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Friday, September 22, 2017

Preparing the Landscape

Isaiah had spoken of John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming! Clear the road for him! The valleys will be filled, and the mountains and hills made level. The curves will be straightened, and the rough places made smooth. And then all people will see the salvation sent from God.’”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭3:4-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/luk.3.4-6.nlt

Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:3-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/isa.40.3-5.nlt

***
We are His landscape that He is 
leveling, straightening and smoothing out. 

The things in our hearts that are like valleys, like discouragement and doubt...let them be filled in and brought up to the playing field. 

And the things in our hearts that are big like mountains, like our puffed up prides...let them be leveled and brought low. 

And let the things that are crooked, be straightened out, like our perceptions...let our minds be renewed. Let us line up with the Word of God. And our crooked actions...let our decisions be righteous. 

And let the rough places in our hearts be smoothed out. The smaller things that aren't as big as mountains, but still trip us up. Let those things be sanded down and refined.

And why? So that He may come and the Glory of the Lord can be revealed and all will see God through His Landscape! 

Prepare The Way Of The Lord!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Provider


Long before you ever said yes to Him, He said yes to you. 
His history with you did not start when you asked Him into your life. 
His history with you started even before the foundation of the world. 
He knew you before you were even conceived. 
And He began to make provision for you 
long before you ever came and asked Him for it. 
Like a father who opens a bank account for his unborn child 
and begins to save money for his/her college education, 
God thought ahead and put everything in place -
making sure you would have everything you'd need for life and godliness.
He made Provision in every way 
Spiritually, emotionally, physically...
He factored in every trial, every situation, every heartbreak.
He knew ahead of time the exact needs you would have throughout your life.
He knew every circumstance that would be too hard for you to handle.
He knew every rock and hard place that you'd find yourself in.
He knew all the impossibles.

And long before you cried out for His help, 
Even long before you thought to ask,

He made a way.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Shake Me Awake

My husband and I will watch a little television each night. He'll watch with his eyes open, I'll watch through my eyelids. Haha, yes, I typically fall asleep on the sofa. When the show is off, he shuts it all down and proceeds with his nightly routine of the impossible task of waking me up to go to bed. He starts off with saying my name over and over. But I won't respond. Then he'll pat me on the shoulder. Still no response. Then he'll nudge me a little harder and say my name louder. He may, at this point, get me to open my eyes half way and mumble something ridiculous, but I'm still pretty much unconscious. He realizes at this point that he either needs to leave me on the sofa (which he knows I don't want to do because I'll get a better night's sleep in my bed), or try more drastic measures. So he begins the shaking method. With his hand on my arm, he will begin to gently shake me until I finally come to. Apparently, I respond faster some nights more than others. But he tells me there are nights that he seems to shake me until he's weary of it! Poor guy. I do appreciate his efforts, though, because in the end it's for my benefit.  

I think God follows the "Shake Me Awake" method, too. He looks upon hearts that are not Awake in Him and begins to arouse them. He may say their name and pat them to try to get their attention and wake them up in Him. But when they don't respond, the Shaking begins. The Shaking is not to be cruel to them. No, it's from His deep Love for them, knowing that they are missing all the Good He has to offer. 

He may use our trials to wake us up. He may use natural disasters. He may use ... well ANYTHING to shake us awake! And He knows some won't respond to Him unless they are shaken right to the very core of their being! 

BUT! once they are Awake, they all have one common response: THANKFULNESS. They are so thankful that God cared enough to not leave them lying there, but did all He could do to get their attention and be Awake in His Presence. They know, and even proclaim, that the Shaking was for their benefit! Thank you, thank you God for the Shaking! 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Sorrows Keeper

If you're a parent of a younger child, there are probably lots of things you keep track of for them. You probably keep track of their doctor's and dentist's visits. You probably keep track of their meals. And you might even keep track of how much sleep they are getting. It's what a parent does. We keep track.

But there might be something you don't keep track of... their sorrows. I don't know any parent that writes down all the ways their child has been hurt or the times they've experienced pain. I've never heard of anyone pulling out a 'book of sorrows' and taking a nice stroll down memory lane. It's not exactly entertainment material, if you know what I mean!

But in Psalm 56, we hear David asking God to do just that. He says, 

"Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll — are they not in your record?”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭56:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

At this point in David's life, He is looking to God to help him, deliver him. And it seems he doesn't want God to miss it. He wants to make sure God sees it all so that He can respond. So He asks God to keep track. And keep track He does. Other versions of this verse give us this impression:

You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, 
Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭56:8‬ ‭MSG‬‬

You keep track of all my sorrows. 
You have collected all my tears in your bottle. 
You have recorded each one in your book.
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭56:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Yes, indeed. God remembers. He doesn't miss a thing. But why would He do this? Why would God keep track of our sorrows?

I think there's one main reason...He keeps track because He doesn't want us to. He doesn't want us to hold onto our sorrows and pain. He doesn't want us to keep reliving the past and experiencing the traumatic scenes over and over again. He keeps the ledger and knows just what to do with it. He nails it to the Cross, where all our sorrows were carried by Jesus, Himself. 

And our tears. Oh, our tears are so precious to Him, too! They are the overflow of our pain and sorrow! So in the midst of our anguish, we hear Him gently saying, 

"My child, don't bottle up your pain. 
Let go of your tears so I can bottle them up and carry them for you.
I love you and I AM 
your Sorrows Keeper."


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Breath That Changes Things

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds!
Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’"
‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭37:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/ezk.37.9.nlt


It's fascinating. The human breath can blow both warm and cool air. I can put my hands to my mouth and breathe warm air on them when they are cold. But I can also blow cool air on my them when I have a cut. My breath can provide whatever is needed in the moment. 

God's Breath does the same thing for us. The Father breathes His Spirit over us. He warms hearts that have gone cold for Him, and cools hearts that have been burned by the world and its trials. His Spirit is our Comforter, giving us what we need in the moment - even for those who seem like a lost cause. They are like dry bones with no breath, no life. The Spirit of God becomes like a paramedic over them, administering CPR on them - breathing New Life into them!

May God breathe over us afresh today, creating a Wind of healing across our land and over every heart. May this Wind catch the attention of many whose love has grown cold, or who have been burned by the world. And may it bring to life those who have no breath at all. Breathe on us, oh God! Breathe on us! Blow Your Wind of change!

***

The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” 

"O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.” 

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” 

So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them. 

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’” 

So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.

Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. 
Yes, the Lord has spoken!’””
‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭37:1-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/ezk.37.1-14.nlt

Friday, September 8, 2017

Caught Off Guard

I love having company. But I must admit, I don't love unexpected ones. Unannounced visitors send me into a bit of a panic. It's not because I don't want to see them. I love that they have come by! I just don't like feeling unprepared. I want to open my door and feel confident about letting them in. I want to at least get the laundry off the sofa and the dirty dishes taken care of. I'd like to clean the dog hair off the furniture so they have some place comfortable to sit. And I'd love to even have a light refreshment ready to offer them. 

It reminds me of some old-fashion hospitality advice: Always be ready to serve. In other words, be in the mindset that your home is always open to anyone - announced or unannounced. I know some folks actually keep sweets and specialty drinks in the house for just that purpose. Taking in unexpected visitors is a lot easier when you have thought ahead for such an occasion and prepared for it.

There's one Visitor we should always be ready for...

Jesus said, "...You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭24:44‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/mat.24.44.nlt

In this passage, He's actually talking about a thief coming and breaking into your house. That's an unexpected and unwanted visitor! But the point He is making is this: Be ready. Have your 'house' (your life, your heart) ready for when He comes back. Don't be the one unprepared for His coming. Don't be the one answering the door and shocked to see that He's standing there. 

BE  READY

Be so ready that you actually live your life expecting Him at any moment. Keep your 'home' in order, ready for His appearing. (Repent of your sin. Be in relationship with Jesus. Believe in Him, alone.) Fill it with the Love of God.(Be about the Father's business and never stop doing good, loving others with the Love of God.) Be looking out the window for Him, knowing that it's not a possibility that He's going to drop by, but a definite. 


Be wise, my friend.
Don't be the one caught off guard. 




Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Zacchaeus In Your Life

Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way. 

When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”

 Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled. 

Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” 

Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭19:1-10‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/luk.19.1-10.nlt

***


Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see...

That might be one of my favorite Bible songs of all time. Such a catchy little tune that tells a story. The story of Zacchaeus brings a smile to many of us, simply because of that song. But in real life, Zacchaeus was no fun, adorable character. In his time, he was not well liked by the people. He was a chief tax collector, but the people probably would have labeled him a thief. He did not run his business fairly and the people paid dearly. I'm willing to bet that Zacchaeus would be one of the last people that anyone would want to pray God's mercy for. I mean, who would want God's goodness toward someone who has harmed them? 

But Jesus just didn't see it like that. What Jesus saw was a man who went out of his way to get a glimpse of Him. He saw a man that was not too far gone, after all. He saw a sinner in need of a changed heart and a changed life. And Jesus was willing to extend mercy, not judgment.

We see that it only took one conversation with the Savior for Zacchaeus to do a 180 degree turn. When Zacchaeus saw that Jesus accepted him - even in his sin - we watch him 'come to his senses' and do what he could do to make things right with all the people he wronged.

The question for us today is this: Who is the Zacchaeus in your life? Is there anyone you have trouble praying for or reaching out to because they seem to be too far gone, too much of a sinner, or have hurt, harmed, or offended you? Is there anyone you'd rather see God's judgment on than His mercy?

If God didn't give up on such a notorious sinner as Zacchaeus, he certainly hasn't given up on the Zacchaeus in your life. 


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Two Choices

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/php.4.6-7.nlt

There is nothing like feeling powerless in a situation. When circumstances are beyond what you can control, there are two choices you have. Worry or pray. 

Worry looks at our own strengths and resources - which always come up short. Worry requires much energy but takes you nowhere, like a stationary bike. At the end of our pedaling, we find ourselves exhausted and in the same place as where we started. 

Prayer is the exact opposite. Prayer MOVES things. As a child of God, we have the opportunity to literally change things in this world. But we don't draw from our own resources. We draw upon Heaven's. In a sense, we are taking a handful of Heaven and throwing it into the atmosphere of earth. Prayer brings Heaven's resources and power into our realm. And when we do this, look out! This is when we see God in motion! We see healing, salvation, and demons cast out. This is when we see even weather shift and political change take place. When we bring Heaven to earth, there is nothing that escapes its Glory and impact!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Taking Our Cues From Dad

In any situation, my children are watching my husband and I. They are looking to see our reaction. In particular, they are looking for one thing: our anxiety level. I think they have come to learn that if mom and dad are nervous about something, then they should be nervous, too. But if we're relaxed, then all must be well and there's nothing to be alarmed about.

I find the same to be true in our relationship with God, our Father. In the midst of any given situation, we can look at Him and see if there is anything for us to be worried about. And as we turn our gaze upon Him, we can see that God is never nervous or anxious at any given moment. There is nothing that throws Him into a spin or knocks Him off His throne. He is steady and unchanging. He is Lord - even of the wind and the waves. And in His steadfastness, we find our comfort. We breathe easy, not because our circumstances are perfect, but because Dad says, "All is well." And if Dad's not anxious, then why should we be?

***

As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. 

Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” 

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 

The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭4:35-41‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/mrk.4.35-41.nlt

Monday, September 4, 2017

Confidence

Confidence has been a tricky word for me over the years. For a long time, I equated confidence with pride. If I was too confident in a situation, I would think I wasn't being very humble in it. So I would shrink back because it seemed more humble to actually lack confidence altogether. What mixed up thinking! But now I'm beginning to understand why I thought that way...

I've come to learn that there are two kinds of confidences you can have. There is confidence in self, and confidence in God. And they couldn't be more different from each other. 

The confidence that I always tried to have was confidence in self. The 'I can do it' attitude. With this type of thinking, I didn't have room to fit God into it. It was all about my own strength and ability. But of course, because I'm human, my own strength would often fail me. When this happened, my heart would sink and all my self confidence would dissolve. I'd then have to muster it up again with positive self talk and be determined to not let it get me down...until my strength failed me again. You can see what a nasty cycle this can be!

The second kind of confidence is the kind that young David, the shepherd boy, possessed. It's not a confidence rooted in self. It's a confidence rooted in who God is and what He can do and is willing to do. David had spent many a nights worshipping and getting to know God as he tended sheep. He saw what God could do through him when he beat up lions and bears to protect the flock. David grew in confidence on those hillsides. Not a confidence in self, but a confidence in the Love of God and the Strength of God. So, when the day came that David saw Goliath, he didn't have to stop and muster up courage and confidence to face him. He was already convinced in who God was and confident in what He was able to do. David faced Goliath fearlessly, confidently, and without reservation or hesitation because his confidence was established in God alone - not in himself. 

It's interesting to note that Goliath and the Philistine army were quite confident in self - intimidatingly so. He was tall, strong, had years of experience, and had a plethora of weapons and military support. I guess you could say, in part, the heart of the battle between David and Goliath was a battle between confidence in self and confidence in God. And we know who came out on top! 

Confidence in self will always be rooted in pride, will need to be mustered up, and will land us in a pit of despair when it fails us. Confidence in God has nothing to do with self at all, but everything to do with Him. It shifts all expectation onto God alone and it will never fail us. It's a confidence that says, "I can't, but He can!"

***

The Philistines now mustered their army for battle and camped between Socoh in Judah and Azekah at Ephes-dammim. Saul countered by gathering his Israelite troops near the valley of Elah. So the Philistines and Israelites faced each other on opposite hills, with the valley between them.

Then Goliath, a Philistine champion from Gath, came out of the Philistine ranks to face the forces of Israel. He was over nine feet tall! He wore a bronze helmet, and his bronze coat of mail weighed 125 pounds. He also wore bronze leg armor, and he carried a bronze javelin on his shoulder. The shaft of his spear was as heavy and thick as a weaver’s beam, tipped with an iron spearhead that weighed 15 pounds. His armor bearer walked ahead of him carrying a shield.

Goliath stood and shouted a taunt across to the Israelites. “Why are you all coming out to fight?” he called. “I am the Philistine champion, but you are only the servants of Saul. Choose one man to come down here and fight me! If he kills me, then we will be your slaves. But if I kill him, you will be our slaves! I defy the armies of Israel today! Send me a man who will fight me!” When Saul and the Israelites heard this, they were terrified and deeply shaken.

Now David was the son of a man named Jesse, an Ephrathite from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. Jesse was an old man at that time, and he had eight sons. Jesse’s three oldest sons—Eliab, Abinadab, and Shimea —had already joined Saul’s army to fight the Philistines. David was the youngest son. David’s three oldest brothers stayed with Saul’s army, but David went back and forth so he could help his father with the sheep in Bethlehem.

For forty days, every morning and evening, the Philistine champion strutted in front of the Israelite army.

One day Jesse said to David, “Take this basket of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread, and carry them quickly to your brothers. And give these ten cuts of cheese to their captain. See how your brothers are getting along, and bring back a report on how they are doing. ” David’s brothers were with Saul and the Israelite army at the valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.

So David left the sheep with another shepherd and set out early the next morning with the gifts, as Jesse had directed him. He arrived at the camp just as the Israelite army was leaving for the battlefield with shouts and battle cries. Soon the Israelite and Philistine forces stood facing each other, army against army. David left his things with the keeper of supplies and hurried out to the ranks to greet his brothers. As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, came out from the Philistine ranks. Then David heard him shout his usual taunt to the army of Israel.

As soon as the Israelite army saw him, they began to run away in fright. “Have you seen the giant?” the men asked. “He comes out each day to defy Israel. The king has offered a huge reward to anyone who kills him. He will give that man one of his daughters for a wife, and the man’s entire family will be exempted from paying taxes!”

David asked the soldiers standing nearby, “What will a man get for killing this Philistine and ending his defiance of Israel? Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?”

And these men gave David the same reply. They said, “Yes, that is the reward for killing him.”

But when David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David talking to the men, he was angry. “What are you doing around here anyway?” he demanded. “What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle!”

"What have I done now?” David replied. “I was only asking a question!” He walked over to some others and asked them the same thing and received the same answer. Then David’s question was reported to King Saul, and the king sent for him.

"Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!”

"Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied. “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.”

But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”

Saul finally consented. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the Lord be with you!”

Then Saul gave David his own armor—a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before.

"I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” So David took them off again. He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine.

Goliath walked out toward David with his shield bearer ahead of him, sneering in contempt at this ruddy-faced boy. “Am I a dog,” he roared at David, “that you come at me with a stick?” And he cursed David by the names of his gods. “Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” Goliath yelled.

David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!”

As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him. Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground.

So David triumphed over the Philistine with only a sling and a stone, for he had no sword. Then David ran over and pulled Goliath’s sword from its sheath. David used it to kill him and cut off his head.

When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they turned and ran. Then the men of Israel and Judah gave a great shout of triumph and rushed after the Philistines, chasing them as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron. The bodies of the dead and wounded Philistines were strewn all along the road from Shaaraim, as far as Gath and Ekron. Then the Israelite army returned and plundered the deserted Philistine camp. (David took the Philistine’s head to Jerusalem, but he stored the man’s armor in his own tent.)

As Saul watched David go out to fight the Philistine, he asked Abner, the commander of his army, “Abner, whose son is this young man?”

"I really don’t know,” Abner declared.

"Well, find out who he is!” the king told him.

As soon as David returned from killing Goliath, Abner brought him to Saul with the Philistine’s head still in his hand. “Tell me about your father, young man,” Saul said.

And David replied, “His name is Jesse, and we live in Bethlehem.

‭‭1 Samuel‬ ‭17:1-58‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/1sa.17.1-58.nlt

Friday, September 1, 2017

Exchanging Rings

They traded the truth about God for a lie. 
Romans 1:25 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.1.25.nlt

***

My husband gave me my engagement ring almost 17 years ago. It's the most expensive and precious thing I will ever wear. It means so much to me. It's valuable, both in worth and sentimental value. The thought of trading it for anything else, especially anything less, would be utterly foolish, and frankly, stupid of me. If someone approached me and offered me a ring they purchased from a dollar store as an exchange for it, I'd actually think they were joking. Why in the world would I exchange the real thing for a priceless fake? No way. No how. 

But the Bible says that some people have and will do just that - not with diamonds rings, but with something far more precious and valuable - the Truth. They see the Truth about God, just in His creation alone, but they will reject it and trade it for a lie. A LIE! That means that they would rather believe and build their lives on something absolutely untrue than acknowledge that God is who He says He is. They would rather wear a fake, priceless ring on their finger than the true diamond ring He is offering them. Foolish! 

But thank God that He doesn't give up on us. It's not over until it's over. He will keep on calling to us. He will keep on loving on us. Even as we suffer the consequences of trading Truth for lies, He will still present Himself as a way out. 

He holds His Diamond Ring in His Hand and says, "Let's make an exchange. Just you and me. You give me that fake ring, and I'll put this Priceless one on your beautiful finger. Trade that lie for the Truth."


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Conflicting Voices

You're driving your vehicle to a destination you've never been to. Your passenger, who has taken the trip a thousand times before, is giving you step-by-step instructions on how to get there. But just in case, you keep your GPS running. You reach a fork in the road and your passenger is telling you to go right. But the voice of the GPS is telling you to go left. What sudden confusion this creates! What do you do in that moment? Which voice will you trust - the one sitting next to you, who has never failed to get you anywhere, or the voice of the GPS who comes across as the expert?

This is similar to the conflicting messages we get between a religious spirit and the Spirit of God. One will tell you one thing while the other tells you something else. What confusion this creates for God's sheep! This is why God warns us about false teaching and the "yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees"! Their teaching will worm their way into our thinking and rob us of our clarity and freedom.


There is only one Voice worth tuning in to and we must keep our ears sensitive to it. The Voice of God often comes in whispers and will always be consistent with His Word. The voice of Religion can be loud, like a GPS volume turned up on high. It is often the voice that is most popular with the general population who do not have a personal relationship with God, Himself, and will sound highly spiritual.


And Beware! Our enemy disguises himself as 'an angel of light' (2 Corinthians 11:14) and will try to deceive even the elect in these last days. He will make the lies seem true and even good! If we are not careful, we will start listening and believing the wrong voice because it 'sounds right'.


But God is faithful to us. If we keep ourselves close to the Shepherd, He will make sure we don't miss His Voice. He will keep us on course and bring clarity, no matter how loud the other voices get.


*** 


You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough! I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you.
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:7-10‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.7-10.nlt

Later, after they crossed to the other side of the lake, the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring any bread. “Watch out!” Jesus warned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “You have so little faith! Why are you arguing with each other about having no bread? Don’t you understand even yet? Don’t you remember the 5,000 I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up? Or the 4,000 I fed with seven loaves, and the large baskets of leftovers you picked up? Why can’t you understand that I’m not talking about bread? So again I say, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’” Then at last they understood that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭16:5-12‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/mat.16.5-12.nlt

But I will continue doing what I have always done. This will undercut those who are looking for an opportunity to boast that their work is just like ours. These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.
In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭11:12-15‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/2co.11.12-15.nlt

For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones.

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭24:24‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/mat.24.24.nlt

“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger;
they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.

"The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”

When he said these things, the people were again divided in their opinions about him. Some said, “He’s demon possessed and out of his mind. Why listen to a man like that?” Others said, “This doesn’t sound like a man possessed by a demon! Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
‭‭John‬ ‭10:1-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/jhn.10.1-21.nlt



Friday, August 25, 2017

I See You

It's so important that they are watching. There could be a hundred parents watching the baseball game, but that doesn't matter much to Johnny. He's only concerned with two sets of eyes watching the game - his mom and dad. He'll look over his shoulder multiple times just to check to see if they are looking at him or distracted with other things. The game means that much more when the most important people are there to witness it and watch him do something special.

Little four year old Jennifer feels the same way when she's dancing and singing in the living room. She's looking to see if her parents are watching her every move and listening to every note. And if they are not a captive audience, she'll do what she needs to do to get their attention, like sing a little louder or stand in front of the TV screen that they are watching. It's not just about dancing and singing. It's about being noticed and feeling loved.

Many of us understand, on a spiritual level, where Johnny and Jennifer are coming from. Deep in our hearts we want to know that we are not going unnoticed in this life. We want to know that we aren't just a number in a sea of people here on earth. We want to know that we are not alone and that Someone sees us. Someone understands. Someone is watching us as we 'throw the ball' or 'sing a high note'. Someone who is present in our brightest moments, as well as in our darkest days. Someone who will validate us.

But we don't just want any Someone. We want Daddy. And not just any daddy. We want our Daddy. The One that made us. The One that breathed life into us. We recognize that there is only One Person we need watching us. There is only one set of eyes that matter - His alone.

And we certainly don't need to strain ourselves to gain His attention. We already have it because He is completely infatuated with us. He actually can't take His eyes off of us for even a second. We are always in His mind and always in His sight. We are never considered a 'number'. To Him, we are His Child, His Beloved. We are the apple of His eye!

And He will be there. He'll be at every 'baseball game' of our life. He will be the Dad in the stands yelling, "You can do it!" as He waves a souvenir flag in the air with our name on it. He'll be the Dad that shuts the TV off so we know that we have His undivided attention. He'll be the Dad that lets us know that we don't have to strain ourselves to get noticed. There's no need to sing louder or dance harder. He'll be the Dad that says,

"I see you. I Am with you. I love you. You have my attention."

And that is all we are looking for.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Keep What Matters Most

Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief...I am coming soon. 
Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.”
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭3:3, 11‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/rev.3.3,11.nlt

Over the years, I have cleaned out my house several times. It's amazing how many unwanted or unnecessary items build up. Toys. Clothes. Books. I have to sort through things at least once a year to keep things from getting overly cluttered. But, no matter how many times I clean out the house, there are some things I will never consider tossing. Things like birth certificates, social security cards, my wedding photos, and videos of the kids, always make the cut. Though I want to be clutter free, I don't lose all my common sense. I continue to hold on to what is most important. 

Jesus tells His Church, His Bride, to do the same. We can over complicate things in this Christian life and make it harder than it really is. We fill our 'house' with various teachings and doctrines and allow it to accumulate within us. We get so 'in our head' over stuff that we start losing our grasp on our Basic Foundation - Him. When this happens, we need to go back and reassess what we've put in our 'house'. We need to pull out the things we've allowed to live in our 'home', and throw off all that hinders - keeping only what is most important. 

Things like the Cross and forgiveness through His Blood should never leave our 'house'. It is our Firm Foundation. Our First Love for Him should not only stay, but be a centerpiece in our 'home'. And loving others and doing Good should never be put out on the curb for trash. The things that are important to God, stay important to us. 

So, no matter what comes and goes, we must be sure to never toss that which means the most and what is actually holding our 'house' together: Jesus, Himself.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Whistle While You Work!

Mary Poppins had it right. "In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and snap! The job's a game!" She had a way of showing those kids that anything on their to-do list can either be seen as a job or a game. We can either have fun with our tasks or reluctantly push ourselves through it.

Many of us could benefit from listening to her words of encouragement. We have trouble coupling the words FUN and WORK together. Now, I don't mean we don't take our work seriously. I don't want my dentist to think that he doesn't have to focus on his job as he's drilling into my tooth. What I mean is, we can be joyful in our hearts even as we go about our serious work.

I think God loves putting words like FUN, LAUGHTER, SMILES, and HUMOR with words like WORK, JOB, and PRODUCTIVITY. Don't you think God has fun as He works? I do! I mean, how can the source of all JOY not be JOYFUL in all He does? I can only imagine the excitement in His heart when He made Creation! I bet the Godhead had a blast as they made the sky and the sea and the galaxies and all the cool animals and especially Adam and Eve! They did it and had FUN! Imagine that?? It was definitely not just 'another day at the office'! They were Days that were probably filled with Laughter and Joy!

Some of us have forgotten how to 'whistle while we work' and smile throughout the day. Everything is a chore. Everything is laborious. Everything is work, work, work and a 'let's just get to Friday, already' outlook. But life does not have to be lived like that. And God would love to change that outlook if you let Him!

See, because of Sin coming into the world, work has become a joyless pit for many. Maybe that's why we call it a JOB. Just change the O to a long vowel and you're describing a man that went through a miserable season! But because of Jesus, we can have a completely renewed outlook! It's no longer just 'another day, another dollar'. Now, with Him, we have eternal purpose as we step foot into any place of employment. It can be a high paying or low paying job. It doesn't matter. We no longer work for a paycheck. We work for the King and with the King. On earth, they may call you a cashier, but in Heaven they call you a Child of God. Your job description on earth may be checking out groceries, but your job description in Heaven is being the Aroma of Christ. I like to see us as being like superheroes. We are average people in this world, but our true identities are out of this world!

If your life has been reduced to 9 to 5 living with everyday being a joyless struggle, then it's time for you to start asking God to change your perspective. God wants to make everyday for you exciting because when we walk with Jesus He makes things exciting! He can turn your monotonous job into a joyful task - not because the task changed, but because you have changed. And look out, because Joy is more contagious than the common cold. Because you are welcoming Joy, your workplace atmosphere will start to change. Your co-workers will start to wonder why in the world you are so chipper. They may even find themselves hungry and thirsty for what you have and will want to 'taste and see that the Lord is Good' too!

So go! Do your job! And take Jesus (and all of His JOY, FUN, LAUGHTER, SMILES AND HUMOR) with you and

ENJOY your day!!

https://youtu.be/vLkp_Dx6VdI