Courageous

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22 NIV

And just what, exactly, does courage have to do with a cheerful heart? I am asking myself that same question…. All I can do is follow the prompting in my heart and explore what it is that GOD is trying to say to me (I’m notorious for tuning HIM out so that I can hear ME better….)

The definition of courageous is “not detered by danger or pain; brave.” I am emphatically NOT courageous by definition! What I have found in my own life is that when I listen to my GOD, and follow through with what He is telling me, it requires some courage on my part. When I accomplish the objective, and even if it’s not accomplished but I know I gave my best effort, my heart is cheerful. If I don’t even try, my spirit is crushed and my attitude spirals. Danger is often subjective. Obviously I don’t mean physical dangers you can see: a chasm in the roadway, snakes …. and other wild animals lke bears – and skunks! …. someone breaking into your home. Less obvious dangers can be the person you can’t see on the other end of your computer (stalkers, people wanting to make you a victim), a gas leak, having a blowout. There are individual dangers, too, that no one else can perceive. Fears of the dark, heights, meeting new people, driving, having to ask for help, even the danger of physical pain can prevent us from stepping out courageously, to do GOD’s work.

“No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is Right, to love Mercy, and to walk Humbly with your GOD.” – Micah 6:8 NLT

There’s this thing that happens inside of us when we take that first, courageous, step past our fears and our perceived dangers. Our hearts open up and we become susceptible to GOD’s Mercy and His Blessings in our own lives. When we don’t take that step, our spirit begins to die, figuratively. It becomes crushed. A friend told me once that if I refused her help, I was stealing a blessing away from her – did I really want to do that? A crushed, dried up life doesn’t know courage or recognize blessings, and it misses out on GOD’s Mercies. Being courageous doesn’t mean bragging and boasting of our accomplishments. It means walking humbly in the shadow of the LORD, doing, to the best of our abilities, whatever He should ask of us. Remember what JESUS said:

“…. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” – Luke 12:48b NLT

Listen to Casting Crowns sing this scripture in their song “Courageous”!

Photo by Horsley Lab – Harvard

The Way

“You have done many good things for me, LORD, just as You promised. I believe in Your Commands; now teach me good judgment and knowledge. I used to wander off until You disciplined me; but now I closely follow Your Word. You are Good and do only good; teach me Your Decrees. You Made me; You Created me. Now give me the sense to follow Your Commands.” – Psalms 119:65‭-‬68‭, ‬73 NLT

Come worship with me this morning! Listening to Pat Barrett singing “The Way.” The refrain goes like this:
I believe You are
The Way, the Truth, the Life
I believe You are
The Way, the Truth, the Life
I believe You are
Oh, You are
Oh, You are

“Then He said to them all: “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me.” – Luke 9:23 NIV

I am now officially an ordained minister. I have the lawful ability to perform marriages and baptisms, funerals and memorial services. I got the ordination in order to be His disciple and to share the Love of our LORD JESUS CHRIST whenever I can, and I am excited for the possibilities. God alone knows the mistakes and hardships I have faced to get to this point, and He alone knows what I will face in the future. That last part is probably a good thing; if I could foresee the future, I’d probably run screaming in the opposite direction!

I think that humans, as a whole, are searching for the blessings, the Joy, and the fulfillment of our lives. That search opens our hearts and souls to influence and suggestion, and unfortunately, the enemy Satan is standing close by with his legions to pull us away from GOD. The really sad thing is that no matter what we do, what dreams we have, without JESUS, we will never know true happiness and fulfillment. So many people I know believe that they are ‘Christian’ because, overall, they are a ‘good person’. That’s not how it works. They claim the name, but don’t understand the Truth, the Way, and so they aren’t able to find real contentment – the contentment that comes only through JESUS CHRIST.

Heavenly Father, CREATOR and LORD of the Universe, my prayer today is that you will open opportunities for me to minister through my ordination, and that I will recognize the opportunities, and embrace them, when confronted with them. Guide me, too, LORD, to stay on the straight and narrow road, no matter how enticing (or how scarey!) the distractions from the enemy. Amen.

Photo credit Twenty20.com

Oh, SNAP

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” – Proverbs 18:21 NIV

Read that again! Several times the scriptures talk about the tongue, and how it is the most powerful weapon we own. From the Psalms to the book of James, there are multiple verses that tell us how dangerous and damaging – even damning – the tongue can be if we don’t control it. I can testify to that! It can be a little comment, like “oh, you look so much cuter that way,” or “wow, you look really nice today.” Was the recipient not cute before? Does that person usually look bad? I know those are the kinds of thoughts that have gone through my mind when I get what I call ‘backhanded compliments’. Other times, we can be quite deliberate in our put-downs. “You really need to lose that extra weight. That’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen! Why do you stay with that loser? Your place looks so much better without all your pictures and clutter/junk around.” Really? My body, my ‘stuff’, my home. If our choice of partners are such losers, and we, as friends see it but don’t say anything before the relationship gets too involved, what gives us the right to be ugly about it later? Who are we to critique anyone else?

“Follow GOD’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of Love, just as CHRIST Loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to GOD. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for GOD’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” – Ephesians 5:1‭-‬4 NIV

What a Friend we have in JESUS… Forever and ever! He will never give a ‘backhanded compliment’, only Truth in His unchangeable, unfailing, incredible Love. My prayer is that GOD will open my ears so that I really hear how my comments sound, before they leave my mouth! Guard my heart and my tongue, O LORD. AMEN.

Contentment

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him Who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:12‭-‬13 NIV

I struggled with this yesterday. I’m wasn’t feeling the contentment that I know comes from my LORD, and I admit to wallowing a bit in self-pity. A friend used to say to me “It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself for a minute, then get up and move on.” It took me a few minutes…..

As a representative of my LORD, feeling down and discouraged makes me feel like I’m failing Him. I think I should always be content, no matter what. Is that realistic? Any pastor or teacher, if they are being honest, will admit to struggles in this area. It’s simply human nature. The real question becomes, what do we do when it happens to us? Having a support system helps (I’m working on that!). Turning to GOD’s Word is a great way to find support, too. I’m not the first person to feel discouraged! Every great person in the Bible, starting with Adam, to Moses and the great kings David and Solomon, even Mary, mother of our LORD, and all of His disciples, dealt with discouragement and frustration in their lives! Why should we mere mortals be any different?

Listen to what JESUS tells His followers:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:25‭, ‬34 NIV

Words to live by! He isn’t saying that we shouldn’t plan for our future, but that our planning shouldn’t consume our thoughts and our lives. Our lives should focus on Him, rather than on earthly things. When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, and Pharaoh’s army pursued them, it looked hopeless for the unarmed and baggage-laden Israelites. Surely they would be slaughtered as they ran from the Egyptians in fear! But the LORD spoke, and the impossible happened: the sea opened up in front of the Israelites, providing a dry path across the seabed.

“When Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the LORD brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground.” – Exodus 15:19 NIV

“LORD, if it’s You,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to You on the water.” “Come,” He said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward JESUS. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “LORD, save me!” Immediately JESUS reached out His Hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” He said, “why did you doubt?”
Matthew 14:28‭-‬31 NIV

I hear JESUS saying this to me: “You of little faith,” He said, “why did you doubt?”

Good question! Do you find yourself doubting? Take these words then, and hold them close to your heart (as I do!).

“Who shall separate us from the Love of CHRIST? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who Loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the Love of GOD that is in CHRIST JESUS our LORD.” – Romans 8:35‭-‬39 NIV

Listen to “Wherever I Go” by Dan Bremnes.

American, My Home

“If at any time I [the LORD] announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.” – Jeremiah 18:7‭-‬10 NIV

From history, we know the country we now call the United States of America was founded by early settlers who crossed the ocean, fleeing religious persecution, bigotry, and poverty. Yes, I am aware that there were already native people here, and yes, I will stipulate that the new settlers brought their own forms of bigotry with them, but that I don’t want that to be the focus here. Founded as a Christian nation, with Christian values written into the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, we have strayed far from the Founder’s vision of a united, free nation. It seems as though anything and everything is acceptable today – that is, anything except following JESUS CHRIST and proclaiming that He is LORD. I’m afraid that GOD was speaking directly to the U.S. in verses 9-10, and in these next verses, too:

“….. ‘This is what the LORD says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.’ But they will reply, ‘It’s no use. We will continue with our own plans; we will all follow the stubbornness of our evil hearts.’ ” – Jeremiah 18:11‭-‬12 NIV

Why do we do that? Telling GOD, our Creator, no??? Here He is, telling us plainly what is going to happen to us, to our nation, if we don’t make some major changes, now. I can’t change the world, or the state I live in, by myself. Individually we aren’t very powerful, but together, especially when we allow GOD to work with us and within us, we can do anything. That’s what he tells us in 2 Chronicles, giving us hope of salvation for our nation, and even for our world.

“…. if My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My Face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV

I BELIEVE In Mercy and Grace (Thank GOD!!)

I BELIEVE In Mercy and Grace (Thank GOD!!)

“As for [me], [I was] dead in [my] transgressions and sins, in which [I] used to live when [ I] followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit [Satan] who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” (Emphasis is mine – Instead of pointing to ‘you’, I admit my complicity in these charges laid out to the church in Ephesus by the apostle Paul.)

“But because of His Great LOVE for us, GOD, Who is rich in Mercy, made us alive with CHRIST even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by Grace you have been saved. And GOD raised us up with CHRIST and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in CHRIST JESUS, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His Grace, expressed in His kindness to us in CHRIST JESUS. For it is by Grace you have been saved, through Faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the Gift of GOD – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are GOD’s handiwork, created in CHRIST JESUS to do good works, which GOD prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:2‭-‬10 NIV

Have you heard “This I Believe (The Creed)” by Hillsong Worship?” It begins like this:

Our Father everlasting
The all creating One
God Almighty

Through Your Holy Spirit
Conceiving Christ the Son
Jesus our Savior

I believe in God our Father
I believe in Christ the Son
I believe in the Holy Spirit
Our God is three in one
I believe in the resurrection
That we will rise again
For I believe in the name of Jesus

Knowing that I am a sinner, and that I am only saved from an eternity of pain and suffering because of JESUS CHRIST and His Love for me – for me – (even though I deserve His wrath!), makes me incredibly thankful for GOD’s Mercy!

There are no coincidences in life – as I began writing this morning, this beautiful song by Hillsong came on the radio, and a little later Lauren Dagle’s song “Trust In You” began. I need those reminders to help me look beyond my own troubles and focus my eyes back on the LORD and His Mercies.

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the LORD JESUS has given me – the task of testifying to the Good News of GOD’s Grace.” – Acts 20:24 NIV

What is your life worth to you? Do you believe that this wondrous, incredibly complex being that is you, this creation of the Almighty GOD of the Universe, is just going to turn to dust when you die? Do you believe you will be reborn in karma, or just cease to exist altogether? I don’t understand those views. Intellectually, maybe, but in my heart? No…. we are too intricate, our bodies too intriguing, to have come from nothing without the guiding Hand of the Creator. Come to JESUS and the cross where He has already died for your sins. GOD’s Mercy and Grace awaits you!

Image credit: LCC Daily Devotions