Which Kingdom? Your Own, The World’s, or God’s?

All creation was made to be an inhabitation for the Kingdom of God. He set it in motion; He defined it – a Kingdom of righteousness, wholeness, peace, love, joy; the list could go on. God gave us a choice:

“”For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. “”See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity;” in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it.” Deuteronomy 30: 11-18

Deuteronomy 28 lists the blessings associated with obedience to God’s statutes, as well as, the consequences or curses related to neglecting those principles. He also sent His Son (John 10:10) that we might have life by choosing Him, but we have the freedom to choose; life or death, His Kingdom or the worlds.

His goal will one day be reality… no matter what we choose.

 

Many find ourselves living in a world where the fast lane is the heaviest traveled path. We live in a time of instant cereal, instant potatoes, instant service; a drive-thru and microwave existence, and knee jerk reactions for many people. Social media has changed from My Space and Facebook to 140 character tweets on Twitter and Instagram, where a picture says a thousand words!? Media today is made up of sound bites that only give partial and sometimes biased views, rather than the whole story or whole truth. As a rule, we want what we want, and we expect it yesterday rather than when we asked for it today. Tolerance is exalted and called for on every front until it tramples on someone getting their desires met, and then the gloves come off because you’re interfering with my rights. At that point, some of us lose sight that sometimes our rights negate or trample the rights of others. These results were never the intent of our Creator!

Again, His Kingdom is defined by righteousness, wholeness, peace, love, joy, putting others first, caring for: the afflicted; brokenhearted; captives; prisoners; and those who mourn. (Isaiah 61) We are encouraged to take care of the weak, infirmed, poor, widows, orphans, our elderly. (The Kingdom way) The world tells us to look out for ourselves (look out for number one). We are told if we don’t take care of and look out for yourself, no one will! We are told to go for the gusto; enjoy it now while you can, and encouraged to stock up on the latest of everything. These two kingdoms are almost always giving us opposing messages. For example, one says don’t dare let them get by with treating you that way. The other tells us to turn the other cheek and forgive. One brings life to relationships; the other kills relationships; sometimes forever!

Not all of the differences are as cut and dried as these. No, some are much more subtle, and some are even hard to differentiate. Even more important, there are plenty of kind, loving, moral individuals who don’t believe in God or His Kingdom and many Kingdom people or believers that are stuck in a non-Biblical world view. Many are tempted to make the mistake of drawing conclusions and stereotypes of others based on religious beliefs, on ethnicity, on skin color, on their level of education, on their political leanings, etc. The question is: are you willing to be characterized by the same standards that you describe others? And is it a fair or accurate assumption to say that all ______________(you fill in the blank) are ___________________! One example for you that I hear or see on social media: “They don’t have a job because they are too lazy to work and want the government to take care of them.” I’m sure there are those for whom this would be a true statement, BUT there are many who are unable to work regularly because of certain disabilities, others who live in an economically challenged area and do not have the means to move to a new area to find employment. Stereotypes are unfair in most cases and are just mean-spirited and unnecessary. They also lead to the type of behaviors we see in the news media all the time. All lives matter in the eyes of God! Every one of His creations is important to Him. Do we all please Him? No, but He loves us in spite of our shortcomings. If that were not true, why would His Son, Jesus Christ have come to this planet and lived and died to make way for us to find grace and peace with God? To give us the opportunity to have eternal life with God?

We are told in the Word of God;

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” Galatians 3: 26-29

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?’ James 2: 1-7

Our Heavenly Father doesn’t show favor based on our skin color, our ethnicity, our bank account or lack of, our gender, our appearance, or based on whether we are in bondage or free. He sees us either as we are (condition of our heart) or through the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son if we believe and receive His salvation.

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” Matthew 5: 43-48
“Dear friend, listen well to My words; tune your ears to My voice.

Keep My message in plain view at all times. Concentrate! Learn it by heart!

Those who discover these words live, really live; body and soul, they’re bursting with health.” Proverbs 4: 22-24

We get to choose! Moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day!! Will we choose our way, the world’s way or will we choose God’s way? Will we choose love? Will we choose life? Or Will we choose death? He sets before us life and blessing or death and curses. Our choice, what will we choose?

May His grace and peace abound to you this day!

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!

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

Life Perspectives

img_1678

A display of His Splendor!

Sometimes every single sign points to one particular scenario and then we wake up to find everything’s changed!! Nothing is as was expected. Sometimes the changed expected outcome is a good thing; other times not so much. Many situations may bring mixed reactions depending on each individuals perspective! In the meantime we have a decision to make.  How will we react or respond?

By noon yesterday, most of metro Atlanta began to shut down. Schools let out early or closed; o and staff left at noon and some businesses as well. We were in for mixed rain turning to sleet and later to snow with expected accumulations ranging from .25 ” of ice up to 4″ of snow. Temperatures hovered just above freezing. At 1:30 I found myself driving home in very hard rain and as I got closer with my weekly grocery purchase; it tapered down to a mild drizzle. (That was favor) Nothing much more until after dark, more rain; then turning to sleet or frozen rain after 8:00. Enjoying the evening with some friends, we lost track of time.  Finally, a bit after 10 we wandered out to a .25″ carpet of slushy ice covering all surfaces from power lines to the ground. The 11 o’clock news was certain as the rain tapered, snow would come through between 4 and 8 a.m. leaving a nice blanket, again about 2-3 inches.

Morning  came. Much to the surprise of many, it looked almost exactly as it had at 10 p.m. The only real difference was the slush was frozen harder and a scant unmeasurable dusting of snow that you actually had to hunt to see. Children and snow lovers everywhere were disappointed; though many others were rejoicing. (Again, it’s all about perspective.) As I sit looking out back through my picture window, I can’t help but look up at that beautiful blue sky with trees glistening,  their bare branches covered with sparkling ice; a display of our Creators splendor! The picture just doesn’t do justice to the beauty.

I can’t help but stare mesmerized wondering at how like life this whole situation is. Everyone going along with their everyday life, doing whatever it is that is required. Suddenly something changes, in this particular case an announcement of winter weather with unseasonably cold temperatures, ice, snow, increasingly colder temperatures followed by ice-covered trees and very high winds. It is a sure mixture for broken limbs and falling trees, especially after a late summer drought. No wonder many were more concerned than excited about snow. For some the lack of snow was very disappointing. Many others are just plain grateful for areas where the snow, ice, and winds were much lighter than expected, as were the damages.

Life happens this way all the time. It throws a ‘suddenly’ our direction; some good, others not so good.  Like our weekend weather, it may or may not follow the predictable paths. It may surprise us pleasantly; shock us beyond belief; knock our socks off; or completely devastate us. The possibilities are endless and we have a choice when it does. With what perspective will we choose to look at the circumstance? Will it be a positive perspective? Or negative? Will we seek to look at the big picture weighing one against the other to find a balanced perspective? Will we panic or will we keep a cool and distant position to observe? Honestly, it’s not easy to say how we will react when so many variables are around us all the time. One thing is sure, at least in my mind. We are always better off seeking balance in our perspective when something happens suddenly or unexpectedly. You may not agree, but personally I believe the key to riding out the ‘suddenlies’ in life may just be found in carefully weighing our circumstances and finding a balanced perspective which in my mind leads to a more peaceful place where our mind can find rest.

Election Angst?

     Seven days have passed since the historic election of 2016. One would think that by now things would be beginning to settle, yet emotions for many are still running high. From fear to elation, the sentiments range the gamut! Tears, riots, all the way to shouts of joy have been present. Never have I witnessed a political season like the one we have seen this time! For the most part, it is my personality, to keep quiet about such things; research the candidates, their records, and their character and quietly make my decision. I seldom if ever weigh in over social media but today I feel compelled to comment hoping to bring some peace and reassurance to those who are uncomfortable, fearful, worried or downright angry.

     This may not mean anything to you if your aren’t a person who believes in the God of creation and the Lord Jesus Christ, but Scripture tells us in Daniel:

image

Based on this scripture alone, God is NOT surprised by the outcome of this election! He is not wringing His hands with concern about what the future holds. God already knows, and there is a purpose and plan for our country and for those He has allowed to come into positions of authority. He is perfectly aware that many of us have been shaking our heads for months over the political circus and were surprised at those chosen for the final leg of this journey. Many people found it hard to choose because they had issues with both of the candidates. The good news is that comfort can be found in Scripture. The Bible is full of hope for us, we just have to search it out.

One such story that comes to mind is found in the book of Esther. The King’s right-hand man plots and schemes until a directive was signed to rid the kingdom of all Jewish subjects; which by the way would include the Queen, unbeknownst to the King. Though God’s name is not mentioned once within the book; it’s obvious He is active throughout the events.

Then there’s the mighty victory of Gideon whose army was whittled down from 22,000 to 300 men. These were impossible odds for success, but with God on their side, nothing was impossible! The key is for us to stir up our faith and trust God; remind our self that He is Sovereign and in control; He not only has a plan but it is a purposeful plan for a good outcome for His people.

We like David must encourage ourselves in the Lord. 1 Samuel 30:6 “And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”

God is mighty and does mighty exploits. We must remind ourselves that God is faithful and He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) Below are some verses that you may find helpful:

    I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 ESV

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43:1b ESV

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened,                                                        and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 ESV

                         

Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Isaiah 35:3-4 ESV

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life,  what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.  Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Luke 12:22-27 ESV

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom should I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom should I be afraid?
 When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh,
my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell.
 Though an army deploys against me,
my heart is not afraid;
though a war breaks out against me,
still I am confident. Psalm 27:1-3 HCSB

“Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

There are 365 fear not scriptures. Many scriptures can be found about hope, peace, trust, comfort, etc. When I find myself in need of encouragement, I find key words and Google to be particularly helpful (key word + scripture).

May His grace and peace abound to 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.

img_1322-1

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

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

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

The Correct Fit is Crucial

This morning I have been thinking about the importance of how a thing fits. Whether it is an item of clothing, shoes, a career, a relationship, a hobby or perhaps volunteer work; if it fits well, it is much more enjoyable! Don’t believe me? Try walking around in shoes that are either two sizes too big or too small, pants so tight they challenge your circulation or so large that… Well, for some that is fashionable so I won’t go there. The truth is for most of us wearing the wrong fit ranges from uncomfortable to unbearable.

We are all different in our body types, our personalities, our talents, and giftings are different as well. We are from different ethos. Our varied experiences upon which we tend to base our view of life are unique to our life. Even those raised in the same household can find that they are very different in some areas. Even so, we live in a world that many find themselves in the trap of comparison and competition. In this world, many of us try to fit into what some consider ‘normal’ rather than celebrating who we were created to be in the first place.

I have to ask, is this healthy? Each will have to answer this question for themselves. Is it healthy for a person to grow and stretch? Absolutely! But is is healthy to force yourself to fit immediately into a mold that is meant for someone else? For example, an introvert may never be the first to speak out publicly or become the life of the party. However, it is very likely they will grow more comfortable being around larger groups and speaking out as they grow and mature through the circumstances of their life.

Take David and Goliath for an example, many of us are very familiar with this story from our childhood. David, a shepherd boy, faces off with a scary, huge giant who was terrorizing the Israelites. David takes a slingshot and five smooth stones. He aims and hurls the first stone killing the great beast of a man. Then David becomes king. What I was not told and had to learn as an adult was that David had been chosen and anointed as the next king of Israel while still tending sheep. He was tasked with caring for a flock and protecting that flock. While in the wilderness, he had protected his charges from the threat of wild animals.

Then he became an armor bearer for King Saul, the king he was to replace. When Saul became tormented, David is called upon to play his harp which would sooth the king.
Fast forward to the gathering of the Philistine army for battle. They gathered on the land belonging to Judah, encamped in the area between Soccoh and Azekah. Saul and the men of Israel gathered nearby to protect their property. Goliath led the Philistines and taunted the men of Israel both by his size and with his mouth. Saul and his men were alarmed and afraid. That’s when David arrives bringing food to his three older brothers who are with Saul. David then inquires of the men, “what will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” 1 Samuel 17:26 Then David takes up the challenge but immediately is told he is a youth and unprepared. David reminds them that he had protected the flocks in the wilderness and had killed both a lion and a bear while the sheep were in his charge. “The Lord delivered me from the paw or the lion and the paw of the bear; He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (verse 37).

Next, they proceeded by dressing David in the king’s armor. David tried to walk in the ill-fitting armor and promptly said he could not wear what he’d not tested. He removed the armor and took up his slingshot. Only when properly fitted with the tools that fit him, was David able to accomplish what the army of Israel had not been able to accomplish.
We all have a destiny and a purpose according to scriptures like Psalm 139, Jeremiah 29:11-13; Ephesians 2:10 and others. What we have to remember is that growing into that destiny is a process and rarely happens fast and certainly not overnight. Instead, the circumstances, trials, and people God places in our lives help us grow and stretch. Our boundaries are increased as are our experiences. We are strengthened and renewed to prepare us to face the next new challenge as we choose to cooperate with Him. When we don’t, we can become stuck and risk growing weary or stagnant in that place.

Lord, teach us to be wise and not try to wear another’s ill- fitting armor or try to be someone we are not. Please, teach us about ourselves and help us walk in the personality, talents, and giftings that you have given us. Help us to have the courage and grace to be who You created us to be! Teach us who You say that we are. Please help us to have the wisdom to walk in the rhythm of Your grace in our lives and the value that You place on us, rather than comparing ourselves with others and determining our worth based on how we measure up to someone else. With Your help, we can be all that You created us to be, walking in step and sync with the plan You had for us before the foundation of the world. We can be transformed from glory to glory until we are a reflection of Your glory.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

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!

Quiet Moments can Change Your Perspective

It’s been a busy few months! I haven’t done much writing and honestly I have rushed through my morning quiet times, prayed on the run and kept a pace that if I am honest; I am just not comfortable with how it’s been going. Lots of changes, transitions and at least one or two small meltdowns and today I found myself sitting quietly in the early morning pouring my heart out to the Lord. I began prayer time as I normally do. Acknowledging who God is and sharing my gratitude, praying for family and others. Then I was reminded of Saturday. Saturday was a good day, informative, helpful even. It also presented me with a challenge for which I wasn’t sure I was ready.

Long story, short: I spent some time bouncing it off my sweet and patient husband, questioning my reluctance about the challenge and vocalizing some sentiments about my life that I have scarce allowed myself to consider and have never shared out loud. Needless to say, it was emotional but was also healing. Honestly, they were the type of things I would only share with the Lord during my prayer time. As I spent time with Him this morning, I realized I had never entirely shared those things with God; so I did. It was very cathartic and healing. Then, as I opened my Bible and wondered where I should read this morning, Psalm 113 came to my mind. I think someone had mentioned it yesterday, so that is where I began. What a beautiful reminder of who He is and how much He loves us!

Psalm 113: 1-9 (Message)
“Hallelujah!
You who serve God, praise God! Just to speak his name is praise!
Just to remember God is a blessing—now and tomorrow and always.
From east to west, from dawn to dusk, keep lifting all your praises to God!
God is higher than anything and anyone,
outshining everything you can see in the skies.
Who can compare with God, our God, so majestically enthroned,
Surveying his magnificent heavens and earth?
He picks up the poor from out of the dirt, rescues the wretched who’ve been thrown out with the trash,
Seats them among the honored guests, a place of honor among the brightest and best.
He gives childless couples a family, gives them joy as the parents of children.
Hallelujah!”

God is gracious and loving, and He is enough! He can handle our concerns, our frustrations, and even our meltdowns; small or large. In fact, I truly get the idea that when we do share them with Him, it is almost as if He says, “I know, thank you for being honest and sharing them with Me. I knew you were struggling and longed for you to tell Me; to share your heart and your concerns with Me. Now, we can begin to work it out.” God made each of us to be unique, one of a kind. We all share commonalities, but we are each uniquely created and uniquely gifted with the capacity to grow and change when yielded to Him. As we grow and change in Christ, He will take us from glory to glory.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. ” (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)

 

 

Then my eyes crossed the page to Psalm 116. As I read this encouraging Psalm, my heart was full! He hears our voice and our supplications. He inclines His ear to his children! Yes, even when we feel the cords of our circumstances, challenges, or even death choking us; when in sorrow and distress, He knows. He cares! We can always cry out to our Heavenly Father! He hears us; He answers!

David describes God this way: “I love the Lord because he has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live. The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul! Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. I believed even when I spoke: “I am greatly afflicted””
(Psalm 116:1-10 ESV)

In Him, may you find grace, encouragement, and peace as you go through your day!

Is Our World a Reflection of Who We Are?

 

The more I read Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the other Old Testament prophets; the more I have to wonder if the modern day church is just repeating the same patterns and faux pas of the Hebrew people.  Many question how Jesus ended up being rejected by His people when they were scholars of the Torah. With prophecies of the Messiah’s coming all throughout their scriptures, many puzzle today asking HOW did they miss the time of His appearing?  However, we must be very careful in our judgemental questions…

Why? I would submit to you that those of us in the church today would do well to examine ourselves before questioning or pointing fingers at those who have gone before us. We would also do well to examine ourselves before blaming the world we live in, the government or anyone else for the current state of affairs in our communities or our country. It would also behoove us to examine how controversial laws have come to be passed rather than complaining.  How is it that we now have to be concerned about explaining to our small children or grandchildren why a child or an adult person of the opposite sex is allowed in their bathrooms?  1 Peter 4 may give us a hint…

  “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.  If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. 1 Peter 4:12-19 HCSB

Is it possible that portions of the church over the last 30-50 years have spent more time judging those outside it walls rather than focusing on rightly judging ourselves by scripture?  Could it be some of us have been trying to hold the unbelievers accountable to God’s standard and preaching their doom rather that focusing on the great commandment to love God whole-heartedly and then loving our neighbors as our self-perpetuating His love to our neighbors no matter their beliefs in order that some may be won by seeing His love through us?  Then again, have we been living up the very things we say we believe??

First Peter 4:17 clearly states that Judgement will begin in the house of the Lord; the household of God.  If you’ll permit me another question, has there ever been a time in history where the church blended so well into the culture?  The rates of divorce, broken families, abortions, affairs are almost as high in the church as they are outside the church, and yet many of us walk around like we have it all together and have the answers. This should not be so.  If I were an outsider, the first thing I’d ask is, “if you have all the answers (and we do in God’s Word), why are you struggling, unhappy, discontent, complaining, or fill in the blank with what fits? Better yet, why are you judging me and criticizing me; I thought God is love and teaches His followers to love. Are we studying to show ourself approved, 2 Timothy 2:25; correctly teaching the truth? Are we speaking the truth in love? Ephesians 4:15  Would God say about us what He said to His people in Isaiah 56?

“His watchmen are blind,
All of them know nothing.
All of them are mute dogs unable to bark,
Dreamers lying down, who love to slumber;
And the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied.
And they are shepherds who have no understanding;
They have all turned to their own way,
Each one to his unjust gain, to the last one.
“Come,” they say, “let us get wine, and let us drink heavily of strong drink;
And tomorrow will be like today, only more so.
” Isaiah 56:10-12 NASB

Are we each going our way; doing what seems right in our own eyes/minds?  (Judges 17:6;  Proverbs 21:2; Judges 21:25)  Are we going down the same old path and circling the same ineffective cycles that are found all throughout the Old Testament. Could the words the prophets of old spoke be totally relevant to us today?  As I have spent much time in their writings over the last year, I believe their words are completely applicable today. Something is not working, at least not working well. Wisdom dictates that if that is the case, we need to change what we are doing.  Will we follow the Word of God and first examine ourselves?

““Cry loudly, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet,
And declare to My people their transgression
And to the house of Jacob their sins. “Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways,
As a nation that has done righteousness
And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God.
They ask Me for just decisions,
They delight in the nearness of God.
‘Why have we fasted and You do not see?
Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’
Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire,
And drive hard all your workers.
“Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist.
You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.
“Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it for bowing one’s head like a reed
And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed?
Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord?

“Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
“Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?                                                                                          

“Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
“Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you remove the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
“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.
“Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.” Isaiah 58:1-12 NASB

Will we step out in faith, take the time, and have the courage to examine ourselves regularly?  Are those of us who call ourselves believers or followers of Jesus Christ following His example? How do we know? People either loved Jesus or hated Him. Typically people loved Him, but the religious/pious hated Him and saw Him as a threat. It will be no different for us, are we up to the task??

May His Grace and Peace reign moment by moment in your life!