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The Challenge of Christmas

Agatha Christie Miss MarpleRecently, I’ve become acquainted with Agatha Christie’s wonderful mystery stories. So far, my favorite of her detectives is Miss Marple. She is sweet but shrewd, ‘wise as a serpent, innocent as a dove.’ She, like Jane Austen, is perceptive of human nature and sees both virtues and flaws. She notices things and thinks about them, like Sherlock Holmes. She doesn’t put herself forward, but she cares about people and tries to help where she may. Often times, because of her age and the fact that she comes from a small town in England which she frequently references, people underestimate her. Yet, it is she who ends up figuring out ‘who-dun-it’. 

“It has been said that there are only three motives for murder: money, love, and revenge,” says Carolyn Wells in her excellent book, The Technique of the Mystery Story. “The most interesting motives are doubtless money, love and revenge; but the ramifications of these include hate, jealousy, greed, safety, ambition, inheritance and many others—in fact, the whole category of human emotions.”

Indeed, the earliest recorded murder was all about revenge and jealousy. Cain killed his brother Abel because the Lord received Abel’s offering, but rejected Cain’s (Gen. 4:1-10, Heb. 11:4, and 1John 3:12). James 4:1-3 says, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”

I enjoy reading mysteries and trying to ‘play detective’ right along with Miss Marple, but there’s a challenge, if you’re willing to accept it. In reading the stories, I put myself in amongst the characters, of course as the brilliant detective or one of the innocent bystanders, but am I willing to see my own faults? Am I willing to see myself as one of the suspects, with good reason? Am I willing to see myself as the murderer? Scripture says, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him,” (1John 3:15).

The most important question is: Am I willing to submit myself to God and change?

What causes anyone to want money so badly they’re willing to kill for it, to twist love so much that they would rather the other person die than belong to anyone else, and/or to seek revenge for some perceived wrong? Why do we think so very highly of ourselves? 

This is a strange thing to post right before Christmas, but perhaps not.

When do we become the most greedy? What has Christmas become but a time of getting rather than giving? Oh, we justify it to ourselves, but where is our focus? It’s not on Jesus!

What has this season become? A time of stress instead of worship, a time of taking rather than giving, a time of disappointment rather than thankfulness? We endure the holidays rather than cherish family and friends. We guilt-trip one another rather than simply loving people. Instead of prayer and worship, we fret and complain.

Oh Lord, change me. Let this season be a time of worship and love, a time of giving and cherishing, a time to be a blessing to someone else. Thank You for robing Yourself in flesh and coming as a helpless infant, Immanuel, God in the flesh, Jesus, Jehovah has become my Salvation!

Merry Christmas!

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What Are Your Priorities?

Friends Having Coffee and Cookies by Stuart MilesLast month, I asked, ‘Who are you?’ This month, I want to focus on what your priorities are.

I’ve read that we should simply ask the Lord, ‘What do You want me to do today?’ and, to be honest, I struggled with that. Do I ask the Lord what blouse do I wear today? Do I ask Him what to make for lunch? These are rather silly examples, but they do illustrate the point, just how deep is my walk with Him?

In my relationship with my husband, often we read each others’ thoughts. Shouldn’t it be the same in our relationship with Jesus? My relationship with my husband is more than a to-do list, but do my prayers sound more like a relationship or a to-do list? Do I love Him more than my own opinions? More than what I think should be done today? Just what IS His will for me today?

It all comes down to submission. Am I willing to submit my ideas and my opinions to the point that I don’t have to be heard? God will listen, but what’s the point? Do I allow Him to change me? Do I let my ideas and opinions go to be replaced by His? Do I actively seek to repent? Do I actively seek to become more like Him? It’s a different thing living and acting like I think He wants me to act, versus actively seeking His opinions, His will, His mind, His heart.

If I have the ‘mind of Christ’ {I Cor 2:16 “For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”} do I actively seek Him to use that mind?

It’s an easy trap to fall into, Go to your ‘heavenly boss’ in the morning, get your orders, and then go about the rest of the day fulfilling that. But, that’s not what the Lord had in mind. He wants us to WALK WITH HIM, not just work for Him. Mat 11:28-30 “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” and John 15:4, 6-7 “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”

Do I get withered because instead of abiding in Him, I attempt my own yoke, my own burdens? It’s easy to fall into that, but God promises a light and easy burden and rest for my soul if only I continually, continuously walk with Him.

What are my priorities? Psalm 37:3-4, 7 (beg.) “Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself…” and I Peter 5:7-8 “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:”

You might be wondering, what on earth does that picture of two people drinking coffee have to do with priorities? To me, it’s a picture of delighting and resting in Him. I do my work with Him, not just for Him. I start my day and continue throughout the day the Lord has made for me WITH HIM and all He has blessed me with, including work.

What is on my to-do list? Oh, the usual things, prayer, Bible study, hubby time, work with kids (homeschool, Bible Quiz, etc.), meal prep, house cleaning, laundry, church commitments, work, etc. But, when I do it with the Lord, seeking His will and His way, it all goes a lot better. And, crazy enough, I feel lighter, free even. My to-do list isn’t the same as my priorities anymore and it all gets done. 🙂

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2014 in encouraging posts

 

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A Different Sort of Valentine

Every year at about this time, our pastor calls our church to a 21 Day Challenge, in which we fast from meat, sweets, and media, we commit to going to every service, and we spend 30 min of uninterrupted time in prayer to grow closer to Jesus.

I’ve been wanting more from my times of prayer. There was a craving for not just blessing, but a deeper relationship with Jesus…more. Then, a missionary came through town and happened to be selling copies of his wife’s book–on prayer! Prayer is the key to the door of a deeper relationship with the Lord, but how to pray more effectively, more…real? God is real. I want a relationship with a real Person, not a put-in-my-time, do-my-Christian-duty type prayers where all I really do is either give a laundry list of petitions or talk to the ceiling. I want God. I’ve felt His presence, I’ve seen visions and felt His power, but I want to see His face. This book was His answer. It’s absolutely fantastic–short chapters, powerful message.

Drawing Near to God: Themes on Prayer by: Cheryl Craft

Mrs. Craft together with her husband serve as missionaries in Europe. Her daughter asked her to write to her about the principles of prayer and this book was the result.

Chapter titles include: A Pattern for Prayer, Drawing Near, Set Your Affections, The Spirit of Seeking, and Life Changing Prayer, with nineteen chapters in all. I love it!

Quoted from Chapter 7, Prayer Is a Place: “It is a moment of great revelation to confess faults and sins before Him, only to discover that He loves us regardless. This is the self-revelation that has to happen before we can have a God-revelation. When we see ourselves as we are and repent, we then can see Him as He is and rejoice.”

It is very difficult for me to be this vulnerable, because I am so afraid of rejection. Yet, it is through this vulnerability that He shows His greatest love. After all, it’s useless to try to hide my faults. God knows everything, but if I am open and honest about my short-comings, the Lord can help me to overcome, move forward, and get to another level in my relationship with Him and other people around me.

In order to have any kind of truly deep connection with Jesus or anyone else for that matter, there has to be honesty and vulnerability. No one has it all together and no one is completely without fault. That’s why Jesus had to come robed in flesh and die on the cross. The ugly truth is I have done things for which I am ashamed. I need forgiveness and I need to change.

The beautiful thing is “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (I Jon 1:9). We may feel like we’ve gone too far or that we’re simply unworthy, but that’s not what the Bible says. We may feel like we can’t change, we’ll never get it right, but that’s not what the Bible says either. God’s Word says He is faithful. He will forgive us–if we ask Him to. He will cleanse us, but we have to seek Him. We have to be honest with ourselves and Jesus. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” (John 8:32). There is nothing more freeing than knowing that God considers you innocent and He is actively cleansing you, changing you into the person He created you to be. 

God’s love is greater than our failures.

February is traditionally the month we focus on love–usually romantic. Wouldn’t it be a great thing to instead focus on the greatest LOVE this world has ever known? “…God is love,” (I John 4:8).  

The two greatest things to know in this life is yourself and Jesus (God). He wants to know you and is more than happy to show you Himself. He will also help you to face yourself in order to realize all the amazing things He created you for. Who knows you better than your creator? And who loves you more? He died for YOU! But, He’s greater than your failures and your mistakes. He’s greater than death itself. And HE LOVES YOU!

This year for Valentine’s Day, take some time to spend with the One who knows you better than you know yourself, who loves you more than you can even understand fully. “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God,” (Eph 3:17-19).

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2014 in encouraging posts, Uncategorized

 

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You Don’t Have to Be Afraid!

Romans 8:15 says, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”

When you compare the word ‘fear’ found in Romans 8:15 with the word fear found in Proverbs 14:26, “In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge,” (KJV), you will see that they are actually two very different words. The fear in Proverbs means ‘reverence’, while the word fear in Romans means ‘terror’.  God is not about terror. God is about love. He is big and powerful, but He’s not out to get us.

“In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge,” Proverbs 14:26 (KJV).

We can have confidence by fearing or reverencing the Lord, and not just confidence, but strong confidence. He will provide for us, we just have to trust Him.

Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed,” (KJV).

God actually goes before us. He sees what trouble there is long before we do. He is already there and prepared for it. What do we need to be afraid of? Not only does God get there first, He goes in with us. We never have to face any trial alone. God is there. He, Himself, is there with us. Indeed, God will never fail or forsake us.

We are commanded to fear not. Who do you trust more? Jesus or your circumstances? Who do you love more? Jesus or your own personal comfort? There are some pretty scary things in this life, but we need to choose to trust God instead of what our five senses are telling us. We all like the idea of miracles, but it can be tough to be the one needing one. Yet, when we trust God, He blesses us beyond all that we could ask or imagine.

To ‘fear not’ is not always easy, but it’s good.

Matthew 10:28-31 says, “Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands. “What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries,” (MSG). Satan is out to lie, kill, and destroy. Don’t let his tool, ‘fear’, fool you. You are precious and beloved. God hasn’t forgotten you. He is just taking you down a road that you will come out shining like a diamond at the end.

–Portions of this blog are excerpted from the book: Defeat Fear Forever.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2011 in Book Excerpts, Defeat Fear Forever

 

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Benefits of Knowing Jesus

What We Have In Christ:

A love that can never be fathomed; A life that can never die; A righteousness that can never be tarnished; A peace that can never be understood; A rest that can never be disturbed; A joy that can never be diminished; A hope that can never be disappointed; A glory that can never be clouded; A light that can never be darkened; A happiness that can never be interrupted; A strength that can never be enfeebled; A purity that can never be defiled; A beauty that can never be marred; A wisdom that can never be baffled; Resources that can never be exhausted. –Author Unknown.

Jesus’ love for us is truly unfathomable, that He would spend over 6000 years sending prophets and putting into place the perfect time for His personal appearance here on Earth to die for us and then raise Himself up again is unbelievable. The very fact that He was willing to take on sinful flesh for our sakes still amazes me. Then, He kept that flesh. He still wears that flesh and rules, not as an incredibly large being, but as flesh, like me and you.

God wants to sit next to me and you. In fact, He wants us to sit on His throne—next to Him! That kind of love is more than I can even understand. I pray that I may learn to love Him more, to show it in my daily life, to respond to His love, rather than just take it for granted. The rest of the poem is also worth dwelling on, life everlasting, untarnished righteousness and peace that passes all human understanding. Jesus doesn’t just offer me hope in the life to come, He offers me eternal life, LIFE, starting right now. That righteousness the author talks about is not my own. It’s His and can’t be dirtied by this world. I don’t have to work so hard to be righteous ON MY OWN. I can receive His help and truly become more like Him. That’s where that peace comes in. My hope isn’t in my own skill or talents, it’s in Him. It’s ALL in Him.

Of course, the poem goes on to list more that we have in Jesus. The thing is, if you sat down, I bet you could list even more than the ‘unknown author’ did. The question for you (and me too!) is this: What kind of a difference is this knowledge about what we have in Christ going to make in our everyday lives? If we simply read it and think, ‘Hey that’s cool,’ then go on our merry way, it means very little. However, if we read and apply, our lives will be changed. –Excerpted from Defeat Fear Forever, chapter 8.

 

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The Secret to Lasting Happiness and Joy

Several years ago, I was pregnant with our second child. Unfortunately, over Valentine’s Day weekend, I started to have problems. My husband took me into the local clinic. (Our regular doctor’s office was closed for the weekend and no ultra-sound was available.) The doctor told us as gently as she could that the baby would probably not survive. My husband and I were both heartbroken. We didn’t want to give up our child. We didn’t want her to die. So, we prayed. We got our church praying and both sets of grandparents’ churches praying. However, as I sat in my bed crying out to God, I knew that I had to let go. I had to give up my own will, as difficult as that was, and trust my Lord. Even today, this story is difficult for me to tell.

So, there in my own little bed, crying out to my Lord, I gave up my will and prayed instead, ‘Thy will be done. If we can’t have this precious little one to raise, please hold her for me until I can join her in heaven with You.’ It was the hardest prayer I have ever prayed. Afterwards, however, I felt a peace I can’t explain. It wasn’t like the Lord told me she was going to be okay. It was more like I had let go of a great burden. I mourned our child. Don’t get me wrong, here. I wept and wept and so did my husband, but we knew it was in the Lord’s hands and while that was heartbreaking for us, it was good.

Finally, Monday arrived and I could go to our regular doctor’s office and have an ultra-sound. The doctor warned me that because she was only a few weeks gestation, that they might not see anything. After only a few seconds with the machine, a baby was sighted, one with the strongest heartbeat they had ever seen for one so small. She was born eight months later, healthy and beautiful. We named her Gabriella, which means ‘the Lord is my strength’. She is our miracle child. I know that had I not given her up, we would not be blessed by her presence in our lives today.

The reason I told this story goes right back to my will versus my God’s will. My will is to have others serve me. My Lord’s will is for me to serve others. My will is to be honored and praised. My Lord’s will is to give Him all honor and praise. My will is to have many blessings. My Lord’s will is for me to be a blessing to many. Which will I choose? Which do you choose?

The secret to joy is simple. It’s surrender. It’s being fully submitted all the time to the Lord’s will rather than my own. It’s a choice we all have to make daily, even moment by moment throughout the day.

Joy is not dependent on circumstances. Which do you love more, good circumstances or a good God? Joy is dependent on trust.

Proverbs 3:5-12 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. 7Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. 8Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones. 9Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. 10Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine. 11My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. 12For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights,” (NLT).

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2011 in encouraging posts

 

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