What Do I Choose?

I can be like a bush in the wastelands dwelling in a parched place of the desert.  Dry.  Empty. Hot.

Or

I can be like a tree planted by the water, sending my roots deep into the stream so I have no fear when the heat comes.  My leaves stay green and I always bear fruit.

God tells me through Jeremiah that it’s my choice.  I will be like a parched bush if I put my trust in people.

If I choose to sink my roots deep into my relationship with God,

if I choose to trust in the LORD and keep my confidence in him,

I will thrive.  I will grow.  I will have no fear.

No contest – right?

I love when God encourages me through words like these.  It feels like he is patting me on the back, saying “You’re on the right path.”  This is the the journey I want to be on.   It’s taking me where I want to go – sinking my roots deep into the Stream of Living Water.

I’m grateful you are on this journey with me.

We love you, Abba Father.

Has It Vanished?

It can be very hard to find.

Where is the truth?

The made-up dramas that fill the airways aren’t the truth.  The political rants on TV are just twisted opinions, not the truth.  Very few of the “information” posts on Facebook are the truth.  Many of the tweets we read aren’t true.

We are barraged by lies and half-truths all day, every day.  What’s the truth?

This problem of finding the real truth is an ancient problem.

God told the Israelites through Jeremiah, “This is the nation that has not obeyed the LORD its God or responded to correction.  Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips.”

Like the Israelites, our nation is wandering from God and we are not responding to correction.

We have kicked God out of our schools, creating a crisis of evil in them.

We have not obeyed God’s greatest commandments – love him and love each other – creating an emptiness that makes it seem like suicide is the only answer.

Our nation is so lost and rebellious that murdering those who enforce the law is an almost daily occurrence.

We need to know the Truth.  And his name is Jesus.

The Truth has not vanished –  I know where he is.  His Spirit lives in my heart.

Do you know the Truth?

Thank you, Jesus.

I Can Be Very Stubborn

Which way am I going?  Forward?

Or backward?

Am I moving towards God?

Or away?

Maybe I’m not moving anywhere – just staying the same?  If that’s true, then I’m wandering because I need to be growing closer to God.

One of the things that made God’s anger burn toward Israel was that fact that they “went backward and not forward.” Jeremiah tells us.  “They followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts.”

Wow!  There are situations where I can be very stubborn.  How about you?

I think the key for those of us with this stubborn streak is also found in these verses from Jeremiah where God calls us to walk in obedience.  That’s where I need to be stubborn.  That’s exactly where you need to be stubborn.  We need to be very stubborn about walking in obedience.

Then God promises that it will ‘go well’ with me – and you.

As I am stubborn about following the heart of God, not my own, I find myself moving forward –

closer to God –

right into his arms.

Thank you, Abba Father.

The Guilty Will Be Punished

God tells us that those who do Satan’s work for him will experience his wrath.

We may never see it.  It probably won’t be a lightening bolt coming out of heaven – although that could happen.

God tells us through Nahum “The LORD is slow to anger but great in power.”  The vengeance of God usually doesn’t happen immediately…..but it will happen, make no mistake about it.

“The LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished.”

Yeah!  The bad guys are going to get it!

But – wait a minute – you and I are also guilty, aren’t we?  We have said mean things, we have done other things that are wrong.  We have rebelled – following our own hearts, not God’s.

And – this one really gets me – we have NOT done all of the things we should have done.  I know I haven’t.

But, as believers, we can still smile.  Because this is where God’s grace steps in.  When I accepted Jesus, he saved me from God’s wrath.  Jesus paid the price for my sins and rebellion, making me right (righteous) in God’s eyes.

Jesus did this for me and for you.   Each of us just needs to accept his free gift of grace.  Then God’s anger turns into love and acceptance for us.

I need God’s love and grace every day.  I feel God’s love and grace every day.

Do you?  If not, accept Jesus as your Savior today and live free in the light of God’s love and grace.

Thank you, Jesus.

It’s Hard

Very tough.

When someone you love dies, the emotions are strong, the grief is heavy and the loss is extremely painful.  After losing my son, my mom and dad, my oldest brother, along with all of my grandparents and all of my aunts and uncles as well as some friends, I feel like I’ve experienced a lot of death for someone who isn’t old enough to get a social security check yet.

Each one is different.  Each relationship is different.  My son being killed in the line of duty 2 years ago when he was only 34 years-old has been the most difficult – by far.  I think one of the things that makes this loss so huge is how young he was.  We lost so much of his life.  I will not be surprised if I’m still saying his was the toughest one if I live to be 90 years-old.

So I’m very interested when God starts talking about why the righteous die in Isaiah 57:

“No one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.”

I believe that this is true.  God knows the future and sometimes he spares his children from bad and evil things that would happen to them if they stayed on earth.  I believe that my son completed his purpose on earth so God took him home.  No more evil will be done to him.

God sees our death on earth as a reward because, as believers, we get to go home to be with him. “Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.”

Their bodies remain here on earth but their souls are free and filled with joy as they walk hand-in-hand with Jesus into heaven.

Thank you for the truth in your word, Abba Father.  Please comfort those of us who are left behind.

Sword Fighting Class – Open Our Eyes

Last week we started on our journey of memorizing James 2 – say this with me:

“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.”

And now we add:

“Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.”

I love it when God uses examples in the Bible that could easily happen today.  I’m visualizing us meeting in church or meeting in our Bible study and this is happening.

It’s easy to see that God is going to talk about how we respond to people differently depending on how they look on the outside.

If our eyes are open, he will be teaching us each our own lessons on what we are memorizing as we go about our lives.  That’s how he blesses us.

Please open our eyes, LORD.

How Beautiful……

on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news.  Isaiah 5:7.

How beautiful it is when I share the Great News of Jesus’ redeeming love and gift of salvation!  How beautiful it is when you tell others about how much God loves them!

For God so loved the world……how beautiful!

Have you noticed that people are starving for love?  It actually explains a lot of the craziness in the world.   People are searching for acceptance and forgiveness just like we were before we accepted God’s grace.  There is a Godspot molded into each one of us that is empty – and it feels empty – until God’s Spirit comes to live inside of us.  The best thing those of us who have found the answer to this emptiness can do is share it with the people in our lives who are still searching.

How beautiful!

I think many of us got turned off by evangelism ‘techniques” we were told to do.  I know I was.   I have discovered that talking about Jesus and his love doesn’t have to be ‘in your face’ and regimented by steps.

I started what I call ‘living my faith out loud’ and it works for me.  This means mixing my faith and my beliefs into regular conversations – not waiting for someone else to bring up God.  My faith is a big part of my life so it should be a big part of my conversations, right?  It’s not just reserved for Bible study group or church people.

I have learned to talk about my beliefs, my experiences, my love for God honestly and naturally – just like I live it.  I bring up examples of real people from the Bible when it relates to something that is happening today.  I share the truth I have learned from reading God’s word or hearing a sermon.

There are no steps – I just include God and my faith in my regular conversations and it opens up that topic for other people to discuss.   When ever someone starts asking questions – even negative ones – I know God is moving in their life.  Something exciting is going on.   I’ll say a quick prayer in my head, ” Father, please give me the words.” and I’ll keep talking about my faith.  My life.  My experiences.  No one can dispute what I say about my own experiences – I’m the expert.

If anyone asks me a question I don’t have an answer to, I refer them to various books I have researched where the authors are reputable.  It’s even better if I have one of those books to hand them.  I don’t have a lot of the technical answers because I like the fact that God is too big to understand.  He is more awesome and more powerful than my 3.5 pound brain can comprehend.

How beautiful!

I’ve also bought a lot of extra Bibles in my time because I love to hand Christians Bibles when they start asking me questions that are answered by God in his Word.  He wants to make his Word come alive for each one of us, individually, as we read it and study it.

God calls each of us to share the Great News – what he has done for us.  We can just talk about gift of grace he offered to us naturally, as part of our conversations.  We can include how he redeemed our lives and has given us a purpose worth living for.

How beautiful!

Please give us the opportunities and the words, Abba Father.

When It’s Big

And bad.

There have been times in my life when huge dark clouds have rolled in and  completely filled the sky over my head.

What do I want to do when this happens?  I want to worry, get anxious and stop sleeping.

What should I do?

When King Hezekiah received a letter from of the King of Assyria telling him that he was going to destroy Hezekiah, Hezekiah went to the temple and spread the letter out before the LORD.

God heard Hezekiah’s prayers and send an angel to kill a hundred and eighty thousand Assyrian soldiers.  When the King of Assyria saw this, he ‘withdrew to his own land in disgrace.”  God won – of course.

Hezekiah knew it would be impossible for him to win the battle before him on his own.  So he laid it down before God.

How many of us have an impossible battle before us right now?  It’s too big.  It’s too hard.  I’m not strong enough.  I can’t do this on my own.

I’m there.  I’ve got a battle that I’m going to be fighting the rest of my life and I cannot possibly be successful if I try to do it by myself.  I need to take Hezekiah’s lead and lay it down before my God who is all-powerful.

Lay it down before my God who wants the best for me.

Lay it down before my God who is in control and can bring good out of every dark cloud.

As I’ve grown in my relationship with God on this journey, I’ve gotten pretty good at laying it down.  But, if I’m not careful, I’m also good at picking it back up.  Are you with me on that?

I need to lay it down….

and leave it at the feet of my Father God who fights my battles for me and who has already won the war.

Here it is, Abba Father.

 

Sword Fighting Class – The Verse and Chapter Numbers Disappear

God has some things he wants me to know.  He has some things he wants you to have an in-depth understanding of – that’s why we’re memorizing.  And it’s here – in the book of James, Chapter 2.   So we begin,

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.

Interesting – God’s going to speak to us about favoritism.  What a hot topic in our world today!  He’s got to things he wants to teach us and he wants us to really get this – that’s why we’re memorizing it.  God’s going to use this truth as we go about our lives  – watch for him.  He’s moving.

Some suggestions for how to memorize:

I’ll be writing everything we have memorized down every week – it helps me get most of the words right as I write them over and over.

I also write them on index cards and put them in my car.  Every car ride with me is a Sword Fighting Class, whether I’m alone or not.  I have to say them out loud, too, because otherwise they just don’t stick.  So I will say the new verse several times and then add it to the verses I’ve already memorized and say all of it several times.  Depending on how long the car ride is, I will also start with Chapter 1 and go all the way through at least once a week to review it all and keep the communication channels with God wide open.

I have discovered that one of the huge blessings of memorizing scripture is that the verse numbers and chapter numbers fall away and I am hearing the scripture like it was told to the Israelites back when it was written.  God’s word flows and ebbs so much better without all of the stops and spaces.  It makes so much more sense.

Thank you, Abba Father, for helping us etch your word upon our hearts and minds.

Raising My Game

If you have been following my blog for a while, you might remember the time several years ago when God had challenged me to raise my game and take my faith walk to the next level – by memorizing James 1.

I invited you along and called it my Sword Fighting Class because God’s word is the offensive weapon in our Armor of God.  This is how we face the trials and problems of our lives.  God’s word guides us as we wake up each day and take our next step. We are wandering on the dark path unless we let God shine his light of truth into our lives through his Word.  When it’s etched on our brains, God can use it all day in every situation when there are no Bibles or Bible aps in sight.

God and I had an amazing time working through James 1 together.  I have a terrible memory – you never want me on your trivia team – but I can remember scripture.  That’s God.  Through memorizing James 1, I experienced a whole new facet of my relationship with my Father God.   It was awesome to have a firsthand seat as I watched God move in my life and make this happen.

Since then, I have realized I don’t just know James 1 by heart – I feel the words of James 1, my brain uses the truths in James 1 all of the time to make decisions and  my spirit resonates with the wisdom God revealed to me through James.

Since then, God has helped me memorize Proverbs 2 and 3 and Psalm 46.

Now God has given me a new challenge.  Memorize James.  Yes, all of James – the rest of the book.

There is obviously more God wants me to know and understand.  He also wants to prove to me again that he can do this in my life – I just have to do my part.  And God asked me to invite you along on this journey.

The reality is that God commands us to etch his word on our hearts and minds.  We like to treat it as if it were an option – based on how good our memory is or how much time we have.  If we want to do what God commands us to do, memorizing scripture is not an option.  We’re deceiving ourselves if we look at it that way.

James tells us several times to stop deceiving ourselves.  That’s one of the things I really like about James.

I’m planning to add a verse every week, sometimes adding a couple together since they make more sense together and then taking a couple of weeks to get those totally added to the rest.  I’m starting with James 2 – you can start there with me even if you haven’t gotten James 1 down yet.

God is going to do some amazing things in our lives as we open up our minds, soak in his word and let him change our thinking from the inside out.  It happened to me with James 1 – I’m excited to see it happen again in the rest of James.

And it doesn’t matter how long it takes, right?  God will bless us each step of the way.  He has promised and he always keeps his promises….

So, let’s begin.  Watch for my first Sword Fighting Class tomorrow.