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?

Dogs, Cats, Horses, Cows

Dogs. They come in just about every color, shape, and size; tiny teacup Chihuahuas to the mighty Great Dane that can be 3 feet tall, and the 130 pound Bull Mastiff, but we still call them all dogs.

Cats are the same. They range from the tiny Singapura as small as 4.5 pounds, to the large Maine Coone at almost 4 feet tall, from hairless to silky thick long hair, in every color you can imagine….. and we call them all cats.

Cows. Have you ever been to a fair or a farm or a dairy? Milk cows and beef cattle, miniatures and the mighty Longhorns. The variety in size and shape and color is outstanding in all of the different breeds, yet we still call them all cows.

Horse. Ah, the Horse. I’m convinced that God created the horse as a gift just for us women. They can be tiny or huge, dainty or muscle bound, and range between almost every color of the rainbow. From the (up to) 2400 pound, 17 hands tall draft breeds, to the tiny miniature horse at 34 inches tall. All beautiful. We still call them all horses, despite their differences.

Last, I want to look at HUMANS. We come in every size, color, and shape imaginable. Just like the animals I’ve talked about, God has allowed us to breed ourselves into a huge variety….. BUT….. and the is an important BUT….. we are all HUMAN. One race. Undivided. ALL are created in the image of GOD.

Every color. Every shape. Every size. Red and yellow, black and white, and every color in between, Jesus loves us. Every life matters. Black, white, yellow, red, blue, orange…. every life, born or unborn, mentally or physically challenged, sinner and saint* (the saint* doesn’t exist, because we are all sinners).

JESUS LOVES US. ALL OF US.

John 3:16 “For GOD so loved the world, He gave His Only Son….” Think about it. God is our Father. He created humanity; the human race. One race, and He allowed us to develop into different cultures and ethnicities. We are all brothers and sisters. No matter how white or black you think you are, that person in front of you is family. You are all my brothers and sisters from another mother. We share the Glorious, Amazing, Beautiful FATHER OF ALL.

Think about that.

What Are You Chasing?

“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance.” Isaiah 55:2 NASB

I’ve spent my life chasing something, or someone. Lots of money and energy expended trying for the perfect partner, job, house, clothes; friends, family. The “perfect” church. Know what I’ve discovered?

They don’t exist.

What? Of course they do! Don’t try to tell me my searching, my life, is futile! ……. And yet, that’s the truth. Most of us spend our lives trying to have the perfect life as we imagine it, when the reality is that all of these things, and all of these people, won’t satisfy us. Sure, we can achieve momentary satisfaction, but it’s fleeting. I think that’s why our world is rife with ruthless people, in business and politics and in their personal lives. Business takeovers. Public lies and shaming. Affairs in the shadows, and affairs in the open, blatantly flaunting themselves. Desperate people everywhere, searching for nirvana.

It doesn’t exist.

We are a created race. Yes, one race, created by a Creator God, and we are created to worship Him. Nothing else can fill that hole. We can search and scrape and fight trying to find anything else to fill it, and that’s what we spend our lives doing. One thing fills that hole in your heart. One thing fulfills your search. ONE thing.

Jesus Christ.

Son of the FATHER GOD. Second, but equal, member of the Trinity, God, Son, Holy Spirit. Saviour of the world. The One; The Way.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:16‭-‬18 NASB

In 1670, Blaise Pascal published Pensées, in which he writes:

What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 NASB

Change your focus. Look for Jesus. He will fill your heart in a way you could never have imagined. Not only your heart, but He will fill your life, your mind, your soul, if you will just let Him. He will give you Life Abundant. Even if you struggle financially, even if you are on your own, without a partner, or out of work, Jesus can bring a contentment that is beyond this earth.

LORD, I pray today for that person who is searching, that he or she will open their heart to You and realize real peace and contentment today, right now. Amen.

ALL LIVES MATTER

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13‭-‬14 NASB

I’m so tired of seeing my nation, my world, being divided by color of skin. We are Americans. Not African or Irish or Chinese or Mexican or Italian or any other country. We can’t let politicians, who are really only interested in themselves, divide us! Seriously, people! If you hold dual citizenship with another country, then by all means identity with it! Any British-Americans? German-American? Guyana-Americans? See what I mean? I honestly don’t understand why someone wants to self identify as part of a country other than the one they were born in, unless they want to move to that country to live. African-American is very widely used and claimed by hundreds of thousands of Americans. Why? Are they or their parents from Africa? Besides which, Africa isn’t even a country. It’s a continent. I know, we Americans have appropriated the name of the continent we are on as the name of our country, but understand that the world also refers to citizens of the United States as Americans. Are people from Ethiopia considered African, or Ethiopian? Kenyan, or African? Ugandan, or African? See the question?

Racism is promoted and perpetuated by the insistence of some people to identify as anything other than as Americans. I really don’t understand. I was actually polled the other night (a first!) and when asked what race I was, I answered “American.” I know it’s not a race, but neither is African-American. I should have answered “human”, because there is only one race. Sure, we have thousands of cultures and as many colors, but there is only one race, human. It would behoove us all to grasp onto that fact.

I love my country and the melting pot that it is. I will continue to pray for my country and that somehow, people will see through all this “racial” divisiveness, and I will do everything in my power to defend my country from our enemies, both within and without. Celebrate the diversity of all of our beautiful skin colors and cultural differences, but, please, don’t fight over them!

Jesus is the answer. The only answer. Come to Him today. Jesus said:

“I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:6 NASB

LOVE IS / IS NOT:

1 Corinthians 13: What is Love?

Love is not jealousy; a burning desire to have what someone else has, or resentment. Those things are an absence of love. When I have to win, and the other person has to lose, is jealousy. Resentment shows in how we respond to other’s success, just as much as how we handle our own.

Love is not bragging, boasting, or publicizing our own success/accomplishments. When we are full of arrogance and puffed up with self importance, we aren’t able to love others because all of our focus is on ourselves. Have you ever known someone who is truly humble? When someone is humble, you cannot humiliate them.

Love is not acting unbecomingly, it is not rude, or discourteous. It is kind and considerate, it is polite. Love is tactful, saying Please, thank you, excuse me. Do the little things.

Love is not self-seeking; it is not selfish. It is self sacrificing. The root of all problems is selfishness, so love is to be empty of ourselves and to look out for others over ourselves. When we allow ourselves to be provoked (i.e. irritable, sharp, prickly, touchy, grumpy, and quick to take offense), these show our failure to love. They are triggers to anger and a temperamental “blast off”, as opposed to a righteous anger or irritability (remember Jesus running the money changers and those turning His Father’s House into a place of business out of the Temple?) We must be at peace with God to prevent this.

Love does not take into account a wrong suffered. Don’t keep track of grudges and resentments! Love lets the past die, it absorbs the wrong. Good friends are good forgivers. Let it go. Choose to forgive. “I distinctly remember forgetting it.” – Sarah Barton, founder of the American Red Cross Ultimate forgiveness is shown by Jesus and His sacrifice. Knowing we were yet sinners, He left Heaven to die on the cross for our sins. For your sins. For my sins!

Love is not happy with sins or lies. It doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness. Love has boundaries. It is based in God’s Truth. Love doesn’t rejoice in it’s own sins. What of our entertainment choices? Our relationship choices? Are we leading other people into sin through those choices? Love supports the truth, and the TRUTH doesn’t change. It is the same today as it was yesterday or 2000 years ago, and it will be the same tomorrow, and it will still be the same in 20,000 years.

“When love is present, nothing else is needed.” Love is essential to anything I do. Without love, I’m just making noise. Remember this truth – No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. There is no real sacrifice without real love, true love, which is Agape love. This Love is produced ONLY by the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ, Who the church is based on. LOVE personified, the Cornerstone of the church.

Love rejoices with the truth; Love bears/carries, protects, supports, covers or shelters all. Love is everything both for us AND for others. In Genesis 9, when Noah’s sons realized their father was naked and they covered his nakedness without looking at him, that is Love. Real Love offers shelter and protection for our shortcomings and our faults without focusing on them.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NASB

Love believes – not in a gullible way, and not overly suspicious or cynical. Love is encouraging. It takes the best view of people and holds on to it, for as long as it is possible. Love believes in second chances. Love remembers that God isn’t finished with us yet!

Love hopes and doesn’t give up. It has desire with expectancy and it is realistic, but in the dark days it holds hands with Hope. When you get discouraged because life is overwhelming and everything seems to be falling apart, read the end of the Book. I love reading Revelations, because we win!

Love endures and will hold on until there is absolutely no hope left. It is patient and persevering in all circumstances. Love perseveres, it holds on, it endures.

Paul is saying to the Corinthians: “What LOVE is, you are not.” Will we be like the Corinthians, without Love, or will we search Scriptures and study to be more Christ-like and loving outside of ourselves and our own selfishness?

LORD, be with us, Your people during this unprecedented time. Help us all to not just hold on to Your promises, but give us the courage to live your Love and the Truth. Amen.

References: 1 Corinthians 1:26, 29; 4:7, 4:18-19, 8:1; Philippians 2:3, 5-8; Acts 17:16; Romans 4:8; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Hebrew 10:17; Matthew 18; Romans 5:8; 1 John 5:9; Proverbs 10:12; James 5:20; 1 Peter 7; 1 Peter 2:24; Romans 15:13; John 13:1

And This Is LOVE

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:7‭-‬8 NASB

The nature of love:

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,” 1Corinthians 13:4 NASB

LOVE is defined by the cross, not by culture; Sacrificial Love, for the best and highest good of others. It is Patient, it is Kind. Read verses 4-7 to understand the SPECTRUM of love, the components of love.

What exactly is Love?

Love is showing patience to people, and it is long suffering. We don’t know what anyone else is dealing with, so how can we judge them? Love is being kind, easy, mellow, and comfortable – easy to receive, difficult to practice.

Those words should describe all Christians, the people who are supposed to be like Jesus. We are to cultivate contentment and gratitude and Love by focusing on God’s Sovereignty.

“The LORD is the One who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8 NASB

“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:40 NASB

THIS is Love:

I Waited Patiently. ….. NOT

“I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of Praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD. How Blessed is the man who has made the LORD his Trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.” Psalms 40:1‭-‬4 NASB

“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:2 NASB

Picture two vultures sitting on a branch, hungry, waiting on something to die so they can eat. One turns to the other and says “Patience my ass, I want to kill something.” ….. Yes, it’s crude, but very descriptive of how we often act when God doesn’t deliver WHAT we want, HOW we want, WHEN we want. I don’t like to wait. It’s often painful, and aggravating. We are God’s garden. Ask anyone who grows things, and they will tell you that plants often have to be aggressively pruned in order to get the best fruits and flowers and vegetables. They have to be patient, and wait for that plant to produce and mature. God is patient with us, and He is training us to produce the best. I’M not patient, but I’m very grateful that HE is.

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NASB

This is so true. I married young because I wanted to. Emphasis on “I WANTED.” There were lots of reasons, but I was in LOVE. God wasn’t in that marriage, and it was a disaster. I spent years trying to “fix” my life without God, using human men as a poor, poor substitute. Ladies, pay attention to those who love God and who love you. Listen to their counsel. Pray about any relationship. If you feel ANY hesitation, STOP. Same for you guys. If GOD isn’t first in the relationship, It. Will. Be. A. Disaster. Might takes years, but without the LORD, no relationship will prosper. It’s no fun, seeing friends in relationships when you/I am not ….. but, back to that “patience” thing. Trust the LORD. He knows. He KNOWS.

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven….” Ecclesiastes 3:1 NASB

God knows. He knows what we want, but more importantly He knows what is best for us. Really. We don’t. As difficult as it is, listen to Him, even when it isn’t what we want to hear. God is in control. Don’t be a backseat driver!

What Comes Into Your Mind When You Think About GOD?

A.W. Tozer said: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. … … For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.

And yet, in spite of us and our sin filled thoughts, GOD LOVES US. We are loved by God because of WHO we are, NOT what we do. Can we return this to our GOD, and love HIM for Who He is, rather than what we perceive is going on around us or to us? God doesn’t ‘make’ bad things happen. These things are courtesy of our enemy, the one who tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden and introduced sin into the world. Blame him, not GOD!

“Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; [the longer He waits, the more people will be saved; therefore, the more we evangelize and share the Gospel, the quicker He will come/return] just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort [false teachers], as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved*, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard [Post a guard; beware of those who look and sound like Christians, but who are teaching wrong things/false doctrines] so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the GRACE [something we do not deserve by grasping/acknowledging the sin that we are in every day, constantly – sometimes grace is kind, and sometimes to make us grow have to have the ‘manure’ of life] AND KNOWLEDGE [from study and teaching the Truth – discernment, stability, realizing are sinners] of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:14‭-‬18 NASB

The final written words of the Apostle Peter : “To HIM be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

Where Did Love Go?

“31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way. 1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:1-3 NASB

Do you know GOD’S Love? It is Essential, it is Effectual, and it is Eternal to Life. Not life, but Life. Without God’s Love, there is no Life. Without it, we are just going through the motions; living through emotions. Love and hate. The emotions we base our lives on, the feelings we base everything on. Emotions aren’t bad. God wouldn’t have created us with them if they were. Emotions, like everything good on earth, have been distorted through sin and the enemy’s manipulation of Creation. Love was twisted into envy, despair, jealousy, malice, prejudice, ill will, covetousness, rivalry, resentment….. hate. We are all guilty, and I am guilty above all else.

It is Essential that we who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ give His Love a priority within ourselves. No matter what we do, if we do it without God’s Love, it means nothing. It is all ashes.

There are 4 Greek Words for love: eros, storge, philia, and agape. Most people know that eros is erotic love, the physical. Storge is familial love. It refers to the natural and instinctual love of a parent towards their children and vice versa. Philia is the love we have between good friends. Agape is the most important, because that is God’s Love. It wasn’t a common word for the Greeks to use, but it is the word for love that the Bible uses and it is the essence of Love, the kind of love that Jesus personifies.

“4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. …… 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬8‭, ‬13 NASB

We would do well to focus on these verses, especially in light of what is going on around us today. I’m talking to myself. When I see rioting and destruction, and hear the hate filled rhetoric that is being spewed across all forms of communication, it’s so easy to fall into judgement. Those things aren’t right, but I still need to love those people. Not agree with them, but love them in spite of their actions. People in positions of influence and authority have a huge burden to do the right thing, and they are failing miserably. I think that’s why it’s so important for you and I to do our best to emulate Jesus today.

Remember, “the greatest of these is love.”