Joy Comes in the Mourning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What’s In a Story

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

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

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

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

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

The Vinedresser – God

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

A dug-in winepress – tools needed for success.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace and Peace to you this day!

Fresh Look at the Beginning

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.

A Fresh Look

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!

May Grace and Peace be yours!

Secret to a Well-Watered Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Promises or Results of the Lord’s Fast:

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

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

May His grace abound to you in all you do!

One True Love

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!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Grace and Peace be with you!

BitterSweet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abandoned but Not Forgotten

Today, as I began week 2—day five of Beth Moore’s new Bible Study Entrusted, the topic is a difficult one. Paul, nearing the end of his life and facing execution is writing to Timothy, his son in the faith. The title is “Left and Found.” The focus is this passage found in 1 Timothy 1:

 “Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who lives in us, that good thing entrusted to you. 15 This you know: All those in Asia have turned away from me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. 16 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. 17 On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he diligently searched for me and found me. 18 May the Lord grant that he obtain mercy from Him on that day. And you know very well how much he ministered at Ephesus.” (HCSB)

One of the focal points was verse 15 where Paul says “all those in Asia have turned away from me. Paul felt deserted by people he once was close to. If we continue into the next verse, we find that though Paul felt deserted, he was not forgotten! He goes on say that Onesiphorus searched for Paul actively when he came to Rome. He fervently searched until he found Paul and when he did Paul found refreshing and comfort because this man was not ashamed of Paul’s imprisonment. Paul felt abandoned, but he was not forgotten!

We live in a world that is not so different. Our dress, technology, and customs may be far removed from ancient Rome, and our prison cells may be quite different; but people are not so different. Scores of people everyday struggle with feelings of loss, desertion or abandonment. Often in those times feelings can be overwhelming. Suicide is rampant in the world today because hopelessness can set in when there seems no way around or through the problems that the person is facing. Sadly, hopelessness is happening at younger and younger ages. Just Tuesday night I heard of a middle schooler who had succumbed. Perhaps that is why this passage struck me, and I was compelled to share it with you.

Paul had spent his life for Jesus Christ since the day he met Him on the road to Damascus. In 2 Corinthians we see that it was not an easy life.

“Five times I received 39 lashes from Jews. Three times I was beaten with rods by the Romans. Once I was stoned by my enemies. Three times I was shipwrecked. I have spent a night and a day in the open sea. On frequent journeys, I faced dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own people, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the open country, dangers on the sea, and dangers among false brothers; labor and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, cold, and lacking clothing.” 24-27 (HCSB)

We don’t know how long it was between Paul feeling deserted by his friends and the time Onesiphorus showed up bringing refreshing and acceptance. What we can surmise based on scripture is that Paul, though in chains was still serving God through the letters of encouragement and instruction that he wrote during his imprisonments. Despite his sufferings and feelings of abandonment, he held tight to the hope he had in Jesus Christ. He held fast to his faith and walked by faith, not by sight or feelings. Because we have his letters as a testimony, we know God had not abandoned Paul. At just the right time, Onesiphorus showed up, and Paul found needed encouragement and refreshment to stay the course. Perhaps not in Paul’s timing but in God’s perfect timing He showed up for Paul.

Not only did Paul had a personal encounter with Jesus, he spent his life following Christ and encouraging others to “follow me as I follow Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV) He spent a lifetime learning the ways of Jesus, and learning his identity in Christ. He set an example in his life; teaching and mentoring others to do the same. This activity is what enabled him to keep the faith in the difficulties of life. Paul knew who he was without Christ, and he knew who he was because of Jesus. Knowing our true identity in Christ Jesus can make all the difference in how we face life; especially in the difficult times!! But first, we have to know! We have to search it out and then we have to have faith to believe it is true.

“Surely your salvation is coming; Behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him.” and they shall call them The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.” Isaiah 62:11b-12

 

 

Entrusted A Study of 2 Timothy by Beth Moore is available today at LifeWay Christian Bookstores. #Entrusted Study

Crazy Times

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Gain Your Sight?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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