Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Sweeter Journey - Part III - Eureka

One night in church a light went on ~ it was so profound ~ kind of like I had just seen electricity for the first time. But this was no ordinary light ~ this was the light of the Holy Spirit once again nudging me and saying "This is what I’ve been trying to show you" ~ yeah, that kind of light. For those who follow my posts, you know that I read a book entitled Something More by Catherine Marshall.

Two things she talks about in the beginning chapters are 1) God is sovereign in all things, and 2) The golden bridge to the heart of God is that of praising Him in all things. And, if we will praise God in all things then we will see marvelous results ~ and God can do His perfect work through us. I made mention that I was going to give this a try ~ to simply be of a thankful spirit and praise God no matter what. I wrote those particular posts back in the summer. And I have to tell you that the results have been heart-warmingly awesome.

It hasn't been the easiest of tasks. It surely helped me see just how much I do complain ~ from summer heat to human rudeness. I’ve been telling the girls through out this spiritual experiment "It seems when we grumble and complain that things don’t get any better - they actually get worse. It also seems that when we praise God no matter what and are thankful in all things that life seems significantly smoother sailing." I actually made that comment again this morning.

So one Sunday night the preacher was talking about grieving and quenching the Holy Spirit. He said "One way that we grieve and quench the Holy Spirit, is when we are not in fellowship with others ~ like our church or family, etc. We need the Holy Spirit to guide us. If He is quenched then that guidance is not going to happen." That is about the time that the light really came on. I knew what I had been applying to my life. I knew what I had been telling my daughters ~ about praising rather than grumbling and complaining. I even knew that it was working. But I can’t tell you for sure that I knew ALL of why it was working ~ not until I heard that sermon. I found myself wanting to shout out "AHA" or "EUREKA" or some phrase like that when a great discovery has been made! I reckon it is a good thing I didn’t since the preaching was going on at the time. (Smiling)

I know that grumbling and complaining is wrong (Philippians 2:14 says Do all things without murmurings and disputings). I know that it is sin. And I know that sin quenches the Holy Spirit. But I don’t think I had really stopped to think about the ramifications when I complain and grumble (especially when it is about something that I might consider an injustice). Not only is the tone of the environment a negative one ~ but as well life is bumpier ~ whether that be the way others are toward me, the way I am toward others, and even the level of peace (or the lack thereof) that I can have in my heart and mind in dealing with life issues.

I hope I’m not stirring up muddy water here because this was really big for me to grasp and if it helped me that much I know it can be a help to others. This little experiment, that I began in mid-summer has had magnificent results. I’m not telling you that I am now problem-free. I’m not telling you that life is now a breeze and I'm skipping through life without a care in the world. I’m just saying that when we praise God in all things ~ no matter what ~ even if it does involve what we consider injustices against us ~ He is faithful to reward us with some peace, and joy, and contentment. He is faithful to correct those very problems that we have been grumbling and complaining about. Eureka!

Where Is Your Staff?

Sunday night Pastor Dan spoke about the shepherd's staff. He pointed out that there is a beautiful word picture in Hebrews 11:21 By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshiped leaning upon the top of his staff. This chapter in Hebrews, chapter 11, has often been named the "The Hall of Faith" ~ listing several individuals in the Bible who showed a great faith in God. The Bible makes mention here that Jacob "leaned" upon his staff.

In Bible times, the staff was a means of support; it was also a means of protection ~ giving peace and security. For us, our staff is God’s Word. It is not just another book. It is the inspired Word of God ~ II Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

The Bible supports in times of trouble. It helps us stand during the tough times ~ Psalm 119:107 I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O Lord, according unto thy word. How often have I gone to the Word when I felt so weary I didn’t think I could make it ~ when I felt like throwing in the towel. It is salve for the wounds and balm for the soul. Oh, the years I didn’t use the "staff" in times of trouble!

The Bible is also our means of defense. In Ephesians 6:13 it says Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day. And then in verse 17 it says And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit which IS THE WORD OF GOD. If we are not reading our Bible our shield or "force field" will be weakened or down all together. Our staff defends against sin ~ against spiritual warfare ~ against the enemies of our God.

Don’t forsake your staff. From someone who spent many years forsaking hers, you will never truly be equipped with the troubles and even dangers in life ~ so learn from my mistakes ~ hold on to your staff ~ hold on to God’s Word ~ let it be a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path and you can’t go wrong.

Remember ~

The Word of God will keep you from sin OR sin will keep you from the Word of God.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Tribute To My Friends

I found out the hard way exactly what Psalm 108:12 meant when King David cried out to God and said Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man. It is so easy to place too much emphasis on a friendship - so much so that you begin to trust more in man’s efforts than you do in God’s. It took me a while to figure out that no human could help me when I really needed it. And so I have learned that first and foremost I must cry to my very best friend ~ the Lord Jesus Christ ~ when I am in trouble. And you know what ~ because I have learned that very valuable lesson ~ God has greatly rewarded me with different ladies who care about me (as I do them) and would do anything for me if I needed it ~ friends that tell me they love me ~ friends that rejoice with me ~ friends that cry with me ~ friends that make me laugh ~ friends that love my Lord too ~ friends that God has put into place. And I have all of that because I made Christ my very best friend ~ I am truly rich indeed.

Goodness, I get excited just thinking about it! Thank you Lord for being my very best of friends. Thank you dear friends for being the greatest ever! You know who you are!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

More Hear Ye’s

As I said yesterday, I Thessalonians is jam-packed with good advice about the Christian’s walk. I was gently toe-stomped when I read verse 11 in Chapter 4 ~ And that ye study to be quiet and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands as we commanded you. Ow! I honestly have no recollection of this verse in the different times I have read this book in the Bible. In my time I’ve heard it said "Be quiet and mind your own business." My mother often heard it as "Tend to your own knitting." Anyway you say it ~ it means the same thing, doesn’t it.

I will have to say that sometimes folk do use this advice to not get involved at times when people really need help ~ whether someone needs a shoulder to cry on, or there is a family with a financial need, or even knowing when something is going wrong and courage is needed to stand up and make it right. Many many times people don’t want to get involved and their pat answer is "It is none of my business." There is a time to speak and a time to be quiet ~ a time to mind one’s own business and a time to reach out and help someone. And you know what, it is never really hard to discern those times. God is good to show us if we will only ask Him. Well, stay tuned for more Hear Ye’s from the book of I Thessalonians. I told you it is brimming over with lots of good advice!

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Bitter-Sweet Situation

Two weeks ago I turned 50 years old. Thirty-eight of those years I have been saved ~ a child of the King ~ the Lord Jesus Christ. You might think that in all those years I would know the Bible fairly well ~ yet to my shame I do not. But for nearly a year I’ve been feasting at His table ~ lapping up the Holy Bible like a thirsty dog lapping up water on a hot summer day.

It’s kind of bitter-sweet. Bitter because so many years have gone by without truly studying God’s Word as I should have ~ and sweet because it has become so precious to me as I am getting to know God better. I believe that I worry and fret far less ~ and I know I trust far more. It is a much better way of life. For even when I’m not on the mountain top I am happy in Him. And that, my friend, is an awesome experience.

So don’t forget ~ if we aren’t reading The Word then we aren’t fully communicating with our Mighty God.

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

I Thessalonians is a rather small book in the New Testament but it is certainly packed with a punch. It contains a great deal of exhortation (advice) on how we as Christians should be behaving while here on earth.

In a day in time when intimacy and seduction is used to market just about anything ~ the Bible is very clear that this is wrong ~ and I Thessalonians brings it home very clearly. In chapter 4 and verse 3 God commands the Christian to abstain from fornication (having an intimate relationship outside of marriage). Christians are to abstain from this ~ walk away from it ~ do not be a part of it. God commands us in verse 3 of this chapter to possess our vessel (our body) with sanctification and honor. We are to use our body in a way that is honoring to God ~ in a way that does not dishonor ourselves ~ in a way that does not dishonor another. So often Christians watch things on TV or even view things on the internet that catapults them into situations where, with the use of those images in their mind, they engage in activity that is not godly. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. What a tremendous lesson in that one verse. Oh, if we would post that verse on our hearts, in our minds, across the doorposts of our homes ~ to only do those things that are holy and to flee from those things that are unclean ~ how much happier and easier life would be for all of us.
For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.
I Thessalonians 4:7
Amen and amen!

God, Please Tell Me Why I Have To Walk This Road I Am On Right Now?

It is a question many folk have asked God at one time or another in their lives ~ especially when they have had to deal with a tremendous tragedy. When a child dies ~ when a loved one is diagnosed with an incurable disease ~ when all of one’s worldly possessions are destroyed in a fire ~ and the list could go on and on. Many folk have asked "Why?"

Last night at mid-week service I heard an awesome sermon on "When We Ask God Why." Pastor Dan said, "If we are not careful we will let the "why" question control our mind and we will forget to ask "how" and "what." He went on to say that why focuses on the problem at hand. It does not focus on how to deal with it. He encouraged us to set the whys aside and start addressing how to overcome the situation ~ how to glorify God through it all ~ and then ask God what can I do to make it through this hard time in my life. In this way, we focus on victory instead of despair. We focus on the solution to the problem rather than the devastation of the problem itself.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Let The Redeemed Say So!

Today as I was reading Psalm 107 I was intrigued that at four different times the following verse is repeated ~ Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! J. Vernon McGee put it well when he said "If you are a Christian, tell others how good God is. God does not have many friends in court among the multitudes of people in the world ~ no champion, or defender, and few to testify on His behalf."

It is so true ~ and yet it was painful to read. God’s reputation so often is negative. He is seen as a god that will destroy rather than save. He is seen as a god that is difficult to approach ~ disinterested in human kind, difficult to please, and unloving. How sad that folk keep the one and only True God at arm’s length ~ viewing Him as a policeman of sorts simply waiting for them to mess up. If we are not praising God for his goodness and wonderful works then who will?

Believer ~ if you will stand up for our God, if you will praise His name openly and often ~ if you will ~ He will empower you and bless you beyond reason.

O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, who he had redeemed from the hand of the enemy.
Psalm 107: 1-2

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Sweeter Journey ~ Part II

I am continuing to repost writings from my old blog that I believe will be particularly helpful to those going through a struggle great or small. To follow is the second of a three part devotional that the Lord laid on my heart to write back in the summer.

I have been journeying through a book entitled Something More by Catherine Marshall. I first read the phrase “A Golden Bridge To The Heart of God” in her chapter on praising God. She writes “God steps in to change unhappy or even disastrous situations in our lives when we thank Him for the situation itself.” She goes on to reiterate the first theme (of which I posted yesterday) that this concept of praising can be true “only when we at last understand that God is ‘in’ every circumstance ~ good or bad ~ that He allows to come to us.” She further shares that growth comes when we take an “active step toward God who stands waiting for us at the center of the problem” ~ and the quickest route is via the pathway of praise.

Much scripture backs this up.

~ Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. I Thessalonians 5:16-18

~ Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:20

Many more could be sighted. Marshall goes on to give illustrations from the Bible of praise being the “hinge upon which great events turned.” One in particular was the account of Paul and Silas in prison. Their backs were surely raw and bleeding from the stripes laid upon them. Their feet were in stocks. City authorities were clearly against them. It didn’t look good. Acts 16 tells the account of how Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten, and placed in prison. In verses 25 & 26 it is recorded And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed. And the excitement didn’t stop there. Not only was the jailer and his entire family saved, by morning all charges were withdrawn and they were free to go.

Praising God in the good times is something I can do quite easily ~ but praising God for the bad things is not something I have a lot of practice with. Catherine Marshall writes that the prayer of praise is the most powerful prayer of all. “It is a golden bridge to the heart of God. No human situation is too burdensome, no circumstances too calamitous for praise to bring as marvelous of results today as in Bible times.” So I’m gonna pray toward this end. I’ve actually already begun. Being a Christian for so many years and yet not really dealing as well with “things” as I should ~ I want to see change. I want to see victory in my life and in the lives around me. I figure this route far outweighs the more traditional ones I've tried ~ praying yet still worrying, praying yet still complaining, and even praying yet still not truly believing that He CAN DO THE IMPOSSIBLE. There is so much more that can be shared but that will have to wait for another time. May the Lord richly bless you!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Light In The Darkness

After reposting "A Sweeter Journey" just this morning, my being willing to praise God in all things has been put to a test in a huge way. It is so hard, isn’t it, when something happens that is bigger than life. Just yesterday some home school friends of mine mentioned several prayer requests and they were all so serious and "big" ~ some of those which make you feel there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Well, that is the category this one is in this evening. Oh that I was at liberty to share specifics so that you could know the horridness that has befallen a Christian family ~ for I do believe it would cause you to pray for sure.

Sometimes this world can be so stinky to live in. Things happen to good people and it is hard to accept. It is hard to be thankful. It is hard to praise God anyway. But we have to, don’t we.

O Soul are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

This Summer's Journey

To follow is the first of three posts written during the summer sharing my journey from the point of unthankfulness to that of finding God in everything and praising Him no matter what. I am so very much still traveling this road but I must say the path is less steep ~ I have fewer rocks in my shoes to discourage my progress ~ and I have gained a contentment that only the Great I Am could have put in my heart. Do I get off the beaten path and take rabbit trails? Sometimes. Do I get breathless, have to stop and then take my eyes off the finish line ahead? Sometimes. But I've found that if I stay in God's Word, stay in prayer, and praise Him no matter what then most certainly "Sweet Gets The Journey Everyday."

I don’t know about you my friend.
I don’t know where your journey will end
But as for me and all of mine
We’re gonna make that Heavenly climb.
Sweeter gets the journey everyday
Serving Jesus really pays
I get happy in that Heavenly way
Sweeter gets the journey every day

A Sweeter Journey - Part I

I’m writing from a little country town in southern Kentucky where I was born and raised. The pace is slow here ~ and that’s just what I was in need of. Everyone goes through stages in their lives when they need to do some soul searching. Life tends to crowd out the voice of reason and it seems the only practical thing to do is to steal away to a quiet place ~ and my hometown has been just that.

While my trip is already more than half over, I’ve had many opportunities already to pray and study on God’s Word ~ and as I said “do some soul searching.” I’ve just really needed some affirmation that God is with me all the way ~ in all things ~ and that no matter what journey this life will take me on ~ that if I remain close to Christ and continue seeking His will for my life ~ that He will see me through the thick and the thin ~ that He will see me through seemingly impossible situations.

Since I arrived here I have been reading an old Catherine Marshall book that I found on my mother’s bookshelf. It is entitled Something More, and I must say it is seems to be just what the Great Physician ordered. Lately I have been discouraged about things in my life and in the lives of others. I admit that I have at times wondered what God planned to do about these “things.” You know the “things” I refer to, don’t you? They are spoken of in I Thessalonians 5:18 In every THING give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Yep, those “things.” Catherine Marshall writes “Unless we do accept God in an all-inclusive “every thing” we can have no contentment.” She goes on to say “The news is that there is no situation ~ no breakage, no loss, no grief, no sin, no mess ~ so dreadful that out of it God cannot bring good, total good, not just “spiritual” good, if we will allow Him to.

I know it is true. I’ve preached it innumerable times to my children, my friends, and my colleagues when they’ve hit a rough spot in the road of life. But I’ve needed someone to remind me ~ that there is nothing that can happen to me without God’s knowledge, without God’s consent, without God’s participation as Savior. I suppose I have had a level of rebellion within my spirit as I have been dealing with these “things.” But God does not want me to harbor rebellion. We wants me to “lay down my arms”~ so-to-speak ~ at His feet. There must be a full surrender on my part ~ acknowledging that Christ is in complete control and that He has complete authority in all areas of my life ~ in particular these “things” that I need to be thankful for even though it is most difficult to be thankful for them.

It isn’t going to be easy but I greatly desire contentment in my life come what may. Are you struggling with something ~ carrying a weight that you shouldn’t ~ responding with a rebellious spirit. Take it from me my friend – it will only prolong the agony. When God is trying to get our attention we must lay it all down at His feet – all the hurt and the pain, all the agitation and disappointment ~ and let Him do His perfect work.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Change Is In The Air

There is a change in the air and I'm not just talking about the weather! It's a shame but it has been needful for me to progress toward the mark of shutting down my old blog. It had been up and operational since late February ~ yet recently through a chain of events ~ it has become necessary to revamp and start again. I will be pulling devotions from the old sight over to this new one. They were an encouragement to write ~ hopefully and prayerfully they will be an encouragement to someone to read.

Don't Sweat The Small Things In Life

Years ago the story to follow was sent to me via email. It is a "word picture" about not sweating the small things in life. When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous "yes." The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed. "Now," said the professor as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things--God, your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions--and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else--the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand." One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend." God wants us to give every need and care to him. In Matthew 11: 28 it says Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. And in I Peter 5:7 it says "Casting all your care upon Him for He careth for you." There is so much that we, as Christians, carry around on our shoulders. And it isn't even necessary. What I have taught my girls to do is visualize the problem ~ whether it is a person or a situation ~ and pick up and carry it to the feet of Jesus. The girls and I have carried many a person to the Lord ~ leaving them at His feet ~ and saying "I can't do this anymore, I can't handle this situation anymore, I can't deal with this person anymore. I give this to you." And guess what? It works. It is a beautiful picture of taking the weights of this life and putting them on Christ's shoulders ~ shoulders that are more than broad enough to carry everyone's load.