40 Long Years…

Think about this statement:

  “Normally it takes only eleven days to travel from Mount Sinai to Kadesh-barnea, going by way of Mount Seir.” – Deuteronomy 1:2 NLT

God told the people of Israel that He was giving them a land “overflowing with milk and honey.” All they had to do was walk there (an 11 day journey) and it was theirs. Oh, but that was too easy for them, and they kept sinning and questioning the LORD. 

  “The Lord asked Moses, “How long will these people refuse to obey my commands and instructions? – Exodus 16:28 NLT

God gave them consequences for all of their complaining and rebellion, by leaving them in the wilderness for 40 years instead of the much shorter journey of a couple of weeks. Does that ring true for you? How many years have you been wandering,  afraid to occupy the “land” God has given you?

  “Forty years after the Israelites left Egypt, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses addressed the people of Israel, telling them everything the LORD had commanded him to say. Look! He has placed the land in front of you. Go and occupy it as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Don’t be afraid! Don’t be discouraged!’  – Deuteronomy 1:2‭-‬3‭, ‬21 NLT

I wasn‘t just afraid, I was petrified. I just knew that by being faithful to Him, I would miss out on something. I was convinced (by the enemy) I could be in control of my life. I certainly didn’t need some unseen man controlling my life. I repeat myself, but… how did that work out for me?? Not well. Really not well!

 Had I continued my life following Christ, I would have missed out on all of the “fun” I was having to cover up how miserable I was. I might have missed out on the misery! Control? The one who had control wasn’t me. It was never me. And if you are currently deluding yourself and thinking that you are in control of your life, well, all I can do is shake my head at your fantasy. I am compelled to disillusion you of the notion of you being in control. There is the Almighty God, Omnipotent and Omnipresent, and there is the enemy, the fallen angel (Lucifer, a.k.a. Satan) who corrupted Adam and Eve and gained control of this world through them and their descendants. We are their descendants. Every human to ever walk this earth is connected to them through both physical and spiritual DNA.

I missed out on a lot. I missed out on a fulfilling relationship with my Lord Jesus, and I missed out on years of connecting with my family. I missed out on having a successful wife and mother, and I missed out on a close relationship with my parents. Why do we do that?? But there’s good news about all of this!

Jesus doesn’t hold what we have done or been against us. Murder, lust, gluttony, envy, lying, violence, even the most evil and depraved among us are welcome at Jesus’ feet. He doesn’t care what color we are (I’m kind of a pinkish-tan), He doesn’t care if we come in designer clothes or rags, or if we are driving a Rolls or crawling to Him barefoot and destitute. It doesn’t matter to Him if you are 5 or 105, as long as we seek Him and accept Him as our LORD.

Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.  Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.  So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ ” 

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” – John 3:5‭-‬7‭, ‬18 NLT

What more is there to say? Believe it! 

(All scriptures are taken from the New Living Translation found at http://bible.com
 

God’s Words

​As I continue my quest to offend everyone…..

I’d like to begin a little debate of my own. Years ago, I was an active member of the Santa Fe NM Church of Christ. One of the things that I questioned was why we couldn’t have a piano in the building, or even a guitar. Why? There are so many scriptures showing the use of instruments in praising God, why couldn’t we have one? (I can’t say that I ever got a reasonable explanation, either!) For example:
  “The priests took their assigned positions, and so did the Levites who were singing, “His faithful love endures forever!” They accompanied the singing with music from the instruments King David had made for praising the Lord . Across from the Levites, the priests blew the trumpets, while all Israel stood.” – 2 Chronicles 7:6 NLT (http://bible.com/116/2ch.7.6.NLT)
I mean, the preacher had a piano in his living room, and we sang hymns around it… but not in the church building??? I grew up with instruments, and had piano and clarinet lessons when I was young. I was NOT accomplished on either one – I can play chopsticks on the piano now – but I certainly made joyful noises. 
Also read 2 Samuel 6:5; 1 Chronicles 13:8; Isaiah 38:20; Habakkuk 3:19…
I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and I believe that it is a literal book. From Genesis 1:1 to Revelations 22:21, is all real and true and God-spoken. I believe that the words Jesus spoke in the NIV supercedes anything in the OT. For example, all of the rules for the Tabernacle become moot with Jesus’ coming, since He is the now the literal and living presence of God on earth. The dietary restrictions laid out in the OT are overridden by God’s words to Peter:  “In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.” “No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean. ” But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” – Acts of the Apostles 10:12‭-‬15 NLT (http://bible.com/116/act.10.12-15.NLT)
We are also freed by Jesus so that we no longer have to make animal sacrifices, and we don’t need an earthly priest to absolve our sins.  “And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” – Hebrews 10:19‭-‬22 NLT (http://bible.com/116/heb.10.19-22.NLT)

The point of all this? Jesus did not forbid the use of instruments. He did, however, make this point: “ ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  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)

The way I see it is that it is up to us, individually and collectively as Christians,  and within each local body of Christ (His “Church”) to decide if the use of instruments will be a positive or a negative impact on the people attending. I prefer instructions, because although I love to sing praises to the LORD, it helps everyone else if my voice is covered over by instruments! (As an added bonus for me, I have siblings who sing quite nicely, nieces who sing like angels, and more nieces and nephews who play instruments in their respective churches!) You get to decide for yourself. 

  “And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book.” – Revelation 22:19 NLT (http://bible.com/116/rev.22.19.NLT)

If I haven’t offended you lately…I’ll get there eventually 

  “After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the LORD or remember the mighty things He had done for Israel. They abandoned the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods, worshiping the gods of the people around them. And they angered the LORD. They abandoned the LORD to serve Baal and the images of Ashtoreth. This made the LORD burn with anger against Israel, so He handed them over to raiders who stole their possessions. He turned them over to their enemies all around, and they were no longer able to resist them. Every time Israel went out to battle, the LORD fought against them, causing them to be defeated, just as He had warned. And the people were in great distress.” – Judges 2:10‭, ‬12‭-‬15 NLT (http://bible.com/116/jdg.2.10-15.NLT)

This sounds so much like our country today. Replace “Israel” with “the United States,” and realize who Ba’al and Ashtoreth are. According to an article from http://www.breakingisraelnews.com, the temple to Ba’al in Palmyra, Syria, “…was originally dedicated to the Mesopotamian god Ba’al, whose principal forms of worship were burning babies alive and bisexual orgies. Symbolizing a major religion that challenged Judaism, Ba’al was mentioned in the Bible over 90 times, becoming the archetype of worshipping evil. The devotees of Ba’al believed he was the source of rain and universal bounty. Promiscuity was not penalized, as unwanted children could be offered up to the god [abortion, child abuse], nor was procreation valued, as homosexual relations were encouraged. Pantheistic, they worshipped Mother Nature while rejecting the concept of a creator.” (www.breakingisraelnews.com)

Considered the moon-goddess, Asherah [Ashtoreth] was often presented as a consort of Baal, the sun-god (Judges 3:7, 6:28, 10:6; 1 Samuel 7:4, 12:10). Asherah was also worshiped as the goddess of love and war and was sometimes linked with Anath, another Canaanite goddess. Worship of Asherah was noted for its sensuality and involved ritual prostitution. The priests and priestesses of Asherah also practiced divination and fortune-telling. (www.gotquestions.org)

(Emphasis added)

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, made a prescient comment on the new moral reality in an article in the the Wall Street Journal in 2011, warning, “A tsunami of wishful thinking has washed across the West saying that you can have sex without the responsibility of marriage, children without the responsibility of parenthood, social order without the responsibility of citizenship, liberty without the responsibility of morality and self-esteem without the responsibility of work and earned achievement.” (http://www.breakingisraelnews.com/64582/temple-baal-ancient-idol-worshiped-biblical-times-will-stand-times-square-biblical-zionism)

I think Rabbi Sacks was very accurate in his statement. We have no respect for life. Witness the number of abortions performed every day, and the acts of violence across the country. Human life has little value to so many people. The lives of animals are placed above children in so many cases, and the presence of drugs and human slavery are decimating. We want the government to support us so we don’t have to work. We expect the government to supply our health care; and we expect the government to take care of us when we get old. But mostly, we expect to be left alone to do whatever we please, without the constraints of morals or ethics or rules.

How’s that working out for you?
It’s time we stand up for what is RIGHT. Morally, ethically, and lawfully. Whether at work or at play, it is up to each individual to live righteously and without expectation that someone else will provide for us. Responsibility is not fun, but it is a necessity. There are different definitions of “right,” so I submit mine. It is right to work and then to enjoy the fruits of my labor. If I choose to have a nice house, it is my responsibility to pay for it and to maintain it. If I want a nicer vehicle, then I need to work for the privilege of ownership. Same with anything else I want. If I choose to have children or animals, it is my RESPONSIBILITY to take care of and provide for them. It is not up to any government to provide these things. There are legitimate instances where people need assistance. For example, I lost my job in April and have been unable to find equivalent work since then. I am fortunate to have earned unemployment benefits, but those are very limited. I am even more blessed to have a partner whose income keeps us going financially for now. Neither of these things prevents me from being responsible to find another job. I have friends who have made the choice to raise their children without the dad because of abuse, and others who have adopted unwanted children. They still work and struggle to maintain a “normal” life, and I believe they should be helped if they desire it. Many make the choice to do their lives without government help.
For those who cannot earn an adequate living through no fault of their own, because of physical or mental disability, or because they are a widow or orphan, we as a community of Christians bear the responsibility to care for them. Not the government. It is not the right of anyone or anything government to take what I have achieved in order to “spread the wealth” – or any other euphemism, including Socialism or Communism or just plain stealing because they don’t want to work.
We are at war today, my friends. In our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our jobs, in our lives, wherever it takes us. Take this scripture to heart:
  “Then if My People who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray and seek My Face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT (http://bible.com/116/2ch.7.14.NLT)

“Don’t be afraid. I am here!”

​  “…. but He called out to them, “Don’t be afraid. I am here!” ” – John 6:20 NLT (http://bible.com/116/jhn.6.20.NLT)

Seems like we go through our entire lives being afraid. Afraid of change. I don’t think most people will admit to being afraid of change;  most – in my experience – will only say they don’t like change. To me, it just seems a convenient way to deny fear. There are people who embrace change. Being spontaneous and being adventurous. I like spontaneity, myself, and when I was younger, did a number of rather adventurous  (well, we wouldn’t want to call them reckless, now!) things…. and in several cases, I believe it was through the intervention of guarding angels that I didn’t die or end up seriously injured. For the most part, I don’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone anymore…. just don’t dare me!!

How does all of this relate to John 6:20?

In the instance that John is recording, the disciples had found themselves in a rather dangerous predicament. I wonder, though, were they more frightened by the storm, or by the appearance of Jesus? It seems almost as if they just got tired of waiting for him, and left without Him. How many times do we do that in our own lives? We know in our hearts that we need to wait for Jesus, but we grow impatient and take off on our own. I’ve done it countless times. Then, when we find ourselves in a predicament, we cry and call for help…. and then we are surprised when Jesus shows up!

  “That evening Jesus’ disciples went down to the shore to wait for him. But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn’t come back, they got into the boat and headed across the lake toward Capernaum. Soon a gale swept down upon them, and the sea grew very rough. They had rowed three or four miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, but he called out to them, “Don’t be afraid. I am here! ”  Then they were eager to let him in the boat, and immediately they arrived at their destination!” – John 6:16‭-‬21 NLT (http://bible.com/116/jhn.6.16-21.NLT)

Wouldn’t it be much easier to wait on Him in the first place? Undoubtedly, but then, we are human and stubborn. After all, what 2 or 3 year old doesn‘t cry “No! I do it!”?? (Don’t bother to deny it – or that most of us take it on into our teen years and adulthood!) After all, how do we learn? Okay, how do most of us learn? In my family, we run the gamut from the ones who took the hard roads to a couple who recognized that letting Jesus be Lord was the way to go early on. At times I wish I would’ve taken the less difficult roads, but then I wouldn’t be who I am today (I’m just glad to be here today!!) I love verse 20: “Don’t be afraid. I am here!” 

Even though I turned away from from family and what I knew was right, there was always – always– this little voice in the back of my head whispering whenever I did something that I knew was wrong. I tried really hard to shut it up and to run from it, but nothing worked. It was still there, no matter what I tried. Even switching continents didn’t work. Ugh! It took a pretty good whack on the heart for me to really get it. Everyone’s bottom is different, and some people have to hit theirs more than once. Some people, lots of people, stay on the bottom because it is what they know. Even though it’s incredibly painful for them, it’s also comfortable because it’s what they know.

Fear. Fear of change. It keeps so many of us stuck in bad, ugly, painful circumstances. Change could make it worse, and at least being stuck we at least know what to expect. With change, we could be getting into something worse. I’ve had conversations with people who don’t understand. Why doesn’t she just leave the abusive man? How can he live in such squalor? Because change is hard. It’s scary, and it is painful. It’s all we can relate to. Do you embrace change in your job? Are you happy at the prospect of change in your life? We can look forward to something,  but there’s always something fear mixed in, even if the changes is good. When we realize that Jesus is here; when we finally know that He is right here with us, and we accept His Presence, we eliminate so much fear. There will always be that little bit of fear in change, because as long as we live in a broken world we can never be entirely sure it will be better. There is one change that we can wholeheartedly claim and know without a doubt that it will be good… actually, it will be beyond any good that we can imagine,  and that is the change we experience when we meet Jesus face to face. 

That’s one change I look forward to with NO fear!

Will We EVER Learn?

​  “And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? Will they never believe me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them? I will disown them and destroy them with a plague….” ” – Numbers 14:11‭-‬12a NLT (http://bible.com/116/num.14.11-12.NLT)

Will we EVER learn? 

I was fortunate to have been born in the United States of America, into a family with God-fearing parents who took me to church and taught me about the Almighty, loving God. I learned from them about how much God loves me, and I learned manners and respect…. And once I left their home to be an adult, I treated them AND God with contempt and disrespect. Like God punished the Israelites by sending them into the wilderness to wander for 40 years, I wandered in my own personal wilderness for years, looking for love, not realizing  (or accepting) that I had walked away from the greatest Love of all. The love of a parent is almost indescribable, and the Love that God has for us is impossible for me to explain. I know this: God loves me. He loves you. GOD LOVES us! It took me years to find my way back to Him, but I am so grateful that I did. The enemy provides us so many avenues away from God, yet God stays with us, no matter how far or however many twisty paths we take. He is right there, waiting for us to take His outstretched hand so that He can lead us back to the right path; HIS path. I still forget and drop His hand sometimes, thinking I can handle it and can stay on His path on my own. Every single time I do that, I wander off His path and wind up on the enemy’s path. Silly humans; do we ever learn?

Billy Graham says it so well: “Man has an inborn hunger for God. He cannot be satisfied with ANYTHING less than God. GOD ALONE can supply the bread which satisfies the inner longing of your soul and the hunger of your heart. . . . The Bible says that He is the Bread of Life. Lord Jesus, thank You for satisfying the yearnings deep down in my heart. Your presence fulfills the needs of my soul, and I rejoice.” 
Nothing on earth will fill that longing, because nothing on earth is capable of filling it….

Jesus said:  “I AM the Living Bread that came down from heaven. ANYONE who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is My flesh.” – John 6:51 (http://bible.com/116/jhn.6.51.NLT)

Will we EVER learn?

Called to Grace and Peace 

​  “Through Christ, GOD has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what GOD has done for them, so that they will believe and obey Him, bringing glory to His Name. 

  And you are included among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ. I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by GOD and are called to be His Own holy people. 

  May GOD our FATHER and the Lord Jesus Christ give you Grace and Peace.” – Romans 1:5‭-‬7 NLT (http://bible.com/116/rom.1.5-7.NLT)

These words were written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Rome. The church probably consisted of a very diverse crowd, from senator to slave, from wealthy to poor, of Jew and Gentile. Paul was an expert on Jewish law, and he often spoke directly to his people, the Jews, because they were the ones Jesus chose to be the leaders of His church on earth. Paul recognized that because the Jews had been responsible for Jesus being sentenced to die, and because of their persecution of His followers, they needed to be the ones who showed the world the Messiah story. When we submit to Jesus Christ and His authority, we received a measure of peace unlike anything we have ever known. Love so AMAZING it cannot be described in words, and many many people have tried. The first step is submission, and that is so stinkin’ hard for us stubborn, hardheaded humans! Imagine how hard it must have been to the Jewish leaders to accept such a radical change. They had to believe that this man of the common people was their promised Messiah and their King. He was born in a barn, for goodness sake…. a barn for the birthplace of their Messiah? A common man, not a scholar or a Jewish teacher of the law. 

Can you imagine? Would we, as Americans, accept a 30-ish homeless man to be our leader? I think not.

And yet, it was the truth that the disciples of Jesus were preaching to the world. It was the truth, and Paul literally had his eyes opened to it. Paul went from hunting down and persecuting, and even killing, followers of Christ to being a believer overnight. Submitted to Jesus, Paul took on the gigantic task of teaching the Gospel to the known world… how committed, and how submitted, are you? I was a Christian for many years before I submitted myself to Him, and the difference is amazing. “Called to Grace and Peace” barely scratches the surface. Besides those, when completely submitted you recognize the blessings around you so much easier. Little irritations become just that – little. Big irritations become much smaller, and often lose their ability to irritate at all. That’s the Peace we received from submitting to Jesus. Grace becomes easier to give to those who wrong us, because we have received His Grace in our own lives.

Simple? Extremely. Difficult? Extremely. Is it WELL with your soul?

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.

    • Refrain:
      It is well with my soul,
      It is well, it is well with my soul.
  2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  4. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  5. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  6. And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul. 
  7. (By Horatio G. Spafford, 1873 – and still perfect for today!)

If Only…

We are so ungrateful and full of complaints. “If only I had married that person, if only I had stuck it out in that job, if only I could win the lottery/PCH Sweepstakes, if only, if only, if only…..”

  “If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.” – Exodus 16:3 NLT (http://bible.com/116/exo.16.3.NLT)
Looking back at history, we know the Israelites life in Egypt was anything but easy. For the most part, they were slaves and did hard labor with little or no rewards, but as they struggled through the wilderness following Moses and Aaron they forgot the reality of their lives in Egypt. They focused instead on the “if only” and what they no longer had, instead of their freedom and blessings of God. 

  “And as Aaron spoke to the whole community of Israel, they looked out toward the wilderness. There they could see the awesome glory of the Lord in the cloud.” – Exodus 16:10 NLT (http://bible.com/116/exo.16.10.NLT)

I could easily spend the rest of my life moaning about the “if only’s” and the “what if’s,” but what would I gain? Complaining about what could/should/would have been does one thing: it makes me miserable. Maybe if I had stayed married instead of tucking tail and running from responsibility, I would be more financially prepared for the future….and maybe not. Maybe if I had stayed at my first “real” instead of quitting over office politics, life would be different. Actually, my life would be nothing like it is now. Would it take be better? Would I be more financially prepared for the future? Would my health be better? Would my life be better?

The only thing that is assured from all that wondering is that my life would be different. Maybe better; maybe worse, but definitely different. The thing about life is that it shapes us into what we are. Our faith in God shapes us into who we are. Why spend my life wondering and wishing for a life that has already happened? I am who I am, and I am what I am, and I am where I am purely through my own choices. I realize that many people, through abuse or human trafficking, don’t have all of the choices most of us have. Their lives are not theirs to make many choices, and my heart and soul cry out to God to rescue them. Because the world currently belongs to the enemy, bad things will continue to happen. (I can’t wait to see him – the enemy, aka Satan – get what he deserves when Jesus returns!) 

Today, Instead of focusing on the “if only’s,” work on focusing on a blessing instead. I know first-hand how difficult it can be when your life is in flames around you. God provided meat and bread to the Israelites in the wilderness when they were hungry and had no resources. He saved Daniel from being mauled and eaten when he was thrown into a pit full of hungry wild lions. He walked through the fire with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. (See Daniel chapters 3 and 6.) He has saved countless people from physical harm, and he has allowed countless saints to be mistreated, tortured, and brutally murdered. “If only” God had saved them; “if only” He would heal all of the hurting….

He will, no doubt about it! It may not be in my lifetime or yours, but He will prevail over the evil in this world – in His time. I challenge you to find  something in your life to be grateful for today; something that you wouldn’t have if your “if only’s” had come to pass.