Ready to Die

Dust and smoke rose into the air, creating a haze so thick the sun could barely penetrate. They had been fighting for days. Days that seemed to go on forever. They would push forward, but the enemy's forces always seemed able to push them back. She thought they were prepared for this battle. Her father, the King had thought they were ready, but now she wasn't so sure he had been right.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

The enemy soldiers were not like any other she had fought. They had battled against them previously, but something had happened in those months since that prince of darkness had taken her daughter. She wasn't sure what it was. Maybe it was because they were in his territory. Maybe it was due to the long journey their own army had to traverse to get here. Whatever, it was, she did not feel confident in their ability to win this battle. 

The thought made her cringe. How could she even be thinking these thoughts. She had never struggled with doubt before. She always had been confident in her Father's abilities as both a King and a commander. Now, however, doubts seem to plague her like some sort of blister on her foot and she had a lot of those. Her feet hurt. Her legs were stiff and her arms felt like lead. Fatigue filled her being from toes to fingertips.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Now, her small battalion was surrounded. She was not even sure how it happened. They began the day's fighting in the clear, but now they were backed up against a canyon wall. They were hemmed in on every side. The only thing that kept them from being slaughtered was that they were on the high ground. Every time the enemy tired to attack, they sent a volley of arrows flying and the enemy retreated, but their arrows were running out. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

"Your highness?" One of her men had come up behind her.

"Yes?"

"We only have enough arrows for one more attack...then..."

She knew the time had come. She had to make the choice to surrender or to go down fighting. She turned to face the soldier.

"I want you to bring the men together. I want to speak to them."

The soldier nodded, bowed and quickly left her.

She went to her knees. "Father, I know you cannot hear me, but wherever you are, I want you to know how much I love you and how much I look up to you. I know that I have been angry, frustrated and impatient in this mission to rescue my child, but you have never wavered and for that I am thankful. I know there is no way out of this. My child might be dead and soon that will be my fate as well, but I will never surrender to that vile, son of filth. I will go down fighting. Thank you for never giving up on me."

Tears, brimmed her eyes. She clenched her fists rising to her feet. Turning, she went to where the men were assembled. She was shocked at how very few of them were left. She stood before them, her head high.

"I would like to offer you hope. The hope that I give you is not hope for life, but hope to die with honor. Today, we are going to die, but you have a choice in how you do it. You can go out cowering, or you can go out, sword in hand, taking as many of those cursed vermin as possible before you fall. If you do that, I will be proud. If you do that, my father will be proud."

Her voice grew loud and her words were clear. "Today, let us die, for the sake of our King!"

She raised her sword and the men raised their's, voices matching hers; a chorus of rebellion they hoped the enemy would hear.  

It was not long before they saw the dust of their enemies' horses, filling the small valley below their sacrificial high ground. She instructed the men to form two lines. The first line was made up of the remaining archers. They went down on one knee, nocking their arrows as they did. The second line was made up of what was left of the battalion. She knew they had no chance, but they would die with honor, fighting for their King, her father. 

"Hold steady archers!" Her voice rang out even as the noise rose ushered in by the approaching chaos. "Hold until I give the order!"

Closer the dust came and along with it the sound of pounding hooves, a battalion of enemy riders bringing death.

Her heart beat rose and sweat mingled with the dirt and grime trickling down her neck. It felt itchy. Funny, she thought, the things one thinks about before one dies. 

Suddenly, the sky seemed to turn dark. She lifted her eyes up and saw shadows coursing through the sky over her head. She felt confused, but then those shadows became the solid forms of horses and their riders. Her heart sank. They were surrounded...

But wait! Those riders wore the King's colors!

Her men looked just as confused as she felt, but more and more shadows flew overhead, diving straight into the approaching storm. She heard a shout.

"Daughter!"

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Pixabay

A dusty figure on his steady mount appeared behind her. It was her father, the King.

He smiled at her, then held down his hand. Pulling her up onto his horse, he commanded others of his battalion to take up her remaining men. Once all the were mounted with other soldiers, the King raised his hand and his voice.

"This ends now!"

(This was a fictional work by Amy D. Christensen)

*     *     *     *     *      *

This fictional work is meant to remind you, when all seems lost, the King is behind you. When the dust storm of the approaching enemy brings you to the end of yourself, the King is above you. When you are severely outnumbered and you have very little left to fight with, the King is diving in ahead of you. He will be there for you, every day, every hour, every battle and especially when you finally lay down your weapons and face the last enemy of death. 

....I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
— Matthew 28:20 (NASB)

For the other parts in this fictional series, click on the links below. 

Part 1: Return to Battle

Part 2: A Father's Perspective

Part 3: Waiting

 

 

Too Tired to Cope

The other day my grandson and husband were having a pillow fight. The giggling and verbal noises got rather silly and loud, when all of a sudden I hear my hubby say, "What happened, did the pillow get you in the eye?" I went in to see what was up and my grandson was in a fetal position on the couch, tears running down his face. After trying to get him to calm down and looking at his eye, I determined no real damage was done, other than some amount of pillow fuzz that his eye would eventually wash out naturally. However, my grandson could not stop crying. I tried to console him and asked him if there was something else bothering him and all I could get out of him was, "I don't know," with more tears. Finally, I made him lay down on the couch and left him alone, to try to let him sort out his own issues. He fell asleep!

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Pixabay

Have you ever felt that way? As though something terrible has happened, when in reality the worse part of your day was eating that ice cream sandwich when you were really trying to be good on your diet? Often, life gets brutal and we get a poke in the eye and anyone who's been through it, knows that is not pleasant. Usually, we just keep blinking and get on with our busyness without really taking stock of how tired or worn down we might be. Little kids seem to get it. They know when they are tired and they've had enough they need to take a nap...often they don't want to and usually as parents we can tell and promptly lay them down for a much needed rest. Unfortunately, when children get older, they abhor naps, even though they still might need one once in a while. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

The same is true of us as adults. We go and go and go and go. Even when tragedy strikes we keep moving, doing, working, puttering, just so we don't have to face the shadows of our back stories. We have all manner of struggles, from childhood abuse, to rebellion in our own children, to grief from the sudden loss of a loved one. Here in the U.S. we have a tendency to not let our vulnerability show. I've noticed this in my grandson. If he's hurt, he usually shakes it off and says, "I'm fine!" So often we don't want to admit that, yes, it does hurt and it hurts so bad that I don't know if I will ever recover. Unfortunately, the way to rest, peace and a better life is being willing to admit when we are weak.

It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.
— Psalm 127:2 (NASB)

Take a closer look at this verse from Psalm 127. Rest is so important. Last week I talked about mental exhaustion, but today's thought is with regard to actual physical exhaustion. What this verse seems to be telling us is that even in our sleep God is ministering to us.

I don't sleep as well as I used to. I used to lay down and I would be out before my hubby even turned off the light. He has never been a good sleeper. Now that I have more nights tossing and turning or getting up to use the bathroom, I am beginning to see the toll that lack of good sleep has on a person. God has His reasons for what He does. Maybe as we age, He wakes us up to move us to pray. It seems there are always people to pray for. Or maybe it is that He wants our complete and total dependence. I know on those days that I don't sleep well, I am constantly going back to the verse:

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)

I like knowing that when I am asleep, He is giving to me. What a blessing.

There are no easy answers to this thing we call life and the fatigue we often feel as we are traveling this road, but there are things we can do to help.

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PIxabay

1. Make taking care of yourself a priority

I get it ladies. We often give and give and give, until we are dead on our feet, but not taking the time to care for ourselves might lead to someone else having to take care of us. How should i take care of myself? By doing things physically, mentally and emotionally that will benefit you.  Exercise, eating well, getting enough rest (that may mean sleep or it may not, but at least resting), do things you enjoy...sew, read, swim, dance, listen to music, write, get together with friends, watch a movie, go for a walk. There are many things we can do to feel better and take time for ourselves. 

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Pixabay

2. Be honest with yourself and others.

Don't kid yourself. If you are tired, admit it. If you are sad, embrace it. If you are angry, stomp your feet and yell at the sky. Be real with yourself and let the people who love and care about you know what is going on. I have a tendency to keep silent when things are bothering me. I also, tend to keep pushing even when I am tired. Letting my spouse or my daughters know when I need a break or even getting them involved in making myself a priority is helpful. My older daughter and I go for walks with her dogs. My husband has learned to listen to my rants, and my younger daughter, not only thanks me for all the babysitting I do, but she tries to find alternatives when she needs extra help.

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Pixabay

3. Don't carry guilt.

Guilt is meant to be associated with sin. If you have done something wrong, then you should feel guilty, but taking time for yourself is not cause for guilt. Believe me, I know, people will try to make you feel guilty. The world tries to make us feel guilty. We are surrounded by the fabric of "not enough" day in and day out, but that is not from God. The guilt we have when we lie, or cheat, or hurt someone is deserved, but the guilt we feel for going out to eat instead of cooking dinner after a long day, or for a piles of laundry, dirty toilets and stacks of dishes is not worth the energy or time of feeling guilty. 

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Pixabay

4. Don't second guess God.

How much energy do you put into wondering if you did the right thing? I find this rather amusing, and I am guilty of doing it myself. We second guess God. "Are you sure this is what you want me to do?" "Aren't I supposed to be doing something besides being a mom, a housewife or working this job?"

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This quote is very appropriate to the idea that even though we may mess up, God is still the one calling the shots. Perhaps we would feel more rested if we just rest in Him rather than trying to take responsibility for everyone and everything. 

I hope this day will offer you the opportunity to rest, relax and recharge physically, mentally and emotionally. And if you find yourself crying for seemingly no reason, maybe it is time to take a nap. 

Mulling It Over - Part 5

It is that time of month again, where I take a look at a particular portion of scripture and ruminate on it by tearing it apart verse by verse. For those of you who following me regularly you know I have been wading through 2 Timothy 2:20-26. The books of 1st and 2nd Timothy were written by Paul to Timothy a young pastor of a growing group of believers in the early church age. The books were written to encourage Timothy in the face of disgruntled church members. Not only were there members who looked down on Timothy because he was young, but there were members who were living a less than moral life style.

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Pixabay

20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

You can see my musings on the first four verses by clicking on each of the links. Week 1 - Verse 20, Week 2 - Verse 21, Week 3 - Verse 22, Week 4 - Verse 23. Today I'll be discussing Verse 24.

24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
— 2 Timothy 2:24 (NASB)

Before we look at the traits of a bondservant we should take a moment to define what a bond-servant was in the New Testament time period. Note the following quotes from an online article regarding the role of a bondservant. 

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Pixabay

The term “bondservant” in the New Testament (bond-servant or slave in some translations) is a translation of the Greek word doulos. Unlike perceptions of modern slavery, bondservant or doulos is a relatively broad term with a wider range of usage. In the time of the New Testament a bondservant could refer at times to someone who voluntarily served others. In most cases, however, the term referred to a person in a permanent role of service. A bondservant was considered the property of a Roman citizen, holding no right to leave his place of service.
— from an online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth. org
In many New Testament books, the word bondservant was used in reference to a person’s commitment to Jesus. Most of Paul’s letters begin by referring to himself as a servant of Christ Jesus. James and Jude, half-brothers of Jesus, both refer to themselves as Christ’s bondservants. The apostle Peter called himself a “servant and apostle”
— online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth.org
The importance of these New Testament authors referring to themselves as bondservants should not be overlooked. Despite proclaiming a message of freedom from sin in Jesus Christ, these writers were dedicated to Jesus as their one master. Further, their service to the Lord was not one they could consider leaving. Just as a bondservant was more than an employee who could leave for another job, these Christians were servants who could never leave their master for another.
— online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth.org

If you are a committed Christ follower, then you could say you are His bondservant. It is something I struggle to be, in all honesty. I want to be committed 100% to my Savior and yes my Master...I am not afraid to use that word. We live in a world where the idea of calling someone Lord or Master is not pleasant and truth be told, there is no master that is worthy of our life's commitment other than Jesus. However, there is a disconnect between saying I want to be a bondservant and actually being one. Let's see what the qualities are of one who calls Jesus Master.

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Pixabay

1. Not quarrelsome.

Okay! I am disqualified already. How about you? As a wife, do you ever find yourself quarreling with your spouse? I think most of you know what the word quarrel means. It is not just a matter of disagreeing with someone. We often disagree with our bosses, other employees, our parents and people we are following on social media, but we don't necessarily quarrel with them. When we quarrel we are trying to make our point, not only heard but adhered to. 

Why do you supposed Paul brought up this particular characteristic with Timothy? I personally do not believe Timothy was a quarrelsome chap. In fact, I think it was because people in his congregation were opinionated troublemakers that Paul encouraged Timothy...don't even go there. It won't get you any where. Just like we looked at last month to refuse ignorant and foolish speculations, so too, we should not allow ourselves to become participants in quarreling. 

I find this is incredibly hard with our significant others. We often feel, that we have a right to spew at them, because, after all we are married and they have to take the good with the bad. I hate to tell you ladies, as the Lord's bondservants we are not to be quarrelsome, end of discussion!

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Pixabay

2. Kind to all.

Does that mean everyone? Yes. Does that mean that person at work that I absolutely can't stand? Yes. Does that mean that teller at the bank who is always grumpy and scowling? Yes. Does that mean that person I thought was a friend that talked about me behind my back? Yes. 

Kindness is one of the fruits of the spirit. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
— Galatians 5:22 (NASB)

What that means is we have the ability to be kind, all the time, to everyone. Once again, the fruit of the Spirit is His fruit. It grows in our lives as we become better and better at abiding in Christ. As His bondservant we must be kind to all. 

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Pixabay

3. Able to teach.

We could argue on this point that not everyone can be expected to teach, because not everyone has the gift of teaching. However, I would like to interject that we are all capable of teaching by example. You may not be gifted to stand in front of people and give a lecture like my husband is. You may not be good at leading a small group and explaining to others what a Bible passage means, but you can be an example of love and kindness to your children or your grand children. You might be able to teach a younger woman how to cook, take care of her first child or patch a hole in her husband's sock. The point is patience and willingness. We can all be teachers of this type by merely being willing to take the time to show others love and kindness. 

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Pixabay

4. Patient when wronged. 

This is right up there with not being quarrelsome in the hardness factor. We live in a society based on rights. If you hurt me, I have the right to seek retribution whether by payment or incarceration. I am not saying criminals should not be punished. However, there are times that we as the body of Christ are just as hard or harder on our own brothers and sisters when they have wronged us as the penal system is on a criminal. 

I am sure Timothy, as a young pastor had to endure a plethora of wrongs done against him by his own flock. Paul's advice to him is just as pertinent to us today. It is not easy to be hurt or wronged and then patient in the face of it. We want an instantaneous fix. We don't want to be mercy showers and wait for God to move in, not only the other person's life, but ours as well. God is on our side. He is just and merciful and we need to trust Him when faced with this sort of difficulty. It is never the case that only one person has been hurt. 

13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
— I Corinthians 13:13 (NASB)

If you feel a tad bit convicted after reading through these four characteristics of a bondservant of Christ, then know you are not alone. I am walking this journey with you. I am glad that He is long suffering and He keeps working on us, after all we call Him Master. 

I'm So Tired! Five Ways to Recharge Mentally.

Are you tired? I know I am. I know my husband is. I know many people who are intimately familiar with fatigue. What makes us so tired? Is it poor choices, like not eating well and not getting enough sleep? Maybe we are tired because we don't sleep, experiencing night after night being wide eyed and restless. Perhaps we are tired because of stress. Our jobs, families and difficulties can leave us feeling depressed and less energetic. Simply put, life is a problematic piece of the fatigue puzzle. 

The Apostle Paul was familiar with fatigue. 

4 but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses,
5 in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger,
— 2 Corinthians 6:4-5 (NASB)
24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.
25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.
26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;
27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.
— 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 (NASB)

With all of the things he went through don't you think he probably felt a bit tired? Yet, we don't hear Paul give up. The fatigue that becomes most difficult is the kind where you want to give up.

Before I offer a few suggestions on how to deal with this sort of fatigue, I want to say that it is very important to know where your fatigue is coming from. If you are dealing with illness, depression, anxiety or other major issues, please seek the advice of a trained physician and counselor. These people will help to diagnose your fatigue and help you manage it in a way that gives you better quality of life. 

For the rest of us tired people, I'm sure you have read the articles and seen the advice on how to  get a better night's rest. The kind of fatigue I want to speak to is that which is mental, more than physical. For mental fatigue, I think it is more important to find things that will recharge us, in addition to working on those things that will give us better physical rest. Here are a few suggestions to combat mental fatigue. 

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Pixabay

1. Unplug.

You've heard this many times, but it is worth saying again. Get off your cell phone, i-pad, computer and other electronic devices. Our brains are not wired to receive constant input. Our minds are in need of output as well, whether it be doing a cross word puzzle, trying to cook a meal or put an outfit together, our brains benefit from being used, rather than just soaking in information. 

All things are wearisome;
Man is not able to tell it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor is the ear filled with hearing.
— Ecclesiastes 1:8 (NASB)

Even before the invention of our electronic devices, Solomon knew that the eyes are not satisfied with seeing, nor are the ears filled with hearing. In other words, no matter how much information we look at or hear we still aren't going to know it all or be completely satisfied. God never intended that we find satisfaction and peace in anything other than Him. 

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Pixabay

2. Unwind.

Find ways to unwind and relax. My husband and I both love the outdoors. Whether it is sitting out on our little patio on a lovely summer evening, going for a walk or camping. We find that reconnecting with the natural world around us, helps us to relax and bring our stress levels lower. 

Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.
— Psalm 34:14 (NASB)

Unwinding is a way of seeking peace from the hectic life so many of us live. I believe that we are to seek peace, not only between people, but in our inner selves.

What do you like to do to unwind? Dancing, swimming, listening to music, reading a book are all healthy ways to reduce the mental stress and fatigue we so often feel. 

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Pixabay

3. Exercise.

I'm preaching to the choir here, ladies and gentlemen. It might seem counterintuitive to exercise when you feel tired, but for most forms of fatigue, including physical and mental, exercise actually helps your body to better cope with added stress and the challenges of daily life. Aerobic exercise helps to bring blood to all the places in your body that need it, especially your brain. Your brain also benefits from focusing on something other than the chaos around you. 

For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
— 1 Corinthians 6:20 (NASB)
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4. Do something different.

You have probably heard that it is important for our brains to learn new things. This gives our brains the ability to continue growing and developing rather than stagnating. Doing something new, learning a new hobby, taking a class are all ways we can keep our brains healthy. 

For me, having a blog has been a real brain stretcher. I am anything but techie and I have had to learn how to navigate the internet, copy links, edit and post photos (or at least post my daughter's amazing pics and others I grab off Pixabay), as well as do collaborations with retailers and more recently use a smart phone! Ha, ha. I have learned so much.

You certainly don't have to start a blog, but how about taking a class? Many communities offer classes for adults through their senior centers, zoos and even colleges have more affordable classes for older adults on history, philosophy and other interesting topics. 

A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,
— Proverbs 1:5 (NASB)

Once again, it may seem like the wrong thing to do when you are already feeling mentally overwhelmed. The point is not to add more stress, but to give your brain new, different and exciting things to think about. 

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Pixabay

5. Seek God.

This is probably the most important out of all of these points. Who better to give you peace and recharge your mental batteries than the one who created you? Seeking God through prayer, reading and meditating on scripture, worship and thanksgiving, will not only remove you temporarily from the craziness of life, but it will remind you of who is really in control and who has your back! 

The afflicted will eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the Lord. Let your heart live forever!
— Psalm 22:26 (NASB)

 

 

What I Learned from a Grapefruit

There are lessons to be learned in all areas of life. We can learn from classes, books, videos and computers. We can learn from people, animals and even plants, but a piece of fruit? Go figure. I am always amazed at God's ability to speak into my life in the most random ways. Yes, He uses His word, but like so many, I am busy and don't always crack open my Bible. Often, unfortunately, it might be days before I look at the Word of God. However, God still miraculously speaks, even when I am not listening or looking for Him. 

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This morning, I decided to eat the last grapefruit that had been sitting in my fruit basket. I always cut my grapefruit in half and eat the small sections with a grapefruit spoon. I am well acquainted with citrus fruit that goes bad. The outside usually becomes green and fuzzy and a soft indentation begins to appear. The rot is obvious. This one still looked fine, although, I thought it might be a little dried out, as it had been sitting around for a few weeks. This is what appeared when I cut it open. 

Grapefruit - rotten

Tasty, huh?

It was then the analogy hit me like a brick. Here I am a fashion and faith blogger. I put hours into coming up with outfits, thinking up themes for my fashion posts and so on, but when it comes to my faith posts, I am flying by the seat of my pants. Obviously, the fact that I just came up with this post this morning after looking at a rotten grapefruit, drives the point home. The point being this, I can be pretty and put together on the outside, but the inside can be deteriorating without me even being aware of it. 

There are a few points I would like to draw from my moldy citrus example. 

1. Rot often occurs slowly. 

The problem, most often, with sin is that we become comfortable with it. We think that as long as we look like we have it all together, have a positive vibe about us and don't talk about our inner struggles, then our inner struggles won't come to light. We all struggle. We all sin. 

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
— Romans 3:23 (NASB)

I tend to forget that I am a sinner saved by grace. I bask in God's grace and I am thankful for it, but often as Christians when we move further away from our original conversion and initial consciousness of how sin separates us from God, we tend to forget what the cross was all about in the first place. This fading of our roots contributes to the rot that takes place in our hearts. Before we know it, we have allowed ourselves to become involved in activities we once shunned from watching movies with prolific language, violence and sex, to doubts about the origins of our world, to becoming part of the gossip chain. 

2. Rot spoils our taste.

Have you ever bit into something that is rotten? Ewww! It doesn't not taste good! In fact, one little rotten spot can spoil an entire piece of fruit. I will cut off rotten spots on most things like strawberries, peaches or melons, but trying to cut the rot out of an orange or grapefruit usually doesn't work. 

When I allow sin to slowly deteriorate my relationship with God, my usefulness will also deteriorate. 

Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned?
— Luke 14:34 (NASB)

We are supposed to be salt. Salt is meant to season and preserve. When we begin to rot we are unable to season or preserve. In fact, we become less useful in God's plan, because we are less likely to hear His voice prodding us to move. 

3. Rot affects others. 

Our internal decay affects those around us. The rot of unexpressed discontent, anger, grief or sadness, not only affects us, but it affects those we love and interact with. Look at the picture Solomon paints of the husband/wife relationship.

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.
— Proverbs 12:4 (NASB)

Those are pretty tough words to hear. We can become rottenness in our husband's bones, if we are allowing ourselves to deteriorate on the inside. You have probably heard the word toxic in reference to relationships and people. We can become toxic if the rot inside of us is unchecked and takes over. 

4. Rot will be cut away.

As children of God, He will only allow us to continue to deteriorate to a certain point, before He gets out the cutlery and begins removing the rot from our hearts. That process can be very painful. However, if we desire to draw closer to Him, then we need to allow His scalpel to have its way. 

“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.
— Matthew 18:8 (NASB)

Jesus was speaking figuratively in this verse, but the point is of prime importance. If we allow something in our lives that not only causes us to stumble and fall, but causes others to fall as well, we need to let the divine surgeon do His work. 

We are beautiful creations of the Almighty God. We are meant to glorify Him and lift others up to Him. Just as a piece of ripe, whole fruit is full of nutrients and good things that bring life and sustenance, we are to be wholly His, rot free, so that we are bringing life and light to those who are perishing. 

Independent or Interdependent?

Today is a national holiday. We have been celebrating the 4th of July since our Founding Fathers declared our country independent of British rule on this date in 1776. While it did not become a Federal holiday until 1941, this declaring of independence has been important to our country and to us as individuals for a long time. Why is being independent such an important concept to us? So important, in fact, that we are willing to go to war and die, to actually maintain it. 

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Pixabay

When we look at the definition of independent we see that it is multi-faceted:

1. Not dependent, as in controlled by or associated with a larger controlling unit.

2, Not requiring or relying on something else; not relying on another's opinions; not bound to a political party.

3. Not requiring or relying on others; free from the necessity of working for a living.

4. Showing a desire for freedom.

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Pixabay

Nobody wants to be controlled by someone else. Having the freedom to come and go as we please, speak as we please, and believe what we want, is primarily important to us. This freedom has been important since the beginning of time. Unfortunately, enslaving people and trying to control them, has also been an opposite ramification of the thirst for freedom. We might think that we are exempt from the mentality that enslaves, so important is the concept of independence to us; however, the drive to be independent can also be the force behind that which enslaves. 

Pixabay - slavery

Wasn't it Hitler that wanted to be independent from the blight of the Jewish people? Weren't the good people of the southern states desirous of independence from hard labor and the harshness of plantation life, which they obtained by enslaving others thought to be less than human? Aren't the men and women who engage in human trafficking looking for independence and release from the pressures of a hurried and stress filled life? When we demand to be right and to have rights, aren't we walking down a path that could lead to the fettering of others' freedoms and rights?

Often, when there are more questions than answers, I turn to the scriptures to get God's perspective on a matter. What does His word say about independence? First, let's take a look at a few of Jesus' thoughts.

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
— John 10:11 (NASB)
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Pixabay

Jesus knew who He was and that He was not independent of His people. His greatest desire was and is the care of His sheep. He doesn't say, "I am a shepherd. I take care of sheep." He says, He is the good shepherd and in being good, He is willing to die for the sheep. This is not a relationship of independence, but of complete dependence. We are completely dependent on the good shepherd and as the good shepherd He is well aware that He is bound to His sheep; to watch over them, care for them, look for them when they are wandering and die for them if need be. 

I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,
— John 10:14 (NASB)

Once again, Jesus established the dependent relationship. He knows us, those who are His own, and His own know Him. 

I am not saying that Jesus is dependent on us. He is God and has no need of dependence on another being, but He has chosen to be in a relationship with us and relationships require a certain amount of dependence. To much independence in a relationship can cause problems resulting from the struggle to be "my own person," rather than working together to be a better couple, family, community, city or nation.

17 For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.
18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
— John 10:17-18 (NASB)

Once again, we see Jesus taking the stance of interdependence, not independence. Even in the God-head there is a hierarchy. Jesus submits Himself to God the Father and the Spirit to Jesus Christ. Three almighty beings, completely independent, but completely interdependent. 

11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.
12 For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.
— I Corinthians 11:11-12 (NASB)

This passage is found in the context of head coverings and I am not about to muddy the waters in that regard, but the point is we are all dependent on each other. As a Christ follower, I believe in Creation and that, in turn, means I believe that verse 12 is the synopsis of our interdependence. Woman was created from Adam's rib, women birth men, but we all originated from God. 

What, then, does all of this mean when it comes to our freedoms and our desire for independence. As with anything, balance. God intended that we have independent personalities, likes and dislikes, abilities and talents. He did not intend to create a world of identical clones. He also created man with a desire to not see other's suffer at the hands of those who are tyrannical, power driven or only seeking financial gain. We were all created equal, as Abraham Lincoln penned and it is this equality and the ability to live a life with equal opportunities and resources that we are striving for. 

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Pixabay

Today, I am thankful. Thankful that our Founding Fathers, who were not perfect, envisioned a world that could be equal for all. I am also thankful for all the men and women who have served and continue to serve to expand and preserve the freedoms we have. I am also thankful that we are dependent on each other. To be truly independent is to walk a long road very much alone. 

Have a wonderful 4th everyone!

 

Mulling It Over - Part 4

Some time has passed since I worked on this passage in 2 Timothy, but I have the time, so I wanted to get back at it. If you remember we were taking a look at 2 Timothy 2:20-26. You can see the first three parts by clicking on each of the links: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Here is the passage again as a refresher. 

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Pixabay

20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

Today's verse is quite pertinent in our society where social media dominates our time. Whether you are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or some other form of social media there is no doubt that these communication avenues are powerful both in a positive and a negative way. 

23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
— 2 Timothy 2:23 (NASB)

As you know, I like to tear the verse apart. 

But refuse...

I think most of you understand the meaning of the word refuse. Words such as decline, refuse, reject, and spurn, all refer to the act of turning away by not accepting, receiving or considering what is being offered. I like the idea of not even considering. How often do we think about accepting an offer?

How many of you get sales emails in your inbox? How many of those do you read? Of those, how many do you actually click on to look at? If you are like me, you often find yourself clicking over to a site to see what new merchandise they have, and what the current sales offer is. Of course, it doesn't end there. I'll often put a few items into my shopping cart before I finally exit the site. Other times, I actually buy the items I put in my cart. I didn't refuse the offer and actually it started with just a consideration of the offer.

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Pixabay

Now lets move on to what it is we are to refuse, or even consider. 

...foolish and ignorant speculations...

I may get into trouble here, but I believe that a high percent of what is posted on many of these social media platforms are foolish and ignorant speculations. It is one thing to talk about what you did today, share an outfit or post a recipe you want to share, but when these platforms become soap boxes for preaching, arguing or spreading hate, I believe we have moved into the arena of foolish and ignorant speculations. 

Let me say at this point, I am not against having discussions about hard topics on social media platforms, but I believe as Christians we have to be extremely careful what we say and how we come across. Topics can quickly escalate from stating the facts to spewing hateful, emotion based opinions. When I think of what our Founding Fathers meant by Freedom of Speech, I do not know that they were thinking of photos sharing body parts or using explicatives like conjunctions to string sentences together. 

Let's take just a moment to look at the words foolish and ignorant.

     foolish - Webster's online dictionary uses phrases like - showing lack of good sense, absurd or       ridiculous, and marked by a loss of composure. 

     ignorant - Webster's defines this word in this way - destitute of knowledge or education, lacking comprehension, unaware, and uninformed.

Do we really want to look foolish and ignorant when we are putting ourselves out there on social media or any other communication platform. Whether you are having a discussion with friends at the local eatery, posting opinions on Facebook or writing a blog, use discretion when choosing your words. Remember words convey a message, both spoken and written. As Christ followers, we want our message to be one of hope, truth and love. 

Finally, 

...knowing that they produce quarrels. 

Isn't it amazing that Paul, who had no knowledge of social media, knew exactly the kinds of exchanges that could take place when we start rambling off our opinions and feelings without using forethought and caution? Obviously, the tendency towards volatile emotions and conversations has been around since Adam and Eve left the garden. We, by the sin nature into which were born, are protectors of our right to be right, even if we are wrong. 

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Pixabay

Why do you think Paul included these words in his letter to Timothy, who was a young man pastoring one of the early Christian churches? I believe it had to do with Paul's God given understanding of the outcome of such behaviors on the church. Dissension, arguments and quarrels will divide and destroy a church. They will divide and destroy a marriage, a family and yes, even a nation.

Let this verse be our standard when speaking or writing, for His glory and the encouragement of others.

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
— Colossians 4:6 (NASB)

Seasons Come and Seasons Go

We go through seasons in life, just like the earth goes through seasons as it travels around the sun. Spring, summer, fall and winter, all have their presence on the earth, even though they can look quite different depending on where you live. I follow a few fashion bloggers who are based in Australia and it is winter there. It seems odd to see them talk about enjoying their sweaters and heavier weight outfits, even though their pictures still show sunshine and no snow!

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Pixabay

Seasons in our lives can manifest themselves differently for each person. When you are a young adult, you might be going to college, checking out the party scene and figuring out what you want to do with your life. I wasn't a partier. I was studious, but I also liked to go out to eat with my friends and walk the streets of Chicago down to Lake Short Boulevard and the beach or State Street and the Gold Coast. That season of my life, helped shape who I am. I met my husband during that season and discovered I was more interested in getting married than in becoming a missionary overseas.

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Pixabay

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
2 A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
5 A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
6 A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.
— Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NASB)

After college, my husband and I got married and it wasn't long until we started a family. I wish when I had been in the throes of that season of life, I would have had an older woman come along side of me and tell me, "This is just a season. Before you know it, in the blink of an eye, your children will be grown and gone. Enjoy it while you can." So often when we are in a particular season of life, we think, "When will this be over? When will it get easier?" The problem with that mind set is that we miss so much. 

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Pixabay

The writer of Ecclesiastes was Solomon, considered the wisest king of all time. I think he pretty much summed up the complexity and simplicity of life in those first eight verses of chapter 3. He knew that every season would come to an end and be replaced by another season, which would then be replaced by another season, and so on, and so on.

What season of life do you find yourself in right now? Is is a time of planting or a time of uprooting? Is it a time of laughter or a time of weeping? Or is is a time of being silent or a time of speaking boldly? The inevitability is, the season you now find yourself in will change. How do we handle the seasons we are in and the busyness and difficulties that come with each of those. 

1. Recognize that it is God who changes the seasons.

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years;
— Genesis 1:14 (NASB)

God, the Creator, is the One who designed the seasons to change. We often think that fall and winter must be a result of the fall, but it says in the above verse that God's intention from the beginning was an earth that changed on a regular basis. So many of us don't like change, but change is a part of God's plan. 

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Pixabay

2. Don't be afraid of the changing seasons.

There is plenty to fear in the world we live in. Watch the news on a regular basis and you'll get a boat load of fodder for an anxiety storm. 

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

I grew up reading the King James Version of the Bible. I decided to use the New King James Version as it is the one most true to the version I memorized. Many versions use the word timidity instead of fear. I am not a Bible scholar so I am not here to argue which version is closer to a word for word translation. I prefer the word fear, because I feel it is closest to what we feel on a regular basis. 

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Pixabay

I am preaching to the choir here, friends. I regularly have to combat my fears. I don't think that fear is wrong, but I do believe that dwelling there or as Timothy put it, having a "...spirit of fear..." is not what God wants for us. I am sure the numbers of people in our country who are taking anti-anxiety meds is staggering. Yet, what is anxiety but a fear - fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of death, fear of illness, fear of any and everything you can imagine. 

It is normal to face fear, when the seasons of our lives are changing. It is scary to face an illness like cancer or the death of a spouse or child. It is terrifying to lose your long time job and have to suddenly be out there looking for a new position in a sea of people in their 20's. Yet, God knows these seasons are changing and as the Psalmist realized, we are precious to Him. 

Keep me as the apple of the eye;
Hide me in the shadow of Your wings
— Psalm 17:8 (NASB)

3. Look for beauty in each season.

Every season that comes and goes has something about it that I love. Spring ushers in new growth, returning birds and an explosion of green. Summer abounds with laughing, playing children, a chorus of lawn mowers and the clinking sounds of glasses filled with iced tea and lemonade. Fall, which is perhaps my favorite, throws an amazing party of color and smells during which the trees undress themselves as they prepare for winters' long sleep. Winter, in areas of snow becomes a white backdrop for red sleds and even redder noses and cheeks. 

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Pixabay

Yes, every season has its difficulties. Spring can be full of torrential rains and often the temps don't climb as high as we would like. Summer can be a time of drought and the ebb and flow of crowds vacationing and squeezing in to fairs and summer festivals. Fall brings early darkness and winter seems akin to the time of the dead, especially for those of us with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

However, just as any transition in life brings change we need to focus on all that is lovely and beautiful, even in the sterility of a hospital room or the stifling sadness of a funeral home. Where else in the world can we get 24 hour quality care? The sadness of loss also brings with it the memories of lives journeyed together and moments of love and laughter. A diagnosis of long term illness allows us the opportunity to stand before our Creator and claim the promises He gave us in His word, that He would never leave us or forsake us and that He would give us peace and strength. 

Beauty exists in the form of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and He never changes, no matter what season we are in.

4. Have patience.

Remember what Solomon pointed out in those verses? The seasons change. Our lives are in constant flux. Knowing that God is orchestrating our circumstances allows us to lean back on His strong arms and wait for Him to do what He is going to do. The sooner we realize the reality of this next  two verses, the better. 

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
— Romans 8:28 (NASB)
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:6 (NASB)

God is at work and will never give up on us! Isn't that amazing? It drives me to my knees to realize that the Almighty God who created us from dust, loves that same said dust to the point of sacrificing His only Son, Jesus, so we might be able to have a relationship with Him.

I don't know what season you are in. I hope it is a season of reaping and praising and planting, but if it is a season of tearing apart, war and great weeping, don't forget He is with you. Always and forever. 

Living in the Valley

It has been a few weeks since I wrote a faith post. My husband and I went on a vacation to visit places and people in Wisconsin. It was an enjoyable trip, but I didn't have much time to write. While it is fun and important to get away, the reality is that we live in the ordinary moments of life much more often than in the extraordinary moments. Who doesn't want to live on the mountaintop, but most of us spend the majority of our time trudging through the valley bottom. 

Devil's Lake State Park

Let me say, the valley bottom is not the pristine, green grass, river filled valley. No, it is the valley that runs between two rugged, rocky cliffs and there is no water in sight for miles. Overhead the vultures are constantly circling, waiting for the valley dwellers to stumble and fall so they can begin to feed off their soon to be dead bodies. Not a pretty picture.

When you have no vision from God, no enthusiasm left in your life, and no one watching and encouraging you, it requires the grace of Almighty God to take the next step in your devotion to Him, in the reading and studying of His Word, in your family life, or in your duty to Him. It takes much more of the grace of God, and a much greater awareness of drawing upon Him, to take that next step, than it does to preach the gospel.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - March 6th

I love this thought from Oswald Chambers. He says it takes more grace and a more concentrated effort to draw on Him to take the next step in living the ordinary, mundane life, than to preach the gospel. What do you think? Do you agree? 

I have been finding life more and more challenging lately. My energy level is lower, I have physical issues that I never had to deal with before and I am continually reminded, not only of all the things I need to do, but also of all the things I have absolutely no control over. These factors all become part of life in the valley. Living here in the valley becomes a matter of trudging, not running, or skipping or even walking. Every once in a while, it becomes a crawl, a begging on hands and knees with the Master of this land to come and either let it end or bring about some sort of change. It was from this prostrate place that Oswald realized the thoughts he shared in the quote above. It truly does take the grace of the Almighty to take the next step.

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Pixabay

I know, without a doubt, that some of you are in this place. Just like me, you go to bed so exhausted, that you pray God will take you in your sleep, so that you don't have to get up in the morning. Some of you, don't sleep. He doesn't even give you that. But, you do get up in the morning and you start all over again...the walk, the stumble, the crawl. You feel like you could use time away, a retreat, but there is no retreat. You feel like you could use a good, long cry, but you know the tears won't change anything, besides you are too busy, too tired. You feel like you want to run away, to leave everyone and everything behind, just go somewhere and become someone different, but you know that is not the right thing to do and you are just too tired. Day after day, drudgery after drudgery. This is life in our valley.

BUT GOD!

No enthusiasm?

BUT GOD!

No one noticing?

BUT GOD!

No encouragement?

BUT GOD!

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;
— 2 Corinthians 6:4 (NIV)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
8 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.
— Psalm 121 (NASB)
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
— Galatians 6:9 (NASB)

I know life can be overwhelming, but God is not overwhelmed by it. We've heard it before, but I need to hear it again. Peter walked on water, though the stormy waves raged all around, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. If you are down and out by life, look up. Jesus will always meet you exactly where you are at. 

Remember, we are all together in this valley. 

 

Pow! Biff! Sock! Crash! Holy Trouble Batman!

I am foregoing my Walking With the Psalmist post for this month in order to bring you another amazing and trouble filled episode of life! If you have been following my blog for a while now, then you know last May, my hubby and I attempted to take a vacation to Maine. We only got as far as Rochester, NY when I gave birth to a kidney stone. Ouch! Not knowing for sure if the kidney stone passed, I ended up spending a night in the hospital and we made our way home, feeling down and discouraged. 

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Pixabay

Fast forward to May of 2018. Here we are again, planning a vacation, this time to my husband's old stomping grounds in various spots around Wisconsin. We were going to camp, hike, and visit with friends and family. Last week, I spent the entire week taking care of my grandson, who came down with whatever the going virus was at the moment for a week long battle with fatigue, fever, runny nose and loss of appetite. Guess who got sick this past Friday? Yup! Me. 

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Pixabay

I did my usual regimen of echinacea tea, Zicam and other supplements to try to quicken the down time and speed up healing. No such luck! Today, I developed a fever, though I think I may have had one earlier. Today, I took my temp and it said, 99.5. Now, as you know that is not a high temp, but it is enough to make one feel pooky and even make my skin hurt. In addition to that I spent the night on the couch, coughing. I have always been a cougher. I had childhood asthma and I still think my bronchial tubes get especially irritated when I am sick. 

We were supposed to leave on vacation Thursday, but I am thinking maybe Friday or Saturday. Ugg! I'm sorry. I feel like I am complaining all the time and I don't mean to. I just feel that real life is happening all around and it is not always pretty or easy. Maybe when you read my stories of woe I will help you realize, you are not alone! We are all struggling through this journey together and I want you to know, I get the hard bits!

So when I started thinking about this post, I couldn't help but think of the old campy Batman and Robin show. Those of you who are my age will remember the silly fight scenes with the cartooned in words, "Pow!" "Biff!" and "Sock!" 

The reality is, my life is more like that colorful show of the the 1960's, than what some people are going through. We know more than one person who is battling cancer, several who already know they aren't going to make it. People struggle with such hurts, illness and pain, that I cannot even begin to imagine, but I understand. Sometimes life just sucks! For reals!

Pixabay - shower

This morning, when I was standing in the shower, feeling like crud, I turned my eyes to Jesus. I went back to the basics. I confessed my discouragement and frustration, I praised His name, and then I thanked Him. I thanked Him that I had a comfy couch, a blanket and a pillow to spend the night on. I wasn't coughing and shivering in a box in some alley. I thanked Him for the hot water that felt comforting to my tired and achy body. I thanked Him that, although this morning I wasn't able to keep my shopping and lunch date with one of my daughters, I was able to lay on the couch and watch Netflix. 

in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NET)

I can't remind you (and me) of this verse enough! Even when we are getting struck down and beaten on all sides, it is God's will that we give thanks. I would make the distinction that it says, "in everything give thanks," not "give thanks for everything." I have heard people say you should thank God, even for the bad stuff, but I think it is more the case that when we are going through the bad stuff we continue to give thanks. That, my dear sisters, is what will keep us standing and keep us focused on Him. 

I hope that we will still be able to get away in the next few days, but even if we don't, I feel that once again, God is who God is and He is trustworthy. I hope you will find Him trustworthy as well. 

Divine Appointments

We live in a society of planners. Architects design and plan buildings. Engineers design and plan roads and parking lots. Fashion designers plan for the next season always thinking ahead to the next color palette or trend. Even those of us, who would not call ourselves true planners make dentist and doctor appointments, write up grocery lists and plan get togethers with friends. 

Pixabay - checklist

Jerry Jenkins, is the author of a myriad of books including the Left Behind Series and numerous biographies on people ranging from Hank Aaron, to Luis Pulau to Walter Payton. He even assisted Billy Graham with his autobiography, Just As I Am. Jerry also owns and runs The Jerry Jenkins Writer's Guild, of which I am in my second year of membership. I remember one of the first webinars I took from Jerry, where he talked about the difference between two types of writers; the panster and the outliner. Like Jerry himself and another big name author,  Stephen King, I am a panster.  I write my blog and my fiction by the seat of my pants. Where as an outliner has a plan or an outline they follow as they write. Neither one is better than the other, they are just different. There is also a hybrid of writers who combine the elements of both styles of writing. They come up with a loose outline, but fill in details by the seat of their pants. 

Pixabay - typewriter

When we talk about making plans versus living by the seat of our pants, we can see that there are good points and bad points to both ways of approaching life. Planners, usually, get more done, but they are often so rigid in their schedules that they have forgotten how to enjoy the moment. Those who live by the seat of their pants are usually more relaxed and easy going, but often have projects piling up, because they neglect to develop a plan on how to get them finished.

We as Christ followers can often be guilty of both, planning too much and not planning enough. When I was a young mom, trying to figure out marriage, family life and eventually home schooling, I was often impatient and frustrated because I looked at life as a list of things I had to accomplish. This mentality become more pronounced as I home schooled our daughters from kindergarten through high school. I became a list person, which is a planner, if you didn't know! I think it is amusing that I could be a panster as a writer but in every day life, I was a planner. I loved to get a new planner every year as I looked forward to a new year of home schooling. I still love planners, but I'm not quite as rigid in how I used them. 

Pixabay - planner

What does God say in His word about having plans? Let's take a look. 

Commit your works to the Lord And your plans will be established.
— Proverbs 16:3 (NASB)
The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
— Proverbs 16:9 (NASB)
Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the Lord will stand.
— Proverbs 19:21 (NASB)
The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.
— Proverbs 21:5 (NASB)

Obviously, God inspired King Solomon, the author of Proverbs to pen these many verses about planning. It is normal and it is good to have a plan, whether you are talking about retirement or about next week's meals, planning can be beneficial in saving us time, money and frustration. 

Unfortunately, many of us have made plans that didn't work out. We have been disappointed by failed relationships, ruined vacations and the chaos of life that constantly seems to want to get in the way of our well thought out plans. The beauty of being a panster, when it comes to real life is a drastic reduction in stress and pain brought about by waylaid plans. 

A mindset that has recently come about in my own life, is that of divine appointments.

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
— Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

If I really believe that God is sovereign, and I really believe that He is good, then I must also believe that every bump in the road and every plan that doesn't come to fruition, He already knows about and has a purpose for. How often have you had a plan for your day off and the day draws to a close and you didn't accomplish anything that you had planned? I see those hands our there! In addition to that, how many of you got frustrated because what you had planned got sabotaged by life....a child stays home from school sick, your mother needed your help with the garden, your teenagers and your spouse call saying that won't be home to eat that delicious meal you slaved to prepare....this is the reality of life. The question then becomes, am I supposed to stop planning? Do I just let life fly and go with the flow, like some sort of 1960's flower child, content to sit in the sun and listen to the music?

Pixabay - hippie

Like so many things we talk about, I think the key here is, balance. I think it is important to have plans, but we also need to allow God to do that thing that He does best...orchestrate our lives. Recognize that those speed bumps that come into life are allowed by Him. Everything that comes your way, even the little annoyance and inconveniences, have passed through Him. This is even more pertinent when we are talking about divine appointments. These are those interruptions to our plans that revolve around people. 

Sunday, my Grandson came down with a nasty virus. I am the primary care person when he is out of school, as my daughter, a single mom, has to work a full time job. He comes to my house, when he is home from school. Sunday, I had plans for Monday. I was going to get ahead on my blog, do some writing and try to tackle the laundry. It wasn't going to happen. In fact, here it is Wednesday and the poor guy is still running a low grade temp, so once again, he is home from school. You know what? It's okay. Did my plans get ruined? Not ruined, just adjusted. When I look at life as a series of divine appointments, not only do I have an easier time adjusting to the bumps, but I also keep my focus on the author and finisher of my faith. 

Whether you are a planner or a panster, allowing God to direct your life, day in and day out, gives you the capacity to be less frustrated and more in tune with exactly what He wants you to do. Next time you have a plan and it gets interrupted, ask yourself, could this be one of His divine appointments, then let Him meet you right there. 

What a Little Vine Can Do

Over the weekend, my hubby and I decided to do a little bit of yard work. Sunday was a gorgeous day and cool, so perfect for working out in our yard. My husband put in grape vines shortly after we moved into our house and over the years we have gotten a great mix of Concord, Niagara and a few other types of grapes. Unfortunately, the last few years have been busy and the arbor has fallen into disarray. The end result has been a monster that has taken over much of our yard. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

For those of you who have any sort of vine type plant, you know full well, they have to be pruned. If they are not pruned, they will creep into every tree, up every wall and along every piece of fence they can find. The best word to describe this gradual creeping process is insidious. Don't you love language? There are certain words that just have a sound to them, as if the word itself can bring about the action it is describing. Say it, insidious. Doesn't the sound of it, just sort of creep you out? If it doesn't, it should. 

The word, insidious, is defined by Webster's online dictionary in this way:

1 a : awaiting a chance to entrap : treacherous
b : harmful but enticing : seductive insidious drugs
2 a : having a gradual and cumulative effect : subtle
the insidious pressures of modern life
b : of a disease : developing so gradually as to be well established before becoming apparent

I've included both types of definitions as they all are applicable, but the one I want to focus on for today's post is 2 - b - developing so gradually as to be well established before becoming apparent. When we planted our grape vines, we did not have the intent that they get out of control and become a problem. Our intentions were to prune them and take care of them in such a way that they would bear fruit and be healthy, controlled plants. Over time, unfortunately, these little vines began to develop a life of their own. A busy lifestyle, neglect and forgetfulness kept us from investing in the plants as we should have. Little by little, each year that passed, the vines grew, looking for anything they could latch onto that would propel them higher and longer.

Vines

You can see our small arbor on the other side of the pine trees. The vines in the foreground are part of the shoots the original vines sent out. You can see the way they are climbing into the pine trees, and this was after we had trimmed masses of the vines out. If you don't think that is hard work, my heart was pumping and I was breathing hard from wrestling many of these long vines out of the trees. 

Vines

The above pile was from a few vines we had planted along our garage. Not only were the grape vines taking over, there was some other vine that had joined the mix. What a mess!

Obviously, I am going somewhere with this, so keep reading. 

The grape vines, in an of themselves are not bad. They are plants that God made, meant to bear fruit and bring food and drink to mankind. Grapes are known for their antioxidant benefits and the ones that are not harvested fill the tummies of all sorts of critters from insects to birds and squirrels. Unfortunately, vines, when not pruned regularly can easily get out of control.

There are all sorts of good things that God has given us to enjoy. Food, music, books, exercise, social activities, and learning are all good for us and can help us to grow and develop, not only as human beings, but as followers of Christ. Sometimes, though, even the good things can become like those insidious vines and creep into our lives, taking over in ways we never realized they could, until one day we are tied up, unable to move. Here are a few good things that can take over our lives like those creeping vines. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

1. Cell Phones

Recently, I read an article on cell phone addiction. Yes, apparently this is a real thing, especially for kids. Here's an article to check out, 7 Scary Things You Never Knew About Phone Addiction. Cell phones are wonderful devices and have brought knowledge to our fingertips and made life a little more secure. Parents feel better knowing their teens can get a hold of them, if they are in a situation where they don't feel comfortable, and even I like knowing, that if my car breaks down, I can either call for a tow, or at least call my hubby. However, what begins as a good thing, can often become an insidious problem opening doors to interactions with strangers, bullying or pornography. 

Pixabay - reading/books

2. Entertainment

I'm lumping a number of things into this category: books (especially romance novels), movies, serial TV shows, music and other types of entertainments like gaming and sports. All of these things are enjoyable and relatively harmless things, but when we leave our entertainments unchecked, we can suddenly find ourselves spending too much time and too much money trying to get the next thrill. Not only that, but often one thing leads to another. Our eyes and ears can get immune to seeing and hearing things that are not God glorifying. Over the course of time, we may start watching, listening to or reading things that are not good, even though, to begin with our hobby was quite harmless. 

Pixabay - pizza

3. Food

Hello, all you foodies out there. Food is a wonderful thing, in moderation. You have all probably heard the saying, "Eat to live, don't live to eat." Food is one of those things that we can so easily dismiss as something that becomes insidious, but I am here to tell you it can. You don't have to be overweight to be unhealthy and have an unhealthy relationship with food. There are statistics on things like anorexia and bulimia, Here is a quick sum up of some of those stats. Those are the two obvious eating disorders, but many more of us struggle with food issues without having either of those disorders. 

I personally have always loved my carbs. I love cake, cookies, pie and ice cream. I love chocolate and sweet cereals like Reese's Puffs and Lucky Charms. My addiction to sweets was added to by the Seasonal Affective Disorder, which causes one to crave carbohydrates. Don't even get me started on how much I love pizza. I also enjoy eating out, cooking and baking...can you see where I am going with this? None of those things in moderation is bad, but left unpruned, able to take over, it is a recipe for disaster. 

The last year, I have been having numerous digestive issues. I was diagnosed with irritable bowel a number of years ago, but in the last few months, I would describe my issues as IBS on steroids. I have gone completely off of sweets as well as pulling way back on carbs in general and trying to eat lower fat. I never knew I had it in me, but all I can say is this is a journey God is leading me on and I am trusting Him for the outcome. Just so you don't worry, I do have a doctor's appointment with a gastroenterologist in June, so I can get thoroughly checked out. 

All that to say, that yes, even food can become an insidious vine in our lives, causing us to become bound and enslaved. The entanglement becomes even more tightly wound when you suddenly can't eat the foods you want. Suddenly, all of life revolves around what can I eat or not eat. It's not fun!

Pixabay - wine

4. Alcohol

Some of you might argue with me that alcohol is never good. My husband and I personally do not drink. We have never had alcohol in our house and we do not encourage others to drink. However, I do realize that alcohol is a part of our society and even some physicians acknowledge wine has antioxidant benefits when used in moderation. We did not raise our daughters to drink, but they both do. I know many Christians who have beer in the fridge or a bottle of wine in the cupboard. As with all of these other things, alcohol is not bad, in and of itself, but when it becomes more than just one beer, or one glass, or becomes a source of solace and happiness, then perhaps, the vine is beginning to take over. 

There are many other things that can become like the simple little grape vines that were taking over our yard. Things that are good, when used or done in moderation can become the chains that enslave us and keep us from becoming who God really wants us to be. Be sure you are regularly pruning and checking the vines in your life, so they don't get out of control. 

Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?
— Romans 6:16 (NASB)

 

 

 

Mulling It Over - Part 3

Once again we are walking slowly through a particular portion of scripture. I love to take a small piece, maybe a few chapters, one chapter or in this case, just a few verses and completely devour it, seeing what we can get out of His Word. I always find it fascinating that God can speak to us anew, even from a portion of scripture that we have read over and over. Just like this horse is chewing up that delectable grass, we too can enjoy the delights of God's word. 

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PIxabay

We are looking at 2 Timothy 2:20-26:

20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

If you are just joining me today, you can go back and see the first two posts on: 2 Timothy 2:20 and 2 Timothy 2:21, by clicking on the links. Today we are chewing on verse 22.

22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
— 2 Timothy 2:22

This verse is pretty straight forward, but lets take a closer look.

Now flee...

Is there anything more able to get your adrenaline churning, than when someone yells, "Ruuuuuunnnnn"? Think about a few of the movies that have been on the big screen, Star Wars, Indian Jones. The Avengers, or how about the iconic Forrest Gump scene:

This is what Paul is telling us to do. Run as fast as you can away from those things that cause us to sin and turn away from God. We are to flee, like those monsters chasing us are going to eat us alive.

...from youthful lusts....

Paul was writing this letter to a young man, Timothy, who had become a pastor of one of the early churches. He encourages Timothy to flee those youthful lusts, or the things that so commonly grab our attention as young people: improper relationships, money, power, popularity and feeding our appetites are all things that constantly pull at us when we are young. It is sad that so many give in to these distractions, rather than waiting on God and allowing HIm to fill their every need. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Let me draw this out a bit further. I believe as mature Christians we can also be distracted by many things that are less than God's best for us. Think about the shows you watch, the food you eat, the things you buy. How many of these are done to fulfill our lust. Lust isn't just about sex. It is anything that takes precedent over our relationship with God. Am I saying you can't watch that show you love, or eat that cake or buy that dress? No, but we do need to allow God to monitor our actions and speak truth to us, if these types of things are becoming a problem. For some, moderation is easy, for others, myself included, not so much. Sometimes God has to rip things out of our lives to bring us into line with where He wants us to be. 

...and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace...

I decided to lump all of these characteristics together. These are four things we are to pursue. Behind us are the things we are to flee. In front of us is what we are to pursue. Righteousness or godliness, faith or belief, love and peace. We need to chase after these things as if they are rare butterflies that we are wanting to add to our collection.

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Pixabay

People who enjoy hobbies such as butterfly or bird watching, desire to see species which are rare or very rarely seen. It is their passion, just as a rock climber loves to scale mountains or an artist loves to paint or mold something out of clay. They have a passion about discovering or creating something new. In the same way we are to pursue these specific qualities We are to have a passion about pursuing God. He shouldn't be someone we occasionally think about, but a being we have a living and passionate relationship with. If we are pursuing the characteristics of righteousness, faith, love and peace we will be pursuing the author who created them.

...with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart.

Not only are we to pursue those characteristics, but we are to do it with others who call on the Lord with a pure heart. This seems to encourage us to be in a fellowship with other believers. My husband and I are between churches right now, but we both feel the need to get back into a regular fellowship. It is in the corporate worship and gathering together of like minded people, that we find accountability, stability and the sort of input that encourages growth in our relationship with Christ. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

That being said, let me say, I know what it is like to feel as though the church let you down. Or, to feel like an outsider because of circumstances you had no control over. I get it, and sometimes God will draw us out of the body, to walk a path through a valley, in which we are alone, but I do not believe He intends that we stay there. We need each other, even if only to aggravate each other enough to pursue God with even more passion! Ha, ha.

I hope you are enjoying this study of 2 Timothy 2 and I hope today you will examine your own life and see what God is trying to say to you. Is there something you need to flee? Do you need to have more passion in your pursuit of God, or like us, do you need to get back into a fellowship with other believers? Seek God for wisdom and help. He is always faithful.

Have a great day. 

Walking with the Psalmist

Psalm 13 is a song of David, and a prayer for help in trouble. What I love about the psalms of David are the parallels to my own emotional ups and downs. Let's dive in.

1 How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
— Psalm 13:1-2 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

Do you ever feel like David? Do you ever wonder where God is? Does it seem as though He has forgotten you or is hiding His face from you? Have you ever felt like you are the only person you can trust? Do you ever have days where all you can feel is sorrow, or maybe you feel nothing at all, simply numb? Have you felt as though a very real, but unseen enemy is out to get you? Or maybe your enemy is something or someone real, like cancer, a hard nosed boss or a bully. 

I have felt this way. The truth is, I think most of us have felt pretty much alone at some point or other in our lives. Sometimes, we carry burdens that we cannot share, which make us feel very alone and like the psalmist we cry out to God, "Where are you?"

3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
4 And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.
— Psalm 13:3-4 (NASB)
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Pixabay

The psalmist asks God to consider his situation. David spent a good portion of his adult life running and hiding from his enemies. I'm pretty sure this song was born out of the frustration and exhaustion of not being able to live a normal life. 

You are probably familiar with the phrase, the new normal. Most often this phrase is used by someone who has encountered a major life change, either a job loss, loss of a loved one, physical limitation or other difficulty that makes life different than it used to be. I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I can't do that anymore. Now life is made up of looking at food labels, cutting my food in half so I don't eat too much and cutting out things I used to enjoy like donuts and ice cream. This is the new normal. 

I do not see anything wrong with asking God to consider us. We are His creation. Consider these verses:

Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!
— Luke 12:24 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.
— Luke 12:27 (NASB)
 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

The one who has every hair on our heads numbered can most certainly be bothered to consider us, when we cry out to Him. 

I think the psalmist was also praying for wisdom, or maybe he was just asking God to help him stay awake and keep vigilant watch for his enemies, lest they overcome him and he sleep the sleep of death. Either way we can ask God for help, whether it be for wisdom, or for physical strength. 

1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
— Psalm 121:1-2 (NASB)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him
— James 1:5 (NASB)

The last section of Psalm 13 is the upward swing.

5 But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
— Psalm 13:5-6
 Pixabay

Pixabay

There are four actions the psalmist does at the end of this song.

1. He remembers. He is speaking in the past tense, remembering other times the Lord has been faithful.

2. He trusts. He trusted in the Lord's lovingkindness in the past, and no doubt, will do so again. 

3. He rejoices. His heart rejoices in the Lord's salvation. We can derive from this statement, the psalmist has seen the Lord's salvation before. 

4. He sings. What a beautiful ending to a song that starts out at a rather low point. He can sing, because the Lord has dealt bountifully with him. 

What does this mean for you and I? First, I believe it is okay to ask God the tough questions. Where are you, God? How long will you keep quiet and not answer me? How long am I going to have to suffer? When will your deliverance come? God knows our frame. He also knows we don't see the whole picture, so I truly believe He understands and has compassion when we come to Him with our ceaseless questioning. Think about the many times your children or grandchildren come to you asking, why or when? Do you yell at them and tell them to be quiet? (Well, maybe once in a while, ha, ha). More often we answer with kindness and love. 

Secondly, I believe it is also alright to let God know we are at the end of ourselves. Consider and answer me, Lord, is a cry for help and reassurance, not a fist raised in defiance. God knows we hurt, sometimes in the deepest places of our being. There are people who suffer physically with pain we can't even imagine. There are people who hurt mentally or emotionally because of what others have done to them or to their family members. God knows our innermost hurts and struggles. 

Finally, I think the key is to follow the psalmist's example and not stay in that mindset of discouragement. Like him we need to choose to remember what God has done for us. We need to trust in the God whose lovingkindness is everlasting. We can rejoice in His salvation. Not only has He saved us from sin through His son Jesus Christ, but He has saved us from difficulties we cannot begin to imagine. Lastly, sing! Sing like no one is listening. Sing to bring the house down. If it is an age old hymn sing it with gusto. If it is singing along to your favorite Christian band, turn up the volume. 

Following David in his pattern of questioning, admitting and rejoicing we will be able to overcome. 

Seeing Him Who is Unseen

I am sure you have all felt the weight of life pressing in on you at some point or other. Maybe you have been blessed to have not felt it as heavily as others, or maybe you have felt as though life weighs on you like the water pressure at 1000 feet below the surface. My husband and I have had an interesting life. Not that we have done so many amazing things or traveled to so many amazing places. Golly, neither one of us has published a book or won the lottery. If you met us you would probably agree that we are not very exotic, however, we have gone through plenty of tough times together. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Before we married, we spent a summer in what was then known as Zaire, Africa. We both almost died after contracting cerebral malaria, the most deadly form of that vicious disease. We lived to tell the tale, got married and moved to Ohio, where Mark started working on his PhD. Only a year in, I found out I was pregnant with our first child. We lived in student housing and had no health insurance. God provided a place to live, a little two room shack on a river outside of town with a propane toilet. Piecing together numerous part time jobs, we had, not just one, but two babies in that little home, without health insurance. Our story goes on through various rusty trucks and cars, one of those part time jobs becoming full time and the purchase of the home we currently live in. Over the years we have experienced other heartaches, things that have tested our faith and our limits, not only as individuals, but as a couple. Even now, our hearts are daily burdened by the difficulties of family and loved ones. 

When Moses was born, this was the edict that Pharaoh put forth:

Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah; and he said, ‘When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.’
— Exodus 1:15-16 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

Moses' parents were not about to let their son be killed. Taking no thought for the King's edict they kept their baby boy hidden for three months. When they knew they could no longer hide the child, his mother put him in a basket and set him among the reeds of the Nile river close to where Pharaoh's daughter came to bathe. When she spotted the basket among the reeds she had her maids get it for her. When she saw the child, I have a feeling, she fell in love. She named him Moses and the rest is history. 

Recently I was reading in Hebrews and came across this story in the Hall of Faith, found in Hebrews 11. These three verses stood out to me regarding Moses' character. 

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,
25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,
26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.
— Hebrews 11:24-26 (NASB)

There are several things we can learn about Moses from these verses. Let's explore. 

 PIxabay

PIxabay

1. He grew up in Pharaoh's house. Moses was by all accounts the child of Pharaoh's daughter. He was called her son, because the verse says that he refused to be called her son. Just think about what sort of childhood he had. He was raised in the center of the Egyptian kingdom. He was exposed not only to the wealth, pleasures and education available to the ruling house, but he was also exposed to the religious teachings of Pharaoh's priests. However, we find that Moses was not influenced by any of these things. 

2. He turned away from his position as an Egyptian to take his place among the Hebrews. I was struck by this. Moses had grown up with access to so much, yet he chose to go back to his roots. The Bible is not clear on how much time, Moses got to spend with his birth mother. However, I am sure during those special times she shared stories with him of the Israelite people and their God. Perhaps it was during these times that a flame began in his heart for his people and the One who would become his God.

3. He was looking to the reward. Do we know that Moses knew who Jesus was? No. Do we know that he knew there was an eternal reward? No. But Moses had a deep inner conviction that there was something and someone, much greater than himself or the Pharaoh of Egypt, ruling the universe. Who knows, but that at night, when the sky was black and the diamonds of the universe sparkled in its expanse that something in him, didn't yearn to believe there was so much more than just the grandeur of Egypt. 

This brings me to verse 27 of Hebrews.

27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.
— Hebrews 11:27 (NASB)

The morning I read this, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and discouraged. Life was doing its best to wear me down. From the original story in Exodus we are given a slightly different look at this man called Moses. 

11 Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren.
12 So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
13 He went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, “Why are you striking your companion?”
14 But he said, “Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and said, “Surely the matter has become known.”
15 When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well.
— Exodus 2:11-15 (NASB)

The man described in Hebrews 11 hardly seems to match the man we find in Exodus. Bare with me, if you will, while I do a bit of comparing and contrasting. 

1. By faith he left Egypt vs. Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh.

2. Not fearing the wrath of the king vs. Moses was afraid. 

Those of you who are familiar with the Old Testament and the full story of Moses and the exodus of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, know there is so much more to the story than just these few verses. There begins a long, drawn out and complex relationship between God, Moses and the children of Israel. I am by no means a Bible scholar. My three years at Moody Bible Institute taught me many things, including how to study God's word, but there are still things that baffle me. 

The book of Hebrews paints Moses as a man of faith, fearless and able to endure, but I believe Moses became those things as he walked through the difficulties of life. I'm sure you have heard the idea that some of us are journey people and some of us are destination people. My husband is all about the end goal. I am all about the journey along the way. The fact of the matter is, we are all, by God's design, journey people. We all are walking along in this life, struggling through the hard bits and hoping to enjoy more of the good bits. We don't get to go directly to go, or to jump ahead to the end. It drives me crazy when my husband will read the last few pages of a book, just to see how it ends without reading the entire book....destination mentality. 

Moses became a man of faith, as he grew to know God. He became fearless as he saw God work and overcome. He endured because he saw Him who is unseen. The same is true for us. We become men and women of faith as we grow to know God better. We do that as we struggle on the journey, giving the difficulties over to Him and allowing Him to mold and shape us to be more like Christ. We become fearless as we see God work. We know there is nothing God cannot do. We also know that He doesn't always do the things we would like, because He has a greater purpose. Our fear disappears as we put our complete trust in Him and His goodness. Finally, we can endure because we can see Him who is unseen. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Today, if you are going through a hard time, try to see God. I mean really see Him. Delve deep into His word. Pray to know Him better. Wait on Him in the quietness. Depend on Him in the chaos. Let Him transform your mind, so that you can see with the eyes of your heart. At that point you will endure as seeing Him who is unseen. 

Battling on our Knees

We usually associate warfare with positions of action, like running, jumping, throwing, piercing, punching and thrusting. Whoever heard of doing battle on your knees? However, that is the position we, as Christ Ones, are to assume when we are fighting spiritually. I use the word, kneel, as a metaphorical position for that of humility before God in prayer. Obviously, we are not always able to kneel, even when our prayers are the most intense. I often pace around my house, when I am in intense prayer, because it keeps me focused. I also pray out loud. 

 PIxabay

PIxabay

Why is our posture before God so important? Humility is defined as being free from pride or arrogance. What does God say about humility?

Thus says the Lord,
’Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.
Where then is a house you could build for Me?
And where is a place that I may rest?
2 ‘For My hand made all these things,
Thus all these things came into being,’ declares the Lord.
’But to this one I will look,
To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.’
— Isaiah 66:1-2 (NASB)

God is God. There is no one who can out do Him. He is the Creator and we are His creation. How could we even come close to building a place that could house a being like God. Yet, He says that He will look..."To him who is humble and contrite of spirit..." 

Jesus said, 

Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
— Matthew 18:4 (NASB)

I'll come back to that verse in a minute. Read on.

Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’?
6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’
7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.
10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
— James 4:5-10 (NASB)

So what exactly does all of this have to do with intercessory prayer? Prayer is work. I sure most of you have experienced the feeling that you need to be praying more, but so often find yourself doing everything, but praying. I know I have. However, God's word tells us to, "pray without ceasing;" (I Thessalonians 5:17). Not all of the time we are to spend praying will be for intercessory prayer, but I believe a large percent of our prayers will be for others. We can all think of people at this moment who need our prayers. We all know someone who is sick, depressed, hurt, dying, suffering a broken marriage, a lost job or a wandering child. 

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Pixabay

In order to pray accurately, we need to know the mind of God with regards to the person we are praying for. We should, at least in theory, desire God's will for the person or people we are praying for, even if it is difficult or painful. God is the one who knows what is best and He is the best at orchestrating life to bring people closer to Him. It seems, however, that many people do not believe in the importance of intercessory prayer. 

And He saw that there was no man,
And was astonished that there was no one to intercede;
— Isaiah 59:16a (NASB)

Why would God be astonished that there was no one to intercede? Because it was obvious to Him that intercessory prayer was a given. It isn't an option. We are supposed to do it and we are supposed to do it on a regular basis. 

Humility, or becoming like a child, allows us to come before God with the right mindset as we intercede. If we are prideful and arrogant, we will be trying to exert our will into the situation, rather than coming into agreement with God on how to pray for those we are led to pray for. I don't like praying, "Lord, whatever it takes..." Yet, isn't that really the mindset we need to have when we come to God in prayer for others? What is our goal? Healing, making things better, hoping it will all go away and everyone will live happily ever after? No! Our goal is the mind of Christ. Our goal is that every person we pray for would turn to Him, knowing He is God and there is no other, (Isaiah 45:22).

Humility in prayer allows us to worship God as we are coming into His presence. Worship gives us the proper perspective, not only of who God is, but who we are before Him. That proper perspective will align our minds and our hearts with how God wants us to pray. 

Worship and intercession must go together; one is impossible without the other. Intercession means raising ourselves up to the point of getting the mind of Christ regarding the person for whom we are praying (see Philippians 2:5). Instead of worshiping God, we recite speeches to God about how prayer is supposed to work. Are we worshiping God or disputing Him when we say, “But God, I just don’t see how you are going to do this”? This is a sure sign that we are not worshiping. When we lose sight of God, we become hard and dogmatic. We throw our petitions at His throne and dictate to Him what we want Him to do. We don’t worship God, nor do we seek to conform our minds to the mind of Christ. And if we are hard toward God, we will become hard toward other people.

Are we worshiping God in a way that will raise us up to where we can take hold of Him, having such intimate contact with Him that we know His mind about the ones for whom we pray? Are we living in a holy relationship with God, or have we become hard and dogmatic?
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest (March 30)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

There are times I have felt absolutely powerless. I knew and still know that I have no control over the choices that other people make. I cannot make the lost turned to Jesus. I cannot heal a sick loved one. I cannot mend a relationship that has gone awry. But, I can battle on my knees. With a mindset of humility and worship, the Lord and I can move mountains.