Stay Focused

A friend recently posted that he needs to focus less on how bad he is and more on how great Christ is. I’d never thought about that before but that is a good observation. On the flip side, however, I don’t know if we can truly see how great Christ is until we realize how vile we are.

I love Pilgrim’s Progress as we take a journey with a man who realizes that he is a sinner and on his way to Hell. Unlike the average person who doesn’t seem to care, he is determined to find a way to rid himself of the heavy burden that he carried. Once he meets Evangelist who tells him about the Celestial City and the path that would lead him there, he takes off, ignoring the pleas of his loved ones who desire him to stay.

The first part of the journey is a struggle, as his burden weighs him down, and he cannot get his mind off of it. Eventually he finds himself at the foot of the cross, and it is there that his burden rolls away and he begins to feel free. He still has a long road ahead to the Celestial City, however.

Along the way, he meets all kinds of people. Some are determined to walk the straight and narrow path and some are convinced they can find an easier way to get to the pearly gates. Occasionally, Christian himself veers off the path as he sees how easy it is for others, but God, in His mercy, always brings him back.

The end of the story finds him reaching his destination and, oh, the joy when the doors swing open and he is permitted entrance. Every trial and test and hardship was so worth it! Nothing else mattered for he had made it!

This is a great picture of what every Believer goes through. In some ways, I think it’s harder for those who are raised in church than those who were saved from a life of sin. Those who remember that moment when their burden rolled away know what they have been saved from. Others can easily forget.

I was raised in church, but I still remember when God began to change our family. We went from being church goers to learning how to have a relationship with the Almighty God. My mom took a stand and declared with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” From then on, everything that didn’t please God was removed from our lives. Sure, there have been bumps along the way. There are still times when I get in a rut and allow myself to get busy with things that take precedent over close fellowship with Him but I’m thankful that He doesn’t leave me there. It doesn’t take long for me to miss His closeness, and I run back into His arms.

I guess this is the long way of trying to encourage you not to despair. If you have a hard time looking past your failures and shortcomings, repent of those things and know that, if you truly want to be rid of them, your Savior will help you. He will not leave you as you are but He will be able to use you mightily for His Kingdom because you will have no doubt that you cannot do anything good without Him.

What Would Jesus Do?

A popular fad of the 1990s which some promoted and others looked down upon, “What Would Jesus Do?” is a question that we should still be asking ourselves.

It’s easy to act in the spur of the moment, responding as our flesh desires instead of taking time to ponder the right thing to do. Yet Jesus set the example that He wanted us to follow.

Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek, to be humble and merciful, to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. He taught us how to confront Pharisees while having compassion for “sinners.”

In every situation, there is a right way and a wrong way to handle it. I challenge you to get into the Word and find the right way to deal with the things you are facing right now. It may not be easy but, in the long run, you will be glad you did.

CD Review: Signature Ballads (Brian Free)

Brian Free has been singing professionally since 1982. Although he is older than me, I feel like I have watched him grow up on stage. I was a huge Gold City fan in the 1980s and, when Brian left to form his own group, I continued to follow his music. Although Brian Free & Assurance are more progressive than even I prefer, their lyrics are very strong. This CD highlights twelve of those amazing songs on which Brian was featured.

Songs included are:

Unashamed; I Believe; He Still Saves; There’ll Come a Day; I Want to Be That Man; He Will Carry You; For God So Loved; Only God Knows; Die Another Day; Calvary’s Cry; Stand Among the Millions; and Never Walk Alone.

Study the Word

“The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible.” A good slogan but I wonder how many people even attempt to live life with the Bible as their sole guide.

There are some verses that are relatively easy to apply when coming to know Christ. After all, who wouldn’t want to live in Heaven forever? Let’s sing, “Every promise in the book is mine” and cling to those promises. But what about, “Love your enemy”? “Do good to those who hate you”? “Bless those who persecute you?” Or even, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them so that your Father in Heaven may forgive your sins”?

Throughout the New Testament, the running themes are: love, forgive, bear each other’s burdens, go the extra mile, care for others more than you care for yourself. These are not always easy to do but we are commanded to do them just the same. If you are a parent, these are the things that you need to be emulating for your children. They are much more likely to do what you do than what you tell them to do.

If you want your children or grandchildren to show you mercy, teach them how to be merciful. If you want them to be patient with you, be patient with them. In everything you do, ask yourself: Would I want my child to do this or to act or talk this way? I don’t have children so I think of my siblings and my nieces and nephews and others who look up to me. No matter what your status, people are watching.

There is a reason that we are to hide God’s Word in our hearts. We must study it so that we know what it says and, therefore, we’ll know whether or not we are living up to God’s standards. If you are not in a habit of studying your Bible, I encourage you to start today. Know what it says and then ask for God’s help to do those things. This is the only way to truly have joy unspeakable and full of glory.

What Kind of An Impact Are You Making?

As I was sitting in my recliner reading my Bible this morning, I thought of my grandma. One of my favorite memories is coming out of my room in the morning and seeing her with her glasses off, reading. She would make notes in the margins and I decided that, more than anything, I would love to have my grandma’s Bible when she passed away.

The years have taken their toll to the point that my grandma is just a shell of the woman she used to be but I still love her dearly, and I am so grateful for the influence she had on my life.

When I am old and feeble, I wonder what others will remember about me. Am I making a positive impact or is my life inconsequential? Will those closest to me remember me as a woman who walked with God or will they wonder where I am going to go when I die? It is so important to live the life that you would want those following you to also live. There is no room in the Kingdom of God for, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Everything you do should be evaluated in light of Scripture and what you know to be right or wrong. Do not compare yourself with others, because God doesn’t. Think of those who look up to you and ask yourself, “What kind of impact am I making in their lives?” If you do not want them to become like you, I would encourage you to begin to make some changes. Whether you like it or not, your life can lead someone closer to the Lord or further away from Him.


Thinking about the New Jerusalem

Last night, I was listening to The Hoppers sing “Jerusalem.” My heart once again welled up in prayer: Lord, help me to be faithful! I long to run those streets of gold and to see His face but I know that the only way to reach that goal is to endure to the end (Matthew 10:22). I can relate to how Horatio Spafford felt when he said:

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll

I look forward to the day that God takes me Home but I cannot sit around and pine for that day. I must do the work that God has called me to do. And, yet, it is easy to become weary in spite of the fact that we are told not to (Galatians 6:9).

This life can be tiring. You may be discouraged because things are not going your way. You may feel like everything and everyone is against you. Just remember that, if this life were easy, you would forget what you have to look forward to. This world is not our Home. We really are just passing through. One day, you will fall asleep, cares of this world all forgotten. I pray that, when you wake up, you find yourself in the arms of your Savior. What a day that will be!

(Lyrics from “It is Well” by Horatio G. Spafford.)

Praise the Lord

I have been told lately that my honesty is encouraging. I hope that’s a good thing. I never want to come across as saying that it is okay to do anything besides follow after God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. I struggle more than I would like, and I admit that to communicate that you are not alone. But the fact is that you have a Father who wants to lift you up above the struggles and trials of life. You should be constantly learning and growing. That is what the Christian life is all about.

The last couple days, I have been thinking about the prayers God has answered recently. I think I sometimes take these for granted but I want to be faithful to thank God every time He moves one of those mountains. He doesn’t owe me a thing and yet He mercifully listens to my heart and acts in the way that would be best for me. I rejoice when the answer to those prayers is Yes but I also know that, if the answer is No, there is a reason. It does not mean that He is any less good.

We are told to praise God in every circumstance. This is not easy but it is vital. When I am praising is when I feel God’s presence the most. I am no longer focused on myself but I am focused on Him. Don’t let your trials bring you down. Look up for your redemption draws nigh. If not in this world, then, for the Christian, it will be in the next.

Be Real

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful (Proverbs 27:6).

The older I get, the more I long for genuine relationships. I’ve known way too many people who wear a fake smile and give you a standard “Hi” as their voice goes up a little too high and then comes back down, making a simple two-letter word two syllables. These people would probably not do anything mean to your face but there is a good chance that they will tell others what they really think about you the moment they think you are out of ear shot.

Gossip is spoken against in Scripture, and I expect part of the reason is that there is no love in gossip. We are told to speak truth to one another. If you cannot express concerns about me to myself, then you have no business talking to others about them.

I am reading the book of Job again, and I know that a lot of negativity is placed on Job’s friends who wanted him to repent so that God could heal him. Although they misunderstood the situation, I think you have to credit them for being there. They hated to see him suffer so they were trying to help. “Job, you must have sinned. Confess those sins to God so that God will take away your misery.” Because we are reading the account thousands of years later, we know that it was no fault of Job’s that caused God to allow him to be struck. The friends ended up being rebuked but Job himself found that, compared to God, he was not nearly as righteous as he thought himself to be.

This article is not directed at anyone. I am blessed with friends that I believe to be genuine. I hope that I have people in my life who will speak truth to me instead of leaving me to my own devices. I hope that I am that kind of friend as well.

We live in a society where being real is discouraged. We look at others and think, “Boy, if I could just be like that person!” What we don’t see is that “that person” also has trials and disappointments. They just do well at hiding it.

Don’t distance from people but, instead, learn to be real. Seek out others who are real. Don’t settle for those who flatter but look for those who are genuine. I believe you will find more meaning in life if you will do these things.

May 15, 2017 Reflections

I turn another year older tomorrow so, as usual, I am doing a lot of reflecting. It’s sobering to realize that I probably have more years behind me than I have ahead of me but I really don’t have much to show for it. At times, I remind myself that, if I even reach one person and if my influence and encouragement caused that person to draw ever nearer to the Lord, my life is not wasted. I wonder if I’ve reached that one person yet. I’m not sure.

During this time of celebration, I know that the enemy would like me to become discouraged, defeated, and depressed. I admit that I am a bit discouraged at present but I also know that the fact that I’m alive means that God still has a plan for my life. Every morning I wake up is a new day in which to serve my Father. So I press on.

My heart is burdened for those I know that are not walking close to the Lord, those who seem to be letting the world and their feelings guide their actions as opposed to the Word of God. I feel helpless and yet I know that God is still the same today as He was yesterday. He desires that none perish but that all come to repentance. This begins with me. I feel like this coming year will continue to be one of growth. I pray that I will be faithful. I don’t know what is going to happen with me, my health, my family, my work, etc. But I trust the One who holds my future in His hands. I don’t need to worry because I know that He knows what is best for me, and He will lead me in the way that I should go if I stay close to Him.

I go through times where I really struggle. Depression, discouragement, self-pity, etc. tries to bring me down. Thankfully God always reminds me that it is not an option to just lie down and die. Then He gives me at least a little more fight to get up and keep trying.

The world is full of so much that would distract us and bring us down. I’m so glad that the One who lives in me is greater than the one who is in the world. He will not leave me or forsake me. I simply need to trust and obey.

I want to thank each of you who take the time to read my blog. I know I have not written much lately. This is my busy season so it’s hard to find the time to write as much as I would like. Thank you for bearing with me. I will write again when I can. May you experience God’s peace today in the midst of every storm. He is such a good Father who loves you so much.

Perfect Love

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).

I was thinking recently how a person’s fear can keep someone else from feeling loved. Too often, we can be focused on ourselves to the degree that we don’t reach out to others. Maybe you’re afraid of making a fool of yourself. Or you worry about what others will think of you. Instead of focusing on how you can bless that other person, you let pride get in the way. I am guilty of this myself at times but it is not a good way to live.

A number of years ago, I made a conscious decision to act more and think less. I realize that, for some, this would not be a good thing; however, it is easy for me to overthink things to the point that I render myself useless. That particular year, when God would bring someone to my mind, I would text or call them. I decided that, even if it wasn’t God’s prompting, it didn’t hurt to connect with friends.  And I was amazed at the times that it seemed like there was a reason that I needed to connect.

I do not always do this perfectly. Maybe that’s why God has been laying this on my heart again. If I desire to be led by His Spirit, I cannot always think everything to death. Sometimes I must step out in faith, trusting that He is leading. If I am wrong, nothing is hurt but maybe a little pride, which needs to be injured a bit from time to time anyway.

No one has ever loved perfectly except the Father, but I imagine that most of us could try a little harder. If you have been thinking of someone lately that you wouldn’t typically think of, or if someone has been on your mind a lot more than normal, pick up the phone and let them know you are thinking of them. If nothing else, it may just be the reminder they need that God loves them and really cares about them. It is such a blessing to be used by God in that way.