Thursday, October 2, 2014

Monumental

Last night, I finally had the opportunity to see a movie that I've been waiting to see for a couple of years now.  The name of the movie is Monumental, and if you haven't seen it yet, I urge you to do so. (By the way, for all you Netflix subscribers, it is now on Netflix streaming.)  The movie is a family-friendly, Christian film about the principles on which our country was founded.  It gives information about the pilgrims, including accounts that I had never heard before.  But above all, it highlights a little-known monument in Plymouth, Massachusetts that spells out the forefathers' recipe for a prosperous and successful nation.  At the top of that list is faith in God.

The film is set up a bit like a documentary, but I found it to be interesting and quite insightful.  I found out information about the pilgrims that I had never known and was completely dumbstruck by the detailed monument that was put in place by those who settled this country so long ago.  The movie was a reminder of the values our country was founded upon and of our duty, as Christians, to stand up and fight to see our country ruled by those values once again.

I don't typically do many movie reviews, but this one is a must-see for all Christians, so I wanted to take this post to recommend it.  If you've already seen it, I'd love to hear what you thought about it, so feel free to leave a comment below.  If you haven't seen it, you'll want to.  You won't regret it.  It's amazing!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Turning Curses Into Blessings

On that day they read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; and therein was found written, that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God for ever; Because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, that he should curse them: howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing. - Nehemiah 13:1-2

Are there any sweeter words than that last phrase in verse two?  Howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing.  Wow!  Once again, my mind is drawn to the story of Joseph where he told his brothers, "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good."  Doesn't that just bless your soul?  To know that what Satan means for evil, God can turn into good.  What the world means as a curse, God can turn into a blessing.  Any trial.  Any trouble.  Any tribulation.  It doesn't matter.  God is in control of it all, and somehow, some way, He will turn those curses into blessings.

I'm reminded of an old gospel song that says, "God will make this trial a blessing though it sends me to my knees.  Though my tears flow like a river, yet in Him there's sweet relief.  There's no need to get discouraged.  There's no need to talk defeat.  God will make this trial a blessing and the whole wide world will see."  Perhaps Nehemiah 13:2 was the basis for this song, or perhaps the songwriter had seen the truth of it in his own life.  Who knows?

What I do know is that this phrase reminds us that God is sovereign, and everything in life that happens to us must first pass through His hands.  Knowing that, we can now face our trials with a refreshing new attitude.  Instead of being discouraged and wondering when the trial will end, we can be excited, looking forward to how God will turn our curse into a blessing.  Our trials give us a very real opportunity to see God move in our lives.  Isn't that wonderful?  Isn't that what we long for?

Whatever you may be facing today, don't give up or give in. God's isn't through with your situation yet.  Hang in there.  This same God that turned water into wine can turn those curses into blessings. . . and no powers of hell can stop Him!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Putting Feet to My Prayers and Prayers on My Feet

My mind has been fixated on feet for the past few days.  I have no idea why.  In the last post, I talked about how the children of Israel journeyed through the wilderness for forty years without swollen feet or worn out shoes.  In fact, I was thinking about that post as I walked my dogs this morning.  I thought about the "small" and "big" miracles, and at that point, I realized I was wearing one of those "small, not-so-obvious" miracles.

Last year, I decided to make a better effort to get out and walk every morning, weather permitting.   (Unfortunately, I've been very lax in making that happen, but after a recent appointment with my doctor, my discipline has been renewed.)  Anyway, I wanted to walk.  I knew I needed to walk.  The problem was that my walking shoes were in terrible shape.  They were worn out in the heel (as usual), the mesh at the toe was torn and worst of all, the foundation of the shoe was beginning to collapse. 

If I was going to walk each and every day, I knew I needed a better pair of shoes.  At the time, however, I didn't have the money for a new pair of shoes.  Please understand, I cannot wear cheap shoes.  There was a time when I could, but since my back injury and the onslaught of arthritis in my knees and back, I must have quality shoes, which means I would need to dish out some serious money. . . money that I didn't have.  So, you know what I did?  I prayed.

I know it may sound silly to some, but I prayed every day that the Lord would somehow provide me with a good pair of walking shoes.  I laid out my petition before Him day after day, and I knew in my heart that God was going to take care of that need. 

About two weeks after I started fervently praying for my new shoes, I was at a thrift store picking up something for a friend.  As I walked down the shoe aisle, my eye caught sight of a name-brand, hardly-worn pair of walking shoes.  I picked them up and examined them carefully to determine what was wrong with them.  The soles looked great.  There were no holes or tears anywhere that I could see.  The insides were completely intact.  And believe it or not, they were even my size.  I tried them on and smiled.  They felt wonderful.  And best of all, the grand total was $3.  Yep, $3 for a very nice pair of walking shoes that I'm still wearing to this day.

But God's goodness doesn't stop there.  About a month or two later, Jason and I were popping into several different thrift stores, looking for a particular book that we wanted to read for our evening devotions.  Once again, a pair of shoes caught my eye.  They looked brand new, and when I examined them more closely, I realized they were Asics.  Further examination, however, told me that they weren't my size, but I decided to try them on anyway.  I'm so glad I did.  The shoes fit fine.  They are roomier in the toe than my other shoes, but they weren't so big that they slipped or slid. I looked up to find out the price and smiled again.  The shoes only cost me $4.

Within a few months, God gave me, not one, but two pairs of wonderful walking shoes, both of which are still in great shape today (although they might be a little more worn if I had been walking like I should have, but we won't go there).  God answered my prayers.  They weren't big prayers.  They were fancy.  They weren't extravagant.  And honestly, the need was not that dire.  But God provided anyway.  That's just the way He is.

Perhaps you have a need today, but you feel it's not really big enough to take to God.  After all, He's busy dealing with big problems like war, famine and disease.  Does He really care that you need a pair of walking shoes?  In a word, absolutely!  He cares about every need, no matter how big or small.  And He wants us to make our requests known to Him.  Yes, He already knows what we need, but by asking Him for my shoes every day, I showed God that I was serious and that this need was important to me.  And you know what, since it was important to me, it was important to Him.

Mind you that I'm not saying that God will give you anything you want, but He will always give you the things that you need.  So go ahead and ask.  Don't be embarrassed.  Don't wait until the need is greater.  Just ask.  Show God you mean business.  And then stand back and watch.  If you'll put feet to your prayers, God will answer those prayers for your feet!

 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. - Hebrews 4:16

Friday, September 26, 2014

Don't Overlook the Not-So-Obvious

I'm teaching a series on the miracles of the Old Testament, and frankly, I'm finding it difficult to narrow the study down to a dozen or so.  There are so many, and I'm talking big, wonderful works of God.  David and Goliath.  The walls of Jericho.  Daniel in the lion's den.  The three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace.  Abraham and Sarah's miracle child in their old age.  The opening of Hannah's womb.  Elijah and the prophets of Baal.  On and on, the list could go.  Such fantastic accounts.  Such wondrous events.  And the lessons that we can learn from each story are innumerable.

But I'm afraid that we sometimes become so fascinated by the "big, showy miracles" that we overlook the ones that are just as awesome, but not quite so obvious.  Take this one for example:

Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years. - Deuteronomy 8:4

In this passage, the Lord is talking to the children of Israel, reminding them of all He had done for them.  Obviously, He did mighty things during that period of time, like parting the Red Sea and raining down manna from Heaven.  But notice what the passage above states.  It may not be dramatic or flashy, but take it from an avid hiker, this is a miracle!  Their clothes (including their shoes) didn't wear out, and their feet didn't swell.  Seriously?  Wow!

I don't care how short or easy of a hiking trail we walk, my feet swell.  Obviously, they swell more on warm days or when the trail is long or strenuous, but they always swell some.  It's just part of the hiking experience.  Another part of the experience is knowing that you'll be replacing your hiking boots on a regular basis.  Good shoes are important when hiking, and no matter how tough or expensive the shoes are, they will wear out before long.  

My poor shoes don't stand a chance.  I wear out every pair of hikers I have in the exact same spot--the inside of my right heel.  Because of my back injury, I have an odd gait, which evidently causes me to rub my foot more against the heel portion of my right shoe.  But once they're worn, they have to be discarded.  Otherwise, they cause blisters.

Can you imagine walking for forty years and never having to get new shoes?  Better yet, can you imagine being on your feet for that long without them being swollen afterwards?  No, it may not be a jaw-dropping, eye-bulging type of miracle like some of the others, but it is a miracle nonetheless.

So, how often in life do we make the same mistake?  We look around at the miracles that God is doing for others and wonder, "Lord, when do I get a miracle?"  Meanwhile, God has been working those not-so-obvious miracles in our lives without our even noticing it.  The gas in the car lasts longer than it really should have.  Friends and family invite you to dinner throughout the week, saving you the cost of groceries, not to mention the time and energy to fix the meal (always a good thing in my book).  Nearly everything you bought at the grocery store was on sale or marked down.  A friend or family member offers you their used television, refrigerator or microwave when they update their own.  

Do you see what God is doing?  No, He's not dropping $1,000 in your lap.  No, maybe He's not giving you a raise or a bonus.  Perhaps He's not allowing you to get those new toys you've been wanting.  But He is taking care of you in ways that you're often too busy to notice.  Instead of giving you money, He's saving you money.  He is providing for you, just in a different way than what you were hoping or expecting.  But isn't it a miracle nonetheless?  Absolutely!

We respond to God's "big" miracles with oohs, ahhs and lots of praise, but how will we respond to the "not-so-obvious" miracles?  Well, first off, we need to be paying attention so that we won't overlook them.  Second, we should respond in the exact same way as if the Lord had parted the Red Sea for us.  He has provided.  What difference does it make how He provided?  Are we really going to be that picky?