Mirror, mirror on the Wall

mirror    There’s a Bible verse in a prominent place above my desk so that not a single time of sitting down, I don’t see and read it.  “Humble yourself (Sharon) under God’s mighty hand that He may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6,7)  The obvious reason for its location is the constant need for me to remember the danger of pride.  No one likes to spend time with someone consumed with their own importance.  Have you conversed with friends who often interrupt you just to insert their own advice, experience, or bragging rights?  I don’t want to be that person.  How about you?

This danger not only involves your attitude regarding yourself, but stretches to your opinion of family members and friends.  Pride swells within me when someone asks about my children or grandchildren!  My mouth gushes with praise of their accomplishments and personally speaking, we should be able to share those feelings, but at the same time restraint should act as the reins to pull back our enthusiasm.   Paul advised us to remember, “I can do ALL THINGS through Christ who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13)  We (nor our loved ones) can do anything without God granting us breath, ability, and strength.

Our Bible has SO MUCH to say about the dangers of pride.  My favorite admonition against being prideful comes from Proverbs 16 where pride shows itself just before destruction, right before a great fall.  And to be humble with those who humble themselves is much better than to split the profit with others who are full of pride in their accomplishments.  (Prov 16:18,19) What a picture of the attitude of criminals leading other gang members!  Their initiation often involves crime and cruelty while the leaders brag of their superior evil deeds.

John advised that we not get attached to the world’s view, those things popular today.  “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world (like that) the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father but is of this world.  The world is passing away with its lust but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)

     So, brag on your family!  Share positive praise of others, but remember the danger of pride and the advantages of staying humble.  God wants us to influence our world for kingdom purposes, but not by becoming prideful or arrogant.  He will use those who humble themselves in the effort to lift up others.   If you need the praise of someone else, let the Lord take care of that.  If concerned that you are not getting the credit deserved, put yourself in the mighty hand of God and He will lift you up at the perfect time!  “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth, a stranger and not your own lips.” (Prov. 27:2)

Prayers for Politics?

awesome-american-flag_603993     Writing a devotional thought is a very complex undertaking.  While attempting to keep the topic interesting, the writer also tries to be brief because we fully understand the short attention span of most readers.  To top it off, it should be motivational, urging one to devoting more time and energy to the work of getting the message of the gospel out.  Well, this devotional will be short.  If you are interested in investing time for the good of others, this thought should spur you onward.  Ernest prayer is the topic.  And prayer can and will change things!  Here’s my challenge for you.

With increasing tension between law enforcement and special interest groups, let’s commit to praying today and all week for the Republican National Convention!  It makes no difference what party you prefer, Democrat, Republican, Independent or none at all, we must pray for all political gatherings as these ‘hot spots’ provide the kindling for explosive trouble where  concerned citizens gather to do the business of politics.  Before we know it, we will be praying for the Democrats as they gather to conduct their business.  And each time we see large crowds gathering, we know large numbers of law enforcement officers will be positioned to protect and defend our American right to assemble.

What does praying for political peace have to do with getting the message of the gospel out?  A portion of the message was summed up by Jesus in Matthew 5:43, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”  What greater challenge do we need?  This message is ours to carry to the world around us.

Please join with me in prayer that sometimes we just have to agree to disagree without bringing harm to others.  Sometimes we must love others when we don’t like them very much.  Prayer may not change the situations around us, but maybe it will change our hearts and when the heart is changed, we become much closer to sharing God’s message of love.  Won’t you join me?

Love’s Transforming Power

Remember the story from our World History books, a story over 3000 years oldBlog?  A well-crafted, giant horse appearing outside the gates at the break of dawn and curiosity got the best of those living within the fortified city?  So they opened the gate, maneuvered the mysterious horse into the inner sanctum of the walls only to find it was filled with the enemy’s soldiers who promptly attacked the city from within.  True story.  I think someone has opened the gate to our heartland and ushered in an ugly horse of hatred and violence, one that is growing and multiplying at an alarming rate.  It appears to me that the American population is attacking each other from within and no one is coming out the winner.  God must look at us and think we have lost our minds.

I suppose violence has always been with us.  From the Revolutionary War to the way we pushed the American Natives out of their home, from the Civil War to all generation’s ugliness of slavery of every kind, we seem to be steeped in violence.  Yet, in spite of history’s violence, todays drive-by shootings and crimes of hatred still manage to shock me.  My morning routine of tuning in the Morning Express has lost its appeal as I dread what tragedy might be the ‘breaking news’ of the day.  For all of us, prayer time has a new page as we devote time to praying for our law enforcement officers, praying for people who are injured or killed as a result of hasty actions, and praying that some sense of trust and peace can be restored to our homeland.

Matthew recorded in our Bible some powerful words of Jesus Christ as He taught His followers from a mountainside.  “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt 5:7-9)  Mercy – not getting what a person deserves, we could use a great deal of mercy today.  A pure heart cannot hold hatred, bitterness, or an unforgiving spirit.  We need more pure hearts.  And peacemakers??  Please, we need a truck load of them.

What disappoints the most is seeing the hatred and bitterness coming from the hearts of people who claim to believe in God and follow the teachings of Jesus.  How can we worship a God who exemplifies love by giving His own Son for our salvation and not love the created objects of His love?  Jesus told His followers, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”  (Matt 5:44)  We have no hope of pleasing God if we cannot focus on the goal of loving as He loves.  It will not be easy; it will not feel natural, but a compassionate love is our only hope.

One thing I know: we live in a fallen world, a world that will continue to struggle until God brings down His final gift to us, a world without sin.  Until that time, Christians must strive to love in word and deed simply because that’s what Jesus did.  That is the final word we have from the Bible, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17) May our actions and our words be fitting to be done in the name of our Lord.

Vacation Agendas

grandcanyon On the Road Again
Dust off the suitcase, Martha! It’s time to plan the vacation! Vacation trips would come more often in our family if it wasn’t for the expense. Such wonderful experiences occur while traveling to distant locations. Only limited funds force us to be pretty creative in summer vacationing and I’m sure that’s the normal for most families. It’s also true you can’t follow the same route as last year and expect to arrive at a new location. Equally true, if a change is needed in lifestyle habits, you can’t keep making the same choices and expect different results. When weary of unsatisfactory consequences in life, a change in direction is in order. You have to know where you are headed spiritually in order to get there!
A most rewarding vacation took us to the Grand Canyon. Instead of the most popular viewing location, we chose the north rim; less commercialized and wow, we were glad. No crowds, lots of places to pull over and roam the area and picture opportunities galore! But this less traveled route was hard to map and a long dry spell of no gas stations or fast food restaurants complicated the planning. Perhaps this is what Jesus was implying when He explained we need to count the cost before committing to our spiritual walk. The rewards of a faithful walk with God are many, but there are costs involved that may not be seen at first glance.
A story of a rich young man Jesus encountered on one of His trips to Jerusalem is a good example. The rich man asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. (He evidently knew where he wanted to go) Jesus repeated some of the rules the Jewish people were accustomed to following and the young man proudly stated he had kept ALL these rules. A deeper look into his heart showed Jesus his love of riches for He stated, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me.’ (Luke 18:22) The man’s actions leave no doubt to his disappointment, ‘But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.’ (v. 23)
Paul went one step further. He counted all things worthless – ‘Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ,’ (Philippians 3:8) I don’t think the point is for us to give up all things, but we certainly need to be ready to do just that, if Jesus Christ asks us to make sacrifices in our lifestyle.
It stands to reason if we want to experience everlasting life in heaven, we’d better study the route and be ready to follow directions. For those professing Christians who shun attendance at a house of worship or fail to read God’s word with regularity, I wonder if they have counted the cost. This is not a casual thing, this born-again, rebirth experience, not a vacation trip but a life-journey. Let’s get serious about following the teachings of the New Testament in order to reach heaven. Jesus said it best, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) and ‘If anyone desires to come with Me, let him take up his cross daily and follow Me.’ (Luke 9:23)

The Greatest Story Ever Told

img1949004     Suppose you could take out magic glasses and see way back into the past – before electricity, before the invention of the wheel?  Well, you can.  Just open the Bible and read with eyes and minds ready to be amazed at what unfolds.  Listen to the telling of the story of God’s great love for His greatest creation, the human heart.

Our story begins shrouded in darkness and chaos.  A great and powerful Creator steps onto the stage and with the breath of His mouth, with words rolling from His tongue He creates everything necessary to sustain life – for God always provides before there is an awareness of the need.  (Genesis 1-2) His most beautiful Garden of Eden welcomed the perfect couple formed by His own hands and here’s the unbelievable part, God actually looked forward to times of strolling through the gardens with His newly created friends – until they sinned.  As children often do, they did the very thing God asked them not to do.  They disobeyed their Creator and God.  (Genesis 3) Thus began the distance a perfect, holy God must put between Himself and sin.  He separated Himself from His creation and expelled them from His garden.

But He had an ultimate plan!  Ages and eons pass.  Restoring this relationship was His greatest desire; He truly wanted to have lasting relationships with His creation.  Sacrifices tinged with blood tried to administer a band aide upon the weeping wound of mankind, but the wound was too great and mankind too frail.  With quiet resolve, Creator God activated His grand plan and sent His own Son to pay for the wrongs of mankind, to pay the debt with a final and ultimate sacrifice that no one else could provide.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Darkness covered the face of the earth again as God turned His back on His own Son hanging on a rugged cross while He shouldered the sins of the world.  But a mere three days later, not just physical sunlight bathed the dark world, but Son-light pierced the darkness of man’s heart and birthed a new creation, a spiritual renovation of a fleshly house that now could hold a small part of the great Holy Spirit.  To believe in the work Jesus Christ did on the cross, to accept His plan of salvation would grant life to the deadness of mankind.  “If we confess with the mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we can be saved for with the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation!” (Romans 10:9-10)

     The story does not end here; the story continues far into the future where those spiritual glasses can see the works of God and behold His glory just by opening His Bible and reading for ourselves.  His invitation is not limited to an elite few, but open to all of mankind if we will read His story and follow His teaching.  Won’t you join me in the quest to find not only peace on earth, but everlasting favor and love for all eternity?

Pleasing God? Or People?

2015 002 How much of life is lived with the goal of pleasing others? I might warn you, it’s a dangerous game. I’ve struggled with this goal. And when I fail to gain approval, or heaven forbid receive disapproval, I am consumed with regret. What might I have done differently? I am so grateful of the Bible’s teaching that God loves me INSPITE of my inability to be perfect; He loves me regardless of my shortcomings.
Psychologists say this stems from a lack of self-worth from childhood. I’m not sure I believe that. The oldest of five, from babysitting to housework, I did it all and received a fair amount of praise from my parents. As an adult, from processing mountains of computer information to managing a medical clinic, I’ve been successful. Therefore, is it possible that God has placed within the human heart the desire to please Him, but we get sidetracked striving to please others around us? I’ve found a good example in the man Daniel and his story in our Bible.
When a teenager, Daniel was captured by invading forces and taken from his homeland in Jerusalem. Babylon’s king Nebuchadnezzar desired all the smart, strong, and handsome Hebrew youth be trained in his language and culture so they could serve him. Daniel and three of his friends excelled in every way and eventually, after deliverance from a fiery furnace, were promoted to positions of leadership. Daniel’s ability to explain mysterious dreams impressed more than one king in Babylon. “Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm.” (Daniel 6:3)
Yet, while doing right, Daniel didn’t please everyone. Jealousy reared its ugly head as other governors tried to find fault with him, but no fault could be found in Daniel’s leadership. “Then these men said, ‘We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” (6:5) Daniel’s faithful adherence to the teachings of his God, even his pattern of prayer was so constant, they would have to design a way to trap him within his faith. And they did.
The perfect plan was to condemn anyone to the lion’s den if they dared to petition any other god (other than King Darius) for 30 days. So the decree was established and STILL Daniel knelt and prayed to his God. Soon, the accusers assembled before the king with a charge against Daniel and a broken hearted king commanded Daniel cast into the lion’s den. A sleepless night lay ahead for the king because he cared for his friend Daniel. Hear his call “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you serve continually been able to deliver you from the lions?” (6:20)
If you are familiar with the story, you know God DID deliver Daniel. Even though Daniel did not please all the people all the time, he remained faithful (doing the right thing) and in the end, God established Daniel. We may walk through some periods of fiery trials; times when people don’t approve, but as we remain faithful to God, He will stand for us. If you are walking through a tough time, remain faithful to God’s precepts and strive to please Him first.

Respect the Fence



Respect the Sign

On a recent walk down the lane near my home, I noticed a sign tacked up to a tree. The sign was old and rusty looking, obviously a resident of the tree trunk for some time. It read ‘No Trespassing’ and I knew instantly what that meant. No Trespassing! Regardless of it being old, never mind it was rusted, I could still read the words and I knew exactly what it meant. My mind recalled a Bible verse I had read that morning. Regardless of the age of the Bible, never mind that it no longer is in popular demand, I know the powerful truth of God’s word and age nor people’s disregard of the precious writings will cause me to ignore the truth of its teaching.

People say the Bible is full of restrictions. Perhaps we should take another look at restrictions and determine whether they are bad – or good? Take fences, for example. Fences were first invented to keep something OUT instead of IN the confined space. When the Wild West began to be tamed, ranchers were losing cattle to collisions with new-fangled motorized vehicles. As long as horses and wagons remained the means of getting to town, cattle were not in danger, but once model T’s began cutting across vast rolling hillsides and valleys where large herds of cattle roamed unhindered, ranchers searched for ways to limit vehicles from driving recklessly across their pastures.

God is basically like the ranchers; He wants to protect His children from collisions with wild things. Exodus 20 is filled with fences God has designed for our protection. When God said, “Don’t steal,” He was protecting us from the law and from years in a prison cell. God said, “Honor your Father and Mother,” because He wanted to bring peaceful relationships to the home. The Bible teaches to avoid sex outside of the marriage relationship. That’s to protect us from sexual diseases or the fury of a jealous partner. So why would we be angry with God just because He has put a few restrictions upon us? Are we so eager to have what we desire that we throw caution to the wind risking much for a few moments of pleasure? Could it be that in the simple act of waiting or withholding what we desire the most, we could find the elusive state of contentment?

A popular phrase with Hubby is ‘less is more’. At first I thought He wanted to restrict my purchases, but now I’m convinced his boundaries are a protection, not a restriction. He wants our home to be content with what we have, to be satisfied with what God has provided for us and not to over-extend our budget. In essence, he is building a fence around our finances to protect us from financial stress. Pretty smart.

The next time you feel deprived of some pleasure or longed for item, stop to consider the benefit of living within the guidelines of God’s word. You’ll find many of His restrictions are not written to cause limitation, but to bring protection. His ‘no trespassing’ signs are simply love notes written to protect and preserve the quality of our lives.

“Because of the LORD’S faithful love, we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is YOUR faithfulness! I say: The LORD is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24) Trust Him!


awesome-american-flag_603993 There’s a great deal of red, white, and blue appearing in the panorama view of our world today, Memorial Day, 2016, and I find myself smack dab in the middle of it all. In a day of protests, stand-ins, and revolts of every kind, it’s about time for the heart’s core of America to protest, stand up, and reclaim our nation’s heritage. Yes, there are some skeletons in our closet that we wish were not there, but our focus should not be on the dark moments that transpired in the past, but on the great environment America presents to us today. God has blessed America and we pray that He is not finished with America.
War is inevitable. Conflict is a part of everyday life. If you look at the first book of our precious Bible, you will see conflict’s ugly head in the Garden of Eden. (Gen. 4:8) Cain murdered his own brother all because God’s favor fell on Abel’s offering. (4:4,5) People become jealous when they perceive God’s favor falling on someone else. Our country presents one of the most desired environments available to the world. It’s no wonder that others look on and want to destroy our land of opportunity.
This land of freedom and opportunity appears somewhat of a dream world to those who look on from the outside, a plethora of choices for a future filled with happiness – but this utopia did not come cheap. They see the affluence, the abundance, yet the high cost of America’s freedom is the underlying foundation of our land. When knuckles became white while gripping weapons of warfare, when hearts were saddened and blue while far from the safety of home, and when blood ran red with the ultimate sacrifice, America was birthed and freedom continues to cost our people in colors of red, white, and blue.
For a country surrounded with the struggles of an election year, perhaps we should take a moment to reflect on our blessings instead of our conflict. Just for a few moments, take a knee and thank God for His blessings upon America and while you are on your knees, ask Him to draw the hearts of America’s citizens back to the knowledge of their beginning, to form a land and a government that would be for the people and by the people, a beginning where people sought a land of freedom to worship God. The history books no longer tell our next generation the true story. Maybe you will??
God bless America, land that I love.
Stand beside Her, and guide Her through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam;
God bless America – my home, sweet, home! God bless America, my home, sweet home.
Irving Berlin, 1918 – Kate Smith, 1938 (Her signature song)

Junk?? Or Jewels??

img1949061Old – but still Useful to God
I like to rescue things – unraveled garments, cracked or flawed glass, and rusted heirlooms. Restoring damaged items is much different than simple recycling. These items have character; they are valuable pieces of history that have been used and abused worse for the wear. Easy? Not hardly. Timeless treasures require a big investment of time and energy. The search for these items takes me places where I often encounter people who need salvaging too, those used and abused and in need of someone to reassure them of their worth. It’s God’s will that no one perish (2 Peter 3:9) so, I’m happy to be used in this way.
The ‘go-to’ source for these valuable pieces of history happens to be garage sales, junk stores or stashes of twisted junk piled on and around private property. When I select a piece, I’m already aware of the work it will take to transform it. Recently, I pulled the iron base of an old Singer sewing machine out of a trash heap recognizing the work this rusted surface would require. But once a rustic slab of wood was attached on the top, it made a perfect and unique table. This process always reminds me of the value of people, scratched and dented from life, like the teenager God put in my path, a girl who appeared wounded, unloved, and of little worth. Now this was a treasure worth salvaging!
Watching her transformation into the beautiful young woman she is today has been a blessing! It took years of patient love and encouragement to enjoy the sight of her today, ready to face a future of hope. I was only a tool God used to point her back to the Savior who loved her and had a plan for her life. She may have felt like junk, she may have been told she was worthless, but the Spirit of God moved my heart to see her worth. This happens often as I look through the eyes of Jesus and see His view of people. And through this process, I’ve come to understand just how much we all need salvaging – just how rusted and worthless we really are.
Jesus repurposed a life from uselessness to reveal His ability to see the value and worth in a wounded individual through the story of the paralytic man whose friends brought him to see the Master. Can you imagine four of your friends coming to physically carry you to meet a total stranger? But the ailing man allowed them to carry him and he heard the words of Jesus, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” (Mark 2:11) Immediately his lifeless legs became strong as he stood on his own. Can you imagine the surprise on the faces of his family when he returned home in his own strength, now ready to be useful again? Physical miracles were only the beginning; spiritually He transforms us into His best work!
Jesus STILL wants to rescue and salvage the wounded today. Of course, He could do it miraculously on His own, but He allows us to be hands and feet to reach out to help these. Isn’t that an awesome thing! Who will God put in your path to rescue today? Do you know someone who has listened to the lies of the enemy and has been left feeling worthless? Give your hands to Jesus and He will use you in ways hard to imagine. Be blessed yourself in the process!2015 005

No Crystal Ball Needed

Predicting the Future055
Sometimes they get it right: weather forecasters. According to their predictions, rain would come in the night so I labored to sow the seeds for our 2nd planting of radishes and lettuce. And right on cue, I heard the pitter-patter of raindrops on the skylight during the early hours of pre-dawn. Perfect! This makes me think of God’s faithfulness; when I am faithful to read God’s word on a daily basis, I can rest assured the direction I find there will be right on target in guiding the decisions I will make today. Too bad the weather predictors aren’t as dependable as God’s word. His faithfulness is proven again and again to me.
Sometimes they get it right: financial advisors. My investments are small, but others depend highly upon these people who study stock market trends. Retirement funds grow or dwindle to almost nothing on the advice of professionals in the trends of Wall Street. Does this worry me? Not hardly. I’m finding confidence in God’s provision; once I determine to spend wisely, save modestly, and give generously, He will look out for my interests! “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house *(provision for the Priests of that day and the pastors of today)* And try Me now in this” says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”

(Malachi 3:10) *My added input*.
Always, not sometimes, but always: God gets it right. The foundation of the knowledge I possess begins with God’s word. “The fear (respect) of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by Me your days will be multiplied and years of life will be added to you.” (Proverbs 9:10,11) My days are numbered and the number is getting smaller, but I trust God to direct me and continue my life as long as He finds purpose and glory for Himself within my activities.
God’s word assures me of purpose! “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:13,14) Old Testament advice is still valuable to for us today. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding: in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5,6) As long as we keep our eyes on the word of God, treasuring it within our hearts, God assures us we can depend on Him!
The future is uncertain – that’s a given. Yet, God’s promises are true and eternity is His home territory. Jesus said it this way, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also,”

(John 14:1-3)
Start your day with God’s word. Let it tutor you through the day. He is worthy of trust! Trust Him with your todays and tomorrows!

(Scripture from the New King James Version)