The last day of 2015 has been an interesting and challenging day. I’ve had the opportunity to be in God’s Word several times. Challenged by Proverbs 31 and Philemon as I drove to lunch and my husband read his portion for today. Both were inspiring and Proverbs 31 is always challenging.
Next, I had the opportunity to watch the first lesson of Beth Moore’s Inheritance Bible Study; a great reminder of who we are in Christ and that In Him we are sons (daughters) of God and co-heirs with Christ. Also, that as co-heirs we share equally with Jesus in His inheritance of the first born Son and not just the leftovers! In fact, she challenged us to allow our life to be a “wild ride”followed up by: “it can’t be a wild ride if you are in the drivers seat”. ( A challenge to let go of control issues and allow God to be in the drivers seat of our life.)
Next came our New Year’s Eve service with great music and another challenging message to ponder from Daniel. Challenging us to begin this year with fasting and prayer like Daniel did during his three year training period under the King of Babylon. Because of his faith and commitment to keep to the tenants of his beliefs and to the dietary guidelines, Daniel and his friends rose in favor with the king. When all the ‘wisemen’ could not interpret the kings dream, Daniel asked for a reprieve from their death sentence; he prayed and that night received both the dream and the interpretation from God. Because of this lives were saved!
Finally, I was able to have a quiet celebration at home with my beloved. As I ponder the events of the day and getting ready to say goodnight, my mind is still whirling! Today we begin a new year full of possibilities and opportunities. We don’t know what it will bring, but as for me, I plan to hand the wheel over to my Heavenly Father, my Savior and the Holy Spirit. Enough of trying to control things that are out of my hands, none of my business and outside my expertise. Does that mean I am going to be passive? Absolutely not! But let’s look at some scripture…
Romans 8:5-8 Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what He is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored. 9-11 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of Him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome Him, in whom He dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, He’ll do the same thing in you that He did in Jesus, bringing you alive to Himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and He does, as surely as He did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With His Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s! 12-14 So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! 15-17 This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who He is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with Him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with Him! -Message Translation (emphasis mine)
Wow, this gets my heart pumping! My prayer for 2016 is to let go of the past, forgive others and myself and start fresh with a clean slate. I pray I’ll have the courage and strength to depend less on myself and my own understanding but go deeper in my trust that God has a better plan for me and it is a good plan. Lord, help me take my hands off the stirring wheel of my life and let you take me on the ride of my life; trusting you every step of the way!
Like most people, I pray that a better year is here and that the struggles of the last few years do not follow us into this new one; acknowledging that our God can do exceedingly, abundantly, above and beyond anything we can ask or imagine according to His power that is at work in us! Because of this promise, no matter what this year holds, we can find our way through as long as we seek Him and trust Him to work things out with our cooperation. My prayer is that no matter what this year holds, in the end we can declare boldly that this was my best year ever! May His Grace and Peace surround us and the Fruit of the Spirit be abundant in each of our lives as we seek to trust God completely each step of this year! In the mighty and powerful name of Jesus Christ, Amen!!
Happy New Year!!
Good morning friends!
This morning my scripture reading was Isaiah 41 and last night Job 38. This morning as I pondered the passage in Isaiah and thought of it in context of Job 38’s questions that God posed to Job; my mind kicked into high gear. Both of these passages are great examples of the absolute greatness of our God. We as humans tend to place God in a box with limits on what He can do or what He will do. Many see Him a a harsh Heavenly Father either because that’s their impression from the Old Testament or because of a less than positive experience with their earthly Father. Others tend to see only the merciful and grace filled Heavenly Father. Yet others believe in Him but do not think He is actively involved in out day to day lives but see Him as a distant observer.
There are as many differing ideas of God as there are people who walk this earth! As human beings, some deny Him all together; and those who believe in God tend to limit their belief based with their own experiences with Him or what they have witnessed in the lives of others to whom they are close to. Yet and still we are human and most of us have a preconceived idea of God; if you will a nice tidy box that we relegate Him to in our lives. Whether it is as simple as not bothering God with the small stuff with which we struggle or perhaps being focused on our circumstances or world events to the point of being overwhelmed into believing He can’t or won’t help; God is bigger than the box we try to put Him into!
Consider that many see God as angry and punishing in the Old Testament, but what about His graciousness and His great patience found there. Example: consider Abrahams inquiries to God about Sodom and Gomorrah Not only did he ask about relenting in His wrath once, but Abraham began with “Would you save the cities for 100 righteous men? 50? 25? And finally, 10? There are many examples of patience, grace, mercy and all God’s attributes found all throughout the Old Testament and the New. So today, I am challenging myself and you, if your game, to spending this Christmas season and 2016 considering what kind of box you may have placed God into? Isaiah 41 and Job 38 is a great place to ponder His greatness. What is His true characteristics? What does He think about us? What is the true depth of His love for us? His forgiveness? I submit to you that He truly cares about His creation, His children. Yes, even the small stuff. He sees every smile and every single tear. May we be able to say with great confidence in 2016 that there are no words to completely describe our God and continue to expand our thinking to a greater understanding of Him in this New Year and every year to come! Our God is limitless!
“Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us — to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.””
Ephesians 3:8, 20-21 HCSB
Grace and Peace to you!!
It is easy to get caught up in our lives and our circumstances. The faster our lives seem to go and the busier we get; it becomes almost impossible not to be so caught up in the here and now. The more we get caught up in the here and now, the easier it becomes to lose track of the important because the urgent immediate creeps in to take over and manipulate how our time is spent. Next thing we know, the tyranny of urgent has hi-jacked the majority of our time. We become exhausted and when we have a few minutes we crave a release often in the form of mindless entertainment just so we can relax. Ok, maybe this doesn’t describe you but it has described me at times. The pressure sometimes just seems too much and I need a time out; a pressure release valve; some chill time just to rest and that is ok. Child of God we were created by God in His master plan to need rest.(the need for rest, that is) That is why He created the Sabbath. It was created for us, not us for the Sabbath. We need to rest! We also need for find our rest in Him.
During December 2013, I began to seek God for a verse for the upcoming year. It had been a busy and tiring year and I was looking forward to what the new year might hold and hoping for a change of pace. Maybe time would slow down a bit and there would be more time enjoy life. As December came to a close, my attention was drawn to Habakkuk, chapter 2, verse 1:
“I will stand at my watch post; I will remain stationed on the city wall. I will keep watching, so I can see what he says to me and can know how I should answer when he counters my argument.”
I sensed this was the verse that the Lord had chosen for me and so it became part of my morning routine. Did I truly understand what it meant, not at all. I know a watchman is one who is posted as a guard to watch and warn if an enemy approaches the camp or comes against a walled city in this case. They are to be alert and well-informed about the events happening outside the community; especially those things that pose a threat. Each morning before I prayed I would write this verse out as a reminder to keep watch. Keep alert. It was my reminder to keep awake and informed about what was going on outside my “little” world and to also dig into the Word for deeper understanding. It only took going beyond that first verse to get a bit of understanding. Let’s look at the next section of that chapter.
The Lord answered me: Write down this vision; clearly inscribe it on tablets so one may easily read it. For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it testifies about the end and will not lie. Though it delays, wait for it, since it will certainly come and not be late. Look, his ego is inflated; he is without integrity. But the righteous one will live by his faith. Moreover, wine betrays; an arrogant man is never at rest. He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, and like Death he is never satisfied. He gathers all the nations to himself; he collects all the peoples for himself. (Habakkuk 2:2-5 HCSB)
Habakkuk was a prophet. He was to station himself in a position to hear from God and proclaim God’s messages to the people. A Watchman on the wall. Often times the prophets were presenting warning to God’s people. In Habakkuk’s case, his assignment was to write God’s vision; trust God’s word; and to speak His judgement. Interestingly, many prophecies have not only an immediate purpose but also a secondary applications to be revealed in the later days and times. This one clearly says it is yet for an appointed time. Is it possible that it is speaking to people living today? Maybe. More and more I am seeing references to the last days and not just in Christian circles. Is it possible we are living in those days as I type? Absolutely it is possible because with God all things are possible. Is it likely? Only He knows for sure how close it may be! I can also tell you that Jesus tell us to keep watch and to know the signs of the time of His coming. We are also told that as in the days of Noah, people will continue eating and drinking; they will be so engaged in their day-to-day lives that when that day comes they will not recognize it until it had passed. Jesus also says no man, only the Father knows the day and time of Jesus’ return yet He clearly outlines the signs leading up to that day. I would advise you to be very cautions of anyone who sets dates, however we can know what to watch out for. We can be diligent in our watchfulness, our preparation and how we live out our lives each day. We can know how to ready our hearts and live our lives so that we are not caught off guard and ill-prepared should His return be closer that we think.
Habakkuk 2 continues and talks about five woes to avoid in our behavior. Isaiah chapter 5 also is a good list of things God would have us avoid in our lives; mistakes that Israel made that sent them in captivity and things we see all around us even today. (covetousness, drunkenness, deception, carelessness, injustice, pride; good being call evil and evil being considered good) If you’re looking for signs of the time in which Jesus will come back, a great jumping off place is Matthew 24. In His own words He tells you what those days will look like. He continues in chapter 25 as he speaks of those prepared when the bridegroom arrives and those who are not; of the faithful servants; the one caught wanting; and finally of how the world will be judged. Many fear reading and studying such scriptures as Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel that speak of end days; others don’t believe they are true. Fear is from the enemy of your soul and further, it leaves us unaware and unprepared. Beloved, we do ourselves a great favor by knowing the Word. God is the author of faith, not fear! When we know the Word, we can be prepared. We can judge ourselves and correct our course. We can be like the five bridesmaids that continued to watch, wait and never ran out of oil for their lamps rather than the five that were left outside of the banquet because they ran out of oil and weren’t waiting when the groom arrived.
My prayer is that we be watchful, prepared, and purposed to show others to be watchful and prepared because no man knows the time or hour of Christ’s return but we can all know the signs and the things which lead to the season of His return! Let us not be slumbering bridesmaids; let us be the fully awake and fully prepared Bride of Christ, eagerly awaiting the time of His arrival! Whether Jesus comes soon or whether He tarries we will be ready if we are informed and keep watch. Moreover, if we are His, there is nothing to fear and much to gain… weeping may endure for a night, but JOY comes, and oh what JOY!
May Grace, Peace and Joy be yours!
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23 HCSB)
For the last six weeks, a friend and I have been studying the fruit of the Spirit together. We began with an overview of the Book of Galatians and a few a couple of weeks began to study each of the listed fruit, one per week. This weeks fruit: Patience; oh yes,I heard those groans! If only I had a dollar for everyone who has ever told me “Don’t pray for patience; you’ll get it, but it won’t be fun or pretty in the meantime.”! I would be sitting somewhere warm on a sunny beach enjoying the roar of the ocean and the sun beating down on my face as I write instead of looking out at glistening trees, a cold but gentle wind blowing, and a misty rain gently watering them. Oh how I miss the warm sunshine!
Hopefully that provided a little recovery time from the shock of that much dreaded word, patience. We are learning through studying this particular fruit that there are two types of patience mentioned in the New Testament. One is patience through circumstances and the other is patience with people. Patience with people is the type of peace referred to in the fruit of the Spirit. Interestingly, though we are studying this fruit, we first tackled the patience with circumstances and learned that hope is the key to having patience when facing difficult situations; hope coming from the Greek word elpis, meaning hope-the desire of some good with the expectation of getting it. That’s pretty straight forward. As long as we have hope, we tend to be able to press through the less than enjoyable aspects that we sometimes face. Without hope, we find it much more challenging!
The second patience, patience with people can get much more complex, especially in those closest relationships. Hope may be important in these relationships but perhaps mercy is even more important when we endeavor to grow in patience with the people in our circles of influence and with people in general. Mercy or compassion can be a powerful tool especially when it comes to having patience with people.
Just an example from my own life: many years ago, my husband and I were having breakfast in a local restaurant. A customer comes in and is seated across from out table. From the very beginning, nothing went right in her opinion and everyone within a ten table radius was aware. People were getting up and leaving be cause of the scene. We had a birds eye view and could not help but hear as things escalated. This young waitress did not deserve the treatment she was receiving. As we continued to witness this spectacle, I pointed out to my husband that even if she was performing poorly it was no way to treat her. Maybe she broke up with her boyfriend/spouse, had a sick child, a family member sick or dying. We have no idea what people are dealing with in their lives! We went to the register to pay and Kevin gave me his keys. Then he addressed the manager and explained that we had observed everything and the server had done nothing to deserve what was happening. He then asked me to wait in the car (which I did though it was a hard request to follow). He said he then said a quick prayer and with the same compassion and mercy I had expressed for the server; he approached this lady sitting with her two adult daughters. He was very respectful and asked if he could join them for a moment. Then my sweet husband who looked about eighteen with his ‘baby face’, proceeded to ask her with great respect if she’d ever considered that the young server might be struggling with some kind of life trauma or tragedy or had spent the night up with a small child that was sick and sleepless? (We knew this one well as young parents ourselves!) Kevin said her daughters looked so relived and this lady’s whole countenance changed. They all thanked him and he started out to the car. I met him at the door where the manager thanked him…it had been a while and I must admit I was a little concerned and I decided I needed to check on him.
In the end, mercy, compassion and patience triumphs! We may not always see results right away and it is possible we may not see results at all. Nevertheless, it is a seed that is well worth sowing! (Lord, please give me the grace and wisdom to remember this life lesson!) Why? Because even if it does not touch the person benefiting from it, others see. Even if it doesn’t touch the lives of observers, it changes us! It is a sure way to teach us to be more Christ-like by walking in the Spirit and exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit; an intentional though momentary choice to live beyond that moment, beyond our circumstances and beyond our own little world in a place where grace flows freely.
Grace flows freely where love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control abound. Why Grace Stoppers then? There are also those things which clog and even stop the flow of grace. Let’s list just a few:
- Hate, joylessness, discord, impatience, meanness, doubt, harshness, selfishness
Help us, oh Father God, to lay these down! Help us to walk by the Spirit, in the fruit of the Spirit
and in the Mighty name of Jesus!
Praying you are blessed with His grace, His peace and Fruit that remains!
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.”(Galatians 5:22-23 MSG)
In Luke 19, Jesus told a parable. In this parable a nobleman Is preparing to go on a journey to a far off land, his purpose for the journey was to receive the authority to become king. Before leaving, this nobleman leaves a portion of his belongings to ten of his servants and instructs them to “engage in business” until His return. Later, the nobleman returns, now with the authority and title of King. When he returns, he goes to the ten servants and requires an accounting for how they have carried out his business in his absence. Basically. He asks each of them to explain what they have done in his absence to carry on his affairs. The first servant took the one mina and earned ten more. The second servant who had one mina earned another five. Next a third servant came forward. These were his words accounting for the mina he’d been given, “Master, here is your mina. I have kept it hidden away in a cloth because I was afraid of you, for you’re a tough man: you collect what you didn’t deposit and reap what you didn’t sow.’ (Luke 19:20-21 HCSB)
Let’s look at the king’s response to his servants faithfulness or productivity.
- The first servant was rewarded for his faithfulness with what the nobleman had entrusted him with. He was put in charge of ten cities, one for each additional Mina he’d earned.
- The second was rewarded by being placed in charge of five cities, again a city for each additional mina.
- Lastly, the third servant, who had buried the mina given him rather than be obedient to his master and carry out business until the master returned gave his account and produced the original mina for the king. The king took what was given to this servant and gave it to the first servant.
As I pondered this for a while, my thoughts took me to another scenario found in my S.O.A.P. reading for today. It was the fourth chapter of Esther. At this point in Esther’s story, she is Queen. It’s been thirty days since her husband, the king, had summoned her. Her uncle sends word to her that an edict has been pronounced against her people, the Jewish people, and their destruction is near. Esther sent word that it is unlawful for her to go before the king without being summoned and this is her uncles reply, “Don’t think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king’s palace. If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s house will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:13-14 HCSB) Why was Mordecai so convinced that liberation and deliverance would come when all seemed hopeless? Perhaps it was because he knew that God had promised and foretold through the prophets that the Messiah, the Savior would come through the Jewish people through the lineage of David. At any rate, he was very confident that salvation and deliverance would come whether Esther stepped up to the challenge or not; but perhaps, just maybe…this was the very reason she had been chosen to be queen…for such a time as this. Esther prayed, fasted, and finally with the declaration, “if I perish, I perish!”, she took up the challenge. Because of her bravery and obedience, the people were allowed fight to protect themselves.
Your probably asking what one has to do with the other. I’m sure I would be if I weren’t already in my head! So let me try to connect the dots of my thoughts by starting with this: “Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began. (Psalms 139:16 HCSB) Supposing this to be a true statement, because I believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, then we can say that God had a plan and a destiny for David, the author of the Psalm. Suppose that can also be said for Esther’s life, the nobleman’ life, Jesus’ life and for our own very lives.
Esther left the safety of her chambers to step into her destiny. This nobleman left for his journey to fulfill his destiny to become king. Jesus left heaven and came to earth as a baby to fulfill God’s Redemptive plan for mankind. Each carried out a specific plan and enlisted the help of others. Esther enlisted the help of her maid servants and her people; the nobleman enlisted the help of ten servants to carry on his business; and Jesus recruited His disciples and a band of followers. Each gave instructions to their recruits….
- Esther- fast and pray for three days
- The nobleman-engage in business until I return; build my business
- Jesus- make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28)-build His Kingdom
In Esther’s case, we don’t know whether those praying were told the specifics of why or if they were just told to do it. With the nobleman, there is no indications that the servants were given a reason for their being given the Mina and being told to engage in business until his return. As Jesus commissioned His followers, no direct reason was given, yet in all three cases, the one in authority had specific reasons for their requirements of those they called.
- Esther- to hear from God
- The Nobleman-to find trust worthy leaders to place in positions of authority
- Jesus- to spread the gospel, bring freedom, healing, and deliverance, and to build His Kingdom
Will we always know the reasons behind what we are asked to do? No. Will there be times we question authority in our lives? Probably. How about times when we doubt someone’s motives, misjudge, and react with self-perseveration as the servant who lost what was given him? Quite possibly. Honestly, it makes me wonder at the things that I may have missed out on because of fear or mistrusting just because I did not have all the facts and information. Would that servant have responded differently if he’d have known the nobleman would be king and was looking for people to lead cities? Maybe the biggest question these events cause me to ask myself is do I have enough trust in God to walk this journey out whether I have all the questions answered? Will I keep following when fear threatens? When I have more questions than answers? Will I like the two wise servants, make my master proud of my faithfulness? Or will I be like the last and hide away that which He has given me, having nothing to show for it? Am I willing to do my best like Esther with the attitude, “if I perish, I perish”?
For some reason this morning, a treasured memory has flooded my mind and heart. Last April on the 23rd., Kevin and I were blessed to spend several hours with some great friends just before they returned to minister in Europe and in Israel. Our first stop was a quaint coffee shop with a great view of the Chattahoochee River. We purchased our coffee and made our way outside to enjoy the beautiful scenery from the bank of the river. As we chatted and caught up a bit on each other’s lives, something grabbed all our attention. Right in front of our eyes, up in a perfectly blue sky, soaring over the river right in front of us were five beautiful bald eagles circling around in front of us. After circling a few times they began to fly away. Kevin and I have been to this very spot a number of times, never have we seen even one eagle and this day there were five! It was an amazing sight to behold, sitting in quietness with special friends who we don’t get to see near enough, listening to the rushing of the waters and seeing that majestic sight. What a great way to start off our visit; what a great memory!
Eagles are Beautiful and interesting creatures. Here are just a few facts about them…
- Eagles are powerful birds of prey.
- They have hooked beaks and powerful talons to hunt prey.
- There are over 60 species.
- They build their nests on high cliffs or in tall trees. Bald eagle nests can weigh as much as a ton.
- Some eagles hunt animals as large as a young deer.
Credit to: Science kids.co.nz
- They have very sharp eye sight, perhaps among the best of all other species.
- Bald eagles are known for spectacular aerial shows.
- Considered symbols of power, transcendence, and freedom.
Credit to: Onekind.org
- Mate for life; Once pared together, bald eagles remain together until one of them dies. Life span-20-30 years
- Most are approximately 3 feet long with wings spans of 6-7 feet and weigh 10 to 14 pounds.
Credit to: defenders.org
Eagles are mentioned in scripture between 31 to 34 times depending on which translation you may be reading. Some scriptures compare God to a mighty eagle, others may refer to His enemy as an eagle. Perhaps one of the most quoted verses about eagles is Isaiah 41:30-31 “Youths may faint and grow weary,and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.”
What a beautiful picture that paints for us! It is truly a beautiful sight to watch an eagle soar up high, whether it is one or five! Just think…His Word tells us that we can soar on wings like eagles when we trust in Him; when we wait upon Him. He promises to renew our strength, that we will soar; run and not grow weary; walk and not faint… What a promise! We exchange our worry and doubt for trusting God and the benefits are beyond most of our expectations! We can be refreshed, renewed, and we can soar above our circumstances just by trusting God with our lives and our circumstances.
This is my hope and prayer for us for 2015: to trust God more; make Isaiah 40:31 more of a reality in our lives; to dig deeper and go deeper with God; to leave our cares with Him and trust Him to even turn the tough things in life into something beautiful and that He will cause us to be able to soar! Don’ s words from that afternoon, as best I remember were… “May you soar above any turbulent waters and may you be found standing on a rock in the middle of the river holding a cup to catch the blessings when the blessings are flowing all around.” What a blessing to speak over your friends, and may it be so for each of us as we enter this brand new year! May God take us to a place of deeper relationship and deeper trust. May we both give and receive mercy and may we be overwhelmed by His grace and peace.