Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end; they are new
every morning; great is your faithfulness.
When I was a little girl my dad would tell me, "you need to learn something new every day". I think it must have been in relation to school, however, even as a "not so little girl", I have carried that thought in my heart throughout my life.
As a Christian, I see the profound truth of Dad's statement in a much different light. That light being the Light of God's Word.
As I learn to apply God's word to my life, I am encouraged and strengthened.
Just this week I was asked to consider heading up a project at my church. I was interested immediately but said I would like to pray about it first (as is my way). So today, I'm sitting here thinking, what's my holdup? Why am I dragging my feet?
Well the answer is actually very simple. I tend to jump right in with both feet when I know I "can" do something, and do it well. This is a project that I know I can do, however the method is different from what I have done before. Doubt enters my mind and I begin to question whether or not "I can" do this. If I allow it, it will overtake my every thought... Oy Vey!
Then, as God's Holy Spirit often does, the truth gently comes in, slowly yet purposefully...
"Where is my faith? Has God not equipped me time after time to do a specific work for Him? If He calls me to it does He not go with me; equip me and see it through to the end?"
Yes He does....
So my "something new" today is really not so new but a reminder of the fact that God IS Faithful, and God IS True and God Keeps His Promises....
Most important for me...God has never let me down... I love God!
Sunday's sermon has had a great impact on my life. We are so blessed to have a pastor who "teaches" as he preaches... he explains scripture in a way we can all relate to and understand.
To read the Sermon Transcript please click HERE
Today, I am only giving my thoughts on this truth and how it has affected me.
The Bema Seat of Judgment.
2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
This is our giving an account of what we have done from our time of salvation. This is not the same as the Great White Throne of Judgment in Revelation 20:11-15
11Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
This is really serious truth.... VERY SERIOUS!
Yet I stand by and see so many people ignore it. Why is that? For me it's like watching a flock of sheep heading to a cliff and they fall to their death... every last one of them! And I can do nothing to stop them.
Some of it falls back to yesterday's subject of excuses. Let me tell you, one day those very same excuses cannot be used anymore.
For me, some of the principles that really have struck my heart are these:
And these are the thought provoking thoughts that I cannot escape, nor do I want to:
Like I said, This is really serious truth.... VERY SERIOUS!
We have become a people of excuses...
"I can't because ________" is our battle cry!
"I can't because I am too young";
"I can't because I am too old";
"I can't because I don't know how";
"I can't because I am afraid";
"I can't because that is not my top priority";
And the list goes on and on. Just fill in the blank with your own excuse.
From my earliest memory I can hear my dad's answer to my "I can't". He would say "there's no such thing as can't". But I was young and certain that I could not so I never did try. Looking back I see now that it was because I was trying on my own and never asking for help.
God makes it very clear in the Bible that "yes we can"! However, He never intended for us to do it on our own.
Here we see Jeremiah giving God his "excuses" why he can't do as God has called for him to do; and then God's answer.
God tells Jeremiah that He (God) will be with him every step of the way. Not only that but He will give him the words to speak and He will be there to protect him as well, therefore he should not be afraid.
That pretty much covers the excuses of being too young and of not knowing how and fear.... God will never ask us to do anything that is not age appropriate or that is beyond our ability. If we don't know how, then we learn. Most important is that He will protect us.
As for the excuse of being too old... How old was Moses when he built the Ark? How old was Abraham when his first son was born? Search the scriptures to see just how old many were when called to serve God.
Then there is the problem of priorities. Yes, "problem", and I say that because if our priorities were in order, everything else will fall into its proper place.. God's proper place.
Perhaps it's time for us to re-evaluate our priorities. Are we "really" putting God first? If not, then why? What is our excuse for that?
Remember, "there is no such thing as can't...."
Thirty Seven years ago today, I married the love of my life... A love like ours is not so common in today's world. I'm not saying we were the only ones with such a devoted covenant, but I am saying that because God was always the center of our relationship we were set up for success from the beginning. I am not saying there were never any rough times because there were, however not many. I'm not sharing this to draw attention to myself or to seek sympathy, but rather to point you toward The One Who held us together in good times and rough times... The One Who today has held me together as I continue on this journey without my husband. (you can read about here.... "My Journey Through Grief").
Actually, I am excited today to see how far God has brought me and I look forward with great expectation to see His plan unfold for me. As I look back over the past few years, I can see now how God prepared me for "such a time as this". I have no regrets and I can honestly say without a doubt that that there was never anything undone or unsaid... God is Faithful..
One of God's promises that I hold to dearly is found in Hebrews 13:5 "Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”
So here I sit, alone because my husband is no longer here, but oh, so "not alone" because of Christ!
As I sit here, reflecting on 2016, I can see where I was a year ago and where I am now. This time last year I was still coming to grips with my "widowhood" and the reality that my life had changed in so many ways... I have learned to rely on God in ways I never thought I would need too.... my biggest challenge has been to deal with the intense loneliness that has become a constant in my life. Begging and pleading with God has not changed it.
BUT GOD! But God always has a plan and His plan for me continues to unfold daily.
Today I can see that I do have a purpose in this life. Do I know what that is? Not totally, but God gives me "hints" and "moments" now and then that reveal not only His loving-kindness, but His faithfulness and sovereignty.
I have so much to be thankful for, yes even in my darkest moments. I have come closer to God and I have an amazing church family and pastor; friends who know me and love me "anyway". God IS good, all the time, in good times and in the not so good.
So now, on this last day of 2016, I look forward with expectation and joy to 2017 and with this chorus on my heart and lips....
I love you, Lord, And I lift my voice
To worship You Oh, my soul, rejoice!
Take joy my King, In what You hear
Let it be a sweet, sweet sound In Your ear.....
My sister sent me some pictures of her Christmas Trees (yes, she has more than one). She loves Christmas, she loves decorating her home, she loves decorating her trees. With each beautiful picture she shared with me the many memories collected through the years. She has always and is still using a paper angel made by her son when in Kindergarten (nearly 50 years ago), for the top of the tree. One tree is filled with picture ornaments of family members... Another tree has ornaments that reflect our Jewish heritage, blended beautifully with those that represent our Christ. The manger under the tree is from she and her husband's first Christmas in Ventura, California in 1962.
As she continued to tell about each ornament, a beautiful story unfolded right before my eyes... It was at that moment that I realized that every tree does have a story.
Look at your own Christmas tree. Can you remember when each ornament first adorned your tree? Maybe you have some that say "Baby's first Christmas"; or maybe you have ornaments that represent hobbies, or places traveled to. Or like our oldest son, they have a Cowboy Tree (fitting for a Rodeo Announcer). For several years we added ornaments with the names of God on them. All kinds of stories are told because of how a tree is decorated.
Trees are first mentioned in Genesis 2:9a "And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food". You can safely say that these trees were decorated with "food".
Then in Genesis 2:9b "The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil". And here these two tree were decorated as well, one with life and one with knowledge.
There is another tree of greater importance..... The Cross of Calvary. This cross, by the law at that time, is decorated with a human life.
Deuteronomy 21:22... “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree..."
The cross at Calvary, by love, was decorated with Jesus Christ our Savior"; Matthew 27 records the account of the death of Christ on the Cross.
What kind of story does your tree tell? And, what kind of tree does your "life" tell?
This year, as you decorate "your" tree, keep in mind that while we celebrate the "birth" of Christ, He came to "decorate" a unique tree for you...for me...for all who will come to Him.
Merry Christmas - Living By Grace,
More and more I'm becoming aware of my "widowhood". Some days I'm not consciously aware of it, and other days it raises up and slaps my heart. For the first year after my husband's death, I still referred to myself as married (I'm still here but he has moved on). But no matter how I word it, the fact is that yes, I am a widow. I don't want to be; but somehow it has become a part of God's plan for me.
But still.....people like to "help" widows and I have this attitude that says "I don't want to be helped". Not to be nasty or mean, but I admit, that is how I feel most of the time. Maybe it's because for twenty years I was a pastor's wife... I served God under my husband's authority and I did it joyfully. If there was a need, I was there to help... When James died, it was like all of a sudden (actually it was just that "sudden") people were everywhere wanting to help me. Praise God for their willingness to do so. However, I'm the one who should be helping others, not the other way around.... Or at least that's what I thought. It's been hard to learn to accept help.
I can see why it's so hard for many pastors today to care for their flocks because they have people like me who don't always want to be helped.... OY VEY! Does that convict me? Yes, yes it does.
So as long as I'm rambling today, I have to ask myself what am I going to do about it?
The answer to that is, "I don't know". What I do know however is that I am making it a matter of serious prayer. I am going to search scripture to see what God has to say about our willingness to be served as well as to serve.
I love it when God challenges me like this....I love the questions that lead me to His written word.... Perhaps as you are reading this, you may have some thoughts of your own that can help me and others like me.. I pray that you will feel led to email me or leave a comment on this blog...
The struggle continues.....
My life before salvation was a mish mash of rebellion and disobedience. When I hit rock bottom I met Jesus.. He picked me up, had me to be still for a season, then He sent me out to the unknown. This is not something new that God does. In Genesis 12:1, God sends Abram out; in Genesis 12:4, Abram goes (obediently).
God sent me out to an unknown future.. A future that turned out to be better than any I could have planned for myself.
Fast forward to today....
After my husband's death, God put me in a place of "stillness" again so that I could heal. This stillness was not the result of disobedience but rather a result of God's amazing love.
As I waited on God, I realized that He was leading me to an unknown future once again. Like Abram, I didn't know where I was going, only that God would show me.
If I have learned anything at all during these past years, it's that God IS Faithful!
As a result of my obedience to Him, I am now secure in a new church home, with a new pastor and a new family (been there over a year now). There is no greater support group outside of the family of God.
My prayer for you today is that you have followed God in obedience, even to the "unknown", so you can experience for yourself, His Amazing Grace... but if you haven't, please consider it right now.. God Has A Plan
I am pretty sure that everyone, Christian or not, has heard the account of Noah's Ark, the flood and the rainbow. However, you may be the very person reading this that has never really seen what God really said.
Here in East Texas we get a lot of rain showers throughout the year. Some with thunder and lightning; some with heavy rain and some that lasts for days. Even as a child it was always exciting for me to see the rainbow that would appear after the rain. I remember well that my mom used to tell me that the rainbow is a reminder to us that God will never destroy mankind with a flood ever again. And that my friend is something that I carried in my heart for so many years..
As an adult believer, I learned that even though what mom told me, there was so much more to that scripture. Genesis 9:11-17 gives the account of this event... God's covenant with Noah and "all living flesh" on the earth. But wait.... take a closer look at verse 15. God said (speaking of His bow) "I will remember my covenant between you and me and every living creature of all flesh...."
The life changing words here are "I will remember"!
This is a promise from God and every time He sees His rainbow, it reminds Him of His promise. Think about how many rainbows you have seen in your lifetime. Now then, if every time you saw a rainbow you were reminded of God's promise, good for you.
My prayer for you today is that from this point on, whenever you see a rainbow, you will remember that God put it there as a reminder to Himself, and take time to simply say "Thank You God"..
Always remember, God DOES keep His promises....in His time and in His way....
The message of Noah's ark (Genesis 6-9) is so profound. As a child I sat amazed at how all those animals could fit in a "boat". But today as an adult I see so much more. Here are some phrases that have really resonated with me.
In Genesis 7 we see the destruction caused from mankind's disobedience to God. We also see that all living things on earth perished in the flood and (here it comes) "only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark". Genesis 7:23b... I can't even imagine what it would be like to be the only humans left alive. Just my family and no one else. Only Noah.... think about that for a moment... what if it were you? Only (insert your name here).
But it didn't end there... Genesis 8:1 tells us that "God remembered Noah...." There is no record of it, but do you think that Noah may have been just a bit scared? Maybe... however Noah always trusted God and was obedient to Him.
God always remembers us as well....He never EVER forgets. He leaves us in the "ark" until we He knows we are able to move on...
The other phrase that jumped out at me is found in Genesis 8:9. Noah had sent out a Raven to see if there was dry land and there was not. He then sends out a dove but she returned to him because again, there was no dry land yet. Look what Noah does... he put out his hand and brought her into the ark with him.
Look closer.... he, Noah, put out his hand (offering her a solution to her problem of no place to land); then he brought her into the ark with him. (Providing a place of safety and security).
Do you see where I am going with this now? Jesus puts out His hand, offering all mankind the gift of salvation and when we accept it, He brings us into His Ark where we find a place of safety and security....
It's just that simple....