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!

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.

img_1322-1

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!

Are We In Focus?

 

Almost three weeks since the last blog, and what three weeks it has been! One thing right after another either for us or for those we love; sometimes both at the same time. It seems as though everyone is struggling with several things and all at once. I am not sure whether this is just a season or a sign of the times in which we live. But one thing is sure. People are struggling daily. We are surrounded by news of floods, fires, earthquakes. We are inundated with this political party declaring that if that party gets elected, we are doomed. Consequently, the other party is repeating the same doom and gloom message about the first party. Major events and happenings that were once considered newsworthy to the public have taken a back seat to celebrity gossip, the rehashing of a story from months ago that they just will not let go of, and slanderous political accusations. It is no wonder people struggle with anxiety and fear like never before; on top of dealing with the things everyday life throws our way we are bombarded with more news than anyone was ever intended to handle. Much of it bad news.

The question that looms before us: What’s a person to do? How do we live in a 24 hour a day world, overloaded with information, see violence and acts of terror paraded before our eyes live on the news or our computer screens? How do protect ourselves from becoming anxious bundles of nerves just waiting for the other shoe to drop?

I realize there is a flip side to the coin, and all isn’t doom and gloom. There is still a beautiful world out there, and there are excellent and kind people all around us. Beauty, grace, love, mercy are all around us, ready to be found. Many would ask where?

We Need to Find Balance and Focus

     Exactly 84.51% of my words so far have focused on what is wrong, only 46 words (15.49%) focused on more positive factors. We need to find a balance in the things we allow to penetrate our thinking and find more positive things to focus on as we walk through life. We need to be intentional about what enters through our eyes and ears because it has an enormous impact on our thoughts and our emotions. I fully believe that is why Paul told believers in Philippians 4:8-9:

 “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
                 whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (NASB)

     I have often heard the saying that you become what you behold. I would have to tend to agree with this theory. When you are constantly bombarded with negative reports, bad news and subjected to negative attitudes; it is not uncommon to find your thoughts and reactions becoming anxious, negative and perhaps even fearful. Perhaps that is why there are approximately 365 different scriptures in the Word of God that relate to the concept “fear not, do not be afraid.”

One of the things I learned during the season my son was stationed in Iraq 2004-2005 was that it isn’t healthy for me to tune into the news. Occasionally watching was okay but for the most part, I avoided the world news and replaced it with time spent praying for those on the battlefields. Praying for their safety and provision of needs was hands down better that listening to the news and wondering and worrying about the safety of our soldiers and my son! Watching the news would have made me crazy!

Romans 12:2 tells us, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (NASB) How do we do this? How do we renew our thinking or soothe our anxious thoughts?

Just like we get rid of a bad habit by replacing it with a better habit; because just stopping the bad habit is never enough for long term success. We also need to look at our thinking the same way. What are the things we are focusing on that are causing anxiety? Fear? How can we change our thoughts, so they instill faith rather that fear and peace instead of anxiety? Back to Philippians 4, we think on whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute. Another tactic that works for me is to search out God’s promises in the area I am struggling. Here Google is my friend. I will search God’s promises for peace or scriptures on comfort. What does the Bible say about fear? There’s a whole lot of comfort and peace in the words penned by godly men throughout the centuries, and they are much more relevant today than most people think.

Lastly, I have found prayer very helpful in the process of changing my thinking and dealing with the hard things in life. It doesn’t have to be a formula, just sitting having a conversation with my Heavenly Father. Telling Him what’s on my heart, what’s happening and how I feel about it; asking for wisdom and understanding and sometimes even a little tattling on someone. (Just look in the Psalms, King David did too!) I follow with a time of listening, waiting… sometimes He will bring scriptures to mind that minister to my heart; sometimes a nudge to open the Bible and just read a passage and wisdom will be revealed; other times I sense I need to wait for the answer. Later I may hear an appropriate message from a Christian communicator; or a trusted friend may say just the right thing seemingly out of the blue, but it’s not. I find great comfort in knowing He hears, and He answers in His timing; just when we need it the most.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.
Conclusion
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.”
1 Peter 5: 6-9 HCSN

“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 5:10-11

May His grace and peace be with you!

Knowledge, Wisdom, & Understanding

“Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth. “Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; Love her, and she will watch over you. “The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with all your acquiring, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:5-7 (NASB)

While praying this morning, thinking back over all that happened this last week, I found myself weighing the events. I find that my heart is very grateful; yes, even for those difficult and painful moments! That is when Proverbs 4 came to mind…

We live in a culture in America where education is valued highly, and most parents strongly encourage early learning and higher education. We also live in an era where information is easily accessible; at the touch of our fingertips, we can educate ourselves on almost any topic we desire. It was inconceivable just twenty-five years ago the speed at which our world would change and that we would be able to use the internet to research any topic that we desired; becoming well trained on that subject.

The question is, whether we are speaking of education or in our knowledge of Scripture, are we making the most of the knowledge that we have acquired? Are we in our quest for knowledge also seeking wisdom? Wisdom is needed to apply knowledge, especially if we desire to be most effective in its application. Even so, notice the verse doesn’t stop there. We are also encouraged to get understanding. Here I would ask: Understanding of what?
1. Understand what you have learned
2. Understand the application of what you have learned
3. Applying what you have learned in a wise and appropriate way
4. Ability to explain or teach it to others in a way that makes sense to
them

Consider this, sometimes when conversations flow something will be said that will stir up a disagreement or perhaps something has been said that is misunderstood, and offense is triggered. Sometimes offense is triggered because harsh attitudes or bluntness. Other times it is unknowingly triggered. Perhaps we did not convey our thoughts or hearts wisely. Then again, we could have been using wisdom in our conversation but failed to include understanding; explaining ourselves well. They may be distracted or struggling because of a personal issue or pain in their lives. Lastly, if we spoke with wisdom when conveying our thoughts, and we sought to bring understanding to the person to whom we were speaking; did we speak to them with an understanding of who they are?; their personality type?; and the things with which they may be dealing? Did we consider them? Did we just throw something at them or did we engage with them first?

Wisdom is invaluable in life. Whether you are working with your child, your teen, your spouse, coworker or boss; wisdom is a key asset that we are wise to pray to receive. James 1:5 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Prayer for understanding, often neglected, is also essential. Wisdom is defined as the application of experience, knowledge, and sound judgment. That is pretty powerful in itself! Now imagine adding understanding as an element. Understanding as a noun implies comprehension, insight and if you will, the archaic meaning good judgment. What we sometimes miss in the fray is that understanding is also an adjective meaning sympathetically aware of other’s feelings; to be tolerant, forgiving.

What a gift it would be if we chose to apply our experience and knowledge with sound judgment and full comprehension; all the while being sympathetically aware of the feelings of those we are interacting with from a heart of tolerance and forgiveness. Sure, it isn’t easy to set aside strong opinions and attitudes. It takes strength to push of feelings to the side for a while but what would happen if we asked gentle questions of others rather than having harsh confrontations, prompting them to truly think about the issues at hand? I believe in most situations; it would initiate constructive conversations and provide a safe place for people to work out issues that may have previously seemed beyond resolution. It would certainly go a long way in bridging gaps in communication and avoid some of the frustrations of communication between differing personality types.

Lord, please teach us in all our getting, whether it is friends, knowledge, things, land or wealth; teach us foremost to seek wisdom and understanding (both the noun and the adjective)! Please show us the value of the adjective understanding (being sympathetically aware of other’s feelings; tolerant and forgiving.) If that means we have to take the temperature in our environment and observe (think before we speak), please help us develop this in our lives. May we walk in love, hope, mercy, grace; be seasoned with grace and take the beauty of Your grace with us wherever we go! In the name of Yeshua, Name above all names. Amen

Dry Places

Have you ever found yourself right smack-dab in the middle of a dry place? That place where you feel a bit out of place or out of touch? In a spot where answers evade you to the questions pressing on your mind or heart? Have you ever felt distanced and far from all that seems normal and feels right in your life? I know I have during seasons of my life!

I am willing to bet that is exactly how the Hebrew slaves felt walking in the wilderness after being freed. Likely it is also how Moses felt during and after his experience with God at the burning bush in Exodus 3. Consider for a moment, if you will: seeing that bush on fire yet not consumed; a voice from nowhere calling out for you by name; asking you to stop and remove your shoes because the ground you are standing on is holy; followed by an encounter Most High God. Can you just imagine, not only being called out by name in the desert but being commissioned to return to the town you grew up (where they know you killed a man while defending another) to exact freedom your people enslaved there?

God had heard His people’s cries. After four hundred years of slavery increasing in workload and pressure, this group was suffering more than ever. God commissioned Moses for the job and allowed Aaron as his side-kick. Interestingly, after this encounter when Moses entered Egypt and approached the Pharoah, he approached with the request to be allowed a three-day retreat into the desert to worship and sacrifice to God. Notice Moses initially mentioned nothing about freeing the people or the Promised Land.

If you know the story, you also realize it was a long, arduous process but in the end leads to the release their people. Time after time Moses approached Pharoah each instance Pharoah either answered no or changed his mind. Ten plagues later, Pharoah released them and sent the people away with many riches only to chase after the Hebrews and be swallowed up by the Red Sea.

Two Choices in the Wilderness

It only took a short time in the wilderness for the people to begin complaining and grumbling about their circumstances. God purpose was to get His people to the promised land via the desert. There was a shorter way, but it would lead them to the land of the Philistines, and they were not yet prepared to face this enemy. Here the people had two choices: trust, obey and worship the God of their fathers that had freed them from oppression; or we can grumble and complain. As we observed, they choose the latter.

When faced with a dry place, desert experiences or simply times that God seems quiet in our lives we have a choice of how we respond. Will we choose to turn inward and if we do will we focus more on ourselves or seek to change and grow? Will we grumble and complain fighting against whatever God may be trying to bring forth in our life? Will we choose to press into the things of God and accept that He has a purpose or plan for the things we encounter? Will we continue in faith to trust His heart and His goodness? Will we worship Him in these times?

Many times we can not control our circumstances, but we can control our response. Our response can mean the difference between a more direct route and a long winding journey. The Hebrew response resulted in a forty-year journey; ours does not have to! Our response to our circumstances can make all the difference!

 

Courage to Forgive

“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that just crushed it.”- Mark Twain

Who among us has not suffered some kind of lose, hurt, betrayal or offense in our life? Who among us has not struggled to move on from these situations? How about when instead of you being the target of some mistreatment, it has been a very close loved one or your child or grandchild? Many times those are the hardest to stomach.  Have you ever struggled with forgiving them? I know I have! The absolute greatest example of forgiveness ever was the example Jesus Christ set for us. Let’s take a peek…

Isaiah 53:1-9 Who has believed what we have heard? And who has the arm of the Lord been revealed to? He grew up before Him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him.
Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, He did not open His mouth. He was taken away because of oppression and judgment; and who considered His fate?

For He was cut off from the land of the living; He was struck because of my people’s rebellion. They made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man at His death, although He had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully.

Jesus suffered greatly, was persecuted unjustly, betrayed by one of the twelve most intimate friends in His ministry and denied by others; whether by their fleeing or by outright denial of association. Further more, He was tortured along the route to the place He would be killed for crimes that were never committed. Still He never ceased to show compassion and forgiveness. Even as Jesus was drawing His last breaths, mercy was on His mind as He uttered the words, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” about those who had been integral in His arrest, trial, sentencing and soon to come death.  The offenses, betrayal and pain He suffered was heinous! Yet, Jesus forgave and asked God to forgive!

Some will say, but Jesus was God’s Son and He was fully God. I submit to you that He was also fully man with the same feelings, thoughts and emotions that we struggle with. His experience here was fully human while also being fully God, something we can not fully understand this side of His Kingdom. Yet He choose to forgive and petition for forgiveness not only for those who were responsible for His treatment but for us as well.

The Bible has many references to forgiveness, as best I have been able to find the most scripture with the word forgive are found in the New International Version. It mentions forgive 74 times, 42 in the Old Testament and 32 in the New.  Forgiveness can be difficult for us but it is the example that Jesus not only set for us but requires from us. He very specifically said that as we forgive so we will be forgiven. Conversely, as we hold onto offense and grudges, so will our offenses and sin be remembered. However, we are also promised He is wiling to forgive us and remember them no more if we repent, after all that was the reason He came.  To restore our relationship with God.  What better motivation to forgive those who we feel have wronged us?

Notice that He asked His Father to forgive them…why? We only have to look to scripture for the answer. Let’s consider Moses. In Exodus 16, it tells us that the Hebrew people grumbled against Moses and Aaron. They’d had it with wondering in the desert and were longing for the foods of Egypt forgetting their captivity and the conditions they had lived under. Moses petitioned God on their behalf. In verse 6 Moses addresses the people with the response; in the morning you will see the Lord’s glory because He has heard your complaints about Him. For who are we that you complain about us? ” Moses continued, “The Lord will give you meat to eat this evening and more than enough bread in the morning, for He has heard the complaints that you are raising against Him. Who are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the Lord.” (‭Exodus‬ ‭16‬:‭7-8‬ HCSB)  

Moses and Aaron were getting the flack, but the real sin was against God and God alone. This is also repeated similarly in Numbers 14. We can also find further evidence in Psalm 51 when David is writing about his sin with Bathsheba after Nathan the Prophet confronted him of his sin. In verse 4 David acknowledges that “against You and You alone have I sinned” as he speaks to God. Notice he did not mention sin against his soldier with whom he should have been with in battle; nor did he mention Bathsheba or her husband. He said it was God and God alone he had sinned against.  Perhaps we can draw a conclusion based of scriptural evidence that when someone wrongs us, they are not only hurting us but their complaints/wrongs are against God.

Personally, I am finding this realization along with the assurance that I am God’s child and a joint heir with Christ makes it easier to let go of offenses suffered and allow God the space to work in my life and leave it to Him to also work in the life of the one who may have brought some hurt or pain into mine…

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and realize the prisoner was you.” -Lewis B Smedes

“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”                   -Corrie Ten Boom

They confronted me in the day of my distress, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out to a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me. (‭Psalms‬ ‭18‬:‭18-19‬ HCSB)

May we find the love of Christ in our lives and find the love, mercy, and  compassion to forgive others!  Also, to be forgiven as we have forgiven and be full of His joy. Grace and peace to you this day!

Beautiful

     As I look out the picture window in front of my desk, with a winter vista of leafless trees, a foggy mist just beyond the trees reaching from the ground almost to the tree tops all I can think of is Your beauty Lord! I understand that to many this will seem odd and may I just say myself, it is a bit of an oxymoron to say the least. Yet, it is true! In just a few weeks, before we know it and before my very eyes, the same trees that appear all but dead will break forth in tiny buds and within a couple more weeks will begin to fill with beautiful foliage. As spring begins to break forth, all this deadness will begin to be made new, trees and flowers will start with tiny spots of new life budding and before we barely blink, suddenly new life will be surround us as winter turns to spring… That is how You planned it! What a glorious plan! Just when all seems to be dying, grey, cold and bleak Your cycle begins all over again. Hope springs forth, faith rises, and You make all things new!!

     I can’t help but wonder how many of us question the way You choose to operate in our earthly dimension; why You choose to do things the way You do, Lord. Recently a little one asked, “why did God make the devil if He knew that he would do bad things?” Out of the mouth of babes. Oh the innocence of that sweet little guy! Yet even as adults we ask similar questions, and many times we are shaking our fist in frustration or anger rather than asking in child-like innocence. All I could think of  when I heard the sweet and innocent question this little one posed was Your Words in Isaiah 55: 

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.”This is the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return there without saturating the earth and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do.” HCSB  

      Then my thoughts jumped backwards quite a number of years to a song that at the time was a favorite…”How Would I Know” This song asks a lot of questions and I will use it’s thought process to ask this one…if we never see the bleakness of winter, how can we ever truly enjoy the beauty of spring, the warmth of summer and the beautiful colors of fall. Or perhaps this one, if we experience only good things, will we then take it for granted and no longer see the goodness in those things?  I have to believe in God’s sovereignty and His goodness. I am compelled to believe that Isaiah 55 is true and His thoughts and ways are higher and more complex, though I understand that many do not share this belief. I can even understand how to some my faith may seem silly or even as some call it a ‘crutch’. I can tell you with great confidence that it is not, however unless you have walked my path; share in my trials and suffering; experienced my joys and triumphs; and witnessed His hand at work in each of the seasons of my life, you may never truly understand! I can share my stories as vividly and sincerely as I possibly can, still some would not be persuaded. The Christian life is a faith walk that we each must choose or deny for ourself. Jesus provided for our salvation and made it available to anyone, it is a gift of God’s grace to reconcile us to Him but He gives us the choice to accept it by faith or walk away in doubt and denial. My job is not to convince you. That is the work of the Holy Spirit! My job is to be able to “But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord. Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully.” 1 Peter 3:15 Amp. Bible

     I can share the messes He has seen me through or gotten me out of and every answered prayer. I can tell you He has healed me of an aortic aneurysm and provide copies of the diagnosis report, a second report in which it had decreased a bit, and the latest report in which the aorta measured well within normal limits. Still, you may or may not be persuaded. The best  way to experience the faith walk and Christian life is to experience it personally, it is how God intended it to be. Personal, relational, experiential, you can not experience it for me, nor can I experience it for you. Yet when we share our experience with each other, we share encouragement and hope…”As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 27:17 (NLT) Hopefully, we learn to love God better, follow Him closer, love those He places in our lives better even  when we do not understand their ways or His. He is beautiful and His ways are beautiful!

“Eternal One:My intentions are not always yours, and I do not go about things as you do. My thoughts and My ways are above and beyond you, just as heaven is far from your reach here on earth. For as rain and snow can’t go back once they’ve fallen, but soak into the ground And nourish the plants that grow, providing seed to the farmer and bread for the hungry, so it is when I declare something. My word will go out and not return to Me empty,But it will do what I wanted; it will accomplish what I determined. For you will go out in joy, be led home in peace. And as you go the land itself will break out in cheers; The mountains and the hills will erupt in song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands. Prickly thorns and nasty briers will give way to luxurious shade trees, sweet and good. And they’ll remind you of the Eternal One and how God can be trusted absolutely and forever.”  Isaiah 55:8-13 Voice

The Wonder of His Love

     Most Americans have heard at one point or another the famous scripture, John 3:16; even if it was only in the context of seeing it on a sign at a ball park. It is probably the most used and most quoted scripture ever. That however, does not diminish its truth or power but it has been known to be so used that many stop listening as soon as they begin to hear it.  Some because they have been judged harshly by the same people who often quote it may tune it out, others because they think, “if He loves me, why would His people treat me harshly?” Other’s may have had a difficult, harsh or painful relationship with their own father and just can not imagine a loving Heavenly Father who is always looking out for their best interest, who wants them to thrive and be blessed in life. Still others suffer such difficult circumstances in life that they find it impossible to see or experience the wonder of God’s love. Finally, there are those who despite their harsh circumstances, whether illness, pain, or even poverty and lack, have found true joy and happiness in the wonder-filled love found in the Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus. Why the difference? What is it that causes people to see the Love of God so differently? Why do some see Him a bossy dictator; a harsh disciplinarian father? Yet others see His as a loving, kind Father who blesses their lives and always looks out for their best even when times are difficult or circumstances harsh?

     Honestly, my musings have been triggered by my return to a Bible study that I first completed about ten years ago. A small group of ladies wanted to do a study; from the list of studies I had, they choose the one on the fruit of the Spirit. Today’s lesson drew my thoughts to Psalm 139.  As usual, God always surprises me! No matter how many time you read a scripture or do a study, He can always draw out new nuggets that you did not see in the previous readings! Believe it or not, His Word is alive and active. There are always hidden treasures to be discovered as the Holy Spirit quickens and teaches us in the Word. That is just one of His marvelous wonders.

       Another is God’s unconditional love and His intimate knowledge of each of us. I know I may use these verses a lot but it is only because of how greatly the words have impacted me, so let’s look at Psalm 139:

O LORD, you examine me and know. You know when I sit down and when I get up; even from far away you understand my motives. You carefully observe me when I travel or when I lie down to rest; you are aware of everything I do. Certainly my tongue does not frame a word without you, O LORD, being thoroughly aware of it. You squeeze me in from behind and in front; you place your hand on me. Your knowledge is beyond my comprehension; it is so far beyond me, I am unable to fathom it. Where can I go to escape your spirit? Where can I flee to escape your presence? If I were to ascend to heaven, you would be there. If I were to sprawl out in Sheol, there you would be. If I were to fly away on the wings of the dawn, and settle down on the other side of the sea, even there your hand would guide me, your right hand would grab hold of me. If I were to say, “Certainly the darkness will cover me, and the light will turn to night all around me,” even the darkness is not too dark for you to see, and the night is as bright as day; darkness and light are the same to you. Certainly you made my mind and heart; you wove me together in my mother’s womb. I will give you thanks because your deeds are awesome and amazing. You knew me thoroughly; my bones were not hidden from you, when I was made in secret and sewed together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was inside the womb. All the days ordained for me were recorded in your scroll before one of them came into existence. How difficult it is for me to fathom your thoughts about me, O God! How vast is their sum total! If I tried to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. Even if I finished counting them, I would still have to contend with you. (‭Psalms‬ ‭139‬:‭1-18‬ NET)

Please Consider:

  • He knows us intimately, He did not just create and forget us.
  • He knows our every move, and NOT in a creepy way!
  • He knows our motives behind our thoughts and actions. When I behave a certain He knows if it is from a pure heart, a broken heart, a selfish heart, or a mean-spirited heart. Many times we do not even know our motive behind our behaviors!
  • He is aware of our travels and our rest. Not only that but He blesses His children with His Holy Spirit who is always with us. Also, His Word says He never leaves us or forsakes us and that He goes before us and He is our rear guard!

                 A. Goes before:  Isaiah 41:10; John 6:37; Romans 8:38-39; Hebrews 13:5

                               B. Goes with:  Deuteronomy 31:8; Isaiah 45:2

                                             C. Rear guard: Isaiah 52:12; 58:8
  • He knew us before we were born; as we were formed in our mother’s womb; and if that were not enough, before the foundation of the earth He knew us!
  • He says you and I are fearfully and wonderfully made, He made each one with value, worth, and purpose!
  • Each of our days were ordained and written before we breathed our first breath. This is big! He knew everything we would ever do, or not do, yet He chose to give us life and breath.

      How difficult to fathom His thought about me! How about you? This my friend, only begins to scratch the surface of the wonders of His love! He loves you with an everlasting love and has drawn you with loving-kindness!! Jeremiah 33: 3  Also, Zephaniah 3 tells us: “Don’t be afraid…Your GOD is present among you, a strong Warrior there to save you. Happy to have you back, He’ll calm you with His love and delight you with His songs. (‭Zephaniah‬ ‭3‬:‭16-17‬ MSG)

Be blessed! Grace & peace to you!

 

Your Kingdom Come

     Today, while reading Revelation 5, the following scripture was the focus of my study:  “They were singing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were killed, and at the cost of your own blood you have purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation. You have appointed them as a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (‭Revelation‬ ‭5‬:‭9-10‬ NET)      Because I have been researching on our identity in Christ a lot lately, these two verses stood out among all the others. Why? In these two small verses we learn that Jesus’ obedience to His Father cost Him His life, which He willing laid down; His blood has purchased people from every nation, language and tribe; Jesus has appointed those people (His followers) as kings and priests to serve God; and lastly that His people will reign on earth.  We have been commissioned to represent Jesus on the earth by making disciples. (Matthew 28:19) What did this look like? When John the Baptist drew the people, he would call out repent and be baptized for the Kingdom of God is at hand. When Jesus began His ministry, that Kingdom, though not what the world has expected had come. (Matthew 12:28 and Luke 11:20 tell us this.)       Acts 10 tells us this about Jesus: “…37you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. 38“You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39“We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross”      Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and went around doing good. Full of the Holy Spirit, He walked in and by the Spirit. This tells us according to Galatians 5 that His life looked like this: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Then goes on to tell us:  “Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, being jealous of one another. (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭22-26‬ NET)      Isaiah 53 tells us this about Jesus… “He sprouted up like a twig before God, like a root out of parched soil; He had no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention, no special appearance that we should want to follow Him. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭53‬:‭2‬ NET) I mention this to point out that it was not Christ’s looks that drew them to follow Him according to scripture. Based on Galatians; it was His personality as He submitted His life to the Holy Spirit and walked in the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus went about doing good; teaching; making disciples; healing; bringing deliverance; exemplifying the character of God by walking in the Spirit exuding love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control! He showed mercy, grace and compassion when interacting with people. Consider the woman at the well. She was a Samaritan and a woman. She came to the well in the heat of the day to avoid towns people because of their treatment. Jesus shows her kindness and compassion and strikes up a conversation; a Jewish man speaking to a Samaritan! A woman! How could this be? By the time the disciples were returning, He had confirmed her truthfulness of her lack of a husband and had lovingly pointed out her past. Why do I think it was done in love and compassion? She went back to her town, to people who disapproved of her, and she told them about Jesus and her encounter. They all came to see Jesus. Why would she do this unless it was the fruit of the Spirit is His life and in His conversation with her?  He responded a little differently with the religious leaders who knew God’s Word and taught it, yet did not observe it themselves He was less gentle and more to the point because they knew the Scriptures.      Jesus set the example of what the Kingdom of God looks like and entreated us to walk as He walked.  He set an example of being loving and compassionate with people gently teaching them and speaking the truth in love. This is why they followed Him!  Based on this, I am positive beyond a doubt His success was because He exemplified the fruit of the Spirit! There is absolutely no indication that Jesus used guilt, fear or shame, those are tactics of the enemy who comes to kill, steal and destroy. (John 10:10) Jesus came to give life to us! Kingdom life. He came to purchase us for God, bring us into the Kingdom, empower us with the Holy Spirit and infuse us with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.      Can you just imagine what would happen if all His people choose to walk this way? It seems a little to hard to believe that we could but if we had a revelation of our true identity in Christ, who God says we truly are and walked in that, I believe we would live in a noticeably different world than the one we often see around us. Grace and peace to you! Blessings

To Catch a Thief

“The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy…” It is with a grateful heart I tell you it does not end there! Jesus goes on to inform us that He “has come to give us abundant life”‘, “life to the full”, “rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10

One of Pastor’s points in his message yesterday has captivated me. It has rolled over and over in my mind ever since he spoke it. My first thought was I know this, how could I loose sight of this? Maybe I should explain. The statement that has captured me was “Whatever the enemy uses most against you is what scares him most About you!” 

Just let that one roll around in your mind a bit…

        “Whatever the enemy uses most against you is what scares him most About you!”

Whether we are talking about an enemy in the natural world or the enemy of our soul, they are an enemy because something about us is a threat to them. By definition, this is true…

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/enemy

Ok, supposing this is an accurate statement, and I believe it is, just what are the tactics the enemy uses most in my life when he aims his fiery darts my way? Let’s start with a few areas that can be points of attack and we can answer silently whether or not they apply to our individual lives:

  • Fears
  • Relationships
  • Insecurity
  • Worth
  • Health
  • Worry
  • Self doubt
  • Not enough
  • Too much
  • Comparison
  • Finances
  • Lack
  • Loneliness
  • Love
  • Purpose
  • Job/profession

The list is endless… Do any of them hit just a little too close to home? For me, some do.  Not only do some of them hit close to home, one or two have been with me since I was a very young girl! The good news is knowing these places in which we are vulnerable is half the battle, maybe more than half. Let’s use worth as an example because in our culture it is an easy target.  Our world celebrates beauty, wealth, youth and sexuality and places a high premium on each so much so, that even the most beautiful of models and celebrities’ flaws are photoshopped away. This being the case, many get caught in comparing ourselves to others.

Comparison is one of the snares of the enemy. God created each of us to be unique, each having different strengths, different talents, different giftings and abilities, different looks and even different weaknesses. He celebrates our differences and our differences make us more effective when we work together in the body of Christ. Our differences also set us up to be tempted to compare ourselves to others. When we do,  we can see those differences as flaws and begin to become dissatisfied with ourselves, feeling worthless. Conversely, we could also fall into the trap of pride or conceit and view ourselves as better than another. Both of these can play right into the hand of the enemy and keep us from being the best person we can be. Lack of worth can limit us or hold us back from fulfilling our purpose and being our best. On the flip side pride and thinking too highly of ourself can put others off and limit our influence with people.  Either extreme renders us less effective at best in fulfilling God’s purpose or plan for our life. In the worst case, it stops us in our tracks. It also can cause us to fall short of the abundant life that Jesus has planned for us to live.

Knowledge is power! Knowing those weak spots helps us to identify and prepare for the future attacks. It is also helpful to be armed with the knowledge of what our God says about who we are In Christ!  Child of God, In Christ you are: loved, accepted, redeemed, beloved, precious, chosen, forgiven, complete, a new creation, set apart, and so much more! In the Word we are told in Christ we are…

The enemy will do what he can to stop us and to keep us from understanding that Our God deemed us worthy of His Son giving His life for us. Zephaniah 3:17 tells us:  “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17 ESV) Jesus laid it all down for us, not one of us could ever earn or deserve such a generous gift and yet You gave it freely to us-Grace!

Grace-pure and simple-unearned-unmerited-Grace

You love us for who we are, not despite who we are. You love us for who You know we can be yet You meet us right where we are!

Pure Love

Unconditional

Unstoppable

Unlimited

Unashamed

Uncontainable

Incomprehensible