Seek HIM First

“This is the LORD’S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalms 118:23‭-‬24 NASB

I think every part of my body hurts this morning; every muscle, every joint, even my brain. My eyeballs hurt. I am weary. I have to be thankful, though, because it slows me down so that I can see what a beautiful morning God has given us. It’s a very unusual morning for Oklahoma in August. At 7am, the temperature is in the high 60’s, and it is calm. There’s only an occasional breeze that floats by like a whisper. The birds are singing, and other than the birdsong, it is quiet. Since I live in an urban neighborhood, that’s pretty unusual, too!

“Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” Isaiah 40:30‭-‬31 NASB

Move forward. Remember that God is in control. No matter how bad it gets. Frustration, aches and pains, irritations, aggravations will all pass well. Look for the good in everything. I am alive. I’m not unhealthy (well, mostly!!), I have a home and 2 dogs who think I’m the best thing since sliced bread – especially when I share it with them!

Will life get tough? Oh, yes. Will bad things happen? Without a doubt. Will people disappoint you, betray you, let you down? Absolutely.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 NASB

GOD will never disappoint, He will never betray, He will never let you down. When everything looks black, when everyone has let you down, turn to Jesus.

Listen to Casting Crowns’ song East to West. Here’s part:

I start the day, the war begins
Endless reminding of my sin
And time and time again
Your truth is drowned out by the storm I’m in
Today I feel like I’m just one mistake away
From you leaving me this way

Jesus, can you show me just how far the east is from the west?

‘Cause I can’t bear to see the man I’ve been
Rising up in me again
In the arms of your mercy I find rest
You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other
I know you’ve washed me white
Turned my darkness into light
I need your peace to get me through
To get me through this night
I can’t live by what I feel
But by the truth your word reveals
And I’m not holding onto you
But you’re holding onto me
You’re holding onto me

JESUS is the answer. No one else will get through this life with you without hurting you. He is THE Way. THE Truth, and The Light. He is LIFE.

Can I get an 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!

Special

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” John 14:16‭-‬17 NASB

“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” John 16:7 NASB

I am special. Every person who rejects the world to embrace Jesus as LORD is special! GOD, the very same God Who created the Universe, is a part of their life; He is an integral part of my life. We have this supernatural, incomparable helper that non-Christians can’t begin to understand. Too many times, we – I – forget that. Worry and frustration creep into our lives, despair begins to manifest itself, and all along, we have the means to repel them. The Holy Spirit is real. He is alive. He will defend us and defeat the enemy if we just allow Him control of our lives.

So simple, yet so difficult for stubborn humans, and I definitely include myself in that group. Once again, I’m reminded of one of the sayings that is repeated often in recovery groups: “Let go, and let GOD.” Just do it!

The LORD is my Shepherd

“The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of Righteousness For His Name’s sake. 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely Goodness and Lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalms 23:1‭-‬6 NASB

Good Friday

“When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?” “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Mark 14:17‭-‬26 NIV

I grew up celebrating communion, or as we called it, the Lord’s Supper, and it was a solemn occasion. Not sad or upsetting, but serious. We always ended with a prayer and my Dad (the pastor) telling us all to go in peace and without speaking, but as we would leave we sang (a capella) Blest Be the Tie That Binds.

  1. Blest be the tie that binds
    Our hearts in Christian love;
    The fellowship of kindred minds
    Is like to that above.
  2. Before our Father’s throne,
    We pour our ardent prayers;
    Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
    Our comforts, and our cares.
  3. We share our mutual woes,
    Our mutual burdens bear;
    And often for each other flows
    The sympathizing tear.
  4. When we asunder part,
    It gives us inward pain;
    But we shall still be joined in heart,
    And hope to meet again.

Today, as we prepare for Easter Sunday and the joyous day that it is/should be, is a great day for families to gather and participate in the Lord’s Supper, just as Jesus did with His friends. I lift my cup and my bread to Him, and thank Him that I have the freedom to do so. I miss my family and friends during this period of social distancing, but I thank God for “the Tie that binds”!

An Ordinary Man

Do you ever wonder what Jesus looks like? Kings and queens of Jesus’ day had likenesses carved and etched on different surfaces, and there are other descriptions of “ordinary” people from that time period. For instance, we’ve been told that David was “beautiful”. Why do you suppose there isn’t even a hint of what Jesus looks like? In the artwork depicting Jesus, it inevitably shows Him as a handome man, but fairly generic, as if all of the artists were afraid to depict a Jew. I’ve read in the scriptures that He was an ordinary man, and I’ve wondered about that. I have a beautiful picture of Him, but I really doubt it’s Jesus.

This “ordinary” man was anything BUT ordinary! Not only did He heal the blind and the deaf, He cast out demons, turned water into wine; He healed cripples and a multitude of illnesses, and He raised up people from death back to life. He Himself came out of the tomb, and there were hundreds of people who witnessed to seeing Him after His resurrection. He said to His disciples, “I have been given ALL Authority in heaven and on earth.” – Matthew 28:18 NLT

He has authority over me, and over you. Have you submitted to that authority yet? Remember, it’s better to live this life as if there were a God, than to spend eternity wishing you had…

Where Is God?

“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” Galatians 1:6‭-‬9 NASB

There is so much going on right now, it’s difficult to look outside my door and consider how other people are being affected. Yesterday, I saw a clip of a (very) wealthy televangelist exhorting people to “Do not stop giving financially! If you are laid off for this crisis, do not stop giving to the ministry!” I suggest that instead of telling people they need to be giving their money, listen to this message from Franklin Graham of http://www.BillyGraham.org:

We haven’t seen anything like this since World War II, and we need to be praying. This is a great opportunity for evangelism. This is going to … I think, open people’s hearts like we haven’t seen in a long time.

People are afraid. People are anxious. People are just outright scared, and this is an opportunity for the church to pray for revival and pray that God would use each and every one of us to touch the lives of an unbelieving world so that they would put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, that they could come to know that their sins are forgiven, that they have that hope of heaven, and that hope of heaven is Jesus Christ who took our sins and died on a cross, who was buried for our sins, who on the third day God raised to life. Jesus Christ is alive, and He’s coming back. What an opportunity to share this message with the world …

Maybe your heart has been gripped by fears as millions of others have because of the coronavirus pandemic, but I want you to know that God loves you. He made you. He created you. He knows everything about your life. You don’t need to be afraid. Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

If you’ve never invited Jesus Christ into your heart, there’s no better time to do it than right now, and you can trust Him as your Savior. Just pray this prayer right now with me, just simply say, “God, I’m a sinner. I’m sorry for my sins. I ask that You forgive me, and I believe that Jesus Christ is Your Son, and I want to invite Him to come into my heart and trust Him with my life. I’m willing to trust Him as my Savior and follow Him as my Lord forever, and I pray this in Jesus’ Name.’”

His message is spot on. My prayer is that I might encourage one person to seek out the LORD and His Blessings.

“This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The LORD’S Lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His Compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your Faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21‭-‬23 NASB

Motivated

Motivations can be positive things or negative things…. These are some motivations for us; the benefits of a robust spiritual life:

“For if these qualities (moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love) are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:8‭-‬9a NASB

Spiritual growth is spiritual productivity; to be fruitful you must be growing and prgressing. Failure to grow leads to spiritual amnesia.

“Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; FOR AS LONG AS YOU PRACTICE THESE THINGS, YOU WILL NEVER STUMBLE [into doubt of your salvation]; …. 2 Peter 1:10 NASB

Do you need reassurance of your salvation? How do we make sure we are saved? God has called us and chosen us, He has elected us. HE chose US, but WE have to choose HIM. If we are not growing and moving forward, we are slipping backwards. We cannot lose our security in Christ, but we can lose our assurance when we stop growing in Him.

God’s Word to us – “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, …..” Romans 8:15‭-‬16 NASB

Along with the fruits of the Spirit that we read about in 2 Peter, our growth is shown by our prayer life.

“…… and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full.” Matthew 15:36‭-‬37 NASB

Wow. I fail miserably at this…. how many times have I sat down to eat something and skipped thanking God for the fact that I have food? What about the blessings of my life, and the challenges, too. Am I thanking God daily for them? I’m not concerned about where I will spend eternity, but I wonder sometimes how I will spend eternity…. Is my life, my example, enough to show the people around me that I am sure of my future? Our “glorious entry” to heaven is the evidence that we lived to please Christ, not to boast for ourselves. The kingdom is Eternal, it is the Future, and it belongs to Jesus Christ.

Conclusion: “Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.” 2 Peter 1:12-‬15

For Great Is The LORD

“For great is the LORD, and greatly to be Praised; He also is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and Majesty are before Him, Strength and Joy are in His place. Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, Ascribe to the LORD Glory and Strength. Ascribe to the LORD the Glory due His Name; Bring an offering, and come before Him; Worship the LORD in holy array. Tremble before Him, all the earth; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.” 1 Chronicles 16:25‭-‬30 NASB

“I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders.” Psalms 9:1 NASB

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. It’s difficult for a lot of us, and for a plethora of reasons. Still, there are moments…. when the 5th grader with an attitude problem introduced me to her dad and said I was “really nice” (!!!). The special chocolate bar a coworker gave me, and the excitement of the girls I shared it with. Coming home to a card and chocolates from my sister and niece. Even though I was (am) alone, I’m not alone. God gave me these moments. I’m grateful!

It’s the little things. The LORD is Great, Mighty, All-Powerful, yet He remembers the little things.
He wants to be everything for you, too. The big things and the little things.