Faith and Our God Most High

As I read through scripture, I choose to focus on the amazing names of God. With the craziness happening in our world—how encouraging it is to read “God Most High”. The Hebrew word for most high is Elyon. Combing it with El Elyon, it becomes the divine title our God deserves. He is the ruler of not only the universe but of everything that touches us. There is no other God that reigns over Him. He is the MOST HIGH God! Yesterday, amid some stormy situations, I called on my Most High God. It brought such peace and trust. My mind calmed as I rehearsed many of the things that are under His feet.

Often in the Psalms we find the phrase the Lord of Heaven’s Armies (Jehovah Sabaoth). When Hannah prays for a son in 1 Samuel 1: 10, she uses this name to cry out to Him. It expresses the infinite power and resources which God acts for His people. Her situation had gone on too long and she needed to make her God bigger. He answered. When I read and meditate on this title, God becomes bigger and more firmly established as the Most High God. Psalm 80:19 Turn us again to yourself, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved. He is in charge, my friends, no matter what things may look like. When you are feeling small, call out to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. It will stir your soul. No demon in hell can stand against Him. He is Lord.

Need healing? Cry out to Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who heals. Jehovah Jireh is the God who provides. All these titles describe an aspect of our amazing Lord and Savior. The most precious name of all to me is Abba Father. Adopted into His family, by the shedding of His blood, opened the door to a relationship with this Most High God! Add these titles to your prayer communication and you will grow in faith and maturity. There is nothing better than curling up in the Father’s Presence during struggles and disappointments. His Comfort is there. However, I can’t stay there and see things change. I must join with Him, using His powerful Word to bring the needed change. During these darker and difficult times, we must grow in our understanding of God’s power and the authority we have as His children. Through prayer we can watch things change, but only if we release our faith and cry out to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!

Let us join to pray for our world. Do not let discouragement take over your life. Stand strong as a member of His Army. No victims here, but victors. Pulling down strongholds. Watching doors open, and lives changed and healed, in His Name.

Faith and Pressure

Lately it seems like many people I know are struggling with many different pressures of life. Financial challenges, relationship issues, physical struggles seem to be attacking so many of God’s people. Life seems to be harder for so many people right now. The winds of adversity have been blowing hard. The temptation is to want to find a way of escape from their relentless blowing–at least that is my initial response!

What is your reaction when adverse things begin to take place? Why is this happening to ME or my family? Does fear raise its ugly head and try to take root in your heart? Life here on this earth, comes with adversity. It just does. If we keep being surprised by them, then maybe we need to grow in our understanding of life on this earth versus life that will be in heaven. Scripture tells us that in this world we will have tribulation, but be of good cheer because He has overcome them.

But how do we handle the pressures of adversity? First we must understand we do not face them alone. Our God is with us, working all things together for our good. When natural winds occur, they clean the air, help distribute seeds for new plantings, and they help birds complete their migration. Strong winds test the roots of trees, causing weak rooted trees to be blown over so younger trees can take their place.

Winds of adversity in our lives often reveal our stamina or lack thereof. When things get hard and we want to quit, we have to “dig deep” as they say, and choose to stay the course. Choosing to continue on God’s path when these winds are blowing contrary takes perseverance, trust and tenacity. There are some things in life that there is no choice but to push through. I remember in the middle of laboring my son, I just wanted to quit. Since my body reacts differently than most women, I did not have the “urge to push”, so I just quit. I was tired and I didn’t want to “do it anymore”. In the midst of the pain, I lost sight of the goal. The wonderful nurse whispered in my ear, “in just a few more pushes you will be able to hold your baby, and we will all go away!” I don’t remember which was more motivating, the idea of seeing my child or the fact I could get rid of the annoying people telling me what to do, but soon our dear son was born. In reality, I had no choice but to finish that race. Other times, we must choose to renew our commitment and walk on.

When the pressures of life begin to assail, we need people around us to remind us of our purpose and plans. I am so grateful for the Holy Spirit and God’s Word that brings us hope and encouraging stability, but sometimes I need people who have been there and done that, to come along side and remind me that I, too, will make it! Storms do not last forever. As I walked the difficult journey after Darryl’s stroke, trying to come to grips with my new normal, I would have to stop and remind myself not to worry about the tomorrows. Matthew 6:34 so don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. For you young parents, remember the current season your infant, baby, toddler, pre-schooler, elementary child, high schooler–is in will pass. The night feedings, the toddler tantrums and the angst of growing up, though difficult, are best done in the present–with an eye on the future. His grace is sufficient for our today issues. If you are facing storms in your marriage remember your vows and the reason you married in the first place. Take a deep breath and remind yourself of God’s love and that He is with you in every day circumstances. Seek His wisdom and His ways. Do not let your thoughts run rampant. Capture them quickly.

If things seem overwhelming and you need help, ask for it. Somethings are too heavy to bear alone. Humble yourself, if need be. Many times just talking about how you feel will bring perspective and understanding. This is why God has placed pastors, teachers and leaders in His body–if they can’t help, they can lead you to someone who can. Too many suffer in silence in their own island because they are embarrassed to reach out. Do not be one of those people, listening to the lies of the enemy telling you no one cares. It is not true. I am available! Reach out to me, if you need a listening ear. Many times I have shouted out my prayers to the Lord, or taken time to write my thoughts and prayers in a journal.. Simply taking the time to name your feelings (cares) and then cast them back to Him brings the relief and hope needed.

In the midst of so many facing adverse circumstances I have also been amazed at how many prayers God is answering as well. He is not far off, but a very present help in time of trouble. Do not be jealous, or disappointed if you see others getting their prayers answered, but be encouraged He is not a respecter of persons! Your time is coming.

Faith and Ezekiel

On July31 of my thirtieth year, while I was with the Judean exiles beside the Kebar River, in Babylon, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. Ezekiel 1:1

I’ve been reading through the book of Ezekiel. It is quite a book filled with unique visions, harsh judgments and unusual acts the Lord asked Ezekiel to perform. I will freely admit this is not a book I look forward to reading every year, but it is one that is good for me. Ezekiel was a trained priest and his name means “God Strengthens”, I assume he really needed that reminder as he followed the Lord! I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me. Ezekiel 2:3

I can’t help but admire him for his faithfulness to the Lord during such difficult times. He prophesied to the remnant of Judah exiled in Babylon, while in Babylon himself. He endured the consequences of the sins of the Israelites, even though we see him as a righteous man.These were troublesome times, brought on by the immorality of the people. He laid on his left side for 390 days, and his right side for 40 days tied up with ropes so he couldn’t turn. He shaved his head and beard and then weighed and measured it and then scattered, chopped and burned it. The Lord told him his wife was going to die, and she did-but he was forbidden to mourn her passing. None of these were simple things to do, yet we see Ezekiel obeying them all.

One effect of reading this book is being reminded of how wicked and sinful the culture had become. Idolatry had replaced true worship. God’s protection was lifted from them and the Lord used Ezekiel to make it very clear he was going to use the Babylonians to punish His people. It is hard to read. Then he said to me, ‘the sins of the people of Israel and Judah are very, very great. The entire land is full of murder; the city filled with injustice. They are saying, “The Lord doesn’t see it! The Lord has abandoned the land!” So I will not spare them or have any pity on them. I will fully repay them for all they have done.” Ezekiel 9:9-11.

Of course, I can’t help but reflect on our own country and the sin that fills our own land. It is sobering to read and know the same things are happening today, here. We see judgments pronounced on Tyre, Edom, and Egypt and know our country could just as well be added. I can’t help but wonder if we are under some of those same judgements. I found myself crying out to the Lord to be merciful to us.

Having read this book before, I know hope is coming. God’s love and faithfulness and commitment to His people is revealed. Judgment is real, the consequences of sin is real, but so is God’s promise of change and restoration. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. Ezekiel 16:25-27,

This good news is for us as well! No matter how hard my heart may seem at times, I just have to call out to Him and ask for a tender, responsive one. Wonder of wonders, we have the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit working with in each believer. He is always working to keep us soft and tender, even when the ways of the world would cause us to harden them. Chapter 37 brings us to the valley of dry bones, and God’s great question to Ezekiel. “Can these dry bones live?” Ezekiel’s response: “You alone know the answer to that”. And then we find God telling Ezekiel to prophesy to these bones, and they lived. I look at the areas in my life and wonder “can these dry bones live”? Can our country experience revival? I ask, why not? I choose to trust God’s love, mercy and wise judgement. My responsibility is to walk in His ways, pray and intercede for our nation and its leaders. Ezekiel’s calling was hard, and so may ours be, but it is doable as we rely on Him.

Father,I thank you for your sobering words found in the book of Ezekiel. I thank you for a man who served you well. Help us do the same. We may not understand everything about what he wrote, but we can understand the need to walk uprightly with our God. We understand we need to speak the words He gives to us, and to obey. Father, help us keep a soft heart toward you and your ways, no matter what. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Pleasing God

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

This past Sunday, Pastor Michael Hurley was teaching about the importance of gratitude and thankfulness. As he moved through his notes, he came to a place where he had written “grow”, but when he shared them, he said “grow up”. We all laughed as he explained the addition, but also understood that he was so right. As I pondered these thoughts, I realized that maturing into our relationship with the Lord (a fancier way of saying “grow up”) moves us from pleasing ourselves to consciously choosing ways to please the Lord.

To please someone means you cause them to feel happy and satisfied. It means you walk in awareness of their cares, concerns and pleasures. Young children learn what is pleasing to their parents, but then their own self concerns become more important, and they choose what pleases them. Hopefully, as they grow, they let go of the “me first” and “what about me?” stages. This doesn’t come naturally to most children. We have to teach them. Even as adults, we often need reminders it is not all about us. To truly please the Lord, it must come from our heart, not just our actions. That often takes a process.

There are many scriptures urging us to live and walk, pleasing to Him. Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you, in the name of the Lord Jesus, to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you. I Thessalonians 4:1 So it is with us, we need to set ourselves to be learners. For some, the thought of pleasing God is amazing, because in their own family, they felt they could ever please their parents. But it is not so with our God. He can be pleased! Look at Enoch. (Hebrews 11:5-6).

Learning to please the Lord means we put His wants first. What does He like? What makes Him smile? We don’t have to guess, because it is clearly spelled out in Scripture. For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. Romans 14:17-19. We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. Romans 15:1. So one way we can please the Lord is to build up our brothers and sisters. Encouraging others always makes our Lord smile. Promoting harmony in the Kingdom of God also makes Him smile. As a parent, when our children get along always makes us smile, too!

Galatians 6:8..but those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Setting ourselves to please the Lord is not just for His sake, but also for ours. We all will be blessed with His blessings if we choose to please Him. Choosing to put off the ways of the flesh and living in such a way that pleases the Holy Spirit makes Him happy.

We know that when we walk in faith; we please the Lord. Read through Hebrews 11, also known as the Heroes of the Faith chapter. It contains so many wonderful men and women who walked before us, trusting God no matter what the outcome. I think when we seek to walk in faith no matter if we are walking through dark places, hard storms or simple obedience, He is pleased. When we walk in faith, we are saying to Him, I trust You. I believe You, even when I can’t see the way, I know You know the way. It brings Him joy.

The writer of Hebrews writes a prayer for all of us in Hebrews 13: 20-21. Now may the God of peace–who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood–may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen. Not only does He tell us what will please Him, but He promises to help us do it through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Setting your heart every day to please the Lord is the best way to live.We may mess up, of course. But His grace is always with us. His grace and mercy will carry us through our learning times.

Father, what a privilege it is to know that we can bring pleasure to You!. It is a humbling thought that we can bring happiness to the Creator of the Universe. I ask You to continue helping us do those things that please You. Forgive us when we get too self-centered. Help us grow up in Your ways, In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Faith and Drifting

So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1

As I was reading this scripture the other day, the word drift caught my eye. Obviously, the writer of Hebrews was issuing a warning here. If I am honest, some warnings I tend to gloss over. I may not pay as much attention to them, especially when I was younger. I am sure it was pride plus not trusting that the person giving the warning knows what they are talking about. No one knows who wrote the book of Hebrews, but as we read through it, he seems to be a wise man, both experienced in the Hebrew law and he understands people. As I have grown older and experienced more of life, I realize those warnings apply to me as they do anyone else.

Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in the final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. Hebrews 1:1-2. So what is the author’s warning to us? That we should not forget those things we have heard and received about our Lord. We must remember that He is everything that was written in chapter 1. He is the heir of all things. He made the world. He cleansed our sins. He sat down at the right hand of the Father in the place of honor. He holds all things by the word of His power. These are the type of things we are not to forget. We cannot let the ways of the world and our own soul allow us to drift away from the reality of who our Lord really is. When this happens, the reality that He really is Lord fades, and then we start to drift into our own ways. A drifting boat has two options. Crashing on shore—or start the engine and control the direction.

Living as long as I have, I have seen the shipwreck of those who have lost their first love. It starts slowly. Missing a service or two, then other things begin to fill up their Sundays. They would love to speak of the things of God and His Word, then those things were not as important to focus on because their Bible sat unopened on their shelf. Worldly culture replaced godly culture. Instead of praising the Lord, swearing moved in. I’ve seen marriages lost because people drifted a part. Relationships with children became boring routines. No warmth, caring or engagement—just drifting a part. When engines of our life become disengaged no matter the area, drifting happens—and the eventual shipwreck takes place.

There are so many warnings in the Bible about people falling away, and usually that falling away begins with just drifting away. Brothers and sisters, please do not let it be you. Please choose to heed God’s Word. Anchor yourself in its truths. Establish your relationship with Him. Persevere when times get tough. Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

The good news is the Holy Spirit is always working to draw us to Him. But, as a dear mentor always said “He is a gentleman. He will not push His way in.” These are serious days, and we need to understand that. Choices we make affect us. But also the choices we do not make can affect us even more. Those are the ones that happen because we are drifting and usually lead to regret. Let’s engage our engines, be productive citizens of heaven and earth and avoid shipwreck!

Father, I ask you to show us where we maybe drifting in our relationship with you, our spouse, our children or others. I thank you for stirring us up today to engage our engines and keep us from drifting. Let us be the examples to encourage others to keep on going. You are so worth it. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Paths of Righteousness

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Psalm 23:3.

The picture in my mind that comes when I read this verse is Jesus and I walking down a beautiful country road. The sun is shining through the trees and all is safe and peaceful. And sometimes, it is true. He does lead us through peaceful places. However, sometimes the paths of righteousness, while always good, are not always smooth. We must remember he leads us in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. The paths we walk in, as surrendered disciples, are of His choosing, for His glory. Sometimes, for His glory and our good, our paths must pass through deserts, wilderness and mountains. We also must endure many weather during our journey, which does not always make for a pleasant trip, but if we are following Him and His ways, it is always for our good.

Take a look at our friend Abraham. We don’t know how God communicated to him, but we do know that he left Ur and journeyed toward a new land. God promised to make him a great nation through which all families on earth will be blessed through him. (Genesis 12: 2) But that path was full of delays, tests and trials. Some he passed, others he had a to rely on God’s mercy and grace. Isn’t it the same for us? Abraham’s journey on his path helps us walk in faith with ours.

As I was meditating on these paths, I saw so many types. Some were tiny trails, some were broad paved highways and everything in between. Some of the paths were obscured and hidden, while others were open for many to see. Each of the people walking on these paths had allowed the Lord to lead them on His paths. What type of path is the Lord leading you on during this season? Are you in public ministry, walking a path for others to follow? Dealing with the pressures of leadership? Or are you following His leading through more quiet walkways? Feeling alone and small in His kingdom? It doesn’t matter. Big or small, it is following Him that matters. Allowing Him to choose the path is best for you and for me.

No matter what, we know that He only leads us in paths of righteousness. Paths that conform to His code of conduct. We must walk them with honesty, justice, love and a sense of uprightness; because only then will we bring glory and honor to His name.

When our path grows difficult, it is often tempting to grumble and complain. “It’s too hard”, or “I can’t make it” can fill our thoughts and we might want to quit. Maybe you are finding yourself fighting those thoughts today. I would encourage you to think like Simon Peter, “who else has the words of eternal life?” John 6:68. What other Shepherd would you be following, if not the Good Shepherd? Remember, it is during the times of suffering that we can fellowship with Him in ways that would or could not happen if we did not endure. During these times He draws near, and our love bond grows even stronger with Him.

Sometimes, when storms come, it may be difficult to find the right path. Swirling thoughts of fear or anxiety can blur our vision from following Him. If you find this happening. Stop, refocus on Him. Call upon Him and wait for His direction. Psalm 16:11 You will show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy at your right hand more there are pleasures forevermore. . Psalm 31:13 For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead and guide me.Again, it is not necessarily for our comfort He leads us, but for His purposes. Remind yourself that as Psalm 1:6 tells us, the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. He knows the way He is taking you. He has a plan, and we can trust that plan even when it is tough. Hard diagnosis? Financial difficulties? Relationship failures? He knows how to lead you through these things. He is a trustworthy guide, no matter what your own soul or the devil may whisper. He is our only hope and help in trying times. When we remember He is on our path and leading us; it makes it easier!

Father, I thank you for knowing our paths. I thank you that as we walk these paths of righteousness, no matter how rough, tough or easy, it is for Your Name’s sake. We choose to trust you during stormy days. We choose to trust you no matter the path because you are a Good Shepherd and you are leading us to restful places where we will be restored from our journey. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Good Works

Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. I Timothy 6:18-19.

Good works — easy for some, more difficult for others. This scripture was written to Timothy while he was pastoring in Ephesus. Ephesus was a very affluent city, so it only stands to reason that Timothy’s congregation comprised some rich believers. Paul instructed Timothy to teach them how to use their riches for God’s kingdom. Have you ever dreamed of receiving an unexpected inheritance? Have you daydreamed about how you would spend it? If that should happen, Paul left us some good and wonderful advice in these scriptures.

So does that leave us those of us off the hook, if we do not have a hefty bank account? I think not. For wealth is always a comparison, isn’t it? That phrase “be rich in good works” set in motion a lot of thoughts this week. So how do we do that? We start where we are, following the Holy Spirit’s prompts to do good. He loves to work through us to help others. I have often been on the receiving end of good works towards me and my family. It was humbling and so helpful. It makes me want to pay it forward. Looking back, sometimes, I wish I could have expressed my appreciation more thoroughly! Everyone who helped me during Darryl’s stroke recovery and eventual passing, I thank you, once again. Your loving actions helped get us through a hard time.

This week, I followed those prompts and what a blessing it was! A young couple in our church just had their fourth baby. Before he was born, I promised to bring a meal. I’ve been waiting because I knew there were others who had planned on helping as well, but this was the week. As I just followed the Spirit’s prompts, I watched how expertly He brought so much joy to us both. (I am sharing this not to boast, because the ideas weren’t mine!) He picked the type of soup Chicken Psoloe Verde); small gifts for the siblings (homemade play dough) and a candle for the mom. What a joy to discover that the three different colored play dough I made were their favorite colors! And the mom had been wanting to purchase a candle that very day, but chose not to! When she was eating the meal, she said, “I think green chili flavor is my comfort food!”. I marvel at how specifically the Spirit led me. When we take the time to ask Him, He shows us what to do. I admit, I don’t know who was more blessed—them or me! Again, I am not sharing this for a pat on the back, I am just sharing it to encourage us all to increase our good works.

One benefit of seeking the Lord in this area is that it gets our eyes off ourselves. No matter what your income or lack thereof, we can still offer a prayer or a word of encouragement. It costs us nothing, but can reap much fruit. We must be willing to share what we have, much or little. I read in a story about Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian Christian who imprisoned for his faith (during the Communism take over), still found a way to be generous. Every tenth week, he and other believers gave their one slice of bread a week to the weaker brethren as a “tithe” to the Master. How I might have justified eating it myself! He wrote a book Tortured for Christ and founded the ministry “Voice for the Martyrs”. If you see yourself as the “needy” one, then it will be a struggle to look past what you feel you don’t have and rejoice in what you do have.

Often it is the small promptings that, when followed, bring God’s blessing. It means surrendering our time, treasure and talent to Him and His purposes. If you don’t have money, then give your time. We find in II Timothy, Paul writing about a man named Onesiphorus. May the Lord show special kindness to Onesiphorus and all his family because he often visited and encouraged me. He was never ashamed of me because I was in chains. When he came to Rome, he searched everywhere until he found me. May the Lord show him special kindness of the day of Christ’s return. And you know very well how helpful he was in Ephesus. He and his family were kind to Paul. Rome was a little over 800 miles from Ephesus, but he made the journey. Maybe Onesiphorus was one of the wealthy men Paul talked about, so he could afford to make the journey. We don’t know, but we do know his actions encouraged Paul.

As we allow the love of God to be enlarged in our heart, it is not hard to reach out to others. We love, because we were first loved. Make good note of those who have encouraged you in your life. Don’t take it for granted, but receive their love with grace. But it is not about us, it is about others. Let’s follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings to help others and thereby being an example of God’s love. Open your eyes and see where you can serve in your local church, in your community or neighborhood. The needs are great, but not too great if we follow His promptings.

Father, I thank you for this admonition. I ask that you help us follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings to help others and sow seeds of kindness that we know will reap in your good season. No matter the response of the receiver, we will still strive to listen to your promptings and be obedient. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and “Sophron”

A question popped in my head this week. That question was “what does really mean to be sober?”I knew it must mean more than “not drunk”. I had been reading through the books of Thessalonians and Paul urged them to be sober or clear-headed. I remembered scriptures where Peter encouraged the same thing in his letters. I Peter 1:13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. I Peter 4:7 The end of all things i near; therefore, be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, walks about like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. I Peter 5:8

Did I catch your attention with “sophron”? Any Greek scholars responding? Sophron as found in the New Testament Greek lexicon means “of a sound mind, sane, in one’s senses’; curbing one’s desires and impulses, self-controlled, temperate. They also translated it as prudent or sensible, chaste and sober. I think both Paul and Peter were encouraging their readers to look at life realist ically, aware of their circumstances but not controlled by them.

I get the privilege of teaching two of my grandchildren health this semester. We are using the same textbook as other public middle/high school students are required to use. This is a required course for their graduation. It hasn’t been easy. Some of the topics are difficult. Having to talk about drugs, violence, date rape, domestic abuse, child abuse and the other areas of darkness which sin has polluted God’s purpose brought me to my knees as well as hurt my heart. I don’t want to focus on this reality. But it is real. Neither I nor their parents can keep them in a naïve bubble. So let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. (I Thessalonians 5:6 ESV) or as the NLT version states: So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded.

So the question is how do we stay sober without getting overwhelmed with the reality of our culture’s departure from God’s best? We must release our faith. We must ground them and us in His goodness. We must balance it with teaching how they can be the light in the darkness, how they can learn to be part of the solution, not escalate the problem. I believe we can also teach tolerance, conflict resolution, and give them other relationship building tools. What we don’t need to do is wring our hands and feel sad and downhearted for them. God knew they were going to be born in this season, and He has a plan for them. Let us concentrate on equipping them and ourselves with hope and faith. Let’s teach them to put on the whole armour of God and strengthen their ability to stand against the wiles of the evil one. But, first we must model it in our own lives, we can do this!

Father, I thank you for your grace for this season. I thank you for helping us learn what it means to have sober thinking in the midst of our culture. Not to try to escape the troubles through drunkenness. To be like those who do not stay awake, but choose to sleep in excess. We need your help and courage today to equip the next generation. Raise up teachers. Raise up leaders who will model how to be sober-minded, but also full of your joy and strength. We choose to trust you today, In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Faith and Harder vs Easier

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. James 1:2

I find it interesting that the NKJV uses when you “fall” into various trials phrasing. As a child, I used to think it meant walking along a path and then you literally stumble into a pit! Other translations say “when you meet trials of various kinds” (ESV); “when troubles of any kind come your way” (NLT); or as the Message says: Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. I don’t think it matters how the various trials and tests come our way, it is how we handle them that matter.

One struggle or “test” that comes our way is walking with the aftermath of loss. Nine years ago, this week, my husband died. Even though I don’t write it on the calendar for a remembrance, my heart remembers, just like I remember the day of his stroke etc. People told me that the first year would be the “hardest”. It was very hard in some ways. We made it through the firsts (thanksgiving, Christmas, his birthday). I still remember the surprise Valentine’s Day flower the funeral home sent me. It helped take the sting off the loss. Comparing “harder” or “easier” really isn’t helpful. It is what it is. Grief days still occur, I’ve learned to manage them, so I guess it’s become easier?

Was it easy? Was it hard? That is all relative, isn’t it? As the years have gone by, I have developed a new rhythm of life that is good. I am very blessed by my family and other people in my life, but does that mean I don’t long to have him in my life again? Of course not. When we suffer loss, no matter what kind of loss–financial, emotional, relational, job, grief, I have learned to turn the “harder” into “easier” is inviting the Holy Spirit to teach me how to walk through the hard times. With Him, those “hard” times become at least a little easier. James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect complete, lacking nothing.

The way we view trials and testings definitely affects our perspective of “hard” or “easy”. James urges his brethren to view adversities through the lens of joy! Not a natural human response, is it? When we view the various testings, understanding that God has a purpose and a plan for those tests, it makes it “easier”. I have often heard it said, “don’t pray for patience”, but my friends, we need it. The Holy Spirit produces it in our lives as a fruit of the Spirit. This fruit needs difficulties and trials for it to be perfectly formed. Patience is a form of trust. Learning to embrace the trials and testings that are a part of life is a measure of maturity. Children are impatient, adults are supposed to be patient! Oops,we may need to grow up.

I hear my grandchildren saying about many things: “that’s too hard. I can’t do it”. We encourage them to try. Tackling the tests of life alone can be overwhelming. That is why we do it together. Strengthening each other with the words of the Lord is an opportunity to make life’s struggles easier for everyone. Loss anniversaries are still challenging, but when I determine to use them to count the blessings, it becomes easier. To say something is easier, does not mean it isn’t hard!

Father, I ask you to help us with the hard things of life. Teach us how to count it all joy when we face the testings of life. You were the perfect example for us. Strengthen those who are facing hard and uncertain days. We thank you for walking with us during our immature and growing situations. We choose to let patience be formed in us. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and God’s Action Words

Listen to me, all who hope for deliverance. Isaiah 51:1

This past month I read the book of Isaiah. Once again, the Holy Spirit caught my attention. Do you know how many special action words Isaiah uses in talking to the Israelites and to us? Well, I confess I don’t either! I know God’s action words are throughout the Bible, but they caught my attention in Isaiah.

Actions words like “listen”. Listen to me, all who hope for deliverance—all who seek the Lord! Consider the rock from which you were cut, the quarry from which you were mined. Isaiah 51:1. Isaiah 51:7 Listen to me, you who know right from wrong, you who cherish my law in your hearts. Do not be afraid of people’s scorn, nor fear their insults. I felt like a child, where a parent was trying their best to get their attention. Homeschooling my grandchildren, I often tell them “listen up”. This is important. I feel God is trying not only to get my attention, but the attention of His church. We need to listen much more attentively than ever before. We must remember who it is that is speaking to us. It is the Lord of Heaven and Earth. My Lord, who has my best interest at heart. It is your Savior, who loves you more than anything.

I am trying to practice listening. Sunday morning I knew it was going to be a long morning, so I went to make coffee in my travel cup. It is something I often do, especially if I serve both services. Quietly I heard the Lord say, “not today”. Instead of arguing and pondering His reasons, I just walked away from the coffeemaker empty handed. I trusted He had His reason. I congratulated myself on listening!! I think listening begs the question, are we using the ears He has given us to hear? I watch my children teach their children the importance of listening during dangerous times. Little ones don’t always know why they need to stop when mom says stop, but they learn to trust her voice. I hope to learn to trust His voice even more. I need to become a better listener.

Another “action word” that caught my attention is wake up. Wake up or awake! Isaiah 51:17-19 is very sobering. Wake up, wake up, O Jerusalem! You have drunk the cup of the Lord’s fury. You have drunk the cup of terror, tipping out its last drops. Not one of your children is left alive to take your hand and guide you. These two calamities have fallen on you: desolation and destruction, famine and war. And who is left to sympathize with you? Who is left to comfort you? Terrible things had happened to them and, in a way, they really didn’t even understand or realize it. Is that what is happening in our culture? Are we so asleep that we are losing the next generation to destructive and desolate thoughts and actions that are definitely against the Word of God? We need to wake up with courage and faith. We need to arise with hope and be about our Father’s business.

Wake up, wake up, O Zion! Clothe yourself with strength. Put on your beautiful clothes, O holy city of Jerusalem, for unclean and godless people will enter your gates no longer. Rise from the dust, O Jerusalem. Sit in a place of honor. Remove the chains of slavery from your neck. Let us wake up and listen to His Words. Let us put on His strength, learning to lean on Him and His wisdom. These two action words “listen and wake” are for each of us, as His children.

Father, I ask you to help us wake up and listen. I ask that as we read your Word, we put into action your requests. I thank you for opening our ears that we may hear your direction and assignment. We are called to be your lights in this dark world, help make it so. Forgive us for sleeping on the job. Help us to pray for our leaders, both spiritual and governmental, during these difficult days. In Jesus’ Name. Amen

Faith and Dealing with Disappointment

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world. John 16:33.

Disappointments happen in life. They just do. They are part of “and in this world you shall have tribulation, trouble, suffering, distress, oppression, affliction, experience difficulties, trials and sorrows, persecution, dis-ease. I read John 16:33 in 36 different translations and they translated the word tribulation into all those various words. One of those troubles is disappointment.

Disappointment affects our emotions. It is sadness or displeasure caused by nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations. So if we are going to learn to deal with our disappointment, we must understand how it effects that part of our soul. Mentally, in our brain, we can understand why a person had to cancel a meeting, or break their promise, but it can still bring pain to our heart. If we ignore or hide from the fact we are disappointed, we bury that pain and it can cause further damage to the relationship later on. Anger and mistrust can fester, not good things. When dealing with disappointment, let’s remember Hebrews 14:15. Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great HIgh Priest with ready access to God–let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a high priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help. This includes dealing with disappointment.

Often,disappointments occur through people. Disappointment often happens when something we anticipated–maybe looked forward to didn’t happen. Do you think Jesus might have experienced some disappointment when he was working with his disciples? In Matthew 17, we read where a distraught father came to Jesus, concerned for his son, after he had asked some of Jesus’ disciples to pray for his son, who had a demon. His response was telling. Jesus replied: Where is your faith? Can’t you see how wayward and wrong this generation is? How much longer do I stay with you and pur up with your doubts? Bring your son to me.” Do you think he might have been disappointed on the night of his betrayal when the disciples were found sleeping? The difference between Jesus facing disappointment and our disappointments is Jesus knew they were going to happen. Often we are caught off guard and our emotions surprise us.

I admit I have experienced many disappointments in my life. Some of it took me a long time to admit. I would pass it off as no big deal, when in actuality my heart was hurt, but I did not want the other person to “feel” bad or to know just how disappointed I was. It built up walls of distrust and affected my meeting new people. I have now learned to talk it over with the Lord. Admit it to Him. He is a great listener! Often, as I share my disappointments with Him, perspective comes and I learn from the situation. Other times, I need a safe person to share the pain with. The Word reminds us to confess our sins to one another. (James 5:16) This safe person can hear but won’t won’t judge the person who disappointed us, but will listen and share their perspective. Ask the Lord for guidance in this area.

Sometimes we are disappointed because we had unrealistic expectations.Taking time to look at the bigger picture of all involved can help bring things into a better perspective. A vacation will not solve all your problems! A new job won’t necessarily bring all the changes you want or need. Adjusting our expectations can help us monitor our disappointments.

I Corinthians 11:28 urges us to examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. This is often a great time to do a soul check up. Are you ok with yourself or others? Is there some unacknowledged pain that you have been carrying around that you need to deal with? Remembering all that Jesus went through, and accepting His forgiveness, is a good way to clear the slate.

Why do we need to deal with disappointment? Because it robs us from the fullness of joy that Jesus wants us to have. It can cause us to isolate from the ones we care about. Left undealt with it can lead to depression and anger. Especially if you find yourself disappointed in you. When we are disappointed with ourselves, it brings sadness and guilt that can linger long after the event. Admit you are human. Seek forgiveness if necessary and then leave it under the blood of Jesus. Learn from your actions. Don’t become ensnared by them. Develop realistic expectations for yourself! This is often a tricky one, for we are often our worst critic. Remember the good news! Jesus Christ came to save sinners, you and I fall in that category! Do not let pride interfere with receiving His forgiveness for yourself. It is not worth it.

Father, I thank you for help us learn to deal with disappointments. I thank you for understanding the pain that happens when we are disappointed, and helping us move past that pain. Please show us where we have let unacknowledged disappointment cause distrust and walls between us and others. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and God’s Good Grace

My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT

Wow, I am still struggling to understand and embrace my weaknesses. It takes courage to look at them. It takes courage and humility to admit the weaknesses are there. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12: 9 three times, I pleaded with the Lord to relieve me of this. But He answered me, “My grace is always enough for you,” and my power finds full expression through your weakness”. Even though we don’t clearly know or understand Paul’s thorn or weakness, we know he did, and so did the Lord. He took the time to ask the Lord three times for it to be removed, and he finally came to a place of peace concerning it. The Passion Translation goes on to say, So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I am weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me. Learning to lean on the Lord, acknowledging our weakness, gives us the opportunity to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, not our own power and ability. Every weakness is a opportunity to release this power to work in and through us.

This past week has been busy. I started teaching astronomy and health to 4 of my grandchildren, plus our Life Group began a new study with new people! My son and his wife took a Covid delayed 10th anniversary get a way, so I helped with their children as well. Other projects popped up and let just say it’s been a full week. My “thorn” during this season seems to be tiredness. The things on my to do list were not budging. My solution: to begin the day talking to the Lord about it and thanking Him for the strength I needed to not only do the tasks, but to do it cheerfully and with strength. I was able to accomplish even more than I “felt” like I could do.

The scriptures continue with Paul writing, So I’m not defeated by my weakness, but delighted. (2 Corinthians 12:10). I admit after I acknowledged my need for Him, I was blessed and excited about how I had the energy I needed to love on my grandchildren as they needed. When was the last time you felt delighted by your weakness? I admit I came home and rested! But the patience, grace and focus I needed was there when I needed it. Paul continues: For when I feel my weakness and endure mistreatment—when I’m surrounded by troubles on every side and face persecution, because of my love for Christ—I am made yet stronger.For my weakness becomes a portal to God’s power.

I know my “weakness” is so small compared to all the troubles and trials Paul faced, but when I stopped being frustrated by it, admitted it and then asked for help, I could complete my godly assignment. What I love about God’s grace is that it is sufficient for both the bigs and the smalls of life. It doesn’t matter. It is accessible for all things. All we have to do is position ourselves to receive it. That positioning includes the admission of our weakness to Him. Releasing our faith that when we ask, we receive. Then we allow that gracious provision to show up as He deems. It may be through help from others or the courage to tackle the job ourselves, but it will show up in a way that will show forth His power and grace, giving Him the glory, and isn’t that what we want to do with our lives?

Maybe you need His grace to overcome resentment, bitterness, or other works of the flesh, as described in Galatians 5:19. His grace is available to you. Perhaps you struggle with addictions or feelings of unworthiness. His grace is available to you. Ephesians 2:8-8 declares For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. We began our journey by faith because of the grace of God, and it is the only way we can continue. Do not short change the grace of God and your need for it in your life. It is the only way to live, relying on Him and His ways. You stumble, rely on His grace to forgive and then get back up and rely on it to keep you walking straight. It is incredible, this gift of grace we have been given–don’t let it go to waste in your life. Access it every day in every way. Your life will improve!

Father, I thank you for your amazing grace. It’s so abundant. You never run out of it. Help us to rely on You and Your strength every day. You love it when we do. It brings you glory and joy. Teach us to rely on You even more. In Jesus Name, amen.