Be Thankful

Since it’s November, Thanksgiving month, I have been naming one thing that I am thankful for each today. The past four days I have thanked the Lord for my family, my home, my health, and my friends. This morning, however, thankfulness was the last thing on my mind.

I had pleaded with God on several occasions throughout this week and last to intervene in someone’s life and perform a miracle. I truly believed He would and that the life I asked Him to revive would be revived. But the Lord had different plans and that life was taken last night. This morning after I heard the news I felt disappointed, heartbroken, and let down. I struggled through my prayer until the Lord brought me to a place of understanding.

God always has our best interest in mind. Our vision is finite, but His is infinite. He can see well beyond what we see, and sometimes the things He allows to happen are protecting us from harm in the future. Sometimes He allows things for the purpose of strengthening our faith, giving us an opportunity to have an encounter with Him like never before. Whatever the reason, God is good and He works all things (good or bad) for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

After coming to that realization, I am ready to give the Lord thanks. Ironically, I thank Him for life. I am thankful for life here on earth yes, but I am overwhelmed with thanksgiving for life eternal. Life on earth is temporary, but life in heaven with my Father is everlasting. How can I not give thanks for a love that promises eternal life? How can I not give thanks for a love that reaches down to the lowest pit to pick me up and fill me with hope? How can I not give thanks for a Messiah that promises to take me home? How can I not give thanks for a Savior that gave His life to give me mine?

When Tragedy Strikes

There are so many things in this world that I will never understand. I don’t understand hatred that runs so deep it leads to killing. I don’t understand how someone could brutally beat a child. I don’t understand undeserved suffering. I don’t understand unexpected death. But I’m not suppose to understand everything.

Because sin exists, suffering exists. And suffering is not just reserved for the hardhearted. It is experienced by those who bring it upon themselves and the most God-fearing saints alike. Tragedies are unavoidable while we dwell on this earth. Sometimes they are expected and other times they come out of nowhere. Both bring pain, but the shock and heartbreak that come with unexpected tragedy seem to cut deeper. Regardless, our response should always be the same.

When tragedy strikes, our response should be to trust in God and His plan. He sees far beyond what we can see. He goes before us, so He has already been where we are at. Though the tragedy may be incomprehensible to us, God knows the purpose for allowing it. Whether He reveals His purpose immediately or postpones it, we are to trust that His ways are best for us. And we are not to forget or belittle the resources God has provided for us during trying times. We are equipped with power. The power of God’s Word. The power of the Holy Spirit. The power of a body of believers offering support and encouragement. And in my personal experience the most powerful of them all, prayer.

The Lord says, “Ask, and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7). The problem isn’t that God doesn’t want to provide for our need. The problem is we don’t ask. Even when we do ask, we so often don’t ask confidently and expectantly. We are told in Hebrews 4:16 to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (emphasis added). When we bow our heads and approach God in prayer, we are to approach Him with confidence, knowing that He has the power to do anything we ask and will do according to His Will. Don’t ask God to help you and just hope that He does. Pray boldly and confidently, submitting your request to God and knowing that He will provide what is necessary during your time of need. Believe in Him and trust that He will answer your prayer according to what is best.

If you are experiencing a tragedy right now, seek God in prayer and let him heal your wounds. Draw near to Him with confidence and allow Him to fulfill your needs. If you have not experienced tragedy or suffering yet, prepare your hearts now and strengthen your faith so that when it does strike you will fall right in the arms of Jesus. Be a prayer warrior for others and when suffering comes your way you will be prepared to fight your battles on your knees.

What is Your Greatest Desire?

What do you desire most? A new car? A million dollars? That’s usually where our minds go when asked that question- possessions and money. I’m as guilty as the next. Had someone asked me that this morning I would have probably said without hesitation a million bucks. Then I would have gone on to tell them what all I would buy with that million. A new car, some new shoes probably, a personal chef, and I’d save some of course. But when I turned Granny’s old beat up Bible to Philippians 3, I learned what my answer should be.

Paul says in verses 8 and 9, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him”. When you desire something bad enough, you are willing to give up all things to have it. Paul was willing to give up all he had- his money, his possessions, his prestige, his position, his friends, his health, everything- and count it as garbage because he desired more than all else to know Christ and be one with Him. The things that often pop into our heads when we think of what we desire, he said were as good as dung to him. Instead, he spoke of the “excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus”. He wanted to know Christ above all else- to know how He works, how He thinks, how He loves- because Paul understood how immensely valuable and excellent a personal relationship with Our Father is.

After reading this passage, my desires were put into perspective. I desire to have a healthy, loving marriage and family. I desire to have a fulfilling, enjoyable occupation. I desire to have a life free of debt and money struggles. I desire to have nice clothes and a nice car. I desire to remain in good health. And sure, a million bucks couldn’t hurt. But above all these, I desire to know my Lord more and more with each new day. To know His wisdom and how He works in the lives of His children. To know how He would respond to the different situations and circumstances that life will bring. To know how He loves unconditionally. To know His power and His glory. To know His promises. To know Christ Jesus personally, intimately, and eternally is my greatest desire. So I ask you the opening question again, what do you desire most?

The Finish Line

I can remember running the Charleston Bridge Run on a miserable, slightly chilly, early morning. I don’t love running so why I signed up for the second time beats me. It was only 6.2 miles, but it seemed endless. To tell you the truth the only thing that kept me going was the reminder that free Krispy Kreme doughnuts were waiting on me at the finish line.

Sometimes life can feel like an endless, miserable race. Maybe you made a bad decision  and got yourself into a miserable circumstance (like me signing myself up for misery) or maybe you had no control over it. Regardless, life seems to be wearing down on you, and the finish line seems to just keep getting further and further away no matter how fast you run. It’s tempting to give up. However, when we are tempted to throw in our towels, we need to remind ourselves of the free Krispy Kreme doughnuts at the finish line- that is God’s promise of eternal life.

Turn to Hebrews 10: 35-39 and read this passage. Pay special attention to verse 36. Here we are told that we have need of endurance and then it goes on to explain why. So why? Why do we need to endure life’s difficulties? Why can’t we just throw in the towel? Because God called us to persevere through this life in order to enter into His Heavenly Gates when His Will for us on earth is finished. This passage tells us not to lose confidence in Christ and don’t shrink back when life is pressing in on you. Rather persevere with the hope of God’s promise of eternal life with Him constantly on our hearts and minds.

Giving up isn’t an option. When you feel like you can’t go anymore, reroute your thinking and remember that this world is not what you live for; it is not your home. God will carry you the rest of the way. Persevere through life’s challenges. Hope in the promises of God. Run the race that God willed for you and know that when you cross that finish line, you will be triumphant.

Opportunity for Growth

Life can take unexpected turns or expected turns that still throw your world in confusion and leave you feeling lost. No matter how prepared we are, we still find ourselves not ready to handle what comes our way. In times like these, it’s hard to convince ourselves of the truth found in God’s Word. But as I think about circumstances that tempt me to question God’s plan, I turn to Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose”. It’s not some things. It’s not most things. It’s all things.

We all face circumstances or watch others face circumstances that make us wonder how they could possibly be a part of God’s plan. But thank the Lord for His divine vision that sees way beyond our finite minds can fathom. Sometimes the reason we don’t see the good in bad circumstances is because we aren’t really looking. We are so caught up in the tragedy that we neglect the deeper purpose for experiencing it. We focus on pain and heartaches rather than searching for God’s purpose in it all. When we do this, we so often miss the wonderful opportunity to grow.

Take a look at Paul’s life. This man was hit left and right with bad circumstances. From jail to a “thorn in his flesh”, it seems he never got a break from his troubles. But Paul never focused on these troubles did he? Instead, he turned them around and proved to us that God does indeed work all things together for the good of those who love Him. He didn’t gripe and complain and sulk about being in jail, but he used that time to grow closer to God. While in jail, he saw the opportunity to write words from God of encouragement and truth that people continue to read to strengthen their spirits. We were never told what this “thorn in his flesh” was, but we were given such beautiful words of how he overcame it. Once again he used his pain to strengthen his walk in Christ Jesus. He responded to this “thorn in his flesh” by letting God’s power be revealed all the more through his weakness.

We all have our own thorns in our flesh. Some of us have our own forms of prison. The question is how will you respond? Will you let the expected and unexpected troubles of this world, from death to loss of a job to sickness, occupy your thoughts and draw you away from the Lord? Or will you look beyond the scope of human reasoning and trust that God has a greater plan for your pain? Will you allow your suffering to draw you closer to God? Will you allow God to reveal His power through your weakness?

It’s all up to us. We choose how we respond to circumstances. Don’t miss the opportunity for growth by choosing to focus on your situation. I challenge you to seek God’s wisdom and understanding in His Word and most importantly through prayer. Ask Him to reveal His greater purpose for your suffering and look for ways that you can use it for His glory. Again, God’s knowledge goes well beyond ours and He doesn’t allow suffering without a purpose. Seek that purpose. Look beyond yourself and maybe you will find the opportunity to help someone going through a similar situation. Maybe you will experience His presence like never before. Growth is a precious thing, don’t miss it.

Cast down, but not destroyed.

Have you ever been around people who are just full of hopelessness and negativity? They constantly choose to see the bad in circumstances and dwell upon it. Notice I used choose there because we decide how we respond to unfortunate circumstances. We can choose to sulk and despair over the bad things in life or we can choose to trust that God is in control. Easier said than done, trust me I know. I’ve chosen both ways before and I can say without a doubt choosing to trust in God is a much better route.

In times when hopelessness tempts me and despair knocks at my door, I like to turn to Paul’s teachings. Paul is so honest in his writing and I love that about his books. He doesn’t sugar-coat his thoughts but he tells the truth, even if its not what people want to hear. He understood his own weakness and that he could only overcome the world by the power of God within him. He understood that life was hard and it wasn’t going to get any easier just because he accepted Christ as his savior. That’s a big misunderstanding Christians have. We think that being a Christian exempts us from bad circumstances, but this is an inaccurate assumption. If we never experience any bad times then we will never have the great opportunities to grow in Christ that bad circumstances so often bring. Take a look with me at 2 Corinthians 4: 7-10. What does Paul say? Pay special attention to verses 8 and 9.

In verse 7, Paul starts by reminding us of what we have on the inside of us, which would be God’s power. Not man’s power, but God’s all-consuming, ever-abundant power that has no bounds. Then he goes on in verses 8 and 9 to tell us that we may find ourselves in circumstances that tempt us to feel beaten down to the ground, worthless, hopeless, like there is no way out. But, he reminds us that we will never be overcome. We will never be overcome by life’s circumstances with the power of God working on the inside of us. Nothing on this earth or in the spiritual realm is capable of trumping God’s power. Paul says in these verses, “we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed”. How is that so? Because our faith is in the Lord and His power to make all things work for the good of those who love Him. Though our enemies may surround us and we may see no way out, we can stand firm and trust that God will see us through. We can rely on the peace that Jesus Christ offers to keep us from becoming distressed and hopeless.

At the top of Granny’s Bible on the page where I’m reading from today it says, “Paul’s assured hope of immortal glory”. I find ample encouragement in the phrase hope of immortal glory and in the final verse of the text I asked you to read with me, verse 10. It says, “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” That’s what this life is all about. Living out Jesus’s life through our mortal bodies, proving to the world that His death on the cross changed our lives forever. Letting God manifest His power through our weakness. Standing firm in our faith through all life’s trials because our hope is not found in these mortal bodies but in the eternal glory we will experience after physical death, the hope of immortal glory.

Praise ye the Lord

This morning as I opened Granny’s Bible, I found myself on page 642 looking at the words of Psalms 117 bracketed and starred at the bottom of the page. It reads, “O Praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord.” At first I just read it and started to move on, but something stopped me. I read it again and realized why I had stumbled upon that Psalm.

My prayers lately have been about me, myself, and I. I find myself spilling out my problems and concerns and forgetting an important aspect of prayer- praise. I was reminded by Psalms 117 that it was God who found me and by His mercy and grace I am able to lift up my voice to Him in prayer. What reason do I have not to praise Him? He loved me enough to send His one and only Son to die the death I deserved. He created me. He made the earth and all its beauty for me to enjoy. He comforts me and accepts me regardless of my flaws and failures. He has promised me an eternal home. And the list goes on. I have ample blessings; sometimes, I just don’t take the time to think about them and offer God the praise He is more than due.

I wonder if David realized the same thing as he wrote this Psalm. Maybe he had been wrapped up in himself too and was made aware of his need to praise God. Maybe he had just had a victory in battle or a personal victory and was rightly attributing success to the Lord (something I sometimes fail to do). In the midst of the Psalm he says, “and the truth of the Lord endureth forever”. I believe he says this because he was reminded of God’s character. We all need to be reminded of God’s character and that often is revealed to us as we offer praise and thanks to the Lord.

This morning, take time to praise God. Take a look outside and thank him for the beauty of this earth. Put your worries and concerns on the back burner and praise Him for being in control of your life instead. Let your mind and heart be filled with His promises and His truths that endure forever. Think back on times the Lord has intervened on your behalf (for instance, paying the price for your sins) and give Him the glory. Turn your focus from your problems and towards God as you lift up His Name. It will do wonders for your soul. Praise ye the Lord.

What do you praise God for today?
What do you praise God for today?

But The Greatest Is Love

I have spent the last fifteen minutes typing and backspacing. I just don’t know how to begin to express my thoughts today. Recent scripture reading and sermons have prompted me to think about our culture, and it has left me feeling burdened. I’m burdened mostly by the sad fact that so many people in this world do not know the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ. A love so strong that it broke the barrier of sin, allowing all who are willing to be in relationship with Our Lord. A love that provided for all mankind an escape from death. I’m burdened that instead of showing this very same love to others, we so often show hatred instead. I’m burdened that culture has shaped our ways of thinking so much so that they are becoming less Godly and more worldly without us even knowing.

My burdens originated from the topic of homosexuality, a hot topic now-a-days. Homosexuality is clearly in opposition to God’s Word, yet culture does a good job at making it okay. It is so easy to get sucked into culture, but we, as God’s people, were not created to follow cultural views. We were made in the image of Holy God; therefore, we too are meant to be holy, or set apart. Set apart from the world and its mainstream beliefs that are so often in opposition to God. Now, this does not mean that we are better than anyone else. We must remember that all people have something in common- we all sin. It means that we no longer belong to this world and have established our eternal homes in Heaven. Therefore, we don’t live by the world’s standards, but we aim to please God and live out His teachings.

We love grades, scales, and ranking systems in this society, so naturally we want to rank sin as well. We rank sins like murder and rape as much worse than lying or gossiping. Contrarily, God sees all sin the same. He has no ranking system. Sin is sin and all sin separates us from Our Eternal Father until we confess, seek His forgiveness, and repent. On that note, we must remember that God’s Word, not culture, is our outline for what is considered sin. So, going back to the topic of homosexuality, is it sin? Yes. Is a homosexual a worse sinner than an adulterer or a blasphemer? No. All sin is seen the same in God’s eyes and all sin is cleansed only by the blood of Jesus.

Culture tries to confuse us by legalizing gay marriage and promoting same-sex couples on TV and tabloids; however, like I said earlier, culture does not determine what is right in God’s eyes and the Bible teaches that God did not intend for same-sex couples. But homosexuality is not the only thing that culture tries to convince us is acceptable. Culture also tells us that divorce, pre-marital sex, abortion, and so much more are all okay. That is why it is so important that we hold tight to the Word of God and stay grounded in His truth.

Now comes the question, “What do we do?”. I’ve asked myself this question several times, and I’ve found that the answer is a very simple four letter word that is the basis of Christianity- love. Love is wanting the absolute best for another. If you are a Christian you know that God’s best is the absolute best. Therefore, you want more than anything for those you love to accept Christ as their Savior and have God’s best for their lives. Everyone who is in relationship with God got there only by the precious gift of His love and grace. God doesn’t draw people close to Him by pointing a finger at them and condemning them. He draws people close to Him by offering them love and forgiveness, by offering them a new life. We, likewise, should draw others to Christ by showing His love. Loving someone does not mean you have to approve of what they do or how they live, we should never condone sin. Rather, love is encouraging others to repent from their sins and showing them a new, better way of life, an eternal life in Christ. As Christians, we should not point our fingers at the sin we find in others and shake our heads because we have been there too. We should welcome sinners of all kinds and invite them to come to Jesus, and we should pray for their salvation. Most importantly, we should love them, even if they don’t agree with our views and even if they don’t love us back. Don’t close off that door. Show them that door. After all, some do not even know it exists.

Day One: Sticks and Stones

What better place to start this journey than a Proverb? So Proverbs 15:1-4 it will be- “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.”

How often do our mouths get us in trouble? We often say things and immediately, sometimes even as the words are coming out of our mouths, we regret voicing those words. I know I do. The first verse in this passage tells us to respond to people gently, even if they approach us harshly. That’s tough. I mean it’s natural to want to fire back with anger when someone makes a comment you don’t like. However, the Bible instructs us to do the opposite of human instinct because human instinct is led by the sin nature in us all. So instead of responding with anger, we are to respond with kindness and gentleness. That way we can avoid unnecessary arguments that would result from responding in anger.

The second verse contrasts the wise with the foolish and how they use their tongues. Notice the verb usage in this verse, “the wise useth” but “fools poureth”. Wise people think before they speak. They knowledgable assess the situation and effective use their words if needed– sometimes opting not to say anything is the wisest response. Contrarily, fools respond in an instant before taking the time to think about the consequences their words could have. It goes back to the first verse. Fools respond to anger with anger, but wise people respond to anger with soft, gentle words. If someone responds harshly to those soft words, well that’s on them and they will be the ones left feeling guilty for their actions.

Now for the third and fourth verses in this passage. Notice first those words written in italics, “are” and “is”. I didn’t add that emphasis, I typed it exactly as it is in Granny’s Bible. Those are present tense verbs and I believe they were written in italics to emphasize that important fact. It’s not “the eyes of the Lord were” but it is “the eyes of the Lord are in every place”, meaning yesterday, today, and tomorrow the Lord sees all. Likewise, “a wholesome tongue is a tree of life” and this holds true yesterday, today, and tomorrow. If words of kindness, truth, and love proceed from your mouth then you will be like a tree of life, growing and bearing much fruit. On the contrary, separation from the Lord results from negative and obstructive words.

That old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a false claim. Words can hurt, and that hurt can last and last. We can’t take them back once we say them. We can apologize and seek forgiveness, but the damage is already done. So let’s keep these verses close to our hearts and start to use our words wisely. Pray for wisdom and the ability to control your words. Use words to build up and not to tear down. And lastly, think before you speak.

I’m New at This

As you all can probably tell by my bland layout and the title of this post, I’m new to this whole blogging thing. i was hesitant to start one because I don’t consider myself a writer, but I thought since it’s free why not give it a go. The thought to even start up a blog all emerged from a torn up, dirty black book in my drawer. It belonged to my great-grandmother, who my dad knew as “Granny”, and it was a precious book to her. I never knew Granny, I was just shy of turning one when she died. However, I’ve always had this strange connection to her; I feel that she and I would see eye-to-eye on a lot of things if she were still around. My family members must think so too because anything special they find of hers winds up in my hands. Thats how I got this raggedy old black book I keep mentioning.

You are probably all wondering what this black book is all about. It’s got some important names and numbers in it, but it’s not a list of secret contacts. It’s got some handwritten words in it, but it’s not a journal. It’s got some pictures in it, but none that you can see on the pages. So what is it? Any guesses? It’s the Holy Bible.

So now my mission, and reason for creating this blog, is to go through this black book of Granny’s and meditate on those passages she had underlined, starred, and marked and share my thoughts. Whether this blog is more for my readers or for me I’m not sure yet, but I’m excited to get started and see what is revealed to me as I dive into that beat up black book.

Thanks for reading! More posts to come later!