Count it All Joy

I’ve been on vacation for the last month so, I haven’t had an opportunity to blog or do my Bible Journaling. I must say, I have missed this time of getting into God’s Word and sharing with you. Today’s Bible Journaling is from James 1:2-3, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” (KJV) Divers temptations can be defined as trials, those hard situations that we go through in life. They can also literally be temptations.

Patience! Boy that is a big one for me. I am really bad about being patient. That goes along with my issue of anger. They kind of go hand in hand. I think this is a life-long struggle…I am more like my earthly father than I am my Heavenly Father, and that is something that bothers me, especially in this area. As a kid, I vowed I would never be like my Dad. He had a hair trigger temper, and I’m just like him. It makes me angry at myself because I don’t want to be like that. As hard as I try, every time something happens that sets me off, I automatically go to my default of being angry or being impatient.

James says that the trying of our faith works patience….so that means the only way to gain patience is through trials. Now, trials can be anything from life happening, hard situations, to our own expectations of how things should be. I have to admit, sometimes I do better with hard things like the death of my first husband, as hard as that was, than I do with everyday irritations. As I was doing my journaling today I realized that it’s the everyday stuff that seems to trip me up. Dealing with people that seem to have a knack of finding my “buttons” and pushing them just to see me blow. Sometimes it happens so quickly I don’t realize it until the storm is already passed, or the words are already out of my mouth. The counting to ten thing before speaking just doesn’t seem to work for me. I can’t seem to get to that point of even starting with one. It’s an automatic reaction to get angry or become aggravated.

While I was journaling the page, I had to remind myself that I need to “count it all joy”, and the realization came that there is joy in trials. Maybe we don’t realize it as we are going through it, but after we have had a chance to look back, we can see periods of growth in our lives, and those growth periods come during trials. There are times when the hard stuff comes that we can be glad we went through it, but we wouldn’t want to go through it again. We learn things through those hard struggles in life. If you are like me, we find ourselves going around the same mountain trying to conquer the same thing, over and over again. God tends to keep us there until we learn our lesson. I have a tendency to be hard-headed…so God has to practically beat me over the head to get me to learn anything. I feel sorry for Him …. how patient He is with me! My desire is to have that same patience. I am definitely a work in progress.

Trials are a necessary part of life. They take us from one level to another. The struggles we face are in preparation for the next level, where we need to use what we have just learned. They also show us God’s faithfulness. We can see that if He brought us through this trial, He can, and will, bring us through the next one. He doesn’t leave us to struggle alone, He walks with us, encouraging us, and helping us get through the trial so that we can come out victorious on the other side. And, in the meantime, we learn something as well.

If you are disappointed with yourself like I am, just remember, we are a work in progress, and even though we don’t want to go through those struggles, they are placed in our lives to help us grow and become more like our Heavenly Father. Be encouraged! Remember, He will never leave you to fend for yourself, He is always with you.

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Wonderful Peace

A couple of weeks ago I was awakened in the middle of the night as sometimes happens, by God, Who wanted to talk to me. He often does this as I think I tend to be so full of whatever is going on during the day that He can’t get through to me, so He catches me when I’m asleep and He can speak and I’m more able to listen. He woke me with a memory and a song. A few years ago, a dear lady in our church passed away during the church service. She had many medical issues, one of which was a heart condition. In fact, her medical problems were so many that she had many medical alert ID bracelets and necklaces on her in case of emergency. She didn’t drive, and she asked me to pick her up for church and take her home, which I was happy to do.

As we were in church we were in the worship and praise portion of our service, and the congregation was singing the song, “Wonderful Peace”, when in the middle of the song we heard a commotion toward the back of the sanctuary. Several of the nurses in our church rushed over to this dear lady to help her, and one came and spoke to my girlfriend, who happened to be diabetic and asked for some test strips, as this woman also had diabetes. She went over to help, and I continued to stay in my place singing. But the longer things transpired in the back, I grew increasingly concerned and went over to see if there was anything I could do to help. By this time the ambulance had arrived, and the paramedics were trying to assist her. She was completely unresponsive, and they were eventually able to get her onto a gurney and transport her to the hospital. While all this was going on in the back, the church was continuing to sing this old hymn. “Peace, Peace, Wonderful peace, coming down from the Father above, Sweep over my spirit forever I pray, in fathomless billows of love.” We were to learn later that this dear Saint had passed away. We knew that she had died in church, hearing the words of this old hymn, instead of at the hospital, which is what the medical team stated. She went from singing about God’s peace to experiencing it first hand as she saw the face of Jesus for the first time.

The interesting thing about all of this is, as I was talking to one of the nurses to who knew this lady’s medical history quite well, and was a good friend of hers, she made a curious statement. She said, our friend had once told her that when it was her time to go, God would let her know, and she was ready. On that very day, our friend came to church not wearing any of her medical alert identification. I began to think about when I had picked this friend up at her apartment. She was unusually quiet that morning, but I didn’t really think anything about it until later.

The words of the old hymn resonated in my heart on this early morning when God awoke me. I began to think of how awesome that must have been for her, not only to be singing about God’s peace, but experiencing it in it’s totality. She quietly slipped from here to glory in the middle of singing about her Lord. I knew God wanted me to Bible Journal on this song. I wasn’t particularly anxious about anything. We have been on vacation and have been having a wonderful time, so there was nothing that was worrying me or bothering me. But I began to look for the song in one of the many hymnals I have and pulled out the page from the hymn book and began to search for a Scripture to put with it. I came upon the verse, Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you.” (NLT) As I did my journaling on this verse and hymn, I thought back to how peacefully my friend had gone to see Jesus. Those who were assisting her were not in a state of peace as they tried to help her, but the look on her face was not one of pain or concern. As the nurses and technicians were trying to help her, I remember thinking, “What a perfect song to be singing right now.”

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to get this finished, not because it is such a large task, but because we have been traveling quite a bit and visiting family, and I haven’t had the time to get it done until now. Again, I am up in the middle of the night, not because God woke me, or maybe He did, I don’t know. I’m in a little pain this morning, making it hard to sleep, but the desire to finish this page kind of haunted me, and I still am not sure what is so pressing about getting it done and this blog posted. All I know is, the memory of my friend hearing and singing this song as she stepped through the gates of Heaven, is a warm source of joy to my heart. She has been missed, but we wouldn’t want her to trade her mansion to come back here.

I don’t know if this blog is meant for someone who is going through a struggle right now, but I just want you to know, that God gives perfect peace in the midst of struggle when we put our full trust in Him. Whatever the problem, He has everything under control, He walks with you, He holds you, He loves you, and He can be trusted with your situation. You will find perfect peace in Jesus, just run to Him and let Him give you that “Wonderful Peace.”

Whatever it Takes

It’s early morning and I’ve been up since 3:30.  I’ve been awakened by a song, Damaris Carbaugh sings called, “Whatever it Takes”.  Sometimes God wakes me in the middle of the night because He wants to talk to me.  This song is running in my mind over and over.  The words are so haunting, and it causes me to stop and re-evaluate my relationship with Jesus.

There’s a voice calling me from an old rugged tree
And it whispers, “Draw closer to Me;
Leave this world far behind, there are new heights to climb,
And a new place in Me you will find.”

CHORUS: For whatever it takes to draw closer to You, Lord,
That’s what I’ll be willing to do;
For whatever it takes to be more like You,
That’s what I’ll be willing to do.

Take the dearest things to me, if that’s how it must be
To draw me closer to You;
Let the disappointments come, lonely days without the sun,
If through sorrow more like You I’ll become.

Take my houses and lands, change my dreams and my plans,
For I’m placing my whole life in Your hands;
And if You call me today to a land far away,
Lord, I’ll go and Your will obey.

I can hear Damaris singing, with her deep, rich, alto voice resonating in my mind, and my heart is stirred within me.

I used to sing this song, without much thought to what it really was saying, not really applying it to my life.  But, one day my first husband asked me if I really meant what I was singing. Then he said, “You’d better be sure, because you don’t know what the future holds or if God will hold you to the words you sing.  Do you really mean, “Whatever it takes”? His statement and question caught me off guard.  I hadn’t really considered the fact that what I was singing, God may some day require me to prove my words.  Shortly after that my husband and I went through a very long trial. He had two strokes and became an invalid and I had to put him into a nursing home.  I had to carry a full-time job, try to manage all the things he had always taken care of, take care of him, and try to keep my head above water financially.  After a very long illness of seven years, God took him Home.  Then I spent six years alone before meeting my second husband.

I learned what those words meant! My second husband calls it my Job’s Trial. They were very dark days, but as I wandered through that haze of feeling nothing, I found out something. I found out that deep down inside, I really did mean those words.

It was so hard, but God showed me how I could trust Him with everything. I found that I had no one else to turn to, not in the way that I needed. Yes, God brought people into my pathway to help me, but they couldn’t be the Rock I needed to keep me standing.

So, as I listen to this song in my mind, I question, why is this song running through my mind now? It’s been a very long time since I’ve played the CD on which it is listed. God, what are You trying to tell me? I searched for Scriptures where Jesus is asking us to draw closer to Him and I found Matthew 16:24, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.’” (NASB) Then the thought crossed my mind, “Am I about to go through a trial?” I don’t have to fear, because God has already proved Himself strong, and I know that whatever He asks me to do, I will be able to accomplish with Him by my side.

The verse talks about taking up our cross. Crosses are heavy. They are burdens we carry and can be almost anything that drags us down or brings us to a point of desperation. Do we try to carry them ourselves, or do we go to the One who says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29 NASB) Rest, that’s what we find when we draw closer to Jesus. Peace floods our soul as we lean upon Him to carry those things that overwhelm us. The closer we get to Jesus, the easier it is to carry the burden, because we are not carrying it alone, He is taking the brunt of the weight. It is much like oxen who are tied together in a yoke, they each carry a portion of the weight as they pull the plow across the field. The burden is lighter.

So, as I think about the words to this song, I can say, “Yes, Lord, whatever it takes, because You have already proven to me that You are faithful, and I have nothing to fear.”

The Cross

 

Today I read a post on social media from a friend of mine. She and her husband, pastor a church in a suburb of a large city. Her post dealt with something God impressed upon her husband to do, carry the cross around the perimeter of the city in which he pastors. As he was walking with the cross upon his back, she was at home enjoying the day in her back yard. As she was sitting in her yard, she began to think about what it was her husband was doing and the reaction that others may have about him walking with a cross out in public. As he would check in with her by text, her thoughts began with wondering if the people of their church really wanted him to do this. What would people say? As she continued pondering this, she began to think of why churches now seem to diminish the meaning and significance of the cross. Then her thoughts turned to why the Cross is so important in the life of a Christian.

As I was reading, I began to think of things my pastor has said regarding certain denominations beginning to lessen the meaning of the cross in their services. Some not wanting to emphasize the blood, others seeing the Cross as a dirty, bloody instrument of torture and death upon which we should not put too much focus. Some have taken hymns about the Cross out of their line up of worship music, some have not spoken about how important the Cross is, from the pulpit.

My mind began to think about how the whole purpose of our faith is buried deep in the significance of the Cross. Yes, it’s a dirty, bloody instrument of death, and yes it was a tortuous way for Jesus to die, but it was so necessary! Without the Cross, our faith is meaningless! As I was thinking about this, God impressed upon me the need to do a Bible Journaling page with a page from a hymn book. As I was trying to choose the right song to use, I had a hard time deciding because there are so many songs that feature the Cross. I finally decided to use the song, “The Old Rugged Cross”, after my husband offered it as a suggestion.

As I was working on the page, I began to think about how in many churches today, the focus seems to be on aesthetics…music, lighting, sound, almost a theatrical appearance. The message from the pulpit is desensitized, if you will, so that no one will be offended by the gruesomeness of the Cross. Our churches have lost the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit today.

A friend of my first husband and mine used to say that where there is no peace, the Holy Spirit can not abide. People are in turmoil today, and pulpits are not giving them the answer to resolve that turmoil, hence, no peace. Churches do not focus on allowing God to work in their services because everything is a performance, not a worship service.

Back when I was a little girl, I remember going to church at my Grandparent’s church in the summer when we visited, and I heard plenty of Hell-fire and brimstone messages from the pulpit. Sin was a topic in almost every sermon. Now, pastors don’t mention sin so much for fear of insulting or offending someone in the congregation.

The Cross is the centerpiece of our faith because without it, we are lost in our sin. God provided a means for us to be forgiven, through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. Christ gave up His life willingly so that we could escape the death penalty for sin. Romans 3:23 says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (NLT) Notice, not one person is without sin. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (NLT) Jesus was the perfect sacrifice because He was God and Man, lived on this earth, was tempted as we are, yet did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15) Therefore, He was the Only One qualified to take the punishment for our sin.

John 3:16 says, “This is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (NLT) Death on the Cross was the most horrendous means to die that was ever conceived. The Cross was not made of smoothed out wood. It was not something beautiful, as some cross jewelry is today. It was rough, and rugged. To add to that pain, nails were pounded into the hands and feet of the person being hung on it. It was the most excruciating, painful means of punishment that was given. As if that was not enough, Jesus was also beaten, almost to the point of death, with leather straps that had bits of bone and glass at the end of each strap, before He was hung on the Cross. The punishment of Jesus was so horrific, that the Bible says He was almost unrecognizable.

Jesus shed His blood on the Cross for us, so that we might be made free. He took our punishment upon Himself. Why? Because He loves us so much! II Peter 3:9 says that God “was not willing that any should perish”! (KJV) His love for us is so strong, that He had a plan set up from the very beginning of creation to save us from sin.

What is sin, you ask? Sin is anything that goes against God’s standard. A look at the Ten Commandments gives us a look at what God’s standard is. So, since no one is perfect, and all have sinned, no one has ever kept the Commandments perfectly. Jesus’ death on the Cross pays for our sins.

How? God made the process so simple even a small child can do it. We must surrender our hearts and our lives to Him. By admitting we are sinners, accepting His death on the cross as the punishment for our sin, promising to live in total obedience to Him and His will, and asking for His forgiveness, we can experience eternal life. We must make Him the Lord and Master of our lives. When we do that, we begin a relationship with Him that transcends any human bond we can experience.

My hope and prayer is that you, dear reader, come to know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, that you will accept His free gift of salvation, and that the Cross becomes the standard which you can cling to and be released from the punishment of sin. Then you can say with the old hymn, “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross.”

Do Not Fear

There are many things that make us fearful. We can be afraid of anything from snakes and creepy crawlies to fear of being in a crowd, or fear of heights. I was curious as to how many phobias existed, and according to what I found on the Internet, there are more than 500 phobias, things that are legitimate fears and those that are not so much. Our society today is troubled by fear. We see it everyday just in the news reports alone. People are afraid to walk out their front door for fear that they will be harmed by violence. Fear permeates almost every area of people lives and some are so fearful they can’t function in society.

The children of Israel had a fear. They had been across the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land and now they were standing on the banks of the Jordan getting ready to cross over into the Promised Land. The spies were sent to scout out the land. When they came back to give a report to the people, the spies said that the land was rich with good things, but said the land was filled with giants and walled cities. They were so afraid, that they gave a bad report, and made the people fearful as well. However, Joshua and Caleb, who were with the spies, gave a good report and implored with the people to not be afraid, but trust God. They told the people that God would go before them and give their enemies into their hand. But the people became rebellious to the point of wanting to stone Joshua and Caleb. Joshua and Caleb told the people, “Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:9) God was angry at the people’s rebellion and they paid for their disobedience. God made them wander in the wilderness for 40 years until that generation of fearful, disobedient, rebellious people had died.

Fear can rob us of so many things. It can rob us of peace and joy. It can make us see only what we are so fearful of and gets our eyes off God. We forget that God has promised that He will always be with us. There are at least 20 verses that remind us that God is with us. Even His name, Immanuel, is a reminder that He is with us because His name means, “God with us.” One of my favorite verses is Hebrews 13:5,” …. I will never desert you, nor will I forsake you.” (NASB) He promises to stay with us always!

When we get our eyes off God and look at the circumstances around us or the thing that has us entrapped in fear, all we see is that fear, and God becomes so small. There is a saying that my husband uses that says, “Big problem, little God, little problem, big God”. The idea is to remember that no problem is bigger than God. When we focus on that problem, we make God so small that we see no way that He could ever solve the problem. But when our eyes are on God, He becomes bigger than any problem, and our faith is increased as we watch Him work on our behalf and remove that fear, that thing, that problem that has us entrapped. We must remember that our God is not a little God, He is greater than anything you may face!

When we give our fears over to Him, He releases us from what the Devil has had us bound. He breaks those chains, shows Himself strong, and delivers us from the fear that surrounds us. Peace begins to flood our soul, real joy begins to bubble up, and we find we can rest in His arms and allow Him to bring relief. The prison we have been in is opened and we can then walk in freedom. The chains of fear are broken!

How Long O Lord?

 

Today’s Bible Journaling is from Psalm 13:1, How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” King David is questioning in the midst of a very difficult time in his life. He feels as if God has abandoned him. He doesn’t feel God’s presence, he prays and hears nothing. We’ve all been in that circumstance, haven’t we?

Life gets hard, God seems far away, our prayers seem to hit the ceiling and bounce back to the floor. “Where are You God?” I’ve certainly been there. I’ve recounted before the hardest time in my life when my first husband was so sick and eventually passed away. It took a long time for me to actually sense God’s presence and working in my life. But once I did, I was amazed at what He had been doing even though I, at the time, couldn’t see it.

David must have been very depressed, but despite his searching and feelings of being abandoned, if you read the rest of the chapter, David ends up rejoicing and worshipping God. The verses that really jumped out at me were verses 5 and 6. “But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Even though he felt like God left him to fend for himself, he realizes that he must trust God and His plan.

I love this about David! He spends the majority of the chapter pleading and complaining and then it’s almost like he comes to himself and remembers that he must trust God no matter what he is going through. How like David we are, aren’t we? We gripe and complain that God isn’t doing anything, or He has abandoned us, or isn’t working in our time frame and then it’s like we need a good smack in the head to remind us that no matter the situation, the first thing is TRUST GOD!

We forget to pray, or if we are praying, our prayers can be full of impatience or sound like a 2-year old temper tantrum…” I want it my way, and I want it now!” Never remembering that all things are done in HIS timing, not ours. He sees the big picture, He has a plan for our lives and sees the end from the beginning. All we can see is what is just in front of us.

Trusting is sometimes so hard to do, especially if we have been in the position of trusting someone only to have them leave us standing on our own without what was promised. We tend to not want to trust them again. We can only get left hanging for so long before we realize it isn’t worth the hurt and pain to trust.

However, God is always faithful! He never goes back on His word. If He has promised it, He will do it, and we can rely on His word. Sometimes it seems like He has moved far away, but in reality, we are the ones who have moved. He is always right at our side, holding us, walking with us, guiding us in the right way to go. It is up to us to stay with Him, to follow His leading. And, in those times when we feel He has left continue to trust whatever He has planned for us. Resting in His arms is the best place to be.
Sometimes God allows the hard times to build our faith, to make us stronger, or to prepare us for something that is coming down the road. We can look back and say, “If God could bring me through that, He can bring me through this.” Our strength comes from trusting in His Divine Plan for our lives and allowing Him to work through us and in us.

So, if you are going through a difficult time, remember it’s ok to ask, “How long, O Lord?” Just remember, He hasn’t abandoned you, He is right with you. Trust in His plan for your life and walk the pathway He has laid out for you with patience. He will never fail you!

Do it Again!

During this morning’s service we sang the song, “Do it Again!” and it touched the very soul of our congregation! If you’ve never heard this song, I have attached a You Tube link for the song. Play it repeatedly and let it sink deep into your heart! The sermon this morning was based on Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?”

I’m on the Worship Team, and as I was playing my flute, my mind went back to all the times God came through when life seemed hopeless. Not once did He fail me! The congregation was looking back too, because somewhere in the congregation someone was wailing, not just crying, a heart-wrenching, loud, wail, as if in deep mourning, as they must have been recounting in their mind how faithful God had been in their life. The bridge to the song says, “I’ve seen you move, you move the mountains and I believe, I’ll see you do it again, you made a way, where there was no way and I believe, I’ll see you do it again.” The verses say, “You’ve never failed me yet.”

Although that is true, what we must realize is, God is incapable of failing us EVER! The song almost makes it sound like He hasn’t failed me in the past, but maybe He will in the future. However, Numbers 23:19 tells us that God is not man, He does not lie, and because He isn’t a human, He doesn’t change His mind. Then the verse questions, “Has He ever spoken and failed to act? Has He promised and not carried it through?” How could He? He’s God, and what He says He will do … He will do! He keeps His promises, unlike men.

Pastor asked for a show of hands, and asked, “How many have failed to do something you have promised to do?” and everyone raised their hand! Man can and does fail us, but God NEVER fails us. He is faithful to His word.

As we sang, the power of the song grabbed us! Later, someone said they wanted us to continue to sing it over and over. It reminded us of how much God cares for us. Pastor reminded us that no matter what Hell throws our way, we can stand on God’s promises. No matter the struggle, no matter the situation, no matter how people have treated us, no matter what …. HE NEVER FAILS! The song says, “Your promise still stands, Great is your faithfulness, faithfulness. I’m still in your hands, this is my confidence, you’ve never failed me yet.” We changed it to say, “You’ve never failed me!” There is no “yet” about it!

Because He has never failed us, we have confidence in what He promises. His word is true. I can do nothing but praise Him! My heart is so full just to think of how faithful He is to us and to His promises.

We can rely upon Him in every situation. Even when we think that He has abandoned us because we can’t feel His presence. He is right with us showing His strength, love, and power in our lives. In those times when we can’t see Him working, we must remember that every one of His promises is wrapped up in timing …. His timing! He cannot cancel His promise and man cannot cancel God’s promise! We must learn to wait on His timing. We can rejoice because He moves the mountains in our lives! Great is His faithfulness!