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Attempting to obey God and follow Jesus Christ our Lord

Posts tagged “religion

Psalm 91: The Lord Protects Me

I live in the shelter of the Most High
And I find rest in the Shadow of the Almighty
This I declare about the Lord on High,
He alone is my rock and my safety
He is my refuge and where I go to hide
When my enemies surround me
And a thousand fall at my side
Traps and snares try to grab me
But the Lord rescues and I rejoice gladly
Deadly diseases and a world of evil things
Yet My God covers me and protects me under His wings
His promises are yes and true
Our armour, protecting me and you
I will not be afraid of the terrors in the night
Though the world tries to fill each heart with fright
The Lord goes before me, He strengthens me with His might
No evil can touch me, my prayers reach His heights
For I know He hears each word I pray
Protecting me each night and every day
I have made the Lord my refuge, a shelter is He
Therefore He’s promised no evil can conquer me
Plagues cannot touch those I love
His angels protect me, commissioned from above
They hold me up with their hands
And protect me as I walk through this land
I love my God, whose throne is on High
And Jesus, His Son, on His right Side
He is with me through all my troubles and fear
Always besides me, always near.

 

Lessons I learned reading Deuteronomy 1-2

  1. Don’t fear the giants nor be dismayed with their strength
  2. The Lord goes before me and fights for me
  3. I remember all He has done for me – and I strengthen myself as I remember His good works
  4. Deut 1:17: Do not be afraid in any man’s presence
  5. Deut 1:21 Do not fear nor be discouraged.
  6. Do not speak words of doubt or fear – nor allow yourself to worry and ponder on them in your thoughts
  7. Though the evil that has begun to show itself in the world seems powerful and mighty,  we can trust in the Lord to fight for us- and protect each one of us from evil
  8.  The Lord does not want us to be terrified. He goes before us and He will fight for us
  9. “and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you cam to this place” – and so he will carry us though the times that lie ahead, as a father carries his son.
  10. The Lord was angry with all those who worried, doubted and were full of fear. Fix your thoughts – Phil. 4:8
  11. Don’t fear – even if they are mighty and powerful
  12. Treat your brothers and sister’s right. Be fair and kind
  13. Stand up! For the Lord you God goes before you.
  14. ” This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the nations under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you, and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you” Deut 2:25
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The Blessedness of Forgiveness Psalm 32

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,

Whose sin is covered.

Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,

And in whose spirit there is no guile.

When I kept silent, my bones grew old

Through my groaning all the day long.

For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;

My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah

 I acknowledged my sin to You,

And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said,

“I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”

And You forgave the iniquity of my sin, Selah

 For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You

 In a time when You may be found,

They shall not come near him.

You are my hiding place;

You shall preserve me from trouble;

You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah

  I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;

I will guide you with My eye.

Do not be like the horse or like the mule,

Which have no understanding,

Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle,

Else they will not come near you.

 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked;

But he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him.

Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous;

And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!


God in a Box

One challenge we face is to get God out of the “box,” by which we mean our preconceived restrictions concerning what He can and can’t do. However, the idea of “God in a box” did not originate with us, but with God Himself!

How could a king woo and win a peasant girl’s heart? If he showed up in his limousine, accompanied by his body guards and told the woman that he wanted her for his wife. She would go. After all, he is the king, and what the king wants, the king gets.

Would she love him? Ah, there’s the dilemma. How would the king ever know she was with him by choice, not by obligation?

If, instead, he dressed the part of a peasant, he could let her get to know him. He could court her without any reticence on her part. By the time she knew he was a king, he would be certain of her love for him. They could live “happily ever after.” It would take humility on his part, and patience as well. The result, if he was successful, would be well worth the effort.

We have a God who took this approach.

Israel’s time to leave Egypt had come, but by then the relationship between God and man had become strained. There were so many gods, malevolent in nature. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob seemed no different.

At Sinai, God, the King of kings, called the people near. He was loud; all lightning flashes and thunder. Fire and smoke covered the top of the mountain. Understandably, the people stood afar off and told Moses, “Yyyooou ggo speak to Him. Wwee’ll wwwait here!” (Exodus 20:19)

On the mountain, God told Moses, in essence, “I love every one of you. I want to be with you. If they won’t come to me, then built me a tent – I’ll camp with you.” He humbled Himself, desiring to be more approachable. He “tamed” Himself…put Himself in a “box.”

Work commenced, and soon God was happily situated in their midst. All were invited to drop by for a visit (Exodus 33:7). Instead, whenever Moses went to the tabernacle, the people stood at their tents’ door and watched.

For forty years God led them round and round in the wilderness. He stayed with them, no matter how they treated Him.

In time, the Israelites were situated in the land God promised them. Because they were no longer wandering, a permanent “box” was built for Him – the temple. There He lived for hundreds of years.

This wasn’t close enough for the King, though, so one day He moved into a much smaller “tent” – a human tent. They called Him “Jesus.” It was a perfect disguise. Many loved Him, talked to Him, and touched Him. He was free to interact with them – almost like in the Garden of Eden.

Then came the day of the great unveiling. In John 14:9, Jesus tells His followers, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Tada!

And yet, being close to us in this way had its restrictions. He could only be in one place at a time. It was not quite satisfactory. Jesus left His earthly tent behind…

…and sent His Spirit…

…to live in our tents with us! (1 Corinthians 6:19)

***

I will dwell in them

And walk among them

I will be their God,

And they shall be My people.

(2 Corinthians 6:16)

***

And they shall call His name Immanuel,

Which is translated

God with us.

(Matthew 1:23)

God created us because He loves us. Love cannot be forced, though. How patiently and humbly He pursues us, His heart on His sleeve. He longs for us to know Him intimately, and to love Him deeply.


In Your Wildest Dreams

Night after night I lay in bed, tears coursing silently down my cheeks. Deep pain burned through my heart, which no longer held a steady beat.

Kathump, kathump, kathump…

Silence…

…when your heart does not beat for several seconds

…is very loud.

I wonder if it’s going to….

tat, tat, tat, tat, tat

Yes it is; I guess this isn’t the end.

It had been a very long and trying month, which came to a most unexpected end.

My mother lay in the morgue, awaiting cremation.

During our ordeal with her heart surgery, followed by complications, the Lord had been closer than I’d ever experienced Him. The Christian radio station I played in my car seemed to have been cued into our  situation, for every time I left for the hospital or to return home, the DJ would say something like, “If you’re struggling today, stay tuned. (Pastor’s name) has a message of reassurance and comfort for you.”

Or songs like “Praise You in this Storm” would be playing. I never felt so “buffered” in all my life.

The vision my (“unsaved”) father had the night she had to be taken back to the hospital was the Lord’s way of forewarning us that she would be going Home.

He was wide awake, praying for her (something he didn’t do), and saw my mom standing in a white robe. A large angel came behind her and enfolded her in his wings until all that could be seen was her head.

“Tam, I felt so comforted when I saw that,” he told me later.

I’m glad you feel comforted, I thought. I know what that means.

My dad’s vision was the first of many, many amazing things that happened during that month. I could fill this entire post with them.

But that is not my focus today! Back to my nightly grief sessions…

After weeks of aching, and nightly anxiety attacks (the goofy heartbeat thing), I told the Lord,

“I can’t do this anymore. To stay in the reality that she is gone hurts so bad. Abba, can we decorate my home in heaven?”

(Earlier in the year I’d talked to the Lord about heaven:

“Lord, the idea of sitting on a cloud in a white nightie, strumming a harp for ages to come; or laying at Your feet in worship for years and years…um…I’m sorry, but that sounds incredibly boring. You know me, I can’t sit idle for very long. I love to be making something new, or learning new things, or going to see new places. I guess I lack the ‘worship gene.’ You’re going to have to put that desire in me and do away with my curious, creative self, ’cause if You don’t, I’m going to be a miserable failure in heaven.”

Not long after that, Steve Berger from Grace Chapel in Lieper’s Fort, TN lost his son in a car accident. Suddenly interested in what heaven might be like, he began to study the topic – then preach it from the pulpit. I highly recommend his sermons. These weekly messages were God’s response to my earlier conversation with Him!)

That night, I began by imagining what Mom was doing at that moment. She’d been there for a while. Was she still standing at the entrance, mouth agape at the splendor? In awe of the majesty of God? Was she skipping and dancing and getting reacquainted with my youngest brother who only lived for three days? With the many children she’d lost through miscarriage?

(She had nine miscarriages before me; I was the first to be born live…that makes me a 10. Eat your heart out, Bo Derrik!)

My thoughts turned to my “room” in heaven.

“Lord, I hate to vacuum. Could I have moss instead of carpet…maybe a little creek running through the living room? I love the sound of babbling brooks.

“Plasterboard walls aren’t much fun. They have to be cleaned. How about if You make the walls out of vines – ooh! – with beautiful flowers that change colors from time to time?

(I was on a roll…)

“Windows…hey! We won’t need glass windows because bugs won’t bug us, and there will be no burglars to burgle. I can have openings and fresh air all the time.

“If the rocks would have cried out in praise, that must mean they have that capability – and everything in the universe resonates…emits sound. Awesome! Would You line my yard with trees and bushes that can play the songs I have in my heart for You, but lack the skill to write on paper so others can play along? We could have nightly jam sessions and sing new songs every day!”

My thoughts turned to the concept of forever:

You’ll hear me ask from time to time, “What do you think you’ll be doing a million (billion) years from today?” I don’t know what that might be, but I know this…It’s going to be AMAZING!

Do you ever wonder what you’re being trained for while here on earth? Death isn’t “Game Over,” it’s the doorway into real life. In 2 Corinthians 5, we read that this mortality (what we consider to be real living) will be swallowed up by life! Now, that’s good news!!

****

“Who wants to go to Epcot Center?” I cheerfully asked two of my sons one morning.

Barely looking up from their schoolwork, one replied, “Uh, no thanks.”

The other said, “Not me.”

“What is Epcot Center?” I asked, a bit confused.

“I dunno. Sounds like a business complex…one of your ‘fun-filled’ field trips for homeschool. No thanks, Mom.”

They had no idea what they were turning down.

They’d never heard of the place, and so hadn’t given it a second thought.

Isn’t this what we can be like when we think of heaven? Having never thought much about it – or worse – believing the lie that it’s the isolation of being perched on a cloud, nighties and harps, singing forever, it’s no wonder we aren’t anxious to get there. (This, by the way, is a more accurate description of hell – isolation, monotony, hopelessness…forever.)

1 Corinthians 2:9 reads, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” When I read this verse, I hear, “Honey, use your wildest imagination…it will be fun for now, but won’t even come close to all I have waiting for you here!

I become thoroughly Homesick when I imagine what lies ahead (however inaccurate I may be) …

…in my wildest dreams!

***********

(Don’t miss the companion post. You can find it here: Now That’ll Wreck Your Day.)

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Is Your Skirt Flapping in the Breeze?

The battle was fierce, and I was losing ground.

Correction, I had no “ground” anymore, and was getting my butt royally kicked by the enemy!

The fight, to the outsider, seems to be a silly one. I hesitate to reveal it for that reason. However, it’s not over and I’ve discovered that the best way to fight is in the light of confession, not the darkness of my mind, so here goes!

Since infancy, I have loved music. It’s what inspires, encourages, and comforts me. I am never more alive than when singing with our worship team as we exalt our Lord on Sundays.

As a young child, play often involved music. My bed became a jeep, the records being played on my phonograph the score for the “musical” in which I was the star. Elvis and The Monkeys were often co-stars in my mini-productions!

My mom had an apparatus for hanging freshly-ironed clothes. It became my microphone stand. I would push one handle of my jump rope onto its top, and use the other handle as my microphone. We had one of the big console TVs that also had a radio in the top on one side, and a phonograph on the other. The record player became my “band” and I would sing along with Chubby Checkers, the Beatles, and a host of others.

In fifth grade, I joined the school choir. The songs I recall from that year were “Both Sides Now” and “Obla Dee Obla Dah.” We learned parts, and I loved it!

In sixth grade, my mom bought me a clarinet so I could join the school band. I quickly removed it from the case, assembled it, and in no time was playing songs on it (before my first lesson!).

By eighth grade I was “first chair first clarinet.” I had conquered the instrument and eager to learn something new.

My brother received a guitar for Christmas, but really had no interest in learning to play. My seventh grade teacher played guitar for a weekly sing-along, so I asked if he would teach me. He kindly gave me one of the lyric packets we sang from, along with chord diagrams. Within six months I could play them all.

On and on it went. By the end of High School, I was playing clarinet, guitar, piano, saxophone, French horn, trumpet, baritone, drums, glockenspiel, and flute. I took private singing lessons as well, and sang with the school choir and the small choral group called “Der Menga Singers.” I’d also written several songs.

Did I mention that I love music? I “knew” it was what God created me to do.

However, very few saw this in me.

My parents were tolerant of my musical pursuits. They had purchased my clarinet, and we later acquired a piano (free). Any of the other instruments I learned to play I got myself, and paid for my voice lessons too.

Mostly they would tell me to quit playing around and do something useful with my life. To follow my dreams was a colossal waste of time and effort, and I was sure to end up living in a cardboard box, they assured me. I had to produce something that people actually needed if I was going to have value to society.

My dad was especially critical of my musical talent. (This is a long story, and one I’ll save for another day.) Suffice it to say that at every opportunity, he tore me down, and ripped my musical heart to shreds in the process.

By the time I was twenty, I began to see the “truth” of their counsel. Add to that one preacher’s well-meant, but theologically inaccurate message about killing the thing we loved the most to prove our love to God. (You can read the story on my blog: I Offered the Wrong Sacrifice) I quit playing instruments, quit singing, and quit writing songs.

Thirty plus years later, I was recording a CD for my nurse friends in Nicaragua. Between takes, I would break down and cry, sure that something “bad” was going to happen if I continued. This went on for three weeks.

During the recording of my last song, I began crying out to the Lord, asking Him for help. What came next took me by surprise.

In a stern voice I “heard” Him say, “Get up!” 

“What?” I asked, stunned.

“I said, ‘Get up!’ I have given you Armor to wear. Do you have it on?”

“Yes, Sir.” I rattled off the various pieces so He’d know that I had them.

“Okay, you have all the components. Then what are you doing hunkered down on the ground?”

“Lord, despite your armor, I’m getting my butt kicked by the enemy. I don’t understand.”

At that moment, a mental picture showed on the screen of my mind. There I was in all my armor, on my knees with my face to the ground…

…my skirt flapping in the breeze…

…with the enemy behind me, kicking for all he was worth!

“I didn’t give you armor for that part of your anatomy. Stand up!”

A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. When I saw this one, the problem became instantly clear.

Standing to my feet, my shield before me, I raised the Sword of the Spirit…the Word of God…and fought this enemy in the power of God’s might.

He fled. What else could he do?

Like me, are you engaged in a battle? Have you put on the armor God provided for our protection? Having done so, are you standing firm…

…or is your skirt flapping in the breeze?

Want more on the importance of our armor? Don’t miss Lions Eat Christians? What?

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I Am Invincible

Until the Lord calls me home, I am invincible. No one, and nothing can take me out before it’s time for me to leave this rock!

More often than not, the person to whom I make the above statement comes back with something like, “Oh, yeah? Well, don’t step in front of a train to see if it’s true.”

Duh! Do I look that stupid? Why do people always want to “rain on our parade?” Who knows?

Think this through with me.

There is much freedom to be obtained through this truth.

We know that every day of our life has been written down – recorded before there was even one of them (Psalm 139). God knows exactly when we are going to die, and how. We won’t suddenly appear in heaven, only to have the Lord exclaim, “What are you doing here? I wasn’t expecting you for many years!”

There is a day appointed to us for our death; and nothing can hasten that day – not cancer, not an accident, not murder…NOTHING!

This means that until that time arrives, I am invincible.

So are you!

Understanding this gives me courage to go places and do things I might otherwise avoid for fear of putting myself in danger.

For instance, I’ve gone on mission trips to foreign countries where “bad things” could happen – even death. The enemy runs rampant in many third-world countries. Weird things happen and it can get really freaky.

Jesus gave us power over all the power of the enemy, though. (Luke 10:19) He also gave us armor (Ephesians 6). If we get our butts kicked by the enemy, it’s our own fault!

Knowing that I’m indestructible gives me the guts to go into homeless camps and walk city streets at night, reaching out to people.

After all, if it’s my night to die I’m going to be killed in a car accident, taken out by some disease, stabbed to death by some maniac…or drop dead of a heart attack in the security of my home.

Whatever the means, I’m dead! It was my time.

Until then – yep! Invincible.

If we are forewarned of imminent death, we can plead with God for more time (I’m sure He doesn’t get this!). He may be gracious and grant our request. There is a case of this very thing recorded for us in 2 Kings. Let’s see what happens when we live beyond the time God has allotted us:

We discover, in 2 Kings 18, that Hezekiah began to reign in Judah when he was 25 years old. He was a great king, and did what was right in the sight of the Lord like David (a very high complement). He tore down all their high places, and destroyed their idols…including the bronze serpent of Moses’ day. We’re told that the Lord was with him; and he prospered wherever he went.

Hezz was a good and godly man; a man of great faith. (2 Kings 19:20).

When he was about 39 years old, though, he became very ill. Isaiah told him to set his house in order, for he would die from his illness. (2 Kings 20)

Hezekiah begged the Lord to let him live, using all the things we say: “Look how I’ve served You. Do You remember how faithful I’ve been to You?” In other words, he told the Lord, “How could You take my life? You owe me.”

God relented, and granted Hezekiah another 15 years. He knew it would come to pass, for God made the day longer to prove His word to ol’ Hezz.

Then we find out what happens when God does things our way:

Having gotten his way with God, no doubt Hezz was feeling his oats, as the saying goes, so when the “good ol’ boys” of Babylon showed up, he gave them a grand tour of all his treasures. You can bet they took copious notes!

They went home and reported all they’d seen, greed set in, and the plan to overthrow Israel was born. Isaiah came to tell Hezekiah that captivity for Israel

In addition, he sired Manasseh during these 15 years (Manny was only 12 when he became king – next chapter).

Manasseh was one of the most evil, vile king to ever reign in Judah, leading the nation back into idolatry – even set up idols in the Temple of the Lord, and shed much innocent blood.

(In 2 Chronicles 33, I’m happy to report that Manasseh came to his senses after being led into captivity with a hook in his nose – OUCH! – repented, and set things right in Jerusalem before his death).

My point is this, though: If this is what lays beyond the appointed time God has for me, no thank you. I don’t want to outlive my usefulness her on planet earth. If I’m only going to do evil if my life is extended beyond God’s plan for me, then I’d rather he take me out!

I believe this story was placed here to show us that God knows when it’s time for us to go Home.

Until then, however, no matter what comes our way, there is a plan and a purpose for our existence. No one can cut our lives short; no illness either.

We are invincible!

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The Day I Died

I have a grave – and a tombstone. It was a long, slow, painful death; but I finally laid down and died!

The process began with a counseling session with my pastor’s wife, Barbara. She is a sweet, compassionate and gracious woman. She’s also very courageous, wading into the mire of people’s lives dressed in the Armor of God and armed with the Sword of the Spirit.

I would tell her about some mistreatment or other that I was experiencing. She would commiserate with me for a few minutes, but then with pursed lips, she would slightly shake her head and say those words I hated to hear,

“What do you think the Lord is trying to teach you in this?”

It was like having a needle “scritch” across a record!

“No, you don’t understand. This is what they did, this is how they are treating me.” I felt hopeless, confused, like I was sinking.

“Tami, is God in control?”

“Yes.”

“Then, while He did not cause this to happen, He allowed it. If He allowed it, there must be something in it for you to learn, don’t you think?”

Ugh! I hated those conversations. In the end, I would see the truth of what she was saying and have to agree that there was indeed something in me that needed to be changed.

Another phrase she often stated was this:

“But it’s not about you; it’s about Jesus.”

This always came on the heels of a confession that I had not received validation from people for whatever it was I thought I was called to do: teach, write, sing, etc.

For instance, I wanted to sing a solo with our worship team. After all, I have a great heart for worship…it’s what I live for. No one else saw my “potential,” though. As a result, I was passed over time and again. That really hurt. I wanted to hear that I was right, they were wrong…then I wanted her to “fix” the problem.

“Is worship about you? Will Jesus be glorified – or will you? What are you really after here?” She asked these questions warmly, her eyes probed the depths of my own.

Barb is great at getting to the heart of the issue. The Lord has given her an incredible gift of discernment and tons of wisdom to go with it.

I finally had to be honest with myself and admit that I wanted to use worship to gain approval and acceptance from others. Ouch! That smarted.

Once I saw my true motive, she would encourage me to talk to Jesus about what was uncovered, give me a chance to repent, and ask the Lord to give me a pure heart.

We went through this process countless times, and about numerous topics.

“We have to learn to die to ourselves. That’s what the Lord is after. Until we are dead to our sin, we cannot be alive in Christ. Life does not revolve around us. We don’t want to promote ourselves. After all, who can we save? If at the end of life, these people know how wonderful we are, but don’t know Jesus, what will happen to them?”

She has a great way of putting things into perspective.

Dead. Hmm. Mentally, I just couldn’t get there…

…so I went into my back yard…

and dug a grave.

Not a big one, but one big enough and deep enough

to bury a photo of myself.

Then I made a tombstone and set it on top.

Now I have a grave. I can mentally see myself as “dead.”

This is not a move I recommend for the faint-hearted.

Jesus was obviously pleased with my desire to live fully for Him, for after that I began to be passed over, ignored, and overlooked almost daily.

It hurt – but then, dying hurts.

Then glorious things began to come my way. He began to use me in prominent ways. He could because my goal was no longer to promote me, but to make His name known.

Sometimes my stinky old flesh rises up from the grave. I can tell when the “old me” is up running around, though. People are repelled. I’m obnoxiously obvious by the rotted stench of my pride.

The process is repeated: confess, repent, revisit the grave, ask for help to make my life about Jesus and not about me.

Being dead has its benefits:

I don’t have to take things personally anymore – it’s not about me.

I can serve without caring if anyone notices – it’s not about me.

I can tell others how much Jesus means to me – He gets the glory

I don’t have to “do more” or “try harder” – what can a dead person do to improve themselves?

Approval comes from the Lord alone. He is the One I seek to please.  (Galatians 1:10 – Do I now persuade men? Or do I seek to please men, or God? For if I still pleased men, I could not be a bondservant of Christ.”)

FREEDOM! The freedom to become the person Jesus created me to be.

The day I “died” was the best day of my life!

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No Absolutes? Are You Absolutely Sure?

How do we determine what is “good,” and what is “evil?” Personally, I tend to consider those things which are pleasant to me, make me feel good, or add to my pile of possessions as “good.” Conversely, I consider those things which hurt, cause me grief, or deplete my store of stuff as “evil.” It’s pretty subjective, when I look at it in this light.

It works for me.

When I am deciding what is good and evil, that makes me the judge. That makes me god.

What happens though, when what I judge to be good or evil clashes with what my neighbor judges to be good or evil? I like T-Birds. You own one and I don’t. I decide that I want to have a T-Bird, so I take yours. Are you going to see it from my point of view and agree that it is good for me to have your car and let me drive off with it? I don’t think so.

We’ve arrived at the place in history where many people believe they are entitled to their own “reality.” They will say, “What’s true for you is not what’s true for me, and what’s true for me may not be what’s true for you.” They believe that there is no such thing as absolute truth.

Really?

Let’s carry that out to its logical conclusion:

If I’m entitled to my own reality, then in my mind, you should not exist. Prepare to die because I’m going to shoot you.

“You can’t do that?”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s wrong.”

“Who says?”

“I do.”

“Well, that’s your reality. My reality is that you should be dead.”

Without a standard by which everyone agrees to abide, we’re in for some serious trouble. Watch tonight’s news and you’ll see what I mean.

If only one person on the planet decided they were going to live according to their own reality, it would be a problem for the few around him or her. Unfortunately, we have an increasing percent of the population who are beginning to adopt this kind of thinking. As a result we see a sharp rise in murder, rape, war, slavery, theft, abuse of every sort.

On what grounds can anyone be convicted of a crime if there are no absolutes?

Is that what we really want?

Long ago, we were given a Book that contains absolutes. We call them the Ten Commandments. How different our world would be if everyone actually lived by them.

…Just sayin’ !

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Fearful Flight

Both doors into the house locked, a suitcase hastily thrown onto the couch, I raced down the hall to gather clothes while I struggled to gather my thoughts. My heart pounded. If I was caught, the scene would get ugly in a hurry.

What lay before us, I had no clue. All I knew was that we had to get somewhere safe.

My children were with my mom, who waited for my call. She originally said that she wanted no part of this operation. “He will hurt us, Tami,” she’d stated, eyes wide with fear.

“Fine. Then you need to know that this morning your grandchildren and I will be on the highway. We will hitchhike if we have to. Mom, we have to get out of here! They are expecting us at the Women’s Refuge at 10 a.m.”

The guilt did the trick, and she relented.

Fighting back tears, nearly overwhelmed, I ran to the boys’ room, yanked open the dresser, and began grabbing clothes. I took the armload and hurried to the living room and dumped them into the awaiting luggage.

Next was the girls’ room. I searched for a stuffed toy for each of them as well. They would need all the comfort they could get.

Back in the living room, I turned, ready to get some things for myself when

- for the first time in my life

- I heard the Lord speak.

“Go get your Bible; the one your mother bought you for Christmas.”

You’ve got to be kidding. I’ve got to get out of here!

I started down the hall when, in my mind, heard the voice again, “Go get your Bible – your One Year Bible.”

I don’t have time for this. Besides, I don’t even know where it is.

“It’s in the girls’ closet, up on the shelf, in the bottom box. Go get it!!”

His voice was insistent – not the, “Hey, this might be a good idea,” sort, but rather the “NOW!” tone a parent uses with a child who’s had it.

I charged back to the girls’ room, opened the closet and took down the boxes. I opened the bottom one as I had been told. There, right on top, was the Bible I was supposed to bring with us.

Wow! This is weird.

On my way down the hall, I heard, “Open it. Read it.”

I stopped, and opened the book up to that date’s reading. Here is what I read:

“The Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel says, ‘I am the Lord your God, who punishes you for your own good and leads you along the paths that you should follow.

Oh, that you had listened to My laws! Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river, and great waves of righteousness…there would have been no need for your destruction.

Yet even now, be free from your captivity! Leave Babylon, singing as you go; shout to the ends of the earth that the Lord has redeemed his servants.’ “

I crumpled to a heap and sobbed. After a few minutes, I calmly got up, finished packing, and called for my mom to pick me up.

[The above passage is from Isaiah 48 (supposedly "useless" because it is written to the Jews - and in the Old Testament, according to my childhood pastors), and from The Living Bible - a "heretic's" version. The Lord didn't seem to care about either of these issues! In later years, this recollection put to rest the "Battle of the Versions" for me. If God is okay with the Living Bible, who am I to question Him?]

For the next several months, that little Bible became like my diary, only written in advance. Each morning, what I read gave me a heads-up for the day. I was amazed at how specific and relevant the Scriptures were. After all, the scenery may have changed, but God does not. His ways are consistent throughout all the ages.

That was the beginning of “hearing” God, both through my thoughts and through His Word. These are His two favorite ways of communicating with me.

How does He speak to you? I’d love to hear your stories!

Our God is an awesome God. To Him be all glory, honor, and praise.

{Note:  if you are in an abusive relationship, you need to know that this is not God’s will for your life. In fact, the “law of the land” states that abuse is illegal. By staying, you are in violation of the law – as much as the abuser, for you aid and abet their lawless deeds. Seek the Lord’s guidance. He will deliver you!

And, if you know someone who’s in an abusive relationship, please don’t ridicule them or treat them with disdain. Without being in a situation like this, there is no way to describe the fear and worthlessness that person feels. Putting them down won’t help. On average it takes seven times before a woman leaves and stays gone. We were no exception, and were reunited within a few months. Thankfully, the Lord completely and gloriously delivered us from this nightmare a little over a year later.}

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Bewitched

No self-respecting Christian would consider casting spells. After all, this is a practice that is prohibited in the Bible. But are we guilty of this without realizing our error?

What is a spell, anyway? In its simplest form, a spell is the selection of words or phrases spoken with the intent of getting our desired outcome. Sometimes actions and implements are used in conjunction with words. The expected result is that the one casting the spell will achieve their will in the matter before them.

Here’s where prayer gets interesting.

In the past, I have used rote prayers in an effort to “move” God and get what I want, whether it is forgiveness for myself or a change in someone I know. There are “key” phrases I believed needed to be incorporated – and if I used them, the result was supposedly “guaranteed.”

The “Lord’s Prayer” is one I used in such a fashion. Night after night I would chant these words to show God how serious I was about wanting to be His child. I have to say “chant” because there was no thoughtful consideration, really, of what I was saying. I’d heard that this prayer was “known” to put a person in God’s favor.

Another important “key” is that of praying in King James English. Somehow, doing so makes the prayer “holier” and more likely to be heard, or so I believed.

I would never touch an “eye of newt,” or spider webs; nor do I have access to dragon blood. The thought of using such things is distasteful, to say the least.

On the other hand, I have been known to perform certain rituals in an effort to “move heaven” and get what I was asking for. If my ritual was interrupted, I became angry. The whole thing was blown, and I would have to try again later when I was certain of being left alone to complete my rites.

The day the Lord showed me that all of my efforts were designed to manipulate Him,

and were no better than casting spells, I was horrified.

I had to rethink my prayer time and practices.

Going through the Lord’s Prayer, I began to see the words in a new light.

Our Father, which art in heaven – He is no man, and He is not like my earthly father

Hallowed be Thy name – You are holy God and worthy of honor and praise, I am neither holy nor God.

Thy kingdom come - The desire of my heart should be the restoration of all things to His original design – man walking with God

Thy will be done – You know best how to achieve the most blessed outcome for the most people. My goal is to make my life better.

On earth as it is in heaven – His will benefits all, making earth more like heaven. My will benefits me, and can bring hell to those who stand in my way.

Give us this day our daily bread – a reminder that there is nothing I have that did not first come from His generous hand

Forgive us our trespasses – How many times today did I “step on the grass” of activities, words, or thoughts of I know are outside God’s stated will, defiantly ignoring the sign that said “Stay Off?”

As we forgive those who trespass against us – Ooh! Do I really want to be forgiven in the same manner as I forgive those who have crossed my boundaries?

Lead us not into temptation – I can find enough on my own. Have I matured enough that I would be able to stand in the face of temptation? Please help me be strong.

But deliver us from the evil one – I have an enemy. His desire is to rob and steal and destroy. Help me remember this every day in every circumstance. Give me discernment to see when he is at work and wisdom to stand firm when his arrows are aimed against me.

For Thine is the kingdom - You are King of kings, Lord of Lords, and everything belongs to You. I am only a small piece of Your grand Story – certainly not the leading lady!

The power – You are in control at all times. You have placed this power, through Your Holy Spirit, in each of Your children to do Your good will. Let me never misuse this gift, but never let me refrain from calling on Your power when the situation warrants my involvement.

And the glory – You are the only one it is safe to worship and honor. People twist applause into pride and become corrupted. Nothing created can be fully trusted. All will fail; only You can be praised without being altered by the glory.

Forever and ever – What will I be doing a million years from today, Lord? Whatever that may be, amazing will be part of the package. I’ll have only begun to know You then. “Forever and ever” makes me Homesick. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

*********

This prayer is not a chant, an incantation;

it is an opportunity to magnify the Lord – see Him as big as He truly is.

When I pray like this, it corrects my concept of how “big and important” I am in my own little realm. In light of Who He is, my ego is diminished and I am humbled to be chosen as His child. In reality, my life is the inch between my birth and death – which connects with everyone else’s inch on the timeline of history. That puts things in perspective in a hurry!

Don’t misunderstand, I am not opposed to kneeling, or lit candles, or other acts of worship. These are more like setting a mood for an intimate dinner, though; and not to manipulate the One I love. In fact, sometimes I use a prayer shawl. The fabric against my cheeks is like having the Father place my face in His hands and say, “Look into My eyes.” It keeps me focused; but that’s as far as it goes. God doesn’t say, “Oh, look! She has on her shawl. I have to listen and grant her wishes now. That really inspires me to give her what she wants.” Or, “Uh oh! She said, “In Jesus’ name.” Now I have to do what she asked.”

My point is this: Why do I choose the words I speak to Him?

Are they carefully chosen to supposedly “back the Lord into a corner” so He has no choice but to perform that for which I’m asking? Or am I pouring out my heart to a trusted Father and Friend, knowing that His answer will be what’s best for all concerned?

Why do I carry out my rituals? Is my intent to invoke God’s favor and get what I want? Or is my desire to make my time with Him special?

If my motives are anything but love, (1 Corinthians 13:1-4), then I may well be in danger of attempting to bewitch Almighty God.

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Loving Well

“No one has seen God at any time.” This statement was plopped into the middle of 1 John 4, where we are exhorted to love one another. It seemed to be out of place, which begged the question:

“Now, why is that statement here?”

As I meditated on these verses, it became clear that we are to love God, Jesus, and one another. God is not visible to us. Jesus is no longer visible to us, having ascended into heaven long before any of us were alive. One of the purposes for Jesus to come as a man was to give us a clear picture of God. In John 14:9 we read:

“He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”

Jesus ascended to the Father, and we were each given His Holy Spirit to live in us. One of the reasons we remain on earth after our salvation is so that we can be, as Jesus was, an example of the Father to the world. We are meant to be His hands, His feet, and His mouth. We are to be functioning as His body to everyone around us.

This truth convicts me as I consider how often I pick and choose who “deserves” my love, and who does not. He loves them all. If I am His body, then who am I to judge the worthiness of another?

If Christians understood their role as His ambassadors, we would be drawing people to our Lord instead of repelling them.

Have we become just so much noise as we champion for our rights

and try to get the world to validate our beliefs?

First Corinthians 13 addresses this very issue. We read,” Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”

I can speak eloquently, succinctly, accurately, and with great knowledge and wisdom. If I do this without a heart of love, though, I am just another loud person who is demanding to be heard. To the world, I am nothing. I have nothing to offer, and they would prefer that I sit down and shut up.

The truth is that people won’t care how much I know until they know how much I care.

If my sole concern is that of obtaining their validation for what I believe, then I will fail to fulfill my assignment to love them with God’s love.

Their opinions of my beliefs do not alter the truth of the One in whom I believe. It is a challenge to remember that my battle is not with flesh-and-blood people; it is with principalities and powers. The person with whom I am speaking has been blinded and needs my prayer, not my disdain. Lord, help me remember this.

If it weren’t for Jesus, I would not have had a very clear picture of what God was like. Can others say of me, “If it weren’t for you, I would never have known what Jesus is like?”

Lord, help me to be love to others. Make me as accurate an example of You as is possible while I remain on earth.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

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Religion versus Relationship – Don’t Miss the Point (Part 2)

First Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”

I don’t know it all, and don’t want others to think I do. Walking with the Lord is a learning curve. The longer I walk with Him, the more He adjusts my thinking to line up with His.

I am grateful for His patience with me.

A few years ago I read a book by Donald Miller entitled, “Searching for God Knows What.” It was an excellent read, and although I didn’t agree with some of what he had to say, he pointed out something so obvious that I’ve missed it all along.

It has to do with “Values Clarification.” Remember when the problem was presented: There are 7 people, and a lifeboat that will only seat 5? Our job was to decide who to kill. The butcher, baker, candlestick maker. You know; who was the least valuable, and therefore should be left out.

How sad that everyone I know (including myself) lives with this sort of mentality.

I see everyone is a threat.

I can’t encourage them, because it might cost me my seat in the lifeboat. (This is a very small nutshell to try to explain the concept – sorry if it isn’t making sense.) It’s why I seek for things to criticize in those whom I perceive as “better,” and find smug self-importance when I meet someone who is obviously “inferior.” Go to the nearest school and watch the kindergartners. This kind of thinking begins very young.

I’ve realized that God designed us so that someone outside ourselves would define us. It was meant to be God, Himself. This was broken at the fall. So now we take our identities to others and ask them to tell us that we’re OK. The problem is that they have the same lifeboat mentality, and perceive us as a threat as well. (This is really over-simplified. Work with me here!). As a result, they are not very willing to affirm us. Believe me, I’ve lived a lifetime of being told what a waste of space I was. I’ve experienced this. Their voices were so loud that it was hard to hear the gentle whisper of God as He told me of His great love for me.

Even the disciples struggled with this as they argued about who would be the greatest.

Jesus tried to tell them that there is no hierarchy in heaven. There’s the Trinity…and then there’s us. That’s it. No “haves” and “have nots.”

Since this was brought to my attention, I’ve been horrified at how quickly – and often – I evaluate others, comparing them to me (I always come out on top, you know!). My Bible calls this sin, and it grieves me to know how entangled I am in this belief. It is my continued, fervent prayer that God will work this out of me.

In the meantime, it has seriously changed my attitude about a lot of things. I can let go of the need to defend myself, knowing that we are all a work in progress, and God is still changing our hearts. There is more freedom in this than I ever thought possible. I don’t have to try to work myself to the top. As a result, I have been able to reach out to others in love, helping them to achieve their goals as we all strive to reach a lost and dying world for Christ.

The ministry of Jesus was spent seeking broken humanity and making them whole. He disregarded our conventions of who’s in and who’s not, and loved them, touched them, healed them. That’s my goal.

I want to leave the fragrance of Jesus wherever I go.

This reply was given in response to a comment I received on a blog I posted in 2009.  I could have taken it one of two ways: as a sharp criticism to which I would have to defend myself to the death; or as an opportunity to allow God to help me clarify my thinking.

This is a brand new way (to me) of looking at people, one I like much better than the old, critical one. Therefore I chose to see it as an opportunity for growth, instead of as a threat. We are, after all, part of the same Body. It didn’t seem right that he would be shooting himself in the foot on purpose! …pulling out a splinter, maybe!

Maybe we could adopt this approach when we disagree with a brother or sister in Christ, instead of shredding them to bits. A lot gets lost in the translation when we’re dealing with the written word – no body language, no intonation. It’s easy to get “misheard.” Could we ask for clarification before we read between the lines?

Let’s live love and not just hold it as a nice theory.

The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face to shine upon You, and give you peace.

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Religion vs. Relationship – Don’t Miss the Point (Part 1)

My personal history is similar to that of the Pharisees. I was so busy with my religious checklists (keeping the law) that I missed the Savior. I did not have a relationship with Him, but I was certainly religious about Him.

For instance, the Lord’s Prayer was my checklist for “conversations” with God (a monologue rather than a dialogue, the way I did it.) Prayer time was when I presented Him with my “to do” list. On top of that, I was very critical and judgmental of those who did not take their religion seriously.

Like the Pharisees, I had missed the point.

I missed the most important list of all, probably because it’s so short. We find it in Matthew 22:36-40. Jesus states that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. The second greatest is to love our neighbor as ourselves. I had all the appearance of a good Christian, but I lacked love…and love happens in relationship.

Something I discovered is that I couldn’t “work up” love for others – especially certain groups of people who broke the Scriptural laws I tried to live by. To me, they were the enemy, standing in the way of what I thought ought to happen.

I’ve watched “them” dismantle the country I love one brick at a time. I tried to show them the error of their ways using Scripture, but my loveless words were a blaring trumpet and crashing cymbals in their ears. Not one of them saw a need to change “parties” and follow my rules.

I despised them for their ignorance.

Over the past several years, though, God has been drawing me into a relationship with Him. He’s been inviting me to get to know Him, not just know about Him. The closer I come to Him, the more things change in me – and not because of my own efforts to be good. The changes come naturally.

As I hear His heart for the lost, compassion for their blindness begins to grow. As I become more aware of His presence, I don’t want to do things that would displease Him. By spending time with Him and hearing Him speak to me, I learn that He is not angry with me but loves me with an everlasting love – that He is pleased with me.

To realize that I am secure in His love has allowed me to grow in grace and love for others. I don’t need to prove – or believe – myself better or more deserving of heaven than another person (a lie I believed most of my life. Which of us “deserves” anything from God?).

I don’t see Christianity as a competition anymore.

This kind of growth did not come from all the check-lists, bullet points, and “10-steps to Christian maturity” programs that I’ve followed for over 40 years. It’s new to me, and very noticeable to others, and began when I left off being merely “religious” and began to pursue a relationship with the Lord.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34 We have to know His love before we can truly love others.

I can know all the rules in the Bible and live by them, yet not know the Author of the Book.

Then I will have truly missed the point!

I will learn from Him best through His Word, as the Spirit prompts me to surrender the unholy parts of my heart to Him. The sinful areas are revealed as I study His Word.

This is not a call to dump the Bible and “feel the love.” To dismiss our Bibles is to silence the Lord’s most powerful way of communicating with us.

Does this make sense?

It is my heart’s desire to call people away from empty, vain “religiosity” and to an intimate relationship with our Lord.

Don’t miss the point!

Don’t miss Part 2 on Wednesday!

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Psst – There’s No Lifeboat!

There isn’t a lifeboat. Yet, we live as if one exists. Every day we compare ourselves to those around us trying to determine which one is better – them or us. Who deserves a seat on the boat? Who does not?

For instance, as a writer it’s easy to fall into the trap of reading other author’s pieces and then pick them apart (a sure sign that I’m feeling threatened by their skill). Or of rejoicing that I’m obviously a much better writer. (Phew! I’m safe)

Everything is fine when I believe that I have more to offer than someone else in a given situation. The minute it’s apparent that I’m lacking in one area or another compared to that person, I immediately begin to look for a flaw or shortcoming in him or her so I can feel secure again.

I call this “Lifeboat Theology.”

Each person is ranked by social standing, popularity, appearance, etc. No “ladies and children first” thinking here. The “important” people are given a seat first, then those who are rich or famous, then the “beautiful” people. The average working Joe and the bum off the street don’t stand a chance.

What a blessed day it was when I realized that there is no lifeboat in God’s kingdom.

The ground at the foot of the cross is level,

and there’s room for everyone

regardless of who we are or what we’ve done.

(Check out Galatians 1:28)

When I finally understood this, everything changed.

Whereas in the past I felt threatened by anyone younger, more talented, more gifted, or more accomplished, now I understand that each person has a unique role to fill in this world. I cannot take someone else’s position and they can’t take mine.

Each person has been specifically outfitted to fulfill his or her calling.

Knowing that my “place” is secure, I can extend a hand to those around me. I am free to encourage, support, inspire, and even equip them so they can do what they were created to do, without the fear of being bumped off the boat and left to drown.

Even better, the Bible states that God doesn’t call many who are wise, mighty or noble, but chooses the foolish, the weak, and the base.

Why?

So that no one can boast about how great he is, how he’s a “self-made” man in the presence of God (1 Cor 1:26-29).

I guess you know which category that puts me in. Yep, I’m the weak ninny who messes up all the time!

God’s view is very different than ours.

Jesus said that we will know truth, and the truth will set us free. That certainly holds true for me in this instance. I’ve given away my life vest, and now look around for folks whom I can help fulfill their own calling – without the fear of losing mine.

Even when things come up and I appear to have been displaced by someone “better,” I can relax. Displacement is merely a re-direct from the Father. A new way is opening for me with adventures I’ve never dreamed of.

Yeah, life is definitely more peaceful, now that I’ve dropped my “Lifeboat Theology!”

Originally published 4/13/13 on Lessons by Heart

Stand Guard!

You and I live in a war zone every day of our lives. The fight is for our minds. Whoever controls our mind, controls our life. It is for this reason that we are told in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to take every thought captive. We’re also told in Romans 12:2 to be transformed. How does that happen?

By the renewing of our minds.

What does it mean to “renew our mind,” though? Well, it’s a fancy way of saying

“Change what you believe and what you think about.”

Before I even wake up in the morning, all sorts of negative thoughts begin to crop up. I know because when I am awakened, they’re already in full swing…usually aimed toward my husband.

Did I go to bed angry with him? No.

Has he done anything in those early moments to tick me off? No.

Yet, there they are.

If I’m not careful, I can bite his head off before he’s had a chance to say, “Good morning.” That’s just wrong.

During the day I have to watch my thoughts as well. In a heartbeat, I can be off down one memory lane or other and mentally “duking it out” with someone I haven’t seen in years.

A couple of years ago, we went to the ocean. There’s a beach in Crescent City that we like to visit. It’s loaded with shells. I’d been sitting on the sand, picking up tiny shells for about an hour when I sensed the Lord ask me what I’d been thinking about.

His question caught me off guard.

I was surprised to realize how I’d spent my time.

I reviewed all the people that had been on my mind – this one with their problems, that one who’d said something hurtful. In all, I realized that I’d spent a lot of time mulling over dozens of folks. I said as much to Jesus.

“Hmm. How are you feeling? Are you rested and joyful?” He asked.

“To be honest with You, I’m tired and want to take a nap!”

He pointed out that it takes a lot of mental energy to allow my mind to wander aimlessly in this way.

He was right.

Too often I expend excessive amounts of energy on thoughts that are not helpful.

After all, once I get someone else’s problems “all figured out” – what’s changed?

Not a blessed thing. It wasn’t my issue to sort out in the first place. I don’t have all the information necessary to straighten out a situation in the second place. (Not to mention the fact that he or she wasn’t even there to hear my brilliant solutions!)

What a worthless use of my time – and my mind.

It drags down a cheery disposition; robs me of peace and joy as well.

Philippians 4:7.8 gives a list of things to focus on – whatever is good, pure, right, just, lovely, virtuous, etc. When I turn my mind from what’s wrong with the world to one of these topics, my countenance changes. I feel light, free, and enjoy life again.

This works, I’ve learned from experience. As soon as I switch from thinking negative thoughts to thinking about Jesus and the blessings I have been given, the storm clouds of gloom, depression, and anger lift and the sun shines brightly all around.

Yes, we are in a battle – and it’s a war for our minds. We have an enemy whose desire is to rob, steal, and destroy our lives. He will, if we let him.

Jesus gave the authority we need to take charge in Luke 10:19 – the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions (and He’s not talking about reptiles and bugs here!), and over all the power of the enemy.

He’s given us the armor,

He’s given us the authority.

He’s won the victory,

and given us the honor of reclaiming territory.

We must guard our minds!


Shadowland – An Amazing Journey

The shadows lengthen, the sun is obscured by the cliffs on either side of the path. The air is heavy, our breathing labored. I’ve been in this place before. I recognize the terrain, the sights and smells. I hear the rustle of Death’s robe as he follows at a distance. His breath quickens as he draws near in anticipation of his next victim.

We have entered the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

How I despise this part of life’s journey.

And yet, there is much to be seen and learned in this place if those attending the sojourner pay attention. For it is also a place of comfort, of hope, and the nearness of Jesus for those who have entrusted themselves to His care.

This will be a short trip this time, I think. My dear friend – more like a father to me than my own ever was – has bone cancer. He’s fading quickly.

Thoughts of the loss of another beloved one in this place scratch at my raw emotions like a claw. It was just eight years, one month and six days ago that my mother’s journey through this valley ended.

At the same time, sweet memories of the last trip lay play like wispy mist while we walk. We talk of those times, my friend and I. We remember dreams of an angel enfolding Mom in his wings, of watching her play with “baby angels” while she was recovering from her surgery. The outline of a Lion in the picture at the end of her bed (Aslan standing guard!).

I tell him of her decision to discontinue the medication she was on – it wasn’t working; her conversation with the doctor,

“Yes, I am ready to die.”

We talk about how I watched her make the last knot in her “needlework,” poke the needle into the pincushion, and smooth out her last bit of work during drug-induced sleep; the opening of her sightless eyes minutes before she left us – the gift of a final farewell to her family….and the feather that fell from a bird-less sky the afternoon she left us.

It was a painful time, a fretful time, and yet a time of great hope.

It seems that we’re very nearly on the same path once again. I’ve seen that stump before, and that gnarled tree over there, too.

This all sounds so somber and heavy, to tell it in this way. In some ways it is. Thankfully, the separation won’t be forever, though.

For my friend, it is an adventure. “Wow! I’ve never died before. I wonder what it will be like? This is exciting!” was his joyous response when he was given the news. Only someone who knows where they are going can react like that.

And he knows! With barely a backward glance at those of us who will remain on earth, he’s ready – eager to be reunited with his wife. They’ve been separated for two long years.

(She’s been keeping my mom company – I’ll bet the two of them have made quilts for each of our homes from the finest fabrics heaven has to offer, and painting pictures to grace our walls.)

We’ve talked for many hours about what lies beyond the gossamer-thin veil that separates this world from the next. We’ve spun some exciting stories about things we hope to do and see. The most amazing activity we long for is our first face-to-face visit with Jesus Himself. Oh, what will that be like? we wonder.

Our favorite topic is: What will we be doing a million years from today? We will certainly be doing something! The Bible says we will be like Jesus when we see Him. That’s AWESOME!

Did you ever read in the Bible about the stuff that Jesus did after He rose from the dead?

He ate and drank. He could be touched. He was reunited with those He loved.

He flew! Right up into the atmosphere without a jet pack or oxygen tank.

My personal favorite is:

POOF! Now you see Him inside a locked room.

POOF! Now you don’t!

I’m gonna have fun with that one for about the first hundred years.

Expect me!

Yeah, I hate this valley, but it isn’t so bad when I remember that separation will only be for a little while. We will see one another again. Because we know Jesus, we will never see Death, but pass from life to life.

The Bible describes it as

“Mortality being swallowed up by life.”

Now, that’s good news!

Thank You, Jesus, that You have not left us without hope. I will dearly miss my friend, but I’m so thankful that I will not “lose” him. I’ll know right where to find him, and that’s with You.

Thank You for Your comfort and support as we walk through this valley. I’m so glad that it’s only the “shadow” of Death, for Death cannot touch those who belong to You.

I’m glad that we will live forever with You – and never have to deal with death, sickness, sorrow, guilt, shame, or evil forever after. Now that is good news indeed!

Originally published 4/12/13 on Lessons by Heart

Separation of Church and State: Prager University


Billy Sunday: Baseball Star Preacher

American Minute with Bill Federer

FEB. 17 – Billy Sunday: Baseball Star Preacher

  
A baseball star, Billy Sunday played for the Chicago White Stockings (Sox) in the 1880’s and later the Philadelphia Phillies.

He was born during the Civil War in a log cabin in Iowa.

His father, a Union Army soldier, died of pneumonia when Billy was a month old.

At age 15, he struck out on his own, working several jobs before playing baseball.

His career took off when he was recruited by A.G. Spalding, owner of the White Stockings and founder of Spalding Sporting Goods Company.

Sunday became one of the most popular athletes in the nation.

While leaving a Chicago saloon with some other players in 1886, he heard a group of gospel singers on the street from the Pacific Garden Mission.

Attracted by the hymns he had heard his mother sing, Sunday began attending services at the mission, where he experienced a conversion.

He began attending YMCA meetings, quit drinking and got married.

A national sensation occurred FEBRUARY 17, 1889, when Billy Sunday preached his first sermon as a Christian evangelist in Chicago.

He went on to pioneer preaching over broadcast radio so enthusiastically that the FCC was formed in response.

During the next 46 years, till his death November 6, 1935, over 100 million people would hear him.

In his animated style, Billy Sunday said:

“The devil says I’m out, but the Lord says I’m safe.”

“Temptation is the devil looking through the keyhole. Yielding is opening the door and inviting him in.”

“Live so that when the final summons comes you will leave something more behind you than an epitaph on a tombstone.”

“I never see a man or a woman or boy or girl but I do not think that God has a plan for them…He will use each of us to His glory if we will only let Him.”

Rivers of America will run with blood filled to their banks before we will submit to them taking the Bible out of our schools.”

“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.”

American Minute is a registered trademark. Permission is granted to forward. reprint or duplicate with acknowledgement to vwww.AmericanMinute.com


Faith in the Face of Tragedy

We always want to understand when bad things happen. We want to blame someone or something. The first inclination is to find blame. We ask “Why? Why does God allow this to happen?” But it isn’t God that allows this to happen, but man instead. God has given us free will and whether we like it or not, free will allows us to make bad choices as well as good ones. Just as there will be those that work diligently to protect life, there are those who take life without any regard to the consequences of their actions. It is becoming increasingly easy to take life in our society simply because we are becoming a society that has no moral compass. Why should our children who are routinely told that God does not exist, take into account a future where they will face God’s judgment for their actions even if they die in committing crimes here on earth.

We will never live in a society that does not have evil or death in it until Jesus returns. We cannot change that. What we can do is to bring God into our homes and communities again and lessen the impact that evil is having on our world. It seems that it is easier for those who dislike someone or something to lay the blame on those things rather than face the real problem. Those who seek power and control use this kind of situation as an opportunity to put into place policies that serve their interests, but do nothing to change the pattern of violence. Often their policies do the opposite and encourage even more violence. How can our children respect life when they are constantly told that the life of children in the womb, the disabled and the elderly are worth nothing?

I pray that the people of Conn. and members of the families of those killed and injured will realize that God still loves them and that He is not the one to blame for this violence and death. I pray that we can encourage the value of life instead of death. I pray that evil is not given more of a stand and that people start to wake up and realize that they are head for final destruction and that the fiscal cliff is nothing compared to the cliff that will lead them to eternal damnation and the fires of hell.

LIFE

When bad things happen, don’t blame God

by Lillian Kwon, Christian PostPosted: Tuesday, August 10, 2010, 9:09 (BST)

When bad things happen, the general tendency is to blame God for it, says evangelist Greg Laurie.

But Laurie and award-winning music artist Steven Curtis Chapman have defied the norm by not only turning to God when they faced their darkest days but also by testifying to the hope they still have in Jesus.

“Here’s the hope that we have … even when He takes something, is there any better, safer place that we could ever leave anything than in the hands of God?” Chapman said Sunday evening at the 21st annual Southern California Harvest Crusade.

“We know that He will restore even what He takes away,” he added.

Both Chapman and Laurie lost a child in 2008. The singer/songwriter lost his 5-year-old adopted daughter, Marie Sue, in a car accident and Laurie’s 33-year-old son, Christopher, died in a car accident just a couple of months later.

The two prominent Christians continue to hurt from the loss but hold on to the hope that they’ll join their children some day in heaven. Read the rest at Christian Today…..


Update from Pastor Kerry Mauldin

The Long Drive   from    Kerry Mauldin
This is a day we will not soon forget! We were tested…
6AM we left for “165” km journey to near Guntur. We drove 6 plus hours to Krina Dist near the coast on Indian Ocean.
A young woman 18, had come to Miryalagudem last Oct requesting help finishing a church her father started. Young, but very strong and I so admired her grit and determinstion to come so far and want to honor God and at same time, honor her Mother and Father.
We came to know, her father passed 10 years ago while pastoring 5 small churches, all in rented houses. Her Mother is blind, but carried on the work.
They still pastored 2 churches but had no building!

We arrived in the rain and raining 3 days. We had at least 1/4 mile walk (more) along rice fields to the church. It was deep mud every step!! Crutches buried into sucking mud every step. At church, a man Srinu, tall and strong young man helped by builing 8 steps of piled dirt and stones and helped me tediously climb the 6 feet in elevation up crude muddy steps.
25 women and 3 men worship with all their hearts. Cooking dinner of prawn–shrimp in small room behind sanctuary, the whole place filled with smoke. The presented Melody with a saree and each of us garlands of flowers. This is to much as I so want them to put flower money into the church… They want to honor us, but should go to God!!
We taught, encouraged, gave many chickens to teach tithing, did salvation bracelets and encouraged and strengthened.
It was pouring rain and at end, Srinu almost carried me on one shoulder as he and I plowed thru the mud… Mud squishing up thru his toes…
I so needed a restroom and no place, just mud and rain… Wow!! –enough of that writing….

We got to a dry place and got Sukanya and her widowed sister and blind Mother together and gave a buffalo to help provide for their daily needs…

You search your heart if the long drive helped… We only began…

4 hours to next village in Prakassam Dist to go to village of Prakash Rao, a pastor that pastor Mizelle connected to us–Lincoln, Ar.
Got there almost 8pm and little church was so full. they were all so easy to teach!! No tithers, but ALL agreed to start tithing, share Christ with others! They were full of excitement, took notes and were so blessed and a blessing. 6 took baptism, 3 other pastors needed help and we helped them in Prayer Sheds, talents etc…
After meal at 10 pm, prayers we started our drive back to nalgonda Dist. We reached 4120AM…. too much…
No complaints from Anusha and Roja, both 21 and last year at the Happy Home. They help translate, carry bags, do salvation bracelets…
Prakash drove the whole way, no complaint, Emmanuel scheduled but was determined to reach these villages!!

Lord help us use wisdom, reach village, touch lives and not complain… Learn lessons (don’t take word on how far a drive…Ha!!)
Longest drive at one stretch on Indian highways which is not a thrill with all the challenges.
It is almost 10 AM and time to start to villages again…

Thanks so much for praying!!

Love and prayers,
Kerry and Melody and India team!!


Thought for the Day of Atonement

Leviticus 23:27-29

King James Version (KJV)

27 Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord.

28 And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the Lord your God.

29 For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people.

Leviticus 23:27-29

Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

27 “The tenth day of this seventh month is Yom-Kippur; you are to have a holy convocation, you are to deny yourselves, and you are to bring an offering made by fire to Adonai28 You are not to do any kind of work on that day, because it is Yom-Kippur, to make atonement for you before Adonai your God. 29 Anyone who does not deny himself on that day is to be cut off from his people

;


Phil Wickham – Jesus, Lord of Heaven


The Doctrine of Hell – Tim Conway


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