My Father Gives Good Gifts

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Matthew 7-11, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in Heaven give good things to them that ask Him?” (KJV) God is such an incredible Heavenly Father! He loves us so much! He loves to give us the desires of our hearts. Sometimes, though, what we pray for may not be what is in His plan or may not be good for us. Just as children ask their parents for the fad item of the time, they desire it with all their little hearts, but it may not be good for them or maybe it’s something Mom and Dad want to give them but not right now. God is like that also.

We pray for things that we desire…sometimes it is more of a want than a need, sometimes it is a need, but God wants to give it to us in a different way or at a different time. So how do we react when God says, “No” or “Not right now”? I know there have been times I have not reacted well when I didn’t get what I wanted. I had a plan of how things should go, but God’s plan was so different from mine, and later I found out His plan was way better than mine!

One instance was when I lived in Montana. At that point I had been married for a little over 20 years to my first husband. We were unable to have children and we had looked at adoption when we were younger, and due to a lot of factors, our adoption attempt failed. I was so devastated! I yearned to have my own baby and it was a feeling that lasted for many years after that. At the time a gentleman came to the TV station I worked at to do an interview on adoption of Chinese children. I was the receptionist and as he has waiting, he showed me pictures of little ones who were available, and I fell in love! I tried to convince my hubby that we should try again to adopt, but he wasn’t exactly on board with it. In fact, he really was against it because of how old we were and the busyness of our lives. But I dug in my heels and begged and pleaded for him to do this and finally he agreed, but under protest. We went through the home study, and the social worker we were working with was not of the same frame of mind of us, being that we were Born Again believers, and we disagreed on everything from child rearing to what we were going to name the child. Now, at this point you would think maybe I would start to get the idea that this was not in God’s plan for me, but I became more stubborn, even to the point of rebellion, telling God, “I want this baby regardless of what You want!” I was in total rebellion! Needless to say, we were rejected, and I was so angry! Angry at the social worker, angry with my husband, and angry with God! It took me several years before I finally came to the point of asking God to forgive my disobedience.

You see, God had a better plan! Life went on, my first husband passed away and then God brought me a man who had a ready-made family! Kraig has three children and six grandchildren! When I married him, I became a Stepmom and Grandma! My heart is so happy! God has given me the desires of my heart, I just had to get in line with His plan and His timing. He has given me such an awesome gift!

God desires for us to live lives of obedience, contentment, peace, and joy. Some of the things we want may very well be what He wants for us, but the timing is off, or we may not be at a point where we can have that thing. Maybe we are not mature enough for what we desire, or maybe emotionally it would be overwhelming, and we would not be able to handle what we desire. We must remember that God wants to give us good gifts, but in His way, in His timing, and in His plan. What are you asking God for? Is it something that would be in line with His plan for your life? Is now the proper time for what you desire? Seek Him in all of this. Ask Him if now is the time, ask Him if this is something that is good for you, ask Him if this is part of His plan for you, then listen to His answer and wait for His provision.

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Grace – God’s Gift

Today our Bible Journaling takes us to Titus 3:4-7, “But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy—through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. He poured out his Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior so that, having been justified by his grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life.” (CSB) As I was doing the journaling in my Bible, I was drawn to the little mouse band. They are so full of joy and thoroughly enjoying making music! I can relate! I play my flute on the Worship team at our church, and sometimes I will sing. My heart is so full of gratefulness for God and His goodness that it must come out in my music!

Our Scripture today explains why we as Believers are filled with gratefulness and joy. His grace to us in saving us from our sins is a gift to us. There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation, nothing we can do to secure a place in Heaven, nothing! The Apostle Paul writes to Titus that we are justified by God’s grace. Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology defines justification as “the declaring of a person to be just or righteous. It is a legal term signifying acquittal …” I have heard justification defined as “just as if we had never sinned.” This is God’s gift to us. We are washed clean, totally transformed (regenerated), and made an heir of Jesus…we are brothers and sisters of Christ. My little mouse band is playing it’s heart out for the joy of knowing our sins are forgiven by God’s gift of Grace.

God showered His mercy upon us by offering a perfect sacrifice for our sin! That is the most awesome gift He could ever give us. So, how do we show our gratitude toward God for what He has done for us? Must I do works to ensure that I maintain that place in God’s family? No, the works I do are an offering of gratefulness and love for everything He has done for me. Works also show others our faith. James tells us that we are to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. (James 1:22) Our works are not to show off to others how good or holy we are, but to reveal the love for God in our hearts. We must be careful however; because we can slip into the trap of deceiving ourselves in thinking we are righteous before God because of our works, when in fact, we are just showing off to others, and we end up playing at religion and not exhibiting a faithful walk with the Lord.

Our works should be a show of what has happened inside. It should reveal the work God has done in our hearts. I think there should be a time for us to stop and take an account of why we are doing what we do. Are we doing work for God to look good to others or are we working to bring others to know Jesus because of our gratefulness to Him for what He has done for us? All the good works we can do, things like feeding the poor, helping the sick and afflicted, visiting those in prison, etc., must be an expression of our love for Christ, and used as a tool to draw others to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

No More Pain

Today I am remembering my nephew, Brian. He passed away on April 3, 2019. My heart is so broken. He is my sister’s first-born, and he was such a joy to have around. Although life dealt him some painful blows, he tried to survive the hits but unfortunately, his way of dealing with it was drug addiction. My sister and I tried to help him, and he seemed to really be trying, going into drug rehab at the local rescue mission a couple of months before he died. He tried to kick the drugs and was going to the chapel services and studies that are part of the therapy there. He thanked me for sending my blog posts for encouragement to him, and my sister took him to her church once when he was able to go. It seemed like he was finally on the right road.

I find comfort in God’s Word during times like this. Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (NASB) God is there helping us through times of sorrow. His arms are lovingly wrapped around us drawing us to Himself. Broken hearts are His specialty! Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (NASB) Right now, my family is feeling that crushing of the spirit. My life verse is Hebrews 4:16, “Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (NASB) When I think of this verse, I see God sitting in an overstuffed chair, not a cold, austere throne, and He is saying, “Come my daughter,” as He pats His leg for me to crawl up in His lap and let Him wrap His arms around me and lets me pour out my heart to Him.
He is my Abba Father, my Heavenly Daddy. When my heart is so full of hurt, He applies the salve to my heart to bring healing. As the salve flows over the hurt and the pain, I feel His love for me healing my heart.

As I was journaling my remembrance page for Brian, I found a sticker that says, “You are worth dying for – Jesus Christ” and that is what I hope Brian finally discovered before he died. I hope through the last couple of months that he found that God loves him despite what he has done. No one comes to Jesus being perfect, we all come to Him in a mess of our own making. In fact, He doesn’t want us to try and clean ourselves up before we come to Him. We couldn’t anyway. Nothing we can do can make up for all the sin in our lives. Only Jesus’ precious blood can cleanse our sin away. Only Jesus can forgive our sins and bring us salvation.

My heart’s cry is that Brian found the way to salvation and accepted Jesus in to his life. That is also my desire for my readers, that each one has come to the realization that there is nothing any of us can do to be acceptable in the sight of God. Only by accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, asking forgiveness for our sins, and promising to follow Him and live a life worthy of Him, can we find salvation. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (KJV) I am a whosoever, you are a whosoever, and He loves us so much that the only payment for our sins had to be paid by His Son, Jesus, on the cross. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (NASB) Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (NASB) Death is the penalty for our sin, and only a perfect blood sacrifice could pay for our sins. But God showed His love and grace toward us by sending His Son to die on a cross for our sins, so that we would not have to pay the penalty. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” (KJV) God’s grace is poured out on us when we ask Jesus to save us and be Lord and Master. God invites us to accept Him, all we need to do is ask. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (KJV) If you don’t know Jesus as your personal Savior, Jesus is lovingly knocking on your heart’s door asking to be invited in. He will not push His way in, He is a gentleman. But He longs to have a relationship with you. He desires for you to decide today. II Corinthians 6:2 says, “…Now is the day of salvation.” My prayer for all of my readers is that they make that decision to follow Christ and find out that a life of surrender to Him can bring peace and joy.

His Love Leads Us

 

As we continue to look at aspects of God’s love, today’s verse tells us that His love leads us. Exodus 15:13 says, “In Your lovingkindness You have led the people whom You have redeemed; In Your strength You have guided them in Your holy habitation.” (NASB) I love the idea that God leads us through each mountain and valley of our lives.

As I was thinking about this verse, I began to think back at my own life. I can see God’s hand guiding me and I see where He led me even though I had no clue which way to go. I became a Christian at the age of 11 in a Youth Group meeting on a Sunday night. I had been having disturbing dreams for a few weeks, dreams of not being a Christian and finding myself in Hell. I know God was talking to me through my dreams, trying to draw me to Himself. I don’t know why I didn’t accept Jesus after having those dreams, but I didn’t. One Sunday night, a guest came to our Youth Group and asked this question, “Why are you a Christian?” She asked it to the whole Youth Group. Each person gave their reason for why they asked Jesus to be their Savior. When it came my turn, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I couldn’t give her an answer because I wasn’t a Born-Again Believer, and I admitted it. It was then that my pastor asked me if I would like to ask Jesus into my heart, and I said yes. God just wouldn’t let me get out from under His loving invitation.

He guided my life in a miraculous way, at least I think so. When I was in my mid 20’s I wasn’t in the habit of listening to the Christian radio station in our city, but one day I was having a really bad day and decided to tune in. It was then that I heard a promo for their singing group, asking those who wanted to join to come to an audition. I decided I didn’t have anything going on, and it might be nice to be part of the group. I went to auditions and was accepted and it was there I met my first husband. God led me to decide to listen to that station at that particular time, and it changed my life! It began almost 40 years of ministry in broadcasting as my husband and I served Christian radio and television stations for the majority of our lives. I’ve often said God has taken me on an adventure. I had no inkling that broadcasting would be in my life. In high school that was the farthest thing from my mind.

The hardest day of my life was when my husband died. God led me through that dark valley for six years. Being a widow was very hard for me, but God was right there carrying me through that dark time. In the midst of that valley a guest speaker came to our church and he spoke a prophetic word over me, telling me that I would minister to people all over the world using journaling. That troubled me, because I wasn’t a good journaler…very sporadic. But his words haunted me, and about 2½ years ago I found Bible Journaling. Another one of the ways God has led me.

He also led me to get on the Internet and do some online dating and at the end of that six years, I met an incredible man on a Christian dating site, and six months later we were married. God led me to him and birthed a new ministry for me. My new husband has a ministry online and I have a blog into which I incorporate my Bible Journaling.

As I look back, I see God’s Hand so plainly in my life. He has led me every step of the way. It’s good to look back and see from where God has led us. His love is so incredible!
It is because of His love for us that He leads us along the pathway He has chosen for us. (Jeremiah 29:11) He guides us in His strength Exodus 15: 13 tells us. He leads us right to the gates of Heaven, His holy habitation. Oh, how I praise Him for His guidance!

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.”

Where Are You God?

 

We have all had times when God seemed so far away. Those are the times when life seems to be throwing everything it can at us and we feel like we just can’t get a break! The Bible tells us though that God never leaves us, never forsakes us, and He is always right beside us! Isaiah 57:15 says, “For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (NASB)

For me, that time came when my first husband had two strokes and was in a nursing home until God took him home. I felt like God had abandoned me right when I needed to feel Him close to me. In my head I knew He was there, but in my spirit, it felt like I was facing this trial all alone. The days were so hard. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and months turned into years. Anyone who has gone through being a caregiver understands how one could feel like they are fighting the battle all alone.

But God never abandoned me, no matter how it felt. He was right there. I can look back now and see His Hand in what was going on. He took care of me by placing people in my pathway to help me, especially with my finances. He placed me in a loving church that went out of their way to make sure I was doing ok. People would slip money in my pocket without my knowing, anytime I needed to vent He brought me a friend who would let me unload on her when I was so stressed I couldn’t see straight. When my washer and dryer went on the fritz, people from my church helped me get new appliances. Everywhere I turned someone was there right at the time I needed help.

God was also there when I would cry out to Him to fix this, to heal my husband, to bring me some peace, to help with the loneliness as I sat in an empty house. Even in the depths of my depression He was there. It got to the point where I wouldn’t even open the drapes in my living room, because I couldn’t see anything but darkness and couldn’t even let sunshine in my house.

He did answer my prayers, maybe not in the way I would have wanted, but they were answered. My husband did get his healing ultimately with his death. God was my husband through it all, taking care of me and healing me from the inside out. My emotions were raw, and little by little He would wrap me up in His arms and let me cry on His shoulder. He kept me from going into a financial sinkhole by providing the help of a good friend from my church. Eventually, He opened my heart enough to allow me to find love again and brought me an awesome husband. Now God guides us both in the good times just like He did in the bad times.

I love the part of the verse that says He revives “the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the contrite.” That’s exactly what it felt like. He was reviving me from the inside out. I had felt so dead for so long and as He was healing me, life started blooming again in my heart. I had been in the valley and He began leading me toward the mountain top.

Today, life is much brighter, I have a wonderful husband who loves the Lord just as much as I do, our goals of ministry are aligned, and we are enjoying this time of sunshine in our lives. We both look toward the future with a new perspective, anticipating whatever God has for us and trusting Him no matter what may come.

Well Done Billy!

Matt2521On February 21, 2018 the world said goodbye to a legend of the Christian faith. Dr. Billy Graham went home to be with his Lord to hear the well-deserved words, “Well done faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” (Matthew 25:21 KJV)

Billy Graham’s life and death impacted many people, either directly or indirectly. In my life, indirectly. My father was saved when I was two years old and my mother got saved shortly after that. From that moment on, every time Billy Graham had a crusade that aired on television, my parents would watch the crusade. I remember as a little girl sitting in front of the TV listening to the many sermons Billy preached and listening to the magnificent voices of George Beverly Shea, Cliff Barrows, and the Crusade choir.

When I was in college, my family had the opportunity to be a part of one of Leighton Ford’s (Billy’s brother-in-law) crusades as part of the crusade choir. On the final night of the crusade Billy came to preach. Unfortunately, I had to work that night and so I missed being able to hear him in person. But singing in the choir was such an awesome experience! I had never been a part of something so massive. It’s a great memory.

When I got married, my husband was the chief engineer for a number of Christian radio and television stations. After we followed my brother and parents in a move to Montana, my folks were a part of a committee to bring Franklin Graham (Billy’s son) to our city for a crusade. They were part of the planning committee and made contact with all of the churches and did a lot of the leg work needed before the crusade came to town. My husband and I, brother, sister-in-law, and parents also sang in the crusade choir. I became one of the counselors to pray with people who came forward to receive salvation. It was an awesome experience, and one I treasure in my heart.

Billy Graham will go down in history as being one of the most influential people to impact the world. His life and messages reflected the love and dedication he had for Jesus Christ, and he spent his life’s work proclaiming the Gospel to anyone who would listen. Millions of people have come to faith in Christ through Billy’s ministry. He was a man who lived his life above reproach. No one could ever accuse him of not living out his faith in front of them. His was a life that was scandal free. He lived what he preached. Jesus was Billy’s best friend, Savior, Lord, and Master, and he wanted everyone to know it.

My heart is sad because he will be greatly missed, but I also rejoice in the fact that Billy Graham is home. He will no longer have to deal with the frailties of this life, and he is now in the presence of the God who loved Billy so much that He gave His Only Son to die on a cross for the world, including Billy Graham.

The world is saying goodbye to a great leader of the Faith, and our hearts are heavy because if we ever needed a man like Billy Graham to point the way to Jesus, it is now. As the Bible has prophesied, the world is becoming worse. Evil is running rampant, and the only solution is Jesus. God has told us in His Word that Jesus is coming back to take His Church away, and we must be ready. In Biblical prophecy, that is the only thing left to happen in the Biblical timeline. Jesus is coming back for those who have committed their lives to Him and will take us to live with Him forever.

If you have never accepted Jesus into your heart and life, do it today. The Bible says we do not know the day or the hour when He will return. When He comes to Rapture the Church away, it will be too late. Jesus loves you and He wants you to be part of His family. Turn your heart to Him, repent of your sins, ask Him to forgive you and wash you clean. Then promise to live for Him the rest of your life, endeavoring to follow Him and make Him Lord, Master, and Savior. When you do that, Jesus brings peace to your heart and soul, and a joy that cannot be explained, and that the world cannot give.