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Monday, September 28, 2015

Who Else Will Pay the Price?

Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? and that man perished not alone in his iniquity. - Joshua 22:18

As I read through my morning devotions, I was struck by a sobering reminder--I am not the only one who will suffer because of my sins.  My actions (or inaction, as is sometimes the case) affect others.  They have the ability to affect my husband, my parents, my siblings, my friends, my church and even you, my faithful readers.  It's like a falling domino. Rarely does a domino fall without knocking down the others around it. If I think I can do whatever I want and that the consequences of those actions will fall solely on me, I am deceiving myself.  The Bible proves that over and over again.  All of humanity suffers because of the sin of Adam and Eve.  Great wars have existed for centuries because of Abraham's and Sarah's impatience to have a son.  When a single person among the children of Israel did wrong, the entire congregation felt the sting of God's punishment.

"That's not fair," we may think.  "If I'm the one who's done wrong, then I should be the one to pay the price."  True, but maybe God knows that the suffering of those around us will be more effective in setting us straight than limiting His chastisement to ourselves.  God knows how to get our attention and the best way to get us back in shape.  Unfortunately, that often means pouring out His punishment on our loved ones.

It's a depressing thought, right?  So, why am I telling you this?  This is supposed to be an encouraging blog.  Absolutely right, but encouragement doesn't always come in the form of smiley faces and sunshine stickers.  In this case, I am encouraging you to think about your words and actions before you see them through.  And while you're thinking about them, ask yourself two questions:  (1) Who else will this affect?  (2) Do I want this enough that I am willing to let others suffer for it?  The chances are that if we'll ask those two questions before every action, we'll cut down on the sin in our lives.  And that, my friend, is very encouraging!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Safety in the Shadow

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

Over and over again, the Scriptures speak of being in the shadow of the Almighty or the shadow of His wings. So, what does that mean exactly? It means to be close--very close!

Let's try this little experiment. (If it happens to be rainy or cloudy the day you're reading this, you will want to wait until later.) Go outside and look around. Find some shadows that are being cast by trees, buildings, vehicles, etc. Now, stand in those shadows. How close did you have to get to each object to abide in its shadow? Pretty close, huh? The same is true with God.

There is no safer place than in the shadow of the Almighty, but many times we aren't close enough to Him to know the peace and joy that come from such safety.

Some of you are probably thinking, But God is big and, therefore, must cast a huge shadow. Plus, He is everywhere; therefore, His shadow would be everywhere too. Those are good points but bear with me. I'm trying to make an application here.

To stand in the shadow of an object, you must be close to it. If we're not in God's shadow, that means we're not close enough. If we're not close enough to God, we have some problems that we need to get settled. After all, our intimacy with God is determined by us. God is providing a shadow, and if we're not in it, that's our fault.

This topic always makes me think of how chickens or other birds react when a storm comes. The mother bird does not run around trying to persuade each chick to run into the shelter of her wings. No, the little birds come running to her out of fear and instinct. All she has to do is stand there with her wings extended, waiting for her children to run to safety.

God has gone so much farther than that. He sent His Son to die for our sins. He gave us His Book to guide us in our lives and to remind us daily of His love for us. He continually calls to us to run and hide under His wings, but in our pride and stubbornness, we do not heed His call. We try to do things on our own and wind up in a huge mess. Why, oh, why do we do that?

Today, God is waiting for you. His wing is extended, and His shadow cast. Whether or not you abide there is up to you. Come on. Step into His shadow!

*****Excerpt from Random Ramblings of a Raving Redhead*****

Did you know you can now get this e-book for FREE, no strings attached?  

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Can Christians Lose Their Joy?

I am sure we are all aware of the difference between joy and happiness.  Happiness is determined by the happenings in our lives.  If our circumstances are good, we're happy.  If life is treating us well, we're happy.  If not, however, we're unhappy.  Happiness comes and goes.  Joy, on the other hand, is supposed to be constant because its source is the Lord.  Joy is not supposed to be dependent on our circumstances but on the Lord.  So, logic dictates that since we cannot lose the Lord, we cannot lose our joy, right?

So, I ask you again:  Can Christians lose their joy?  Actually, yes and no.  As we've already discussed, we cannot lose our joy in the sense that it has been removed from us.  The joy of the Lord is ever-present in the life of the believer.  That being said, though, I believe we can lose our joy in the sense that we misplace it or cannot find it.  Think about it, just because something is present doesn't mean we know where it is or how to access it, right?

This thought came to me yesterday afternoon when I finally had the opportunity to see the movie, War Room.  One of the main characters made the comment that she still loved her husband and that she knew the love was deep down inside her somewhere, but it was buried under layers of frustration.  In that moment, it was like a light came on for me, and I thought, That's exactly how I feel about my joy--like I know it's in there somewhere, but it's buried under many layers of frustration, disappointment and unmet expectations.

It was the first time I had been able to make sense of what I had been feeling.  I knew I had to have joy because I'm saved, but I sure didn't feel like it.  I was living but certainly not that "life more abundantly" that Jesus spoke of.  Now, I finally understand.  My joy isn't gone.  It's buried.  And now that I know that, I know what to do.  It's time to get the shovel and start digging.  Digging away at the anger, hurt and confusion.  Digging deep into the roots of bitterness and resentment.  Digging my way through the layers of frustration until I can, once again, access my joy.  I'm happy to say that I began the process this morning during my prayer time.  I know it won't be an easy road and that there will be times that I feel like I'm not making any progress at all, but the Lord is on my side, and He will help me.  After all, He longs for me to have my joy restored.

Dear friend, Satan cannot steal your joy, but he can make it so that you can't find it or access it.  But there is hope, and that joy can be made fresh and new.  It will take time, hard work and a dedication to time alone with God, but I think you'll agree that it's worth it to find your joy once again.  Am I right?

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. - Psalm 51:12

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Is Your Communion All About the "Whine"?

When I did a quick search on the word "communion," I came up with two separate definitions:

1) the service of Christian worship at which bread and wine are consecrated and shared.

2) the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.
The first is a rite of the church, also known as the Lord's Supper.  It is the time set aside to remember Christ's great sacrifice on the cross and to follow the Lord's command, "This do ye in remembrance of me."  In keeping with the tradition, the congregation takes part in the eating of the bread and the drinking of the wine (grape juice).  And while this is an important and sacred event, it is not the form of communion I wish to discuss this morning, though I do want to make a play on words when asking, "Is your communion all about the whine?"

The communion I wish to discuss today is that of exchanging intimate thoughts and feelings, particularly with the Lord in prayer.  Each day, we are privileged with an open invitation to approach God's throne and invited to stay as long as we want.  During that time, we are urged to pour out our hearts before the Lord, to share our innermost thoughts and desires, to express our deepest joys.  But I wonder if I'm the only one who has a tendency to make that communion all about the whine.

I don't mean to.  I don't approach the throne of God ready to dump all my problems on Him, but within just a couple of minutes in prayer, the whine takes over.  Instead of asking for the Lord to meet my needs, I whine about what I don't have.  Instead of interceding on my brother or sister's behalf, I whine about how my problems are bigger than theirs.  Instead of lifting up my voice in praise, I whine about how long it's taking the Lord to answer my prayers.  Whine, whine, whine!  And then I wonder why I leave my prayer closet feeling discouraged and overwhelmed.  What should I expect?

Recently, I was introduced to a new way to pray.  While I don't necessarily use this format every day, I have found that it helps keep my thoughts more focused, my prayers less self-centered, and my whines to a minimum.  And my favorite thing is that it's easy to remember.  Just think "P.R.A.I.S.E."

The "P" stands for praise.  Before I ask for anything or whine about my lot in life, I praise the Lord for who He is and what He's done in my life.  Believe it or not, by the time I spend just a few minutes here, I find I have much less to complain about than before I began.

The "R" stands for repent.  Doing this regularly, I can keep short accounts with God, which is imperative for our relationship.  And oddly enough, I find that it's the same couple of things each time, which helps me to pinpoint the spiritual areas in my life that need the most work.  Repentance puts me in a more humble state and helps me to realize that I don't deserve anything from God, so everything He gives is a blessing far beyond what I could ever deserve.  It changes my entire attitude.

The "A" is for acknowledgment.  Again, this is all about attitude and frame of mind.  During this time, I acknowledge that God is the Lord of all and that He is in control of all things.  No matter what I may face, I can rest assured that it has passed through His hands first.  I acknowledge that He is the Master, and I am the servant, subject to His commands.  Do you see how this type of prayer is pulling our eyes off ourselves and on the Lord?

The "I" stands for intercession.  This is the time spent praying for others.  Obviously, I can't pray for everybody every day, so instead, I either divide up my prayer list, or I pray for the specific needs that the Lord lays on my heart.

The "S" is for supplication.  Now, it's time for me to pour out my personal requests.  Yes, sometimes, I do still whine, especially if I have a need that is weighing me down, but for the most part, I find that I simply state my needs and requests to God.  Most of the "whine" has dissipated by the time I reach this point of my prayer.

Lastly, the "E" stands for equipping.  Before leaving the throne of God, I ask for the Lord to equip me with the specific things I need to live for Him that day.  Maybe it's strength or focus or a calm spirit.  Whatever the need, I ask Him to equip me to face the day ahead.

Is this the perfect prayer formula?  Probably not.  Does it eliminate the whine altogether?  I'm afraid not.  But, as I mentioned before, it does keep my thoughts focused and my prayer life less self-centered.  By doing that, I've found that the whines are contained to a minimum.

What about you?  Is your communion all about the whine?  Maybe you ought to try a different approach to your time with the Lord.  Who knows?  Perhaps you'll find a way to eliminate the whines completely.  (If you do, would you please let me know? That's something I'm definitely interested in.)

The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. - Psalm 145:18

Monday, September 21, 2015

Higher Places by Annette Marie Spiezio -- A Book Review

About the book:

Higher Places is an inspirational account of how the dogs in our lives move us to be better beings—how our lives are elevated by the honor of loving a dog. This book is also an account of how God’s grace resides within everything in life as He teaches us all sorts of wonderful life lessons through our canine friends. There is an intentional purpose in our dogs’ lives beyond the simple joys we experience by spending time with them. If we are open to receiving God’s grace, we can feel closer to God in the presence of these furry companions. You don’t have to be a “dog person” to be delighted by this loving, humorous tribute to God’s creations, but those who are blessed by the love of a good dog will be especially moved to smile, shed a tear, and feel their heart ascend to higher places...

My Review:

To be honest, if I hadn't already agreed to review this book, I wouldn't.  As an author myself, I don't like to give negative reviews, but in some cases, it cannot be helped.  I agreed to read and review this book because it sounded like something I would enjoy.  Lessons learned from our precious pooches?  I get that.  In fact, I've written my own book on some of the many lessons I've learned by observing my faithful canine companions.  But this book was not at all what I expected.

To begin with, it is not a Christian book.  The "spiritual" tag used in the book description has nothing to do with Christian beliefs or Biblical inspiration.  The author does not use Scripture to drive home her points.  Instead, the entire approach of the book comes across as almost mystical.  The dogs were praised and set up on a pedestal while God was given an occasional, "Oh, yes, and God had a part in it too."  At least, that's the way it came across to me.

Secondly, the author used words that I consider to be inappropriate for Christians.  Yes, I'm talking about cuss words, and I cannot, in good conscience, recommend a book that has such language.

Thirdly, I felt as if the information in the book was being thrown at me from all sides.  The chapters were disjointed and seemed to have no common theme.  The author referred to people by name whom she had never introduced, so I was left clueless as to who some of these people were.  One person she talked about frequently was her "partner," Nancy, with whom she lives.  (That's all I'm saying about that!)

Overall, I struggled to get through the book.  I was not entertained or educated in any way.  There was no inspiration or encouragement for me.  I felt it was poorly organized and even more poorly presented.  Do I believe that we can learn from our pets and that they can be an inspiration to us?  Absolutely.  But it is God working through our pets and inspiring our hearts that makes the difference.  It is where God uses their behavior or character traits to remind us or bring to light a spiritual lesson that can be found in the Scriptures.  The two go hand in hand.  This author seems to have missed that.

As always, you are free to make up your own mind, but this is my take and opinion on the book.  Take it or leave it.  It's up to you.

Note:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Running This Way and That

Jason had off work Thursday morning, which actually worked out well since it was the twentieth anniversary of the day we met.  Yep, that poor, sweet man has put up with this sassy redhead for twenty years now!  Someone should give him a medal.

Anyway, to celebrate our special day, we decided to take Mitch out for a short hike.  The weather was nice.  We had the morning free.  And Tippy was content to stay home and chew on a treat.  With the time constraints, though, our usual hiking spot wasn't an option since it's a bit of a drive, so we decided on a closer trail that is rarely visited.  We had been there several times before, but it had been a while since our last hike on that trail.  This was good news for Mitch.  He loves "new territory" to explore.

Sure enough, as soon as we were out of the car, he was off.  Up the hills.  Down the hills.  Nose to the ground.  So many smells, so little time.  And then, of course, there were the many woodland creatures scurrying about, just daring Mitch to chase them.  At one point, Mitch was looking around him in all directions and running in place as if he couldn't decide what to do first.  It was like he was excited and frustrated all at the same time.  Oh, boy, can I relate, and I'm sure you can too.

While walking down the path of life, we are frequently presented with opportunities and decisions.  Big decisions like what job to take and who to marry, and smaller decisions like what to fix for dinner and whether or not to sign up for the church couples' retreat.  Big opportunities like the chance to be on television to promote your ministry, and smaller opportunities like the chance to take the family to the lake on the weekend.  The opportunities and decisions abound each and every day.  So where do we begin?

If you're anything like me, you have a tendency to bite off more than you can chew.  Desiring to serve the Lord in every way you can, you sign up for every church function, whether you have the time or not.  Not wanting to seem uncaring, you agree to help with the charity drive at the school or workplace.  And let's not forget, you need to attend Susie's ballet and Johnnie's ballgame.  This is all, of course, in addition to your job, your daily house chores, preparing meals, attending church, etc. And so, we often find ourselves like Mitch, jogging in place while trying to figure out which way to go.  Excited yet frustrated.

So, what's the solution?  Well, I'll tell you, but you're probably not going to like it.  Stop trying to do so much!  Just because the day presents us with an opportunity doesn't mean that we have to accept it.  And as for the many decisions, well, there is this little word called, "No."  (I've even been learning to use it myself.  It's nice!)  Seriously, God instructed us to run the race with patience.  That is not possible if we're running around in circles, trying to do everything for everyone.  We're not supposed to please everyone; we're supposed to please Him, and we do that by doing our best at the things He's asked us to do.  Yes, that means turning down some good opportunities and making some tough decisions, but it's worth it.  It worked for Mitch.

When spotting Mitch's indecision, I said, "Come on, Mitch, let's go this way."  Decision made!  He listened to the voice of his master and got on the right path.  We simply need to do the same.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. - Hebrews 12:1

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What's Your Response?

Have you ever had someone lie about you? Have you ever been stabbed in the back by someone you thought was your friend? Have you ever been mistreated by a coworker or family member? If so, what was your knee-jerk reaction to this treatment? Get mad. Get hurt. Get even. Am I right?

According to the Bible, that is altogether the wrong reaction. First of all, it is a reaction, which as we've discussed before, is based solely on emotion. As Christians, we are not supposed to react; we are supposed to respond. There is a difference. A response occurs when we take the matter to the Lord and ask for His direction in dealing with the situation. As a matter of fact, when it comes to situations where we feel betrayed, the Bible has already given us a clear-cut command on how to handle the situation.  This instruction can be found in Romans 12:19-21, which says, Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

The first part of that commandment is easy enough to understand, but not so easy to put into practice. It's difficult to stand back and allow God to control the situation when we want so badly to execute revenge for the wrong that has been done to us. But the Bible is clear that it is not our place to take revenge. Vengeance belongs to the Lord, and no one else.

Another thing I've noticed is how people like to quote the first part of this passage but conveniently leave out the rest. Once we turn the matter of justice over to the Lord, our obligation is not complete. According to this passage, there is more for us to do, and the instruction is rather hard to swallow. In a nutshell, God commands that we go to our enemies, the ones who have hurt and betrayed us, and shower them with kindness. Doesn't that rub against the grain? We want to respond in kind, not in kindness. But what we want doesn't always jive with what God wants, does it?

The entire situation leads me back to thoughts of an earlier post about having a right. When someone has done us wrong, we feel we have a right to get even. We deem that we have a right for revenge. But according to the Scriptures, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, according to the above passage in Romans, the only right we have is to be filled with the Spirit and to allow His presence to flow through us in all that we say and do. That is our right and privilege!

So what is it going to be? Are you going to respond in kind or in kindness? Are you going to fulfill your will or the will of God? And above all, are you going to usurp God's authority by placing yourself as judge and jury against those who have done you wrong? Respond or react. The choice is yours.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What About Your Brothers and Sisters?

Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the Lord your God giveth you to possess it. And to the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, spake Joshua, saying, Remember the word which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, The Lord your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land. Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valour, and help them; Until the Lord have given your brethren rest, as he hath given you, and they also have possessed the land which the Lord your God giveth them: then ye shall return unto the land of your possession, and enjoy it, which Moses the Lord's servant gave you on this side Jordan toward the sunrising. And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go. - Joshua 1:10-16

Earlier on in the story, the tribes of Reuben and Gad, along with half of the tribe of Manasseh, pleaded with Moses to allow them to make their home in the land in which they currently dwelt.  The land was good.  There was water and plenty of grazing pasture land.  Even though it wasn't the promised land that God had set aside for them, they were certain they would be happy in the land where they were residing.  Moses granted their request on one condition:  when it came time to take the land of Canaan and drive out the enemy, their able-bodied men would have to fight just like all the others.  Then, and only then, could they return to their land and be at rest.

In the passage above, the time for driving out the enemy had come, and Joshua reminded the three tribes of the promise they had made to Moses.  And get this, not only were they to march with the other tribes, but they were to march in the front.  I don't know about you, but if I were one of them, I'd probably be thinking, Why do I have to be in the front of the battle?  This isn't even my land I'm fighting for.  I have what I want.  I have my rest.  Why should I put my life on the line for everyone else?  Sorry, I know that's a terrible attitude, but I'm just being honest, and I think if you're honest, you'd admit that a part of you would be thinking the same thing.  Fortunately, the three tribes did exactly as they were told, and as we know, everything worked out just as God had promised.

What about us?  Are we satisfied to take our rest and ignore the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ?  Do any of the following attitudes ring true in our lives?

  • I have a nice place to live, so why should I worry about the homeless?
  • I've finally made it to a place where I can live in financial freedom, but I won't be able to say that if I keep giving money away to everyone who asks for it.
  • It took me a long time to reach the top of this corporate ladder, so now that I'm here, I can be the one in charge.
  • I have learned so much from God's Word, but I'm not ready to share it yet.  I still need to learn more.
  • Things are finally working pretty smoothly in my life.  I'm not about to rock the boat just because of some minor disagreements.  No, it's better just to smile and nod.
I understand that none of us can claim to be completely at rest in every area of our lives.  But, I'm pretty sure most of us have found rest in at least one area, and that's good.  Rest is good, and it is meant to be enjoyed.  But sometimes, God wants us to postpone our rest for a little while in order to help our brother and/or sister in Christ to reach their rest.  Please understand, He does not deny us our rest, just as He didn't deny it for the three tribes.  On the contrary, He gave them the privilege of leading the other tribes into battle.  He gave them the opportunity to help others, and they were blessed more because of it.  

God wants to do the same for us, but He will not force us to obey.  He urges us to help our neighbor.  He encourages us to aid our brothers and sisters in Christ.  He longs for us to set aside our own comfort long enough to help others reach their own.  But it's up to us whether or not we'll obey.  May our answer be the same as that of the three tribes:  All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Just Be Quiet

In Job 39, after Job's pity party, the Lord is questioning him, proving that He alone is all-powerful, and He alone is in control. The Lord ends His questioning with this: Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it.

The part I like is Job's answer. Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. In other words, "I'll shut up now!" I think we all need that reminder every now and then. Don't we?

Often times, we see a situation and think we know the best way to solve it. So when God leads us in another direction, we argue with Him, stating our points and reasons. At times like that, God has to pull us down from our self-appointed pedestals and say, "Who do you think you are? Do you control the world, or do I?" Umm . . . good point! Who are we to instruct God in the way things should be done?

And the principle of keeping our mouths shut doesn't stop there. I know we've all had times when we said things that we should have kept to ourselves. You know the routine: the thought pops into your head, you know you shouldn't say it, but your desire to have the last word overcomes all else, and then you blurt it out and are immediately regretful. But it's too late. The harm has already been done. Many times, we would be so much better off if we would learn to keep our mouths shut.

If we feel we must have the last word, let's make it a word of encouragement or an apology. If that's not possible, it's better to just walk away. Cool off! Let our anger dissipate. But whatever we do, let's keep a rein on our tongue. It can truly be a dangerous weapon.

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. . . a time to keep silence, and a time to speak. - Ecclesiastes 3:1,7b

(Excerpt from Random Ramblings of a Raving Redhead - On sale now!  Grab your copy here.)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Examine Your Load

Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah. - Psalm 68:19

Daily loaded with benefits.  That's difficult to see on some days, isn't it?  On the days when everything seems to fall apart and nothing seems to get done, it's hard to see the benefits.  When our clothes are tight and the money is even tighter, it's easy to become blind to the blessings around us.  When the car won't start, the washing machine dies and your head won't quit throbbing, the last thing on your mind is God's goodness, right?  But why is that?  Why is it so much easier for us to see the trials than it is to see the blessings?  They are even more numerous, yet they often go unnoticed.

There's an old saying that "the squeaky wheel gets the oil," meaning that the things that make the greatest fuss are often the things to which we give the most attention.  Trials certainly raise a fuss, don't they?  And because they shout and scream and rant, we focus all our attention on them.  Meanwhile, our blessings stay in the shadows, waiting ever so patiently, to be noticed and appreciated.

The psalmist had it right.  God does not occasionally sprinkle His blessings upon us.  He loads us down with them daily.  That thought of being loaded down reminds me of a mule staggering under the weight of a heavy load or a horse struggling to pull a wagon that is filled to the brim and nearly overflowing.  Too often, we live our lives weighed down, but we're weighed down by all the wrong things.  It's time to stop focusing on the negative and start looking at the positive.

Let's see.  I rose from my bed this morning.  That's a blessing, for there are many who cannot say the same.  The headache from which I suffered yesterday and all night long has finally ebbed away.  I was awarded a free adjustment from my chiropractor who has done wonders for the bursitis in my shoulder and arthritis in my back.  I had a few minutes to chat with Jason this morning, which is a rare occurrence for us.  I had the privilege of spending quiet, uninterrupted time with the Lord this morning.  I have plenty to eat.  I could go on and on.  The more time we spend thinking about our blessings, the more we'll realize just how loaded down we are.  Plus, the more time we spend thinking about our blessings, the less we'll have to think about our trials.

Today, I urge you to ignore the howls and cries of the trials in your life.  Yes, they're present, and yes, they must be dealt with.  But they don't deserve all your attention.  Give ear to the blessings.  Pay attention to all the good things that God is doing in your life.  I promise you it's a much better use of your time and energy!

What are you loaded down with today?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Drop the Stones

And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. - John 8:3-7

I find it interesting that the woman was brought before Jesus to be condemned, but there is no mention of the man with whom she was committing adultery.  As the old saying goes, "It takes two to tango."  So, if she was guilty of adultery, then he must be as well, but he's not even mentioned.  Chances are, he was one of the men who brought her before Jesus to be judged.  The jerk!  (Oh, sorry, but I have no feeling for a coward that would use a woman in such a way then leave her to pay the price alone.)

Was the woman guilty?  It would seem so.  Did she deserve to die for her sin?  Well, according to Moses' law, yes, she did.  But if you think about it, don't we all deserve to die for our sins?  It is only because of Jesus' great sacrifice on the cross that we have been freed from the wages of sin.  The same could be said of those men, with stones in hand, who stood around her, and they knew it.  We have no idea what Jesus wrote in the sand that day, but I think it somehow reminded those men that they were just as guilty as the woman they were trying to condemn.  And after that reminder, they dropped their stones and left.

Would that we could learn to do the same!  It's so easy to judge others.  It comes naturally to our flesh to want to cast stones at those who don't share our passions, discipline, talents or way of thinking.  The ironic part is that often the thing we're complaining about in regards to someone else is one of the things of which we, too, are guilty.  We simply don't see it in ourselves, but boy, do we see it in others!  When we do, we assign ourselves as judge and jury.  We complain about their behavior.  We point fingers and accuse them.  We even "pray" for them by talking to the Lord about how He really needs to help them because they're so bad off.  And all the while, we're completely blind to our own faults, our own sins.

It's time to drop the stones.  Romans 3:10 reminds us, As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.  None of us is perfect.  We all have areas in our lives that need drastic improvement, and I hate to burst your bubble, but we all have an occasion where we behave in ways that are annoying or frustrating to those around us just as their behavior is frustrating to us.  So maybe it's time we focus more on correcting our own faults and less on throwing stones at those around us.

Go on.  Drop the stones!  You'll be glad you did.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Out of Order

Imagine for a moment that you are God (yeah, I know it's a stretch, but bear with me), and you are about to create the heavens and the earth.  Where would you begin?  Would you choose to spread out that creation over a period of seven days, or would you be so eager to see the completion of your work that you would perform the task in a matter of minutes?  After all, how long does it take to say, "Let there be. . ."?

And what about the order of things?  Would you agree that God's order was the best possible one?  Obviously, your first instinct is to say, "Of course, God's order was perfect.  He's God!"  But something that was recently pointed out to me is that God's order (though perfect) can actually appear flawed in the human mind.  For instance, God didn't create the sun, moon and stars until the fourth day, right?  But light was created on day one.  Where did the light come from?  And for all you smarty pants out there who are saying, "Well, the light came from God because He is the light," you are correct, but then that light wouldn't be created, would it?  If God is the light, and He was not created, then the light was not created, right?  But Genesis 1:3 says, And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.   As in, the light was a light that had not been there before.  So, what was the source of the light if not the sun, moon and stars?  Hmmm?

Also, if you think about it even further, you'll see that God created land and plants on the third day.  I'm not a botanist (not even close, just ask all the plants I've killed in my lifetime), but I do know from teaching K-5 science that plants need three things to survive:  soil, water and sunlight.  Um, problem.  The plants were created on day three, but the sun wasn't created until day four.  Do you still think that God's order of creation was perfect when it's obvious that there were some miscalculations?

Right about now, some of you are scratching your heads and thinking, "What in the world?  Where is she going with this?  Is she saying that God messed up?"  Absolutely not!  What I am doing, however, is giving you an example of what we do in our lives without even realizing it.  We question God.  We doubt His methods.  We analyze His order and His timing.  We put ourselves in His place, examine the situation and declare, "This is what I would do differently."

For example, if I were to be given the task of creating the heavens and earth, without having any knowledge of how God did it, I would probably begin with the dividing of the sky and water.  Then I'd create the sun, moon and stars, and after that, light, plants, animals, etc.  But guess what?  I'm not God!  (Big shocker, right?)  Seriously, I don't know why God created the earth in the order that He did, but it seemed to work out just fine, now didn't it?  No, I don't understand it.  It doesn't make sense to me.  But it doesn't have to because I'm not the one in control.  He is!

No matter what you may face this week, remember that the Creator of the universe is working for you.  Don't try to make sense of it.  Don't try to figure it out.  Don't try to be God.  Leave that job to Him.  He's good at it. . .really good.  Just trust that His timing and His order are perfect and leave the results in His hands.  I assure you, you'll be in much better shape than the plants that were placed in my hands.  May they rest in peace!

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Highest Praise

 Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true. - III John 1:12

It's always nice to hear a compliment, isn't it?  Whether it be praise for your new clothes, for a task you completed or for your kind heart, a word of good report is always welcome. Admit it.  We love it.  We bask in it.  It makes our hearts happy and our smiles wider.  And as long as we don't let it go to our heads, it's not really a bad thing.

This fellow, Demetrius, is not mentioned much in the Bible, but evidently he was a pretty good man.  In fact, John said he had a good report of all men.  All men?  Really?  It seems he was such an upright character that even those who didn't like him couldn't deny that he was good.  No one could find anything bad to say about him.  What a compliment!  But it gets even better.

John went on to say that not only did Demetrius have a good report of all men, but also of the truth itself.  If you recall, John tells us in John 14:6, Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  Jesus is the truth.  So if Demetrius had a good report of the truth itself, doesn't that mean that Demetrius had a good report from Christ?   Not only could the men not find grounds to complain about Demetrius, but Jesus couldn't either.  Is there any higher praise?

It makes you wonder how we're living our lives?  Are we living in such a way that others can't help but declare a good report about us?  Are we living lives so holy that Christ Himself puts His stamp of approval on our thoughts and actions?  It's an eye-opening, soul-thumping thought, isn't it?

I don't know about you, but I want to live a life of good report in the eyes of men, but more importantly in the eyes of Christ.  I know that my sins are forgiven because of the blood of Christ, but that doesn't mean that I shouldn't strive to live a holy, acceptable life.  After all, according to the Bible, it is my reasonable service.  Christ died for me; it's only reasonable that I live for Him.  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Are You an Intercessor?

We constantly hear about the patience of Job.  Yes, his courage and steadfastness in the face of adversity is known around the world by believers and non-believers alike.  And while I don't begrudge Job the acknowledgment, I often wonder if Moses doesn't deserve the same.  After all, he didn't only have to put up with difficult trials but also with difficult people. . . a lot of difficult people.  I imagine that for Moses, the 40-year trek through the wilderness was like the world's longest family car ride.

We're tired.  We're hungry.  We're thirsty.  We don't want to eat that.  Why did we have to come this way?  Are we there yet?  Complaint after complaint after complaint.  It makes you wonder how many times Moses longed for the good old days of herding sheep.  Sure, they were stupid, but at least they didn't complain every step of the way.

But amidst all the chaos and complaints, Moses remained patient (well, mostly patient).  But what amazes me even more than his patience is his intercession on behalf of the whiny lot he was leading.  In Exodus 32, when the children of Israel decided that they had waited on God long enough and took it into their own hands to build an idol of gold, God was ready to be rid of them.  He was tired of their complaints and their disobedience and was preparing to wipe them out.  But Moses talked him out of it.  You would think Moses would be ready for the people to be destroyed.  After all, if they were gone, he could go back home.  But Moses cared enough about the people and about God's reputation to intercede and convince God to spare the people.  And God did.

But once again, in Numbers 14, we read how the people refused to take on the inhabitants of the land of Canaan even though God promised them a victory.  Instead, they, once again, whined and complained about God's lack of care and concern for them.  And, once again, God had had enough! And the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them? I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they. (Numbers 14:11-12)

Moses again interceded and begged God to change His mind.  Despite the Israelites temper-tantrums and the fact that they had tried to overthrow and kill Moses during this long journey, the man of God still saw fit to intercede for them.  He went to God on their behalf and pleaded for their lives.  Talk about patience!

In our daily walk, we each have to deal with people that simply rub us the wrong way.  Maybe they're pessimistic and always complaining.  Or perhaps they're arrogant and cocky.  Or maybe there's just something about them that drives us crazy.  So, what do we do?  Well, according to this example of Moses, we should pray for them.  No matter how much they annoy or anger us, they are still people, and possibly people who won't go to God for themselves.  Whether they realize it or not, they need someone to intercede.  They need someone to pray for them.  They need someone to beg God to give them another chance.

Chances are, they'll never thank us for our intercession, but that doesn't really matter, does it?  What matters is that we are reaching out to God for the sake of those who won't reach out for themselves. . . at least, not yet.  But who knows?  Our intercession could make the difference, but we'll never know until we try.  Let's put on some patience and get on our knees.  We all have some praying to do!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


I would like to share with you a comical conversation Jason and I had on our way home from church Sunday morning.

Jason (the driver), laying his head back against the headrest:  "Wake me up when we get home."

Me (the passenger):  "Um, no!  Sorry, I don't like that arrangement."

Jason (in his pitiful voice):  "But I'm sleepy."

Me:  "Then pull over and let me drive."

Jason:  "But you don't like to drive."

Me:  "But I'd rather drive than be the passenger whose driver is asleep at the wheel."

After a few giggles (we were both really tired from the long, busy weekend), the conversation ended, but my thoughts did not.  Over and over again the last phrase I uttered came back to me, and I wondered if perhaps that's why I keep trying to "take the wheel" in my spiritual life.  Could it be that I'm always trying to take control because I feel that the Lord is asleep at the wheel?

Psalm 121:4 makes it clear, Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.  So, deep down, I know that God isn't asleep.  I know in my heart that He has never fallen asleep on the job.  But sometimes He seems so very far away and so quiet that I find myself doubting what I know to be true.  And in those times, I have the same reaction that I had with Jason on Sunday.  No, I don't really want to drive, but I'd rather drive than be the passenger when the driver is asleep at the wheel.  So, I take control and immediately drive myself into a ditch.  Much better, huh?

My dear friend, if I could leave you with a single thought today, it is this:  Let God do the driving!  He is not asleep at the wheel even though it may seem like it.  He is not veering out of control even though the evidence may say otherwise.  He is not lost even though nothing around you looks familiar.  Please, just sit back and trust the Driver.  He will get you where you need to go.