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Monday, October 31, 2016

Under Construction

My house is under major construction! Because of some changes in our insurance policy, it is necessary for us to do some serious repairs before the insurance company will renew our homeowner's policy.  My parents (God bless them!) are providing the funds to have a new aluminum roof put in place, and that should eliminate our leak issues.  Hallelujah!  All of the other repairs are things that we can do ourselves, albeit they are taking a lot of time and effort.  Jason's work schedule has been pretty hectic, so he hasn't been able to do much on the repairs thus far.  Fortunately, my dad has been over every day, and together, we've been tackling the windows.

For a small house, my home has a lot of windows (17, to be exact).  The paint around the windows was chipping to the point that some of the wood was beginning to rot.  So, for the past week, my dad and I have been scraping, sanding and cleaning all the window frames.  Let me tell you, it's a chore!

My dad is quite a perfectionist when it comes to things like this, so he wanted to scrape and sand all the way down to the bare wood, which was buried under what seemed like 15 layers of paint.  On the first day, I was with him 100 percent.  Yes, if we were going to go through all the work and effort, we might as well do it right.  But by the end of the second day, I really didn't care anymore.  My body hurt in places I didn't even know I had.  I had dust and paint chips in my hair, my clothes, my eyes, my nose and any place else they could manage to get.  Yep, by the third day, I was ready to say, "Let's just knock off the loose paint, sand it down somewhat smooth and paint over it.  I really don't care anymore!"  Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), my dad stuck by his principles and insisted that we do the job right.

So, as I scraped and scraped and scraped, I tried to imagine how awesome the windows are going to look when they're finished, and I admit, it helped. . . a little.  But another thought came to me as well, and it was this thought that made me smile and brought peace to my tired, little body.  Aren't you glad God doesn't give up on us when the work is difficult?  Isn't it a blessing to know that He is committed to doing the best job He can on us because He knows that the end result will be worth it?

Imagine God scraping away at the layers of pride, bitterness, anger and other sins that have caked up in our lives over time.  The endless work it takes to make us like Christ.  The hours, days, weeks and even decades of careful attention, constantly working to make us what we ought to be.  He could cut corners.  After all, He's God.  Who's going to tell Him He can't?  He could take shortcuts or decide that there's simply too much effort involved to continue the process.  But He doesn't!  In fact, He isn't even tempted to do so because He loves us far too much to leave us in the mess we're in.

Just like my house, we're all under construction.  The difference is that we can count on the fact that our Master Builder won't make any mistakes or cut any corners.  I'm not sure I can honestly say the same for myself, though I am going to try to do my very best.  After all, the results will be that much more rewarding!  God feels the same way about us.  What a blessing!

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: - Philippians 1:6

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Lord's Timing -- A Repost

Do you ever find yourself questioning the Lord's timing? I do! But, Lord, we need the money NOW. We need the answers NOW. We need your healing NOW.

While reading Surprise Endings by Ron Mehl, I was reminded that God's timing (while it may not be my timing) is best. Read what he has to say about it.

He knows what we need, and comes to provide it at just the right time--His time. Remember, however, that His time may be before, during, or after our long and difficult day: 1) He told Noah that is would rain long before it did. 2) The Lord chose to come to the three Hebrew children (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) right in the middle of their encounter with the furnace. 3) Finally, He chose to come to Mary and Martha after the death of Lazarus. Whether it's before, after, or during our trouble, the point is, don't worry. . . He will come.

What a blessed reminder! God will pass by at the right time. God will meet our needs in His time. Our only job is to trust, then stand back and watch a miracle.

Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord. - Psalm 27:14

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Could You Rephrase the Question? -- A Repost

In the darkest times in life, it seems our minds are plagued with questions.  No matter how hard we try, we can't escape the uncertainty that looms all around us.  Hearts with no peace.  Lives with no joy.  Questions with no answers.  When?  Why?  How?

When did my life turn so sour?

What am I going to do now?

Where is this long, lonely road leading?

How in the world am I going to get through this?

Why me, Lord?

Good questions, each and every one, and certainly some of the top contenders for pressing thoughts during times of trial.  But are they the right thoughts?  After all, don't our actions follow our attitudes which follow our thought patterns?  Questions like those above only serve to help us sink deeper in despair.  There are no answers, only more questions.  And with each question comes a new wave of disappointment and grief.  Before we realize it, we're buried so deep in depression that we wonder if we'll ever again see the light of day.

There's nothing wrong with asking questions.  Questions are good.  They provide a gateway to learning.  But may I suggest we start rephrasing our questions?  When?  Why?  How?

When is the earliest time I can set aside for some quiet time with God to get this situation sorted out?

What can I learn from this situation to make me a better, stronger person?

Where else can I turn for answers but to God?  Nowhere!

How can I bring glory to God in my current circumstances?

Why not me, Lord?

I believe we'll find that the simple rephrasing of some of life's toughest questions will lead to peace, understanding and better attitudes.  I often hear people complain (as I have myself) that God is not answering their prayers.  Perhaps it's because we're not asking the right questions.

Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. - Jeremiah 33:3

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Turning Blessings Into Burdens

Did you know that it’s possible to turn our blessings into burdens?  That doesn’t make sense, does it?  How could a blessing be anything but a blessing?  The Bible explains how, but I must warn you, the verse sounds a bit odd and out of place.  Still, we know that every word of the Bible is inspired, and if you pay attention, even strange sayings like the following will provide an education.

Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox. - Proverbs 14:4

Okay, let’s put that first phrase into today’s language to make sure everyone understands:  if you don’t have an ox, you don’t have ox poop.  Clear enough, right?  As for the second phrase, it tells us that the ox is an important tool in the work of farming.  So, you can have the strength of the ox along with his droppings, or you can forfeit both, but you simply cannot have the benefits of the ox without also having the—well—the poop!

Most blessings are that way.  They’re wonderful.  We’re thankful for them.  But they, too, have a downside.  That fabulous husband comes complete with dirty socks that he has a tendency to leave in his wake like the debris of a hurricane.  The beautiful new baby means dirty diapers and feedings all through the night.  That job is wonderful except when the boss is screaming at you and your coworkers are laughing at you.  The blessing of a car turns into a burden when the battery is dead or the tire is flat.  The blessing of the heat pump becomes a burden when you flip the switch and nothing happens.  

I was even reminded of this fact Sunday morning when I turned on my electric kettle for my morning cup of hot tea, and the crazy thing refused to come on.  I drink hot tea like most people drink coffee, and I especially need my tea on Sunday mornings.  Sure, I could heat up water on the stove or in the microwave (and, in fact, that’s what I did), but it isn’t the same.  I wanted my kettle to work.  I expected it to work like it has nearly every morning since I’ve had it.  Not only had I taken my blessing for granted, but I had also forgotten Proverbs 14:4.  This is life—life in a fallen world.  Things break.  People die.  And blessings can become burdens if we’re not careful with our perspective.

It’s so tempting to grumble and complain when things don’t work the way we expect them too.  When anyone or anything puts a crimp in our plans, watch out, buddy!  But what would happen if we stopped, took a breath and, instead of complaining about what’s not working right, give thanks that we have the blessings to begin with.  Instead of fussing about the flat tire, how about we thank God for the transportation we have and for the many, many days that it has been reliable?  Instead of bemoaning the loss of a beloved electric kettle, how about I praise God for the pleasure it has given me and to still have several alternative methods to heat up the water for my morning tea?  Perspective.  That’s all it is.

Proverbs 14:4 is basically asking, “Are you willing to muck out the stalls in exchange for the benefit of the ox?”  Today, I’m asking you the same.  Are you willing to overlook the frustrations for the many benefits of the blessings?  Are you prepared to focus on the ox instead of the ox poop?  Don’t allow your blessings to become burdens.  Give thanks to God for the many things He’s given that we are so unworthy of, and keep a proper perspective.  Better to have a pooping ox than no ox at all, right?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Are You Giving God Your Best?

Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord. - Malachi 1:13

I, for one, am glad that I don’t have to sacrifice an animal every time I sin. For one thing, as an animal lover, I would be mortified to have to take the life of some precious creature. I am also not a fan of blood and gore, so I’m not sure how well I would hold up under such circumstances. That being said, however, I would like to think that if it were necessary, I would rise to the occasion and do as God commanded. At the point of time in which our passage was written, the children of Israel were not doing that.

In short, they had grown weary of the practice. They were tired of the offerings. They were sick of trying to find the perfect gift to give a holy God, so they began to take shortcuts. They continued the offerings, but with a halfhearted effort. They put little time and thought into what they were bringing and had a “good enough” attitude toward the entire process. The problem is, it wasn’t good enough. God demanded a perfect sacrifice not some halfhearted effort.

Even though we are no longer required to offer animal sacrifices, the Bible says that we are to present ourselves as living sacrifices unto God (Romans 12:1). Once again, God demands our best, but is that what we are offering? Are we giving of ourselves fully unto God each and every day? Are we surrendering our lives, thoughts, attitudes and actions to His will, or are we fulfilling our own agenda, giving Him just enough control to ease our conscience? Are we giving of our tithe and our talents? How much are we offering to God as a living sacrifice?

In our passage above, the Lord asked the children of Israel, “Should I accept this of your hand?” I believe the Lord is asking each of us the same question. We attend church every Sunday and say it’s good enough. We read our Bible a couple of times a week and think we're doing well. We say a prayer here and there and feel as if were doing God a favor by talking to Him. We occasionally help out a friend in need and see ourselves as super-spiritual. But all along, we know we can do more–that we should do more–and God knows too.

The crazy thing is, we expect God to simply accept what were willing to give and be happy about it, but He’s not. The truth is, He’s disappointed. Yes, He still loves us, and that love will forever remain unchanged, but God’s feelings towards us when we don’t do our best are the same as they were toward the church of Laodicea.  I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16)   I know it sounds harsh, but if we look at this passage literally, God says that our halfhearted efforts make Him sick. Is that what we want? Do we want to sicken or disappoint our holy God who was willing to give His only Son for us and asks for so little in return?

I know we live busy lives, and with so many things to do, it’s tempting to cut corners here and there, but I caution you to remember that God is expecting your very best. He loves you, and not only does He want what’s best for you, but He also wants what’s best from you. Is He not worthy? Is He not deserving of all that we have to give? Please keep that in mind the next time you’re tempted to do less than your best or to give less than what is required. God will bless your efforts, but only when you do your best!  After all, it is our reasonable service!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Ebenezer Who?

I don't know about you, but every time I hear the name Ebenezer, my mind goes to Ebenezer Scrooge. That being the case, you can imagine my confusion when we sing the old hymn, Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing. The second verse of that song begins "Here I raise my Ebenezer, Hither by Thy help I've come." Say what now? What does it mean to raise an Ebenezer, and does that have anything to do with Scrooge?

Obviously, I knew there was some scriptural significance to the phrase, but I'm sorry to say that I completely missed it. Somehow, in the many times that I've read my Bible, I seemed to have overlooked this dramatic moment, but fortunately, the Lord recently brought it to my attention. Let me begin by saying that this Ebenezer has nothing to do with Scrooge. In fact, it's the exact opposite. Let's look at the Scripture reference first, and then I'll explain more.

And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel. And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Bethcar. Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us. - I Samuel 7:10-12

 Here we see the Lord delivering Israel from the hand of the Philistines. It was a great victory, and Samuel decided to recognize the event by setting up a memorial called Ebenezer, which means "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." Is that awesome or what? In all of their future battles, the Israelites could look back at this memorial and remember that God had brought them that far and He would continue to take them through anything they faced according to His promise. They had a hope to cling to. They had a reminder of God's goodness and faithfulness.

So, when we sing the song, Come, Thou Fount, and we say, "Here I raise my Ebenezer," we are saying that we choose to remember what God has done in our lives and that He has brought us thus far and will continue to see us safely through. Raising our Ebenezer is a point of focusing our eyes back on God instead of on our problems. It is acknowledging that God is all-powerful and that He is in control of our lives so that we have nothing to fear. It is remembering His faithfulness and provision throughout the years and trusting that His faithfulness and provision will never fail us.

Ebenezers can come in many forms. After successfully crossing the Red Sea, Moses led the children of Israel in a song of praise. After wrestling with the Lord, Jacob built an altar. After crossing the Jordan, Joshua instructed the children of Israel to lay stones in the riverbed as a memorial of the miraculous event. Your Ebenezer can be something similar or something completely different. Perhaps you have a  journal in which you record your many blessings. Or maybe you have some form of a display where you post answers to prayer requests. Or it could be that the Bible serves as your Ebenezer, and when you feel down and discouraged, you need only read through its pages to find hope and encouragement. (Just a note, this should be an Ebenezer for all of us.)

Whatever the case, it is important to have some form of Ebenezer, because we can't always rely on our memories which can be tainted by our current emotions. In the midst of our dark times, it's very difficult to remember the good times and to bring to mind how God brought us through. But if we will set up  an Ebenezer and make it a point to run to the Ebenezer whenever life gets us down, even in the midst of our darkest situations, we will be able to shout with praise, "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."

So, you see, this Ebenezer is the exact opposite of Scrooge. Instead of "Bah humbug," our Ebenezer says, "Praise the Lord for His goodness!" Are you raising your Ebenezer today?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Decisions, Decisions

I despise making decisions, don't you? Just last night I sat in bed, notebook in hand, and tapped my pen to my chin. To look at me, you would have thought I was pondering some great master plan, but I wasn't. I was making my meal list for the week so that I could follow that up with a grocery list for the next day. Trying to make healthy meals on a budget is extremely difficult, not to mention trying to add variety to our day-in, day-out dinners. I asked my husband for some suggestions, but he only shrugged his shoulders and said he didn't know. I scowled as I thought, It must be nice not to have to make these decisions all the time.

Let's face it. Life is full of decisions. What will I wear? What will I eat? What will I try to accomplish today? What song should I post on my blog? What devotion would be appropriate for today? When can I work in a hike this week? Day after day. Moment after moment. Decision after decision. Most of them are not big decisions, so sometimes I, like my husband, shrug them off. This is where things become tricky.

You see, the Bible says we're not supposed to worry about what we're going to eat or what we're going to where. The point in that passage is that we're not supposed to worry. Period. God has everything under control, and He will provide. That passage is not saying that we don't have to make decisions. We do. We have to decide daily whether to do right or wrong, whether or not to spend time in God's word, whether or not to pray, not to mention deciding on how we will act (or react) to situations we may face during the day. Decisions must be made. There's no getting around it.

I believe this is where another Bible verse comes into play. II Thessalonians 5:17 says, Pray without ceasing. It's a very short sentence but a very powerful command. This verse is not saying that we shouldn't do anything but pray all day long. It kind of sounds that way, but that's not what it means. What it means is that we need to keep in tune with God all day, every day. By being in tune with Him, we will know what to do when it comes time to make a decision. We can seek His guidance all throughout the day. It's like having a continuous conversation with a friend; only this Friend truly sticks closer than a brother. He can't make the decisions go away, but He can certainly help in making the right choices.

*****Excerpt from Daily Discussions of a Doubting Disciple*****


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Path To Becoming a Proverbs 31 Wife by Jennifer Rash

About the Book:

The Path to Becoming a Proverbs 31 Wife: Walking in Your God-given Role is a 31-day devotional book for the woman who desires that her marriage be more than one that merely survives, but become one that absolutely thrives. Each page of this devotional will lead you on a growth journey as you come to fully realize just how significant your role as a wife really is. You are a rare beauty, one of a kind, truly special and entirely significant. You are an answer and a gift. And you play a vital part in developing the kind of marriage that God has intended for you to have from the very beginning. Come, build your marriage. Build your man. Build your home. Place your feet on a fresh new path, God’s path. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to just be a common wife with a common love and a common marriage. I want more! “Show me the right path, Oh Lord; point out the road for me to follow.” – Proverbs 25:4

About the Author:

Jennifer Rash is a wife and mother of three boys ages 26, 24, and 16. Jennifer is an ordained minister and has a heart for women’s ministry, leading women’s conferences, Bible studies, women’s groups, and mentoring young women. She formerly served as Women’s Ministry representative for the northern section of South Carolina as well as the Intercessory Prayer Director for the South Carolina district of the Women’s Ministries of the Assemblies of God, upholding its leaders through prayer and leading Prayer Summits across the state. She has traveled all over SC, speaking to women’s groups and pouring into women of all walks of life. Currently she leads the Praise and Coffee group of Spartanburg, SC, and is available to speak at your next event. Connect with Jennifer Rash at

My Review:

Jennifer has found a way to intertwine hard truths with encouragement in this delightful book about being the wives God has called us to be.  In each of the short devotionals, the author breaks down specific passages from Proverbs 31 (as well as other marriage-related passages) and explains exactly what it means to be a Godly wife according to Biblical standards.  Despite the short length of the devotions, they are each jam-packed with information, including definitions of words that we often overlook and fail to truly understand.  Probably one of the most convicting chapters for me was the chapter where Jennifer reminds us that our marriages should be examples of Christ's love for His people, and in that, she reminded me that all parts of my life should be a testimony for Christ, including my marriage.  All in all, I found this to be a down-to-earth, educational and inspirational read for women of all ages.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Faith Is Like the Monkey Bars

You wouldn't know it with my joint and spinal issues now, but in elementary school, I was the queen of the monkey bars. I could traverse them forward, backward and even skipping bars in between. I knew every trick, and despite the dress or skirt I was wearing, I was not afraid to show all the boys what I could do. (The girls usually weren't interested. Go figure!)

A few years back, I was doing a fitness trail in downtown Greenville. In between spurts of walking, there are obstacles to deal with, including a wall to jump over, push-up bars to use, and yes, a set of monkey bars. Being my stubborn self, I decided to ignore my joint issues and see if I could relive my glory days on the monkey bars. Let's just say, I couldn't, and I regretted trying.

You know what was strange though? It wasn't just my lack of strength that kept me from traversing the monkey bars that day. It was fear. While dangling from that first bar, I couldn't seem to make myself let go with one hand to reach for the next bar. I was afraid that one arm wouldn't hold me (and in this case, I was right). So, instead of moving forward, I just dangled there like some withered leaf hanging onto the branch with its last bit of strength.

Faith is the same way. It requires us to let go to move forward, and it can be quite scary. We fear that the arms of the Savior won't be enough to carry us through, so instead of taking a chance, we dangle from the bar of what we believe to be security. But just like the monkey bars, we will never make progress until we let go, trusting that the arms of our Savior will get us safely to the other side.

You know what else is strange? On the monkey bars, once you get past the fear, they can be a whole lot of fun (not to mention, good exercise). Faith is the same way. Once we finally release our grip on our expectations and comfort zones, we will discover that living God's way is a lot of fun and also good spiritual exercise.

Sometimes life is scary, and we face situations that seem so out of control. During these times, our default response is to hold on as tight as we can, convincing ourselves that if we let go, everything will fall apart. But the opposite is true. We can't keep everything from falling apart by holding onto it with a white-knuckled grip, but we can cause ourselves to fall apart by doing so. But when we learn to surrender it all to Jesus and allow Him to carry us, everything changes, and we can find peace in the midst of our storms.

Perhaps today you are dangling from that first bar, and you're not sure if you have the strength or the courage to let go and move forward. Let me remind you that God is the God who can keep you from falling, and He has promised that He will work all things for your good if you love Him. You can trust Him to get you to the other side. Let go of the bar. Make the next move. Believe in the God who can move mountains and part seas. I promise you, He will not fail you.

Monkey up!

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength: - Isaiah 26:3-4

Friday, October 14, 2016

Don't Be Afraid To Rewrite Your Story

I'm working on a new book, and I have to admit that, from the very beginning, this story has given me grief. In the beginning stages, I struggled with plot, characters, settings and how to weave each of these elements into a story of intrigue and excitement. For days, I struggled with writer's block, unable to write a single word to bring the story to life.  I've written and published sixteen books, and this has never happened to me before.

Finally, after days of frustration, I began to write, and the words flowed from me. Though I was excited that the writer's block seemed to have been broken, I still couldn't seem to get excited about the story itself. Still, I didn't want to lose my momentum, so I continued to write and to do my best to create a story that readers would love. Unfortunately, after I had written nearly 2/3 of the book, I realized that the story had taken a drastic turn, and I was not happy with the direction it was headed. The character development just wasn't there. The plot appeared stilted and forced. All in all, it seemed like the entire thing was a disaster!

After pouring out my feelings to Jason, he gave me some profound advice though it wasn't particularly what I wanted to hear at that moment. His words to me were this: "Don't be afraid to rewrite your story." The truth is, I'm not afraid, but I am frustrated. I don't want to rewrite my book. I don't want all of the work that I've already done to be in vain. I hate the thought of starting all over again and of possibly discovering that the story still doesn't work. So, I guess I am afraid – afraid of failing again.

Perhaps you know exactly how I feel. No, you may not be writing a physical novel, but you are writing your own life story. And maybe that story has taken a drastic turn, and you're not happy with where it is heading. Like me, you may have struggled with writer's block, unable to tell your story. But then, one day, Jesus came into your life, and your story began to flow like never before. You were excited and had high expectations of how your story would play out, but then, you realized that your story was heading in a new direction, and you were not happy with the results.

It is to you I say, don't be afraid to rewrite your story. Yes, I know there are some things in your past that cannot be changed and even some things in your present that cannot be altered, just as there are some elements in my story that cannot be rewritten. There are things that were set in motion in the previous books, and now I must follow through with them. But that is not to say that we cannot retrace our steps and discover where our story took a wrong turn. I still have to discover where that point is in my book, but looking back on my own life, I now see that my life lost its direction when I allowed fear to replace my faith.  Knowing that, I can go back to that place and begin a new story – one built on faith in my God who has always met my needs and will continue to meet my needs.

Here's the tough part. It's not enough to simply want to go back and rewrite our stories; we must be willing to allow the stories to play out the way God sees fit, not the way we expect them to play out. I have been trying to force my book to play out the way that I wanted it to instead of allowing it to go where it needed to go. And in that, I've made a mess.

So, you see, the truth is we are not the ones rewriting our stories after all. We are handing our pen to the Author and Finisher of our faith and allowing him to write our story as He deems worthy. I'm not saying it will be easy or that it will be painless, but isn't a good story worth it?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some rewriting to do!

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. -- II Corinthians 5:17

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Are You a Giant Slayer?

Moreover the Philistines had yet war again with Israel; and David went down, and his servants with him, and fought against the Philistines: and David waxed faint. And Ishbibenob, which was of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of brass in weight, he being girded with a new sword, thought to have slain David. But Abishai the son of Zeruiah succoured him, and smote the Philistine, and killed him. Then the men of David sware unto him, saying, Thou shalt go no more out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel. - II Samuel 21:15-17

In this passage, we see David going up against another giant, but unlike his battle with Goliath, this time, he was losing. This battle takes place near the end of David's reign and the end of his life. He is old, tired and weary. Years of war, famine, destruction, family troubles and much more have taken their toll on him, and he has nothing left to give. Had it not been for one of his mighty men, this may have been David's last battle.

Fortunately, Abishai was paying attention. He saw the need of his king and moved to action. Though encompassed in his own battle and focused on his own enemy, this mighty man looked beyond his own needs and his own weariness and saw someone else's need. And as soon as he saw what was going on, Abishai stepped forward and slew David's giant.

We are all facing battles and fighting giants every day. I completely understand that, but I'm afraid sometimes we get so focused on our own battles that we fail to see the things that others are going through and to offer them aid in their time of need. Perhaps it's a friend who has a financial need, and while you don't have much, you have enough to help a little. Or maybe it's that single mom who needs someone to offer to watch her kids for the afternoon so she can have some time to herself. Or perhaps it's that shut-in that just needs a listening ear and a smiling face.

There are so many out there who are just like King David. They are tired, weary and feel like they have nothing left to give. They need an Abishai. They need someone who is willing to stand up and face their giants. It may be as simple as a phone call or as elaborate as a large financial donation, but no matter how big or small it may seem in our eyes, it may be the thing that keeps that other person from giving in, giving up or being completely defeated. The question is, are we willing to step up, like Abishai, and give of ourselves to help someone else?

In closing, let me address one more point. David was the king. He was the giant slayer. He was a man after God's own heart. In the eyes of his people, he was all that and much more. That being the case, it would have been easy to overlook his need. Sometimes we forget that the encouragers need to be encouraged, that those who give need to receive, and that those who seem invincible are not. We tend to overlook the fact that pastors, teachers, counselors and other people in ministry often grow weary in well doing and feel like their efforts are in vain. We forget that they face giants on a daily basis too, and in that forgetfulness, we take for granted the help and encouragement they give to us because we don't understand what it is costing them. It's difficult to continue offering encouragement while never receiving any in return.

So, I urge you today to seek out those who are weary or hurting and to do what you can to help slay their giant. Go out and be an Abishai today!


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Finding the Right Solution -- A Repost

When life is not turning out the way you planned, where do you turn? Whom do you seek for answers? Unfortunately, many of us turn to all the wrong things, only to be disappointed when our plight grows worse instead of better.

The Bible tells us story after story of people who tried different avenues of "working things out" in their lives. The results were disastrous at best. I believe my favorite tale is that of Jairus and his sick daughter. I'm sure you know the story, but if not, here's a refresher:

And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet, And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live. And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him . . . While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue's house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further? As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James. And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying. And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment. - Mark 5:22-24;35-42
Jairus was an important and influential man, but during this time of trial, he learned a great lesson that all of us would do well to learn and heed.
1.) Riches can't help - We can glean from the story that Jairus is relatively wealthy. He is a ruler of the synagogue. He has servants. I imagine him running down the road, his finely woven robe flapping in the breeze, his crafted sandals beating against the dirt. Yes, I imagine Jairus was quite wealthy. Rich enough to buy the finest medicine. Wealthy enough to hire the most competent doctors. But Jairus discovered that his wealth wasn't enough. The medicine didn't work, and the doctors were baffled. Money couldn't buy the healing Jairus desired.

2.) Relatives can't help - It is good to have a loving and supportive family, but there are times when even their steadfastness is not enough to get us through. Jairus had a wife, not to mention an entire group of people waiting at his home. I have no doubt many of these people were relatives coming to offer hope, help and encouragement. But in the face of the death, there was nothing they could do but mourn.

3.) Religion can't help - Jairus was a ruler of the synagogue. That means he was well-educated in the Scriptures. He was a religious man. He knew the right people and had all the right connections. If anything could help Jairus, it was his religion. Yet, no matter what he did or who he talked to, his daughter's condition grew worse. His high standing was not enough to protect his family from heartache.

4.) Only the Redeemer can help - When Jairus arrived at the end of his options, he grabbed hold of the one shred of hope he had left. Maybe Jesus can help. In his haste, he left behind the medicines, the doctors, the relatives and his religious traditions. He focused on one thing and one thing only--Jesus. Jairus was not ready to throw in the towel. He was not willing to give up. He was determined to do everything in his power to save his daughter, even if that meant admitting that it was not within his power to accomplish that task. He needed a strength beyond his own. He needed something that neither riches nor relatives nor religion could provide. He needed the Redeemer.

Through Jairus' story, we are reminded of the remedy for our own situations. Whatever we may face in life, there is only one answer. There is only one solution. There is only one means by which our problem can be fixed. It's not through riches, relatives or religion. It's only through the Redeemer. If we can ever get that through our heads, maybe we'll start bringing our problems to Him in the first place instead of waiting until we've exhausted every other option. It will certainly save us a lot of time and heartache, and I'm sure it will thrill the Father that we turn to Him first as He has asked us to do time and time again.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Working for Today; Hoping for Tomorrow

And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither. And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the Lord said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah. - I Samuel 16:11-13

I think it’s safe to say that this was the most exciting day in David’s life thus far. Granted, the young shepherd had gone face-to-face with a lion and a bear, but as far as a good experience, this day was probably as good as the young boy could imagine. David was anointed king. In the span of one day, he went from being a lonely shepherd to the most important person in the kingdom, sort of.

Here’s the catch, though David was anointed king, Israel already had a king, and Saul was not willing to abdicate the throne. Which means that even though David had the title of king, he had none of the perks or the power. So, I guess, in a sense, it could have also been one of the most disappointing days of his life. To be king and not be king at the same time had to be difficult for the young boy, but I want you to notice his reaction.

The next time we see David is when Saul calls for him, and guess where we find David: taking care of the sheep. Though he knew he was destined to be king, David understood that it was not yet his time, so he was content to go about doing the thing that God had called him to do. He could have gotten a big head and told his family that he was too important to care for the sheep. He could have played the “king card” on any number of occasions, but David was humble and understood the importance of doing the work the Lord had assigned him, no matter how demeaning it may be.

Just like David, we have been anointed kings and priests, and one day we will rule and reign with Christ on high. But it is not yet time for that to come to pass, so the question is, what will we do in the meantime? Will we, like David, be content to go about the business that God has called us to do, or will we complain about our lot in life and wait around for something better to come along? David had a choice, and he chose a humble heart and obedience. What will we choose?

There’s nothing wrong with hoping for a brighter tomorrow, but there’s everything wrong with forsaking the work of the Lord because we think we’re worthy of something better.  God said that those who did a good work in the little things would be made rulers over bigger things (Mt.25:23).  David was faithful in the work of a shepherd, so God allowed him to become king.  If you want something better in life than your current lot, prove yourself faithful.  Do your very best at the thing God has called you to do.  Do it with humility and a right attitude, and God will reward that faithfulness in due time.

He’s given you a task to do.  The ball, as they say, is now in your court.

Friday, October 7, 2016

When God's Ways Seem Crazy

Last weekend, Jason and I visited the Battlefield of Cowpens for a Revolutionary War weekend. It was a very educational and exciting trip and served as research for one of my upcoming books. Living in South Carolina most of my life, I thought I would have visited the site by now or would have at least been more familiar with this part of the Revolutionary War, but sad to say, I was ignorant.

What I discovered is that the Battle of Cowpens was a turning point in the Revolutionary War and brought hope to the South who had faced multiple defeats. The odd thing is that this victory came about because of two men who were willing to set aside logic and do what they thought was best. It was their unconventional orders that led to a battle that was won in less than an hour.

First off, there was General Nathanael Greene, the leader in charge of the southern troops. At the time, he was stationed in Virginia, trying to prevent the advancement of the British troops into the North. Knowing his troops were outnumbered and unprepared for a full-on assault, he made the bold decision to split his army in half, hoping to force the British to do the same.  Led by Daniel Morgan, a portion of his army made their way into the upstate of South Carolina. Greene's plan worked, and the British divided their army, sending a portion to meet Morgan in Cowpens.

Daniel Morgan is known today as a tactical genius. Despite having the advantage of choosing his battleground, Morgan opted to fight in an open wood. He formed his troops in three lines straddling the road. The frontline was a small group of sharpshooters who were given the task to slow the British advance with well-aimed fire, then fall back. Ninety yards behind them was Andrew Pickens' regional militia. After two volleys of gunfire at killing distance, they were to fall behind the Continentals. Another 150 yards behind them were 600 crack militia Continentals from Maryland, Delaware and Virginia, who had orders to protect the militia and to be ready to fight.

Both of these men employed methods that were unorthodox and questionable, and no doubt, some of their men were scratching their heads and wondering if they should follow such ludicrous commands.  I'm reminded of Joshua and his army when the Lord commanded them to march around the walls of Jericho for seven days. What kind of battle plan was that? Or how about Gideon, when God continue to whittle his army down until he was left with only 300 men? His army was outnumbered 450 to 1. Horrible odds, right?

But we can relate, can't we? I think we can all remember back to a time when God asked us to do something that made absolutely no sense, at least not in our minds. Perhaps it was the time He asked us to give money when we had none to give. Or maybe it was the time He asked us to leave a paying job for one that guaranteed nothing in return. Whatever the situation, God gave us the command that seemed ludicrous, unconventional and downright scary. The question is, what did you do? What would you do if God asked you again?

God has given us proof time and again that even though His ways are not our ways, they are best and they are productive. Whether it be a battle against enemy soldiers or one against negative thoughts and feelings, we can always trust that God's ways are the right ways, even when they don't make sense. God has proven himself faithful, and He has shown us that his methods, though unconventional, produce results. Our job is not to question or to try to make sense of the process. Our only job is to obey. God will take care of the rest.

For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. - I Corinthians 2:11

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Lord Shall Sustain Thee

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. - Psalm 55:22

I came across this verse in my Bible reading this morning, and while the passage is certainly familiar, this morning it was different somehow. For starters, it was just the verse I needed to hear this morning as my mind has been weighed down with anxieties and cares of the world. But secondly, the word sustain jumped out at me, and I found myself wondering what exactly does sustain mean? Being the wordsmith I am, I decided to look it up, and what I found nearly blessed my socks off.

There are several definitions of the word sustain, but after weeding out those that were not applicable regarding this verse and those that were somewhat redundant, I was left with these three definitions:

1) to support, hold or bear up

2) to keep (a person, the mind, etc.) from giving way, as under trial or affliction

3) to provide for by furnishing means or funds

I don't know about you, but each of these definitions brings me hope and encouragement. Through them, I am reminded that when I cast my burdens upon the Lord, He will hold me up. He will not let me fall, fail or give up, no matter how difficult the trial. And as He has promised, He will meet my need. In light of these new definitions, this verse now holds so much more comfort than it did before because it reminds me that I am in God's hands, that He has a good plan for my life, and that He is my strength, song and salvation.  I'm reminded of the lyrics from an old hymn, "When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay."

Whatever you are facing today, I encourage you to cast your burdens on the Lord and trust that He will hold you up, keep you from giving way and provide for your every need. Don't allow yourself to be swayed by your feelings and emotions or by the enormity of the circumstances surrounding you. Yes, the problem may be big, but I assure you, God is bigger. And he will sustain you. Trust in that!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

In the Meantime -- A Repost

A few months back, I began the steep descent into a mysterious valley.  At the time, I was confused and overwhelmed by my new surroundings.  At first, I blamed it on a new medication, and then on fluctuating hormones, and while the correction in my medication has brought some balance to my roller coaster of emotions, my presence in the valley remains.  As I've journeyed, I've come to the conclusion that my valley is one of a spiritual nature rather than a physical one.  But unlike most of the spiritual valleys I've walked through, this one seems to stretch on further than the eyes can see.  I awake each day hoping that the battle will be over and that the mountaintop will finally be in view, but for whatever reason, the Lord is prolonging my time in this particular valley.  I've tried to make sense of it, but I can't.  I've tried to "fix myself," but my efforts only result in frustration.  I've prayed and cried and complained, yet the valley remains unchanged.

To be honest, some days seem too much to bear.  All hope, peace and joy seem lost, and I feel too weary to take another step.  Yet, as I sat down to do my morning devotions today, I noticed something that I had been too wrapped up in my troubles to see before.  Each day I've been hoping for the valley to end and praying for the restoration of hope, peace and joy to my life.  And while God has not yet provided an exit out of the valley, He has been giving me daily reminders that He's still walking with me.  Unfortunately, I've been too preoccupied to notice, but this morning's reminder was so unmistakable that I couldn't miss it.  Then, as I thought back over the past few days and weeks, I realized that God had been sending strength and encouragement all along.  A verse here.  A song there.  In the valley, God is still with me, even though at times He feels so very far away.

I share this with you, not for pity, but for prayers and also to hopefully encourage someone who might be traveling in a similar valley.  May I take just a moment to share with you what the Lord reminded me of this morning?  (If you said, "no," too bad.  It's my blog, and I'm going to anyway. Hehehe!)

And the servants of the king of Syria said unto him, Their gods are gods of the hills; therefore they were stronger than we; but let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they. . . And it came to pass at the return of the year, that Benhadad numbered the Syrians, and went up to Aphek, to fight against Israel. And the children of Israel were numbered, and were all present, and went against them: and the children of Israel pitched before them like two little flocks of kids; but the Syrians filled the country. And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus saith the Lord, Because the Syrians have said, The Lord is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the Lord. - I Kings 20:23-28

Benhadad, the king of the Syrians, was going up against Ahab, the king of Israel.  You remember Ahab, right?  The evil, wicked king who was married to Jezebel, a woman of similar evil.  It almost seems odd that God would aid Ahab, but we have to remember that Israel is still God's chosen people, even during the times they had a wicked king.  Plus, God was doing more than helping, He was making a point.

The Syrians had it in their minds that Israel would fall in they could battle down in the valley.  Everyone would be on equal footing, and no one would have the advantage.  No high ground, so to speak.  But the Syrians made one miscalculation.  They forgot to factor God into the equation.  Israel's victory had nothing to do with where the battle was fought but rather with the One who was on their side.  Mountain or valley--it made no difference to God, for He is Lord of both.  He rules it all and controls it all, but best of all, He inhabits it all.  That's why the psalmist David could say, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me."  David knew that the God of the mountains is also the God of the valleys.

I don't know the nature of your valley anymore than I understand the nature of my own.  I can't promise you that your dark journey will soon be over and that you'll be enjoying the view from the mountaintop by this time next week.  But one thing I can assure you of is that you're not alone.  God is with you in your valley.  He is leading, guiding and preparing you for the mountaintop.  In the meantime, as much as it hurts, don't rush the experience.  Don't wish it away.  Just settle in for the long haul, complete in the knowledge that you'll never walk alone.  He's there, even in the valley. And as we can see from the story in I Kings, He's just as powerful and victorious in the valley as He is on the mountain.  It's all the same to Him.

To borrow a line from one of my new favorite Brian Free and Assurance songs:  "It's quite a valley, but nothing He won't bring you through."


Monday, October 3, 2016

Are You Singing or Sulking?

In Exodus 15, the first twenty-one verses outline a song of praise and victory from Moses and the children of Israel. God had just delivered them through the Red Sea and from the hand of the Egyptian army, and needless to say, the people had reason to rejoice. So, for twenty-one verses they lift up their voice in praise, thanking God for who He is and what He is capable of doing. The song is specific, thorough and heartfelt, and though I don't have the time or space to type out the entire song here, I would like to share with you verse two: The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him.  Keep this verse in mind because we will come back to it in a minute.

Now, I want you to take a look at what happens in the next few verses. So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? (vs. 22-24)

Three days! Within three days, the miracle of the Red Sea had been forgotten. The praises of God had been replaced with murmurs and complaints. In fact, it's safe to say that the water wasn't the only thing that was bitter that day. There were a lot of bitter attitudes as well. What happened? What could have possibly changed so much in three days that their singing turned into sulking?

For starters, their circumstances changed. No longer were they standing on the edge of victory, but they were wandering around in a desert of defeat and despair. Secondly, their attitudes changed. Where earlier they had been full of joy and relief at their deliverance from Egypt, now all they could focus on was their hunger, thirst and fatigue. But do you realize what didn't change? God did not change. The God who delivered them safely across the Red Sea was the same God who was leading them in the wilderness. The God to whom they sang praise and honor and worship was still just as deserving of their song. Though their circumstances and attitudes had changed, God was still God, and as they stated in their own song, He was still their strength, their song and their salvation. How quickly they had forgotten.

But I'm afraid we have no right to judge, for we often do the same thing. When things are going well and we're walking in victory, it's easy to praise God and thank Him for who He is and all He's done. But after a few days in the wilderness, when our circumstances have changed, our attitudes grow bitter just like the waters of Marah. We forget all about our victory. We lose track of our song. And it seems all we can focus on is what's wrong in our lives instead of remembering all the things that God has brought us through in the past. We concentrate on the things in our lives that are ever-changing instead of focusing on the One who never changes. And then, like the children of Israel, we begin to murmur.

Are you wandering in the wilderness today? Does victory seem far from your grasp? Are defeat and despair bearing down on you? If so, may I remind you that this too will pass. Your circumstances and negative feelings are not here to stay. They will shift and change as an autumn leaf on a windy day, so don't put too much stock in them. Instead, I urge you to focus on the One who never changes. He was faithful yesterday, and He will be faithful again today. He has seen you through the tough times, and He's not about to forsake you now. Hang in there, and whatever you do, don't lose your song!