Dumbed Down …..

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.” – PROVERBS 3:7 NASB

I used to be so smart. I knew what everybody needed to do – what they should do, the right way to do it, and when it should be done. If people would’ve just listened to me, the whole world would have been so much better! That was me, perfect in every way. Do you know someone like that? Maybe, if you are honest with yourself, it’s you? If so, you are in for a rude awakening. I certainly was.

It hurts to realize you are a know-it-all. Maybe that seems like an oxymoron, but I believe that for many peoplem it’s a true statement. When I was in my ‘perfect’ life, it wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision to be that way. Instead, it was a subconscious push to be in charge of something, anything, in my life. Both men and women who feel trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship often search for an outlet. Since they aren’t in control of the emotions, they look for other things. “Knowing” how to do a thing is an easy way to exert some type of control. Excessive behavior is another, like being busy all the time. For many years, it was extremely difficult for me to sit and just enjoy company. I was too busy serving and fixing; my attempt at controlling a tiny aspect of my life. It can still be a struggle for me not to try to “fix” people and situations……

Sometimes it takes a drastic event for GOD to get our attention because our focus is so concentrated on ourselves…. or rather, on “fixing” everything and everybody around us, because there is nothing wrong with “me”. When I realized that it wasn’t possible to fix anyone else, and that I had to focus on me, it was truly an eye-opener. We are so used to focusing on others, we just can’t see anything else. Remember what Jesus said?

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:3‭-‬5 ESV

It is so easy to judge someone else’s life. I have judged, and I have been judged (“I’m that sister”). It isn’t pretty when we have to confront our very human failings, and we all have them. No one, with the exception of Jesus Christ, can claim perfection. Being “dumbed down” can be a blessing if it means we finally realize we don’t have to know everything! Maybe, today, we can just be grateful for where we are in our life journey, without trying to make ourselves feel better about our own life by trying to control someone else’s life. If the GOD of the Universe can forgive me**, then I know He can – and will – forgive anyone who asks Him! **And I am Forgiven!! Hallelujah!!

Listen to the song “Scars” by I Am They.

Have You Prayed About It?

“Have you prayed about it?”

Whenever we have a question or concern, or we are worried about something, that phrase should be the first thing that pops into our mind.

“Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the LORD; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the LORD will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.” – JAMES 5:13‭-‬18 NASB

Billy Graham wrote: “Faith pleases God more than anything else. The Christian life is dependent upon faith. We stand on faith; we live on faith. Faith is loved and honored by God more than any other single thing.

The Bible teaches that faith is the only approach that we have to God. No man has sins forgiven, no man goes to heaven, no man has assurance of peace and happiness, until he has faith in Jesus Christ.

You may be saying, “God, I believe you are a great person, but I do not believe your Word; I do not believe what you say.” In order to please God, you must believe Him. Perhaps your faith is small and weak.

It does not matter how big your faith is, but rather, where your faith is. Is it in Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross for your sins?”

I especially appreciate the last 2 sentences, because for years my faith was small… tiny, almost nonexistent. Because my faith was so small, my constant search for peace & happiness did not yield anything. Oh, I could sense them! I knew they were within reach ….. but I couldn’t quite get there. I knew, because of my parents teaching us while we were children, that true peace only comes thru JESUS. Scripture is quite clear on that:

“Without faith it isn’t possible to please GOD. Those who come to God must believe that He exists. And they must believe that He rewards those who look to Him.” – Hebrews 11:6

Without faith, it is difficult to pray, and without prayer, it is difficult – maybe even impossible – to have faith. The thing I most hope to get across is this: No matter what is going on in your life, whether mental or physical, there is HOPE. There can be PEACE. Regardless of what anyone else says or does to us, JESUS is the answer. Claim it – claim HIM. Pray about it. Hold a conversation with God!

See that tiny flicker of faith that is hiding deep in your soul? Fan the flames. Let GOD supply the fuel!

Have you prayed about it?

Betrayed

Who betrayed Jesus the most, Judas or Peter?

Both men loved and were loved by Jesus. We despise Judas for what he did, and we call anyone who betrays us a “Judas”. Does taking money for his betrayal make him worse than the one who swears allegiance and then denies Him? I’m not convinced that there is a “worse” between the two. We like to vilify Judas, and we praise Peter because of his missionary work after Jesus ascended. We know that Judas hung himself in remorse, and Peter went on to become a champion for Jesus. Does that make up for Peter’s betrayal?

Judas –

“When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.” …… “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.” – JOHN 13:21,26‭ (“Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, “I am He. ” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them.” – JOHN 18:3‭-‬5)

Peter –

“Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.” – JOHN 13:26‭, ‬38 (Then the slave-girl who kept the door said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” ….. Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?” He denied it, and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” Peter then denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed.” – JOHN 18:17‭, ‬25‭-‬27)

Judas felt deep remorse, so much that he couldn’t live with his conscience, and so he ended his life by hanging himself. Did he, in his guilt and shame, receive forgiveness? I hope he did. As heinous as his action in betraying his Lord, Judas did what was required of him to bring Jesus to the place of His sacrifice for our sins. He did as God ordained. Who am I to judge?

“Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.” – MATTHEW 27:3‭-‬5

Both men were separated from God by their actions. We can see from the scriptures that Peter received Mercy. Did Judas? Sometimes I feel like a Judas, knowing that things I have said and done in my life were motivated by money, and other times, like a Peter, denying knowledge of my Lord either by words or by omission. Do you ever feel like either of these men?

All scriptures are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

Overwhelmed by Life

Lately, it seems to be my primary feeling, and I know where it comes from. I’m going to tell you a story – a true story; one that is difficult to write and might be difficult to read, but it is a story that needs to told because it is a story of Hope.

I am single now, free of the ups and downs and the drama of the bad relationships I have spent the majority of my life entangled in. The last one ended just short of a year ago (he walked out, “not going to do this anymore,” 3 days after Christmas – but that’s a story for another time).

There has been much good in my life. I grew up surrounded by siblings and family, and we had many good times and made many lasting memories. There was a lot of drama, but with 6 kids in a small town preacher’s house, could it be any different? 😊 From a very young age, I knew JESUS loved me and died for me, and I loved spending time in the church with my Daddy – both of them! (If you need an explanation, Daddy, my earthly daddy, and Daddy, my heavenly Father, Abba.)

As a teenager, I suffered all of the traditional angst and uncertainty, but being surrounded by a (mostly) Christian youth group, I survived it. Leaving my birth family and my church family for college was where I began to stumble. Having spent my life immersed in and protected by he church – and I mean the church, not the building – there as an element of culture shock when I got to the school. Except for family vacations around the western United States, I had never been out of central Oklahoma, and I was suddenly surrounded by people who had been all over the world! Attending a Christian – no, a Baptist college, and I was introduced to the world of dancing (gasp!) alcohol, smoking, and more.

It is frightening, now, to realize how deep and tight a hold the Enemy had on that little school. Christian schools are not exempt from the troubles of the world; I believe that our Lord’s enemies specifically target them. They don’t need to focus on the non-Christian entities because they already own them.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choices in front of me. Just a tiny sample of these ‘forbidden fruits’ ….. but for me, the tiny samples weren’t enough, and the enemy took that and ran with it. From being immersed in the church, to submersion in the world. Overwhelming. For those of you who have dealt with any kind of hurt, habit, or hangup, you understand. I came very quickly to rely on man to fulfill my wants, rather than the GOD Who Loved me. Ladies, women, girls – MAN, whether a man or men in general, will never hold you with the exquisite love and care that JESUS will! They promise the sun and the moon and the stars, but they cannot deliver. The One Who owns the sun and the moon and the stars is the only One Who can deliver, and you know what? He wants to give it all to you!

Like Moses and the Israelites, it took me (almost literally) 40 years of wandering in the wilderness of the sin of the world to recognize where I was. There were moments of clarity when I could see the LORD and worship Him, but then, like the Israelites, the world (the enemy) would again prevail and my ‘golden calf’ would take my attention. It was never riches or worldly things, not drugs or food or other addictions that took my attention, it was men. I was a relationship addict.

Functioning without a man by my side just wasn’t something I could envision for my life. That’s ridiculous, you say? Would you say to a heroin addict that needing heroin was ridiculous? An addiction is an addiction and can take many forms. Drugs and alcohol are probably the most recognized, followed by food – anorexia, bulimia, chronic obesity. The self-inflicted pain of cutting is an addiction, and you can be addicted to the pain of the losses of your past, refusing to let go and move on with your life. The fear of change, and the fear of more, different pain, keeps us frozen in place. Overwhelming fear.

Lately, I have been feeling overwhelmed, having to make momentous, life-changing decisions by myself, without the input of a partner. Maybe it’s easy for you, but for someone who has depended on her partner’s approval for much of her life, it is hard. Whether single by choice or widowed, separated, or divorced, show compassion and understanding to your women friends, and include yourself in that compassion! Whenever possible, offer your assistance, not your judgement. Listen to your friend, then listen for the LORD’S answer. Pray for clarity…. and Peace. The Bible tells us to be merciful:

“I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.” – Luke 19:26 NASB

I have been given much, and I have lost much. Does that make me a bad person? No, just a person who has made many poor (bad) decisions; relying on self and man, rather than the LORD GOD, ABBA, Father. I don’t like asking for help. Most of my life I have been physically able to do just about anything I chose to do. That is no longer true, and it is quite irritating. We – the entire Christ-following community need to be more aware of those in need. Single women, for whatever reason they are alone, and the more obvious elderly, should be at the top of our prayers….. and actions. I am guilty of inaction myself, and it is only because I have joined those ranks that I see the needs more clearly.

“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” – James 1:27 NASB

GOD IS GOOD. In spite of my poor decision-making skills, the Father has always provided for my needs. Not necessarily my wants, but always my needs. When I look to Him, the feeling of being overwhelmed begins to recede to the background. The pressing decisions don’t go away; I just recognize that GOD is in control – and I’m not god! “Forever and ever His Heart is my home!” Thank you, Matt Maher, for those uplifting words!

If you are feeling overwhelmed, my prayer is that you will be able to tear your eyes away from whatever it is that is causing your anxiety, and fix your eyes on the LORD.

The LORD Is My Portion

The author of the book of Lamentations is disputed, but regardless of whether it was Jeremiah, his scribe, or someone else, it is a book expressing deep torment. It was written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BC. At one particularly bleak period in my life, had I the eloquence of Jeremiah, I could have written this about my own life. These verses can apply to both our physical lives and our spiritual lives. Can you relate it to your life?

“The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.” – Lamentations 3:19‭ NRSV

Despite his sorrow and angst, Jeremiah doesn’t lose his trust in the LORD. Like David, Jeremiah suffered through soul wrenching sorrow, but his faith didn’t waver ….. unlike mine. I questioned GOD, I blamed GOD, and I cursed the situations I found myself in. I know – my choices, my consequences. When I finally said, “Enough! I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!” Then I could call out to JESUS, LORD, and allow Him to pull me out of the muck and he mire and the just plain ugliness of my life. Am I always thankful of GOD’s Mercies? Do I always accept His Portion and let contentment into my life? The answer is a resounding “No, I do not.” I am human, and my ‘feelings’ and emotions can overwhelm me. Sometimes I prefer to wallow in my self-pity, but a mentor said to me, “Feel sorry for yourself for 5 minutes, then get up and get on with your life.’ Don’t let the ‘shoulda coulda woulda’s’ run your life, because they will ruin your life!

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have Hope: The steadfast Love of the LORD never ceases, His Mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your Faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will Hope in Him.” ” – Lamentations 3:20-24 NRSV

I have HOPE in the LORD, AMEN!

Image of the prophet Jeremiah from Wikipedia Commons

Do Whatever He Tells You

Have you ever considered the life of Mary, the girl whom the Almighty Creator, GOD of the Universe chose to be the mother of His Son on earth? This girl, probably a teenager, who believed and followed Him without question? The angel of the LORD came to her – not in a dream, but while she was awake and she knew it was real!

“And he [the angel of the LORD] came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The LORD is with you.” ” – Luke 1:28 NRSV

I would have fainted, straight out! Not Mary. She listened to the message, and thought about it before answering – that’s not my strong suit, to ponder a thing before reacting or responding. She did wonder at the message, even asking the angel, “How can this be…?” That’s more like me – I want to know the What, the Why, the How?

Because she believed, and accepted GOD’s Will in her life – even though it looked impossible to her – she knew the Truth about her son, JESUS, from the moment of His conception, and steadfastly believed in Him throughout His life. When others scoffed, she praised. When He was tortured and killed, she cried for His pain. She supported everything He did with His life. His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”
John 2:5 NRSV

Oh, to have faith like Mary, and to be able to say to myself, without reservation, “I will do whatever He tells me.” Easy to say; difficult to put into action for me, because I’m a ‘bottom line” kind of person. I want to see the whole picture before I commit. How does it affect me personally? Our GOD doesn’t work that way…. or maybe He does, and in our human-ness we just can’t see it? What I forget is that He is watching out for me, not sometimes, but all of the time. He knows the bottom line, and He knows the turmoil, the frustration, and the sorrow we are dealing with. I forget that I am not alone, ever. He is with me to catch me when I fall, steady me when I stumble, and pick me up when I can no longer walk.

Is today a bad day? Are you frustrated, almost to tears? Are you worried to the point of being sick? Lately, I’ve had several of those days. Besides having a running conversation with GOD, what can we do? I recite the first couple of lines from the 23rd Psalm, “The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want,” and sing with Hillary Scott and the Scott family “Thy Will Be Done.” The anxiety may still be there, but I find a wonderful Peace when I let GOD take the fear. “What A Friend We Have In JESUS,” sung by Matt Maher – great reminder!!

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but My Steadfast LOVE shall not depart from you, and My Covenant of Peace shall not be removed, says the LORD, Who has Compassion on you.” – Isaiah 54:10 NRSV

Forever and ever, AMEN.

Image from http://www.fanpop.com

Do As I Say….

So JESUS said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but GOD knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the Sight of GOD.” – Luke 16:15 NRSV

When we don’t fear GOD, we leave a vacuum to be filled by self and the enemy. Luke 16:19–31 is the parable of Lazarus and the rich man – did you know that the name ‘Lazarus’ literally means ‘GOD helps/has helped’? And that this parable is the only one JESUS told where He named the characters? The parable is a way to compare lifestyles and determine if we are living as the LORD would have us live, and if we are hearing – and spreading – the Gospel. The rich man, being tormented and in agony after his death, begs Father Abraham to send Lazarus back to his family to tell them to repent. This is how Abraham answered:

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ” – Luke 16:31 NRSV

I believe that JESUS is speaking of His own approaching death and Resurrection. How many thousands; how many millions of people have done/still do just as the rich man, ignoring JESUS in our everyday lives? Are we more concerned about the feasting and partying and our appearances, than we are about those surrounding us who are struggling and in need? We are our own worst enemies in life. We allow selfishness (GUILTY!) to rule our lives, sowing disharmony, discord, dishonesty, and dissension all around us. We live by he “Do as I say, not as I do” rule. Read Exodus 22, especially verse 25. It’s about selfishness.

“Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” – Ephesians 4:26‭-‬27 NRSV

“We can be angry and not sin when we are angry at sin.” – Pastor Mark Hitchcock. Even justified anger can be sin when we use it to attempt to judge others. (Again, GUILTY.)

So [Nehemiah] said, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our GOD, to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies?” – Nehemiah 5:9 NRSV

It can be a hard lesson to realize how much of the world’s ways we have accepted into our lives. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of “keeping up with the Jones’s” and allowing the desires of our hearts to turn from GOD to the selfishness modeled by so many people who claim the name “Christian” but don’t live it. If they can do/have/say it, it must be okay for me to follow their example, right? No, it’s a recipe for disaster with our LORD. He doesn’t tolerate being second in our lives; He is all or nothing, never-ending, ALL-Powerful, and ALMIGHTY.

On my face before Him, Loved by Him despite my constant fails, I say, so be it in my life, LORD, Your Will be done. Amen.

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Illumination from the Codex Aureus of Echternach, 1035-1040, German National Museum, Nürnberg. Top panel: Lazarus at the rich man’s door Middle panel: Lazarus’ soul is carried to Paradise by two angels; Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom Bottom panel: Dives’ soul is carried off by two devils to Hell; Dives is tortured in Hades.