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Monday, May 23, 2011

Hide and Seek

“But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid, because I was naked; so I hid.”  And he said, “Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten from the tree that I told you not to eat from?”   Genesis 3:9-11

Most of us have played the game of “hide and seek” with our children and/or grandchildren when they were young.  Much of the time, we already knew where they were hiding before we called out to them and began our search.  We only pretended that we didn’t know the whereabouts of their “secret” location. Finally, with giggles and delightful squealing, we exposed their hiding place and the game was over. 

In the scripture referenced above, God came looking for Adam, even though he already knew where he was.  Adam and Eve were hiding out of shame because they had disobeyed God’s specific command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.   Unlike the game of “hide and seek” mentioned above, God was not playing games with Adam and Eve. 

So it is with all of God’s creation.  We sometimes play “hide and seek” with the LORD, not realizing that the game is futile.  Because, you see, God knows where we are at all times.  He knows our hearts and our innermost thoughts.  We cannot hide from him.  

God wants to change the attitudes and actions of our hearts, but we must first come before him in humility and honesty, exposing our true self.  That is not always easy because sometimes we don’t like to admit that we are in need of his help.  

Each day, we have a choice to make.  We can continue playing the useless game of “hide and seek” with God, or we can look to him through faith in Jesus Christ for our strength and guidance.  We can choose a hope-filled life with eternal benefits by being honest with God and coming to him just as we are.  Making this decision each day gives us the peace and assurance that we are always in his loving care.   

Today, let’s make the choice to seek God for direction, comfort, and peace.  May we choose to follow Jesus at all cost.
 
Prayer:  Father, bless each person reading these words.  Help us to put away our game of “hide and seek” with you.  May we live in obedience to your Word and keep nothing hidden from you. Grant that others will see transparency in our daily lives. Help us to always be a living testimony of your faithfulness and love.   In Jesus name, I pray.  Amen

Additional Scriptures:

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  Matthew 7:7 NIV

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”  Ezekiel 36:26 NLT

“You have put gladness in my heart, More than when their grain and new wine abound.”   Psalm 4:7 NASB

“Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” Lamentations 3:23 NLT

Friday, May 20, 2011

Watering, Fertilizing, and Pruning

John 15:1-2 "I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”  (NIV)
Thanks to a sweet neighbor, I am the proud owner of three tomato plants.  Having grown up on a farm, there was never much appreciation on my part for farming during my childhood or after I reached adulthood.  It’s a lot of work!  I admire those who farm, but I am just not good at it!!  However, I am diligently working to keep the tomato plants alive so that they will produce one of my favorite foods. 
To keep my tomato plants strong and healthy, I tend to them on a regular basis. This involves watering, fertilizing, and pruning.  If the soil is too dry, it will not produce any tomatoes and the plant will wither and die. Without fertilizer my plants will never reach their full potential, thereby shortchanging me on the size of the crop that is harvested.  Then, there is the process of pruning.  Pruning is the cutting and breaking of branches so that necessary growth will come forth.  My tomato plants will flourish and be much healthier if pruning is done. 
The pruning of my tomatoes caused me to think of spiritual pruning.  This type of pruning is done with tender care by the master gardener who knows what needs to be done to produce the best crop, the best growth.  The spiritual pruning process is different for each of us.  It could be that God will prune us of unattractive attitudes, habits, or some other type of ungodly characteristic or behavior.   In this case, one size does not fit all!
We do not always like the pruning process.  Sometimes, it hurts.  However, Jesus tells us in the above referenced verses of scripture, that it is necessary for our heavenly Father to implement the pruning process into our lives.   He removes the limbs that are dead and serve no purpose.  The limbs that are still alive, he cuts and shapes so that more fruit will be produced.  We should never be afraid of this process.  It is necessary and will benefit us more than we can imagine.  Allowing God to shape and re-shape us in ways that are needed will result in a fruit-bearing life that is pleasing to him.
God will lovingly care for us.  His love and care is everlasting.   He waters and fertilizes our faith through his Word.  In so doing, we continue to grow and mature spiritually.  He prunes those things from our lives that will prevent us from producing a high quality of spiritual fruit.  God is not satisfied with withered spiritual lives that produce little or no fruit.  He knows what is best for us and cares for us accordingly.  I am so thankful that he tends to me in such a way as this.  Without him, I would be the withered plant that is dead and useless. 
May each of you grow spiritually, flourish abundantly, and be producers of the highest quality of fruit.  This is God’s plan for you! 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

His Life For Mine

Below this post, you will find a short video from Lauren Talley’s song  "His Life for Mine".  In John 3:16 we read as follows: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV) What an amazing exchange God has provided for us.  When a person accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior,  a life of sin and separation from God is exchanged for a life of meaning, hope, and life everlasting.   What love divine! 
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)

His Life for Mine (Worship Video w/ Lyrics)

Scripture provides comfort for those times when we feel that God has forgotten us. Isaiah 49:16 states,See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” Just as God  tells the children of Israel that he has not forgotten them, how comforting to know that he remembers us and hears us when we pray. He constantly acts on our behalf even when there are no outward signs of an answered prayer.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

God's Strength

"It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect." Psalm 18:32. (NIV)

In the above verse of scripture, David definitely knew where his strength came from.  God’s Word is timeless and its’ message is just as relevant today as it was long ago.  God is and will always be the source of our strength through our faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. 

As Christians, there are times when we will experience some form of spiritual discouragement and depletion.  It will be tailor made for us by none other than Satan himself.  I Peter 5:8 tells us the following: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (NIV) Satan knows our weaknesses.  He wants us to walk around in despair and focus on circumstances rather than on God.  His aim is to render us so spiritually ineffective that we are unable to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others.  

God’s Word and the many promises found therein are very effective strength building tools for our times of discouragement.  Philippians 4:13 says, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (NLT)  As we continue to trust in God's sovereignty, he will renew our strength and transform our faith.  We will then be able to more fully appreciate the verse of scripture found in Isaiah 40:31 which says, “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (NIV)

Going forward in God’s strength—well, there’s nothing like it!  May each of you find the spiritual strength that you need today. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Unconditional Love

How often have you thought, "If others really knew me, they wouldn't love me?”  It would be safe to say that many of us have been in that situation at one time or another during our lifetime.  We may have even spent enormous amounts of energy trying to hide our "true self" from probing eyes because the risk of rejection seemed too great.  The truth is that in those moments of shame and insecurity, we may have doubted that there is really such a thing as unconditional love, especially from a Holy God whom we have offended.   
While it's true that in human relationships genuine love is hard to find, in the eyes of the God who created us we are both completely known and unconditionally loved. There is absolutely nothing about us that God doesn't know; therefore, nothing we think or do can surprise him or cause him to abandon us. He is constantly thinking about us-with love! (Jeremiah 31:3) And because of the unflinching, undying devotion he has for us, he is committed to searching our hearts and revealing to us any “offensive way" so that we can turn from our sins and walk a straight path toward our eternal home (Psalm 139:24).
May we never forget that God’s forgiveness is always available to us (Psalm 103:12). He gives it freely when we ask (Psalm 51:10).  With the acceptance and assurance of God’s promises from the scriptures referenced below, we are free to understand and experience what unconditional love really is.   It is a wonderful gift from a heavenly Father who loves us more than we will ever know.  With the willingness to forgive and love others unconditionally, we are able to understand and accept that all humanity has self-worth in the eyes of God. It is beyond our comprehension most of the time, but through his Word we believe and receive this wonderful gift.  God’s story is the greatest love story ever told.   How wonderful to be a recipient of his unconditional love.  I am very thankful that because he never changes, his love for me will also never change.  Nor will it for you!
Scriptures for Reflection:
The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying:” "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”  Jeremiah 31:3 NIV
“See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:24 NIV
“As far as the east is from the west, [so] far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”  Psalm 103:12  KJV
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”  Psalm 51:10 KJV

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thats What Grace Is For-Legacy Five

How Others See Us

“Imagine the impact Christians could have on this world if kindness were the rule in all we do.”  Bill Bright

If you are a Christian, how do you think others see your walk with the Lord?  Unfortunately, today many people say they cannot tell a born-again Christian from a nonbeliever because there is no difference in the way we live.  The only “religious” thing they may see in some of us is that we go to church on Sunday.  These facts truly sadden and convict me.  Perhaps some of us have lost our passion for sharing the love and Good News of Jesus Christ with others.  God’s purpose for us is to be passionate and radiant in our faith and to reach out in love to our neighbors, community, and the world. 

We should take the matter of obedience to our Christian faith as an action quite seriously.  Because of what Christ did for us on the cross, God wants to give us a burning desire to walk with Him actively and urgently.  It is so important to study God’s Word on a daily basis and listen for key messages that He is specifically speaking to us about.   We can pray and ask God, “How can I apply this to my life?  What practical things can I do to set this truth into my attitude, character, and behavior?  Where does it need to make a difference?  Then, ask Him to show you how to apply what you hear to your own life.  He will not only give you an answer, but strength to accomplish the task to which He calls you.  As Christians, faithfully pleasing God is definitely an activity, not just a nice set of beliefs.  It must be our way of life, so that others will see a difference in us.

To convince a hardened and cynical world that we are not just different, but better off for those differences, we must allow them to see how our struggles in life have been altered for the better as a result of our relationship with Jesus Christ.  So, be real.  Don’t be hesitant in telling others how your faith in Christ has sustained you during your pain, sorrow, and other challenging times.  Let them know that God wants to give them peace in the midst of their difficulties and that He is eagerly waiting for them to call upon Him.  Also, be an encourager.   So many people need to hear uplifting words that are spoken in love.  As Christians, you and I are called to be the ones to speak this kind of love to those in need of a Savior.

As we live out our faith in obedience to Jesus Christ on a daily basis, we will then begin to experience many positive changes in our heart.  God will give us the ability to show kindness and love to others in such a way that they will not see us, but the radiance of Christ living in us. The best means of creating an interest in Christ and the Christian way of life is to so thoroughly live and enjoy it that others will want to know how they, too, can have it. 

Scriptures for Reflection:
“God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8
“Little Children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and with truth.”  1 John 3: 18
“And live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  Ephesians 5: 2
“Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”  Romans 12: 9
 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”  I John 4:7
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4: 8
Note: Scripture references taken from the New International Version of the Bible.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

By and By

Today, I ran across the old hymn entitled “When Morning Comes.”  This song is included in a hymnal called Favorite Songs and Hymns which was published in 1939.  During the years of my childhood, quite often my dad would sit down at the piano with this hymnal and begin playing.  After a bit of a “warm up”, he would ask my mother, my brothers, and myself to join him for a time of singing some of the great gospel hymns from this book.  Needless to say, these sweet memories are very special to me.

The song, "When Morning Comes" also took me back to the little country church we attended when I was a child.  On an annual basis, the church sponsored an event called “all day singing and dinner on the ground.”  "Dinner" was really lunch!  To this day, I remember the delicious food! My mother’s fried chicken never lasted long, nor did the wonderful banana pudding brought by another church member.  I simply could not wait to consume this heavenly manna and my mouth watered all the way to the church just thinking about it!  After the outdoor meal, everyone would gather inside the church again, usually with the men sitting on one side of the church and the women and children on the other.  Then for a few hours, we would do nothing but sing.  I can still hear the men with their rich baritone and deep bass voices, and the women singing soprano and alto to compliment the others.  I suspect that we children sang and made a "joyful noise unto the Lord."  Perhaps God was smiling down upon this little "choir" of country people at that very moment.  According to the verse of scripture found in Zephaniah 3:17, I am thinking that He was also singing along with us!!

The words to “When Morning Comes”  serve as a reminder to us that God is always with us to bring comfort when we face trials and sorrows in our lives. Sometimes we do not understand why bad things happen to us and our loved ones, but we can take comfort in the fact that God knows the reason.  If God brings us to it, He will take us through it.  Whatever happens, God still loves us. He will give us strength and courage to face the trials of this life and an unyielding confidence of the life to come, when we will see Jesus face to face.  If you have never heard the song, simply let the words sink into your heart.  Be assured that we will understand it better by and by. 

When Morning Comes

Trials dark on every hand
And we cannot understand
All the ways that God will lead us
to that blessed promised land:
But He’ll guide us with his eye
And we’ll follow till we die
We will understand it better
By and By.

Temptations, hidden snares
Often take us unawares,
And our hearts are made to bleed
For each thoughtless word or deed:
And we wonder why the test,
When we try to do our best,
But will understand it better
By and By.

Chorus:

By and by
When the morning comes
All the saints of God
Are gathering home
We will tell the story
How we’ve overcome
We will understand it better
By and By.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Women of Strength

Many of our friends are going through challenges with aging parents, their own illnesses, issues with adult children and/or grandchildren, and a host of other difficulties.  I hope that these words will bring comfort to all women who read this, and that God will make us women of strength as we look to Him for our needs.  Others need us, but God needs us more.

A strong woman works out every day to keep her body in shape…
But a woman of strength kneels in prayer to keep her soul in shape.

A strong woman isn't afraid of anything…
But a woman of strength shows courage in the midst of her fear.

A strong woman won't let anyone get the best of her…
But a woman of strength gives the best of her to everyone.

A strong woman makes mistakes and avoids the same in the future…
But a woman of strength realizes life's mistakes can also be God's blessings and capitalizes on them.

A strong woman walks sure footed…
But a woman of strength knows God will catch her when she falls.

A strong woman wears the look of confidence on her face…
But a woman of strength wears grace.

A strong woman has faith that she is strong enough for the journey…
But a woman of strength has faith that it is in the journey that she
will become strong.
It is definitely in the journey where we become stronger.  My prayers are with my friends and their families today.  May each find rest and peace as they take their burdens to the Lord, seeking His strength and guidance.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:13
“I look unto the hills.  Where does my help come from?  My help comes from the LORD, maker of heaven and earth.  Psalm 121:1-2

Good News

Having just watched the morning news on TV, it came to my mind that what we hear each day could get downright depressing, if we let it!  One thing that caught my attention was a news report that many people have fled from the city of Rome, Italy, because years ago someone predicted Rome would experience a great earthquake on Wednesday, May 11, 2011.  As human as we are, and with a tendency to be fearful and cautious, might we all be tempted to flee if such a prediction was given for our city?
Today, there is good news for those who are searching for something other than the bad news of the day!  Jesus said, “I have told you these things that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world” John 16:33   Jesus is the One in whom we can believe.   He comforts us in times of uncertainty.  He always provides for our needs.  Our faith and trust in Him brings the stability, security, and peace that we need in order to get through the days in which we are living.   Because of who He is, we need not fear these perilous times.  As always, God has a better plan for us than our fear and uncertainty!
Through Christ, we have been given the freedom and authority to share this Good News with those who are looking for answers.  Today, be aware that you might be the catalyst God wants to use to encourage others who are in need of finding an anecdote for the bad news of the day.   
Additional Scriptures for reflection:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:1b-2
"Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6
"The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  Deuteronomy 31:8
Note:  All scripture used is taken from the New International Version (NIV) Bible.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tribute to Mothers

Happy Mother’s Day!   I am very thankful for the joy my role as a mother has brought  to me over the years.  I feel extremely blessed to carry the title of “Mom.”   Now, I not only continue in a mother/friend role, I am blessed to pray for my grandchildren to become the men and women that God has planned for them to be.  
 I also thank God for a wonderful  mother who loved her seven children unconditionally.   God graciously put us in her tender love and care.  I shall be forever grateful to have been her daughter.  As I have said many times, I feel as though my mother was perfect.  Even though she passed away in 1990, I can still hear her voice as we spoke on the phone each Sunday afternoon.  I know with assurance that someday we will see each other again in heaven.  What a reunion that will be!
"She is far more precious than jewels. Her value is far above rubies or pearls.  Her children rise up and call her blessed, and her husband praises her.  A woman who reverently and worshipfully fears the LORD shall be praised." Proverbs 31:10; 28; 30 (NIV)
A Mother's Love
by Michael O. Adesanya

There are times only when a Mother's love
Can understand our tears,
Can soothe our disappointments
And calm all our fears.

There are times when only a Mother's Love
Can share the joy we feel
When something we've dreamed about
Quite suddenly is real.

There are times when only a Mother's faith
Can help on life's way
And inspire in us the confidence
We need from day to day.

For a Mother's heart and a Mother's faith
And a Mother's steadfast love
Were fashioned by the Angels
And sent from God above...
HANDY LITTLE CHART  
God has a positive answer:
YOU SAY
GOD SAYS
BIBLE VERSES
You say: "It's impossible"
God says: All things are possible
(Luke 18:27)
You say: "I'm too tired"
God says: I will give you rest
(Matthew 11:28-30)
You say: "Nobody really loves me"
God says: I love you
(John 3:1 6 & John 3:34 )
You say: "I can't go on"
God says: My grace is sufficient
(II Corinthians 12:9 & Psalm 91:15)
You say: "I can't figure things out"
God says: I will direct your steps
(Proverbs 3:5- 6)
You say: "I can't do it"
God says: You can do all things
(Philippians 4:13)
You say: "I'm not able"
God says: I am able
(II Corinthians 9:8)
You say: "It's not worth it"
God says: It will be worth it
(Roman 8:28 )
You say: "I can't forgive myself"
God says: I Forgive you
(I John 1:9 & Romans 8:1)
You say: "I can't manage"
God says: I will supply all your needs
(Philippians 4:19)
You say: "I'm afraid"
God says: I have not given you a spirit of fear
(II Timothy 1:7)
You say: "I'm always worried and frustrated"
God says: Cast all your cares on ME
(I Peter 5:7)
You say: "I'm not smart enough"
God says: I give you wisdom
(I Corinthians 1:30)
You say: "I feel all alone"
God says: I will never leave you or forsake you
(Hebrews 13:5)