Could Someone Please Turn up the Lights?

The America in which I grew up is M.I.A.! Yep, Missing In Action. This country is unrecognizable on so many fronts. By all reports, it seems divided right down the middle. The truth is it is not. Many of us were not happy with either of the final choices that we had to pick from for president. However, we now have a new President! Believers, it is our job to pray for those in authority according to scripture! It is not our job to judge, complain or fear. It is our responsibility to pray for him and our country without regard for our feelings!

To the Women marching on Washington: You claim to speak for women everywhere. I hate to bear you this news, but much that was said represents only a portion of women in this country. Scare tactics, vulgarity, threats and parading your female parts on your heads with your face peeking out doesn’t speak for me; nor many other ladies I know. How appropriate I must say were the cat hats because that is just what some of your representative’s behavior was; “catty.” Oh, how different was the March for life just one week later! Your threats indicate you are bullies disregarding the opinions of women who disagree with your ideology. You do not represent me, and just because I don’t agree with many of your talking points does not make me any less of a woman or any less an advocate for females. I was brought up with manners, modesty and to act like a lady, as were many women all across this country. You, I repeat, do not speak for all women!

To those attacking the New President’s son: I DO NOT care who you do or do not like or support politically. Nor do I care how scared or threatened you feel about the incoming President! Making vicious attacks, accusations or judgments about a ten-year-old young man is absolutely NEVER ok!! It is especially heinous when coming from a supposed adult!! That is the epitome of a bully, and IT IS EVIL!

Without support, this kind of rhetoric could easily do much damage to a ten-year-old, and you are responsible whether your acknowledge it or not for the damage that ensues. Imagine if this young man or anyone you treated so poorly were to act in desperation because of your actions!!

To American Voters everywhere: Have you ever wondered why there has never been such unrest and violent rioting as we have seen since this election? Did you see Republicans act like this after President Obama entered office? President Bush? How about after President Clinton entered office? This process happens every four years and when have your ever seen this kind of out of control behavior in the civilized world? Violent riots are increasing! Everyone is looking out only for their causes without regard to the rights of the other side, and in the process innocent people and businesses get caught in the cross-fire, suffering loss! It is wrong and senseless!! People are stepping on others rights to assert their own. That, my friends, is called oppression- forcing your thought and ideas on others. America is referred to as the land of the free for a reason. All people are entitled to be free unless they break the law. People’s belief is not legislated, at least not yet in this country; though many are pushing us that direction by the thought police. What possesses people to act out in such destructive, violent ways? Why is it acceptable for them to revert to barbaric behavior? Why do others choose more productive ways to deal with loss, disappointment, and fear?

I have news for you; the world is watching. The nation once admired for being a kind; generous, Christian nation is now on display around the world. Where the world is concerned, the media stories are America. No wonder they see Americans as selfish, self-promoting, spoiled, childish, and entitled people. The nation once admired for being a kind; generous, freedom-loving country is now on display around the world, and the picture is ugly and dark. A moderately small number of loud voices are speaking out and claiming to speak for us all. Maybe I am deceived, but I believe that there are many others of you out there that are just as horrified as I am with what they are seeing. We are at a crossroads, and if we continue traveling in this direction, we just may not be happy with the outcome. The question is, “What can or will we do about it?” How long will we sit by and keep quiet allowing those who think differently be the only ones heard? What can you and I do? Can someone please just turn up the lights?? Can we roll this darkness back or call on Someone who can?

President Trump has said that under his leadership, America will become great again. Even with the best of intentions, one person cannot achieve this. Even with the cooperation of every staff member, Congressman, Senator, and Judge, it would be difficult at best. The answer is we the people. Let’s face it, darkness and division are plaguing our people. We spend more time on the few things that divide us than those that unite us. Instead of finding common ground, people insist on their own selfish ways. Each man does what is ‘right’ in his/her own heart. Moral absolutes have often been cast aside and caution in many cases thrown to the wind.

America’s greatness has come from being united. Separate states governing themselves united in one country, under one flag. America’s greatness came from freedom. Freedom of religion, protecting us from a forced national religion. In other words, we can practice whatever religion we choose or none at all; we are free. Freedom of protection which includes our speech, the right to defend ourselves and bear arms. Let’s face it; it also includes freedom of journalism which is a very HOT topic these days! That includes their right to report the story first despite having accurate and truthful facts. They are free to do this, though it isn’t a very smart choice of behavior. I like most others would much prefer an accurate and unbiased report over lots of speculation that later has to be repaired, retracted or corrected. Frankly, it causes chaos and fear that is very unnecessary. Can WE PLEASE just turn up the lights?

Father God, Please forgive us for letting our voices grow softer. Please forgive us for becoming more and more silent; letting our lights dim. Change and revival begin in Your House, oh Lord; with the individuals who love You seeking to be their best self by seeking You, following Your statutes. Help us to be the people You created us to be. To be bold and unashamed of our inheritance or our destiny! Teach us to be brave, bold and stand firm for the things that are deep in our heart; fearing not to be different and stand up for what is good and what is true!

Your Word says:                                                                                                                                       “Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him: I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a temple of sacrifice. 13 If I close the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the grasshopper to consume the land, or if I send pestilence on My people, 14 and if My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. 15 My eyes will now be open and My ears attentive to prayer from this place. 16 And I have now chosen and consecrated this temple so that My name may be there forever; My eyes and My heart will be there at all times. 17 As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, doing everything I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and ordinances, 18 I will establish your royal throne, as I promised your father David: You will never fail to have a man ruling in Israel.19 However, if you turn away and abandon My statutes and My commands that I have set before you and if you go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will uproot Israel from the soil that I gave them, and this temple that I have sanctified for My name I will banish from My presence; I will make it an object of scorn and ridicule among all the peoples. 21 As for this temple, which was exalted, everyone who passes by will be appalled and will say: Why did the Lord do this to this land and this temple? 22 Then they will say: Because they abandoned the Lord God of their ancestors who brought them out of the land of Egypt. They clung to other gods and worshiped and served them. Because of this, He brought all this ruin on them.” 2 Chronicles 7

Please Lord, help us to realize there is much more here than just a prayer for forgiveness and healing in our land. There is a warning to keep false gods out of our lives, including the god of selfishness. So what are the false gods that plague us today? Please give us eyes to see what they are. Perhaps political correctness is one, or materialism, obsession with technology, televisions, hobbies, sports, fear. Is it possible self can become a major god in our life? How about education? Have we become so smart that true wisdom is lacking? Please give us the wisdom to humble ourselves, repent and seek Your face, learn and grow and allow our lights to shine brightly. Please help us to find True North and get back on the right road and may Your children turn up their lights all around this land and live peacefully! In Jesus Mighty Name, Amen.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,                                                                         and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”                                                                          2 Corinthians 13:14

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

What Determines Who You Are?

As usual, I am finding there is so much I want to do and yet so little time to do it all! For example, I am scanning the new Entrusted Bible Study and reading both a Christian Non-fiction book on Daniel, another on prayer (with a friend) and a fiction book on prayer based on several non-fiction characters (with my husband). Yes, I am a little crazy that way!

Now for the cool part! They all converge on the topic of identity. That’s right! Who we are, our identity!  So who are we really? Do our actions dictate our identity? Our heritage? Does the world we live in dictate our identity?
Paul found his true identity in his conversion on the road to Damascus when he met Jesus! His life dramatically changed from one who persecuted followers of Christ to one who reached out, taught and mentored people into followers of Christ! With boldness, he proclaimed, “Follow me as I follow Christ!”

Daniel and his young friends were taken captive into the custody of foreigners. These devout young men did not let their captures change their identity. Staying firm to their God-given identity was a priority in their new environment even when it threatened their very lives, they remained faithful.

One quote from Living Among Lions today was “Our actions spring from our identity, not our profession; from who we are, not what we do. If it is true that our actions are directed by who we are, our identity or how we see ourselves; then what do our actions reveal about us?

Are our actions consistent with who we think we are

or are they in contradiction?

 

Are our actions more aligned with what we do or feel

than with who we truly are?

 

 If so, is it possible that we may a bit confused still about our identity or

even under the influence of an identity thief?

 

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. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. For this reason, the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” John 10:7-18 (NASB)

 

These are just a few of the characteristics of our identity in Christ. God’s Word is full of much more, but let’s just look at these powerful few:

Forgiven –     “I am writing you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven      because of Jesus name. ” 1 John 2:10

Cleansed –    “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with on another and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” 1John 1:7 (ESV)

Redeemed –  “In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Ephesians 1:7 (NASB)

Called –         “He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.”  2 Timothy 1:9 (HCSB)

Chosen/appointed -“You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of theFather in My Name He may give to you.” John 15:16

Complete –   “and in Him, you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule an authority.” Colossians 2:10 (NASB)

Children of God – “Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know Him. Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is.  And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:1-3 (HCSB)

A Royal Priesthood – “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)

Peaceful –       “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27 (ESV)

Victorious –   “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!  1 Corinthians 15:57 (HCSB)

“In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.” 2 Corinthians 2: 14-16 (MSG)

Wow! Just based on these verses alone, what will our life be like if we find our identity in these promises? How would life change? If we begin to look at God’s description of our life based only on who He says we are and daily gaze upon that reflection; what would our lives look like in a week? A month? Or in a year? Would we see the likeness of Christ forming in our lives?

      How would life change if we were focused on who we are and whose we are instead of what we do? Can you imagine meeting someone for the first time and rather than asking them what do you do; asking who are you? What are you passionate about? It just might make for some highly unusual first impressions!

Heavenly Father, please teach us to look to You for our identity. Help us find our true value and worth not in the things of this world or in what others have to say, whether good or bad; but to find it in who You say we are. Give us wisdom and understanding as we walk through life to see beyond others opinions and superficial comparisons to walk in the fullness of who You created us to be. Grace and peace to you, In the Mighty Name of Jesus Christ!

Courage to Realize our True Identity

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Knowing who we are, our identity In Christ, truly frees us! Seeing the value He places on our lives frees us to love, forgive, let others off the hook when they mess up. It gives us power to stay strong in the face of betrayal or hurt!

How? The God and Creator of all living things loved us and wanted relationship with us enough to come in human form as a baby. He grew up experiencing all we ever would and because He knew His worth and purpose, He withstood all kinds of accusation, abuse and betrayal without defending Himself or Fighting back.

Consider some of Jesus’ sufferings…

  • His family called Him out of His mind.
  • One of those closest to Him also betrayed Him.
  • Religious leaders marveled at His wisdom yet tried to trick Him.
  • Those same leaders plotted against Him and planned His demise.
  • The disciples often doubted Him either in word or deed.
  • He was beaten beyond recognition, to the point of not looking human.
  • Forced to carry the cross; yet another weapon of torture and death.
  • Finally, placed upon that cross to slowly suffocate to death, having to lift Himself up just to catch a breath, causing great pain as He did so!

Some considered it weakness when Jesus did not fight back, defend Himself or call upon His Father’s help; but consider the strength it took. Jesus was secure in His true identity, His purpose and the power He had; yet despite the world’s treatment, in His last few words He could show Grace and say, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  Oh, what mercy and grace!!

This is God’s tremendous love for you and me. This is where we find our true identity and He labeled us priceless when God’s Son, His one and only Son, came and limited Himself in human flesh born in a humble setting. Then some thirty odd years later the King of Kings submitted Himself to abuse, false accusation, betrayal, brutality and ultimately death as a sacrifice for every sin ever committed; all for us to be able to have a relationship with the living God. At Christmas we celebrate His coming and because His story doesn’t end here we have great hope and victory over not only sin but also over death! Christmas celebrates Jesus coming; Easter, the fact that death was overcome at His resurrection! For now He is seated by God,  at our Father’s right hand ever interceding on our behalf!

This my friend is true love! This is our identity, our value to God and this is Grace! Jesus took all these sufferings and those cruel spikes for us. That’s the Gospel and that is true love displayed! May we have the grace and courage to love like our Savior loved even when it involves some suffering or pain!

Merry Christmas!

Grace and peace to you as we celebrate the Advent of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord!!

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Identity

What exactly is identity?  According to freedictionary.com, it is the collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is recognized or known; a set of behaviors or characteristics that makes one recognized as a member of a group; a distinct personality of an individual ; the quality or condition of being the same as something else. The other dictionaries had pretty similar definitions.
Those who are reading this for example would all fit into the category identified as human because we meet certain similar criteria. Some of us female, others male as defined by certain characteristics. Because every human is conceived and born of a mother and a father, we are classified as either son or daughter according to our gender regardless of their continued presence in our lives. Further, each of us can also be classified as individuals because every one of us is unique and different. Even in a family unit where there are great similarities, there are also distinct differences that make us uniquely who we are. We are shaped and influenced  by our genetics, by our environment, by our education, our relatives and friends, by our experiences in life and by our beliefs.
When we take on certain titles or positions we also adapt and our identity is influenced by this new aspect in our life. For example, when we become a Christian, a Christ-follower if you will there is a shift in our belief system. With that shift begins a remarkable shift in our identity, however how much of that shift is actually realized in our lives is up to us.
Many of us are introduced to the person of God through fear of punishment and see Him as just waiting and watching in the big unknown to catch us misbehaving or doing something He doesn’t approve of us doing. Most of us are not introduced first to Him as the Self-Existent Creator of life; or as a great and wonderful Creator and Artist that placed the stars above and the earth below. Is our first experience in knowing of God that He spoke and hundreds of thousands of species from the smallest microscopic cell or germ to the grandest majestic mountain was formed? Sadly, not generally is this ever instilled in us as our first impression. Yet, is it easier to believe that everything we see all around us just happened, sprung up from nothing? I personally find that difficult to believe, it is much easier for me to believe
God spoke it into being and when it was done, he lovingly created man to share the great beauty with then seeing man without anyone like him decided to form woman as a companion to man.
Having said this, I often wonder why most of us are introduced first to God as a heavy handed Father just waiting for us to mess up. Why this view of God is the most prevalent has puzzled me for a long time. I am sure there are many theories we could come up with but rather than speculate endlessly, I would like to continue to look at discovering a more accurate and diverse concept of the character of  the God I love and serve. Those possibilities are endless for He is infinite! Though I have spent my lifetime in this pursuit, I have but yet to barely scratch the surface! This I do know, when the Word of God speaks of fear of The Lord, it means a healthy respect; honor; reverence; and yes it also implies obedience.
Obedience, there is a word that throws up defences and rattles us. Have you ever noticed even with a young child just beginning to crawl the independent spirit begins to arise. It gradually intensifies as they become proficient at crawling. They want to go where they want to go and do not enjoy us setting boundaries or redirecting them from obstacles that might be harmful. Then as they grow stronger and begin to walk, it’s on!  Every step of our growth in childhood makes us more and more independent. Nevertheless, we must have boundaries and if we are blessed as we grow more, we learn to impose healthy boundaries for ourselves, not only for our protection but to keep us in line and respectful of those all around us.  I personally believe in hindsight that this is the ideal way to parent and it is how our loving Heavenly Father has designed in His Word that we grow and mature in our lives. It involves moving from dependence on our parents, growing into a place we can be interdependent.  As we mature, we strive to reach a place that we are able to take care of ourselves. Is that fully reaching the goal? Being independent? I believe not. I am convinced the goal of a mature life is interdependence.  There are seasons in our life like childhood, and in times of illness when we are completely dependant on someone. Most of our lives are spent in various states of interdependence but never have I met one who is truly independent or in other words does not need anyone for anything.  That concept is a mirage, it is not possible.
Just as we want to love and protect our little one as they grow and mature into childhood, adolescence and adulthood, our Heavenly Father who loving created each of us desires that and more for His children! The biggest difference is His ways are higher than ours as are His thoughts. He sees the bigger picture and all the possible outcomes if He doesn’t limit or guide us through life by setting standards and boundaries. Here is a practical example: how many children have at some point taken off running paying no attention where they were headed? As a parent or adult in charge, you know the danger of them running out into the street and getting hit by a vehicle weighting anywhere from a thousand pounds up to tens of thousands of pounds of metal, as an adult you see the hidden dangers of them running and falling into a pool resulting at worst in drowning because they can’t swim or even getting just a bit farther away and finding themselves lost in a crowd or kidnapped by a stranger.  The one under our care sees us as limiting their fun, controlling them and keeping them from enjoying life.  Interestingly, not so different from how many of us see God.
Sounds so simple and easy, of course we who are responsible and love our children are going to set rules and boundaries for their safety because we are responsible for them at a minimum until they can take full responsibility for themselves. It would be at the least negligent and unloving not to have their best interests, protection and well being at heart. May I just suggest here, it is no different where God is concerned!
Today on what would have been my Dad’s 79th birthday, I dedicate this to my parents.  Happy Birthday Dad! So grateful for all you and Mom taught me and more so each year I walk this planet without the two of you!! How great to have the assurance of being together again one day and telling you both this in person!  I truly know you love me and  always wanted what was best for me!