Posted by: glorifyhim1 | October 28, 2014

Trying to Fit In

Trying to Fit In

 

 

It seems that for much of my life I’ve been that proverbial square peg trying to fit into a round hole. Being an introvert by nature, I crave time alone or with intimate small groups. I generally avoid large groups when I can and when I can’t, I generally feel socially awkward and out of place. At the same time, however, I love people. I really want to be on the inside, talking, interacting, and sharing; but, I generally feel so uncomfortable that for the most part I just can’t seem to fit in. Have you ever been there?

 

Through the years God has helped me to see who I am in Him, instead of what I may think about myself, or what others may think about me. So I really hadn’t thought about this for some time until just recently. My husband and I were on the way to a large city about 300 miles away where I was attending a writers’ conference for a new assignment. We were reminiscing about similar trips we had made through the years for other assignments when suddenly unbidden tears began to sting my eyelids. I remembered. Oh, how well I remembered. I could still recall how fearful I was on that very first trip – not so much over the assignment, but over the experience itself! Could I fit in? Would I be accepted? I could still feel the gnawing fear and worry I felt about being able to fit in.

 

But, I had no need to fear. It wasn’t so much that I was able to fit in, but I was accepted. I may have still been that square peg, but I didn’t feel the need to try to fit in or be what everyone else wanted me to be or thought I should be. I may not have been stylish or eloquent, or have the abilities of other writers, but I was accepted! Their acceptance was a precious gift to this square peg!

 

Paul told the Romans: We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.’ For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15:1-7, NIV).

While I didn’t fully comprehend it then, now I understand that those dear Christians were simply modeling the love of Christ. They accepted me and encouraged me not because of who I was, but because of who Christ is.

I personally think that we probably look the most like Christ when we love others —

  • Without reservation
  • Without condition
  • Without preconceived notions and attitudes

And –

  • With acceptance
  • With forgiveness
  • With praise to God

 

Think of the way God showed His love for us. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Christ loved us unconditionally, even when we were still sinners. Do we love others – even our own brothers and sisters in Christ – the same way? Or do we dole out love based on our own pre-conceived notions of who is deserving of our love?

Still, today, I sometimes find myself wondering about what I need to do to “fit” in and be accepted. But, thankfully, Christ has helped me see that in Him –

 

  • I am chosen (John 15:16)
  • I am a child of God (John 1:12)
  • I am not condemned (Romans 8:1)
  • I am His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
  • I am redeemed (Ephesians 1:7-8)
  • I am a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19)
  • I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)

 

While I may not always fit in or be accepted by others, I know that in Christ, I am complete. He created me, square peg that I am – not to try to fit in – but to be the person He calls me to be and to love and encourage others with the same attitude with which He has loved me. As Jesus, Himself, stated: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34). In Christ, we can all fit – completely and perfectly!

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | October 15, 2014

A Time for Singing!

A Time for Singing!

 

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This Friday, October 17, my grandson will turn 1. We celebrated this momentous milestone this past weekend with his Mom, Dad, family and friends. To say there was much joy, laughter, and celebration would actually be an understatement. It was definitely a time for rejoicing!

 

As I watched Benji play, laugh, and pretty much “ham” it up for his adoring audience, I couldn’t help but think about one year ago as we waited for him to be born. We were all praying that he would make it safely into this world. My daughter-in-law’s pregnancy had not been without incident and we were all too mindful that almost one year earlier, we were gathering not in joy, but in tears, to say good-bye to my son and daughter-in-law’s first son, Silas, who was stillborn. It had been a rough couple of years.

 

But as I witnessed the sheer joy on my son and daughter-in-law’s faces as they celebrated this most precious gift, their son, I thought about the following Bible verse.

 

“For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.”

 (Song of Solomon 2:11-13)

 

All of us face times of winter, don’t we? The storms and rains may come to us through sadness and sorrow, serious illness or an unexpected diagnosis, struggles and hard times, or any other number of ways. During those times of winter, we are often confronted with doubts and questions as we cry and grope for answers and understanding. But as I’ve discovered, when I’m in the middle of winter, it’s hard to see the spring.

 

Yet, in my own trials, I have come to realize that while I may not always understand nor have all the answers to my questions, and while I may not be able to see the spring, I can know that spring will come. It may not appear as soon as I would like or it may not even look as I had envisioned it, but spring will come. How can I know that?  Because of faith!

 

Hebrews 11:1a reminds us: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” If you read through Hebrews 11, you quickly see that while some of the heroes who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again” (Hebrews 11:33-35a); still others were tortured, mocked, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, sawn in two, tempted, slain with the sword, afflicted, and tormented (see Hebrews 11:35b-37). Yet these heroes of faith “all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).

 

 

I’ve discovered that in those times when I’m in the middle of sorrow or difficulty, when I’m in the middle of winter and can’t see spring, I have an advocate before God who will quicken my faith and renew my hope. I love the Amplifed Bible’s translation of John 14:26.

 

“But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you.”

 

When I feel helpless, defeated, broken, and without hope, the Holy Spirit becomes my Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby! He does what I can’t do. And, even more, He causes me to recall “everything I have told you” – all those precious promises that can help us once again see spring. And, sometimes, through our Father’s mercy and grace, we not only see the hope of spring. Sometimes our Heavenly Father blesses us with a little taste of spring right here on earth – when all we can do is sing!

 

That’s what my heart did last weekend as we celebrated Benji. And although its October and Fall is in the air, I’m thanking God, today, for spring. The winter is past and the time for singing has come!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | October 7, 2014

A God Who Cares

A God Who Cares

 

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This weekend we had to say our final goodbyes to our daughter’s sweet cat and constant companion for almost 15 years. The decision to have her put to sleep was not an easy one, but it became inevitable as her condition continued to deteriorate and she grew weaker and weaker. Although we all knew it was the humane thing to do, that didn’t make it any easier. In fact, it was just plain hard!

 

Each time we find ourselves having to say goodbye to one of our beloved family pets, I find myself thinking that perhaps we shouldn’t get another one. With all the sorrows and worries in this world, why put ourselves through just one more avenue to hurt and pain. But then I remember all the joys that these dear animals have brought into our lives – the warm snuggles, the unwavering acceptance, the individual personalities that work their way into our hearts and lives. And I know, in spite of how much it hurts when they leave us, our sweet furry friends are definitely worth every ounce of our emotional involvement.

 

While the Bible makes no mention of having animals as pets, we are told that God created all kinds of animals and that He “saw that it was good” (see Genesis 1:24-25).  In Genesis 2:19, we are told that God “formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air.” The word used for “formed” tells us that God took great care like a potter at work fashioning each animal He made.

 

The Bible also tells us that God cared for the animals He made. He was concerned about their food (Psalm 147:9, Matthew 6:26a); their need for rest (Deuteronomy 5:14); and the way they were treated (Deuteronomy 25:4; Deuteronomy 22:10). God gave man authority over the animals He created (see Genesis 1:28) and with that authority responsibility to care for His creation.

 

Do you every wonder why God created animals? When we read about creation in Genesis 1-2, notice that God transformed chaos into a world of light, beauty, and order – a world in which you and I can live. He took care of every detail and provided everything that man needed in order to live before He created man. There were lights in the heavens for day and night; water and dry land; plants and trees that provided food; fish, birds, and all kinds of animals. Surely, some of these animals were needed for work and later on for food, but I think God also created animals for our enjoyment. God made a world that could not only meet our needs, but that provided beauty and enjoyment. Before man was ever created, and before you and I were even born, we see a God who planned, prepared, and who provided for us – a God who cares!

 

Jesus taught His followers about God’s care. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matthew 6:25-29, ESV). Jesus reminded His followers that even in a broken, sinful world that God cared for His people and would take care of them.

 

God still cares for you and me, today.

 

  • He cares about our needs and He will supply them (see Matthew 6:25-29).
  • He cares about our fears and He will strengthen us (see Isaiah 41:10).
  • He cares about our weaknesses and He will give us grace (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).
  • He cares about our troubles and He will comfort us (see 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
  • He cares about our tears and He will hear us (see Psalm 56).
  • He cares about our turmoil and He will give us peace (see John 14:27).
  • He cares about our failures and He will forgive us (see 1 John 1:9).

 

And …..

 

  • He cares about our lostness and He will save us (see John 3:16).

 

Although God made a perfect world, in His knowledge and wisdom, God knew we would mess up. So, He also planned for our salvation – even before we were ever born. Now, that’s a God who cares!

 

As I think about our great and awesome God, I am overcome that He cares so much for me. Surely, He cares about the big, important things in my life, but He also cares about the little things. Sometimes, I think that’s what overwhelms me the most. I’m amazed that such a great and mighty God who has all knowledge, power, and wisdom, cares about the little things I worry about, the small hurts that sometimes bring tears, and the weaknesses that trouble me that no one else sees. He sees, He hears, and He cares for me. And, sometimes, He reminds me of His care with simple joys, special blessings that I may not have even known I needed – like my daughter’s furry, little speckled cat who sometimes felt my tears, shared my chair, and warmed my lap. Thank You, God, for caring for me!

 

 

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | September 27, 2014

My Greatest Misconception About Following Jesus

My Greatest Misconception About Following Jesus

 

 

Living the Christian life has not always been what I thought it would be. No, I didn’t make my decision to follow Christ thinking that all my problems would be solved and that all my dreams would come true. Even as a youngster, before I ever committed to following Christ, I saw good, honest, hard-working Christians who didn’t always have it easy. So, somehow even as a child I knew that becoming a Christian did not mean that I would necessarily be blessed with earthly treasures and all good things. So that wasn’t a misconception I had about following Jesus.

 

Neither did I believe that becoming a Christian meant that God would love me more. Oh, I know – and am ever so thankful – that God loves me, but He doesn’t just love me because I decided to follow Him. He loved me first. He loved me before I ever really thought about becoming a Christian. He loved me when I was lost. And He loves me now, even when I mess up. There is nothing I can do to make Him love me more. He has already loved me enough to die for me. Again, somehow, even as a child I knew God loved me. I knew He loved all people. So that wasn’t a misconception I had about following Jesus.

 

To be sure, as a young Christian, there were many things I didn’t understand about the Christian walk. But as I think about my decision to follow Christ, I believe my greatest misconception was that I could do it! Oh, how I wanted to. I wanted to follow Jesus. I wanted to do what was right. I wanted others to see Christ in me. But, unfortunately, I didn’t always succeed. I would continually “turn over new leaves” trying to get it right. Just like making resolutions for the new year, I would vow that I would not lose my temper, not be provoked to jealousy or envy, only think the best of others, and so on depending upon whatever temptations Satan threw my way. Yet, time and again, I would fail.

 

Then one day I stumbled on 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” I couldn’t help but wonder. If I’m a new creation, if I have in effect been restored to what God planned for me to be, then why do I keep on stumbling? How can I live the Christian life?

 

I’m not sure when I finally got it, but, eventually, I realized that my decision to follow Christ was just the beginning – the jumping off point! When I made my decision to follow Christ, I was placing my life in Christ’s hands, surrendering it completely to Him. I was embarking on a journey – not by myself, but with Christ. I was entering into a relationship with the One who died for me and it was Christ who would work to transform me to look more like Him. Paul explained this process: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

 

Through this relationship that I have with Christ, He teaches me, guides me, and helps me to learn how to live the Christian life. I can’t become more like Christ in my own strength. No amount of sincere effort, starting over, trying harder, or resolving to do better can enable me to live that life. But just as I trusted Christ for my salvation, I also trust Him to change me, to work in me and help me to become more like the person God originally created me to be. It’s a process. I’m a work in progress.

 

But just as any relationship requires work, so does my relationship with Christ. If my husband I never talk to one another, spend time together, listen to each other, or seek to please and honor one another by the way we treat or talk about each other; we will grow distant in our relationship with one another. So it is with our relationship with Christ. Following Christ begins with a choice and a decision. But if we truly want to follow Christ and walk with Him, we must commit to not only trust Him for our salvation, but to also trust Him in every area of our lives.

 

When I trust Christ….

 

  • I rely on Him and not on my own understanding.

 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

 

  • I seek Him first and above all other people or things.

 

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

 

  • I follow and obey His teachings.

 

“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’” (John 8:31-32).

 

  • I study and come to know God’s word.

 

“The book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it” (Joshua: 1:8a).

 

  • I love God and love others.

 

“So He answered and said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27).

 

  • I seek to honor Him by the things I say and do.

 

“Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21, ESV).

 

As a young, new believer, I didn’t fully understand what following Christ looked like. I thought it was all about me and what I did. But through the years, I’ve discovered that following Christ is so much more. As I seek Him and trust Him day-by-day, I have found a friend, a friend who…

laid down His life for me (John 3:16; 15:13),

who cares for me (see 1 Peter 5:7),

who helps and sustains me (see Psalm 55:22; Isaiah 41:10),

who guides and teaches me (see Psalm 32:8),

who comforts me (see 2 Corinthians 1:4),

who surrounds me with His presence (see Psalm 139:7-12),

who intercedes for me before the Father (see Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25),

who will never leave or forsake me (see Hebrews 13:5)…….

a friend who is with me for life, even unto death, and who will be waiting for me in Heaven – when I’ll finally be fully transformed into His image – not because I finally got it right, but because I know Jesus and He had it right all along.

 

“And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”

(Philippians 3:9)

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | September 18, 2014

Searching for Perfection

Searching for Perfection

 

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This week I’ve had the blessing of spending some special time with my family at the beach. Since home to me has always been in the mountains, vacation time is typically spent somewhere near the ocean. While a week at the beach can be fully spent walking along the beach, playing in the ocean or pool, or lounging lazily in a beach chair listening to the sea gulls; I generally always have a plan for something extra to do. It may be visiting a museum or historic site, taking some kind of tour or sightseeing excursion, or just doing something we don’t normally get to do.

 

One of this year’s extras was a morning hike on Bird Island Coastal Reserve, an uninhabited island that extends around one and one-half miles on the coast of North Carolina to a rock jetty that divides North and South Carolina. The island is absolutely beautiful with high natural dunes; salt marshes and tidal creeks; a gorgeous stretch of pristine, sandy white beaches; and a variety of habitats and nesting areas for a variety of birds, some of which are threatened or endangered. I couldn’t wait to embark on this little adventure, especially when I discovered that it was not uncommon to find loads of sand dollars, many completely perfect.

 

I began this hike, eager and excited, as well as equipped with a small bag to gather all my perfect sand dollars. As I inched my way along the shore, I saw many, many sand dollar pieces – many broken, chipped, and scarred, but not one perfect sand dollar. My little bag remained rolled up in my backpack as I gradually gave up and instead just drank in the beauty of the untouched island.

 

When we finally reached the rock jetty at the end of the island, however, I discovered that both my daughters had picked up a few of the broken sand dollar pieces, and my daughter-in-law had a bag full of shell and sand dollar pieces. While no one had uncovered a perfect sand dollar, my daughter-in-law was excited about how she could use the broken pieces to create something beautiful, perhaps a mosaic. I was looking for perfection while my daughter-in-law was looking for ways to make the broken shells into something beautiful. And I thought of God!

 

Isn’t that the way God is with you and me? We are all broken. None of us are perfect. We are all broken, chipped, and scarred – in one way or another. Some of us try to ignore our brokenness. Others of us try to overcompensate for it. Still others may try to hide their imperfections, justify them, or make excuses for them. But there is only one thing to really do with our brokenness – turn it over to God.

 

 

Luke recounts the story of a broken woman in Luke 8:43-48. This dear woman had endured a flow of blood for 12 years. The Scriptures tell us that she had spent all she had on doctors who had not been able to help her. But then she heard of Jesus. Luke tells it best.

 “Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, 44 came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped.

45 And Jesus said, “Who touched Me?”

When all denied it, Peter and those with him[f] said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’[g]

46 But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.”47 Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately.

48 And He said to her, “Daughter, be of good cheer;[h] your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

 

Notice three things about this story.

  1. The woman was at the end of her resources as well as her strength.
  2. She reached out for Jesus.
  3. Jesus encouraged her and reminded her that her faith had made her well.

 

Jesus is the cure for our brokenness. As we surrender all of our chips, scars, hurts, anxieties, and brokenness to Him, He is there ready to meet us where we are and work in and through us to fulfill His plan for our lives. As Paul reminded the Philippians: “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;” (Philippians 1:6). Christ’s work in us may not always mean physical healing like the woman in the story. It may not always mean a miraculous change in our circumstances or instant solutions to our chips and scars. But we can be assured that our faith will make us well as we surrender to Christ and allow Him to complete His work in us. The beauty He creates will take all those broken, chipped, and scarred areas and blend them together into a beautiful whole that more nearly reflects the One in whom we trust, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I’m thankful that God doesn’t give up on us just because we are not perfect. I’m glad that He desires to draw us to Him, to smooth out all of our rough edges, to heal us and help us to become the man or woman He created us to be. And just as I look forward to seeing the mosaic that my daughter-in-law hopes to create from a collection of broken and chipped sand dollars, I look forward to one day being able to behold how God used all my chips, scars, and broken edges to create a mosaic that He can use to help others see the beauty and perfection of His dear Son.

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | September 10, 2014

No More!

No More!

 

 

A few days ago I was introduced to a precious little preschooler – not personally, but through Facebook. A friend of mine is a member of the child’s extended family and she went to Facebook to request prayer for this precious preschooler who had suffered a severe head trauma. Countless prayers were surely offered for this dear child as Facebook posts were shared with friends of friends earnestly pleading for people to pray. Yesterday, however, as I logged onto Facebook I received the sad news that the little girl had died.

 

I didn’t know this family, but, oh, how my heart hurts for them. While I can’t fully comprehend the devastating loss that they are experiencing, I do know from losses I have suffered that it hurts – it leaves a gaping hole that seems will never be filled. I’m also aware of the struggles that accompany such loss. We grapple with why it happened and with all the explanations that try to explain why it happened. Sometimes, we wrestle with God Himself as we can’t wrap our minds around why a God who can do anything didn’t miraculously intervene in our situation.

 

I’m reminded of the story of Martha and Mary in the Bible when their brother, Lazarus, died. Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus. However, when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He waited two more days before He left where He was to go to them. By the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had already died and had been in the tomb for four days. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him and exclaimed:  “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). A few moments later, Mary responded the same way: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32). Is that not the way we often feel? Where is God when bad things happen to us?

 

So how did Jesus respond to Martha and Mary? Notice first of all what Jesus did not do. He did not rebuke Martha and Mary for their apparent concern that He had not come when they called for him (see John 11:3-6). Neither did He offer any explanation regarding his delay or Lazarus’ death. Instead, He did the three following things.

 

  1. He reminded Martha that her brother would rise again (John 11:23).
  2. He assured Martha of who He was (John 11:25-26).
  3. He wept with Mary.

 

The way Jesus responded to Martha and Mary can help us when we struggle with our own losses. We can take our grief to Him. He is big enough to handle our hurt and anger, understanding enough to allow us to grieve, wise enough to lead us through it, yet caring enough to sorrow with us. There are three things that I can glean from Jesus’ encounter with Martha and Mary that I can hang onto when I suffer.

 

  1. No matter how difficult my battle, I can know that this is not the end. There is hope beyond this life. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
  2. Even when I don’t have all the answers and even when I don’t understand, I know my God. As I have walked with Him and experienced His love, mercy, grace, and faithfulness, I know that I can trust Him. I can surrender it to Him. “And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10).
  3. I can take comfort in knowing that just as Jesus wept with Mary, He grieves with me as well. “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?” (Psalm 56:8). The Psalmist reminds us that “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart” (Psalm 34:18a).

How thankful I am for a God who walks with me through my trials and troubles just as He did with Martha and Mary. Yet I admit, sometimes I grow weary. As I hear of the struggles, losses, and difficulties of so many in this world, I yearn for the day when God will make everything right. I long for the final culmination of the victory that Jesus has already won for you and me, a victory wrapped up in two little words – No More!  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). A day is coming, my friend, when there will be no more – no more death, no more sorrow, no more crying, no more pain! Imagine life without death, without sorrow, and without crying or pain. Imagine a world without war, without violence, without hunger or thirst, without cancer or disease, without any curse from sin! How I am looking forward to that day when we will no longer hear about and mourn the death of a sweet little child. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. How we pray for no more!

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | September 5, 2014

Seeing Through the Fog

Seeing Through the Fog

 

 

Recently, I’ve helped my niece by occasionally driving her to work in the mornings.  The route is familiar to me because I drove much of the same route daily before my retirement. While I definitely don’t miss rising early to head to work every morning, I admit that there is one thing that I do miss about that early morning drive – the incredible morning sky.

 

I was blessed during my working career to daily enjoy one of the most beautiful drives (I may be just a tiny bit prejudiced) in the whole world. Driving along the interstate highway surrounded by the Black Mountain and Blue Ridge Mountain ranges that circle the small valley where I lived and worked, I was often in awe of the majesty and beauty around me. I delighted in the changing canvas from spring and summer through fall and winter. I often prayed, sang praises (thankfully, no one else had to listen to my singing), and rejoiced in the amazing beauty that witnessed to the One who created it all – my Heavenly Father!

 

As much as I loved those layers of mountains, however, there was just something about the beauty of the changing sky. As I headed out most mornings this week, I was surrounded by a thick, blanket of fog. After dropping off my niece, however, and turning back toward home, I was treated to a dazzling display at the morning sun began to break through those stubborn low-lying clouds. Each curve in the road presented a different panorama – from sun so bright that I couldn’t even stare into the beauty (although I almost blinded myself trying) to a small circle of sunlight just visible behind the rising fog- and all against the backdrop of the mountains emerging from the fog. It was amazing! All I could do was worship.

As I thought of the brightness breaking through the thick fog, I was reminded of many Old Testament scriptures that speak of God’s radiant glory. I recalled when God gave the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai that  The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel” (Exodus 24:17). Later, after the people of Israel finished building the tabernacle, the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34-35).  This same glory, cloud of light, also filled Solomon’s temple when it was completed (see 1 Kings 8:10-11). Ezekiel, the prophet, had a vision of heaven and the throne of God. “ And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. 27 Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around.28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord(Ezekiel 1:26-28).

God’s glory is often associated with light, brightness, and fire. In essence, such light demands our attention. It is not something that we can easily ignore. God wants to reveal Himself to us. He wants to break through our fog and help us see Him – to really see Him for the awesome, amazing God He is – not because He needs our praise, but because we need Him and His power in our lives. We can behold His glory in various ways.

  • One way God reveals His glory is through Creation. The Bible tells us:

 

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.
Their line] has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun” (Psalm 19:1-4).

 

The vastness, as well as the intricate detail, of all that God made reveals a great and mighty, incomparable God who is filled with power and wisdom. All that He created testifies to His great glory.

 

 

  • God also reveals His glory through His Son, Jesus. The author of Hebrews states:

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1-3).

 

The greatest expression of God’s glory was found in His Son, Jesus. Jesus showed us the Father. Jesus, Himself, stated: “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (see John 14:9). Jesus revealed a merciful, gracious, and loving God. Through Jesus’ revelation of the Father, we come to know a holy, righteous, sinless, and forgiving God who is faithful to His promises.

 

  • God also reveals His glory through believers just like you and me.

Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.  Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples” (Psalm 96:1-3).

Paul told the Corinthians to do all that they did to the glory of God (see 1 Corinthians 10:31). In other words, as believers our foremost desire should be to reveal Him to others – wherever we go, whatever we do. We do that as we seek to honor Him in all that we do. Do we obey Him? Do we confess our sins and turn from them? Do we seek God and learn from Him? As we walk with Him and trust in Him, do we begin to look a little more like Him? Do others begin to see Christ in your life and mine? Do we tell others about His goodness, His faithfulness, His love, mercy, and grace? When we do these things, we are bringing glory to God as we reveal Him to those around us.

As I think about the glory of my Heavenly Father, I am both humbled and overjoyed that in His glory and greatness, He calls me to help show something of who He is to others. So many times I feel like that thick blanket of fog I witnessed on my early morning drives when I allow my daily activities, worries, and concerns to blanket me and consume my thoughts and attention. Yet I know this God of glory who is ever ready to let His light spring forth and dispel the thick fog around me. When I turn to Him, seek Him, and honestly seek to honor Him in all that I do, not only will His light shine forth in me, but He can reflect His glory through me to help others, too, witness His glory and know Him.

 

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

(2 Corinthians 3:18)

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | August 30, 2014

In His Presence

In His Presence

 

 

Recently, I was reading in 2 Chronicles about the completion of the temple during the reign of King Solomon. This was the temple that David had longed to build for God, but that God had declared to be built during the reign of his son, Solomon. David helped gather materials, made preparations for the temple, and charged his son to build the house for the Lord his God (see 1 Chronicles 22). After David’s death, Solomon became king and immediately followed through with David’s wishes and worked to complete the temple for God.

 

After all the work was done, Solomon arranged to move the ark of the covenant to the temple during the Feast of Tabernacles which was held to commemorate Israel’s time of wandering in the wilderness.  The following verses describe what happened after the priests brought the ark of the covenant into the inner sanctuary of the temple and the Levites stood near the altar and played instruments and sang.

 

 Indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying: ‘For He is good,
For His mercy endures forever,’
that the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, 14 so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God” (2 Chronicles 5:13-14).

 

The cloud represented God’s glory, His manifest presence with them. God had led the nation of Israel through the wilderness with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (see Exodus 13:21). Throughout their wilderness wanderings, God guided them by day and night. The cloud in the temple confirmed God’s continued presence with His people. It literally gives me chills to think of God’s presence being so real to the priests in the temple that they could not even continue to minister.

 

What a privilege to know God’s presence! There have been times when I have felt His presence to be so real. I can’t explain it. It’s just an overwhelming awareness of His love and mercy, His grace and faithfulness. There have also been other times when I’ve craved to know His presence and found myself wishing I could see a cloud like the Israelites and know without a doubt that He was with me. How can we truly know God’s presence in our lives today?

Before Jesus was crucified and left His disciples, He told them:  “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—  the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17). When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we receive the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. As Peter taught in Jerusalem after the Holy Spirit was manifest: Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38). Today, God’s Spirit, His very Presence, lives within all believers. God doesn’t need to guide us with a cloud or a pillar of fire. Instead, He’s right there within us to lead and guide us (John 16:13), help us (John 14:16-26), give discernment (1 John 4:1-6), give understanding (1 Corinthians 2:10-16), offer comfort (Acts 9:31), empower us (Micah 3:8), provide joy (Romans 14:17), bear fruit in us (Galatians 5:22-23), and to confirm our relationship to the Father (Romans 8:16-17). We are continually in the presence of God!

So why do we sometimes feel so far away from God? If His Spirit is abiding in us, why do we struggle sometimes to know He’s there? It’s not because of God, dear friend. It’s because of us. The following references warn the believer about grieving or quenching the Holy Spirit.

  1. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:30-32).

 

  1. “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies.Test all things; hold fast what is good.Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).

 

Grieve can be defined as “causing great distress.” Quench can refer to “extinguishing something that is very hot.” When we are feeling far from God, we’re probably do one or both of these two things. We may grieve the Spirit by being disobedient and doing things that God’s Word is clear to us that we should not do. We may quench the Spirit, put out His fire in our lives, by not doing those things He tells us to do.

 

God loves us and it grieves Him when we make choices that He knows are damaging to us and others. His Spirit within us will convict us and encourage us to turn away from our sin and seek God. As Peter preached: Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). When we fail to listen, repent, and turn from our sin, however, we grieve God’s heart.

 

Similarly, the Holy Spirit is a fire within us, desiring to accomplish God’s will in our lives. As Paul explained to the Corinthians: “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). However, when we refuse to work with the Spirit, we can extinguish His fire, His work in us. We may ignore His gentle nudgings. We may fail to seek God, doing things our own way. We may fail to read the Bible or pray, or to offer thanksgiving and praise. Little by little, these failures serve to quench God’s Spirit within us.

 

Our God is a loving, merciful God, but He is also a holy God. He has no fellowship with darkness. As Paul told the Corinthians:  And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people’” (2 Corinthians 6:15-16). Only as we yield to God’s Spirit within us can we know the fullness of His Presence with us.

Moses was one who enjoyed the blessing of God’s presence. He exclaimed at one point in his sojourn in the wilderness: “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here” (Exodus 33:15). That’s the attitude I want to have in my heart as I walk with God. I pray that I will not grieve Him or quench His Spirit within me, that I’ll seek Him with all my heart, and listen and repent when He convicts me of sin. Oh, how I pray, that I will more and more know the joy of His Presence in my life!

 

“You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

(Psalm 16:11)

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | August 21, 2014

When the World is Falling Apart

When the World is Falling Apart

 

 

A few days ago I was working on a devotion when I took a break to listen to the evening news. I sat in stunned silence as I listened to the reporter detail the savage execution of US journalist, James Foley. Hours later, I still couldn’t shake the horror of seeing Foley kneeling in the desert beside his executioner just moments before he was slain. I thought about this young man and his final moments, about what he may have endured since his disappearance in Syria almost two years ago, and about the ache and sorrow those in his family were surely experiencing. It was difficult to get back to work on my devotion which, oddly enough, was about finding joy – even in hard and difficult times.

 

Also, right here in our own nation, another “war” has erupted in Ferguson, Missouri after the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer. The shooting sparked protests, as well as looting, vandalism, and growing violence. The unrest led to the declaration of a state of emergency and imposed curfews by the Governor of Missouri. Presently, the National Guard has been activated to assist police in maintaining order. Once again, it was difficult to work on my devotion on joy as I thought about all the lives affected and reeling from events in Ferguson.

 

Can we really have joy when it seems that the world is falling apart? I scroll through Facebook and it seems that life goes on – new births, smiling brides and grooms, anniversaries, graduations, first day of school pics, and even ice bucket challenges – events that seem so far removed from executions in the Middle East and the rioting and violence in the Midwest. As I prepare for a family reunion this weekend, I almost feel guilty. But then I remembered the following advice and encouragement that Paul offered to the Roman believers: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

 

We live in a fallen world, a world that is broken and infected with sin and evil. Bad things happen. But the Bible tells us that God sent Jesus to save the world. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17). This hope that we have in Jesus is what brings joy to a believer – yes, even in the hard times. You see, when I think about all the bad things happening in our world as well as the many personal tragedies we hear about every day such as broken hearts and homes, illness, disease, and death; I can rejoice knowing that Jesus has already overcome and won the victory for all who trust in Him. One day Jesus will return and we will be through with this sin-sick, destructive old world. We will finally know that perfect world that God originally created for us. But for now, we wait, as Christ, in His great mercy, longs for all men to be saved. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,[b] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

 

In the meanwhile, we’re citizens of Heaven while living here on earth. Jesus warned His disciples before He was crucified that they would have trouble in this world.

 

“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.  They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them” (John 16:1-4).

 

But Jesus also reminded them that this fallen world was not the end.

 

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

 

Yes, my heart has been sad this week as these fresh images of a world falling apart join so many others we’ve witnessed in just the last few years – school shootings, gang violence, and countless other persecutions. But, yes, we can still have joy because of Jesus. I can rejoice in the One who came to save us and give us hope when it seems that there is no hope. May we all remember Paul’s instruction to the Romans and “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

 

“ But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?  Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

(2 Peter 3:10-13)

 

 

  

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | August 12, 2014

The Why and How of Forgiveness

The Why and How of Forgiveness

 

Have you ever struggled with being able to forgive someone who has hurt or wronged you? Perhaps it was something said or done deliberately to hurt or annoy you. At other times, the offending party may have been totally unaware that their words or actions caused you pain. Either way, have you ever forgiven someone for an offense just to have to deal with it again and again as you continue to recall the hurt? No matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to let go of it.

 

Through the years, I have to admit I’ve been there from time to time. But no matter how justified I felt to not forgive someone who had wronged me, I knew in my heart it wasn’t right. The Bible clearly teaches us to forgive. Paul taught the Ephesians: “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). He taught the Colossians: “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:13). The writer of Proverbs stated: He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates friends” (Proverbs 17:9). And even Jesus, Himself, proclaimed: And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25). We are taught to forgive regardless of how someone has trespassed against us.

 

Why? Why is it so important to forgive? I’m sure there are many Biblical scholars who could answer this question far better than I can, but this is what I’ve discovered as I’ve grappled with the issue of forgiving others.

 

  • Forgiveness affects my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I am saved by grace alone. My salvation does not depend on whether or not I choose to forgive someone who has wronged me, but Jesus commanded us to forgive others. When I fail to forgive others, I sin. When I fail to confess this sin to my Heavenly Father, my relationship with Him is broken. As we read in 1 John 1:9-10: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” Only as we agree with God about our sin and confess our sin to Him, can we be cleansed, forgiven, and restored.
  • Forgiveness affects my relationship with others. I’ve discovered that when I fail to forgive, I cannot love others as Jesus commands. Jesus taught: “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:35-36). My Father forgave me of all my sin – not because I deserved it, but because He loved me. He calls me to do the same. Just as Christ’s merciful, unconditional love makes a difference in our lives, our love can make a difference in the lives of others.
  • Forgiveness affects me. My ability to forgive others reflects where I place my trust. Do I trust in myself? When I keep records of wrongs and rights and how I can repay, I’m trusting myself to right all wrongs. On the other hand, when I can release all the wrongs others have committed against me to my Heavenly Father, I trust Him to work things out. And when we seek Him and follow Him, we can know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Releasing all my hurts to my Heavenly Father frees me to move forward instead of constantly living life in rewind. Instead of allowing the actions of others, over which I have no control, to occupy my mind and thoughts, forgiveness helps me to put these things behind me, let them go, and move on to the next step God has planned for me.

 

But how do we do it? How do we forgive when we really don’t feel like forgiving? How do we forgive when terrible wrongs have been perpetrated against ourselves or others? While it may not always be easy, forgiveness is really not an option for the believer. Perhaps the following can help when extending forgiveness is hard.

 

  • Recognize that it is God’s place to judge, not ours.

“ Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

 

  • Surrender the person and the situation to God.

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass” (Psalm 37:5).

 

  • Pray for the offender.

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

 

  • Trust God with the outcome.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

 

We are probably never more like Christ than when we can extend love and forgiveness to those who have hurt or wronged us. Likewise, when we commit to pray for someone who has hurt us, we may discover that our thoughts and attitudes change toward that person as Christ works in us to produce a love like His. What a difference forgiveness can make in all our lives – as we are forgiven and as we forgive!

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