Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Gifts or Giver?

(Photo from colorsongyarn.com)
We’re surrounded by so many blessings, we sometimes take them for granted. Generally, around the winter holidays, we see an upsurge on social media, extolling the virtues of thankfulness, and that’s great. Sometimes it even sticks and we find ourselves being mindful to be grateful on an everyday basis.

But, going a step beyond not recognizing the plethora of blessings God pours out on us daily, I ponder whether we often times look to the gifts of God, rather than to God Himself.

The church isn’t a building, it’s the people of God that gather together, the body of Christ. That’s blessing enough, in many circumstances, especially when it’s a congregation of hungry souls seeking after God’s best for everyone, led by a godly man or woman who won’t compromise with the world or ignore, or even hide sinfulness that threatens his or her congregation.
 
(photo from keywordsuggests.com)
But, as I look around, it sometimes appears that people look to, follow or even worship individuals within the body of Christ. Yikes!

We see how whole congregations fall apart when their leader falls from grace. We read how pastors of mega-churches are being investigated for financial fraud and mishandling of the funds their congregations have entrusted to them. When pastors are making millions of dollars a year from the giving of those who trust them, sometimes the very poorest among us, I have a problem with that. Not to say that pastors can’t prosper financially, but, I’ve often heard it said that God sends you more when you don’t let it stick to your fingers. There are too many needy people in the world that the church isn’t reaching, though giving may be at an all time high.

Looking at what some consider a polar opposite to the church, we have science, another incredible gift of God. How exciting to have the need, the drive, the ambition and intelligence to seek out the mysteries of God and His universe, the world around us, and our own bodies! It must thrill God to see us exploring all He’s given us. Observing the world around us can create peace and excitement. Discovery can be phenomenally fulfilling. Wonder is a beautiful gift in itself.

Yet, there are those who put science above the God Who gave it all to us in the first place, even denying that Someone greater than they can conceive, has orchestrated everything around us and within us.

I’ll never understand how the minds that can fathom what most of us find unfathomable and seek out great mysteries, can be locked into their own little paradigm so snuggly, that they can’t see beyond it.

Life doesn’t just happen. It’s created. To be created, there must first be a creator. That sounds like Logic 101 to me.

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” – Luke 11:13 (ESV)

We all have so much in common, but our thinking can be so diverse. It’d be silly to assume that everyone thinks like we do, yet many of us carry that myth well into adulthood.

(picture from theodysseyonline.com)
 Art and music are often such an integral part of our lives that we don’t notice it surrounding us. Yet, there are many of us who feel that these beautiful things are the substance of Life itself; enthralled with the places it takes us or the serenity or excitement it brings us; putting pleasure before anything else.

Money is certainly something people put first in their lives, giving their lives away in pursuit of it, giving it the authority of a god over their every day comings and goings. Some people put so much effort into acquiring money; they leave no time to enjoy what it can afford them.
(photo from irs.com)

Working! We have workaholics who set no time aside for anything else, not family, not vacations, not even the God Who gave them the strong hands and the brilliant mind with which they themselves into an early grave, because they’re driven to work, work, work. I’m not pondering the reasons behind it, just that it happens.

Our children! Don’t get me started. How easy is it to put them first, before the God Who gave them to us?

(picture from catholiclane.com)
When we look to the gifts God gives us instead of looking to God Himself, we make those gifts into gods. One of the most important commands God ever gave us tells us: I am the Lord your God, you shall not have any other gods before me. He doesn’t instruct us this way because He’s arrogant and selfish, thinking more highly of Himself than He ought, though there is no one higher. He knows that we’ll miss out on so much that He has for us, if we serve His gifts instead of enjoying them. We can’t really enjoy them if we don’t honor the God Who gives them to us.

When our focus is so single-minded and focused on one gift, the others fade from sight, though they’re still there to enjoy if we can allow ourselves the freedom to look up and see them. When we focus on one gift – we become slaves to the gift and to how we think the gifts benefits us.

“Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves.” – Nehemiah 7:66 (ESV)

Are you seeking God for what He can give you? Are you seeking a relationship with the God Who gives? Or, are you denying yourself the opportunities to really enjoy everything life offers, by denying He’s the God of every good gift?

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Light…” – James 1:17 (ESV)
 
(photo from ccis.sg)





Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Write Anyway

(photo from indeanexpress.com)
Writing, whether in blog format, or journaling or for a project, taps into my soul and my spirit, even when I’m not aware of it.

I suppose that’s why I neglect writing when I’m hurting or sad or fearful.

God wants me to turn to Him, of course, in those times of need, just as He wants me to share with Him in my joyous times and celebrations.

But, the heaviness of the hard times can weigh us down and tempt us to curl up in a ball inside of ourselves. We can convince ourselves not to reach outward and upward, but to reach inward and wallow in the grief and anguish.

Without God, I am undone, in good times or in bad. I just recognize it more clearly in the bad times.

Celebrations can cover over feelings of emptiness or lacking, because there are so many distractions while celebrating.

But, sometimes, a person can sink so low, that even amidst celebrations, they’re pretending; forcing the image of sharing in the revelry. That can magnify sorrows even more intensely.

I suppose most of us who put our blogs out there in cyberspace are really writing to and for ourselves. Those who have a larger following may cater more to what their readers want or even ask for. But, those of us with smaller audiences basically pour out our hearts, in hopes that perhaps something we say can bless someone in some small way.

(picture from pinterest.com)
It frustrates me that my posts have become so infrequent and sporadic. It frustrates me that I feel I have less and less to share. But, it frustrates me most, that from the wealth God has given me, I feel as though my bucket is running dry.

Feelings can betray us. If I feel as though you’re judging me and you’re not, I’m feeling something that isn’t even true. Thus, I know that I know that I know that God’s eternal life springs up within me, even when I feel my proverbial bucket has run dry.


I've got a river of life flowing out of me
makes the lame to walk and the blind to see
opens prison doors, sets the captives free
I've got a river of life flowing out of me.
Spring up, O well, within my soul
Spring up, O well, and make me whole
Spring up, O well, and give to me
that life abundantly

Click here for: River of Life Song

(photo from iamhealed.net)
Should I just stick to praying for you, instead of writing to you? Or will the enemy of my soul then seek to steal that from me, also? He’s already stolen most of my songs….not this, too!

No. I’ll write. I may continue to be sporadic and sparse, but, I’ll continue to write.
I’ll write when no one reads. I’ll write when I write through tears. I’ll write – even when I don’t share it in a blog post.

But, I’ll write.

To God be the glory. He who began a good work in me, shall be faithful to complete it.  (Philippians 1:6 paraphrased, I sometimes memorize scripture via song choruses.)

“Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”” – John 4:13-14 (KJV)

Click here for: God Will Make a Way Song




(picture from crossmap.com)


Monday, May 1, 2017

What's In Your Closet?

(picture from pinterest.com)

Last week our pastor made mention of a book that intrigued me. I haven’t gotten it yet, but, I took note of it. From a Women’s Aglow Bible study, it’s called Shame; the Thief of Intimacy.

Sometimes shame, like other negative feelings, can bring us down. We can wear it like a cozy bathrobe, not even aware of how it’s dragging us into darkness, until it’s too late. It’s a subtle thing, we reach for it there on the hook in our bathroom, right where we left it that last time we shook it off.

(photo from houzz.com)
 But, shame isn’t the only thief in our wardrobe.

Throughout our average day, we may well put on something that looks more like depression, sadness, sorrow, anxiety, worry or fear.

Throughout scripture, we read about clothing ourselves; in the righteousness of God (Isaiah 61:10; Ephesians 4:22-24), in the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), with praise and rejoicing (Isaiah 61:1-2)….

I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. – Isaiah 61:10 (NIV)

When I show up at the elementary school to pick up my granddaughter, if I notice I’ve spilt coffee on my shirt, it’s too late to do anything about it. If I’d noticed it before I left the house, I could have changed into something clean, and avoided any embarrassment.

So, maybe one of our first steps into the day should include looking at ourselves in our spiritual mirror (the Word of God) to see if we line up with what He has to say about us. (James 1:22-25)

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom,and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. – James 1:22-25 (NIV)

(photo from etsy.com)

Pastor also mentioned something about pride being the root of a poor self-image. Say what? Didn’t make sense to me at first, but he went on to explain that pride says that what my opinion is of me, is more correct than what God thinks of me. Ouch!

So, if I feel worthless or shameful or defeated, that’s truer than what my Creator, the God of the Universe has to say about me???

Yeah, I guess that would be pride.

God knew we’d have hard days; days when we feel as if the world is moving on without us, days when we feel worthless, days when sorrow overwhelms us, and days when the bad news just won’t stop coming. As a matter of fact, we can quote His Word, saying, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.– John 16:33

His Word also tells us to put on the garment of praise in exchange for the spirit of heaviness. Here it is, tucked into some of my favorite verses.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
   and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor. – Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV)

So no matter how we’re feeling today, look need into the mirror of the Word of God, throw our shoulders back and admit it; what He says about us is true.

Yes, we will overcome – even this.

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. – 1 John 4:4 (KJV)

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. – 1 John 5:4 (KJV)

Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? – 1 John 5:5 (KJV)

What’s in your closet?

(photo from myclothinghelper.com)




Monday, February 27, 2017

Complaining In The Cocoon

I’ll guess our cocoon experience seems longer than that of a butterfly, but, proportionately, maybe it’s not.

Though some may find caterpillars fascinating little creatures, few would say their beauty and abilities even rival that of the butterfly. I’ll admit, I don’t have a clue what goes on in that cocoon to cause the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. But, when life courses through the veins of their newfound wings, beauty and power take on brand new meaning.

I have no idea if the butterfly remembers life as the caterpillar, crawling on her belly in search of food, eating as if the buffet will soon be over.

I don’t know if the caterpillar knows that she’ll be hidden away in a cocoon, changing phenomenally, or if she has any appreciation for the freedoms of the butterfly. Or for that matter, if she’s ever even seen a butterfly. Perhaps her eyes are only on the task at hand, acquiring the fuel she’s driven to take in.

Does she know transformation awaits her?
Can she imagine how much of a change will occur?
Is it dark in there? Can she see at all?
Can she move in that cocoon? (Seems quite cramped to me.)
As she grows and develops, is she at all comfortable, or stressed beyond recognition?
Or – does she sleep?
Does she question what’s happening to her?
Does it hurt?
Does she know she has a future, or does she await death?
When the urge to break out overcomes her, is she afraid?
Never having had wings before, what does she think is crowding her into the cocoon?
What does she think has happened to her slimy (or furry) little body, the one she wore into the cocoon?
As her wings stretch out to their full measure, does it hurt? Does it feel good, like stretching our arms and our back after a long night of sleep?
Is she afraid of the foreign objects we know are her wings? Of their need to soar through the air?

Does she even think about what’s happening or just enjoy the newness?

The experience of the butterflies vary, some never make it out of the cocoon.

Though her story is one of rebirth and transformation, one that we can see with our eyes over a very brief period of time, does she realize it?

Ours is an ongoing story of change and rebirth, too.

What stage are you in right now?

I have no clue if the caterpillar, all wrapped up in it’s transformational habitat, can complain. I rather doubt it. But, sheesh! Us humans have that mastered!

Whether we’re still chewing leaves, crawling along on a branch, ignorant of the plant it’s growing from, or we’re closed off from the openness we previously enjoyed, seemingly trapped in a closet of darkness – change is coming; freedom and beauty and abilities await us in experiences we haven’t yet imagined.

Just as the caterpillar may have no idea what a butterfly is, or can do, we look around us and see other caterpillars or the dark looking cocoons they’ve crawled into, and may not be able to imagine what we can be.

I don’t think a caterpillar can perceive that a glorious butterfly is already in the making.

What is inside of you?

While we complain about the leaf we’re chewing on, or the darkness of our cocoon, a breathtaking butterfly is in the making!

We’ll have such freedom – to fly further than the caterpillar knows there are places to fly.

Go to a butterfly house and observe; ponder what’s happening there. 

When you rest from the busyness of your day to talk with your Maker, wait on Him; listen.

Don’t let your insatiable hunger scare you. God is there.

Don’t let apparent darkness overwhelm you. God is there.

When you feel the urge to stretch and spread out your newness – use bold force! God is right there, too! He’s waiting on you. Crawl out onto His finger and begin to explore and enjoy your freedoms and all you discover you’re capable of.


Trust Him with the preparations of today.
Trust Him with the darkness that closes in around you.

Trust Him with tomorrow, He’s already there.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Virginal Innocence, Got It?

(photo from Pinterest.com)
Wise Virgins; 
Our Innocence

The very thought of ourselves being innocent might make us laugh, at least to ourselves. How long has it been since I was innocent? That’s exactly what happened to me when a dear friend referred to me using the term innocent.

Your innocence may have been taken from you at a very young age, or because of a promiscuous youth you may have given away your innocence. But, how does that reflect on you now?
         
Not long ago I confronted these thoughts without warning. When my friend called me innocent, in my mind I instantly roared with laughter, mocking myself with split second thoughts like, “You don’t know me very well, do you? Ha! Me? Innocent? Not in a very long time! You should know the things I’ve done!” But in the very same moment I mocked myself, I heard God speak to me quietly saying, “Are you not my child? Are you not washed with the Blood of the Lamb?” As I drew in a breath of shock, I lowered my head and whispered back, “Yes.” He finished, “Then you are innocent. Now.” I had to push back tears of joy as an overwhelming shock of reality set in. After my friend and I finished talking, I walked away to ponder what God Himself had just spoken to me.
         
Can you relate to what a reality check that was? I don’t know that I had ever thought of myself as innocent. Children don’t walk around acknowledging that they are innocent. And by the time mine was lost, my mature adult brain saw it as lost for good. Boy, was I wrong! I am innocent now! Not because I’m a particularly good person, but because my sins have been washed away by the Blood of the Lamb. It’s a simple truth we all know - but I wasn’t walking in my innocence. I was continuing to walk as one who had been handed a guilty decree, just like the enemy of our soul wanted me to.

(photo from Blog - Universal.org)
The lies of the enemy are subtle, and he’s rehearsed them a thousand times before he whispers them in our ears. And, we listen. And, we believe him. Without even checking out what God has to say about it, we believe the lies of the enemy, and we suffer because of it. We go without, because we aren’t walking in the Truth.

Revelation 12:10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him by the Blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

After we have been washed clean, reborn, made innocent by the Blood of the Lamb, we need to tell somebody, often; that would be the word of our testimony.

Determine some of the differences between the five wise virgins and the five foolish virgins Matthew talks about in chapter 25. Into which group do we fall?

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. –Matthew 25:1-13

(picture from emaze.com)
It appears that the only thing that made the foolish virgins foolish, was that they didn’t take any extra oil with them. The wise virgins had oil enough to burn their lamps, even after waiting on the bridegroom for so long a time that the lamps of the foolish virgins had gone out. Both virgins knew about the coming of the bridegroom, both were waiting for his call; it even appears that they were waiting together.
         
Relating this parable to our lives, the oil for the lamps has been said to represent the Holy Spirit; oil in other places in the Bible represents the Holy Spirit. But, the oil has also been said to represent the personal relationship between the bride and her bridegroom, or her faith, or even her works. The bottom line it represents is readiness; readiness for the return of the bridegroom. Are we ready for Christ’s return?

There are many who consider themselves Christians who won’t be taken in the rapture; they have not been washed in the Blood of the Lamb. They are not watching, as we are told to do. Christ will say to them, “Depart from me, I knew you not.” (Matthew 25:13 above)  

Could the oil represent their innocence? Whether or not they had indeed been washed in the Blood of the Lamb? The foolish virgins weren’t realistic about how long their oil would last and they were not ready when it was time to go. Were the foolish virgins living in the reality of salvation through Jesus Christ? Or were they just living under the title ‘Christian’ which many do, even though they have not accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Are we living in the reality of our salvation through Jesus Christ? If we call ourselves Christians, we are either one of the wise virgins, or one of the foolish. We are either washed in the Blood of the Lamb, or not. We are innocent, or we are not. How do we know?
 

(picture from Pinterest.com)
Ask yourself if you are among the innocent. Are you innocent, but didn’t dare to call yourself innocent? Can you say it aloud? Is that being arrogant or proud? Or is it simply the word of your testimony?

Can you look around at your Christian friends and see their innocence?

To be wise, to be ready, ask Jesus into your heart, making Him your Lord and Savior, tell someone, and watch for His soon return. Jesus doesn’t expect you to clean yourself up and then come to Him, He takes you just as you are right now.