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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Who Do You Think I Am? - Our Rock

The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. - Psalm 18:2

As you can see, there are several titles for God in this one verse, and we will cover them all one at a time, beginning today with "our rock."

As a regular hiker, I have seen my fair share of rocks. Yes, I have encountered small rocks, big rocks, round rocks, flat rocks and rocks that resemble the face of a man. When I think of rocks, several elements come to mind.

First off, I think of the sturdiness that rocks provide. In certain weather and on particular trails, I welcome the sturdy grip of the soles of my shoes against the rugged rocks. The rocks provide the traction and stability that soft earth cannot offer.

Secondly, I think of the many rocks that have been precisely placed as stepping stones for crossing streams and creeks. On many occasions, these rocks provide a bridge for hikers to cross safely, not to mention dryly. Though the walkway can be precarious at times, it sure beats wading through the water (been there, done that--no fun!).

Lastly, I think of safety and shelter. Many rocks form an outcropping which provides a place of shelter against winds and storm. Should the need arise, I know that I could crawl into the crevice of the rocks and be protected from the harsh elements that surround me, and there have been occasions where I thought I might have to do just that. Again, no fun!

With these three thoughts alone, is it any wonder that our great God can be referred to as a rock? He is our strength and stability when we have lost our footing. He is the bridge that leads us from the dark side of our circumstances into the light. And He is our shelter from the storms of life. No matter what comes our way, we can stand firm in the knowledge that God is our immovable rock. He will not fail us, and He will not let our feet slip.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Who Do You Think I Am? - Our Strength

I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. - Psalm 18:1

I use the word strength a lot these days, as in "I need to increase my strength" or "strength training." One of the most important things I can do for my joint issues is to build up strength in the surrounding muscles. Stronger muscles mean stronger and more stable joints. Weaker muscles result in the joints slipping in and out of place, forever causing pain and complications. So, as much as it hurts and as much as I don't feel like it, I spend several hours each week working to gain strength.

Similar to my physical issues, when we are without strength, things tend to get out of joint spiritually, emotionally and even mentally. When we're tired and weary, we fall prey to temptations and dangerous snares in our lives. Too tired to put up much of a fight, we give in to things we know we should resist. The bad news is that this happens because we are acting in our own strength. The good news is there is a better way.

God is our strength, and unlike the strength I'm trying to gain in my muscles, this strength does not have to be gained or maintained. It is freely given to every Christian; we need only accept it. And here's another remarkable thing. God is our strength (Psalm 18:1). God gives us strength (Philippians 4:13). And God increases our strength (Isaiah 40:29). That's a lot of strength available to us if we will only receive it, But that's where we have an issue. Sometimes, we have a difficult time getting out of our own way so that God can work in and through us. Whether it be pride or self-sufficiency, we feel that if something needs to be done, we must do it and we fail to remember that we don't have to do it alone. In fact, we shouldn't do it alone.

Ironically enough, one of my favorite verses about God as our strength can be found in Psalm 73:26, which we quoted yesterday in relation to God being our portion.  My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. When my flesh fails (and let me tell you, this hits home for me), God is still my strength. When my heart fails and I feel I can't go on, God will be my strength. No matter what befalls me, no matter what comes my way, I can do all things through Christ because He is my strength.

My challenge today is that we not wait until our flesh and heart fail before we allow God to be our strength. May we lean on him in the good times and the bad, for that is His desire.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Who Do You Think I Am? - Our Portion

The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. - Psalm 16:5

Wow!  I really had to study this one out.  It's not that the phrase "the Lord is my portion" is uncommon throughout the Bible.  Here are just a few other places this concept is mentioned:

My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. - Psalm 73:26

Thou art my portion, O Lord: I have said that I would keep thy words. - Psalm 119:57

The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. - Lamentations 3:24

Okay, so the Lord is my portion, but when I hear that word, my mind immediately goes to "portion control" as in limiting my intake of food.  To me, a portion means "a part of something," and in that case, the fact that the Lord is my portion doesn't really seem all that grand.  But in this context, the definition is altogether different, and the point here isn't that God is a part of us but rather that He is our everything!

When the Lord led the children of Israel into the Promised Land, He told them to divide the land between eleven of the twelve tribes.  The last tribe, the Levites, were not given an inheritance of the land because they were the priests and were called to spend their days cultivating a knowledge of the Word of God rather than cultivating the land.  At first reading, it sounds a little strange, maybe even unfair.  After all, it's like saying, "Okay, you guys will do a great work for me, and you will be my special servants, but you don't get any land like the rest of the tribes."  Sounds like a raw deal, right?  We think that a higher calling means a greater reward.  In a sense, that was the case for the Levites.  Look at what God said:  Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren; the Lord is his inheritance, according as the Lord thy God promised him.

No, they didn't get land, but they had something better:  God.  And in that, they had everything they needed.  The point here can really be understood when reading through Psalm 73.  This is one of those passages in the Bible where I simply nod my head and say, "Amen, I feel your pain, brother!"

Asaph is confused.  He's living right but has little to show for it.  Meanwhile, the wicked are living it up and getting more wealthy and prosperous all the time.  To him, it seems as if the worldly crowd is being rewarded for their evil, and Asaph just doesn't get it.  (Ever been there?)  As he sorts through these feelings and pours his heart out to God, he suddenly has a life-changing realization—it doesn't matter what the wicked have.  It doesn't matter what they don't have.  All that matters is that he has the Lord, and with Him, Asaph is satisfied.

It's easy to get caught up in the comparison game, looking at what others have and we don't.  It could be wealth, houses, cars, position or anything else that turns us a rather unattractive shade of green.  And I'll be the first to admit that I sometimes wonder if God is really paying attention because if He were, some of this mess wouldn't be going on.  The wicked would be the ones suffering instead of the Godly.

Our finite minds can't make sense of God's ways, but we can trust that God is our portion.  He can never be taken from us, and He really is all we need.  As I type, there is a melody floating in the back of my mind.

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come, Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home, When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I love that song, and I love it even more now that I truly understand what I'm singing.  Why should we be discouraged when Jesus is our portion?  Why should we feel lonely when Jesus is our portion?  Why should we be discontent when Jesus is our portion?  Why should we be anything but joyful and thankful when Jesus is our portion?

The Lord is our portion.  Even if He's all we have, we'll find He's all we need!

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Squirrel and the Hawk

I want to take a short break from our study on the titles of God in the book of Psalms to share with you this particular message.  I wrote this devotion about a week ago and was planning to publish it at a later time, but after yesterday's post about "the helper of the fatherless," I felt this one fit right into that theme, so I decided to publish it today.  I hope you enjoy it.

Jason told me about an event he witnessed while at work a few days ago.  There was a hollow in a large tree in the yard of the church he was cleaning.  He watched as a squirrel hurried up to the hole and began making frantic motions, its arms flailing in all directions.  His first assumption was that the squirrel was attempting to raid a bird's nest before the momma bird returned, but upon closer inspection, he soon realized that was not the case.  The squirrel was the momma, and inside the hole were her little squirrels who, by the amount of fuss taking place, wanted to venture out into the great wide world.  What they didn't know was that there was a hawk sitting in the next tree over, just waiting for one of those little squirrels to leave the shelter of the tree.

The little squirrels fussed with their momma.  I can hear it now.  "Why are you so mean?  Why can't we have a little fun?  What's wrong with us having a little freedom now and then?  You never let us have our own way!"  If only they knew that their dear, sweet momma was putting her own life on the line to protect them from danger.  She placed herself between her children and the enemy, and despite her children thinking she was being mean or controlling, she refused to give in to their cries.  She guarded that hole with her life--literally--and kept her young ones in the safety of the tree until the danger had passed.

I don't know about you, but when Jason told me this story, I got some serious glory bumps.  In fact, I'm getting them again just telling you the story.  Why?  Because I can't help but think of my Heavenly Father.  How many times has He protected me from the enemy?  How often does He place Himself between me and danger?  And yet how many times do I complain, not realizing that His acts are those of love, not cruelty?

This story is a reminder to me that God always has my best interest at heart.  He's not interested in stealing my freedom or bogging me down with a myriad of rules and regulations.  He wants me to have an abundant life, but sometimes that means protecting me from the things I cannot see.  He knows all and sees all, so when I feel He's being overprotective or hindering me from the things I want to do, I would do well to remember this lesson from the squirrel and the hawk.  God loves me, and everything He does is for my good and His glory.  Instead of complaining, I ought to thank Him for loving me so much that He would risk my anger just to keep me safe.  What a loving Father!

Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. - Psalm 103:13-14

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Who Do You Think I Am? - The Helper of the Fatherless

Thou hast seen it; for thou beholdest mischief and spite, to requite it with thy hand: the poor committeth himself unto thee; thou art the helper of the fatherless. - Psalm 10:14

I can gladly proclaim that I do not understand what it's like to be fatherless.  I have a wonderful daddy.  He loves me and has always taken care of me.  He does for me what fathers are supposed to do:  love, protect, guide, provide, care for, and much more.  To this day, my daddy comes over every other week to cut our grass because Jason's work schedule makes it difficult for him to get it done.  Even nearing 70, my father is kind to his children (especially me because I'm his favorite, just kidding).

My heart breaks for those who have never known love from an earthly father.  To grow up feeling unwanted, unprotected and unled.  I imagine there is a feeling of longing and one of incompleteness.  After all, families are supposed to have mothers and fathers, and while they can function with only one, things work better with a good mom and a good dad.

To those who fall into this fatherless category, the psalmist reminds you that while you may not have an earthly dad, you can have a Heavenly one.  But what is so remarkable about this phrase "helper of the fatherless" is revealed when you study out the root word for "fatherless."  It literally means "lonely" or "bereaved."  That means we all fall into this category, don't we?  After all, who among us has not felt lonely or bereaved at some point in our lives?  I have no doubt that someone reading this devotion right now is feeling alone and forsaken.  It is not an uncommon state of mind or being.

Fortunately, God is our helper, even during the times we feel all alone, when we think no one cares or no one is there to stand up for us.  God says, "I'm here, and I'll be your helper."  Every time.  We are never alone.  For those of us who are saved, we are never fatherless, for our Heavenly Father is always working on our behalf, doing what good fathers do.  He loves, protects, guides, provides, cares for and so much more.

I could write pages and pages about the many ways my father (and mother, of course) has been a blessing to me.  I could tell you about the things he has done, the ways he has provided, the words he has said and so on.  But as much as He has done for me and as much as he loves me, there is One who loves me more and does more for me than my earthly father could ever do.  I pray you know this Heavenly Father as I do.  He is my helper, and He can be yours too.  

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Who Do You Think I Am? - Our Refuge

The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. - Psalm 9:9

God is our refuge.  Merriam Webster defines refuge as "shelter or protection from danger or distress; a place that provides shelter or protection; something to which one has recourse in difficulty."  Those are all good definitions, but if you want to get some heavenly glory bumps, read what the King James Dictionary has to say about the word refuge:  "That which shelters or protects from danger, distress or calamity; a stronghold which protects by its strength, or a sanctuary which secures safety by its sacredness; any place inaccessible to an enemy."  Hallelujah!

We will talk about several of these other terms (stronghold, sanctuary, etc.) as we get further along in this study, but I love how this one word encompasses so much.  With a single term, we are made aware that God shelters us from harm, protects us from the enemy, holds us firmly by His strength, hides us in the shadow of His wings and makes us inaccessible to the enemy.  What an excellent word, but more than that, what an awesome God!

I am drawn to that last phrase:  inaccessible to an enemy.  With God on my side, nothing can harm me unless He allows it.  I'm reading through the story of David in my daily devotions, and I see how many times God was his refuge.  In his many years hiding from Saul, David was protected from the enemy.  At one point, Saul even entered the cave where David and his men were hiding, yet David remained inaccessible to the king.  Why?  Because God was His refuge.  God had big plans for David, and those plans didn't involve death by Saul.

Here's what really gets me.  God knew David, past, present and future.  He knew all the good David would do, but he also knew how David would fail.  Yet, with that knowledge, God still provided shelter, safety, sanctuary and protection.  He didn't have to, but His love for David, in spite of his many failures, drove Him to be the refuge David needed.

Likewise, God knows me.  He knows the good I have done and will do, but He also knows how many times I will fall flat on my face or walk away from His will.  Still, even with that knowledge, He loves me enough to offer me a refuge.  Day after day.  Time after time.  Even when the one from whom I need protection is my flesh or my wayward thoughts, He's there for me.  He will never leave me nor forsake me.  He is always available and always willing and able to protect me from the enemy.

With that knowledge, I can stand boldly and say, "I'm not afraid of you, enemy because, with God as my refuge, you can't get to me!"  (Oddly enough, I feel the need to add a "Nana-nana-boo-boo" right here.)

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? - Romans 8:31

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Who Do You Think I Am? -- The Lord Most High

I will praise the Lord according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high. - Psalm 7:17

For the sake of this study, I am trying to focus on terms given to God throughout the Psalms.  Mostly, I am skipping the actual names of God such as God, Lord and so on, but in this particular passage, I could not pass up the title, the Lord most high.  Honestly, I think a big part of that has to do with the fact that my mind has been on giants a lot lately.  Teaching through the Wilderness Wanderings in our Sunday School class, I've been talking about the "giants in the land" for the past few weeks—the focus being that giants, while intimidating to us, are nothing to God.  Why?  Because He is the Lord most high.  He stands taller than any giant.  It's all a matter of perspective.

When we have the opportunity, Jason and I enjoy visiting "The Winds," a beautiful spot by a cascading waterfall on the trail that stretches from Jones Gap State Park to Caesar's Head State Park. Because of the rise and fall of the elevation along the trail, there are several switchbacks, which ease the ascent and descent. The tricky thing is that the switchbacks can cause a bit of disorientation (at least for the directionally challenged such as myself). One such place of confusion is at the waterfall itself.

When we start at the top of the mountain, the waterfall appears small in the distance and is harder to spot because of all the foliage. Nevertheless, my eyes are drawn to the beautiful cascade. It isn't long, however, before I point out another breathtaking waterfall, only to find out it's the same waterfall I saw in the first place.  When we finally arrive at the "The Winds," I am adamant that it cannot be the same site I viewed from the top of the mountain.  It does not look the same. From this distance, the waterfall seems immense, gushing over the rocks with more water than my mind can comprehend. Each time we visit, I am amazed at how much my perspective changes depending on my viewpoint.

God has a point of view of His own, as the term "most high" signifies.  The Hebrew word is "Elyon," and it implies greatness, stature, preeminence and sovereignty. It reminds us that nothing is beyond God's power to see or to solve. As high as the mountains in our lives seem, God is higher. No matter how high our stacks of bills become, they will never reach the height of God. There are no problems in this life that He cannot solve, no enemies He cannot conquer. He is above all, beyond all, surpassing our highest hopes, dreams, and expectations.  And yes, even our giants!

Just as the waterfall at "The Winds" seems smaller and less powerful from the top of the mountain, so do our problems seem smaller and less powerful to God, who is far enough above them to see the entire picture. Where we see only one step, He sees the entire path. Where we see problems, He sees possibilities. Where we see obstacles, He sees stepping stones. From such a vantage point, there is nothing He cannot see or accomplish.

When facing the everyday circumstances of life, it's comforting to remember that God is the Most High. He is above and beyond anything life can throw our way. He sees our paths and can guide us to safety if we'll only trust in His direction.

In her devotional study, I Want to Know You, Kay Arthur says, "If God is not sovereign, if He is not in control, if all things are not under His dominion, then He is not the Most High, and you and I are either in the hands of fate (whatever that is), in the hands of man, or in the hands of the devil."

In a world that seems more out of control every day, we can take comfort in knowing that God is in control. We have nothing to fear. He can rise above all our problems.

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

Monday, August 21, 2017

Who Do You Think I Am? - The Lifter Up of Mine Head

But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. - Psalm 3:3

What a beautiful verse!  It's so poetic and weaves such an elaborate picture in my mind, especially that last phrase:  "the lifter up of mine head."  I don't know about you, but sometimes life gets me down.  There are some days where I just can't shake the blues no matter how hard I try.  This downcast spirit is often a result of a trying situation or circumstance that creeps (and sometimes elbows) its way into my life.  But sometimes, all it takes to get me down is to look around at my life and say, "Is this it?  Is this as good as it gets?  This isn't quite what I had in mind?"

Don't get me wrong.  I have a good life.  I've been blessed with a wonderful husband,  a precious pup, a loving family and a Bible-believing church.  I live in relatively good health with food to eat and a place to sleep.  I have truly been blessed.  But there are still things I would change if I could.  For starters, I would boost my writing career and promote myself out of the "starving artist" phase.  This change alone would allow my husband to leave his job and seek employment that he truly enjoys, no matter the pay.  This dream job of mine would come complete with the perfect salary to meet our needs and still have a little money left over for a rainy day, vacation, savings, and/or emergency fund.  Sounds nice, doesn't it?  I'm sure you have some dreams of your own.  And it can be disappointing and discouraging to look around and see that those dreams still seem so far away.

When I'm truly down and discouraged, I'm prone to hang my head.  Why?  Because I know if I make eye contact with anyone, I'm going to cry, and I don't mean trickle a few tears.  I mean CRY!  You know sobs and snot everywhere cry!  (Pretty picture, huh?)  But you see, Jason knows my little secret.  He knows why I won't look at him, but he also knows that I won't feel right again until I release all those negative emotions.  And the best way for me to do that is to have a good cry.  So, in the most loving way, he places his hand under my chin and lifts my head until I'm looking him in the eye.  The look of love I see in his face brings me to tears, and within minutes, my burden is lifted and my spirit is renewed.

As I read the phrase "the lifter up of mine head", this is the picture that comes to mind.  I imagine God reaching down to me in my saddened state and lovingly placing His hand under my chin.  His lifts my face to His and whispers, "It's okay, child.  I'm here.  Go ahead and cry.  You can even use my shoulder if you need to.  Just don't look away.  Look at me.  I can bring back your joy."  What a picture!  What a blessing!  What a privilege to be the child of such a loving Father.

Does life have you down today?  Are you feeling discouraged or disappointed?  Is your head hanging low in sorrow and sadness?  If so, allow Jesus to be the lifter up of your head.  Look to Him, and find peace in His loving embrace.  He'll dry your tears and remind you of the many reasons you have to smile.  Remember, weeping may endure for a night, but joy WILL come in the morning!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Who Do You Think I Am? - Our Glory

But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. - Psalm 3:3

Yesterday, we talked about the Lord being our shield and protection.  Today, let's talk about Him as our glory.  I think many times we read this passage without stopping to think about what we're reading.  What does it mean that God is our glory?  How does that help us?  What is the significance of that term?

Ironically enough, the significance is in the definition of the Hebrew word here translated "glory."  Yes, the word means weight or significance.  Where do we place our identity?  Is it in our belongings, our family or our friends?  Are we defined by our jobs, our titles or our education?  What makes us stand out from the crowd?  Yep, you got it—God!

In this passage, David is talking about being surrounded by his enemies, including his own son.  He's weary, afraid and confused.  He's being hunted down like a wild animal, and his first instinct is to complain.  But just as he's getting started with his "poor pitiful me" rant, he remembers something.  It's not about him.  God is in control, and He can and will do what He pleases. His hope is in God.  His life is in God's hands.  His entire being would be nothing without God.  The only reason David was the man he was was because of God.  His identity and reason for being rested in the Lord.  And beyond that, he knew God was on his side.

How would our lives be different if we walked in the confidence that God is on our side and our identity can only be found in Him?  Would we walk more humbly?  More boldly?  Without fear of the enemy?  This reminder was a turning point for David, and I believe it can be for us too if we'll only take it to heart.

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? - Psalm 118:6

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Who Do You Think I Am? - Our Shield

But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. - Psalm 3:3

There are three titles of the Lord tucked into this one verse, and we will cover each one in turn.  Today, I want to focus on the Lord as our shield.  Merriam-Webster has several definitions for the word "shield," but the most relevant ones are these: (1) one that protects or defends; (2) a device or part that serves as a protective cover or barrier. gives the most literal and well-known definition of a shield: a broad piece of armor, varying widely in form and size, carried apart from the body, usually on the left arm, as a defense against swords, lances, arrows, etc.  Our Lord fulfills all of these and more.

He protects and defends.

He is our knight in shining armor (I know that sounds a little weird for you guys, but hey, it is what it is).  He protects us from the enemy, the harsh storms and even ourselves.  He defends us against those who would harm or destroy us.  And while it seems that He sometimes allows the enemy to have their way with us, He is the One in control, and He will only let them go so far.  If He is giving them "free rein" to come against us, then there is a reason, and that reason is for our good.  Just like Joseph who suffered many years before reaching the place God had in store for him.  Or David.  Or many others in the Bible.  God will protect and defend us, and trust me, He is very protective of His children.

He is a cover or barrier.

I love this definition because it reminds me that nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can get to me unless God allows it.  He covers me with His wings.  He is a barrier against anything and everything that seeks to do me harm.  Nothing can get through.  We call Superman "the man of steel," but even he had his weakness:  Kryptonite.  God has no such weakness, and nothing is getting past Him.

He is a defense against swords, lances, arrows, etc.

Fiery darts of the wicked?  God's got it covered.  Harsh winds and violent storms?  God can handle it.  Words that cut and actions that can destroy? God can defend me from those as well.  I'm reminded of Ephesians 6:12 which says, For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  Yes, God can defend us against flesh and blood, but He is also a defense against the enemies unseen.  After all, how can we possibly fight what we cannot see?  We can't, but God can because He sees all.

Some days it seems like the whole world is against us.  Our jobs wear us down.  Our families make us weary.  Our health refuses to cooperate.  Our dreams go unmet.  It's as if each disappointment is another fiery arrow that pierces our soul.  Like David in this third chapter of Psalms, we mutter, "There is no hope!"  But on the heels of his proclamation, David said this:  But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me.

Life is tough, but God is a shield for us.

The days are long, but God offers a defense.

The tears won't stop falling, but God has us covered. . . literally.

We can spend our days dwelling on the negative "buts," or we can focus on this positive statement:  "But God is a shield for me," and trust that nothing will come our way outside of God's will.  He is between us and our enemies, and He is will guard us with His life!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Who Do You Think I Am? - Our King

Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. - Psalm 2:6

What a fitting situation that the first title of the Lord we come across in the book of Psalms is "King."  The online dictionary defines the word "king" like this:  the male ruler of an independent state, especially one who inherits the position by right of birth.

Two things about that definition strike me.  First off, the word "ruler" gives way to the idea that the king is the One who is in charge.  Everyone under His authority answers to Him whether they want to or not.  He is the big boss.  There is none greater.  He makes the decisions.  He enforces the laws.  He is the final judge of all things.  He rules.  He is in control.

I don't know about you, but I already feel better.  Why?  Because God is not only the king of man, but He is king over all situations and circumstances.  He controls it all.  The laws of nature.  The laws of physics.  The heart of man.  The behavior of beasts.  Not a single thing happens on this earth that He is unaware of.  He knows, and He allows things according to His will.  Though things may be out of our hands or beyond our abilities to cope with, they are never beyond His.  Hallelujah!

Second, in the definition of a king, I notice the phrase, "who inherits the position by right of birth."  Jesus is the only begotten Son of God.  He was born to be King, and believe it or not, one day, those of us who are saved will get to reign with Him, as kings and priests (Revelation 1:6, 5:10).  We are royalty by birth.  We were born again into the family of God the moment we accepted Christ as our Savior.  We entered into the royal line.

The old saying goes "It pays to know someone in high places."  So true!  And I know the Highest of them all.  He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and I can rest in Him knowing that He is good, just, fair, right and attentive.  He is my King!  Is He yours?

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. - John 18:37

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Who Do You Think I Am: A New Series

Who do you think I am?  This is the question Jesus asked the disciples during one of their learning sessions.  Most people weren't sure what to make of Jesus.  Some thought He was John the Baptist.  Others believed He was Elijah reincarnated.  Many believed Him to be Jeremiah or one of the other prophets of long ago.  But Jesus' question to the disciples here was directed to them alone.

He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? (Matthew 16:15)

Fortunately, Peter had the right answer:  And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16:16)

It seems that the Lord has been asking me the same question of late.  Through my various studies, lessons and readings about faith and building up our four walls of protection around our heart, a single theme has been present.  Could it be that I don't trust God like I should because I don't know Him as I should?  If I truly understood and believed His character, would I still be plagued by doubt, confusion and fear?  I think not.  I think faith is trusting in the nature of God, believing with all our heart that He is good and kind and faithful.

That being said, the Lord has laid on my heart a new series.  We've dealt before with the names of God, but I want to dig even deeper into the true character of God.  And more than that, I want to make it personal.  Who is God to me?  What is God to me?  In what ways can I best relate to God?

To accomplish this goal, we will be looking at the various titles given to God in the book of Psalms.  Covering one title per day, it will take us several months to get through, but I feel this is something the Lord would have us look at.  After all, how can we trust someone we don't fully know?  I'll probably be scattering some unrelated posts in here and there as the Lord directs, but other than that, I'm embarking on a mission to know God more, and I pray you'll join me for this exciting new series.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Everybody Says So

Do you ever sell yourself short and believe others are doing the same?  You think you're disorganized or scatterbrained, so surely, everyone else thinks the same thing.  You believe you don't have what it takes to accomplish a goal, and one glance around tells you that everyone else feels the same about you.  But you know what?  We're usually wrong—not only in what we believe but also in what we think others believe, just like the children of Israel.

And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight. (Numbers 13:32-33)

This is a familiar account in the story of the Exodus.  After about two years of journeying in the wilderness, the children of Israel finally arrived at the Promised Land.  The land of which they had been dreaming all their lives.  The land God had promised to give them.  As soon as they arrived at the border, Moses sent in twelve spies to see what the land was like and what they were up against.  Forty days later, the spies came back with their report.  The land flowing with milk and honey was far better than they had expected, but it was occupied by mean, BIG enemies.  According to ten of the spies, there was no way they could take the land, but Caleb and Joshua had a different story to tell.  They understood that it wasn't up to them to "take" the land, for God had already promised to give it to them.  All they had to do was act in faith and accept what God was giving.

But the other ten spies were adamant about what they had seen.  Notice the last phrase of verse 33:  we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.  Well, that's an interesting statement, isn't it?  Not so much the first part.  I can see where that would be an appropriate response, but the last part:  so we were in their sight.  How did they know what the enemy thought of them?  They were supposed to be spying, which means hiding or, at the very least, not drawing attention to themselves.  If they did that, the enemy would have never noticed them let alone told the Israelites what they thought of them.  This reaction was nothing more than fear.  Yep, anxiety had them believing that the enemy thought the children of Israel were as insignificant and powerless as they believed themselves to be.  They had the attitude, "We're weak and no match for the trials ahead.  Everybody says so."  But everybody didn't say so.  Only they did, and I can prove it.

If we jump over to the story of Jericho, we'll see what the inhabitants of the Promised Land thought of the children of Israel.  Let's look at Joshua 2:9-11 and see what Rahab told the two spies who searched out the land at that time.

And she said unto the men, I know that the Lord hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.

Terror has fallen on us.

Our hearts melted.

No more courage.

Hmm, it sounds like the people of Canaan were more scared of Israel than the other way around.  They were terrified, waiting for the day when this great host would come and destroy them.  So, how is it that the enemy was so frightened while, at the same time, Israel felt they didn't have a chance?  It's easy to "see."  Notice the statement from the children of Israel again.

The people that we saw.

We saw giants.

We were in our own sight.

So we were in their sight.

What were they looking at?  The enemy and themselves.  No wonder they were afraid.  The enemy looked so big and bad, and the situation seemed impossible.  But now, look back with me at Rahab's statement.

The Lord hath given you the land.

The Lord dried up the water for you.

The Lord is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.

Interestingly enough, while God's people were looking to themselves and the enemy, the enemy was watching God.  They saw what God was doing, and it scared them senseless.  If the people had believed Caleb and Joshua, the Israelites could have marched into the Promised Land and said, "Boo!" and sent half the crowd running.  That was how much faith and fear of the Lord the enemy had.  Unfortunately, the children of Israel had more faith in what they thought the enemy believed about them, and it cost them the Promised Land.

Don't lose your Promised Land because you're convinced you have the enemy figured out.  Who knows?  They may be more scared of you than you are of them.  You'll never know unless you press on, looking to God, not the enemy or the circumstances.  Look at what God is doing and what He has done for you in the past.  Have more faith in the God who slays giants than in the grasshopper mentality that says you're not good enough.  Only then will you reach your Promised Land.

*Here's one of my favorite songs that really drives home the point of today's lesson*

Friday, August 11, 2017

Going Back for Seconds

I don't like bugs. They're creepy and crawly. They have no concept of personal space, and they're forever wandering in uninvited. That being said, sometimes I enjoy watching the busy little creatures. After all, if God tells us to be more like the ant, it stands to reason that bugs can teach us something. And I had just such a lesson the other day.

I was watching a particular insect crawl across the window sill when suddenly, it ran into a spider web. (Don't judge me! You probably have a few spider webs in your house too, right?) Anyhow, as his front feet encountered the sticky web, he immediately backed up, turned around and hurried the other way.

I wanted to applaud him for his effort and good sense, but before I could, he did a 180 and headed back toward the web again. "What are you doing?" I cried. "You know that's dangerous. You were lucky to get away last time. Don't do it!" (Yes, I was getting emotional. What can I say? I'm wired that way.) So, Mr. Bug waddled his way back to the web and once again got his front feet stuck. In a panic, he fought until he was free and hurried off in the other direction.

Unfortunately, he didn't go very far before he turned around again and went right back to the danger zone, only this time, he wandered in a little too far and got himself stuck permanently. In a way, I felt sorry for him, but a part of me argued, "You dumb bug! You knew it was dangerous. You almost got stuck twice. Why, oh why did you have to go back again?"

I believe God often asks us the same question. Why do we return to sin? Why do we turn back to the people who have hurt us? Why do we turn away from the good and right and run to danger? I guess we're no smarter than the bug. We fail to realize that while there is pleasure in sin for a season, there are always consequences. Sure, it may seem like we're getting away with something or perhaps like our sin is just a "little sin" and no big issue. But I remind you that Jesus died for all sin, even those we label as little. Sin is sin. Wrong is wrong. Danger is danger.

Over the past several months, I've been working hard on my health, and one of the biggest changes I've made where my diet is concerned is to stop going back for seconds. I don't need seconds. If I give my food time to digest properly, I soon realize that I've had enough. I don't need more. Now God is teaching me the same when it comes to sin and temptation. Once I've seen the danger, I need to retreat and never turn back. Seconds are not an option.

In what areas are you struggling? Do you return to sin or maybe to people who are toxic to your
Christian walk? I pray you'll heed the lesson of the bug. Stop going back for more. God has a better way, a better life, and better opportunities in store for you, but you'll never reach them if you're too busy going back. Press forward. That is where your future lies.

Now, if you would please join me in a moment of silent prayer for the dumb bug which gave his life so we might learn this lesson.

For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. - II Peter 2:20-22

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Am I the Same Person I Was Yesterday?

While on this journey to overcome anxiety and depression, I discovered that not only did I need to watch out for comparing myself to others, but I also needed to make sure that I didn’t compare myself to myself. Huh? I’ll explain. Have you ever caught yourself making comments like “I used to be able to do this,” or “When I was younger, I could. . .” When we do this, we’re breaking two of our “eye rules.” First, we’re looking at the past. And second, we’re comparing ourselves to someone else—a previous self.

You know what? I’m not twenty years old anymore, so it stands to reason that I can’t do some of the things that I could when I was twenty. It doesn’t do me any good to whine about it or to dwell on the “good ole’ days. Press on. Move forward. I am a new me. You are a new you. Don’t compare yourself to the you of ten years ago or even ten months ago. Each day is an opportunity to grow and improve, so each day, we’ll be a different person than we were the day before. 

Remember, it’s not about what we see. It’s what God sees, and if we’re living according to His will and doing all things for His glory, then what He sees is wonderful indeed!

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. - II Peter 3:18

***Excerpt from Rise Up and Build:  A Biblical Approach To Dealing With Anxiety and Depression  -- Now available in Paperback and Kindle

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Hold Your Tongue

Today we'll wrap up our series on Four Things To Do When Facing Your Red Sea. For those of you who may have missed the previous posts, here's a quick summary. The first thing we should do is be brave. God does not want us to fear, no matter how treacherous the circumstances may seem. Secondly, He wants us to be still and let Him do His thing. Thirdly, we are to watch what He's doing. We need to keep our eyes on Him and not on the troubles we're facing.  Lastly, we need to be quiet. 

And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. (Exodus 14:13-14) 

Hold your peace. Be quiet. Don't whine, moan or complain. I'll tell you what, the Lord has been beating me over the head with this one lately. Ever since He began dealing with me about writing the Rise Up and Build books, one of the biggest lessons He's been teaching me is to stop complaining. It's amazing how easily I slip into whines and complaints without even realizing it.

For example, last Sunday, I was giving a prayer request in our Sunday School class. I meant for it to be a request, but before I knew it, it had turned into a "poor pitiful me" sob fest. And you know what? One of our sweet ladies called me on it and asked, "Are you still doing your fasting from fussing?" At first, I was embarrassed. But then, I was thankful. Pleased that someone loved me enough to keep me on track and point out a blind spot. It was eye-opening, and I have thanked and commended the lady for what she did.

For whatever reason, it's our nature to whine and complain. When things don't go our way, we fuss. When we're tired, hungry or achy, we fuss. When we've had a bad day or a bad night's rest, we fuss. As I've worked over the past few months to become more in tune with my speech so I could stop my complaints in their tracks, I've also become more attuned to everyone else's speech. Wow! Complaints are everywhere. As I stand in line at the grocery store, two cashiers complain about another employee. As I wait at the chiropractor's office, people complain about the weather. As I do my daily prayer walk, bicyclists and joggers complain about work problems, family members and so much more. Yikes!

When we're facing difficult situations, it's tempting to complain. For curious types like me, it also seems like the ideal time to ask questions.

What are you doing, God?

How are you going to work this out, Lord?

Are you going to follow my plan this time or do your own thing? 

Why am I going through this?

When will this situation be over? 

We go to God like an inquisitive child and pepper Him with a dozen questions instead of trusting that He is doing what is best.

Sometimes, the best thing we can do is just to stand still and be quiet. Don't gripe. Don't ask questions. Don't even try to explain the situation to someone else. Just be quiet. Let God work. Let God speak. Give Him the opportunity to fill the silence with His awesome power and glory. Yes, when it comes to talking, sometimes less is more!

He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction. - Proverbs 13:3

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Are You Watching the Storm or the God of the Storm?

We are continuing our series, Four Things To Do When Facing Your Red Sea. We have already established that we should not be fearful of the obstacle we're facing, and instead of plowing ahead and trying to do things our own way, we need to be patient and wait on God. Today, we'll cover step #3: Watch carefully. 

And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. - Exodus 14:13-14 

See the salvation of the Lord. Notice Moses told them to look to God. Don't focus on the sea before you or the enemy behind you. Don't worry about what your friends are doing. Don't focus your attention on what you don't have or can't do. Look to God and watch Him work. It sounds simple enough, but if we stop and think about it, we realize it's not simple at all.

I don't know about you, but I'm not the type of person who can sit back and do nothing while someone else is busy at work. If Jason is working in the kitchen, it feels wrong for me to sit down in the living room and read a book or watch television. I ought to be helping or maybe even performing a different task (Heaven knows there are always plenty of things to do).  I realize this doesn't bother some people. For example, when the roles are reversed, Jason has no problem sitting on the couch reading a magazine while I fix dinner or do dishes. It doesn't phase him at all. That's fine, but it drives me crazy. I don't like feeling unproductive, especially when those around me are busy accomplishing something.

But just as we said in the previous post, we can get so busy trying to help ourselves out of our situation that we get in God's way and mess with His plans. But more than that, we miss out on an opportunity to witness the miraculous. We're so busy looking at what we're doing that we miss what God is doing. And, God is not the type to shout, "Over here! Look at me! I'm about to do something amazing!" No, He's already told us where our eyes should be, so if we're not paying attention, that's our fault.

I don't want to miss out on God's blessings for my life because I'm not paying attention. I would hate to think that my troubles have me so distracted that I lose sight of who God is and all that He has done and is doing in my life.

I'm reminded of an episode of Doctor Who where these creepy angel statues would come to life whenever you weren't looking at them. In a warning video about the statues, Doctor Who commented, "Don't turn your back.  Don't look away.  And don't blink!" I think that's how we need to be with God. Don't blink. Don't take your eyes off of Him. Don't be distracted by the good or bad things of this world. Just watch God. 

Watch carefully. You don't want to miss what He will do next!

I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.  Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. - Psalm 16:8-9

Monday, August 7, 2017

Time To Let God Do His Thing

We've been discussing Four Things To Do When Facing Your Red Sea. Yesterday, we discussed step one, which was "Fear Not." No matter how difficult the situation, we must have faith that God will see us through. Today, I want to discuss the next step, which is "Be Still."

Wow! That goes against the grain, doesn't it? When facing a stressful situation, the last thing we want to do is be still. Nope, we want to pace. We feel the need to fidget. We want to get in there and fix things. We tend to take the approach that Sarah did when she grew weary of waiting on God. "Fine, if God won't do something, I'll just do it myself." That worked out well for all involved, didn't it? Not so much. And it doesn't work out well for us either.

Being still doesn't mean we're lazy. It means we're getting out of God's way and allowing Him to do what He wants to do in our lives. When we get out of God's way, He can perform that which is best instead of the "good enough" we're trying to work out. 

Imagine if the Lord had instructed the children of Israel to figure out their own way across the Red Sea. What would they have come up with? Go around? Not really an option with the enemy surrounding them. Build a boat? It would have to be an enormous boat or make several trips back and forth across the sea to get all two million Israelites across. How about a bridge? Unlikely since it would take years to construct, and with the enemy bearing down on them, they didn't have that long. Could they have come up with a solution? Possibly. But more than likely they would have ended up in a bigger mess.

The same can be said of us when we try to work things out on our own. We make a mess of it. God doesn't expect us to do the impossible. That's His job. He expects us to do what He's called us to do, then trust Him to do the rest. We trust. He provides. We wait. He works. We are still, and in the process, we open ourselves up to a new level of intimacy with our Lord and Savior. When we're not so distracted trying to solve the problem, we have the opportunity to watch God work (which we'll talk about a little more in the next post, Lord willing).

Be still. I know, the words make us cringe. Who has time to be still? Who has the mental discipline to be still? If we want to successfully navigate our Red Sea, we need to. Just like the phrase "Do not fear," this is not a suggestion or request. It's a command. There is a time for us to work, but there's also a time for us to be still and let God do His thing.

Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. - Psalm 4:4

Here's a song to go along with today's lessons.  This is one of my favorites (though I admit, I have a lot of favorites!)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Ain't Skeered

Yesterday, we began a series entitled Four Things To Do When Facing Your Red Sea. In case you missed the first post, you can read it here. Today, we'll be discussing the first step in the process: Fear not. 

That's quite a mouthful for two short words. Fear not. How can we not be afraid when our enemies are bearing down on us? Is it possible to be fearless when we're stuck between a rock and a hard place? When facing the impossible, isn't fear the natural response?

Yes and no. Fear is the natural reaction of the flesh, but it should not be the natural response of the spirit. Second Timothy 1:7 tells us, For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. So, if God didn't give us fear, where is it coming from? Nowhere good, I'll tell you that.

I've heard it said the phrase "fear not" appears 365 times in the Bible. Honestly, I can't say I've counted them, so I don't know if that's true. I do know, however, that there are many verses where God emphasizes the importance of not being afraid. No matter the wording, the message is the same, "Fear not." If He said it once, it was important. If He said it twice, it was critical. How imperative do you think this commandment is if God issued it hundreds of times? And yes, I said "commandment" because that's what it is. It isn't a request or suggestion. God says, "Do not be afraid."

So, I return to my initial question: How? How is it possible to walk through the dark shadows and lonely places and not be afraid? It all boils down to one word: Faith. Where there is faith, there is no fear. Faith is more than belief. It is trusting God in such a powerful and complete way that you know He's got your back and nothing will happen to you that He does not allow. It is an unwavering certainty that God is in control and that He will do what He has said He will do. Fear looks at life's uncertainties and whispers, "But I don't understand how. . ." Faith looks at the same situation and says, "I don't understand how, but I know Who is working." Faith focuses on what is known rather than what isn't. 

As you stare at the Red Sea in front of you, I encourage you to follow God's command: fear not. He is with you. He will never leave you. Nothing is impossible for Him, and He has promised to work all things together for your good. Will you trust Him? Will you turn your eyes away from the choppy waves and look instead into the calm face of the Savior?

Have faith, dear one. God can be trusted!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Four Things To Do When Facing Your Red Sea

I think everyone is familiar with the Biblical account of the crossing of the Red Sea. I'm sure it's been told in every Sunday School class, Christian school classroom, church auditorium and more. It's such a compelling picture of God's power and faithfulness, but what we often forget is that the Red Sea experience was not a one-time thing. In fact, I can guarantee that some of you are staring at a "Red Sea" right now.

In today's terminology, a "Red Sea" signifies any situation that looks impossible or hopeless. When we're facing a circumstance that seems impassible and are surrounded by the enemies named fear, worry and discouragement, we're confronted with a "Red Sea." And just like the children of Israel, we grow weary, confused and downright afraid.

What can we do? 

How can we possibly make it through? 

What's the point of even trying? 

Yes, those are Red Sea thoughts. Those ideas do not come from God but from fear and uncertainty. They are born in our hour of darkness, and in the blackness of the night, it's difficult to identify them for what they truly are—lies!

That's why it's a good idea to have a plan. The old saying goes, "To fail to plan is to plan to fail." Without truth to cling to in the dark times, we'll find it difficult to hold fast to what we know. We need a plan, and that's what we'll be discussing over the next few posts. I want to give you a list of four things to do when facing a "Red Sea," but first, let's look at our Scripture verses:

And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. - Exodus 14:13-14 

We'll talk about our four-step plan over the next few days, but for now, I want to show you something about Moses' response to the people. First off, he wasn't harsh or rude even though they were complaining and acting like a bunch of babies (guilty!). No, he was calm and addressed their immediate need, which was to attend to their fear.

But what I love most about Moses' answer is his confidence. God had not explained to Moses how He would get them across the sea. Moses had no more information than the people had. He was as clueless about the escape plan as they were. So, how could he be so calm when everyone else erupted in chaos? What was the difference between his mindset and theirs? In short, he had a plan. Moses had seen and heard enough to know God could be trusted even in the darkest hour. So, he constructed a four-step plan to get him through when he was tempted to doubt, and it's the same plan he outlines here for the children of Israel.

Step one: Fear not. 

Step two: Be still. 

Step three: Watch carefully. 

Step four: Be quiet. 

Lord willing, we'll discuss each of these in detail over the next few posts. For now, allow me to offer you a word of encouragement. The Red Sea was not the end of the road for the children of Israel; it was merely a speed bump in their path. Your "Red Sea" is the same. Difficult? Yes. Terrifying? No doubt. Impossible? Not with God on your side, for with Him, anything is possible. Just ask Moses!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Godly Giggles

Have you ever laughed in church? I'm not talking about before or after the service or when the preacher told a joke. I'm talking about right smack dab in the middle of the message—when no one else was laughing. No? Just me?

I've told you before, my mind seems to operate on its own wavelength, and it often catches me by surprise. Take, for example, several months ago when our pastor was preaching. For the life of me, I can't remember what he was preaching about, but I remember him saying "Shame on you. Shame on your whole family." Immediately, Jason and I turned to one another and laughed while mouthing the words, "Dishonor on you. Dishonor on your cow. Dishonor on your whole family" (which, for those of you who are more mature than we are, is a line from the Disney movie, Mulan). Anyway, we both had the same thought and got so tickled we couldn't quit laughing. The awful part is that I couldn't even get myself under control while playing the invitation. Good grief!

This past Sunday, I had a similar situation. I blame it on the long work week and exhaustion. I don't know what happened. The pastor was preaching a beautiful sermon on realizing exactly what took place when we got saved. He was using sentences like, "Not only did God save your soul from Hell, but He promised you a home in Heaven" and "Not only did He make you an heir, but He made you a joint heir with Christ." It was a good message. It really was, but as he continued to make these comparisons, I turned to Jason and in my best infomercial voice whispered, "But wait! There's more!"

Evidently, I caught him off guard because he lost it. It's been a while since I've seen him laugh so hard. His reaction made me laugh that much more. I had no idea I was so funny! Each time we would compose ourselves, one (or both) of us would giggle again. (Seriously, I get that way when I'm tired.)

After church, we had to explain to our pastor what we were laughing at. All I could say was, "I'm sorry. It was me!" And honestly, I am sorry if we disrupted the service (which I don't think we did because we sit in the sound booth in the back of the church). The pastor was probably the only one who saw us giggling, but still, I'm sure it was a distraction to him. And, for that, I apologized. However, I do not regret that both of us enjoyed such a good laugh. We need more of that these days. 

We live in dark times, and life is hard. It's easy to become discouraged, and Heaven knows, there's plenty to complain about. But sometimes we need to stop taking everything so seriously and take time out to laugh. Laugh at the crazy things our minds come up with. Laugh at the kitten chasing his tail. Laugh at the sign that reads "I was addicted to the Hokey Pokey, but I turned myself around." Look around. There's always something to laugh at. Notice, I said something, not someone. Laughing at other people's expense is just rude and ugly. But laughing at the funny things in life, that's why God gave us a sense of humor. He intends for us to use it. After all, A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. (Proverbs 17:22) 

Give yourself a break, today. Laugh. Smile. Giggle like a child. And be sure to share that happiness with others. Laughter is just as contagious as complaining, so let's start an epidemic. After all, the cure is the same as the cause!

*Need some laughs?  Check out my clean comedy playlist on YouTube.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Ultimate Remedy for Stiff-necked People

As many of you know, I suffer from severe joint issues and am currently working with my chiropractor to correct these problems. What we have discovered is that my joints are not stabilized because the muscles around those joints are—well, how should I put it—lazy! Yep, there you have it. My muscles are lazy. So, with that diagnosis, the prescription is muscle-building exercise. At this point, I am doing full-body isometric strength training three times each week. On the days I don't do those, I perform flexibility stretches and exercises as well as movements to improve posture and joint stabilization. Every day I'm working on the problem by putting my muscles and joints through rigorous workouts that feel bad in the short term but should produce promising results in the long term.

Besides all the workouts, I've been studying, seeking more and more information on anything and everything I can do to speed up the healing process. Throughout all this research, I've discovered some interesting things, one of which I want to share with you today.

Do you know why so many people suffer from pain in the neck? Because we never look up. Think about it for a minute. Throughout the day, we look out to drive, work, cook, etc. We look down to tie our shoes, mess with our cell phones and so on. But how often do we look up? Not often, and because of that, the muscles involved in looking up are some of the weakest ones in the body. This results in stiff-necked people.

As soon as I heard that, my mind went to the spiritual application. How many spiritually stiff-necked people are that way because they seldom look up? Their lives are gloom and doom. Everything is a sob story. Even when things are going their way, they adopt the attitude of "Well, better enjoy it because it won't last long."

Jason and I had an encounter with one of these stiff-necked people the other week. We were popping into Walmart on our way home from church, and just outside the store, we met a member of our church who is currently inactive. In fact, she has been inactive for quite a while. As soon as I spotted her, I opened my mouth to tell her how much we've missed her and invite her to join us again. But before I could say anything, she said, "Let me tell you, 2017 hasn't been good to me." Then she listed out the many ways life had treated her poorly. Honestly, by the time she finished talking, I was so ready to get away from the rain cloud that had formed all around us that I don't even remember if I invited her to church or not. I felt the need to escape before I found myself in a pity party.

I bring up this example not to condemn the lady but rather to drive home the point. It's obvious she was going through a difficult time, but she was allowing those troubles to drive her away from God and His people rather than to them. The church is an excellent place to "look up" and see the glory of the Lord. But she's not going to church. She's sitting at home, with her head down and her eyes filled with tears. And in the process, she's becoming a stiff-necked person.

The question you may have is, how do I look up when so many things are getting me down? That's certainly a valid question. Looking up spiritually is much like looking up physically. It doesn't happen as often as it should, so when we first start out, it feels awkward and unnatural. That's okay. Do it anyway! It may also seem uncomfortable at first, but that, too, will soon pass.

Four Ways to "Look Up" Spiritually: 

1) Pray. - You don't need any special equipment or skills. Simply lift your head, speak to God and allow Him to speak to you. Set aside some quiet time for communication between you and your Lord.

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: but the prayer of the upright is his delight. (Proverbs 15:8) 

2) Read the Bible. - One sure-fire way to lift my spirits and have me looking to God rather than at my circumstances is to read His Word. There are so many verses that bring comfort to my hurting heart. The stories of victory, redemption, deliverance and more bring a smile to my face and hope to my thoughts.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105) 

3) Praise. - This one gets a little tricky when we're feeling down and out. Let's face it, in the midst of a pity party, who wants to offer praise. At such times, whether we're willing to say it or not, we don't feel like God deserves our praise. It feels phony. We're hurting, and all we can do is focus on that pain. But if we'll determine to praise God—even it's only for being Who He is—things will turn around. Our attitudes will shift, and our heads will lift.

Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord. (Psalm 150:6) 

4) Sing. - This is optional because I know some people are not musical, and your attempts might be offensive to those around you. But music is a powerful way to snap out of a "deep pit mindset." Listen to some powerful, uplifting music, or better yet, sing it. Let Satan and everyone around you hear the positive message coming from your lips. Even if you don't necessarily "feel it" when you start, you probably will by the time you're done.

O sing unto the Lord a new song: sing unto the Lord, all the earth. Sing unto the Lord, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day. (Psalm 96:1-2) 

We don't have to be stiff-necked or downcast. There is a remedy, and it's simple: Look up! Look to Heaven and exercise those neck muscles. How else are we supposed to hold our heads up high?