Does GOD Care About ME?

GOD said, “I Will be with you ….. ” – Exodus 3:12a NRSV

In Exodus 3:1-9, GOD shows He cares about Moses and the Israelites, even though He allowed them to spend 400 years in slavery. Verse 7: The LORD spoke to Moses through the burning bush, I have observed the misery of My people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings …..” GOD cared enough about them to step down from heaven so that He could meet Moses on his level, because it isn’t possible for us as humans to meet GOD on His level. He cared enough about us to send JESUS to us, to live among us and instruct us on how much He Loves us, and on how to remain close to Him.

Psalms 94:9, 14-15 NRSV tells us of GOD’s care for us – “He Who planted the ear, does He not hear? He Who formed the eye, does He not see? For the LORD will not forsake His people; He will not abandon His heritage; for justice will return to the righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it.”

He cares and He comes down to meet us – in the Garden, in the burning bush, in the giant fish that swallowed Jonah. He sent angels to Abraham and Issac and others to show His care and protection. When we focus on the issues/problems of our lives and not on the blessings that surround us – yes, even when – especially when – we are in the valley of the shadows, we don’t see His Presence. The binding of sin; frustration with circumstances, anger, jealousy, and etcetera: these things are blinders that the enemy uses to keep our eyes off of the LORD.

“The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for YOU are with me …..” – Psalms 23:1‭, ‬4 NRSV

A portion of my daily talks with GOD contain that first verse, and I have to remind myself that it has no room for any “buts” at the end of the sentence. I constantly remind myself to trust GOD to know the very best who, what, when, and how for me, not myself. – because my track record in life of choosing the “best” for myself is a huge fail!

Psalms 13 starts as a lament, and it is a prayer most of us have prayed in our lives. Verse 1: “How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your Face from me?”
I love how it ends in verses 5-6: “But I trusted in Your Steadfast LOVE; my heart shall rejoice in Your Salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.”

Yes, He cares! He cares enough for us that He left heaven and His Throne to live and die for us, and in doing so He conquered death and hell for us. “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name Him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”Matthew 1:23 NRSV

He is with us. What a fabulous thought!

Photo credit NewChristianBibleStudy.org

Greedy Little People

“Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” JESUS replied, “Friend, who made Me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” Then He said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” ” – Luke 12:13‭-‬15 NLT

It breaks my heart to see the families, the friendships, and the relationships that are damaged beyond repair because of greed. I suspect that most of us have witnessed this behaviour firsthand. I have experienced what greed can do in my personal life and in my extended family, and I have seen the consequences of greed in my own and in other’s lives. My Dad had four siblings, and came from a family that was, if not wealthy, certainly well off. When his mother passed, and when he was finally able to go to her house (he was the only sibling who didn’t live in the same city with the rest), he found it stripped of almost everything of value. No, no burglers, just certain family members who decided they would take whatever they wanted. A similar thing happened to my Mom when her mother passed on. I have seen it to a much smaller extent in my immediate family. I have also seen it in wealthy friends (really, multimillionaires – I don’t comprehend that level of wealth!), who were terrified that someone would take advantage of them or scam them to gain access to their money. Paranoia, distrust, bitterness in relationships were the result. Ironically, they were being taken advantage of by the people who were closest to them because of greed.

That kind of behaviour, i.e. greediness, causes hurt and division. People, nothing on this earth is important enough to lose family or friends because of greed. Whenever I die and pass into heaven, what good will it do for me to have all the best and brightest things? Absolutely no good, because nohing from this earth will go with me then. I am blessed to have some little things from my Dad and my grandparents; they have no monetary value, and I am fine with that. I like them for the memories they evoke. My response to greediness is to lable items with whomever I want to have them, to keep a list in my will, and to give things away now. I certainly won’t need any of it, but I especially don’t want to see any grasping greediness in those close to me!

“Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.”

You may be experiencing sadness, and you might be hurting and becoming bitter because you weren’t left what you wanted, expected, or thought you ‘deserved’. Sometimes it is accidental (not leaving a will or written directions for the survivors), and sometimes it is intentional, sadly. Read the parable of the rich man in Luke 12: 13-21, in fact, read the entire chapter.

“But GOD said to him [the greedy rich man], ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich Relationship with GOD.” – Luke 12:20‭-‬21 NLT

JESUS replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the Word of GOD and put it into practice.” – Luke 11:28 NLT

I often feel like I don’t have much, and then I look around and see how absolutely Blessed I am with family and friends. I have an abundance of ‘things,’ including much of I don’t need. Downsizing is the topic du jour in social and print media, yet it seems that everywhere I turn there are bigger and fancier homes being built. It’s pretty obvious to me that our society is permeated by greed. As for me, I want to sell my (too large) house and get into a smaller one, closer to family…. my priorities have changed, and I attribute any good that has happened to my life to my LORD, JESUS. It is no longer ‘necessary’ to compete with the ‘Jones.’ Earthly weath no longer appeals so much to me. If I possessed monetary weath, I would do everything I could to help my family and friends, and my passions: my church, K-Love radio, the Salvation Army, the National Rifle Association. For me, I want my prayer to always be “Just enough, LORD, just enough,” and “The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want” – with NO ‘BUTS’!

YES!!!

Can’t We Just Be Friends?

“There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.” – Proverbs 18:24 NLT

Been there, and done that. No matter how hard we try to prevent being hurt by our friends, it will happen. Betrayed in our trust, our friendship rejected; hypocritical – being one way with us, and talking about us behind our back. It is so easy to let the betrayal of people we trusted rest in our hearts and fester, and for our minds to seek revenge. Betrayal from someone we are close to can turn us against trusting anyone else; it can turn us against GOD ( how could He let that happen???), and that is exactly what the enemy wants. Our LORD wants us to know true friendship with Him, which is why He came to earth. I believe He wants us to understand that as humans, we are flawed. We sin in our selfishness, our betrayals, our desire to have more to show we are ‘above’ others.

We will always disappoint and let each other down. In order to have true friendship with another person, first we have to recognize the ONE ABSOLUTELY TRUE FRIEND we can ever have is JESUS. When He is our Friend, our SAVIOUR, we can rest easy in that friendship. He will never turn his back on us, he will never leave us, he will never betray us in any way. I have disappointed, betrayed, humiliated, and turned away from people I have called friend, and people I have called friend have done the same to me.

I don’t have many people I would call friend. I have lots of acquaintances, some good, some not so good, but I know the people I now call friend will be there for me in a crisis – and I would do the same for them. I’m still learning to be a good friend, and the example I use is the friendship my LORD JESUS models for me. Humans will always fail us; knowing JESUS as my SAVIOUR gives me the one friendship I can utterly depend on. I’m not disparaging my friends! I love them, and I count on them, I am just acknowledging that they are human, as am I, imperfect and flawed.

Friendship, to me, is knowing that they will disappoint me (and I will definitely disappoint them, because we are human), and loving them anyway. I have a best friend here on earth, and I work to be the best friend I can be, but my Best and Truest Friend, JESUS, resides in heaven, preparing a place for me to spend eternity with Him. What a concept! JESUS CHRIST, LORD of ALL, the Triune GOD, CREATOR of the Universe – He Loves me! WOW.

Is He your BFF? Are you looking to Him to see what true friendship looks like, or are you sticking with the friendships of this world, flawed and broken? Open your Bible, or if you don’t have on, download one for free at https://bible.com/bible and check out these scriptures. I pray that they will change your life!

Romans 5:8 (see below)

I John 1:9

James 4:8

Revelations 3:20

Matthew 11:28

“But GOD showed His Great Love for us by sending CHRIST to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in GOD’s sight by the Blood of CHRIST, He will certainly save us from GOD’s condemnation. For since our friendship with GOD was restored by the death of His SON while we were still His enemies, we will certainly be saved through the Life of His SON. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with GOD because our LORD JESUS CHRIST has made us Friends of GOD.” – Romans 5:8‭-‬11 NLT

HALLELUJAH! What a FRIEND we have in JESUS!

In My Defense

“GOD Blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the Crown of LIFE that GOD has promised to those who love Him.“- James 1:12 NLT (Note that it does NOT say “GOD helps those who help themselves.”)

Even though James thought he was writing to his contemporaries; fellow Jews who had been scattered throughout the known world, GOD’s message for him was to be sent through the ages. What James says looks eerily like it was written specifically for us today. For a person of true integrity, when he or she stands before the Great White Throne, waiting to be judged by Almighty GOD, there shouldn’t be many secrets hiding in their heart’s ‘closet’….. However, the outwardly righteous man, or the public presentation of integrity by a woman, could very well be hiding a closet stuffed to bursting with things that are secret and that they don’t want to reveal in the perfect Light coming from the throne. GOD sees past the facade we put up to fool other humans – and it is never a pretty sight.

Integrity defined: “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness; the state of being whole and undivided.” – from Google Dictionary

Jesus warns His followers, then and now:

“The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the LIGHT, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear! Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you Whom to fear. Fear GOD, Who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear.” – Luke 12:2‭-‬5 NLT

Remember the story of David and Bathsheba? This man, who has been declared to be a ‘man of GOD’s own heart’, was an adulterer and he had her husband murdered in order to cover his transgression. A ‘man of GOD’s own heart’, who tried to cover his secrets and hide them from the ALMIGHTY, ALL-SEEING GOD. Do you recall how well his secrets remained hidden? Not long. Days, weeks, maybe a few months, but it all came to the light – and the consequence of those sins was that their son, their firstborn, died.

“The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all.” – Luke 12:2 NLT

Could our LORD make it any more clear? Whatever the secret, it will be brought out into the Light. Now is the time to open your heart’s door and allow the HOLY SPIRIT clean out the cobwebs; to open all of those secret places in your mind so that He can do a thorough cleaning. He wants us to be sparkling clean when we stand in front of the Judge, but He will not force us to unlock all those doors. The more you keep them closed up and locked up, JESUS’s death and resurrection can’t completely cover our secret sins.

Are you holding them closed and living your life looking back at them, so you won’t ‘forget’ how bad it/you were? GOD is a gentleman and won’t force us to open the door(s) in this life – but ultimately, when we stand in the box to be judged, those locks will pop open and everything will be revealed. Won’t it be good to not have any secrets to bring to the Light? I encourage you to unlock them and let the Holy Spirit do a clean sweep, right now, today! Listen to Steve and Annie Chapman sing “The Secret Place.” Even now, after hearing it for almost 30 years, it brings tears of joy to my heart. (You’ll have to Google it, or go to YouTube)

Open the door to your secret place. That’s when you find true Hope and Healing – the ONLY Way, through JESUS.


Photo credit: heartafterjesus.blogspot.com

I Declare The LORD’S Ministry

“…..[I] declare to you what [I] have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the FATHER and with His SON JESUS CHRIST. [I am] writing these things so that [my] joy may be complete. This is the Message [I] have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that GOD is LIGHTg and in Him there is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1:3‭-‬5 NRSV

Lived it. Been there. As JESUS experienced life and was tempted by the enemy, so have I been tempted. Unfortunately, my humanity kept me in the darkness, succumbing to temptation after temptation – the complete opposite of my LORD and SAVIOUR. I tried to hide His Light in my life, because I knew that what I was doing was wrong, and I didn’t want to stop. I was living the life …. but in reality, was I even living? For years, I ignored right from wrong and let the enemy rule my life. I was having so much ‘fun’, I could (sort of) forget (i.e. ignore) how absolutely miserable I really was. I lived the definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Yep, absolutely, I was living the life ….. the life of insanity. Even when my late husband and I got involved back with a church, we partied on Friday and Saturday nights, then get up Sunday morning to attend services. It’s difficult to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground when they are in two different worlds! Eventually we figured that out and became involved with our church families. It was a much more peaceful way of life, even as busy as we were. When my husband became very ill, he became addicted to his pain medication and dropped out of church. At the same time, he became increasingly paranoid and verbally abusive. Satan had regained control of him and successfully turned him against everyone who cared about him. JESUS warned us about this happening in the scriptures:

“When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, searching for rest. But when it finds none, it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds that its former home is all swept and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before.” – Luke 11:24‭-‬26 NLT

It’s true! I ran away from the situation and became angry at GOD because He allowed it to happen, shattering my dreams. I determined not to be overcome that way ever again, and set about finding people I could ‘fix’. How’d that work out for me? Not well! Those people became my focus instead of GOD. I left the fellowship and closeness of my church family so that I could focus on my friends – i.e. projects! – and fix them. I tried fixing both women and men, but especially men. I ended up bouncing between unhealthy relationships, and ultimately, not fixing anything. What I did, though, caused emotional harm to myself and ‘my’ people. Smart? NO! Painful and damaging? YES! There was so much ugliness back in my life, until one of my ‘projects’ lead me to a recovery program at church. I went to support him (no, to FIX him) and ended up staying in the program for myself. He left left the program to pursue his passions – lies, drugs, alcohol, sexual encounters, and more lies. Now he is permanently out of my life, and I am concentrating on keeping my heart focused my LORD. It’s the only way to go from mere survival to living.

Listen to Casting Crowns. Their song “Only JESUS” really sums up what my life was all about before complete surrender to JESUS instead of the world, and I hope you’ll take a minute to go to their website and listen to it.

Make it count, leave a mark, build a name for yourself
Dream your dreams, chase your heart, above all else
Make a name the world remembers
But all an empty world can sell is empty dreams
I got lost in the lie that it was up to me
To make a name the world remembers
But JESUS is the only Name to
remember

But, GOD!

JESUS said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Luke 11:2‭-‬10 NRSV

I got to hear Dr. Mark Hitchcock preach yesterday, and one thing in particular he said hit me in the face. Well, several things really, but today I need to focus on this. He was using the 23rd Psalm, and I realized that I have done what he said for most of my life. We read it, and scripture says, “The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” – Psalms 23:1 NRSV How many of us read it, then pray like this: “The LORD is my Shepherd, BUT I need a job.” “The LORD is my Shepherd, BUT I need healing.” “The LORD is my Shepherd, BUT I need ….” Is the LORD my Shepherd, providing for my needs (* key word: needs, not necessarily wants), or is He not? Pastor Mark suggested reversing the prayer so that we acknowledge the Shepherd. “I need a job, BUT the LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” “I need healing, BUT the LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” “I need __________ , BUT the LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

We brilliant, oh-so-smart humans think we are smarter and better planners than the LORD. Really? Looking at all of the decisions you’ve made in your life, on your own, without seeking or waiting for HIS input – how’s that working out for you? I get as frustrated as anyone (more frustrated!) when my life doesn’t go the way I think it should. I need a job. I need to know whether to keep my house on the market or take it off. I need, I need, I need….. but do I really? What I need is to change my mindset and my prayers. I need, BUT the LORD is my Shepherd. Is He your Shepherd, taking care of your needs, or are you attempting to be your own shepherd and caretaker?

‘The Shepherd and his Flock’, 1905, Wikipedia.org

Jesus said, “I AM the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I AM the Good Shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me…. I AM the WAY, and the TRUTH, and the LIFE. No one comes to the FATHER except through Me.” – John 10:11, 14, 14:6 NRSV

Amen.

Depression. It’s ALL In Your Head!

Depression is a real thing, and NO, it isn’t something most people can just ‘get over’. It often manifests in very real physical pain, and it can be the basis for or the result of many other illnesses. It is not a ‘punishment’ from GOD, although I have heard pastors and teachers use these verses from Luke when talking about anyone suffering from depression:

JESUS said, “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar, but on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness. Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.” – Luke 11:33‭-‬36 NRSV

Christians are not exempt from depression any more than we are exempt from any disease or illness. It is absolutely possible to love JESUS and still be depressed. There are people who can work through their depression without the aid of counseling or medication. Those people are not the norm. For most of us, it requires one or the other, and I believe it often takes both counseling and medication to break out of the depression. There’s nothing shameful about seeking help – if you have cancer, or a broken leg, or the flu, you go to the doctor, right? It’s no different when suffering from depression. My LORD won’t turn anyone away who reaches out to Him, whether they are in the blackest place it’s possible to be, or they are a ‘good’ person who has never been depressed (although I personally suspect that anyone who claims they have never been depressed a day in their life is probably lying to themselves).

I can say this to anyone who deals with depression because I have it, too. Keep a close check on yourself, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Find someone you are close to, to be accountable to. Get counseling from someone appropriate to your situation. Just as medical doctors have specialities, so do counselors. It has to be someone whom you trust, and beware of anyone who doesn’t listen to you – there are no pat answers to depression. If you are considering medication, find a doctor who is interested in listening and helping you find the right medication and the right dosage for you. If someone tells you it’s all in your head, well, agree…. But just because it’s in there doesn’t mean you don’t need help getting it out! When JESUS was speaking in Luke, the darkness He was referring to was not depression. It was about the enemy and the darkness Satan spreads in a futile attempt to extinguish the Light of our LORD.

“And this is the Judgment, that the LIGHT** has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than LIGHT because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the LIGHT and do not come to the LIGHT, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the LIGHT, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in GOD.” ….. But remember this!! “Whoever believes in the SON has Eternal LIFE; whoever disobeys the SON will not see life, but must endure GOD’s wrath.” – John 3:19‭-‬21‭, ‬36 NRSV

**The LIGHT is The SON. JESUS CHRIST. MESSIAH. LORD. AMEN!