Posted by: glorifyhim1 | March 22, 2017

She Did What She Could

Sometimes I feel that things I do for Jesus are so pitifully small – especially, considering all that He has done for me. I have just hit the send button for a writing assignment that I have been working on for the last 4-5 months. It never fails that when its finally completed, I feel a combination of relief (it’s done!), exhiliration (it’s done), but also sadness (it’s done). Part of me goes with all those documents when I hit that send key. Then, invariably, I’ll begin to wonder: Did I do a good job? Will the words I wrote, the ideas I shared, be able to help, encourage, plant a seed? Is Jesus happy with my work? Today, as He has before, Jesus reminded me of His defense of Mary in Mark 14:6-8 when He told those who berated her: “She has done what she could.” You see, Jesus was looking at Mary’s heart. He saw a heart overflowing with love for Him, a love that she wanted desperately to express. More than anything in this life, I want to please Jesus. I pray that the work I sent in today is pleasing to Him, but even more, I pray that my heart is pleasing to Him.

Following is a reprint of a blog I wrote in 2012 regarding Mary doing what she could. Perhaps it still speaks to your heart today as it does to mine.

Showing Love to God

Recently I was reading the Scripture passage in the book of Mark where Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, took a very costly flask of spikenard, broke it, and poured the oil on the head of Jesus ( Mark 14:3-9). She was immediately criticized by others who witnessed her action. “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” Jesus, however, quickly came to Mary’s defense. “But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good, but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come before hand to anoint My body for burial” (Mark 14:6-8). “She has done what she could.”

Jesus had previously come to Mary’s defense at another time. We read of this event in Luke 10:38-42. On this occasion Jesus was invited to the home of Mary and Martha. While Martha worked to prepare a meal, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet feasting on His every word. Finally, worn-out Martha complains to Jesus because Mary is not helping. “And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.’”

When reading both of these accounts, it is easy to join Martha and the others in criticizing Mary. After all, shouldn’t Mary join in and help Martha with all the work? And wouldn’t it be much better to sell the spikenard and use the money to help those in need than to pour it on Jesus’ head? But Jesus didn’t agree. Why? Because Jesus saw something that those present did not see. He saw Mary’s heart. He saw her hungering for His teaching, hanging on His every word. And He saw her loving Him with her whole heart as she poured the costly oil on His head. Perhaps she didn’t know what else to do to show Him her love – but she did what she could do.

As I thought about Mary and Jesus’ response to her actions, I thought about my own heart. Do I hunger for His Word and long to know Him better? Or do I allow the distractions of my daily activities to interfere with my time with Him? Am I eager to express my love for Him in whatever way I can? Or do I feel that what I have to offer is not good enough, or perhaps too good, or maybe it’s not like what everyone else is offering. What does Jesus see when He looks at my heart? Would He defend me for choosing the right thing and for doing what I can to show my love for Him?

Sometimes we forget that God is more concerned with our relationship with Him than with the things we do for Him. The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God. When Jesus was asked to name the first commandment, He summarized the first four commandments in His reply. “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment” (Mark 12:29-30).  When we love God in this way, like Mary, we’re going to worship, praise, and adore Him in ways that others sometimes may not understand. Likewise, such love will naturally overflow to touch others, just as Jesus continued in His reply. “And the second [commandment], like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31).

I know I love God with all my heart, but do I really love Him with all my mind and all my strength? I want to show God I love Him, but sometimes the things I do look so pitifully small and such a poor expression of my love for Him. And then I’m reminded of Jesus’ reply on behalf of Mary. “She has done what she could.” God sees my heart just as He saw the heart of Mary. He sees the love and the “want to” even if what I do may seem small or even if it is questioned by others.

Years ago I received a handmade clay mug that one of my kids made at school. Although it was misshapen and really quite pitiful, I treasured that mug because my child had made it. It’s packed away now with some other treasured keepsakes, but every time I see it, I’m reminded of my child and smile over the work and effort put into that mug. I love that mug because I love my child. In much the same way, I’m sure that Jesus looks at things I do for Him. Sometimes He may be saddened because He sees my heart is not wholly committed to Him. Other times He may rejoice to see His child accomplish some great thing from a heart overflowing with love for Him. At still other times, He may smile as He sees my poor, pitiful efforts but a heart full of love. It is then that I can almost hear Him say: “Let her alone. She has done what she could!”

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.

If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s

 commandments and abide in His love.”

(John 15:9-10)

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | March 2, 2017

When I Talk to God

When I Talk to God

Recently, my son called me from his car while my three-year-old grandson was riding in the backseat. He was using a hands-free receiver with the speaker on so Benji could talk to me, too. I am still smiling over the things that Benji had to intersperse into his Dad’s conversation.

“Hey GaGa. I got my stitches out.” (He had recently fell and cut his chin.)

“GaGa, I’m wearing my long socks.”

“My socks have a stripe on them.”

“I don’t have a dog anymore.” (He hasn’t had a dog for quite awhile.)

“I’m going to Target with my Dad.”

“I love you, GaGa.”

I love to talk with Benji even if I can’t always understand everything he has to say. And I love that he wants to talk to me and tell me what is going on in his world.

Later as I thought about the “important” things that Benji wanted to share with me, I realized that in his own, yet unintentional, way he had reminded me of how I should talk to God.

  • He talked about important things.
  • He talk about everyday things.
  • He talked about things he had on his mind.
  • He talked about what he was doing now.
  • He told me he loved me.

Benji talked about things that were on his mind and heart. Isn’t that the way we should talk to God?  Prayer is a conversation with our Heavenly Father, the One who made us, who saved us, who cares for us, who walks with us, who promises that He will never leave us or forsake us, and who loves us unconditionally!

Over the years I have learned that prayer is not just something that we mark off a daily checklist. It’s even more than those heartfelt words that tumble out when we face a great need. Prayer is an open line to our Heavenly Father. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and we can immediately ask our Father for forgiveness. We experience wonder or joy and lift our voices in praise and thanksgiving. Our hearts break over lost loved ones or deep needs of others and we can take those concerns straight to our Almighty God. When we are troubled, angry, weak, afraid, or lack understanding, God is always there and ready to hear our cry. Just as God told the prophet Jeremiah: “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).

At the same time, I also know that oftentimes I just cannot put into words what is on my heart. I have trouble praying publicly or leading others in prayer for this very reason. Yet as I come to God, I can have confidence that He can “hear” my heart. James 4:8a tells us: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Paul told the Romans: “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26). The Spirit Himself will intercede for me when the words just won’t come.

Prayer is one of a believer’s greatest privileges. I want to talk to God just like my little grandson talks to me – eagerly, joyfully, openly, uninhibited, honestly, sharing everything on my heart and mind. I believe that this is the kind of prayer that would be pleasing to God. And as I talk to Him, may I always remember to say, “I love you, Father!” I hope that makes Him smile.

 

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | February 24, 2017

A Crazy Kind of Love

A Crazy Kind of Love

Many, many years ago I heard a statement that has remained with me through the years. “Every child needs someone who is just crazy about him.” This statement was made by Sybil Waldrop, author, mentor, and friend. She actually included the statement in her book Understanding Today’s Preschoolers which was published in 1982. Although those words were written over 35 years ago, the statement is just as true today as ever. I’ve thought about that statement through the years as I’ve cared for my own kids and other kids that I’ve had the privilege to spend time with. Unfortunately, I’ve also thought about that statement when I’ve heard about children who honestly didn’t know what it meant to be loved at all, much less to have someone absolutely crazy about them.

What does it mean to be crazy about someone?

  • You are head over heels, wild about that person.
  • You would do anything within your power for that individual.
  • You are devoted to that person, seeking the best for him or her.
  • You love that individual unconditionally.

Why does being crazy about someone make a difference in that person’s life?

  • It tells that person that they mean something to somebody. They matter!
  • It helps that individual know that they are not alone. They can always turn to you for help.
  • It helps that person learn to trust – even when they don’t understand sometimes.
  • It assures that individual that no matter what, you’ll be there for him or her.

Every child who has someone in their life who is absolutely crazy about them, learns that they are valued, cared for, and loved. But then it occurred to me. All of us have someone who is crazy about us. Isn’t this what we have in God Himself?

  • We mean something to God. He loved us so much that He gave His only Son to save us.

“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” (John 3:16).

  • We do not face life alone. God promises to be with us.

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

  • We can trust God, knowing that He loves us and wants the best for us – even when we do not understand.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

  • We are loved unconditionally.

“Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you”
(Isaiah 54:10).

God has revealed that He is head over heels crazy for you and me – not because we deserve it, but because of who He is and because of His unfailing, gracious, merciful love! And just as a child can grow and blossom as they bask in the love of someone who is crazy about him, you and I can do the same as we exult in God’s ever-present love. How thankful I am for this crazy kind of love.

“The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

(Zephaniah 3:17)

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | February 16, 2017

Bowing to Baal

Bowing to Baal

Recently, I was reading in 1 Kings about the prophet Elijah who challenged the prophets of Baal, the Canaanite god who was responsible for rain, thunder, lightning, and dew. The story, recounted in 1 Kings 18-19, tells how during a time of severe famine God told Elijah to present himself to King Ahab and tell him that God would send rain on the earth. When Ahab saw Elijah he asked: “Is that you O troubler of Israel?” (v.17) Elijah replied: “I have not troubled Israel, but your and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed the Baals” (v.18). Then Elijah proceeded to present a challenge. He asked for all Israel, the 450 prophets of Baal, and 400 prophets of Asherah (a fertility goddess linked to Baal) to gather on Mount Carmel.

Elijah presented the challenge. Each would prepare a bull to sacrifice, lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it. Then the prophets of Baal would call on the name of their gods, and Elijah would call on the name of the Lord. The God who answered with fire would be God!

The contest began with the prophets of Baal calling on their god from morning till noon. They prophesied until the time of the evening sacrifice, “but there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention” (v. 29).

Then Elijah constructed his altar in the name of the Lord. He made a trench around the altar, placed the wood in order, and laid the bull on the wood. Next, he instructed three times for four waterpots of water to be poured on the sacrifice and on the wood. The water ran all around the altar and filled the trench. Then Elijah called on the name of the Lord. “Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench” (v.38).

The one true God had answered!

But the story doesn’t stop there. King Ahab reported what Elijah had done to his wife, Jezebel, who worshiped Baal. Instead of exulting in his victory, Elijah finds himself fleeing for his life as Jezebel pronounces a death sentence on Elijah. Elijah fled to the wilderness, prayed for the Lord to take his life. An angel of the Lord ministered to Elijah twice, giving him food and water. Twice the Lord spoke to Elijah and asked: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Both times Elijah’s answer was the same. “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life” (vs.10, 14).

I have read this story many, many times, told it to kindergartners, and thought about how elated Elijah must have felt when he was able to tell Ahab: “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain” (v. 41). I’ve also wondered how he must have felt, after such a victory, to be running for his life. But somehow I had missed something God told Elijah as He gave him further instruction. “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him” (v.18).

Elijah thought that he was all alone, that he was the only one left who had not forsaken the Lord God. Yet God told Elijah that there were seven thousand who had not bowed down to Baal. There were still many people who had not turned away from God, who were still faithful to Him.

When I look at our nation and world today, I cannot help but wonder how many of us have bowed to Baal or some other god. How many of us have forsaken the one true God for wealth, influence, power, or to be part of the majority? But I also cannot help but wonder how many of us have not bowed down. How many of us just keep on keeping on, and try to follow God faithfully? Our lives may not be outstanding or spectacular, and we may not seem like a factor to be reckoned with, but we belong to the one true God. We are His. Our knees haven’t bowed.

If you are one who hasn’t bowed, be encouraged. God didn’t forsake Elijah when he felt beaten down and just wanted to die. He sought him. He found him. He nurtured him. He revealed His way to Elijah.

If you are one who has bowed, be lifted up. The one true God loves you. He died to save you. He is ever merciful and gracious and will forgive and restore you.

And to each of us who claim to be Christian, be determined. Be determined to live faithfully so that others see Christ instead of our own biases, thoughts, and opinions. Jesus Himself taught us to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, to do good to those who hate us, and to pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us (Matthew 5:44).

I may not be an Elijah, but oh how I want to be like one of the seven thousand that God had reserved in Israel. I pray that I will not bow down to all the false gods in our world today, but that I, in my own simple and non-spectacular way, will seek the Lord God with all my heart and walk faithfully with Him all the days of my life!

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | January 31, 2017

But It Really IS About Me!

But It Really IS About Me!

Most of us have probably heard, or even told someone, “It’s not about you!” Both secular and Christian books have been written on the subject that life is not all about you and me. Even Jesus Himself told His disciples: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).

In all honesty, I understand that as a follower of Jesus I am called to deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus. Yet as I read about Jesus in the Bible, and as I think about all that He has done for me, I am overwhelmed that to Jesus it really is about you and me. Jesus came to rescue us, to save us from our sins and to restore our relationship with the Heavenly Father. Jesus Himself stated: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke19:10).

Jesus came to earth for me. He died on the cross for me. He paid the sacrifice for my sins. Through His death and resurrection, He secured victory over sin and death – for me! Jesus paid the price and made the way for all who will repent of their sin, and place their faith and trust in Him.   Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Because of Jesus, I can ….

  • be forgiven of my sins
  • know the Father and have fellowship with Him
  • have abundant life with purpose and meaning
  • know that I am never alone as His Spirit guides and helps me
  • look to the future with hope because He has already secured the victory and is preparing a place for me to live with Him forever

But what about me? What do I do in response to such love, to the mercy and grace He lavishes on me? This is when it really is all about me. What do I do with what I have been given? It basically comes down to two questions.

  • Am I faithful to Him? As the prophet Samuel instructed the nation of Israel: “Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you” (1 Samuel 12:24).
  • Am I obedient to Him? Jesus told His followers to abide in Him: “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:9-10).

Jesus calls each of His followers to serve Him in different ways. Am I being faithful and obedient? Jesus gave His life for you and me. How I respond is up to me. I pray that I will be more faithful and obedient to the One who loves me so – for it really is all about Him. He is my life!

 “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord”                          (1 Corinthians 15:58).

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | January 11, 2017

Another New Year

Another New Year

January – the first month of a brand new year – a time to begin again! Perhaps you img_3619have placed a new calendar on the wall, made one or more resolutions, or decided on one word to focus on throughout the year. For me, however, this new year seems to have taken off before I was ready. Just entering the second week of the new year, I have already attended two funerals and am facing another one the end of this week. I am already circling dates on the calendar for new, unplanned commitments. If I were to choose one word or phrase to guide my focus this year, perhaps it should be “survive” or “hang in there!”

But then I read the following verse: “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5). God had called Jeremiah to prophesy judgment on the people of Judah because of their idolatry, disobedience, and unfaithfulness to the covenant. There was much opposition to Jeremiah’s message and even his life was threatened (see Jeremiah 11). Jeremiah questioned God: “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously?” (Jeremiah 12:1b). He then pleaded with God: “But You, O Lord, know me; You have seen me, and You have tested my heart toward You. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter” (Jeremiah 12:3).

God’s reply to Jeremiah was in the form of two questions.

  1. If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses?
  2. And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?

In these questions, God explained that the obstacles Jeremiah faced at home were actually small compared to what He could expect when he faced the kings of Judah and Babylon (the horses). Likewise, the opposition Jeremiah faced at home (land of peace), was minor compared to the turmoil he would face in the floodplain of the Jordan. It’s as if God were asking: “If you are weary now, what will you do then?”

 

No matter how hard I try to put my best foot forward, life happens and I grow weary. How will I respond when things do not go as planned, when difficulties come? What will I do when I’m misunderstood, when I face opposition? In spite of the turmoil Jeremiah faced, he did two things.

  1. He turned to God, even when he didn’t understand His ways.
  2. He remained faithful to God in spite of the opposition and turmoil he faced.

That is what I want to do, too. I want to be faithful to God and His Word. Like Jeremiah, I know that God knows me and sees me. I may not always understand but I know Him. And I also know, through my own experience, that nothing can ever separate me from Him. “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-29). He knows me. He sees me. He loves me. I pray this year that I will grow more and more faithful to Him.

 

 

 

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | December 14, 2016

Christmas Tells of Jesus

Christmas Tells of Jesus

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth”

(John 1:14).img_1400

I love the treasured carols and hymns that we hear and sing during the Christmas season. But without fail, there is one simple little song entitled “Christmas Tells of Jesus” that always comes to my mind and heart every year. The words of this children’s song are few and simple. You can listen to it here.

This little song was included in the Sunday School curriculum for 4s and 5s many, many years ago. I loved that little song. The kids loved it as well. They could remember the words and it was easy to sing. I guess I sang that song with every subsequent group I taught and still today, I find myself humming that little tune at Christmas time. I wonder how many of the fours and fives, now older and perhaps with children of their own, still remember those simple words. I surely hope they do.

Christmas can mean lots of different things to all of us, but the one thing that makes all the other things mean anything at all is the simple truth that Jesus was born. We can have beautifully decorated homes, Christmas trees laden with gifts, and even fun celebrations with family and friends, but if Jesus had not been born, there would not be much to celebrate.

Why does Jesus’ birth make all the difference? As John tells us in John 1:14, the Word became flesh. This is the same Word that was in the very beginning. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and Word was God” (John 1:1). This is the same Word that created the world and who also revealed God to man. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:3-4). Jesus is this Word, the Son of God, who came to dwell among us.

But why did Jesus come?

  • He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).
  • He came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
  • He came to give us life – abundant life (John 10:10).
  • He came to do the will of the Father (John 6:38-40).
  • He came to show us the Father (John 14:9).
  • He came to proclaim the kingdom of God (Luke 4:43).

Because Jesus came, I, too, can know the love of the Father and have fellowship with Him. I can know the joy of sins forgiven through Jesus. And I can also know the wonder of the Spirit dwelling within me, leading, guiding, and helping me. When I accept Jesus Christ as my Savior, I can have all of these things, but there is a question I must still ask myself. Is my life different because Jesus came? Can others see God’s love, Christ’s sacrifice, and the Spirit’s work in my life?

Do I love the Lord with all my heart, all my soul, and all my mind?

Do I love my neighbor as myself?

Do I love my enemies, those who disagree with me, and those whom I cannot understand? Do I pray for them?

Do I forgive others even when it is difficult to do so?

Do I judge others or do I spread their needs before the Father, too?

Do I follow the teachings of Christ or am I swayed by public opinion?

Do I seek to do the Father’s will, or is it easier to just do what I think is right?

Jesus taught and demonstrated love for others whether friends or enemies, outcasts or sinners. He offered forgiveness, but He walked in truth. He didn’t agree with sin, but sought to help and restore individuals trapped in sin. He extended grace and mercy to all.

Christmas tells us of this Jesus. This Christmas, may each of us who look to Him as our Savior, not only rejoice in His birth, but also show both Him and the world that oh, we love Him so!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | November 29, 2016

A Christmas Promise

A Christmas Promise

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14)

As far back as I can remember, I have always loved Christmas. I love the decorating, all the extra cooking and baking, and even searching for that just right gift for every person on my Christmas list. Even as I get older, I’m discovering that my love for Christmas, instead of diminishing, just continues to grow.

This year as I began to pull out all the decorations to get everything ready to decorate, I heard the tragic news of devastating wildfires in one of my favorite places in the world – the Great Smoky Mountains. Things quickly accelerated and within a matter of hours, the extremely dry conditions and strong winds had whipped the fire into a raging inferno that quickly descended into the nearby towns of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Wears Valley, Jones Cove, and much of Sevier County. At the time I’m writing this, numerous structures, including both businesses and homes, have been completely destroyed by fire.

This is especially poignant to me. This area is only about 1-1/2 hours away from where I live and even as a child, my family enjoyed trips to the Smokies. My husband and I stopped in Gatlinburg on our first night as husband and wife, as we made our way to the Shenandoah for our honeymoon. We have enjoyed weekend getaways to this area with our own kids, many of which were during the Christmas season.img_1394

Long story short – my heart hurts. But as I continued to work, my eyes fell on a new Christmas tree ornament that my daughter, Karla, gave to me just this past weekend. Inscribed on a small block of wood were the words “God With Us!” Immediately, I was reminded of the prophecy of Isaiah:“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Immanuel – God with us! This is the promise of Christmas!

So many things in our lives are uncertain. No one could have foreseen the raging fire and untold devastation even a day before the fires raged out of control. The same is true in your life and mine. Our futures are unknown. But Christmas reminds us that whatever comes, God is with us. Jesus, God in the flesh, told His disciples: “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). Jesus also explained to them that when He left them and returned to the Father, that He would send the Holy Spirit to be with them (see John 16:5-15). Today, when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us (Romans 8:11). Scriptures help us know that the Spirit helps us (see John 14:16-26), guides us (see John 16:13), gives us discernment (see 1 John 4:1-6), bears fruit in our lives (see Galatians 5:22-23), comforts us (see Acts 9:31), and helps reveal the things of God to us (see 1 Corinthians 2:10, 13). We, too, can know the joy that God is with us. Perhaps, this Christmas promise is what makes my love for Christmas just continue to grow year by year. Each year holds countless reminders of a God who is not aloof and unreachable, but a God who is with us every day, in good times, in bad times, at all times!

As I get ready for Christmas, I realize that not everyone’s season is bright and joyful. There are those in the middle of all kinds of hardships. There are those who may be reeling from uncertain medical diagnoses, others who may be trying to rebuild lives after losing everything to floods, fires, or other calamities. And still others who are just discouraged, misunderstood, or in a season of loss or struggle. I’ve been there at certain Christmases, too. Yet, every Christmas, in whatever situation we find ourselves, we can rejoice in the unchangeable Christmas promise – the absolute wonder of a God who loves us, who came to save us, and who is with us always!

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

(Matthew 1:23)

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | November 16, 2016

A Matter of the Heart

A Matter of the Heart

I don’t know about you, but I am tired, so very tired. I’m tired of so much evil and hate in this world. I’m tired of the killings, assaults, rapes, robberies, and other violent crimes that we hear of daily. I’m tired of the inhumanity of man toward man, the total disregard for one’s life or property, much less their needs, worries, and struggles. And at the end of this political season, where there seems to be no end to the finger-pointing, name-calling, and continual bashing of those with whom we disagree, I am not only tired, I am pretty much worn out and wasted. Sometimes, after hearing of some unthinkable evil, I breathe to myself: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). I just want to go home!

But then, I’m reminded of 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  God waits. God loves. God does not want anyone to perish. He wants all to come to Him.

The problems in our world today are heart problems. Jesus Himself told His disciples: “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:18-19). The evil we see in our world today comes from hearts that do not know the Lord.

Unfortunately, however, those of us who know the Lord can have heart problems, too. Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah when he confronted the scribes and Pharisees: “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8-9). Are those of us who profess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, honestly seeking, worshiping, and honoring Him with our hearts? Are we seeking His will, obeying His Word, or are we picking and choosing those things that support what we think? Are we using His Word, sometimes out of context, to promote our own agendas or to justify our positions? Or, even worse, have we left the truths contained in Scripture and are instead promoting false doctrines? The Bible warns us: “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts” (Proverbs 21:2).

What does God see when He looks at my heart? Does He see a heart that is truly His? James tells us: Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8). Paul gave Timothy some advice that can help us in our world today. In 2 Timothy 2:22-26, he told Timothy to –

  • Flee youthful lusts,
  • Pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart,
  • Avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife,
  • Do not quarrel,
  • Be gentle to all, able to teach, patient,
  • Correct those who are in opposition, with humility, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

Here again, we see God’s desire that those who do not know Him might be won over through the actions, attitudes, and love of those whose hearts are truly His.

Next week we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. Each year I like to reflect on all those things for which I am thankful. Inevitably, they always come down to the incredible riches I have because God loved me and sent His Son to save me. And God wants that for every person He created. He offers it to everyone, but each person has to make that choice. For those of us who have received that gift, let us not grow weary. Let us allow the love of God to compel us to live courageously and joyfully, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). May we, too, endure the struggle, knowing that while our ultimate victory has already been won through Christ, we still have work to do so that the hearts of others may turn to Him. It really is a matter of the heart!

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | November 9, 2016

When God Calls Us

When God Calls Us

Recently, I read the following verses from the book of Amos.

“I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel” (Amos 7:14-15).

I love these verses! The Message, in today’s vernacular, translates these two verses: “But Amos stood up to Amaziah: “I never set up to be a preacher, never had plans to be a preacher. I raised cattle and I pruned trees. Then God took me off the farm and said, ‘Go preach to my people Israel.’”

Amos was a simple man with a simple life. He raised sheep and cared for sycamore fruit. The Thomas Nelson Study Bible explains that the sycamore tree bears large numbers of small figs. In order for the fruit to ripen correctly, a small hole had to be poked in the bottom of each fruit’s skin. This was a slow, pain-staking process that required a laborer to pierce the bottom of each fruit as it hung on the tree. Sheepherders would often pierce fruit for landowners in exchange for grazing rights for their sheep. This was Amos’ life, tending his sheep and caring for the sycamore fruit.

Amos may have been a simple man living a simple life, but God had something special He wanted Amos to do. Amos may not have intended to “be a preacher,” but God said: “Go preach to my people Israel.” He sent Amos to prophesy coming judgment on Israel and to call them to repent and reform. Through Amos’ prophecies, He warned the leaders that if they refused to do so, their injustices against the poor and the weak would destroy the nation. Amos obeyed – even when facing opposition. And his defense was simple. God told me to do it. I’m doing it.

As I think about Amos, I’m reminded that God doesn’t just call the rich, famous, or even the most talented or gifted to do important things for Him. As the Lord told Samuel when looking upon Jesse’s sons to anoint one as king: “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). Yet when God does call us to some important task, what do we do? I have to stop and ask myself that question. Maybe you need to ask that question, too. You see, I know how I have sometimes responded.

  • I’ve questioned God. Do you mean me? You want me to do that?
  • I’ve postponed obedience. If I had been in Amos’ shoes, I might have said: “But God, I need to finish piercing this fruit first so my sheep can graze. I’ll go after I finish my work.
  • I’ve made excuses. I’m not gifted in that way. I’ve never done anything like that before.
  • I’ve offered substitutions. I can’t do that, but I’ll do this.
  • I’ve listened to others instead of God. What others think I should do is not always what God wants me to do.

When God called Amos to prophesy, he simply did what God told him to do.

One thing that I dearly love about Amos’ reply to Amaziah is his refusal to try to explain, justify, or defend who he was or what he said. It’s as if he said: “I am who I am, I do what I do, and this is what God said.” When God truly calls and takes hold of us, who we are or what we do doesn’t really matter. It’s all about God and whatever task He is calling us to do. He will prepare. He will equip. He will accomplish His purpose in us and through us. We just have to say yes.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you” (John 15:16).

Older Posts »

Categories