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Friday, June 28, 2013

Get Over It!

Do you remember that nerdy kid in school?  You know, the one who came to class early and left late.  The one who always had her nose in a book.  The one who made straight A's and still did extra credit.  The one who cheered for book reports and celebrated library time.  Remember now?  Well, that was me.  Yes, I was the geek, the teacher's pet and the book lover.  Truth is, I still am.  I love to read, but more than that, I love to learn.  In my mind, there's nothing like the thrill of acquiring new knowledge.

So, you're probably wondering why I'm telling you this, right?  Well, it's because I learned something new this morning, and I got so excited about it, I just had to share.  As I was reading (big surprise), I came across some interesting information about eagles.  Apparently when eagles soar through the sky, they are frequently attacked by crows, who fly up from behind or underneath and peck at the eagles' wings.  To escape the constant attacks, the eagles ascend to an altitude the crows can't achieve, leaving the eagles to soar peacefully.

As soon as I read that, the song, "You Raise Me Up" began playing in my mind.  So many times we, like the eagles try to soar through life but find ourselves distracted and defeated by the pecking crows (i.e. the troublesome circumstances that come our way).  Unfortunately, we usually try to defend ourselves, and in so doing, we become frustrated and weary.  If only we would learn from the eagle.  Don't struggle.  Don't fight.  Get over it, or to phrase it differently, above it.  Just as the wind currents lift the eagle to new heights, so does God wish to lift us up above our stormy circumstances.  Doesn't the Bible say He will make a way of escape?  This is it.

How are you soaring today?  Are the crows pecking away at your strength and your faith?  If so, won't you allow God to raise you up to new heights?  After all, He is the Most High.  He loves you and wants what's best for you.  He can raise you up, and He will if you'll only trust Him. 

Have problems?  Don't know what to do?

Easy.  Just get over it!

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. - Isaiah 40:31

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Haunting Truth

Last Friday evening, on our anniversary, Jason and I went on a ghost tour in downtown Greenville.  Now please, before you label me a heretic, understand that I do not believe in ghosts, spirits or the paranormal. As for unexplainable events that occur, I believe that is the work of Satan and his demons.  Nevertheless, I enjoy a good ghost story as much as the next person, not to mention, I was certain the tour would reveal interesting information about Greenville that I didn't know.  And it did!

There were only four of us, plus the guide, on the tour, so we were able to have more interaction and to cover more information.  It was actually a lot of fun, and if you've never been on one, I highly recommend it.  I did learn some interesting things that were woven within the stories of ghosts and hauntings.

Unfortunately, a few sad truths came to light during the tour as well.  For starters, I discovered just how many people throughout any given year were taking these tours.  People were paying to hear an hour and a half of ghost stories when they won't enter the church to hear a message about salvation for free.  Secondly, as the guide was talking about the popularity of his book on the paranormal and his many interviews with talk shows and radio programs, I realized that, as a whole, the population seems far more interested in hearing about the paranormal than they do about hearing the truth.  You write a book about ghosts, ghouls, and spirits, the television and radio shows come to you begging for interviews and giveaways.  On the other hand, you write a book about the truth of God's Word, and those same people avoid you like the plague.

I just don't get it.  How can people believe in ghosts but not in the Holy Spirit?  Why do people put so much credit in personal accounts of hauntings yet mock those of us who believe the Creation account?  Why are so many people being drawn to the dark instead of the light?  What is wrong with this picture?

Even though I had a good time with Jason Friday night, these thoughts sadden me.  No, more than that, they trouble me, for they evidence just how far the world has fallen.  And I wonder, is there anything we can do about it?

As I pondered that question this morning, one word kept coming to mind:  shine.  When the world is dark, shine.  When people can't find the way, shine.  In a population that is stumbling and searching in the darkness, shine.  But alas, I am like the moon--I have no light of my own.  Fortunately, the Lord dwells within me, and there is no greater light.  If I will step aside and allow Him to shine through me, perhaps some light will be shed on these haunting truths.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. - Matthew 5:16

Monday, June 24, 2013

Hands Up! You're Surrounded!

Thoughts pop into my head at the strangest times, and they often seem to come from nowhere, but I know that isn't the case.  I'm convinced this one came from the Lord.  Jason and I have been reading and discussing in our nightly devotions about meditating on the things of the Lord outside of devotion time and church services. You know what I mean?  Where you take a verse or a thought and you chew on it and chew on it and chew on it some more throughout the day.  Well, I guess that's what I was doing when this thought occurred to me, and I got such a blessing from it that I just had to share it.

I was reading in Deuteronomy 31:8 which says, And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.  I was meditating on the part that says the Lord will go before me.  My mind immediately thought of the many hiking trips Jason and I have taken together and how I prefer him to walk slightly ahead of me.  First of all, his vision is better than mind, so he can spot danger, such as snakes and other wild animals, and take action or direct me around it.  Second, he can clear the path.  His feet trod down a lot of the tall grasses and briers, and his face and torso catch most of the spider webs.  

These thoughts brought a smile to my face as I realized that God does the same for me when He goes before me.  When I allow Him to take the lead, He steers me around the danger and clears the path for me.  Not only that, but the Lord is my light, so He also illuminates my path.

As if that weren't enough to chew on for a while, another verse popped into my mind.  Although at the time I couldn't remember the exact reference, I remembered the phrase from a verse in Isaiah that said something to the effect of "and ye shall hear a voice behind thee saying, This is the way; walk ye in it."  For the record, the verse is Isaiah 30:21 which says, And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.  Notice it says "a voice behind thee."

After chewing on this verse for a few moments, I came to a realization--I'm surrounded.  Surrounded by God.  Surrounded by angels. Surrounded by love.  Surrounded by strength.  Before me, behind me, to the right and to the left.  There is no where I can go to escape God's presence.  There is no where I can turn without running into His grace.  I'm hemmed in by His mercy.  He smothers me with His blessings and encompasses me in His arms.  So I decided the chew on that for a while, but before I could, another thought invaded my mind.

Because I'm surrounded on every side, that means I'm also protected on every side.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can get to me without going through God first.  If He allows it to pass, then it must be for my good.  But if it's something harmful, it doesn't stand a chance of getting through.  I am sheltered in His mighty hands as He sends trouble scurrying with His words, "Go away.  This child is mine."  Man, I'm getting goosebumps all over again.

That's the great thing about meditating on the Word of God.  You start off with a word or phrase, a mere snack.  But before you're through, you're bursting at the seams.  That's where the "hands up" part of the title comes in.  If you can meditate on a passage and not end up lifting your hands in praise to the Lord, you must be doing it wrong.  God is so good, and when you spend some time chewing on His promises, it will bless your socks off!  Don't believe me?  Try it and see.  I guarantee you there's nothing like it.

Friday, June 21, 2013

I Love You Because. . .

Today's post is a tribute to my husband on this blessed day of our 16th wedding anniversary.  To my husband, my companion, my friend.  I love you!

I Love You Because. . .

When I feel discouraged, you are there to lift me up.
When I feel alone, you remind me of God’s most precious promises.
When I feel in doubt, you encourage me with your faith.
When I feel happy, you are there to share in my joy.
When I feel saddened, you allow me to cry on your shoulder.
When I feel hurt, you offer me your listening ear.
When I feel a sense of accomplishment, you take me out to celebrate.
When I feel overwhelmed, you help me to accomplish my tasks.
When I feel at peace, you sit with me and bask in God’s goodness.
When I feel afraid, you hold me and assure me of your protection.
When I feel ill, you pamper me.
When I feel rejected, you welcome me into your open arms.
When I feel like laughing, you join in the fun.
When I feel like singing, you listen.
When I feel like being alone, you give me some space.
When I feel unthankful, you remind me that I am so blessed.
For all you are and all you do, I love you!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Limitless by Nick Vujicic

"God will cause even the worst things to come together for good.  Hold on to the promises of God, no matter what you see on the outside. God is good. If He allows something bad to happen, you may not understand it, but you can hold on to His goodness." - Nick Vujicic, Limitless, Chapter 20

Born with no arms or legs, motivational speaker and author, Nick Vujicic has a different outlook on life than most. He shares that outlook, along with other words of wisdom, in his new devotional book, Limitless. This collection of fifty short devotions is made up of snippets from his other books, but it is laid out in an entirely different format. Each devotion includes a Scripture passage, an inspirational story/challenge, and a motivational closing quote.  I must admit, however, that the Scripture and the actual devotion don't always go together.  At least, the author doesn't always tie his message to the Scripture. Don't get me wrong, the messages are good and true, but if you are looking for an exposition on various Scriptures, this is not the right book for you.

What I love most about Nick's book is his honesty. He makes no qualms about admitting his times of failure or discouragement.  In fact, his admissions are like a breath of fresh air to the reader who is wondering, "Is it just me?  Am I the only one who feels this way?"  Not only does Nick expound on his problems and faulty outlooks, but he also details the remedies that helped him make it through those situations.  Readers are certain to be encouraged, inspired and motivated.

All that being said, this is not your typical devotional book. While it does contain Scripture and the author does mention God on numerous occasions, the book as a whole reads more like a self-help manual than a typical devotional book. The book is full of inspiration but not much education. It leaves you feeling challenged but not necessarily with a better understanding of Scripture.  Though I typically prefer devotionals with a lot of "meat" to digest, I still truly enjoyed Limitless and highly recommend it, especially to those who are in need of encouragement.

This book was given to be by Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions expressed in this review are mine alone.

Monday, June 17, 2013

How Bad Is It?

Lake Wattacoo is one of my favorite places. . . at least during the fall, winter and spring.  In the summer, not so much.  With the changing of the season comes snakes, spiders and bugs like you've never seen.  What was once a haven of peace and tranquility is now a place to be avoided at all costs.  The trail is still gentle, the view still magnificent.  So what changed?  In short, the creepy crawlies moved in.  Snakes of all shapes and sizes stretch across the trails.  Gnats fly in your nose, mouth, eyes and any other place they can get into.  Mosquitoes bite.  Yellow jackets sting.  Spider webs cling to your flesh.  It's miserable, absolutely miserable!  But come fall, you won't be able to keep me away.

Life is full of seasons, and sometimes those seasons can fool us into thinking our lives are in rough shape.  Have you ever been there?  Have you looked around at your life and wondered, "Is this all there is?  I get up, go to work, come home, work around the house, then go to bed.  The next day, it starts all over again.  Where's the joy?  Where's the peace?  Where's the fun?  Is this how life is supposed to be?"  If you've experienced anything like that, rest assured, you're in good company.  The children of Israel did too.

Yea, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not his word: But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord. - Psalm 106:24-25

They despised the pleasant land.  They murmured in their tents.  They ignored God.  They found themselves in a difficult season and rather than dwelling on the good times, they focused on the bad.

"Yuck, manna again."

"We want some meat."

"We're thirsty, and there's no water around here.  What are you going to do about it, Moses?"

"We're tired of this wilderness.  Our feet hurt.  Why can't we just stay here, or better yet, go back to Egypt?"

No matter what God provided, they weren't satisfied.  They were taken care of, but they weren't thankful.  They were dwelling in a pleasant land, but they despised it.  Sounds a little too close to home, doesn't it?  We, too, have a tendency to be ungrateful.  After all, we have roofs over our heads and food on our tables, but still we complain.  We have clothes to wear and the Lord's leadership to guide, but we want more.  We take a long look at our lives, but somehow we overlook all the blessings and only see the lack, and we long for a better life.  

We would do well not to judge our lives based on one season.  Sure, the creepy crawlies may be on the move now, but they won't always be.  Yes, life may look dim and unsatisfying right now, but it won't always.  Give it another season.  See it through to the end.  The children of Israel despised the land because of the season.  Don't despise your life the same way.  Learn from their mistake.  Perhaps part of the reason they couldn't find peace and joy was because of the phrase at the end of verse 24: 
they believed not his word.  Maybe if they put a little more trust in God, the path would have been more inviting.

God has given us His word that all things WILL work together for good to those who love Him.  All things.  All seasons of life.  All situations and circumstances.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  We have His word on it.  Whether we believe it or not will determine how we live each day--in peace or in turmoil.  Loving life or despising it.  So I ask you:  how bad is it, really?

Friday, June 14, 2013

If You Can't Say Something Nice. . .

I do not envy Moses.  In fact, I wonder how many times during that forty year wilderness journey he wished he were back watching his sheep.  It certainly would have been easier. . . and quieter.  I taught kindergarten for nine years, but the complaints and whining I heard don't even come close to comparing with what Moses had to deal with.  Those people were never happy!

We're hungry.

We're thirsty.

We're tired.

We don't want to eat that.

We don't want to fight for the land.

Whine, whine, whine.

Even God grew frustrated with them.  Verse 23 of Psalm 106 tells us, Therefore he said that he would destroy them.  It sounds to me like God was pretty fed up.  He'd had enough of their grumbling.  He'd had enough of their unfaithfulness.  He'd had enough of their ingratitude.  He was ready to be done with them.  That's pretty serious!  But if we continue reading the verse, we discover that Moses stood up for the people.  Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them.  For whatever reason, Moses asked God to spare the people, and God honored Moses' request.  I have to wonder if Moses was ever sorry about that move.

They angered him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes: Because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips. - Psalm 106:32-33

Have you ever met someone that just brought out the worst in you?  Have you ever been around someone that frustrated you to the point that you said something you later regrettedIf so, you can relate to poor Moses.  Those Israelites had him so flustered that he couldn't think straight.  The Bible says they provoked his spirit.  And I guess Moses finally reached his breaking point.  Enough was enough, so he let it fly.  I don't know what he said, but evidently, it wasn't good.  

We can't always control who we're around.  There are time when we can't escape bad company no matter how much we wish to.  What we can control, however, is our tongue.  Yes, some people just rub us the wrong way.  I understand that, really, I do.  But does that give us the right to "speak our minds"?  Not if our minds aren't focusing on Philippians 4:8,  Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

When you're frustrated and you reach your breaking point, think before you speak.  Take a moment to test your thoughts.  Are the things in your mind true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report?  If so, then by all means, speak your mind.  If they are not, however, (which is more likely to be the case in times of frustration), keep your mouth shut.  If you absolutely have to say something, fine, speak the Lord's mind, but keep your own thoughts to yourself, lest you fall into the same trap Moses fell into.

I believe it was Moses' frustration that caused him to strike the rock the second time when God had commanded him to speak to it instead.  I believe his spirit had been provoked to the point where Moses was simply ready to be done with the thing.  But in his frustration, he spoke and acted without thinking, and in the end, it cost him the promised land.  Forty years of travel, and he didn't even get to reach his destination.  How sad!

The Bible says to be angry and sin not.  Most of us don't have a problem with the "be angry" part, but we struggle a lot with the "sin not" part.  Let's be careful.  No matter how angry or flustered we become, we do not have a license to sin.  We do, on the other hand, have an obligation to be an example to the world around us.  So, what kind of examples are they seeing? 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

How's Your Memory?

And he remembered for them his covenant, and repented according to the multitude of his mercies. - Psalm 106:45

It's so easy to read through Scripture and interpret verses as to what we think they say rather than what they actually say. For me, this verse is no different. As many times as I've read through the Psalms, I've overlooked the important message in this verse because I failed to see what was really there.

In my mind, I interpreted the verse to say, "And he remembered his covenant for them," but that is not what the Bible says. I was trying to place the prepositional phrase "for them" where it did not belong. If you look closely, you'll see the true meaning of the verse, for it clearly says, "And he remembered for them his covenant." Do you see the difference?

The way I was interpreting it was that God remembered the promises He had made to Israel, but what it is actually saying is that God remembered His promises for them. In a time when they had gone astray and had forgotten God's most precious words, God still remembered.

What a comfort it is to know that even when I don't remember God's promises, He remembers them for me and reminds me of them in a variety of ways. Not only does He remember them, but He also acts according to the multitude of His mercies to see them fulfilled. Not according to what I deserve, but according to His mercies. His faithfulness is not dependent upon my own, and even when I don't keep my promises to Him, He always keeps His promises to me.

On dark days and in trying circumstances, it is often difficult to remember the promises of God. But even if we forget, God will not. He will remember for us, and He will set His promises before us as a reminder of His love and mercy. His memory is perfect, and his faithfulness is beyond measure. He will not let us down, and if we remember nothing else, may we not lose sight of that truth.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Rainy Day Christians

This morning, as I set about packing Jason's lunch and putting dinner in the crockpot, I couldn't help but focus on the gloomy weather.  The pitter-patter of the rain was both distracting and sleep-inducing.  I groaned inwardly at the tasks awaiting me and the lack of energy I felt with which to tackle them.  Suddenly, in the midst of my distraction, a bright light illuminated the entire kitchen.  It was coming from the windows above the sink and was so bright that I nearly had to turn away.  Within a moment, it was gone, and the rhythmic fall of the rain picked up again.  It was one of the strangest things I'd ever seen, but as the Lord often does, He used it to remind me of an important lesson--one that I came across in my morning Bible reading.  In fact, the next several posts are going to come from chapter 106 in the book of Psalms.

For sake of time and space, allow me to summarize the beginning of the chapter.  It begins with praise for the Lord because of His goodness and mercy.  Then it quickly turns into a list of the many ways Israel had failed the Lord, focusing mainly on their forty-year journey through the wilderness.

In today's post, I'd like to focus on verses 12 and 13 which say:  Then believed they his words; they sang his praise. They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel.  Despite their stubborness and faithlessness, God took care of Israel.  He provided for them and met their every need.  That's where verse 12 comes in.  Because of His acts of mercy and grace, they believed.  And in that belief, they sang praise.  But in the very next verse, it says that they soon forgot and no longer waited for His counsel.  On the mountaintop one day; in the valley the next.  One day singing praises; the next seeking pity.  Sound familiar?

According to this passage in Psalms, the Israelites changed their attitudes toward God as rapidly as the weather changed at my house this morning.  Rain, sun, rain--all within a matter of moments.  Complain, praise, complain--all within a matter of moments.  But don't we do the same?  When our health is good and there's money in the bank, we're happy.  We praise the Lord.  We tell others how blessed we are.  Yes, when things are going our way, it's easy to believe in God's promises and to praise Him for His keeping of them.  

But, oh, how things change when the sun hides behind the clouds and the rain starts to pour again.  When the account is overdrawn.  When sickness strikes.  When our plans are pushed aside, and we don't understand why.  Then, we forget.  We forget His promises.  We forget His works.  We forget how He's always seen us through.  And we stop waiting.  We stop seeking His counsel.  We stagger along in our will and way, trying to get back on track but unsure in which direction it lies.  How quickly things change!

The children of Israel were "sunny day Christians."  They were only happy and satisfied when all was going well, when all was bright and cheerful.  But God expects more than that from us.  He wants us to be "rainy day Christians," those who are satisfied no matter the weather.  Sunshine and blessings?  Awesome.  Storm clouds and trials?  Awesome.  He wants us to remember His promises and His faithfulness in every weather, not just when things are going our way.  And doesn't He deserve it?  Hasn't He earned it?

So, today, I leave with you this one question:  Are you a "sunny day Christian" or a "rainy day Christian"?  You're either one or the other.  There is no middle ground.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Say What?

John 11 recounts the story of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha who was sick to the point of death. Being good friends of Jesus and well acquainted with His ability to perform miracles, the two sisters sent for Jesus to come to their aid. But He didn't. Instead, He stayed where He was for a couple more days and then told His disciples that He was going to go visit the family. The disciples spoke amongst themselves, determining that Lazarus must have been all better, but Jesus quickly dispelled their belief with a single statement: Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.

 Does that verse strike anyone else as odd? The first two phrases just don't seem to go together. "Lazarus is dead, and I'm glad I was not there." Talk about sounding heartless. Good grief!

My grandmother is the most blunt and plain-spoken person I know. She says what she means and means what she says. She doesn't pull any punches. If she thinks you need to pull your pants up, she'll tell you. If she thinks your hair resembles that of an unemployed clown, she'll tell you that too. It's not that she's mean. She's just painstakingly honest. . . sometimes to the point of embarrassing those who are around her.

 But I must admit, in this case, Jesus makes my grandmother look reserved. "Lazarus is dead, and I'm glad I was not there." If the disciples weren't confused before, they were now. That is, if they do like the rest of us and only hear part of what the Lord says. Could it be that the bluntness of the statement caught them off guard to where they missed the part of why Jesus was glad? For their sakes. So that they might believe. Jesus was glad for another opportunity to prove Himself to the disciples.

It was love that compelled Him to go. Love for His disciples. Love for Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Love for the unnamed mourners He would find at the tomb. Yes, His love compelled Him to go, just as it compelled Him to come to earth for the sake of raising us from our death in trespasses and sins. He didn't have to come. He could have let us remain in our sins just as He could have let Lazarus remain in the grave. He didn't have to leave the splendor of Heaven. But He loved us too much to stay away. And so He came, destined to be the sacrifice for our sins so that we could be raised in newness of life. Oh, what love!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Trouble With Talents

Over the weekend, I read a book by a man who was following a program to write an e-book in 21 days.  Basically, the book served as a diary of his work and frustration during the long haul.  To be honest, the book was hilarious, maybe even more so to me because I could relate to the things he was talking about.  After all, what writer is not familiar with National Procrastination Day, writer's block, and the tendency to over-edit?  At times, I laughed so hard that I had tears streaming down my face.  I wanted to be able to write a five-star review when I was done, but that simply wasn't possible.

While I enjoyed the majority of the book, the author did make a couple of references about God that I felt were insulting, demeaning and downright disrespectful.  That being the case, I could not, in good conscience, give a glowing review.  So, per the author's request at the back of the book, I e-mailed him with my complaint.  In the kindest words I could come up with, I let him know that his derogatory remarks were probably costing him readers and positive reviews because other Christian writers (like myself) were put off by things like that.  I made it clear that I understand that he can't please everyone, but I wanted to ensure that he realized he was offending possible reviewers.  While I didn't expect him to bask in my criticism, I must admit I was frustrated by his response.  This is part of what he had to say:

Thank you very much for taking the time to write. I'm thrilled that you enjoyed parts of the book . . . You are right that my referring to God as a "she" and the "Ha-soos" pronunciation are punch lines. It's precisely the "absurd" and the unexpected in each joke that (to me) make them funny. 

My God wouldn't have given me this sense of humor and then not expect me to use it as I see fit (or hide it under a bushel).  I do try to do my best to write clean humor, but I suppose that I fail in some people's eyes.  My Lord and Savior has a fine sense of humor (see for example, the platypus) and I expect that when the roll is called up yonder, I'll get a slap on the back and a "nice one Glen; that was the best rib tickler since Eve" instead of a one-way ticket to a warmer climate.

It's unfortunate that you fall on the other side of the humor lines that chose I draw.  My humor is (to me) swear word free, and that is very on purpose.  I meant no disrespect to your (or anyone's) religious beliefs, and to the extent that you were offended, I am truly sorry.

Thank you for all your kind words.  It means a lot to me.

Overall, as you can see, the author was very kind and respectful in his response.  However, I also feel that he is very wrong about a couple of  things, one of which is his statement,  My God wouldn't have given me this sense of humor and then not expect me to use it as I see fit.  I beg your pardon?  What that says to me is that we can take any talent or gift that God has given us and use it any way we want.  Is that Biblical?  Absolutely not!  God gave me the ability to write, so does that mean I can use that gift to pen erotic novels?  Does He give talent to the musician so that he/she can sing about drugs and sex?  Does He give power to the preacher so that he can get up in the pulpit and preach his opinions and personal standards?  It's ludicrous!  Yes, God gives gifts and talents, but they can be both used and abused.

As to the fact that God will give him a nice slap on the back, I again have to disagree.  One does not disrespect God or use His name in vain and get a reward for it.  No, this man will not be sent to hell because of his poor taste in humor provided he is truly saved.  But neither will He receive a commendation from the Lord.  I am both baffled and disturbed by his viewpoint.  How can someone claim to be saved, yet so flippantly disrespect the Lord?  How can someone ridicule God and justify it by saying that God gave him the sense of humor, so it's okay?  Furthermore, how can a true believer honestly think that any part of our lives should be lived "as we see fit"?  That's goes against all Scriptural teaching.

It's not about us.  It's not about our wants.  It's not about our desires, plans or ambitions.  God has giving us the gifts and talents we have to be used in the ways He directs, not however we see fit.  They are His gifts, His talents.  He's only allowing us to use them.  Let's be certain we are using and not abusing the things He has placed in our care.

As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. - I Peter 4:10-11

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sunlight in the Cave

In Acts 26, Paul stands before King Agrippa and gives his testimony.  He tells of his former life as a Christian-killer and then his transformation to a Christian witness.  He gives the account of his salvation and the trials that have befallen him since then.  He holds nothing back.  He allows the Lord to speak through him and issues forth the salvation message.  And in the end, all Agrippa can say is this:  Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.  Almost, but not quite.  How sad!

In fact, I used to think this was the saddest proclamation in the entire Bible.  That is, until I dug a little deeper into Psalm 142.  It's one thing to read the Bible, but it's quite another thing to study the Bible.  While simply reading the Bible, I had missed the impact of verse 4 which reads, I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.

The writing of Psalm 142 took place when David was in the cave of Adullam after escaping from Saul.  Even though David was hiding out, it wasn't long before others joined him.  I Samuel 22 tells us, David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father's house heard it, they went down thither to him. And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.  In a sense, these men elected David as ruler over them.

But David didn't feel much like being a leader right then, especially to such a gang of misfits.  David had problems of his own.  How was he supposed to help them?  And didn't anybody care about his needs?  His distress over the entire situation is evident by the beginning verses of Psalm 142: 
I cried unto the Lord with my voice; with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication.  I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me. I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.

Cried unto the Lord?  Been there, done that.

Poured out my complaint?  Been there, done that.

My spirit was overwhelmed?  Been there, done that.

Not only do I sympathize with David, but I can empathize with him as well.  I've been in a few caves of my own, and I'm not talking about physical caves, but rather places where I go to try to get away from it all.  To figure things out.  To decipher where I went wrong.  But unlike David, I was truly alone in my cave.  

Yet despite the company of 400+, David uttered the words, "I've looked around and there's nobody here.  Nobody cares about me."  Isn't that just about the saddest thing you've ever heard?  If nothing else, it serves as proof that you don't have to be alone to be lonely.  But the helplessness doesn't stop there.  To really see the depth of David's despair, we'll need to look at one of his other psalms.

Psalm 16:8 says, I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.  Immediately, it's obvious that David was in a much better state of mind when he wrote Psalm 16 than he was when he wrote Psalm 142, and I think the reason for that better state of mind is made clear in the first part of the verse:  I have set the Lord always before me.  David had his eyes on the Lord.  He was seeing clearly.  He was not allowing his circumstances or emotions to overshadow God's promises.  He was "thinking on these things" as Paul instructs us in Philippians 4.  And with that clarity, he stated, Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.  God was at his right hand, which signifies power and strength.

Now, look back with me at verse 4 of Psalm 142:   I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.  Do you see it?  In the midst of his depression, not only did David despair that all men had forsaken him, but he also feared that God had.  In Psalm 16, he boldly stated that God was at his right hand, but in Psalm 142, he says, "I looked to my right hand, and there was no one there."  He continues by saying, "My refuge has failed me" which leads us into verse 5 of Psalm 142 where David says, "I cried unto thee, O LORD:  I said, Thou art my refuge. . ."

Are you beginning to see why this verse is so heartbreaking?  Perhaps you understand all too well how David feels because you've been there yourself.  In the midst of difficult times, sometimes it's hard to see God.  Sometimes it's easy to think that He has failed us.  After all, if He's really in control of all things, why do bad things still happen?  That doesn't make sense, does it?  Perhaps not to us.  But it certainly does to Him.

Would you like to know how David got out of this slump?  Would you be interested in discovering his secret to climbing out of the pit of despair and finding secure footing on the solid Rock?  Actually, it's no secret at all.  It's quite obvious and simple once you think about it.  But that's not to say that it's easy.  

When David was at his lowest, to the point where He was doubting God's presence, protection and provision, David went back to what he knew.  He, once again, set the Lord before Him.  He changed his focus.   He began to act on what he knew rather than what he felt.  He thought back to God's promises.  He remembered God's faithfulness.  He turned his pity in praise, and before he knew it, the sun was shining again. . . even in the dark cave.

I wish I could tell you that life will always be easy and that living in Christ will always bring happiness and good times.  But the truth is, life is hard.  Trials abound.  Friends will let you down.  Families will disagree.  Jobs will be tough.  Dreams will be dashed.  And some days, you'll feel like no one cares.  In those times, do what David did.  Set the Lord before you.  Stop looking at the bad, and look instead at the good.  Focus on God's promises not on your emotions.   Turn your pity into praise. 

Then pull out your sunglasses.  You're going to need them!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Hunt for the Well Hidden Treasure by Bob Sheard and Timothy Taylor

What child doesn't love a good treasure hunt? For that matter, what adult doesn't? Although this book is intended for middle-grade readers, I am in my mid-thirties and found it an exciting and intriguing read. The authors take care to give enough clues to help the reader solve the puzzle without giving away the actual hiding place of the pirate's treasure. The tale is a splendid mix of historical facts, fictional additions and loveable characters.

The kids are down-to-earth, but unlike those in most novels for this age group, they are respectful of adults (especially their parents) and of other kids as well. Each character has his/her own unique personality, showcasing his/her talents, which I feel serves as a good reminder to young people that we are not all the same nor should we try to be. God has created each of us in the way He saw fit, and we should cherish our gifts and figure out how to use them to help others. This is exactly what the group of main characters do, and by combining their individual talents, they discover that they make a great team.

The story line is easy to follow, but complex enough to keep the adult reader hooked. The plot is suspenseful and believable. I enjoyed the story from beginning to end. At times, I rushed through, trying to get to the end so that I could unravel the mystery. But when I did reach the end, I felt a sudden sense of loss. I didn't want the story to be over. In my mind, there could be no better quality to a good book.

I am unsure if this book is considered Christian fiction, but I do not remember any questionable elements within its pages. As memory serves, it was a clean, delightful book, one that I would definitely recommend to children and adults alike.