Anything we give to help hurting people, God will always return many times over. Not only will He meet our needs, but our joy will increase as a result of giving in love. Joyce Meyer
Lord, open my eyes that I may see, open my heart that I may love, and open my hands that I may give to those that are lonely, poor, and hurting. Let me walk through this day with eyes wide-open, and when I am my busiest remind me to pause to linger among the least of these. Amen
“Now my soul is troubled and distressed, and what shall I say? (Jesus)
Jesus was afraid. How can this be? Jesus, God incarnate, the creator of all universes, was afraid to die.
Do you ever think about dying? It’s not a pleasant thought. There are so many unknowns about this fate that we all must one day face. Even those with the faith of a mustard seed, a faith powerful enough to move mountains, find themselves troubled at the thought.
Those of the greatest faith, if they would admit it, are afraid to die, and they lie if they proclaim different. It doesn’t matter how many abbreviations follow the name no one will ever have as much faith as Jesus had when he walked this Earth. If Jesus feared how much more will we?
In the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed to his Father to remove his cup of death. He prayed with such earnest his pores dripped with blood. He did not want to drink from its chalice.
Personally, I am comforted by my Lord’s fear. His hesitation to taste death assures me it’s okay to doubt. Doubt is nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s not a dirty little secret that we should hide. If it were, a dirty little secret, God would never have revealed Jesus’ inner struggle. That part of Christ’s story would have been omitted from recorded history. It is written so that our faith would be strengthened rather than shaken.
Jesus was human just as we. He knows how we feel because he himself has experienced it. He wants us to bring our doubts, troubles, and concerns to the Father; after-all, that is what he did. We are called to follow his example.
This week, as we walk through the last days before good Friday, may our souls be troubled.
Embrace your doubt because it leads to great Faith.
I thought it would be interesting to start a series from Solomon’s book of Proverbs. What is a proverb? Well according to the NLT Bible, “A proverb is a short, concise sentence that conveys moral truth.” To paraphrase, a proverb is a nugget of wisdom, and when used makes our life better. Knowledge is good, but it benefits us little until it is applied.
Beginning a quarrel is like opening a floodgate, so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. Proverbs 17:14
There were five lanes of traffic to cross, so I patiently bid my time. When the perfect moment arrived, I pulled out of Food Lions’s parking lot, turned left, and headed West, towards home. I eased into the correct lane and was content on the journey; however, after only a few seconds of peace, I heard horns blowing and tires screeching. I glanced in my rearview mirror to see what had caused such a ruckus. It seemed the truck that had sat behind me in Food Lion’s parking lot, had recklessly pulled out in front of the oncoming traffic. A number of vehicles came to a complete stop in order to avoid an accident. The truck was now speeding, closing the distance between us.
“What in the world,” I said, thinking there must be some sort of emergency for the man in the truck to so carelessly tempt harm. He pulled up beside me on the passenger side. I noticed his window was down, and he was leaning out trying to get my attention.
My first thought… “OMG…I’ve got a flat tire…”
So, I rolled my window down to hear what he was saying. With his face contorted in anger, the man began tossing F-bombs in my direction. My stomach dropped and I wondered what in the world I had done to upset this man, and then the “B-word” came out, and I realized I was being cussed out because of a certain political sticker on my bumper.
I couldn’t believe this person would risk his life and lives of others in order to “rip me a new” over my political views.
After the initial shock wore off, I did the only thing that came to mind…I laughed. That pissed him off even more and again he bathed me with “Bitches and F-bombs.” After he had his say, he floored it and swerved in front of me. I slowed down to keep a safe distance between us. The southern bell in me wanted to say, “Bless his heart…,” the Christian in me wanted to pray, and the rebel inside wanted to flip him off.
On that particular day, I was a rebel.
Not the wisest decision on my part…I know…
For the rest of the day, I played out the scenario in my mind and rehearsed cute little comebacks, I wished I would have said to “get back” at the obnoxious man.
Sometimes I wish I could be “quick-draw” with the witty comebacks! Then, I wouldn’t have to bop myself on the head later and say, “Man…I WISH I would’ve said that!”
I believe it’s human nature to think and feel this way…but that doesn’t make it right.
Cute little comebacks do much to appease our pride but do little to accomplish peace.
Quite the opposite…it only opens the floodgate. Once the dam has broken there’s little we can do to hold back a flood. Most of the time, our best course of action is to drop the matter, or at least put it off until tempers have cooled and the subject can be discussed in a somewhat peaceable manner.
Two cannot quarrel when one will not. –David C. Egner
Holy Spirit, please temper what I say and do. I need your strength and intervention. Amen.
Epilogue…after the incident above, I peeled the sticker from my bumper, not because I was ashamed of my political views, but because I thought it best to curtail future road rage.
I’m sure I have, but at the moment, nothing comes to mind. Perhaps, even if I could, I wouldn’t share as “eating your words” is considered quite distasteful.
Often, the words we have to eat are bitter.
I believe the words we say never disappear. They linger and take their abode within the minds of those who hear.
I remember the day, Corinne and I left Josh, our son, at West Point. As a new cadet, he was about to enter basic training, or “BEAST BARRACKS” as it is referred to at West Point. Beast Barracks is a 7-week program designed to transform young men and women into cadets worthy enough to be sanctioned Plebes, the lowest rank on campus.
My heart hurt at the thought of what he was about to face, and as most moms in this world, my imagination soared beyond the realms of reality. Sitting in the auditorium I heard an officer beckon the new cadets to come forward, and I knew this would be the last time I’d see Josh for what would seem an eternity. I looked at him and he looked at me, and I’ll never forget the words he said, “Write and write soon.” Tears ran down my face as I watched him walk away and disappear from sight.
I was able to write him immediately; however, it would be weeks before he would be allowed to write home. When those letters came, I couldn’t wait to open the envelope and devour the words on the page. The words were few because he rarely had a moment to spare during BEAST, so I hung on every word. His words were important to me. Finally, after seven weeks, we were allowed to go and visit him at West Point, and that is a moment, and a hug, I will never forget.
When we love someone, their words matter.
This was true of King David’s relationship with God. In the book of Psalms, he has this say about the words of God,
“They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb.”
The more we fall in love with Jesus, the more we want to listen for his still small voice. They become a balm for our soul.
On the flip side…guess what?
Our words are just as important to God. He loves us so much, that our words matter, and he waits patiently to hear them.
Okay, I remember a time when I had to eat my nasty words…I even wrote a blog about it. Almost two years ago on election night, I colored the world of Facebook with a wide array of colorful expletives. As a result, there were consequences to bear. I was unfriended by friends and family. Those family members, to this day, ignore my Christmas cards, and of course, I get none from them. Words matter.
May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)
Well…here’s some of the things I find myself doing…
First of all I get a sick feeling in the pit of my tummy
Second I began rehearsing all the “what ifs”
Third my mind grasps the most horrendous “what ifs” and runs wild like a cheetah on the Serengeti.
Fourth, I become so mentally worn out I sink into depression
Fifth, I begin to form a “plan”
Sixth I try to implement the “plan”
Seventh, I become exhausted
Eighth, I pray.
Talk about putting the cart in front of the horse! Of which I’m the master…so, here, hold my beer while I take a bow!
Why the hell can’t I remember to pray first? Does it make me a horrible Christian? On the contrary…it makes me human.
It’s just good ole “human nature” to desire to fix something when it breaks, and we shouldn’t berate ourselves for following our God-given, intrinsic instinct. If we do, then that, my friend, is the real tragedy. God doesn’t hold it against us…
Simply put, God knows how it feels to be human!
God, himself, put on flesh, and walked this earth for 33 years, and his friends called him, Jesus. During these 33 years he was tempted in all ways, and personally experienced every weakness that can ever befall us. Remember, He understands. His arms are open, and he bids us come… “give me your cares for I care for you.”
Now, I’m not so naive as to believe that prayer is some magic wand that fixes everything…
However, this is what prayer will do…
[Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for he faced all the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
Through prayer we receive God’s understanding, His Mercy, and His Grace. Armed with these we can face any circumstance that life throws our way.
So, when things get complicated remember….
He will not hold our weakness against us…because He has once felt the same way
His arms are always open wide
He bids us come
He wants us to share our problems with Him
He loves us more than life itself…for He gave his life for us
His Mercy and Grace never ends…it is new every morning
Oh what a Savior we have!
“…Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him…” (Hebrews 4:14)
This High Priest of ours [Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for he faced all the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.
The gospel of Matthew opens with the ancestral lineage of Jesus. Most of us just skim over these verses because, lets face it, its pretty boring, but often, there are surprises hidden within the mundane, and they remain unseen unless we are willing the thin the clutter, and look beneath the surface.
You may be shocked to learn from whom Jesus descended!
I love a good surprise. I love movies and books that end with a crazy twist that you just don’t see coming. I love writers like Stephen King are are masters of this.
Good surprises can also do wonders for stale relationships. Want to create sparks in your love life?…send flowers, write love notes, take them out for an unexpected date, pat their hiney, and grab a few stolen kisses… etc.
We all love these kinds of surprises.
As I read the Bible it seems to me that God also loves surprises. The wonderful stories between Genesis and Revelation are mostly about how God uses the mundane to confound the wise. He uses simple folk like you me to change this world for the better. We become vessels of the Holy Spirit to carry out the plans of His radical love.
Yesterday, my morning devotion just happened to be called, Surprise Me! It opened with a beautiful passage from the book of Ephesians that tells of Christ in our hearts, and how we become spiritually empowered through his love and presence. I’ll attach this scripture at the end with hopes that it will bless you as much as it blessed me.
In this devotion, Cindy Hess Kasper, associate editor for Our Daily Journey, writes,
“Do you like surprises? Would you dare say “Surprise me!” to God? Through out the Bible we read that God delights in doing the unexpected. Jesus’ time on earth was filled with amazing events…He turned water into wine, calmed the storms, healed the sick, and raised the dead. What kind of God do we serve? One who is not confined by our finite imagination. He wants to bless us…He delights in His children who trust Him and are willing to say, “Surprise me, Lord!”
God, open my eyes…Surprise me today!
When I think of the wisdom and scope of God’s plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots do down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, and how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we world ever dare to ask or hope. May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21
So often our thoughts are consumed with getting what we want or need, and this is not necessarily a bad thing…after all, it is self-preservation that has kept our species alive and kicking to this very day.
Self preservation is a God-given intrinsic, instinct, but, let’s face it friends, a lot has changed since the days of painting our stories upon cavern walls.
Most of us not only have our needs…shelter, food, water, and clothes…met, but we are also richly garnished with our fleshly wants and desires. Where as, some may think this a bad thing, I do not hold to that idea.
There is nothing wrong with getting things we want…after all, it is our Creator who spoke this world, and all of its beautiful things into existence. Jesus tells us,
“I came that [you] may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance to the full, till it overflows.”
Jesus wants us to enjoy the life he died to give us. His death and resurrection is so much more than a ticket to Heaven. It is also the assurance that He wants us to enjoy and make the most of the time we have on Earth. He is actually happy to see us happy. Such a simple concept, but one that is largely overlooked by mainstream Christianity.
Jesus also gave himself away to be an example for us. There are at least 87 times in the Bible where Jesus says, “Follow me…” I believe that these two words, “Follow me,” sum up the true meaning of Christianity.
True Christianity is not about following a set of rules, it’s not about your interpretation of scripture, but rather it’s simply following in Jesus’s footsteps.
How did Jesus treat the poor?
How did Jesus treat the hungry?
How did Jesus treat the sick?
How did Jesus treat sinners?
How did Jesus treat the outcast?
How did Jesus treat the stranger?
How did Jesus treat the religious?
These are the questions we should be asking ourselves as we seek to follow Jesus.
Jesus didn’t flaunt himself, he gave himself, and that is what he want us to do, as well.
Genuine Christians follow Jesus, and give of themselves to others.
“We have to learn to give ourselves away and the blessings of God will chase us down and overtake us. You see, He wants to help you be enthusiastic about loving other people every single day of your life as you do kind and caring things for them.” Joyce Meyer
For whoever wishes to save his life willlose it, but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake will find it. —Jesus
Lord, help me to see others through your eyes, and to be you to all I see. In Jesus name, amen.
Mother’s Day is difficult for me. Since it always falls on Sunday, I usually play hooky, so I wont have to put on the façade of “happy mom.” However, this Sunday was different. As fate would have it…or maybe God…this Sunday I was slated to help with communion service. So for that reason, I sucked it up, and went to church. “Let the acting begin,” I thought, as I walked through the door.
Now, you may wonder, why Mother’s Day is so difficult. Several reasons. One, my mom is dead, and yes I miss her, but, I also do tremendous guilt for not spending more time with her while she was alive. Two, I miss my own children, who live far away, and I also do tremendous guilt for decisions I made in the past…decisions that negatively impacted their lives. Some of those decisions needed to be made, but, none-the-less, I do guilt…and I do it well. I usually hear from them…a text or a call, but I can’t help but wonder how Mother’s Day would be if I’d only chosen a different path. It torments me.
On Mother’s Day I just want to crawl into a hole, but this year the hole sat empty, as I sat in church. Listening to the pastor’s sermon, something she said jumped out at me, and caught my attention. She said, “Sometimes, resurrection requires letting go.” She asked the question, and I paraphrase, “What is keeping you from experiencing true resurrection in your life? What are you holding on to, that needs to be let go?”
Today, intellectually, I realize I need to let go of the past, but I’m discovering it’s not easily done. I guess, a good first step would be forgiveness. Somehow, some way I need to figure out how to forgive myself. My prayer is for God to show me the way. I’m sure it’s not something that’s said and done, but rather, something that must be practiced on a daily basis. I pray for God’s strength.
Just like a baby learning to walk, we have to let go, to move forward. More often than not, what we desperately cling to is toxic. If we fail to let it go, we begin a slow death that eats away our individuality, until we no longer recognize ourselves.
We all teeter on the precipice of transformation, but to get there we must let go.
“Sometimes, resurrection requires letting go.” __Amanda Miller Garber
I’ve always felt a kinship with Hagar. Hagar was the maidservant of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
This is her story:
Sarah, the wife of Abraham, was barren. None-the-less, God had promised that through their children would come the nation of Israel. Abraham and Sarah had tried to have children for many years, but now they were old, and Sarah finally gives up hope. One day, she tells her husband… “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go sleep with my maidservant (Hagar); perhaps I can build a family through her.”
[Pardon the interruption…it’s just my wheels coming to a halt! Okay, if I had been the writer of this Genesis’ story, I would have written it, more to this effect,
“…go sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her,” said, no woman ever!
Call it a hunch, but, I have a sneaky suspicion this idea was more Abraham’s than Sarah’s.]
[…now…back to the story]
So, Abraham, “obeyed” his wife, and slept with Hagar, and Hagar, became pregnant. Of course, tension mounts between the two women, until one day, all hell breaks loose within the camp. Sarah, in a jealous rage, mistreats Hagar. Scripture gives no detail as to how, but it was bad enough for Hagar to run away, and hide, from her mistress, in the dessert. Scared and alone, Hagar finally finds a spring of water and pauses to drink. God sees her at the spring, and begins a conversation with her. It goes something like this:
God: Hagar, what has happened and where are you going?”
Hagar: “I’m running away…”
God: “Go back… face the problem, and I will be with you.”
Hagar: “You are the God who sees me…”
And so, Hagar returns. The problem doesn’t go away, but God is true to his word, and helps her every step of the way. Eventually, she is blessed with a son, she names Ishmael, and through Ismael’s descendants the Arab nation is born.
In my life, I have endured many “Hagar moments,” and I bet you have too.
How often I’ve felt…
…a victim of circumstances, beyond my control
…ready to give up
When I read God’s words to Hagar, I read them as if they were written just for me. He tells me, “Go back, my child, and I will be with you. Don’t give up, I have a good plan for you.”