Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I don't like clutter. I don't like disorganization. It suffocates me.
Yet as I've looked around at my office, my closets, my bookshelves, my pantry....I see too much stuff!!!!! There is about to be a serious cleaning out!
I had big plans to relax this week...the week after CHRISTmas. To relax, scrapbook, take a nap, read a book, take a nap, scrapbook, relax, take a nap, scrapbook....you get the picture. But....who can rest amidst all this stuff????????? Not me! Therefore, I've been trying desperately between interruptions to go through it one stack at a time. Where did all this stuff come from?!!! I think it procreates!
My office is much like our Christian life. It becomes cluttered too. We get so caught up in doing so many things that we neglect our time with God. We are not doing BAD things. It's just that our lives get so cluttered with our TO DO list, that we often find ourselves putting Him farther and farther down the list.
When my life gets cluttered, just as when my home gets cluttered, I feel terribly anxious, overwhelmed and exhausted. Yet when I come to my "secret place" in the morning, when it's quiet and still, it is a place of peace.
My heart yearns for peace. Peace from the chaos of our busy lives and peace from the chaos and turmoil within. That quiet time in the first hours of the morning, when it is just me and the Lord, is the sweetest, most unhurried time of my day. I revel in it. I need it.
During the holidays, I've moved from my office to the den where the CHRISTmas tree is to have my quiet time. I love sitting with the lights on the tree sparkling and the icicles shimmering in the light. Most days it is still dark outside, still quiet and still, as if no one on earth is awake but me and the Lord. It is there that He quiets me, whispers my name and holds me close. It is there that He speaks and there that I pour out my heart to Him, knowing that He cares for me like no other. He is not caught up in the CHRISTmas rush. He is never too busy to listen. He is always available. He does not have other engagements that keep Him from giving me His undivided attention.
Lord, help me to de-clutter my heart and my life as diligently as I de-clutter my home so that I might be untangled by the things of this world that tend to weigh me down and hinder my walk with You. Help me to decrease and you to increase. May I seek your face more this next year that I seek your hand. More of you and less of me. That is my goal for 2009.
Friday, December 26, 2008
So goes the day after CHRISTmas.
I wonder what it was like in Bethlehem the day AFTER Jesus was born? After the shepherds left. After the angels were gone back to Heaven. It was just Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus. How long did they remain in the stable? Did anyone else come to see this miracle baby besides the shepherds? The wise men would not arrive til almost two years later at their home, guided by the star.
Somehow I imagine that God gave this little family time alone, to just hold this newborn in their arms while he was...for just a little while...totally theirs. Time to cuddle him, to hold him close, to feel that baby soft skin next to theirs, to sing him a lullabye and to wonder what would lie ahead for the very Son of God.
Every mother holds her newborn baby and wonders about his or her future. What will they look like? What will their personality be like? Will they be outgoing or quiet and shy? Will they be obedient or rebellious? As a new mother I began to pray for my children immediately...praying that they would grow up to know and love the Lord, to serve Him, to follow Him. But Mary's baby WAS the Lord! He would become HER Savior!!
I've always believed that God shielded Mary from knowing all that was to come for Jesus. Otherwise, I do not think that she could have endured it.
Now that all the CHRISTmas rush is behind us, let us take some time to truly meditate on what CHRISTmas is all about. Let us think of what a glorious thing it was that God sent His Son to be born of a virgin...the pure and spotless lamb....sent to be our sacrifice that we might become His children. He came to pay a debt we did not owe, because we owed a debt that we could not pay. That child in the manger is NOT still in the manger. He is ALIVE! And, because He is, we have eternal life though Him!!! That, my friends IS CHRISTmas!!!!!!!!!
To Him be all glory, and honor and praise!!!!!!!!!!
Thursday, December 25, 2008
God humbled Himself and took on human flesh to bridge the gap between God and man. He "set aside His glory so that he could identify with man and He accepted the limitations of infancy"* so that we could get back what Adam lost in the Garden of Eden.
On that starry night in Bethlehem, the biggest thing God ever said was in the cry of that baby boy. He said "I LOVE YOU" to the world.
CHRISTmas is spelled L-O-V-E.
"For God so LOVED the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believed in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16
The words to one song keep coming to my mind this morning:
Monday, December 22, 2008
Our pastor listed some of the 10 Top CHRISTmas gifts for 2008 yesterday. Lots of technological stuff...........but the best one was a robot dog. Seriously, he barks, sits on command, rolls over, fetches, and you even have to walk it! Too funny!!
That got me to thinking how we all rush around during the holidays in search of the "perfect gift". You HOPE it will please the recipient. You try desperately to find something you believe they will like. You HOPE it is the right color and the right size. You HOPE they don't already have one. You try to be sure you get something that will last and be of good quality. You HOPE that it will be something they will ENJOY or get lots of use out of. You HOPE it will be memorable (in a good way, of course!)
Yet the BEST gift anyone could receive this CHRISTmas cannot be found in a store. It cannot be ordered from a catalog or off the internet. It will not be found wrapped under anyone's tree. The best gift anyone could receive this CHRISTmas is JESUS!
I was reminded of that again yesterday as we saw three families from our church dedicate their childred to the Lord. Our pastor prayed for each one, asking the Lord to capture their heart at a young age and that they would grow up to do great things for Him.
I could not help but think of my newest granddaughter....so tiny and so new. I thought of the day she was born and how it brought tears to my son's eyes and a smile that would have lit up Time Square! I thought of how there would never be another day that would so touch his heart EXCEPT for the day that she was born again!!! Born into the Kingdom of God as she gives her heart to Jesus. How I pray for that day! Not only for her, but also for our first granddaughter as well.
I began praying for her when she was born, praying that God would capture her heart early and that she would fall in love with Him. I prayed that she would have a deep and abiding passion for Jesus, and would walk with Him all the days of her life, totally yielded and committed to Him.
I will pray the same for Granddaughter #2.
This CHRISTmas you may receive many gifts. Some you will probably love and others not so much. Some you may have to return or exchange. Others you will probably stick in a drawer somewhere. But if you receive the gift that God has to offer you in JESUS CHRIST, you will never be sorry. You will never need to return or exchange it. It will last eternally. It will be the gift that keeps on giving.........blessing after blessing after blessing for the rest of your life. It will be the gift that changes your life forever!
Don't get so caught up in the search for the "perfect gift" this CHRISTmas that you miss THE GIFT. Give your heart to Jesus this CHRISTmas and receive the BEST GIFT of your entire life!
(Need to know more? Please contact me through the COMMENT button below! I would be happy to share this GIFT with you.)
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Just a Moment
It all happened in a moment, a most remarkable moment.
As moments go, that one appeared no different than any other. If you could somehow pick it up off the timeline and examine it, it would look exactly like the ones that have passed while you have read these words. It came and it went. It was preceded and succeeded by others just like it. It was one of the countless moments that have marked time since eternity became measurable.
But in reality, that particular moment was like none other. For through that segment of time a spectacular thing occurred. God became a man. While the creatures of earth walked unaware, Divinity arrived. Heaven opened herself and placed her most precious one in a human womb.
The omnipotent, in one instant, made himself breakable. He who had been spirit became pierceable. He who was larger than the universe became an embryo. And he who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl.
God as a fetus. Holiness sleeping in a womb. The creator of life being created.
God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys, and a spleen. He stretched against the walls and floated in the amniotic fluids of his mother.
God had come near.
He came, not as a flash of light or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter. The hands that first held him were unmanicured, calloused, and dirty.
For thirty-three years he would feel everything you and I have ever felt. He felt weak. He grew weary. He was afraid of failure. He was susceptible to wooing women. He got colds, burped, and had body odor. His feelings got hurt. His feet got tired. And his head ached.
To think of Jesus in such a light is—well, it seems almost irreverent, doesn’t it? It’s not something we like to do; it’s uncomfortable. It is much easier to keep the humanity out of the incarnation. Clean the manure from around the manger. Wipe the sweat out of his eyes. Pretend he never snored or blew his nose or hit his thumb with a hammer.
He’s easier to stomach that way. There is something about keeping him divine that keeps him distant, packaged, predictable.
But don’t do it. For heaven’s sake, don’t. Let him be as human as he intended to be. Let him into the mire and muck of our world. For only if we let him in can he pull us out.
It all happened in a moment. In one moment … a most remarkable moment. The Word became flesh.
There will be another. The world will see another instantaneous transformation. You see, in becoming man, God made it possible for man to see God. When Jesus went home he left the back door open. As a result, “we will all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” (1 Corinthians 15:51–52)
The first moment of transformation went unnoticed by the world. But you can bet your sweet September that the second one won’t. The next time you use the phrase “just a moment, … ” remember that’s all the time it will take to change this world.
Friday, December 19, 2008
A single cry pierced the darkness, and the Light of the World was born.
Outside, crowds stumbled over each other in the hustle and bustle of tax season. Yet inside a dark and smelly cave, a miracle was being birthed. Mary and Joseph held their tiny baby in their arms and wondered at the gift that had been given to them.
A single cry pierced the darkness, and LOVE was born.
Outside on a lonely hillside, shepherds kept watch over their flock of sheep. These were no ordinary sheep. These were the spotless lambs being held for the sacrifice for Passover.
A single cry pierced the darkness, and the Lamb of God was born.
Our Savior, sent to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, was born that night and all of Heaven sang out! "Glory to God in the Highest and on earth, Peace, goodwill toward men."
A single cry pierced the darkness, and the Prince of Peace was born.
In a non-descript little town, not in the capital of the world..........
In a cold, damp stable, not in a gilded palace.........
To a peasant girl and boy, not to royalty......................
A child was given.................
A single cry pierced the darkness, and the King of Kings and Lord of Lords was born. And the world was changed forever!!!!!!!!
God gave to the world, the greatest gift of all--------------JESUS!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Yet I know that there are many this CHRISTmas who may not have much to put under their tree. There are parents worrying about how they will give their children anything this year. Many families have lost jobs. Many are struggling to just hold on to their homes. Others are struggling to put food on the table. Stockings may be empty this year.
We live in such an affluent society that it has become the "norm" to have lots of gaily wrapped packages beneath our tree. We want the latest and the greatest in electronics, technology, and fashion. We feel we are shortchanging our family members if we don't fulfill their every wish.
I think back to old movies I've seen of how things used to be in the "good old days". Parents would make their gifts for their children. And getting one special gift was HUGE!! They were wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string, yet eyes were bright with excitement as the children joyously opened the package to find a rag doll or a toy carved from wood. Stockings might have a little penny candy from the general store or if really lucky, a piece of fruit.
Maybe we need to go back to those days. Not really................but, there is nothing wrong with making gifts to put under your tree. And there is no written rule that says there has to be more than one.
I can remember back to the early days of our marriage, our country was in a recession at that time also (although I do not remember it being as bad as it is now!). Money was very tight. I was a stay-at-home mom and my husband had a job, but it did not pay a whole lot. It provided what we NEEDED, but not a lot extra.
One CHRISTmas stands out in my mind because that year I made most of our CHRISTmas gifts. We drew names in our extended family, and I made almost all of those gifts. I remember doing macrame' because that was a big deal back then. I made purses, I made a thing for our nephew that hung on the door and held his bat, his glove and his baseball. I made a lot of baked goods and shared with neighbors and other extended family. It was a great CHRISTmas!!
I was not ashamed that was all we could do. It was the best we could do and there was a lot of love that went into making all of those things. I don't remember if it was that year or another one, but I also made my husband curtains for his shop. Now I know you are thinking "Curtains for a man's shop? Just what every guy dreams of !!" But these were very rustic, had deer on them and helped to make his tiny shop (which was really just a shed) a little warmer. I went to the fabric store, having just the right fabric in mind. I searched and searched, but only found fabric with ducks, horses and dogs! I stopped searching momentarily and breathed a prayer, "Lord, I HAVE to have fabric with deer on it. None of these will do. PLEASE help me to find what I am looking for...AND at a reasonable price". I started down the row of fabrics again. There tucked between two other larger bolts was this small bolt of fabric with deer on it. And that's not all....it was 1/2 price!! I was thrilled beyond words. I knew that God had answered my prayer and provided just what I needed to complete this special gift for the one I loved.
Gifts do not have to be huge, costly or ornate. The most important characteristic of a gift should be the thought that is behind it. If it is given with love from the heart with the intention of blessing the one to whom it is given, it does not matter if it only costs $1.00, it will be the best gift under the tree.
This year if you are struggling with what to give someone, or if your CHRISTmas account is all but non-existent, I urge you to think about what you can give that does not cost much or better yet, that costs nothing monetarily at all. Here are just a few suggestions:
Homemade goodies....so few people actually bake anymore, it is a real treat!
A good book....there are a lot of book stores that carry used books and you can get a good used book that looks like brand new for very little money. Goodwill stores are a great place to look!
If you have a skill that could bless someone, give them a gift "coupon" for something that would be helpful to them or bless them....i.e. if you are an organizer, offer to organize their kitchen or files, etc. ; if you are good at doing nails, offer to give them a manicure a month for a year; if they have small children, offer to babysit one night a month for a year; if you like to shop and they are unable to get around well, offer to be their personal shopper; if they are elderly and cannot drive, offer to be their personal "chauffer" once a month.
There are a few other gifts that we can ALL give and we don't have to wait for CHRISTmas to give them:
A kind word
A listening ear
A card to cheer someone who is going through a rough time
An email prayer
The words "I'm sorry"
Grace............overlooking the things people do that irritate us or perturb us or hurt us, recognizing that we, too, need others to lavish grace on us when we do those things
A helping hand
And, of course the BEST gift you could give anyone, would be to share CHRIST with them for He truly is the gift for all seasons.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
His role in history was significant, yet little is known about him and little is made of him. He is almost like an "extra" in a cast of famous characters. There are no religions built around him as was the case with his wife. He was never cannonized, or made a "saint".
He was of royal lineage, being a descendent of King David, yet he was a poor man by Bethlehem standards, as he only had 2 turtledoves to offer at the time of sacrifice...the lowest of offerings accepted.
When time came for he and his wife to go to Bethlehem to pay their taxes, he could not afford a suite at the Bethlehem Hilton. Instead, he was grateful for a warm dry stable for them to spend the night in as she was expecting her first child and the time of delivery was imminent.
No, he was not royalty. He was a simple carpenter. His name was Joseph.
In the CHRISTmas story, Mary gets all the notice....and all well deserved. But what about Joseph? Joseph's role was certainly significant too. After all, he was just as chosen to be Jesus's earthly father as Mary was to be his mother. No....an angel did not appear to him and call him out, nonetheless, he was handpicked by God for this extremely important role.
Joseph would be the one the little boy would look up to, the one He would follow around the carpenter shop, trying to hammer nails into scraps of wood. He would be the one Jesus would call "Abba". He would take him to the synagogue where the scriptures would be read and he would teach him about His Heavenly Father.
Joseph was obedient to His Father. When the angels appeared to him in a dream, telling him it was ok to take Mary for his wife, he obeyed. Most of us gloss over that when reading the CHRISTmas story. However, we do not realize what it must have cost Joseph to do that.
His wife-to-be was pregnant and she was not yet officially married. By Hebrew law, she could be stoned. Joseph wielded the power to have her stoned or to give her a bill of divorcement. His nature is revealed when scripture tells us that "he had a mind to put her away privately". But, after the angel appeared to him, he was to take her as his wife...."marry her but not know her intimately until she gave birth" (Matt. 1: 24, 25) Can you imagine what the townspeople must have said? Can you imagine the ridicule he must have endured to take this tainted woman as his bride? For surely no one believed her incredible story that she was with child by the Holy Spirit!!! Would YOU have believed her?!
I think Joseph really loved Mary. It could have been a pre-arranged marriage...the Bible does not really provide us with those details. But for him to have wanted to "put her away privately" tells me that Joseph was kind and that although he must have been terribly hurt by the news that she was pregnant, he did not want to harm her in any way...and that was BEFORE the angel appeared to him. His heart was tender toward her. He thought more of her than he did himself.
His love "suffered long and was kind." It was not selfish, nor easily provoked, not conceited or boastful. It bore a lot. It rejoiced in the real truth. He loved her with God's love. (I Cor. 13)
Joseph was the one who delivered Mary's baby...the very Son of God. He heard His first cry. He held him first. He provided for Him. He protected Him, again listening and obeying as the angel warned him in a dream to flee Herod.
Yes, Joseph is forgotten by many.....but NOT by God. God used Joseph in the life of Jesus in many different ways. But he was not there by accident. God chose Joseph to be Jesus's earthly father.
God also chose you and me to play the roles He has assigned to us. I am not my husband's wife by accident. God chose us for each other. I am not mother to my son and daughter by accident...God chose me to be their mother. I have a role to play in their lives and the most important thing I can do is to listen to my Heavenly Father, so that I, like Joseph, might be obedient in fulfilling the destiny He had for me from the foundation of the world. I might be insignificant on planet earth, but to God I have a purpose that only I can fulfill. However, I cannot fulfill it with out Him.
What is the role God has called YOU to? Are you trusting Him today to help you live out His plans for you, or are you fighting Him all the way? How different would the CHRISTmas story be today had Joseph refused to obey God? What if he had said he wanted no part of Mary? What would he have missed? It was not an easy role for him. He undoubtedly suffered much ridicule and hardship because of it. Yet he got to be a part of bringing the Son of God into the world, to hold Him in his arms, to cuddle Him close, to sing to Him, to teach Him to talk and how to hold a hammer and how to make a table. He walked with Him on a daily basis. Look at the blessings he would have missed had he said 'No' to God. What blessings will you miss if you say 'NO'?
Sunday, December 14, 2008
There are some denominations that believe we should not be happy, enjoy anything or have any pleasure in this life. To do so is sin. But scripture contradicts that. The above verse plainly tells us that God RICHLY gives us things to enjoy.
Matthew 7:11 says "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"
We are made in the image of God. God enjoys giving good gifts to us just as we enjoy giving good gifts to our children. What parent does not enjoy giving things to their kids?! I would much rather buy for my children and grandchildren that have anything for myself. It is my joy to give to them.
But the Lord gives many good gifts to us that do not come wrapped in pretty paper and lavish bows, tucked beneath our tree on CHRISTmas morning.
Maybe this year, you are unable to spend as you have in the past due to the economic conditions that our country is now facing. The future is very questionable for many today as every day we hear of more companies downsizing or closing altogether. Jobs hang in the balance, so spending this CHRISTmas has been pared down significantly in many homes.
Still, God has given us many good gifts to enjoy. Look around today and see what good gifts He has given to YOU and your family. Here are just a few He has given me:
* My wonderful husband
* My two precious children and my children-in-love
* Two beautiful, adorable, precious, delightful granddaughters
* My mother
* My mother in law....94 and still going strong!
* Our beautiful home
* A wonderful church family
* God's Word
* Time to be still...to sit with only the CHRISTmas lights on, soft CHRISTmas music playing, a cup of cider and just drinking in the wonder and blessings of the season
* Watching my 2 year old granddaughter at play, listening to the funny things she says, seeing the look of new discovery in her eyes
* Watching my newest granddaughter as she sleeps peacefully in my arms, catching a tiny smile as she dreams
* Seeing the look on my son's face when he looked into his new baby daughter's face
* Watching my daughter an d son-in-love kneel in prayer together each Sunday
* Watching it snow
* Being with friends every month who have been such a blessing to my life and enjoying that special bond in Christ that we have together
* Scrapbooking with my daughter at Scrapbook Weekend
* Sitting on the porch at our farm, listening to the wind in the trees
* Walking through the woods in the fall, drinking in the beauty of God's wonderful creation
* Never ceasing to be amazed at how good God is!!!!!!!
These are just a few of the "good gifts" God has blessed ME with. I urge you today to stop and make a list of all the "good gifts" He has bestowed on you. You will discover quickly just how rich you are !!!
Friday, December 12, 2008
I cannot imagine living my life without prayer. I could not survive.
To be able to enter the throne-room of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is a privilege that we too often take for granted. We should not. To encounter the living God is an experience that every believer can have, not just once in a lifetime, but moment by moment!
Every day my INBOX is filled with prayer requests. My heart is torn by the magnitude of some of these requests...of the hurts that some are enduring at this moment. It seems that Satan is unleashing all the weapons of his arsenal in a last ditch effort to steal, to kill and to destroy. Disease is running rampant as I hear every day of someone else who is suddenly confronted with a catastrophic illness. Lives are being snuffed out in accidents and suicides, devastating families. Jobs are being lost and financial woes are plaguing those that until recently had always lived the "good life". Families are being torn apart by divisions in relationships, by divorce, by unfaithfulness and by neglect.
Needs are great...some seemingly insurmountable. What do you do when it comes to YOUR door? There is only one answer. Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
This would be the perfect gift for Christmas…SIMPLE WHITE ENVELOPE
It's just a small white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.
It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas --oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it -- the overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma -- the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else.
Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties, and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.
Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended. Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.
Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat. Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, 'I wish just one of them could have won,' he said. 'They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.'
Mike loved kids -- all kids -- and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball, and lacrosse. That's when the idea for his present came.
That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition --one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on. The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure.
The story doesn't end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning it was joined by three more. Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad.
The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.
May we all remember Christ, who is the reason for the season, and the true Christmas spirit this year and always.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
One young woman that was a neighbor of our daughter-in-love's family gave birth to a baby the day before our granddaughter was born. She was 32. Two nights ago, she died suddenly of a blood clot. No warning. Gone in a heartbeat. No time to cling to life, yet if she had been given the chance, I'm sure she would have fought.
We fight for life because it is all we know. For those of us who are believers, we KNOW that one day we will spend eternity with Jesus Christ in Heaven. And that is a priceless gift. But for now, that is intangible to us so it is hard for us to fathom. Yet the older I get, the more I yearn for it. I've heard older people talk of how they too long for Heaven because you get to a certain age when you know more people who are there, than are HERE! Thankfully, I'm not there, YET!
But I want us just for a moment to think about and to contemplate what a gift HEAVEN is. What usually makes me yearn for Heaven is trouble here. I look forward to the day when we will have no more heartache and no more tears. No more pain and no more dying. But Jesus told us that in THIS life we would have tribulation...it is inevitable, a result of the sin curse we live under. Yet we yearn to be trouble free.
JESUS CALLING by Sarah Young says:
Instead of yearning for a problem free life, rejoice that trouble can highlight your awareness of My Presence. In the darkness of adversity, you are able to see more clearly the radiance of My Face. Accept the value of problems in this life, considering them pure joy. Remember that you have an eternity of trouble free living awaiting you in Heaven.
What a gift!!!!! HEAVEN.............."An eternity of trouble free living"!
Monday, December 8, 2008
Not only has He given us the gift of life by leaving the glories of Heaven, coming to earth and paying the price for our sin debt....
Not only has He given us the gift of the Holy Spirit to be our teacher, our guide, our comforter and our mediator....
Not only has He given us the gift of everlasting life that we might spend eternity with Him in Heaven....
But...He DAILY gives us gifts. James 1: 17 tells us, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father........."
This week I'd like to focus on some of the gifts He gives.
He has given me an incredible gift in the women's ministry of Central Church. I grew up in a church where I knew everyone and everyone knew me because I had been there since I was 6 years old. I was saved in that church, baptized in that church, sang in that church, taught in that church, was married in that church and my children were dedicated to the Lord in that church and saved in that church. That church was home. But there came a time when the Lord moved us from that church to another. Even though I knew that was where we were supposed to be and I made some dear friends there, I never felt connected and it never felt like home. I began to feel like I'd never feel "at home" again at church. That was a very sad thing to me.
Then the Lord moved us to Central. I began to get involved in the women's ministry and it has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. I have never seen a women's ministry to compare to this one. If you cannot find a place to plug in here, you are just "unpluggable"!
I was privileged to be at a dinner with some of these great women last night. Our director, who is the fireball behind this ministry, commented that several times this past week she has been asked by men "How do you do it? How do you get all these women to do all these different things?" And her answer was the heart of this ministry. These women love the Lord and have an immense desire to serve Him. She has just provided the outlet and the means by which they can.
We have women who prepare meals when someone is sick. We have women who knit prayer shawls and cover them in prayer for those who are going through a serious illness or crisis in their life. We have those who minister to those in the hospitals, who use their gift of mercy in that capacity. We have those who spur us on to take a stand for what is right in our country and to pray for our leaders. We have those who use their writing talents to publish abroad the good news of Jesus Christ. There are those who hold forth the Bread of Life and feed the flock by teaching and leading in Bible study. I could go on and on.
But what is so precious to me is the joy it has brought me as I've gotten to know these women. They are a diverse group......young women in their twenties to elderly ladies in their 80's still serving the Lord...........women of different races and different cultures....women who have been walking with the Lord for over half a century and those who have just come to know him. But the glue that holds us all together is JESUS! Each one of them has a love and passion for her Savior.
These women are not interested in whether you have on the latest style, carry the latest designer bag or wear the most pricey outfit. They are not interested in where you shop, what kind of car you drive or what neighborhood you live in. They care about your heart, your needs and how they can minister to you or pray for you. They will pray fervently for you, they will encourage you, they will weep with you and they will laugh with you. And, yet there is probably not a one of them that is not carrying her own personal burden.
I am blessed beyond measure to rub shoulders with these godly sisters in Christ. I count it a privilege to serve our Savior along side them. My spiritual life has been strengthtened and dmy life has been enriched by knowing each one of them. And today I thank God for the gift that each of them is to my life. I have not met them ALL yet, though I'm working on it! Each one is like a jewel in my treasure chest of blessings and although I cannot name each one here, I say to each of you "I love you and I thank God for you, women of Central Church!! You are God's special gift to me".
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Now don't get me wrong. As I've stated before, I LOVE CHRISTmas shopping. I LOVE buying for my family. But time is slipping away and I know that if I don't hurry that I will not be able to find all the things on my list.
But there is one gift we will not have to search for this CHRISTmas.
It is readily available every day.
You do not even have to leave home to get it.
You don't have to have money to BUY it...in fact, you can't.
You don't have to be a member of a club to obtain it.
You don't have to be a certain age.
You don't have to be a certain race.
You don't have to live in a certain neighborhood.
One size fits all!
What is this wonderful gift????????????????
Friday, December 5, 2008
We have a new baby in our family. Her name is Bailey Grace and she was born just a little over a week ago to our son and his wife. This is our second granddaughter, and as with the first, it is one of the most special moments of our life. A new life, so perfect in every way. Pure innocence.
I could just look at her and look at her and not get enough of that sweet face. As a sign in her room says "So much of God's grace in one little face"!!!!!!!!! How perfect!
Holding a new baby is to hold a miracle in your hands. The Bible says babies are "fearfully and wonderfully made". Indeed they are! Every baby is a miracle. Every baby is special. Every baby is a gift from God.
How much more was Mary's baby boy. She not only had given birth to a precious baby boy, she had given birth to the very Son of God. I cannot begin to fathom how she must have felt to know that she was holding the King of Kings and Lord of Lords each time she held Jesus. Although He came to be her Savior, she knew him first and foremost as her little baby.
I love how scripture captures the essence of the awesomeness of the moment as Luke 2:19 records for us that "Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart."
What things were Mary pondering?
I believe for all of her life she would remember the night she gave birth.... the sound of his first cry, the memory of looking into those little eyes for the first time, the feel of his skin next to hers, how she felt the first time she nursed him. I believe that she yearned to hold onto every memory, as most mothers do, but even more so because she did not fully know what the future would hold for her son, but she knew that it was not going to be an ordinary life. She knew that He was God's son and He did not fully belong to her. So it was that she clung to those special moments with him when he was so dependent on her as his mother, knowing that her time with him would be short. For now, He was her special, Heaven sent gift, and she wanted to treasure every single moment she could.
Jesus was not only Mary's Heaven sent gift though. He was also ours. Today, why not spend some time pondering how much that gift has meant to you???
Thursday, December 4, 2008
For me, I have a very traditional tree, one that is filled with ornaments collected through 35 years of marriage and 2 children. It has Hallmark ornaments that I've collected, one for each year of our married life. It has photos of my kids as they were growing up plus handmade ornaments each of them made. (Yes, I still put those paper ornaments on my tree!) When my children were growing up I cross stitched them an ornament each year, with the plan that when they married they would take those ornaments to start their own tree with. However, 20+ years later neither of them wanted them, so I've continued to use them. Each year now I give each member of our family a personal ornament selected just for them. I've also collected many ornaments related to the birth of our Savior.
Year before last, my mother gave me a very special gift. A set of 25 ornaments from Love Worth Finding that had a special devotional that corresponded to each one of the symbols or characteristics of CHRISTmas. An ornament is added each day culminating on CHRISTmas day with a single ornament bearing the name of JESUS. It is one of my most treasured set of ornaments and a treasured gift as well.
Many may see the CHRISTmas tree as a non-Christian symbol of CHRISTmas. However, I would like to offer a different view. Several years ago when my son was in high school, I accompanied his youth group to Albequerque, New Mexico. While there we stayed in different homes. A friend and I had the privilege of staying with a precious couple, Truett and Margie Gill. Knowing them even for that short week was a special gift from the Lord to me. They blessed my life in countless ways and I will never forget them!
Shortly after that trip, I received a CHRISTmas card from them with the following poem that Truett had written for their CHRISTmas musical program. I was so touched by this poem that I have displayed it every year since by a small ceramic CHRISTmas tree my mother-in-law made for us. It is another reminder of the TRUE meaning of CHRISTmas as well as a reminder of a special gift from a very special lady in our lives. Truett has now gone to be with the Lord, but I know he would be delighted for me to share his poem with you. It was a gift to be shared and treasured.
was a car-
penter most of
His life, and trees
were an important
part of His daily life.
Trees were the means of
putting food on the table
And for providing the other
needs of daily life. It is likely
that Jesus lovingly shaped trees into
objects of beauty and usefulness. It
was among the olive trees that He was
especially close to God the Father. At
the end of His ministry a cross was formed
from a tree, and this tree supported Jesus
in death, even as trees had supported Him in
other ways during His life. Perhaps it is not
an accident that through the years a Christmas
tree has emerged as the symbol and centerpiece of
the world’s celebration of the earthly birthday of the
Heavenly King. The "Living Christmas Tree" filled
with children of God singing praises to the King means
much more than a single story of traditional beauty of
Christmas trees and Christmas music. It is an expression
of praise for the miracle birth of His life, the marvel of the
Cross and the
Of the resurrection.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
I received the following story yesterday via email. I don’t know if it is true or not, but I can see this playing out for real somewhere. This story is about choices. Hope it blesses you as much as it did me.
At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question:
'When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does, is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where it the natural order of things in my son?
The audience was stilled by the query.
The father continued. 'I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.'
Then he told the following story:
Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, 'Do you think they’ll let me play?' I knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a father I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.
I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, 'We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.'
Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart. The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three.
In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again.
Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.
At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game?
Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.
However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.
The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay.
As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.
The game would now be over.
The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman.
Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.
Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all teammates.
Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, 'Shay, run to first!
Run to first!'
Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base.
He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.
Everyone yelled, 'Run to second, run to second!'
Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base.
By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball. The smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team.
He could have thrown the ball to the second baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third baseman's head.
Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.
All were screaming, 'Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay'
Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, 'Run to third!Shay, run to third!'
As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, 'Shay, run home! Run home!'
Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.
'That day', said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, 'the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world'.
Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!
The first choice that was made in this story is not highlighted. It is the choice these parents made to have Shay. They could have chosen to terminate the pregnancy and not have brought this "handicapped child" into the world. But, thankfully they did not. Instead they received a priceless gift in Shay. Though the world would term their son "handicapped", they would without a doubt call him a priceless gift!
The young men on these two teams each made choices that day. Probably the first one who allowed him to play set in motion the reaction of the rest of the team. What if that young man the father approached had scorned Shay with his obvious disabilities, and said "No way!" That would have been the end of the story. But, because this young man had a heart, he chose to take a risk and let Shay play. By his example of selflessness, the others were challenged to do the same. And that day, a young life was forever changed. Doubtless there were many lives touched that day by what took place on that field.
Shay’s presence precipitated a lesson in the gift of love. I Corinthians 13 says:
"Love suffers long and is kind. Love envies not. Love does not put itself on display nor is it puffed up. Love does not seek its own way."
Jesus was our perfect example of love. He lived out that description every day he walked on this earth. God gave to us the gift of Love when He gave us JESUS CHRIST! Who can you share that love gift with today?
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
What is it about the pretty wrappings that draw us to a gift? If you were to place 2 gifts under a tree....one wrapped with ordinary paper and curly ribbon and one wrapped in elegant paper with an ornately tied, beautiful ribbon........which do you think the majority of people would choose if given the opportunity? I know which one I would pick...the pretty one! Of course, the pretty one might hold some tube socks and the plain one a diamond bracelet, so outer beauty does not really give insight to what lies inside.
For years the Jews had been awaiting a king...the messiah. Prophets had foretold that he would come and they were waiting. But, they were looking for someone in kingly robes with all the splendor of a king. They were not looking for a tiny baby born to a peasant girl. They certainly were not expecting their king to be born in a smelly cave with the animals. Yet that night in Bethlehem with the stars shining bright, God's gift to the world was born. He did not come with the fanfare of a king. He did not come dressed in robes of purple. He came in human flesh, in the package of a baby who cried and nursed and slept in the company of shepherds. Yet he was KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS!
This CHRISTmas, do not miss the best gift of all amidst the outer trappings of CHRISTmas. Do not get so caught up in CHRISTmas trees, beautiful packages, and your TO DO list, that you miss the greatest gift of all.........JESUS CHRIST!
Monday, December 1, 2008
We think of CHRISTmas as the season of giving, and truly it is. Everyone is scurrying around, shopping for the perfect gift for that special someone on their list. Some people on our list are easier to shop for than others. For instance, I have NO problem shopping for my two granddaughters! I can see a million things I’d love to buy them. But my 94 year old mother-in-law is a different story. What do you buy someone who is 94 years old?!!!!!!!!!!!
We search for just the right gift, something that will be useful or something that will make the recipient jump for joy or will be cherished for a very long time. Aren’t there gifts that you’ve received in the past that you will just NEVER forget?! I think we all have those that will long remain one of our most remembered gifts…whether for CHRISTmas or a birthday or an anniversary.
I will never forget several CHRISTmases ago when our daughter’s boyfriend failed to give her a gift on CHRISTmas day. He told her that something had gone wrong with the gift he was giving her and she would have to wait a day or so. At first she was patient, then she began to become suspicious and little peeved. Finally, in an attempt to take her mind off of it, he took her to the riverfront to see the sunset. It was then that he gave her her gift…a proposal of marriage and an engagement ring! It was TOTALLY unexpected and quite a shock, but if you could have seen her face when she returned, it said it all! I’ve never seen more joy on one face in all my life than I did that night………..until this week. I saw that same unspeakable joy in the face of our son when his daughter was born. She was a gift of immeasurable worth.
2000 years ago, we received a gift of immeasurable worth, too. He came wrapped in swaddling clothes, born in a manger of a lowly peasant girl. He was the Son of God.
As we enter this CHRISTmas season, shopping and trimming the tree will be uppermost in our minds. But, let us not forget the ‘reason for the season’…the ultimate GIFT….JESUS CHRIST.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, God blessed us with our second precious granddaughter and our son became a Daddy!!! She weighed 6 pounds, 4 ounces...a tiny little miracle!
My eyes have feasted on not only her beauty but seeing with my own eyes such a miracle. New life is one of God's greatest miracles. A line from a song comes to mind as I think of that: "how God could take the love of a man and a wife and blossom it into the gift of life"! (can't remember who sang it :()
My eyes have gone from soaking up her sweet face to watching my son as a Daddy! To see this tough, hard-working, deer-slayer, man's man who I once held in MY hands, holding this tiny baby with such love and tenderness melts my heart!!!!!!!! That, too, has to be a miracle!
So today, I can do nothing but praise the Lord! HE alone is worthy of praise and honor and glory! He alone deserves all the thanksgiving!
"O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good!" Psalm 107:1
"I will praise the Lord according to HIS righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most High!" Psalm 7: 17
"I will praise the O Lord with my WHOLE HEART, I will proclaim all your marvelous works!" Psalm 9: 1
"I will sing unto the Lord, for He has dealt BOUNTIFULLY with me!!" Psalm 13:6
"The Lord liveth and blessed be my rock, and let the God of my salvation be exalted." Psalm 18: 46
"Thou hast given [me my] heart's desire and has not withheld the request of [my] lips." Psalm 21: 2
"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him and I am helped; therfore my heart greatly rejoices and with my song I will praise Him." Psalm 28: 7
"Thou hast turned my mourning into dancing; thou hast put off my sackcloth and gifded me with gladness to the end that my glory may sing praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee forever!!!!!" Psalm 30: 11, 12
"O MAGNIFY THE LORD WITH ME AND LET US EXALT HIS NAME TOGETHER!!!!!" Psalm 34: 3
"Many O Lord my God are thy wonderful works which thou has done and thy thoughts which are toward us cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee; if I would declare them and speak of them, THEY ARE MORE THAN CAN BE NUMBERED!!" Psalm 40: 5
Today as you gather with your family to enjoy a bountiful meal with those you love, would you give praise to our great God for me? There are not enough words in my vocabulary to give Him the praise He so richly deserves, so I ask you to help me to magnify the Lord and give all honor and glory and praise to our GREAT GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Early on we try to teach our children and grandchildren the importance of having good manners, to say PLEASE and THANK YOU. Our two year old granddaughter has learned this very well. When she was first able to talk, she'd say "t'ank choo", then she graduated to "thank you" and now she says a very drawn out "thaaaannnkks"....too cute! (I'm a grandmother, what can I say?) I'm just thankful that she has learned it and pray that she will continue it for the rest of her life.
Even as adults we often neglect this small pleasantry way too often. We forget to thank our loved ones when they bring us a cup of coffee or do a favor for us. We forget to acknowledge the little things that they do for us on a daily basis. We forget to say thank you to the waiter who pours our coffee or to the clerk who finds us the object we were searching for. So it's no wonder that we forget to thank God for all that He does for us.
I want to spur you to say THANKS today. We are living in difficult days when our troubles SEEM to outweigh our blessings. But, I promise you that if you will stop and count your blessings today and thank the Lord for them, you will soon see that you are way more blessed than you had imagined.
I'm going to give you a few to get you started, and encourage you to continue to add to the list.
I'm thankful :
To have been able to get out of the bed this morning (don't laugh...there are many who can't ).
I am thankful that I am able to walk without assistance.
I am thankful that I can see, hear and talk, unhindered.
I am thankful that I can taste my coffee (I couldn't for a while and it was awful!!).
I am thankful for the wonderful invention of email and computers.
I am thankful that gas has dropped below $1.99!!!
I am thankful for my wonderful husband who loves me and has been faithful to me for 35 years.
I am thankful for my precious children...
.....my dear son whom I love dearly and is about to become a daddy any day now
.....my sweet daughter whom I love and enjoy very much
I am thankful for my precious "grafted in " children....
......my wonderful son-in-love who is a terrific husband and father
......my sweet daughter-in-love who loves my son so much and is about to bless us with another granddaughter!
I am thankful for our precious, adorable granddaughter who is my sunshine.
I am thankful for the newest granddaughter who is not here yet, but whom we love already.
I am thankful for dear and precious friends of many years who are a continual blessing to my life.
I am thankful for a church that continually points others to Christ.
I am thankful for friends who storm Heaven in my behalf.
I am thankful to be a part of a women's ministry that spurs women to point others to Christ and whose goal is "every woman praying".
I am thankful for the women I've met through this ministry and the new friends I've made that have been such a blessing to my life.
I am thankful for my mother who loves me more than anything else in the world and would do anything for me.
I am thankful for my mother-in-law who has always loved me, been so good to me, and will celebrate her 94th birthday this Wednesday, Good Lord willing!
I am thankful for the health of my family.
I am thankful for our farm where we can go and get away from the everyday madness and noise and just be still and drink in God's presence.
I am thankful for God's word that shows me how to live and reminds me of God's great love for me.
I am thankful for prayer so I can communicate with Him and He with me.
I am thankful for God's love....a love not based on my performance...He just loves!
I am thankful for Jesus Christ who paid my sin debt, a debt I could not pay and because He did I have His presence daily in my life and will spend eternity with Him one day.
I am thankful for Heaven....it gives me something to look forward to when times are hard.
WHAT ARE YOU THANKFUL FOR TODAY???????????
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Catastrophic illnesses of children and adults
Hearts aching for prodigal children
Loss of loved ones
Homes and businesses burglarized
People being mugged/brutally attacked
The list is seemingly endless.........and hopeless.
Timothy warned us that these days were coming:
" 1-5 Don't be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They'll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they're animals. Stay clear of these people. " (The Message)
Jesus also warned us:
"In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." John 6:33 KJV
Now I'm not a big fan of THE MESSAGE but, understanding this is a paraphrase and not a proper translation, this describes where we are today pretty well. It's enough to make you just want to crawl into bed, cover up your head and wait for the Lord to return and take us out of this mess. But...that is NOT how God would have us handle it.
We are at war, and I'm not referring to the one in Iraq. We are in a spiritual war and as the days draw near for Jesus' return, the war that is being raged against us is getting hotter and hotter. Satan knows that his days are numbered, so he is unleashing all the forces of Hell against us as believers. Can't you feel the heat?!
But, God knew in advance that this was going to happen. He has not left us to fend for ourselves. Remember, GOD IS WITH US! Emmanuel means GOD WITH US!! II Timothy 4: 18 says, "the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work and will preserve me for his heavenly kingdom to whom be glory forever and ever!"
Ephesians 6: 12 warns us "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." But He also tells us how to win this war.
"Put on the whole armour of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil...that you may be able to stand and to withstand the devil in the evil day and having done all to remain standing. " Ephesians 6: 11, 13
The MESSAGE gives us our marching orders this way:
Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You'll need them throughout your life. God's Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. Ephesians 6: 13-18
So we must get up, get out of bed, put on our armor and head into battle. We must raise His banner high and go forth knowing that we go in the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever we may face today, He is already aware of. We are not alone nor are we defenseless. HE IS OUR HOPE! Let us be found standing and doing battle in His name, sharing with others how they too can put their hope in Him.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The 23rd Psalm is written from a sheep's perspective. Jesus compares us to sheep several times throughout the New Testament. Now at first glance that may seem really sweet. We picture sheep as these cute, wooly little creatures in greeting cards and stuffed animals. The truth is that sheep are one of the dumbest animals alive and they stink! That is why they need a shepherd.
Sheep are creatures of habit. They will stay in one place, grazing on the same spot til they have eaten it clean down to the dirt. Unless a shepherd comes and leads them to green grass, they will starve. He is there to lead them to a place of nourishment and sustenance, to keep them well fed. Without God's guidance, we will get in a rut of sin that can also lead to death. But Jesus came that we might have abundant life IF we follow Him, our shepherd.
Sheep must have clean water to drink and they will not drink from a rushing stream. In the arid regions that Jesus lived in, finding a cool, still stream was not always easy. The sheep had to depend on their shepherd to find such a source of water for them. Drinking from polluted sources could cause sickness and even death. Once again, they needed their shepherd to lead them to still, pure water. Jesus knows exactly what we need in our lives. If we choose to follow Him, he will provide for our every need.
The sheep had to be willing to follow their shepherd. Yet often one would wander away from the fold. Then the shepherd would seek him til he was found and bring him back. God will often allow us to wander a ways on our own, but if we belong to Him, He will always draw us back to Him...He will seek us til we are found. Max Lucado calls Him the "Hound of Heaven".
A smart sheep will learn to heed the voice of his master, following him, trusting him to lead the way and to provide for his needs. The sheep does not question the direction the shepherd is leading nor does he fret and worry over where the shepherd is taking them. They simply take each day as it comes, obeying the voice of the master, knowing that his job is to care for them.
I want to be a simple sheep.
Monday, November 17, 2008
It is interesting how we can get so familiar with something that we almost become oblivious to it. Take housecleaning for instance. Ever notice how you can walk through your house day after day and it seems "pretty clean" to you. But plan a party or know someone is coming to dinner and suddenly you see things you have not seen in months! Like dust bunnies scurrying across the floor, spider webs lurking in every corner, fingerprints on the windows, that growing spot on the carpet......you get the picture.
I've noticed that reading the Bible can be much the same way. There are some passages that we've read, memorized, quoted, and heard since childhood. Psalm 23 is one of them. I can remember reciting it in grade school. (Yes, that was way back when the Bible was still read in school!) It is almost simplistic in its style, yet profound truth is enclosed in every verse.
Lately God has been drawing me again and again to this Psalm. As you well know by now, I camp with David quite a lot in the book of Psalms. And I'm about to wear out that particular page in my Bible!
Last night at a Writers' Group meeting, someone shared that she reads the Bible through every year, often in a different translation. (Now that is still one of my longterm goals. One of these days I'm going to accomplish it, but so far I've made it as far as Malachi) What intrigued me about what she shared, however, was that one night she read Psalm 51 and the next night she was prepared to read Psalm 52. For some reason, God seemed to impress her to return to Psalm 51 and read it again. She did, and saw something she had completely missed the night before. What's more....God took her back to that same Psalm, 17 nights in a row!!!! And, each night she saw something different.
When was the last time YOU read some passage 17 times in a row? I have read a few 3 or 4 times...especially if they were short, but NOT 17 times in a row. Obviously God had something He wanted to say to her and, thankfully, for her sake, she was willing and obedient or she would have missed all He had for her.
I confess that I've been drawn to Psalm 23 several times and turned away thinking "I just read that yesterday." No more. There must be lots there that God has to say to me and I want t o hear it ALL!! I want to be a willing sheep, following My Shepherd. I want to lie down in green pastures and allow Him to restore my soul. I want to come to a place where I do not want, but I am content just to be with Him. I want to walk with Him...even through the valleys filled with dark shadows....and FEAR NO EVIL. I want to dwell in His presence forever, experiencing ALL of His goodness and ALL of His profound mercy.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Does God care? Does God put all this on us just to make us miserable and to watch us suffer? Absolutely God cares and no, He doesn't enjoy our suffering. But He does USE our suffering to refine us and to test us. It is a painful place to be.
Os Hillman offers a word of encouragement to those who are in that place of suffering right now...whether it be from physical ailments, relationship heartaches, broken families, financial burdens, loss of jobs.....whatever your situation, I pray that God will speak to you and encourage your heart through this word....
Prosperity in Afflictions
Today God Is First
Volume 1 by Os Hillman
Thursday, November 13 2008
"The second son he named Ephraim and said, 'It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.'" Genesis 41:52
When Joseph was elevated to rule over the Egyptian kingdom, he revealed some profound truths gained from the experiences of his years of adversity. He named his first son, Manasseh for, he said, "God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's household" (Gen. 41:51b). His second son was named Ephraim because, "God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering."
Whenever God takes us through the land of affliction, He will do two things through that affliction: 1) He will bring such healing that we will be able to forget the pain, and 2) He will make us fruitful from the painful experiences.
God does not waste our afflictions if we allow Him the freedom to complete the work in us. His desire is to create virtue that remains during the times of testing so that He can bring us into the place of fruitfulness in the very area of our testing. He has never promised to keep us from entering the valleys of testing, but He has promised to make us fruitful in them. He is the God who turns the Valley of Achor (trouble) into a door of hope (see Hos. 2:15).
If you are in the valley of affliction, now is the time to press into Him. When the time comes to bring you out of this valley, He will heal your memories and bring fruit from this very time.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
However, if you do not have a friend like that, just know that you DO have such a friend in Jesus. He is always there. He is never too busy. He never tires of our pleas. He never avoids us. He never gets weary of our calling. He is always available, always cares and says to us, "Come unto me all ye that are heavy laden and I will give you rest." He IS our very best Friend!