Thursday, June 28, 2012

Made For Joy


“God will yet fill your mouth with laughter 
       and your lips with shouts of joy.” ~ Job 8:21 NCV
Our hearts were made for joy...because our hearts were made to enjoy the One who created them. 

I read a quote recently from Christian author Barbara Johnson, and she said: 
“ Live for today but hold your hands open to tomorrow. Anticipate the future and it’s changes with joy. There is a seed of God’s love in every event, every circumstance, every unpleasant situation in which you may find yourself.”
I imagine that God has planted joy deeply within our souls so that it is not affected by the ups and downs of life...for true joy...well, it comes from knowing and being known by our Creator. 
Joy...it is what makes our living worthwhile for it carries with it hope and assurance...that the next “bad thing” that happens in life will not be void of God’s love and provisions for us. 
In fact...when I am threatened to be pulled under and drown in my despair over life’s trials and adversities...the Lord gently calls me to discover the undercurrent of joy that lives inside of me...a joy because I’m His.

In my darkest days after my husband’s death, I pleaded with God to know joy again...to feel it...to live in it. When I finally tasted joy for the first time after Brad’s death...it was the only thing I ever wanted to taste forever and ever. 
I know I am made for joy. So are you. For we are made to know and be known by God...and it is God’s love that ignites our hearts with radiant joy.


Dear Father, help me to always uncover the joy that you have planted in my soul when it is threatened to be buried deep inside my sorrow and fears. Help me to cling to it no matter how strong the winds of adversity or raging the currents of frightening circumstances that may surround my life and the lives of those I love.
Increase my trust and love for Jesus...help me to fix my eyes and thoughts only on Him. 
For to me...to be joyful means that I am faithfully living for Jesus and that is all that counts. If I give joy to others...I am doing Your work. For I know in these things...all is well...and my joy in You will never be lost again. Amen”

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
Glory!
Kathy 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Humility & Service

Whatever task comes your way to do, do it with all your strength...Ecclesiastes 9:10  Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
Some lessons are best taught by example so I want to share the following story with you and also share the challenge from a great preacher on humility and serving others as Christ did.

~ George Washington, the commander-in-chief, was going around among his soldiers. They were hard at work, lifting a heavy piece of timber at some fortification. There stood the corporal of the regiment calling out to his men, “Heave there, heave ahoy!” and giving them all kinds of directions. As large as possible the good corporal was. So Washington, alighting from his horse, said to him, “What is the good of your calling out to those men, why don’t you help them yourself and do part of the work.”



The corporal drew himself up and said, “Perhaps you are not aware to whom you are speaking, sir; I am a corporal.”

“I beg your pardon,” said Washington; “you are a corporal are you; I am sorry I shouldn't have insulted you.” So he took off his own coat and waistcoat and set to work to help the men build the fortification. When he had done he said, “Mr Corporal, I am sorry I insulted you, but when you have any more fortifications to get up, and your men won’t help you, send for George Washington, the commander-in-chief, and I will come and help them.” The corporal slunk away perfectly ashamed of himself. ~

Charles Spurgeon writes:
“And so Christ Jesus might say to us, “Oh, you don’t like teaching the poor; it is beneath your dignity; then let your commander-in-chief do it; he can teach the poor, he can wash the feet of the saints, he can visit the sick and afflicted—He came down from heaven to do this, and He will set you the example.” 
Surely we should each be ashamed of ourselves in thinking like this; and declare from this time forward whatever it is, be it great or little, if it comes to our hand, and if God will but give us help and give us grace, we will do it with all our might.” 
As  a Christian and beloved child of God...may I reflect the example of our "Commander-in-Chief" Jesus Christ in serving others . We are given in each task in life the help of the Lord's excellence to humbly serve others. What a privilege it is to serve in the name of Jesus.
Glory!
Kathy   
“The apostles also began to argue about which one of them was the most important. But Jesus said to them, "The kings of the non-Jewish people rule over them, and those who have authority over others like to be called 'friends of the people.' But you must not be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the leader should be like the servant. Who is more important: the one sitting at the table or the one serving? You think the one at the table is more important, but I am like a servant among you. ~ Luke 22:24-27
For meditation: Our Master knew how to be humble (Philippians 2:6-9); Hs word tells us how He deals with people who are proud or humble (1 Peter 5:5-6).

Thursday, June 21, 2012

God's Justice...Why So Slow?


The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
And will not at all acquit the wicked.
~ Nahum 1:3 
This morning during my devotional time...I gave thought to considering why God is so slow to respond to the growing number of sins that humankind has embraced. It seems to me that the satisfying and fulfilling life God offers us and allows us to share in fellowship with Him has too easily been forgotten or set aside as we seek and pursue happiness in the things of this world and in people. 
When faced with making choices to either follow God’s commandments which may seem hard but are designed to feed and satisfy our very souls; people are choosing to follow Deceit...which seems easy and dresses itself as wisdom and fulfillment...yet leaves people hungry and thirsting for something more.
I wondered...how does God remain calm towards the many whose sins continue to prevail in this world and are against His commands and press against His children? So many people are accepting the world’s false idols and even embracing sins which distort God’s truth and camouflages His love.
For those of us who rely on Christ as our Guide and are found resisting the enticement to accept the world’s sins which God has called unholy... refusing to take a bite from Deceit’s apple...we are considered as “out of touch” and ignorant . Although our words are salted with the love of Jesus and our actions are filtered through the Lord’s guidance to follow God’s commands...we are found by the world’s view of justice as guilty of being hateful and intolerant people.
Feeling tired from this emotional dilemma with sin ...I took my yet unread devotional in hand as I walked outside, looking for a new perspective. The fresh cool morning air gave way to a soft wind that rustled leaves in the trees as I breathed in the beauty of my garden. As I gave thanks to God for all His mercy... my heart became broken again towards the struggles all of us have with sin...along with a gentle prayer for God’s Truth to prevail over Deceit’s lies. I couldn’t help but wonder and ask:. “Abba...Father, if this upsets me...how must you feel?”  


While surrounded by the beauty of my backyard garden...I opened my devotion and began to read what was written by Charles Spurgeon over a hundred years ago. In His words I immediately found God’s answer to my troubling thoughts. 

I imagined the vastness and beauty of the Garden of Eden where God first reveals how He responds to sin. His response to Adam reveals His heart of great love...and it reveals as well that His justice...it too prevails.

Please read this beautiful description of what it may have been like for God that sad day when He sought Adam in the garden: 


“Have you ever observed that scene in the garden of Eden at the time of the fall God had threatened Adam, that if he sinned he should surely die. Adam sinned: did God make haste to sentence him? ‘Tis sweetly said, “The Lord God walked in the garden in the cool of the day.” Perhaps that fruit was plucked at early morn, maybe it was plucked at noon-tide; but God was in no haste to condemn; he waited till the sun was well nigh set, and in the cool of the day came, and as an old expositor has put it very beautifully, when he did come he did not come on wings of wrath, but he “walked in the garden in the cool of the day.” 
He was in no haste to slay. I think I see him, as he was represented then to Adam, in those glorious days when God walked with man. I think I see the wonderful similitude in which the unseen did veil himself: I see it walking among the trees so slowly—if it is right to give such a picture—beating its breast, and shedding tears that it should have to condemn man. 
At last I hear its doleful voice: “Adam, where art thou? Where hast thou cast thyself, poor Adam? Thou hast cast thyself from my favor; thou hast cast thyself into nakedness and into fear; for thou art hiding thyself. Adam, where art thou? I pity thee. 
You thought to be God. Before I condemn thee I will give thee one note of pity. Adam, where art thou?” Yes, the Lord was slow to anger, slow to write the sentence, even though the command had been broken, and the threatening was therefore of necessity brought into force.”   ~Charles Spurgeon
“Thank you Lord Jesus for the cross. Because of the free gift of grace that cost you so much...You promise that everyone who places their trust in you will live again after they die, and to live forever with You. This astonishing promise has great power to give us hope. Who are we that our Father is mindful of us? That God would hold back His anger and patiently wait...desiring that none would be lost to the saving grace He offers?
As Christians we never need to fear death – and can actually look forward to it as a blessing from you... knowing it ushers us into God’s presence and a wonderful life throughout eternity.
I love you Jesus...to your Name I give all my praise and give all glory and honor. Amen”

There are good and bad ways of taking advantage of God’s apparent slowness... (2 Peter 3:3,4,9).

Suggested Further Reading on God’s mercy and prevailing justice: Nehemiah 9:9-31
Kathy 
"I tell you the truth, whoever hears what I say and believes in the One who sent me has eternal life. That person will not be judged guilty but has already left death and entered life."          ~John 5:24 (NCV)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Joy of Reunion!


When Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus...He wept not only in compassion for the sorrow he knew Mary and Martha felt...He wept with the same feelings of sorrow that death brings to all who have lost someone they dearly loved with all their hearts! 
Before my dad died nearly 20 years ago ...I could only "try" to imagine the pain of loss that death would cause me to feel...but there is no way anyone who has not lost a beloved father, mother, child, spouse or close friend can begin to understand the depth of pain and longing we feel. Recalling good memories are "sweet" but they do not remove the ache in our soul that is always yearning to be with them once again.
But...like Jesus who wept over the death of his beloved friend Lazarus...we who have Jesus as Savior in our lives know that death does not have the final say! It is in the anticipation and the assured promises in hope that we will see our loved ones again that our hearts and soul find the measure of comfort we ache for. 
Jesus knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead...Jesus knew there was about to be a reunion for Mary and Martha with their brother and a reunion with His friend..Jesus knew of the joy they all would soon experience and that it would outweigh all measures of pain and loss that was weighing down their hearts and souls the moment death stole the first breath of Lazarus.
Yet...Jesus wept over His friend’s death... knowing all of this! 
Jesus wept...but hidden inside each of His tears was the assurance of our Father that death does not have the final say. May the tears of all Christians who feel the pain of sorrow from the death of a loved one be comforted by Jesus’ love for us. 

Unlike Mary and Martha...our reunion of joy hasn’t occurred yet. Instead of 4 days... we are still waiting. Perhaps it's been 4 weeks or  4 months...or 4 years. For many of us...it's been more years than anyone desires to count. So we continue to miss them...and long to see them again. 
Time does not remove this longing... I don’t even think it is meant to do so. Our longing is an expression of love for the ones we love. We would have to stop loving the person death stole...in order to stop missing them. My love for my dad and Brad did not die with them...it remains strong and alive. 



But... Glory... One day... We will be together again! How I anticipate and look forward to the day I will see not only my dad who I have missed for nearly 20 years...but my beloved husband Brad!

I get excited when I ponder what that moment will feel like...when the weight of all this longing and sadness ends forever and is replaced by the never-ending joy of reunion with Jesus in Heaven!  



Years ago, I did not know the full measure of pain the heart can hold from the death of a loved one...I had to experience it first in order to understand it  I have yet to experience the full measure of the Joy I will know when I once again embrace my loved one and to never to be in fear of being separated by death again. Glory...Glory! How God loves you and me...

"But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I'll probably never fully understand. We're not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it's over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we'll all be changed. In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true: 

   Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
   Who got the last word, oh, Death?
   Oh, Death, who's afraid of you now?
It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!"                                ~
1 Corinthians 15:54-57  The Message 
All Glory and Praises to God! 

Kathy 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Transformed Trash


“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” ~ The Message Romans 8:26a,28b
“ God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.” Romans 8:29-30 The Message

Yesterday I went to a local park with friends from church.   The name of the park?  
Mt Trashmore!  Really? 
What an awful name for such a pretty park!


It’s name is derived by what it once was...the site of a huge trash dump. 
As I walked around the beautiful lake with a friend who lived near this park when it was still a “dumping site” I was told what an eye sore it was from the roadway nearby and of the “smell” it emitted into the surrounding neighborhoods. 
Since I never lived near this park prior to it’s transformation...I would not know first hand of it’s stench or unattractive appearance. Yet, once I learned of it’s past... I can tell you, I appreciate it’s beauty even more. 
The transformation from what this park was...dirty, smelly and utterly un-enjoyable... to what it is today...is stunning! This is a beautiful park with two tall green hills where paths and even stairs lead you up to overlook the tranquil lake below. Surrounding the lake is a paved path to walk or bike along as you watch the playful ducks swimming or waddling near it’s edge. The birds fly high seeking rest in the lush trees or perching themselves on piers.

 The grassy grounds lend themselves to scattered picnic tables inviting you to sit or gather with friends for a quick bite. There is a horseshoe pit...and I discovered the perfect place for a net to be placed to play volleyball or toss a frisbee or play corn hole. Near one side of the lake are covered shelters to find shade and on another side you will see a play area for families and friends as they watch their children play.


As I walked around the lake ...Thanking the Lord for sharing with me such beauty...He placed in my thoughts how He also has brought about a beauty in me from my past life. 


My life was once...well... quite frankly...it was filled with “trash”. I once lived for the kind of things and relationships that don’t hold lasting beauty or worth. 
As I bought and traded the trinkets this world offered me for a satisfying life...it created in me a ton of rubbish. As this junk in my life increased...it created a Mt Trash (and) more in me! 
At that time...those who lived closest to me...well...I’m pretty sure they could smell the stench and see the hills of garbage that grew in me. After all...I could only hide and bury so much garbage until it finally becomes so much that it pile up into a couple of hills for not only others to see...but ones I couldn’t ignore either.
Tired of accumulating “trash” and wanting a huge transformation in my life..I prayed asking for Jesus to come help me. And He answered my prayers. The Lord’s Hand of grace covered my mountain of trash and removed the stench that my life once held... Although I am still being daily transformed by Jesus’ love... I no longer am a heaping mess...but instead someone who Jesus has chosen to reflect the beauty of His redeeming love and to be a sweet fragrance of His mercy and grace.
Like a park named Mt. Trashmore...my life is being transformed from vile  to kind...from self-filled to one who cares about the needs of others.  The Lord has taken my many pieces of trash and He turned them into a compost that allows me to use them to nurture the hurting with the power of His wisdom and love. Everyday...God is at work in me still.


Like those high grassy hills at Mt Trashmore Park... Perhaps you too are in need for the Lord to covered your sins and transform your pile of trash into a treasure from which you can draw the riches of God’s grace and love from. 


You know...God sees your beauty. He desires for you to see and enjoy it too!  The love of God can work good from even our worst trash... And then one day...His work will be done. Glory...that will be the day we breath our first breathe of Heaven! 

Won’t you allow Him into your heart? Come see for yourself what only Jesus can do! 
Glory!
Kathy

Friday, June 1, 2012

THE STRUGGLE



“Then Job answered the Lord, and said, Behold, I am vile.”   ~  Job 40:3,4
Nothing frustrates me more than when I react or respond to a problem or difficult circumstance like the “old Kathy” instead of the “Christ in me, Kathy”! This morning as I sat with the Lord, I spoke with Him about this unending struggle within me...a struggle to fully surrender my sinful opinions and desires and fully embrace Jesus’ pure and sinless ones. I confess I am tired of the struggle and just want Him to “zap” the last remnants of “me” from my life and fill me only with Him...
Instead of giving me the “zap” I requested...the Lord gave me these comforting insights to absorb and encourage me. I pray they will encourage you too...
“My dear child...I know your struggle with sin...and because you believe in Me...I have pardoned and removed each one. I have placed my Spirit within you to be your Helper and Guide for all the days of your life. However... There remains a power of sin in you, although it has been greatly weakened and is kept under my dominion, when I placed in your new-born nature the Holy Spirit which has been infused into your soul. Yet..this sinful nature does not cease to exist... it still lingers within you...”
So there it is... “The Struggle”...
In every Christian believer there are two natures. There is one nature which cannot sin, because it is born of God...a spiritual nature, coming directly from Heaven...pure and perfect.  But...there is also in humankind, that ancient nature that came by the fall of Adam in the garden. It is a nature that is sinful, corrupt and full of the devil’s schemes.
Perhaps we judge ourselves and other Christians so harshly when they fail to be pure and perfect, because we do not recognize that in the heart of every Christian there still remains a nature which is sinful and hostile to God’s laws. 
We think because we have been reborn that God has or will or should “zap” the sinful nature out of us! But that is not the case... 
The Apostle Paul clearly described his own struggle with his new nature in God with that of his ancient one; Romans 7:17-21
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. ~ Romans 7:17-21

 Yikes! Well... let’s not be discouraged... I figure if Job can see that he is vile...and Paul could see “sin living in me”... yet both men did not settle for what their ancient nature defined them to be but accepted what God says about them...than so can I! So can you!
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. ~ Romans 8:1-2
Are there times when you cannot understand your own behavior? You are in good company. But the Christian, having received the new nature, need not and should not give in to the old nature as if he could do nothing about it.
For me... It is good to recognize that I and other Christians have remaining in us our sinful nature that was born in us and has not been removed by our rebirth in Jesus. 
Oh...this is not to have permission or an excuse to sin...but to give understanding and compassion... to know how to pray... Seeking God’s mercy and power to forgive and overcome our ancient nature and be transformed, trusting that upon that final day when we breath our last breath of earth...we will soar into that heavenly land into which there shall never enter anything that defiles.


Glory!
Kathy
Christian brother, you were chosen to be free. Be careful that you do not please your old selves by sinning because you are free. Live this free life by loving and helping others. 14 You obey the whole Law when you do this one thing, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” 15 But if you hurt and make it hard for each other, watch out or you may be destroyed by each other.
16 I say this to you: Let the Holy Spirit lead you in each step. Then you will not please your sinful old selves. 17 The things our old selves want to do are against what the Holy Spirit wants. The Holy Spirit does not agree with what our sinful old selves want. These two are against each other. So you cannot do what you want to do. 18 If you let the Holy Spirit lead you, the Law no longer has power over you. 19 The things your sinful old self wants to do are: sex sins, sinful desires, wild living, 20 worshiping false gods, witchcraft, hating, fighting, being jealous, being angry, arguing, dividing into little groups and thinking the other groups are wrong, false teaching, 21 wanting something someone else has, killing other people, using strong drink, wild parties, and all things like these. I told you before and I am telling you again that those who do these things will have no place in the holy nation of God. 22 But the fruit that comes from having the Holy Spirit in our lives is: love, joy, peace, not giving up, being kind, being good, having faith, 23 being gentle, and being the boss over our own desires. The Law is not against these things. 24 Those of us who belong to Christ have nailed our sinful old selves on His cross. Our sinful desires are now dead. ~ Galatians 5:13-21