For the third day in as many days, I have awakened with a specific thought on my heart and felt compelled to write. I’m not sure why that is; perhaps it is a reminder of something I will need in the coming days or there is someone that God in His infinite grace, wisdom, and mercy already knows will stumble across and find some comfort and companionship in what they are going through. Whatever the case, here goes!
Last night in passing, my hubby commented that today was a “special” day. Just for a moment or two I pondered his statement noting that the date would be November 7. Then recognition set in. November, though it contains one of our favorite holidays, has tended to be hard month for our family. By that, I mean hard things tend to happen in November. November 7th is the day my Mom passed away. It has been 23 years this year and honestly very few years have passed that I didn’t have some kind of memory of that day on this 7th day of November. Certain days you just remember- birthdays, holidays, special shared occasions, missed special days when they would have been there if possible; like weddings, graduations, etc.
Do I still miss my Mom? Oh good heavens, yes! Her passing was fast and unexpected- almost out of the blue. She transitioned into eternity at a young age of 59, when her grandchildren were just ages 10 and 13. my youngest had just turned 10 ten 9 days earlier. She would miss my sons 14th birthday coming in just 43 days! Thanksgiving and Christmas would be different in the years to come; something would always be missing without Mom’s presence. In a similar way, my Dad entered eternity just seven years and a few weeks later; also in November. Remember, if you read this blog, a couple of days back- James 1 talks about trials in our life and makes it clear it is when they come, not if they come. Loss of a loved may be one of the hardest knocks life gives us! Even to those of us who are people of faith and have the beautiful hope of eternal life and being reunited one day in heavenly places; Loss is hard! Whether it is sudden and unexpected or it is gradual during a long fought battle with disease; it is never easy and you are never quite ready for it. Yes, your loved one may have been through a painful battle and it may be a relief that their pain and suffering has come to an end; but it is still hard. We still miss them and their presence and influence in our daily lives.
Perhaps it is because the holiday season is upon us and depression and anxiety always seem to escalate during this season. We face shorter days with less sunshine; grief and losses still come; increased and even unmet expectations are all around; for many, holidays mean financial stress; cold weather brings increased bill expenses; risks of colds and flu that come around in the fall and winter increase. Regardless, people struggle more this time of year and perhaps that is why this topic is weighing heavily on my mind and heart. It could it be remembering my first childhood memory this morning; a fall day when I was around 3, (I was almost four since my birthday is in December)?
That memory was of the family gathering after a funeral. I don’t remember the funeral, I probably stayed at my great aunts with my slightly older cousins and a sitter. It stands out because we were together, the whole extended family. Also, because I lost my new and beautiful golden birthstone bracelet. It disappeared among all the fallen leaves on the ground, never to be found. Superficial, I know but I was 3! I only share this story to let you know from that day to the day we buried Mom, I had been to almost as many funerals as years I had lived. (We tend to be a close knit family, and people of my grandparents generation tended to larger families).
I guess the point I’m trying to convey is loss is hard (at the risk of being redundant); you aren’t alone; no one knows how to navigate it well; each loss is different and yet the same; whether through death or by other means, it is still loss and it is still hard; I have never found a proven way to navigate loss, though there are some ways that may be healthier than others; and finally, we all deal with it and the associated grieving differently. It just looks different on each of us. In my life, focusing more on the treasured good memories has been helpful. Some folks find talking about it helpful; others find it painful and hard. We are all different but we are not alone! Faith and our Heavenly Father are a great help in getting through the tough times associated with a loss and there are many comforting scriptures to sooth our troubled souls in such times.
If this is you, my prayer is that you will find comfort, peace, and in time that your joy will be renewed and refreshed! May His grace, mercy and comfort be like a blanket around you as you navigate these roadways! There is life beyond loss!!!
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16
Change is all around us; some good, some not so good, and some traumatic. You may feel like you are continually experiencing it. Or ask, as do I, questions like why it seems that things are always in flux? What is especially frustrating and most of us have or will experience this sometime in our lives is when you seem to get caught in whirlwind, quicksand, or whirlpool. You may have experienced it. When something negative happens and seems to trigger a series of chain-like events and you can begin to forget what normal life feels like when this happens.
Why am I writing about this? Three reasons. First I seem to be in a contemplative season in my life, and secondly, it seems to have the potential to suck me in and drag me down as described above by the terms whirlpool or quick-sand. Lastly, I woke up this morning with a song stuck in my head (more about that in a bit).
So what can we do when this happens?
If you are a believer, my first advice is to pray and listen for the answers and search for them in the Word of God. I get it; sometimes this is hard. There are seasons when we don’t know what or how to pray BUT we have an intercessor praying for us, and He knows how to pray and how to translate our groanings and our outcries when we don’t understand what to say!
Personally, sometimes all I can utter is Lord, help or Jesus… Second, we are not the only one experiencing troubles, we are not alone though it may feel like we are. When we feel like we are, we hesitate to let others come along beside us to help carry the burden. Maybe we are embarrassed, shamed. That is usually the enemies attack and tactic to keep us isolated from others and God. We also need to remember plenty of God’s people experienced seasons like this and overcame them. Most of the best known and revered people from Biblical times found this to be true. Sampson was consecrated as a Nazarite and had taken a vow; he met with temptations that he succumbed to, like taking honey out of a lion carcass, dating and marrying outside his own culture, and other such shenanigans. Still, he did mighty things for God, and his life counted. There’s also Moses, Jacob, Rahab, Saul, also known as Paul, King David and the list could keep going. This situation is NOT the end of our story unless we choose to let it be!
Next, one thing that has been helpful to me was to stop watching the news. I did this personally in 2003. I will occasionally watch world news, major events and I’ll check in for weather events briefly. Mostly I avoid it like the plague. It is just too much. I once counted up the hours our local stations run news. It is in the neighborhood of eight hours every single day. They start a story and continue it in the next hour, and possibly again in the following hour. Perhaps hoping you’ll stick around and watch it all. If you do, you are inundated with the same tragic and horrifying stories over and over. What has this got to do with change? When we are struggling with a difficult season of life, hearing ghastly stories about our communities, cities, and the world repeatedly; it seems so much worse than if we’d only heard them once. It is not helpful. The truth is, you’ll still come across plenty to keep you current whether it posted on social media, a notification on your phone, or walking by a store display or news stand! Continually watching it can be stressful at best and depressing at it’s worst.
Our minds are bombarded every single day. Pulling back on some of the access gives our brains a rest and gives us more time to do things we enjoy whether it is a hobby, exercise to relieve stress, read, meditate, or get more sleep which so many of us are deprived. Rest helps, it may not answer the problem, but things look much better when we get proper amounts of rest.
That brings me to the song…
This morning I woke up a song on my mind, or more accurately my heart. That isn’t unusual for me, but the song was. Recently, I heard a song I remembered from childhood in the seventies. It was written or released in 1963, but my exposure was later. “The Sound of Silence” was re-released recently by Pentatonix and I ran across the video and listened. Did I mention I’ve been in a reflective state lately? So I pulled up the lyrics and began to read them and think about them. Some people thought them rather dark, which I had never considered. I found them more prophetic than dark. In the early sixties, a few saw them predictive of the so-called Hippie or free love movements according to some. My thoughts ran to the changes I have seen in our culture over my lifetime as I listened. I ran across another rendition by Disturbed. I was not familiar with them; I decided to go and look at their interpretation of the song. It seemed powerful, serious, and poignant. It was possibly a bit darker but considering all the changes in life and culture during my years on the planet. It seems accurate and still prophetic.
Exerpt from ‘Sound Of Silence’:
“And in the naked light, I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
“Fools,” said I, “you do not know
Silence, like cancer, grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you.”
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed the wells, of silence
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out it’s warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls”
And whispered in the sounds of silence.”
Also in 1963, prayer was taken out of schools. Ten years later, Roe vs. Wade passed making abortion legal. Though the majority at the time were against these acts, the vocal minority won; perhaps because of the sound of silence. That has happened many times throughout history from ancient times up until current events. The Holocaust is one example, though there have been many other examples as well. Different times and different places, but the sound of silence has allowed travesties to happen over and over and if good men/people do nothing or say nothing; it will continue.
As in recent news, yep it still gets through, even without watching, it may be particularly prophetic. Controversial bills are passing to allow abortion up until the babies due date; the law to protect babies born alive in late-term failed abortions failed to pass; a seventeen-year-old gave birth at home and stabbed her just born baby, taking it’s life. All shocking and devastating, especially the last! Yet, enough of the government representatives opposed the protection of life bill so that it didn’t pass, and her country says it is the mothers right whether to choose life or not. So, maybe based on that, she thought it was okay, despite the devastation to her life and the babies. She is charged with murder; as would someone be who had attacked a mother and caused the death of her baby before it had been born — mixed signals from our laws. contraversial things we hesitate to speak out about and remain silent.
Whether it be on a community, city, state or national level or a personal level, silence can be detrimental and cause devastation. We need to be there for each other, be reasonable and have mature conversations even when we have disagreements; we need to find common ground. Sadly, a vast majority get deeply offended; of those, some become silent, and others become vocal to the point of being abusive and unkind. Still, others are marginalized and seem voiceless.
As I read Colossians 3, something stuck out to me that I’d never considered from this passage:
“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” Col. 3:1-4 NASB
I have read this a lot but this time what struck me was when it says, “Set your mind on things above, not on things that are on earth”; just maybe it meant not only to not get caught up in possessions, jobs, wealth, or cares of the world; and possibly “gods of their own making” as referenced in the song. Perhaps it means not letting the things we see, hear and experience get to us but to refocus immediately on God when issues come trying to inundate us and give them to Him before they cause fear, concern, temptations and other negative, unproductive feelings and actions to creep into our lives.
I had previously only considered it as a warning against getting too caught up in the world, but now it seems clear that it is a protection, a plea for us to keep our focus above on Jesus rather than getting caught in the snares that can lead our hearts into troublesome places. Places that can cause us to lose our direction and silence our voice rather than follow the next directions:
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Col.3:12-17 NASB
You may wonder how the above passage fits into this train of thought, I did. Honestly, we all desperately need some grace! We need to give it to others; we also need to give it to ourselves sometimes. We need God’s grace and mercy. Silence is sometimes appropriate; other times it is deadly.
God help us to have the wisdom to know when to speak; when to reach out for help; and when to hold our tongue. Grant us the courage to speak up and speak out when the time is right. Help us to reach out when we are overwhelmed, first to You for wisdom and then lead us to those we can trust for help that won’t add to our burden. Grant us wisdom in what and how much we open ourselves up to in the form of news and entertainment and help us find alternative ways to spend our time to protect our mind and heart where it is needed. Help us remember everyone is going through something at any given time and strength to show kindness, mercy, and grace whenever possible. In Jesus mighty name, Amen.
It’s been a while! I haven’t disappeared off the face of the planet, but I will say, writing has been almost the last thing on my mind for a season. Honestly, it has been a challenging season. It was a time of distracting myself from the usual flow of ideas by reading or pretty much anything that would keep my attention and thoughts off the very things that were troubling me.
A season of distraction.
Distraction in the Word, distraction in prayer, the voice of the enemy distracting me with fiery dart thoughts of worry and the diversion of all the things the world throws our way; sickness, disasters, storms, and evil deeds. A medicine change aimed at improving health that actually for a season sent it spiraling.
As I began to say goodbye to 2018, things had started to look up, and I had been feeling better than I had in months. I actually had lots of energy and felt ten to fifteen years younger. Then it happened another set of circumstances. A hurting loved one; a death of a friend; family colds; a basement leak at two family members home; a roof leak from this year’s storms not covered by insurance; another medical issue; and another loved one in crisis. All were back to back.
Somewhere in those last six while looking back over the year, I distinctly heard the word joy ring out in my head. Now I have done a study on joy and the difference between joy and happiness in the past. Happiness is often, if not always determined by our – you got it; Circumstances.
Joy, however, can be found even when our circumstances are not the best. Joy comes from knowing who we are and whose we are. It comes from the blessings in our life. Sometimes the blessings and joy take a back seat to the immediate circumstances and imminent crisis that arise. Our perspective has a lot to do with what wins out. It is much easier to keep joy our focus when there are no problems or when they come along one or two at a time. Not so much when an avalanche of things come all within six months or a year. That is when we must work hard to keep our perspective right. God’s Word is full of promises, and they are sure and true. our focus should be on those promises. We also have warnings and if we are wise we will also heed those. Let’s look at John 16:33:
Jesus warned us, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
James, Jesus brother, warned us: “James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 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.”James 1:1-5 NASB
So, with new and greater determination, my word for 2019 is Joy. James clearly says it is possible to have joy in the midst of trials; suffering if you choose to. Fear and distraction are the enemies of joy. They come to steal, kill and destroy our joy. This year my plan is to pursue joy and with it peace. My goals: 1. Whatever happens, to ponder the better things; the blessings that are unshakeable and not let myself lose sight of them even when times get harried and sticky. 2. To do my best not to allow the enemy to steal that joy. Somehow, I’m sure it sounds easier than it is but with determination, it can be done, and I am betting that the year will be much more productive and fulfilling when it is all said and done.
May Grace, Peace, and Joy be yours!
Psalm 34:4-5 CSB
I sought the Lord, and He answered me
and rescued me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant with joy;
their faces will never be ashamed.
Galatians 5:22-23 – NASB
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law.
Psalm 5:11 – NASB
But let all who take refuge in You be glad,
Let them ever sing for joy;
And may You shelter them,
That those who love Your name may exult in You.
Psalm16:11 – NASB
You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand, there are pleasures forever.
Psalm 59:16 – NASB
But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength;
Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For You have been my stronghold
And a refuge in the day of my distress.
Not so long ago, I loved to study, learn new things. Not only that, I loved to write about what I was seeing and learning along the roads on which I traveled. At a quick glance, as days clicked by with waning desire to read, engage in conversation, and write- I blamed busyness; or the holiday season. Days turned into weeks, and it is more appealing to bury myself in some good fiction than engage in my usual quest to learn and grow…why, I ask myself? No answers, at least nothing rang true. Writer’s block popped into my head, but no. First, you would have to have the desire to put pen to paper or fingers to keys. I haven’t.
Now, weeks have turned into months. I try to work around the lack of desire and forge forward. Let’s crack open the Word, research a topic…it lasts for a short while, but the fiction calls or a movie seems in order. Or worse yet, housework calls to me. Now don’t get me wrong, I like a tidy house; but cleaning has never shouted louder than the desire to study, learn, or put pen to paper! So, what is going on, I wonder? Who is this person I seem to be becoming? Is this just a different or temporary season? I don’t know about you; but when experiencing something, it can be easy to slip into thinking, “am I the only one going through this?” From experience I know that’s rarely the case. Despite all our differences, we humans are more alike than we realize.
Though, I have searched my heart; questioned in my mind – the only thing I have been able to come up with is that life is complicated and convoluted. Never before in history have we been so bombarded with information!
We live in a day, at least in America, where news is available from 4:30 a.m. until 8:00 a.m.; 4:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.; and at 9, 10, and 11 p.m. with reruns available during the night. We have 24-hour news channels, online news, constant updates, newspapers, magazines, and social media. Most of the reports are negative, violent, or tragic and often reported in ‘real time.’ Then there are the many replays throughout the day. Thankfully, I gave up tv news for the most part in the early 2000’s, between biased reporting and my son in Iraq, it seemed prudent for my sanity. Even so, if you use a computer for work, research, etc.; newsfeeds bombard you with the headlines.
Last night. We met with our regular Tuesday night Bible Study. We broke bread together, shared prayer requests, ‘skyped’ with one of our folks that could not be with us, and got into the Word much as we always do. Somewhere in the discussion of the passage, the word perspective came up. Oh boy, did that word click in my mind! It resonated so much in my heart that I figuratively wrote it in bold letters on a post-it note and placed it in a prominent place in my mind so I would come back to it when I came home and was in a quiet place to ponder it more. Is it possible that where I have found myself lately is a direct result of an unrealized shift in perspective that had happened gradually? Lord God, through your grace, please give me eyes to see and wisdom to make good choices about what my eyes see, and ears hear.
Before the Internet, hard to imagine, I know; information took longer to disseminate. It could take days to get news from another area of the world, and today we have it in minutes or less. These reports aren’t the only thing flooding into our screens: gossip and intimate details of the lives of celebrities and politicians abound. On that note, everyone has an opinion about said news and gossip and few are shy to share that opinion. Next comes arguments about those opinions, which more often than not disintegrates into foul obscenities, horrible name calling, and trying to silence those who are not of like mind. Tweet after tweet, post after post, late night after late night, story after story… Is this truly the inheritance we want to leave for our children and our children’s children?
Honestly, there really was a time when reporters reported the facts of the story without opinion or personal bias. There was also a time when biased and unkind statements about others were not tolerated; innocent until proven guilty meant something. A time when though you disagreed with another’s opinion; you remained respectful towards the person. Civility reigned as did civil debate. Disagreement did not equal disassociation but working together to come to a place both parties could tolerate. It was a time when even though ugliness and unkindness existed, it was not in vogue and openly tolerated and celebrated by publically flaunting itself. Again, what is the inheritance we want to leave for our children and our children’s children? Oh, how I hope it’s not the first, but too often this is the world in which we live.
Yep, no Calgon will take this away. From experience, neither will burying our head in a good, clean fiction book. It could be that it’s gone too far out of control, tolerated beyond the point of return – I hope not. Social media has become anything but social. It used to be a fun, uplifting way to connect over the miles and encourage. Now it’s more political, harsh, and maddening. Dear Lord, Please give us wisdom and right perspective.
I don’t know about you, but I could use a good dose of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; against such things, there is no law! And then there is grace; we need a whole lot of grace!
All creation was made to be an inhabitation for the Kingdom of God. He set it in motion; He defined it – a Kingdom of righteousness, wholeness, peace, love, joy; the list could go on. God gave us a choice:
“”For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. “”See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity;” in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it.” Deuteronomy 30: 11-18
Deuteronomy 28 lists the blessings associated with obedience to God’s statutes, as well as, the consequences or curses related to neglecting those principles. He also sent His Son (John 10:10) that we might have life by choosing Him, but we have the freedom to choose; life or death, His Kingdom or the worlds.
His goal will one day be reality… no matter what we choose.
Many find ourselves living in a world where the fast lane is the heaviest traveled path. We live in a time of instant cereal, instant potatoes, instant service; a drive-thru and microwave existence, and knee jerk reactions for many people. Social media has changed from My Space and Facebook to 140 character tweets on Twitter and Instagram, where a picture says a thousand words!? Media today is made up of sound bites that only give partial and sometimes biased views, rather than the whole story or whole truth. As a rule, we want what we want, and we expect it yesterday rather than when we asked for it today. Tolerance is exalted and called for on every front until it tramples on someone getting their desires met, and then the gloves come off because you’re interfering with my rights. At that point, some of us lose sight that sometimes our rights negate or trample the rights of others. These results were never the intent of our Creator!
Again, His Kingdom is defined by righteousness, wholeness, peace, love, joy, putting others first, caring for: the afflicted; brokenhearted; captives; prisoners; and those who mourn. (Isaiah 61) We are encouraged to take care of the weak, infirmed, poor, widows, orphans, our elderly. (The Kingdom way) The world tells us to look out for ourselves (look out for number one). We are told if we don’t take care of and look out for yourself, no one will! We are told to go for the gusto; enjoy it now while you can, and encouraged to stock up on the latest of everything. These two kingdoms are almost always giving us opposing messages. For example, one says don’t dare let them get by with treating you that way. The other tells us to turn the other cheek and forgive. One brings life to relationships; the other kills relationships; sometimes forever!
Not all of the differences are as cut and dried as these. No, some are much more subtle, and some are even hard to differentiate. Even more important, there are plenty of kind, loving, moral individuals who don’t believe in God or His Kingdom and many Kingdom people or believers that are stuck in a non-Biblical world view. Many are tempted to make the mistake of drawing conclusions and stereotypes of others based on religious beliefs, on ethnicity, on skin color, on their level of education, on their political leanings, etc. The question is: are you willing to be characterized by the same standards that you describe others? And is it a fair or accurate assumption to say that all ______________(you fill in the blank) are ___________________! One example for you that I hear or see on social media: “They don’t have a job because they are too lazy to work and want the government to take care of them.” I’m sure there are those for whom this would be a true statement, BUT there are many who are unable to work regularly because of certain disabilities, others who live in an economically challenged area and do not have the means to move to a new area to find employment. Stereotypes are unfair in most cases and are just mean-spirited and unnecessary. They also lead to the type of behaviors we see in the news media all the time. All lives matter in the eyes of God! Every one of His creations is important to Him. Do we all please Him? No, but He loves us in spite of our shortcomings. If that were not true, why would His Son, Jesus Christ have come to this planet and lived and died to make way for us to find grace and peace with God? To give us the opportunity to have eternal life with God?
We are told in the Word of God;
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” Galatians 3: 26-29
“My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?’ James 2: 1-7
Our Heavenly Father doesn’t show favor based on our skin color, our ethnicity, our bank account or lack of, our gender, our appearance, or based on whether we are in bondage or free. He sees us either as we are (condition of our heart) or through the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son if we believe and receive His salvation.
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” Matthew 5: 43-48 “Dear friend, listen well to My words; tune your ears to My voice.
Keep My message in plain view at all times. Concentrate! Learn it by heart!
Those who discover these words live, really live; body and soul, they’re bursting with health.” Proverbs 4: 22-24
We get to choose! Moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day!! Will we choose our way, the world’s way or will we choose God’s way? Will we choose love? Will we choose life? Or Will we choose death? He sets before us life and blessing or death and curses. Our choice, what will we choose?
The Garden of Eden was a peaceful place. Everything was there that the first couple needed to survive and thrive. Adam (man) had been given dominion over the earth and the animals. He had named them all–the only thing lacking was a suitable helper for Adam. When God noticed this, He formed a woman from man’s rib for his suitable helper. By the end of the Sixth day, everything had been set into place for a successful first family. On the seventh day, God rested; instituting a day of rest for mankind.
Enter the Enemy
“Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1
There is always something coming along to shake up the status quo! In chapter 3 of Genesis the enemy enters. He comes in slyly and stirs up some trouble. “Did God really say?” How was this even possible? Why would such a creature even exist and what possessed him to question the Creator? What did he hope to accomplish?
Only God Himself has all the answers to the questions we could possibly ask about this intrusion into the peaceful garden. Chapter 3 brings out all kinds of questions and the more you ask, the more that seem to come to mind. Here are some of my observations about his entrance and tactics:
The enemy is cunning – definition: artful subtlety and deceptive; exhibiting ingenuity, delicately pleasing, pretty or cute; adeptness in execution or performance. thefreedictionary.com
The enemy was a wild animal
The enemy used words to inquire and incite – Did God really say…
Self-doubt – Eve: Did I hear God correctly?
Questioned her understanding – you surely will not die but will be like God.
Called God’s goodness into question – implying that God’s holding out on you.
Usurps the peaceful balance that was found in the garden.
Insights fear – fear of missing out; fear of being less than; fear of God’s reaction/rejection
Stirs up blame and defensiveness.
Causes strife and disruption of unity.
First, the serpent called into question God’s Words by cunningly asking “did God really say…?”. This was most likely designed to call into question either God’s precise words or Eve’s understanding or lack of understanding of God’s words establishing doubt in her mind. (Most battles are fought first in the mind.) Eve repeated back to him what God had said to them.
Next, the serpent directly contradicted the result associated with eating the fruit. Maybe knowingly or not that the direct results would not be death but regardless; the end result would be sin which would ultimately result in death. Then the serpent spoke truth – the fruit consumed would make them aware of the knowledge of good and evil; what he did not tell her was that once aware, you are now responsible for consequences of your behavior on a whole other level. If you know good and do not do it; it is a sin. If you know it is evil, and yet you do it; you are also guilty of sin.
Results of sin:
Broken Relationships with God
Broken Relationships with man
The enemy of God always seeks to bring into question God’s provision, His protection, and His goodness. He goes after our mind subtlely, trying to bring everything we think we know and understand about God into question. Our mind is the enemy’s primary target, and that is why we are told many times in Proverbs to seek wisdom and get understanding. His goal is to destroy our relationship with our Creator and Father by disrupting our faith in God’s goodness, His protection, His provision, God’s faithfulness and anything else that we place our confidence in where God is concerned. His desire to steal our faith, turn it to doubt and incite fear; to tear down love and stir up division and hate; to destroy any peace and unity in our lives; encourage blame and finger pointing rather that finding common ground and working together toward common goals and finding unity.
Best News Ever
Jesus Christ defeated the enemy of our souls more than 2000 years ago on the hills of Jerusalem. His blood and His resurrection have given us the victory and the power to overcome every single attempt that the enemy throws our way!
In Christ, we have everything we need for life and godliness!
Lord, I pray that you will grant each of us wisdom and understanding that we need as we travel through life. May Your peace that passes understanding surround Your children and Your grace – which is sufficient surround us and be our companion. May we never lose sight of the wonder of Who You Are – for You are the Great I AM. No enemy can stand up to You, and You are always with Your kids. Your Word says You never leave us and You never forsake us. You have gone before us, and You walk beside us. Even when our paths take us to places and situations we do not understand, and we do not like, You are more than able to take those situations and over time use them to produce good in our lives. They may not feel good right now, but somehow You have a plan to redeem those things just as You did with Job troubles and with Christ’s persecution and death. Teach us to trust in Your goodness even when we can not see it with our own eyes. In the mighty and steadfast name of Jesus Christ! Amen
What better place to start when taking a fresh look at something than at the beginning; so today I am in Genesis where we meet God as the Creator. I’m not going to debate or argue this one. Science is finding more and more evidence of intelligent design every day, and that is yours to decide for yourself, but I am fully on board with the creation model and a real and living Creator.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Gen 1:1
Secondly, the Spirit hovered over the dark and watery depths, God said let there be light, and there was light, and it was good. Then God separated the light and the darkness–There was evening and then morning; the first day. Next, on the second day, God separated the water by an expanse of land calling forth the sky above and the depths below. Day 3, God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered into one place and the gathering of water be called “seas.” God saw that it was good. Day three, vegetation was created, every kind of plant and fruit, and when God saw them, He pronounced them good! Next up on the creation model was the calling forth of times and seasons, days and years. The sun to rule over the day and the moon to guide through the nights, evening and morning of the fourth day. Day five, every creature that moves above or swims in the deep came into being with the ability to reproduce more of their own kind. God blessed them to be fruitful and multiply and declared that it is good. On the sixth day, God said, “let the earth produce living creatures after their own kind: livestock, creatures that crawl, and the wildlife of earth according to their own kinds and it was so.” Genesis 1:24 God then saw that it was good. Finally, God declared “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” He created them male and female, blessed them to be fruitful and multiply; then God saw what He had made and pronounced it very good.
What I notice first off is the goodness of our Creator. He was very methodical in how He created each step of the way. Each step built upon the previous so that by the time living creatures and man entered the earth. Every provision that was needed to sustain life had already been provided.
I love how in Genesis 2:8-10 (CSB) tells us: “The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He placed the man He had formed. The Lord God caused to grow out of the ground every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food, including the tree of life in the middle of the garden, as well as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river went out from Eden to water the garden.” Then in verse 15: ” The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him.” The Lord God formed out of the ground every wild animal and every bird of the sky, and brought each to the man to see what he would call it. And whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal; but for the man, no helper was found corresponding to him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to come over the man, and he slept. God took one of his ribs and closed the flesh at that place. Then the Lord God made the rib He had taken from the man into a woman and brought her to the man.” Genesis 3:15-22 CSB
Not only had every single need been provided for in advance of the first couple, but God had also shown his love and care by checking out the quality of each creation before proceeding to the next step. Creation was not just thrown together, but at every step God was testing quality control, lovingly crafting the environment that He knew would be needed for man to thrive. This is evidenced by His statement that there was no suitable helper for man and His decision to create the woman out of man’s side. Within slightly more than one chapter we see the Almighty God as 1. Creator, 2. Provider 3. Protector and 4. Caretaker. Our Creator demonstrated Himself as caretaker as He made sure everything was in place to sustain life and for life to continue into the future. Living things from the smallest to the greatest had the ability to reproduce itself so life could go forth. Plants, fruits, and all vegetation reproducing for future generations to have needed food, as well as, animals and humans. I believe we can also deduce that He is a Good God solely based on the indication that He cared enough to actually sit back and observe His creation and make sure it was good and in mankind’s case, very good.
I’m not sure how it came to be, but a few days ago I began a new journey. What will this journey teach me? Where will it lead and what discoveries are waiting along the way, I am not sure but trust that it will be an exciting one.
Let’s start from the beginning… my first journey with Jesus began as a small girl between 4 1/2 and five years old. It hasn’t been without some desert experiences, mountain top times and some peaceful oasis experiences. Perhaps, in the end, those desert times are the ones that have truly shaped me. For a while now, I have been noticing a recurring behavior. I can’t explain why other than it has caught my attention and for some reason, it has arrested my focus, and I am seeing it grow larger and more pervasive in the fellowship of believers.
For at least the last twelve years I have been studying on the topic of Who we are In Christ and often encourage others to look at what God’s Word says about who we are. This study is a wonderful and freeing pursuit, and it will change you forever in many ways. As you begin to unfold the mystery of Jesus, what He has done for our freedom, forgiveness, and restoration to our heavenly Father, He begins to unfold who we are In Him as we give our lives to Him.
The current trend is making declarations about who we are in Christ. Let me be clear–I’m not against this. I am all for learning who we are as believers in Christ! My concern is that we keep the proper perspective in our pursuit of who we truly are. Clearly, the Word of God says we are dearly loved children of the Most High God; our Creator. It also tells us we are joint heirs with Jesus Christ and many other wonderful statements about who we are In Him. These are biblical truths and a great blessing, but we have to remember to keep context in mind and know the Word we are standing on and believing. So here I am again on a new journey; it’s never dull. Here I am seeking afresh to see who He is – yes, who He is. Why? I want to see with fresh eyes who He says we are in light of who the Great I Am is. It’s a heart check if you will. You see, as I have observed and listened to wonderful declarations of who we are In Christ I have noticed there is a fine line between having confidence in who we are and arrogance and that is a line I want to be careful never to cross. I never want to lose the humility to which He call us.
“Mankind, He has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to have faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8 (CSB)
Humility is found in scripture between ten and seventeen times depending on the translation. Humble is located between 82 and 84 times. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (CSB)
Jesus is an excellent example of humility in the Bible: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”Philippians 2:5-11 (NASB)
Jesus laid aside His standing to do the will of the Father, not once defending Himself because He fully understood Who He was and what His purpose was.
Another example was Moses. Moses was described as humble, a meek man yet God commissioned him to lead approximately 2 million people from Egyptian captivity and toward the promised land. It was Moses who God revealed Himself as “I AM Who I AM” in Exodus.
“Then Moses asked God, “If I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what should I tell them?” God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the Israelites: The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.”Exodus 3:13-15 (CSB)
From beginning to end, Scripture is filled with conditional promises, blessings, and even curses. There are many If…then statements all throughout the pages. We must be careful to seek to understand what they are saying to us. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV)
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”2 Timothy 3:1-7 (NKJV)
Lord God, please teach us more about Who You are and who we are in Jesus Christ and humbly walk with you fulfilling the purpose that You have for each of us during our lives just as Jesus, Moses and so many others have done whether the task is great of subtle. May we love justice, be ever faithful and walk humbly with our God until our faith becomes sight in Your very presence! In the mighty and incomparable Name of Jesus, Amen!
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!
It is here! Today is the day, the one that is either the most awaited or the most dreaded day of many people’s year– Valentine’s Day. Whether you’re ever-the-optimist, unlucky in love or somewhere in between; most people have strong opinions or feelings about this day. Many of these strong opinions come from hurts, unmet expectations, and sometimes unrealistic expectations on our part.
Let’s be honest. Most of us are not mind readers. If we were, we would know not to expect much from that loved one who doesn’t see this day as anything more than a commercialized day for selling extreme numbers of cards, boxes of chocolate, expensive gifts, and jewelry. Conversely, they would know that getting gifts (small tokens of love) was something that spoke volumes to their loved one and just might choose to go against their opinion for the sake of love. How easy would that make life or perhaps how hard! Just consider that for a moment. If your love language was about receiving gifts and I was a mind reader and withheld that gift from you… What would that say about me?
We would do well to understand how differently people are wired. What is a ‘no brainer’ to me just might be the absolute last thing that you would ever think about and the reverse is also true. There is only One Who knows the very core of our heart. Only One Who knows how our heart beats and what it longs for and that is the One who laid down His life so that we could find actual life.
The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy–John 10:10. He sends his fiery darts: if they love me, they would___________; or any other of countless expectations that the object of our love has no idea is in our heads, therefore, could never fulfill. It is a setup for unmet expectations that divide and conquer in our relationships. Clue: if you’re in a relationship with someone who forgets parents or siblings birthdays, expect that they might also forget yours–it’s their m.o. It might be a little too optimistic to expect that you are the exception that will cause them to change. Maybe it’s the way they are wired.
We can also be misunderstood. I made a flippant generalization about pearls many years ago, not knowing my love had bought me a gift made of them. Not knowing, I had said that I wasn’t much of a pearl girl (and I was a girl, not a woman, at the time). So the next time I was with him at the mall, he walked into the jewelry store and returned the present sight unseen. Right there in front of me, he told the salesperson that I didn’t like them. The truth, that was the first I knew of them; I hadn’t seen them. By the way, they were beautiful dangly earrings. He had an expectation my being delighted by them and my words had dashed that hope all because I wasn’t keen on the more traditional concept of pearls. We both lost out, and special occasions went ignored rather than being celebrated for many years.
There is great news. John 10:10 is a follow-up to Jesus statement, “I am the door.” meaning the door to the sheep pen that brings safety and protection to them; keeping the thieves and predators away. It doesn’t end with pitfalls and predators, and neither does our story! It goes on to say “I (Jesus) have come that they (we) may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]. Amplified version
Jesus Christ, sent by God as a representation of Who God is and of His love; true love came to reveal what authentic love is and what real love does.
In this same general area in John, you begin to find the, I Am’s of Jesus. In John 6:35, Jesus tells us, “I am the bread of life: he that comes to Me shall never hunger, and he that believes in Me will never thirst.” In Him, we find nourishment, sustenance and hydration! When we hunger and thirst for Him and for His Word; we find satisfaction. We may or may not find all the answers to all of our questions and life may not be all that we would desire it to be but we will find what we truly need for our journey .
In John 8:12, Jesus reveals Himself as the “Light of the World.” “Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus set the example for life when He walked among the people; He set the standard for love also. Light illuminates and brings that which we need for growth and understanding. Light helps us see fully; in places that we may not have noticed without the light pinpointing the nuances.
John 10:11 highlights Jesus as The Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. He claims responsibility for us, our safety and our well-being at the cost of His personal safety. In essence, He is clearly stating through His life, death, and resurrection that our well-being (freeing us from the penalty of our sin) is worth giving His everything, including His very life.
In John 11:25, Jesus declares, ” I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives in Me will never die.” Death was not the end of His story. Jesus arose on the third day conquering death, providing life through forgiveness and a promise of life everlasting and abundant.
The Way, the Truth, and the Life is the sixth I am proclamation of Jesus. This one has stumped people age after age. If God is love and is a loving Father, how is there only one way to Him? Religion after religion claims they have the way, but God’s Son clearly says He is the way. He laid His will down to fulfill God’s plan, to show God’s love and to restore our relationship with God; to bridge what sin had destroyed.
Lastly, Jesus is The Vine. John 15:5 Picture if you will, a beautiful vineyard in August; branches heavy laden with lush fruit. This fruit is big, beautifully ripe and perfect for consumption. What a beautiful sight! Just remember this is only possible when the branches connect to the vine. Without the Vine bringing much-needed nutrients into those branches, this fine and delicious fruit would never happen. Don’t believe it? Just separate one branch. Cut it off and toss it aside and see what happens. Without the nutrients that cause the branches to thrive, not only will fruit not appear but that very branch will wither, shrink and in time be fit only for composting at best.
I don’t know your stance on Valentine’s Day or your perception of God; whether you even believe. I also don’t pretend to know what you are facing this Valentine’s Day; where you are on the swinging love pendulums high’s and low’s. What I do know is I believe in love. It is stronger than our present feeling about it; whether good or bad! God is the source of love. What better place than God in Whom we live, move and have our being to seek out the true definition of love with all that it encompasses and what better example than the life and ministry of Jesus Christ–who humbled Himself, walked among us loving, serving, ministering, teaching, and healing. Jesus laid down His life even to the point of death to bring us the fullness of life, wholeness in this present world and for eternity. This is the One True Love that is ageless and available to us all!