Together

​  “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.” – Colossians 3:23‭-‬24 

The Church of Christ Jesus is inherently diverse culturally and ethnically. I am so tired of the racism and division between “religions” and denominations.  Christians need to be – should be – united, not divided, over His teachings. When we find that we are wrong in a belief, why can’t we just admit it and move on with the business we share of introducing others to Jesus Christ and His Savings Grace?

  “Among the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch of Syria were Barnabas, Simeon (called “the black man”), Lucius (from Cyrene), Manaen (the childhood companion of King Herod Antipas ), and Saul…..So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way. So Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit. They went down to the seaport of Seleucia and then sailed for the island of Cyprus.” – Acts of the Apostles 3:1,3‭-‬4

It’s fascinating to me to read the Gospels and the New Testament and see the diversity of the early church. Wealthy or working class, educated and illiterate; African, Jew, Greek, and Roman…. they all followed Christ. Oh, would that we could embrace that today! For the Word of God will never fail.” – Luke 1:37 NLT (Some manuscripts read “For nothing is impossible with God.”)
In spite of all our human failings, isn’t it about time we let our prejudice fall away? God doesn’t care what color our skin happens to be, and he doesn’t care if you own the most toys or you have absolutely nothing. When He created Adam and Eve, they had every color gene in the. From that one couple came every color, every facial feature, every bit of the DNA that binds us each together as human beings. Jesus didn’t let situations or appearances or wealth or lack of it interfere with His ministry.

Into the Light, or into the darkness… it’s our choice, every day of our lives. We weren’t created to make this journey through life alone. Jesus is patiently waiting, with me and for me, always beside me. Never alone, never without Him, through the fires and the valleys and the shadows, to the tops of the mountain. What about you? Will you continue to go it alone, or are you ready to take His Hand and let Him be your Guide and your Protection? Without Him in us and beside us, we cannot tell others of Him and expect them to believe in Him.

** All scriptures are from http://bible.com/116/NLT

Immortality 

​  ” “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.” Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good?” – 1 Peter 3:12‭-‬13 NLT (http://bible.com/116/1pe.3.12-13.NLT)

It’s an introspective kind of day. As I sit and look at all of the memories surrounding me, I can’t help but wonder what difference it all makes in the grand scheme of things. I began a letter to the executor of my estate, to give her some perspective on it all… and it is turning into an epic. I have lots of stuff. Probably junk to others, but meaningful to me. (It kind of sounds like I’m a hoarder, but I’m really not!) It breaks my heart sometimes when I go to estate sales, looking at what was obviously important to someone, reduced to how much money someone else can get for it.

Doing the “right thing.” In God’s eyes, what is the right thing to do with all this? The selfish part of me wants to hold on to my stuff, my memories, and I want to know that it will all be treasured when I’m gone. My Grandma’s dinnerware, the drawings and paintings by family and friends, furniture hand-built expressly for me…. collections from my adventures and travels, quilts…. how important is it? 

Well, in the grand scheme of things, even the most precious of my things is meaningless. What difference will they make to eternity? The short answer is: Nothing. Nada. Zilch. The saying “you can’t take it with you” is exactly right. I won’t be here to oversee the distribution. Most of all, when I’m gone, I want my executor and my heirs to understand that even though my house is filled with memories, these things are not my legacy. My prayer is that they see that above all of the things, my love for my Savior is my legacy to them.

I fail miserably at showing the Love of Christ to all men/women. I am human, imperfect and broken. Still, I want to do good. Today, my prayer is that God will show me clearly the right paths I need to be on for His Glory. His Kingdom. The question Peter ends with is profound. Who, indeed, wants to harm us? Again, there’s a short answer: Satan, the enemy, does everything he can to harm us and turn us off the path God has laid out for us. The more eager we are to do God’s will and to do good in this world, the more difficult the enemy will make it for us. 

When someone dies, there is the potential for a tremendous amount of strife, as heirs fight over whatever is there. I’ve seen it in my parents’ families when my grandparents died, leaving bitterness between relatives, and in friends families. It is so important to remember that family relationships are so much more important than any amount of money or stuff! I have been fortunate to have been given things by my parents and grandparents, and although there were things I would have liked to have had from my grandparents estates, it’s not worth losing relationships over. Doing the right things when engulfed in grief is difficult, but I know God will honor that by offering peace to your heart. The enemy can’t hurt us if we remain firmly rooted in Christ. He may cause temporary anguish, but I know that God will prevail… and so does the enemy. 

The question to ask in difficult situations is “what difference will it make in view of eternity?”

Thankfulness: what do I have, right now, to be thankful for? 

Love: what do I have in my life right now: Friends, family… God?

Revenge against those who caused or are causing pain, emotional or physical: what will it change; what good will it do?

Grace and Peace: have I received it? It can come from people, but the real Grace comes from Christ Jesus!

  “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” – Lamentations 3:22‭-‬23 NLT (http://bible.com/116/lam.3.22-23.NLT)

Believe it and receive it!

Self Love

When asked what is the greatest commandment,   

  “37 Jesus replied, ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:37‭-‬40 NLT (http://bible.com/116/mat.22.37-40.NLT)

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, considering that Jesus’ entire ministry is built around loving God and putting Him first. In fact, verse 37 is probably one of the most well-known verses in the entire Bible. I know that as a Christian, my heart and soul and mind belong to Jesus Christ; that He should be the Rock I base my life on. We’ve got it down pat.

But what about verse 39? How are we doing with this one? You’re probably wondering about my title “Self Love,” and what it has to do with loving God. Over the years, I’ve struggled with self worth. I still do. Who am I, what am I, and what have I accomplished with my life; does anyone even care? I turned to outside sources – self help books, non-Christian counseling, meditation, astrology, exploring “past lives”, séances and other secular avenues. You know, not a single thing I did improved my so called self worth. I was still the same insecure, searching soul as I was when I started that journey, and the beginning of that journey was very inocculous. At a slumber party, one of the girls had a ouija board, and we didn’t see any harm in playing with it.

I knew Jesus. I grew up with Him being a strong presence in our home, but something inside me was missing. I loved Jesus, and I wanted to follow Him, but I didn’t give my entire being to Him. Then I opened the door to my life and let Satan in. There is nothing innocent or innocuous about a ouija board! The door had been opened that night, giving the enemy an easy way into my mind. If it was so easy to get into the mind of someone who loved God, imagine how easy it must be for him to get into a mind who doesn’t know Jesus. Scary thought. 

We know the first and greatest commandment. You must “…love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” Pay attention to the second in verse 39 “…love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Your “neighbor” is not just the person or family who lives next door. Our neighbors extend beyond our dwellings, and encompasses every person on the planet earth. Every person. From physical neighbors, family, friends, coworkers, and the staff at the coffee place or a resturant or convenient store, to the smelly homeless person on the street.

You have to love yourself before you are even capable of loving another person, but we have to keep in mind that it doesn’t mean what the world wants it to mean. Self love doesn’t mean spending money you don’t (i.e. credit card debt) have to compete with others. It doesn’t mean to spend hours at the spa being pampered, or that dream car/job/wardrobe. I can’t condemn anyone for wanting to better their quality of life, because I do it, too. I really believe the lesson is treat each individual you come in contact with as a fellow human being. I don’t know their circumstances or how they came to be where they are. Minimum wage clerks should be treated with the same respect we give to sports figures, the CEO/CFO of our company, or anyone else. It’s difficult when dealing with certain situations to remember this. The next time a clerk is rude, tell them you’re sorry they are having a bad day, but Jesus loves them. When someone cuts you off in traffic, instead of cursing or flipping them off, think of the time you cut someone off. When we treat others rudely or with disdain, we aren’t loving ourselves or them. But for the Grace of God, we could be in their situation. 

 Seems like we all have something to work on.

Religion or Salvation? 

​I am just beginning to understand the truth and depth of this statement: 

  “I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.” – 3 John 1:4 NLT

SO thankful for the prayers of my parents! 

Today I’m reading in 2 Timothy 3. This is eye-opening, at the very least. Remember, this was written over 2000 years ago, but it is absolutely spot on for today. 

  “For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” 

These next two verses hit me like a slap in the face….

  “They are the kind who work their way into people’s homes and win the confidence of vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires. (Such women are forever following new teachings, but they are never able to understand the truth.)  These teachers oppose the truth just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses. They have depraved minds and a counterfeit faith. But they won’t get away with this for long. Someday everyone will recognize what fools they are, just as with Jannes and Jambres.” {Tradition says these were the 2 chief magicians of Pharaoh when Moses challenged him to let the Jews leave Egypt.} “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived.”- 2 Timothy 3:2-9, 12-13 

Could anyone today pen a truer statement of the state of the world? I don’t see how. How grateful we need to be that God has provided us with a way to transcend this world and all of the evil in it! His inspired Word is available to anyone, either in print or electronic format. But listen to this!

  “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

I was one of those people; one of those women. By the Grace of God I am no longer a victim and I strive to be the opposite of the type of person Paul is warning Timothy about. I don’t want anyone to see me as a religious person, but I pray that the healing and grace of our Lord shows in my life. The reality is that I am far from perfect! I am a broken vessel with many flaws, and that is exactly how Christ shines through me. My brokenness is His Glory. Not for anything I have done or could do; He is the repairer of my heart and my soul. All Hope comes through Him, and all Glory goes to Him.

[All scriptures are from the Bible app http://www.YouVersion.com]

One Way

​  “Jesus told him, “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life. NO ONE can come to the Father except through Me.” – John 14:6 NLT (http://bible.com/116/jhn.14.6.NLT)

Sound harsh? If you believe that Jesus was nothing more than a good person, a teacher, prophet, or a mad man, then yes, it is harsh. But if you know the truth and acknowledge that He is Who He says He is, the Son of Man, Messiah, Deliverer, immortal part of the Triune God, you know that it isn’t harsh at all. He is stating the simple truth. 

You say that Mohammed was also a good man? Maybe he was, although his teachings that tell his followers to rid the world of the infidel certainly aren’t good! I thought that perhaps the Quran might actually have a peaceful message, but what I found shows a message of violence against anyone not professing Islam. It’s true that in the Bible, specifically the Old Testament, the Jewish people were led to conquer certain lands that God promised them. Overall, the violence was done to people who had left the moral ways of God, and for the Jews to regain their homelands. Each battle was fought for a specified area, and outside of those battles that God commanded, violence was condemned. God then sent Jesus, Messiah, as the ultimate sacrifice, and at that time He commanded no more violence against others. Jesus taught that we are to show love and forgiveness to those people who are not followers of Him. He condemns violence against others, and teaches to not only turn the other cheek, but to give them the shirt off our backs if they need it. 

The verse at the beginning is a simple statement of Truth. Without Jesus, we have no future. With Jesus, we have an incredible, indescribable future. It’s a simple matter of accepting Him as your Savior. No violence needed or wanted, and you don’t have to worry about “karma” or having to go through life multiple times to reach nirvana. We have one life, and one death, and one eternity. I know where I’m going, do you?

(For information purposes, I copied the following from http://www.thereligionofpeace.com. Interesting reading: 

  “The Quran contains at least 109 verses that call Muslims to war with nonbelievers for the sake of Islamic rule. Some are quite graphic, with commands to chop off heads and fingers and kill infidels wherever they may be hiding. Muslims who do not join the fight are called ‘hypocrites’ and warned that Allah will send them to Hell if they do not join the slaughter.

Unlike nearly all of the Old Testament verses of violence, the verses of violence in the Quran are mostly open-ended, meaning that they are not restrained by historical context contained in the surrounding text (although many Muslims choose to think of them that way). They are part of the eternal, unchanging word of Allah, and just as relevant or subject to interpretation as anything else in the Quran.”)

East to West

​As I was sitting down with my coffee and tablet, I switched on the radio, and the song “East to West” by Casting Crowns was playing. It’s taken from the Psalms: 

  “For His unfailing Love toward those who fear Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him. For He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust.” – Psalms 103:11‭-‬14 NLT (http://bible.com/116/psa.103.11-14.NLT)

This version is from The Message: “God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he’s rich in love. He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold, nor hold grudges forever. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs. As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is his love to those who fear him. And as far as sunrise is from sunset, he has separated us from our sins.” (http://bible.com/97/psa.103.MSG)

Whatever version or translation you prefer to read, the message here is clear. God loves us. GOD LOVES US! Many of my friends had earthly fathers who were angry, or cruel, or unloving, and we should remember that no matter how godly a man is, they are far from perfect. We have to overcome that knowledge in order to realize that God, the LORD, IS perfect. He has none of the flaws our earthly fathers have. He knows we are weak, and He knows exactly what we deserve….and He sent His Son Jesus to cover our sins and wash them away. Because of Jesus, our sins are separated from us as far as the east is from the west; as far as the sunrise is from the sunset. Take a moment to ponder that thought. 

How far IS the east from the west? How far is the sunrise from the sunset? He gives us this promise through the prophet Isaiah:

  “But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. {We} will soar high on wings like eagles. {We} will run and not grow weary. {We} will walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:31 NLT (http://bible.com/116/isa.40.31.NLT)

AMEN!

From Dry Bones to Hope

This is breathtakingly beautiful!

  “The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” “O Sovereign Lord ,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.” Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, 

  ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord ! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord .’” 

  So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, 

  ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’” So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army. 

  Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 

  When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord . I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord , have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken!’” – Ezekiel 37:1‭-‬14 NLT (http://bible.com/116/ezk.37.1-14.NLT

Through the music composed by men, and the stories written, we can catch glimmers of the promised land of heaven. Listening to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, and reading this passage in Ezekiel, it occurs to me just how little we think our God is. If a man can prophesy God’s Words over a valley full of sunbleached bones and bring them back to life {note this: the man did not resurrect the bones; God’s Words gave them substance and breath. No zombies here; living, breathing human beings!!} just think of what our LORD is capable of! 

Then, the music…. close your eyes and listen to it. It goes from blissful serenity to agony and angst, from visions of stars and almost unimaginable beauty to anger and war, into a pronouncement that the King of the world is coming. There’s glory and excitement, victory, even terror written into the music. It’s like Tchaikovsky has written the voice of the earth, proclaiming with everything it has through the music. No, that’s not the tale of the Sugar plum Fairy that was written to go with it, but as I said, if you just sit and close your eyes and listen, you might hear God’s Voice in it. Let the music fill you and experience a tiny taste of heaven!

Mostly, through the scripture and the music, I hear Hope. So many of us have ended up in the valley of dry bones through addiction, idolatry, poor choices, or other reasons, this passage is the story of Hope. We can be renewed and made whole again through the Voice and healing of Jesus Christ our LORD. He is the Bringer of Redemption and Fulfillment. There is nothing –nothing – on this earth that is capable of true renewal outside of Him. Money, fame, and recognition can serve to make our physical lives more comfortable, but they do nothing for our spirit. The “Power of Positive Thinking” and the message of prosperity might give you the excuse you need to focus on the world and work to the exclusion of your spiritual life, but they won’t get you to God.

The only way to God is through His Son, the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. Think on this….