Friday, November 28, 2014

Carried in the Arms of the Shepherd

I love to read information about the sheep/shepherd relationship, for it helps me to better understand my relationship with the Great Shepherd.  Yesterday, I was reading that when a sheep grows too tired or weary to walk, the shepherd will pick it up and carry it until the sheep can walk again.  Not only does this give the sheep a chance to rest and regain its strength, but it creates an unbreakable bond between the sheep and the shepherd. When it is carried, the sheep learns to love and trust the shepherd in a whole new way.  The more often the sheep is carried, the greater the bond grows.  Is that precious or what?

So many times we wonder why God would allow His sheep to go through such heart-breaking trials, but I think I now understand the reason.  He takes us to a place where we are too tired or weary to walk so that He can carry us and build that special bond that can only be had during such times.  He allows us to walk through the valleys so that we can learn to love and trust Him in a whole new way.  And each time we are carried, that bond of love and trust grows.  So, you see, it's not a punishment but a privilege. 

Now it makes sense to me how the writers in the New Testament could speak of rejoicing in tribulations.  We can rejoice because we know it's at those times that we are too weary to walk that we are tucked safely in the Savior's arms.  He is carrying us through the dark valleys and making sure that we have the strength to reach the other side.  Such care.  Such devotion.  Such love.

Instead of complaining about our circumstances today, how about we take a few minutes to thank the Shepherd for His great love and devotion to every single sheep.  He's carrying us.  The least we can do is call upon Him!

 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. - John 10:14

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

The way I see it, you just can't go wrong with Charlie Brown!  But be warned, this is the entire half-hour show.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Giving Thanks Rather Than Giving In

Today didn't start off all that well.  Let me give you a brief rundown of the first few events of my day:

I woke up with a throbbing pain in my head. . . again.
A few moments later, I discovered that the dishwasher had leaked all over the kitchen floor. . . again.
A few moments after that, I found out that Tippy, my beagle, has tapeworms. . . again.
Then, I was informed that someone had unsubscribed from my blog newsletter. . . again.

As I stood in the kitchen trying to process the events that had already taken place while I was still not even fully awake, my first thought was to give in to the temptation to crawl back in bed, pull the covers over my head and try again tomorrow.  At that moment, the day seemed to already be doomed to failure, so why bother trying to fight my way through it?  But in the midst of my despair, I heard that still, small voice whispering, "In everything give thanks."

To be honest, that's one of those things that is a lot easier said than done.  Everything?  Really?  The truth is that I didn't feel like giving thanks this morning.  I felt like giving in.  Not only was I not in the mood to face the day with rejoicing; I wasn't in the mood to face the day at all.  As far as I was concerned, I had already gotten a glimpse into what the day held and, frankly, I wasn't interested.  But the whisper persisted.  In fact, it grew louder and before long, it was put to music as I recalled hearing a song with the exact same words on the radio yesterday morning. (See today's Song of the Day post if you'd like to hear it.)

You see, the Lord knows me all too well.  He knows that once I get myself in a mood, it often takes great effort to get me out of it.  And He knows that after a while, I can tune out that little voice, no matter how loud it becomes.  Fortunately, He also knows that once I get a song in my head, it's nearly impossible for me to shake it off.  This song was the perfect weapon with which to attack my morning attitude.  The message was sound and exactly what His still, small voice was telling me.  And the tune was catchy, you know, the kind that sticks in your head.  Before long, I was so busy singing (and possibly even dancing a little) in the kitchen that I forgot about my bad mood.  It's hard to sing and dance while doing an Eeyore impression.

And now I find that I can do exactly what God was asking me to do this morning.  I can give thanks for the pain in my head, the water on the floor, the unsubscriber from my newsletter and the worms in Tippy's. . .well, you know.  Why?  Because God used them this morning to put a song on my heart--a song, mind you, that has been playing in my head all day long.  And with that song has come joy and gratitude.  But above all, God used those events this morning to prove to me just how much He knows me.  Yet despite all that He knows about me, He still loves me.  If that's not something to be thankful for, I don't know what is!

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. - I Thessalonians 5:18

Monday, November 24, 2014

Don't Hang Up Your Harp

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?
Psalm 137:1-4

What a sad story! I'm sure we all know what it's like to be so discouraged that all we can do is sit and wish for the "good old days." While this is a natural response, it is not a good response. Self-pity will get us nowhere.

If we are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, we are not of this world. Therefore, we are in a strange land. So, if we were to follow the example of Israel, we ought to just hang up our harps, forget about the Lord's song, and spend the rest of our days mourning our plight in life. Does that sound like what the Lord would want us to do? Of course not!

My pastor once made the comment, "Our circumstances in life will change, but our song shouldn't." AMEN!!! No matter how bad life gets, God is still good and still worthy of our praise. So often, though, when we're faced with hard times, the only song we want to sing is "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen." Wrong! God knows, and He cares.

I don't like hard times any more than the next guy, but they're part of life. I've faced my share of troubles and trials in this life, and I'm embarrassed to say that a good number of those times, I hung up my harp, buried my face in my hands, and gave myself a glorious pity party. You know the problem with pity parties? I'm the only guest! What fun is a party without guests and presents and of course, cake (chocolate, if I have my way)?

The point is that God is good all the time. Even if we're going through hard times, and we don't understand the path that God has for us, we can still sing Him a song. He loves to hear our songs, especially when we're in a strange land. It blesses His heart to see our love and devotion to Him. So, stand up, be strong, and hold onto that harp. You're going to need it!

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. - Psalm 136:1

*****Excerpt from Random Ramblings of a Raving Redhead by Dana Rongione*****

Friday, November 21, 2014

Who Is the Master?

On Wednesday night, Jason preached a compelling message on the fruit of the Spirit.  To be honest, he stomped on quite a few toes, mine included.  But what I found interesting is the particular fruit that seemed to really give me a hard time.  Yes, I had trouble with most of them, in that I am not bearing spiritual fruits as I should, but I was quite convicted by the fruit of temperance.

If you look up the word "temperance" in a regular dictionary, you'll find definitions such as "self-control," "abstinence" and "self-restraint."  And while those are all appropriate definitions of the word, there is one given in Strong's Concordance that truly made me pause and think.  That definition is "a mastery over one's desires and passions."  Ouch!  Yes, it's the same thing as self-control or self-restraint, but put into those specific words, I understand the term so much better.

A mastery over one's desires and passions.  That means saying "no" to the things that I want but that I know are not good for me.  That Pepsi that calls my name from the grocery store line.  The chocolate cakes that sings such sweet music to my ears.  The new gizmo I feel I can't live without.  That new project that I want to take on even though I know I don't have the time or other resources to do so.  The desire to sit on the couch and watch television instead of doing my workout.  Temperance means that I look each of these desires and passions straight in the face and say, "No, you are not good for me, so I will not give in to your temptations."

Unfortunately, I think these desires have more of a mastery over me than I do over them.  They call, and I come running.  They beckon, and I heed their voices.  They convince me of all they have to offer, and I shake off the moment of hesitation and dive into those dangerous waters.  And then, I regret it.  Can you relate?

The good news is that God is patient, and He is working in us to make us what we ought to be.  The bad news (or better news, depending on how you look at it) is that we cannot change our own spiritual fruit.  No matter how hard we try to "fix" ourselves, our fruit will remain the same because it is not "our" fruit.  It is the fruit of the Spirit, which means only He can produce that fruit in us.  Remember, He is the vine, and we are just the branches.  The branches don't produce the fruit; they only display it.  The production comes from the vine. 

At first, that may seem bad because we like to be in control, and if something needs to be fixed, we like to know that we can fix it.  But when you think about it, there's really nothing we can do to fix it, and Jesus says we don't have to.  He will do it for us.  All we have to do is abide in the vine.  Surrender everything to Him, including our desires and passions.  And in doing so, the fruit of the Spirit will blossom and grow, making it easier for us to stare temptation in the face and say, "No, thank you.  I don't need you!  I've found something better!"

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. - John 15:4-5