Playing Solitaire, Seeing God

Different Ways Our Lord Reveals Himself

            God is nothing like that! But sometimes I do see Him acting this way in my life. As I hunkered inside my home to avoid Covid-19 last year I learned to play Solitaire. A few characteristics of God appeared after I learned the game well.

Primarily, solitary never describes him. God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit function differently, even though they compose one Godhead. Scripture says believers are not to neglect meeting together (Heb 10:25). During the early part of Covid, most churches were closed; later ours had services in the parking lot and used a local radio station so we could hear as we sat in our cars.  As Texas summer heat arrived, the church was cleared to move inside. This verse in Hebrews speaks about those times we get too busy or lazy to attend church, not times we cannot for some reason.

 Solitaire may reveal a suit of several numbers together, reminding me of God’s quick answers to prayer. The next card I need hides until I find many others, comparing to weeks or months that pass before I see answers. Sometimes God says no or at least not in the way I want an answer. At such times, I remember when the cards are mixed in such a way that I cannot win,

God often reveals himself in scripture, music, other people, devotionals or teaching. While the general message applies to everyone, he says something specific to the  person who needs it. The birth of a baby proclaims how well our heavenly Father knows us and gives exactly what we need (Ps. 139:13-16).

As I think of Solitaire more, I remember other times God shows himself various ways. I started watching birds because their colors, various sizes, and eating habits reveal their Creator and his glory. The multiple colors, formations, and sizes of flowers I photograph remind me of God’s unique beauty. Mountains evoke God’s majesty and the sea recalls his vastness.

A dirt dauber got between our screen and window. I didn’t want to open the window and then the screen to let him out, assuming he’d come inside. As I prayed God would show him the way he’d gotten in, he had disappeared when I looked a little later. The next day I discovered that the screen had a place where it didn’t fit tightly. (I also pray God will protect dogs that get on the street, but this was the first time for a dirt dauber.) When I see how the Creator watches out for an insect, why do I have difficulty believing he will care for me?

As my husband and I took many trips to Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, we always marveled at the mountains, large blue lakes, and animals. Once while he fished, I sat on a rock and watched a colony of ants, thanking our heroic Lord who made a creature so tiny while setting in place the huge mountain across the river.

Our loving Father uses multiple ways to draw us close, including that still, small voice  belonging to the Holy Spirit. Remembering the various ways God calls, I try to keep my ears, eyes, and heart open for his word. Will you join me?

God Will Fulfill His Purpose for You

Does God really have a purpose for our individual lives? Will He really show us how to bring that to pass? When I wonder about this, I’m reminded of what the Bible says and shows in the lives of His people in the Old Testament.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16)

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. (Psalm 57:1-2; probably written when David fled from Saul, in the cave.)

[God] who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24.)

Since I know that the Bible says God has a purpose for me, even before I was born, I’ll now look at a few biblical people to see how He fulfilled that purpose for them.

Because David is mentioned in the verses above, I start with him, realizing that God anointed him as King over Israel while he was still a shepherd boy. However, when David became a warrior, King Saul got so jealous of David that he tried to kill him several times. This was because the people sang about how Saul killed his thousands in war but David had killed ten thousands. Even though David had an opportunity to kill Saul, he waited on God’s timing when Saul was killed in battle.  After waiting many years, David became king just as God purposed in his life.

When Joseph was in his young teens probably, God gave him a dream of ruling over his family; naturally at that age, Joseph told it to his parents and already-jealous brothers. Later his father had him take some rations to his brothers who were away from home tending sheep, but they sold him into slavery after deciding not to kill him. From slavery to unjustified imprisonment, God finally led Joseph into the real call on his life so he could make arrangements to save food while there was plenty so they’d have it when famine came. Therefore, not only were the people of Egypt fed, but Joseph’s whole family when they came to buy food and eventually move nearby.

Jesus looked so unlikely to be the Son of God. He was born in a stable with low to middle class parents, lived in obscurity for 30 years. Then for three years He performed miracles and taught the people more about God than they’d ever heard, so that the religious leaders became jealous. Finally they demanded that He be crucified because they were so jealous of His power. After three days Jesus rose from the dead and fulfilled God’s entire purpose for His life. Today we call Jesus our Savior and Lord.

If I see these promises of God in the Scriptures, then see how they played out in these lives, I think I must take those promises for myself. I must ask God what His purpose is for me and then pursue it. That purpose may not happen immediately, as it certainly didn’t with the men above. God may not even tell me what my purpose is, but my Father will certainly guide me through the years of my life to bring that purpose to pass. Only one thing can stop this from happening: me not being obedient to what God tells me to do. Even with this, God can turn my life around so that I do accomplish His purpose.

I’m reminded of the story of Jonah, the Old Testament prophet. God told him to go to Nineveh and preach to them or the city would be destroyed. Nineveh was Israel’s fierce enemy; they were cruel and strong, overcoming their adversaries. Like I’d probably do, Jonah thought who’d want them to survive. Good riddance! So Jonah took a ship and went the opposite direction. When God showed Jonah that he’d be better off obeying, he reluctantly went to Niveveh and preached to this great city. Everyone repented and the people were saved from destruction for another 100 years until they again became intolerable to God. Most of the time I doubt God takes such a strong way to demonstrate His displeasure when we walk out of His purpose. But most of the time, we’re not called to preach to 100 thousand people to save them from immediate destruction.

Not only is it important for other people that I obey God’s purpose for my life, it’s vital for me. If I don’t, I’ll never know true peace in my heart and feel fulfilled in life. I’ll just live and do whatever I do but not know the joy of a God-filled life completing the purpose my Father created especially me to do.

Always Faithful Father

I rarely think about the hundreds of times God made promises to His people and kept them. God never made a promise without keeping it, even if it was concerning evil if His people worshipped other gods. I’ve listed just a sampling of God’s major promises, sometimes with consequences for not obeying.                                                    

  • God made promises to mankind from the very beginning of people’s existence when He told Adam not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil or he would die (Genesis 2:16-17). Spiritually Adam and Eve did die, shown by their fear when He appeared to them that evening; beforehand, they’d welcomed God’s presence.
  • God made a promise to Noah that a great flood was coming on the whole earth, but to build an ark and his family would be saved. Noah obeyed and only his family survived the horrible flood (Genesis 6:11-8:12.)
  • God promised Abraham that He would make a great nation from him and Sarah. The beginning of the nation of Israel was born from Isaac, the child of promise in Abraham’s old age. (Genesis 13:1-7.)
  • Even Jesus Christ was a long-awaited descendant of Abraham. Did you know God has over 300 prophesies about Jesus in the Bible? All have been fulfilled exactly as stated except those in the future still (reference: the whole Bible.)
  • God said that the nation of Israel would be restored to their native land and did more than once after Israel disobeyed and went into captivity. Centuries later, our promise-keeping Lord did this in 1947 when that covenant became reality for the last time.

Why do I mention so many times promises God has declared and kept? Because that’s the theme of this article – God’s faithfulness to His people. To You and to Me!

At times I haven’t been faithful to God in my heart, even though I never denied Him or did what we think of as “big sins.” I simply didn’t do things I knew I should do as the child of a Holy God. Has He ever quit loving me? No! I’ve known His love, and the older I’ve gotten the more real it is, but that didn’t always keep me as close to Him as I knew I wanted to be but simply didn’t take the steps to make that happen.

When we accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, God makes a new and different covenant with us than the Old Testament people of God had. Why? Because Jesus became our offering to God to save us from Hell instead of us sacrificing animals to ask for forgiveness. God is always perfect and just; our human nature keeps us from being that way. God never breaks that covenant, even when we stray from Him. He always loves us as His child, even more than a parent loves and forgives a disobedient child. 

But when I strayed from God, I was like that rebellious child who even though they loved their parents, stayed away from them because they were unwilling to change their behavior. There was a gap in the fellowship and both missed it, but the child was stubborn. As people, sometimes we find ourselves wanting our way more than God’s way; that’s what happened to me. I was simply being lazy as far as God was concerned.

In Revelation 2:1-7 Christ recognizes the church at Ephesus for their good works, patient endurance and how they hate those who do evil. Jesus then gives a warning to the church, saying they have left their first love meaning – in today’s terms – they’d let family, work or self-interest come before Him. This is what I felt the Holy Spirit saying to me, that I’d put other things before spending more time with my Father.

God gives us that choice, but He always longs for us to return to our rightful place of easy communication with Him. When we choose to return, He draws us ever closer and we experience His love with greater reality. That doesn’t mean our Father doesn’t love us less when we stray but simply that our disobedience has gotten in the way of our experience of His love.

The Two Dogs

            Picture this scene with me please. I go to the animal shelter to find a dog to adopt. Let’s call the first Happy, who wags his tail, jumps up and down when he sees me and almost speaks, “Please take me home with you.” Then I see another dog named Sad who barks and growls when he sees me, seems willing to bite the hand that feeds him and who looks like he’d never become a good pet.

            Which dog do I choose? Happy who welcomes me or Sad who seems like he might bite me? Then I consider which dog needs my love more? Which dog is less likely to find a home? The answer becomes obvious, but will I do what is hard, or will I give in to my likes and take home Happy?

            Long ago I purchased a registered toy poodle but got her for an inexpensive price. Why? Because the owner breed poodles and this one had a litter which all died. The vet told the lady she’d never be able to have live pups. I didn’t care about that because our son wanted a puppy. Naturally, at first she was shy in her new surroundings, but we figured she’d get used to us soon. Quickly she became “my” pet but was afraid of my husband and two sons. Later I asked my friend who had told me the dog was for sale what had caused the dog to be afraid of males. She told me the lady had two hyperactive sons and that her husband had hit the dog with a broom a couple of times. No wonder she was afraid of men. We had her a dozen years or more and she eventually lost all her fear and was a pet to the guys in our home as well as the gals. What changed her? Love and good treatment.

            Why do I mention this imaginary story and a true one? Because many people are quite sad about our presidential election last November. I’m one of those who is, and it would be easy to gripe and complain about what’s happening in our country. But yesterday I read two articles on the internet talking about how believers in Jesus Christ and in the Bible need to react. Both basically said the same thing my pastor said in his sermon this morning: we’re not to condemn this administration but rather to pray for President Biden and his people.

            First Timothy 2:1-4 reminds us to pray for all people, especially those in authority so we can live quiet and peaceful lives. This is what God wants us to do so that everyone can come to know Jesus as their personal Savior.

The question and responsibility come to me then, Am I willing to circumvent my emotions and recognition of what I believe is right so I can pray with pure motives for a group in government that I don’t agree with? Am I willing to do as Jesus would do to pray that God would give them wisdom in dealing with the many problems our country has? Will I pray that God will bless them so that our nation can be blessed? Will I do as God has asked me to do or will I follow my own desires? I believe the future will show the answer to that question if we join together and bless instead of curse.  Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruits. (Proverbs 18:21)

The Waters

When the waters pass over your head,
Stand thou still.
This thing is allowed of Me;
It is within my control.

Running will not help;
Fighting will get you down.
Only by standing still,
Can you win the victor’s crown.

When the waters pass over your head,
Simply be still and rest;
Relax in my strength alone;
I will bring you through the test.

No matter how deep the waters appear,
The way up ahead is clear.
Simply standing, resting
Will bring you through this testing.

These Scriptures speak of Israel but we can take them as God’s promises for all God’s people today in the midst of the Covid 19 lockdown, job loss and national economic collapse. This poem is based on Isaiah 43:2 but the other verses also apply.

Isaiah 43:1-3 (all verses from NKJV):
But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. 3 For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Isaiah 30:15, 18-21:
For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved;
In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” But you would not. 18 And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him. 19 For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem; You shall weep no more. He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry; When He hears it, He will answer you. 20 And though the Lord gives you The bread of adversity and the water of affliction, Yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore, But your eyes shall see your teachers.21 Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand Or whenever you turn to the left.

Jeremiah 29:11-14a
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity.

Verses of Cheer

During this Covid-19 pandemic when many of us are staying inside, we tend to get lonely and restless. The news shouts so much negative and rarely tells us how many people have recovered from the virus or other heroic stories. Especially people who live along or don’t communicate via the internet or suffer from other diseases may feel overwhelmed with all the bad news.

A couple of months ago an old health issue returned unexpectedly, and I suddenly focused on the problem, not on my blessings. I realized where that would lead, so I compiled this group of verses. They’re in no particular order, but I did select from several different translations to see which version spoke clearly to my heart. Today in the midst of the chaos, confusion and unexpected nature of the pandemic, perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed. That’s why I’m sharing these verses to lift up our spirits and lighten our hearts. I pray they will bless you as they continue to bless me.

 Everything seems to go wrong when you feel weak and depressed. But when you choose to be cheerful, every day will bring you more and more joy and fullness. Proverbs 15:15 TPT

Blessed be the Lord, who bears our burden day by day, The God who is our salvation! Selah. Ps 68.19 AMP

What a glorious God! He gives us salvation over and over, then daily he carries our burdens! Pause in his presence.                Psalm 68:19 TPT

A cheerful heart puts a smile on your face, but a broken heart leads to depression. Proverbs 15:13 TPT

Eyes that focus on what is beautiful bring joy to the heart, and hearing a good report refreshes and strengthens the inner being. Proverbs 15:30 TPT

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. Proverbs 17:22 NLT

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health. Proverbs 15:30 NLT

A joyful heart makes a face cheerful, but a sad heart produces a broken spirit. Proverbs 15:13 CSB

A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed. Proverbs 15:13 ESV
­­­­___________

TPT: The Passion Translation
AMP: Amplified Version
NLT: New Living Translation
CSB: Christian Standard Bible
ESV: English Standard Version

The Waves Will Not Overcome You

One day my husband and I drove a familiar portion around Yellowstone Lake in the national park of that name. As we did, I stared at the normally calm water where we could have easily paddled our canoe. Four-foot waves crashed into the shore. Although no storm prevailed, a strong wind blew across the 14-mile long lake, seemingly piling the water up in this small bay. We drove from the level of the lake up the mountain road to a popular overlook, where the whole lake appeared to be churning. That drive happened perhaps 10 years ago, yet it’s still fresh in my memory.

As I thought of all the implications of the coronavirus this morning, I remembered that scene and a special verse from long ago that speaks of such a time as this. Isaiah 43:1-3a (New Living Translation) reminds us that our God will bring us through this unfamiliar and disconcerting time.

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Isreal, your Savior”

Even though we don’t know how many people will suffer from this virus or how long it will last, we can be confident that our loving Father continually watches over us and guides us. We stay calm instead of panicking; we obey medical guidance and we continue to praise the Lord Most High, our Maker and Redeemer.

When We Meet Fog

The weather gave me more understanding of my morning Bible reading from Mark, chapter 8. In verses 1-10 Jesus fed the four thousand with seven small loaves of bread and a few fish. Leftovers could feed another crowd. Slightly later when Jesus and the disciples got into a boat to cross to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, the men discussed their forgetfulness in bringing food with them. Probably most of us would have called them stupid at that point unless we were also complaining about not having any bread.

Possibly an hour or two beforehand Jesus had multiplied a meager amount of food so that it feed a throng of people. Why didn’t the disciples remember that and consider that He would also multiply their one loaf? What made them so thick-headed?

Further down the chapter in verses 27-30 Jesus asked the disciples to tell Him who people said that He is. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the longed-for Jewish Messiah. But when Jesus tells his men that He will be put to death and rise again, Peter once more speaks up and said No, that can’t happen. However, Jesus reprimanded Peter telling him that thought wasn’t from God.

Not long afterward I sat at our breakfast table eating and looking at the fog making the home across the street slightly blurry from our window. Only when I drove to church with about one-half mile visibility did I realize that the disciples saw Jesus through fog. Their minds weren’t yet understanding that Messiah could do anything, even though they’d seen miracles of healing as well as the feedings. In the same way, when Peter proclaimed that Jesus is the Christ, his mind couldn’t grasp the fact that He had to die.

Driving down the state highway to my church this morning I drove in the inside lane to be sure I didn’t come suddenly upon some of the bikers who use the early-morning emptiness of the road as practice lanes. I didn’t want the fog to obscure my vision. In daily life, however, we often run into spiritual fog, just as the first disciples did.

Isaiah 55:9 states that God’s ways and thoughts are tremendously higher than ours, just as the heavens are far higher above the earth. In other words, often we can’t understand our loving Father’s actions or even the way He’s thinking about us because they’re so profound. The spiritual fog keeps us from seeing and understanding our circumstances from His viewpoint.

The next time something in my life doesn’t go the way I think it should, I’ll remember that my Father loves me so very much that He sent His only Son to die for me so I can become His child. God has promised never to leave me or to forsake me, so therefore I can trust His love even when I can’t understand the reasons behind it. I’ll remember that from time to time I meet spiritual fog.

Resting in His Arms

Where do I go when my world just crashed in upon me? Who can help me? Confusion, doubt, fear, dismay, depression all crowd in upon me. How can I escape? The cause of this terrible state varies from person to person, whether loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of health or loss of confidence in a trusted one or yourself. The joy of life disappeared; only stress remains.

At such times, I must ask myself: How much do I care where I am? Do I care enough to use all my energy to push myself out of this place? Do I even have that much energy? How long will I be content to wallow in not only self-pity but helplessness? Do I have the courage and strength to seek a means of escape?

Perhaps I’m not sitting as a recluse from the world; perhaps I’m doing the normal things of life that must be done. But I’ve lost interest in them. My heart hides behind a closed door.

I can choose escapism though many means – denial, alcoholism or less harmful devices. When I really want to escape, I watch HGTV or Hallmark movies. Yes, the shows vary little from each other, but they’re lighthearted and take my mind off whatever I’m trying to avoid.

However, I know a far better escape. If someone doesn’t know Jesus as their Savior, they may think my hiding place sounds like a cliché but I can find help, comfort and hope in this special environment. A child of God Almighty can run to Daddy-God and find soul-rest in His strong arms. I find a quiet place and play some calming worshipful music. I imagine myself as a small child when I’d bump my knee or have some other problem. I run to my daddy and crawl up in his lap. He’d wrap his strong arms of love around me, and I felt safe and secure. Somehow the pain of the bump disappeared in those arms.

In the same way, when I need a secure place of retreat from whatever disturbs me, I run to my Daddy-God – because He loves us better than any earthly father – and feel His strong arms of love wrapped snugly around me. My Father gives me not only a place of escape, He provides comfort, hope and strength to fight whatever battle I’m facing. He gives me confidence that I can be victorious over my circumstance because He works in it. God Almighty loves me enough to send helpers I need, whether it’s a word of encouragement or physical help.

When I escape to this secure rest, I find peace, not simply escapism like with watching TV. Rather, I find confidence for the future as well as the answers to questions I must face. My emotions calm and I begin to think about possibilities instead of the negatives of my situation. I feel a resurgence of energy and strength. I begin to look ahead and am unstuck from my present circumstances. My Daddy-God does all this when I rest in His strong arms of love.

  • Terry MacAlmon’s song In My Father’s Arms inspired this devotional.

Jesus Is Mine!

A joyful praise song repeatedly says, “Jesus is mine!” That is true if we have accepted Him as our Savior, believing that His death on the cross takes away all our sin and wrong-doing towards God when we confess that wrong. Certainly, we have reason to rejoice in singing that song.

As I sing it, however, I sometimes wonder, “How much of me belongs to Jesus?” Yes, I have salvation and claim Him as my Lord, and a lot of me does belong to Jesus. But how much? 50%, 75%, 90? I know it’s not 100% but admire those people whom I think must belong 100% to Jesus.

I’m sure they also battle at times to stay in that place. We all have human desires that even if nothing is wrong with them, that other things of a spiritual origin are better. For example, how is my time better spent: reading a good fiction novel or reading a Christian book about living a godly life?

These things are the ones I wrestlewith and cause me to ask how much of me belongs to Jesus. Do you have the same issue?

The Sunflower

A man once told my friend, “You’re like a sunflower in a snowstorm.” I thought, “What a compliment!” Later, I started considering this simile. Who’d ever consider seeing a sunflower blooming during a snowstorm? When we lived in Kentucky, snow fell on some blooming crocuses I had. While crocuses bloom in early spring, sunflowers only bloom in the heat, so how could you see one in mid-winter, when you’d expect a snowstorm?

As I pondered more the man’s statement, I considered attributes of my friend. Above all, she was kind to people and refused to get angry when circumstances didn’t work out in her favor. She didn’t try to be the star in the room or expect people to cater to her.

I thought of that statement today in connection with Isaiah 60:1 (New King James) Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.

Why should only my friend be told she’s like a sunflower in a snowstorm? If we’re God’s child, shouldn’t we all be that way? Isaiah says we need to shine in a dark world (see verse 2) because the Light already appeared to us. In that way, God’s glory shines upon us. Yes, the world needs believers to reflect the Light of Christ that we already know and to shine through whatever snowstorm or darkness of circumstances we face.

Go Out on a Limb!

Today as we ate lunch my husband and I watched a squirrel trying to get a green pecan on the end of a very thin branch. He went as far as he felt safe, then looked like he was trying to figure out how to reach that pecan, maybe from another limb. Obviously fear of falling kept him going all the way to the end to grab his prize. Finally the branch shook so much from the squirrel’s movement that the pecan fell off onto the ground. Even though the pecan was reachable, he still had to crawl back up a long limb, then down the tree and across the distance to eat his fill.

I thought of Abram (later named Abraham) who had to go out on a thin limb too when God told him to leave his family and go to a strange land a long distance from his home (Genesis 12:1). Abram had to be sure that God was the one telling him to leave behind everyone and everything he knew, or he could have been in serious trouble.

Simply doing what God tells us to do doesn’t mean we instantly reach our goal. It was about 25 years after Abram left his home that his son Isaac was born. Often we must work even more to finish the task or have the faith to see our promise come true.  We see that lesson from the squirrel too.

Another point is that we must be sure we’re on the right limb if we’re going out on it; otherwise, what we’re doing is foolish. Missionaries travel that same limb that Abram did so many centuries ago. God sends them to places they don’t know and to people they don’t know to serve the people by serving Him, in whatever way He’s called them to serve.

Most of us aren’t missionaries so our limbs aren’t a foreign country. But God does call us to use our faith and trust Him over various situations, whether they’re relationships, finances, jobs or health. He says, “Trust me in this circumstance.” We must then choose whether we’ll go out on that limb and how far we’ll go. Will we go the distance God calls us to go?

The Assurance of His Love

My husband and I married almost 60 years ago. The assurance of each other’s love kept us together all these years, even when we were selfish about something. God definitely played a big part in this, especially in areas where we disagreed. We both continued faithful to our marriage, no matter what happened. Even when control seemed to rule in my husband’s thoughts, I never doubted his love for me.

In the same way, I’m assured of my heavenly Father’s love for me. Even when I don’t understand his ways with me and with others, I never doubt his love for any of us. Prayers that remain unanswered don’t cause me uncertainty of that care. You might ask, “How can I be so sure?” Just like with my husband’s love, that assurance of God’s love remains deep in my heart. I know that I know both their love, and I never doubt their faithfulness to me.

John 3:16 (Amplified) speaks about that love: For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish but have eternal life.

2 Thessalonians 3:3 (Amplified) states: But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you [setting you on a firm foundation] and will protect you and guard you from the evil one.

Would you give you only child to save someone who committed evil acts? Most likely not and neither would I! While many go to war to protect their country, what God did sealed us from hell’s fiery torment, if we only believe in Jesus. Simply believing Jesus lived a good life on this earth at one point carries no weight with God. Certainly, the devil knows that also.

Awareness of going our own way instead of God’s and trusting that Jesus’ death on the cross exempts us from living a life totally and eternally separated from God. Then we make Jesus our Savior but our Lord as well, doing as He wants instead of going our way.

My prayer for you today is that you’ll be totally assured of your Father’s love.

God’s Message to Me through the Belmont Races

Please note: Christianity guides my interpretation of these races.

I saw three races from Belmont Park in New York on June 8 and noticed several things about them that I believe God showed me concerning our country, all of which has been already confirmed by others much more prophetic about such things than I am.

A long time ago my family lived about two miles from Keeneland Racetrack in Lexington, Kentucky which holds one of the races leading up to the Kentucky Derby. We sometimes went there when races weren’t occurring and saw the horses. Also, several horse farms were in the nearby area, which taught us an appreciation of the beauty not only of the horses but also of the farms on which they lived. Black fences enclosed lush bluegrass; the stables were elegant. Once we toured one of these farms, and wood paneling covered the inside of the stables. Obviously wealth maintained the farms and individual families owned most of them. Now conglomerates own most. I never went to a race, but my husband went once and bought plenty of film to photograph the horses and all the ceremony.

Since then, we’ve had an appreciation for horses and enjoyed watching races on TV, though we’d never bet on a race. We don’t gamble, not even to buy a $1 lottery ticket. Today my husband watched the channel that carried the Belmont events while I was doing other things, but he called me when the different races began. This is what I noticed:

Race 1, the Municipal Handicap: First place carried the color white, which stands for completion, purity, innocence and perfection. Red represented second place, reminding us of fire and blood, especially the blood of Jesus that takes away our sins and gives us right standing with God; the fire speaks of the fire of the Holy Spirit. Third place wore the color blue, standing for loyalty, strength, wisdom and trust. The biblical use of blue, according to internet information, stands for the healing power of God and the Word of God. The sky being blue represents the presence of God. All these colors relate to God, as you can see. However, they’re also the colors of the American flag, a nation that was built on godly standards.

Race 2, the Manhattan: Bricks and Mortar won this race. White and red marked this rider and horse, again representing godly colors as well as part of our flag. The name speaks to me of the meeting building of the church, the body of Christ on earth.

Race 3, the Belmont Stakes: Seeing how all the other races seemed to fit together, for this main event of the day, I guessed Sir Winston would win. Although he was listed at 10-1 odds, that name stood out to me, since many people compare President Trump with Sir Winston Churchill of the British Kingdom. You may think opposite of this, but that’s the way I reasoned it. Sir Winston wore number 7, which is God’s number of completion. Jockey Joel Rosario thanked God for the win at the end of the race.

To me it all fit together, and Father God says He’s watching over our country and as believers pray, He will answer and return America to its foundations.

Rest Your Mind

A while back as I was resting from my work for a few minutes, my compassionate Daddy-God spoke to me. When follow what He said, I’m amazed at the difference His loving words make in my body. Today I want to share that with you.

“My child, you sit to rest before continuing your work, but you mind fills with time slots for today, next week, next month. This tenses year body so that you cannot rest.

“Learn to give all your concerns to me. Relax into my peace. Feel the lessening of stress throughout your body. Think only of today. Yes, mark your calendar but don’t mentally do the work today. From time to time during your day, bring your mind back to this place of peace. You’ll find you’re not so tired and get more done.

“I tell you this because I love you and want the best for you.”

 

“I Just Want to Hear Your Voice”

Usually I talk weekly with our children, three of whom live a distance away. Loss of kidney function hit our older son last year, making me to want news more than ever. Recently his wife and I had talked about the ups and downs with their lives every week, but I hadn’t talked with our son in two or three weeks.

I called one night and talked with her but then wanted to talk with him, so she checked but he was already asleep. I called the next day, which was Saturday, and we did have a good conversation. You must understand he works hard at a full-time job and has anemia besides the kidney loss. He must start setting up dialysis equipment by 7:30 at night so he’s on dialysis by 8:00 in order to be finished in time to get up early the next morning and go to work.

While I’d talked with his wife regularly and had knowledge about them, I suddenly had a yearning to simply hear his sweet voice. Of course, when I mentioned this to him, he made a joke about his voice being sweet. Possibly no one else thinks his voice is sweet; that’s a mother’s or wife’s interpretation.

Since this happened recently, my mind drifted to it during my worship time. That’s when God spoke to my heart and said, “I just want to hear your voice.” My loving Father hungers for more time of intimacy with me. God feels that way about all of us! He knows all the facts about our lives but loves us so much that He aches to hear our voices more all the time. Especially during a time of trouble or struggle. My friend, is your loving Daddy-God saying that He yearns to hear your voice?

At each and every sunrise you will hear my voice as I prepare my sacrifice of prayer to you. Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on the altar and wait for your fire to fall upon my heart. (Psalm 5:3, Passion Translation.)

I am passionately in love with God because he listens to me. He hears my prayers and answers them. As  long as I live, I’ll keep praying to him, for he stoops down to listen to my heart’s cry. (Psalm 116:1-2)

 

 

 

The Treasure Within

We are like common clay jars that carry this glorious treasure within, so that the extraordinary overflow of power will be seen as God’s not ours. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Picture a mason jar or a peanut butter, pickle or mayonnaise jar. Suddenly you see one of these filled with one-hundred-dollar bills or precious jewels. You know immediately that the contents make the value, not the container.

That’s what happens when we’re spending significant time with the Lord. Changed from our old lifestyle, we start manifesting different qualities listed in the Bible, such as:

You are always and dearly loved by God! [This fact must become a part of our very being; that’s our basis for receiving the qualities described.] So robe yourself with virtues of God, since you have been divinely chosen to be holy. Be merciful as you endeavor to understand others, and be compassionate, showing kindness to all. Be gentle and humble, unoffendable in your patience with others. 

 This fruit of the Spirit flows from us, without any effort on our part when we’re with others but comes from our time alone with our Father.  It remains a product of Him living within us, even though some aren’t listed in Galatians 5:22-23 (see below.) Without His working in us, we can’t exercise these qualities; they are only supplied by the Holy Spirit.

But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions:
            Joy that overflows,
            Peace that subdues,
            Patience that endures,
            Kindness in action,
            A life full of virtue,
            Faith that prevails,
           Gentleness of heart, and
           Strength of spirit.
Never set the law above these qualities, for they are meant to be limitless.

 _________

 All verses taken from The Passion Translation.

Lord, I Believe in You!

“Lord, I believe in You, truly believe in You.” We sang this song in church and after getting home, I wondered just how much I do believe in Him. Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He lived on earth, died for our sin and rose again to sit at the right hand of Father God.

       For God so loved the world that He gave his only            begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not        perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 New Living              Bible)

I was a child when I first realized that I’d rebelled against God; in fact, it was on Resurrection Sunday when the pastor described how the two thieves, hanging beside Jesus, were guilty. I realized then that though I’d never stolen anything or broken any major commandments, I’d sometimes argued with my brother or not minded my parents. I’d heard about Jesus in church and at home, but I didn’t have a relationship with Him. Even then, I understood that I didn’t really know Jesus or God the Father, not like I knew people. And I knew that had to change, as it did at that moment. Suddenly I knew Jesus lived in my heart as well as in heaven. Specifically, that’s what we say but what really happened is that the Holy Spirit sealed me so that I’d be able to talk with God and go to heaven when I died.

As we approach Resurrection Day or Easter and observe it, I think that song is even more appropriate. Do I really believe all the Bible says about Jesus? The completeness of what He did for us when He died and rose from the dead, lived on earth while many people saw Him, and then He ascended to heaven, where He constantly prays for us at the throne of God? A few scriptures remind me of a bit that Christ provided.

       But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our    sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was    whipped so we could be healed. (Isaiah 53.3)

            He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. (1 Peter 2:24)

Do I really believe God can forgive me, especially if I’ve done a lot of wrong things in my life? Am I honestly confident that He will heal my back and my friend with cancer? Put another way, can I say confidently that I am healed? That my friend is healed, even before we see the results?

I started wondering just how much do I believe God for? Do I really believe He will provide the right job for me when I need one? Do I really believe He will help another friend’s troubled marriage? Do I believe God answers prayers when I pray for my country? In other words, am I confident about these things? Believe means to consider to be true or honest; to accept the word or evidence of. That reminds me of another verse.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1; the New King James uses evidence instead of conviction).

           And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

If my boss tells me he will give me a raise at the end of the month, I believe what he says and begin to get excited about what I can do with the extra money. I have faith that my boss would not say that if it weren’t true. If I can believe a human, how much more should I believe the Lord God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and me! Why do I have so much trouble believing God for other things when I believed Him so easily for my salvation, that He totally forgave me for all the wrongs I’ve ever done, even rebelling against Him? I believe He will continue to forgive me for wrongs when I simply tell Him I’m sorry and stop doing those things.

Our American culture, and especially the last few years, has gone against faith in God, but does that mean I should? Will I believe that the God who created the universe can heal my friend with cancer? That He can provide a job for someone who needs it? That’s what it means to truly trust in God, to rely on Him to provide when no one else can, to believe that He can do what He says He can do. Yes, I trust God to be God! As my faith has grown over the years, I’ve even become more confident in myself because I know who He created me to be and that I am sitting with Christ at the right hand of God, just like the Bible says. If He can do that for me, certainly He can do everything else He says He can. “Lord, I believe in You, truly believe in You.”

           I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 1:19-20)

          For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6)

Do I realize where I’m spiritually living? Not on this earth, though my body is here, but in heaven with Christ because I believe He is who He says He is; so therefore, I am who He says I am!

          “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” (Matthew 17:20)

          Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26; also, Mark 10:27, Luke 18:27 and Luke 1:37 For nothing is impossible with God.)

As the Bible clearly states, if nothing is impossible with God, then am I fully confident that He will do what He says He will do?

The Apple Tree

One morning recently as I sat at breakfast, I noticed our apple tree in full bloom. I always enjoy seeing it bloom but unfortunately, it produces very few if any apples. Why? Because it sits by itself with no other apple trees anywhere around it. Our son gave us the tree for my husband’s birthday about 20 years ago, and we didn’t realize it needed another one to produce apples. At first it did bear some fruit about the size of a plum, so I made applesauce. The next year the apples were more the size of cherries, so we let the birds and squirrels have them.

I realized when I looked at that apple tree and saw its potential and that unreached destiny, how many Christians are like that tree. They believe in Jesus as their Savior, but they aren’t in any church, so they don’t have the nourishment and cross-pollination of mixing with other believers. They don’t get to interact and be taught. They don’t see other people’s issues and how they handle them, so that if they have similar circumstances they’re better able to deal with them.

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25 New Living Translation)

I realize some people work on Sundays and others are homebound and can’t get out; but if you can, let me encourage you to attend a fellowship of believers. Not only will you be taught the Word of God, but others will encourage you through difficult times; they’ll care about you as you care about them. I watch my church on the internet if I’m sick and can’t attend, but there’s an atmosphere you don’t get from the internet or the TV. If you don’t know of a Bible-based church to attend, ask a Christian friend, then search until you know you’ve found the one that God shows you. You’ll be glad you did.

Do I Fit the Ephesian’s Pattern?

Paul stayed with the church in Ephesus for three years, teaching them all about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, during a time when most believers only had an apostle or disciple come to teach the way of salvation for weeks or a few months at most. History says that John the beloved disciple stayed at Ephesus for an equally long time. What a privilege! To have two outstanding apostles teaching and preaching for several years, one would think that later the Ephesian church would be a shining example to all others.

Unfortunately, that did not happen. In Acts 20:29-30 (see verses 18-38 for context) Paul warns the leaders of this church about those who would come in to lead the believers away from God. We read in Revelation 2:1-7 the history of the Ephesian church, not that many years after John was there. Christ commends the church for their hard work, patient endurance and not tolerating those who are evil. Then He said, “You don’t love me or each other as you did at first” (verse 4, New Living Translation). Then Christ warns them to turn back and love Him wholeheartedly.

How many of us are in this same position? We’ve had good biblical teaching but suddenly we find ourselves too busy with matters of everyday life? Possibly soon after our salvation, we were excited to share the good news of Jesus’ forgiveness. Possibly we poured over the Bible, eager to learn more; joy filled our heart. Now all that has somehow leaked out and we still go to church, but it’s not as life-giving as it once was. If this fits our situation, be encouraged because our Father always gives us another opportunity to return to loving Him with our whole being. When we determine to turn back to our first love for Christ, we’ll find more blessings than we can imagine.