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Give Me Some Solitude Please

As is often the scenario,  thirteen people of a variety of ages scrunched into a space better suited for eight, in a familiar restaurant for breakfast after church one Sunday morning,

The busyness of the restaurant and the various conversations going on at the same time, competing to be heard above the others who were also dinning, was for me a bit much.  Maybe I was tired; maybe I was tired of people.

I had just come off of a few days of shopping with a friend, visiting long into the night with my sister, attending a highly anticipated yearly reunion with old friends in the city I grew up in, lunch with a few high school girl friends, dinner with more friends, a very emotional celebration of life with about 500 in attendance, and a fun and chaotic few hours with our children and grandchildren.

I am sure some of you can relate to the weekend overload I experienced.

The Gift of Prayer

Sunday morning “after church foyer talk” is sometimes brief because of family schedules and plans. But on a recent Sunday, a common and all too familiar emotion was conveyed by a sweet woman of God as I asked the usual question, “How are you?”

Although this woman’s joyous countenance was reassuring, she offered a facial expression and comment that I could relate to.

“Oh, I am wonderful, but there are so many family concerns and needed prayers, aren’t there?” she said.

Her face lightened again as she went on to say, “What a gift we have to be able to pray. “What hope do people have who don’t know God?”

I agreed with her and we said our well wishes and goodbyes. But I have been pondering this thought over and over since that encounter. There is so much pain all around us; hurting marriages, illnesses, death, wayward children and grandchildren, mental disorders….the list goes on and on and on.

No one this side of heaven is free from it. What is the answer? My friend is right. The answer is prayer.

Prayer is a gift, a privilege, a confidence that gives us a joyous countenance in the middle of all the pain.

“Fearlessly and confidently and boldly I draw near to the throne of grace that I may receive mercy and

find grace to help in good time for every need – appropriate help and well-timed help,

coming just when I (and others) need it.”

~ Hebrews 4:16 (AMP)

I Want Bloody Toes

Information…
If you take the Word of God into your head and spout it out to others, but you don’t take it any further, that’s called information. The Pharisees were truly remarkable when it came to information, intellectually amassing all kinds of biblical data. But they neglected to apply it. They refused to live it. They never oriented their lives to it – even though they loved to teach it to others.
No wonder Jesus told His followers,

“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.
So you must obey them and do everything they tell you.
But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”
(Matthew 23:2,3  NIV)

Information alone isn’t enough.

Inspiration…
If you hear an exciting message that makes you want to stand up and shout, but you take it no further, that can be called inspiration. Most of us are pretty good at this. We love to listen to stirring music and attend motivating seminars – but usually that’s as far as it goes. This makes for good conversation and stirs our intentions, but it leaks. This kind of inspiration alone isn’t enough.

Thorns, Thistles, Pain, Death and a Promised Gift!

Every time we fight with weeds and thistles in our garden, we can think of our own disobedience. And every time we experience pain or attend a funeral and suffer heartache from the loss of a loved one – we remember our prideful, sinful nature, and our great need of a Savior.

God tells us in Chapter 3 of Genesis that because of our disobedience He proclaimed this curse…

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it  you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

But oh I praise God for His other promise in that same chapter….(My paraphrasing)

Satan will wound Jesus, but Jesus will destroy Satan!  The severe wounding resulting in death ~ produced a glorious resurrection!  God’s victory – our victory over death and a wonderful promise to live eternally in a new heaven and earth – no thorns, thistles, pain, or death.

All of us born after Adam’s sin were born into sin but because God’s sacrifice there was a means of redemption for us – a rescuer of our souls – JESUS.  We only have to reach out and accept His gift of eternal life with God, our creator.

The evidence of our salvation is our humble obedience to Him.  (I can’t wait to share what I am learning about that humble obedience).

Dear Heavenly Father,

Please make us aware every moment of the price of your sacrifice.  And thank you for the extraordinary splendor of your free gift to us!

Amen

A Train Ride To Remember

The last train ride I had taken was when I was 16 years old, so although I was somewhat excited to ride a train again, years of only flying to destinations had spoiled me.  Like a presumptive senior citizen, I announced to the man behind the train counter that I wanted the largest bag checked and sent directly to my final destination, but I would be taking the smaller carry-on bags with me.

A condescending smile came over his face; his head went down slightly, his eyes focused on me over his spectacles…..”Mam, this is a train and you will be responsible for all of your bags for the entire ride.”  I processed this in my mind for a few seconds and then reworded my request, assuming he hadn’t understood my intentions…. but unfortunately, nothing changed.

So I dragged both suitcase, a purse, an ipad case, and my newly purchased fashionable lunch cooler full of snacks and water over to the waiting area.

I scolded myself for bringing so much with every step as I stumbled my way to an empty seat.  This wasn’t anything like I had remembered as a teenager!  But determined to make a positive adventure out of this, I waited patiently with a two hour train delay.

I knew that God had called me to this Speak – Up Conference in MI and I was ready for whatever He had for me. I was however beginning to wonder if I had prayed enough about my choice in transportation.

Finally, boarding the train, I struggled walking the length of 9 train cars to get to mine.  This is it, I told myself, I have got to get back to Curves when I get home, I am so out of shape!  With labored breath, I looked helplessly at the Porter for some help.  It must not be in their job description to lift suitcases onto the train.  But he finally took pity on me and lifted the big one up.  After much effort, the big bag was on and in the compartment they had us put them in, but then to my horror…

I had to carry the rest up the narrow winding stairs to the top level of the train.  The challenge was the small bag weighed almost as much as the one I had just stuffed into the shelves below and I had three other bags hanging from my shoulders and my neck making me get STUCK.  Unable to move up or down with people behind me waiting – a hot flash hit.  I pushed forward and upward with all the strength I could muster (the sweat from the hot flash probably helped) and I finally made it to the top.  Oh my – what a site!

As I reflect on that process, and visualize the ridiculous scene in my head, it makes me laugh.  There were more train and bus incidences for that trip that would provide comic relief but I want to assure you that God had some “Divine Appointments” on my train rides so I hadn’t missed HIM.  It all builds character, right?

But it also makes me think about the excess baggage we carry around in our adventure of life.
Baggage that trips us up, causes us pain, gets us stuck, and usually sends a distorted  view of Christianity.

The truth is, unlike the reluctant train porter, we have a willing and able God, ready to lighten our load, carry our burdens, straighten our paths, and give us confidence and a peaceful joy that redirects His great love and grace to others.

The ticket is…..to dwell in His Word, to claim His promises, to relax in His presence and trust HIM. Here are just a few scriptures that remind us of these truths:

Psalm 68:19

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.

Matthew 11:30

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Psalm 55:22

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let
the righteous be shaken.

Exodus 19:4

You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt,  and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.

Nahum 1:7

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.

Blessings to you all….and for your information, I am now building up my sky miles.  🙂

How Much Would You Pay For God’s Clothing?

John 19:23, 24 – When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. “Let’s not tear it” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, *”They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. So the soldiers did this. (Psalm 22:18)
The soldiers at the cross of Jesus (totally unaware of who they were crucifying – just another day in the life and duties of the Roman soldiers) were gambling over the unique undergarment. I can’t help but wonder…Who won? And what did the winner do with it?
• Did he wash it and wear it himself from that time on?
• Did he present it as a gift to someone else?
• Did they hang it above their mantel?
• Did he incase it in a frame for all to see?
It is recorded that:
• John Lennon’s toilet sold for $15,000.
• Marilyn Monroe’s chest x-ray for $45,000.
• One of Elvis’s jumpsuits for $300,000.
No doubt the people who purchased these items had a need to have the life of these celebrities live on and on in their hearts and homes. And the only way to do that for them was to secure something that belonged to their idol.
If the soldiers had KNOWN who Jesus was – what would they have paid for his clothing?
What would you pay for clothing once worn by the one true God?
John, Marilyn, and Elvis are all dead. Their spirits live on somewhere – but the crucified Jesus (God) still lives. We don’t have to hang His memorabilia on our mantel, or in a frame. We don’t have to pay a dollar, let alone hundreds of thousands; we didn’t have to “win” Him by the role of the dice. We just have to believe in Him and receive Him into our hearts. Receive Him, just like we receive a gift.
As we live for Him, He becomes our Savior, Counselor, Guide, Teacher, Comforter, Sustainer, Joy-giver, and Living Friend. We can be clothed with His righteousness! And it is all FREE! Now that is a good price!

 

Jay Castor

Grateful Reflections

I glance at my dear husband reading his Bible as we sit comfortably in our cozy living room. The peaceful ambiance is compliments of soft praise music, flickering fireplace flames and the Holy Spirit.

What brought us to this place? Certainly the season of our lives contributes to it, but, as I remember where we came from and what we have been through – I am forever reminded of God’s amazing Grace, His forgiveness, and His power to transform our lives.

Although years of maturity have changed us physically, there is a depth to our love far beyond the love we experienced before wrinkles, grey hair and arthritic joints.

Our grown sons shower us with respect, provide us with wives that honour us, and grandchildren that bless us. In this life, what more could we ask for?

As I quietly study Dave as he reads, my eyes fill with tears of joy and gratefulness for God’s loving kindness to me. Although it was decades ago, I remember like yesterday the pain and the shame of my infidelity. The accuser never gives up. But God’s grace and forgiveness gives us hope.

In recent years, God has placed in our hearts a desire to truly know HIM and as we expend effort to that end – our love for each other has increased beyond words. We found the secret to a happy love life… Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul and mind. And – Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you. Bottom line, you cannot love the Lord, desire His Word, walk in His truths, practice obedience, and continue to pray to become like Him…without it having a positive affect on your relationship.

Arlene

 

S.O.A.P.ing

Planting God’s Word Deep Within

Here is a method you can employ to get personal direction from God Himself.  If you meet with Him every day for a short time the Holy Spirit will give you “nuggets” meant just for you.

This is very personal and powerful.  We can’t expect anything in our lives to change doing the same old things in our own power.

S for Scripture; O for Observation; A for Application; P for Prayer

Materials:

Bible
Notebook
Pen or Pencil
Bible Reading Plan
Post-It-Note© Pad or Daily Planner
Here is what you do:

*Note:  Leave the first few pages of your journal for a Table of Contents.  You will be numbering the pages as you progress as well as titling your page.

S ~ For Scripture

Open your Bible according to the reading plan you may be using.  Take time reading and allow God to speak to you.  When you are done, look for a verse that particularly spoke to you that day, and write it in your journal.

O ~ For Observation

What do you think God is saying to you in this scripture?  Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you and reveal Jesus to you.  Paraphrase and write this Scripture down in your own words in your journal.

A ~ For Application

Personalize what you have read, by asking yourself how it applies to your life right now.  Perhaps it is instruction, encouragement, revelation of a new promise, or corrections for a particular area of your life.  Write how this Scripture can apply to you today.

P ~ For Prayer

This can be as simple as asking God to help you use this Scripture, or it may be a greater insight on what He may be revealing to you.  Remember, prayer is a two-way conversation, so be sure to listen to what God has to say!  Now, write it out.

Finally, number and title your day’s journaling and record it in the Table of Contents

Try to keep distractions down and if something unrelated pops into your thoughts, if it needs attention, jot it down on the Post-It-Note© Pad or in  your planner so you can remember to do it later, then go right back to your time with God.

If you’re a morning person, SOAP first thing so you can meditate on it throughout the day.  If you can’t do it in the morning – that’s OK.  Do it later.  Just try to do it each day.  You’ll be blessed beyond measure if you do.  The Holy Spirit will speak to you if you seek Him.

Sample of a Soaping entitled  ~ I Need Help ~

SCRIPTURE

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

OBSERVATION

God’s word is full of promises that help us to be able hold on the hope that whatever our situation may be, God’s Mercy and Comfort is there for us. It is promises like these that remind us that we don’t have to do it alone, or to depend on others to be there to comfort us.

APPLICATION

As much as this verse is a promise from the Lord, when I look back in my life it took me awhile till I actually went to the Lord for the comfort that I needed. I was looking for comfort from people and things to fill that void. What was worse, I would find people going through the same afflictions, and we would corrupt each other looking for the things in the world to comfort us. It led to an even emptier life in which I ended up hurting more people. I was finally so broken that I turned to the God of all Comfort, and allowed Him to take the wheel of my life. It is then I learned to go where He wanted me to go, to do the things He wanted me to do, and to say the things that he wanted me to say. Today, the same comfort that I received from the God of all Comfort, I share with many, and depend on Him more than ever to comfort me in my afflictions.

PRAYER

Thank you Lord for Promises like this that strengthened me to be able to share what you have done for me to others.

Peace Is Conditional (Part 2)

Allow me to share a few paragraphs from an article entitled How to Please a Holy God by Dieudonne Tamfu.

The Work of God That Pleases God

God equips us by working in us that which pleases him. The participial phrase “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight” (Hebrews 13:21) defines how God equips the saints to do his will. God does not equip us by giving us equipment to go work for him; rather, he equips us by taking residence in us and himself working his will in us. Not only that, he takes pleasure in what he does in us. The work that pleases God is the work of God in us (Philippians 2:12–13).

What is the thing that God does in believers that pleases him? Hebrews 11:6 gives us insight into that work. It says,

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

If without faith it is impossible to please God, and there is something that God does in us in which he takes pleasure, it follows that the faith without which we cannot please God is what he works in us. Thus, the author is praying that God would work faith in the good things of the gospel in our hearts so that we may be able to do his will.

According to Hebrews 11:2, it is this faith that will commend us before God as it did the saints of old. When we come to the end of the age, it will be our faith, God’s work in us, that will commend us before God. God saved us, works in us, takes pleasure in that work, and commends us based on that work.

Why Did God Do It This Way?

Is it right for God to be pleased mainly by his work in us and to commend us because of that? Yes, because he is doing so “through Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 13:21). God is just to commend us, not based on our performances, but on his performance in us. “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).

God fulfilled his new covenant promises in Christ, which bring us all the good things found in the good news of salvation. God saved us through faith through “the good things” laid out for us in the gospel. God works faith in us constantly. God takes pleasure in that faith. And God commends us before God based on his own work in us.

Why design it this way? No other god works like this. African deities expect you to work for them after they “save” you, but not so with the Christian God. He works from beginning to end. Why do it that way? The last part of Hebrews 13:21 gives us the answer: so, that to him “be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

My conclusion and comforting revelation is this…

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those who believe in Him and seek Him.”

Are you sincerely experiencing that Peace that the Christmas Card’s write about?  We can all have it!  Believe Him and Seek Him!  Need help?  Click Here

Peace Is Conditional (Part 1)

As I was reading the Christmas Story from Luke 2 this week, the ending of verse 14 jumped out of the pages and into my mind and heart in a brand-new way.  It reads like this.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”

The very same week I had begun to open the many dear Christmas card greetings from friends and family…and most all the cards were wishing us “peace on earth” with a variety of lovely illustrated pictures from traditional Bethlehem scenery to contemporary graphics created to depict “peace on earth.”  And although each of the cards bearing that phrase were meant to point us to Jesus, the Son of God, and each were trying to assure us that He brings the peace to this world and to our lives, there seems to be a “hardened heart syndrome” that prevails as the readers hear this much too familiar phrase.  Peace on earth seems like the meaningless lie when we answer “fine” to the question,

“How are you?” It can be compared to our adult-honest assessment that Santa is not real.

The scripture is saying we will have peace IF we please Him.  Wait a minute!  Is there a condition for peace?  Now that’s an enlightened thought about why peace on earth and peace in our lives is like believing in Santa Clause.  Is it just an unattainable phrase we throw around because of its feel-good possibilities?  If there is a condition to peace in our lives, what is it? Is it something like the condition we put on our children to get their Christmas wishes from Santa?

You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why…
Santa Claus is coming to town

He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice, he’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice…
Santa Claus is coming to town…

The Christmas Hallmark movies with endless scenes of children of all ages sitting in Santa’s lap always use the similar script having Santa ask THE question…” Have you been a good little boy or girl this year?”  Of course, the question insinuates that there is only one answer IF the little boy or girl were to have a chance to get the present on their “list.”  I want to assure you I am way past that fantasy mindset of getting something from Santa.  However, I know for certainty that I want the promised peace from God.

Doodling in the margin of my Bible that same day I asked the question of God, “Are you pleased with me, God?” If pleasing God guarantees my peace, I want to please Him.  The preoccupation of this Bible verse found myself asking others what they thought pleasing God looked like.  I got a variety of answers – some that sounded a lot like a child’s rationalization to Santa.  Here’s a list of some of the typical answers:

Try to be good, give more to others, love others more than yourself, read God’s Word more, go to church more regularly, keep the ten commandments, and on and on and on.

The variety of answers I received proved to be just as impossible as being nice for Santa’s good list.