Is there a cure for this disease?

Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

One of my favorite things to do during this quarantine, is to watch multiple church services on TV, either recorded or live stream. I have two that I am most attracted to. There is Dr. Duane Brooks, pastor of Tallowood Baptist Church, Houston, TX . His preaching is always inspirational and helps me keep my focus on Christ and my neighbors instead of myself. The other is Dr. Bill Waddell, pastor of Island Baptist Church, South Padre Island TX. His preaching teaches me from, and grounds me in, the Word. After listening to one of his sermons, I feel prompted to look up all the Bible references I can find about his topic of the week. Both men are completely different in their style and delivery and both are wonderful preachers from whom I am learning all the time.

This week Dr. Waddell was discussing, among other things, disease in Jesus’s time and its similarities to the pandemic in which we now find ourselves. This got me thinking, about disease in general. In Jesus’s time leprosy was rampant (and still is apparently), just like Covid-19 is rampant now. As far as I know, there is no cure for either. But as deadly as both of these diseases are, they are not the worst disease we face in our lives. There is a disease of the soul and of the mind and it is a disease of pandemic proportion. People are being hurt and even die as a result of this disease. Fear of this disease is creating panic, rioting, political unrest and protesting . This disease is called racism. Now I know I promised you I would not go political in any of my blogs, and I intend to live up to that promise. What I have to say about racism is not politically motivated, but rather comes straight from the Bible. What does the Bible say about racism? How would Jesus handle this tragic affliction that is destroying lives?

First let us look at what God the Father has to say about the topic. (Yes I am aware the actual word racism is not in the Bible). The first premise is that of creation. If you are a Christian then you know that one, we were created in the image of God himself; and two, we are created to be children of God. (Genesis 1:27, Galatians 3:26). There are many other verses that support this premise and I encourage you to google the topic. My question to you is: if we truly are brothers and sisters (children of God), created in God’s image, how then can racism exist in our communities? When did we decide that one color of skin was better than another? Or decide that one Christian denomination was better than another? Or that one group of people who share a common ideology are better than another? Says who???

Next, God the Father has given us an instruction book on how to treat our brothers and sisters. For me the Ten Commandments which are referenced in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 take top billing. The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God. The fifth is the first of the commandments that deal with human interaction, and also the only commandment with a promise. Namely “Honor your mother and father, that your days may be prolonged…” The last five all are about our relationship to each other. Also, let us not forget Matthew 7:12 that says, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Golden rule right? Do you know that almost every religion in the world has some form of the Golden Rule? If we all lived according to the Golden Rule there would be no racism.

Unfortunately, in today’s world there are many who believe that one race is better than another, one belief system is better, one political ideology is better. I would say to them, if we think we are better than another human being for any reason, we are not following the commands of the Father. If you follow the Golden Rule there is no room in your heart, mind or soul to harbor a single racist thought.

Next, lets explore how Jesus would handle racism and injustice. Jesus was asked at one point to tell someone what was the greatest commandment. His reply is perfect. He says, “Love the lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind, this is the great and first commandment. And a second is like unto it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:35-40) (Remember, neighbor does not refer to just the family next door, but to every human being.) Try following that line of thought and tell me where you think racism is justified.

.Jesus broke through the barriers of racism in his day. Take for example the woman at the well, found in the Gospel of John chapter 4. She was a Samaritan woman, a different race of people and they were held in very low esteem by their Jewish counterparts. So Jesus sits down at this well, and asks this woman to give him a drink of water. She challenges him with the question of why a Jew would ask a Samaritan for anything, much less a Samaritan woman. Even the disciples were astonished that he was speaking to her. Jesus needed to teach them how to “love their neighbor.” He used the Samaritans again in his parable of the Good Samaritan. A priest and a Levite (those in the priestly line) passed by an injured man and left him laying in the road. Then a Samaritan comes along, a member of that hated race. But even though he was hated, he did not show hatred in return; instead he showed compassion and love to the victim. (If you need to read a feel good story, this parable is one that will lift your spirits.)

Matthew 5:23-24 has Jesus telling us to reconcile with our neighbors, paraphrasing–if you are presenting a gift to God and remember that you and your brother have a disagreement, leave your gift and go make up with your brother first. Go Make Up, don’t hold a grudge, forgive. We must forgive each other, even when we think we are the injured party. The Lord’s prayer found in Luke 11:1-4 teaches us about forgiveness. We know this prayer so well we often overlook a very important clause. We ask God to forgive us our sins, exactly the same way we have forgiven others! Now that should give you pause for thought. If I have not forgiven others, then I will not be forgiven. We need to let go of petty jealousies, mean thoughts and the idea that we are better than anyone else.

I am not one to carry a grudge, because they just get too heavy to be bothered with. However, I hate to admit, that for many years I held one grudge. It was a grudge against a family member, I won’t go into why, because it doesn’t matter. What matters is, the longer I held that grudge the unhappier I became. Living with unforgiveness in our hearts makes us soul sick. When I finally admitted to myself and to God my sin of unforgiveness, God lifted it from my shoulders and healed my heart. I no longer have any animosity toward this person. I have learned that we must forgive everyone even if they don’t ask for forgiveness. It is not ours to judge, but it is ours to live in a Christlike manner, and Jesus was all about love and forgiveness.

In God’s eyes we are all the same. Galatians 3:26-28 says “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” God doesn’t care about the color of our skin. If you look around you see more shades of color than one can imagine. But that is irrelevant. It is not what’s on the outside that matters, but what is on the inside. In the words of a current popular Christian song, “we all bleed the same.”

For me a lot of this is a flashback to the sixties and early seventies. Protests, riots, looting, police brutality, innocents murdered. I thought we had gotten past this but apparently not. Let us stop history from repeating itself. Let’s find answers to create change. Let us spread the Gospel of love. You cannot be a Christian and a racist, you must choose one or the other. For we cannot live in Christ’s love and not have it overflow to those around us. God is love and we are his children. Let us show love to all the people of the world. Love is the cure, the only cure for this disease.

“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow black and white they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.” Clare Herbert Woolston.

To Mask or Not To Mask That is the Question

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Such a “hot” topic. People are either adamantly opposed to or in favor of the use of the mask. Polar opposites, no lukewarm opinions on this. Everyone must answer this question for themselves, but let me give you some thoughts to ponder.

We are told by Jesus in Matthew 22:39 to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” This is a commandment not a suggestion. It is such an important commandment that it take second place only to loving God with all our hearts, souls and minds. Verse 40 give us the context of importance when Jesus says “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Did you catch that? ALL!!

These are wonderful guideposts for anyone to follow in the way they live. However, for Christians it is mandatory; there is no wiggle room here. So how do we show our love to our neighbor? Especially in this time of pandemic, what are we doing to show our love for others? I have spent a lot of time in prayer lately to find out exactly what Christ wants me to be doing to reach out to others. This blog is just one outlet, I am also following another course of action that I believe God has called me to. I’ll talk about that at a later time. It’s one of those, “okay God, tell me”….and he does….and the answer is not what I expected. But it is absolutely possible.

I guess my point is, we need to be doing things to take care of each other. And by each other I mean all of God’s children. Whether they follow our belief system or not, God still loves them. I have a friend who lives in a retirement community. She goes around leaving little “love” notes for many of those who live with her there. It is particularly difficult for these older people to be living in retirement communities and not able to interact with their friends and family. I also know many of you are involved in charities or church activities that help to support those in need. But what are we doing for those we see as we shop, eat, walk, exercise or any other way you may run into people.

Christ gave us the ultimate example when he washed the feet of the disciples, to teach them to care for one another. Then he went to the cross to die for all of us. His love was so great he took all our sins on his shoulders. So should we be out washing feet? This would be rather difficult for us to do, especially with the social distancing strictures in place.

There is one extremely easy thing you can do. I know some of you think its unimportant to wear a mask for whatever reason. However, wearing a mask is not about YOU! Uh oh, now I’ve probably upset you. But you need to know this. It is not about you but about those around you. I have several underlying health issues that practically ensure a 0% survival rate for me if I get the Coronavirus, or one of many other flu, viruses, or bacterial diseases. So, I cannot be around people who are not wearing masks.

Please for my sake and the sake of others whose health is compromised, wear your mask. If you sneeze, cough, wheeze, have a runny nose or otherwise spew bodily fluids you are possibly infecting others. Did you know you can be without any visible symptoms for up to two weeks and still be contagious with the virus? Just because you feel fine and don’t think you have it, doesn’t mean you don’t!!

If you truly love your neighbor, why are you not wearing your mask? Is your neighbor less important that your right to not wear one? I know they are a pain. Its hard to breathe through them, it can be uncomfortable, but what is that compared to protecting those around you. Just think how awful you will feel if next week you find you have been infected and, not wearing your mask, you have inadvertently subjected an unknown number of people to the virus also. When do the rights conferred upon us by “government” take precedence over the commands of our GOD?

You see taking care of others can be just as simple as wearing your mask when you are out in public. You don’t have to lay down your life, or wash feet, or feed multitudes, you just have to love your neighbor. So please, please show your love today and every day until this pandemic is over.

Privilege, Blessing or Gift?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A dear friend sent me this Bible recently. Acts 11:18 (NLT) says “When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, ‘We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.'” She said that she had never thought of repentance as being a privilege, and then she asked the most interesting question, “Does privilege equate to blessing in the biblical sense?” Is this just semantics or is there substance here also?

I immediately realized I needed to do some research on this. First I went to my Hebrew/Greek Bible (NASB) to look up the verse to find the root word used in the verse for privilege. Guess what? There was nothing there. The NASB translation reads, “When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.'” Next I went to my NIV Study Bible and it reads, “When they heard this, they had no objections and praised God, saying ‘So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.” Still nothing about privilege. I looked up the verse in the New English Translation, the Common English Bible, the American Standard Version, the King James and New King James as well as the Passion Translation and could not find the word privilege in any of those. The closest one was the Passion translation that refers to the “gift of repentance”. Are those two words, gift and privilege synonymous? And are either of those words synonymous with blessing? A gift is something someone gives you without you doing anything to earn it, like the gift of grace. One definition of blessing is something beneficial for which one is grateful and brings well-being. And then, the word privilege is defined as something regarded as a special honor.

Is every gift a blessing? Is every blessing a privilege? Is every privilege a gift? I hope that you readers will weigh in on this discussion and let me know what you think. Here’s what I believe to be true. Gifts can indeed be blessings. Isaiah 11:1-2 tell us of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit–Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord. Then in the New Testament, in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 there are nine gifts of the Holy Spirit listed, not to be confused with the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The gifts are wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous power, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues and interpreting tongues. Just for clarification, the fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self control. Interestingly I came across one commentator who described the gifts and the fruit like this: The gifts of the Holy Spirit are the cake and the fruit of the Holy Spirit is the icing on the cake. The fruit of the spirit result from living in accord with the Holy Spirit. However, we will discuss the fruit of the Spirit at another time. Definitely all these gifts listed in both the Old Testament and the New Testament are truly blessings. However, a gift is not always a blessing, as not all gifts are good gifts. We don’t always want what others give us. Have you ever received something that you really didn’t want or that was given out of anger or spite?

Privilege as defined by the Oxford Dictionaries expands our original definition found above to include “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.” Next question, is every privilege a blessing? I think not. It depends upon who is conferring the privilege and/or how it was conferred. If God is conferring privilege upon you, then privilege is a blessing. However, if the world is bestowing privilege upon you, that may not be a blessing at all.

Blessings are far more than just privilege. The Lord blesses everyone he chooses, in whatever way he chooses. There is no regard to rank and privilege when it comes to blessings. One commentator said that privilege, in today’s society. has come to mean something negative. Privilege is for the few, the lucky, the rich, the famous, but not for the masses. Therefore, privilege often inspires envy, jealousy and resentfulness. None of which could anyone mistake for a blessing.

So my hypothesis is this, blessings can be privileges and/or gifts and are always positive. On the other hand, gifts can be positive or negative but are not always blessings. And finally, privilege can be a blessing or a gift if it brings a positive result. However, privilege can have negative connotations as well. Therefore, the three words, while having much in the way of crossover and similar definitions are not always synonymous. One must examine the gift and the giver, the blessing and the one conferring the blessing, and the privilege as well as the provider of that privilege to determine the context.

One final thought, “Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17 (NIV). I think this applies to all blessings and positive privileges also as they are bestowed by the Father on an undeserving world. Praise God that he loves and blesses us so completely.

The Gift of Thyme

A dear friend gave me an idea for an article for the blog. I have been doing some research and trying to put the thoughts in order. It will be a discussion of privilege, blessings and guilt. It just wasn’t coming together for some reason (don’t worry it will be my next article, it started to come together as soon as I was led to write this one.)

As usual, I was out walking the dogs this morning. I’m talking to the Lord about the lack of inspiration I feel about writing the article, even though I’m convinced it’s a great topic (you’re going to love it, take my word for it). As I’m walking along I see on the sidewalk two little herb plants that someone has just thrown away. There they were looking sad and forlorn. Suddenly, I bent down to pick them up and said to myself, I have the perfect little pot to plant these in. Then I burst out laughing because it dawned on me that God has just given me the gift of thyme, (time) to relax about writing the other article. He wanted me to take time to talk about time.

This is an easy subject to talk about during this pandemic as so many of us have too much time on our hands. It’s not that I don’t want to be busy and productive, I do. But I’m not burning with fire to do something specific (except write this blog). The problem is that everybody is writing about time right now. Everyone has ideas (including me) for ways to help out in the community. We talked about some of those in an earlier blog. I don’t want to repeat those same thoughts.

You know the verse in Romans 8:28 (NIV) that says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”? Well I think that verse is the clue to this whole topic. Instead of wondering how we can be productive, we need to look at this time as a gift from God. He has given us the gift of time so that we can reflect on our own lives and how we are interfacing with Him. Are you spending this precious time with our Lord in prayer? Are you taking advantage of this time to delve into the Word, or into a Bible study you’ve been putting off? Are you using this precious gift of time to grow closer to God?

I know I wasn’t, at least not as much as I think I should have been. I was focused on doing the outward things. I did a massive photo album for my daughter going from great great grandparents to present day and I wrote a family history to go along with it. I made some face masks, I made some scrub caps and I bought lots of material to make lots more. I was focused on writing my blog, and the more I focused the less I was able to write. I have a sweet friend who often says she hopes that God will be actively using her up to her last breath. It’s not that I don’t agree with the sentiment, its just that at my last breath, I hope the Lord and I are having a conversation and I’m not so busy do good works that I miss the beauty of my transition to eternal life.

It is wonderful to lead Bible studies and write books and blogs and poetry and be in the thick of all the church projects. I’m not suggesting that we should not be doing these things. I’m suggesting that we spend more time in talking to Jesus . The tagline for this blog is “Pray without ceasing.” We should be in continual conversation with God. After all, His greatest desire was that he should create humans so he could be in relationship with us. Relationships don’t just happen. They take a lot of work– on both sides. I do spend time early in the morning reading the Word, and following several devotions on-line. (I highly recommend Jim Denison’s Daily Article.) However, I’m afraid that sometimes, I come to God with the best of intentions, start my day with him and then leave him behind me after our morning time. I “move on” to my daily activities, and the last week or so those daily activities devolved into very little of anything. I think some of the pressure of quarantine is starting to get to me. I’m feeling very much at loose ends these days.

That’s why when I saw the two little thyme plants laying on the sidewalk just waiting for me, I laughed out loud. I love how God uses the most amazing things to get our attention and to convey an idea to us. I find inspiration more often than not, in the beauty of his creation. Watching squirrels playing, listening to birds singing, dogs barking, and cats meowing always puts a smile on my face. If you haven’t noticed the magnolias are blooming. They are such a magnificent example of the beauty of God’s creation.

So I realize that as in many things in my life God has hidden a gift inside less than perfect circumstances. In this pandemic, he has given me the gift of thyme (time). So I brought the little plants home to have a constant reminder of God’s gift. I have potted them together, because even plants are stronger together than alone. Just as we are stronger together with God than we will ever be if we are alone. “Praise the Lord, oh my soul! With all that is within me, praise his holy name.” Psalm 103:1-2 (NET)

“Hold Please”

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

It seems like every business you try to call these days, has a pre-recorded message that says something like “Due to Covid-19, our call volume has increased, there may be a lengthy hold.” Every time I make a call I’m told to hold. Hold. hold, hold. It is a reminder of how much our lives have changed in just a short period of time.

That got me started thinking. What else am I putting on hold? What am I not doing because of the stay at home orders? What should I be doing at home to be a contributing member of this new society? Why am I hesitating to make decisions?

When I think I’d like to buy a newer car, get a new TV, buy a house or even just buy some new clothes, my mind says “Hold off on this till you see if you get the virus.” I seem to be putting everything on hold, refusing to make positive decisions for the future. You see, I am a senior and I have underlying health issues. Getting the virus could well be my ticket out of this lifetime. So I’m avoiding decisions of any financial impact because I don’t want to leave my daughter to have to handle a load of debt.

So you may be thinking, that’s good–makes sense. The question is how long am I going to keep avoiding making decisions? How long am I going to keep my life on hold? At this point in my life, there’s not as much time left for me to sit twiddling my thumbs.

I was fairly comfortable with my decision for several weeks, but as the pandemic keeps growing, I am wondering if I this is still the right decision. Why am I not living like a believer? I don’t mean that I should be out running around getting in people’s faces, but I certainly should not be making decisions based on my fear. I can’t continue to avoid making decisions. I need to be living a full life, even if it is from inside my apartment.

I wondered how would Jesus handle something like this? That answer didn’t take long to figure our. Jesus would keep on living and moving forward. Just as he did 2000 years ago. During Easter week, if you read the scriptures detailing the last weeks of his life, you clearly saw that. Even though he knew what was coming, he continued to move forward. In Mark 8:31 he told his disciples that he would suffer, be rejected and killed, but three days later he would arise. Then in Mark 9:31 he predicts his death for the second time. The third prediction is found in Matthew 20:17 where Jesus is heading to Jerusalem with his disciples. Jesus didn’t go sit in his room and decide whether or not to take a certain course of action. He prayed–and he continued moving forward toward his crucifixion, following his Father’s commands.

So why am I still sitting on my hands waiting for direction? I have always known that at some point I will pass on. Why is the threat of this Covid-19 stymieing my life? Maybe, its because it is right in my face. Everyday. The thought of death suddenly goes from something in the (not too distant) future, to something that could start and end in just a very few days. But that kind of thinking comes from the devil. He wants us to be afraid, he wants us hiding in our homes, he wants us scared to do anything. But he doesn’t get his way this time.

So I am doing what Jesus did. I am praying, I am talking to God about the whole situation. He assures me that no matter what, he will be with me. Joshua 1:9 says “…Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Isaiah 41:10 assures us he will hold us with his righteous right hand. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “He (God) will not leave you or forsake you.” The list goes on and on. He is with me, I do not need to be afraid. There are more than 300 instances in the Bible where we are told to “fear not.” I need to remember that and to live life trusting in Jesus.

This is one of the reasons I keep writing these blogs. It is a way for me to continue the Lord’s work, so to speak, and yet stay within the confines of governmental shut downs. I can make decisions about the future without fear if I ask Jesus for direction on those decisions. Staying in His will provides me with the knowledge to make positive decisions during this time of being in a “holding pattern.” Reaching out to others, via this blog, via telephone calls, via letters written and though those media and social media, offering assurance, love and Christian support to all who need to hear about God’s love and who are waiting for the end of this pandemic. As the media keeps telling us, we are all in this together.

Don’t lose touch with your friends. Don’t stay in a holding pattern. Find a way to help your neighbors (both physical and metaphorical). If you can sew, make masks. If you can write, use social media to post encouraging thoughts. If you can sing, again use social media to post a video or your song. If you like writing letters, write to not only your friends but as many people as you can to offer them encouraging words. And if you can’t find something else to do to reach out, then reach out to God in prayer. Prayer is astonishingly powerful, when we pray with right motives and a contrite heart. Jesus told us there are two great commandments, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all mind,” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-40. Its tough to do those two things if we are cowering in fear. Instead lets take the attitude of what a beautiful day it is when we begin and end with prayer.

Where Have All The People Gone?

Back in the 1960’s The Kingston Trio (does anybody but me remember them?) and about 100 other singers after them, sang a beautiful protest song against war in general. If you are too young to be familiar with this song, I suggest you find it on you tube, it was rated one of the top 20 political songs ever. The lyrics ask five questions: Where have all the flowers gone? (gone to young girls every one); where have all the young girls gone? (gone to young men every one); where have all the young men gone? (gone to soldiers every one); where have all the soldiers gone? (gone to graveyards every one) and lastly where have all the graveyards gone (gone to flowers every one). Each verse ends with the refrain of “when will they every learn, when will they ever learn?”

I pray for wisdom and for strength as I continue to struggle through these last 40+ days of shut down. Trying to fix problems with airline tickets, internet service, phone service, tv service, postal service and the IRS, (yes I have had issues with every one of these things) this song keeps going round and round in my head. The only difference is the questions I am asking. The biggest question of all is “Where Have All The People Gone?” I miss talking to real people. I am fed up with robochats and autobots and being forced to go through endless routines on the computer just to have the conversation terminated by the autobot because they can’t fix your problem.

My favorite response was from the IRS, I called and the recorded voice says, “Due to a reduction in personnel we are not accepting any phone calls, most problems can be fixed using our online website, and the phone is disconnected.

So because I am frustrated and bored, I am writing a little ditty to the tune of Where Have All the Flowers Gone. I hope you enjoy it.

Where have all the people gone? the ones who answered phones, Where have all the people gone? since covid-19. Where have all the people gone? home hiding safe inside. When will this ever end, when will this ever end.

I’m so tired of autobots, and reading FAQ’s I’m so tired autobots, who can’t fix anything, I’m so tired of autobots, taking over all the world When will this ever end, when will this ever end?

I never thought I’d say these words, but I’m so sick and tired of crafts Never thought I’d say these words, I don’t look good in masks Never thought I’d say these words, but even going back to work sounds good. When will this ever end, when will this ever end?

Staying home is really awful, after all this long time. Staying home is really boring, I want to go out to eat. Staying home is really awful, I think I’m losing my mind. When will this ever end, when will this ever end?

My disclaimer is that you and I should all be staying home and practicing social distance. It truly is worth the inconvenience. Stay smart, stay home and stay well.

Also I apologize as this was not exactly in line with the intent of prayerful thoughts. However, I believe humor and laughter are good for us and God wants us to feel happy and find joy. I hope my little song brought a smile to your faces.

Fake It Till You Make It

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Pexels.com

Have you ever felt like you were a fraud? Ever been in a situation where you knew you were in over your head? I remember that happening to me when I got a promotion one time. Mind you, I had written the job description, submitted it to the reorganization committee, and suggested that if they adopted my plan, they should make me the Department Director. And you know what? They did just that. I was stunned, even though I had trained for years to get to this point. I had gone back to school and gotten a Masters in Public Administration. Still, that little, niggling voice in the back of my head said things like, “you can’t do this, who do you think you are?, you’re nobody.” and I started to question my abilities. My theory back then was to “Fake It Till You Make It.” In other words, act like you know what you are doing, speak with authority, and people will believe you actually do.

You know that niggling little voice I mentioned? I believe that is Satan trying to cast doubt and dissension wherever he can. Not being good enough was a weak spot in my wordly armor. I always feared I could not live up to everyone’s expectations. I had gone to church all my life (with the exception of a few years in my early 20’s) and would have told you straight out that I was a Christian. The funny thing is though that I certainly did not live like one. I made my own decisions, never asking God for his input. I clawed my way up the corporate ladder looking for the success and salary that would make me happy. So, why wasn’t I happy even when I had achieved my earthly goals? I knew something was missing and I knew exactly what it was, I just wasn’t prepared to give up control over my own life. After all, if I completely turned my life over to Christ, wouldn’t my life be boring and supercilious? I would have to be a Goody-Two-Shoes, a “do gooder” and I didn’t think even I could fake that till I made it.

Then, I found out that I didn’t have to fake it, I didn’t have to fill my days with good works hoping they would balance the scales against my sins. I didn’t have to pretend to be a believer until I could actually be one. All I had to do was really, truly, actually turn my life over to Christ. He took care of everything else. Romans 10:9-10 says, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

What a blessed relief. I didn’t have to balance any scales anymore. Hebrews 10:17 tell us that “their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” Imagine that, God does not remember our sins, deliberately does not remember them. My favorite verse about forgiveness comes from Psalm 103:12 “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” That is truly amazing. Every time Satan comes around with his nasty little insinuations trying to tear you down, remind him of those verses. You are forgiven.

Now as the years rolled on, I did indeed start doing what I would have considered “good deeds” but it wasn’t to try and balance the scales. It was because I wanted to do those things. I wanted to show Christ how much I appreciated his sacrifice. After all, he died on a cross for my sins. How could I not want to give him thanks and praise any way I could? I am so excited about this new blog, what a great way to praise the Lord.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. I hope you will choose to “follow” me so you will get each new post when it is published on the site. Please feel free to comment or to make suggestions. This is not “my” blog. It is a way for Christ to use me to get the Word out, to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 16:24). Isn’t all this technology wonderful, when used in a positive Godly manner? Thank you Lord for today and all you have provided for us.

Remembering

Photo by Cindy Gustafson on Pexels.com

Holy Week is all about remembering. Remembering that Christ suffered and died for our sins. Remembering that he washed the feet of the disciples to give us an example to follow. Remembering at the Last Supper he gave the disciples a glimpse of what was to come that weekend. Remembering that he prayed for God to take away the cup, but promised obedience to his Father’s will whatever was to come. But most of all remembering the resurrection. (Read Matthew 26:1-28:20) This is the cornerstone of my faith. The beautiful butterflies always remind me of Christ’s resurrection as they go from caterpillar, to chrysalis, to butterfly. The caterpillar must die so the butterfly can live. So it is with Christ’s death and resurrection, the physical body must die so the new body can emerge. Without resurrection, nothing else matters.

Christ promised us that life goes on. There’s a beautiful song by that name sung by the Talley Trio. It is an extremely comforting song to me. You see I too am remembering. Remembering that God loves us unconditionally, remembering that he forgives all our sins. I am also remembering how my faith nearly slipped away from me when six years ago today, my darling son died of a heart attack in his sleep at the age of 42. I was so angry at God.

You see just months before he died he gave his life to Christ. He started going to church and asked me to come with him. He had struggled with bi-polar depression all his life, complicated by alcoholism and in former years, drug use. But now, praise God, he had turned his life around. I wish I could say from that point on he was healed of his depression and alcoholism and became a saintly example. It didn’t quite happen that way. However, the way it did happen was more surprising that anything I could imagine. He often would wear his T-shirt that showed Christ with his crown of thorns that said, “no pain, no gain.” to work. He was a bartender and worked in a bar. He would look around the room and point to people, saying “you, you and you. You need to come to church with me.” My son, who’s major church attendance consisted of coming with me on Mother’s Day as his gift to me, was evangelizing. He never hesitated to talk to people about his conversion.

I was so looking forward to watching my son mature in his beliefs. Instead, he died. I felt like God had ripped him away from me and my faith wavered.

However, its hard to say my faith kept wavering when I was hearing the voice of God every day. He kept telling me to praise him. My anger notwithstanding, I still believed that God was there and that he heard my cries. I just wasn’t very happy with Him at that point. Believe me I could not, at first, understand what I could possibly praise him for, so I kept saying no. This went on for several days and one day I grudgingly obeyed (is it really obedience if you do it with a bad attitude?). I praised him for the beautiful day it was. Each successive day, my praises became more heartfelt and real. I truly was feeling the Holy Spirit lighten the burden of grief. And then one day, God revealed to me the gift inside the grief.

Instead of drowning myself in sorrow, upset about what I was going to miss, I realized that I had been given the gift of 3 months with my son knowing he was saved. I am so grateful every day now for that gift. Just imagine if he had died without making that commitment. I would not have the joy of knowing that I will see him in heaven one day. I would be devastated.

So now, while I still shed tears on this day every year, its because I miss having him here. The tears don’t last long knowing that he is safe, healed and happy. He no longer suffers from bi-polar depression, or addictions to alcohol and/or drugs. He has been made whole. The Bible promises us that Jesus has prepared a place for us in his Father’s house (John 14:2). He told the thief on the cross, that on that very day he would join Christ in paradise (Luke 23:43). So I know without a doubt where he is.

My wish for each of you is to celebrate in your hearts and minds the resurrection of Christ. Remembering that God loves us so much that he sent his only son to die for our sins so we could have eternal life. (John 3:16) No matter what happens in this life, no matter how hard the road may get, God is with us. He will never leave us, he will hold us in his strong right hand, and he will walk with us through the valley of the shadow death, so we need not fear. Life may not run smoothly or turn out the way we expected, but we can still find joy in the Lord, each and every day. Remember.

Make a Joyful Noise

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

My favorite hymn is “How Great Thou Art” written by Carl Boberg and Stuart K Hine. The lyrics tell the story of God’s majesty, his dominion over all the earth, and his unequaled love for us. It is interesting that the first version of the song was written as a Swedish poem and melody by Carl Boberg in 1885. It was later translated to German, then to Russian. From the Russian, Stuart K Hines, an English missionary in Russia, translated it to English and added two more verses of his own. Although I don’t know which two. You’ll find the complete lyrics at the end of today’s blog.

Every time there is a thunderstorm, I am reminded of the lyrics of this hymn, and one night last week was no exception. The thunder was indeed rolling and rolling and rolling. Listening to the incredible sound of the thunder, looking up at the stars at night, looking down from lofty mountains how could anyone say they don’t believe there is a God? Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Seems obvious to me.

Perhaps people don’t see the beauty around them because they are always in such a hurry. They have no time for the niceties of life, they are just trying to make it through the day. Based on the speed of the cars that go up down the street in front of where I live, not only are they trying to make it through the day, they are trying to do it at record speeds. Zoom, zoom, zoom.

Now suddenly, we are not so busy, not in such a hurry. We (at least those of us who are not essential personnel) have been forced to stop. We have an ideal opportunity to see what we had no time to see before. I think its still okay to take a walk, so get outdoors and walk. Look at the blue sky, the green grass, and the joyful colors of the flowers planted all around. You can’t help but find God in his magnificent creation. He didn’t just speak all of this into creation and then turn his back and walk away. He is here, with us, every single minute of every single day.

I hope, during your walk, you will reach out to God and talk to him. Don’t know what to say? You can what I do, and sing to God. I walk around singing all the hymns I can remember. They are such a beautiful expression of my love and appreciation of our mighty God. Or I put on my earbuds and crank up my playlist of Christian music and sing along. Do I get some funny looks? Yep, sometimes, but I just smile at them. After all, we are told specifically in Psalm 98:4 to “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” There are lots more Psalms that use those exact words, ‘make a joyful noise” (depending on your translation). Just a few if you want to look them up: Psalm 100:1, Psalm 95:1, Psalm 98:6 and dozens more examples in the Bible where we are told to sing and praise God.

Here are the complete lyrics to “How Great Thou Art”. I’m singing as I’m typing them, so feel free to join in and sing with me.

[Verse 1]
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed

[Refrain]
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

[Verse 2]
When through the woods, and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze

[Repeat Refrain]

[Verse 3]
And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin

[Repeat Refrain]

[Verse 4]
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

[Repeat Refrain]

(Source: genius.com/Religious-music-how-great-thou-art-lyrics)

Choose Happy

Life is uncertain, always has been always will be, until we get to Heaven.  None of knows how many years God has granted us to be on this earth through his loving grace.  When I was younger, I never really thought about it.  Like many young people, I was pretty sure I was invincible.  Nothing could touch me, I thought. 

Of course, as I matured, I learned just how deeply something could touch me.  I learned that not only was I not invincible, I was actually helpless to really do anything without God.  John 15:5 says it best, “I am the vine and you are the branches, if you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing.” (emphasis is mine).  A difficult lesson for many of us to learn.

We need to remember to lean on God during this horrendous pandemic that has risen and is shaking its fist in our faces.  We can do nothing on our own, but that doesn’t mean we should do nothing.  Pray for guidance and direction from God about what it is he wants you to do and how.  Pray for the details.  God has already given us the big picture for our jobs. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  You want to know what God’s will is?  There it is.  Today we will just discuss verse 16, but another time we will tackle verses 17 and 18. 

Right there, in verse 16 he is telling us to choose to be happy.  Rejoicing is just another word for happiness.   This is such an important concept that it is repeated multiple times in the Bible.  Look up Philippians 4:4, Romans 5:3, Romans 12:15 and there are many more if you choose to dig deeper.

I heard a story about a little girl in school.  I believe she was in Kindergarten.  She was a shy little girl and was very quiet.  She kept her head down and focused on her work.  However, every so often her little head would bob up she’d look around the room, smile and say “Happy”.  That was it-just one word.  She was so full of joy and happiness that it just had to spill out of her. 

Photo by Alexander Dummer on Pexels.com

I was in a craft store recently and saw a set of stickers.  On the package it said, “I Choose to Be Happy,” and underneath that “Let your faith be bigger than your fear.”  Those are such encouraging words in this time of fear, confusion and uncertainty.  We can’t choose our circumstances.  We didn’t choose this pandemic or all the strictures that are being enforced as a result of the virus.  But we can choose how we react to those circumstances.

So, I challenge you to choose to be happy.  Let your faith be bigger than your fears.  Remember, the God who created this entire world is big enough to handle all your fears.  Trust in God and be happy.  The choice is fully yours.