Friday, September 30, 2011

He is Real, and He is Here

Matt.11:5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached unto them.

John the Baptist is in prison. He began to doubt if Jesus was Christ. He wondered, "Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?" in Matt.11:3. The man who baptized Jesus, heard the voice of God say, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" and saw the Holy Spirit descend like a dove, wondered if this was, in fact, the Christ.

Is it any wonder then, that I, who am nowhere near the Christian that John the Baptist was, sometimes question and doubt what I'm living for? I'm trying to make right choices everyday. I've made every major decision of my life based upon God's Word. I married my husband because I believed it was God's will. I chose to stay home with my children and even homeschool them because I believed that's what the Bible taught .But sometimes, friend, I wonder why I'm doing it all? I'm tired of the criticism, the lack of funds and the inferiority placed upon me by the world. I've asked the Lord, "You are there, aren't You? I am doing right, aren't I?"

When John questions Jesus from prison, Jesus gave John a message. He didn't go to him in person or send an angel to talk to him, he just sent word. He said, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: 

The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached unto them. (Matt.11:4-5) Jesus didn't condemn John for his lack of faith, after all, it was a momentary thing. John had suffered great things for the cause of Christ and was in prison when he began to doubt. Jesus understood that John was human. (Ps.103:14) Instead, He reminded him of the many great things that had happened. Only God could do such miracles!

He doesn't condemn me when I doubt, either. He also doesn't send a great miracle to convince me He's there. Instead, He reminds me through His Word, like He did today. He sends me a rainbow, a hummingbird or a beautiful sunset. He shows me through a friend's kind word, e-mail or note. He reminds me of past miracles that He's performed in my life, and provides for me from day to day. Only God could such miracles! And then I am comforted. I know that He is real, and He is here.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Ministry

Matt. 8:15 And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them.

It seems we have two extremes in Baptist churches today. We either have churches where there is much activity and many people working, or churches where absolutely nothing is going on. The first one is the right one. Churches should be busy reaching the lost and helping other believers. However, have you noticed that most of the time, it is women who run or work in the ministries of the church? Most Sunday School teachers, Children's church workers and bus workers are women! Many Christian school teachers are women! I'm not saying it's wrong for women to serve in these ministries, but often, they get overloaded with "church ministry" and fail to do well at their "God given ministry" - the family.

In the verse today, we see Peter's mother-in-law is ill and Jesus heals her. She immediately begins her ministry again - serving her guests! Hospitality is almost a thing of the past, yet, we are told in God's word to be hospitable. (Rom.12:13, 1 Pet.4:9) Why is this? Because we're busy working in other "ministries".

As a Pastor's wife, I know everyone has expectations of me. Recently, a women informed me that a former pastor's wife used to sit with a different family in the church each Sunday. She said this as though I should do the same. I'm glad that she was happy with that other lady for her choice to sit somewhere new each week, and I think that was fine for that pastor's wife to do so. But it is not something I can do. I have to serve in the ways that my husband wants me to. I have to be careful that I please God and my husband, not man.

The same is true of all women. Our ministry is our families! They come first and church work comes second. I know. This sounds like I'm saying to put off church work, or quit doing it entirely. I don't mean that at all. As women, our tender hearts can allow us to try to fill every need we see. Most of us can't do everything without experiencing frustration and burnout. We must learn to prioritize. We can't all do everything, but we can all do something.

Speaking of family, I better tend to mine! Have a wonderful Thursday!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

He Gives Good Gifts

Matt. 7:11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? 

I'm having severe allergy trouble today, so I'm not feeling thing best, but I wanted to pop in and share this verse. It really encouraged me! I have so many needs, and it thrilled my heart to read this. If my earthly father, who was flesh and blood and sinful, could give me good gifts (and he did), then how much more would my perfect, sinless, Heavenly Father! I can boldly bring my needs, and even my wants, before him, and He wants to help me!

Praise the Lord!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Difference

Is.29:13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me me is taught by the precept of men:

This verse reached out and grabbed me today. I think it could be describing Christianity today. We have so many people filling up Baptist churches all over America, yet it's hard to "spot" a Christian in the real word. Everyone is the same - so few are vibrant, excited to share the Gospel with others! They come to church and say they are saved, they say they love God, they even say they fear God. But, do they? If you love the Lord, you'll obey Him (John 14:15) To truly fear God, you have to believe that He is God, you have to realize that all things are under His authority; you have to believe on Him and know that one day you will stand before Him. It's not a fear as in "I'm shaking in fear", but a fear as in "I know His power and I respect Him for it."

The best way, or rather, the only way to know His power is to have experienced His salvation. Probably many folks lack a true love for and fear of God because they don't really know Him, they merely know of Him. There is a difference.

I grew up in a Christian home. My parents, brother and sister were the real deal: what you saw on Sunday, was they were on Monday-Saturday. I remember as a five year old, wanting what they had, but not knowing exactly what it was. I bet I prayed to ask God to save me two dozen times! I didn't get saved, however, because I didn't understand. I didn't even know I was a sinner, or what sin was! The day I got saved, June 12, 1993, I experienced a change! It was not a feeling - I didn't cry or anything - but I knew in my mind and heart that I was born again! No doubt about it. There was something different now. I no longer searched or tried to imitate my parents' or siblings' walk with God. I had my own.

Perhaps you've never truly met Jesus for yourself. It's not too late! If you already know Him, then you've seen the difference for yourself.

My prayer is that others will easily see the difference in me.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Wonderful and Excellent is He!

Is. 28:29 This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.

I really loved this verse this morning. The verses before it are about the prediction of the Assyrian takeover of Ephraim. Ephraim's fate is a warning to Judah. To wrap up this chapter, Isaiah says that all of this is from the the LORD. He is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working.

Is is just me, or does it seem like a strange time to praise God? Isaiah's "forecast" for the tribe of Ephraim is not a pleasant one. He begins chapter 28 with "Woe to the crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!" It surprised me to read the final verse, which clearly gives praise and glory to our Heavenly Father.

Why does that surprise me? Probably because I'm the last person in the world to give thanks and praise to the Father while going through a trial. Probably because a lot of my prayers sound whiny to the Lord, or panicky. Probably because I want only fun and happy things in my life. But, I know from experience, or rather, experiences, {plural} that it is through trial and heartache that I see the Father's power the most. It is in the storms of life  where I become the closest to Him. I receive miracle-type blessings from Him everyday, but especially in the lean times.

You know, that's something to praise Him for! Yes, I can say with Isaiah, "This [blessing or trial] also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working."
I give thanks and praise to my Father, for wonderful and excellent is He!

Friday, September 23, 2011

I Practice Mind Control

Is. 26:3-4 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust yet in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength.

I try to read my Bible each day until I "get" something from Him. It's not always (or ever?) a profound Bible truth or a goose-bump giving promise, but it's something. It may be a verse that I think would be good to memorize, or a reminder of something I need to work on. Or, it might be seeing an "old friend" - a verse I underlined sometime in the past. I was so pleased today when I opened right up and immediately heard from the Lord.

The verses above have been quoted hundreds of times. I have Is. 26:3 memorized and have had it memorized for a while now. Yet, as I read it today, along with verse 4, I heard the Savior gently calling to me, telling me that I was not heeding these verses.

If I dwell on negative thoughts, troublesome situations, hurts of the past and so forth, my countenance falls and the tears flow. Soon, my words follow my heart and I begin to pull others down by sharing my heartache with everyone. I get lost in my depressed world and snap at anyone who disturbs me. When one comes along to encourage me, to remind me of my blessings, I get resentful and I fight for my right to remain blue. Basically, I'm wallowing in self-pity. And it all began with my mind!

I'm going to practice mind control today. I'm going to try to keep my thoughts on my blessings, for there are so many! I'm going to cry out to my Father for strength when I am weak, for our verse says through Him, we have everlasting strength! That's certainly what I need!

When I feel myself sliding down the slippery slope toward woe, I'm going to cry out to my Lord for help. Too often I pray in the morning and then no more the rest of the day. I want to talk to Him often, and rely upon Him each moment of my day.

I wish you a very blessed weekend!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Epic Fail

Rom. 7:18-19 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

Rom.7:24-25 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord...

I recently saw a tee shirt that said "Epic Fail". It had an arrow that pointed to the right, presumably at whomever was standing there. Those words, "epic" and "fail" are widely used now days.

I cannot think of a better way to describe my Christian life at times: "Epic Fail." I seem to get caught up in the same sin over and over and over, like a hamster on a wheel. I know that I have a weakness. I pray about it. I read God's Word to get strength and wisdom to defeat it. Yet, in a momentary laps, I slip back, and into the same sin. I have no more tears to shed over it, I feel numb and hopeless. Why would God forgive me again? Why would He even want to help me? I keep failing. There's that word again, fail. That's me: Valerie, the epic failure.

I won't bother you with the details of my faults. I've been working on it for a while now, even going to the point of saying "Wow, I'm so glad I'm aware of this sin in my life. I won't do that again, now that I know!" HA! Famous last words. I don't do it intentionally, but then, I never have. Today, I read how Paul struggles with the same thing I do: failure. I read chapter 7 and 8 of Romans, searching for a way to cure myself of committing the same sin over and over. I wanted to find something like "If thou dwellest in the precepts of the Lord daily, thou wilt not sin." Or, "If thou produce meekness all the days of thy life, thou wilt be perfect." But, I didn't find those words. It appears to my very un-trained mind that the answer is this: keep going. When I fail, get up and go again. That's what Paul did. He died to his flesh and kept going for the Lord Jesus. Paul says in Rom.8:15 that we have been adopted and we can cry out "Abba, Father." That's a term of endearment. When I fail, I can cry out to my Heavenly Father. He forgives me, He picks me up, just like my earthly father would do. He comforts me, He corrects me, and He sends me back out to try again.

What a blessing it it to know that when my Heavenly Father looks at me, He doesn't see me for what I am, an epic failure. No, He sees the blood of Jesus upon my life. And Jesus never fails.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lessons from Tests

Matthew 4:1 Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

After Jesus' baptism, but before His earthly ministry began, He was tempted by the Satan. Just want to jot down a few thoughts about it.

  • Jesus was tempted after he had fasted 40 days and 40 nights. He was "hungered". (Matt. 4:2) It seems we are all tempted when we are "hungry". For example, we are tempted when we are physically weak, or spiritually. The devil knows when we are most vulnerable.
  • The Devil wanted Jesus to sin. If Jesus sinned, then He could no longer be our Savior, He would have been an unfit sacrifice. It would have ruined everyone's life. It seems Satan goes after those in the Christian life who have the most influence. No, no one is the same as Jesus, but think about it. If Satan can pull down a pastor or a prominent church member, he's brought down several people with them, mostly those weaker Christians we mentioned earlier. If you stand up and teach a class, you'll sit down with a target on your back.
  • The Devil's method of bringing Jesus down was pride: He wanted Jesus to sin by having pride, by feeling the need to "prove himself" to Satan. Satan scorns, "If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee:..." How many times have I fallen into that pride trap, wanting to "prove my point" and losing my testimony in the process! I'm so glad my Lord and Savior didn't fall for that. Another interesting point is that Satan knows God's word! How handy! He can twist it and mangle it till that weaker Christian is convinced that their un-scriptural way is, in fact, scriptural.
  • Jesus wins by knowing God's Word inside and out. He quotes it, He lives it. We cannot be perfect, but we can all win the battle by knowing and living God's Word. Read it, memorize it, study it, live it. 
  • It seems that we all must endure some testing before God uses us. Notice that in Matt. 4:17, after the temptation, Jesus began preaching. If you are facing a time of trial, keep in mind that God could be preparing you for a ministry. The temptation or trial you are in is not the end, it's the beginning!
Whatever the test we face, our hope is the Lord and His Word.

But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  1 Cor. 15:57

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Just Can't Wait!

Rev. 22:20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Well, I finished the New Testament. I'm not sure how long it took me, because I don't follow a schedule. I just pick parts of the Bible I like and read a chapter or two or four each day from them. I am going through the Gospels again now. I'm reading Exodus and Isaiah each day as well. When I finish a book, I decide on a new book to start.

Every time I read the verse above, I get kind of emotional. I get excited, thinking, "Yes! I cannot wait for Him to come!" and I get a bit sad, thinking "Wow, I'm already to the end. I wonder how John felt as he penned these last words?" After all, if anyone was longing for the Savior's return, it would be John! He'd been tortured, boiled in oil they say, and exiled to Patmos. I find it interesting that God came down and gave John the book of the Revelation while he was alone, probably thinking he'd been forsaken and forgotten by God. Boy, howdy! He couldn't have been more wrong! God showed John things in that dark place that He'd never revealed to anyone.

Right after my dad died, some seven years ago, I had a dream about him. I dreamed about him often, but in this one, I dreamed that Dad came down from Heaven just to tell me he loved me, and he was all right. He started describing Heaven to me! When I awoke, I thought "Was that real?" But everything Dad said to me in my dream came straight out of the Bible; nothing new. It got me excited about Heaven, though!

How wonderful to end the Bible with the plea from John the Beloved to "come, Lord Jesus."! I feel that way, too. I'm ready for Him to come. I can honestly say that I'm more excited at the thought of seeing Jesus than my dad right now. Jesus has been with me in so many dark and lonely times for so many years. I remember crying to Him when I was nine and my sister went away to college. Over the years, His song has filled my heart with joy. When no one else on Earth was with me, He was with me. He has always given me just what I've needed when I've needed it. I love Him so much! I'd like to close with the chorus of one of my favorite songs about my Friend:

Jesus, sticks closer than a brother, every moment He is near.
I know He never will forsake me, He has conquered all my fear.
Jesus sticks closer than a brother, on His love I can depend.
King of Kings! Lord of Lords! Conquering Son!
Though all of these, He's my very best friend. 

- from "My Very Best Friend" by Ron Hamilton

I just don't know what I'd do without Him. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

He Deserves It

1 Peter 3:7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, diving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

Rev. 20:1-3 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more,...

It seems like I have a target on my back lately. I find myself being irritable, quick tempered, a worrier (more than normal). If there is a problem in our family, I've noticed that lately, it begins with me. I'm the one who snaps at the children, putting everyone on edge; I'm the one fretting over this problem and that problem, causing my husband's stress level to increase; I'm the one who can't go on (or so I think, anyway). My family hasn't had to sit down with me and have an intervention, telling me how much I've been failing. The Holy Spirit holds a daily "intervention" with me each morning from the pages of God's Word and in my prayer time. I feel that He is grieved, and I don't like that feeling. I want to be strong during times of hardship; I want to trust more when things are looking bleak. When I do the opposite, I hate it.

I recently told my husband that I really feel that Satan is "gunning for me" during these hard days. If he can affect me, it's pretty certain that I will affect the rest of the family. Logically, an enemy would aim for the weakest point in a battle. God's Word tells us that women are the weaker vessel in 1 Pet. 3:7. This doesn't mean we can't do anything for ourselves, it's a comparison. We are weaker physically compared to a man, as well as emotionally. As a woman, I am sensitive. It doesn't take much to bring me low emotionally. If the Devil can drag me down, he's got everyone else, too. I asked my husband to be extra patient with me right now, to pray for me even more, and to help me fight Satan's attacks.

I was so pleased to read about Satan's ultimate demise in Rev. 20:3! I cannot wait for the day when my Savior will put Satan away! After all the trouble he's caused, I can say with confidence that He deserves it!

Friday, September 16, 2011

God's Boundary Lines

Ex. 19:12 And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye  go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death:

In Exodus 19, we see Moses preparing to receive the law from God on Mt. Sinai. The Lord tells Moses to set up bounds around the mountain, because anyone who touches it will die. God is truly a loving God, not wanting to hurt people. If He'd wanted to kill people, why would He have told Moses to set up a boundary around the mountain? The boundary line was a warning sign "Stop! Go no further!" The people could roam anywhere they wanted and be perfectly happy. If they crossed the line, then their happiness, or rather their family's, would be gone.

As I thought about that boundary around the mountain, I thought about how God's Word sets up boundaries. Again, not so that we can be miserable, but so that we can be happy and safe. I was just trying to explain to my children two nights ago that God's "rules" are meant for our happiness. I used marriage as an example. If they choose carefully  and prayerfully in marriage, and keep their vows, then their children will never have to see their homes broken. It grieves me so much to see how so many kids these days get shuffled back and forth between parents and grandparents. Most of it could have been avoided if saved people married saved people. That's a "rule" given in 2 Cor.6:14. That's not given so that we won't be happy in marriage, but so we can be. How happy I am to go to church as a family! How wonderful it is to all gather round the dinner table each night and laugh and talk, to spend every holiday together, to enjoy sweet fellowship at breakfast and bedtime! It truly is a wonderful life, and it's all because of God's boundaries, the Bible. This fellowship can only be broken if I or my husband decide to ignore God's rules for marriage, if we are unfaithful to one another. As long as we "don't cross the line", or happiness, including our children's, remains in tact.

I have no idea what your marital status is, and I do not at all mean to sound critical if you have been divorced. If you've been down that painful road, then you can agree whole-heartedly with what I'm saying: Be careful in marriage! Perhaps you did marry right, yet it ended anyway. We are all sinners, and we can certainly suffer because of the sin of others. God knows who did the wrong, and He will take care of it. Keep going and keep serving, knowing that you are loved by the Lord. He has a plan for your life. Remember, you can only stay in the boundaries for yourself. 

There are many other "boundary lines" in God's Word. And let me say, I struggle to stay within some of them. But I want to, for I know that obedience to God's Word will produce wonderful fruit in my life. May we all stay within God's boundaries; may we stay in His Word.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Even I Can Do It!

Ex. 17:12 But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

Exodus has been such a blessing to me the past few days. It's as though the Lord is speaking directly to me through His Word. Oh wait! He is! Isn't that wonderful? I hope you are enjoying your time in His Word each day, also.

Today, I was reminded that no one can (or should) make it through life alone. We all need each other. I was driving home from the store the other day, thinking and listening to my favorite hymns CD. I was worrying about going to Chicago in a few weeks to speak at my first ladies meeting. How can I go up there and say anything worthwhile? What do I know? I suppose I could speak on "How to Get that Foot in Your Mouth...All of It!" or "How to Apologize after Saying and/or Doing Something Really Stupid." What if people think I'm just a know-it-all, or just a kid, or both? That won't help anyone. Then, I had this thought, and I believe it was from the Holy Spirit: Why don't you just go up there and try to be an encouragement? Isn't that what you need now and then? You don't need someone to walk up to you and preach to you, you just need someone to have some compassion, some love, some understanding. Why don't you just go up there and be a friend?

I realized that that's right. I just need to be a friend, a smiling face, a listening ear. No one expects anything great from me, but we all expect something great from God, and He can do great things! It's true. I'm a "nobody" in the ladies-conference-speaking world. My last name isn't Hyles or Hutson or Rice. (Famous Baptist preachers who are now in Heaven.) I'm just me. In our verse today, we see two men came along and held up Moses' hands during a battle between Israel and Amalek. When Moses' hands were up, Israel prevailed, when they were down, they didn't. These two men, Aaron and Hur, were not holding up Moses' hands because they were extra talented, or because everyone got together and voted on who was the best hand-holder-upper. They simply saw a need, and ran to meet it. We can all do that in some area of the Christian life.

Last week, I received a "surprise box" from a friend and a lovely homemade card with encouraging words written inside. I needed that encouragement so much! I needed to have my "hands held up" at just that time. We all do, and we all can. I'm not as thoughtful as I should be, I get caught up in my life, my problems. I need to do better. And by God's grace, I will.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Praising or Pouting?

Ex.16:8 ... for that the LORD heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? your mumurings are not against us, but against the LORD.

I've never been a fan of the show, Jon and Kate Plus 8. I watched a few episodes only to grow weary of Kate's constant complaining and criticism of all things, especially of her husband. When I stood in a mile long line at the grocery store this week, I picked up a copy of People magazine because it said that her new show, minus Jon, had been cancelled! I was kind of surprised. I read the article out of curiosity. That, and the fact I had a spare 20 minutes to kill waiting to put my items on the conveyor belt. In the article, she whined and cried about how she didn't know how she'd pay for her 2 million-dollar-plus home on 24 acres, or how she'd pay for her kids' private school. She moaned about how her kids wouldn't get to take anymore trips, or be on TV anymore! Of course, we all know how she feels. Didn't you just hate it when your TV show was ripped off the air with nary a warning? No? Oh, wait, we live in the real world! The least of my worries is all the trips we don't take. She ended the article by saying she really wanted a talk show. I can see why, since she can relate to the masses so well. {sarcasm} I was never so happy to come to the end of an article in my life. I went ahead and finished it, hoping there might be a glimmer of humanity, love,  or perhaps some appreciation to her fans for letting her sour mouth last this long on TV! I was disappointed. She sounded selfish and spoiled to the very end.

I know, you're thinking, so, what's the point? Well, as I read that whiny article, and then this verse and other verses from Exodus about Israel's griping, I realized how disgusting whining is. I also realized that, *ahem* I do it, too. {blushing} Yes, it's true. Occasionally, I moan and gripe and whine. It's not pretty. In fact, it's annoying to people nearby, but especially to the God who loved me enough to send His only Son to pay for my sins. He's given me so much: A home in Heaven, His Word, the chance to talk to Him day or night, friends who pray for me, my family, protection, a home, food, luxury items - no, not a 24 acre mansion - appliances! A running vehicle! Hot water! An inside bathroom! Furry socks in the winter! A ceiling fan in the summer! Coffee! Vanilla creamer! Trash bags! A lap top! Marshmallows! Ben & Jerry's ice cream! (once in a while, of course.) INTERNET! The list goes on and on! Why, oh why do I gripe?

Yes, there are those who gripe at me, as well. I'm not very long-suffering about it, either. I get weary. I'm just trying to serve the Lord. Yes, I fail a lot, but I'm trying. Why must there be constant complaining? Then, I read the end of the verse above. When folks complain about matters from God's Word, they are not upset with us, they are upset with God. And He will have to handle that. I have my hands full watching my own gripe-prone mouth!

I'm going to work on praising with my mouth, rather than pouting. Yes, I have my work cut out for me!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Let God Do the Fighting

Ex. 14:14 The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.

This short little verse caught my attention today. The Israelites were being pursued by the Egyptians in the preceding verses. The Israelites were cornered, so to speak, since they were stopped by the Red Sea. It looked like the end. Moses tells them, don't worry, the LORD will take care of you. First, the Lord created a barrier between the Egyptians and His people all night long. (Ex. 14:20). Wow! That alone is pretty amazing, but He did even more! We all know that He parted the Red Sea and they crossed over (approximately 2 million people) on dry ground! (Ex.14:21-22) What a miracle! God took care of Israel, and not one arrow was shot, not one stone was cast or punch thrown!

 Don't worry, I'm not thinking about fighting anyone, but I often think about ways that I can solve my own problems.I want to call so-and-so, and try to make a plan and work my plan. I don't want to "stand still and see the salvation of the LORD" as Moses tells Israel in Ex.14:13. I want to "Run around like a chicken with my head cutteth off and create mine own salvation". I really need to stop, to stand still, to pray, and then wait on my Father to save me. He probably has a barrier around my enemies right now, protecting me, and I don't even know it. I think I'll thank Him for that right now.

Monday, September 12, 2011

He Knows Best

Ex. 12:23 For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.

Ex. 13:17-18 And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Let peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt. But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel, went up harnessed out of the land Egypt.

Is anyone out there like me? Do you ever scratch your head and wonder what God is doing? I've been doing that a lot lately.  I wonder, "Lord, why are doing so-and-so? It seems like this other way would be so much better." Or, "Lord, why is this happening now? Could  you make it go away, or at least take the pain away?" Usually, the Lord doesn't solve the problem immediately,. or take the pain away. I have noticed, however, that He pours out just enough grace to get through the day, the week, the month, and so on.

Yesterday was a hard day for me. To be honest, going to church wasn't what I felt like doing. I wasn't feeling well physically, and I felt very alone for some reason. I dragged myself to church and the Lord helped me so much. We had a visiting singer come through, Bro. Tommy Drewett. He wasn't scheduled to be with us, but due to some sudden changes, he had the opportunity to come by. Every song he sang was just what I needed! I think I had tears in my eyes during the entire time he sang. I have several of his CDs, but I wish I could have had a recording of those five or six songs he sang. I'd like to listen to them over and over and over. That's how much it blessed my heart. I prayed as he sang, saying "Thank you, Lord, for being here for me today. Just for me." Now, He was probably there for many people in a specific way. I hope so! But I know He was there for me. I think the Lord had him pass through just for me. I hope that doesn't sound selfish or prideful, I just mean that the Lord loves us enough to do big things like that for us, and I believe that yesterday, He did it for me.

In my reading today, I see that God provided a way for the children of Israel to be protected from "The Destroyer". He's done that for me, too, through the blood of Jesus! I'm forever protected from the punishment for sin! Praise the Lord! I also see that He led the children of Israel the long way out of Egypt. We see why in verse 18. He wanted to protect them from war. Once again, God is taking care of His precious children. If you've read Exodus before, you know that the Israelites murmur and complain numerous times. They don't appreciate what God is doing, probably because they don't know.

I don't know what God's doing in my life, either. I do know that I've given it to Him, 100%, so why do I worry or fret about it? I should just trust and relax. For all I know He's using difficult circumstances to protect me. He knows best and He is with me, whether I understand His plan or not.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Who Shall Stand?

Rev. 6:17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

This verse really convicted me this morning. Not because I fear God's wrath. I am saved, therefore, I am not appointed to suffer God's righteous anger. When God looks at me, He sees His Son, Jesus, and He is pleased with His only Son. I was convicted  because so many are lost, so many do not know that one day, God is going to judge them. Only the blood of Christ on their lives can protect them from God's wrath.

Tomorrow, our church has a visitation/flyer distribution day. I'll be honest, almost everyone you talk to here claims to be saved. Those who aren't saved, will let you share the Gospel, and they might even pray the sinner's prayer. But then, when the Mormons or Jehovah's Witness share their version of salvation (which are lies from the Devil!), they accept that, too! We've witnessed a lot in the 3 years of our ministry here, but very few have gotten saved.

I'm praying that the Holy Spirit is preparing someone right now to listen to the Gospel. I'm praying He will open their eyes, their ears and the hearts to listening to the truth. We can only tell them, we cannot convince folks that what we are telling them is the truth. The Holy Spirit does that part, and oh how we need Him to work!

I want everyone to be spared the wrath of God.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

This Is Not the End

Exodus 3:1b ..: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even Horeb.

John 18:12 Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him,

Have I told you lately how much I love God's Word? How much it changes my life? How real it is? I know some people who are ultra spiritual. They never struggle with sin. They never get discouraged and wallow in it (like I do). I'm so glad the Bible isn't ultra spiritual. Don't worry, I'm not being flippant, it's the truth. We see over and over in God's precious Word examples of people who fall, get up, fall again, get get  the idea. Most of the Bible characters are not walking around in glowing robes of light, singing every word, rather than just speaking. No. They are real.

Can I be honest with you? Oh. I'm too honest for you already? Sorry about that. Hold onto your hats cause I'm about to get even more honest with you! ;-) I've been discouraged lately. Very. It seems like everything is going downhill fast. A very special family in our church is having to move away due to a job relocation. Another family has left to go start a church in our town. Almost a year ago, we lost our second group of people...yes, second. The first left a year and a half ago. We didn't think it could get any worse after that, because that was so heartbreaking, but it did. And it seems to be getting even worse than worse. (Is that possible?) Our Master Club and children's church have been shut down. It seems we just can't do anything right. Waaaa!!! Oh, sorry. {composing myself} Enough whining? Okay, I'll stop. All of this does get better, please keep reading.

Each day, I read a little from the Old Testament and the New. I started today in Exodus. I just love starting a new book! I came to Ex. 3:1. Moses was in the "backside of the desert". That sounds pretty barren and isolated, doesn't it? Sounds like a place where you might think even God has forgotten that you exist. I thought, Hmmm. I'm in the backside of the desert, well, it feels that way. Lord,  why is everything so bleak? When will it start getting better? then, I read on. Later, Moses turned to behold a bush that was on fire, but not being burned up. It was in this barren, lonely place that God called Moses to do great things for Him! It wasn't Moses' end, it was his beginning!

Then, you will never believe this! Okay, maybe you will. I headed over to John 18, my New Testament reading for today. I read about Jesus being taken to be "tried" and crucified! Another bleak situation. I read about Peter's denial of the Lord Jesus. What a horrible event! I'm sure Peter thought his ministry was over. But you and I know the rest of the story. We know that Jesus rose again! We know that through Christ's suffering and death,  we have eternal life in Heaven! We know that the Lord seeks Peter out and to tell him that his failures don't signal the end, but in fact, a beginning! Peter had far greater things happen in his ministry after his denial of Christ, than before.

I was thinking that the Lord was through with me and my family. I was thinking that all of these bad times surely signal the end. But the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, came down to me today - small, insignificant me - and sat beside me. He gave me a very special message through His Word. He said, "This isn't the end,Valerie, it just appears that way. I know where you are, I know what you're doing. And it's not over. Not yet."

And I say to Him, with tear-filled eyes, "Thank you, Lord. Thank you so very much."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Daily Dose

Heb. 3:12-13 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

These verses explain exactly why each of us needs to be in God's Word daily, on our own. It doesn't matter if you read a whole book of the Bible each day or a whole chapter. It doesn't matter if it's one hour a day or 15 minutes a day. Being in God's Word, everyday, is like looking in the mirror - the spiritual mirror.(James 1:23-25) We need to see if we have "an evil heart of unbelief"; we need to be exhorted to do right, to keep going, to stay faithful.

Being in church is an excellent way to get fed from the Word of God. God has ordained regular men to proclaim His Word, so we should be in our places to hear "thus saith the Lord." But that shouldn't be the only time we study God's Word.

I can't tell you how many days I rise and try to shine, but the last thing I want to do is plant myself in front of God's Word. But I also can't begin to tell you how many times I walk away a different person. I'm humbled (or humiliated), I'm loved, I'm encouraged, I'm strengthened.

I have a great husband and a wonderful pastor. ;) I have a very loving family. I'm blessed with friends who care about me. But no one on Earth can do for me, what God can do through the pages of His holy word.

You could think of God's Word as your daily spiritual vitamin. Have you had your dose today?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Jesus Says Good-Bye

So, I'm a little strange, I guess. I get really attached to characters in books, especially Bible characters, because  after all, they were real. I hate to come to the end of their lives.The end of Jesus' life is no exception. In John chapter 16, he tells the disciples about what to expect after He is gone. He says, Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you... (John 16:7-8b) He goes on to tell about His death, resurrection and the second coming.

To end the chapter, Jesus says These things have I 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)
What a great way to begin my day! To be reminded that even though Jesus is gone, and has been for centuries now, I have the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. And to have Jesus say to me, in these very troubled days, that I need to be of good cheer, for HE has overcome the world! My hope is in Jesus, not in myself. I can say with confidence that I can make it, because He already has.

Oh, and isn't it nice that when I come to the end of a Bible character's life, I can just flip back a few pages and re-live it all over again? :-)

Have a wonderful day today, friends! Our hope is in the Eternal One, so let's not worry about these temporary times.

Monday, September 5, 2011

I Want to Abide in Christ

John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 

John chapter 15 is an excellent chapter! It has so many great things in it! If you have time today, read it over. It's only 27 verses. A couple of things caught my attention this morning. First of all, Jesus says to abide in Him, because without Him we can do nothing. You know, I've felt very powerless lately. Not that I can lose my salvation, but that no matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to accomplish anything of true, or eternal, value. I got to thinking, maybe I'm not "abiding in Him"? I wondered how I could abide in Christ? Of course, I do abide with Him always as far as my salvation goes. I can't lose that. But Jesus seems to indicate it's something other than salvation. He says in John15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. So, it would appear that I can abide by obeying His commandments. By keeping His commandments, and abiding, I will also have full joy (John 15:11) The commandment that Jesus stresses that we keep  is found in John 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Love one another...that seems to be the thing I struggle with the most!

So, to "abide", I must keep His commandments, particularly loving others as Christ loved me. If I do these things, He will give me full joy. I will also bring forth fruit, and that fruit will remain. (John 15:16)

One more interesting thing about this chapter, is that Jesus explains why we are hated. Let me say, I hate being hated! I want everyone to love me, or at least like me. I try to be thoughtful and kind. I do my best to go to a person immediately if I think I've hurt them in some way, and  apologize. I do all I can to keep and make friends. But, some folks just don't like me. Jesus says in John15:18-19 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 
I think that's pretty clear. We, as believers, are in the world, but not of it. We march to the tune of a different drummer, you might say. We are out of step with society at large. Our lives revolve around God's Word, God's House, and our families. Not climbing the ladder at work, not spending time on the lake, or buying the latest fashions, or whatever. This seems strange to the world.

Not only are our priorities different from the world's, but we believe there is a Heaven, and a Hell. People don't like to think that there is a Hell, but God's Word says there is. We had a lady leave our church because my husband said that a certain denomination rejects the Gospel, therefore, those people are going to Hell. This didn't sit right with her. She liked someone from that church, and didn't want to think about their going to Hell. Instead of witnessing to them, she left the church. I don't understand. It wasn't my husband's opinion, it was God's, based on His own Word!

I want to abide in Christ, not depend on my own strength to see things accomplished for him. Even if it means I am hated.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A New Page

Hello, friends! Just popping in to let you know that I've added a new page at the top. It's the one called "Helps for the Believer". It has several links to sites that have excellent resources that will help you in your Christian life. I will  be adding to it as time goes by, so keep checking.

Included on this page are several printable Bible reading schedules to help keep us in God's Word. I love the Bible and I love variety! Reading God's Word in various order has been encouraging to me over the years.

I hope you'll pop in and have a look sometime, or suggest it to new Christians you know! :)
Thank you for reading!

Blessings to you,

Friday, September 2, 2011

Why So Troubled?

John 14:1-2 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

These seemed like fitting words with which to end my week. I have been so troubled about many things this week. I didn't think I'd get much out of my regular Bible reading today, and guess what?! I was right! I put my Bible away, sighed, wanted to cry, got up and took care of my precious little ones, and went on with the day. I thought for a moment that I should just sit down somewhere and wait for nightfall - surely nothing would happen if I just sat and held my breath? Of course not, that doesn't work! (Does it?)

I just now picked up my Bible again, trying again to hear from Heaven. I opened up to my reading from today, part of which was from John 12. My eyes rested upon an underlined verse, the one above. I wanted to weep! I could practically hear the Jesus saying these words, in a compassionate  voice - "Let not your heart be troubled, Valerie." He says to me tenderly. "You believe in God, believe in me. Remember, I've not forsaken you! I'm preparing a place for you, and you for that place. Keep going." Okay, none of that is in the Greek, and perhaps some would be right to accuse me of heresy, but I'm hoping you understand my meaning. It seemed so personal, so special. Just how I love my devotional time to be!

I know problems will come and problems will go in this life, some of which can be debilitating. This verse reminds me that I am just a pilgrim, my home is not here, well, not for long, anyway! Jesus is preparing a place in a land with a very stable economy! :) And as I walk this road of life, I have a friend beside me, reminding me that there is an unseen purpose to my life. May I give Him my all.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dying to Self

John 12:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who is convicted by this verse. Just yesterday, I was dealing with a mini-crisis and I don't think I handled it well. Reading this verse today is a light-bulb moment for me - I think this is what was missing from my reaction - dying to self. How many of life's problems would vanish if we all died to self? I can't go into detail regarding my situation, but let's just say that I need to die to self in many areas of my life. Dead people don't get offended, they don't get puffed up with pride, they don't "mouth off", they don't gossip! Not only that, but when I die to myself, I'm allowing the Holy Spirit to control me, so I want to serve, I want to give, I want to love, I want to be merciful and on and on. That's what a seed does - the seed coat (picture of the flesh) dies and the life of the seed (the Holy Spirit) takes root in the soil (the Word of God) and the plant (us) bears fruit (the list is given in Gal. 5:22-23). 

But it all begins with death. Before you get all depressed, rest assured I'm not talking about physical death. Paul said, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Gal.2:20) It's death to our desires, and life to His.

I asked my husband "How can I ignore my flesh? I wish there was a button I could push that would automatically make me 'spiritual' ". He told me that it's not a supernatural thing that happens to the believer.  We can't pray and ask God to kill our flesh and be done with it. We must die to self by constantly choosing the spiritual over the fleshly. For instance, I didn't want to get up this morning. Thinking about reading my Bible and praying didn't exactly make me want to get up,either. I made myself get up, I made myself come read the Bible, and the God blessed me for my efforts by speaking to me through His Word. Most Sundays and Wednesdays, I don't want to go to church. I'm tired, I'd like to just put my feet up. But, I make myself go anyway, I never regret it! That's walking in the Spirit - doing what HE wants rather than what I want. But, it can get much more complicated than just going to church. It could mean giving up something I want to do, giving up my money or keeping my mouth shut when my flesh wants to give someone a piece of my mind. Those things, for me anyway, are harder than just going to church. Sometimes, I do want to do spiritual things, but often only because of some fleshly desire (I'll get to eat good food or I'll get to see my friends, etc). Dying to flesh is a daily - perhaps moment by moment - discipline. (Especially if you homeschool your children! haha!)

I'm pretty sure I'll be tested on dying to my flesh more than ever today, seeing as I just wrote this all out. So, if you think of me, please pray for me, that I will, in fact, die to self. I hate hypocrisy, I like real. I want to really be dead to self.