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.”

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Mother’s Day Thoughts

 

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and it’s been fun to see all the greetings to everyone yesterday on Facebook. I’ve been thinking about this Mother’s Day and the ones I’ve experienced in the past.

Let me begin by saying I’m extremely blessed! I have three stepchildren and six grandchildren that I am extremely proud of. They are my delight and fill my heart with so much love. It hasn’t always been such.

Before I married their father/grandfather, I had no children or grandchildren to dote on. My first husband and I never had kids. When I was 30 I got pregnant and my husband and I were through the moon with excitement, but at eight weeks I miscarried and then went immediately into pre-mature menopause. The doctor said I would never have children. I was so heartbroken! I wanted kids so badly. When my husband and I went to premarital counseling before we were married, the pastor asked us how many kids we wanted …. we said 6, and now we were left with none! We tried for adoption and both attempts ended in dead ends…no children.

Mother’s Day became a very difficult day for me. Even though I had a baby in Heaven, I couldn’t call myself a Mom. I had nothing to show for it, no children that I could point to and say, “They are mine”, no pictures in a frame to show. One Mother’s Day was extremely hard because a lady in our church had dealt with infertility for many years, and like me, Mother’s Day was hard for her, but on this day, her heart was full because she and her husband had adopted a little boy. As she related her story to the congregation, tears started to fall down my face and I was a basket case. My poor husband didn’t know what to do. A couple of the ladies in our church saw my distress and after church, came up to me to love on me and encourage me. This happened 20 years after I had lost my baby. Some people would think that by that time I would have been able to get over it, but there’s one thing every mother who has lost a baby knows, and that is, you never get over it.

A couple of years ago on Mother’s Day the First Lady of our church (our pastor’s wife) was having every mother write her name on a slip of paper for a drawing she was going to do for a prize. She asked if I was a mother, I told her I had a baby in Heaven. The next thing out of her mouth was like a revelation to me! She said, “Well then, that makes you a mother, put your name down.” I had never thought I could call myself a Mom! It was like I was given permission to say I was a Mom.

After my husband passed away I was left alone for six years, and then God brought to me a most wonderful man! We fell in love and got married, and when I married him, I got an immediate family complete with children and grandchildren! The Bible says that God will give you the desires of your heart when you are committed to Him. Well, God went above and beyond ANYTHING I could even imagine! I have two beautiful stepdaughters, three handsome stepsons, and six incredible grandchildren.

Today my heart is full and my cup overflows! As I was thinking about my kids (even though I didn’t birth them, I consider them my kids) I began to think of my daughters and how proud I am of them as I watch them be Mom to their kids. They are strong women of God and are teaching their children to love God and are exhibiting before them the characteristics of the Proverbs 31 woman. Proverbs 31:29 (NASB) says, “Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.” Amber and Kristen, I am so proud of you both, and the example you display before your families, of a woman after God’s own heart. I am honored to call you my daughters.  Your mothers are to be praised for raising such amazing women of God!

Power


What do you think of when you hear the word, power? Do you see a strong man lifting heavy weights? Do you think of the overwhelming intensity of lightning, or of an engine equipped to do heavy work? The Bible says that we will receive power when we receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (NASB)

Some people talk as if the Holy Spirit is a thing. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, and as such, is a living being, not an “it”. In my church we sing a song called, “Send it On Down”. It is a song asking for the Holy Spirit to come and inhabit our worship. However, my Pastor doesn’t like the idea of calling the Holy Spirit, “it”, and so we sing, “Send HIM on Down”. As such, we give the Spirit of God His rightful honor and ask for His presence to reveal Himself to us.

The book of Acts says the Holy Spirit will give us power. If the Holy Spirit was an “it”, I can’t imagine a thing being able to give us power. However, as a person in the God-head, He is able to endue us with power from on high. (Luke 24:49) So, what kind of power are we talking about? Let me give you a testimony from my own life.

I go to an Assemblies of God Church, and we believe in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. When I first went to that church, it was a foreign concept to me because I was not raised in a Pentecostal denomination, my background was Wesleyan Methodist, Baptist, Evangelical Free, Missionary Alliance, and Covenant. I often describe myself as a “Christian Mutt.” After being part of this church for a couple of years, the desire to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit became very strong. I wanted a deeper relationship with God. I began praying and asking God to fill me with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. One Sunday night I went forward for prayer as I had before. This Sunday night, He granted my request and I was Baptized in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues. My Pastor at the time, told us that when we received the Holy Spirit, we had access to power given by Him. At the time, I didn’t know or really understand exactly what that meant, but a few months later my first husband had a stroke, and then a year later he had another, more devastating stroke. He was paralyzed on his right side, could only repeat things back to you, but not carry on a full conversation. However, God allowed him to retain the ability to sing, he even sang duets with me, which I found amazing and I am so grateful God didn’t allow that to leave him. My husband was sick for seven years and was in a nursing home until he went to the hospital with pneumonia and heart problems and died.

Those seven years were the most difficult I had ever experienced in my life. There were days that I felt that I had no strength to take care of my husband. But it was only through the power of the Holy Spirit that I was able to do the things that needed to be done. I HAD to rely on God for EVERYTHING. I truly believe that I would not have been able to take care of my husband, work a full-time job at a Christian television network, be on the worship team at church, and try to keep my house together without the power of the Holy Spirit helping me along the way. There was a time of depression and despair, I’m not going to say that I didn’t go through that, but it was then that I realized that there was no where else to go but to God. My current husband says what I went through was a Job’s Trial, and I truly believe he is right. It certainly felt like a trial.

That is one way the Holy Spirit gives us power. He also can give us power in doing ministry work. Some are given the gift of healing and so, the Holy Spirit gives them power to perform their ministry of healing. Some are given the gift of preaching and the Holy Spirit gives them the power to preach messages that bring us into the presence of God and instruct us in righteous living. The Holy Spirit releases power in us for various giftings, circumstances, and situations.

Now, the last part of our verse gives us a mandate. We are to go and be witnesses! The Holy Spirit also gives us power to go and tell what God has done in our lives. That can be accomplished in words, but the most effective tool is to live out our lives in front of people, so that they see Jesus in us. When we let others see the impact He has on our lives, they will want what we have, and that is the person and the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to utilize the power given to us from the Holy Spirit to be a witness to a lost world. That mandate, to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Matthew 28:19), is our purpose as Believers. We are to tell people of the saving grace of Jesus through His death on the cross for our sins, His burial, and resurrection. We are to bring people to Heaven with us. Are there people in our sphere of influence who know that we belong to Jesus, or if asked, would say they don’t know? Are we speaking and living in a way that leaves no doubt in their minds that we are Born Again Believers? It is time we take stock of our lives and how we appear before others. If we aren’t living and speaking so that others see Jesus, then we need to repent and be intentional in our witness.

So, my final question to you, dear reader, is…. are you utilizing the power of the Holy Spirit in your life?

Set an Example!

Today’s Bible Journaling was taken from the TCT devotional, “Just for Today”, and focuses on II Chronicles 26:4, “And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all his father Amaziah did.” Uzziah became king at the young age of 16 when his father, the king, died. I find it amazing that a 16-year-old boy could have enough wisdom to rule a country. But then, when we read the whole story of Uzziah, we find that he had a good upbringing. His father, Amaziah, taught him the ways of the Lord. Looking back in chapter 25, we find that Amaziah also did what was right in the sight of the Lord, however; verse two says that he did not do it with a perfect heart. That means he made mistakes.

So, the take away I get is, we can follow God’s ways, but we’re not always going to be perfect, so it was, I’m sure, in raising Uzziah. Amaziah raised his son in the ways of God, but he wasn’t perfect. The devotional talked about living your example before your kids, not just speaking it. The old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do”, doesn’t work. Kids will model what you do before they model what you say. I can relate to this. I have no children, but my father was very strict. Kids were to be seen and not heard, we had no opinion on anything, and he would tell us in no uncertain terms what we were supposed to do. However, in some areas, what he said and what he displayed in action were polar opposites. I have become an awful lot like my Dad, and I work as hard as I can to fix the parts I don’t like.

My first husband and I were not able to have a family, so I have no experience raising kids, but I have observed a lot by watching other parents. I now am married again and have step-children and grandchildren, for which I am eternally grateful to God! They are the light of my life! I love them like they were my own. Actions speak louder than words, and when we say one thing and do another, our kids become either confused, or they decide that if we can’t follow our own advice, it’s not worth listening to.

I have seen parents yell and scream at their kids when they misbehave, and then when their kids act out in anger in the same way, they discipline them. This was my upbringing and I learned to be afraid of my Dad. When a parent reacts like this, the child comes to the point where they lose respect for the parent. I know for me when I get angry or need to discipline; my first reaction is to yell and spank. I have to fight with that. I have learned in dealing with my grandkids, a soft answer does a whole a lot better. When I get down to their level and whisper in their ear or speak to them face to face, they are more willing to listen to me.

Modeling Godly behavior before your kids isn’t easy because we are human, and we make mistakes. They see everything we do, and they are little copycats. This is where we must come to the point where everything we do and say is first brought before the Lord. Ask for His guidance in raising our kids, search the Scriptures for guidelines in disciplining. I think that sometimes when we follow Scriptural principles, we have a tendency to try to be perfect at it and follow the letter of the law. But, God doesn’t expect perfection from us, and we should not expect perfection from ourselves or our kids either.

Spanking is a prime example. The saying, “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is not in the Bible, however; Psalm 13:24 says, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. (KJV) Some people think that means beating a child within an inch of their life…and that isn’t what the Bible is saying. Spanking and beating are two different things entirely. When it comes to spanking, I believe that moderation is the key. Don’t discipline in anger. For me, I have to step back first before I discipline. In that way, I am showing my grandkids how to react when things don’t go my way, or I need to correct them. Temperance in disciplining goes a long way.

Other areas we need to model Godly behavior is how we treat others, how to allow differences of opinion, showing how to put others before ourselves, being patient, showing that God goes first before everything and everyone. Let your kids see you studying your Bible, have devotions with them, pray with them, model before them what God is teaching you. They will soon pick up on that and begin to display Godly behavior themselves. Will you be perfect at it? No, and neither will they, but when you model it before them, they will be more inclined to follow in your footsteps.

So, today’s word is, “Be an example!”

The Keys to Pleasing God

 

The past few Sunday’s my Pastor has been on a series called, “The Keys to Pleasing God”. Our focus Scripture is Hebrews 11:6, “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” (NLT) Pastor has been showing us steps to real revival in several sermons he’s done this year, and this is also part of it.

Real revival is not just a series of meetings we call a revival, but it is a complete change in us. Part of that revival is knowing what pleases God, and the prime key is REAL FAITH. The keys to real faith are as follows:

1. Real faith is not just something you say. Pastor referenced James 2:14, “What is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?” (NLT) When we go around talking like a King James Bible or quoting Scripture all the time but don’t show our faith in the things we do, then it’s a lot of being all talk and no action.

2. Real faith is not just something you feel. Feelings can be deceiving, they’re fickle. If we are depending our faith on how we feel, we will be full of faith when we are up and lacking in faith when we are down. Real faith is strong regardless how we feel.

3. Real faith is not just something you think. Real faith shows itself in our everyday lives. We can not be all holy and sanctified within the church walls and then go out into the world and act just like the world with no inkling that we are even Christians. Do those who see you KNOW you are a Believer just by watching you? James 2:18 says, “Now someone may argue, ‘Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds,’” (NLT) We cannot hide God and the effect He has on our lives, we must show Him to the world in our everyday lives. What we believe should show up in our lives and in our actions.

4. Real faith is not just something that you believe. Real faith is something that you live! James 2:19 says, “If you say you have faith, for you believe there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” (NLT) Satan knows full well that God is real, but just because he believes this, doesn’t make him a Christian. The Bible says he is a liar, a deceiver, and there is no truth in him. He will not submit to the leadership of God. Just because we believe there is a God doesn’t make us a Christian, it is our total heart surrender to Him and the evidence of that is our faith and how we live it out in our everyday lives. We are to be committed to Him, not to be just a Christian, but a CHRIST FOLLOWER! Many say they are Christians just because they believe there is a God, but they never open a Bible, go to church or act in a way that reflects that belief. To be a Christ follower requires a relationship with Him.

5. Real faith is something you do. Real faith is about our lifestyle! James 2:20 says, “How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?” (NLT) Real faith requires us to be Christ-like! Our actions prove that we are living for God. Works are not a requirement for salvation, rather they are a proof of salvation, they are a fruit of salvation. My Pastor pointed out that works don’t make us a Christian, but they show that we are one. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through grace, and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.” (KJV)

The important thing to remember is that the basis or our salvation is God’s grace! Pastor said that the proof of our salvation is our ministry, and that ministry is to serve God by serving others.

For me, I feel God has given me the ministry of music mainly, and more recently He has given me this blog as an avenue to also minister to those who read it. That avenue can be just by what He lays upon my heart and I put on paper, or through my Bible Journaling. My hope is that when people read my blog that it will always point them to Jesus as the answer for everything.

Running the Race

Today I decided to journal yesterday’s sermon that our Pastor delivered. He spoke on “Running Your Race”, highlighting Hebrews 12:1-2. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (NLT)

I was talking to someone who wasn’t completely sure they understood what that meant, and so I tried my best to help them understand. Later, I looked over my notes from the sermon and several things caught my attention, causing me to think more about them. First, once we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we begin the race “set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) Our goal is to finish the race, to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14 NASB)

Have you ever watched a foot race on a track field? My brother ran track in high school. There was very rigorous training. He would practice with weights, trying to run as fast as he could, yet have the endurance to finish the race. On the day of the race, the weights came off so that he could run as fast as he could with the goal to win that race. So, we are to let go of things that could hinder us in our race. Our Pastor said those things could be sin, but they could also be things that are not listed as sinful. “Weights,” he said, “are anything that holds you back.” Anything that seems to plague us, things we deal with and are struggling to overcome.

Secondly, we are to focus on our own race … don’t worry about someone running their race, focus on what you are doing. In a race, you must not get distracted by the other runners, focus on YOUR race. Another thing, stay in your own lane. In a track race, if the racer drifts over into another racer’s lane, they are disqualified. Also, racers keep their eyes fixed on the finish line, they don’t look back to see where the other racers are in comparison to where they are. If they look behind them, they can easily get distracted, drift into another lane, lose track of the pace they have set, and end up losing their race.
Spiritually, if we don’t focus on our “finish line” – Jesus – we won’t finish well at the end of the race.

Another thing is, that we need to deal with those weights because they will slow us down. Take time to get into God’s word, have a daily quiet time with Him, so that we can keep our focus and remove those things that are weighing us down. Take time to have a time of refreshing, whether it’s a Bible Study, Church service, or just listening to Christian music in an attitude of worship, take that time to reconnect with God.

Weights will also slow us down. Worship is to re-energize us. We are not to be weary. Weights can make us become weary as we try to run carrying all those things that we were never meant to carry. Come before the Lord with a joyful heart, focusing on who God is and what He has done for us. That, in itself, should make us light-hearted and energized.

Lastly, the weights we carry can make us lose our focus. We get so hung up on trying to run this race carrying all those things that trip us up, that our focus gets redirected from Jesus to the weight. Satan takes advantage of those weights. He may not be able to read our thoughts, but he can hear what we say and sees what we do, and he uses those to his advantage and attacks us in the weak areas of our lives. Carrying those weights can give us a divided focus, which makes it much easier for the enemy to take advantage of our weak moments.

So, we need to take the time to deal with those weights, those “little foxes that spoil the vines” (Song of Solomon 2:15), that weigh us down and keep us from finishing our race well. How well are you running your race?

Are You Distracted?

Today I decided to do my devotional from the Bible Journaling Ministries (www.biblejournalingministries.com) Momentum Series, “Never too Busy”.  Tracie Rollins does a fantastic job in presenting devotional material and she is so down to earth…I just love the things she presents.  This series is all about keeping your focus on the main thing … Jesus.  Today we dealt with being distracted.  Boy, did that hit home!  Today we focused on I Corinthians 7:35, “This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint on you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.”

I am so easily distracted.  It doesn’t take much. I am drawn to TV and Facebook like a magnet, to the point that nothing gets accomplished in my day.  These are habits that I definitely need to break.  The problem is, Facebook is my means of keeping up with family, and it helps us all stay connected, but then I end up looking through my page to see who has left me a little tidbit to look at, and before you know it, a couple of hours are gone. Then I get hooked on a TV program, and I’ve wasted another part of my day.

In reading through the devotional, I started to ask, how is it that I am so easily distracted? Boredom plays a large part of it. That, and the fact that I’d rather be on the computer than doing anything else, which seems to be my main problem. We gravitate to the things that we would rather be doing instead of things we really need to be doing. Unfortunately, getting together with the Lord isn’t part of the first category. I am ashamed to admit that, but that is the main thrust of it.

So, I have to take myself to task. I find myself ignoring my time with God, and that can only result in a broken relationship with Him. Then when I find myself in that situation, I have to come to Him and repent and try to start all over again.

Do you have this problem? I gather most people do. It is so easy to be distracted in today’s world. Our society is so fast paced, everything is instantaneous with computers and cell phones and other things that can bring distractions. When I was a kid, we didn’t have computers and I-Pads to pull us away from important things. But even then, we could find things to do to take us away from what we needed to do.

I must admit, Bible Journaling has really helped me in this area. I’m a lot better than I used to be at finding time to have a quiet time with God. Expressing what I’m learning through being creative in my journaling has helped me focus on what it is He wants me to know. God gave each of us a creative side, whether we realize it or not. I am far from being an artist. In fact, I almost flunked art classes in school …. couldn’t draw a straight line to save my life. But God directed me to Bible Journaling and showed me that my artwork doesn’t have to be gallery perfect, but that it is all about the time I spend with Him, and what it is He is teaching me. Journaling through artwork helps me retain it so much better. I have always been a note-taker during sermons. Writing it down helps me remember. The neat thing with my Journaling Bibles is that I can go back and see where I am compared to when I started…that brings those lessons back to remembrance.

This is not an easy thing to conquer, as it is with most things that are really important and bring the greatest satisfaction, but I know that I have Jesus to help me, and with the two of us working on this, I will eventually win the battle.