Monday, June 20, 2016

Compelled by the Spirit

When new thoughts come to mind, God is great about answering prayer as to the right path. I have been tossing around some new ideas, lately, and wondering what I should pursue and what does not quite line up with His word. I always want to make sure I do things “by thee book”!

It is better to give than to receive.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle came up with a wonderful character the world loved. However, he always wanted to be a historical writer. So, he killed off the beloved Sherlock Holmes, much to the dismay of the public. To me, this says, “Stick with what works!”

I have been writing at this blog for ten years, now. Is it really what works? I don’t know for certain. It is NOT Sherlock Holmes, that is for sure. Should I abandon it or neglect it for another project that I think might be better? I have been going back and forth about it for a while. And, I remind myself of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Further, God has forewarned it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). To me, that means I should give my talents and not be so worried about receiving anything back from them. Would I like to “live by the pen”? Of course! Absolutely! Is that the path I am walking? God only knows!

Afflictions await me.
Acts 20:22-35 was the message at church, this Sunday, as God would have it. He encouraged me on a few topics using this scripture. One being what I have mentioned above. Another, is the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me (Acts 20:23). Jesus never said following Him would be easy. As I have said before on this blog, Jesus actually says the exact opposite. He said His followers will be hated by all for His name sake (Matthew 10:22). So, in situations where “afflictions await me” I guess I can have faith I am doing something right. Further, I have an all powerful God in my corner! Do certain people hate me? Yes, and not the ones I ever would have thought! They make things very difficult and highly unpleasant...especially when the name of God or Jesus is mentioned! However, God will deal with them. His word promises it and there are events in the bible that give me great encouragement and peace of mind...for which I am indescribably thankful!

22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:22-35. ESV.)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Part Three: The Spirit and the Bride Say, "Come."

6 And he said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place."

7 "And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."

8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, 9 but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God."

10 And he said to me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. 11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy."

12 "Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."

14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

16 "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."

17 The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

This past weekend was a very encouraging one, for me! The message from our pastor spoke straight to my heart…an answer to prayer, if you will. I started this series (posted here and here) this past Monday and aim to wrap it up, today. There is so much I took from the text above but I will highlight the points that struck me most:

1. Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book. As our pastor encouraged, do not stop taking about it…do not take your eyes off of Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).

Sometimes, I unfortunately find that not everyone wants to fellowship about God and Jesus. There have been occurrences, infact, where my excitement to tell others about God and Christ Jesus, not being preachy mind you…just even the mere mention of their names, was met with such hostility and hatred it was shocking and quite unpleasant. The frequency of interactions with these individuals only made matters worse. It is my deepest desire, however, that everyone who has ever met me or is acquainted with me knows my position and for whom I stand. I do not wish to “seal up” what I believe to be true.

2. The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come”. For this, the pastor pointed out we are living “invitations” to those around us. I took this as a reminder from God of who I am. It is so hard to “invite” those who are adverse to God…even when I love them deeply and truly! At times, my “invitation” is met with indifference. However, there have been occasions where I was answered with rage, venomous words, sharp tongues, and damaging actions. For those I cannot reach directly, I pray. I fully understand I cannot change hearts. I must do as I am called, to spread the word (Matthew 28:16-20) and invite (Revelation 22:17), and the rest in the hands of God (Ezekiel 36:26).

3. No one should mess with the bride (Revelation 21:2, Ephesians 5:25-27) of Christ! On this point, as I understood it, God’s people, the body of Christ, are the “church”. And the “church” is the bride of Christ. The pastor gave us an illustration of those who do things to harm, persecute or injure, the church are “tearing the dress” of the bride. To put the feeling that washed over me into words would be impossible. I have been praying a specific prayer for YEARS, and more fervently the past month. At this point of the message, I felt as though God was assuring me he hears my prayers. My cup runeth over (Psalm 23:5).

10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
(Isaiah 61:10. ESV.)

(Photo Information: Bing Images, free to share and use.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Part Two: Trust in the Lord with All Your Heart

If I am completely honest, I will tell you I have been feeling the weight of the past few weeks. Stressful events have been piling up and I find myself thinking about them when driving, doing chores, etc. Most of the time, these reflections bring forth nothing useful. They only let me know the things that have happened over the past few weeks bother me on some level. I might not even fully understand why. Other occasions of meditation present some “ah ha!” moments, though! Those I will share with you:

1. I can only take responsibility for myself. In 2001, my husband and I bought our first house. I was, of course, very excited but had no idea for what I was signing up. The house we took on was advertised as a “new” home, and was indeed only three years old, however it should have been classified as a “fixer upper”. It had, and probably still has, some major contractor issues. Just to name a few, a couple large windows leaked, and possibly still do, profusely when it rains. We had to replace the flooring in the home at least once because of it. A water pipe broke and flooded the house when it was nine years old so we had to have the floors replaced then, too, and portions of the wall repaired. Further, it had an electrical problem which could have burned the house down. Saying this house took, and most likely still takes, a LOT to maintain it would be an understatement. I believe it is fair to say, though I truly love it, it is very costly, unpredictable, and not safe. It put great strain on me, and my husband, and could have hurt my children. As much as I love that house, I had to leave it. As hard as we tried to keep up with and fix all of its defects and areas of concern, we could not. It was too exhausting and costly. Unfortunately, situations and relationships can be the same way. And I, as much as I would love to be able to wiggle my nose and have everything miraculously repaired and functioning properly, can only do my part...as limited as that may feel. The rest is out of my hands (Psalm 37:5, Psalm 55:22, Psalm 118:8, Matthew 6:25, Proverbs 16:3, Proverbs 3:5, etc.)

2. A change of heart does not always look the way I assume it will. When I think of asking God to “change my heart” I usually envision it to mean I need to love more, accept more, submit more, tolerate more, etc. Yet, on occasion, that is not the correct way to go at all! There are seasons that call for “tough love”. And, as much as I hate it and find it absolutely uncomfortable and unpleasant it is necessary when the circumstances call for it. The bible is full of event recaps of individuals, and God, having to give “tough love”.

3. God is always doing 10,000 things, as John Piper put it, at any given moment. I can only see a small portion of the artwork...a Monet, if you will. To me, it looks like a bunch of dots of many different colors and I seriously just don’t get it! What the heck are all of these stinkin’ specks supposed to mean? But God, at his distance and holiness, can see the entire picture. Further, His orchestration is flawless and His placement of the dabs is truly, breathtakingly beautiful!

4. God hears my / our prayers. This one is the most important! I read a comment that someone made recently, on a social network, stating prayer does nothing. This, of course, broke my heart. I firmly believe prayer is one of the most important tools we have in our tool box. Faith is right up there with hope and love. Though the greatest of them is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

I sincerely meant to wrap up this series, which I started on Monday, 13 June 2016. However, God has a better plan, of course, and so it continues...in the next post.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Part One: This Gospel of the Kingdom Will be Proclaimed Throughout the Whole World as a Testimony to All Nations

Aside from the terrible loss of 50 souls, early Sunday morning in Orlando, FL, the day also brought with it great encouragement. The past few weeks at church, the messages have truly gone straight to my heart! They have been about the coming of Christ…or more accurately, His return. But let me start at the beginning. We initiated this journey and study with 2 Thessalonians 1. 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12 reads,
5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— 6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. 11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (ESV.)

From there we went to Matthew 24. Matthew 24:1-14 reads,
1 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, "You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down."

3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" 4 And Jesus answered them, "See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

9 "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
(ESV.)

Next, it was 1 Corinthians 15. 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 reads,
50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

"Death is swallowed up in victory."
55 "O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?"

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
(ESV.)

All of this was, of course, encouraging but the part that hit me the most at this season was the part we covered this past weekend…which I will have to save for tomorrow’s post! Until then, church, “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Weeping with Those Who Weep

My heart is so sad. I am weeping with those who are weeping (Romans 12:15)! As little by little, a few at a time, people from Orlando are checking in on Facebook (FB) as “safe”. As I have mentioned here, before, I am not a fan of FB but I am thankful to have this feature that tells me when individuals have “checked in”. I, of course, have no way of knowing who was at the club or in the vicinity, early this morning. I do know, as a teenager, I hung out in Orlando from time to time. Though the club that was targeted is not one I would have frequented, I have been to clubs, in general, before...dancing the night away and laughing. That is what was going on at 2:00 a.m. when “last call” was announced.

How do you rid the world of humans? First, you rid the humans of their humanity. (Pinkner, Jeff, Goldman, Akiva, and Grant, Susannah. “The 5th WAve”. 2016. Directed by Blakeson, J. Based on the novel by Yancey, Rick.)

That is a quote from the movie we were trying to watch, today, as my mind kept wandering to Orlando, FL. How can one individual kill 50 people, in cold blood? What made him believe he was their judge and jury and allowed to put them to death?

...there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9. ESV.)

Just the other day, I posted about how a long time friend of mine is in ICU at the hospital after having a collision with a deer. Only days prior we had been discussing such a thing. In the same post, I wrote about how life is “topsy turvy” and at any given time God is doing 10,000 things, as John Piper puts it, yet we barely see a fraction and probably do not understand what we might see (Piper, John. Desiring God Website. http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/every-moment-in-2013-god-will-be-doing-10-000-things-in-your-life. And this morning, this shooting happens!

I echo Albert Mohler who published the above picture that states,
‘Weep with those who weep.’ Now is the time to weep with Orlando and our grieving neighbors, each created in the image of God. - Romans 12:15.

I grieve with my friends and strangers who are in mourning.

Friday, June 10, 2016

How Inscrutable His Ways!

My summer has been hijacked! Here I thought we were going to get a break from schedules or have a new one for summer! But, no! School programs have taken over and have us out the door by 8:00 am, Monday through Friday. This does not work out well, by the way, for someone with a creative soul that is generally awake at all crazy hours. Hence, the looking forward to a summer itinerary!

I can plan, what I desire, all I want but it is God’s will that stands (Proverbs 19:21). He directs my steps!
I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself,
that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.
(Jeremiah 10:23. ESV.)
In His hands are my breath and all my ways (Daniel 5:23). So, knowing this, why do I get miffed if my arrangements are thwarted or intercepted by God? Shouldn’t I be overjoyed the all powerful God of the universe has intervened and redirected me according to His will? I ought to feel honored!

I suppose I was hoping for a break. But God knows when and if I really need one. Infact, there have been countless times when I was running myself ragged, or being run ragged, and God knocked me on my butt for a couple days to rest.

And what about the surprises in life? This past Saturday, we attended the graduation of the daughter of some long time friends. Afterward, we had cake and chatted. One of the topics, as funny as this may sound, was deer whistles. You know, the type you place on the front of your car that advertise they will “stop a deer in its tracks” and prevent collisions. Anyway, yesterday, I got a call that one of the individuals involved in that conversation was struck by a deer and is currently in the hospital. I am prayerful his injuries are not life threatening. How crazy is it we were just discussing such a thing mere days ago! We have not been able to visit him, yet, especially since now he is in ICU.

Life is so topsy-turvy! It is like a tornado that changes direction at a moment’s notice and can leave all kinds of destruction in its wake! One day you are talking to someone and the next an act of God lands him in the hospital.

4 Does not he see my ways
and number all my steps?
(Job 31:4. ESV.)
The Lord is watching. He sees everything done by both the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3). Nothing gets past Him. So, why do I feel so conflicted at times? Where is God in the chaos?

I strolled over to Desiring God and did a search on “God in the chaos”. An article by Jonathan Parnell entitled “Ten Thousand Things We Can’t See” caught my attention. Parnell writes,
In this moment of disarray, when everything is turned upside down, when everything we expected is dismantled, the psalmist stops and remembers. He remembers that even when the circumstances don’t add up, God is always at work. God is always doing 10,000 things we can’t see. Always. (Desiring God Website. March 20, 2014. http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/ten-thousand-things-we-can-t-see.)

But what is this about God doing 10,000 things? John Piper explains in his article,
Not only may you see a tiny fraction of what God is doing in your life; the part you do see may make no sense to you. (Desiring God Website. “Every Moment in 2013 God Will Be Doing 10,000 Things in Your Life”. January 1, 2013. http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/every-moment-in-2013-god-will-be-doing-10-000-things-in-your-life.)

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 "For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?"
35 "Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?"
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
(Romans 11:33-36. ESV.)

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Teamwork: If All Were a Single Member, Where Would the Body Be?

By definition, a team comes together to accomplish a common goal. There are many types of teams: at work, in sports, relationships, at school, etc. Each person plays an important part, no one more valuable than another, and work together to achieve their objective.

I’ll take work or school group projects as an example. It is, unfortunately, not uncommon to be assigned to a unit where there is, at least, one member who does not commit to help but rather “rides on the coat-tails” of the rest. As the others invest in the project at hand and strive toward success, the one does not. Further, he or she might even do things to thwart the efforts of the others. Sometimes there are circumstances that hold this team member back. Other times he or she is only after self-gain at the expense of the team.

I believe many, if not all, of us have been in this sort of situation before…whether it be at school, work, home, etc. When it is the latter situation mentioned above, what is one to do about it? I am sure there are a series of steps one can take to try to remedy the issue, and let us say we have tried…everything. Then what?

Working as a team is not foreign to those who follow Christ Jesus. Infact, quite the opposite! God gave us “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27, Romans 12:5) for one! He designed us to support, encourage, love, inspire, hold each other accountable (Proverbs 27:17), etc. Secondly, He sent out his followers “two by two”.

1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. (Luke 10:1. ESV.)

We were created to work together, not alone. That, of course, does not mean to take advantage and not do one’s own part. No, not at all. Each of us have varying talents and roles to contribute. Like God’s word says,
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
(1 Corinthians 12:14-26. ESV.)

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