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Sunday, February 07, 2016

Who Are You Listening To?

Have you ever taken someone's advice only to say later on, "I never should have listened to so and so." Or, "Why didn't I follow my gut feeling?"

 Many times we take the advice of an authority figure - a parent, teacher, pastor, employer, and sometimes even a friend. Listening to advice is not always a bad thing, but be careful who you listen to and judge what they are saying in the light of God's word.

One of the saddest stories I read in the Bible is recorded in 1 Kings 13 about a man of God who prophesied to King Jeroboam, a wicked king, and did great signs and wonders in his presence. So impressed was Jeroboam he invited the man of God to his home for a meal and promised him a gift. But the man declined saying, “Even if you were to give me half your possessions, I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water here. For I was commanded by the word of the LORD: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came’ ”(v 8 -9).

The man went away taking a different route as God had instructed him. But an old prophet, hearing what the man of God had done that day, went in search of him and invited him to his home for dinner. The man gave the old prophet the same answer he'd given the king. But the old prophet lied to him and said, "And an angel said to me by the word of the LORD: ‘Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water’ ” (v 18). The man of God believed the old prophet, went home with him and had dinner. On his way home, a lion met him and killed him.

I read this story a few times trying to figure out the old prophet's motive for lying to the man of God. Was he jealous of him? Was he really a prophet? One commentator said he was a bad man who tried to curry favor with the king by making the king believe that the man of God was an impostor because he had done the opposite of what he said he would do (or not do.) 

Be that as it may, the message behind this story is clear: be careful who you listen to. If someone comes up to you and says, "Thus saith the Lord," and what he/she says is in opposition to God's word, do not listen to them. 

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves (Matthew 7: 15).

Monday, February 01, 2016

Birthday Thoughts


Today is my birthday. I spent it with my husband and daughter visiting the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami, a place I'd always wanted to visit. Even though it rained most of the time we were there, I could not have desired a better gift. Exploring the magnificent house and gardens built over a hundred years ago gave us a great deal of pleasure, and being in the company of two of my family members gave me an enjoyment that no amount of rain could dampen.

As we drove home, I reflected on how much I have to thank God for:

1. For sparing my life. Like that old house (maybe not a good comparison - I'm not that old) God has preserved me through the years and saved me from a lot of things that could have shortened my life.

2. For my family. Even though they could not all be here with me on my birthday, my children, grand-children and other relatives called and wished me Happy Birthday.

3. For my friends. Birthday greetings from my friends always give me a warm feeling, but to receive greetings from my social media friends, most of whom I've never met face to face, well, I can't express how special it makes me feel. Technology sometimes gets a bad rap, but God knows why He gave man wisdom to develop it, for without it, many people would be out of touch with the rest of the world.

4. Last, but not least, for my salvation. As I grow older, I can feel secure in the fact that if God calls me home tonight, I would go to meet Him and live with Him forever. I don't have to fear the future or fear death.
Thank you, Lord, for all these blessings. 

Vizcaya Museum

Friday, January 22, 2016

Do You Have A Thorn?

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you would have seen me feature my granddaughter, Jen, in some of my posts. She is only seven, but has a mind of her own, as do most seven-year-olds now, I think. Just recently, Jen had something in her toe. I wouldn't call it a thorn. It must have been something from the Christmas tree that she stepped on, but it was uncomfortable enough to keep her seated, and holding on to her foot for a few minutes. Try as her mother and I did, she would not allow us to touch her foot. Eventually, she took the thing out herself and was soon bouncing around, flipping and doing all the usual Jen things.

The following day, I heard someone preaching about Paul's thorn in the flesh. Just as I didn't know exactly what Jen's thorn in the flesh was, we don't know what was Paul's. He didn't tell us, and as the preacher said, if God wanted us to know what it was, he would have told us. So, we are left to speculate.

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 2 Corinthians 12: 7.

Just as Jen's thorn tormented her and kept her from playing and doing the things she loved to do, this great apostle had something in him that tormented him, but in his case, it kept him from being conceited. I refuse to speculate on what it might be, but I am thinking that we all have something in us that torments us. Doesn't go away, and we can't remove it ourselves. Only God can. But Paul begged God to take it from him and look what happened.

  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.v 9

We all have a thorn. It may be a sin we are struggling with, someone in our lives, an illness, a problem that doesn't seem to be going away. We have begged God to take it away, but it persists. What can we do? His grace is sufficient for us. We are weak, but He is strong. Let us rely on His grace and His power instead of focusing on our weaknesses. Remember "not by works, so that no one can boast" Ephesians 2 : 9. 
God bless.

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Please enjoy the video below as you reflect on God's amazing grace.


Friday, January 08, 2016

The Value Of Teamwork


If it's one thing I've learned from my years of working in the healthcare industry, it's the value of teamwork. No one staff member can adequately fulfill his/her duties without the help and support of other members of the team. With everyone pulling together, the workload seems lighter and more pleasant as each person applies his talents and uniqueness to the task. It's no different with Christianity, and that's why the Bible shows many instances where people got together for a common purpose and God was in their midst, helping them achieve the seemingly impossible.

One of the most amazing pieces of teamwork in the Bible is the fall of the walls of Jericho. The Lord promised Joshua that He would give Jericho into the hands of the Israelites if they would do as He commanded them. God's commands were really simple: "March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in" (Joshua 6: 3 - 5).

So, Joshua did as he was told. He called the priests together and gave them the same instructions the Lord had given him. The people obeyed and the walls came down. As easy as that. But let's look at a few things. The priests headed the procession in front of the ark of the covenant, blowing the trumpets, followed by the rear guard then the people of Israel, estimated to be about 1200. But the walls of Jericho were no flimsy pieces of construction. These were fortified walls made of mud bricks, towering about 46 feet above ground level. Jericho seemed impenetrable. 

So what made this teamwork succeed?

1. A strong leader. Joshua had succeeded Moses after his death and God had promised Joshua,
"Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses" (Joshua 3 : 7). And God did. Just as He used Moses to part the Red Sea, He used Joshua to part the Jordan so the people crossed over on dry ground (v 17). No doubt, this increased Joshua's faith and earned him the respect of the people.

2.  A sense of purpose. The team knew the purpose of what they were doing and they went forward with that in mind.

3. Obedience. Joshua was obedient to God's commands, and so were the people. Not one of them broke the silence or tried to attack the enemy during the six days as they marched around the city. 

4.Confidence. The people trusted Joshua, but knowing that God was with them gave them the confidence that they would be victorious. 

5. Order. Last, but not least, in order for the teamwork to succeed there had to be order. Nothing can be achieved if there is disorder. In this case, every person knew where his position was and what he was expected to do. (Read 6: 3 - 5 again.)

How is it with the church? Do we have a sense of purpose? Do we have strong leaders we can trust and look up to? Are we obedient to God's commands? Most of all, do we place our confidence in God, knowing  that we can succeed in the task that He has assigned us? 

The apostle Paul said, Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others" (Romans 12: 4 - 5). 

Are you part of a team in the body of Christ? If not, ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you can apply your talents and skills to assist the body. 

Friday, January 01, 2016

Are You Ready For 2016?

Whenever my grandson, Jayden and his little sister Jen play hide and seek, I can usually predict  who the winner will be. Jayden is familiar with all Jen's favorite hiding places, so when she is hiding, he waits a little then calls out, "Ready or not!" Shortly after, shouts of joy - from Jayden -and squeals of surprise - from Jen - ring out. 

So it is with the new year. Ready or not, 2016 is here. The only difference between it and a game of hide and seek is that we knew it will find us, but we didn't realize how quickly. Everywhere I turn, I hear people commenting on how quickly 2015 passed. Many of us worked harder, drove faster and stayed up later in an effort to fulfill our dreams, only to be caught before we'd even accomplished half of those things.

I daresay, 2016 will not be much different. With the specter of terrorism, climate change, global financial crises and a host of other ills threatening, we may be tempted to ramp up our efforts to do more in 2016. This can leave us tired, frustrated and defeated.

Jesus Christ gives us some good advice: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11: 28 - 29). 

Jesus offers us the perfect hiding place - one where we will never be caught unawares or unprepared. If you have been running yourself ragged trying to achieve this, that or the other, stop now and go to Jesus. Exchange your burden for His, and you will find rest. 

The beginning of a new year is the best time to make a new start. If you don't know Jesus, why not open your heart to Him today, because one day, ready or not, He's coming and He will find you. Will your shout be one of joy or one of surprise? 

Happy New Year!

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

5 Tips For A Joyful Christmas

Joy to the world                                                 
The Lord has come
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart 
Prepare Him room 
And heaven and nature sing (repeat x 2)

Since the Christmas season began, I've sung the above words in church a few times, and ever so often I would find myself humming or singing the song. Needless to say, it's one of my favorite Christmas carols and is quite popular at this time of year. But even though I sing the song, I'm aware that there is not much joy in our world today. For many people Christmas is the saddest and loneliest time of the year. And if you live anywhere on planet earth, you know there are dozens of other reasons for the lack of joy.
So rather than depressing you by telling you what you already know, I've come up with some tips to help you experience some joy this Christmas. 

1. Spend time with the Lord. Yes, I know you pray and read your Bible daily, but at Christmas time we may find ourselves so engulfed in our preparations we may neglect spending some quiet time with God. Don't let this happen. The psalmist said, "In thy presence is fullness of joy ..." Psalm 16: 11.

2. Slow down. This may seem almost impossible, but guess what? You don't have to kill yourself trying to have everything perfect; neither do you have to attend every function to which you are invited; neither do you have to overspend in an attempt to buy gifts for everyone. 

3. Spend time with friends and family. Make it fun, leisurely and stress free. Invite someone who may be alone over for dinner. If you are fortunate to have older relatives around, have them relate stories about "the good old days." They love to do that, and the young people will benefit from a little history lesson.Watch a movie like this one that everyone can enjoy.

4. Share your faith. Don't be afraid to say, "Merry Christmas," to store clerks, co-workers and strangers you meet in the mall. You never know, it may spark some conversation about our Savior.

5. Sing. Yes, sing some Christmas carols. Find a radio station that plays them or go to You Tube where you'll find modern as well as old-fashioned ones. You cannot remain sad when you sing. 

You may be able to think of other ways to infuse some joy into your Christmas, or maybe you have some family traditions that are special to you. Why not share them in the comments box below? And do have a blessed and joyful Christmas. 

Enjoy this video of Whitney Houston and the Georgia Mass Choir singing Joy To The World. 

Friday, December 04, 2015

Don't Worry!

This heading is part of a popular song title of yesteryear, Don't Worry, Be Happy. In light of recent happenings in America and around the world we can't be happy, but we can certainly not worry if our eyes are fixed on God.  
Psalm 42: 5, 11 and 43: 5 say, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance." KJV

The AMP version says,  Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become restless and disturbed within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.

The ERV version:  Why am I so sad? Why am I so upset? I tell myself, “Wait for God’s help! You will again be able to praise him, your God, the one who will save you.” 

The NIV version: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Jesus Himself said,  "When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21: 28).

The only way we can survive this terrible period we are going through is to trust in the Lord, stay close to Him, study His Word, and don't worry.

My thoughts and prayers are with those who lost loved ones and those who were injured in this latest tragedy. God has not forgotten you.