In The Storms

Michael W. Smith, in his devotional Still, writes this:

Recently when I went to the mountains, they were hidden by a thick layer of smoke from wildfires. Their beauty was concealed. I was so disappointed that I couldn’t see them! Then the next day it began to rain. The temperature suddenly dropped and the rain turned to snow. The strong winds blew the snowflakes around in heavy swirls. It looked like a blizzard in September! When the storm cleared away, the mountains were revealed in striking beauty. The smoke was gone. The trees and mountaintops were blanketed in white.
The following day, the snow melted and the green appeared. The birds sang, the creek flowed, and the sun warmed us. As the land appeared to wake from death to life, God spoke to me and awakened my heart.

What a beautiful and apt analogy of the some of the things we go through in our lives. We can be in the midst of the ‘fire’, in complete darkness and chaos in our lives, smothering in smoke and flame, thinking things can’t be any worse. We want to give up in despair and hopelessness. Then the rains come. These can be soothing, healing rains, dousing the flames and giving us hope, or it can be a deluge, causing us to feel as though the last of our hope is being washed away. Life can turn into a blizzard of confusion, where we can’t see our hand in front of our face, lost and not knowing where it is safe to step. Am I on the path, or am I about to step off a precipice?

God is there. He is with us throughout these disasters.

In a fire, even with all of their protective equipment and training, people who fight fires can get burned, sometimes badly. Fire can be deadly, even to the most well trained firefighters.

In floods, rescuers wear flotation gear and take precautions, yet some are injured or killed every year.

In blizzards and storms, in avalanches, rescuers have specialized gear and training, and still some sustain injuries and death.

The LORD God is our protection. He is our trainer. His Book provides us the training we need, and the Holy Spirit provides our protection. Learning God’s Word outfits us with our armor, the protective gear that we need to survive the attacks of the enemy.

I feel like a majority of my life has been spent in the fires and the storms of life, without a lot of calm. Many poor decisions on my part have contributed to this, and because of the long reaching consequences of some of those choices, I don’t expect that my life will ever be ‘easy’. Even knowing this, there are many opportunities for me to see the smoke clearing, the rain ceasing, and the beauty of God’s Creation. The green appears. The birds sing, the creeks flow, and the sun warms me. The land – my land, my life, wakes from apparent death to life; God speaks to me and awakens my heart to His Beauty. I may forget, momentarily, but He always reminds me.

For the last few days, my city and state have endured an historic ice storm. Thousands of trees (and consequently vehicles and houses) have been utterly crushed and destroyed. Fierce winds have broken branches and snapped telephone and electric lines. Thousands are still without power. Millions of dollars in damage. Where is the good in this? How can God possibly use this?

Even before the first 24 hours were up, people were posting on social media that they were willing and available to help anyone who needed it, to remove branches, cut down trees, carry debris to the curb. That’s the Spirit moving! Even non-Christians are caught up in it, even if they don’t understand it. What an opportunity for God’s people. In the middle of our personal storms, we have the opportunity to reach out to others and show God’s Love.

The temperature is rising, the rain is stopping, and the sun is coming out. Today will be a good day.

“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord , ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NASB1995

I don’t know God’s plans for you. I don’t even know what His plans are for me! What I do know is this. I have to rely on Him, because without Him, I am utterly and completely lost.

Are You Ready to Die?

“The last enemy that will be abolished is death.” 1 Corinthians 15:26 NASB1995

Are you ready to die?

I am.

Don’t freak out. I’m not contemplating suicide, and I’m not looking for a way out of this life, but I’m serious. I’m ready to die; I’m ready to leave this body and this world. Any time.

Shouldn’t all Christians be ready to die?

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalms 23:4 NASB1995

I can be ready to go, and still be concerned by what I leave behind. I’m not anxious to die. I’m not looking for a way out. I’m just ready.

My first thought is that there are a few people who would be sad, and of course I don’t want to be the cause of any heartache. I worry a little about my dogs, because they wouldn’t understand why I deserted them, and because they have me really well trained. (No, they’re not spoiled! Heeheehee.)

God says we should be ready, anytime and any place. Remember what Jesus said about His return?

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Matthew 24:36 NASB1995 (also Mark 13:32)

I’d love to still be here when Jesus returns. Can you – or do you – ever consider what that will be like? What a triumphant moment! At the same time, though, I’m ready now. I mean, seriously, what on this earth is worth missing time in heaven, with my Lord and my family and friends that have gone on before me? Why do we mourn when Christians die in this earthly body? We should be throwing parties! When I die, whenever that time comes, I sincerely hope that there will be a big celebration. Positive and upbeat music, party favors, food….. I know I’ll be celebrating!

I think we mourn because we’ve been left behind and we’re missing out on the real party.

“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” Hebrews 10:35‭-‬36 NASB1995

Whenever, wherever, however the day and moment comes that I leave this world behind, my most fervent hope is that people will remember me as someone who loved Jesus. Nothing else really matters.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 NASB1995

When, O LORD, When?

“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” “ 1 Samuel 16:7 NASB

When, O LORD, when?

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 NASB

When, O LORD, when?

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” Psalms 32:8 NASB

When, O LORD, when?

“ ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord , ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’ ” Jeremiah 29:11 NASB

When, O LORD, when?

I haven’t been very patient in my life. I’ve made a lot of poor choices, trying to push God into giving me what I wanted. I’m trying, LORD. I’m just not very good at letting go of my desires and giving You control.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 NASB

I’m holding on to this promise.

Prayer. Do You Need It?

Jesus said: “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [ For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’ ] For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Matthew 6:8‭-‬15 NASB

Do you remember Jeremiah, the “Weeping Prophet”? When the Hebrews were taken prisoner and moved from Jerusalem to Babylon, most of their prophets were telling them not to worry, this would be a very short captivity and then they would be able to return home. God had other plans, and He chose Jeremiah to give them the real plan….. and they considered him to be full of doom and gloom! I think we do that, too. When we don’t get the answer we want, we tend to be “Oh, woe is me!” We need to concentrate more on the Word and the positive that God is telling us.

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’ ” Jeremiah 29:11‭-‬14 NASB

Most of us are not in physical exile like the Hebrews were, but we may feel trapped in a job or a relationship. God doesn’t create chaos; we do that through the exercise of our own free will and by neglecting to listen to the LORD. He allows us to do these things, but if we will turn back to Him, we can sometimes remove ourselves/be removed from the bad situation, and other times we learn to be content in it. Remember, bloom where you are planted. I know; much easier said than done sometimes!

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Daniel 3:17‭-‬18 NASB

• Pray for peace, and for prosperity for the place God has placed you.

• Pray for the economy, citizen safety, wisdom and integrity of our leaders/politics, and for prosperity of the community and the country.

• Beware of false Teachers and Prophets! Biblical prosperity does not resemble health and wealth. It is Peace with God.

• Trust God’s plan. The long term, not necessarily the immediate.

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17‭-‬18 NASB

• Finally, receive God’s blessing.

Don’t be IN or OF the community, but FOR the community you are in. Society today is not pro Christian, nor does it favor Christians. Wherever you are, be ALL there. Seek peace, practice practical loving. A community cannot be at peace, TRUE peace, until they are at peace with God through Jesus Christ. Pray for what you care about.

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8 NASB

Afraid and Discouraged, or Trust in the LORD?

Rescue me, O LORD, from evil men; Preserve me from violent men Do not grant, O LORD, the desires of the wicked; Do not promote his evil device, that they not be exalted. Selah.
Psalms 140:1‭, ‬8 NASB

Trust as defined by The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:

  • n. Firm belief in the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing; confidence or reliance.
  • n. The condition and resulting obligation of having confidence placed in one.

Do you trust God? Do you believe in His integrity, His abilities, His character? Do you have confidence in Him? Do you rely on Him? Do you really?Trust is hard. Once trust is broken, it’s difficult to get back. Most of us (truthfully, all of us) have had our trust in someone broken. We’re all human, we are all imperfect and broken; therefore, we will break trust. I have had my trust broken.

I have broken trust. I am imperfect and broken. Sometimes those things weigh on me so much that it feels like there is a literal weight on me, holding me down.Whenever you are reeling from a broken trust, or hurting because you have broken trust, remember this verse. We aren’t perfect because of our sin, and we will never be perfect on this earth, but God, our God, our LORD, sees us differently than the way others see us and the way we see ourselves. In His eyes, we are each His Masterpiece.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
Ephesians 2:10 NASB

Say it with me,“I am God’s Masterpiece!”

What Are You Chasing?

“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance.” Isaiah 55:2 NASB

I’ve spent my life chasing something, or someone. Lots of money and energy expended trying for the perfect partner, job, house, clothes; friends, family. The “perfect” church. Know what I’ve discovered?

They don’t exist.

What? Of course they do! Don’t try to tell me my searching, my life, is futile! ……. And yet, that’s the truth. Most of us spend our lives trying to have the perfect life as we imagine it, when the reality is that all of these things, and all of these people, won’t satisfy us. Sure, we can achieve momentary satisfaction, but it’s fleeting. I think that’s why our world is rife with ruthless people, in business and politics and in their personal lives. Business takeovers. Public lies and shaming. Affairs in the shadows, and affairs in the open, blatantly flaunting themselves. Desperate people everywhere, searching for nirvana.

It doesn’t exist.

We are a created race. Yes, one race, created by a Creator God, and we are created to worship Him. Nothing else can fill that hole. We can search and scrape and fight trying to find anything else to fill it, and that’s what we spend our lives doing. One thing fills that hole in your heart. One thing fulfills your search. ONE thing.

Jesus Christ.

Son of the FATHER GOD. Second, but equal, member of the Trinity, God, Son, Holy Spirit. Saviour of the world. The One; The Way.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:16‭-‬18 NASB

In 1670, Blaise Pascal published Pensées, in which he writes:

What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 NASB

Change your focus. Look for Jesus. He will fill your heart in a way you could never have imagined. Not only your heart, but He will fill your life, your mind, your soul, if you will just let Him. He will give you Life Abundant. Even if you struggle financially, even if you are on your own, without a partner, or out of work, Jesus can bring a contentment that is beyond this earth.

LORD, I pray today for that person who is searching, that he or she will open their heart to You and realize real peace and contentment today, right now. Amen.

Freedom

Charles Stanley wrote about surviving “the wait” with courage. He says “Continued delays can be disheartening, especially when circumstances don’t go your way or your burdens become too heavy to carry. Most likely, you’ve experienced heartbreaking occasions before—devastating disappointments that have robbed you of the last of your strength and resolve. The days, weeks, months, and sometimes years go by without any answers to your prayers. The illness, financial difficulty, conflict, loneliness, uncertainty, or need persists. You struggle, feeling the overwhelming temptation to give in to utter despair and fall back into destructive habits.”

I’ve been there. I sometimes feel as though I have spent my entire life there, waiting. Sometimes patiently, but mostly impatiently. The years I’ve spent waiting for answers, through my husband’s illnesses, financial difficulties, so many conflicts; through loneliness and uncertainty.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 NASB

We sang this old hymn written by Isaac Watts in 1708 on Sunday. It’s still a great reminder of what we are waiting for, and of our security while we wait.

Our God, Our Help in Ages Past –
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home;
2 Under the shadow of thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is thine arm alone,
And our defence is sure.
3 Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting thou art God,
To endless years the same.
4 A thousand ages in thy sight
Are like an evening gone,
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.
5 Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
6 O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.
(Paraphrased from Psalm 90)

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16‭-‬18 NASB

Exodus tells of the Israelites leaving Egypt. They had been in slavery for 430 years, but their bondage was all they knew and it was comfortable. We are like that. Our sin is comfortable. Our despair is comfortable. It’s often easier to stay in bondage than to change it, but Jesus has come to redeem us, to loose each of us from our shackles, our bondage, the oppression of sin. It is just as true now as what Moses said then, “The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” Exodus 14:14 NASB

In Exodus 14:20, God LITERALLY put a barrier between the camps so that the Egyptians cannot attack the Israelites. GOD is working out their salvation; it was nothing that the Israelites did or could do, just as OUR salvation is nothing that we can do. Standing at the edge of death, God creates the way so we can escape death. We are called to live under His Covenant. He has led us through the waters and to our salvation. We are SET FREE from bondage to sin, we are SAVED from the consequences of sin, and we are SPOKEN FOR by the God of the Universe.

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 NASB

I may not be free of these things I’ve dealt with during my life until the day I die, but I pray that someone, somewhere, might have seen my struggle and realized that my goal is not of this world. I pray that they might see the One God, and the One Mediator in the person of Jesus Christ Who is taking care of me. I’m a terrible example of a Christian, so it will have to be the work of the Holy Spirit!

What Is Important To You?

“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace ….” Romans 8:6 NASB

My thoughts and desires – my “needs” (okay, my WANTS) often consume my thoughts so that nothing else seems to matter. That is death. Lord, help keep my mind on what’s REALLY important, especially when it seems to be impossible.

Pastor Wayne Cordeiro said “I don’t have to tie myself to an imaginary, unrelenting cycle to produce more, make more or try to outdo last week’s numbers. I have just so much time in the day, and I want to do what I can with all my heart involved. When the clock runs out, then I’ll say, “Come back tomorrow, and I’ll have more.”

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NASB

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:15‭-‬19 NASB

I Waited Patiently. ….. NOT

“I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of Praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD. How Blessed is the man who has made the LORD his Trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.” Psalms 40:1‭-‬4 NASB

“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:2 NASB

Picture two vultures sitting on a branch, hungry, waiting on something to die so they can eat. One turns to the other and says “Patience my ass, I want to kill something.” ….. Yes, it’s crude, but very descriptive of how we often act when God doesn’t deliver WHAT we want, HOW we want, WHEN we want. I don’t like to wait. It’s often painful, and aggravating. We are God’s garden. Ask anyone who grows things, and they will tell you that plants often have to be aggressively pruned in order to get the best fruits and flowers and vegetables. They have to be patient, and wait for that plant to produce and mature. God is patient with us, and He is training us to produce the best. I’M not patient, but I’m very grateful that HE is.

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NASB

This is so true. I married young because I wanted to. Emphasis on “I WANTED.” There were lots of reasons, but I was in LOVE. God wasn’t in that marriage, and it was a disaster. I spent years trying to “fix” my life without God, using human men as a poor, poor substitute. Ladies, pay attention to those who love God and who love you. Listen to their counsel. Pray about any relationship. If you feel ANY hesitation, STOP. Same for you guys. If GOD isn’t first in the relationship, It. Will. Be. A. Disaster. Might takes years, but without the LORD, no relationship will prosper. It’s no fun, seeing friends in relationships when you/I am not ….. but, back to that “patience” thing. Trust the LORD. He knows. He KNOWS.

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven….” Ecclesiastes 3:1 NASB

God knows. He knows what we want, but more importantly He knows what is best for us. Really. We don’t. As difficult as it is, listen to Him, even when it isn’t what we want to hear. God is in control. Don’t be a backseat driver!