THANKFUL FOR GOD’S GRACE……… PERIOD.

In pondering what should be written for you today, I have come to the conclusion that my mind is cluttered with the needs of the gift shop that I manage here in this retirement village, and all the music that needs to be practiced and memorized.   Whoa….has my precious time with God been pushed aside because of “busyness”? Forgive me Lord.  I am so thankful, not just at this season of thankfulness, but every moment of every day for Your unfailing Grace!

What better gift of life words could I give you than the words from the Book of Life? So glean strength from these words of encouragement.

Romans 5   We have been made right with God because of our faith. So we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through our faith, Christ has brought us into that blessing of God’s grace that we know enjoy.  And we are happy because of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory.  And we also have joy with our troubles because we know that these troubles produce patience.  And patience produces character, and character produces hope.  And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts  God gave us His love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us.

Christ died for us while we were yet sinners and weak.  We were living against God, but at the right time, Christ died for us.  Very few people will die to save the life of someone else.  But Christ died for us while we were still sinners.  In this way God shows His great love for us.

Sin came into this world because of what one man (Adam) did.  And with sin came death.  And this is why all men must die …. because one man sinned against God.  But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift.  For the sin of this one man brought death to many.  But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and His gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.  And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin.  For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins.  But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and His gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.  Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners.  But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were.  But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.  So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

PERIOD

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I’m Being Pruned!

In the beginning of 2017, God told me this was going to be a year of growth and preparation. I did not know what kind of “growth and preparation” he was going to put me through. I am in the start up phase of my business so at first I pictured the growth of my business. I had dreams of what this year would look like with many clients, creating courses, and such. However, that is not the kind of growth God had for me.

This growth was more of an internal growth and preparation. Let me give you a picture. Think of plants and how they grow. If you let them grow and grow and grow without ever pruning them, they would get out of control. There is a hibiscus bush outside my front door. I get so excited when I see blooming red flowers! But then when the bush is overgrown the landscaper trims it and the flowers are gone. It’s a sad day when I come home and see the flowers have been pruned. However, when the flowers grow back they are more vibrant than ever before!

I see this as the life God has for us. He is the vine and we are the branches that continually get pruned. It hurts and it’s painful, but it’s for the best. I am in a pruning season. Pains I have avoided in the past are coming to the surface and I have a chose to either deal with them and uproot them, or to avoid them. Avoiding has not done me any good so I am choosing to deal with them. And let me tell you, it is not easy. I have been seeking outside help, which has been hard but so good at the same time.

I encourage you to look at the areas of your life that need pruning. We cannot be all God has called us to be if you do not deal with our pains, and our struggles, and our sins. We are not perfect which is why we go through these seasons of pruning. Let me tell you, even when you feel as though you are in the thick of it, God will never leave you. He has told me over and over that he is never leaving me and let me tell you, I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit even in my darkest moments. Trust the process and let God do the work he needs to in you. He will NEVER leave you.

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

 

LIFE WORDS vs DEATH WORDS

Most of us are experiencing stressful times in our homes, jobs – even with traffic.  What we are thinking often comes out in words we wish we could take back. I even caught myself the other day using a death word on myself.  “What a dummy,” I said out loud. The reason we started this family blog four years ago was to encourage you to speak Life Words TODAY!!! That is a virtue we all need to work on.

You know that your words can bring life or death to yourself or to another person.  However, the repeated edification of words that build up another person’s perception of who he is, brings life and hope to one who has been beaten down by destructive words.  We see this often in children.  Those who have received encouragement as a child usually excel in school, talents, and careers.  There are exceptions, however to that rule in that some of our most gifted scientists, artists and musicians have overcome years of abuse.  What makes the difference?  Well, for one thing we read in God’s Word that God loves each one of us unconditionally.  When you know that, it changes everything! It changes how you feel about yourself and what your gifts are.

Psalm 139:14 states that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Each one of us are precious in His sight.  God cares about the sparrow that falls, but He cares about you even more!!!  In knowing this we can live above any death words our ears and heart take in.   You’re probably thinking…”Yeah, right.  Easy to say, but hard to do.”  But, you have worth! God has made you so unique there is not another person like you.

Today, i encourage you to read the Book of Proverbs.  There are 31 chapters.  If you read one chapter every day in a month you will gain wisdom and understanding of who God is…and who you are!

Each one of us have been given a free will by God.  In that free will you can choose to be abusive with your words (and actions), or you can give healing with your words (and actions).  Yes, we are just human after all, but controlling the tongue is a discipline that builds good character.

When you explode with anger you cannot take back your words or actions.  A runaway temper can cause depression, especially when you create a circle of resentment.  You become angry at yourself because you lost your temper……that adds guilt, which continues on in a vicious circle.

Proverbs 14: 17 “A person who quickly loses his temper does foolish things.”

Paul told the Christians in Ephesus, “In your anger do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are angry.”  If you stay angry it turns into bitterness, even hatred, and that, Paul says, “will give the Devil a foothold.”  That is when anger becomes sin.   Anger starts in the heart and mind.  “The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it.”  Jeremiah 17:9

Since I know that about myself, I pray this prayer every day from Psalm 139:23.  Read it yourself this day and sincerely pray it.  God will help you speak life words, not death words!!!

Build on The Rock, not on the sand

Last week I was on vacation with my Mom in Corolla, North Carolina. The beautiful Outer Banks!

We went on a wild horse viewing tour one day in a 4-wheel drive truck. Highway 17 actually continues up the beach on the last 11 miles of the sand where the horses run free! What an amazing experience viewing God’s creation.

While driving over and between the sand dunes, our driver pointed out the tip of a windmill that was sticking out from a dune. He explained that it was part of an entire small town that had been swallowed by sand dunes. For decades it has been buried! And, not only that, but the dune had actually moved several thousand feet over time, with the entire town inside of it! It was a very small town called Seagull with about 120 residents, but all the buildings and houses were and continue to be at the mercy of the migrating dunes!

This, of course, reminded me of the story Jesus told about the wise and foolish builders.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Matthew 7:24-27Let us build our lives on the Rock. The foundation that does not move. Let us not build on the shifting sand where we could collapse or be swallowed and buried!

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
ON CHRIST THE SOLID ROCK I STAND;
ALL OTHER GROUND IS SINKING SAND.

Edward Mote

THE GROANING EARTH

Romans 8:19-22 “The creation waits in eager expectation  for the sons of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

You’re probably thinking “what a strange subject to talk about on a LifeWords blog.” Hang with me….I’ll get to it.

There have been numerous natural disasters in the last two months.  In fact the Atlantic hurricane season is the worst on record…and it’s not over yet!

Hurricane Harvey, a cat 4 hurricane hit S.E. Texas on August 25 and caused $180 billion dollars in damage, which is more than any other disaster in US history (Katrina was 2nd). It affected 13 million people from Texas to Louisiana.  As of this date it took 78 lives, but long term infections and bacterial intestinal problems because of drinking water systems being damaged, and PTS will take its toll on the health of the inhabitants there.  The flooding was a result of a record rainfall from a single storm in the US of 51.88″.

Since I now live in North Florida I experienced the effects of hurricane Irma.  However, our church prayed and asked God for mercy, and He answered YES!  In other parts of Florida, especially the west coast city of Naples, took a direct hits of 142mph.  The damage of Irma is still being calculated between $100 and $300 billion dollars.  Irma was the most powerful hurricane in recorded history.  This cat #5 made landfall on Barbuda Island on September 6 with winds of 185mph for 37 hours.

The Caribbean Islands have taken a strong hit from three hurricanes in a row, which has never happened before, and Maria is still active at this time.  Barbuda is no longer inhabited, Dominican Republic is devastated, all of Puerto Rico is without power.

Mexico was hit with a 7.1 earthquake.  At this point there are at least 273 lives lost, some were children that were in school.

Dozens of wildfires have enveloped the western U.S. – Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and California.  The smoke was so thick it caused respiratory problems, and the smoke was carried by the jet stream across the U.S.

There were massive landslides in the Alps of Switzerland covering a village, floods in India, Peru, Columbia, and Raleigh NC.  Severe drought in Spain and tornadoes in Wisconsin, Texas and Missouri.

These are all examples of our planet groaning for redemption….and I’m not even bringing up the man-made disasters of terrorism and wars.

Now, I know these things have gone on for thousands of years, and we are much more aware of them now because of social media.  However, my point is…as believers in the risen Christ who promises to come back and take us with Him….we have HOPE.

You hear or read about the predictions of some who say the world is coming to an end…….and sometimes it sure seems that way.   Some even give an actual date because of blood moons, stars aligning, the eclipse of the sun, weather change, natural disasters, terror attacks, etc.

The best book to get the actual facts from is THE HOLY BIBLE…. GOD’S WORDS TO US.   And the good news is…..the back of the book promises WE WIN!!!

Three of the Gospels, Mathew, Mark and Luke, record Jesus’ words…“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming ‘I am the Christ’, and will deceive many.  You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains.”  Matthew 24:4-8

I don’t know much about prophecy, all I know is…..HE’S COMING, AND I’M READY !!!

How about you???

EQUALLY Made In God’s Image

The enemy LOVES to distract God’s people. He can accomplish so much this way.

In C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, senior devil Screwtape advises his junior apprentice devil to corrupt people by creating mass distractions that divert attention from the real issues at hand: “The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood.”

How many witch hunts is the “church” currently involved in? Of course I am generalizing here, and picking on those that continue to come to the forefront of the news. But, if you consider the amount of time, money and effort put in to “battle” against what people DO that Christians “don’t like” versus the same sum of efforts put into building others up and showing the UNCONDITIONAL love of Christ, then you’d be hard-pressed not to find a gross imbalance.

Why don’t we focus on WHO people are rather than just WHAT they do? God is the only one who can change a heart or a behavior. It is not our job to try to do those things. Our job is to welcome ALL with open arms and to show the love that Christ has shown us.

If people are validated, unashamed, and feel heard and respected (even if they are not always understood), they are more likely to be good people. We don’t have to agree with another person’s race, politics, beliefs or sexual identity or orientation to show them the love of the One who created them. No race or nationality is superior to another. The fear that seems to steer so many “church people” to be hateful of those who are different is baffling to me. God commanded us not to live in fear. He commanded us to live in love.

We must allow people to be who they are and celebrate their uniqueness. The personal choices someone makes should not keep them from being allowed in the church or to be treated as an equal. (Obvious exclusions would be disruptive or disrespectful behavior, and that should go for everyone equally as well).

People who see the true love of Christ will want it. And, once they accept it, he will work on their behavior from the inside out.

Instead, I see the church creating division rather than welcoming diversity.

Old “Christianese” phrases like, “love the sinner, hate the sin” are overplayed. Anyone who says that to someone struggling in life… BACK AT YA! We are ALL sinners and fall short of the glory of God. Not one of us is better than another! Jesus came that we ALL might be saved. The end. Each journey with Him is unique and in its own time.

Let’s truly follow Scripture and tame our tongues, shall we?

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” James 3:9-12 NIV

So, let us beware of our own thoughts and speech. Let us also not remain silent when we hear hateful or degrading speech about others. Let us see one another through God’s eyes – as beautiful, unique and loved.

With all that’s happening in the world with famine, wars, and disasters, let’s stop focusing on what bathrooms people use….let’s focus on lifting up those in need. Let’s focus on the real issues at hand and stop allowing Screwtape to send us scurrying around with fire extinguishers in a flood.

Entertaining Angels

My grandma would say, “Treat everyone with love and respect because you never know when you are entertaining angels.” And it wasn’t until years later (ok I’ll admit this year!) did I realize this exact phrase is in the Bible! My grandma knew the Bible like the back of her hand and I did not appreciate her knowledge until I grew older.

“Do not forget to entertain strangers for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2

When I was younger I did not understand this statement. I had heard about angels but didn’t fully believe they were actually real and around us. This was a concept my head could not wrap around. I was too much in my head. I was trying to think logically. I couldn’t see them, how could they be real? This is where faith comes in.

I have heard stories of people being visited by what they thought were angels. The more I learn about God and the Holy Spirit, the more I become curious and want to know for myself.

Grandma would tell us a story she claimed taught her faith and the provision of the Lord. One day, during the Great Depression, there was no bread for lunches when she and her siblings left for school. Their mother instructed them to come home for lunch, which she recalls was not a short walk. When they arrived at home, their mother still did not have anything for them to eat. At that moment there was a knock on the door and a man stood before them with a loaf of bread to advertise a new bakery in the area. Their mother came in the the house with her eyes full of hope, lifted up the loaf of bread and exclaimed, “The Lord will provide.”

Grandma would tell me this story when I was a little girl, but when she told it she would say the man at the door was an angel. She would say the Lord sent him to provide food for her family. You never know when you are entertaining angels! 

SUFFERING

suffering/synonyms: Acute bodily or mental pain. Distress may be physical, but it is more often mental, referring to any deep anxiety, or the external circumstances that may produce it.  Misery is extreme suffering or abject hopelessness, as from sorrow, great loss, poverty, or the like.

Why is suffering allowed by God?

That question has been asked by believers and non-believers alike…….the difference is, those who know God know that He is a balance of justice and mercy.  Sin came into His perfectly created world because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve.  So because of that first sin, all of creation (including you and me) is waiting for the healing that will happen when Christ returns.

Last Sunday I sang at a church in the Tampa, Florida area.  At the fellowship meal afterwards I met a 43-year old mother of 3 who was still having therapy after a triple by-pass heart surgery 3-months ago.  She had no warning, only tightness in her chest.  She has MS, her husband travels for his job during the week, her father had just been diagnosed with cancer, and she has 3 boys ages 5-12 years old.  She thought the tightness in her chest was stress from life’s challenges.  The weekend her husband was home he encouraged her to go to the ER, but she refused….he insisted.  They sent her home.  The pain started then and she went back.  This time she was in surgery within the day with 100% blockage in one artery and 90% blockage in two others.  Post-surgically in the hospital one of her lungs collapsed.  Of course many prayer warriors were lifting her up in prayer…..and she is recovering wonderfully.  But, why would this godly young woman already dealing with MS have to suffer like that?

She is radiant with the love of Christ, and is a strong witness to her doctors, nurses and therapists.  She gives God all the glory for His healing touch.

I have experienced pain physically and emotionally in my lifetime, but I’ve never really suffered.  How about you?  If you have, according to the definition at the top of this blog, how have you handled it?

Right now there is an abundance of suffering in Texas due to the devastation of hurricane Harvey and the ensuing rainfall that is still causing flooding.  I can’t even imagine what that must be like.  There will be human suffering, distress and misery there for a long time.  Our prayers, finances and when possible, physical help, are with them.

There really is no way to end this blog on this subject because human suffering will always be with us.  But I must encourage you that God is a loving and compassionate God, and His heart is broken as He sees the ongoing suffering of human kind.

The Apostle Paul suffered much as he shared the Gospel of Christ.  He wrote in Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…”

God sent His Only Son, Jesus, to this world; part human due to His birth from a virgin, so that He could feel and understand what we go through as humans.  In the book of Isaiah, chapter 53, we read what was written about the suffering of Christ 700-years before His death on the cross.  Verse 3:  “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.”

Dear God, help us to “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.  Romans 5:3-5

Photo: Gisela Giardino, Flickr Creative Commons

A Heavenly Language

Speaking in tongues was something that once terrified me, I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. I experienced people speaking in tongues in a disordered way, and I know this happens a lot in the church. People will speak out loud in different tongues when it should be a precious moment between you and God speaking to him in a heavenly language. Only and only if there is someone to interpret should you speak louder. This is clearly stated in the Bible and we need to obey and not scare people away. I know I am not the only one who was turned away from the ways of the Spirit because of people making a scene. It’s not about you. It’s about God. Don’t put yourself on this platform because you can make strange sounds with your mouth. These gifts should not be used to edify yourself, but used to glorify God. Too many people abuse the gifts and do not use them properly to build up the church. Here is what Paul says about speaking in tongues:

For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God…He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophecies edifies the church…Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me…For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says.” 1 Cor 14:2,4

I experienced an orderly way of someone speaking in tongues. I was sitting on a bed in between two of my friends. The friend on my left was praying in tongues and the friend on my right was praying in English. In that moment I felt as though one was interpreting what the other was praying. And I felt the presence of Holy Spirit in that moment. I was not afraid of the unfamiliar language I was hearing because one, it was coming from a trusted source, and two I was also hearing someone in a similar breathe praying in my native language.

A friend of mine and her mom both speak in tongues and at one point they were telling me to just start saying random words, and make up sounds and it would happen. Deep in my spirit I knew it wouldn’t. I felt God telling me it would happen but not in that moment. We can ask God for things and he will give it to us, but our hearts need to be in the right place and ready to receive and in that moment I was not ready. 

6 months later I was lying on the floor in Thailand in the presence of the Holy Spirit, God had used me to pour out his spirit and baptize others in the Holy Spirit and then he flattened me on my back. As I was laying there I was praying and it happened. Unfamiliar words were coming out of my mouth and I started laughing and crying! It was happening. This occurred after I had obeyed him by praying over his children and showing them a God they had never met, introducing them to Holy Spirit and then God gave me a gift, the gift of tongues. And I wasn’t speaking loudly, no one else could hear me. I was having a conversation with God in a different tongue. It was a precious moment between me and my heavenly Father.

(This is an excerpt from my book “A God You’ve Never Met” which is still in the process of being written.)

(In Thailand worshiping with the Thai and Burmese Refugees.)

LIFE is in the BLOOD

I’m sure most of you have had a blood test from time to time in your life.  Not fun…but necessary to check the many aspects of your health.  It’s always amazing to me that a test from my blood sample will tell if I’m low on a certain vitamin, like B12 or D.  I just had my yearly test last Friday, mainly to check cholesterol and triglyceride levels, but this time they are also checking my B12 to see if I would benefit from the shots to give me more energy!  Ha!  I know my cholesterol is high…that’s a hereditary problem, and I know I should exercise more aggressively every day!  ( I guess just looking at my stationary bike doesn’t get the job done!!!)

So much about health can be gleaned from blood tests…..it is a reminder to me that “life is in the blood”.

That’s why we receive the gift of life everlasting from the blood that Jesus shed on the cross for the removal of sins.  This is another one of the mysteries of God’s ways.  I don’t understand how that works, but I accept the covering of Christ’s blood over me.  In fact I ask Him for that covering every day.  If that seems gross to you, let me explain.

God doesn’t have blood, because He is Spirit, but His Son, Jesus, was born in the form of man so He could become Emanuel, meaning “God is with us”.  Jesus was born from a virgin, impregnated by the Holy Spirit, (the third person in the God-head).  Because of His human form, His life was in His blood.

Before Jesus Christ died for our sins, sins were cleansed by the spilling of blood from bulls, lambs, and doves.  (In fact, cults around the world still kill animals, sometimes even people, to cover their sins with the shed blood.  How sad they do not know that God’s Son, Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself on the cross and spilled His blood once and for all time for their sins. Hebrews 7:27)

When Jesus died on the cross, it was because His blood spilled out of Him.  He was dead, was buried, and in Resurrection power came to life again.  Now, if we believe in Him, we can have life everlasting.

This fact is accepted by simple child-like faith.  If you are struggling with faith to believe that God’s Son, Jesus, did this for you, and you need prayer or guidance, please contact us on our Facebook page by private message.

The entire book of Hebrews is Paul’s appeal to the Jews to accept the superiority of the blood of Christ over the Judaic system of animal sacrifice. Read Hebrews 7:24-27.

Romans 3:23-25 ~ For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in His blood.

Ephesians 1:7-8 ~ In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.