Sunday, September 15, 2019

Vacation Destin..ation

             I want to share with you all some of my thoughts from my recent vacation to Destin, Florida.  This was our third trip to  Camp Gulf in Destin and I think it was our best trip yet.  The weather was perfect with sunshine everyday, so there was no worry about having to do certain activities on a particular day.  After a very difficult year health-wise, God was merciful and gave me this vacation with pretty good health overall.  God answered my prayers by not only making it possible for this trip to happen, but it was all in His timing.  We were delayed from our original August date and were unsure about when to leave up until the day before we left.  When the Psalms say, "I will tell of your wonderful deeds", I say, "Amen, Yes, I will too."  I praise God for this much needed trip and for the healing over the past months that led up to it.

        "The Lord knows the kind of comfort we need when we’re grieving. He knows even better than we do. All we have to do is call on him. We don’t need to give him instructions. We don’t even have to tell him what’s wrong. All we have to do is say, “Lord, I need you,” and he will be right by our side.  
        The first step in becoming a truly “good” person as a follower of Christ is to stop pretending that we’re good on our own and to ask God to make us as good as we can be. We will fail many times, but He will keep growing us and changing us. God is faithful and—in His time and in His way—He’ll do it."  []

         I think vacation is like a micro-time of where our fruits of the Spirit, either shine thru or fail.  Fruits of the Spirit are “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).  On vacation, we are out of our norm and comfort space, so the test of showing our Christian character begins.  How do we respond to the ungodly, the irritants, the pressures of this failing world?  

       "God not only notices us, He is with us at all times. We are to keep ourselves in God’s love, whether we feel Him or not. By praying and filling our minds with God’s truth, His love will grow in us and through us. Then we won’t be so consumed with wanting others to notice us. We will become people who notice others and let God’s love shine on them. Jude 1:20-21, “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life” (NIV)."  []

       Matthew 7:24-25, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (NIV)

        My vacation motto is "Faith over fear and Do It, If Possible."   Our trip didn't go without adjustment, and modification too.  I got to go on a 35 minute helicopter ride with my personal assistant/friend and my portable air machine.  I got to sit in a beach chair with the waves crashing against me, because my feeding tube was protected by two layers of joke.  "with God all things are possible.”  

 “Seven Things That Can Be Done Only In This Life.”
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a good reminder of how God wants us to live and what He wants us to do.  []

1. Love and pray for your enemies (Matthew 5:44).
2. Walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
3. Love God by enduring temptation (James 1:12).
4. Through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13).
5. Lay up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20).
6. Share the gospel with the lost (Matthew 28:19-20).
7. Exercise your spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6-8).


Saturday, August 24, 2019

Climb Out of That Valley

Psalm 77

"I cried out to God for help;
    I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
 at night I stretched out untiring hands,
 and I would not be comforted.
I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
 I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
You kept my eyes from closing;
 I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days,
 the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.
 My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
“Will the Lord reject forever?
 Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
 Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
 Has he in anger withheld his compassion?
Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
 the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
 yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
 and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
Your ways, God, are holy.
 What god is as great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
 you display your power among the peoples.
With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
 the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
The waters saw you, God,
 the waters saw you and writhed;
 the very depths were convulsed.
The clouds poured down water,
 the heavens resounded with thunder;
 your arrows flashed back and forth.
Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
 your lightning lit up the world;
 the earth trembled and quaked.
Your path led through the sea,
 your way through the mighty waters,
 though your footprints were not seen.
You led your people like a flock
 by the hand of Moses and Aaron."

        If you follow me on Facebook, you know I've been sharing some posts from my past.  It is good to reflect on days that were dark and in the valleys and remind yourself of God's faithfulness to you and how He gave you the  strength to carry on.  My reflections led me to Psalm 77.

        Psalm 77 begins with sorrowful complaints but ends with comfortable encouragements.  "In singing this psalm we must take shame to ourselves for all our sinful distrusts of God, and of his providence and promise, and give to him the glory of his power and goodness by a thankful commemoration of what he has done for us formerly and a cheerful dependence on him for the future." [M.Henry]

      "When I am in heaviness, I will think upon God. Have you noticed how, when you are in heaviness, you are always tempted to think about yourself—your uselessness, your failures, your nothingness—in one way or another? I have known this temptation and have constantly found it tormenting others. To draw one’s thoughts to oneself is a long-tried and most successful wile of the devil. Straight against this is the word we have in this psalm: “When I am in heaviness, I will think upon God.” When we are tried by dryness, dullness of heart and despair, we are very likely to feel alone in that most unhappy state. Perhaps that is why our wonderful Father took care to have such writings as Psalm 77 preserved for us. There suffering, steadfastness, soundness, hope, love—what great words these are, and how arresting is the order in which they are set." [A. Carmichael}

    "I have always noticed that when God has purposes of blessing for some soul, the demon of discouragement, who is one of Satan’s most useful servants, is sure to come and whisper all sorts of sorrowful, depressing, miserable thoughts. He drops these thoughts about, sometimes in one heart and sometimes in another. If they take root and grow into feelings and words and deeds, he knows that a great deal has been done to hinder what our God intends to do. Do not forget that discouragement is always from beneath; encouragement is always from above; God is the god of encouragement." [A. Carmichael]

     Time is a gift God has given us, and we’re accountable to Him for the way we spend it. We need to recognize that time is not ours to fill as we choose, but rather, it’s a trust from the Lord to be utilized in ways that fulfill His plan. Reviewing our schedule regularly will help ensure that we invest this precious resource His way. [

      God is the ultimate restorer of people, hearts and lives. Restoration brings transformation, and the faith to believe our lives truly do matter to God.  We all have lonely, doubtful days where we question our purpose, our journey and ourselves in God's plan.  "Prayer is trading our worries for His wisdom, our pain for His peace and our confusion for His confidence."

       "Believers sometimes quit praying before receiving an answer, because they are fearful of making the wrong request. However, the Holy Spirit’s divine nature prevents Him from going before God with a petition that is outside the Father’s plan. Instead, He intercedes to make the right request. He also impresses upon us the need to adjust our desires. Therefore, we can pray in every situation, knowing the Holy Spirit is our Helper." []

     As for myself, there have been times that I could have penned Psalm 77 because I felt that kind of anguish in life.  God doesn't leave us there, but gives us new people, opportunities, and re-direction in our lives.  So, if you're in a dark valley, climb out with God as your source of light.

'Isolation leads to self-deception which leads to self-destruction.'

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Journey We Are On

Philippians 1:9-11  " And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God."

      Today's blog is about this journey that we are on called life.  Do you ever wish that who you are now in Christ is who you were from the start or a long time ago?  Knowing God is always by our side every step of the way is a comforting promise that we need to rely on through our entire lives.  Whether we are scared by the monster under the bed, the first day of school or work, or surviving our last days..we need to rely on His presence with us.  "No matter how scary our journey may feel today or how hopeless our future may look, the assurance of His never-failing presence can provide us with the courage and comfort to make it through. And best of all, when this short life is over, we will always be with Him."

     Life can be hard, but one day when we see Christ it will truly get better!  "Adversity can be painful, but the Lord uses it to further His purposes and equip us for His plan. What is He trying to teach you in the midst of your trials? Are you cooperating with Him? Remember, even Jesus suffered in order to fulfill God’s redemptive purpose (Matt. 16:21..From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.). []

     "We might not be able to see how our experiences with God change us over time, and our transformation will definitely not be as physically apparent as Moses’s beaming face. But as we spend time with God and surrender our lives to Him more and more each day, we can reflect His love. God can draw others closer to Him as the evidence of His presence shows in and through us." []

     Charles Spurgeon said: “May we live here like strangers and make the world not a house, but an inn, in which we sup and lodge, expecting to be on our journey tomorrow.”

     Founder of 'Campus Crusade for Christ', Bill Bright commented: “Knowing that heaven is our real home makes it easier to pass through the tough times here on earth. I have taken comfort often in the knowledge that the perils of a journey on earth will be nothing compared to the glories of heaven.”

     As for myself, I have relied on God's presence, promises, and providence throughout my life from an early age.  I've had many thoughts and moments in my journey where I wondered if 'Is this my time to go be with God?'  Surgeries, scary mishaps, or dangerous foolish events have put me in a position to make me affirm my relationship with God.  I encourage you to assure yourself and others that you are right with God, as your Lord and Savior, if you were called Home tomorrow.

James 4:14
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Monday, August 5, 2019

How God Helps Us

Psalm 36:5  “Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.”  [NIV}
Romans 5:1-5  "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

Romans 5:8-11  "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."

          Today's blog is about how God helps us through His love, Word, promises and faithfulness.  He has pulled me through weakness, sickness, heartbreak, fear, and sinfulness.  Psalm 9:10 "Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you."   Deuteronomy 31:6,8 "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.; "The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  What a blessing and promise to cling to always, but especially when we are each distraught in our own deep valley!  

         "Being open about our struggles puts us on the same level with every other human alive—which is right where we belong! However, because of Jesus Christ, our sin will not follow us into eternity. It’s like the old saying goes, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”  If we believe God is in control and keeps His promises, then we must trust in the principle of Romans 5:3-5. This passage assures us that our hardships have a purpose. Specifically, they develop our endurance, strengthen our character, and solidify our hope. Two immediate blessings of suffering are the deepening of our faith and the preparation for greater service to the kingdom. We’re able to rejoice because we are maturing believers whom God can use for His purposes." []

        "What does it mean to be 'justified through faith'?  It means to be made right with God.  When we are justified, we are declared righteous, at the moment of our salvation. Justification does not make us righteous, but rather pronounces us righteous. Our righteousness comes from placing our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice covers our sin, allowing God to see us as perfect and unblemished. Because as believers we are in Christ, God sees Christ's own righteousness when He looks at us. This meets God's demands for perfection; thus, He declares us righteous—He justifies us." []

         "The first step in becoming a truly “good” person as a follower of Christ is to stop pretending that we’re good on our own and to ask God to make us as good as we can be. We will fail many times, but He will keep growing us and changing us. God is faithful and—in His time and in His way—He’ll do it.  
        The Lord knows the kind of comfort we need when we’re grieving. He knows even better than we do. All we have to do is call on him. We don’t need to give him instructions. We don’t even have to tell him what’s wrong. All we have to do is say, “Lord, I need you,” and he will be right by our side"  .[]

        From Matthew Henry, "The precious benefits and privileges which flow from justification are such as should quicken us all to give diligence to make it sure to ourselves that we are justified, and then to take the comfort it renders to us, and to do the duty it calls for from us. The fruits of this tree of life are exceedingly precious."

1]  We have peace with GodRom. 5:1.
2] We have access by faith into this grace wherein we standRom. 5:2.
3] We rejoice in hope of the glory of God
4] We glory in tribulations also; not only notwithstanding our tribulations (these do not hinder our rejoicing in hope of the glory of God), but even in our tribulations, as they are working for us the weight of glory, 2 Cor. 4:17.
5]  This hope will not disappoint us, because it is sealed with the Holy Spirit as a Spirit of love. It is the gracious work of the blessed Spirit to shed abroad the love of God in the hearts of all the saints. 

       As for myself, God has blessed me with His presence and guidance my whole life and loved me even while I  was dead in sin.  He has granted me all I could wish for in this life and more.  So from now on, all of my expectations, goals, and dreams for the rest of this body's life and for eternity are in His hands.  I trust that I am in His hands and there's no better, safer place to be.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Keep Going, Despite Discouragement

2 Corinthians 1:3   "All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. You are our merciful Father and the source of all comfort." 

Psalm 68:19   "Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day you carry us in your arms." 

 Psalm 40:16  "May all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, “The Lord is great!”"

Ephesians 1:3   "All praise to you, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ." 
 Psalm 9:1–2"I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High."   

         Lately, I have felt discouraged with just about everything. I also feel guilty for those feelings, because I know how blessed I am.  Have you ever felt the same way?  Is it just a longing for a better place, way of life, and righteousness with everything?  C.S. Lewis puts my thoughts into words, "There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind."  Doesn't that make you eager for heaven?  It does for me, but until then I pray for God's will to be done here on Earth, as it is in heaven.  

         "Knowing that God can change a country, you may be wondering why He has waited so long. Maybe He is asking you a similar question: “Why have you waited so long to pray?” Every authority on earth can be touched by the power of prayer if we are willing to ask and believe God."  []

       "God sees our true character and always knows exactly what we need. With perfect vision, which even sees the inner workings of our hearts, He watches over those who love Him and put their hope in Him. He’s our attentive, loving Father."  []  I've seen this when God answers both our spoken and unspoken prayers.  He knows what's best for each of us, according to His pre-ordained plan for us.

         "Sometimes people who try to run from God are acting out of pure selfishness—it seems we have an unlimited capacity to believe we know what is best for us, no matter what God thinks or says. At times we balk out of simple fear: we are afraid that we might not succeed; we are concerned that others will be critical of our efforts; or perhaps we fear obedience might be too costly. But no matter what our reason is, we often fail to recognize the high price of turning aside and trying to flee from the Lord.  God has given believers personalities, abilities, and spiritual gifts which will equip them to accomplish His specific plans for their lives. But each one must choose to step out in faith and obedience. At times the Lord challenges us to do something that seems beyond our ability, but if we back off, we’ll miss His awesome blessings."  []

       Certain attitudes prevent our receiving the Father’s intended blessings:   []

Impatience...... We want it now and are unwilling to trust that God is in control.

Insecurity......... We feel that if certain things don’t happen, we simply cannot continue.

Identity in the wrong things....... We feel good about ourselves only if we are a success by societal standards.

Ignorance of the Word....... We decide for ourselves what is right.

Impure motives...... Discontent or jealousy causes us to push ahead of God and use manipulation to get our way.

Impulsiveness......... Without asking God, we assume every seeming opportunity is a door He has opened.

Ingratitude..... Lack of thankfulness for what He’s given skews our perspective.

Notice these obstacles all start with “I”! Humility does not come naturally. []

 Let us not only humble ourselves, but think of others first; in prayer, thoughts and actions.  We will be blessed, when we bless others.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Spiritual State of Mind

Psalm 25:16  "Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted."

Isaiah 41:10  "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

         Today's blog is about what our spiritual state of mind is and how to benefit from it.  We have all experienced a state of loneliness, regardless of whether we have many friends or very few.  Being alone and being lonely are two very different things.  You can be alone in a room and be fully content but you can also be in a crowded room and feel completely alone.

        "The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” 

        As for myself, I can completely identify with the quote just above.  I've had life moments where I've just had to roll with the punches and the flow of life.  There was nothing I could do, but trust God and His Word that "He works all things for good, for those that love Him."  Being humans, we will all experience times of loneliness. But Jesus helps us understand that we always have the presence of the Father with us. God is omnipresent and eternal. Only He can be with us all the time, for all time.

       "The world constantly changes; it is never constant except in its disappointments. How quickly we may move our lodgings and make our pillow in the dust! The world is but a great inn where we are to stay a little night or two, and then be gone. What madness it is so to set our heart upon our inn - as to forget our eternal home! [ Thomas Watson]
       "The One who loves us perfectly is in full control, working everything out according to His good purpose. Knowing this should fill us with hope, even in the midst of crisis situations. The Lord even promises to turn disaster to good for those who “are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28)."  [ F. Scott Fitzgerald]

        “We can say with Romans 8:28 that God uses all things for the good of those who love him, even our loneliness, because our loneliness leads us to our deepest spiritual need, who is Christ. And we can also say with 1 John 3:20 that, even when we feel condemned, God is greater than our hearts and that loneliness cannot separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38–39). We have a solution to our spiritual problem, and if we will submit to the Lord and accept his solution for our deepest spiritual problem, the atoning work of Christ on the cross, God can attack loneliness at its root and overcome the pain of separation in our lives that leads to separation from him, which leads to separation from other people.” []

       “Loneliness is a wilderness, but through receiving it as a gift, accepting it from the hand of God, and offering it back to him with thanksgiving, it may become a pathway to holiness, to glory and to God himself” (Elisabeth Elliot).

        “The wilderness is that season of our lives where God, through our loneliness, teaches us that his will is to do something in us, not merely do something for us. That is, by walking by faith and not by sight, he works in us a stronger faith, leading to a deeper worship that results in a greater joy.”

       “Loneliness is seeking to run from the presence of people and the pressures of life, and to withdraw from reality, but aloneness is experiencing the reality of God’s presence, running into the hiding place, not so you can just escape, but so you can enjoy God’s presence.  The hiding place can be viewed as that place or season in our lives when we run from people and circumstances, feel that the world is against us, and embrace loneliness only to encounter God, learn that he is for us, and therefore experience true aloneness.”  [P. Matthies]

       As you finish reading this blog, I hope you see loneliness with a new perspective.  To see it more as an opportunity to draw closer to God and bring Him to others.  "There is no deeper sadness that ever comes over the mind than the idea that we are alone in the world, that we do not have a friend, that no one cares for us, that no one is concerned about anything that might happen to us, that no one would care if we were to die or shed a tear over our grave.  Whatever the cause of loneliness, for the Christian the cure is always the same—the comforting fellowship of Christ. He is the friend who “sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24), who lays down His life for His friends (John 15:13-15), and who has promised never to leave us or forsake us but to be with us until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). We can take comfort in the words of the old hymn that says it best: “Friends may fail me, foes assail me, He is with me to the end. Hallelujah, what a Savior!”" []