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Archive for August, 2013

PUDDLES OF JOY

Sloshing in roadside curbs during spring showers always made me giggle when I DSCF1294was a child. And stomping in those puddles with friends to see which one of us could make the biggest splash shoved our laughter clear to bell-ringing joy.

August in drought-ridden Texas is brutal so we escape to the air-conditioned comfort of our homes. Not so for the birds. They’re confined to the scorching concrete and asphalt.

There was not even a promise of rain one hot, dry, August afternoon. But red birds, blue-jays, mocking birds, and even doves, splashed and splattered in refreshing puddles of relief created by my soaker hose.

Except of a few naysayers, who sat in the branches too stubborn or too afraid to surrender to the delight of the cool water, these winged creatures cast their personality quirks off their wing tips to join in a few moments of peaceful restoration.

Did you know God provides puddles of refreshment for His kids too? Puddles of encouragement. Puddles of invigoration. Puddles of comfort. These oasis DSCF1074moments appear like the spontaneity of a summer shower. A phone call from a grandchild. An unexpected letter or card. A surprise bouquet of flowers. Or perhaps a tiny thought or memory that brings pleasure and breaks the grip and stress of life’s storms.

Last week I found myself in one of those funks. Too much to do, too little time. I was overwhelmed. I surrendered to the sudden urge to turn off the freeway and take the country route home. I drove along grumbling and complaining, paying no attention to my surroundings, ‘til something sprinted from the bushes ahead of me.

A roadrunner.

Now this Florida gal never ceases to be amazed and filled with delight at every sighting of this peculiar bird. This long-legged fowl moved with the speed of light, out of the bushes, across the roadway, down the ditch and up the embankment to the other side. I could almost hear the “beep-beep” as his feathers caught the sunlight and flashed snatches of green, blue and chestnut brown. He paused, looked my direction, then spread his wings and flew over the bushes into the safety of the forest.

Amazing.  I’m grumbling and complaining and God puts this puddle of encouragement, especially for me, smack in the middle of my path. I spent the remainder of the journey home thanking God. Contemplating the mercy and grace His love poured on me in spite of the deception of my tantrum.

The lens we choose to look through every moment of each day colors our attitude and guides the ebb andDSCF1220 flow of our tumultuous emotions.

What if I had ignored the impulse to get off the freeway Habitrail and continued zooming home at max speed, my stress building with every turn of the wheels? Could it be our parents understood the old saying about taking time to inhale the fragrance of the blossoms?

IMG_1564 210I wondered how many of God’s puddles, tagged with my name, I’ve missed, run through, or ignored?

How about you? Have you become so embroiled in the deserts of drought, the heat of battles, and storms of relationships that you have failed to stop and enjoy those God given moments of blessed relief?

I would love to hear what inviting puddles have brought blessings to you. Share how those moments of joy changed you.

God promises to renew our strength along this difficult journey. If we wait on DSCF2409 0044Him. He promises to give us His strength. If we seek Him. And He promises to guide us through rough terrain. But, it’s all conditional on watching, waiting, and taking the time to wade into those precious puddles of delightful joy sent by God the Father to His parched, needy children.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40:28-31 NAS).

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Nor is He a Republican or a Libertarian. And I would seriously doubt He’s a Southern Baptist.

Political leaders, political parties, and large religious bodies do not have the wisdom, power, or understanding within themselves to fix what’s wrong with America.

Only the Lord God Almighty does. And until we acknowledge that fact, bow before Him, and obey Him, America will continue its plunge into oblivion.

America has a terminal heart disease. From the Whitehouse to the church house America needs a blood transfusion and a heart transplant. If we are to survive as a nation, the only cure is His blood and His heart in place of our sick, impaired hearts and minds. From the smallest to the greatest, our country must return to roots of faith and trust in the Sovereign God, Creator and Sustainer of the Universe and His Son, The Lord Jesus Christ.

Otherwise, we are doomed.

Storm winds of misconception and deception have swept across this land for several decades, carrying with them the lies of hatred, the diseases of pride, and the cancers of rebellion. Fire hoses of evil. Turned on full-blast. And we are drowning in the deluge of those who “call evil—good and good—evil.”

“An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet;…Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places, seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes, and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation” (Matthew 12:39, 43-45 NAS).

Just look at history to confirm we are following those historical footprints. America is in deep trouble, folks. Look at your emails, Face Book posts or listen to your choice of evening news. We are a divided country. And the silent majority still sleeps, thinking everything’s gonna be all right.

No, it’s not. That’s part of the lie. Things never stay the same no matter how much we wish they could. Everything under the sun is either being daily renewed or is dying. And God is the only One capable of giving life. Refreshing. Restoring. Rejuvenating. Life.

So is God pacing the corridors of the clouds, wringing His hands screaming, “Oh no! What am I going to do now?”

Certainly not. He knows the beginning and the end. We are on His time schedule. Not ours. And He is in control of all things, even those who refuse to believe He is I AM.

King Solomon wrote over three thousand years ago:

“That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So, there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:10 NAS).

 

            The chaos we see today began in the Garden when God’s created people chose to disobey, to rebel against His instructions, and then suffered the consequences for their choices—just like God said they would. They died. Physically and spiritually.

 A large percent of Americans believe they can rebel against God’s instructions and live. To expect different results from the same type of rebellion is foolish deception. Yet we all have friends, neighbors and relatives who reject God, pretend He doesn’t exist, and believe there will be no consequences for their choices.

            Jesus said we can identify those who belong to Him—by the fruit of DSCF2870 005DSCF2869 004their lives. So understand, I’m not judging anyone—Republican, Democrat or Libertarian. Even my Southern Baptist brothers and sisters—but  God gave me the clear instruction: I am to be a fruit inspector.

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-20 NAS).

 

Love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance is  listed as identifying fruit produced in our spirit, through God’s Spirit, when we are walking in obedience to Christ.  “The Fruit of the Spirit”. Did you notice those nine character attributes are lumped into a singular product? Fruit—not fruits.  For years I thought I could pick and choose. Who wants to be patient? And meek? Get real. “Til the day I saw “fruit” not “fruits”.

When we come to Christ, the Spirit of God begins the growing, fertilizing, pruning process. Transforming our lives to produce fruit. Good fruit.

What do you hear and see on the evening news? From every branch of government? From every political party? From most of the folks you know? Love? Joy? Peace? Patience? Gentleness? Goodness? Faith? Meekness? Temperance?

Don’t even bother to answer.

Americans are not God’s fair-haired children. God is not an aging, permissive grandfather. As far as I know, the only nation God called His own are the Jewish folks. The only plot of ground He called holy is Jerusalem. And look at what God has done to His kids because of their rebellion. Like it or not, believe it or not, “God is the same. Yesterday, today, and forever.”

He also said, “Those who bless Israel I will bless and those who curse Israel I will curse.” Pull out a history book. Read and see what has happened to every nation, since The Book of Genesis, who cursed Israel. In the books of Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and many of the minor prophets, God gives us a list of His future dealings with most every nation, with the exception of America.

Interesting or frightening? You decide. But I don’t find one of the Old or New Testament prophets mentioning Americans, Republicans, Democrats, or Libertarians. Or yes, even Southern Baptists—only the Jewish people and those who belong to Jesus and those who don’t belong to Him. Where do you fit in the mix?

Understand. Justice delayed doesn’t mean justice denied. It means we are still experiencing the love, the mercy, patience, and everlasting kindness of God, as He waits for those folks who will change their mind in these last days, acknowledge their sin, and by faith come to the cross for mercy, grace, and pardon. Those who will come to Jesus, accept His sacrifice for them, and live.

But His mercy and patience will not last forever. And should you die tonight, the choice you made today: His love, His blood and His heart—or eternal separation from Him—will be your choice. Forever.

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EVERY IDLE WORD

The past few months I’ve noticed two websites posting on Face Book with quirky names. I’ve looked at the sites once and thought their messages had overstepped the boundaries of decency and just scrolled on by.

Until a week ago.

On that day one of these sites displayed a very questionable caricature of the president’s wife. I disagreed with their disrespectful display of America’s first lady, no matter who she is. To me this post tested the boundaries of slander. And I responded with a short, but civil, rebuke.

The responses? Hateful dialogue. Supposedly from Christians.

During the passing of the Texas abortion bill, we ran into the same hate filled comments—from both sides. And I’m sure many of you have suffered vengeful replies to many of your comments on social media. Perhaps even among friends and church members.

So where do we draw the line in the sand? Where do we overstep our boundaries, with comments, replies, and commentary?

When things are unjust and it seems evil has the upper hand, does that give a Christian the right to slander those who have chosen unrighteousness rather than righteousness?

What liberties and boundaries does a Christian have in expressing their disagreement with lawlessness and iniquity, within and without their party of  preference?

Where does truth end and slander begin?

How can a Christian speak the truth in these dismal times, yet still glorify Christ?

Each morning we wake up to greater chaos. In our families, in our nation, and in the world. The rumble of discord beats a steady rhythm that is growing louder every day. Jesus told us that His ascension ushered in the last days. And that was two thousand years ago.

I believe most of us would agree we were instructed in Matthew to be familiar with and recognize the signs that would herald the end of this age. And from my understanding of scripture, we are close. When? I don’t know, but I want to be ready. How about you?

Our nation is in dire trouble: spiritually, morally, financially, constitutionally, militarily. But we are given example, after example throughout the pages of God’s Word, what happens when a nation rebels against God and rejects His Only Son, The Lord Jesus Christ.

And we wonder why we’re in the mess we’re in?

Yet we expect a different outcome when it’s Americans who have thumbed their collective noses at God and walked after their own understanding. As we say in Texas, “There just ain’t no cure for stupid.”

Most of us stand guilty of vomiting opinions, solutions—words, words, words—on anyone who will listen, but we must turn to scripture for the final word concerning our behavior in these last days.

Mark 3:24 says:

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Whether you believe it or not, rebellion and continued disobedience must be judged.

In the Book of Matthew Jesus said:

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle (careless) word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:33-37 NKJ, parenthesis inserted from NAS).

Every idle word? Yikes! My list of  worthless words I’m sure could drain the ink well dry. Jesus said my words will either justify me or condemn me.

My husband always replies to any questioning about his comments, “Well, I’ll just shut-up. Shouldn’t have opened my mouth in the first place.” Sometimes that’s not a bad idea, if we could. The idle words leap off our tongues and the good words, well, so often we’re too afraid to speak them. Afraid what others will think of us. But did Christ commanded us to shut up?

 In Acts 26:25, Paul says:

“But he said, ‘I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner.’”

Paul appeared before this Roman ruler and spoke the truth about every matter going on in the Roman empire. And he gave testimony to the reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m sure Paul didn’t slander the Roman government, nor any of the Roman officials. He spoke the truth about Jesus and the sovereign God of the Universe. Paul had seen Jesus. He knew his assignment and the permanent consequences if he failed..

Speaking to the church Paul said in I Corinthians 2:7-8, and 14:

“…but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;…But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot  understand them, because they are spiritually appraised .”

Paul spoke the things God taught him from the Old Testament and from personal revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ and The Spirit. He spoke to all men with an attitude of respect. But he did not dilute the truth of the Word of God. And he paid for his courage and boldness to speak truth with his life. In light of seeing Jesus, Paul could do nothing less. Am I willing to give my life for God’s Truth? Are you?

The Book of James tells us, in Chapter 1, verse 19:

“This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”

James does not tell us to be silent. He instructs us to listen. Hear. Get all the information and then speak. Slowly, without anger.

And finally in Ephesians 4:14-15, 25, 29-32 NKJ:

“…that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.” 

“Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another…let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

Is this easy to do? No. It’s impossible without the Holy Spirit’s abiding, teaching, leading, guiding. And slapping His hand over my mouth. Often.

Are the things we see developing unsettling? Upsetting? Yes.

Are they worse than they’ve ever been? No. Not yet.

But the Lord has told us what’s coming, how we are to overcome each difficult day, and He has told us these final days are numbered.

And, as the song says, “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.”

But what about ‘til then, how are we to act and react?

Our hope is through the power of the Word of God, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the finished work our Lord Jesus has provided for us. Is enough of God’s Word stored in the memory bank of your mind and heart to provide the armor you will need in the days to come? Have you tuned your ear to the world’s chaos or is your ear tuned to hear the gentle voice of His Holy Spirit? The voice that tells you “this is the way, walk in it.”

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 

DSCF2530Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand, stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:10-18 NKJ).

In these last days, we are to educate ourselves in the Word of God. We are to be ready to give a reason to all who ask why we believe. We are to stand firm in the truth of God’s Word, pray without ceasing, and occupy ‘til Jesus returns.

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