Roses and Thorns

Rose with thornsTherefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. – Romans 5:1-5 (NLT)

It’s wonderful to come together in a fellowship and hear how much God loves us and how He is involved and desires to give us an abundant life. I believe that the words in John’s book of Revelation should be carried out every time we come together (Revelation 12:11) – testimonies of what God is doing in our lives are a powerful force that drives back the temptations and the harassements of the evil one who is our daily accuser!

But for those of us who teach, or preach, we must present the whole Gospel. I once heard a preacher describe his messages as “Twinkie messages” and “Brussel Sprout messages.” We know that if Twinkies are the main ingredient of our daily diet, we will not be healthy. Green vegetables may not be our favorite food group, but they are vital to a healthy, strong body. And so we must also hear the often difficult passages of Scripture that remind us that there are difficulties, trials, that come to God’s children.

The Truth – The Twinkies

John 14 – 15: Jesus tells me not to allow my heart to focus on the troubles of this world but to believe in Him and in the Father. He and the Father are One and, even more, there is their Spirit which will remind me of everything that Jesus taught. We are forever connected with Jesus, He is the vine and I am a branch that receives the nourishment directly from Him.

1 Corinthians 12 and 14: God has given us gifts and power through His Holy Spirit that as we come together as Believers, we may hear Him and know His way. We are His Army, with weapons that combat the forces of evil in this world.

Ephesians 3: We are loved by God Himself. We do not fully know or understand the enormity of His love and what it means. It is a wonderful, exciting, uplifting thing to see, feel and know the revelation of Abba Father’s love. When we live our daily lives in a world which tries to beat us down with fear and confusion and doubt, it is a welcome oasis to come and sit at the Master’s feet and hear Him speak of His love for us.

The Truth – The Full Meal

John 16 – 17: Jesus says He is telling us what was written in John 14 and 15 because He does not want us to wander away from His truth. He wants me to remember that He warned me that there would be trouble, even trouble from people who believe they are acting on God’s orders! But His Spirit, the Couselor, will speak to me with His truth and the grief that I may feel will turn to joy as I realize that Jesus has already overcome this world!

1 Corinthians 13: No matter the power of God inside of me, no matter how powerful the words or manifestations of His power in and through me, that will all mean nothing if I do not use that power, pour out that power, with His love. If what I do in God’s Kingdom, does not speak first and last of His love, then I am only a loud, self-serving cymbal! There is nothing, nothing that God hates more than my personal pride!

Ephesians 4: As I learn of God’s love, I must live a life worthy of His call to me; a life that is humble, gentle, patient and loving. It is to be a life that promotes unity among Believers, encouraging others in their call. I am to imitate Jesus, living a life that not only receives God’s love but is a giver of His love.

My sisters and brothers, our lives here and now are not going to be easy. The abundant life promised by Jesus is an eternal life that is not momentary like this world. It is forever as our life with our Abba Father is forever!

Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness [His peace beyond understanding], everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. – Philippians 4:4-9 (The Message, my addition)

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Don’t Throw Out the Baby with His Bath Water

Always be joyful. Continually be prayerful. In everything be thankful, because this is God’s will for you in the Messiah Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire. Do not despise prophecies. Instead, test everything. Hold on to what is good. Keep away from every kind of evil.

May the God of peace himself make you holy in every way. And may your whole being—spirit, soul, and body—remain blameless when our Lord Jesus, the Messiah, appears. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will continue to be faithful. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (ISV)

Have you ever listened to someone who was teaching or preaching and thought, “Wait! That isn’t what I thought that said!” or “I don’t believe that about God!” That happened, the first time, to me about 3-4 months after I committed myself to Christ. I was listening to a man that I respected, who had convinced me that I needed a savior. I needed Jesus Christ. I had sin in my life that I couldn’t stop and pain in my heart that would not go away. Jesus, God in the flesh, could take care of both and did. Now the man who had shown me these truths, was telling me something that did not add up with what I had been reading; what I was reading now. Should I never listen to him again? Should I never believe anything else he would say? Or was he right and I was wrong about the passage?

I know people who are absolutely convinced that they know absolutely what every word of the Bible says and means. As I spend more time over the last 20+ years, I find there is more to learn, more to question, not be absolute about. I have also found that there are passages in the Bible that are – difficult. And often, those difficult passages are smoothed over or ignored. Example: Romans 8 is often discussed and taught. Romans 7 is not. But how can we learn from Romans 8 if we do not take it in context with Romans 7?

We must listen to each other. We need to discuss God’s word together, not to try to convince the right or wrong of each other’s beliefs, but to encourage each other and magnify the LORD.

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings,becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrectionfrom the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take holdof that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behindand straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has calledme heavenward in Christ Jesus.

All of us, then, who are matureshould take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. – Philippians 3:10-16 (NIV)

James (3:1) says that if we teach, we are held to a high standard and will be strictly judged. Whether we stand in front of people as a teacher or preacher, or we sit with a friend at lunch, we must turn our tongues over to the wisdom and control of God’s Spirit. May we speak only with holy fear. And may we listen with a desire to hear God’s voice and learn from His words – together.

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Obedience: A Choice of the Spirit and Heart

Our Lord, you bless everyone who lives right and obeys your Law.
You bless all of those who follow your commands from deep in their hearts
and who never do wrong or turn from you.
You have ordered us always to obey your teachings;
I don’t ever want to stray from your laws. – Psalm 119: 1-5 (CEV)

I’ve been reading and re-reading Psalm 119 the last few days. It talks about God’s laws, His precepts, decrees and statutes. There are a lot of those in the Bible. I don’t even know all of them. Some of them that I know, I do not obey because they are time conditional. I did not stone my rebellious teenagers (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). And so I continue to study and consider God’s Word and what it says to me. I seek His Truth through His Holy Spirit. I desire His correction and discipline. And Abba Father is a good Father and faithfully meets with me.

And then there is my personal mentor and example, Jesus the Christ. I continue to study how He spoke and interacted with adulterers, fornicators, thieves, prostitutes, gossipers, liars, manipulators and church leaders. Jesus had the knowledge, the insight to know the heart and spirit of Peter, Mary, Judas, the Pharisees, and various “sinners” brought to Him for judgment. (The Pharisees want to “catch” Him in a “wrong” judgment.) But Jesus taught as though He knew that we did not have that knowledge. We needed to follow His example of forgiveness, unconditional love. Paul spoke of this grace in almost every letter he wrote to the churches. He, too, knew that we would need to use grace and mercy, not judgment.

God’s Word is a lamp that lights the way of my steps as I journey through this life. But the will shine brighter when I (1) spend time every day, personal time, with my LORD and His Word and (2) spend time routinely with others in studying God’s Word. “Iron sharpens iron,” (Proverbs 27:17) my friends. We learn from each other, and if I don’t agree with everyone in the group, WONDERFUL! I will study more and consider why I believe and what I believe and read more in cross reference! And that brings more obedience.

As I put my mind and heart more on what is on God’s heart, I will find myself spending more time in things of God, Kingdom mindedness! I become obedient to thinking on the things of God. I see more clearly how God works. I align my mind with the mind of God. He is my Abba, my Father.

Lord, accept my offering of praise,
and teach me your regulations.
My life constantly hangs in the balance,
but I will not stop obeying your instructions.
The wicked have set their traps for me,
but I will not turn from your commandments.
Your laws are my treasure;
they are my heart’s delight.
I am determined to keep your decrees to the very end. – Psalm 119: 109-112 (NLT)

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Pain

I am about to collapse from constant pain.
I told you my sins, and I am sorry for them.
Many deadly and powerful enemies hate me,
and they repay evil for good because I try to do right.

You are the Lord God!
Stay nearby and don’t desert me.
You are the one who saves me. Please hurry and help. – Psalm 38: 17-22 (CEV)

Sometimes the pain is so excruciating – it falls like a veil over the entirety of my sight. It is then, when I am too weak to look or reach out to anything or anyone (and woe be unto anyone who tries to reach out to me!) – I look up with my last dribble of strength – and there is Jesus.

There is the one who knows what excruciating pain is. And yet He did not lash out. Jesus’ silence throughout most of His suffering has been a mystery for over 2000 years. Why did the Messiah, the Savior of God’s creation, not testify to who He was, and what was going to be the consequences of His sacrifice, to Pilate and Caiphas?

Jesus knew the loneliness of pain and He is there for me. His eyes tell me of peace which is beyond my pain and understanding. His touch calms and comforts, gentle yet with the strength that assures me He will not leave. No matter the origin of my pain.

Love. Yes, Abba Father loves me. He gave me Jesus. Could He take the pain away? Yes, and I ask Him for His mercy to do that every day. Often I do feel the pain recede. Even medication can work in His plan! I ask Him for complete healing. I know He will do that too. How great is Abba’s love!

Music has been a vehicle to express and relieve pain also. It is a wealth of ways to express what I often cannot express myself. It is despair. It is God’s Truth. It is my needs. It expresses the answer to spoken and unspoken prayers. It opens my spirit to the healing that Abba has for me.

Do you finally believe? But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”                                                   — John 16: 31-33 (NLT)

Ongoing, unremitting pain, whether physical or mental, requires something as big and powerful as Jesus to heal or show me how to walk through it as He did. In the midst of this pain, I need to be able to look into Jesus’ eyes, study and meditate on Jesus’ way He walked, spent time in prayer, cried out to His Father, and reached out to others as a friend and servant.

And there, honestly, is where I have found my greatest relief – in helping others who may be hurting and suffering. Turning my focus on others, opening my eyes to their needs and opportunities to lift someone up, helps me to see my situation in a more balanced way and maybe even learn from them. There is rarely a day that goes by that I do not recall something that a patient or family member that I met in over 35 years of nursing said to me. They shared the most difficult times of their lives and were generous in allowing me to be a part of that time.

When I am hurting,
I find comfort in your promise that leads to life.
Conceited people sneer at me,
but I obey your Law.
I find true comfort, Lord,
because your laws have stood the test of time. – Psalm 119: 50-52 (CEV)

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Children and Suffering

Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah (31:15):
“A cry was heard in Ramah—
weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.” – Matthew 2:18 (NLT)

There are people who are going to see the title of this devotion and they won’t read it. It’s too difficult a subject. There are people who are going to expect me to provide some profound answer to a question that troubles many Christians. A question that I have heard many say keeps them from believing in God.

I’ve never understood avoiding hard questions when it comes to my faith. My life has hit many of the hard questions! If God and I do not wrestle with these questions, what am I going to do when the question is no longer a theory, but my reality?! Pastors and teachers, do they tell you in seminary to avoid these questions? Do they say they should only be addressed individually and not from the front of the room? Hogwash! People are struggling! People are limping into our fellowships every week and we are sending them out with their questions unanswered! I submit that we encourage and serve God’s children when we address these questions with a combination of Bible study and personal testimony.

Why does God allow children to suffer with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, abuse, starvation, and more? I don’t know.

Jeremiah lived 600 years before Jesus and brought this word from God when the Babylonians slaughtered children. Matthew repeats those words when King Herold slaughters children in an attempt to destroy the prophesized Jewish king.

Where is God when such heinous events happen? He is right there. He sees the slaughter, the blood. He hears the the cries of the mothers and fathers. These are His children who have died. They died not on His timeline. He is their Father! He is justice.

He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. – Deuteronomy 10:18 (NLT)

You showed what you are like, and you made certain that justice is done, but evil people are trapped by their own evil deeds. – Psalm 9:16 (CEV)

“For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” – Acts 17:31 (NIV)

But God has promised us a new heaven and a new earth, where justice will rule. – 2 Peter 3:13 (CEV)

Then I saw heaven standing open, and there was a white horse! Its rider is named Faithful and True. He administers justice and wages war righteously. – Revelation 19:11 (ISV)

And so as I have put this question to God and spent time reading and searching the Scriptures, I come away with making another step of faith. I step toward Him and trust His promises that He is just. He will punish the wicked. He will give those who have suffered some balance in their scale of life. It may not come as quickly as I like. It may not come in my lifetime so that I see God’s justice, but I believe that God keeps His promises and justice will come.

There is no conclusion here. But then my life, my relationship with God does not come to a conclusion either. It is an eternal relationship. An so I take my ongoing questions, even my arguments, my tears, my anger, and contnue to walk with my LORD. Conversations between us will continue. Father God can handle my repeated questions. He is just. And He is love.

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Have you read Psalm 170?

Standing in Your presence
Lord, my heart and life are changed.
Just to love You and to live to see
Your beauty and Your grace.

Heaven and Earth cry out Your name!
Nations rise up and see Your face.
And Your Kingdom is established
As I live to know You more.

Now I will never be the same.
Spirit of God, my life You’ve changed.
And I’ll forever sing Your praise!
I live to know You, Lord. I live to know You, Lord.

You’ve called me;
I will follow Your will for me I’m sure.
Let Your heartbeat be my heart’s cry;
Let me live to serve Your call.       – Live to Know You More by Hillsong United Worship

David, youngest son, shepherd, slayer of Goliath, and King of Israel, is credited with most of the 150 psalms, or songs, we know. People who study literature would call them poetry. My husband, who is a biblical languages scholar, tells me that the translation from Hebrew to English of these psalms is not easy as poetry uses the subtleties of a given language, including its format, to express emotions and pictures. And one word in a language does not precisely equal a word in another.

So here I am sharing with you today one of my favorite 21st century psalms. Is it a psalm?
It is poetry.
It does express emotion and life experiences.
It does testify and offer praise to God.
Seems to define “psalm” to me!

Question of my day: Do I live to know more of God? When I lay down in my bed at night, have I learned something about God today? Was it in my conscious mind to be aware of opportunities to learn something about and see God today?

I had a rough morning. By that I mean, I was in pain. Chronic pain is something you learn how to live with; learn how to focus through and around. I saw Jesus in the midst of my pain this morning. I saw how I could focus in on Him and not allow pain to wrap me up and bury me in its shroud. I did live today and learned more about Jesus. I saw how He set His eyes on accomplishing His mission and continued His walk through Gethsemmane. Even when He cried out to the Father with His feeling of abandonment, Jesus took another step and the mission was “finished.” I can take one more step. I can take one more step because Jesus is right there with me. He knows the way through pain.

Hear these praises from a grateful heart.
Each time I think of You the praises start.
Love You so much, Jesus!
Love You so much!

Lord, I love You, my soul sings;
In Your presence carried on Your wings.
Love You so much, Jesus!
Love You so much!

How my soul longs for you,
Longs to worship You forever,
In Your power and majesty!
Lift my hands, lift my heart,
Lift my voice towards the heavens,
For You are my sun and shield!

Hear these praises from a grateful heart.
Each time I think of You the praises start.
Love You so much, Jesus!
Love You so much!                                  – Love You So Much by Hillsong United Worship

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How to be Perfect

Therefore, having so vast a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, and throwing off everything that hinders us and especially the sin that so easily entangles us, let us keep running with endurance the race set before us, fixing our attention on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of the faith, who, in view of the joy set before him, endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2 (ISV)

Yesterday, my husband Henry brought the LORD’s message during worship at our local home church. He gave it the title “How Chumuckla Community Church Can Be Perfect.” It was a good word for all of us to chew this week as we march on toward Christ’s goal. This is what I heard and took away:

All of us have been called. Some have been ordained. Some sit behind a desk. Some drive a tractor. No matter our jobs (yes, school is a job!), we are called out of those jobs, from the “you” and “me” to become the “we” which is the Body of Christ. And the Body of Christ is called to go out to be the ambassador, the Living Representative, of Christ as we walk, sit behind a desk, drive a tractor.

To understand more fully a given passage, like Hebrews 12, the best thing to do is to read forward and to read backward. So what does Hebrews 11 say that clarifies Chapter 12? It describes the cloud of witnesses that are our example of how to run our race. Who are these people? Many of our Bibles will give a chapter description like “Great Examples of Faith” or “The Roll Call of Faith” as if to say that here are the Greats of God’s children! It is not unusual to look back on someone’s life and see it through filtered glasses, forgetting their imperfections and raising their example higher than the reality.

Abel: All we know about him is that he made a sacrifice pleasing to God that so angered his brother, Cain, that Cain was driven to murder his brother, Abel. A short, dramatic life.

Enoch: He pleased God so much that he was taken to heaven before he died.

Noah: We see Noah as a man who would fulfill God’s order, even if he were rediculed, even if he didn’t understand the “why” of it. He was also a man who got drunk and did unwise things.

Abraham: He left his home, not knowing where he was going! If I quit my job and packed up my family and home, loaded it all in a Penske truck and family car, the neighbors might inquire as to where we were going. “We don’t know. God just said to go!” Now that is faith, right?

Even when Sarah was too old to have children, she had faith that God would do what he had promised … Wait a minute. I thought Sarah was told by the visiting angels that she would have a child and she went into her tent and laughed?!

And so the Honor Roll of Faith goes on in Hebrews Chapter 11. So was this “cloud of witnesses” so great because of their faith? I don’t think so. They were great because they were willing. They were willing to put their faith into someone else besides themselves. They were willing to put their faith in someone greater than themselves. They were willing, and imperfect, and God can use people like that.

And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!”

And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.” – 1 Samuel 3:10 (NLT)

I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me, but he has told me,“My grace is all you need, because my power is perfected in weakness.”Therefore, I will most happily boast about my weaknesses, so that the Messiah’s power may rest on me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (ISV)

It would be worth your time to read the rest of Hebrews 12 as it speaks about how Father God loves us. Besides that passage, I also was drawn to a few more passages like 1 Samuel 3 and 2 Corinthians 12. This was all part of my take away from the lesson Henry shared yesterday. I am on a journey to perfection with Jesus as my teacher and example. His Spirit convicts; it does not condemn. God will open doors and give me opportunities to be His ambassador. And in my weakness, in my willingness, Jesus will be strong and Jesus will be seen and known. Take time right now to pray and tell God, “Here I am, Father. Send me!”

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Forgiving Myself

The instructions of theLord are perfect, reviving the soul.
The decrees of the Lordare trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The commandments of the Lordare right, bringing joy to the heart.
The commands of theLord are clear, giving insight for living.
Reverence for theLord is pure, lasting forever.
The laws of theLord are true; each one is fair.
They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold.
They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb.
They are a warning to your servant, a great reward for those who obey them.

How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart
Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. – Psalm 19:7-14 (NLT)

Have you ever done something that you wished you hadn’t? Are you carrying the knowledge of that mistake, sin, screw-up, failure around with you? Have you carried it so long that you don’t even realize the weight any more?

I’m not a fan of the game of golf, but for the non-professional there is this really great thing called a “mulligan.” It’s a do-over. There have been times when I wished I had a mulligan that could have given me an option to do-over something that I said or did.

What does God say about forgiving me? Forgiving myself?

Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing!” – Luke 23:24 (my paraphrase)

Jesus is being nailed to a cross and He asks the Father to forgive everyone who is nailing Him there. My sins nailed Him there. I am forgiven because Jesus did what was necessary to make that happen. But here’s another point: Jesus says that I do not even realize what I am doing! I do not get that my sin has put Him where He is. Maybe there was a time when I did not even understand that I had sinned. But because He loves me, God provides His Spirit which reveals my sin to me. I am convicted of my sin. Jesus is the Light of the world and sweeps away the darkness that tries to cover my sin. Jesus wants me to see my sin and know that He has covered it, washed it away, and I am forgiven!

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)

Jesus is really clear here. I am to forgive others. There are no exceptions. Peter, on another occasion, tries to get Jesus to put a ceiling cap on the amount of times he would have to forgive his brother (Matthew 18:21-22). Jesus answers in such a way that could mean 490 times!

But then I remember that Jesus also said that I am to love myself as I love others. If I love someone like Jesus said, then I will forgive them. Love myself? Forgive myself.

Why wouldn’t I forgive myself for – whatever? Because I’m listening to a voice inside me that says what I have done is worse than anything that anyone else has done. I am too bad to be forgiven.

Maybe someone can’t forgive me for what I’ve done. Allow God’s Spirit, that One who is Truth, to look inside and determine the truth of your heart. Have you repented? Have you turned away from your sin and made the commitment to walk in a new direction? Have you asked forgiveness, apologized without conditions? If they won’t forgive, then let it go and let God handle their heart. But open your heart and allow God’s Spirit to wash through your own heart and remove all the guilt and unforgiveness. Allow God to put His seal on the situation. Do not attempt to return to the situation and pick up the past and guilt again.

Forgiving myself is a vital part of healing. It is difficult to be a disciple, a carrier of Christ’s Light into the world, when I am limping along, dragging a bag of guilt wherever I go. It’s time to let go of guilt. Jesus, the perfect sacrifice, covers sin, covers the guilt and shame of sin, and washes it completely away! Let Him do it! And He doesn’t need my help to improve on His perfection!

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility,gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdomthrough psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:12-17 (NIV)

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HOLY FEAR

What does this phrase, “holy fear,” mean?

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom.
Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment. – Proverbs 9:10 (NLT)

Fear theLord, you holy ones of his;
for those who fear him lack nothing. – Psalm 34:9 (ISV)

In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared;
he is more awesome than all who surround him. – Psalm 89:7 (NIV)

The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers. – Acts 9:31 (NLT)

Then I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire. Those who had conquered the beast, its image, and the number of its name were standing on the sea of glass holding God’s harps in their hands. They sang the song of God’s servant Moses and the song of the lamb:
Your deeds are both spectacular and amazing, Lord God Almighty.
Your ways are just and true, King of the nations.
Lord, who won’t fear and praise your name?
For you alone are holy,
and all the nations will come and worship you
because your judgments have been revealed.” – Revelation 15:2-4 (ISV)

When I think of being in fear, I realize that I would consider myself very lucky, no, very blessed. I haven’t been fearful much in my life. I rolled my car one time and in those few seconds, I was definitely fearful as I spun out of control and the car tipped over, rolling off the slight embakement. I was “stomach dropped,” bone-chilling fearful the day I looked into my young son’s throat and saw what I knew was a tumor blooming up. Yes, that was probably the most fearful moment of my life.

So is Scripture, God through His Word, telling me that I should fear Him like that?

Then I think of my own earthly father. Did I fear him? Yes, absolutely. He was a big man with big hands. He tried very hard not to allow his temper to get out of control as he knew he could hurt someone. And sometimes he did lose his temper and lose control.

Over the years as I have studied Scripture, I have from them and from my personal relationship what and who my Heavenly Father is truly like.

  • He created all that there is: the oceans which hold the mammoth whales as if they are goldfish in a bowl, the sky in which millions fly, whether hummingbird or condor.
  • He created His children which now number in the billions. He moved them from captivity to the Promise Land, providing them with direction and food for 40 days and nights. He gave their enemies over to them and established His Kingdom in them.
  • When they did not turn from their evil ways, He took His hand from them and allowed them to be taken into captivity by their enemies.
  • He sent His Son, His only Son, as the blood sacrifice which would cover our sins. And when His Son took our sins upon Himself, God stepped away from His Son, separated Himself for the first and only time.

God has proven to me that He will keep His promises, no matter how difficult, even terrible they may be. Yes, He will keep all those wonderful promises, His plans for my future filled with hope (Jeremiah 29:11). But He will also keep the promises for punishment when I choose not to turn away from my unholy, impure, sinful ways (Revelation 21:27).

This is my LORD. This is the One whom I love and Who loves me. He is my Father God. Do I fear Him? Yes. He is worthy of my love and it is wisdom for me to also know that He is worthy of my fear, my acknowledgment of His power and authority. It is not a fear that brings terror and fright for someone whose actions from day to day I am uncertain. Our relationship grows and I know Him, His love and faithfulness.

Holy fear can be defined as a healthy aspect of a holy relationship between God and His children. It can be a factor which encourages a child to be obedient to their parent. I remember as I was living away from home for the first time during my college years. For the first time I was exposed to unlimited amunts liquor, marijuana and other drugs. Fear of my parents and how they would react should I decide to give liquor and drugs a try and get arrested for these opportunities – I knew that my father’s response might very well include allowing me to find a way to get myself out of jail or just remain there indefinitely, thus destroying my nursing career and plans. Quite a deterrent!

So holy fear of God is not a bad thing if I remember who and what He is to me and who and what I am to Him.

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Blessed are the Little Children

Author Unknown

Note from Jody: I have had this in my electronic file since 2001. I do not remember where I got it, but whoever wrote it – thank you.

We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and he began to pound his fat baby hands on the highchair tray. His eyes were wide with excitement and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin. He wriggled and giggled with merriment. I looked around and saw the source of his merriment.
It was a man with a tattered rag of a coat; dirty, greasy and worn. His pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so varicose it looked like a roadmap. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled.
His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists. “Hi there, baby! Hi there, big boy! I see ya, buster,” the man said to Erik.
My husband and I exchanged looks. “What do we do?” Erik continued to laugh and answer the “Hi, hi there.”
Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby. Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, “Do ya know patty cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek-a-boo.”
Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk. My husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid-row bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments.
We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man sat poised between me and the door.
“Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik,” I prayed.
As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to sidestep him and avoid any air he might be breathing. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby’s “pick-me-up” position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man’s.
Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love relationship. Erik in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man’s ragged shoulder. The man’s eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain, and hard labor-gently, so gently, cradled my baby’s bottom and stroked his back. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time.
I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms for a moment, and then his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, “You take care of this baby.”
Somehow I managed, “I will,” from a throat that contained a stone.
He pried Erik from his chest-unwillingly, longingly, as though he were in pain. I received my baby, and the man said, “God bless you, ma’am, you’ve given me my best Christmas gift.”
I said nothing more than a muttered thanks. With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. My husband was wondering why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, “My God, my God, forgive me.”
I had just witnessed Christ’s love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes. I was a Christian who was blind, holding a child who was not. I felt God asking, “Are you willing to share your son for a moment?” when He shared His for all eternity. The ragged old man, unwittingly, had reminded me of Jesus’ words, “to enter the Kingdom of God, we must become as little children” (Matthew 18:3).

 

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