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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/

 

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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.

RED LETTER JOURNEY
CRITICAL CARE
PART 2: CRITICAL CRITICS

What other people think of me is becoming less and less important. What they think of Jesus because of me is CRITICAL. CLIFF RICHARDS

Following is the second installment of Critical Care based on the portion of the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 7. Today we will look at verse 6.


Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

The definition of CRITICAL that we will look at today is “of or involving a critic or criticism.”

I’ve heard the saying “Don’t toss your pearls to the pigs” most of my life. These words have always confused me. In preparing to teach this lesson to my Sunday School class, I studied several different commentaries and most agree that Jesus is basically saying, “Don’t waste the precious Word of God on those people who are intent on not only rejecting Him, but blaspheming Him when given the opportunity.”

That which is sacred or holy, the pearls in this passage is the Word of God, the Gospel of Christ.

Do not give what is holy to the dogs

The dogs of Jesus day were not pets like the ones we have in our homes, but they were wandering scavengers. Scripture tells us these dogs ate the dead and licked up blood in the streets. (1 Kings 14:11 and 21:19-24) David equated evil men or evildoers to dogs in Psalm 22 and 59. Isaiah applies the term to the Jewish teachers of his day who were careless shepherds of their flock and did not warn the people of the dangers surrounding them in Isaiah 56.

Generally, in the Scriptures, the dog is a symbol of uncleanness, vileness, apostasy, and deserving of the utmost contempt. Jews used the term “dogs” often in reference to the Gentiles, showing their contempt for the non-Jew.

. . . nor cast your pearls before swine

Swine were wild, vicious, and unclean. Practicing Jews still do not eat pork because it is unclean and not intended for food. I’ve seen many pigsties in my life, and I can tell you they are filthy creatures. Would you take your best pearls and throw them into the mud and muck of a pigsty to be trampled under their feet? Of course not.

So, what exactly is Jesus telling us in this verse?

The picture here is of wild dogs and boars tearing their prey into pieces. It is symbolic of those who have a very negative view of the Gospel, to the extent that given the opportunity they will blaspheme the very name of God.

Dr. Grant Richison in www.versebyversecommentary.com writes, “These people mock the gospel as indicated by trampling it under foot and even going further in tearing apart the gospel message itself.” He continues, “We have responsibility to carry the gospel to everyone, but once we make the presentation, the responsibility lies on the individual to choose negative or positive volition. If a person chooses negative volition, then there is no necessity for any further presentation of the gospel. Once a person clearly rejects the gospel, there is no further reason to present the gospel to them.”

We find in Luke 23:8-11 that Jesus did not talk to Herod.

When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate.

Why do you think Jesus refused to answer Herod? I believe it is because Jesus knew the man’s heart. Herod wasn’t looking for a Savior, he was looking for a magician, a performer, someone to do his bidding. When Jesus didn’t perform, he joined the others in mocking and ridiculing Jesus.

In Acts 13:46, Paul drew limits when speaking to people who rejected the Word.

On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying. Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.

Did you notice what they talked abusively against? Not Paul. Not Barnabas. They talked against what Paul was saying—against the very Gospel of Christ. Don’t you love Paul’s response? “You don’t consider yourselves worthy of eternal life.” They didn’t accept the Gospel message, so Paul went to someone who would. He went to the Gentiles, and I’m so glad He did.

In reference to Matthew 7:6, C. H. Spurgeon wrote, “You are not needlessly to provoke attack upon yourself, or upon the higher truths of the gospel. You are not to judge, but you are not to act without judgment. Count not men to be dogs or swine; but when they avow themselves to be such, or by their conduct act as if they were such, do not put occasions in their way for displaying their evil character. Saints are not to be simpletons; they are not to be judges, but, also, they are not to be fools.”

As Christians, we’ve all met those who refuse to accept Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We can argue with them until we are blue in the face, wasted all our breath, and still never convince them that Jesus is the Only way to God, the Only path available for mankind.

The question is, “What do we do about people like this?” Do we just give up on them? Do we walk away and never think of them again?

I don’t think so. We can still pray for them. We can still love them. We can still cling to hope that one day the eyes of their heart will be enlightened and they will know the hope that only the Gospel gives. But once we have presented the Gospel message to them, anything more is a waste of our breath. We should not continue to give them opportunities to blaspheme Our God.

In John 6:44, Jesus tells us, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. I can’t force someone to accept the message of the cross. Only God the Father can do that. So my best course, my best efforts should be spent in praying that God will draw that person to Him. When God works on the heart, He will open it for the message to be received.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.

Instead, spend your time and your efforts on your knees in prayer. Hopefully, one day, that person will come to you with an open heart and arms ready to receive the wonderful gift of salvation God offers.

RED LETTER JOURNEY
CRITICAL CARE
PART 1: CRITICAL SPIRITS
Matthew 7

What other people think of me is becoming less and less important. What they think of Jesus because of me is CRITICAL. CLIFF RICHARDS (1940– )

In the weeks to come, my blog will deal with a series on Critical Care based on a portion of the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 7. This is the first installment.

Matthew 7:1-5“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

One definition of critical is to make severe or negative judgments.

In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote: The average Christian is the most piercingly critical individual known.

Do you believe that’s true? I don’t know about you, but I personally have known many judgmental Christians in my day. And, if I’m completely honest, I’ve been that Christian on more than one occasion. How about you?

Several years ago, I watched one of those movies that make you ask, “Why in the world did I waste two hours watching that?” It was about a group of adults who returned to their childhood camp for a weekend retreat. While this movie had no significant eternal value, there is one scene I’ve never forgotten. One of the women considered having an affair with a married man—her childhood sweetheart. She approached a mirror and paused to stare at her reflection. Words were painted on the glass: This Mirror Is Clean – Are You? The one redeeming quality of that flick was that at that moment, the woman decided against the affair.

I’ve printed those words on my makeup mirror as a daily reminder to examine my own life. If I spend enough time looking in the mirror at that massive 4×4 protruding out of my eye, I won’t be so quick to see the microscopic speck of dust in another’s eyes. And neither will you.

Paul wrote in Romans 2, verses 1-3: You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.

We may not be guilty of the same exact sin as someone else, but God doesn’t grade sin on a curve. To Him, sin is sin is sin. Any disobedience or transgression against God is sin.

Chambers continued: Stop having a measuring stick for other people. There is always at least one more fact, which we know nothing about, in every person’s situation. I have never met a person I could despair of, or lose all hope for, after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God. Criticism serves to make you harsh, vindictive, and cruel, and leaves you with the soothing and flattering idea that you are somehow superior to others.

Later Matthew 7 tells us to test the fruit of others to see if they are genuine. In 1 John 4, we are told to test the spirits. Both of these passages are instructions for us to discern if someone is a false prophet or teacher. I believe there is a difference between testing someone’s actions and judging the person.

The dictionary defines it this way:

Judge is to THINK or hold as an OPINION

Test is to EXAMINE carefully, to SCRUTINIZE to see whether a thing is genuine or not.

Our opinion affects how we view others, and it is often skewed by past experiences with a person. Left to our own devises, we make judgments based on human logic and emotions. That’s why it can be so dangerous. Testing their actions requires careful analysis and examination of what they do, not who they are.

Only God our Father knows every detail of a person’s life. Only God has all the facts. Only God can make a proper and righteous judgment on a person.

If we aren’t careful, we can become prideful and think we are somehow better than others. We can judge them falsely and thus elevate ourselves to a higher place.

Jesus tells us to take the plank out of our eye so we can see to HELP our fellowmen remove the dust from their eyes. Don’t forget, when God does call us to confront someone about their actions, we are always to approach them “in love” as Paul did in his letters to the churches.

So, today, I leave you with one question.

Have you looked in the mirror lately?