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!

Trusting God

Today, actually yesterday now, has been a gloriously challenging day! Why? My husband and I had to say goodbye to our furry friend of almost fifteen years from 444 miles away. Now as the day has closed and I prepare to close my eyes, I find my mind running at warp speed as my body begs for rest.
I find myself tracing God’s hand through our experience and realizing now more than ever that when I can not understand the reason things happen the way they do that God is still in control, and He always works things out for our good and His glory. I also find myself wondering why this lesson is one that it seems to keep coming back around.
Just a brief backstory, Cinnamon (our Pomeranian) came to live with us as a wee puppy in September 2001. She was quite precocious and lovable at the same time! Eighteen months later, a quieter more sedate Abby joined our family and Cinnamon adopted her as her baby. This past fall we had to limit Cinnamon’s use of our deck and stairs due to failing eyesight. Being a creature of habit, she, however, decided to sneak away and go up the stairs. She misstepped which resulted in a very long fall for such a small dog. We were surprised and pleased when she recovered as well as she did.
Fast forward to a couple of months ago. We were invited to participate in a powerful leadership conference along with a group from our church. As we began to make plans to attend, Cinnamon’s health deteriorated. The vet exam determined she had an infection, but her heart was strong, and she had a lot of life in her. Again, she seemed to rally. We knew she would need more personal care than a kennel would be able to give if we were to go out of town for the conference; so we prayed “Lord if you want us to go, help make provision for Cinnamon’s special care needs.” If He opened a door, we’d go; if not we would go another time.  He opened a door, and we knew she and Abby would receive wonderful care.
Yesterday (Thursday) the conference began and back home, Cinnamon began a battle for every breath. Our sweet friend called about an hour before it began telling us Cinnamon had taken a turn for the worse during the night. She compassionately took care of Cinnamon for us for the next three hours. Sadly, we have to say goodbye to our long-time companion.  We find peace from knowing our friends were lovingly caring for her. Even so, I wonder about the timing and wish we had been there for Cinnamon; not that it would have changed the outcome. In fact, God in His wisdom may very well have orchestrated the timing. Perhaps it was to help ease the blow of the loss a beloved pet or to teach us to be gracious and accept the help of others to carry our burdens. Is it possible it is just life, and it was not part of His plan? I suppose that is possible as well.
Whatever the case, I am reminded that God is faithful, and He is good even when circumstances would challenge that in our human understanding! He redeems our lives and our circumstances when we allow Him to. There will be no more questioning or blame here. If or when regret at not being there tries to creep in, I will rest in Him and not in my understanding. I resolve to trust Him and His timing beyond my understanding and in knowing this, I will find peace as my heart grieves. I will choose to remember that He is faithful and He is my peace and my joy even in the midst of troubling or hard circumstances.  His grace is always sufficient!!

May you also find in Him grace, peace, and joy! Blessings to you this day!

Challenged to be Bold

How bold are the prayers we pray?  In  Christ, do we truly pray with the realization that the creator of the universe calls us sons and daughters?  I just finished watching a video clip  by Lisa Bevere. Speaking at the Love Life Women’s Conference, she said: “The world needs you to pray scary prayers instead of scared prayers!” Another quote was: “If you are not praying the kind of prayers that scare you; believe me, they are not scaring the enemy!” That is challenging just by itself.  Then I laid down my Bible and it opened to Isaiah 45 and my eyes were drawn to this passage…

 “Drip down, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, and righteousness spring up with it.  I, the Lord, have created it.  “Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker—An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth!” Isaiah 45: 8 & 9 NASB

 Now that is a powerful prayer!! 

 This passage is talking about a King named Cyrus who is appointed by God to set His people free from exile and return them home to Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple so they could worship God freely as free people once again. Verses 1-8 were a commission by God to Cyrus rather than a prayer. However, if you have been even somewhat keeping up on the political scene or even have just perused the social media scene for a few minutes; I am betting you have seen some of the craziness! If you ventured to watch one of the many debates, I know you’ve personally witnessed it yourself.  The debate last night was a very loose interpritation of the rules of debate at best. Three people competing to all talk at once, over and over again. There were times I just wished the moderator would speak up or the sound tech would cut the microphones to stop the chaos. Alas, this is the nature of political debates today.

    The people across all races and all belief systems in this country are worried about the course things have taken or will take over the next years. What will we be leaving behind for our children and grandchildren to clean up with the great debt this country owes? How can we bring back balanced spending and get rid of debt? Is our military strong enough to protect us? What about the economy? Borders? Will the Constitution and it’s amendments including the 1st and 2nd be upheld? The questions just keep coming and many Americans whether or not they will admit it range from concerned to flat out scared of the course that seems to be played out before us. People want answers. They want to choose the right leader.

     Maybe it is time; perhaps past time, for believers all across this country to lay down our concerns, fears and questions down at the feet of our Creator and begin to pray bold prayers.  Our God hears His kids when they cry out!  We can vote; we can speak out about injustices, freedoms, rights; we can educate people; we can be an informed and educated person; all these are important! But it is He Who: “removes and establishes kings and rulers.”  Not sure or unconvinced? Do your remember the ‘hanging chads’ and the declaration that Bush would not have a second term? Or the declaration that the little known candidate Obama would not get enough votes?? 

Daniel’s prayer – Daniel 2: 19- 23  The mystery was then revealed to Daniel in a vision at night, and Daniel praised the God of heaven and declared:  May the name of God be praised forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him.  He changes the times and seasons; He removes kings and establishes kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals the deep and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.  I offer thanks and praise to You, God of my fathers, because You have given me wisdom and power.  And now You have let me know what we asked of You, for You have let us know the king’s mystery.”

 Maybe, just maybe it is time to we make sure our hearts and motives are right and find some great scriptures and pray some very bold scary prayers for our lives, for the lives of those we love, for our country, and even for those who are against us!  Our battle is not with flesh and blood…Ephesians 6:10-13 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.  For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.  This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.”  

Brothers and Sisters;                                                                                                                                       May grace, peace and boldness be multiplied to you! 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Struggles?

     Over the past few days, I have been looking back at life. You see, my husband and I have been asked to be a part of a relationship conference this next weekend. It will consist of a brief testimony from five couples about marriage and then will be followed by a “rapid fire” question and answer period. The groups will be divided into unmarried, married under ten years, married over ten years. Then all the groups will reunite for an overview and more q&a.  We are blessed to have four couples with over 35 years experience participating!

     I have to say the secret to our longevity in marriage is most likely tenacity. That put plainly; stubbornness.  We are both stubborn people and come from stubborn people. We also started our marriage out with the mindset that this is forever. By beginning from the faith perspective and from a Biblical world view, that means our perspective was to make it work; fix what was broken.  Have we ever felt like quitting? Yes. Thankfully, when one was discouraged the other usually picked up the slack and we muddled our way through by prayer, God’s help and sometimes sheer determination. Has it always been easy? Not at all!  We really were just babies starting out; though we’d never admit it then.  I remember one couple in their sixties who were friends with our parents declaring, “they will never make it! It’s puppy love and they are too young to get married.” I wonder what they’d say today…

     I spent some time this weekend looking back at the things we have been through together.  I was amazed to see how quickly the challenges began in our marriage and how those struggles were clustered together; back to back, and sometimes year after year. Many were heavy duty challenges, not just the typical adjusting to life together or financial issues.  Those can be difficult enough. We experienced a number of deaths of loved ones close in succession; some following long term illness and some sudden.  It was  a little shocking to look back.  It was also pretty gratifiing at the same time seeing all that we have come through and how it changed each of us; how we grew through those times.

     The thing is, often it is those very struggles in life that cause us to grow, mature and strengthen.  They push us to do something other than just get by.  They force us to look for answers, to seek wisdom.  Hopefully they lead us to seek out God; His wisdom and understanding; and godly answers.  Even when that is not the case, we are able to learn what not to do the next time and what does not work.  As we grow and mature through these times, it puts us in the perfect place to help others who go through similar situations.

     “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 ESV  

     I could’t help but feel a little overwhelmed and amazed as I glanced the highlights of the years.  Just the major events, both the good ones and the hard ones.  Would we have ever signed up for this if we’d known what was coming?  I really don’t know. I would hope so!  I have to say as good as the good has been and as hard as the hard has been; I wouldn’t change a thing! There are times we each wish we had done better or differently but the truth is it has all worked together for good to get both of us were we are today.  We are better for those struggles because they have changed us. They have stretched and matured us.  Fears are fewer; faith is stronger. Best of all, our Heavenly Father is so very real and present in our lives.  He is the true reason that we are here today!  If our stories can help others coming along behind us, all the better.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

     By His mercy and grace, we have and continue to hold fast in both our faith and in our marriage.  Love deepens with both the good times and the struggles we face when our hearts are set on Him! He is the unifier and the glue that holds this relationship together on the sunny days and on the stormy seas.

 “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1b-3a ESV

May God’s mercy, grace and peace surround you this day!

 

Find Rest in the Promises

 

What a powerful scripture!  We have received the same promises as the Hebrew children wandering in the wilderness! This challenged me to ask this question…  Just how many promises does the Bible contain? Enter Internet search engines. They are great for my inquiring mind; just remember we can’t believe all we read there.

How many promises are there in the Bible?  The answers I found varied widely.  The first site I found concluded there were 3,573 (bible info.com). Others ranged from 3,000 all the way up to over 30,000! No two sites agreed on the number but that doesn’t really matter for our purpose today.  The point is the Bible is full of all kinds of promises for our life and according the the verse above they are not just for the people of old; they are for us.  I don’t know about you, but that gives me great hope and excitement.

You don’t have to live long on this planet before you realize that life can be very challenging at times!  Our desire is to live fairly uncomplicated lives and we want that for our children as well.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t always turn out that way for us.  If you have circled the sun a few times on this planet, you know this!  When life decides to hurl curve balls and fast balls our way, what do we do?  How do we keep the gale force winds in life from blowing us right into hopelessness, depression and despair?  Sometimes we seek out council from a trusted parent, sibling, mentor, friend or other relative.  It’s great to have those people in our lives!  What if the situation is too overwhelming; too complicated; to big; to tender; or perhaps just too embarrassing to share?  What happens when that burden is excruciatingly heavy and there seems to be no relief from it’s weight in sight?

Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (HCSB)

Or as the Message words it:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Live freely and lightly! That’s what I want every day! So how do we accomplish this is our lives?  What are some practical steps?  How do we rise above what the world throws our way?  How do we overcome discouragement, fear and doubt?  I guarentee many will think my answer is over-simplistic and that’s ok. I’ve been there too!  For many it will seem not only over-simplistic but far fetched.  It’s fine, your doubts will not cause any resentment from me.  The answer to every question, need or dilemma we have is in the Word of God.  I have put it to the test and every single time I have come away with help; comfort; peace.  Our post modern culture will tell us God’s Word isn’t revelant or that it’s archaic.  They may say it’s too restrictive; all about rules, etc.  Even if there is just a bit of truth in what is culturally said about the Bible in our day, how can you dismiss it if you have never truly tested it for yourself?

Whether the actual number of promises found within it’s covers is 3,000 or 33,000; one thing is sure.  One of them will fit what you’re facing at least on some level and is worth deciding to stand on that promise in faith.  When doubt comes, pray and speak the promise over and over. I doesn’t hurt to keep a check on your motives in the process; are my motives pure and is my heart in the right place?

As a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, the best gift we can give ourselves is knowing who God says we are in Christ and being grounded in His Word and His promises. Why? Because the Holy Spirit will remind us or bring it to our mind in time of need or crisis. This is a process and takes time. In the mean time, when attacks or problems come what do we do?  Personally, if I don’t know a promise for my situation, I grab my phone; open the browser and search… Scripture for ______? You can fill in the topic with the need. Example: scripture for doubt, fear, discouragement, rejection, etc. Who does the Bible say I am in Christ? What does the Bible say about healing?

A word of warning,  if you are using the Internet, not everything you find will be accurate and true so test what you find. Also, check it against God’s Word; that it is in context with the scriptures around it; test it against other scriptures; and pray for wisdom, understanding and revelation reguarding the scripture.   This may seem a little complicated, but it is worth it because it works. It is possible to rest in Christ even in the middle of a storm!

A few promises to start with:

2 Timothy 1:7  “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” NASB

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” NIV

James 1: 5-8  “If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.” MSG

Deuteronomy 31:6  “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.”

Hebrews 13:5-6  “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said,  “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Isaiah 43: 1-2 ““Now this is what the Lord says — the One who created you, Jacob, and the One who formed you, Israel — “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.”
‭‭ ‭HCSB‬‬

Courage to be Unoffendable Part 3

     As I pushed the publish button on WordPress yesterday, I uttered a thank you to Jesus, feeling a bit overwhelmed.  Thinking that this was the end of the instruction on being unoffendable but the practice was really just getting started. This journey had begun a couple of years ago when Pastor Tony taught on the need for us to become unoffendable and has continued over the time that has elapsed.  Before I even took a breath after the prayer of thanksgiving, I felt a nudge or a check in my spirit. I could almost hear the Holy Spirit whisper, “Not Quite yet!” My quick reply was ok, Lord I am listening because I am learning quick obedience always works out best. 
This verse is what I felt or heard in my spirit…
 
 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
      
I meditated on the verse for a time before responding in a whisper; “yes He did, thank you for reminding me. Guess we are back to the classroom.” 
 
       My heart was overwhelmed with thoughts. Jesus Christ, God’s Son had every reason to feel offended throughout His life and especially on the cross! Yet He remained unoffended even to the very last breath and prayed for the forgiveness of the people despite the agony in His body, soul and Spirit as He hung there. He also lived His life this way.
 
      Let’s just look at a few reasons Jesus could have found place for offense.  He was targeted for death before the age of two and His parent forced to flee the country.  His temptation in the wilderness brought mocking words as He was tested.  In Mark 3:21 His family set out to restrain Him and said this about Jesus,”He is out of His mind.”.  In the following verse scribes accused Him of being possessed and that the miracles were done by demons. He healed three leapers from disease, two showed no appreciation. He was betrayed by one of HIs twelve closest friends. Jesus was falsely accused of blasphemy. The community choose to release a violent criminal over His release. He was beaten, whipped with a nine tailed whip, each strand covered with small sharp pieces of broken pottery tearing and shredding His skin until He was unrecognizable! He was made to carry His own cross to the place where He would die the most humiliating death hanging naked upon a cross; struggling for every single breath until death came. These are just a few of the injustices Jesus suffered on our behalf yet He chose to love and forgive rather than being offended. Jesus had His face set like flint on the task set before Him. He kept His heart right before God and kept His mind on the purpose He was sent for which was to… 
 
           “…bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (‭Isaiah‬ ‭61‬:‭1-3‬ NIV)
 
     Choosing to let go of or refuse to take up offense may be a difficult task for us but Jesus set a great example and Stehpen followed in that example when they stoned him. As he neared death and saw Jesus seated at the right hand of His Father; full of the Holy Spirit he proclaimed  “Lord do not hold this sin against them.”  Note it was through the power of the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit that lives inside every true believer in Jesus Christ. He empowered Jesus and Stephen to let go of offense and forgive and He is waiting to give us the strength we need to do the same. The question is am I willing to allow Him to work in this way? Are you? Carrying offense is a weighty thing! It weighs heavy on our hearts; our minds. It robs us of precious time; opportunities; sleep; relationships; hinders our prayer life, social life, worship; hardens our hearts; quenches the work of the Holy Spirit in our life and grieves the heart of our Heavenly Father. These are heavy prices to pay for the ‘right to be offended’.
 
     One question I have to consider now when offense is knocking at my door is “Is there something in me that is making me over sensitive or makes me feel offended?”  God clearly teaches in His Word that we are to examine ourselves and that He is the judge for only He knows the intent and motives of each heart. If there is nothing going on in me at the time making me insecure or over sensitive then perhaps I should choose to overlook the offensive behavior. After all is said and done, I have no idea what is going on in the other persons life that may have resulted in careless words or behavior on their part. Only that person and God know the trials, stresses, pressures, losses, fears, and insecurities they face. I can remind myself to look at the great suffering of Jesus all so He could extend salvation to me with extravagant sides of mercy and grace. And with that in mind, I pray that I will choose to let go of offense or better yet never take it up to begin with! Lord, please keep me teachable, humble, and grateful. Please strengthen me to trust You more, to have me where I need to be and to let go of that which needs letting go. Help me not to gorge on the extravagant mercy and grace You have provided for me; but through the power of the Holy Spirit, help me to let the grace and mercy You show me flow through me to others in my life. As it has been freely given to me, help me to freely give it to others. May all the glory and honor beYours, In the Mighty and Merciful name of Jesus, Amen!

     Could it be that this is the only way to be truly free and experience the freedom available to us In Christ? Please grow us Lord into the image of Jesus, who considered it  joy to humble Himself even unto death for our sakes.
 

May mercy, grace and peace mark our lives in a fresh way!

Grace Stoppers

   

 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭22-23‬ HCSB)

      For the last six weeks, a friend and I have been studying the fruit of the Spirit together. We began with an overview of the Book of Galatians and a few a couple of weeks began to study each of the listed fruit, one per week. This weeks fruit: Patience; oh yes,I heard those groans! If only I had a dollar for everyone who has ever told me “Don’t pray for patience; you’ll get it, but it won’t be fun or pretty in the meantime.”! I would be sitting somewhere warm on a sunny beach enjoying the roar of the ocean and the sun beating down on my face as I write instead of looking out at glistening trees, a cold but gentle wind blowing, and a misty rain gently watering them. Oh how I miss the warm sunshine! 

      Hopefully that provided a little recovery time from the shock of that much dreaded word, patience. We are learning through studying this particular fruit that there are two types of patience mentioned in the New Testament. One is patience through circumstances and the other is patience with people. Patience with people is the type of peace referred to in the fruit of the Spirit. Interestingly, though we are studying this fruit, we first tackled the patience with circumstances and learned that hope is the key to having patience when facing difficult situations; hope coming from the Greek word elpis, meaning hope-the desire of some good with the expectation of getting it. That’s pretty straight forward. As long as we have hope, we tend to be able to press through the less than enjoyable aspects that we sometimes face. Without hope, we find it much more challenging!

     The second patience, patience with people can get much more complex, especially in those closest relationships. Hope may be important in these relationships but perhaps mercy is even more important when we endeavor to grow in patience with the people in our circles of influence and with people in general. Mercy or compassion can be a powerful tool especially when it comes to having patience with people. 

      Just an example from my own life: many years ago, my husband and I were having breakfast in a local restaurant. A customer comes in and is seated across from out table. From the very beginning, nothing went right in her opinion and everyone within a ten table radius was aware. People were getting up and leaving be cause of the scene. We had a birds eye view and could not help but hear as things escalated.  This young waitress did not deserve the treatment she was receiving. As we continued to witness this spectacle, I pointed out to my husband that even if she was performing poorly it was no way to treat her. Maybe she broke up with her boyfriend/spouse, had a sick child, a family member sick or dying. We have no idea what people are dealing with in their lives! We went to the register to pay and Kevin gave me his keys. Then he addressed the manager and explained that we had observed everything and the server had done nothing to deserve what was happening. He then asked me to wait in the car (which I did though it was a hard request to follow).  He said he then said a quick prayer and with the same compassion and mercy I had expressed for the server; he approached this lady sitting with her two adult daughters.  He was very respectful and asked if he could join them for a moment. Then my sweet husband who looked about eighteen with his ‘baby face’, proceeded to ask her with great respect if she’d ever considered that the young server might be struggling with some kind of life trauma or tragedy or had spent the night up with a small child that was sick and sleepless? (We knew this one well as young parents ourselves!)  Kevin said her daughters looked so relived and this lady’s whole countenance changed. They all thanked him and he started out to the car. I met him at the door where the manager thanked him…it had been a while and I must admit I was a little concerned and I decided I needed to check on him.

     In the end, mercy, compassion and patience triumphs! We may not always see results right away and it is possible we may not see results at all. Nevertheless, it is a seed that is well worth sowing! (Lord, please give me the grace and wisdom to remember this life lesson!) Why?  Because even if it does not touch the person benefiting from it, others see. Even if it doesn’t touch the lives of observers, it changes us! It is a sure way to teach us to be more Christ-like by walking in the Spirit and exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit; an intentional though momentary choice to live beyond that moment, beyond our circumstances and beyond our own little world in a place where grace flows freely.

      Grace flows freely where love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control abound.  Why Grace Stoppers then? There are also those things which clog and even stop the flow of grace. Let’s list just a few:

  • Hate, joylessness, discord, impatience, meanness, doubt, harshness, selfishness
  • Anger
  • Unforgiveness
  • Hopelessness 
  • Bitterness
  • Jealousy

Help us, oh Father God, to lay these down! Help us to walk by the Spirit, in the fruit of the Spirit 

and in the Mighty name of Jesus!



 Praying you are blessed with His grace, His peace and Fruit that remains!

 

 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.”(‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭22-23‬ MSG)

To Soar Like An Eagle

For some reason this morning, a treasured memory has flooded my mind and heart. Last April on the 23rd., Kevin and I were blessed to spend several hours with some great friends just before they returned to minister in Europe and in Israel. Our first stop was a quaint coffee shop with a great view of the Chattahoochee River. We purchased our coffee and made our way outside to enjoy the beautiful scenery from the bank of the river. As we chatted and caught up a bit on each other’s lives, something grabbed all our attention. Right in front of our eyes, up in a perfectly blue sky, soaring over the river right in front of us were five beautiful bald eagles circling around in front of us. After circling a few times they began to fly away. Kevin and I have been to this very spot a number of times, never have we seen even one eagle and this day there were five! It was an amazing sight to behold, sitting in quietness with special friends who we don’t get to see near enough, listening to the rushing of the waters and seeing that majestic sight. What a great way to start off our visit; what a great memory!

Eagles are Beautiful and interesting creatures. Here are just a few facts about them…

  • Eagles are powerful birds of prey.
  • They have hooked beaks and powerful talons to hunt prey.
  • There are over 60 species.
  • They build their nests on high cliffs or in tall trees. Bald eagle nests can weigh as much as a ton.
  • Some eagles hunt animals as large as a young deer.

Credit to:  Science kids.co.nz

  • They have very sharp eye sight, perhaps among the best of all other species.
  • Bald eagles are known for spectacular aerial shows.
  • Considered symbols of power, transcendence, and freedom.

Credit to: Onekind.org

  • Mate for life; Once pared together, bald eagles remain together until one of them dies. Life span-20-30 years
  • Most are approximately 3 feet long with wings spans of 6-7 feet and weigh 10 to 14 pounds.

Credit to:  defenders.org

Eagles are mentioned in scripture between 31 to 34 times depending on which translation you may be reading. Some scriptures compare God to a mighty eagle, others may refer to His enemy as an eagle. Perhaps one of the most quoted verses about eagles is Isaiah 41:30-31 “Youths may faint and grow weary,and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.”

What a beautiful picture that paints for us! It is truly a beautiful sight to watch an eagle soar up high, whether it is one or five! Just think…His Word tells us that we can soar on wings like eagles when we trust in Him; when we wait upon Him. He promises to renew our strength, that we will soar; run and not grow weary; walk and not faint… What a promise! We exchange our worry and doubt for trusting God and the benefits are beyond most of our expectations! We can be refreshed, renewed, and we can soar above our circumstances just by trusting God with our lives and our circumstances.

This is my hope and prayer for us for 2015: to trust God more; make Isaiah 40:31 more of a reality in our lives; to dig deeper and go deeper with God; to leave our cares with Him and trust Him to even turn the tough things in life into something beautiful and that He will cause us to be able to soar!  Don’ s words from that afternoon, as best I remember were… “May you soar above any turbulent waters and may you be found standing on a rock in the middle of the river holding a cup to catch the blessings when the blessings are flowing all around.” What a blessing to speak over your friends, and may it be so for each of us as we enter this brand new year! May God take us to a place of deeper relationship and deeper trust.  May we both give and receive mercy and may we be overwhelmed by His grace and peace.

Why Do I Love the Word?

What an interesting question that was posed today in the current Bible study I am doing! Why do you love God’s Word? It was followed with this proposal…consider a friend or acquaintance asked you this question because they did not understand your love for the Bible and you were too taken off guard to respond at the time. Now, you sit down to write a note or letter to explain… How would you explain? So here goes lets give it a try…

 

Dear Friend,

I was taken aback a bit by your question today and needed a little time to process

your inquiry because many emotions rose up within me at that moment. Too many to

put into words immediately.  God’s Word is life and health to me! Without it, I would

not be the person I am… I probably would not be alive and certainly would not even

resemble the person you know.  His Word has been the source of strength to carry on in

the darkest of days, when sorrow, grief and loss were so very overwhelming that easily I

could have crawled into a dark hole, given up and disappeared. It has brought comfort

and peace in the most frightening of times; it has been my source of encouragement

when all seemed lost and I felt totally alone; it has been a well of hope springing up in

the driest of deserts; a balm to heal my heart when it has been wounded or too heartsick

to even move. His Word has been freedom to a soul held captive by her circumstances

and it has flooded joy into a heart teaching me that joy is available even in the times

where happiness is elusive and circumstances are challenging. When I have been wise, it

has offered me the keys to navigate through every passage on this journey of life. When I

have been foolish, He has drawn me back to it to lovingly shine light on the areas that

could have been better navigated and teach me better ways for the future.  Yes, it is life;

strength; comfort; peace; encouragement; healing; freedom; joy; direction; and

instruction. God’s Word also displays my Father’s character, shows the greatness of His

love, and tells me who I am In Christ. In Him, we are called friend; son or daughter;

beloved; accepted; redeemed; justified; set apart; precious; blameless; chosen; and

kings and priests…just to name a few. It contains everything needed to live a victorious

life and to avoid the pitfalls life tends to throw our way. It is a precious gift and a much

needed tool for my life.  Dear friend, I hope this at least in part answers your question

and thank you! for challenging me with this question. It is good to be challenged; to be

able put words to such deeply felt emotions and beliefs and to bring to remembrance

why we hold something or someone so dear and precious. It keeps it fresh to us and

prevents us from taking it for granted!

 

Grace and peace to you my friend!