of the way…alas, they have both graduated to Heaven. Today would’ve been their 60th wedding anniversary! I know, it’s more form me than for them, but it just felt like the right thing to do. As I thought about it I realized it’s also another kind of a coming-of-age season; it will be 21 years since my mom passed and graduated to heaven this November 7th. She was followed by my dad seven years later.

Twenty-one years! How fast it’s gone. Sometimes it feels like an eternity! Every day I realize more and more how grateful I am for the lessons they taught me and for the things that I learned through the experiences in my family of origin. Not just during the good times; in fact, in hindsight, some of the most valuable ones came in the difficult times. So many of my relatives have already gone before me; only cousins left and of course my wonderful adult children, children in love(spouses), and eight amazing grandchildren. There has been a great deal of loss in my life, BUT there have been many glorious blessings! One of the things I have learned is God is good even in the hard times when we are tempted to doubt His goodness.
God knows our every struggle and His timing is perfect even when we can’t understand it or believe that it’s true! Sometimes that’s a hard lesson to learn when everything seems to be caving in all around.

So why is this perhaps the second coming of age? We think when we turn 21 or 18 for some of us that we are all grown up, but that’s not necessarily true. We become adults, and we become more responsible for things. We do what today is termed ‘adulting.’ Honestly though, many of us still value the wisdom of our elders and seek out advice on some of the tougher things in life, and sometimes we just want to share the joys of life with them. We may not depend on them anymore, but it’s still nice to know there is someone to turn to at times of great joy, sorrow or trouble; until they aren’t there. Trust me; there’s been more than a few times early on that I’ve picked up the phone ready to dial and realized…I can’t call you. I can’t share that joyful news or ask that question. Honestly, I remember feeling like an orphan. That truly sounds kind of silly or ridiculous; I was 34 and 41 respectively when they went home. For a season, I felt like an adult orphan. It was comforting to find later out that I wasn’t the only one who felt this.

I usually don’t share things this personal. However, death and loss are things that hit everyone at one time or another. We may feel in invincible and think those we love are as well, but the truth is life can be fragile; it flies by in the blink of an eye. We will all experience loss, and we must deal with it at our own pace and in our way. It’s hard, and it is painful; excruciating at times, to be honest. Those who have elder parents still living as my husband does know the only thing as hard as losing them in their prime is watching them grow weaker and lose the ability to do the things that once brought them great joy. Cherish the moments, learn to find joy and humor in the good times and if at all possible in the difficult ones also; it helps take some of the bite out of the hard stuff!

Last Friday, my father-in-love got quite ill and on top of that had a fall and ended up in the E.R. By Saturday evening he was improving except for pain from the fall. After seeking x-rays and additional care to ensure no missed broken bones, he was given something for pain on Tuesday. The adverse effects took a toll on him and knocked him out for about 36 hours. Thankfully, today, his color is back, and he is eating and drinking well but is still weak and sleeping a lot. He is blessed to be 87, but it takes longer to bounce back, and we are hoping he returns to his self.

Sometimes in our life, the important just must take precedence over those things always declaring themselves urgent. In those times we must slow down and slow the crazy race that has become our life and remember what is truly important. It has been said to seize the day, but sometimes we just need to capture the moment. Linger a minute, find a moment to make a quick call; share a hug and say I love you. When we do, we leave our self less open to doubt and living with regrets later in life. Often remembering the little things like this help make it more bearable when loss and grief come your way.

It may seem a bit silly to celebrate my parents 60th anniversary by taking a bouquet to the place where their bodies rest; but for me, it brought great joy in remembering them today. I learned a lot about life and marriage from them, both what to do and what not to do. They instilled many good traits and habits in me and maybe a few patterns that needed to be broken. I still miss them and many times merely long to talk with them, share a home-cooked meal, or just sit in front of the fire and be together. I’m deeply grateful for their influence and that we did these things often. I am even more thankful for the faith they instilled in me, and that the Lord has grown in me. It gives me a blessed hope and the ability to say with assurance; we will be reunited once again and share in our Heavenly Father’s glory for eternity. I hope that sharing a piece of my journey will be a comfort and blessing for those dealing with struggles and loss.

Grace and Peace to you in the name of our Lord, Jesus!

 

What’s In a Story

What if a parable of Jesus is more than it appears? What if it’s more than just a story with a lesson for the hearers? Could it be that what we often see as a lesson taught through story goes much deeper and perhaps has layers of meaning beyond what we may initially see? Can we connect the dots and find deeper richer meanings; a back story, if you will?

My husband and I heard a missionary speak recently on the parable Jesus tells in Matthew 21:33-44. Here a landowner planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it. He then built a winepress in it and built a tower. Finally, he rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. As the parable continues, the landowner sends representatives when harvest time arrives to retrieve his produce from those he entrusted his land to in his absence.

First, the owner sent three of his servants to retrieve the fruit; one was beaten, one killed and the third stoned. Again he sent his servants, but this time, he sent a larger group; the results were the same. Finally, he decided to send his son, thinking that surely they will be respectful of him! No, the growers also killed him because if he was out of the picture; his inheritance would be theirs for the taking! The parable ends with the question: What will the owner do with the vine-growers?

Those who were listening purposed that the landlord would have a terrible end for those greedy, wicked people and find new growers who would be responsible for that which was entrusted to them.

Can we consider who and what these each of these might represent?

The Vinedresser – God

The wall he built – His protection set in place, perhaps.

A dug-in winepress – tools needed for success.

A watchtower – again, protection and a tool required for success;
Also, providing a means of watching and communicating issues and threats
outside the wall.

Vine growers – those whom He entrusted with the work of His
land or kingdom.

God provided, protected and gave every tool needed for those He entrusted to be successful. Everything necessary for success was in place at their fingertips and handed over to their care. They were entrusted with all that He had as He set out on a journey.

What are some of the unanswered questions? Were the men the owner hired unreliable from the start? Were they reliable at first, growing weary as time passed? Did the success go to their head and they become greedy for more than He promised to provide for their service? Perhaps, they became deceived; thinking they somehow were owed ownership of the land or His absence (the perception: out of sight, out of mind) made Him no longer a responsible an owner and perhaps an undeserving one. Whatever their reason, when the time came to fulfill their agreement and settle up with the proprietor, these vine-growers renigged on their contract. They had no respect for Him, His ownership and authority, nor for the authority which He had delegated first to His representatives and then to His Son and heir.

Jesus’ reply to those whom He was teaching was this:

“Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures,
‘The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the chief corner stone;
This came about from the Lord,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?

Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.” Matthew 21:42-46

This was a direct message to the Pharisees of Jesus time. There also seems to be such a richness to this parable; I can help to wonder if there is so much more… Could there also be layers of meaning that go deeper and reach farther than we may have ever considered? Is it possible that it also refers to the institution of the new covenant of grace (the “church” age) that would soon be ushered in by Jesus sacrificial death, His burial, and resurrection and His command to make disciples of ALL nations? Or of the prophecies to be fulfilled in the future before Christ return? Could there be something for us in our very day lives that Jesus is trying to express? Are we greedy, wicked vine-growers? Are we beating, stoning, and killing figuratively; or are we loving and faithful like Jesus? Are we producing fruit?

Honestly, you may or may not agree; but the more I read this parable, the more questions it provokes. I am convinced that there truly are layers and meanings beyond the surface of what we read in this parable and perhaps in all of Jesus parables. I think I’ll be sitting on this one for a while.

Heavenly Father, Your Word promises if any lack wisdom to ask and it will be given lavishly without finding fault. James 1:5 Help us, Your sons and daughters seek You and Your wisdom so that we can have the understanding and rightly divide Your Word. You have gone before us, prepared the way, set protection in place, made provision for our needs, given us the tools so we may be successful, and entrusted us with Your kingdom. In fact, You have given us the incredible gift of Your Spirit dwelling inside of us to teach, comfort, guide and help us! May we accept the gifts, bring forth fruit and gratefully, willingly and gracefully offer it right back to You where it belongs! To You be the honor and glory forever! In the powerful and amazing name of Jesus Christ, Amen

Grace and Peace to you this day!

Secret to a Well-Watered Garden

If our lives were a garden, what kind of garden would we be? Interesting how our day can shift in just a moment in time! That is if we can be flexible. This morning an interesting topic came up, and I began to research it. It was one simple word– dry. My plan: to thoroughly examine this concept throughout Scripture.

The first suggested reference was Isaiah 58:11: “And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones, and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” (NASB)

I was totally hooked and fully submitted to where God would lead this particular thought because WHO wouldn’t like to find themselves guided in all the day-in and day-out decisions which are required of them? Who would not love to have every desire satisfied; especially in the dry and scorched places!! How often do we find ourselves in desperate need of strength? A well-watered garden is a perfect example of a beautiful and quiet place; usually with songbirds singing and just an all around quiet peacefulness-a delight to the senses! Can you just picture such a place? A person who personifies this description?

If you’ve been around awhile, you know it is a must for me to go back further into the text to make sure I have a grasp of as much context of the passage as I can for correct understanding; so I dialed back to Isaiah 57:14 for greater understanding.

The later part of Isaiah 57 is all about God’s forgiveness for those who are repentant. Interestingly, it is more about God’s actions and responses to His people. Verse 13 clearly states that whoever trusts in God will inherit the land and possess His holy mountain. God instructs Isaiah to rebuild the road; moving all rocks and stones. It’s to be a smooth road without rocks and stones so that His people can return from captivity to the safety, protection, and freedom in His presence. They had been led away captive by greediness and the desire to go their stubborn ways. Now, it is His desire for them to return to live with Him in the high and holy place; His requirement– a contrite (remorseful) and humble spirit.

Many will think this is a steep price to pay; others fail to see any need for remorse or humility. For those who find it within themselves to return to Him, He promises restoration and courage. In fact, He also has a promise for those who had remained in their stubbornness. Though He was angry, punished the greedy and withdrew from those who kept to their stubborn ways; He declares that He will heal them.
He pledges comfort for the mourners; also, abundant peace. But for the wicked, there is no peace. They will be like a churning ocean; without rest.

In Isaiah 58, we come across the contrast of real and false worship. False worship is described distinctly as worship that is self-seeking, self-pleasing and done with the expectation of recognition or reward. Some would call this form or worship religion rather than relationship; which is God’s heart for His people. Finally, we get to what the Lord, our God describes as His fast. The fast that God finds pleasing:

1. Bring freedom to those wrongly imprisoned.
2. Lighten the burden of those in your charge.
3. Free the oppressed; those subject to harsh treatment or treated as subservient. (remove chains of bondage)
4. Feed those who are hungry.
5. Shelter the homeless.
6. Clothe those who need clothing.
7. Do not hide from relatives that could use your help.

I find it very intriguing that there are exactly seven things that God lists in this passage. Isaiah is part of the Old Testament and is written originally in the Hebrew language. Hebrew tradition gives a numerical meaning to numbers. Seven is defined as the Divine number of completion; a covenant promise; and some say the number of perfection. So is there a promise or a covenant promise attached to the above behavior? Let’s explore…

Let’s pick up in verse 8 of Isaiah 58: ““Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. 9 Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! 10 Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11 The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. 12 Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.” (NLT)

Five Promises or Results of the Lord’s Fast:

1. Your salvation will come like dawn.
2. Your wounds will heal quickly.
3. Your godliness will lead you forward.
4. The glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
5. You will call, and God will answer; He will quickly reply.

You might be interested to know if you don’t know already; the meaning of the Hebrew number five is God’s grace. God’s grace is abundant in our lives when we find ourselves submitted to His plan and purpose for us. As you can see in the above passages of scripture; our repentant and submitted life to the things which are of greatest importance to the heart of God causes His abundant grace to flow in our lives and allows us to abide in a place of peace, beauty, and fruitfulness!

May His grace abound to you in all you do!

Releasing the Old; Embracing the New

It’s now December 31st, and for the most part, the hustle and bustle of the Christmas celebration are winding down. Our Savior’s birth celebrated, presents given, presents received and opened, the glitz and wrappings of another year have found their way to their respective places whether that is in a drawer, a closet, returned, or in storage for next year, the recycle bin or for curbside pick up. For many it has been a time of sadness, remembering those no longer with us or losses that we have struggled with this year. Others felt alone and far from their loved ones whether because of their career; or serving their country across the world; or because they did not have resources to travel to their family or loved ones. Some have had the best year ever. Others celebrate a new birth or new life in their homes. Many experienced the angst of wanting to bless their loved ones with just the right gift, and some the pressure of not having the means to do it or do it in the manner they would like.

It is my hope and prayer that even amongst the myriad of feelings we often find ourselves experiencing; the pressures that we experience during this time of year that you have been able to find glimpses of joy. My wish is that glimmers of unconditional love have shown themselves; moments of grace have peeked out around the corner and taken your breath away! Christmas and life, in general, is much more than quick photo ops and sound bites! We often miss out when we get caught up in the rush and the pressures.

Except for leftover expenses, bills, and a few leftovers, the rich and tasty treats that we only allow ourselves this time of year, have been consumed. Now we move onto thinking about a brand new year with all the potential it may hold. Lord God help us to frame 2017 just that way! Give us the courage to look realistically at 2016; the good and the bad; the victories and the regrets. Help us to have the proper perspective about how our year as gone. Show us how to have the grace to celebrate every victory; gracefully repair what needs fixing and let go of what we can not change. May we have the boldness to look back realistically at the year, see it as it was, evaluate the changes we need to make and with great courage step into the adventure the New Year will bring. Help us have the wisdom to take time, to slow down and enjoy some simple small pleasures; such as a walk in nature, watching children play; making that phone call we have talked about but neglected; praying a moment for that person that just keep popping into our mind; maybe even sending a note to them. Teach us to simplify our life so we can enjoy it more; enjoy others more. Perhaps it just really boils down to perspective. Help us to develop proper perspective in our lives. Help us to see the things that are the most important; the things that at the end of the day or the end of our days will matter the most. Our relationship to You; our loved ones and those we come in contact with. May love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness be gifts that we often give, for they are far more valuable that anything we can purchase and the truth is that withholding them tends to hurt us far more than anyone else.

Father God, is it possible that there is a focus You have for this new season? Perhaps a word or a scripture verse that we need to ponder or focus on for the upcoming year? Suppose You are saying to us as in Isaiah 43:19, “Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of (perceive) it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert…”. May we be wise and alert enough to sense what You want to do in and through our lives in these days to come. Whether it is focusing on You at a new and deeper level, establishing deeper relationships, reaching out to those who are hurting, changing career or ministry paths… whatever You have for us, may we be willing to embrace it with open and willing hearts in the upcoming year! May we seek wisdom and understanding in all we do and allow You to establish our footsteps as we enter boldly into everything You have for us in 2017.

Election Angst?

     Seven days have passed since the historic election of 2016. One would think that by now things would be beginning to settle, yet emotions for many are still running high. From fear to elation, the sentiments range the gamut! Tears, riots, all the way to shouts of joy have been present. Never have I witnessed a political season like the one we have seen this time! For the most part, it is my personality, to keep quiet about such things; research the candidates, their records, and their character and quietly make my decision. I seldom if ever weigh in over social media but today I feel compelled to comment hoping to bring some peace and reassurance to those who are uncomfortable, fearful, worried or downright angry.

     This may not mean anything to you if your aren’t a person who believes in the God of creation and the Lord Jesus Christ, but Scripture tells us in Daniel:

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Based on this scripture alone, God is NOT surprised by the outcome of this election! He is not wringing His hands with concern about what the future holds. God already knows, and there is a purpose and plan for our country and for those He has allowed to come into positions of authority. He is perfectly aware that many of us have been shaking our heads for months over the political circus and were surprised at those chosen for the final leg of this journey. Many people found it hard to choose because they had issues with both of the candidates. The good news is that comfort can be found in Scripture. The Bible is full of hope for us, we just have to search it out.

One such story that comes to mind is found in the book of Esther. The King’s right-hand man plots and schemes until a directive was signed to rid the kingdom of all Jewish subjects; which by the way would include the Queen, unbeknownst to the King. Though God’s name is not mentioned once within the book; it’s obvious He is active throughout the events.

Then there’s the mighty victory of Gideon whose army was whittled down from 22,000 to 300 men. These were impossible odds for success, but with God on their side, nothing was impossible! The key is for us to stir up our faith and trust God; remind our self that He is Sovereign and in control; He not only has a plan but it is a purposeful plan for a good outcome for His people.

We like David must encourage ourselves in the Lord. 1 Samuel 30:6 “And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”

God is mighty and does mighty exploits. We must remind ourselves that God is faithful and He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) Below are some verses that you may find helpful:

    I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 ESV

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43:1b ESV

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened,                                                        and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 ESV

                         

Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Isaiah 35:3-4 ESV

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life,  what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.  Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Luke 12:22-27 ESV

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom should I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom should I be afraid?
 When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh,
my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell.
 Though an army deploys against me,
my heart is not afraid;
though a war breaks out against me,
still I am confident. Psalm 27:1-3 HCSB

“Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

There are 365 fear not scriptures. Many scriptures can be found about hope, peace, trust, comfort, etc. When I find myself in need of encouragement, I find key words and Google to be particularly helpful (key word + scripture).

May His grace and peace abound to you!

BitterSweet

It’s good to sit down to write again. Life has been quite busy and full of surprises both good and challenging. This year has been lightening fast, and it is hard to believe November is here. November is a bittersweet month around our house. We love Thanksgiving and all the traditions, celebrations, and family times. At the same time, it is a time we remember some dear family members who graduated to their heavenly home; many whose home-going was during the month of November. November is also the month my husband and I have the pleasure of celebrating our anniversary.

I remember as a little tot; it was November when I attended the funeral of my Grand-daddy and my Great-grandmother. I’m not sure why the time of year stands out in my memory. Many years later, we also buried my husband’s beloved brother in November 1985; followed by my Mom and Dad in 1996 and 2003 respectively.

Today it has been twenty years to date since my Mom took her heavenly voyage way to young! (Just a few years older than me) As you might imagine, I have been reminiscing a bit as the day has approached. I have remembered special times and fond memories, thinking how much she would have enjoyed her seven great-grandchildren and looked forward to the new little one soon to be born.

Today also marks another special day in November; another reason to be thankful for all the Lord has done in our lives. It marks the end of a season, a labor of love that has resulted in the birth of a dream. Conceived in childhood, implanted in 2014; finally a reality today.

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Now available at Amazon.com or  https://www.createspace.com/6544403. I can’t help but wonder just what my Mom and Dad would think…

By God’s unfathomable grace, I am able to hold tight to Him and His grace to face all that November brings into my life; both good and challenging! Every single month for that matter. Life is full of wonderful and wonder-filled moments and it is important to remember each one! It is also filled with many challenging times when we must hold on to our faith, His grace and all that is good in our lives just to take our next breath! His grace is sufficient for every situation!

Be Blessed and may His grace and peace fill your days!

Crazy Times

 

Just wondering: Do your struggle with a wondering mind? I sure do! Always asking questions, seeking to understand. I find myself feeling like that small child always asking their parents or siblings, why? The last several months I have found my mind wandering down all sorts of bunny trails and finding I have many more questions than I do answers. Time seems to be passing at an accelerated pace and if I can be so bold as to say this; honestly, I find myself wondering quite often, ‘has our world just gone totally crazy?’

Just over ten years ago, my sweet grandmother went to heaven; she was four months shy of one hundred years old and a wonderful role model. I remember thinking about all of the changes that she must have witnessed and experienced during her life. I just cannot imagine how many wonders and the many struggles she faced through both World Wars, not to mention the Great Depression, other wars, all the changes, and innovations. In the ten short years since her passing, it seems that life has changed at warp speed. This morning, I found myself thinking about the courage it must have taken for her throughout her lifetime. Almost half of her adult life she lived alone after her parents and husband had died. Of course, there were other relatives, her grown children, and grandchildren. In my late teens, I watched her as she had to bury her son, her oldest, who was taken by a tragic accident. Just fifteen short years, I sat beside her as her baby girl (my Mom) was buried. She was a simple woman, but a woman of great strength, courage, and grace who totally depended on her faith and her God to get her through!

The memory made me think of a call sent forth in Deuteronomy 31:6.
“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” I can imagine this was one of the reasons for her strength through the tough times in her life. So what does this courage look like?

According to Strong’s, this Hebrew word means strong, alert, courageous, brave, stout, bold, solid, hard. It also implies to strengthen, to secure for oneself, to make firm, to assure, to be determined, to make oneself alert, to confirm oneself, to persist in, to exhibit courage, to be strong, to feel strong. The definition applies to both physical courage and mental courage as in a steadfast mind.

Courage is certainly needed today. Just a few minutes listening to the news can set off all kinds of alarm, worry, and fear. The economy, crime, abuse, neglect, injustice, political mud slinging and concerns of where our country is going are just a few of the things that are weighing heavily in our day to day lives. It is no wonder many are struggling with fear, depression or despondency. Fear can be crippling for some, causing avoidance and loss of quality of life. For others, it can cause us to take up arms and fight against some of the very ones who would stand with us. Many fight daily battles with fears.

Thankfully, in 2 Timothy 1:7, Paul tells us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” (NASB) Prayer and faith are the perfect answer to fear. Faith is what got my sweet grandmother through her ninety-nine plus years, and she set a quiet example for all those she came into contact. Her complete trust in God, her Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ saw her through times of lack, sickness, loss, pain, struggle, and need. It strengthened her to walk in peace despite the world around her, and to trust no matter what came; Her God was faithful. Her example has been invaluable in my life.

Do you battle fear? Are you finding you could use a little more peace in your days? Do the day’s headlines leave you wondering or feeling uncertain? I assure you that you are not the only one!! How do we build our faith and find the courage to face the times in which we live? Our struggles? Again, Prayer and faith are the perfect answer to fear! God is faithful to His Word and in His Word we can find strength, courage, and peace. Jesus, His Son, suffered, died and was raised on the third day for more than just our salvation and a ticket to heaven.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has
anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to
bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives
and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the
Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who
mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland
instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the
mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting; so they will be
called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may
be glorified.” Isaiah 61:1-3 (NASB)

Notice Jesus came to proclaim liberty to the captives. Nothing holds us mentally captive more than fear! It can be paralyzing! The good news is that we do not have to let it paralyze us!! We do not have to be a prisoner to our fear.

“So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the
door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and
robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if
anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out
and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and
destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it
abundantly. John 10:7-10 (NASB)

Abundant life and fear do not coexist! Through His life and the sacrifice Jesus made, we have everything we need for this life:

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and
of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us
everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true
knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent
promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the
divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world
by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in
your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence,
knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-
control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in
your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly
kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing,
they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true
knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these
qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his
purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the
more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you;
for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord
and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”
2 Peter 1:2-11 (NASB)

We can walk both in peace and courage all throughout our lives because Jesus has provided everything we need for life and godliness. When we follow His ways, we are promised that we will never stumble.

 Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.” Joshua 1:7 (NASB)

The key as I see it is to spend time in the Word of God, in prayer, building faith and encouraging myself in the Lord. Even the mighty King David spent time doing this!

“Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices
and wept until there was no strength in them to weep. Now
David’s two wives had been taken captive, Ahinoam the
Jezreelitess and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite.
Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of
stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because
of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in
the Lord his God.” 1 Samuel 30:4-6

Grace, Peace and Courage to you in the name of Jesus!

How to Gain Your Sight?

 

Can I just say that I love Wednesday nights! I look forward each week to meeting with this group of individuals who love God and love to get into His Word and study together and challenge each other. “As iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens [and influences] another [through discussion].” Proverbs 27:17 (NASB) We begin with a pre-assigned topic, portion of the Word or portion of a book about God’s Word. Several days in advance, thanks to some very dedicated individuals, we are emailed some great thought provoking questions about the assigned topic. On Wednesdays, we all come together in one large group for a few minutes for an overview. Then we break out into smaller groups based on personality tendencies where we have exciting and challenging discussions about the proposed questions. Finally, we come back together as a large group and share the insights that stood out inside the small group discussions.

Did I mention the degree of depth of the questions presented for our consideration? It is so interesting to interact with a small group over the proposed questions and even more so to hear the variety and depth of each person’s response! one of our questions last night was about the story found in 2 Kings 6: 15-20. The king of Aram (Syria) was plotting war against Israel, the prophet Elisha warned Israel, which made the Syrian king angry. Realizing that someone was helping Israel, this king became enraged and determined to have retribution. How did this man Elisha reveal to his enemy the things he’d spoken in private in his bedroom? Determined, the king of Aram sent out a mighty army with horses and chariots against Elisha.

“The servant of the man of God got up early and went out, and behold, there was an army with horses and chariots encircling the city. Elisha’s servant said to him, “Oh no, my master! What are we to do?” Elisha answered, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “Lord, please, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servants eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha. When the Arameans came down to him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, ‘Please strike this people (nation) with blindness.” And God struck them with blindness, in accordance with Elisha’s request. Then Elisha said to the Arameans, “This is not the way, nor is this the city. Follow me and I will lead you to the man whom you are seeking.” And he led them to Samaria. When they had come into Samaria, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men, so that they may see.” And the Lord opened their eyes and they saw. Behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. When the king of Israel (Jehoram) saw them, he said to Elisha, “My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?” Elisha answered, “You shall not kill them. Would you kill those you have taken captive with your sword and bow? Serve them bread and water, so that they may eat and drink, and go back to their master [King Ben-hadad].” So the king prepared a great feast for them; and when they had eaten and drunk he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the marauding bands of Aram did not come into the land of Israel again.” (2 Kings 6:15-23 AMP)

Our question was: We often are guilty of having the “Gehazi Syndrome”. Why is this sometimes intentional? How do you gain your sight? As I considered Gehazi’s observation about their situation and Elisha’s response, I first noticed Gehazi’s exclamation. “Oh no, master!” He was apparently taken aback by the encampment of the enemy on every side. Appearances clearly show that they are both outnumbered and under-equipped for the potential events that seemed destined to unfold. This is not an uncommon reaction when our circumstances overwhelm us as many in our group attested to last night. So how do we gain our sight in such situations? How do we make sure we do not panic and become overwhelmed when our circumstances seem ready to crash over us and drown us in their wake. As the room quieted and we pondered our responses, this rose up in my heart and spirit:

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthian 5:7 NKJV)

When we are focused solely on our circumstances, we are walking by sight, and it is easy to be overwhelmed and defeated. Faith is also absent when we are focused on our circumstances alone and for those of us who are believers, this is not okay. Appearances do not have the final say. However, since we are not entirely using this scripture in it actual context, the resurrection of the body; we need other scripture also to agree with the principle to take a stand.

“Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. For our ancestors won God’s approval by it. By faith, we understand that the universe was created by God’s command, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible.” (Hebrews 11:1-3 HSCB)

“Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6 HSCB)

Elisha’s response to his servant’s observation was a foreshadowing of these very scriptures that were later taught in the New Testament. Elisha, being a prophet, a man of prayer, and one with whom God shared mysteries to come; he did not walk by sight and was not deterred by what he saw. He prayed first for Gehazi to be able to see that God had provided help of which he was not aware, and secondly to blind their enemies so they could be led away and taken captive. Lastly, Elisha did not harm them but prayed once again and did as the Lord told him. God told Elisha to feed them and let them return to their master. It is a clear and excellent example of walking by faith. Elisha wasn’t a stranger to the many times God had acted in impossible situations on behalf of His people. He had been handed down generations of stories of God’s character, provision, and protection. We can also experience this kind of faith. Each time we exercise our faith based on what God has done for us in the past, our faith grows stronger. Each time we open His Word and read the examples found there we find the strength to exercise our faith a bit more. Hebrews 11, known as the hall of faith gives some excellent snippets of the faith of the patriarchs in the Old Testaments.

One of the greatest gifts we can ever give ourselves is exercising our faith rather that letting our fear overcome us. One of the most memorable gifts we can give our children, grandchildren and friends is to share our experiences of God’s faithfulness when they struggle; helping to bring comfort build their faith.

“Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 HSCB)

Lord, please give us the grace to share our stories!

Find Rest in the Promises

 

What a powerful scripture!  We have received the same promises as the Hebrew children wandering in the wilderness! This challenged me to ask this question…  Just how many promises does the Bible contain? Enter Internet search engines. They are great for my inquiring mind; just remember we can’t believe all we read there.

How many promises are there in the Bible?  The answers I found varied widely.  The first site I found concluded there were 3,573 (bible info.com). Others ranged from 3,000 all the way up to over 30,000! No two sites agreed on the number but that doesn’t really matter for our purpose today.  The point is the Bible is full of all kinds of promises for our life and according the the verse above they are not just for the people of old; they are for us.  I don’t know about you, but that gives me great hope and excitement.

You don’t have to live long on this planet before you realize that life can be very challenging at times!  Our desire is to live fairly uncomplicated lives and we want that for our children as well.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t always turn out that way for us.  If you have circled the sun a few times on this planet, you know this!  When life decides to hurl curve balls and fast balls our way, what do we do?  How do we keep the gale force winds in life from blowing us right into hopelessness, depression and despair?  Sometimes we seek out council from a trusted parent, sibling, mentor, friend or other relative.  It’s great to have those people in our lives!  What if the situation is too overwhelming; too complicated; to big; to tender; or perhaps just too embarrassing to share?  What happens when that burden is excruciatingly heavy and there seems to be no relief from it’s weight in sight?

Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (HCSB)

Or as the Message words it:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Live freely and lightly! That’s what I want every day! So how do we accomplish this is our lives?  What are some practical steps?  How do we rise above what the world throws our way?  How do we overcome discouragement, fear and doubt?  I guarentee many will think my answer is over-simplistic and that’s ok. I’ve been there too!  For many it will seem not only over-simplistic but far fetched.  It’s fine, your doubts will not cause any resentment from me.  The answer to every question, need or dilemma we have is in the Word of God.  I have put it to the test and every single time I have come away with help; comfort; peace.  Our post modern culture will tell us God’s Word isn’t revelant or that it’s archaic.  They may say it’s too restrictive; all about rules, etc.  Even if there is just a bit of truth in what is culturally said about the Bible in our day, how can you dismiss it if you have never truly tested it for yourself?

Whether the actual number of promises found within it’s covers is 3,000 or 33,000; one thing is sure.  One of them will fit what you’re facing at least on some level and is worth deciding to stand on that promise in faith.  When doubt comes, pray and speak the promise over and over. I doesn’t hurt to keep a check on your motives in the process; are my motives pure and is my heart in the right place?

As a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, the best gift we can give ourselves is knowing who God says we are in Christ and being grounded in His Word and His promises. Why? Because the Holy Spirit will remind us or bring it to our mind in time of need or crisis. This is a process and takes time. In the mean time, when attacks or problems come what do we do?  Personally, if I don’t know a promise for my situation, I grab my phone; open the browser and search… Scripture for ______? You can fill in the topic with the need. Example: scripture for doubt, fear, discouragement, rejection, etc. Who does the Bible say I am in Christ? What does the Bible say about healing?

A word of warning,  if you are using the Internet, not everything you find will be accurate and true so test what you find. Also, check it against God’s Word; that it is in context with the scriptures around it; test it against other scriptures; and pray for wisdom, understanding and revelation reguarding the scripture.   This may seem a little complicated, but it is worth it because it works. It is possible to rest in Christ even in the middle of a storm!

A few promises to start with:

2 Timothy 1:7  “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” NASB

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” NIV

James 1: 5-8  “If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.” MSG

Deuteronomy 31:6  “Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5-6  “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said,  “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Isaiah 43: 1-2 ““Now this is what the Lord says — the One who created you, Jacob, and the One who formed you, Israel — “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.”
‭‭ ‭HCSB‬‬

Courage in Battle

As early as I can remember, my parents read me Bible stories.  You know, the Creation; Adam and Eve sin; Cain and Able; David faces the Giant; Daniel and the lion’s den; Joseph and his colorful coat… the list could go on and on. They taught me biblical principles from the time I was a tot even we were not a “church going family” or as some would say a “religious” family. My parents and my Nannie (grandmother) taught me the importance of living my life based on God’s Word; that He was always with me and that He knew and saw everything that happens. They taught me the importance of prayer and that God answers our prayers. By the time I was five or six, I was in a very frightening situation, and I put it to the test. This timid little girl prayed and prayed hard. Did I say I was terrified?? That evening I promised God if I made it out of that situation alive, I was His, forever. As you can see, He saw me through! My family had set the stage by teaching me God was faithful every time they read those stories of His faithfulness to me! When I found myself in a pinch, I remembered and held fast to those stories, and He answered in a mighty way that has affected my life ever since that evening.

There was one thing back in the day; it seemed no one ever told us. At least I never heard it once even after I started attending a church nearby a couple of years later. The truth is I was an adult before I realized that a decision to believe God and accept Jesus brings a Declaration of War against us! Many of us were told a decision for Christ was the greatest, most important decision we would make and it is. Many of us believed or were taught once that decision was made it is smooth sailing from then on. Let me just tell you; nothing is further from the truth! The battle between good and evil and light and darkness began in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit to “be like God”.  This age-old battle has raged ever since!

Jesus came to give us life and life abundantly, but the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10)  Jesus came to set us free from bondage/captivity; heal us and heal our brokenness; and bring us wholeness: “The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the Lord to glorify Him.” (Isaiah 61:1-3 HCSB)  Once we choose to join Team Jesus, we are no longer off the radar of His enemy; we are now a threat because we have chosen sides. Jesus Christ has already paid the price and won the victory over sin and death. Satan refuses to admit defeat and uses all means possible to keep us distracted and deceived about our worth and our standing so that we find it difficult to walk in the abundant life and freedom Jesus has already made available to us.

It is important for us to know the truth and that begins with understanding the Word.  “For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” (Ephesians 6:12 HCSB)  “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world. Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little. The dominion belongs to Him forever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:8-11 HCSB)  The priority is to know whose side we are on. Next, is knowing that there’s an enemy and a battle going on; we are targeted.  Third, that person who doesn’t seem to like you; who lied to you or about you; who betrayed you…it is not about them. Perhaps they have misunderstood you or been deceived about you; they may be a pawn in the battle of the ages, but it is really not about them.

So what do we do with this info? Ephesians 6 tells us:

“Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.”

Because of this, you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. In every situation take the shield of faith; with it, you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alerted in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:10-11, 13-18 HCSB)

•    Be Strengthened by the Lord’s immense strength; don’t fight in our

strength!

•    Take up the Full Armor of God.

•    Stand Firm.

His Armor:

The Belt of Truth – ” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6) The belt holds the armor together and gives stability!  Likewise, Jesus is the truth; He is the One who holds us together and gives us confidence. Colossians 1:17 says. ” He is before all things, and by Him, all things hold together.”

The Breastplate of Righteousness –  “We are Christ’s Ambassadors…Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21) This piece guards our heart!  Above all else, guard your heart for it is the source of life.(Proverbs 4:23)

The Gospel of Peace –  “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” He (Jesus) said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” which is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend  on these two commands.” (Matthew 22:38-40)

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” (Romans 12:17-19 MSG)  Just as the sandals protected the warrior’s feet from the terrain, keeping peace with others helps us keep our walk safe.

The Shield of Faith – “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. (Hebrews 11:1-2 MSG)  Our faith is our shield that protects us. It is a huge barrier that protects our full body and quenches the tactics of our enemy!

The Helmet of Salvation – guard your mind!  Our greatest battles are fought in our minds. Our mind is where we form strategies and plans. It is where we reason and decide how to move forward. It is where the battles between fear and faith are either won or lost. “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. (Romans 12:2)
Romans 8:37 “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

The Sword of the Spirit (God’s Word) –   “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.(Hebrews 4:12) This is our one offensive weapon and it is powerful!  God’s Word has an answer for every question; a solution for every problem!

Pray at all times – “Pray constantly.  Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Don’t stifle the Spirit. Don’t despise prophecies, but test all things. Hold on to what is good.  Stay away from every kind of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:18-22)

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.…” (Luke 11:9-10)  In the original,  this passage really reads ask and keep asking, seek and keep seeking, knock and keep knocking indicating perseverance in our  prayers.   Our battles will be won not by using earthly weapons but by walking in faith using the spiritual weapons He provides us!

May grace and peace be yours!

Note: You can find many additional scriptures by using a concordance or Google to search keywords about this or any topic. I highly recommend that you are sure to keep them in their original context and always check out the accuracy for yourself rather than relying on what any individual may say. Part of being armed is knowing God’s Word for ourselves. How else can we be on guard and not be unintentionally or for that matter, intentionally deceived?