Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Happiness is a Warm Blanket

My three year old has had a blue blanket that he’s loved, cherished, and been attached to since he was a baby.  Just like Linus in the Charlie Brown cartoons, he carries his blue blanket everywhere and won’t even go to sleep without it.  For Christmas, we bought him a Charlie Brown DVD entitled, Happiness is a Warm Blanket.  In the movie, everyone is trying to get Linus to give up the blanket.  Lucy, of course, is the most passionate about Linus giving the blanket up and actually takes it from him.  When Linus tries to use Snoopy’s ear, a curtain, and a few other things to substitute for his blanket, Lucy yells at him, “NO SUBSTITUTES!!”  This was funny to me, but I realized how I can apply it to my (our) spiritual walk with Christ.  Many times, instead of walking and living by faith, we grope for substitutes, only to find them ineffective and unsatisfying.
While I am not by any means advocating blanket addiction, we should live as dependent on Christ and our faith as Linus and my son depend on the blanket.  Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38 all tell us that “the just shall live by faith.”  If we are in right standing with God, we are living by faith—not just going to church and knowing scriptures.  When we live by faith, we do go to church and we do know the Word, but we live the Word out.  We obey the Word and we exercise our faith daily in all that we do and say. 
A lot of times I have to catch myself because in the situations when I have the perfect opportunity to exercise my faith, I do what Linus does in the movie.  I grope for substitutes.  I might want to talk to someone else before taking it to the Lord.  I may try to figure out a million ways to make what I want to happen work out.  Sometimes, when I can’t do anything to work a situation out, I worry and anxiety kicks it, robbing me of the peace I know that the Lord has given me free access to have. 
Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”  We cannot please the Lord without faith, and faith isn’t faith if we can see or figure out the outcome.  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  When we don’t know where to turn, and we don’t see a way out, we need to exercise our faith.  We also must be assured that the Lord knows when we are truly believing and depending on Him totally, and He will reward us for our diligence in seeking Him and His will for our lives.
Through the trials and setbacks I’ve experienced this past year, I’ve discovered a lot of good spiritual fruit has been produced.  I’ve needed and still need a lot of ‘working out’ in the spiritual area of my life.  I’m not boasting, but it’s caused me to learn to trust and depend on Him in ways I’ve never had.  It hasn’t been easy because my flesh wants to react the way that it has been conditioned to act.  However, it is possible, through His Word and your faith, to use your pain, setback and trial to trust in Him totally.  He has blessed me naturally and spiritually, and He will bless you.  Don’t give up and give in to the temptation to use substitutes for exercising your faith!  He loves you, and I’m a witness—He is able!  He never fails! He is the only anchor that holds.
Trusting Him with You,

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Walking Worthy--Even on the Internet

Usually, I don’t use the blog to vent because it’s a devotional blog, devoted to sharing God’s Word. However, I’ve been troubled lately about the comments, posts, tweets, and updates (or whatever you want to call them) on Facebook by those who profess salvation. Quite frankly, I am appalled by some of the comments. Those of us who call ourselves saints of God are expected to walk worthy of the calling that God has placed on our lives.

One of the publishers for my novel, The Taste of Good Fruit, is Walk Worthy Press. The title of the publishing company was given to Denise Stinson, the publisher. There are several references in scripture about walking worthy but a key one is from Ephesians 4:1, which says, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering; forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Throughout the writing and publication process, I was always reminded to “walk worthy.” As servants of the Lord, we are not instructed to be led by our flesh, but by His Spirit and His Word. In these verses, Paul reminds us that we represent Christ. We have a responsibility to represent Him at all times, not just on Sunday morning or Bible study nights.

On the internet, people often post things about people that they wouldn’t say directly to them. People want to air their true feelings on social media forums, such as Facebook because they want people to click the “Like” button and comment back. While this may gratify them and momentarily make them feel important and funny, have they considered the impact on all the others who don’t click the “Like” button or comment? Have they considered that if they call themselves Christians, it is never okay to be mean-spirited and “throw-off” on other people, especially those of the household of faith?

The Word says, “we are to forbear one another in love.” If it’s not uplifting the body of Christ, we shouldn’t say it, type it, text it, or post it. Philippians 4:8-9 instructs believers on what our thoughts should be. After we are given a list of the things we should think on, which includes things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, Paul says, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” When believers’ thoughts are resting on picking people apart and then taking it to others on internet to laugh about and expose others' weaknesses and flaws, it’s an affront to the name of Christ we profess to represent. In addition, the God of peace can’t be with those who engage in this behavior.

Paul also tells us, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:21). Our conversation and our written (and typed) words should never be ones that divide, alienate, or offend any, especially in the body of Christ. Our goal should be to lift one another up, recognizing that none of us is perfect. As a body, we should be striving to help one another become more like him, which means being more effective, bearing much fruit, and advancing the Kingdom.

The Bible says that love covers a multitude of sins. As believers, Jesus’ love for us covers our sins, and He is our model, not the world. Let’s all strive to walk worthy in what He has called us to do and how he has called us to do it.

Striving to Walk Worthy With You,


Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Favorite Things


 I remember being scared to death when I was a freshman in high school, and I sang my first solo at the state competition.  I sang “My Favorite Things,” from The Sound of Music.  It was a nightmare because just as I calmed the butterflies in my stomach, a blonde-haired beautiful girl sang the exact song!  She nailed it,and no, that was not a favorite feeling. 
While “Raindrops on roses" aren’t that great, and I am not a big fan of “whiskers on kittens,” “brown paper packages tied up with strings—these are a few of my favorite things.”  After all, if we’re honest, most of us have at least a few superficial favorite things on our lists.  For example, I love designer purses, shoes, and pretty dresses:)
What material things really get your heart pumping fast?  . . . A great pair of shoes, an exotic vacation, designer clothes, luxury cars, fine jewelry, or great food?  Remember Oprah’s favorite things episodes over the years?  Many women, at one point or another, have longed to be in the audience for one of those shows—even if they weren’t Oprah fans.  Free great gifts can send people into a frenzy.
As I reflect on my own favorite things during the Christmas season and push the material things to their proper place, at the bottom, things make so much more sense.  The Word crystallizes our true heart’s desire while the world tempts us with all the things that can lead us down to an insatiable path of destruction.  Material things can never satisfy us.  As much as I want my children to be happy and get some of the things they want for Christmas, I know that those things only gratify them temporarily.  They will eventually lose their luster and be forgotten, lost, or broken. 
Jesus says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).  Whether it’s the Christmas season or not, seeking Him has to be something that we put first on our list everyday of our lives.  Seeking Him and His righteousness brings us love, peace, joy, and all the other fruits of the Spirit.  We are empowered to press on, no matter what happens, when we are in right relationship with Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
One of my favorite passages in scripture reminds us that there are so many who have come before us in the faith.  We are told to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).  Jesus paid the ultimate price for us, and He loves us like no other.  There should be nothing ahead of Him on our list of favorites.  He showed us His favor by laying down His life for us. 
Our desire to please others should not be ahead of our desire to please and obey Him—no matter what.  Sometimes, as “My Favorite Things” says, “the dog bites and the bee stings.”  We all have to deal with setbacks, disappointments, and sadness at one point or another, but His Word should be the light unto our path and lamp unto our feet (Psalm 119:105).  He has given us His Word to help us navigate through life, regardless of what season it is. 
My favorite thing is the comfort of knowing that Jesus loves us so much that he was willing to become human, sacrificing His life on the cross to bear our sins.  I am so full of joy, knowing that because of his birth, death, and resurrection, we have access to eternal life.  His Word tells us that “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  There is no better gift than the one that Jesus has given to us, and it’s totally free.  Only what we do for Him and With Him will last eternally.
If you haven’t accepted your gift, please accept it today.  He loves you! 
Christmas Blessings,

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Best of Times and the Worst of Times

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison.
 –Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

With this type of open, it’s really not terribly surprising that A Tale of Two Cities has sold over 200 million copies.  Dickens opens his famous novel by telling us, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  Lately, as life has taken me and others through one small bump in the road to another much larger one, I’ve reflected often on these words and have come to the realization that during the worst of times, if we are truly anchored in God and His Word, they can be the best of times.
You may be asking yourselves, “What does she mean? There is nothing good about losing a loved one, a job, relationship, position, or money.”  Not so fast though . . . in Ecclesiastes , Solomon explains, “For wisdom is defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.”  Understanding the fragility and transience of life and acknowledging the omnipotence and majesty of God is key.  We also must decide that our final authority for our lives must be the Word of God.  This means that we obey the Word at all costs.  Our confidence is in Him, not ourselves.  The Lord God, our heavenly Father is the only One we should rely on totally. According to the Word, money and knowledge can be helpful, but they cannot save our lives from despair and hell.  Regardless of what changes take place in life, we must trust in God, not our money, influence, intellect or anything else.  God’s wisdom reigns supreme and gives us life.
How many times do we give God credit when trouble comes, but refuse to acknowledge Him in good times?  Ecclesiastes says, “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.”  The only thing that will stand is the Word of God.  God allows good times and bad times.  In both, we need to thank Him and rely on Him without ceasing. 
We have to accept what God allows, but refuse to be stuck.  Don’t wait until the battle is over to allow the Lord to do a work in you, and don’t wait until your trial is over to allow the Lord to use you!  Do what God has called you to do in this period of time.“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58).  Trials and hardship will come to everyone, but believers are charged to be stable and fruitful in kingdom building—even and especially during tough times.  It is so vital that we “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).  “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we will reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9).  There is a reward for those of us who continue to uplift His name, loving and obeying His Word, especially when it’s difficult.
Trials are the worst of times because they are painful.  Losing someone we love is a pain almost like no other.  However, there’s not a pain that we can have that He hasn’t felt.  He understands how it feels to have a loved one die.  Decide to fill that loss with His Word, His goodness, and His good and perfect gifts.  Losing a job, relationship, money or status can be devastating. An illness for you and/or for a loved one can be a frightening time.  Still, He knows and He cares.  His Word tells us that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b).  While we are hurting, He is right there, “an ever present help in the times of trouble.”  He tells us to cast our cares on Him and trust Him with our whole heart, no matter what.
He will turn out sadness and grief into a joy that is constant and unchanging in the midst of any storm if we remain determined to abide in Him.  His Word tells us that, “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness” (Psalm 30:11).
The worst of times can be the best of times if we allow God to mature us in Him and His Word.  The most painful times in my life have also been the best times of growth and maturation in Him.  We must allow God to grow us up in Him.  Don’t resist what God is trying to do in your present situation.  Sincerely, if God has allowed that thing to happen in your life, He can get the glory out of it!
I’m praying for the best for you, whether it’s a season of lack or plenty.  You know how we do, “God is good all of the time, and all the time, God is good!”
Praising Him for His Goodness with You,

Monday, September 26, 2011

Do You Know Who I Am?

I’m not sure if it’s the technology age we’re in, but lately everybody has a title attached to their name. It seems that people are always telling us who they are, and they are always very important. I have come across so many prophets, first ladies, ministers of music, bishops, pastors, authors, evangelists, teachers, and the list goes on and on. While I am not saying that having a title is wrong, positioning is and it’s going on at an alarming rate. Many introduce themselves with a title before their name and are insulted if you leave off their proper title. At times, it feels like some are crying out on the social media sites, “Don’t you know me? I’m important! I am somebody!” It’s not wise to elevate your stature or prominence if you’re track record and actions don’t line up with or live up to your title.

During our last Sunday school lesson, several verses we studied speak to this very issue. Proverbs 25:6-7 reads, “Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men: For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.” We shouldn’t be hasty to elevate ourselves because we can cause ourselves embarrassment. Furthermore, Jesus teaches on this very subject in Luke 14:7-14, in the parable about not seating yourself in places of honor. We are instructed not to “sit down in the highest room” (Luke 14:8). Jesus continues, “But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 14:10-11).

There’s another verse in Proverbs 27: 2 that says, “Let another man praise thee and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.” I’ve often found that when people try to list off their credentials and accomplishments and constantly engage in name dropping, they tend to struggle with insecurities. While they may impress others in the moment, they only have a fleeting satisfaction. Like a bucket with a hole in it, they are constantly running to try to fill their bucket with flattery from others. The problem is that people truly anchored in the Lord aren’t interested or impressed with these shallow actions and empty words.

Instead, they are interested in who you really are as a person and what you are actively doing to advance the Kingdom. Trust me, people will know who you are sooner or later—whether you want them to or not. Proverbs 18:16 says, “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.” You will get recognition from the Lord. He will bless you in countless ways. Your love, peace, and joy will mark you as a child of God, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in you will draw others.

Being a Christian is a life of being a servant, not counting up how many people are beneath or above you. You are somebody in Christ, whether you have a title, position, recognition or not. He truly does know your name.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I Win, I Win!

We can do nothing of eternal value in our own ability. –John Bevere

My three year old son is a natural born competitor. He loves all kinds of games, and he’s “in it to win it,” as they say. Even coming up the stairs is a race to him. He’ll cry if anybody in the family gets up the stairs before him. He sings his favorite saying, “I win, I win.” We often mock him by saying it, so when my husband sang it the other day, it caught my little one’s attention. He looked at his father and said, “Dad! You’re playing by yourself, right?” We all laughed, but it made me think about how your perspective is so important in life. My son just knew that his dad had to be playing by himself because he has told himself that he wins all the time—no matter what.

Sometimes I listen to a televangelist who says confidently, “As born again believers, we win every time.” I usually sort of chalk this up to the power of positive thinking, but the encounter with my son really made me think about some things. We can win all of the time, and we can have the victory in any situation. However, our perspective and thinking has to line up with God’s Word and His ways.

Maybe you’re like I was, and you can’t see how you win all of the time. After all, you may be thinking, you don’t know about my health situation, broken relationship, job loss, mental state, or financial devastation. In order to grasp the concept of having the victory, we have to be spiritually minded. We also have to understand what Christ did for us on the cross. He paid the penalty of sin and death. There is no way that we can lose because Jesus already paid the price for us. We can live eternally because of what He did. We are reminded in Romans 8:37, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

When Paul asked the Lord to remove the thorn in his flesh, the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (II Corinthians 12:9-10). In our weakness, He is strong, but we have to trust that He is sovereign and in control of everything—no matter what it looks like.

The Word of God is filled with people and situations where the Lord shows himself strong in times of human weakness. In fact, that’s typically always when the Lord shows himself strong. When we understand that anytime our hearts are aligned with Him and His Word, prayer, fasting, and even faithfully attending church, (all things that can be viewed as sacrificial acts when it comes to our flesh), we have already won! When we subdue our own selfish thoughts and desires (die to the flesh), we become humble before Him. He can use us and get the glory out of our lives.

John 16:33 says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” We will have problems, but He has always overcome. As cliché as it may sound, there’s nothing too hard for God. We are winners through Christ. Satan is defeated! Do you have a weakness, trial, or illness? You are a prime candidate to be used by the Lord. He will show Himself strong through you and your situation. Depend on Him. He’s allowed it because He knows you already have the victory through Him in all situations. Put on your armor of God with me, and let’s not only act like we’re the victors that we are, but also let’s also speak the language of a winner. In the words of my three year old, “I win, I win!”

Winning with You,

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Voice

Occasionally, I revisit a book given to me by my publisher entitled, Finding Your Voice by Les Edgerton. The book has been helpful to me because as a relatively new writer, finding my voice has been a challenging journey. With the realization that voice is one of the most important elements in writing fiction, I am working towards developing my own voice. The unique and distinct voice of a good writer is like a signature, nobody has the same one. Your voice is like your footprint, and it is that distinct mark that can make your writing stand out and be read or drown in the sea of other writers. There have been times when after I’ve read an especially intriguing novel, I find accidentally picking up the voice of another author’s work (which has been a train wreck!). I have to use the delet key and shut out the voices from other authors’ works, and continue to strive towards finding my own voice.

However, voice is not only important for a writer. For believers, hearing the voice of God is critical. The Word commands and warns us about the importance of hearing the voice of God. Just as a writer hopes his or her voice will stand apart from the crowd, God yearns for us to listen to His voice and obey His commandments in spite of all the other voices we hear. In John 10:27, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” When we seek Him, we can hear His voice, and we should follow.

While I’ve never heard the audible voice of God, I can hear the voice of God in His Word. God’s Word resonates with my spirit when I am in a state of total submission to Him and His will. He already knows me, and I get to know Him intimately through
reading and meditating on His Word, as well as through consistent praying and fasting.

Obedience to His Word is one very important way that we can gauge how well we are following Him. We can’t be following Him if we aren’t obeying. We can’t obey unless we know what God expects, and what He expects is revealed to us in the Bible and through prayer. Jeremiah 7:23 gives us very direct instructions by the command, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all
the ways that I have commanded you that it may be well with you.”

There are so many voices competing for the number one spot to have our undivided attention. Televisions, cell phones, social networks, friends, coworkers, and even spouses and children can drown out the voice of God having first place in our lives. It’s not necessarily that other voices have to be negative (some are though), but they just don’t need to be first.

Why is hearing the voice of God so important? While there are too many answers for me to deal with here, one thing that may not be obvious comes to mind. We must hear His voice for our real voice to be heard. Many of us are trying to make our mark in the world by using a voice that is not authentic. Figuratively speaking, we may be using a voice to say to the world that we are special, important, and worthy. This often leads us to do things that He hasn’t called us to do so that we can gain money, success, prominence, and/or popularity. However, if God hasn’t called us to do whatever it is, those things will never give us lasting peace. Isaiah 26:3 says, “Thou wilt keep Him in perfect peace, whose mind in stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” We must keep our minds focused on him and trust Him at all costs, all the time, no exceptions.

The voice of God can quiet us in moments of despair, calm us when anxious, refresh and renew us when we’re tired, direct us when we’re lost, and hold us when we’re lonely—and so much more. We desperately need to hear The Voice, the majestic voice of our sovereign, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God.

Striving to Hear His Voice With You,