To Honor Those Who Serve….

I wrote this 4 years ago, but I think it’s worth sharing again. I want to acknowlege a few of the pastors who have touched my life and helped me in my journey through life: my Dad, Bill Henry. Mark Hitchcock. Dennis Newkirk. Chuck Robinson. Lonny Lee. There are many others, and I’m not leaving you off to offend you!

As a nation, we have several designated days for remembering. Yesterday was the anniversary of an unfathomable tragedy for these United States. In May, we honor our fallen service men and women; in November, D-day.

EVERY day of the year is an anniversary for honoring someone who has given their life for another. It is Army and Air Force, Marines and Navy; Police officers and firemen. Ambulance personnel, EMT’s and ER doctors and nurses. Airline pilots and personnel. Everyday, ordinary people. Pastors.

Why would I add “Pastors” to this list?

Have you looked at your pastor lately? REALLY looked? I’m not speaking of preachers who stand in the pulpit on Sundays and lead separate lives during the week, or the ones who are all about appearance and wealth. I’m talking about Pastors, and missionaries who devote their lives to service. Men who love their spiritual flock as their own families. Men – and their wives – who sacrifice themselves to God and His work.

We, as their flocks, their congregations, are doing better these days to recognize their need for respite from their service, I think – but our pastors need our care and support. Physical care and support, obviously, but even more importantly they need our emotional and spiritual support.

My Dad served in the United States Merchant Marines as a radio officer during WWII. Over the course of his life, my Dad gave his life in total to serving his Lord and his flocks at the expense of his health. Wherever, whenever he was called, he gave everything he had, even at times at the expense of the family. Even during his last days on this earth he was witnessing to his health care workers. He gave all. What an example.

To me, he was and is a great example of a hero.

Every day, I miss him. I can’t wait to see him and have his arms around me in heaven. Let’s dance, Daddy. I love you.

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Beat the Heat!

It’s hot. HOT. 103°F with a million degrees of humidity. I’m kidding (a little!) on the humidity, but it is really high and it kicks the heat index up. Every winter, when I can’t seem to get warm, I say I can’t wait until summer and the heat…. now I’m ready for some cool weather!

Isn’t this typical of us? Never content.

There’s a new song out by the group Unspoken. It’s called Reason, and starts like this:

This year’s felt like four seasons of winter
And you’d give anything you think to feel the sun
Always reaching always climbing
Always second guessing the timing
But God has a plan a purpose in this
You are His child so don’t you forget

When you feel like giving up
When you feel like giving in
His love is the reason
To keep on believing

Look up the lyrics, or even better, listen to them sing it. I feel like giving up more often that I think I should. Whether it’s because of the heat from the sun or the heat (and wintry chills) of the stresses of life, I second guess my actions and wonder what I’m doing. Remember the hymn Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus? I know that as long as my eyes and my focus are on Jesus, life can’t hurt me. It can knock me down, and events can run run me over, but as long as my eyes are on Jesus, it – life, the enemy – can’t beat me. God has a purpose and a plan, even when (especially when) we can’t see it.

“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

When we belong to Him, His incredible, undefinable, unfathomable LOVE will keep us going. His LOVE is the Reason to keep on believing….

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5‭-‬6 NASB

This summer heat we are experiencing is just an example of the heat, the difficulties, we experience in our spiritual lives when we don’t trust in the LORD. When you feel like giving up, when the coldest chill of winter and the hottest blast of summer roar over your soul, turn your eyes upon Jesus.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His Wonderful Face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the Light of His Glory and Grace

Grace, Compassion, and Justice equal Blessings

“Therefore the LORD longs to be Gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have Compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of Justice; How Blessed are all those who long for Him.” – Isaiah 30:18 NASB

GOD waits on me. He waits on you.

Did you understand that statement? GOD waits on you. He is waiting on me.

Reading the scriptures, the Words of the Living GOD never fail to amaze me. The Truths that are written so matter-of-factly. The miracles. The history. The Almighty Creator put these words into the hands and the mouths of men who put them on paper, so that thousands of years later the words would be here for us to see. Depending on the source you use, some 35-40 actual men put words on paper (or clay or papyrus or parchment) over a period spanning as much as 3400 years. From the very beginning of time, we know there is a Triune God Who loves His creation, and Who made us, humanity, to be with Him. We also know that He gave us the ability through the gift of free will to choose whether we want to be with Him, or without Him. Even when we choose to go our own way, He patiently waits on us.

Who do we think we are that we make the CREATOR wait on us?

What arrogance. What conceit! And yet, He still waits; He even longs for us. Do you remember falling in love? That giddiness you felt in their presence; the longing to be with that person? Just to hear their voice, or to get a note or text? Multiply that a thousand times, and we might get close to knowing how much our LORD longs for us. I’m impatient. I don’t like waiting. I want my love to be here now. I don’t want to wait, and I’m not inclined to be gracious or compassionate about the wait. Isn’t that just like us, though? We want what we want now…… while our GOD waits patiently, graciously, and compassionately for us.

He offers us the shelter of His Mighty wings. His angel army watches over us. The more we learn about the LORD, the more protection we gain from the enemy. How Blessed we are to call Him LORD!!

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” – Psalms 91:1 NASB

Image from Pinterest.com.

Settle Down, Soul!

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The LORD is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the Peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of Peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4:4‭-‬9 NASB

Amen! There’s no room for anxiety when the Peace of our LORD washes over you. It’s important we don’t cause others anxiety, too. When we dwell on these things, the honorable, pure, lovely, good …. not only do we free ourselves from the anxiety of the enemy, but we also free those around us of the burden of our anxiety. Our example can show them what a blessing prayer can be.

How is your soul? Are you anxious? Tell God about it. He doesn’t care if you are alone in a closet, knelling by your bed, sitting in a chair, lying on the ground….. He just wants a conversation with you. Anytime, anywhere. Tell Him what you are thankful for (remember, you can always be thankful for toilet paper!), then tell Him what’s bothering you. If you can’t put it into words, that’s okay, too. He knows. He promises us that His Holy Spirit is always with us, ready to carry our groans and unintelligible words and thoughts to Him. And if you’re mad at Him, tell Him! He can take it! Talk, and let your soul settle down.

Is it well with your soul?

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

– Horatio Spafford, 1873


Mountain Fork River, McCurtain County, Oklahoma

We, You and Me, All of Us

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For, ” The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. He must turn away from evil and do good; He must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous, And His ears attend to their prayer, But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil. ” Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify CHRIST as LORD in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the Hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” – 1 PETER 3:8‭-‬17 NASB

As fellow followers of Christ, are we all thinking the same? Are we feeling the same outrage at the way the world treats each other? Do we have each others hurts in our hearts? ROMANS 6:12,15 tells us

“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts ….. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!”

No, we are charged to be courteous, friendly, and brotherly to each other, having a deep sense of compassion. When we are humble and not egocentric, we think of ourselves less and are more capable of the right actions we need to do in order to follow in the will of God. The hardest thing for me to do is to bless the ones who have hurt me, or as Peter worded it, to continually bless those I want to retaliate against! He says to retaliate with blessings, to return good for evil.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ” “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the LORD, but if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. ” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – ROMANS 12:18‭-‬21 NASB

We have choices in how we can react to evil, hurts, and outrageous behavior against us and those we love. The satanic choice is to give evil for good, and the human way is to return evil for evil. Our way, the Christian way, should always be to give good for evil. That’s hard to do in our humanness; in fact, it’s impossible to do on our own. We can only do it by giving over our hurt and resentment to the LORD, knowing the He will make it right in the end. By doing this, we no longer have to go through life just enduring it, we can be enjoying life – a life in rich relationship with GOD, and with all people…. those people we like and those people we don’t like.

In R.C. Sproul’s commentary on I Peter, he says “We should enjoy a multitude of good days because we are in touch with the Author of good days.” I think he’s right on the mark with that statement! When we are in touch with our LORD, shouldn’t all of our days be good, regardless of what is happening around us? After all,

“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 3:18 NASB

That’s us! You and me, because we have believed in JESUS! We are blessed; now it’s on us to bless others – and especially to bless those people we really don’t want to bless. I have some work ahead of me!

To Sum It Up:

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For, “The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.” (“Keep your tongue from evil And your lips from speaking deceit.” – PSALMS 34:13‭) – 1 PETER 3:8-‬10 NASB

Peter uses these verses (including v. 11-12) to summarize chapters 1 and 2, and the first few verses of chapter 3. He was writing to a group of exiled Jews who were living far outside of their homeland (“foreigners, aliens, and exiles,” 1 Peter 1:1, depending on the translation), who were under pressure because of their status (1 Peter 1:6). He wants us to see that there is a good life for us here on earth, regardless of the problems we are facing. When we follow these suggestions, our hearts are able to enjoy the good in our lives rather than being focused on whatever is happening externally. The psalm Peter quotes, Psalm 34, was written by King David after he had to pretend madness in order to escape from those who were prepared to kill him (1 Samuel 21). We don’t have it so bad when we look at things in context!

We always have a choice as to how we react and resond to the events in our lives. We can choose to see the good and love life; to enjoy what we have, or we can endure it, or we can attempt to escape it. I’ve tried enduring, and it is just that – enduring. No joy. Escaping doesn’t work, either. I promise you, no matter how you try to escape, distance or mind-altering substances or food or sex or shopping or work, it is all right there, still the same! Choose joy, because it is a choice! I was recently having a conversation with a pastor about my current situation (it isn’t all that pretty….) and I ended it by saying that I am very blessed. He expressed some surprise, saying that few people say that. I choose joy, because I have lived the alternatives, and I don’t like them. I’m not a saint! I admit to being depressed and feeling sorry for myself at times, but then I look around and see others who have it so much worse than me. If you are struggling, stop looking at what you don’t have, and see what you do have. It can be eye-opening. Don’t miss the good life GOD has given you!

Jesus said “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

Choose JESUS and choose Life Abundant!

Disclaimer: I often use my notes from our pastor’s sermons (with his permission). Dr. Hitchcock brings the gospel alive for me, answering questions I have and bringing more questions to my mind. The thoughts I carry away cause me to read and research the scripture and Bible commentaries, and I always come away with something new! If you would like to hear the original sermons (without any mistakes I might bring!), go to Sermon Archives at http://faithbibleok.com/ The Good Life – we are currently in the Still Standing series by Dr. Mark Hitchcock. We are truly blessed with all of the Bible teachers and books and commentaries that are available for us.

Okay?

“Maybe it’s okay if I’m not okay….”

‘We Are Messengers’ sing this fantastic song, and it is so relevant! How can we know how good we have it, if we haven’t had it bad? If I haven’t hurt, what do I have to compare to?

Do you remember the story of Lazarus? Beloved friend of Jesus, brother to Mary and Martha, they lived in Bethany, about 2 miles from Jerusalem. I imagine Jesus stopped at their house whenever He was near. We (hopefully) all have a friend like that, a person who is family – even better than blood family. (Mary is the woman who annointed Jesus with a costly perfume while He was at their table, when Judas complained at the waste of such an expensive item.* – JOHN 12:3) She, her sister Martha, and her brother Lazarus made Jesus welcome. It happened that Lazarus became seriously ill, “So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.” – JOHN 11:3‭, ‬5‭-‬6 NASB

What?

He hears that His beloved friend is sick, maybe dying, and He hangs out for two days before He goes to see him? Who does that? I’m sure that Mary and Martha were not okay during this time! Torn up knowing that their brother is dying – who in fact dies after the message is sent – and wondering why their best friend delays coming. Not until the fourth day after Lazarus’ death does Jesus show up. The body is in the grave, beginning to deteriorate and decompose, and the mourning is at it’s peak. Martha met Jesus on the road, and said this:

“Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” – JOHN 11:22 NASB

She knows that Jesus could have prevented his death, and she believes – she knows – that He can bring her brother back! What faith!

“Jesus said to her, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” – JOHN 11:25‭-‬27 NASB

Martha wasn’t “okay” with her brother’s physical death, but she was confident in her Lord’s ability to take care of the situation. How many of us can confidently believe as Martha did? She had no doubt that Jesus would receive whatever He asked of God His Father. Do I believe that Jesus is taking care of my situation? I’m not okay with my financial situation. Frankly, it stinks. (That’s my opinion.) But I know that it’s okay if I’m not okay, because I know that my life – such as it is – is in my GOD’s control, not mine. I have hurt and been hurt; I have reached out and been reached out to in good and in bad. Whatever comes, LORD, may I learn to be content. Amen.

[*This perfume is estimated to be worth 11 months wages. According to CNBC.com, the median U.S, household wage for 11 months would be over $40,000.]