God is present in the valley

1 Kings 13-22

Scripture:  1 Kings 20:28 And a man of God came near and said to the King of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The Lord is a god of the hills but he is not a god of the valleys,” therefore, I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.'”

It is obvious that God is present in the hills (mountains). When we have a mountaintop experience with God, we are so filled with His presence that we never want to leave. During this time, our faith grows deeper. We are so overwhelmed thinking that we, along with God, can take on the world.

However, when we are living in the valley, it isn’t easy to find God. It doesn’t mean He isn’t present. It just means we are to walk in faith and trust that He is there. Our faith, if we allow it, grows deeper here, too.  And our testimony becomes more relevant to the world around us. It is during this time of walking with God that those around us who are watching can see God’s faithfulness, and they will know the Lord.

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Where does your strength lie?

Judges 16 – Ruth 4

Scripture:  Judges 16:15  And she {Delilah} said to him {Samson}, “How can you say ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and you have not told me where your great strength lies.”

Delilah has been trying to get Samson to tell her where he gets his strength so the Philistines could defeat him. Apparently, Samson was so enthralled with Delilah’s beauty that he cared nothing of what happened to himself or about God’s will.

Consider for one moment Delilah’s question (“How can you say ‘I love you’ when your heart is not with me?). Shouldn’t it have sparked something in Samson about his relationship with God? Samson’s heart was more in love that Delilah than God. We can clearly see Samson’s fault, but can we see our own?

Also, why did Samson mention his hair as what gave him strength? After all, without God, he could do nothing. When Samson told Delilah that his hair gave him strength, did he not mock God?

In so many ways throughout his life, Samson made interesting choices. We read his story not considering how we would react under similar circumstances. Do we mock God by not giving Him credit where it is due?  Do we tell Him we love Him while our hearts are far away from Him?

Be certain that when you tell God you love Him that it is not with a divided heart.

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Grumbling about your blessings?

Scripture:  Numbers 9-21

Focus:  Numbers 11:1  And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.

Numbers 9-21 enumerate complaints of the Israelites against God up to and including calling the food God had provided “worthless”. Can you imagine?! Do you ever read Numbers and see yourself? When you complain about what God has blessed you with, do you think He doesn’t hear you?  Do you think that because the earth has not swallowed you alive or serpents don’t show up to bite you that grumbling against God is no big deal?

Maybe you are wondering why God is blessing others with what you desire and have been praying for. Have you considered that God sees how you have handled what He has already given you and is waiting for a little gratitude, or possibly a little less criticism?

Ouch!  That hurt a little today.  God does not give us worthless blessings.  He gives us the best from His storehouse.  And keep in mind–He has enough for everyone so when He blesses someone else with what you desire doesn’t mean He can’t give it to you as well.  It might not be the right time or the right blessing for you.

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Everyone needs a Joseph

Scripture:  Genesis 40-50

Focus:  Genesis 41:55  When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do.”

Genesis 50:20  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Everyone needs a Joseph when they are going through a famine. Joseph knew what to do to save the Egyptians from starving to death. He kept them alive. Even after what his brothers did to him, he saved them, too. The Josephs around you know what to do in times of spiritual famine because they have wisdom and insight from God, and they will help you even when you’ve been cruel to them in the past because of forgiveness.

Hundreds of years later, Jesus came to earth to save the people from a different kind of famine–the people were starving for a Savior. Jesus healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, fed the hungry and offered Living Water to those thirsting after God.  But, much like Joseph’s brothers, the people didn’t understand, so they “sold” Jesus to the Pharisees who turned Him over to Pilate to be hung on the cross.

Just as in Joseph’s story, the people meant evil against Jesus, but the cross was what God had in mind all along. Jesus had to die “that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen. 50:20b).

Are you starving?  Is the famine of living without God beginning to affect your life?  Today is the day to take ahold of the Bread of Life and drink from the fount of Living Water. Everyone needs Jesus. Their stomachs are growling. If you have Jesus, share Him with someone who is hungry. Right now. Don’t wait. Life on earth is short, but eternal life is forever.

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Give me children, or I shall die

Scripture:  Genesis 29-39

Focus:  Genesis 30:1  When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!”

The running theme throughout Genesis is jealousy/envy.  From the beginning, sin had its start with the desire for something not possessed.  Jealousy and envy are as old as time.

When we start focusing on the gifts and blessings of someone else rather than on what we have been given, we open the door to all sorts of temptations. Temptations that can destroy our faith and put our testimony in jeopardy.

It is human nature to want what we know we can’t (or shouldn’t) have, but it is imperative that we focus instead on what God has given to us rather than on what we don’t have.

Our gifts and blessings may be different from another’s, but they are given to us for a purpose. Each person has a different purpose which, in God’s economy, is no greater or lesser than any other. Also, we do not always know what someone else has had to go through before receiving their blessing. We may not really want to walk in their shoes or do what they had to do or endure what they had to endure.

While God may withhold the blessing you desire, it may be to your benefit. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, focus on what God gave you. Be grateful for what you have and also what you don’t.  After all, not having what you want may be God’s greatest gift to you.

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Don’t create an ‘Ishmael’

Scripture: Genesis 1-16

Focus:  Genesis 9:1  And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth”. (ESV)

Three times after the flood God commands Noah and his sons to “be fruitful and multiply”. God’s plan for the world hinged on the repopulation of the earth after the flood even though He knew that evil would once again rear its ugly head.

But why would He command His people to be fruitful and multiply if He was going to allow their barrenness to impede His command? Just a few chapters after the story of Noah, we meet Abram and Sarai (later Abraham and Sarah) who were promised a great number of descendants though Sarai was barren.

Could it be that God uses our barrenness as a test of our faith? When we are living in a season where we do not appear to bear fruit, do we, like Abraham and Sarah, take matters into our own hands and make an “Ishmael”, an imposter? Just like Hagar’s (Sarah’s handmaiden and Ishmael’s mother) son, once our “Ishmael” is born, it is almost impossible to rid ourselves of it.  This imposter fruit will always be the low hanging fruit tempting us to give in to our flesh which is always seeking the easy way.

But God’s way, which requires more effort and more patience, is always the best way. The next time God invites you to be fruitful and multiply put forth the effort to do it God’s way, not the world’s. Be patient. Be still and let God have His way. Don’t create Ishmaels.

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Sharia Law is coming to a town near you…it is time to wake up

I just heard that Sharia Law has been accepted and approved in Irving, Texas.  I am sure that some people won’t bat an eye and will wonder what that has to do with us.  They mistakenly believe that this won’t affect us–that this law is just for the Muslims who live here.  Does anyone know what Sharia Law is and the punishments that are handed out and for what?

Has it escaped anyone’s mind that this is just the beginning of something that has far-reaching consequences?  Remember Jesus?  The Jews couldn’t put anyone to death, so they demanded the Romans do it?   I believe we are going to see this in reverse.  I think the Muslims are going to want to put us to death and are going to use their law in our country against us.

If you haven’t thought of this and are even thinking this is laughable, I have a good idea how it’s going to happen now that Sharia Law has a foothold in our country, particularly in a State (Texas) that is known for its passionate patriotism.  Muslims have convinced Americans that they just want this law for themselves, and maybe they do, but their more fundamental “cousins” (aka the Muslim Brotherhood, Isis, whom we call terrorists) will see this as their golden opportunity.

First, they infiltrate our legal system.  They start becoming active in local and state politics (they already hold some major federal offices).   We are going to elect them.  And before you say that won’t happen, remember, we elected Obama.  (I’m using the general we–I certainly didn’t want him to be President either term).  They are patiently waiting for their opportunity and with this new announcement from Texas, opportunity is knocking.

This morning in my Bible reading, I found Romans 9:22-24, which reads,

22 But what if God, willing to demonstrate his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And what if he is willing to make known the wealth of his glory on the objects of mercy that he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us, whom he has called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

God tells us 365 times in the Scripture not to be afraid.  Jesus overcame the world when He died on the cross and was resurrected for our salvation.  Now is the time for Christians to pray like never before.  Our Nation and our world need a revival–a personal revival that happens in each one of us–those of us who have taken our religious liberty for granted–those of us who have sat by and done nothing while the world falls apart because we want someone else to do it–those of us more concerned for our salvation and that of our family.  We all need to wake up to what’s happening around us.  Christians, particularly American Christians, need an Awakening.  We need to view what’s going on in our world through the lens of eternity.  God has a purpose for every individual.  That purpose is for His Kingdom not ours.

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God, Mrs. Noah and Me

In a meeting a few weeks ago, we were asked what biblical character we identified with and why.  At first, I didn’t know why Mrs. Noah popped into my head, but I came to realize that she and I have a lot in common.

Mrs. Noah was married to a man with a plan.  A plan to build an ark to save the world (or at least the world God chose to be saved–8 people and two of each kind of animal).  I’m married to a man who found a house that needed A LOT of tender loving care and pursued it with a passion.  Me, not so much.  Although I appreciated the time and effort and the overwhelming perfectionism (well, not that so much) that my husband put into it, I didn’t understand why this house was so important to him.  I prayed every day that the purpose of this house would be revealed (I’m still praying).  I don’t think we’ve got all feet in the ark yet.

Mrs. Noah had children.  Although they got on the boat, I don’t think they were all aboard with their dad’s mission.  I have children.  One, very excited about the house and having a new spacious, pink and red room.  The other, who lived in denial until the last minute when she had to pack her stuff or leave it behind.  Mrs. Noah’s children probably grudgingly helped their dad with the hammering and the sawing and the decorating and the moving in.

Mrs. Noah had feelings, dreams and desires just like her husband, but we don’t know what they were.  We don’t know if she was so in love with Noah that she followed along voluntarily or if she was so tired of his shenanigans that she just blindly accepted it and prayed for it to be over.

Life has thrown some curve balls.  I haven’t been asked to build an ark or warn people of impending disaster.  God has blessed me with reasonably good health and a loving and supportive family.  God has blessed me with a good job in a good place.

Just last week as I was praying about the many things I am dealing with (some of them life’s curve balls), I handed everything and everyone I cared about over to God and told Him to deal with it.  I just couldn’t handle it any longer.  I wish I could tell you it was a big relief.  Instead, I received another curve ball.  My 23-year-old is pregnant.  It still hasn’t sunk in.  All of the emotions.  I can’t even explain it.

You don’t hear much mention of Mrs. Noah, but it wasn’t her story.  It wasn’t really Noah’s story.  It was God’s.  God had a plan.  He used Noah and his family to accomplish that plan.  He gave Noah a task to perform, and Noah was obedient.  He didn’t ask questions.  He didn’t complain.  He didn’t ask why.  He just built an ark.  He rounded up the animals two-by-two.  He talked his wife, three sons and daughters-in-law into coming with him.  He listened to his neighbors and possibly his friends taunt and ridicule him every day for 120 years.  But then the flood came, and God saved Noah and his family.

Noah was a man who followed God’s heart.  I want to be a woman who follows God’s heart.  That means accepting life’s curve balls with hope, grace and mercy.  That may look different to everyone.  I’m going to follow God.  It won’t please everyone, but that’s not my concern right now.

And, in case you missed it, I’m going to be a grandmother.

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Goodbye, Susan–you are my hero

As I drove through West Point on my way to a church retreat on Friday, Mandisa’s “Just Cry” began to play.

My first thought was of you.  I knew then that you had left us.  Yet I refused to acknowledge it.  I would have heard.

This morning as I watched the sunrise a strange peace filled the air, and I knew that you were experiencing your first Sunday with Jesus.  It brings tears to my eyes.  I have such mixed emotions.

I never saw you when you weren’t smiling.  I never spoke to you when you had a bad word to say about anyone.  You always found something positive about a situation and when you couldn’t, you chose prayer. When I was struggling, you were there to lend an ear and offer encouragement and prayer.

When I moved away, we lost touch but found each other on Facebook.  When I found out you were struggling, I found a way to repay you for all the times you were there for me.  My prayers reached out and touched the heavens.  I know because God showed me marvelous things He had in store for you.  Even though you had every right to be angry, discouraged and negative, you found a way to trust God through it all.  You are a hero to all of us who watched you, who prayed for you, who wanted for you what you were afraid to want for yourself.  Even though we had hoped God would save you for this world, He found it necessary to lead you into His kingdom.  Though we mourn our loss, we rejoice in your gain.  You now have the answer to the questions we all want answers to:  What is heaven like?  What is it like to have your tears wiped away by the One who created you?  What is your new home like?  Can you possibly contain your joy at meeting Jesus face to face?  What does true worship look like?

Earth is a little different now.  You truly made the world a better place.  I will never forget your brave spirit, your faithfulness, your love for others.  Thank you.

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Theme for 2015–Passion and Transformation

My year of looking at the world through God’s point of view gave me a different perspective.  God showed me areas in my heart that needed dusting, cleaned up and some things that needed to be “surgically” removed.  In response to the things God showed me in 2014, I have chosen “Passion” and “Transformation” as my theme for 2015.

Passion is defined as “a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm or desire for anything”.  It can also be called fervor, zeal or ardor.  Mark 12:30-31 says:  30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”  

Transformation means “the act or process of transforming or the state of being transformed (to change in condition, nature or character)”.  It is also known as renewal or metamorphosis.  Ezekiel 36:26-27 reads:  26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

When we have passion for God, our lives and hearts will be transformed.  Romans 12:2  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The process for the next twelve months will be difficult and painful.  It may be a struggle. I will periodically share what I am reading and learning this year.  I encourage you to choose a Bible reading plan that fits your schedule.  I also encourage you to set aside time daily to spend in conversation with God.  The more time we spend in His presence the more like Him we become and the more we will fit into His Kingdom.  God tells us in His Word that we do not know the day or the hour of Jesus’ return.  Start today getting prepared for His coming.  Each day the time draws closer.

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