Courageous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Horsley Lab – Harvard

Everything Lost???

Paul is such an eloquent writer. He has the ability to lift us up and then put us firmly in our place, all while praising the LORD. He has a firm grasp on humility, too. Consider these verses:

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the LORD. To write to you again about this is no trouble for me and is a protection for you. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing CHRIST JESUS my LORD. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain CHRIST and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in CHRIST — the righteousness from GOD based on faith. I pursue as my goal the prize promised by GOD’S heavenly call in CHRIST JESUS.” – Philippians 3:1‭, ‬8‭-‬9‭, ‬14 HCSB

(*the term ‘brothers’, in this context, is usd to encompass the entire congregation at Philippi, including both the men and the women.)

In spite of many hardships and difficult circumstances, and even through imprisonment, Paul’s faith in the LORD was never shaken. He held tight to the promise of spending eternity with JESUS. Can we say the same? As hard as I try, I struggle to achieve that peace. In my losses, anger and bitterness were (are) much easier to focus on than forgiveness and joy. Looking out at all the ugliness that appears to be consuming our world, there isn’t much to see that shows the way of peace, so I know I’m not alone in my discomfort/pain. I think it’s that sinful human nature that pushes the negative to the front of our thoughts, because the last thing that Satan wants to see is content, peaceful Christians in the middle of his chaotic world.

The verses mesh right into today’s verse from the YouVersion Bible app (https://bible.com/bible)

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.” – Proverbs 1:7 HCSB

Without the reverence (the ‘fear’) we need to have for the LORD, even the fear of His Judgement, we can never find true peace in this world. What do you have? A healthy reverence, fear, peace with the LORD, or are you stuck in the bitterness and chaos of the world? It’s a choice we face constantly….

Am I Living ‘Right’?

“As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please GOD, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the LORD JESUS to do this more and more.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:1 NIV

Man, this devotion from Right From The Heart 1-Minute Devotions (day 213) really struck home. I’ve spent a lifetime searching for and choosing the wrong mate. Guess I’ve made a career of it, and quite a successful career, too. Over and over, making the same bad choices, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Oh, wait! That’s the definition of insanity! The devotion is titled “Finding The Right Mate.” Here it is:

Everybody wants to make the right choice in choosing a mate. What a nightmare if we don’t. [Side note: I can testify to the nightmare!] What a blessing if we do. If you are in a serious relationship, ask yourself these questions:
* Is this person my best friend? If not, you’re not ready.
* Do we share common faith and values? If not, you’ll have conflict and drift apart.
* Do family and friends affirm the relationship? Choosing a mate means choosing a family.
* Am I willing to make a lifetime commitment? Marriage is not for trying out. That’s a sure road to divorce.
* Do I want this person to be the parent of my children?
* Do I wake up to every day wanting to be with them versus convincing myself why I like them?
If you can say yes to each of these, you may have found the right one. If not, you may want to slow down or even call it off. But most of all, seek God’s will through prayer and be willing to follow His lead in one of life’s biggest decisions.

Out of all my relationships, and they have been many (believe me when I tell you that I am not proud of that fact!), there was one who fit all of those points. We had a good life together until an addiction to pain pills took over his brain and I was forced to leave for my physical safety. He was flawed, and so was I, but we had always worked things out and trusted and relied on each other. The enemy finds our weakest point and exploits it in every way possible, and in this the enemy succeeded in pulling us apart, but I am confident that I will see him again when I leave this physical body.

When we live according to GOD’S Law rather than submitting to our own desires, we will receive the Peace He offers us. That doesn’t mean we will always get what we want. My desire, and my husband’s desire before the drugs took him from me, was to spend our lives together doing a ministry we loved in the form of our Bed & Breakfast. There was a joy in our working together, and I was really angry for a long time at both him and GOD for allowing our dreams to be destroyed by something as stupis as drugs. Even so, I want that connection, that kind of love, again. I have made my peace with my LORD, and I have forgiven my husband for deserting me. As I live my life day to day, I strive to keep my focus on GOD’S desires rather than my own. Some days, it is really hard to trust that He really does have a plan for me, when all I can seem to do is worry about how I will survive this financial nightmare I am in. What I need to focus on is how I can serve my JESUS. Hear what He says:

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.” – Matthew 25:45 NIV
“For the SON of MAN is going to come in his FATHER’s Glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what they have done.” – Matthew 16:27 NIV

What we do won’t save us, only accepting JESUS as our LORD and SAVIOUR will do that, but what we do does have a direct correlation to our heavenly rewards. I would be content to live in the poorest of hovels in heaven, as long as I am in the Light of His Eternal Glory. ( Although I’d really much prefer not to live in a hovel here on earth…. ) Get the focus off “me” and put the focus on HIM by spending time every day in His Word and in prayer, seeking His Will.

Sing Like Never Before

“The LORD is Righteous in everything He does; He is filled with kindness. The LORD is close to all who call on Him, yes, to all who call on Him in truth. He grants the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cries for help and rescues them. The LORD protects all those who love Him, but He destroys the wicked.” – Psalms 145:17‭-‬20 NLT

“The LORD is RIGHTEOUS.” That statement, standing alone, should make every living human and creature shake in their boots. He is RIGHTEOUS. He acts in accord with moral, divine Law. The LORD is free of any guilt or sin. What man has ever lived who can claim true righteousness? There is one, and only one, Who can claim it, and that man is JESUS. Are you in tune with JESUS LORD? Claim the Salvation He offers to us, freely and equally to every human. Ask Him to be in your life on earth, so that you can spend eternity in Praise, rather than in agony with the enemy. Praise His Holy Name.

“I will praise the Lord , and may everyone on earth bless his holy name forever and ever.” – Psalms 145:21 NLT

Listen to Matt Redman “Sing Like Never Before.”

People Laughing….

Laughing. Crying. Stony faces, worried faces, blank faces. Fat people, skinny people. Lackadaisical. Proud. Strutting, shuffling, confident. Glowing, pale, broken, bruised. Lazing around, pushing stridently through the crowds. Sleepy. Jittery. Miserable. Happy.

People watching is an interesting hobby. Trying to guess what is behind each expression, each action is fascinating. So many postures, so many expressions. My favorites are the laughing faces when they connect a couple or a group, and especially when they involve children. Children are the most expressive with their emotions worn on their sleeves. I love watching, and listening, to a child’s laughter. There’s something contagious about a baby or a child as they giggle and laugh. Nothing sweeter.

Sometime, try going to a crowded place and taking a seat on the sidelines (but not a sports event!). Don’t speak, just smile and nod as people glance at you. Pay particular attention to the little ones. Wiggle your fingers in a hello to them, and smile. Most likely you will be rewarded with a wave back, or a least a toothy grin. When we smile at people, it’s difficult for most of them not to smile, or grin, back. If you are having a bad day, however that is defined for you, look in a mirror and smile. For one, smiling takes less muscles than a frown. For another, it takes years off your appearance. When your world is falling apart, regardless of the why, remember David’s prayer:

“Have Mercy on me, O GOD, because of Your Unfailing LOVE. Because of Your Great Compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.” – Psalms 51:1‭-‬2 NLT

“Yours, O LORD, is the Greatness, the Power, the GLORY, the Victory, and the Majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is Yours, O LORD, and this is Your kingdom. We adore You as the One Who is over all things.” – 1 Chronicles 29:11 NLT

Isn’t that plea, that prayer, enough to bring a smile to your face, and to cause laughter to bubble up inside? From experience, I can say that it is only by GOD’s Mercy and Grace that I can laugh or smile at all. My laughter comes from the LOVE, from His Forgiveness when He washed away my guilt. God loves to hear us laugh in our freedom!

Photo credit: Trudnoco.hr

Care To Elaborate On That?

“Now Faith is confidence in what we hope for and Assurance about what we do not see. By Faith we understand that the universe was formed at GOD’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” – Hebrews 11:1‭, ‬3 NIV

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your GOD will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT

Faith. Dictionary.com describes it as a “strong and unshakable belief in something, esp without proof or evidence.” ( I think someone who was creating words and definitions in the early 1200’s was very familiar with the scriptures. ) When we have real Faith; a strong belief in GOD, it is easier to be strong and courageous in our lives. Easier, not easy. But, how, you ask? Where does Faith come in? How do I get faith? First, you must believe firmly that there is a God, ONE GOD, the Supreme Being, the One Who created the Universe. ( Go back to Hebrews 11:3b …. and Genesis, esp chapter 1 ) It shouldn’t be too difficult to believe in GOD, as even Satan and his followers believe in the One True GOD. They are, however, sadly misguided and mistaken as to who will win in the end. If you are curious, read the Revelations of John, especially chapters 20-22. ( They are awesome! )

You must believe that JESUS was more than a ‘good man’ or a prophet….. He was those things, only this is what He really was – and IS – He is the Son of the Most High, the Living GOD, part of the Triune GOD, Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Believe that JESUS left heaven and came to earth to live as a human, to be brutally murdered upon the cross so that His Blood would cover our sins forever, and to conquer death and rise up from the grave after three days. He did all of this for me, as if I were the only human to ever live, and He did it for you, as though no one else but you existed. – ” ‘No one has ever gone into heaven except the ONE Who came from heaven – the SON OF MAN. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the SON OF MAN must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.’ For GOD so Loved the world that He gave His One and Only SON, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have Eternal LIFE.” – John 3:13‭-‬16 NIV

It is through belief that we find faith, and it is belief in the LORD JESUS CHRIST as our Saviour that we receive the Faith and Peace to make it through this life. It is through Him that we receive the Joy that goes alongside the Belief and Faith that JESUS will ultimately conquer sin and death, and the HOPE of being externally with Him.

“And it is impossible to please GOD without Faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that GOD exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.” – Hebrews 11:6 NLT

“Growth is how we partner with GOD to make life count, to give life purpose.” Elizabeth Laing Thompson, http://www.LizzyLife.com

AMEN.