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I began my time with the Lord this morning, by looking at verses on Freedom. After all, it is July 4th, America’s Independence Day. However, my focus quickly shifted when I came across this verse.

In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and He answered by setting me free. (Psalm 118:5)

Most days I awaken to pain somewhere in my body. Tendonitis in my right heel. Plantar Fasciitis in my foot. Pain in my knees, hips, or back. But today, I awoke with pain all over. Even my knuckles are swollen, and the joints of my fingers hurt as I attempt to type these words. So, this verse took on fresh meaning for me today.

The Hebrew word for anguish is mēṣar and it means something tight, i.e. (figurative) trouble; distress, pain, strait, anguish. It depicts the anxieties and hope of a person in the throes of death or a serious illness (Psalm 116:3) and from threatening enemies (Psalm 118:5). It describes the tension, hopelessness, and oppression of Israel in exile in Babylon (Lamentations 1:3).

Most versions of the Bible translate mēṣar as “distress …” I immediately thought of distressed wood and the process people go through to make new wood look aged and distressed. They use a large variety of hard objects to obtain a look of distressed wood: chains, hammers, nails, screws, wire brushes, sand-paper, gravel, chisels, etc. They basically beat up the wood.

If you deal with pain or illness, chances are you feel like someone has physically beat you up. For some, it is a result of abuse to our bodies over the years that has gotten us to this point. For others, it is a sudden onset of illness or pain through no fault of your own. No matter the reason for our distress, God is our only answer. Yes, medications may help to ease the pain for a moment, but only Jehovah Rapha—the LORD who heals—can truly free us from the anguish we endure. However, He doesn’t always choose to bring healing to our earthly body.

Then, the question becomes: How do I respond when God doesn’t choose to heal me?

  1. I can become angry and bitter over my circumstances.
  2. Or, I can be like Job and make the choice to praise God even in the midst of my distress. (Job 1:21)

God reminded me this morning that He is not the author of pain. Had Adam and Eve never sinned, pain and distress would never have entered this world. I must focus on my true enemy in all this. It is not God; it is satan—the devil, the father of lies, our adversary. He wants to use my suffering to turn me from the LORD. He wants me to be angry and bitter and useless to the kingdom of God. If I choose number 1, he wins; I lose.

So, for today, I will choose number 2. I will praise the Lord in the midst of my distress. I will continue to pray that one day He will set me free, but even if He doesn’t, I will still cling to Him and live for the moment that this body will be eternally freed from all pain and suffering.

Psalm 119:32 tells me …

I run in the paths of Your commands, for You have set my heart free. (NIV)

I pursue the way of Your commands, for You broaden my understanding. (HCSB)

God wants to use my pain to broaden my understanding of who He is. Through this pain, He reminds me to trust Him, rely on Him, and fix my eyes on Him as He grows my faith in Him. He encourages me by Hebrews 12:2

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 is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus is at God’s right hand interceding for me, and nothing can separate me from His love for me. NOTHING! Not tribulation, or DISTRESS, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword. In all these things I am more than a conqueror through HIM who loves me.

Romans 8:31-39 (ESV)

31  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
32  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
33  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
34  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
35  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
36  As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
38  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
39  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Today, even in the midst of my pain, I will choose FREEDOM because I choose JESUS!

 

 

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Years ago, I lost my Dad. I often find myself focusing on how blessed I was to be his daughter. Someone told me once, “You know, you’re his favorite.” I have to admit, my heart swelled a little at those words, even though I knew it wasn’t true. You see, Daddy had the ability to treat each one of his three children as his favorite. I’d see him working alongside my sister, who helped care for his ailing mother, and I’d think, “Ah! She’s his favorite.” When he and my brother would pack up and leave the house for a hunting trip, I knew, “He’s his favorite.” Some days, he’d look at me with a grin and I’d believe, “I’m his favorite.” What a tremendous quality to possess.

This attribute didn’t just happen; Dad learned it from God.

Even now my heart swells as I realize, “Lord, I’m your favorite!” So are the billions of other people out there. I imagine God, seated on His throne, pointing to His children. “Jesus, look at that one. She loves me so much. She’s my favorite.” Maybe He aims His finger at a man. “Did you see what he did? He’s my favorite.” Perhaps, He looks at a newborn child and with tears in His eyes says, “Oh, Jesus, isn’t that baby beautiful? She’s my favorite.”

The online dictionary defines favorite as “a person treated with special or undue favor by a king.” You and I are people treated with undue favor by The King of the Universe. We don’t deserve it. We never will. Still, He favors us anyway.

Is it possible? Can each one of us be His favorite?

The Bible calls us the apple of His eye. His treasured possession. A lily among thorns. Yes, I believe each of us is His favorite. I can almost picture Jesus hanging on that cross 2000 years ago, searching the future for your face and mine and saying, “This blood is for you, because you are My favorite.”

The Lord reinforced this message as I read John 11. A man named Lazarus was sick, so the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one You love is sick.” The ONE you love. They knew a secret that many people have yet to learn. Lazarus was Jesus’ favorite. So were Mary and Martha, each one of His disciples, and every person who has ever lived or will live.

God blessed me with an earthly father who made me feel like his favorite. Maybe you weren’t. You may have been neglected, abused, or unloved. Whatever the case, you can be assured that there is a Heavenly Father and He is speaking to your heart today, “Child, you are my favorite.” Can you hear Him? Will you accept His love today?

As for me, I know my dad wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ll always be grateful that he loved me with a Godly love and treated me as if I really was his favorite.</a>

Blown Away

When’s the last time you were blown away by God?

Though I start every morning spending time with Him in my quiet place, lately I have felt distant and cold. Even as I studied His Word day after day, my heart chilled to His voice. I knew He was there, but I just wasn’t feeling Him. If you’ve been a Christian for a while, I expect you can relate.

This morning I began by confessing my coolness to His presence, and I asked the Lord to consume my mind and take every thought captive to Him. Wow! Did He ever show up as He impressed on my mind the need to look up Bible verses that spoke of “seeking” Him.

In Deuteronomy 4:29, Moses gave the Israelites some final instructions just before they crossed the Jordan River to claim the Promised Land. He warned them against creating idols and worshiping false gods; however, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Moses promised the following …

But from there, you will search for the LORD your God, and you will find Him when you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul. Deuteronomy 4:29  

Moses told the people that even in the midst of their sin, if they would seek the LORD with all their heart and all their soul, they would find Him.

In 1 Chronicles, David said the following to his son …

 “As for you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands the intention of every thought. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.” 1 Chronicles 28:9  

Of course, if you are familiar with Solomon’s story, you know that he did not give God his “whole” heart. He chose to sin against God by amassing wealth and horses and 700 wives and 300 concubines, foreign women who became a snare to him and led him to worship other Gods.

Other passages I read this morning were …

and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14  

I sought the LORD, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed.” Psalm 34:4-5  

Happy are those who keep His decrees and seek Him with all their heart. They do nothing wrong; they follow His ways.” Psalm 119:2-3  

I love those who love me, and those who search for me find me.” Proverbs 8:17  

Seek the LORD while He may be found; call to Him while He is near.” Isaiah 55:6  

For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the LORD’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.  I will be found by you”—this is the LORD’s declaration—“and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and places where I banished you”—this is the LORD’s declaration. “I will restore you to the place I deported you from.” Jeremiah 29:11-14  

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” Matthew 6:33  

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8  

This next scripture is the one where God decided to “blow me away” today.

Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6  

He rewards those who seek Him!

What is that reward? HIM! It is the indwelling presence of the Triune God (The Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit) alive in me. My Life Application Bible contained this note: “Those who seek God are rewarded with His intimate presence.” People, it does not get any better than that.

But, my God did not stop there this morning. No! He preceded to give me A Sudden Glory[1] to reinforce everything I had discovered about Him today.

I closed my journal and reached for my “Whispers of Hope” devotional book written by Beth Moore. As I opened it, I whispered a quick prayer. Lord, show me Your glory!

I flipped to Day Thirty-Five, where I’d left off last week, and there He was in black and white, showing up and showing off as only my God can do.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb 11:6)

Now you may be a big believer in coincidence, but this was not accidental. If there is one thing I’ve learned about God in my 50+ years of serving Him, it is that there are no coincidences when it comes to my Abba Father. He knows exactly what I need, and He provides it. He is involved in every microscopic detail of my life. There is nothing He won’t do for me, no need He won’t meet, no void He won’t fill, if I will but seek Him with all my heart.

Beth Moore wrote in Whispers of Hope, “Your greatest reality in your greatest difficulty is an invisible, all-powerful God. Learn to look at your faith walks from His point of view: He is directing or allowing circumstances for the sheer purpose of rewarding you.”

And what better reward is there than HIS presence!

Seek Him today while He may be found.

 

All quoted scriptures are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

[1] http://sharonjaynes.com/product/a-sudden-glory/

 

My Locust Years

I just realized that it has been 5 years since my last post on this blog. Where did the time go? What have I done for my Lord and Savior during that time?

My first reaction of this realization is shame. How can I call myself a writer when I have written very little during the past 5 years?

Then God reminded me of the following …

In September 2011, my mom had Guillian Barre, and I became her full-time caregiver. Over the next year and a half, she learned to walk again, but fell and broke a hip and fractured a vertebra in her back. In 2014, my mother-in-law’s house was destroyed by a tornado and we had a full-time guest in the early stages of dementia. Though she was eventually able to return home, our life was never the same again. Last August, while she was once again living with us, God blessed me and my husband by allowing us to care for her in her final days and to be with her as she peacefully entered God’s presence. Meanwhile, my mother shows symptoms of dementia. For now, she continues to live at her house, but my sister and I are often overwhelmed with the demands of meeting all her needs.

He whispered to my heart this morning, “While you may not have written much during this period, you were serving a much greater purpose. You have honored your mother and mother-in-law. That has been my call on your life.”

Then He reminded me of this passage in Joel 2:25-27:

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
    the great locust and the young locust,
    the other locusts and the locust swarm—
my great army that I sent among you.
 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
    and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
    who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.
Then you will know that I am in Israel,
    that I am the Lord your God,
    and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.”

In one instant, the Lord my God took away my shame and humbled me with the knowledge that He is not finished with me yet. I believe 2017 is going to be a productive year as a writer, but should another disaster come my way, I will be obedient to His call on my life at that moment. And when my enemy appears in the form of a locust, I will quote this verse to him and send him on his way.

May God bless you and your family in 2017 with a productive year serving Him in whatever way He chooses to use you.

FREEDOM

Freedom! It’s costly, painful, and often deadly.

American history books are filled with page after page of statistics recounting the high cost of war.

  • In the Revolutionary War, it is estimated that 25,324 lives were given for America to be free.
  • During the Civil War, 562,130 American lives were lost.
  • World War I records that over 116,000 died.
  • In World War II, more than 408,000 soldiers sacrificed their lives for freedom.
  • As I write this in 2004, we have lost more than 500 men and women in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
  • The total number of American lives lost in all wars, conflicts, and terrorist attacks far exceeds 1.2 million souls.

The price of freedom is never cheap.

Compare that to the cost of freedom for the Christian. Only one sacrifice was required. Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice, gave His life so we might be free from Satan and his demons.

So, why do so many Christians continue to live in bondage? Once Christ redeems us, Satan can’t do anything about our salvation, but he will do everything, within his limited power, to shackle us to a life of sin and defeat. Don’t expect to awaken one day to find that Satan has decided to leave you alone. He won’t give you up without a fight.

However, there is good news. While freedom may not come easy, it can be achieved. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has already won. With His death, burial, and resurrection, He defeated Satan once and forevermore. You do not have to fear; you do not have to doubt. The victory is HIS.

Moses once gave the Israelites explicit directions on how to approach war. Prior to the battle, the priests were to go before the people and give them this instruction: “Hear, O Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” (Deuteronomy 20:3-4)

The LORD your GOD is the one who fights for you and HE will give you victory.

Charles Spurgeon wrote,

Are you fighting with the adversary today? Are Satan, the world, and the flesh, all against you? Be not discouraged nor dismayed. Fight on! For God Himself is with you; Jehovah Nissi is your banner, and Jehovah Raphi is the healer of your wounds. Fear not, you shall overcome, for who can defeat Omnipotence? Fight on, ‘looking unto Jesus’; and though long and stern be the conflict, sweet will be the victory, and glorious the promised reward.
‘From strength to strength go on;
Wrestle, and fight, and pray,
Tread all the powers of darkness down,
And win the well-fought day.’ ”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Child of God, it’s time to FIGHT ON!


“… if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

My Bible contains the following note: “The Holy Spirit gives us a new life, and we are not the same anymore. We are not reformed, rehabilitated, or reeducated–we are re-created.”

RE-created.

I like the sound of that, but that begs the question,

“How can we be RE-created?

The first step to being NEW or RECREATED is salvation. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3-6 that he must be born again. The New Revised Standard Version reads, “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above [or born anew].” Without Christ, without being born from above, it is impossible to be made new.

Second, we must put off the old and put on the new.

Ephesians 4:22-24
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

The Greek word, enduō, for “putting on” is in the sense of sinking into a garment.

Have you ever purchased a new outfit, and then covered it up with old clothes? Of course not. When you buy something new, you want others to see it. You take off the old clothing, cast it aside, and put on the new clothes. Then you likely stand in front of the mirror and say to yourself, “Yep, I look good.”

This is the picture Paul painted for us. When Christ makes us a new creation, we must cast aside our old habits and sins so that our new life reflects the Lord Jesus Christ. Others must see the new work the Lord has done in us.

Genesis 1:26-27 tells us that we were created in the image of God. Adam Clarke wrote that “God is the model. It is not a degree of moral good which the soul is to receive by Jesus Christ, it is the whole image of God; it is to be formed according to God; the likeness of the Divine Being is to be traced upon his soul.”

We must give the Holy Spirit control of everything – our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We can’t be REcreated without allowing Him dominion over ALL of our being.

Once we’ve given Him control, many things will be cast aside. Read Ephesians 4:25-31, Romans 13:11-13, and 1 Peter 2:1-5 for partial lists of the sin that must be removed from our life by crucifying it to the cross (Romans 6:6).

Then, when others look at us, they will see a new creation wrapped in an armor of light—the LIGHT of JESUS.

Romans 13:12 & 14
The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. … clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

Make a commitment in 2012 to put on your armor of light every single day and clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ. Then you will be a NEW CREATION created in the image of your Holy God.

    Scripture Prayers for the week:

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may return; renew our days as of old. Lamentations 5:21-22

RED LETTER JOURNEY
CRITICAL CARE
PART 3: CRITICAL SIGNIFICANCE


“What other people think of me is becoming less and less important. What they think of Jesus because of me is CRITICAL.”
Cliff Richards


“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:7-12

The definition of CRITICAL that we will look at today is “a crucial, decisive, or critical operation.”

Do you always give a child what they ask for?

Many of you may remember the 50’s TV show Father Knows Best. Those boys trusted their father and sought his wise counsel. They didn’t always listen and paid the price for their disobedience, but they knew where to go for guidance.

Our Heavenly Father always knows what is best for us.

I’m reminded of the Stones song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” As God’s children, we may not always get what we WANT, but He will always give us what we NEED.

Charles Spurgeon wrote, “It would be a terrible thing if God always gave us all we asked for. Our heavenly Father himself knows how to give far better than we know how to ask.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad my Heavenly Father has not given me everything I’ve asked Him for and I wish I’d been more obedient when He said, “No.” The worst mistakes of my life were due to rebellion against His will and His wishes for me.

In this passage we have three instructions: ASK . . . SEEK . . . KNOCK.

As a child, did you ever ask your parents for anything? If they said ‘no’ or ‘later’ did you give up immediately? Unlike me, you may have been a better child. I rarely gave up. I’d go back and back and back again until I either got a ‘Yes’ or I was told, “If you ask one more time I’m going to spank you.” (Actually, my mom said ‘whip’ but she’d be locked up in today’s society for that.)

First, Jesus tells us to ASK. God doesn’t grow weary of us asking for the desires of our hearts. The Greek word here actually means to beg or crave something. He says if we ask, we will receive. We will always receive an answer to our prayers, but sometimes that answer is NO.

Secondly, Jesus tells us to SEEK. Go for it. Pursue it. We can’t sit in our rocking chairs and expect God to give us everything without any effort on our part. We must endeavor to go after those things we desire, in accordance with God’s will that is.

Lastly, He tells us to KNOCK.

Have you ever gone to a friend’s house and stood outside their door hoping they’d open it? You don’t knock. You don’t ring the bell. You just stand there. What happens? Nothing.

Christ says, “If you knock.” We need to knock. Our Lord gave us free will and will not force His presence on us. We need to knock on heaven’s door via prayer, and He promises to always open up and invite us to come in.

Have you ever gone to someone’s house and knocked on the door, but they didn’t answer immediately? You know they’re inside. What do you do? Do you turn around and go home or knock again? You knock again – and again and again. If you’ve knocked for ten minutes and they still haven’t answered, there is a good chance they are either not at home or they don’t really want to see you.

Jesus promises us if we knock, the door WILL BE opened. He does not say, “I may decide to open the door for you or I may not.” He will not leave us standing outside. He will open it.

I leave you with a few questions?

Have you knocked today? If not, what are you waiting for?

Have you ASKED for HIS FORGIVENESS . . . SOUGHT HIS SALVATION . . . AND RECEIVED HIS REDEMPTION?

If not, what are you waiting for?

If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus, He is knocking on your heart’s door. Please don’t wait another day. Click on the following link to learn how to find peace in your life.

Knock Today

And if you find it, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you.