Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Peace on Earth

Luke 2:8-11
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!

I love to imagine myself within some of the stories I read in the Bible. As I read about the shepherds guarding their flocks of sheep on that “Christmas” night in winter when an angel of the Lord appeared… I imagine what it might have been like had I been there with them.

Soooo…ok,I hate to admit my very first thought was…this all happened during wintertime…it hadto be cold that night.Yikes…I hate the cold!I’m pretty sure if any details were given about my being present that night,well…I’d be the Sheppard girl found huddling with the sheep just to stay warmer!But,thankfully,another thought occurrs to me almost as quickly.
I’m probably use to working outside on a winter’s night…so the cold would not be an issue for me! Finally… with all this “concern” dealt with I am able move on into the story…

I imagine that quiet night with only the soft sound of a few crying sheep …looking up into that clear night sky and gazing at the beauty of a full galaxy of stars! Amazing …the vastness of them all as they appear to be near enough to touch with my hand. Although I have experienced similar starry nights, this particular night seems special somehow as my heart leaps to praising God and thanking Him for creating such beauty and bright lights!

“What an unusually beautiful night” I said to my fellow shepherds. But before they could respond and while I was still content in the pleasure of praising God…Suddenly an angel of the Lord appears!

If I thought the night sky had been lit up brightly before by all the stars… well… the “radiance of the Lord’s glory” is now surrounding me and all the other shepherds! The brilliance of this light is so blinding it would just have to knock all of us off our feet! As I strain to adjust my eyes… I feel terrified… "is it because the Lord’s radiance is revealing my unworthiness to be in its glow?" What a moment that was for both the angel who spoke and for us shepherds who heard!

I pause here in the story as I begin to wonder…”How did the angel of the Lord sound when he delivered this message of great joy to the shepherds? I mean, after all, he was speaking about Jesus…he already had seen our Lord and worshipped Him in heaven… and now God the Son had arrived into the world as a baby to live in human form! I wonder…did the angel know why Jesus had chosen to leave perfection to dwell among the imperfect? Did the angel of the Lord not think this was a strange thing for God to be doing? The bible doesn’t tell us what the angel knew...or thought…only that He was the one chosen to announce Jesus’ arrival (birth). So perhaps when he saw the shepherd’s fear, his voice was first filled with compassion and than quickly changed to the excitement he felt as he spoke of a joy that he was very familiar with…a joy yet unknown to these shepherds!"

No sooner had the angel assured us saying; “Don’t be afraid! “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David.” (Luke 2:11)

When…

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:14-15)

What an amazing and joyous moment…imagine, in the middle of a shepherd’s field among sheep and shepherds…armies of heavenly beings appear and sing… pouring the joy of the Lord over us! What an amazing 1st Christmas gift! God has chosen to tell us about the birth of the Messiah, our Savior - the Lord!

Then…just as suddenly, all the angels disappear from our sight and the night returns once again to a quiet and star lit night.

Luke 2:15-18 (Amplified)
15When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing (saying) that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us. 16So they went with haste and [by searching] found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby lying in a manger. 17And when they saw it, they made known what had been told them concerning this Child,18And all who heard it were astounded and marveled at what the shepherds told them.

There is so much more to this story… but this is where I have decided to stop and “visit a while” this year. I don’t know about you…but I desire to experience what the angels sang over those shepherds that 1st Christmas night…I want to experience their anticipation of seeing Christ and experiencing the promise of peace on earth.

God’s PEACE…not the fleeting kind felt only when things are going well…but the lasting peace found only in God.

I know I am saved by faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God… and that there is no “works” I must do to get to heaven. But something caught my attention this year in the song of praise the heavenly hosts sang…did you catch it too? It is found in Luke 2 verse 14. (NLT)
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (The NIV version; “whom His favor rest”).

“What pleases you Lord?” I’ve decided to ask this Christmas… As I reflect on my prayers over this past year I realized that most of my prayers have been me telling God what I want (whether for me or others)and saying to God what I think is best for my life in order for God to eventually please me here on earth. Yikes! Maybe… I have at least once (or more?)… held some hope that somewhere in my prayers that I would “touch on” pleasing you too Lord. Unfortunately…it has been far too rare that I have even thought to ask the Lord…”what is it I may do this day which you have given me… to please You Lord?” I believe the answer to finding a lasting peace will be found in God’s answer to this prayer and my response to Him.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.(John 3:16)

I sincerely believe our Lord desires to give all of us His peace… not only as we celebrate our Savior’s birth…but throughout every day…in every circumstance…in the good times and in the hardships and trials of this life.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT) 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

May this Christmas… when Jesus opens our gift to Him…may it be a life that desires to be filled only by Him.

Merry Christmas!
Kathy

John16:20 (NLT)
I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

“Over”weight

I know…I know… most of us are probably feeling a bit “overweight” right now having indulged in a feast or two as we celebrated Thanksgiving a few days ago. If you’re like me…you now probably are wondering if you’ll be able to control your “hand to mouth motion” over the next few weeks as you try to resist all the home-made Christmas goodies that both family and friends will be giving us to eat…even more pounds to lose…Yikes!

I don’t have to think too long on any of these delicious but diet killing thoughts before I find myself “weighed down” with a lot more than just a couple of extra pounds. No, these simple but “worrisome” thoughts always invite their family and friends… then all too soon I’m hosting a huge party whose only guests are “worries, fears and dread”…Oh my!

Suddenly, I’m no longer looking at only “how to resist Christmas treats” but have somehow just added on several bigger difficulties I struggle with. Double Yikes! I have quickly become buried under the weight of "everything" that this life brings which is difficult to do or is too heavy to bear!

Which brings me to this…I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how it “feels” to be weighed down by all the hard stuff this life brings. When I have been overcome by life’s hardships and difficulties I can actually feel heaviness lay over me…a very noticeable weight over my whole being. I’ve also noticed this same kind of “heaviness” in others who are experiencing a “too heavy to carry” burden(s) in their lives or the lives of loved ones.

Although I know better…I still sometimes take a “problem”…lifting the weight of it onto my shoulders when it seems light enough for me to do so and I’ll carry it around with me. If the problem doesn’t go away “quick enough”…perhaps I’ll try some “unfocused” prayers for its resolution…but, for the most part… I just carry it around with me. If the problem remains (longer than a day) I can even become so accustom to its weight that I will begin to ignore the harm it is causing me. So... like a fork to mashed potatoes with gravy on a full stomach… I ignore my “discomfort” and allow this “problem” to be joined with “worry”. These two together…grow heavy and before I know it…“dread” shows up. The problem I started out carrying so easily now has me buckling to the floor under its weight… I’m completely “over” weight and outmatched.

Everyone has something(s) in their lives that has the potential to put them under a body blanket of heaviness that makes them feel like the “weight of the world” is on them. I have found when I have attempted to carry the burdens of life…they weigh me down so severely that they don’t allow me to walk around as the victorious child of God I am! I’ve learned if I don’t stop “eating the troubles” of this world…the weight of them becomes so heavy that I can barely lift my head… there have been some days… I didn’t even want to…

Psalm 68:19 (Amplified Bible)
Blessed be the Lord, Who bears our burdens and carries us day by day, even the God Who is our salvation!
Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!

You know… life is hard. Life is not all bad and it’s certainly not all good… but one thing I think is also true…even the good and fun stuff this life will bring… comes to us with at least a “pound of hard” somewhere in it. Concerning the hardships God’s children endure here on earth Charles Stanley explains;
"Some things are so important to God that they are worth interrupting the happiness and health of His children in order to accomplish them.”

I can chose to try and “pick up and eat” all this hard stuff and get weighed down and discouraged by life’s “unfairness”…or allow God to show me what it is He would have me do. I think He simply wants me to trust Him for what He has placed on my “plate” from the table of burdens. My portion has been carefully measured and is the perfect amount according to what God desires to accomplish in me.

In fact…the Lord doesn’t expect me to carry my “plate” and He doesn’t want you to carry yours either…Jesus will not only carry all the weight of this world…but He carries you and me too.

Genesis 18:14 (NIV) Is anything too hard for the LORD?

You know…for me… when I give the Lord all the “hard stuff” this life brings…I find He makes the good and fun things a bit sweeter… mmmmm, sounds like dessert!

Kathy

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

BLESSED

Happy Thanksgiving!

I truly love this particular holiday. One reason I do (and maybe not the best reason) is because it is the cause of many funny “turkey disaster” stories! I can’t think of any other meal that has caused more distress than a Thanksgiving turkey dinner! Yet each one of these memories always brings at least a smile if not huge laughter when recalled. Family and friends during this festive holiday are a formula for fond memories…and I cherish each one.

Of course…at the time my “turkey disasters” were occurring I don’t recall always smiling… and for sure I was not laughing! Isn’t it “strange” how over time these things we once saw as so “horrible” are now part of our fondest memories and biggest laughs!

I think God does this same kind of transformation of our memories with other “disasters” in our lives as well. Now…I know I will be hard pressed to express exactly what I mean by this since there are some things we experience in life that I would not appreciate being compared to some light-hearted Thanksgiving Day meal disaster story. But, having experienced some very tragic moments in my life…I feel compelled to share how God has “changed” my way of thinking about some things that might only be considered as “tragic” into a remembrance of God’s abundant provisions and yes…even blessing.

Several years ago my dad died unexpectedly and suddenly as we were sitting and talking together three days after Christmas. At the time I thought, Christmas will never again hold good memories for me. I felt that along with my dad…the joy of celebrating Christmas had died too.

Earlier that year I had renewed my commitment to Christ and this tragedy left me feeling bewildered. I was expecting “blessings” as I turned my life over to Christ…certainly not “disasters”…that’s for sure! I thought God’s timing couldn’t have been worse.

The days and weeks that followed his death were filled with pain …but I can tell you as I look back I clearly see God’s hand was upon me every moment of those sorrowful days. I had my husband’s love for me along with his tears as he comforted me. I had a fabulous new church family that went above and beyond supporting me with their prayers and friendship…helping me to spiritually grow and to accept love from my new brothers and sisters in Christ that I hardly knew… as they reflected the heart, hands and feet of Christ to me.

And than in God’s perfect timing…a few short weeks as I returned to work…godly words of wisdom were poured over my wounds. In response to hearing my tearful reply to a question about “how my Christmas was”, a friend told me, “how blessed I was” to have been with my dad... and that I had been there for my mom too.

“Blessed? Are you kidding me? How in the world can you say I have been blessed I asked?”

So he explained…

I was blessed because it had been 5 years since my entire family had been together for Christmas and I had been given this Christmas to spend with my dad. I was blessed to have risen early that morning…especially that morning… along with my husband, as the three of us spent the morning laughing and talking together. I was blessed to know my dad did not suffer when he died. I was blessed to be there for my mom…she was not alone. I was blessed to be there to hold her.

After he said all of this to me…the picture I held in my mind concerning all that had happened that day changed drastically. Instead of seeing only “tragedy” I saw God’s mercy and grace in it. I also saw the unique way the Lord blesses those He loves.

Ok… so now perhaps you are wondering, “Kathy, really? Are you going to tell me you can honestly look back on that day and no longer see your dad’s death as ‘disastrous’ but instead as something God is able to reveal blessings in?” My answer is a resounding “Yes!”

Seeing the blessings does not remove my desire to have my dad with me still.
Seeing the blessings doesn’t remove my heartache and longing to see him again soon.
Seeing the blessings doesn’t mean I didn’t love my dad with all my heart.
Seeing the blessings allows me to fall fully into God’s Hands… allowing His strength to be mine…His comfort to calm my sorrow…His promises to be the place I put my trust in…and His faithfulness the only sure way to restore my hope and joy.

Now whenever I recall that Christmas many years ago and “that day” my dad died… my thoughts and memories do not lie “stuck” on my dad’s last moment. I am blessed instead to recall that morning with some pretty funny memories of being with my dad and Brad as we joked around and laughed so hard it brought tears to our eyes. When my memories do roll around to that “disastrous moment”…my thoughts by God’s grace… goes to how blessed I am to have been with my dad and the blessings of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness to me and my family.

So maybe now you can understand a bit better how I am able to say God is able to transform our “disasters” into memories that allow us to remember “the good stuff” and maybe even put a smile on our face as the Lord reveals the blessing.

God is our strength and shield. He'll either shield us from trouble, or strengthen us in it. Our futures belong to Him, and all our days have been ordained for us. The one who holds the future also holds us tightly in His hands. We can look forward with thankfulness.

Tomorrow is full of God's grace, so we can be thankful today!


Matthew 5
The Beatitudes

(Quoted from the NIV Life Application Bible) “Each beatitude tells how to be blessed. ‘Blessed’ means more than happiness, it implies the fortunate or enviable state of those who are in God’s kingdom. The Beatitudes don’t promise laughter, pleasure, or earthy prosperity. To Jesus, ‘blessed’ means the experience of hope and joy, independent of outward circumstances. To find hope and joy, the deepest form of happiness, follow Jesus no matter the cost.”

1Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2and he began to teach them saying:
3"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessedare those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

God Is Into The Small Stuff Too…

Luke 12:6 (Amplified Bible)
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And [yet] not one of them is forgotten or uncared for in the presence of God.

Sometimes I think God has better things to do than be concerned about my “small stuff”. You know… those things in life that don’t really matter to anyone else but you. For instance… I really like birds...well, most birds anyway. I especially like colorful birds like cardinals and blue jays but I also enjoy cute little finches and love to listen to a sparrow sing. Perhaps I came to loving birds as much as I do because the two men in my life loved them as well. Both my dad and my husband are with the Lord now…but when they were here on earth we could always be found in the “bird section” of parks and zoos. So, it’s not uncommon for me to have pleasant memories of my dad and Brad whenever I see or hear one of my favorite birds.

I can’t tell you the number of mornings these past two years when I have either stepped outside or looked out my window and been “given” a single brightly colored bird flying into view and pausing long enough for me to enjoy his arrival! God knows exactly what will bring my soul a touch of joy and give my heart a clear sign that He cares for me. These “morning birds” tell me clearly that God’s eyes are on me…that there is nothing too small…there are no details of my life… that my Father in Heaven is willing to overlook and consider insignificant. God know and understands why these “small and really only matters to me things” matter!

Matthew 7:9-11 (NIV)
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

It’s a small thing my liking birds… wouldn’t you agree? I sometimes feel so foolish asking God for “small stuff” when there is so much “big stuff” that needs His attention. (Trust me…I’ve also asked Him for some really big stuff!). But isn’t it nice to know that God doesn’t see our request as foolish? After all…He knows us better than we know ourselves! In fact, I bet God has often surprised and delighted you too through the “small things” you’ve asked for in life.

Can you remember a time when troubles may have been overwhelming you or the day was difficult…than you looked up at the evening sky. Your eyes take in one of the most spectacular sunsets you’ve ever seen! The sky is bright and painted with multi-colors. You just have to stop and look! Wow… you quickly get your cell phone out and call your loved ones telling them to “Quick! Go outside” asking them to look up and share this with you. And…for at least a moment in time… all your troubles are forgotten and God is remembered.

You know…I think that sunset we just saw…God allowed us to enjoy it because we needed it…but, we didn’t pray for it. No…“this one” was painted for just one child of God…someone who prayed a “small” prayer asking God for a beautiful sunset for her wedding night. A small request no doubt… a prayer we all might have counted as “matters only to me” kind of small prayer. Yet, God not only cared about her small stuff but in His abundance of love gave all of us who needed this gift the opportunity to enjoy it too!

Ahhhh…you know…others may actually be blessed by our “small stuff” prayers. Now wouldn’t that just be like our God to do something like that?

Something to consider the next time you feel you shouldn’t “bother” God with the small stuff!

Kathy

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lord…Where Are You?

Perception of God's Presence

Psalms 121: 8
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Often when I am in a “study” of God’s Word I experience a greater closeness and sense of God’s presence in my life. I also experience God’s amazing presence not only during my times of prayer and worship... but during the most trying and desperate times of my life too. When I experience the presence of God, I am blessed to find great comfort and security…and these experiences have increased my desire to be with Him more and more. I have even grown to anticipate His presence whenever I turn to Him… in both good times and bad.

Unfortunately, many of us may perceive God’s presence as being near or distant based on our incorrect thinking that “we have control” over His presence in our life. Maybe like me you have gone through a time when you thought that how we behave or the things we say and do are what controls God’s presence in our lives. I have met many believers whose understanding of our Heavenly Father’s favor is linked to their understanding of an earthly father’s favor. When our understanding is like that…we actually expect God to reward us with His favor and presence when our behavior is “good” and to withhold His favor and presence when our behavior is “bad”.

Many are able to accept God’s silence when it is felt that we deserved it or are able to acetain a logical reason for it…but what do we expect when we have been obedient and trusting? If we think we have some level of “control” concerning how God should respond to us, doesn’t our obedience and trust create an expectation for a “reward” from God? The reward we seek may be a heartfelt desire for His presence to be apparent to us. Unconsciously perhaps, we conclude that if we are faithful in prayer and giving praise to God…shouldn’t God be faithful to us by providing us with His presence?

After all… it is by (our perception of) His presence that we are able to remain encouraged or be comforted and to find strength. Isn’t our faithfulness to Him deserving of our perceiving His presence with us? Because God loves us, His presence should always be ours…right?

Ok… maybe not…but the question still remains…why is it that God would choose to be silent and even “distant” during our faithful times of seeking, needing and even anticipating His Presence?

What happens to our faith, our trust and our hope in God, when God is silent and distant? How should we respond when we feel distance from God at a time when we expect to feel His presence...especially during the desperate times when we are in great need of sensing…of experiencing the closeness of God? Have you also had times like me when you need a Word from Him…you need His presence so as to feel His comfort? Why would God ever not make His presence known to His faithful child who is in need of Him? What is happening when God is silent…distant…when our perception of His presence is “void”? Is this even possible?

Of course,like you I have experienced His “silence” during times I understood to be God’s way of calling me to be still and to wait. Although it is difficult to do this as we seek God’s Will in a prayed for situation... especially the ones that seem pretty urgent to us…most of us can relate and even “accept” this kind of silence from God.

But what about the times when God’s silence leads to experiencing His discernable absentness? This happened to me a couple of years ago… when I needed most to feel Jesus’ presence. I had been faithful…relying on Him completely…yet, only silence was heard and His presence unfelt...and it lasted for several days. Where was God then…?

Praise God!I have His Word to answer my cry for understanding. The Bible has many accounts of God not being “perceived” as present or near to His faithful children. In fact the bible is full of examples of God’s perceived abandonment… some of the faithful servants of God who experienced God’s “distance” are;

Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Job… Martha and Mary, Lazarus…Paul…and yes…even Jesus on the cross.

All experienced God’s distance and silence…during times they needed God the most to be near, God’s presence was not known by them. It is from their experience we all will find what our response can be.

For me the Book of Psalms is one of the best books in the bible to describe the feelings of perceived closeness and also distance of God. It is perhaps the one book above all others that has lifted, comforted and carried me to a better understanding that God’s ways are way beyond my understanding.

The psalmist who wrote Psalms 44 is speaking of those who were devoted to God and yet experienced a perceived abandonment by God. The theme of this psalm is; a plea for victory by the battle-weary and defeated; and remembering God’s past deliverance and to be confident that he will restore you.

Psalm 44: 6-11, 17-26
6 I do not trust in my bow,
my sword does not bring me victory;
7 but you give us victory over our enemies;
you put our adversaries to shame.
8 In God we make our boast all day long,
and we will praise your name forever.
Selah
9 But now you have rejected and humbled us;
you no longer go out with our armies.
10 You made us retreat before the enemy,
and our adversaries have plundered us.
11 You gave us up to be devoured like sheep
and have scattered us among the nations.
17 All this happened to us,
though we had not forgotten you
or been false to your covenant.
18 Our hearts had not turned back;
our feet had not strayed from your path.
19 But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals
and covered us over with deep darkness.
20 If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
21 would not God have discovered it,
since he knows the secrets of the heart?
22 Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
23 Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
24 Why do you hide your face
and forget our misery and oppression?
25 We are brought down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.
26 Rise up and help us;
redeem us because of your unfailing love.

Israel had been defeated despite their faith (44:17) and obedience (44:18) to God. The psalmist could not understand why God had allowed this to happen, but he did not give up hope of discovering the answer (44:17-22). Although he felt his suffering was undeserved, he revealed the real reason for it: he suffered because he was committed to the Lord. Paul quoted the psalmist’s complaint (Romans 8:36) to show that we must always be ready to face death for the cause of Christ. Thus, our suffering may not be a punishment at all… but a battle scar that demonstrates our loyalty.

The same psalmist wrote Psalms 46. Although the perception of God’s abandonment was expressed earlier, he reveals the heart that still trust in God. The theme is; God is always there to help, provide refuge, security, and peace. God’s power is complete and his ultimate victory is certain. He will not fail to rescue those who love him.

Psalm 46:1-5, 10-11
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day. Selah
10 "Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."
11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Although our next Psalm is written by another author…it completes perfectly the results of our remaining steadfast in faith, regardless of what we perceive as God’s distance or abandonment. The theme is: God answers prayer. Individually and as a body of believers, we should praise and worship God.

Psalms 66: 8-12, 16-20
8 Praise our God, O peoples,
let the sound of his praise be heard;
9 he has preserved our lives
and kept our feet from slipping.
10 For you, O God, tested us;
you refined us like silver.
11 You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.
12 You let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance.
16 Come and listen, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what he has done for me.
17 I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.
18 If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;
19 but God has surely listened
and heard my voice in prayer.
20 Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me!

When you're asking God why…and asking “where are You LORD”? When you are surrounded by darkness and you cannot perceive the presence of God in your days of trouble or despair…ignore the lies you “perceive” of God having left you alone…We can always depend upon God for help. We will surely travel through lonely times in this life before reaching our heavenly destination.

Isaiah 42:16
"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them."


So for me, I keep my hope in God, knowing that my questions may not ever be answered here on earth. Each day I make a point to look beyond my situation to the only all-knowing God of Truth, who will not leave me nor fail me. I continue to learn about His attributes and cling to them in hope. The path of life that I am now traveling is very different from what I expected or wanted, but Jesus guides me.

As I once again experience God’s daily presence, I no longer take it for granted…so perhaps His purpose was for this reason alone… God’s presence is not ours to conger up or dismiss as we need Him or desire Him. Wonderfully, God’s presence is not affected at all by what we perceive it to be either...…Our God…He is always with us.

Song: GOD of My Days by Zach Neese /
My Prayer is from lyrics of God of My Days

Dear Lord,

You are the God of my days, the King of my nights
Lord of my laughter, sovereign in sorrow
You are the Prince of my praise, the love of my life
You never leave me, You are faithful, God of my days.

You unveil my eyes, help me to see
The arms of my Father encircling me
You are a constant companion, I am never alone
Your love is the banner that is leading me home.
I trust that every moment’s in Your hands.

My eyes are on you, my hope is in you.
My faith is in you .You are the God of my days and King of my nights.

I love you Jesus,

Amen



Kathy

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sacrifice of Praise

Hebrews 13:15 (Amplified Bible)
Through Him, therefore, let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name.

Maybe you can relate… I have not always responded “well” in the past when experiencing the hard times this life brings. You know… times when everything seems to be going in the worse possible direction and can’t possible get worse…and than it does! Unfortunately, I too often became so consumed by my thoughts of not only what is “horribly” wrong right then…but I would also begin to imagine all the frightful possibilities of what the situation may lead to. I have literarily overwhelmed myself beyond my own ability to cope!

I can recall a few times (too many for me), my sweet husband would attempt to impart some great words of wisdom and encouragement…perhaps even try to hold me and comfort me…crazy guy…but I was too consumed with fear and unrelenting despair to receive it. When I got like this… honestly…I couldn’t even stand myself! I use to tell Brad that “at least you can leave the room…unfortunately; I follow me wherever I go!”

Yikes! I’m so thankful God gave me a husband that loved me when I wasn’t very lovable…and even more I’m thankful that Jesus loves me and promises that He will never leave or forsake me. Jesus is willing to go “wherever I go” and meet my needs in His perfect ways.

Difficulties may not disappear…but we have God’s assurance that He has everything under control. If fact in the midst of trials and difficulties I have learned something I want to share.

I use to pray asking God only for relief from my difficulties and for this relief to come in such a way that seems right to me. I would tell the Lord how I wanted Him to respond and even was willing to give Him some choices! You know…1st choice being the “best” and the last choice is “better than anything else”. If His answer was to be considered a “good one”, than His answer needed to fall within these choices I’d given.

Honestly…I think God was pleased that while I prayed, placing before Him my heartfelt petitions and request that I was seeking Him and His power… believing He is more than able to fulfill my request. But I’ve discovered something new about God’s wisdom and power during an especially difficult period in my life. It was during Brad’s finally months …God was answering my prayers in ways and amid circumstances that I never would have considered “acceptable”. My prayers began to change as I looked to Christ and found He was faithful to carry me on a path that I was too frightened and too weak to walk alone. As my trust increased so did my love and praises for Him grow…thus drawing me into a closer relationship with Jesus giving me the strength and courage to take my first baby steps towards desiring God’s Will above my own.

I discovered in the midst of these great troubles what I really wanted…what I really needed... was to receive all of God’s provisions, wisdom and strength to get me through the storms of this life. Finally…I’m learning that when God does not answer my prayers within the “provided choices”...the Lord will always give me His “best”…by placing in my heart the desire to ask for His deliverance through the storms.

I won’t always “like” God’s answer to my prayers…Brad’s death still seems so “unnecessary”. But I do not doubt that the Lord can be trusted to have a better plan even if I don’t understand it. What peace I have found in trusting God with everything. In the middle of the storms of my life I have found that when I turn my heart to Jesus and my soul speaks words of praise …there is a tremendous resource in these praises which brings healing. The Bible tells us again and again to praise God. Even when we do not feel like praising God, do it anyway and believe in the power of praise. Praise means to worship, exalt, and to honor. In Praising God we also thank Him.

According to Dr. Bill Bright, "Praise is a way of being liberated from the bondage of grief. God inhabits the praise of His people. Praise Him even with your tears, even if your heart is not in tune with what your lips are saying at first. It will not be long until your heart will catch up with praise. "Many, many times during heartache and sorrow, I have praised God with tears streaming down my cheeks because I know that God is a God of love."

"You offer God praise when it hurts," says Joni Erickson Tada, "and it costs you something. It costs your logic; it costs your pride. God then is so much more highly honored because He knows that you deem Him so, having offered such a sacrifice."

Hebrews 13:15 tells us to offer the "sacrifice of praise" to God with lips that thankfully acknowledge, confess, and proclaim the glory of His name.

The Bible says that God dwells in the praises of His people. He lives among praises and is continually surrounded by them. What an incredible way to abide with the Holy God.

Psalm 22:3 (NIV)
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises

“Holy, God, I praise Your name. You alone are worthy to be revered above all things. Thank you for Your daily mercy, love and goodness. I praise Your name! Amen.

Psalm 150:6 (NIV) Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD.


Kathy

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Opposition

1 Peter 5:8-9
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…”

One morning not long ago I woke up feeling “defeated”. Well, actually…truth is, I had been spending several days “feeding” on thoughts of all my inadequacies to handle the challenges my life seemed so overwhelmed with. So I guess it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I would wake up feeling the way I did. But that morning…I was feeling especially vulnerable because I had reached a troubling conclusion concerning my dreams and hopes I thought I would one day accomplish through God’s grace.

Before I even had the chance to pick up my Bible and begin my daily morning devotion time, my thoughts and heart had already decided that I was no longer up to the challenges of pursuing my desire to minister to others through writing or speaking and teaching about God’s faithfulness in all circumstances…especially affliction. After all, really what could I possibly have new to say about God’s faithfulness, love and comfort that hasn’t already been said…and said well, by so many others? There are preachers and Bible teachers who are more skilled and better educated in such matters… so really,what had I been thinking?

I did a quick mental review of my current “talents” and realized rather quickly I do not posses the same wonderful creative styles and oratory skills I have admired in others who are successful in these areas of ministry. I also firmly decided my very limited skills didn’t need to be revealed for others to discover this about me as well! So, that morning, I knew with certainly, I was not “called” to accomplish any of these desires I have felt drawn to and believed God had placed in my heart to do. I even knew that my well- meaning friends who have been encouraging me that these are my gifts have also been blindly led to the wrong conclusion as well. There just has to be something else I am supposed to be doing with my life… I now just have to wait I thought, for God to reveal what it will be.

Soooo, this very defeated soul finally sat down to read my Bible and to pray. The Scriptures I read that morning were from the Old Testament and filled with stories of conflict between God’s people living under oppressive conditions and struggling to maintain their identity in a culture ruled by pagan kings. Many had “given in” to the pagan culture around them and began to even worship idols. It seemed they were willing to ‘try” anything to escape their current situation and feelings of hopelessness…everything that is except turning to Jehovah God…

As I put my Bible aside, I spoke to God that my morning Scripture reading wasn’t exactly helping me “feel better” about myself or about my new realization that I now have absolutely no direction for my life. As I sat in my pool of pity with my eyes focused only on me and what little I will ever be able to accomplish with my life, I felt God wanted me to understand something from what I had just read… but my heart and thoughts could not seem to focus on God’s message for me. I was still allowing those overwhelming feelings of defeat crowd out any message of hope the Holy Spirit was trying to deliver. Although I continued to pray, my thoughts remained in an exhausting struggle. One moment releasing… the next grabbing back… all the things I had envisioned God was calling me to do concerning my desires in ministry. Tired from these tussling thoughts I did the only thing any good quitter would do…I stopped praying! I decided I needed to clear all these conflicting thoughts from my head and just “change the subject”. So I redirected my attention to my In-depth Bible Study lesson I still needed to complete that morning.

WOW! God gained my full attention as I turned to the first page of my study book. Praise God! I quickly thought. Now I see what You were trying to get me to understand as I laughed out loud! That morning’s lesson just happened to be titled; “Opposition to the Anointing” by Priscilla Shirer. This was the Scripture under the lesson title;

“The thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it in abundance” (John 10:10).

God knew exactly what I needed to hear and His timing for instruction as always is perfect. It is by no coincidence that this day was the day I would open my study book and be reminded I have an adversary that opposes my obedience to what God has established and also enables me to do through His power…not mine. As I worked through the day’s probing questions I began to realize that the last several days I have been looking at my life and only seeing that which I thought I could accomplish. I also saw that I had created my own image (idol) of what success would look like and feel like. Anything that looked “different” from this image I had assumed must indicate an inadequacy which will only lead to failure.

I soon realized that I was feeling defeated because I had allowed my thoughts to detach themselves from God’s lifeline of power and wisdom through the Holy Spirit who dwells within me. Satan’s lies had attempted to be my truth. Jesus saved me from this devil’s snare by revealing the real Truth found only through God’s Word.

As I set aside my completed lesson, I no longer felt defeated or distracted. In fact I was energized and excited about all God is more than able to do in and through me…abundantly!

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor.12:10b) I got down on my knees to pray.

“Thank you Jesus for you are faithful! Nothing is too difficult for You! Forgive me for not turning to you the moment doubt entered my thoughts. Help me to look only to you Lord as my help in overcoming fears and doubts. May I always keep my eyes on you and find my rest in Your Truth as you accomplish Your perfect work in my life. I love you Jesus. All glory and honor belong to You. Amen”

Kathy

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stop! Thief!

Galatians 5:16-26 (New International Version)

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.


I hate to admit it…but last week I was a bank thief. Yup… I went into the bank and robbed the teller assisting me…I also was able to rob those working near her. After all…when someone is “robbed” in public those nearby are subjected to the same. Mmmm, perhaps I should explain a bit more before you go check to see how you missed this on the evening news…

The other day I went to the bank to cash three small checks…two of the checks had only my name on it and the other was made out in my husband’s name for $12.30. When Brad was alive (and with his permission) I was able to deposit or cash his checks easy enough since both our names were on the bank account. Since Brad and I had held our bank accounts together for years at this bank it did not really occur to me that when I went to cash or deposit this check that the bank teller would not accept it. After all they had proof in their files that we had been married and that Brad had died two years ago…and it wasn’t like Brad would ever be able to cash it himself. Besides…it was only for $12.30!

Unfortunately… the bank teller didn’t see things the same way I did. When she tried to explain “bank policy” I tried to explain “Kathy policy” and neither of us met the other’s specification! Although I did not say anything that may have been considered inappropriate…my attitude and the way I expressed myself was not appropriate as a follower of Christ.

Once I understood we had reached an impasse on resolving our differences, I coldly conceded the one check would be left uncashed and indifferently accepted the funds from the other two and walked away. Before I could even get inside my car... my thoughts and spirit became unsettled. I began trying to “justify” my response to this bank teller on the short drive home. Wanting to overlook my thoughtlessness towards her, I began going over in my mind any “hints” of fault I could imagine in her actions and responses. By the time I had entered my house though I was feeling an over-riding conviction to go back to the bank and apologize for how I behaved. Yet…right there with the Spirit’s conviction was my own strongly felt resistance to returning… I really didn’t want to go back and admit any fault.

“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” Gal. 5:17

I willingly sought the Lord in prayer and admitted to God that I had been “ugly”. As I asked for His forgiveness, I also prayed, “Please Lord…I don’t want to have to go back and apologize...can this just be between the two of us?” As I sought for my spirit to be quieted, I knew with certainty I had received the Lord’s love and forgiveness, but my spirit remained unsettled. So I continued to pray asking God to release me from how I was feeling… yet as I prayed I knew I was also trying to squelch the urging of the Holy Spirit’s instruction to be obedient to what God’s Word has taught me to do.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your mind; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness”. Ephesians 4:22-24

It was clear…I needed to go back and apologize.

I’d love to tell you I got up from prayer and went straight to the bank…but unfortunately, “my old self” still has a bit of fight in her…so, instead, I stayed right where I was and gave God my “list of good reasons” why it really wasn’t necessary for me to go back to the bank and apologize. First on my list, I justified my reaction to the bank teller by telling God I thought from the very start she didn’t display any signs that she is all that nice of a person herself. I also gave serious consideration to the notion that she could likely be a horribly mean person to everyone she encounters. Next, I added to my list, she seemed to lack some real compassion. My argument being after all, she never did express to me any kindness in regard to my losing my husband (…well, ok, my attitude towards her may not have given her an opportunity to do so, but…). Sooo, I added she also lacked warmth. By this point I have really warmed up to feeling vindicated in my reaction to not being able to cash this now very important check and what it stands for…so I continue onto my next point. She was cold, I decided…like how she kept annoyingly referred back to bank policy and what I needed to have with me and didn’t…instead of trying to come up with a solution that would have really helped me the way I needed help! And then just in case none of these reasons held to be true…and because I really do know I should not respond to people based on how they treat me…I argued what I thought was my best reason…“Lord, she has likely forgotten my visit already. It wasn’t really that big of a deal anyway, right? It’s not like I said anything wrong….so she’ll never miss my not coming back and apologizing”.

These arguments were not calming my spirit or convincing the Lord …so I pleaded mercy and gave the Lord my one and only defense … “Lord, don’t you care? I’m still hurting from my loss of Brad and his not being here with me. Dealing with stuff like this can be hard for me. Can’t I just have this one time to be excused from ‘doing what is right?’ I agree I may have been a bit “ugly” about all of this to the bank teller…but Lord, it’s only because I’m hurting…you know how when I’m hurting that it sometimes makes me not so nice... Honest, I’ve learned my lesson today. Let me stay home and forget this ever happened.”

The Lord’s compassion and love filled me as His Word also reminded me that His discipline is for my good…not to harm me, but to prosper me. He kindly revealed to me what my actions had really done that day. He let me know that although I may not have intended to “rob” this bank teller, my actions and attitude did indeed steal something of great value. Instead of bringing her the Lord’s goodwill and gentleness …I held her up with my own “disregard and discontent”. I took away her calm assurance and robbed her of the peace which was hers for doing her job well. And while I was at it… I also stole from those who worked with her. Those nearby no doubt heard or saw what occurred and felt her discomfort as they tried to carry on in work…perhaps even fearing that this may happen to them next. My actions robbed all of them of God’s intended blessing my life is suppose to be towards others. My actions also robbed me of the blessing in being kind.

My debate with the Lord ended with my acknowledging and agreeing with God that regardless of how the bank teller would respond to my apology, it was necessary for me to be obedient to my Father’s Will and return to the bank. Not only would I feel better by doing this the Lord assured me, but more importantly, I would be pleasing God. Honestly…to please God was reason enough for me. So I grabbed my keys and headed out the door. And then you know, something else wonderful happened...although I certainly did not deserve it…Jesus went with me to the bank! I did not have to face my “victim(s)” alone…Jesus gave me the courage and confidence I needed to walk up to her with other people close by and tell her I was sorry for treating her so badly on my earlier visit. I really didn’t expect what happened next…her first response was the look of sweet delight followed by a sigh and a big smile…

My apology was not only accepted but gratefully received. She asked that I wait for her to come out from behind the counter to speak with me. She expressed her sincere surprise that I took responsibility for my actions and reaction earlier. I discovered that my actions had indeed caused her to feel troubled enough to speak with her manager for she said she went to ask for advice on how she could have responded better knowing this was a difficult circumstance. Than she quickly gave way from how she had been feeling and expressed concern for me. She wanted to know if I was “ok too”. She thanked me for “caring” enough about her feelings to return. She also said she appreciated that I wanted her to know I found no fault in her actions. I saw blessed relief in her. I felt it too. My returning to the bank…apologizing and than allowing Jesus’ love for both of us to be evident… changed her day I think. I know it changed mine.

As I left the bank…my tears began to stream down my face as I thanked God for the sweet blessing of relief my soul was experiencing… no longer feeling unsettled. Perhaps you have discovered as I have that it is through obedience that we are drawn into a closer relationship and understanding with Christ. God knew I was sorry for how I had acted toward the bank teller and His forgiveness was complete the moment I asked forgiveness…but, all sin has consequences. Had I remained unwillingness to heed God’s direction in my response to His forgiveness, I would have missed out on the blessing of seeing and experiencing the healing power of Jesus. You know…I even heard Jesus’ joyful laugh as He said to my heart… These blessings from obedience to the Father’s Will are always abundant Kathy. Trust and don’t doubt or fear… for my teachings and my love, they are more precious than silver or gold…

Some lessons can be pretty costly… thankfully, this one could be said to have only cost $12.30.

1 Peter 5:8b -9a "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith”,

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How God Feels About Sin

Romans 7:21-26 (The Message)

It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.


Sin. Yikes! Not so easy to examine closely if it’s your own… To be honest, I have sometimes tried to "camouflage" the ugliness of my sins with a coating of "my good intentions" or "my weaknesses" when confessing them to God. Too often I've looked at my sin through my eyes...not God's. WOW... let me tell you...there is a BIG difference in what sin looks like when I do that!

Several weeks ago while reading my One Year Chronological Bible...which happened to be in the middle of 3 books; Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Lamentations...I was thinking, triple yikes! For weeks...I had been asking God what He wanted me to know or understand about Him through these very difficult Scriptures. They describe God's fierce anger and the relentless punishment that He decreed against His people of Jerusalem who had sinned greatly by turning to pagan worship and sacrifice to other gods… they had forsaken the One true God! I even confessed that morning to the Lord before beginning my devotion time that I could hardly wait until "I'm out of this part of the Word!" It’s a tough read...

Anyway, at the same time I'm reading my daily Bible Scriptures I was also involved in completing an in-depth Bible study lesson on the life of David. Yup…you guessed it... I was reading about God's fierce anger towards David's sin. The Lord had my attention!

God had lavished David (as He did His people of Jerusalem), with His abundance of love and provisions withholding nothing! God exceeded any and all expectations David may of had for what is good and beautiful and plenty. David would only need to ask of God ~ and he would have received it ~ according to the Scriptures. Yet,in the midst of this abundance David's eyes and heart sought "something more"... something not of God. David desired something evil in the sight of God and he sinned.

So, I had to stop there...and asked myself..."Have I not done the same Lord? Have I not sat in your abundance and looked around for "something more in life and instead of seeking You...and in doing that, sought something evil?" So I prayed; "Forgive me Lord ~ for every time I have taken my eyes and my thoughts off of you. I have looked for satisfaction and fulfillment where You are not there! I look around me right now...what abundance! ~ all from You ~ all is Yours. Thank you Lord... Thank you! Yet of all the "things" I possess Father, none of it has greater worth than my relationship with Jesus. Without Your presence Lord~ Your faithfulness ~ Your love and promises ~ I would be hopeless... empty... and doomed. Give me your eyes Lord so I see my sin as you do. Break my heart Lord with what breaks Yours. Guide me, so that when I move, I walk with You on the path You have laid out for my feet. I have only to look to You to find all ~ more than I will ever need. I love you Jesus."

You know...we cannot "camouflage” our sin from God's eyes or think that He will "wink" at our sin. He is not willing to "bless our mess" when we sin...how often in the past have I asked that very thing! So, do not look at your sin with your eyes...look at sin with God's eyes. Scripture tells us exactly how God feels about sin.

God is patient with us. Praise the Lord! Our God is full of mercy, grace and love. Oh~ how He deserves our obedience and love... for we have been redeemed and there is nothing of greater worth than this!

With repentance comes forgiveness…and in the process we are being refined by the Hand of God to produce purity...fitting for a King!

Kathy

Friday, October 8, 2010

Don’t Worry…Worship!

Luke 10:38-42 (New Living Translation)
As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

One morning as I was sitting in my quiet time, having finished reading the above Scripture…I imagined myself at the feet of Jesus. Suddenly, tears began to fall as my troubling thoughts spilled out…releasing my many concerns and feelings of fear and worry. Then I heard the Lord gently rebuke me as He did Martha saying, "Kathy, Kathy, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed."

It wasn't meal preparations, but many anxious thoughts that distracted me from focusing on the Lord. I had several “suggestions” of how the Lord could respond as I proceeded to tell Him what to do through my tears. I might as well have asked, "Lord, don't You care?”

Then I remembered these words from the Bible:

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace. . . His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7, NLT).

I confessed my anxieties to God and claimed His ability to do abundantly more than I could ever ask. My tears subsided as the burdens I had been carrying were lifted one by one into the much more capable care of my Savior… and God's peace filled my heart and mind. My quiet time ended in worshiping and listening to Jesus, my quieted spirit willingly surrendered to a sweeter part of prayer

Dear Jesus, Your peace is always found when I seek to worship You."

Kathy

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dare to Care and You Will See!

Mark 5:1-20 (New Living Translation)
So they arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus climbed out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit came out from a cemetery to meet him This man lived among the burial caves and could no longer be restrained, even with a chain. Whenever he was put into chains and shackles—as he often was—he snapped the chains from his wrists and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Day and night he wandered among the burial caves and in the hills, howling and cutting himself with sharp stones.
When Jesus was still some distance away, the man saw him, ran to meet him, and bowed low before him. With a shriek, he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In the name of God, I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had already said to the spirit, “Come out of the man, you evil spirit.”
Then Jesus demanded, “What is your name?”
And he replied, “My name is Legion, because there are many of us inside this man.” Then the evil spirits begged him again and again not to send them to some distant place.
There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby. “Send us into those pigs,” the spirits begged. “Let us enter them.”
So Jesus gave them permission. The evil spirits came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd of 2,000 pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water.
The herdsmen fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. People rushed out to see what had happened. A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons. He was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. Then those who had seen what happened told the others about the demon-possessed man and the pigs. And the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone.
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him. But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them.



This past week during my daily morning reading of Scripture I once again read the above story about the man who was demon-possessed and lived in a cemetery. Whenever I’ve read this story before I’ve occasionally thought about this man’s physical, mental and emotional condition. I’ve also thought about the deplorable living conditions that have him “living” among the dead since no living soul could even dare live near him. His only contact with people is the rare occasion when he is “visited” by some strong but likely uncaring men that attempt to restrain him with shackles and chains…not to protect him from himself, but to make the people in town feel safer. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for him to be so “out of control”…tormented day and night without experiencing a gentle touch or a loving voice of anyone who cared.

I’m so thankful that there is no condition of mankind that is beyond the loving and healing touch of Jesus. This story ends so beautifully with the man healed and wanting to go with Jesus but told to return to his family and “proclaim the great things Jesus has done.”

So, this is where I usually stop in my meditations on this Scripture. I am filled with praise that God is so good and then move on to the next story in my Bible…. but not this time. This time I was stuck wondering about the herdsmen, and the owner of the 2,000 pigs, and what is with those townspeople? I mean, why did the townspeople want Jesus to “go away and leave them alone.”? I began to consider some possible reasons why…

When Jesus gave permission for the demons to enter the entire herd of 2,000 pigs...Wow…I wonder, if after the initial shock of seeing the entire herd of pigs (which were their responsibility to protect and care for, by the way), disappear over the steep hillside and drown in a lake… maybe the herdsmen realized they just saw there job security plunge off a cliff!

Explaining this to their boss was not going to be pleasant. The fact that some local demon-possessed guy who has been that way for years is now free from torment and completely restored may not have held such greater value in these men’s eyes when compared to their jobs and the income they would now surely lose. I’d like to think the miracle they witnessed had some positive effect on them…seeing the power of God personally…but, than maybe they didn’t see the miracle because their eyes were not on what Jesus had done for the demon-possessed man…they were on themselves.

And then I thought about the guy who owned the pigs…Yikes! How long did it take him to acquire 2,000 pigs? We don’t know if he owned other herd of animals or if this was all he had. Regardless, losing a portion of his herd would be considered bad enough…but losing his entire herd of pigs…well…I have a feeling since he wasn’t the one offering the pigs to Jesus to help this demon-possessed guy out, that he also might not be too “happy” with this turn of events.

So, I began to see how the owner, his wife and family might not be too excited about Jesus calling the demons out of some guy they can’t even relate to… by allowing the demons' request to enter his valuable herd of 2,000 pigs, which resulted in all of them being killed! How did this miracle benefit them? But than again I realized, they didn’t see the good that came from what Jesus did…they missed seeing the miracle and only saw the cost.

The news of what happen traveled fast… and the townspeople had to be amazed to see what was once the demon-possessed man now fully clothed and “in his right mind”! Surely, they had spent many fearful and possibly sleepless nights listening to the frightening sounds of his howling and prowling…the very sight of this man strong enough to snap chains and smash shackles. You would think they would be amazed at the power of Jesus to remove completely the demons that caused even them to live with fear each day and night. I couldn’t help but wonder why their response to this healing by Jesus was full of rejection. Why did these townspeople fear Jesus more than they did a demon-possessed man?

The townspeople reaction in wanting Jesus to leave had me stumped until I began to wonder if they feared what it might “cost them” if Jesus stayed. Had they become so accustom and even comfortable in the way they lived their lives with demons so near, that they missed seeing the miracle?

I think the townspeople only glanced at the healing of the demon-possessed man…I think their eyes were fixed on 2,000 dead pigs! Is it possible that they also feared that Jesus would “take” something from them in order to help or heal a person they don’t even know? Is this why they were so fearful and "pleaded with Jesus to go away and leave them alone.” ? Did they also only see with eyes on themselves and what it might cost them if they dared to care?

I don’t know… maybe there is another reason why these people were afraid and wanted Jesus to leave, but all this has caused me to wonder; “Am I willing to give Jesus whatever He requires of me to help someone who needs Him?” Do I dare to care about others as Jesus cares? I pray I do. I don’t want to miss out on witnessing a miracle of God because I had my eyes fixed on what God “took” from me or from someone I love. I want to see the blessings. I want to see the miracles.

All I have and all I am has come from God’s gracious and loving Hand. What an amazing honor that God would want something from me so that His Glory may be seen by a world that needs Jesus. I have learned that God doesn’t ask for anything He has not already prepared us to do and provided us to give.

It is sometimes said that we should give until it hurts. But Jesus teaches that it should hurt when we cease to give.
Ian Barclay

Dare to Care…and you will see and experience a blessing that only can come from the Hand of God’s abundance!
Kathy

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

We Have The Power of God In Us

Ephesians 3:14-21 (New International Version)

For this reason I kneel before the Father,from whom his whole family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name.I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen


My husband Brad was a competitive guy. He loved to play all kinds of sports and games and in each one always put his “best efforts” into winning. Two sports that Brad introduced me to and we loved playing together were tennis and racquetball. Now, I can be pretty competitive too and I really like to win! So even though I might not have had the physical ability to play these sports at the same level of skill Brad had, he made them fun to play together by allowing me to “compete” by either playing left-handed (racquetball) or playing (tennis) a little less “intensely” and at a level that allowed me to excel.

Of course, since I’m a competitive person, whenever I would win points and even a game or two, I acted like it was my great skill that accomplished these great feats of victory! I did not give Brad any credit for how he adjusted his game to allow for my victories…(even though he was also nice enough to help me by teaching me better skills to improve my game). We would laugh together over my “beating him”… but I might have laughed a bit harder than I should on occasion! Sometimes when I would get a bit too full of myself over winning a point Brad liked to remind me of his “true” level of play by hitting the ball with the skill and speed he used when playing the sport competitively with his friends. Yikes! He was good!

We always had a great time and Brad usually seemed pretty content to allow me to enjoy those times when I thought I was an equal match to his talents and abilities. He was even sincerely thrilled when my level of play would improve and exceeded both of our expectations! He was a great encourager to “keep playing”! Brad knew he could have “swept the victories from me” … but he choose instead to invite me to join him in his love for these sports so that we could spend time together and share his passion for the games. His passions became mine.

You know… looking back now,it occurs to me that Brad and I may have thought we were playing “against” each other, but because of how Brad actually “played the game” we were actually playing on the same team all along. Brad didn’t play with all his might so as to “crush” me when we played together, he played the game in a way so that I would be encouraged and could learn new skills to play better. It would have been easy for him to play with all his might and ability and cause me to quit and feel that I could never measure up to playing the game and win.

God wants us to know that He is on our side too. So when adversity shows up to “play against us”…God is right there with us and even places His Right Hand over us so that we can drawn on His power and strength to strike back the blows of hard hits adversity plays at us. We are teamed with Jesus! Yeah! He is more than able to “crush” our opponent! We have a faithful God who stays with us throughout… encouraging and instructing us along the way in our battle with adversity. When we fully rely on Jesus, He is able to reveal to us through every return hit and swing at adversity… the powerful testimony of what only God can accomplish in us. Do not fear when adversity calls you into it’s game. Adversity may see a “wimp” but our weaknesses can prove to be a hidden treasure of God’s strength. In God’s strength we are given the taste of victory!

So…don’t be like I was with Brad when he gave me “a win” and I said it was mine…

It is to Jesus’ Name that all glory and honor is due! If others see us as strong while facing adversity… praise God!

You know...isn't it just like our Father to want us to look like Him!

The Daughter of the King.
Kathy

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Adversity…Who Wants That?

Isaiah 30:20 (Amplified Bible)
And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide Himself any more, but your eyes will constantly behold your Teacher.

Adversity: 1. A state of hardship or affliction; misfortune. 2. A calamitous event.

Reading over the definition of Adversity above, I have to ask… who would want to experience that? I can just imagine if God were to allow us to “sign up” for the various experiences this life brings here on earth that most of us would not sign up for Adversity! So while thinking about this kind of “optional sign up”, I imagined what my conversation with God would have sounded like several years ago if I had been given a choice by God to “sign up” for how I would come to know and love and trust Him…and to experience His amazing and abundant love in ways I never could imagine.

So here is how I think I would have reviewed my “life experience” options with God….

“Lord, thank you for my salvation and Your faithfulness. I know I did nothing to deserve it but. Wow, You love me! I am sincere in my love for You Lord and for all that you have done so that I may live eternally with You in heaven. My life is so much better since I accepted Jesus as my Savior because now I know I have you and the Holy Spirit within me to help me make wise and moral decisions. So… since I’m already feeling really good about everything… I’m willing to put my name on the list for knowing you through ‘Mountain Top Experience’! You know Lord; I can’t wait to get to know you better in these kinds of experiences!

And Father, I’m ok with You sprinkling in a few “Some Mild Discomfort” experiences… (If you would, please promise they will also be brief), since I know that going through some tough stuff will help me know You better. So I’m willing Father to sacrifice my complete happiness for a short while…after all, I trust you, and believe that Jesus is with me and will help me endure.

But… Father, I still need to pray some more about signing up to experience ‘Moderate Discomfort’. Now, I realize that as these “experiences” get tougher I’m going to experience You in ways I never will without them…but if it’s ok with you… can I get back to you on that one? I don’t think I have the strength and courage to sign up for this. I’ve kind of pictured my life being ‘carefree’ …full of fun and laughter. It may sound like I think everything should evolve around my happiness, but Lord, I do think of You too…really. Why just the other day I remembered You…

“Adversity” Yikes! Lord, as much as I’d love to know You more intimately and experience Your abundance of love and compassion during times of great hardship…and even experience Your peace which surpasses all understanding… well, don’t you agree that this would be a bit too big of a stretch for me? I mean, after all, signing up for adversity would be a real sacrifice for me… if you know what I mean. I’m pretty sure this would require me to look beyond my own plans and comfort and desires for what my life should be all about. You know…I’ve even heard that if I experience adversity, I will probably have to let go of some of the things I have a pretty firm grip on…and it could even affect my relationships with people I really love…and my future plans. It’s not that I don’t fully trust You, I really sort of do! I believe You will keep Your promises about never leaving me or forsaking me...after all, I feel you are with me right now! May I add…what an awesome feeling this is!

Anyway…I’m pretty confident from what I have been told that you only allow adversity to touch your children’s lives which has an ultimate good purpose in it. But, is it also true that I might not understand the “good” reason for it until I see You face to face? You know…that could take a lifetime!

Although you promise to provide all the strength I will need to endure a season of adversity…it’s just well, frankly it scares me and I’m just not willing to risk what I already have to allow adversity a try. I’m pretty confident that kind of experience will not make me as happy. (You did read the definition of adversity didn’t you?) So Father, I’m sure you understand…”

God does indeed understand. So perhaps it is fortunate that God does not allow us to “sign up” for our life experiences. Although I would not have ever “signed up” for the adversity of my husband to have cancer and all the pain and suffering that disease inflicted in our lives…I can honestly say, I would not want to lose what I have abundantly gained in my trust and faith, and great love for Jesus Christ from it. This season of adversity has transformed me.

Still… it sounds like a tough trade wouldn’t you say? Well it is...and it is not one I could have ever chosen. And God knew that. So, He does not ask us if we want adversity… instead, when the season of adversity comes to one of God’s children, He loves us so much that He desire to equip us by “signing up Jesus” to come with us and to hold us up when we can not stand on our own anymore. Christ gives us His strength and courage throughout every moment and every breath of adversity. It is in our total weakness that we can experience closeness to Christ and establish a relationship that can never be shaken. It is in and through adversity that His abundant love and provisions are revealed for all seasons of life here on earth and in heaven.

You may be in a season of adversity right now… There are many who are struggling with cancer and other serious illnesses…perhaps your adversity is financial, or maybe you have a spouse or child in the military fighting for freedom overseas…or you are struggling with an addiction or someone you love is…maybe you have lost a love one through death or divorce…there are countless other “adversities” this life brings. God knows you can’t do this alone… and He desires for you to stop struggling and allow Him to be your Strength. As you become more reliant on Jesus’ power, love and faithfulness…you will experience a closer relationship with Christ and His abundant love and provisions for all the seasons of your life here on earth. As your relationship with Jesus grows so will your trust… and you may just find yourself “loosening your grip” on what worries you as well. I can’t think of anything I desire to have or any precious person I greatly love, that I wouldn’t confidently place firmly in my Savior’s Hand for safekeeping. What’s amazing to me is that when I do that… Jesus picks me up and holds tightly onto me too for safekeeping. Now that’s amazing love!

Check back with me latter to hear how we don’t have to wait to experience God’s abundance after a season of adversity…we can experience God’s abundance while we are living in it!

In His Grip,
Kathy

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wholehearted Worship

2 Samuel 6:14 (NIV)
"David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might".

As I read God’s Word this morning I was given an overflowing fresh "view" of how great God’s love is. As I meditated over the Scriptures in 2 Samuel 6 & 7, the Lord reminded me that He not only is thinking of me, but chooses to take me with Him into a relationship that will forever change my life!

I soon became overcome by my sincere heartfelt love and gratitude joined with renewed amazement that the Creator of all things knows my name and loves me faithfully even when I am completely and utterly unlovable and faithless! I could not help but ponder the very question David asked in 2 Samuel 7:18, "Who am I, Lord that You are mindful of me?"

2 Samuel 6:14, says" David...danced before the Lord with all his might". David's focus was completely on God...without any distraction or
“proprietary concerns", He gave the Lord his wholehearted devotion. As David danced with all his might...he didn't take a look around to see how "everyone else" was celebrating God's presence ... he didn't "check" to see if others were dancing or "raising a hand or two" as they praised God. I don't believe for a moment that as David danced down the streets of Jerusalem, he had any thoughts of "those with him". His heart and mind were fully centered in God. That's what I want my time with God to be as well! Fully centered...fully focused in God!

Although we may not always be able to express our devotion to Jesus by "dancing" when on Sunday mornings we join together in songs of worship to our Lord...I do feel we cannot fully worship God if we are allowing our eyes and thoughts to also focus on what someone next to us is doing or not doing during their time of worshiping God. Don't let this be the distraction that divides you and your devotion to God. Worship is a personal expression of love and thanksgiving... an offering we bring to the throne of Jesus our Savior.

I'm sure you will agree with me when we enter into the presence of the Lord to worship God and praise Him for Who He is, we want to give Him all we have to bring. I do not want to bring just a portion, but all... all I am...all I have...may the Lord see that everything within me "dances with all my might" (even if my feet don't run up and down the isle, I’m dancing from my heart and soul)!

As I give all my love and devotion to Jesus the Perfector of my faith...my Redeemer I find I have an “I have to praise Him… with all my might or I’ll burst” experience!

All glory to God,

Kathy

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

We Are all God’s Favorite! Colossians:3:23-25

23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.



As most of you know... my husband Brad died a little over two years ago of cancer. The days leading up to his death were horrific and heartbreaking. His death left me feeling amputated. We were one...by God's design for us in marriage...there could be no deeper cut.

Yet, over the past two years God has revealed and provided me with many displays of His love and compassion for Brad and for me. However, there have been some days when I have struggled with not so much the "why"...(for so many others who love God have been afflicted in similar ways or even worse),but I have struggled with feeling that somehow God was displeased with me...well, displeased because He knows me!

I know I have not done anything to deserve any of the good things God has blessed me with. Brad being absolutely the best blessing in my life... apart from Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior! The Lord has blessed me greatly since Brad's death in countless ways. He is faithful and He loves to blanket His children in His abundant provisions and love. My love and trust for Jesus has increased beyond measure. Yet, I have still occasionally struggled...

I struggled with feelings that perhaps if I had loved God more...He would have "favored" Brad and I instead of allowing the cancer to "win". No Scripture or Bible teaching lends itself to this kind of thinking... I know it is a lie...but, in times of weakness...it was there that these thought would creep into the "cracks of my armor".

When I study God's Word I ask that He reveal to my mind and heart what He wants me to know about Him and to give me a new insight into His love and purpose...to give me the courage to respond and act..and to share.

Sooo, while studying Scripture in Colossians 3, I came across the end of verse 25 which states, "there is no favoritism". The Lord illustrated this Truth to my heart in this way;

Imagine a father who has 5 children whom he loves greatly and all have fallen into a deep lake and will drown if he does not rescue them. This human father would not "favor" saving one child over the other. No, he would certainly desire and attempt to save them all!

How much more that God loves all of His children. Unlike the human father, God our Father know exactly what each drowning child needs. One child may need to be rescued "first" because he is the weakest of the 5 and will not survive any delay.

Another child has the ability to "hold on" slightly longer because God has enabled him to. The next child has even more strength and confidence in their father and know He is coming to recues him, so although he is scared and feeling tired, he able to wait a bit longer still.

The 4th child can't see His father but knows He is near and is calling his name...encouraging him to "keep swimming". This child remembers all his father taught him about swimming and focuses his mind and heart on his Father's voice...trusting in His promise to come rescue him. It's taking so much longer than he thought for his Father to come rescue him...he's tired and cold and scared and he begins to lose hope, so he begins to sink...and at that very moment, his Father lifts him out of the water and he is safe.

The 5th child knows he is greatly loved by his Father...this child has seen how his Father rescued all the others from drowning and is grateful to see his brothers are safely back on dry land. He knows his Father is trusting him to hold on and keep swimming.

This child has been waiting and swimming a long time now, but he overcomes his fears of drowning quickly because he can hear his Father's voice and he knows his Father will come for him too. He is amazed at his own strength...yet he knows this strength comes from practicing all that his Father has taught him. He also thinks about how much his Father loves him. He is secure in knowing that his Dad will soon reach out and take him from this nearly impossible struggle to survive in this deep water...

The Father reaches the last child and he is safe once again ...

Whether the 5th child is saved to walk on the dry shores with his other brothers or to walk on the streets of gold with Jesus ... the Father loved each child without favor. God alone knows what each child needed and the right moment to reach them. He loved each and met their needs as each one required...in God's perfect wisdom...and in God's perfect Way.

So, I thank my Father in heaven and praise the name of Jesus! God's love is perfect.

When I was drowning in fear and sorrow... He lifts me out of the pool of doubt and took me to dry land. While holding me tightly in His protective arms I think I heard Him say.... "you know Kathy, if I had a favorite...it would be you"! But you know,I also heard Him say the very same thing about you...and about all my brothers and my sisters... and I didn't mind that at all! It gave me joy!

God doesn't show favoritism... because we are all His favorites!

Worthy is the Lord! May our lives be an offering...our every breath and heartbeat for His glory alone. I once lived "for me"...I now greatly desire to live for Christ.
Kathy