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Friday, June 27, 2014

Should Christians Feel Hopeless?

As Christians, we are expected to be strong at all times. Those who know we are
Christians may look to us for wisdom, support and even guidance. But are we always able to give it? Do we always feel we have it all together and can take on whatever life throws our way? I don't think so. We Christians crumble under the weight of everyday pressure just as other humans. The Bible has several examples of mighty men and women of God who were sometimes ready to give up hope.

Job was one of them. After being tried by Satan and losing everything he had, including his children, "Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth" ( 3: 1). Notice he didn't sin, neither did he curse God, but he cursed the day of his birth. Meaning, he wished he'd never been born.

Have you ever felt that way? Are the pressures of life so overwhelming that you feel you cannot make it through another day? Jesus said, " In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer ; I have overcome the world" (John 16 : 33). The Bible also tells us, "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Romans 8 : 37).

It's not easy to focus on God's promises when you are feeling hopeless, but know that as a child of God you are never alone. He  knows your thoughts from afar off. He knows the very hairs of your head and you can never flee from His presence. The psalmist said, 
     "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? 
   If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.  
 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;  
 Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. 
  If I say , Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Psalm 139: 7 - 11.

Do you feel hopeless? There's no need. He is with you in all things. Here's a song to remind you of that.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Let It Go

4th generation Nissan Maxima
4th generation Nissan Maxima (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
1973 Nissan Motor Company (Int'l)
1973 Nissan Motor Company (Int'l) (Photo credit: IFHP97)
This weekend I finally bit the bullet, to use a cliche, and bought a car. My old Nissan had been showing signs of old age, and was really begging to be laid to rest. But our relationship spanned thirteen years and three states. She'd never let me down, until recently when I had to take her to the doctor more often than I was comfortable with. As soon as I fixed one thing, something else would go bad. Then last week when she had a convulsion and came to a sudden stop in the middle of afternoon traffic, I finally took notice of  what she'd been trying to tell me.

So on Saturday, I said an almost tearful farewell to my faithful friend. I hope she finds a good home. Have you ever had to say goodbye to something or someone? Or maybe you are holding on, afraid to let go, because he, she or it has become so familiar, so comfortable?

Many times we hold on to people or things that are draining us of our energy and resources and are keeping us from being or having what God has in store for us. What are you holding on to? Friends who are taking you on a downward path? Sinful, destructive habits that put a rift between you and God? A relationship that is not right in God's eyes? Or one that has become so toxic that you are afraid of what might happen if you did let go?

Like I did with my old car, you might be saying, it's not that bad, it satisfies my needs, I don't think I can live without it. I'll hold on a little longer. And the more you say this, the more you deprive yourself of the joy that comes from letting go and letting God take control of your life. 

The enemy feeds you those lies to keep you in bondage. Remember the children of Israel? They had been in bondage for four hundred years and had cried out to the Lord, but when He sent Moses to deliver them, they didn't want to leave. Even after they left, they still murmured and wished they were back in Egypt.  They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?" (Exodus 14: 11).

Paul said, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3: 13 - 14)

It's time to let go. From my experience with my old car, I know it's not easy.  But you know what you need to let go of. Why not ask God to help you put those things behind you  and press on to the goal He has for you? He will.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Memories Of My Father

Writing this blog post is not as easy as the one I wrote about my mother a few weeks ago,
reason being that my father passed away when I was just ten years of age, therefore my memories of him are vague. I can't remember his face, but I do remember him being a handsome man, who took great pride in his appearance. I remember him touching up the gray in his hairline and viewing himself in the mirror to make sure he looked impeccable. We had no photographs of him because back then photography was not a common thing, and Daddy did not like taking pictures.

 In addition to being employed in the oilfield, my father was the only shoemaker for miles around, and people came from everywhere to have shoes made or repaired. And he made shoes for me. I was the only little girl in our village who had a pair of shoes to match every dress. I still love shoes to this day.

I think my father enjoyed working in his workshop. We would hear him singing while he pounded his leather, or sewed on the machine, but whenever I went into his shop, he would have the newspaper waiting. He wasn't a storyteller like my mother, but he loved to read. He would point to an article and say, "Read that." After I'd read the article, he would have me spell some words. To this day, I remember his favorite word was "circumstances." By the time I was eight, I could spell that and many other "big words."

I loved going out with my father. He took me to church and other places. I don't remember him having a lot of friends, though. His work, his shoemaking business and his family consumed his life. Then one Sunday morning - I remember it well - my mother woke me to tell me that Daddy had died. I ran into their bedroom and saw  my father stretched out on the bed, eyes closed, looking very much like he was sleeping.

Dead? I threw my arms around his neck. His body was still warm. He couldn't be dead. People were coming to the house and saying things to my mother and to me, but I didn't listen to them. How could Daddy be dead? He'd worked in his shop during the day, and in our little store the night before until late. I had stayed with him, while my mother baked bread and did the other things she usually did on Saturday nights. An intoxicated man had come to the store, acting silly, and my father had escorted him to the road and told him not to come back. Daddy knew how to handle unruly people.

 Even though I am now much older, there are times when I wish I still had my parents, to drink from their fountain of wisdom and love. Still, I thank God for the sweet memories I have of my father, and even though he was with me for such a short time, he helped to shape the person I am today.  I believe I acquired my love for reading and my spelling ability from those times when Daddy had me read and spell words from the newspaper.

 Meanwhile, I have my Heavenly Father watching over me and providing me with all the shoes and whatever else I need. For those of you who still have your dad, thank God for him everyday, and let him know how much you love him. If you don't have a relationship with your father, you can still pray that God will bring you two together, because God does not like division.

God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land. Psalm 68: 6

My prayer for you this Father's Day is that you will enjoy a wonderful day with your earthly father, if you have one, as well as with your Heavenly Father.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

You Are Not Too Young

Haman Begging the Mercy of Esther, by Rembrandt
Haman Begging the Mercy of Esther, by Rembrandt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Recently, I heard the disturbing news that more and more young people are turning away from the church and from Biblical principles and are adopting worldly teachings. Citing a lot of reasons from hypocrisy in the church to lack of openness, those young people think they will be better off not being affiliated with church. Some of them claim to have abandoned their faith altogether.

At a time when the world needs Jesus more than ever, now is not the time for anyone, young or old, to abandon his/her faith, or to remove himself/herself from the spiritual covering of the church. As I focus on this topic, my thoughts turn to one young woman in the Bible who, not only clung to her faith, but helped change the course of history.

Esther was a young orphan raised by her cousin Mordecai after the death of her parents. Through Mordecai's intervention, Esther married King Xerxes and became queen. But she soon faced a grave test. Mordecai informed her of a plan by one of the king's officers to wipe out all the Jews. Mordecai asked her to go before the king to plead on their behalf. Esther was afraid. For one, the king did not know she was a Jew, and she could not go into his presence until she was invited.

 When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4 : 12 - 14).

Mordecai's words spurred Esther to action. She told him to call on all the Jews in Susa to fast and she and her maids also fasted for three days.  On the third day, Esther went before the king, and her petition on behalf of the Jews was granted. Not only that, but Haman, who had plotted to have the Jews killed, was hung on the very gallows he had made to hang Mordecai, and a special feast, the feast of Purim, is held every year to commemorate that event.

The Bible does not say how old Esther was, but she was referred to as a "girl" and as a "virgin", so we can assume she was very young. John Gill's commentary in reference to the king's marriage says, "there is sought throughout his kingdom a damsel of twelve or fourteen years ..."

Are you too young? Esther is just one example of a young person used by God for His purpose. Whatever your age, God can use you, if you would let Him.