Crippled By Fear

“And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the Words of the LORD JESUS: ‘It is more Blessed to give than to receive.’ ” – Acts of the Apostles 20:35 NLT

The Apostle Paul was a prolific writer and seasoned traveler. Every place he went, he worked to provide for himself so that the people he was visiting didn’t have to support him. We know he had some kind of “thorn” to deal with himself, although it is unclear whether it is physical or some sort of emotional or mental problem. In spite of his difficulty, he did what GOD called him to do. He was uncompromising when it came to his ministry. Too often, we allow ourselves to be crippled by fear: fear of failure, fear of physical or emotional pain, fear of losing…. there are many things which can literally paralyze us and prevent us from doing what we know we should do. We compromise over and over, letting our calling, our ministries, fail.

“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 betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up wit h pride, and love pleasure rather than God.” – 2 Timothy 3:2,4 NLT

I want to be as uncompromising as Paul was. I hold the life of JESUS up to scrutiny, and His was as uncompromising as Life and Love itself. He had a mission, a ministry, that consumed His days on earth. Even when faced with false accusations from the Jewish leaders, torture at the hands of Roman soldiers, and a horribly painful death by crucifixion, JESUS was uncompromised. Can you imagine? Given the choice of compromising your beliefs to prevent an agonizing death – could you do it? Are you uncompromising in your faith?

“….. I don’t know what awaits me, except that the HOLY SPIRIT tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the LORD JESUS – the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful Grace of GOD. And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the LORD JESUS: ‘It is more Blessed to give than to receive.’ ” – Acts of the Apostles 20:22‭-‬24‭, ‬35 NLT

Doing Right

“He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” – John 15:2 NLT

I love to garden. I picked it from my Grandma, and I can hardly pick up my garden tools without thinking of her. Some of my best memories of childhood involve her, with her vegetable garden, her flowers, and her grapevines. She made the absolute best grape jelly, too – move over Welchs and Smuckers! At the time, I didn’t really grasp the concept of pruning and digging and work that attended to all of this until a few years ago when our county extension agent showed me the necessity of pruning branches and vines to get a better crop. We had purchased a place with an old garden spot that included three apple trees. That first year I was too busy with other things to really look at the trees until the apples got ripe. There were bushels of fruit…. but they were all really small. (I made a lot of applesauce and apple butter!) I wanted to know how to get bigger apples because they were heirloom and delicious. The agent came out and looked and said, take out a third – a THIRD – of the branches this winter, and next year do the same.

That’s a LOT of pruning the branches!

Because of all the work, we were rewarded each fall with bigger and better fruit. JESUS does the same thing with us. When we neglect our LORD in favor of our own wants, He has to come in and prune back the branches we have sprouted. Things like self-absorption, refusing to follow His Will; ‘doing our own thing,’ putting anything above our relationship with Him, prevents us from growing properly. The fruit of our lives can become tiny and lose its sweetness, and it can become wormy, without His touch. It can hurt when the LORD has to come in and discipline our branches. I know!! The benefit of submitting to His pruning, cutting out the diseased parts and removing superfluous branches, is having a happier, more peaceful life. It allows for the fruits of the Spirit to shine forth. My life been like those old apple trees, unpruned and neglected because of my choices. GOD has done some serious pruning, and I have no doubt that there will be more! It may sound strange to some, but I am grateful that He loves me enough to want to prune my branches. It’s really very simple, and it boils down to this:

“Do what is right and good in the LORD’s sight, so all will go well with you. Then you will enter and occupy the good land that the LORD swore to give your ancestors. For we will be counted as righteous when we obey all the Commands the LORD our GOD has given us.’ ” – Deuteronomy 6:18‭, ‬25 NLT

“If you love Me, obey My Commandments.” – John 14:15 NLT

What are His Commandments? Again, JESUS cuts right to the chase with His response.

Jesus replied, “‘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

Listen to Hillary Scott and the Scott Family sing Thy Will, from the album Love Remains.

How Do You Pray?

“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.

But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, Who sees everything, will reward you.

When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him!” – Matthew 6:5‭-‬8 NLT

Did you grow up in a house where prayer was the norm, or was cursing at God the only ‘prayer’ you heard? I was taught that the ‘correct’ way to pray was to sit with head bowed and hands clasped in front of me, or on my knees with eyes closed and hands clasped; praying out loud, beginning with ‘Dear Heavenly Father’ and always ending with ‘Amen’. This definitely helped with my focus as a child, but do you think this is the only way to pray? We want to be reverent and humble when we pray, but I submit that we can pray anywhere, anytime, and with anyone. Prayer is simply having a conversation with the LORD. Prayer can happen while we are driving or working, in the classroom, or in any social setting, and I’m not talking about the ‘OH. MY. GOD.’ we frequently hear today.

Prayer; praying out loud, has its place, whether in church or out, but my focus here is really about conversing with GOD. Just talking. As I grow in faith, I realize that talking to GOD doesn’t need to be formal. I don’t need anyone else saying prayers for me in lieu of my own prayers (but I’m always happy to know that people are praying for me!) I just need to be having conversations with my LORD. Before getting out of bed in the morning, a quick “Thank You LORD for another day, Your Will be done today” helps my day start in the right direction. I whisper inaudible prayers all day – “LORD, I believe; help my unbelief” is one that I pray when faced things that are out of my control…. which is frequently! “Keep me safe on the roads.” “Bless [insert name]” ….. I actually try to pray this whenever my mind strays to someone who has hurt me. God knows quite well that what my human side really wants is to hurt that person back, but by asking Him to bless that person, I can receive God’s forgiveness and Grace.

Prayer shouldn’t be any more difficult than talking with your best friend. It shouldn’t stress us out, but thinking that we can only approach Him in a formal way, or through a priest or pastor, keeps us from knowing GOD and His will for us/me. Just talk to Him. I’ve started many conversations with Him by admitting I don’t know what to pray, that I don’t have any words. I know that’s okay, though, because even when we don’t have words, the Holy Spirit carries our groans, our needs to the Father. To teach us how to pray, JESUS gave us this, and we call it ‘The LORD’S Prayer.”

“Pray like this: Our FATHER in heaven, may Your Name be kept Holy. May Your Kingdom come soon. May Your Will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly FATHER will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your FATHER will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:9‭-‬10‭, ‬12‭-‬15 NLT

There is tremendous power in prayer, whether it is you, alone by yourself, or together with fellow Christians, and regardless of whether words are spoken out loud or silently. Remember what JESUS said to His followers: “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, My Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as My followers, I am there among them.” – Matthew 18:19‭-‬20 NLT

My prayer is that my words today can help ease us all as we struggle through this life, because old or young or in between, prayer works. Don’t let selfish pride get in your way, thinking you’ll somehow do it wrong or embarrass yourself in your praying. That’s just the enemy trying to separate you from GOD! Amen.

Continue reading “How Do You Pray?”

The Day the Music Cried…

It was with sadness when the first thing I saw on my newsfeed this morning, was the announcement that the Reverend Billy Graham has passed away from earth this morning. Sad for us left here, because for decades, he has been such a godly example for us to see. A man whose life reflected his love of the LORD, who was truly a follower of CHRIST and not the world. Such a dynamic man, one who was not afraid to take a stand for his God. Every Christian alive should take note of that. It is sad that his family has lost his earthly presence, and it is truly difficult for those of us who are left behind.

But, OH! The rejoicing, the singing and dancing and Glorious welcome Mr. Graham is receiving in heaven! He is united at last with his beloved Saviour, JESUS, and with his sweet wife, Ruth. I’m sure my Daddy was standing there, too, waiting to welcome him Home. The hosts of Heaven rejoice, while we on earth grieve the loss of his physical presence. This is a man who was instrumental in leading thousands of people to the Saving Grace of our LORD, Jesus Christ! On earth we cry for the moment, and feel as though the music has died…. but in Heaven, I think the songs, the music, must be loud and alive! I think this verse shows how Mr. Graham lived his life, just as though the LORD was speaking directly to him, just as we fellow Christians should be living:

“This is My Command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your GOD is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9 NLT

The loss of our earthly fathers is heart-wrenching, because they have left us here on earth without them. I miss my own, but I just can’t get past the image of how incredibly happy and excited he must be right now; now, because he is finally with his JESUS. Where will you be, where will your soul be, when your earthly body dies? Is death something you are afraid of; will you be reunited with loved ones, with you SAVIOR, or will you be lost in eternity with no hope of anything except damnation?

I pray today the even in death, Billy Graham will continue to show people the way to real salvation. Strength and courage belong to those who choose and follow the LORD. HEAR the Words of Jesus:

“I have come as a Light to Shine in this Dark world, so that all who put their trust in Me will no longer remain in the dark. I will not judge those who hear Me but don’t obey Me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. But all who reject Me and My Message will be judged on the Day of Judgment by the Truth I have spoken. I don’t speak on My own authority. The Father who sent Me has commanded Me what to say and how to say it. And I know His Commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells Me to say.” – John 12:46‭-‬50 NLT

Thank you, Reverend Graham, for doing and saying what God commanded.

Commitment, Worry, Compromise

“Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust Him, and He will help you.” – Psalms 37:5 NLT

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” – Matthew 6:34 NLT

Scriptures are very clear about giving your life, your entire life, to Him, totally committed. We are told to trust God; not to worry, and never to compromise that faith and trust.

“Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the LORD. Joyful are those who obey His Laws and search for Him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in His paths.” – Psalms 119:1‭-‬3 NLT

I admit to constantly failing in my walk with the LORD. I am broken, imperfect, flawed. Since the fateful decision by Adam and Eve in the Garden to follow their desires instead of God’s command, all of humanity has struggled with compromise. The enemy, Satan, the serpent, is very persuasive. He has had eons to perfect his wiles and tricks in order to pull us away from the One True Creator God. He has used many hundreds, thousands, of people to lead us away from God. When we aren’t committed to the LORD; when we spend our time worried about our lives, it is easy to compromise and step off of the path the LORD has laid out for us. As a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, Son of the Most High God, it is so very important to know His Word and to follow His commandments. First, to love Him with all of our hearts, and second, to love as He Loves us. (Read Matthew 22: 37-40) This is my prayer today:

“You have charged us to keep Your Commandments carefully. Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect Your Decrees! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with Your Commands. As I learn Your Righteous Regulations, I will thank You by living as I should!” – Psalms 119:4‭-‬7 NLT

No compromise, just obedience.