Reflection

Pray For Your Leaders

  • Posted on June 11, 2021 at 4:51 pm

There is power in prayer and the way Christians can turn the world’s attention toward God is by praying for the decisions our leaders make. … By lifting them up to God, praying about the influences on them, and asking God to give them wisdom and discernment, we influence our own quality of life.  ~Carolyn Larsen

Some may disagree with this assessment, but the overall sentiment is true. Paul told Timothy:

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.  ~1 Timothy 2:1-2

I confess that I have a hard time giving thanks for our country’s leaders at times, but I do pray often that God will guide them, overriding any plans that are not of Him, and drawing them to Himself. Sometimes I ask that He direct them even if they don’t know why they are making the decisions that they are. This may seem silly to some, but I believe that God is able to do even that.

I used to think of corruption in politics as a recent phenomenon in an era where people are waxing worse and worse. However, in reading books of presidents from days gone by, I wonder if there was ever an election that was cut and dry. It seems like the recent election was not the first to be contested and accused of foul play. Back as far as Thomas Jefferson, there were scandals and possible debates over whether or not he won the election fair and square, but life went on, and here we are today.

It’s easy to complain about masks, lack of masks, rising gas prices, etc. but, for the most part, there’s not a lot we can do about these things. But we can pray.

I don’t know what life is going to look like 5, 10, 30 years down the road. I listened to Bill and Gloria Gaither talking again recently about why they wrote Because He Lives. Even 50 years ago, people wondered if they were stupid to bring children into a declining world. So the Gaithers wrote the words:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone

That is just as true today as it was then. God is still alive. He still sees. He still cares. He may allow us to experience chaos and unrest for a time, but He will continue to care for His children, and if we say goodbye to loved ones or if we ourselves die from COVID, we will know firsthand that “to live is Christ, but to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Brothers and Sisters, let’s stop fighting each other. Let’s not look at the government as our savior. But let’s repent of our sins, turn from our wicked ways, pray for our leaders, and ask God to heal our land.

 

Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash
Quote at the beginning taken from the One-Minute Devotional for Women.

A Place in Jesus’ Arms

  • Posted on June 3, 2021 at 11:17 am

I have a place I love to be whenever things go wrong
I know that fears and doubts give way; this place is Jesus’ arms

These words penned by my grandparents have been a tremendous source of comfort through the years. Whenever I am going through a dark time, I ask God to please wrap His arms around me and, in my mind’s eye, I can see Him do so. This reality is really the difference between the Christian and the unbeliever. We all go through trials but, as Christians, we know that God will carry us through them whereas the unsaved do not have that assurance.

One of my favorite hymns is “Higher Ground.” The chorus says:

Lord, lift me up and let me stand
By faith, on Heaven’s tableland
A higher plain than I have found
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground

It may sound cliche, but it’s true that after we emerge from a valley, we can often look back and see what God was doing during those times. I have been through crises in which I’m still convinced that nothing positive emerged, but I can trust that at the very least, they drove me closer to the Lord, which may have been the only purpose.

I hope you can feel God’s loving arms today. May you experience the joy and peace that He desires you to have in the midst of the tumult. If you are struggling to hold on to hope right now, ask Him to wrap you in His embrace and sit in His presence until you can feel Him do just that. One day, I trust that you will walk right out of this valley, lifting your hands and praising the Lord. He is faithful!

God Still Answers Prayer

  • Posted on May 26, 2021 at 7:22 pm

I never doubt that God hears me when I pray, but I too often marvel at how quickly He answers my prayers. I have two examples of this that happened just this week.

After a couple busy weeks of traveling and activities, celebrating my birthday with various family members, things finally slowed down so that I was able to get back into a regular routine. On Monday, as I was thinking over my schedule and the things I needed to be working on, I decided to ask the Lord for more editing work. I don’t have another conference until October so it seemed like the perfect time to make my petition. Shortly after I opened my computer, I received a message from a friend letting me know that she was passing my contact information on to a friend of hers who was looking for an editor. Then the next morning, another friend emailed to let me know about a ministry that is looking for a part-time copy editor. Keep in mind that this is not something I posted on Facebook. I had just asked the Lord if He would provide this for me and, although I don’t know if these will come through immediately, it was the perfect way for Him to let me know that He heard my prayer.

As if that wasn’t enough, the next morning I was walking and crying, overwhelmed by the needs of several family members, feeling like I’m letting people down and yet reminding myself that I can only be one place at a time, and I’m where I believe God wants me at present. In the middle of this, I received a text from a friend to let me know that she was praying for me for “rest and provision, a joyful and pain-free day.” Talk about timing! I can’t say that I cheered up right away but God answered her prayers, and I have had a much better day today. I don’t think I even had pain last night which is a rare occurrence.

I don’t write this to brag as if I am someone special or super spiritual. Definitely not. I do, however, want to remind you that often we do not have because we do not ask. I can go months talking about how I would like more work or how my family needs help, but talk is cheap if not accompanied by prayer. Sure, God knows our thoughts, but He desires us to come to Him and make our requests known.

I can hear someone now sputtering, “That’s great that God does that for you but He doesn’t do that for me.” God is not a genie in a bottle who is waiting with a wand to grant every whim. There are many prayers that God has not yet answered in the way I would like Him to. But I keep praying until He makes it clear that it is not His will. When I am tempted to become frustrated with unanswered prayers, I quote Matthew 6:33: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” If my greatest desire is to serve Him, He will give me everything that I need. And if I’m honest, I admit that He also grants many of my wishes as well. Come to think of it, I feel spoiled. But I know that the love He has for me, He has for you as well. Luke 12:32 tells us, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” He has also promised in Matthew 6:30: “Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

I was filling out an application today for a part-time job with a ministry, and one of the questions had to do with areas that I’ve grown in since walking with the Lord. I believe that one of those areas is trust. Only time will tell if I have mastered it, but the older I get and the more I look back at instances where God hadn’t left me even when it felt like He had, the more I can attest to His faithfulness.

This week, I encourage you to think about the situation that you’ve been complaining about, the person who has hurt you, your friend who needs a healing touch from the Lord. Then turn those concerns over to the Lord. Pray specifically for those needs and know that He hears you. If God has recently answered your prayers, I would love to hear about it in the comments. God bless you as you seek to draw closer to Him.

Live Like You Were Dying

  • Posted on May 23, 2021 at 2:27 pm

A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. She went from seeming fine one day to being confused and disoriented the next. It is hard on her family, but they are clinging to God and finding the strength they need to take each day as it comes. Although aware that God can heal and could choose to do so, they are taking advantage of this time to draw closer as a family. If God chooses to take this wife and mother Home, He has given those who love her a gift in being able to appreciate whatever time they have left with her.

Not everyone receives advanced notice that a loved one is going to die. Even when someone has an extended illness, it seems there is never enough time to brace yourself for the day when they will no longer be around, especially if the person is young. And so people continue on with life as usual, filling their lives with busyness while ignoring the ones they love until it is too late, and they wish they had taken even a few moments to let that person know how much he or she really did mean to those still living.

I harp on this a lot because I feel that it’s really important. Although there are things we must do each day, we should not allow life to be so busy that we neglect those around us. You don’t know who might need someone to listen to them or encourage them today. You may know someone who is always smiling as she tries to mask the pain that has sent her into a depression that she can’t seem to get out of. Or there may be an elderly person who is struggling to know why he or she is still here when no one seems to care. One text or email or phone call may perform a world of wonders in lifting someone’s spirits.

I challenge you this week to think of someone who means the world to you and make time to let them know. If you can fit it into your schedule, invite the person out for lunch or coffee. Take time to catch up and to find out what is on their mind. This isn’t about you and making you feel better about yourself as much as it is about caring for others. If you’re an introvert, this may take you out of your comfort zone, but I assure you that you can’t go wrong when you reach out in love as unto the Lord.

Lessons from Jeroboam

  • Posted on May 5, 2021 at 5:31 pm

And at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah had dressed himself in a new garment, and the two of them were alone in the open country. Then Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. And he said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon and will give you ten tribes (but he shall have one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel), because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the Ammonites, and they have not walked in my ways, doing what is right in my sight and keeping my statutes and my rules, as David his father did. Nevertheless, I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, but I will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of David my servant whom I chose, who kept my commandments and my statutes. But I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand and will give it to you, ten tribes. Yet to his son I will give one tribe, that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen to put my name. And I will take you, and you shall reign over all that your soul desires, and you shall be king over Israel. And if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.  ~1 Kings 11:29-28

Wow. What an honor. Solomon had turned his heart away from God and began to worship idols which caused God to look for someone else to lead His people. For some reason, He entrusted Jeroboam the son of Nebat with this task. It didn’t take long, however, until Jeroboam did the very thing that God warned Him against.

And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.”  ~1 Kings 12:26-28

This became Jeroboam’s legacy. Throughout the rest of Kings and Chronicles, almost every other king was compared to “Jeroboam son of Nebat who made Israel to sin.”

You would think that someone who had been promised great things from God would have taken God’s admonitions seriously. But, alas, Jeroboam let his own fear get in the way, proving that he wanted the kingdom, but He didn’t trust God to do everything that He promised.

It’s sad to say, but we can be just like that. Throughout Scripture, we are told how to live in order to experience fellowship with God and yet, for many, His presence doesn’t mean that much. We somehow think we can have the world and Jesus too but, according to Scripture, that is not possible.

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  ~James 4:4

No one wants to be called an adulterer and yet that is what those who love the world are called. It is possible to be in the world while not of it, but the majority don’t even try to find that distinction. Here in America, we don’t have idols like some other countries, but we still have things that we worship. If you are spending an inordinate amount of time doing anything while neglecting time with the Father, that just may be an idol. Don’t be known as the man or woman who put other things ahead of their relationship with Christ so that they caused others (namely their children) to sin. Be that person who is so faithful that generations upon generations will follow the Lord because of your example. It may take work, but it is not impossible.

Christians Need to Judge

  • Posted on April 20, 2021 at 3:41 pm

It upsets me when people throw around verses like “Judge not that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1) or “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7). Some don’t even try to be spiritual as they blurt out, “We all sin. No one’s sin is worse than another’s.” No wonder the church is in the state it’s in today!

Most of the time, I challenge people to deal with the sin in their own lives. Instead of being flippant and accepting the fact that “We all sin” and “No one is perfect,” we need to be crying out to God to show us where we are failing and change our hearts so that we can be perfect as He is perfect (Matthew 5:48). I understand that we will never attain perfection while on this earth, but if we do not repent, we will not be the overcomers that Christ has called us to be, and we may end up missing a glorious eternity with Him.

As you grow in your own walk with the Lord, you will develop discernment concerning others that are faltering and, in spite of popular opinion, it is not wrong to judge those who claim to have a relationship with Christ but are not living in accordance to that claim. Matthew 7:20 says that “By their fruit, you shall know them.”

In 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, Paul tells us:

I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person (emphasis mine).

That sounds pretty judgmental to me.

As I write this, I realize that some will accuse me of being self-righteous and arrogant. I don’t know how to keep from sounding that way. The fact is that I grieve when I hear of Believers who have walked away from God or who still claim to be His child while they give in to their selfish indulgences regardless of who they hurt. I pray for them with tears sometimes. But it is not wrong to refrain from listening to teaching by someone who does not exhibit the fruits of the Spirit. And when you think, “Yeah, but I do that same thing,” that’s when the Holy Spirit should convict your heart. Just because you do the same thing does not make it OK.

Our refusal to call sin what it is is why each generation gets further and further from the Lord. Our culture no longer understands what it means to be a follower of Christ. They are told that, if they ask Jesus into their hearts, they are born again when in reality that does nothing except provide a false sense of security for those who don’t want to surrender everything they have in exchange for the life that Christ promises to His true servants.

I admit that I am upset right now. I’m tired of platitudes and cliches being tossed around by people who don’t seem to have a clue what Christianity is all about. Our biggest problem is not that the church is judgmental. The bigger problem is that it doesn’t judge. It wants to accept everyone and, in doing so, it is “loving” people into Hell.

I am not claiming perfection. I am well aware of areas that I need to grow in, and I expect that God will continue to show me more. But I want to make sure that I am being taught by people who are growing in holiness as they seek to love God with all of their heart, mind, soul, and strength. I want to surround myself with those who want to please the Lord in everything that they do. I want to be an example to others who are looking for a reason to believe in Christ. I don’t want to settle for people who have the same faults that I do. Sure, I can bear with those people, knowing that God is continuing to do a work in both of us. But I want to encourage everyone to keep running the race. Be faithful. When you fall, get up, repent, and keep running.

I often recommend The Walk of Repentance Bible study because that is the heart of the Christian life. If you are comparing yourself with others, Scripture says that that isn’t wise (2 Corinthians 10:12). Instead, God’s Word should be your guide. Galatians 5:22-23 is a good place to start, but the whole Word of God will tell you what is acceptable to God and what isn’t, regardless of whether or not it’s currently accepted in society.

In summary, I encourage you to definitely get the plank out of your own eye before dealing with the speck in your Brother’s eye (Luke 6:42). Don’t be like the pastor who preached strongly against adultery not long before being caught with a prostitute. No, this is not about hypocrisy. It is about raising the standard, explaining to your children the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, sin and righteousness. It is about challenging others to raise the bar with you. If you know someone who struggles with the same sin you do, see if he or she is open to being your accountability partner so that you can both find freedom from that sin. I am not advocating that everyone begin to look down on others for their shortcomings. Not at all. But I am saying that it is not wrong to confront professing Christians who are living in sin. Perhaps in doing so, you will save them from the fire (Jude 1:23) instead of being partially responsible for their demise (Ezekiel 3:18).

Sunday Has Arrived

  • Posted on April 4, 2021 at 4:29 pm

 

Jesus’ followers just experienced the worst weekend of their lives. They were going about as normal, celebrating the annual Passover, laughing, joking, and probably even arguing a bit, and now their mentor and closest friend had been brutally murdered. That must have continued to hang over them as they observed the Sabbath. They had to stay home on that day and do no work, which included going to check on the tomb of their beloved. As soon as Sunday rolled around, however, a couple of women did go to the tomb and were shocked to find the stone rolled away from the entrance with no body inside. They ran to tell the disciples who thought there must be some mistake! So Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves. The women were right! This could only mean one thing: Jesus had risen! He promised He would, and He kept His word once again! Reactions varied from different ones who heard the news. Some believed while others doubted. I imagine I would have been in the latter camp. How could a man who was so obviously dead come back to life? And yet He did.

No one alive back then could have imagined everything that Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplished, but praise the Lord, because He lives, we too can live. He left us an example to follow, to be holy as He was holy. He showed us how to pray, how to be led by the Spirit, and how to rebuke self-righteous Pharisees when necessary. If He had remained dead, His followers would probably not have written down His works. There would be no need for us to study Him. Sure, we could take note of Him being a good man, but He was so much more than that.

As Sunday draws to a close, I would like to challenge each of us to examine His life, to learn to live as He lived, to love as He loved. Let’s strive to be more like Him than ever before. Let’s make sure that, as far as we are concerned, He did not die in vain.

The Darkest Night

  • Posted on April 2, 2021 at 7:24 pm

The trial continued throughout the night. I imagine this was unusual. In ordinary circumstances when the masses wanted a person dead, I expect that it didn’t take long to convict him, but this trial was different. Historians say that Pilate was not a nice man. He was a Roman. He delighted in torturing and killing Jews and yet there was something about Jesus that made him hesitant and so he stalled, hoping to find a way to release him. At one point, Pilate reminded the crowd that they could choose to release one prisoner. “Whom do you want me to release to you?” Pilate asked. “Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” To Pilate’s amazement, the people asked for Barabbas to be released. A known criminal to be set free while a man whose only crime was honesty was sentenced to death. Although Pilate didn’t like it, he was a coward and so he finally gave the command for Jesus to be crucified.

Crucifixion has to be the most horrendous form of torture and death which was ever invented by any regime, but this was the means by which Jesus would suffer. I’m sure my readers are familiar with everything that took place between the trial and the crucifixion. If you’re not, you will find it detailed in every Gospel. Matthew 26 may be a good place to start.

As hard as it was for Jesus to go through everything He went through, I expect the worst part is going through all that and people not caring. Sure, more people may attend church on Christmas and Easter than any other day of the year, but that is to appease their own conscience. It has nothing to do with gratitude for what Christ has done for them. They don’t seem to recognize, as Rusty Goodman put it, that “had it not been for the old rugged cross … then forever my soul would be lost.” Jesus didn’t die so that we could be happy and live in ease. He died so that, when we surrender to Him, we can be holy and have eternal life with Him.

Every year around the new year and my birthday, I take time to ponder my life and ask God to show me areas that I need to grow in. Easter is also a good time to examine our hearts in light of God’s Word and make sure that we are living as He desires us to live, that our hearts and minds are pure, and that we are fully surrendered. I don’t believe that we can do those things too often. It’s easy to get into fleshly ruts instead of seeking to be daily filled with the Spirit.

Let’s not fritter away this weekend. Like most of you, I have things to do tomorrow, but I plan to set aside a time to focus on Jesus, the life He lived, and the purpose of His death. I want Him to continue to change me into His image so that I can be a light for Him. I hope that is your desire as well.

 

Photo by Duncan Sanchez on Unsplash

A Dark Night

  • Posted on April 1, 2021 at 7:52 pm

April 1st. A day when many are pulling pranks on friends and family while others are reflecting on the night Jesus and the disciples shared before He was crucified. Maybe your day has included a little of both.

I can only imagine what Jesus must have felt like eating with His disciples, full of heaviness concerning what the next morning would bring while His disciples were totally oblivious. It wasn’t that He hadn’t tried to prepare them. He had. But there was no way that they could grasp the gravity of the situation.

Maybe they thought that He was being overly dramatic. Maybe God in His mercy kept them from understanding what was about to take place until they absolutely had to know. Regardless, His words about dying and leaving them seemed to go through twelve ears and out the others. Jesus must have felt so alone sitting at supper that night.

More amazing than anything was the fact that, when they asked Jesus who it was that was going to betray Him, He told them, and they totally missed that too.

A while later, He and eleven of His disciples went out to Gethsemane. He allowed Peter, James, and John to go with Him a little further and asked them to watch and pray with Him. I expect that they still didn’t grasp what was happening or they probably couldn’t have slept. Here Jesus was surrounded by His closest friends, but He was functionally alone during His greatest trial. He woke them up a couple of times and then finally let them sleep, knowing they would need their rest to get through the days ahead.

I can only imagine the terror they felt when they were rudely awakened by an angry mob wielding swords and torches. Peter sprang into action, taking his own sword and cutting off a soldier’s ear. He no doubt thought this was when Jesus would rise up and overthrow the Roman government, with some help from His followers of course. But He could not have been more mistaken. Instead, Jesus told Peter to put his sword away. Then He healed the soldier’s ear!

Later that evening, as Peter was in the distance, trying to see what would become of Jesus, he denied three times that he had known the One that he had once called Lord. After hearing the rooster crow, Peter’s heart smote him, and he wept in remorse. Judas, on the other hand, realizing that he had made a grave mistake, went out and hung himself. Jesus would have graciously forgiven Judas, but instead of asking, Judas ended his life.

Scripture doesn’t record where most of the other disciples were at this point. I expect they had gone into hiding. And who could blame them? The Romans were not a people that one would want to spar with. If they arrested Jesus, it wouldn’t be long before they would go after His followers.

And so the evening ends. Jesus is on trial, His followers are scattered. One disciple is dead, and one is full of remorse. Surely, things can’t get any worse. Or can they?

Becoming Mature

  • Posted on March 26, 2021 at 8:11 pm

“A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” ~Proverbs 16:9

For as long as I can remember, I have not liked change. This includes change of plans. If I know that I cannot do something that I’d really like to do, I can usually deal with it. If I am planning to do something and then something comes up so that I can’t follow through with my plans, it is really hard for me to handle. In the last few months, I have had several changes to plans, and yet it has been obvious that God was redirecting. This does not always make it easy, but I find that He is giving me the grace to accept His will which is not always what I had planned.

It is easy to sing “Take my will and make it Thine,” but it is not easy to mean it. Deep down, the majority of people still desire to have their own way. “I surrender all” becomes something we think we mean until we are asked to do so. I have learned, however, that true joy comes from following the Lord regardless of what He asks.

Years ago, someone told me that maturity is when you can laugh at yourself. At the time, I thought I’ll never be mature then. But now I often tell on myself when I do something stupid as I can see the humor in it. And you know what? People really don’t love me any less.

It’s fun to watch children as they desire to get bigger. Some moms get a tape measure to track their child’s growth. I expect the child doesn’t realize how big he is getting until he compares the mark on the wall that measures his current height to the line which was made a year ago. So it is in spiritual growth. I know for myself that I get frustrated by the areas in which I am not seeing progress, but every once in a while, I realize that I responded differently to a situation than I would have once upon a time, and what rejoicing there is as I thank the Lord for continuing the work that He has begun in my life.

I don’t know where you are at in your Christian walk. Maybe you are full of overcoming victory. I expect some are discouraged by the lack of growth that they see. Whatever you do, do not give up. When you fail, acknowledge it, ask for forgiveness and help to conquer that area, and move forward. Maturity does not mean doing everything perfectly, but it does mean responding appropriately. I am still being stretched. My routine is currently disrupted. I continue to seek God daily for wisdom about the plans I’m making this year. I expect I’ll have more plans I will need to change. But I trust that I am growing in all of these and that He who began a good work in me will complete it (Philippians 1:6), and He will do that for you as well.

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