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.

3 Considerations to Conquering FEAR

Tomorrow is the fourth of July. It is the day we celebrate the independence of the United States of America. When I think of the freedom I think of the men and women fighting for this country. I think of Jesus dying on the cross for our freedom in him.

I feel like freedom is something we say we have and yet a lot of us are held captive in our fears…

Last week at church we discussed fear, and this is something we all deal with. We are responsible for making the choice between using fear to our advantage or letting it over take us.

Here are some things we should consider.

1.Fear is Satan’s way of taking over your life.

He will do whatever it takes to get you to disobey God. He doesn’t want you to be successful. He doesn’t want you to have a joyful and happy life. Just think, if Satan is coming at you hard that must mean God has something HUGE in store for you.

“The thief (Satan) comes only to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life and live it to the fullest.” John 10:10

2. The greater the fear/risk, the greater reward.

Think for a moment of a time when you were so fearful, or had to take a big risk for something. How was the outcome? Was it better than you would have expected? I can think of many times I was fearful and even a bit frustrated and wanted to give up, but when I decided to press in and conquer without a doubt I was so glad I did and felt a huge sense of accomplishment.

“For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

3. God is on your side. You have nothing to fear.

God is bigger than any of our problems, fears, or concerns. If there is a fear you have give it over to him and he will take care of it for you. I am releasing a fear of rejection. I am in the coaching field and I “sell” my services to others. I have a fear that people will not want what I have to offer. There are times I hear no, but the times I hear a yes I am over the moon and so glad I asked one more person, because the reward was much bigger than the risk!

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

These are the words God gave me during worship of lifegroup last week:

I have a plan. I know the next steps. I know what is out in front of you but you have to trust me. Let go of your fear of rejection and step into the risk of the unknown. There will be greater reward when you do the things that are hard and that take risk. What is ahead will not be easy but you are always up for adventure. Look at the next days of your life as adventure. The time you spend with me will radiate out and be a part of your daily life and be in every aspect.

Do the thing that scares you the most!

Evidence of LIFE

Sometimes the chaos seems to overshadow the calm and gratitude. Doesn’t it? 

In this era, it seems that people are SO BUSY on a daily basis. This kid has to be here, this kid has to be there…. there is this appointment, and that deadline, and a big dinner party to plan for then…it seems never-ending for most!  

On top of all the constant activity, we have to keep our homes, cars, pets and selves tidy and clean! This in itself can be a full time job! 

I personally am not a parent, but most people I know are. However, I have had a little guy and his Mom living with me at my house for two years. He just turned six last month. 

It has been amazing having them live with me, but I must admit this has been quite an adjustment. It was just me and my tiny little dog for years on our own. If I put something away or cleaned something, or left something out – whatever I did – it would stay that same way until I changed it. This is not so when there are other people in the house! Especially little ones! Now I get it!  

Spills. Random stuff on the wall. Finger prints on glass. Crumbs on the floor. Shoes left here and there. Constant clean up.  

Sometimes I get frustrated. Really frustrated. 

Recently, God knew I needed a word. 

The other day I was listening to Christian radio in my car, and a message from Proverbs 31 Women’s ministry played. She talked about how one day she counted 14 pairs of shoes strewn throughout the living room and kitchen area where they were not supposed to be. She admitted to her frustration and said she felt like her kids were not grateful and were disrespectful. HOWEVER, she said that God gently reminded her that is was a joy to have those healthy, vibrant children in her home and in her life, and that these frustrations were trivial. The perceived chaos could be viewed as beauty instead, and gratitude is in order!

In fact, all that mess was EVIDENCE OF LIFE.  

This message really set in with me. Sure, without other people (or even animals) in my house I would have less to clean. It would be quiet. Things would stay as I left them. 

But, I can’t imagine my life going back to that now. The noise, the laughter, the messes, the constant movement…. they are all EVIDENCE OF LIFE.  

I guess I am learning to feel blessed by the mess! It means we are alive and well!  

I imagine God, our Father, looks down from time to time at our messes and could be frustrated with us. Thankfully, His mercies are new every morning, and He created us, and He sees our messes as evidence of life and beauty. He is gentle, patient and kind. Though He expects us to continue to learn, grow and improve, He waits on us with great joy and compassion.  

In wisdom He made each one of us, and all creatures. Let us try to have His perspective as we press on through the beautiful mess of life.  

Psalm 104:24 “How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” 

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Are You Honoring Your Body?!

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” 1 Cor 6:19-20

Are you taking care of the body God has given you? Are you honoring God with your body?

We have been given a gift and many of us are abusing that gift.

Your body is something you should love and care for and yet we are doing the opposite. Many of us hate how we look and feel. We struggle with body image. We stand in front of the mirror and a rush of negative thoughts come flooding in our minds. We expose too much and do not respect ourselves. We stuff our faces with unhealthy food that makes us feel sick. This is not what God intended when he gave us this gift.

Do you know that God sees you as fearfully and wonderfully made? He calls you beautiful and his child. We need to take a step back and look at ourselves as God does. We need to start loving ourselves and flooding our minds with positive thoughts. Once we love who we are, where we are we can honor God.

How do you honor someone?

Honor means “high respect”

Are you respecting God by treating your body, the gift God gave you which you do not deserve, with respect? Are you feeding it the proper nutrients? Are you exercising and moving to strengthen and support your muscles? Are you drinking water? Are you looking at yourself in the mirror and telling yourself how beautiful you are?

These are ways you can show God and yourself respect. Start taking ownership of the temple God has given you here on this earth.

I am on my own journey to love and respect my body to honor God. I am learning to love myself the way I am, but to also take action to live a healthy lifestyle so that the body God has given me is in the most optimal condition. If you think about it, when you feel good and look good you tend to be more confident. You tend to step out, take risks, love others and most importantly love yourself. I am not saying you need to be skinny to be happy, you need to love yourself in your own skin and make good decisions based on what you feel God wants you to do.

This journey I am on I am not doing alone. God is with me every step of the way. He continues to tell me how important my health is and it is becoming very important to me as well. God is giving me his eyes to see myself the way he does.

I have had multiple dreams in the past month (and I don’t normally remember my dreams). In each dream I look fit, strong, and healthy. I know in my dreams this represents not only my physical health but also my spiritual and emotional health. I believe God is showing me what it looks like to be at my best. The way He created me to be- strong and confident. And in these dreams I am living out my calling as a life coach.

How are you going to honor God with your body this week?

Let’s be on this journey together!

Nikki'sBirthday-67

To Ponder………..

Do you know what it means to ponder?   I guess it’s an old fashioned word, but according to the two dictionaries I looked at, ponder has a much deeper meaning than just to think about something,

Ponder: to weigh in the mind; consider or examine carefully; to meditate; to reflect seriously; to think upon.

We think about people and circumstances all the time, and that can be beneficial or not. I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying “stinkin’ thinkin'”. Even the Bible says  “as a man thinks, so is he.” (Psalm 23:7 KJV)

Philippians 4:13 says; whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable….if anything is excellent or praiseworthy….think on these things.  That certainly is a good way to govern our thinking and speaking.

However, to ponder is to go much deeper…..kind of like meditation, which I have written about before.  As a cow chews the cud, swallows it, brings it up again several times before taking it in for total nourishment.  That cow, or other cud chewing animal, is taking in a little bit of nourishment each time she swallows the juice or cud before she completes the “ponder, or meditation” with a swallowing of the whole.

I think we can ponder a subject, even the same one, our entire lives.  And if you have a one on one relationship with you Creator, pondering can be a way of communication or prayer with Him.

Imagine what Mary, the mother of Jesus, was pondering.( Luke 2:19) What an awesome responsibility she had to carry in her womb the Son of God and to nurture Him as a child to adulthood, and to know what He was going to go through to save the world.  That goes beyond my human understanding, and is one of those “God Things” I accept by faith!  There’s no way to figure out how God did that…..but I believe!

All I want you to receive from this writing today is to allow yourself TIME TO PONDER the works of God….not just His creation but also His work in human hearts and lives. It’s OK to sit quietly and look at God’s Creation, or to consider or examine carefully a matter, asking Him for wisdom so you see clearly the way to proceed.

Join me this week in reading the 111th Psalm, and ponder His works!  Ponder what He is doing in your heart and life, or in that of a friend or a family member…….in a situation that seemed impossible, and yet God is turning it around for good, as He promised.  It’s always amazing to me to look back and see why God “did it His way” and not my way!!!

When you ponder the works of God, you will feel like weeping, laughing, shouting, or praising Him.  When you ponder His works, He will speak truth to you!!!

Thy Word