God Is Still Holy

Reading through the Old Testament, I am struck by how much emphasis was placed on God’s holiness. There were places that only the priests were allowed to go, but only if they were sufficiently cleansed, changing their clothes both before they entered and after they departed the Holy of Holies.

When Moses approached a burning bush, he was told to remove his shoes because he was standing on holy ground. It seemed like every time someone encountered God or His presence, they fell prostrate on the ground. God was not treated as a buddy come to visit or a genie that would grant their wishes. His audience knew that He could strike them dead with just a glance if He wanted to, so they showed Him great reverence, often fearfully, while they awaited his instructions.

It’s interesting that Adam and Eve “walked with God in the cool of the day” when they were created. After the Fall, they hid themselves when they heard him coming. Sin should have that effect on people. It is not a light thing to disobey one’s Creator.

Reverence is more than wearing nice clothes on Sunday and refraining from running in the sanctuary. If we saw God for who He really is, I expect that we would wonder why He has not struck us dead. Our best attempts at righteousness are as filthy rags when compared to His, but seeing His holiness and knowing that sin cannot dwell in His presence should inspire us to want to be holy as He is holy. The question is not, “What can I do and still make it to Heaven?” Instead, we should be asking, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” “How do you want me to ________________________ (act, dress, talk, etc.)?” Instead of giving others a hard time for their beliefs and convictions, we should be examining our own hearts to know what the Lord requires of us.

As Jonathan Edwards said a couple centuries ago, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God. My favorite view of God is a loving Father, carrying me through the storms of life, and I know that He does that for me. But He is also a holy God who desires to be worshiped in reverence as we acknowledge His holiness and strive to be more like Him.

Christians should be the happiest people in the world so I am not suggesting that you go around morbidly in God’s presence. Rather, I would encourage you to seek to know Him more and understand how infinitely holy He is. Then, let’s sing together:

To be like Jesus
To be like Jesus
All I ask, to be like Jesus
All through life’s journey
From earth to glory
All I ask, to be like Him

Amen!

Welcome to Another Year!

Hello, dear friends, I know it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me. Life has a way of getting away with me, and my mind often runs in so many directions that it’s hard to find time to slow down and focus on what God is speaking and what He wants me to write. Thoughts float around in my head, but a good writer does not just write down random thoughts, although I do this at times. A serious message takes thought and prayer. It takes study to know that I am not just writing platitudes, but that my posts truly have scriptural backing.

I’ve mentioned to several friends lately that I wanted to take some time off this month since December was so busy. Starting the year off sick is not what I had in mind. As sickness goes, I do not have it as bad as some. I had a really bad sore throat for several days, and I have an annoying cough that will only be warded off by drinking constantly (tea of course). As one who does not drink nearly as much as I should, I suppose this is one of the benefits of this malady. When I start coughing, it will only be soothed by drinking kombucha, which I am endeavoring to stay stocked up on. (Thankfully, I do not mind the stuff.) Today, I was also tired but I praise the Lord for the blessing of working from home so that I can rest when I need to. I’m not completely taking time off, as I am proofreading my brother’s latest writing project which he hopes to send off to his publisher soon, but I’m trusting God to give me the strength to finish that. Then I will rest. 🙂

Southern Gospel fans may have heard by now of the death of songwriter Kyla Rowland. I was listening to a Facebook Live that Les Butler did the other evening in her honor, and I was touched by some of the testimonies that were shared. I don’t remember if it was Les or one of his guests who mentioned that true prayer warriors are hard to find these days. He was referring to the fact that Kyla knew how to pray … and did so.

Every time someone goes ahead to Heaven, I wonder who is going to fill their shoes. Whether a songwriter, pastor, DJ, singer, housewife, construction worker … someone famous or relatively unknown … almost everyone leaves a void when they are no longer here. I’m sure there are cases where someone spends their whole life wasting it and no one really notices when they’re gone, but I like to think that is the exception instead of the rule. The Apostle Paul referred to life as a race, and I picture it as a long relay race. When one person finally makes it over the finish line, someone comes up behind and takes the baton and continues to run. Maybe it’s a son or daughter or a protege, but no doubt it is someone who has watched and learned from the runner ahead of them, following from a distance, but now catching up with increasing speed as they draw nearer to the prize themselves. Occasionally, though, I wonder if the person who was supposed to be next in line got tired and quit. Maybe running was too hard and so he sat down and made himself comfortable. Maybe she decided that, since the finish line was nowhere in sight, the race was futile so she turned around and went home. I trust that God is continuing to raise up men and women who will carry the torch, being a light to those around them, faithful in whatever areas He has entrusted them.

I, for one, don’t want to quit. I want to keep pressing on, growing in the areas in which I’m weak while never letting go of my Savior’s hand. I want to take advantage of quiet moments to hear His still, small voice. I plan to keep encouraging others to do the same. Pray for me if God ever brings me to your mind and, if I can pray for you, please let me know.

Have a blessed 2022. May our Father find us all faithfully watching and ready when He calls us Home.

Loving the Unloveable

Life always seems to have ups and downs, doesn’t it? I will say, though, that the downs probably cause me to be more grateful for the ups. I’d like to say this isn’t the case, but I expect that I at least notice them more than I would if life were full of constant gaiety.

One of my “downs” lately is that someone has decided to get a burr under their saddle towards me to the point that I can’t do anything right. I hear the comments from a third party who is getting the brunt of the animosity, but it doesn’t make it easier knowing that someone feels this way about me. Thankfully, these feelings are not coming from a friend, and my antagonist is not a Believer so I can’t really expect her to understand why I do the things I do. I also wonder, if I crumble when a few unkind remarks are said, how I would stand if I had to face real persecution. So I turn my hurt and frustration to prayer, asking God to keep me focused on what He has called me to do and praying that He will save the one who may just be unhappy with her own life that she is taking it out on me.

Everyone wants to be liked. I would like to say that’s the way we were created, but the reality is that this desire is rooted in pride. We may say that there is no good thing that dwells in us (Romans 7:18), but at heart, we really think we are pretty likable. Someone told me one time that he thought he was easy to get along with until he got married. I suspect that many can relate to that. When you do understand that you have flaws and idiosyncrasies that others have to look past in order to love you, it makes it easier to love others. I consider myself overly blessed to have friends all over the country that I believe love me and pray for me, but it’s when you live together or have close personal contact with someone over a long period of time that you know how deep that love really goes.

If I have an admonition this evening, it would have to be 1 John 4:7-8: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Father, thank You for Your amazing love. Help us to love others as You love us. Give us the strength we need to love the unloveable, to bear with those that we don’t understand, and to shine for You in every circumstance You place us in. Thank You that Your strength is perfect, and that You will strengthen us to do whatever You ask of us. We love You, Father. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

For Your Own Good

Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge those who are carried away captive from Judah, whom I have sent out of this place for their own good, into the land of the Chaldeans. For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land; I will build them and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.

‘And as the bad figs which cannot be eaten, they are so bad’—surely thus says the Lord—‘so will I give up Zedekiah the king of Judah, his princes, the residue of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and those who dwell in the land of Egypt. I will deliver them to trouble into all the kingdoms of the earth, for their harm, to be a reproach and a byword, a taunt and a curse, in all places where I shall drive them. And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence among them, till they are consumed from the land that I gave to them and their fathers.’ ”  ~Jeremiah 24:4-10 (emphasis mine)

I’m quoting the above from the NKJV, but it was the New Living Translation that caused me to stop and ponder. It says as follows:

“The good figs represent the exiles I sent from Judah to the land of the Babylonians. I have sent them into captivity for their own good. I will see that they are well treated, and I will bring them back here again. I will build them up and not tear them down. I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them hearts that will recognize me as the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly.

“But the rotten figs,” the LORD said, “represent King Zedekiah of Judah, his officials, all the people left in Jerusalem, and those who live in Egypt. I will treat them like spoiled figs, too rotten to eat. I will make them an object of horror and evil to every nation on earth. They will be disgraced and mocked, taunted and cursed, wherever I send them. I will send war, famine, and disease until they have vanished from the land of Israel, which I gave to them and their ancestors.

If you’re like me, you have probably thought of God giving His people over to Nebuchadnezzar as His judgment, and it was, yet in the above verses, He said that the people who were sent to Babylon were the ones that He was protecting. It’s those who thought they were spared that were going to suffer. It’s obvious that God had a plan for Daniel and his friends to be a light to the Babylonians, but there were many more that were exiled which God no doubt used in some way as well.

I have often pondered whether God causes suffering or simply allows it. I have come to the conclusion that He can do either one. In the case of Job, God allowed Satan to torment him but God set the parameters while in the situation above, God made provision for His chosen people to be sent to Babylon while He poured out punishment on those who stayed in Jerusalem.

There is a reason that we are told to rejoice in every circumstance, and I expect it is because we don’t see the bigger picture like our Father does. Things we view as negative may, in reality, be for our good. When we truly believe that we have a good, good Father, we will better trust Him with our lives.

I know the last couple of years have not been easy for anyone, but I encourage you not to stop praising the Lord. And if you have stopped, this may be a good time to begin again. As hard as things may be, you don’t know what He might be sparing you from.

Continue in Holiness

I heard a story of a woman who was constantly beaten down. The perpetrator eventually accused her of harboring things against him from years past. The woman replied, “I remember things that were said years ago, but I don’t hold those against you. I’m just trying to deal with the things that were said recently.”

I expect that this is how God feels. When we come to Him and repent of our sins, He graciously forgives us and welcomes us into His family. But some do not continue in that walk of repentance, and they turn back to the sins that previously defined them or they become involved in new sins that break God’s heart. He is still ready and willing to forgive a person who humbles herself and turns from unrighteousness, but He does not, as many think, overlook current sins because someone repented once of something done a long time ago.

Holiness tends to be treated too flippantly these days. Repentance is not merely apology and acknowledgment that you have sinned. It is turning from those sins and crying out to God to show you the way of escape when your willpower to withstand is weak. As I wrote in my last post, you do not have to be afraid to meet God, but sin cannot dwell in His presence. You need to be totally cleansed, having a desire to please Him above all else.

Let’s not give our Father a reason to be disappointed with us, but let us live lives that please Him, being an example to those who are watching because, undoubtedly, someone is.

Get Ready!

A friend recently told me, “Although I’m a Christian, I’m not ready to die.” My initial thought was, How can someone be saved and on their way to Heaven and yet not ready and even eager to go there?

Over a month ago, I contracted COVID and had the opportunity to examine my own heart on this subject. I had a light case so I was not on the verge of death, but I thought of the people who thought they were fine and then died of a heart attack, and this concerned me. Was I ready to die suddenly if that were God’s will and, if not, why?

For many people, I expect that they know they are not ready to meet Jesus because they are not living a pure life here on earth. Sin causes people to be terrified of meeting their maker. If this is the reason you don’t want to die, I implore you to repent and do whatever you need to do to be ready for Heaven. Even without COVID, there is no guarantee that you will still be here tomorrow.

For those who are young and living for the Lord, I think what is not being expressed is a nagging feeling that their work is not yet finished. They do not want to arrive in Heaven empty-handed, and they feel like they would be doing just that if they were to die at an age that they deem to be premature. If this is your concern, only God knows if that is true or not. Whenever He calls you Home, your feelings are irrelevant. Your readiness to meet Jesus is all that matters. However, the feeling that you have more work to do should inspire you to get busy and do whatever God is laying on your heart while you still have life to do so. If you don’t know what your calling is, ask Him. Take as much time as you need to get an answer and then do it. Once you get to Heaven, it will be too late to say, “But, Lord, I didn’t ____________.” His response might be, “What did you do with the time that I gave you?”

The older a Christian gets, the more they long for Heaven and wonder why God leaves them on Earth so long. But young people often don’t feel “ready.” The fact is that it doesn’t matter if you feel ready or not. People die every day at all ages. In Matthew 5:23, Jesus tells us, “Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” We need to be ready!

As usual, I am preaching to myself too. It is easy to fritter time. Dealing with adrenal fatigue, I have gotten in ruts where I do more mindless things than profitable work, but I am praying to be faithful. I want to be the best editor I can be; the best sister, friend, and aunt; one who points others to Jesus in everything that I do; and one who lives the life that I tell others to live.

I encourage you today to determine whether or not you are ready to die. It goes beyond just lip service of being a Christian. If you knew you were going to die tonight, would you go in peace knowing that you have faithfully served the Lord and done His will to the best of your knowledge? Or would you beg Him not to take you yet because there is too much you need to do or repent of? I pray that all true Believers will be able to sing with Horatio Spafford:

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight
The cloud be rolled back as the scroll
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend
Even so, it is well with my soul!

CD Report: From the Heart (Billy Blackwood & Friends)

Back in 2019, Billy Blackwood released a CD that mostly features him, but he does have some guests that join him on some of the songs. Most of these are old songs from the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s as well as one from the ’90s (Is that old?!?!?!), but there are a couple post-2000 songs as well. Unfortunately, I have gotten behind on reviews so, although this is not a brand new CD, I figured it’s better to give it a late mention than none at all.

Songs included are: People Need the Lord, It Is No Secret, In the Garden (featuring Yvonne Lewis-Shelton), Without Him, Willing Heart (featuring Kelly Willard), I’d Rather Have Jesus, A Strange Way to Save the World (featuring Dave Clark), Your Grace Still Amazes Me, Love Held Jesus to the Cross (featuring Gene McDonald), If People, and You’re in God’s Hands.

Befriend Faithfulness

Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.  ~Psalm 37:3

I don’t think there is a group of people I enjoy being around more than those who have been faithful–faithful to the Lord, faithful to their spouse, faithful to whatever ministry God has called them to. They inspire me, as that is my greatest desire–that I would be one of those faithful saints.

Proverbs 12:26 tells us:

The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray.

Proverbs 18:24 says:

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Children are often thrown into classrooms where their companions become those they are stuck with. As adults, we get to choose who we hang around and learn from and, although you may think you are not influenced by your friends, think again. It is good to befriend people for the purpose of encouraging them and sharing the Gospel, but your true bosom friends should be those who are influencing your life for good, continually pointing you to the Savior.

I am thankful that I am surrounded by people who exhort me to love and good works, and I like to think that I do the same for them. I have also had friends that can be draining. Sometimes God puts these people in your life so the answer is not just to hang around those who are easy to get along with. But if your primary social life is with those who cuss, get drunk, watch raunchy movies, etc., it most likely will affect your walk with the Lord. Solomon started his reign following after his father David who was a man after God’s own heart, but it didn’t take long until he was following the example of his pagan wives and worshiping idols. You could easily go that route.

I encourage you to examine your closest friends. Are they walking with God, constantly endeavoring to put Him above all else, or are they feeding their flesh and encouraging you to do the same? If the latter, I encourage you to seek out new friends who will challenge you. You may begin to feel uncomfortable if you have been living a compromising life, but you will be in a position where you can begin to come out of your complacency and be a strong child of God. Then you can be that faithful friend to someone else.

 

Photo by Josue Michel on Unsplash

Rethinking Hebrews 10:25

I expect just about every churchgoer knows Hebrews 10:25 and has used it to guilt trip those who haven’t found a church that they feel comfortable attending, but I am going to argue that this verse was not written to stress the importance of warming a pew. Taken in context, the verse says the following:

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.  ~Hebrews 10:24-25

Now prior to this, the author did talk about entering the Holiest so that may be why people associate this with attending church, but I think we do a disservice to view that as the primary focus.

I have seen plenty of people come into church at the last minute, find a seat, listen to the sermon, and leave right afterward. I guess they technically assembled, but they did not stir anyone up to love and good works, nor did they exhort anyone. On the other hand, I know people who are constantly ministering, showing hospitality, and otherwise getting together with God’s people. If they never stepped foot into a church building, they are fulfilling Hebrews 10:25.

I am in no way knocking church meetings or suggesting that they are not important. Those who have stopped going to church and have distanced from everyone they know are not thriving. We are not meant to be islands. Assembling is important. But be careful to not be harsh with those who spend their lives serving the Lord and are not at church every time the doors open.

Take Your Time

When I was a teenager, people would talk about suicide and remind us that, no matter how bad things are, they will get better. Someone else commented that life doesn’t always get better, but it does change. Regardless of your view, the fact is that nothing remains the same. Some days will be better and some will be worse, but we need not to react to those “worse” days.

My life has been quite a roller coaster. I have been through some dark-as-midnight valleys, but I have also seen some beautiful mountaintops where my heart filled with joy that was hard to contain. It is most likely these experiences that keep me holding on to hope even when I’m not seeing any at the time.

I have had times where I came close to making decisions that would have drastically altered my future, and probably not for the better. I’ve learned that if I give it time, I can typically think more clearly and better hear God’s voice instead of reacting in my flesh.

I know people who think they have to make decisions right away, therefore they act impulsively. I can go to the opposite extreme where I take too long to decide what to do, but I am trying to find a balance. For me, this sometimes means waiting a day to respond to an email or a text so that I produce the best response. It is rarely necessary to respond with the first thought that comes to my mind.

People talk about how easy it is to pick fights online because it’s impersonal but this does not make sense to me since it is easier to think through what you want to say when you have to type it out versus when you are face to face. We live in an age where it should be easier than ever to think before we speak (or interact online as the case may be).

In this fast-paced world, we want everything “right now,” but sometimes the best things still come to those who wait. Be sure that the decisions you make, the words you speak, the reactions that you exhibit are Spirit-led. If you feel anxious, angry, annoyed, or any like feeling, it would be better for you to take time to pray before you respond. “May your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Top