Reflection

Thanksgiving Week Checkup

  • Posted on November 25, 2019 at 7:18 pm

How is your week going so far? Have you started to thank God for His many blessings, or are you finding yourself stressed with last-minute preparations, getting ready for family to arrive or preparing to take a trip? The enemy would like nothing better than to overshadow our days with busyness and bad attitudes, but what better way to keep that from happening than to turn your stress to praise? My challenge for you (and me) this week is to focus on doing just that. When you find yourself beginning to yell at those around you, or when you are on the verge of tears … stop. Take a break. You may feel like you can’t afford to do that, but you can’t afford not to. Thank God that you have family or friends to get together with. Thank Him for the food He’s provided. Tell Him how much you love Him. Once you are refueled a bit, you can get back to your overwhelming tasks. Hopefully with a lighter heart.

Happy Thanksgiving week, my friends! Don’t let satan rob you of your gratitude.

 

Psalm 19

  • Posted on November 20, 2019 at 9:21 pm

Recently, I have begun to make myself slow down in my Bible reading. It’s easy to read over familiar passages and not take time to let it speak to me, but I don’t want to do that any longer. I’m currently reading through the book of Psalms, and chapter 19 especially jumped out at me so I’d like to share with you the breakdown that I came up with as I read, with some help from liner notes. These verses may say something different to you, and I expect I will glean more the next time I read but these are my thoughts for now. The numbers will be for the corresponding verses.

  1. The heavens tell of the glory of God. The expanse of the heavens shows the work of his hands.
  2. The daytime speaks of Him, and the nighttime reveals His knowledge.
  3. Everyone can hear them speak if they would but listen.
  4. Creation speaks throughout the whole earth.
  5. The sun is as a bridegroom who suddenly appears; it rejoices as a strong man who is about to run a race.
  6. Nothing is hidden from the heat of the sun.
  7. God’s law is perfect and can change souls. His testimony gives wisdom to those who embrace it.
  8. God’s commandments are pure and causes those who obey Him to be pure.
  9. The fear of Yahweh will endure forever. His judgments are righteous, not vindictive as some may think.
  10. These things (God’s law, His testimony, His commandments, and a fear of Him) should be desired more than gold.
  11. It is keeping God’s commandments that saves us and promises us eternity with Him.
  12. Cleanse me from my sins, even those that no one knows about.
  13. Keep me from sinning. Don’t let sin have dominion over me. For then I will be righteous in Your sight.
  14. Let everything I say and everything I dwell upon be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, for You are my strength and my redeemer.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Be Faithful in Your Calling

  • Posted on November 7, 2019 at 4:46 pm

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. ~Romans 11:29

I am tempted to leave this verse without any commentary and let you all ponder it. Feel free to do that before reading on.

It boggles my mind why God would gift someone and place a call on their life and not retrieve it when that person misused the things they were blessed with. It is sobering to examine my own life and ask, Am I doing the best I can with the gifts God has given me? Am I glorifying Him with my calling, or am I too busy serving Him that I don’t have time for Him? Before conference season started this year, my prayer was that God would not let me fall into the “too busy” trap, and I feel like He answered my prayer, but it takes a lot of work to stay above that.

I used to look at people and, if they appeared to be “blessed,” I would think God must be at the center of what they are doing. I am learning that this is not always the case. I think there are times when God gives someone a ministry or another work to do for Him, and they start off well. But after a while, they may forget why they are doing what they are doing, and they become puffed up. Or they develop an attitude because they are bored of their work and would rather be doing something else. We need to make sure that we are not found guilty of this.

I believe praise goes a long way toward keeping us focused on God. As you begin each day, thank God for the work He has given you to do. Ask Him to help you to be faithful to show His love and grace to those around you. If you are a manager, don’t forget that he or she who would be great must be a servant (Matthew 20:26). Your gifts and your calling have nothing to do with you but everything to do with God and His mercy toward you. Extend that mercy to others.

Maybe you read the opening verse and think, Yes! I’ll never have to worry about losing my great singing voice! That is the wrong attitude to have. It is humbling to think that God loved me so much to entrust me with a calling that He can use if I will be faithful. He could use it if I’m not too, but I pray that I will be. I don’t ever want Him to wish He had given to someone else the gifts that He entrusted to me.

Just some things to think about on this autumn day.

What Are Your Gifts?

  • Posted on November 3, 2019 at 9:41 pm

For a lot of years, I have declared that I don’t know what my gifts are. When I have said this, it was mostly because I was comparing myself to others. I would like to have every gift known to woman, and yet I feel like the least in my family. My mom and most of my siblings can play instruments. This does not come easy to me so I don’t play. I come from a family of writers. Although I enjoy writing and I’m grateful God has given me a small platform, I don’t know if it’s my gift. Or maybe I just don’t perfect it as much as I should. If I could choose a gift above all others, though, it would be that of encouragement, and I think God may have granted my wish in that department.

I believe that God blesses everyone with at least one gift. Maybe you have a smile that lights up the room when you enter. Perhaps you have the gift of discernment so that you recognize when someone is hurting in spite of them trying to convince you they are fine. You may have the gift of words so that you know what to say at just the right moment. These are not things to take for granted.

On one hand, I don’t think it is wise to spend a lot of time in self-focus in order to figure out what we are good at since we can become prideful. But I do think we need to recognize the gifts that God has given us so that we can make sure that we are using them wisely. Way too many people take the easy road and hide their talents instead of stepping out in faith and letting God use them. I know I’ve been guilty of this. But I pray that I will be faithful to keep coming out of my comfort zone as He shows me gifts that I am not fully utilizing. After all, that is part of surrendering all to Him.

 

From Test to Testimony

  • Posted on October 31, 2019 at 5:43 pm

God will turn your test into a testimony
Teach you that your trials may be blessings in disguise
Your valleys He’ll be filling with the fragrance of the lily
‘Til on the mountain you can testify

When going through a trial, I’m sure the last thing on your mind is Thank You, Lord, for the testimony I will have after I come through this. But so many times, as I look back at the hard times that I never want to go through again, I can see that it is those trials that made me stronger, that drew me closer to the Lord at times when I might have walked away or begun to get cold in my walk with Him. Trials are what causes me to be more compassionate to others. And, yes, those trials have become a testimony of just how good God is.

Growing up, I was a happy child. One of our pastor’s wives called me Sunshine because she said that my smile lit up the room. When I was eight years old, my parents divorced, my mom married an abuser, and that smile left. When I look at pictures from that era, I am struck that, even though my lips were curved upward somewhat, my eyes displayed a lot of sadness.

As a teenager, I struggled. I cried a lot, I hated my stepfather, and I really didn’t like much about my life. But then my mom got genuinely saved, and our lives changed for the better.

When I think about everything that I have gone through, I am so thankful that God kept reaching out to me and that He kept me from becoming bitter. I had to work through the immense hatred that had built up through the years, and it took me a really long time to get over that, but praise the Lord, He was faithful to help me as I kept crying out to Him.

I don’t know at what point my joy returned but I can tell you that I am no longer that scared, lonely girl. God has blessed me with a family that loves me, and friends who seem to like me too. Most importantly, I have a Father who will never leave nor forsake me. When I am going through a difficult time, He wraps His arms around me and lets me know that He is here. He has a plan. I just have to trust Him. This is not always easy but, as He reminds me that He’s never let me down yet, I’m learning to trust that He never will.

I’ve had other trials as well, and some it took a long time to see even a glimmer of light but eventually God answered my prayer and restored my joy. Circumstances do not always change but my outlook does when I look to Him.

So you see? I don’t write the things I do because my life has been a bed of ease. I know that life can be hard. I know it can be discouraging to the point that you might wish to die. But I also know that this is a season. It may be a long season, but it’s just a season all the same. Don’t allow the enemy to win by getting your eyes off of the Lord. Instead, cling to Him like never before. Acknowledge that, although you don’t understand why you are going through this trial, and you don’t see what good can come of it, you will keep your eyes on Him and praise Him anyway. The more you do this, the more it will come to feel like a bad dream from which you will one day wake up and be able to thank Him for bringing you all the way through. Praise Him for turning your test into a testimony.

 

Opening lyrics from the song “Testimony” recorded by the Greenes.

Are Your Prayers Being Heard?

  • Posted on October 30, 2019 at 6:23 pm

Recently, someone was bemoaning the fact that God doesn’t answer her prayers. Therefore, she has decided that there must not be a God. I was dumbfounded as to how to answer her but, as I thought back over our conversation, I was aware of how often she talked about people who hurt her, making it clear that she has no good wishes toward them. In fact, that is an understatement.

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
but your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
so that he does not hear.  ~Isaiah 59:2 (emphasis added)

If God is not answering your prayers, the first thing you need to do is examine your heart. Is there sin which you have not confessed that you are hoping God will overlook and grant your request anyway? In the case of my friend, bitterness and unforgiveness flow from her in every conversation. But some sins are more subtle.

Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.  ~John 9:31 (emphasis added)

I think this verse is key. Are you worshiping God, praising Him in the midst of adversity, and doing what God would have you do even when it is hard to do so? I am pondering this in my life as well. We live in a society that is big on not letting people walk all over you but what about humility, turning the other cheek, not letting the sun go down on anger? These things can hinder your prayers as well.

You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. ~James 4:2-3

I confess that I have been guilty of selfish prayers, and I probably still fall into this more than I would like to admit. If I wrote my life’s script, I would never be sick, never have relational struggles. I would live in the bubble of a picture-perfect world. But that is not reality. My prayers may not always be for material gain (although I do pray for that at times too), but I often pray for what I want which is sometimes not what God has for me. You see, we can claim scriptures all day long about “Ask whatever you will, and it shall be done by my Father in Heaven” (John 15:7), while the key is in declaring, “Not my will but Yours be done.” As I draw closer to the Lord, my will surrenders to His will and then all these things are added unto me (Matthew 6:33).

Please don’t think that I am being harsh and judgmental. I am not meaning to throw anyone under the bus or to guilt trip those who are struggling. I am saying that God is not a genie in a bottle. He doesn’t have to answer anyone’s prayers, but He does listen, He cares, His hand is not too short. If you have been asking for something and have not received your answer, don’t give up. Ask God to show you if there is something in your life that is keeping your prayer from being heard. If you know that you are where you need to be with the Lord, then ask Him to make it clear if your request does not line up with His will and be willing to let go of that thing. Sometimes things do not make sense to us but God knows all, and we must trust Him. Do not let unanswered prayers cause you to wonder if there is a God. Draw near to Him like never before and ask Him to increase your faith and trust. I expect that is a prayer that He will answer.

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Are You Truly Secure?

  • Posted on October 25, 2019 at 6:48 pm

I grew up hearing eternal security pushed to the point that we were told that, if we didn’t feel saved, it was the enemy trying to deceive us because if we prayed “the sinner’s prayer,” our names were in the Book of Life and no one can snuff them out. I heard a testimony of a young woman who did not see a transformation but, because she had “prayed the prayer,” the church leadership convinced her that she was saved (in spite of her continuing to do drugs and live her own life; praise the Lord that 20 or so years later, she did come to truly know the Savior). This happens every day in many churches across the country. They are eager to pray with someone to receive Christ but there is no discipleship, no accountability, no continual interaction to teach people exactly what salvation means.

He who walks with integrity walks securely …  ~Proverbs 10:9

As I read this verse in my Bible Promise Book this morning, I stopped. This is what people need to teach!

Dictionary.com defines “integrity” as “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” You can’t get those moral and ethical principles apart from the Bible and a close relationship with the Lord. If you want to know that you are eternally secure, this is your litmus test.

It is sometimes argued whether or not a person can ever know for sure that they are saved. I want to tell you unequivocally, Yes! You can know! If you don’t know, then you should examine why it is that you feel this way. I think for some, they know they have a secret sin or something that is blocking God’s presence and so they pass it off by saying, “I don’t know if I’m saved or not.” If that is you, find someone that you trust who will pray with you and hold you accountable so that you can flee that sin or addiction. Whatever you are holding on to is not worth it.

It’s not enough to pray, “God, save me from Hell and take me to Heaven so I can live with you.” It’s not even good enough to say, “God, I’m sorry for my sin.” That’s a start but there is a worldly sorrow that is sorry one is caught and there is a Godly sorrow where one hates their sin and desires to change. Scripture is full of sinners being told, not just to be sorry but to “Repent!” This means “to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better” (dictionary.com). You cannot remain as you are and think God will welcome you into Heaven anyway. God is righteous, and He desires that His children be righteous too.

So, what about you? Are you a person of integrity? Is that integrity due to the fact that you placed your faith in Christ and surrendered your life to Him? If so, then you can be truly secure.

Lessons from Job

  • Posted on October 20, 2019 at 4:23 pm

Last week, I received a phone call from a friend who has sunk lower than rock bottom. My friend is one whose trials have made her bitter so she is not open to things of the Lord. I find it fitting that I am reading through the book of Job right now. I’m sure my friend would echo his words:

Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.” ~Job 3:3

When I say, My bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint; then You scare me with dreams, and terrify me through visions: so that my soul chooses strangling, and death rather than life.” ~Job 7:13-15

My soul is weary of my life. ~Job 10:1

I know a lot of people have hit that place of despair and hopelessness but I love Job’s response. Although he did give in to a bit of self-pity, he refused to curse God (Job 2:9-10), instead desiring to understand why he was going through these things. He begged God to answer him since he had been “a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and shuns evil” (Job 1:8).

My heart breaks for those who have let their trials rob their joy. It is so easy to do when the focus is on ourselves and our circumstances but that is why Jesus told His disciples to “Look up and lift up your head, for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28).

Although they can be excruciating at times, the trials and heartaches and suffering that we experience on this earth are truly light and momentary (2 Corinthians 4:17). I would like to encourage you to stop looking down and start looking around you. Take a walk and intentionally notice God’s beautiful creation. Begin to think about the people that God has placed in your life who love you. Maybe you’ve pushed some away so that you could be alone and wallow in your misery. Invite them back into your life so that they can give you the encouragement you need.

Above all, draw near to the Lord. Let Him comfort you as only He can. Rest in His arms for He loves you so much! Being down is not a sin but you do not want to stay there. You will never understand why some things happen in this life but never doubt that you are here for a reason, and that reason is to serve the Lord. Keep pressing on, my friend, and if I can pray for you, please let me know.

God Is More Than a Sensation

  • Posted on August 22, 2019 at 10:02 pm

Do you ever watch Hallmark movies? Although the plots have become redundant to the point that if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all, I still appreciate good, wholesome stories that allow me to relax when my brain needs a change of pace. One thing I have noticed, though, is that often the heroine calls off her relationship with a steady, hard-working man and chooses someone whom she deems to be more exciting. I think this is what some do with God except in His case, He is the unchanging, stable being in our lives that we take for granted while we go after what we think will produce more excitement. We’re a bit like the disciples who cried, “Lord, show us a sign!” (Matthew 12:38). But if no sign comes, we walk away. God can do amazing things, but He will most likely not do them in order to satisfy those who merely want to see a supernatural side show.

Like anyone else, I love hearing miracle stories. My eyes get wide as others tell of the amazing things that God has done. I can tell some stories myself. But if I had to choose between a life of signs and wonders or one of consistency, I would choose the latter.

Life is full of ups and downs, joys and trials, and constant change. What a blessing to have a God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is one on whom I can depend, and I would not trade that for all the sensationalism in the world.

If you are following Jesus from a distance hoping to catch a glimpse of a miracle he performs, you may receive what you are looking for, but you will be missing out on so much more that can only be experienced through a close relationship with Him. I think of the old hymn that says:

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known.

How Steadfast Are You?

  • Posted on August 18, 2019 at 11:29 am

“I guess [another Christian leader] renounced his faith now,” a friend texted. This really upsets me. If people are going to apostatize, why can’t they do so quietly instead of making a big announcement and shaking the faith of those who look up to them? It could be argued that people shouldn’t be looking up to them anyway, but people do. They long to see Christianity in action and, instead, they see people who once claimed the name of the Lord declaring it to be a farce.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.  ~1 Peter 5:8

Satan is having a heyday confusing those who should be strong in the faith but who, for some reason, are surrendering to the enemy. Why? Do they not believe there is really a God? Do they think that the “freedom” they feel now is worth spending an eternity in Hell?

I am not writing this self-righteously. I am examining my own heart and asking God to keep me close to Him. I am praying for new believers who have questions of their own. We have a major problem when more people are denouncing their faith than are being drawn to Christ. We are in desperate need of revival but we don’t want it badly enough to turn off our TVs and get on our knees.

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition. ~2 Thessalonians 2:3

This is what we are seeing. As Jesus’ return draws near, Satan is working overtime to convince people that it is more fun to follow him. Friends, this is a wake-up call. God will not strive with man forever. If we do not spend time drawing close to the Lord, getting to really know Him, we too could fall away.

Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he falls. ~1 Corinthians 10:12

If there is any sin, no matter how slight, that is keeping you from fully walking with the Lord, confess it today. Every day, people are dying who have no chance to repent and get right with God. You don’t know that you have tomorrow and, although you may have 20 years or more left, it’s not worth the risk.

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. ~Hebrews 6:4-6

I do not want to be guilty of this. Plus, whenever one falls, it doesn’t just affect them; it affects everyone around them.

Wake up, Church! The days of complacency need to end. It is time to put aside the lusts of the flesh and the pride of life and the sins which so easily ensnare us while we run with perseverance the race that God has set before us (Hebrews 12:1). God has created you for a purpose, and it is not to lose your faith! If you have questions, find a mature Believer who can answer those for you. Don’t give up. The battle can be hard but, in due season, we will reap if we do not faint (Galatians 6:9).

I know others have written on this but I decided to post anyway. I started days ago but wanted to take my time since this is such a serious topic. I think the bottom line comes from Revelation 2:10:

Be faithful unto death, and you will receive the crown of life.

Amen. Lord, let it be so.

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