Will you obey?

I want to share a written testimony from a friend of a family member. Though this is a season of thanksgiving, this is not a testimony of thanksgiving, but a testimony of obedience to the Lord which eventually leads to thanksgiving. Obedience is powerful and sometimes difficult, but ALWAYS rewarding. I hope this stirs your heart as it stirred mine.

So my life has been crazy these last few months. My wife and I took a huge step of faith, and answered God’s calling on our hearts to leave Alaska. Everything about what we’ve been doing has been a huge unknown. All we knew for sure was that God was asking us to leave.

We thought selling all our stuff was going to be the hard part. OMG was I wrong! Traveling 14,000 miles across the country, grasping at straws trying to make sense of everything. Asking God is this it, is it that, what is it you want us to do?!?

Seemingly not getting any answers, just going off gut instinct that we should keep going. I personally felt lost, hopeless, and to be quite frank I was starting to doubt his existence.

I remember sitting in Dallas, Texas arguing with my wife telling her “I’m done, I’m freaking done. There’s no hope, he hasn’t said crap, this has been a huge sham, I’m done.” I found a place I really enjoyed, and was ready to just give up and move to Ft. Collins, Co.

Even though I was fed up, and felt like there weren’t going to be any answers. I still had this sick feeling in my stomach that we had to keep going. So I took one last step of faith, and said Screw It! I’m going to Orlando. If I’m going to do this, I’m going to have fun.

About a third of the way there, on a Saturday, this band I’m sharing with you,
(Give Thanks to God—Housefires) popped in my head. I told Lacey “this band I really like, they’re in Atlanta, how far of a drive is that, can we make it there for Sunday service?” My wife told me it was about 500 miles, I said, “screw it let’s go.” We drove through the night, though we were tired we made it! And it was amazing! It was like the word was tailored just for us.

After church we drove to Charleston, SC then on to Charlotte, NC to visit Lacey’s aunt and uncle. Two amazing people of God, gave us incredible words of wisdom. Decided, ok God we are going back to Ft. Collins.

Then the night before we were going leave, I said to Lacey “what about that church in Atlanta?” “How much would it add to our trip to go back to ATL?” To attend that church again. To both of our delights she said, “It’ll only add an hour to our trip!”

On the way to ATL I said to my wife, “what about ATL?” She said, “not a snowballs chance in hell am I moving to ATL!” I guess she really didn’t like it.

When we got there something amazing happened. God spoke to me. The one thing I’ve been begging him to do this whole friggin’ time, he finally friggin’ did it! He told me clear as day, “you can go back to Colorado, and you won’t disappoint me, but I want you here, the choice is yours.”

And apparently God spoke to my wife too, because at the end of the service she was balling looked me square in the face and said, “Well I guess we’re moving to ATL!”

We had decided together that it would be best to leave ATL and see if our hearts would change. So, we went to Florida to swim with the manatees. Didn’t see any manatees, but our resolve hadn’t wavered.

So, we went back to ATL and said, God this is it, we’re all yours! To which the reply was a big fat NOTHING! My initial reaction was to get angry! “Are you effing serious right now, I can’t believe you’d give me a glimmer of hope and just tell me to piss off!”

I was starting to feel hopeless again. Starting to doubt if what I heard was really God. I could have sworn it was him. I do not make this stuff up, I heard him clear as day.

Well about another week had past and my doubt is building. I’m back to feeling hopeless. Mind you I never really told any of my family or my friends what I was doing. Because I was certain that they would think that I was flippin’ nuts! So in all this, I felt alone. With the exception of my brother Pete, and my Wife. I felt lost and alone. ATL is a big city with over 5 million people and I didn’t know a soul.

Well, my Wife was going to a mother’s ministry at the church. I guess she lost it, she spilled the beans that we were for lack of better words homeless in Atlanta. That lead us to meeting Lisa a lovely lady at the church. We told her that we were contemplating skipping out of town to persue job opportunities in Colorado. She prayed over us and told other people about us and asked them to pray for us too.

That leads us to Gregory. Oh, Gregory you were personally my biggest step of faith!

I met Gregory at Amelies a French bakery in midtown. I didn’t find out till later that he practically lives there. Lisa from the women’s ministry put us in touch with him, and told us “Gregory has a word from God and that word is stay in Atlanta God wants to use you in a big way.”

So I had to meet this man who wanted me to stay. I need to see this man for myself. I need to size him up and make for 100% sure he is not full of crap. I met him, and he was 100% legit. He was absolutely on fire for the Lord. Ok Gregory, I’m going to trust you. And I’m going to trust that this is God.

I go to leave the bakery and I hear God again clear as day just like before. “Give that man your laptop” I said what? He said, clear as day! “Give him your camera.” To which I replied you’ve lost your mind, I’ve gone crazy! What God? which one is it the laptop or the camera? Not that I’m giving him either. I can’t believe I’ve lost my mind.

I’m standing by my jeep in the middle of this parking lot befuddled. “Really God I can’t believe you’re going to make me give up my prized possessions. No I ain’t doin’ it!

I go to get in my jeep and God says to me and I quote “DON’T YOU DARE DO THIS! NOT WHEN YOU’VE COME THIS FAR!” WHOA! Mind you I’m still pretty sure I’ve lost my flipping mind. Tell you what God, I’ll just go ask him if it is you he’ll tell me and I’ll know for certain.

So l go back in that bakery, and I ask this strange man I’ve never met before 30 minutes ago. “WHAT IS IT THAT YOU WANT?”

You should have seen the look on his face! “God told me you want something, what is it?”

Still looking utterly confused Gregory stammers, “well I have been praying to God for a new laptop.” Stopped him right there, and told him to follow me. He followed me to my jeep and I gave it to him, I just gave this strange brown man my laptop.

Gregory was ecstatic, I was feeling pretty good about myself. He took his laptop and I went on my merry way. Still totally confused. But screw it I’m all in. Gregory sends us a message inviting us to his house church. Told us he wanted to introduce us to his people.

We decide to get a hotel because we hadn’t showered in a couple days and I can’t even process what’s just happened. Let alone think about anything. And God spoke to me again.

“I TOLD YOU TO GIVE HIM YOUR CAMERA!”

“Umm, Lacey I think I screwed up, I think God wanted me to give him my camera too.” She said, “Are you sure honey, I really don’t feel like God is asking you to do any of this.” I told her “of course I’m sure I’ve never been more sure about anything.” “Tell you what, we’ll fleece it. If God wants me to give this man a camera, then make this evening about a camera.”

We prayed over it, and go to this house church function that Gregory invited us to. SWEET BABY JESUS! The whole evening was about Gregory and his dang photography ministry he’s embarking on. You have to be kidding me! Needless to say I pulled Gregory aside and told him God told me to give him my camera too, but I was holding it back.

It’s amazing! What those two acts of obedience did. I obeyed God and because of that, God is starting to open doors. I now have a church family, more friends than I’ve ever had in Alaska. I have a place to call home. And Atlanta is really starting to grow on me. I have no idea what God is doing, but I’m sure it’s going to be great!

I am so happy to call Grace Midtown my home. God is definitely doing amazing things here!

P.s. I told God my only steadfast requirement for a church is a worship service that is on fire with the holy ghost. And he delivered!

I’ve been embarrassed to talk about this, but I feel that God is asking me to. And I’m going to obey him. Because this is what I am. #iamsecond #gracemidtown #housefires #ermagerdburbbles

God bless each and every one of you.

If you’re so inclined please share my testimony — Gerald Wright

“But I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.”
Jeremiah 7:23 (NIV)

May you be reminded of several reasons to be thankful this holiday season. And may you also reap the rewards that follow obedience in Christ.

God bless

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Power of thoughts, power of words, power of hope.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”

Do you remember those words as a child when you were being harassed? We would chant them back at our attacker, knowing very well that those words spoken to us were cutting deep into our spirits. Yet we felt it was a way to protect our hearts; kind of like putting up an invisible force field. Perhaps if we said the chant louder to our attackers their words would not penetrate us as deep. It seemed negative words rang in our ears far louder than the positive ones did.

A person seems to know instinctively to try to guard their hearts from hurt. It is so important because out of a heart springs a well of life.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23,  (NLT)

There are a lot of broken people in our world. Their words can be hateful. That is why we, who call ourselves believers, have to be even more careful how we speak to others. It isn’t just because it represents the Lord, but because it represents our own hearts and can bring life and death to those around us.

Proverbs has many places in its passages that explain how the foolish use their words destructively and that it will eventually bring ruin to themselves and those around them. Yet it pleads to the reader to seek wisdom. It eventually states that there is life and death in the power of the tongue. Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)

I suppose that is why the Psalmist said, ” May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” PS 19:14

There is power in our words. It is with words that the Lord created the world. “Let there be light,” he said. And there was light! There is creative power in the things we say and even in the very thoughts that are hidden in our minds.

In fact you can find sympathy cards that state: “You are in our thoughts and prayers” or “sending good thoughts your way.” What are positive words or thoughts suppose to do?Actually they may do more than we realize. If it was the power of words that created our world, can you envision the power of words that can create hope in someone?

Adults that constantly criticize young people can create the way a child thinks about himself and eventually affect their actions. I know first hand. I had a teacher in first grade whose words were consistently harsh towards me. As young as 6-years-old, I had begun to have negative thoughts about myself.

Fortunately my 3 grade teacher thought so much differently about me. Her words of encouragement filled my heart with a positive attitude. It made such a difference to me regarding how I thought about myself. By the time I left her classroom I was a different person.

Believing in myself, I graduated as the salutatorian of my class in highschool. I say that to confirm the power of words.  Can you imagine the other road I could have taken had I believed in the negative words? My thoughts about myself had been renewed.

It is in our thought life that both good and evil are birthed. It is there that creative ideas are imagined. It is there that we decide if we can accomplish a task or give up.  It is there where we consider what we will be when we grow up. It is there that we choose a path for our lives, where to live, who to date, what job to take, etc…

That is why 1 Corinthians talks about having the mind of Christ.  It states that only the Spirit knows the deep things of God. It is just like our own thoughts; no one knows them but ourselves. That is why people who do not have the spirit of God in them do not understand God’s way of thinking; it seems foolish. But if we have Him in our hearts, we begin to learn what the Spirit is saying. Eventually we begin to walk with the mind of Christ and make our choices accordingly.

Philippians goes on to state that he will keep our hearts and minds in peace if we are not anxious. And where does anxiety begin? It begins in our minds or thoughts. What we think about, what we put into our hearts, what we meditate on will eventually be what we say and do. Good or evil will come out of our mouth because it was first stored in our hearts and in our minds.

I once heard an evangelist share that he taught these concepts to his little boy. One day he took his child to a store and the man in front of him in the check-out line was swearing up a storm. Suddenly the boy pulled on his daddy’s jacket and asked, “Daddy, is there s@#% in that man’s heart?” The father was extremely embarrassed until the man’s girlfriend turned around and looked down at the little boy and said, “Yes, honey, there is.”

“A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45 (NLT)

Yes, I have interchanged heart and mind (and even thoughts) as I wrote. I know there is a saying that states, “Should you follow your heart or your mind?”  But I personally think that refers to following your feelings versus your reasoning.  I guess what I am trying to relay is this simple statement, “garbage in, garbage out.” What you meditate on (think about) will eventually find its way out in some sort of expression.

But I also want to add that it is EXTREMELY important what you say to those around you and even what you think or say about yourself.  What are you speaking? Are you speaking death and hopelessness or life and hope?

I challenge you to speak life, even in a corrupt world of political unrest, angry souls, unjust standards and simple foolishness.

LIFE-the true power of the life of Christ, the light of the world, will ALWAYS dispel darkness and death.

God bless.

 

 

 

 

To those that are broken

Twisted – broken,
Out of control.
Spiraling- falling
Deep in a hole.

Confused – Bewildered
Not sure what to do.
Lost – Alone
Can all this be true?

The life I shared
Is now in the ground.
The joy that we had
Has turned upside down.

I cried to the Lord
In my despair.
Did you not know?
Do you not care?

I cried to the Lord
Did you not see?
There was nowhere to run
To hide or to flee.

Why all the hurt?
Why all the fears?
Why all the sadness?
And constant new tears?

I heard him reply:

Dear Child
What you say is true
I know of your anguish
It hurts through and through.

I know there is hurt.
I know there is fear.
I want to hold you close
I won’t abandon you; I’m still here.

This world is broken
Chaotic and lost.
I know the pain.
I know what it cost.

It cost the life
Of my son on the cross
To break all the sin
To heal all the loss.

It wasn’t me
That took the life
It was evil consumed
With hate and with strife

When this world’s sins
Meets its final hour,
The demons that kill
Will flee and will cower.

Until that time comes
My arms will remain open
Its a safe place to heal
A heart that is broken.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

 

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What are your plans?

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

I love plans. I thrive off plans. They give me peace and a sense of direction.  I am not really a “spur of the moment” type of person. Now my husband is completely the opposite.  He floats through life, catching the wind as it blows, excited for where he might land.

Let me give you an example: on our honeymoon I made “plans” and got us into the bridal suite. We stayed there the first night but my husband thought it would be fun to take a ferry to the nearby islands the next day. It was fun. But since he didn’t get a motel reservation we ended up spending the night in our car on the ferry because there were zero rooms available. A convention was in the area. That went over well.

It is also the same with directions. I use to constantly have to do everything exactly by the book. As the years have slipped by I have realized that not everything has to be done according to some unseen book. Yet, general directions are given for a purpose. Without reading the directions my husband decided to build a swing set in the backyard. After he was done he realized that a couple of pieces were not connected properly and that there were extra parts he wasn’t sure what to do with. He looked at me with a sheepish grin and said, “Perhaps I should have read the directions.”

Throughout the adventures of our lives together we have seen the importance of both aspects. And we have changed some viewpoints that we thought were cemented in our personalities.

When I was a little girl my parents moved many times. I didn’t question their purpose or decisions; I just went for the ride. I never knew that there were occasions when they didn’t have definite plans or that they were not always sure about the future. I was just a happy child and simply trusted that whatever they decided to do would be in my best interest. (Of course I didn’t analyze it at the time.) Later in life I discovered that there were times that their only option was to trust God and not themselves, as they entered into the next chapter of their lives.

Unfortunately we are not given a map for every choice we make in life. We are not told to go here for 2 years, then take this job, marry this person, put your kids in this school and perhaps go on a mission trip during this season…blah, blah, blah…

In fact James 4: 13-15 states, ” Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit. Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you out to say, “If the Lord WILLS we will live and do this or that.” (ESV)

We often ask “Lord what is your will?” God says that HE has a plan for us. HE holds the plans for each of our lives. And he states that HIS plans are for our good. There are times I have mentioned to God that I just wish he would hand over those plans. It would be so much easier to navigate through my life if I could simply look at the plans.

Instead he desires for us to trust him and relax in his goodness just like I trusted my parents. I didn’t have a care in the world, except maybe what my new school would be like or who my new friends would be.

He doesn’t always give us a complete picture regarding our future. Sometimes it might start as a desire that begins to stir in our hearts, a thought that crosses our mind, a dream that we had the night before or a longing that cannot be quenched. As soon as we pray about a decision and take a step in that direction, the stirring becomes more evident and doors of opportunity begin to open to make the desire a reality.

The Psalmist states, ” The steps of good men are directed by the Lord. He delights in each step they take.” Psalm 37:23 (TLB) 

He delights in OUR steps! It is like parents that watches their toddler take his first step. They watch him with eagerness and anticipation. And when the child falls they pick him back up and encourage him in his next step.

If God gave us everything at once we wouldn’t need his hand of guidance. We would become self-sufficient and may not seek his advise for direction. We would lose communication with the one that loves us more than anyone can. He created us in his image. He desires that we seek him. He desires that we commune with him. He desires that we dig into his Word (the directions for this life) and get to know him, personally.

He doesn’t give us a bunch of dos and don’ts. He gives us relationship and guidance and comfort and peace and direction. And as much as he delights in our steps he asks us to learn to delight in him. Like I mentioned earlier, he created us in his image. He wants a two-way relationship with us.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord: trust in him, and he will act.” Psalm 37: 4-5 (ESV)

Do you recall the game, Marco Polo? One person closes his eyes and says, “Marco”.  The others say, “Polo”. Even though the person who is “it” cannot see the other players he follows the voices until he is able to tag another player.

Though not completely the same, it is what we are doing. We may have a blindfold on in life, yet we listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit and follow his lead. When we come to the place where the Holy Spirit leads doors begin to open for us. As we fellowship with the Lord we learn the sound of his voice. He may call us down another path as we enter our next chapter in life.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.” John 10:27 (NIV)

It is similar to the children of Israel that wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. The spirit of God led them by a pillar of cloud during the day and fire by night. (Exodus 13:21) That same God leads each of us in our lives, as well.

Listen. What is the Holy Spirit saying to you? Is he calling your name? Is he leading you in a new direction? You can trust that what he starts in you he will surely complete. (Philippians 1:6)

One day as we look into our past we will see the many doors we traveled through that led us directly into God’s arms. We will be thankful for the doors the Lord opened and the doors that sometimes felt slammed in our faces. We will be grateful that the Lord in his goodness, ordered our steps and grateful that we obeyed his calling; and extremely grateful that he picked us up when we fell.

God Bless.

 

 

 

 

Water and Fire

The howl of the wind, the rush of the water, the urgency in the air causing anxiety in the south. Or the roar of the fire, the sunless sky, the smell of smoke in the backyard, causing panic in the north. Our nation has seen so much anger, violence and hostility and now it seems mother-nature is as angry as the political unrest. There seems to be a shaking in our country; a shaking in our world.

Are these incidences just coincidences? Is it “climate change”? Is it just life in a planet that is forever changing? Or is it a compassionate wake-up call to a nation from an Almighty God, reminding people that he is ultimately in control? Or perhaps an “end time” announcement?

We have seen horrific earthquakes, tsunamis, mudslides and famines in other countries from a safe place. In fact we have experienced our own earthquakes that rocked the land plus horrific hurricanes and tornadoes and even volcanos that have affected personal lives. Life on this earth, inclusive of weather anomalies and change have occurred since the beginning of time. Yet it seems, from my perspective and others I have spoken with, that our nation is being bombarded by mother nature.

Was the solar eclipse that was nicknamed  “The Great American Eclipse” that crossed the contiguous United States a sign of things to come for America? You might ask why one would think this?  The Bible mentions signs in the heavens. Jesus warned of the days before his return.

Luke 21: 25-26 states: “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the seas and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (NASV)

Also in Acts 2:20 “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.” ( NIV)

If you have grown up in church you may have heard it preached that we are living in the “last days”.  In fact you might remember the “Left Behind” series by Tim LaHaye that became popular videos in the Christian communities in the early 2000s.  Before that there were many street prophets. Some stood with signs on the street corners that stated that the end was near.  Often you see these type of people portrayed in movies labeled as crazy or mentally unstable.

But calling out to masses about coming events is not a new concept. John the Baptist could have been considered one of those crazy people. He wore garments of camel-hair with a leather belt around his waist. His food was locust and honey. He often was heard saying, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 3:2 (ESV) Yet he was actually sent by God to announce the coming of Jesus and was humbled that he was allowed to baptize Jesus before he started his ministry.

Science fiction thriller movies have taken end time theories and made millions at the box office. In these movies the entire world is almost destroyed by some kind of climate change or world war 3 or a massive nuclear bomb or aliens that attack. But just at the last moment a hero saves the day or the world  People leave the theater thankful that it was just a movie.  And they carry on with their lives.

The concept of “end times” is old and perhaps heard so many times that it is portrayed as ridiculous. That message can get to the point of being overdone. Eventually people get tired of hearing it and roll their eyes. It took so long for Noah to build the Ark that people became weary of the sight of the ark or his lunatic racings, as well, and simply mocked him. They lived as they had always done, eating, drinking and getting married. Suddenly destruction came upon them.

Today people have become immune to the possibility of any truth those words may hold. “Seriously? We have been hearing those “end times” warnings for so long.” And then they will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from beginning of creation.” 2 Peter 3:4 (ESV)

Some people have gone as far as try to predict the return of the Lord. I remember a book in the 80s that was titled “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will be in 1988” by Edgar Whisenant.  When it didn’t occur the way he assumed, the author continued writing more books that expanded on his explanation. He died without seeing the “rapture” take place in his lifetime.

But Jesus warned, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son but only the Father.” Mark 13:32 (ESV)

Still Jesus forewarns that though we do not know the hour, there will be events that occur before that time. His message was to always be prepared. He even told a parable (or story) that has since been titled “The Parable of the 10 Virgins”. Five people were ready for the coming of the bridegroom, while five others had not been prepared. (Matthew  25:1-13)

Today we have many scoffers, even in the Christian community. In fact the Christian community is divided in many areas. I viewed some testimonies online from individuals that have shared dreams regarding what is taking place in America. Some said that they had already seen these events taking place in those dreams. One that really caught my attention was the proclamation that someone made regarding these two hurricanes. Afterwards they state that there will be a huge earthquake that will rock our nation. All these catastrophic events will devestate the American economy.

Regardless if these events are from the hand of God for judgement or if we are in the “last days” these events can transform each of our lives to help us to grow, if we allow them. They can cause us to trust God in the midst of chaos, create a greater prayer life, grow in our faith and relationship with our Savior and teach us compassion for those around us. Remember 9-11? It drew our nation together. Of course in the midst of positive transformation there will always be the scoffers and those who continue to harden their hearts, becoming bitter. And there will always be those that are bent on the destruction of others and themselves.

Yet heartaches can be used for good. The verse “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NASB) becomes even more clear. It is the through the hardest times in our lives that God’s grace and the glory can shine.

Still I join with the disciples who waited earnestly for Jesus’ return in their days and know that the day of his ultimate return grows closer. And I pray for those who have been affected by the latest hurricanes, those who have lost their property and lost loved ones. And I pray for those who are being affected by the fires that still rage. So many hurts and so many loses in this world. God have mercy on each of us.

To each of you I leave this verse:

“When you pass through the water, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2 (NIV)

 

 

Laughter of the Lord

You read about God’s judgements. You read about his glory. You know that he is all-powerful, but does he laugh?

We’ve had so much conflict in our great land. Racism has been fed by angry souls and taken an embodiment of hostility. The earth itself seems angry as it is spurring raging storms and floods in our nation. Laugher –that is accompanied with joy –seems foreign.

The writer of Psalm 37 explains that we are not to worry or fret about evil people but to trust God. (Good advise during the times we are experiencing right now–a must read). He continues to explain that as we commit everything to the Lord he will help us. He encourages his readers to let go of anger and trust God. The Psalmist sees that madness (wicked people with evil schemes) is surrounding him, but he is reminded that God will take care of those that put their hope and trust in Him.

Despite what we he sees with his eyes the writer continues in verse 13: “But the Lord just laughs for he sees their day of judgement coming”. (NLT) In other words those that are fighting the Lord, those that are putting up their fists in anger and trying to destroy his goodness do not phase him. It would be like a toddler arguing with his parent. His parent looks at him smiling as he knows that no matter what the child does or says, he is ultimately in control of the situation.

Psalm 2:4 is another example, “But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them.” ((NLT) Again people think that they have the power to destroy his plans and destroy those he has anointed but God is ultimately in control.  David explains in Psalm 59, that Saul and his men are trying to attack and destroy him. But he trusts in his Lord and knows that the Lord laughs at those who think they’re stronger and more mighty than his plans. That is why David is able to trust in his God.

It’s like being in 1st grade and another 1st grader comes over to bully you. Suddenly your Dad walks up behind you and shakes his head and laughs. He knows he can protect you. The bully sees your father and quickly shrinks away. We have a God that is our refuge and strength. He delights in his people. He delights in us individually. And we actually bring him joy because we are his children.

Zephaniah 3:17 states, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fear. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” (NLT)

God desires to give us that same laugher in the midst of our trials. When Job was going through so much excruciating struggles his friends actually said something positive to him.  They told him that God would fill his mouth with laughter once again and his lips with shouts of joy.  When Sara was told that she would have a child in her old age, she laughed in unbelief but God fulfilled her desire and she named her child Isaac, which means laugher.

There is power in joy. That is why James states to count it all joy when trouble of any kind comes your way; because when your faith is tested, it will give you an opportunity to grow.  (James 1:1)

In the days of Nehemiah the people of the land wept as they heard the law of Moses being read. But Nehemiah encouraged them and said, “This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the JOY of the Lord is your strength!” -Nehemiah 8:10 (NLT)

So the question is, does God laugh? I believe he does. He is consumed with joy and expresses it with laughter. On a personal note:  When I was younger I remember calling out to the Lord to meet my needs and wondered if he cared. Deep inside the very depths of my being I heard a deep and jolly chuckle. Then I heard the words, “I will always take care of you!” I hold on to those word still in this hour knowing HE WILL take care of each of us.

He is a God of judgement, a God of strength and power and yet a God of joy and laughter.  Amen.

“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again — rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

 

 

The Identity Epidemic – Who am I?

These days you hear a lot about people’s right and about women’s rights in particular.

I haven’t been all around the world, but because our world seems to be shrinking due to technology I have heard about different lifestyles in the world. I was curious about the subject of women’s rights so I did what we do today and began to google information.  I live in a country of freedom for women so the discoveries I found disturbed me. I was disgusted by the torment that women and girls face around the world and I am sure even in my own city (though it isn’t legal here, it does not mean that it is not happening.) It made me sick to my stomach and was hard to digest. The horrific torture and living conditions boggled my mind.

We, as followers of Christ, choose to believe that both genders are of value to the Lord and equal, though definitely wired differently.  The way the different genders respond to situations, as in “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” by John Gray have been studied for years. Very different genders and yet both created in the image of the Lord.

What happened since creation that would make men in some cultures, even in the Old Testament Biblical times believe that they were somehow superior to women?  Why have women often been treated as second class citizens throughout the world?

God created Adam first and then created Eve as his companion, but they were both created in God’s image. Each had a part in their relationship that brought unity. But because of sin both were turned away from the Garden of Eden so that they wouldn’t eat of the tree of life and live forever in their sins.

The Lord told Adam that he would now have to till the ground (or work hard) for his food instead of the luxuries that the garden provided. And he told Eve that giving birth would be painful but that she would still desire her husband (some versions state that she would desire to control him) and YET  he would have rule over her.

“He said to the woman, “I will increase your pain and your labor when you give birth to children. Yet, you will long for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Genesis 3:16 (GWT)

How interesting. This confusion (striving to find our place in the family setting or as an individual) happened from the beginning.  So it has been a struggle since the beginning of time…women desiring a man to love them, a man desiring to be in control, and the woman desperately fighting for that control, as well.

I often wonder what life was like in the garden before “the fall” took place. Did they get along famously? Was God part of their daily relationship? There wasn’t any arguing over bills, over household chores, over child rearing. It was a place of peace and unity.

Then, BOOM, one day they found themselves in a selfish world where individuals had lost the intimate relationship with the Creator. They eventually lost the ability to recognize their place in a “family” sphere.

You can understand the confusion that was created in our world, in different societies and in different households because both men and women had lost their sense of identity, their relationship with their creator and with each other. You can understand why some societies began to think that men were more dominant and why woman– to this day –are struggling to become free to be who they initially were intended to be.

You can understand why women have fought so vehemently for their voices to be heard, for their lives to be of value in a society that no longer valued them.  All they desired was to fill that place of emptiness that the curse brought into their lives. You can understand why feminism vibrated in our country and why women have cried from deep inside their most inward parts to become the person God intended them to be, though they may not have a clue that is what they are doing.

Both genders have gone on a power hunger adventure, searching for acceptance, to fill a gap, to complete the void that was created through the curse at the Garden of Eden.

Now we have a world where both men and women scream for authority, for power, for acceptance. Both genders are fighting for their place in this world–striving to be heard they become louder, more forceful and more empty.

People have lost their identity, the identity that was theirs since the earth began when the Lord created both male and female in his image. Things have become so many more shades of gray as individuals try to forge through the confusion by themselves for an identity that was lost many eons ago. Fighting to find acceptance they have tried many avenues of identity that have led to an identity crisis. People don’t even know what gender they are and struggle by changing their appearance or try to find it by uniting with those of the same-sex or by searching for it through several different sexual experiences or are simply lost in the confusion.

But God desires that each person find freedom to be the person they were originally created to be. That is why God sent his son, Jesus, to die for our sins. He missed the relationship he originally had with his creation. He desires to walk with us once more. He wants us to understand that through HIM we can find our true identity. Through a personal relationship with Jesus we can have the peace (piece) of identity we crave; we can return to that intimate relationship with him and in turn share it with others.

The Lord has always honored women though men have not been as kind. Throughout the New Testament you hear stories of women that followed Jesus’ teachings. They followed him to the cross and were there when he had risen. And today many women still preach the gospel of hope to other women who may still be stuck in an identity crisis.

Lisa Bevere, a Christian author and speaker, shared how the catacombs in Rome were being excavated and mosaics of women preachers were being revealed. She explained how she felt the Holy Spirit speaking to her regarding those mosaic women and that they represented the women of today, This is what she said:

“You begin to tell the women that God is excavating their life; that he is chasing away the rubble. And when you lift up your eyes you’re going to see this beautiful mosaic out of all the broken pieces of your life. And you’re going to find out that you’ve been preaching with your life all along. You are one of those women.”

I want to encourage you in this hour, in the hour when people are searching for who they are, in the hour when there is the biggest identity crisis in our country– hear this: God created you. He created you in HIS image.

The word is clear. If you REALLY want to find yourself, you must first it give up (the way you thought it should be) and give it to Jesus. Then and only then will you really find yourself, because you will be found in Christ.

“If you cling to your life you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. Matthew 10:39 (NLT)

 

Pray for America

There is a shift in the atmosphere. It has been moving for quite some time but the shift is getting louder and the images are becoming more clear. Do you hear it? Do you see it?

There are forces moving beyond our natural visibility that may not be recognized. But if we look closer to the situations of the hour we will see the heads of deceit and anger and unrest. This is not the unrest of a people group or of a nation, this is an unrest of demonic influences. These forces are fearful of the days ahead as they know their time is short. So their fury is unleashed into the hearts of people who will listen, causing the havoc that we are witnessing during this hour of time.

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorizes of the unseen world, against mighty powers in the dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”  Ephesians 6:12 (NLT)

Though I will never choose to make my blog political, politics obviously plays a huge part in our world. We may not be of this world but crazy enough we live in it. Besides, God has used people in the political scene or who carry authority in this earth, for his purpose. So it is worthy of discussion.

Politics has always been in play. Look at Moses. The Lord told him to bring the children of Israel to a place where they could worship outside of the city. He petitioned (familiar word) pharaoh many times. Pharaoh unwittingly played a huge part of that move. Because he fought against the voice of the Lord plagues covered the land and brought the eventual destruction of the Egyptian military, setting the children of Israel free.

Even during the days of Jesus Rome was a city of power filled with political unrest. Some people believe that the disciples first assumed that Jesus would be part of a movement that would overthrow the strong political power of the day.  It made sense as Jesus was a descendent of King David and many times was called the son of David. A couple of the disciples longed to sit on his left and right side in his kingdom. But he informed them that his kingdom was not of this world.

During the Roman Empire religious leaders argued amongst themselves regarding doctrine and beliefs similar to what the church does today. But they united as they used their given power of that time to motivate the crowds to loudly petition the death of Jesus. There was chaos in the streets.

Pontius Pilate gave the Jews a choice which prisoner they would like released during the Passover. He assumed the people would prefer to release the kind teacher who did many miracles. It surprised him that instead they wanted Barabbas who was known for being part of an uprising. Perhaps he was part of the Zealots, a group of people who were bent on overthrowing the Roman Empire–which had become a government of oppression.

This may have caught the first Christians off guard. They had seen the miracles Jesus had performed and believed that he was their answer. Hadn’t Jesus come to deliver them from this political turmoil and oppression as Moses had delivered the children of Israel?  Wasn’t he the one who would help them attain freedom from the mayhem that was swirling around them?

Today when we look at the streets of our towns in America we are appalled by the violence and the hatred. Where is all this anger coming from? Why has there been such a loud shift in the last couple years in our land regarding life, regarding unity, regading respect for our land and our freedom?

Instigators who wanted Jesus killed whispered pandemonium and lies into the ears of those in the crowd to stir up anger and dissatisfaction. The same people who had honored him only a week prior now chanted words of death to Jesus. Today our quiet cities have been stirred by the same sinister voices. There seems to be an underhanded plan to tear down America from the inside out. Those silent initiators may be thinking that they have incited the crowd, but the forces behind their motivation have a much more evil intent, as satan’s only intent is to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10)

I live in a community where races of all colors and creeds work together, shop together, go to the parks together, attend school together and even worship together. All is fine. So I don’t believe that this hatred is all-encompassing.  I think that it has been purposely inspired by those determined to destroy our nation through discord, anger and dissatisfaction.  And the media is playing into the hands of this upheaval, as predicted.

Unfortunately there is already anger and discourse in the hearts of men and woman today. So it doesn’t take much encouragement or coercing for these individuals or groups to attack and scream and lash out and to even kill one another. They may not even be aware of why they are angry or that they are being used as pawns for a greater cause.

I think of Judas Iscariot, known for betraying Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He apparently wasn’t aware that what he was doing would bring such destruction to Jesus nor to himself. He just knew he would be paid greatly for his services, but he ended up paying a greater price. What is the price people are willing to pay who are demonstrating with such rage?

You may feel some exasperation brewing in your souls. You may be frustrated that this attitude of rage and disrespect is playing out in our streets and getting so much attention, knowing it isn’t the voice of the majority. Be careful that you do not fall prey to the anger and become as guilty as those who are creating so much strife.

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41 (NIV)

Where are we, as believers, suppose to stand in this line of fire? Fortunately we can still express our views without retaliation, I hope. We can protest (though I am beginning to believe that is asking for a playground of violence).  If you feel called you can join those in the political areana or speak out regarding your opinion. And of course, we can always ignore it and put our heads in the sand and “pretend” all is well.

But above all we should PRAY!

Pray together with others; pray without stopping. Pray for truth. Pray for peace. Pray for wisdom. Just pray because apparently prayer moves heaven!!! Go figure.

Remember the story of Peter who was miraculously set free from prison? People had gathered together to pray for him after they had learned that James had been killed. An angel came to his rescue, releasing him from prison. The prayer group was so astonished that he had escaped; that their prayers had actually been answered.

Like I have stated many times in other posts: God is NOT caught off guard. He will use the very circumstances of the day to bring about his truth, his glory and his redemption. It may not be broadcasted on TV or forwarded on social media. But behind the scenes of craziness—- people are still getting set free and saved.

When Jesus died on that cross, circumstances did not look very bright either. What were the first believers suppose to think? The one who promised to deliver them was now dead. But behind the scenes a great story was being played out. The enemy thought he had won the battle. But his plot had initiated the greatest story ever told. Jesus defeated death. He actually went into the belly of hell and took the keys of sin and death from satan. And then he rose back to life and is still offering eternal life for all who want it!

The condition of our country may appear grim. Darkness may seem to have won, but we don’t know what is transpiring behind the scenes. Hallelujah God does.  I have no clue what America may look like in a couple of years. We may see much darker days in this land. Laws may get passed that flabbergast us and go beyond all reason or common sense. Landmarks may come down that defined the history of our country. And our freedom to post our opinions may be monitored or scrutinized.

Should we run? Should we hide? Should we live in fear? I read a book that inspires hope to those in despair. It offers forgiveness to the broken, inspiration to the downtrodden, and eternal life to ANYONE who desires it.

It is the Word of God and it is alive.

“God’s word is living and active. It is sharper than any two-edged sword and cuts as deep as the place where soul and spirit meet, the place where joints and marrow meet. God’s word judges a person’s thoughts and intentions.” Hebrews 4:12

There is a shift in the atmosphere. It is a shift of God’s hand moving and preparing our hearts. There is a shift of God wooing us to come to him in the midst of chaos. Do you hear it? Do you see it?

Listen: The voice of the Lord is calling his own.

He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 20:22 (TLT)

 

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HEADLINES

“A tower is consumed in fire, leaving 79 people missing and presumed dead.” 

“A car plows over protestors, one killed, 19 injured.”

” A 3 year-old is missing; parents are being questioned.”

“Stores are laying off thousands of employees as their doors close for good.”

Nuclear weapons are pointed in our direction.”

Terrorist…bombs…death…suicide…gender confusion….political unrest…and so on and so on…

Do you get tired of the depressing news that flows through the flat screen, into your living room or over your car radio, or pops up on-line? Let’s not forget the social media or internet craze where you can slide through article after article of information. Some may be interesting but other can be quite disturbing and it isn’t even a political season.

Our own mind can play our personal thoughts and cares on an endless loop tape…over and over. What do you constantly think about? What plays over and over in your mind?

All these words of gloom or distress plus the anger and fear that seemingly reside in our atmosphere can become overwhelming.

The other night as I was drifting off to sleep the heaviness of the world’s news, the sadness of those going through dark seasons, the cares that the next day may bring kept filling my thoughts. Suddenly Philippians 4:8 came to my mind.

“Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.  Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

Instead of filling my mind with the news of the land I should be filling it with the hope of Christ. So I began to consider this verse. What does it mean?

So what is TRUE?
The truth is that God loves us. He sent his son to this dying planet to save us from darkness. He IS returning some day. Life does not have to end in defeat. The truth is that no matter what is seen with our eyes there is hope beyond measure in this life and beyond.

What is NOBLE?
Being noble is being virtuous and honorable in a world of self-satisfaction. A noble person thinks of others first, such as giving up a seat on a bus for an elderly person or returning a wallet found on a park bench to the rightful owner– with the money still intact. Or perhaps dying for a world full of lost souls so they can spend eternity with their creator.

What is RIGHT?
It seems the world we live in has lost the definition of right and wrong?  But God is truth and though we have people trying to change that fact and people trying to make a twisted choice as right, it doesn’t matter. God is still right. It is still right to give innocent babies life. It is still right to spread the gospel of hope. It is still right to help those in need.

What is PURE?
Purity is undiluted. It isn’t mixed with properties that would taint it. Purity makes me think of a newborn baby who has not tasted sin. Or perhaps purity is the spilled blood from Christ’s body as he stretched out his arms to die.

What is LOVELY?
It could be your dream home on the ocean front or a field of flowers. I see a tender touch of a mother’s hand on her sleeping child or an elderly couple still holding hands after decades of love, even when faced with trials.

What is ADMIRABLE?
It is when a person risks his own life to save another life by forging into raging waters where a car has overturned. It is when a teacher does not give up on a child who may need extra help.  It is when a doctor flies into a third world country to help those less fortunate; or when parents adopt a special needs child because they long to share the compassion and love that fill their hearts.

What is EXCELLENT or PRAISEWORTHY?
I look around me and see the people I rub shoulders with and know that I live amongst people who are excellent. I see people who have gone through incredible heartache yet whose hearts are still soft because they have allowed the Creator to walk with them through fires of life.  Now they are giving a helping hand to those who experience the same thing.

I look beyond the chaos of this life and I see a purpose. I see a God who is slow to anger and full of grace.  He is waiting for those who will turn to him. He is waiting for you and for me to quiet our hearts and give him our cares.

He is excellent. He is praiseworthy.

So I choose to think about and meditate on the things that bring life and hope. And I thank the Lord that no matter what the news may report, no matter what the movies may portray and no matter what people may say, God is STILL in control.

The events of the day do not change the fact that he is God. It does not throw him off guard or trip him up. He is aware of our future.

His word even states:
” Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:5-7 (NIV)

I pray that you find peace today. Whatever you may be facing or whatever you are listening to that may strike fear in you, I hope you can give it to God! Be careful what you pour into your mind and dwell on. And especially be careful whom you may choose to spend time with.

As you keep your mind on the things that bring hope I pray you find rest in HIS peace.

May the headlines that flow through your mind be true, noble, right, pure, admirable, and worthy of excellence and praise.

God bless.

Waves of Regret

I was off the grid for a couple of days. It was different not being able to communicate with others, but it was also relaxing. I was on a vacation at the ocean with some fun and delightful people I call family. It was quite coincidental that before I boarded the plane for my trip I was handed a book, a novella to be exact, called “Seaside”, written by Terri Blackstock.

The story is about an older woman who desires to take a short vacation on the ocean shores with her two grown daughters. She had found peace in her latter years and wanted to share that same peace with her daughters hoping that relationships could be healed. Part of the story plot mentions past regrets.

That word struck me. I had recently listened to a popular comedian tell her life story with that “R” word riddled throughout her testimony of life. I suppose as we get older we might have the opportunity to look back at our lives and possibly fill our life stories with many, “what ifs” or”if onlys”, if we allow ourselves to go down that path. I don’t think that those thoughts and words do anything positive for the soul.

I was talking to someone about these expressions; “if only” and “what if” and realized that perhaps God already knows our future, and just perhaps he already knows what choices we will make. (I say that in jest, as I understand it to be true.) So if that is the truth then there isn’t any room for an alternate dimension of ourselves making other decisions with different outcomes like we may see in the movies or read about in books. Instead there is a God that takes the choices we will or have made, right or  wrong, and uses them for our good.

 “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 (NLT)

That is the crazy yet miraculous thing about walking with the Lord.  Though we may have made “wrong” choices they may be the very choices that can actually be our spring-board into success, if we allow it. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying to go ahead and be stupid. I am saying when you make a mistake or go off the right path for you, God stands there ready to use that mistake as your stepping stone of strength to go from glory to glory. It might not necessarily be a wrong choice but a choice that leads you down a different path with unexpected consequences.

You hear these testimonies quit often. The rehabilitated drug addict turns around and is reaching out to other drug addicts to save them from destruction. The thief goes to prison and hears the gospel of hope then decides to share that hope with those imprisoned with him. The baby who was lost on the streets of a war torn country is adopted by loving parents who give her a good education. That education is later used when the individual finds her lost family and chooses to use the education she received to help those less fortunate from her homeland.

Let’s take a look at young Joseph who was thrown into a well by his brothers and then sold into slavery. Later in his life he is thrown into prison and forgotten for years. But eventually he is used by God to save a nation from famine, including his relatives that previously sold him. It was if he was predestined to be a slave and a prisoner in the land of Egypt .

OR-

Perhaps God knew what Joseph’s brothers were already going to do and so used their evil plan to save them from starvation. It was if God took what was meant for evil and used it for good.

Joseph states,
“Even though you planned evil against me, God planned good to come out of it. This was to keep many people alive, as he is doing now.” Genesis 50:20 (GWT)

Possibly it is a choice of sin. Think about King David. There was a time that he desired Bathsheba and had her brought to his chamber. When he finds out that she is pregnant he summons her husband to come back from battle in hopes that he will stay with his wife. But when her husband decides not to sleep with his wife David realizes what he did and decides to have her husband transferred to the front of the battle where he is killed. All these wrong decisions create chaos as he tries to cover up his sin. But God is not blind to these things and David weeps with sorrow over his choices.

He then marries Bathsheba but the child that is born from their relationship dies of an illness. Later Bathsheba gives birth to another son and names him Solomon. From this  bloodline comes the birth of Jesus, the Christ, the savior of the world. If you think about it, it is almost as if God predestined King David and Bathsheba to unite.

OR-

Perhaps God used all the wrong choices that he knew David would make for David’s good and for our good. Despite his choices David still loves God which causes him to repent in anguish. God sees his heart and still has a great purpose for him.

There is a God that takes the very choices that we make, and uses them for our good because he promises that all things will work together for good to those that love him and are called according to his purpose. He is capable of taking what was meant for evil and turning it around for our good.

Why? Because he already knows the choices we will make and even though we are sinners and often make bad decisions he uses those decisions and polishes them with his blood and then hands them back to us better than they were before.

So back to you and me. Do we make some wrong choices? Most likely. But should we live in regret? Not at all. Of course we should not live in sin, but if we do sin we should repent to restore our relationship with our Lord. But maybe the choice wasn’t sinful but just not the best option. Still there should be no regrets. Regret is for those who have no hope. We have hope. We have hope that the God of creation, the God of salvation, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will turn all things around for good in our lives because we are called for his purpose and because we love our Lord.

On a personal note I remember a time when it seemed I made one wrong choice after another. I thought about the parable of the sower found in Matthew 13. The seeds planted on good soil reaped a crop up to 100 times what was sown. I called out honestly to the Lord saying, “I have made a crap load of wrong choices how can I reap a harvest?” Then I heard him speak tenderly deep inside my spirit. “But what do farmers use to plant a good crop?” I realized they use manure (aka: crap). It would be those very choices that the seeds of my faith would fall into. The crop springing from those decisions are returning to me as blessings because I surrendered them to the Lord, instead of fretting over them.

Trust him. He seriously loves you and me more than we understand. And he can turn any wrong choice into a blessing as long as you let him, even things that were NOT YOUR choice but were dealt unjustly to you by someone else. Hand them to the Lord and he will give them back as a blessing. He still is a miracle worker. He is amazing!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (N(V)