Saturday, December 28, 2019

IMPROVING YOUR SPIRITUAL VISION FOR 2020

"The eyes of your understanding
being enlightened..."(Eph. 1:18)
One of the sure signs of aging is changes in your vision.  It's very true that things become dim and less clear physically the older you get.

There's not much one can do about that except maybe laser surgery to correct it or trendy eyewear to hide the fact that you're practically blind without glasses!

I've worn eyeglasses since the age of twelve so I'm quite used to an extra set of eyes on my face.  But one thing I am concerned about is my spiritual visual acuity!  The ability to discern spiritually where the Lord wants me to be and stay within the bounds of His will for my life.

 I'd love to say that spiritual acuity improves with age and experience!  I mean, isn't that what they're talking about when someone says: Hindsight is 20/20!  Not necessarily.  You can repeat the same mistakes over and over again without the benefit of gaining wisdom or spiritual insight.   By the looks of things going on in the world today; I don't think we can afford the luxury of dull vision!

I'll be wearing glasses possibly for the rest of my life.  I have both myopia, astigmatism and growing cataracts. But I also have a plan to improve my spiritual vision.   Perhaps sharing it with you today may be of some help to you!

STEP ONE - FOCUS:

When you go to an optometrist, a technician will put you through a series of tests to assess your current state of vision. More than once you will hear the instruction to focus!  This is necessary to record accurately data to determine the health of your eyes!  Focus helps you determine where you need to be spiritually as well!

Too often Christians think busyness is conducive to spirituality.  The more I do, the more spiritual I am is this mindset.  Actually, if not careful busyness can become an enemy of spirituality.  It keeps us in control of our life rather than God. We plan our days doing what we want rather than what He wants!  Check out this blog post from Truth + Grace!

Busyness the Enemy of Spirituality

STEP TWO - PRIORITY:

This step is actually a subset of the previous one, Focus.
  The inability to manage distractions, even those perceived to be good and spiritual can keep us in a place where we are neither effective nor efficient.  And yes there is a difference between the two!  To be effective is the ability to do things in a way that accomplishes its intended purpose.  To be efficient is to do it in the best possible way with the least amount of waste and effort!  

When I think of Spiritual priorities, my mind automatically goes to the bible story of Mary and Martha. You can read it here in Luke 10:38-42.    Jesus at the Home of Mary and Martha   Jesus summarized it well in His teaching that in every service opportunity there is always that one thing that is really needed! When we can pick our what that one thing is and then do it, we are well on our way to spiritual visual acuity.

STEP THREE - DISCERNMENT:

Depending on your faith path, spiritual discernment can mean a lot of things.  I simply look at it as being able to see things the way the Lord sees them. This takes practice and above all reading,
meditating and applying God's Word!  The more this becomes a way of life rather than religiosity, the easier it will be to see spiritual darkness in unsuspecting places.  Helps us look beyond nominal requests and address spiritual needs. I  love the way Henry Blackaby, author of the book, Experiencing God puts it:  Christian discernment is to, "Watch where God is working and then joining Him," based on John 5:17, 19-20).

Spiritual discernment also has an element of simple joy embedded in it.  It is the ability to recognize and appreciate the small things in life in a way so many do not.  Things like a beautiful sunrise or sunset.  A cool breeze on a scorching hot day. The smell of fresh baked bread, or the feeling you get lying down on fresh clean sheets after a weary day.

STEP FOUR - EXPECTATION:

Spiritual expectation is grounded in the Word of God.  Who God is and His promises to His people are revealed within His Holy Writ.  As we learn to interpret accurately and see by faith its trustworthiness, our expectations become more realistic and we are never disappointed.  We can expect that God will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). That He will answer our prayers (Psalm 34:6).  That He will empower us for service (Ephesians. 2:10) and at the end of our journey here on earth we will have a heavenly home, rewards, and eternal life waiting for us with Him (John 14:1-6

My physical vision may never be 20/20 in Year 2020 (although I'm told that sometimes after cataract surgery it will get better).  But my Spiritual vision can only get better with this year.  Because I'm learning to conserve my energy by focusing first on things that are the most important, saying "No" to worthwhile but expendable things; taking time to enjoy the simple things in life and believing wholeheartedly that God will fulfill His every promise meant for me!

See You Later and Hopefully A LOT Clearer in 2020

HAPPY NEW YEAR READERS!

UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Thursday, December 12, 2019

ADVENT: A Time of Reflection and Preparation


Therefore the Lord Himself will
give you a sign: The virgin
will conceive and give birth to
a son, and will call Him
Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14)
December 1 through December 24 is recognized in the Christian faith as the season of Advent.  In Latin the word Advent is adventus or parousia, meaning coming!

Advent is observed in numerous ways but generally noted with beautiful calendars, elaborate candles and special church services.  It is also a welcome relief to the chaos of commercialism during Christmas as we know it.  For us it signifies the season's True Meaning:

The coming of Jesus Christ into the world to save mankind from his sins. (Matthew 1:21)   Advent is above all, the commemoration of His miraculous birth and the bold proclamation of the sovereignty and grace of the Lord that gives Believers eternal life.  


SOMEBODY OUGHT TO SAY, AMEN!!!

After 400 Years of Silence, God finally speaks to this fallen world and He does it not with vengeance or bitterness but sweet, sweet, grace! A Savior wrapped in love, cushioned in compassion, and displayed  humbly for all to see.  From the potentates of royalty to the smelly shepherds fresh from their herds, God bade them all to come see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us. (Luke 2:15) 

Indeed, Christmas is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!  But it is also a time to reflect and prepare for Christ's Second Advent! Again, it will be personal, visible, and glorious, but this time He comes not as a Babe in a manger but a King ruling and reigning and setting all in order!  This is the blessed hope that all Christians should be praying for not just in this season but perpetually! (Titus 2:13)

My personal time of reflection and preparation is not limited to Advent!  Several times a year: New Years Day; Lenten period and of course my birthday, I go back and read past journal entries! Yep! I'm one of those Weirdos!  I've been journaling for years.  It keeps me focused and helps me stay abreast of my spiritual needs and growth.

My entries are part prayer requests and answers; part sermon and study notes; part diary, and just personal conversations I've had with the Lord over the years! 

 I record my concerns and fears.  My hopes and dreams.  I vent...alot... finding emotional release pouring my heart out to the only One who really understands; and when God reveals something significant to me in His word or devotionals, I jot those down too! It has been what has kept me mentally stable most of my adult life. 

As the Year 2020 approaches, I'm sensitive to the need to reflect and prepare for Christ's Second Coming even more!  Do you feel me?  I'm experiencing too many historical phenomenas in my life! Would you believe that this is the third time I've witnessed impeachment hearings of a United States President?  Jesus has Got To Be On His Way!

Still, I know that there is much I need to do to prepare for His Second Advent! Paramount to that is Stay Focused On Things that Really Matter!  I'm grateful that I was given a strategy in the leadership meeting I attended last evening. 

My pastor issued a challenge to all of us in ministry to meditate on the following scripture:


"Know well the condition of your flocks
and give attention to your herds."
(Proverbs 27:23 ESV)

That's a pretty good plan don't you think?

My own flock is fairly expansive.  I'm not only the matriarch of my family, but I have a cadre of Sister Saints I keep an eye on as advisor in women's ministry.  There's my Adult Women's Sunday school class, a couple of Millennial sisters, some Older Saints who I counsel and seek advice from and of course,  ANY OF YOU who take time to read this blog!

This particular scripture encapsulated our church's 2020 theme: FOCUS: Faith, Family, Finances, Future. I've learned through years of challenges that FOCUS AND PRIORITY are the keys to weathering any storm!  Faith above all is foundational and will ensure success in the other three areas.  Still you might want to consider the following:

😔  Do you have a personal relationship with Christ?
😔  Where might you strengthen familial relationships?
😔  Are your finances in order? Do you have a biblical/achievable plan to do so?  
😔   Do you have after life plans in place? Estate planning, Living will, Medical
         Power of Attorney, funeral/burial insurance.

Christmas is not often the time one thinks about the future other than, how you will pay bills after overspending for the holidays!  But Advent is perfect!  For Christians our entire life is based on preparation for what will happen not only now but after we leave here.  

What legacy will we leave?  Will our life have mattered?  Now is the time to give those two questions some thought!
         

UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Monday, November 25, 2019

GRATEFUL JOB: Finding Gratitude in Times of Adversity


Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays! Even as a child I preferred it over Christmas.  Christmas often brought disappointment but Thanksgiving...never!

I learned early to enjoy the simple things in life: shelter, warmth, clothing, health, and of course food!  Especially food. I can remember being without a lot of things growing up, but food wasn't one of them.

It wasn't always fancy or what I wanted but it was plentiful and nourishing and provided the sustenance needed to face another day. No matter what that day might bring.  I guess that's why in some contexts,  it is called comfort food! And it's a rare Thanksgiving holiday when comfort food, does not make an appearance in a meal! 

It may seem strange to you that I chose the story of Job to highlight in my Thanksgiving blog post!  Actually, I think it's kind of perfect!  This Old Testament story is a common one when you think of unbearable pain, suffering, and hopelessness, but I see it differently.  I find in it a great source of comfort and a powerful illustration of gratitude during this, my own personal time of loss. (Earlier this month I lost an older brother.)

The book of Job is perhaps the oldest book in the Old Testament. Job, our protagonist was a patriarch before the Israelite race was established, but like the Jews, a forerunner of much adversity.  Like the Jewish race he was chosen by God to endure trials, pain, and evil at the hands of Satan.   Job was in fact anointed, commissioned, and ordained, if you will, to survive the unthinkable and then receive the Lord's blessings!

Job lost his children, property, health, and the respect of his wife and friends.  Still he remained grateful.  You may be saying to yourself: How is that even possible?  I can barely make it through today's challenges!  This is where God provides a little comfort food for the soul from His word!  

Grateful Job understood that everything he had and all he would ever have comes from the hand of God.  We own nothing, not even our lives and even that is given back when we die:


"And he said, Naked I came from my mother's womb, and 
naked shall I return.  The Lord gave, and the Lord
has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 1:21)


Grateful Job knew that even in his pain, God had a higher and more divine purpose for his suffering.  He did not know it fully but endured with faith because of God's sovereignty:

"Then Job answered the Lord and said: I know that 
you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours
can be thwarted." (Job 42:1-2)

Grateful Job had benefitted from past experience, the love and provisions of God. He did not fear his destiny: 

"You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit
me together with bones and sinews. You have granted
me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit."
(Job 10: 11-12)


Grateful Job maintained his spiritual integrity when things were at their worst and he could see no end but death to the trials he was undergoing:

"Though he slay me I will hope in him; but I
will maintain mine own ways before him." 
(Job 13:15)

As you sit before your Thanksgiving meal, pause to give thanks to God for the spiritual food He has provided as well as the physical.  There may be an empty place once occupied by a loved one or a dish or two missing from last year's fare.  Regardless of the circumstances in your life be grateful!  Meditate on the following verses while you eat and leave your table content and full of God's blessings and don't be afraid to share....there will be plenty of leftovers!


"How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than
honey to my mouth!  (Psalm 119:103)


"O, Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes
refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8)



"Your words were found, and I ate them, and they became to me
joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name,
O Lord God of Heaven's Armies (Jeremiah 15:16)


UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

HANDS UP! You're Surrounded!

"The battle is not yours, it's 
the Lord's." (2 Chron. 20:15)
Growing up during the infancy of television, many of my favorite shows were detectives.  Do you remember Dragnet, Peter Gunn, and Perry Mason?

Inevitably, somewhere just before nabbing the bad guys the cops would yell: Come out with your hands up...you're surrounded!  You knew then that it wouldn't be long before the criminals would be locked up and society would again be safe from their antics!

However, I'd like you to think of this phrase in a different context.  From the perspective of an Old Testament story that has become for me a go-to passage when I'm feeling overwhelmed! Times when Satanic attacks are coming fast and furious!

In Second Chronicles 20:12, Judah's King Jehoshaphat feels the impact from foolish alliances he has made.  He's caught in a battle surrounded by his enemies. Once a faithful follower of God, he rejected the Almighty's care and guidance and now he doesn't know what to do! (Maybe you can relate!)

Here's a question to consider dear sisters:  What do you do, when you don't know what to do?   The answer is simple...


 Turn to God... Cry Out to God... Put your Faith in God!

That's what King Jehoshaphat did!  After a sincere and heartfelt time of repentance, he merely surrendered his will to God's.  He acknowledged the futility of his own selfish desire, and impotent schemes to deal with his enemies and simply put his hands up and acquiesced to God's authority!  We must do the same!

Go ahead!  Read the rest of the story and find out how God gave Jehoshaphat victory.  It wasn't by putting the most fierce warriors on the front lines to fight! It was by sending out the Praisers (2 Chronicles 20:21-23).  What will you do when Satan tries to take your marriage, kill your children, bankrupt your finances, poison your health, or steal your mind with anxiety and worry? When everywhere you look there's a new challenge staring you in the face!  Let me say to you the same words that the prophet Jahaziel said to Jehoshaphat:


"Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. 
 For the battle is not yours, but God's" (2 Chronicles 20:15) 


Put Your Hands Up!  First in Surrender to the Lord God to have His way in your life!

Put Your Hands Up!  Second in Prayer submitting to His instructions no matter how foolish!

Put Your Hands Up!   Third in Faith, knowing what He's already done He can do again!

Put Your Hands Up!  Third in Praise because He's good no matter what the outcome!


As a lyric from the song  Surrounded, Fight My Battle by the group Upper Room states: 


It may look like I'm surrounded but I'm surrounded by You.
It may look like I'm surrounded but I know the truth, I know
the truth..Praise is how I fight my battles!

UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Thursday, October 17, 2019

PRAYER CHANGES THINGS...THAT IS, IF YOU DO IT RIGHT!!!

"I urge that 
entreaties, prayers,
and thanksgiving be 
made on behalf of all men..."
(I Tim. 2:1 NIV)
Prayer has been the focus of my church's October Family and Friends Month!  It is the spiritual anchor for our 2019 church theme: What Matters Most!  For the times we're living in, this is quite befitting, don't you think?

Seems like ALL I've been doing here lately is praying.  And of course as a Christian that should be no surprise.  Communing with the Father is not only mandated by scripture but is essential to our spiritual survival (see I Thessalonians 5:17; Isaiah 55:6; Ephesians 6:8).  Still, I've been encumbered by an unusual burden to pray!

I wake up in the middle of the night to pray!  I see something on television or witness a scene as I drive and I'm prompted to pray.  People come across my mind, some I haven't thought about or seen in months and I pray! I pray with other Christians six out of seven days on our church's prayer line.  I participate in corporate prayer at Wednesday's Noon and Sunday morning services.  When I check on the sick and shut-in visiting them in their homes or the hospital I pray by their bedside and on the telephone! 

So, I was really shocked to find out after all this, that I might just be doing it wrong ...YOU MIGHT BE TOO!

I've been preparing to train prayer warriors for this year's Women's Spiritual Boot Camp
in the area of intercessory prayer.  Intercessory prayer is different than other types of prayers.  These are prayers in which you stand in the gap before the Lord for those who can't or may be too weak to do so themselves yet are in peril of physical or spiritual death!   We don't intercede nearly enough prayer, although we think we do!

As I researched more into this type of praying I was really struck with how powerful it can be...that is if we do it right (James 5:14-16)!  I also realized that it is something that we must not take on lightly for the intercessor is often vulnerable spiritually to the thing they are praying against (Ephesians 6:10-18)!  It is important that as intercessors we are sincere and committed to the task, and above all, prepared!

I confess, I've been guilty of having someone ask me to pray for them and I simply forgot! (To remedy that, if time and occasion permits, I stop and pray right then!)  Other times, I think I've fulfilled my obligation to pray by mentioning it in my personal prayers then turfing it to someone else  (pastor, prayer line host, designated pray-er in a church meeting) for deeper, more passionate consideration! Neither is an appropriate way to intercede in prayer!


This is what I've learned as an Intercessor in Prayer:
  • Praying and Interceding is different:  Praying is what You do!  Intercession is what God tells you to pray! Most of the time when a prayer request is given to you the requestor wants you to pray their will! An intercessor must pray what the Spirit tells them to pray!  Examples:  My family member has cancer, pray for his/her healing!  You ask..is he/she saved?  If the answer is no, or I don't know.  The intercessor prays for salvation first and then the body! Learn to listen with spiritual ears!!
  • Preparation is Key:  Pray for yourself first that your heart and mind are free from unconfessed sin, distractions, or anything that would interfere with a prayer getting through! (I John 1:9) If you are not spiritually prepared, wait until you've completed your own personal business with the Lord before you pray for someone else.
  • When You Pray Focus on God First (Isaiah 55:8-9): This is where the A.C.T.S. prayer acrostic comes in handy (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication) You are only the vessel not the source that the Sovereign God uses to answer prayer!
  • Use Scripture when praying! Pray God's promises back to Him. Not just any scripture, but ones that are appropriate for the situation.  This is another avenue of preparation for the intercessor, for one cannot pray what he/she does not know!
  • Know When To Call For Help.  Sometimes it is hard to know how to pray for a certain request. We may not be strong in spiritual discernment.  However, the Holy Spirit is omniscient and He is also our Helper.  So simply let Him give you the words. (Romans 8:26-27).  We may also come across a situation in which you need another prayer warrior to assist for additional spiritual support.  Humble yourself and ask! (Matthew 18:20)
  • Leave All In God's Hands. What if you are asked to pray for the same things over and over again?  There are situations when persistent prayer is not only appropriate but biblical (Luke 18:1-7). This is an area of much debate among Christians. Have the requester to consider that God is not obligated to answer prayer the way they want. It could be that they are unwilling to accept His answer.  In that case the prayer should be for Strength and Grace to Endure! (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)
  PRAYER CHANGES, PEOPLE, PLACES, AND THINGS!!!

True, but only if we Pray Sincerely, Fervently, and According to God's Perfect Will!
(James 5:14-16)


UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

CO-PARENTING WITH JESUS!

For your Maker is your husband,
the Lord Almighty is His Name...
(Isaiah 54:5)
My heart is aching this morning. I've just been thinking about all of the single mothers in my social spheres: family, church, neighborhood and beyond.  The list goes on and on.  Young women, even some young men are struggling to make ends meet. They want to be responsible and raise their children but are feeling overwhelmed!

The single parenting burden comes in different forms: Those who never married.  Some who had spouses but are now divorced or widowed.  Many with husbands but feeling the weight of their absence due to military or work commitments.  And more jolting, those daddies and mommies caught up in the penal system and are now serving time.  The result is the same. Every day they face the loneliness and challenges of parenting either alone or in a dysfunctional co-parenting relationship.

Over a period of time, I've had the privilege of being the confidant of some single moms dealing with the latter.  I've prayed with them, encouraged them and as often as possible tried to provide a ray of hope for their situation.  These are Christian sisters in their twenties and thirties.   Sociologists call them Millennials. (An interesting choice of words.  Millennial literally means 1000 years.  Very befitting however, for this generation has seen enough trouble to last them another 1000 years!!!)

 These women are smart, beautiful, educated, and growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 2:18) but are not exempt from the real world and its troubles. Every morning they wake up to a world that threatens to snuff out their children's dreams, identities and very lives!  And somehow even with the support of family, friends and church they still feel the angst of parenting alone even if another person is involved!

Here are some Common Co-Parenting Challenges:

1.  Insufficient financial or emotional support for the children
2.  Legal issues (joint, shared or legal custody battles)
3.  Religious differences between parents
4.  Child rearing methods: disagreement on discipline, curfews, leniency for child
5.  Lingering trust issues resulting in poor communication and negative emotions
6.  Separating old relationships from new ones (dislike of new man or woman in other parent's life)
7.  Control or safety issues when child is with other parent

The Following will not Resolve every Problem but will help Parents face them Biblically:

1. You may feel alone but you are NOT alone! God is with you.  He will provide and help you parent your child through prayer, His word, and obedience to His counsel.  For your Maker is your husband, the Lord Almighty is His Name... (Isaiah 54:5)

2. Watch your words and tone when speaking to and about your child's father. Children know when they are the center of your conversation. "Little pitchers have big ears."  Pray this verse often:  Set a guard over my mouth. Lord watch over the door of my lips (Psalm 141:3)

3. Learn Biblical Communication Skills.  What you say is only part of it.  Good listening is also required.  Know this, my beloved brothers; let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. (James 1:19)

4. Try to resolve issues out of court.  We have a flawed legal system and there's no guarantee you will receive justice.  It's better to go to God first and/or receive biblical counseling. When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?(I Corinthian 6:1)

5. Deal with trust issues, unforgiveness, and personal insecurities before trying to deal with your child's father.  We all have blindspots and never is one person always right.  Learn patience and compassion.  Bear with each other and forgive one another.  If any of you has a grievance against someone forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

Many of the things you worry about as a single parent never happens.  Parenting is a three-person job-- A Mom, Dad, and God!  If one is missing....don't let it be the Lord!

Be Encouraged!  I like the way this secular life coach puts it:

"This is probably one of the most 
difficult challenges any parent could
face--learning to love the other parent
enough to make the children first."

-Iyanla Vanzant



UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Monday, September 16, 2019

CHRISTIAN AMERICA: What Happened to the Great Commission?

"Do not neglect to show
hospitality to strangers...
(Hebrews 13:2)
The so-called Immigration Issue has been a hot topic for quite awhile now and we're seeing it spotlighted more and more in the 2020 Presidential Debates! 

 I'm not one to quickly simplify complex matters like this one but I believe the candidates would learn a lot if they would turn to the Word of God! The Bible, I believe contains the solution to every problem we face in the world today.  Those who are  sticklers for upholding Christian values should be the first to do so!

Regarding my own views about the situation, I've started to reflect on biblical training I received both as a child and a seminary graduate.  I listen, I pray, I try to see the matter from all sides and these questions still resonate in my soul.  Why is this a problem? What happened to the Great Commission?  Matthew 28:19-20 has been a guiding force for Christian ministry for ages.  Of all the things that Christ could have said in His farewell message to the
disciples He chose this:

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.   Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely, I am with you always to the very end of the age." (NIV translation)  

It seems pretty straightforward to me.   Go wherever needed, Baptize whoever is willing, and Teach whoever will listen the principles of God's Word.  Monies and Missionaries are sent to Africa, China, India, the Middle East, all over the world to do this.  Yet, now that the mission field has come to our very own doorstep, we argue whether we should turn them away! 

I'm saddened that America continues to repeat itself when it comes to the humane treatment of  people we deem as  "OTHERS".  By that I mean those who do not look like us...do not speak the English language...who have no native roots here...have no wealth to contribute...who aren't as some would imply CHOICE AMERICANS!   I know my history and I know that not too long ago politicians were arguing over the Negro Issue. After WWI and WWII it was the German and Japanese Issue now it's anyone we presume is a threat to our way of life (which by the way has its own issues!).  The similarities and tactics to address these are alarming!
  • During the Great Migration (1916-1940) six million Negroes left oppression, poverty, and unhealthy conditions in the south to come to the north for a better life. Northern newspapers of the time described it as an "invasion" threatening their homes and towns.  Although no walls were built to keep them within specific borders; they were segregated into ghettos and denied equal rights to contain them socially and economically.
  • During WWI (1914-1918)  and WW11 (1942-1945) Germans, Italians, and Japanese, some who were immigrants but many born here were placed in camps for up to two years.  There were incidences of Germans being lynched and others told to stop speaking their native language.  Japanese were rounded up, their property taken and plans made to ship them back to Japan after the war.
  • Fear mongers started and sustained unfounded rumors of treason, terrorism, crime, disease, vagrancy, and the possibility of economic burdens on the government.
  • In each case the appeal to patriotism and nationalism gave rise to violence, xenophobia, and racism. Slogans like America for Americans, America First rallied extremists into emotional protests. 
When will we learn that all people groups came from the same parent Adam and Eve.  All are valued and worthy of respect in God's eyes.  So God  created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them. God saw all  that he had made, and it was very good. (Genesis 1:27, 31)

That in Christ we are all one family. There is neither Jew, nor Gentile, slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

In Christ we have a common purpose and destiny to glorify God. After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that o one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.  They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (Revelation 7:9)

If we truly believe in the Great Commission and the promise of Jesus to be with us until the end of the age; we need not fear those who come to America!  Of course humane and reasonable precautions should be made.  But at the end of the day the only lasting security we have is in God (Psalm 46:1) God is my fortress and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.

God has already blessed America.   According to the inordinate number of millionaires and billionaires we boast, we have enough to take care of not only our own poor but charity to share with those truly in need.  But we must first repent of our greed, schemes of exploitation that cause economic disparities.

We must stop worshipping the idols of affluence and entitlement that have now been passed down from generation to generation.  The wealth of this nation belongs to God...all of it! (Psalm 24:1-2) The earth is the Lord's and everything in it; the world, and all who live in it. For He founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.

The terrorists, drug lords, and violent criminals we fear are coming to America from other places are already here. They have been bred in the soil of our own apostasy. We've watered them with the blood of racial hatred and pride.  (2 Chronicles 7:14) If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their san and will heal their land.   


Here's a thought. Perhaps God has something else in mind concerning the immigration situation! Maybe He"s sending Evangelists from other countries to American shores to baptize and teach US the Gospel!


UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Thursday, August 22, 2019

WHAT THE RED BIRD TELLS ME!

"But ask the beasts and
they will teach you; the
birds and they will tell
you;" (Job 12:7 KJV)
Walking is my favorite form of exercise.  I'm blessed to live near a wooded area with ample sidewalks and paved streets so I get out a few times a week.  There is however,  an area of about a mile or two that doesn't have sidewalks.  A road takes me through neighborhoods filled with massive yards and there's a sweet little creek winding right along its edges! When I take my morning walks that's the place I head out to.

 To get  there I have to pass a newly constructed walk and bicycle trail.  It parallels a very busy street and is a common spot for joggers and moms with babies in strollers.  It's convenient and easy to access but I prefer the more picturesque and less noisy trails.

 Off the main streets is where I see squirrels, rabbits, raccoons and occasionally a deer or two.  But nothing thrills me more than to look up and spot a Red Bird.  Whether it's flying about or simply nestled in the branches of a tree, seeing one is an automatic mood lifter.

Surprisingly this doesn't happen very often even though the Cardinal is Indiana's state bird! That makes it more exciting to see one.  When I do this familiar tune always comes to mind:
"I know it was the blood, I know it was the blood, I know it was the blood for me....one day when I was lost He died upon the cross.  I know it was the blood for me!" I can't help but hum or sing a verse or two!

That is what the Red Bird tells ME!  Remember, no matter what's going on, the trials, the drama, the senseless activities in life, you are covered by the Blood (Ephesians 1:7) You have already received the greatest gift you will ever have...Eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ!

I know there are many legends and meanings accorded to the sighting of the Red Bird.  Some say it is a visit from a deceased loved one. Others a sign of good fortune. There is even a beautiful love story from Choctaw Indian lore that is worth a read.  However, from the biblical perspective I've learned that birds are a great teaching tool and are significant in spirituality.  We know the white dove as a symbol of peace but I've only learned recently the Red Bird is a symbol of faith, life, and the vitality of the soul.  I can only speak for myself.  To me it is a reminder of God's Presence, His Magnificence, and His Power.

There is a theological term you may have heard of called Natural Revelation.  It is the manifestation of God through nature.  Psalms 19:1-3 NIV explains it like this: 

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the skies proclaim the work of His hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.

If you've ever wondered how people in the most remote parts of the world, those who have never seen a bible or heard a preacher can be saved, this is the answer.  All they have to do is look to the skies (or maybe hear the chirping of a Red Bird), acknowledge that there is Someone greater than themselves and humbly put their faith in Him!  He is the only One Who Creates Something out of Nothing (Ex Nihilo)!

The Red Bird among other of its species tell me that:

>> GOD PROVIDES (Matt. 6:26) - Look at the birds in the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?


>>GOD STRENGTHENS HIS CHILDREN (Isaiah 40:31) - 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 faint.


>>GOD CARES FOR ALL (Psalm 104:12) - The bird of the sky nest by the waters, they sing among the branches. 


The next time you are strolling, riding, or simply resting and God sends a Red Bird your way, pause a moment and quiet yourself  Listen carefully it might have a message from the Lord for you!
I applied my heart to what I observed,
and learned a lesson from what I saw.
(Proverbs 24:32)



UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Monday, August 12, 2019

SISTERS... NOW THIS IS HOW YOU LEAVE A CHURCH!!

"Forsake not the assembling
of ourselves together ..."
(Hebrews 10:25 NIV)
It happens in every church! You look around on a given Sunday and it finally hits you... a familiar face is missing! The first few Sundays you were not concerned.  However, the weeks have gotten longer and longer. 

You make polite inquiries as to their whereabouts
hoping you
haven't missed notification of a sickness or God forbid a death!  But everyone seems clueless.

Finally you get that dreaded response... Honey, they left the church weeks ago!  WHY? you ask. No one seems to know.  It's almost like one of those UFO disappearances you see in the movies.  Another beloved church member vanishes, gone without a trace!

I'm well aware Christians are not bound to any local church.  We belong to the Universal Body of Christ and free to fellowship wherever we like (I Corinthians 12:27).  But once we have placed our membership in a church and formed a love bond with other believers there is a bit of courtesy due when you opt to leave. 

I'm saying this because I've been there.  I left a church that I loved and served in for 17 years and it was very painful. I missed my fellow saints and I truly believe they missed me too.  I never want to feel that kind of pain again, so if you will allow me I'd like to share a bit of insight I've gained from the experience. 

First of all, people leave churches for a variety of reasons.  Here are a few common ones:

1)  Church hurt (wounds or offenses by individuals in the church or the church at large)
2)  Abuses of authority
3)  Doctrinal differences
4)  The church no longer meets their spiritual needs
5)   Practical reasons - job or home relocations 

BEFORE LEAVING:
  • PRAY!  Make sure that God is directing you to leave and not because your feelings are hurt or due to personal conflicts with other members. Make attempts to resolve conflicts the biblical way using the Matthew 18 method.  Many conflicts can be resolved with prayer, conversation and a willingness to love through our differences.  (I Thessalonians 5:17, Matthew 18:15-20) 
  • PREPARE!  If you are in a leadership position (teacher, ministry leader, deaconess or auxiliary head) make sure that those within your ministry are notified so they can move on without you.  Fulfill present commitments and transition responsibilities in a timely and appropriate way as to provide continuity of service to those who really need it. (Colossians 3:17, 23)
  • PROVIDE FEEDBACK! You may be leaving because of unmet spiritual needs, some sort of abuse, or differences that prohibit your spiritual growth. You have a responsibility to those you leave.  If you see something or have experienced something that is not of God, SAY something.  Preferably in person to someone in leadership or but at least by letter.  This way accountability is established and you can leave with a clear conscience. ( James 4:17)
  • PEACEFULLY EXIT!  Don't bad mouth the church, try to influence others to leave with you, or cause dissension because you are dissatisfied.  You are only causing harm to your own character! Slandering the local church, the pastor or its members only shows the bitterness in your own heart.  If this is how you're feeling, you've stayed too long and you need to ask the Lord's forgiveness!  (Hebrews 12:15)
Regardless of your reason, let SOMEBODY know.  Although church folks love to gossip, Authentic Christians, those who care about you, have served, and worshipped with you simply want to know you're okay and want an opportunity to wish you well. 

AS FOR THOSE OF US LEFT BEHIND!  Reach out to missing sisters with a text or telephone call.  Let them know they are valued and missed.  Don't press for information.  When the conversation turns negative, change it to something positive! Stay in touch if possible!

And always REMEMBER to pray for them.  They may not be in their usual seat on Sunday but they will  always  in your hearts and one day WE'LL ALL BE TOGETHER IN HEAVEN! 

UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Friday, July 19, 2019

UNWANTED: Tried, Worn, and Seasoned Saints!

"They still bear fruit in old age,
they are ever full of sap and
green. (Psalm 92:14 - KJV)
I'm generally not over sensitive when it comes to the topic of aging.  I've spent quite a few years learning how to grow older gracefully and embrace my senior years. Although some of you might disagree after reading today's post! That's okay.  I still hope that you won't miss a significant point I'm trying to make!!

In a discussion regarding the improvement of a ministry project I was involved in, it was inferred that it would be more successful if a younger face was in the forefront!  Older and more biblical saints would still be needed of course, but to attract the younger generation we needed someone that looked more like them!   This was said I believe with the utmost sincerity and respect yet it left me (what is that popular saying?)  Feeling some kinda way!

 Ageism had finally crept into my safe and sanctified church world! Subtly but deftly it left its mark not only on the Lord's ministry but on my soul!  Like the corporate culture I left behind in retirement and media marketing strategies that assault my intellect and logic daily, this worldly attitude had found its way to a place I really cared about!

In case this is a new ism for you, check out an excerpt from the article: How Does Ageism Impact More Than Just Older Adults?


 Ageism is a type of discrimination that involves prejudice against people based on their age.  Similar to racism and sexism, ageism involves holding negative stereotypes about people of different age.  
The term ageism was first used by gerontologist Robert N. Butler to describe the discrimination of older adults. Today, the term is often applied to any type of age-based discrimination, whether it involves prejudice against children, teenagers, adults, or senior citizens.
(click or past the link below to read entire article)

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-ageism-2794817

Put this within the context of ministry and you'll understand where I'm coming from.  The thought that age could be a deterrent to a Spirit led ministry devalues the contributions of  older saints while making unproven assumptions upon the younger generation!  Where did this all come from?  Certainly not the Bible!  

There are more than forty scriptures pertaining to aging in the bible.  Most are incredibly positive and encouraging.  (Psalm 92:12-14; Joel 2:28; Ecc. 12:1-7; I Chron. 29:28; Psalm 71:1718; Ruth 4:15; Job 11:17; Psalm 91:16; Isaiah 40:29; Prov. 16:31; Isaiah 46:4; Job. 12:12; Psalm 92:14; Psalm 71:9; Lev. 19:32; Prov. 20:20, etc.)  Yet some Christians' present obsession with youth have turned hearts and minds from multi-generational kingdom building to one-generational!  

What comes to mind is that in our desperation to reach what some have called "a morally decaying younger generation,"we've ignored a powerful force in their lives ... the older generation!  True, physically we may not be around as long, but the vibrancy and potency of our biblically rich experience and wisdom is very much needed today!  Some just don't know it yet!

It always amazes me that although there are many popular success icons among the young (entertainers, sports figures, YouTube stars, etc) that the more sustainable ones are from the older generation.  They are not the celebrities they see in the movies or on television but people they see every day! These are generally relatives, people who have influenced them personally, inspired and encouraged them over the years.

They are people they have watched and are more knowledgeable; committed, and experienced.  They have the stability, passion and discipline that only comes with maturity.  When young people look to the future and focus on the goals they want to achieve and the legacies they want to leave, it is upon an older face already there that their gaze falls upon! 

Don't tell me older people cannot relate to the younger ones simply because we don't embrace facebook, twitter, or instagram as our favorite mode of communication.  We understand that more honesty and feeling can be conveyed, face to face and eye to eye than could ever be transmitted with a contrived or cute emoji!  We are survivors of all those traumatic relationship disasters and head games they are experiencing now and we made it to the other side!  But will they be able to do the same without us?  I think not!

78 year old Bernie Sanders still holds a political advantage among young people in the 2020 presidential race.  The Obamas in their 50s remain popular although no longer in the White House.  Oprah pushing through her 60s  is still ruling among the secular entertainers. Andy Stanley at 61 years old and Tony Evans at 70 years old can still reach and hold the attention of a younger audience.  And if you're a senior saint, over the age of 50 years old so can you!

Remember the words of the Apostle Paul that is appropriate for ANY age!  (I Tim. 4:12 MSG  My emphasis added in parenthesis!)

"Get the word out. Teach all these things. And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young (old or middle age). Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use."



UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Friday, June 28, 2019

RECOGNIZING AUTHENTIC TRUTH!

John 8:35 (NIV)
Truth seems nothing more than a buzz word nowadays! It can be quite confusing to understand what is factual, if you don't listen carefully to the multiple nuances one is conveying.
That's why after most interviews, media commentators do a "fact check!" to delineate true statements from lies. 

Today, we hear a lot about this idea of Personal Truth.  This is based on one's tangible experiences or even what a person believes to be true about themselves.  This particular truth is hard to debate when it comes up in a conversation.  Whether you accept it as true or not, you are not them. You don't feel what they feel.  You don't live it.  You can't know all the facets that brings them to their conclusions! Therefore no amount of logic or proof will make a difference until that person allows it to be considered.

There is Perceived Truth.  This one is tricky!  It can actually be a plain LIE!  We are quite familiar with its tentacles however as it is manifested in stereotypical attitudes, racism, ageism, phobias and fears of every kind.  Its validity comes from adhering to the rhetoric of supposed experts.  When combined with personal truth, perceived truth becomes in the mind of the proponent irrefutable!

Then of course there is the deliberate and malicious manipulation of truth! Our advance technology and desire for cutting edge,  in-depth knowledge provide fertile ground for seeds of deception, i.e.,  Fake News, DeepFakes, and Spoofing. 

Robocalls are something we all agree is a pain in the butt.  No matter how many Stop Calls websites or numbers you use, scammers still call your number!   Imagine my surprise last week when in the flurry of rob calls, I saw my own name and telephone number on my Caller ID.  It had been spoofed by a scammer!  (I  prayed I would not receive angry calls from people I knew,  thinking it was me!)

There may be little I can do about robo calls, but I do have a strategy that keeps me safe from Biblical and cultural liars!  I need only to remember a few basics principles concerning human nature or just refer to God's Word!  These are simple but powerful reminders!

BIBLICAL TRUTH vs. SOCIAL NORMS 

1)  The Bible is the standard for ALL truth - it never changes!  What was true about sin, human nature, and consequences then applies now!  (2 Timothy 3:16; John 17:17)

2) Just because you're sincere about a thing doesn't mean it is right! (Proverbs. 14:12)

3) Your feelings, as strong and heart-felt as they may be is no indicator of who
you truly are!  Feelings cannot be exalted over God's Word! They are gauges not guides! (Judges 21:25)

4) If you're saved, Holy Spirit conviction is more reliable than societal pressure or scientific data! Learn to listen to the Power within! (John 8:35; John 16:8; Hebrews 4:12)


BIBLICAL PRUDENCE vs. COMMON PRACTICES 

1) If you don't recognize the face at your door...don't open it! 

2)  Never give out personal information on the telephone or on surveys to unverified solicitors!

3) If you don't recognize the telephone number on your home or cell phone don't answer it) 
    
4)  If it sounds too good to be true....it probably is!  God gives even unsaved people a bit of wisdom. 

5)  Don't be swayed by emotionalism - scammers have no qualms using children, perceived handicaps, or sob stories to lie to you and exploit your kindness.


YES, RECOGNIZING TRUTH AND ERROR IS GETTING INCREASINGLY HARD BUT PRAYER, GOD'S WORD, AND A BIT OF GOOD COMMON SENSE WILL GO A MIGHTLY LONG WAY IN HELPING US ALL!

UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

TO DANCE WITH DADDY!!

When my mother and father
forsake me the Lord will 
receive me. (Psalm 27:10)

Sometimes when I am incredibly busy or not particularly inspired to compose a blog post, I'll read through older ones and do a reprint.  I tried that this time but it didn't work!

I really wanted to say something about Father's day and after six years of  blogging was surprised that I couldn't find a single post dedicated to the theme of fathers!  Not even a weak hint of sentimentality to honor the day.

I wondered if other sisters were like me.  Nursing Father wounds, having no significant relationship with their Dads and finding the celebration of Father's Day hard?  To make things worse, I didn't even grow up with a viable substitute.  No step dad, doting uncle, grand father was in my life.   I was for all practical purposes,  fatherless for many years.

Of course after awhile I learned to deflect these empty feelings to my sons,  encouraging them to remember their Dad on this day and reminding my grand children to remember their own fathers.  I also send cards to my brothers each year.  But personally, Father's day had become for me a non-event!

My father has been dead 37 years.  I've worked through the sadness of his mortal passing but occasionally grieve what he could have been in my life!  I didn't like him much when he was alive, but with maturity learned to respect and appreciate his vital part in my existence.

I've long forgiven him for his deficiencies as a loving, supportive husband, and nurturing caregiver to his children.  I have even summoned up compassion for what I perceived as his gross neglect of fatherly responsibilities.  It is true, a person cannot give what they don't have! Yet inside of me was the yearning to be a Daddy's Girl!

Well here's the good news in this sad saga!  I finally found the Father, that I've always wanted! 

  • He's Ever Present (Hebrews 13:5; Psalm 27:10 )- No Deadbeat or Absentee Dad!
  • He's a Mighty Protector (Isaiah 43:2-3; Proverbs 3:12) - No Bully dare oppress me!
  • He's a Faithful Provider (Psalms 24:1; Philippians 4:19 ) - Never missed a support payment!
  • He Delights in Me (Isaiah 43:4; Zephaniah 3:17 - I'm the apple of His eye!
  • He Loves me Unconditionally (Luke 15:20-24; Romans 5:6-8) - I never worry my faults will turn Him away!
  • He Enjoys my Company (I Corinthians 1:9; Psalm 116:1; I John 5:14) - I can call Him any time and talk to Him about anything for as long as I want!
When I stopped brooding over the biological father I had and embraced my true Father in heaven, I learned to appreciate the multitude of blessings He provides.  I celebrate the times we sing and dance together.  Our talks in the middle of the night.  Our long and glorious walks through every season and the joy He brings to what could be a dull and mundane life!  I AM NOT FATHER-LESS, I AM FATHER-FILLED (Psalm 68:5)

Now I can wake up every day, open my curtains and say to the sun,
Good Morning DAD...

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!!


UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME: Leaving a Lasting Legacy

Do this in remembrance of me.
(I Corinthians 11:24b)
good character is the best tombstone.  Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered.  Carve your name
on hearts, not marble.  (Charles Spurgeon)

Memorial day is considered the first major holiday of summer! For many it's a time of letting loose and celebrating with family, graduations, barbecues, reunions, and relaxing vacations.  Here in Indy, it's a time we find our city peppered with black and white checkered flags and signs welcoming thousands of visitors enjoying the Indianapolis 500 Parade events and Sunday's race.  We prepare ourselves to be more alert and more patient because of frequent traffic jams, reckless speeders, and inebriated revelers moving from one party to the next!

However,  some traditionalists like myself, prefer to spend this time thinking about those who have passed on from this life.  We make visits to the cemetery to spruce up burial grounds with flowers and perhaps a flag if they were veterans.  Drink in the solitude of the surroundings and just take time to REMEMBER those who still mean so much although are gone! 

Sure, there will be a moment or two of sadness but nothing like the feeling you get when passing gravesites that haven't been visited in years.  These may be overgrown with faded or tattered remnants of artificial flowers.  Perhaps the headstones are green and moldy with moss or the area simply trampled over because no marker was ever placed there.  It makes you wonder, how will I be remembered when I'm gone?  Will I be that unmarked grave or if cremated...stuck in the back of the closet next to an old bowling ball and worn out shoes?

Don't be put-off thinking you're too young for such contemplation!  You don't have to wait until you're old to start building a legacy, in fact you're building one right now.  But is it one that will stand the test of time or will it evaporate the moment you're dropped off at the cemetery!  

Our, Lord and Savior, Jesus was only thirty-three years old when He departed this world.  He had only ministered three years, but thousands of years later we are still talking about Him! His brief life is still celebrated!  His legacy is still making an impact, changing and making lives better, He is still being REMEMBERED! I want that, don't you?

A good place to start is learning the difference between prosperity and prosterity!  Prosperity is all about amassing wealth, having abundance to enjoy now and in the future.  Prosterity, on the other hand has to do with the discovery and appreciation of something valuable by future generations.  They are similar but vastly different when it comes to leaving a fruitful legacy! 

Whereas some folks work hard to leave material things to their descendants, which is absolutely biblical: 
a good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children (Proverbs 13:22); a legacy that last is more than money, property, or a thriving stock portfolio.  One must consider that everyone cannot leave such tangible items to their loved ones.  I know that was true of my parents.  But they left me something much more, a precious posterity--integrity, perseverance, purpose, and most of all a love for God, His word and His people!  These are gifts that will follow me perpetually into eternity!

The second step then is deciding what you want your legacy to be.  Remember this is a gift that you're going to leave to the people that mean the most to you!  You must ask questions. Here are examples:  Out of the sum total of my life experiences and God-given insights, what matters most to me?  What positive things have I discovered that has contributed to a God-honoring and well-lived life?  Is there anything I need to stop or start doing that will maximize my influence and make a greater impact on the life of another? 

Three things that contribute to an Enduring and Memorable legacy are Your Character, Your Passion, and Your Service to Others! Read these scriptures and meditate on them:


Proverbs 20:7 - A righteous man who walks in his integrity, how blessed are his sons after him. 

Proverbs 10:9 - He who walks in integrity walks securely.

Luke 6:31 - Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Colossians 3:23 - And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.

All these may be summarized in this one verse from Micah 6:8


 He has told you, O man what is good and what does the LORD require of you,
 but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. 

Where do you want your legacy to be written?  On a fading tombstone or on the hearts of people you have touched during your lifetime?


UNTIL NEXT TIME...

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