You Never Know…..

Not to be morbid, especially at this joyous time of year, BUT….

None of us were born with an expiration date printed on our skin. We NEVER know what day will be our last day, what words will be our last words.

A few days ago on my drive home from Thanksgiving break with my Mom in Florida, I had to stop for two hours and put my car in park on I-95. Thousands of cars were backed up in a stand-still at the Georgia/South Carolina border waiting for a crash to be cleared. It turns out it was fatal. Those people had no idea when they woke up that morning that it would be their last. I wonder if the last words they said to their loved ones were good ones?

Upon my return to Charlotte I found out that my godson’s 35-year old baseball coach had a seizure, fell and hit his head and died – on Thanksgiving Day. He left his wife and two young children with no warning. None of them woke up that morning thinking it would be his last. I hope their last moments together were positive ones. What an unexpected tragedy.

“In your anger, do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Ephesians 4:26

I have failed at this at times, as we all have. But, my Mother engrained this in my mind and my heart, and for the most part I do not allow myself to go to sleep or to part ways with loved ones after an argument or disagreement without at least agreeing to talk later and letting them know I love them. For we must always be prepared. We are not guaranteed tomorrow.

The election has been a time of division among many families and friends, and now we are in the thick of the holiday season. The holidays bring joy and many people together, but they are also times of grief, pain and isolation for some. Let us remember to speak life to all we meet – and especially to remain in good relationship with those closest to us, regardless of our differences in opinion.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32

Speak life today. Forgive. Do not hold on to the things that bring bitterness. Be kind and do good. For you never know what day will be your last.

Am I God’s Friend?

I was captivated by her story as she told me how God was her playmate as a child.

An only child, my friend Karen says, ” I didn’t have an imaginary friend as a little girl. I just talked to God all day long.” She smiled joyfully as she recounted days in the back yard of her family home, playing by herself. Only she wasn’t by herself. She was talking to God, her constant companion, about anything and everything.

Photo: AdobeStock - Used with Permission

Photo: AdobeStock – Used with Permission

I was amazed. You see, Karen didn’t have the benefit of attending Sunday school or church with her parents like I did.  She was left to her own devices in the spiritual realm at that young age. And yet, she KNEW God was close. He had called her by name. And she had listened. Her childlike faith allowed her to converse with the God of the universe like he was her best friend.

Because he was.

It makes me wonder – how many times had God called my name, even as a young girl, and I didn’t have ears to hear? My friend’s life-long ability to speak directly to God like he’s right there in the room with her is something I didn’t learn until much later in life, in spite of growing up in a pastor’s home.

Have you tried it? If you listen, he is calling your name. He wants you to know him. He wants you to talk to him. Like he’s right there in the room.

Because He is.

 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 18:3

THANK YOU, LORD

In reading the Scriptures listed under the thanksgiving title in the concordance, I notice that most of them begin with an admonition to be joyful and sing!

Well…….I like that for sure!!!

When I am weary or discouraged and I start singing, or listening to praise music….the joy and thanksgiving in praise wells up within me.

I love God’s creation of animals and natural places in our world. Do you think they thank God for their existence? Ha! That may be taking it a bit too far! However, the “trees of the field clap their hands”  in praise to God, and, if we don’t praise Him, even the rocks will cry out!!! He provides food and water for His animal creations! The seas roar and the stars sing!

These alive plants and animals……all of earth and the heavens know who their Creator is. And God cares so much for His creation He even knows and cares about the little sparrow that falls.

HOW MUCH MORE HE CARES FOR YOU!!!

GIVE HIM THANKS…..FOR HE IS GREAT, AND GREATLY TO BE PRAISED!!!

Psalm 100  “Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands! Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;  We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name, for the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.”

Karen at Cannon Beach ~ Haystack Rock

Karen at Cannon Beach ~ Haystack Rock

Choose Joy

Last week a friend and I got together and I had worship music playing in the background. She was talking and sharing with me all that God had been doing in her life recently. She was in such awe of God and how he had been providing for her and showing up in unexpected ways.

As she was sharing with me I felt God say, “Praise me. Thank me. Worship me.” I stopped her and said, “God wants us to praise him and thank him for his goodness.” I turned the worship music up and little did I know what would happen next.

We were sitting on my couch worshipping God and I felt so at peace. I prayed aloud praising and thanking God for all he has done for us and she did as well. After praying I got hit with laughter. I began laughing uncontrollably. I was laughing so hard I was crying. Shortly after I began laughing, my friend sitting next to me began laughing as well, so hard she was crying. Every time I would touch her, I laughed even harder. The Holy Spirit was in the room and present in both of us!

As I was sitting and laughing God was telling me things. He told me

“I have big plans for both of you.

“Trust me.

“Keep your focus on me and I will show you where to go next.

“I know the desires of your heart.

“Trust me.”

It was beautiful! Although I was laughing I felt such peace and comfort.

Last night this same friend and I were talking and she was sharing with me that she has been experiencing so much joy and she doesn’t want it to ever leave her.

I asked her this question, “What are you doing now that is causing you to experience that joy?”

She answered with, “I am praising God no matter what and thanking him and keeping my focus on him.”

I responded, “Well, joy is a choice, and when you feel like you have to choose joy more than ever at a certain point, do the things you are doing now. Praise God, thank God, and keep your focus on him.”

I say this to you as well. Joy is a choice. You must choose joy every day. No one can do that for you. It is your responsibility. If you are struggling with choosing joy, praise God in the midst of the storm, worship him, put on worship music and sit in his presence. Allow the Holy Spirit to touch you. It’s not scary, it’s comforting, and renewing!

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

choose-joy

THE King of kings is Greater than any president

In just a few hours we will find out who will be the next President of the United States of America. This campaigning has been insanity and the country is divided in a way that I have never personally witnessed. People are fighting, calling one another names, and cutting off relationships due to this polarization in opinion and thought in a fight to join one band wagon or the other.

This is what I know:

– The God I serve is bigger than any person or election process.

– Life will continue no matter who sits in the White House for the next four years, and it is my duty to live a life that Christ would approve of by loving all people as much as myself, practicing gratitude and giving of my time and resources to make the world a better place.

– Many people are now at least using their right to vote in what appears to be record numbers. This means more people are paying attention to the issues, which is great news. When life rolls along “well enough” we become complacent and lazy. I see a new spark.

If you read through the Old Testament you will see a roller coaster ride of good and bad kings. God would give the people a good king and there would be wealth and prosperity in the land. Then, the people would rebel in some way and beg for a different king. Then, God would allow the people to have what they wanted so that the new generation would learn and come back to Him. It is a definite pattern.

Perhaps this is happening now. We can see in the candidates a culmination of the collective views and values that citizens in the U.S. share. We will reap what we sow, always. This election has put a lot of topics in the spotlight that need to be there. Regardless of the outcome, we will push forward. The sun will come up every day and will shine on the righteous and the wicked and eventually we will finally come to that most glorious day when we see Christ return.

We shall not fear or waver because our God is King of kings and Lord of lords.

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“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome….” Deuteronomy 10:17

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith…. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus….I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time – God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6:11-16

“On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” Revelation 19:16

Note: Do yourself a favor and go back and re-read the last post by my Aunt Tami as well: “Which ‘One Another’ Are You?”

Which “One Another” Are You?

It’s hard to remember a more divisive time during an election season in my lifetime. The name calling and questioning the security of another’s faith just because they disagree is beyond crazy these days. I’m especially saddened that Christians are polarized against one another.

That’s not the kind of “one another” God had in mind when He included some 59 scriptures in the Bible with those words.

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Seriously. It’s in there. Maybe we all could use a review:

Romans 12:16 tells us to “live in harmony with one another.” Mark 9:50 says to “be at peace with each other.” Romans 14:13 says “stop passing judgment on one another.” The phrase, “Love one another” shows up 14 times in the New Testament. Other verses say to “encourage each other” (1 Thessalonians 4:18, 5:11), to “live in harmony with one another” (I Peter 3:8) and to “encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13).

Oh, and my personal favorite, “If you keep on biting and devouring each other…you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15)

Insert gritting teeth emoji here.

I long for the days when a good old fashioned political discourse took place face to face. Live. In real time. The common decency of humans towards one another prevailed most of the time. Speaking as one who used to love politics, it was all in good fun & very few true friendships were lost over such discussions.

Fast forward to today when social media is our proverbial hiding place. We say things we would at one time never have said to someone to their face, hiding behind the veil of protection that we are just typing the words and they somehow aren’t as vile.

But they are vile. Words hurt whether they are slung from a loose and careless tongue or typed by angry hands. I’ve seen far too many of my friends become nasty word slingers in the past several weeks and if it breaks my heart I can only imagine how God must be feeling as he watches us escalate into hysteria and confusion.

As far as I’m concerned, November 8th cannot come and go soon enough. I pray the damage done is not permanent, and that we are as quick to repair relationships as we were to wound them.

 “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13

 

WHAT IS TRUTH?

We are soon to take our responsibility as United States Citizens to vote locally and for the President of our United States of America.  This is a serious time and each one of us must be informed of the issues, weigh our decisions carefully, and ask God for wisdom in our choices.  We are listening for TRUTH but all we hear are false promises.

Two thousand years ago the Jewish people under the harsh rule of Rome thought Jesus would be their King.  They hailed Him as their Messiah who would rule them justly and throw over the oppressive Roman government in Israel.  As they discovered in one week….He said His Kingdom was not of this world.  They called Him a blasphemer because He said His Father God sent Him. They wanted to kill Him!

But when Jesus was brought before Pilate to be questioned, Jesus answered him (John 18:36-38) “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not here.

Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’  Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king.  For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the TRUTH.  Everyone who is of the TRUTH hears My voice.

Pilate said to Him, ‘WHAT IS TRUTH?”

Are you asking the same question today?  We are hearing and believing lies every day.  Satan’s language is lies….that is his native tongue! (John 8:44)

Romans 1:25 says wicked men exchanged the TRUTH of God for a lie.

The only absolute TRUTH is Jesus the Christ, who came from the Father full of grace and TRUTH. (John 1:14)  Jesus speaks the TRUTH.  He is quoted as saying “I tell you the TRUTH” thirty times in Matthew, thirteen times in Mark, eight times in Luke, and thirty seven times in John.

When Jesus was teaching His disciples, He knew He was going to die, raise from the dead and ascent to His Father in heaven.  He told them He was going to leave them…and they were afraid!

He said, (John 14:1-6)  “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In my fathers house are many rooms, if it were not so I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.  And where I go you know, and the way you know.  Thomas said to Him ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

That is a promise…..and God does not break His promises!!!

Jesus also said (John 8:32)  “You shall know the TRUTH and the TRUTH shall make you free.”

NOW YOU KNOW WHAT TRUTH IS!!!

Thy Word

If there is a God, why is there struggle and pain in this world?

If there is a God, why is there struggle and pain in this world?

This is a question that is asked frequently. People have a hard time wrapping their minds around the fact that if there is a so called “God” who is loving and caring why would he allow people to go through such horror and pain?

Consider this…

God gave us free will. He is not demanding us and calling out orders from heaven. Of course, yes, He does have a plan for us and wants us to live a life of love, but he does not force us to do so.

It started in the Garden of Eden. God said to Adam and Eve they could eat from any tree in the garden, except for the Tree of Knowledge. They were given choices. They were given the free will to decide which tree to eat from. When they decided to eat from the tree of knowledge, God was there but he did not force them away. He allowed them to make that decision.

In Genesis 2:16-17 it tells us, “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’”

The opportunity was given to them to make a decision but he also told them what would happen if they chose a certain tree.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

“The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (The devil’s temptation to make the wrong decision)

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it (her decision). She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it (his decision).”

Genesis 3:1-6

There is evil in this world, and the evil was in the garden. The devil came as a serpent and tempted Adam and Eve. They gave into that temptation and in their own free will chose to eat from the tree of knowledge. They were given a chose. God wasn’t forcing them to choose what he wanted them to do. He stood back and allowed them to decide.

There is evil that we face now. Things happen to people that are not deserving of it. People are robbed, raped, murdered and they didn’t do anything wrong. How can God sit back and watch that happen?

It breaks God’s heart to see his children struggle, in pain, hurt. During those times of pain, what do you do? Do you search for anything to help you? Are you desperate for an answer, comfort, someone to take away the pain?

God is waiting with open arms for you to run to him. To cling to him. To cry out to him. To ask him for help. I don’t believe it’s a matter of God allowing bad things to happen because there is evil in this world, but he does wait for us to make a decision to draw near to him during those times. Following God does not mean life will be easy and nothing bad will ever happen to you, but it does bring you comfort and peace knowing the ALL POWERFUL GOD is on your side and fighting for you. He will bring the enemy down. He already has, but we as humans are tempted and create a way for the devil to get in and torment us. God never wanted that to happen, but he gives us a chose——to follow him, or to follow the ways of the evil one, the ways of the world.

What do you choose?

807a28c94045772dc0c9119335067ee6 Psalm 23:4

LOVE Your Enemies

Ouch. This is a tall order.

But, Jesus Himself tells us to pray for and love our enemies. UGH.

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27, 28

At this time of great political dissension in the USA, not to mention riots, hate crimes, and general unrest, it is pertinent that we as Christians not only remember these direct words from Jesus, but that we actively participate in them daily. If there has ever been a time to love and pray for our enemies, it is now.

Our enemies range from ISIS to the “Frenemies” that permeate our daily lives. From that deadbeat Father that refuses to pay child support and tries to intimidate, to the head of a country who threatens nuclear war. Jesus makes no distinction. We must love and pray for them all.

Without fail.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

We did not deserve it, but He loved us anyway. And He loves us now and forever despite our constant shortcomings. We must think of loving our enemies in this way. We expect nothing in return, but give the unconditional love of God to those who don’t deserve it. It is only when we can turn our hearts from hatred to this kind of love that we can truly pray for our enemies and hope the very best for them – that they will also come to know the love and salvation of God on a personal level that will change them from the inside out.

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Regardless of our political views, we are to pray for our President and the leaders of the nations. Regardless of our personal disappointments and hurts, we are to pray for those who mistreat us.

This is truly a challenge. Will you take it with me? Will you commit to this kind of prayer and love? The world needs us now. Let us stand by humbling ourselves on our knees in authentic prayer and love for all.

By Grace You Have Been Saved

In reading the book of Exodus, I was ministered to by the Holy Spirit as I read Exodus 20:24-26, about the making of the altar on which to offer the sacrifices for sin. God told Moses how to make it, and explained that if they made an altar out of stones, they were not to be hewn stones ,for if they used a chisel on the stones, it profaned the altar.

Why?

It was a type of our meeting with God under the New Covenant made through the blood of God’s Son, Jesus.

We have to come solely on the merits of His offering…no works of ours can be added.

“For by Grace you have been saved, through faith, and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8

But, you say, “What about ‘faith without works is dead’?” That’s true too, and Biblical, for if the Spirit of Christ lives in you, He will shine through you, and the works will follow because of Him and not because of you.

How freeing that is!