Faith, Resolve & Grace

Today my reading was 2 Thessalonians, chapter 1. Paul, along with Silas and Timothy are writing this 2d letter to the church at Thessolonica. Paul addresses this letter first with a greeting and a thanksgiving. Apparently the church in Thessolonica is still experiencing afflictions and persecutions, however they remain steadfast in their faith even while enduring. Paul addresses them and tells them that he is using them as an example in their faith to other churches. While Paul I am sure means this as an encouragement to them, can you imagine how it could have made them feel?

I have had things in my life that I have to admit I have really wanted to say to God that if I was enduring only to be an encouragement to others then I didn’t want to be so.  Sometimes life is just hard and if you are like me I have wondered why in the world it had to be so hard at times. I am trying to live my life rightly and I am trying to walk in step with him. What more do I have to do to get the easier life. Paul also goes on to tell them that sometimes our suffering is what makes us worthy of the kingdom of God. I have felt ashamed before when I would get so whiny about things and circumstances and I took a “why me Lord” approach to life that when I look at what Jesus endured for me on the cross then my “why me’s” hold very little water. Paul tells them in this passage that God will repay those who afflict you. and that he will grant relief to those who are afflicted. When others are bringing persecution and afflictions on God’s children they will one day pay. And if we just keep on walking and staying steadfast in our faith He will also grant relief.

This has been a hard week. There have been hard things going on in our world. However, I can’t not think that God is still on the throne and that He is working things for His utmost glory in our world. Some days, I don’t want to be an example for others, there I said it, but if we are walking in step with Him and if we are trying to walk on purpose with Him then that is exactly what happens. Wouldn’t it be nice to just check out for a while and bury our heads in the sand but that is not what we are called to do. Paul ends this chapter of his letter like this:

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 These. 1:11-12

I pray this for you and I pray this for me that God will make us worthy of his calling. I pray that he will give us resolve. Sometimes that’s the only way to get through a hard week. I pray that every work of faith done by you and by me BY HIS POWER will glorify the Lord Jesus! And I pray for grace! Grace to you, Grace to me and Grace to our country and our world. Lord Jesus give us steadfast faith, give us resolve and give us GRACE!

 

Help from the Lord!

“If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would have lived in the land of silence. When I thought, ‘My foot slips,’ your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” Psalm 94:17-19 ESV

This Psalm was written by David. The commentaries I read really do not give a lot of extra information on when David would have written this particular Psalm. But what we do know about David is that he had to learn to rely pretty heavily on God. He had some good days and he had some very hard days. David was anointed to be the next King of Israel at a very young age. He then went to battle, was befriended by Saul and especially Saul’s son Jonathan. He had great success on the battlefield but as the people began to think highly of David Saul allowed the big ole green eyed jealousy monster to get into him and he began to pursue David to kill him. David had to leave the home he once knew, the palace because at one time Saul had invited him to come live in the palace. Saul had started out enjoying David’s presence. David played beautiful music and he was a warrior for God. But then as Saul’s jealousy grew David had to leave and was on the run from Saul for approximately 7 years. So I said all of that to say that David did not have an easy life even after having been anointed to be King for quite a while. This gives a lot of credence to David when he says “my foot slips” and the language “If the Lord had not been my help”. David had learned how to depend on God even when things were not going his way. He had many cares yet he had learned to allow the consolations of God cheer him up.

I find that the closer I remain in fellowship with the Lord that I don’t tend to stay down in a pit of despair for very long. Oh I will still find myself going into the pit and there are days I will even wallow just a little bit. But I do find that if I drag my cares to Him. Daily. Yes even the ones that hurt my heart but I am not able to change the circumstances at the time, that He will give me consolations to “cheer my soul”. Sometimes that is in His word and sometimes it is the way He uses others in my life.

Thank you for the prayers, the Lord is faithful and many people have been faithful to be instruments of peace and cheer to me. Let’s all try to be these instruments of peace and cheer today.

Judgment or Justice

For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.  (Matt. 7:1-2 ESV)

I really struggled with what to write this morning.  This verse above stuck out to me immediately with my reading this morning. It was like it was branded into my heart as soon as I read it. When that happens I usually know immediately that that is what God wants me to ponder or to write about. He wants me to learn something. However, this morning, I wanted to skip it, I wanted to find something feel good and more uplifting to my heart to write about. But I can’t find the words of feel good today. I am angry, I am hurt, I do not want to be diplomatic. I don’t like things the way they are. I am ready for coronavirus to go away. I want the riots to stop. I want all police officers to be good and honest and law abiding as they are supposed to be. I do not want there to be thugs who lay in wait for someone to go to a bank in the middle of the night. I wish I were the person I want to be, that did things as soon as I feel a prompting from the Holy Spirit. So I am struggling. Oh how I want to turn back the clock before Monday morning early hours and I want my friend Melissa to not go to the bank at the wee hours. I want to turn back the clock and I wish the police officer had not put his knee into George Floyds neck and left it there until he was unconscious and unresponsive and then worse. I wish this 18 year old kid who took my friends life had made a better decision and a better choice than to point a gun and decide he was going to rob someone and take her life. I don’t want people to burn down businesses and churches. I want to make the better choice. I want to be the one who points others to Christ and not to destruction. But in my anger I am really having a hard time today.

This verse says “with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged”. Oh my friends I have to realize that many times if others judged me the way I am prone to judge I would be in a sad state of affairs. I remember years ago, (wish I could put a true timeline to it) when I read that verse and got it for the first time. What measure do I use to judge? Truthfully, I am blessed, I don’t know what it is like to be hungry, not truly hungry. I don’t know what it is like to be truly poor. And most of us in America don’t. I do know grief and I do know hurt. I do know heartbreak but I don’t know yours. I pray that even in the midst of this hurt and this pain and this craziness going on in the world that I can find a little compassion for my fellow humans! I want to see others and what they feel and not just bring judgment down. I am saddened by the state of affairs. I am saddened that lives have been lost in tragic ways. I am sad and it is hard for my heart to get past it. I’m not going to lie but I pray I can be a part of the solution and not stir the problems. I want justice. I want justice for George Floyd. I want justice for Melissa. I want justice for America. But I don’t want to judge.

The definition of justice is the quality of being just; righteousness; equitableness, or moral rightness. There is no one who can say that what happened to George Floyd nor to Melissa was right or equitable or even moral. The definition of judgement is an opinion or conclusion, a decision of a court or judge, a misfortune or calamity viewed as a divine punishment. It is not my right to judge others but it is our right and our privilege as Americans to expect justice. I pray that my heart can discern the difference today.

Please pray for the educators and students today. Please pray for the families who have lost loved ones today. Please pray for me today too if you have an extra minute. And please forgive me for this rambling post today.

Abounding Love = Faith

“The whole world has gone crazy!” I’ve said it and I’ve heard it said. “We are living in the end times.” I’ve wondered it and I’ve heard others wonder it aloud as well. Well I don’t know if these are the end times. God’s word says that no one knows the hour or the day. (Matt. 24:36) But I do wonder if the whole world has gone crazy. Yet I think others have thought it before themselves.

I’ve been reading in 1 Thessalonians this week. Paul had sent Timothy to the church in Thessolonica because he had heard that the church was going through hardship and affliction. Paul was in Athens and was also going through hardship and affliction yet he was worried about his church, his flock that was back in Thessolonica. So he sent Timothy to check on them,

I didn’t find where it addressed what afflictions Paul nor the church were actually going through, but whatever it was apparently Paul was afraid that it would shake their faith. The things going on around us these days are the things that could shake our faith if we are not careful. There are things happening in the world as well as things happening in MY world that will either shake my faith or I can allow it as an opportunity to deepen my faith. The choice is up to me. Timothy returned to Paul with the word that the church was standing firm in their faith and Paul was overjoyed to hear it. This was what he wrote in a letter to the church after this word came to him. Let this be our prayer today. It is my prayer for you as well as my prayer for me.

Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” I Thess 3:11-13

Lord we pray today that we will increase and abound in love for one another and for all even in the midst of hurt, pain, sorrow, grief and misunderstanding. We pray that you will establish our hearts blameless in holiness before You Father.

Pray this with me today! And please do not forget our healthcare workers!

Salt and Light

“In my own little corner, in my own little chair, I can be whatever I want to be.” That is the lyrics to an old song written by Richard Rodgers for the musical Cinderella. I must admit that with the things going on in the world today I can tend to want to simply sit in my own little corner of the world and if I didn’t watch the news (which I don’t to terribly much) I would have no idea what was going on in the world. I would not have a clue who George Floyd was or the hurt and the anger that people are feeling over his death. Anger and hurt that is driving some people to do things that are wrong as well. I could sit here in my little corner of the world and watch the sun come up and the sun go down and know that I am blessed but I could act as if none of the rest of it really matters. But it does matter. And what should my response be to it?

I must admit that sitting and writing anything this morning seemed well a bit daunting to me. But it felt wrong not to write and acknowledge it today. However, I ask you to realize I am no scholar and I am not an activist, I’ve said it many times before here, I am a simple minded woman. But I can’t ignore the hurt, my own humanity will not allow me to. First off we all must admit that racism does still exist. I have friends who have black sons that they have to teach how to handle situations differently than I have ever had to even consider for my white sons. I’m going to be real transparent here and admit that going to work in a public school 16 years ago was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me. When I look back at my life before walking into Ridgeland High School, it was very, well white. But working in a school and falling in love with students and co workers of color made me see color differently. I am sorry if that comes across as racist I truly do not mean for it to. I am just being honest in saying it opened my eyes and my heart in ways that I am not sure how that would have happened if God had not led me down that path. I’m truly grateful that He did.

Second police brutality does exist obviously, but not all police officers are bad. The ones I know personally are good, honorable men, who are doing right in a good and honorable profession. I have family members who are police officers and I have friends who are police officers. Some are white and some are black. I am proud of them and the professions they have chosen. I do not think it is any more right to lump all police officers than it is to lump all blacks in a “bad” category. People are good and people are bad it’s part of the fallen world we live in.

So what can we do? Well the passage that comes to mind is the one where Jesus called us to be salt and light of the world.

You are the salt of the heart, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matt. 5:13-16

As salt and light I do not believe we are called to ignore. So what will I do? I will pray for my friends who have black sons and daughters and their children. I will try to be more open to the plight of them in America. I will pray for the police officers who I believe are in the profession to be honorable and to treat others with respect. Our country was built on a foundation of innocent until proven guilty and that is what I will try in my heart of hearts to remember and to cling to. I will do my best to embrace diversity and color for the beauty that I believe was God’s intent when He created us all. I pray that these words are accepted with the intent that they were written and if I have offended anyone, please feel free to contact me. I truly want to have the conversation.

Please please please pray for our country today. Please pray that the violence ends and that people can be heard without burning businesses and churches. Let’s all just take a little time to listen to our fellow man today.

The Yoke of Freedom?

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt 11:28-30 ESV

While exploring Freedom, I ran across this verse and while some may view this verse as encumbering it really is the way to true freedom. I looked up the word yoke. Most if not all of us know what a yoke is. It’s the wooden piece that you put on two animals, typically oxen, who will be plowing a field. When the yoke is put on the animals they are stronger, especially if and when they work together. The yoke keeps the animals in step, it makes them stronger, it keeps them from growing weary because they are not carrying the load by themselves.

I think that what this means is when we put on the “yoke” with Jesus that we begin walking in step with Him, We learn from Him, we can lean into Him for strength when things are tough, and we ask Him to guide our steps. Yes a “yoke” that you would put on the oxen is heavy to pick up. But when you put it on the animal’s shoulders they are not in pain, they would only be in pain if they were working against the yoke. It’s the same in my relationship with Jesus. When I am walking in step WITH Him, when I am spending time in His word, when I am asking for His guidance and His help in any matter then my day to day life is much easier. I am not saying I don’t come upon something that is hard or sad. But I am much quicker to turn it right back over to Jesus when my steps are in sync with Him. If I work against Him is when the hard stuff really comes my way. That’s when the anxiety creeps in, that’s when I am seeing it in my attitude and when things of life just start to wear me down.

Jesus says in this verse “I am gentle and lowly in heart”. This word lowly is translated humble. Jesus’ gentleness and his humility do not come with judgment, only peace and help. He is really not trying to give us a list of dos and don’ts. He is just saying “walk with Him” not against Him. and then we will find the rest that our souls need. Finding the rest that my soul needs in Jesus is what brings my heart freedom! When I am operating with His yoke on me, when I am trying to walk in step with Him, I’m not saying I do everything right or perfect (not by a long shot). There is only one who is perfect. But what I am saying, is that when I operate with His yoke I make more right decisions than wrong ones. I use my time and my resources more wisely, I have more peace in the circumstances that concern me that pass any human understanding. The more I walk WITH His yoke the more I lean into His strength, His compassion, His humility, His guidance and His love. This yoke brings freedom.

Please pray for our service industry today. Small businesses, restaurants, travel industry. You may not be ready to sit in a restaurant yet and that’s ok, but if you can, order curbside and be sure to tip well if you can!

FREE INDEED

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 ESV

Yesterday we pointed out that Jesus was talking to the Jews “who had believed him”. The Jews went on to say back to Jesus that they had never been enslaved to anyone. They didn’t quite understand this freedom that Jesus was talking about. Jesus explained to them what it means to be a slave to sin. Being a slave to sin is one who is practicing sin. What is that? That is continuing to do that thing that Jesus has asked you to lay down. Whatever it is. It is becoming enslaved to a habit or a practice that is detrimental to you and that takes your focus away from God.

We live in a free country, yes we have been asked to stay home more lately than ever before because we have been in the middle of a pandemic. However, as a general rule we are able to come and go as we please. We can bow our heads and say a prayer at a restaurant or not and no one is going to waltz in and take us to jail for it. We take this thing called freedom for granted and it is hard to grasp what Jesus is saying here because as a people group, all the people I know personally have never been truly enslaved to anyone or anything. Our view of freedom is not much different than that of the Jews who were speaking to Jesus in that day. But that’s not really what Jesus was talking about.

Let’s talk about something simple, take shopping for instance. Shopping in and of itself is not a bad thing. We all have to shop to survive. You shop for your groceries. shop for things you need for your household, shop for clothes to wear or even just for pretties to lay around. None of those things in and of themselves are sin. But for the person who has their credit cards maxed out and can’t afford to pay their bills and debt has become their focal point of their every day then shopping may be a sin. I have just given you one simple example. This can be anything that we focus on more than God. It consumes you, you become enslaved to it. Whether it be shopping or if it be anything else. If it has become more important to you than your relationship with Christ then it has you enslaved to the sin of it.

But if you refocus your life to Jesus and ask Him for help with your sin then He can and He will set you free from that sin. I used shopping but it could be anything, it could be worry, overeating, gossip, maybe even fear. Whatever you have in front of you that interferes with your relationship with Christ that is what is enslaving you. Jesus, the Son truly wants to set you free from anything that you have set up in your mind as more important than Him. What is consuming your time? Your mind? Your finances? The Son truly wants us to be free in Him. He wants to walk us through whatever our worry is and that my friend is the only way to true freedom.

Please pray for the Pastors and church leaders as they are trying to find ways to reopen our churches that will be safe and will be glorifying.

Truth = Freedom

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:31-32 ESV

The latter part of this verse gets quoted in Christian circles quite a bit. “The truth will set you free.” And I do believe it to be so. However, to really know the freedom that the truth brings you have to look at the whole statement of these verses. There was a bit of a process here that Jesus was pointing out. First Jesus said this to the Jews who had believed Him. The truth will not set free a non-believer. In fact it can be quite the contrary I would think. I believe the Holy Spirit can be at work in a non-believers life pursuing him or her to come to Christ. I look back at my own salvation experience and can see God’s hand on my life before I became a believer. I can see the people and circumstances that were in my life that were drawing me to Him. I was not a believer yet and a lot of the things I can see and I experience were in my childhood but with my hindsight I can surely see God’s hand all over my life. But I can also see the ways I was in bondage to my own thoughts, yes even as a child and to my sinful nature. And yes I do believe that to gain salvation I simply had to trust in Him and believe in Him.

However, freedom in Christ only comes to me when I am abiding in His word. When I am reading and studying His word. And it’s a daily practice, it is not a one time thing. If I miss a day in His word, whether I really do not pick up my Bible and read or let’s say I read it but I am distracted by thoughts, worry, my to do list, I can feel the old habits of anxiety and the bondages begin to get a grip on my heart and next thing you know I am not walking in the Freedom Christ brings but I am a slave again to circumstances or my own thought life.

It is only in abiding that I can gain the true Freedom that Christ brings. Every day when I have my quiet time I picture myself laying down at the cross all of the things that are concerning me. I pray for my family, I pray for friends, I pray for things of the world. And every day or at least some days I know that a phone call that comes or a thought I have I tend to pick up some of those worries and carry them around with me. It’s like I have this pack that I pick the worries back up and put them into it. Some days I pick more of them up than others. Or at night sometime, anxiety runs deep for me in the middle of the night, so if I wake up in the middle of the night I have a pack as big as Santa Claus that I am filling up with worry and thoughts. But in the morning, I picture myself dragging that pack, no matter how big it is from the worry that I took on the day and night before, and I start laying it back at the foot of the cross. Oh I had laid it down before and shouldn’t have picked it up again but I am human and I do this. But when I practice this, when I take the time to abide in His word and spend time laying it all down, I find that I can walk in the Freedom He gives me. I also see that I don’t seem to pick up as much when I make this my daily practice.

Please pray for the educators and students today. I know school years are in the process of being completed but there are still big decisions to be made about how we will open back up next year.

 

Freedom in Christ

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Gal 5:13 ESV)

Keeping on this theme of Freedom this week, we will continue to explore the Freedom that we have in Christ. Many people who do not enjoy the Christian life or understand it/us look to us and wonder when we talk about this Freedom why you do not just go about and do whatever you want to do and just keep asking God to forgive you. If He is a gracious God and if Freedom in Christ means that we are free then that is the way we could live, right?

No! Being Free in Christ does not mean that we can use this Freedom as an “opportunity for the flesh”. What does that even mean? Paul put this language in because there may be some who would clearly try to use the freedom that Jesus has given us to their own gain. He knew there would be some who would think they could go on living their life the same old way and just say “I’m sorry” and that God would continue to forgive them. But that is not what will truly make you free. The freedom that God called us to is the breaking of the yoke of the bondage of sin. Not permission to continue to sin. Sin is still sin, whether we are a christian or not. If we are a christian and we sin, however, we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us and He will not allow us to continue to gratify the flesh and our own thoughts and to live a glorious life in Christ. When we are not Christians, we probably do not feel guilty for the sins we commit. But it is still sin. The difference is this, we do have that conscience living inside of us in the form of the Holy Spirit when we sin as Christians. But we realize that not only is our sin against others or even ourselves our sin is also against God. The conscience that we get from the Holy Spirit doesn’t just condemn us and make us feel bad about our sin but it directs us and shows us how the sin hurts God, hurts others and even ourselves and then how to turn from that sin so that we can love others, love ourselves and love God. Any guilty conscience that you may or may not feel over sin when you are not a Christian, or not walking in the Spirit, is just that, it is condemning and loathsome. It only entraps and brings us more and more into bondage. It is a slippery slope and it is not somewhere I want to live. I am not saying that I do not or will never sin again. I am still of human flesh and I know that sin creeps in but my desire is to ask the Holy Spirit to direct me and to convict my heart of the sin and show me how to turn from it so that I can LIVE in the Freedom of Christ.

Please pray for the medical professionals today.

The Cost of Freedom

Happy Memorial Day! Memorial Day is when we remember those who gave their lives for our freedom. It actually first came into existence as Decoration Day and it was designated for the purpose of decorating the graves of those who had died in defense of their country in the Civil War. The original date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle. I think maybe that way it couldn’t be honoring one side or the other of the Civil War because, well when lives are lost we are all losers. But when Freedom was gained we all became winners. (Those last 2 sentences are completely my thoughts, the rest of the paragraph are facts.)

Decoration Day became Memorial Day over the years and it began to be a way to commemorate all U. S. Soldiers who had died in a war. And in 1971 began being observed the last Monday in May. It also is a federal holiday which is why most offices and banks are closed. While most of us celebrate it as the the beginning of Summer it is truly a day to remember that our Freedom isn’t free and that there were mothers who lost children, people who lost spouses, children who lost mothers and fathers. People lost their lives fighting for our freedom.

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. (Gal. 5:1)

Christ came to earth to die on the cross for our freedom as well. And as a Christian, I want to remember the U S Soldiers who gave their life for me but I also have to remember that Christ died on a cross to set me free from the bondage of sin. I have to remember that every single day, not just on a set aside day. Christ died on the cross to set me free once and for all and I asked Him into my heart and my heart was sealed for the day of redemption. However, the latter part of that verse, that says “Now make sure you stay free and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law” that is what feeds my every day need to sit at His feet and soak in some time with Him. You see I am a feeble minded woman and if I don’t come to Him daily and remember His cross and remember that He has set me free then I fall right back into the pit of self doubt, worry, self absorption, self destruction, self exaltation even. Left on my own without my Savior I know that I am not being the person, the woman God calls me to be. The person that He gave His life for. And when I start falling into those pits what I end up with is self loathing! But for Christ and what He did for me on the cross, I AM FREE! For the U. S. Soldier and what he or she did for us on the battlefield we are all Free.  Be sure to take a moment today and remember the soldiers but also be sure to take a moment today and remember Christ! And then, MAKE SURE THAT YOU STAY FREE!

Please pray for the President, and all of our government leaders today!!