God Sees

Today’s Bible Journaling is from Isaiah 58:11, “And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” (NASB) I decided to read the entire chapter to get a background of this verse. God is giving Isaiah a message to deliver to the Israelites. They observe the fasts as God required, however; they were doing so with wrong attitudes, wrong motivation, and a wrong commitment. They were fasting and observing holy days with an attitude that was not one of complete dedication to God. They would appear to be holy, yet mistreat their fellow Israelite, not feeding the hungry, having an attitude of, “It really doesn’t really matter if I’m totally committed to this, I’m going to do it my way.”

I decided to look up the definitions of attitude, motive, and commitment to be sure I was applying the correct words to the thoughts I’m trying to convey. Motive is defined as, “a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious.” Attitude is defined as, “a settled way of thinking about someone or something…” Commitment is defined as, “the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.” In my mind, all of these can be combined in our justification for doing something.

Scripture tells us that God sees the heart (I Samuel 16:7) when others see the outside. We can appear to be so holy and yet have motivations and attitudes that are totally opposite from our actions. God was pointing out that they were not totally sincere in fasting and carrying out the observances He required, and therefore, He didn’t recognize their efforts. But if they would change their motivation, their attitude, and their commitment to Him, then He would bless them, He would guide them.

My mind goes to being on the Worship Team. I love being on the Worship Team! God has called me to use my musical abilities for Him, and it’s my outlet to show God how much I love Him! It gives me an opportunity to lift my voice and my instrument in praise to Him for everything He has done for me. But I also have to be very careful, because I can play and sing with wrong motivations and attitudes. Am I doing this for my own self-gratification and to get the accolades of those in the congregation, or am I singing and playing to give honor, praise, and glory to God? Does what I do point others to Jesus or to myself? Every time I get ready to step onto the platform at my church I pray and ask God to check my attitude. Is it proper, does it reflect Him and not myself? I’m committed to playing and singing, but why? That’s where I must look at myself and check that I’m doing this for Him and not me. I must remember it’s all about Him and not about me.

When I am obedient to what He wants me to do, then He blesses my efforts, He blesses my life, and He fills me with joy at having the opportunity to minister to others. He makes my soul satisfied, and I am like a well-watered garden, growing and full of Spiritual fruit. The more I am obedient to what He asks me to do, the more He blesses me and gives me peace and satisfaction. When I have the proper attitude and motivation, He is pleased with me, and my commitment to Him is even greater, and it is a joy to serve Him in everything I do. Doing an attitude/motivation check is a good way to be certain we are in line with God’s will and plan for our lives.

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God – Fully Human

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Hebrews 2:17, “Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God.  Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.”  Jesus was fully God and fully human!  That’s something that our finite minds just can’t fathom.  It’s hard for us to wrap our minds around that.  But God required a spotless, pure, blameless sacrifice for our sins.

In the Old Testament, God required an appropriate sacrifice for the sins of Adam and Eve, a spotless lamb, perfect in every way. (Genesis 3:21, 4:4) Although Scripture doesn’t explicitly say God sacrificed a lamb, it does say that an animal was killed in order to provide animal skins to clothe Adam and Eve.  One commentary (from Abide in Christ Ministries) said that garments were symbols for righteousness.  The fig leaves that Adam and Eve made for themselves is a representation of man’s attempts at righteousness through good works and religious ritual.  Man-made attempts at righteousness are poor substitutes for the proper sacrifice required by God.  Only the blood of a spotless lamb could cover sin.

Jesus is called “The Lamb of God” (John 1:29) and He is our sacrifice for our sins.  He had to be fully God to fulfill the requirements for a perfect sacrifice.  But He also had to be fully human in order to identify with our life here on earth.  He went through all the temptations, trials, joys, sorrows, everything we experience, He experienced.  How else could He understand our predicament?  One thing is different, however; He went through everything we do, but did not sin!   Jesus was tempted by Satan, just as we are, and He came through the temptation victoriously.  There is no way we could ever be that spotless, perfect sacrifice, nor can we ever pay for our sins.  We can’t buy our way, we can’t work our way, nor can we ever be perfect enough to provide the proper sacrifice for our sins.  The work Jesus did on the Cross was the full requirement of payment for our sins.  All we are required to do is decide whether we will accept His free gift of salvation, as punishment for our sins.  God’s plan provided a way of escape for us.  He sent Jesus in the form of a tiny helpless baby.

This past Sunday our church had their Christmas program, and a song was sung that pretty much sums up the feeling of most people who don’t understand what God was doing.  The song is called, “What a Strange Way to Save the World”.  The song is sung about Joseph as he is trying to understand why God would choose to provide salvation for the world by choosing to send Jesus as a baby, by choosing Mary to be His mother, by choosing Joseph to be His Step-father.

The Bible says that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), His ways are higher than ours.  He sees the grand scheme of the plan, and we see only a small portion of His plan for us.  We can’t see how things are being set out, nor can we see the final outcome for our lives.  God’s plan is perfect, and He has the best in mind for us.  His plan of salvation is the best plan, and He put it into motion because of His love for us.  He wants a relationship with us.  Our sin breaks that relationship.  He made a way for us.

The girls in our Youth group did a painting as part of the Christmas program….as far as I’m concerned, it was true Bible Journaling without painting on a Bible page!  As they painted, our worship team sang the song, “He Made a Way in a Manger”.   It was so powerful!  The picture covers Jesus birth, His ministry, His death, His resurrection, and shows His great love for us!  Our girls did such an amazing job on this!  Everyone was just spell-bound!  That’s the Gospel from beginning to end.

Thanksgiving Reflections

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and this year I am so grateful to God for so many things, not the least is His protection. Our family is currently going through a trial, and I am so grateful for His protection over my nephew. Because of some poor choices, my nephew almost lost his life right before Thanksgiving. God graciously spared his life, giving him a second chance to make things right with the Lord.

In thinking about that I began looking for “Thanksgiving” verses and found Psalm 100. The whole chapter is a praise to God. Because there are five verses and it would take up quite a bit of space, I won’t write them out here, but I encourage you to read the entire chapter. David is encouraging us to “shout joyfully to the Lord” and “serve the Lord with gladness.” (Psalm 100:1 NASB)

Thanksgiving is a time of reflection, to look back over our lives and remember the things God has blessed us with. For me, I am grateful that I was raised in a home with Christian parents. They taught us kids about God and His love for us. When I was two years old, I got to see the difference Christ can make in a person’s life, first hand. My Dad came to know Jesus through the ministry of our next-door neighbor, who happened to be the pastor of the church a couple of blocks away from our house. That was a night I will never forget! Daddy had been gone for quite a while. When he came home the first thing he did was walk to the kitchen and took a full, never opened, bottle of wine and poured the whole thing down the sink! From that moment on things were different. We started going to church from that time on. We were in church every time the doors were opened. Through the ministry of that same pastor, I was saved at the age of 11 in youth group on a Sunday night. I never had to experience some of the things that some kids did because of the grounding I had from my parents in the Word and through church. I am so grateful for the salvation that Jesus offered to me. He has walked with me through joy and sorrow, through good times and bad, through sunny days and days of hard trial, and He has been Faithful!

I am thankful that God has directed my life since that time. He directed me in my schooling, where I began nurses training. However, I didn’t have good enough grades to pass the courses. But I learned the skills that would become invaluable to me later in my life in caring for my first husband. At the time, I was so disappointed and felt like a failure, and didn’t understand why He would allow me to go through that training only to fail. It was only when my husband had a stroke and required nursing care that I understood why He allowed me to go through training. I am also grateful that He took care of me while I was a widow and led me to my current husband.

God also has directed me in ministry. My first husband was the chief engineer of radio and television stations. We spent most of our married lives in ministry at Christian stations. He also put us together in music ministry. When I was in high school, if someone would have told me that I would have been on radio and television, I would have told them they were crazy. That was the farthest thing from my mind. But God orchestrated things so that I had an almost 40-year ministry with my husband, and then as a widow.

There are so many more things that I can praise the Lord over. As I have been writing this, Chris Tomlin’s song, “Good, Good Father” came to mind. God is most definitely a Good Father! He loves me more than anyone else could! Take time today and reflect on who God is and how He has watched over your life. As you raise your voice in praise to God, listen to Chris’s song, and rejoice!

Remain in My Joy

Today’s Bible Journaling is from John 15:11, “I have spoken these things to you, that My joy may remain in you and that your joy may be made full.” (NLT) As I concluded this series on joy, the thought that struck me was, the secret to having joy is to remain in God’s joy and be obedient. How are we to do that? If we read the entire 15th chapter, Jesus starts by talking about remaining in the vine. He is the vine, we are the branches. (John 15:5) We are to get our nourishment from Him, and as we grow in Him, by following His commands, He in turn fill us with joy. We are to remain in His joy, and as we do that, we are full of His joy.

That joy comes by developing a close relationship with Jesus, reading His Word, and being obedient to His commands. As we grow in Him, we produce fruit (Galatians 5:22), the more Spiritual fruit we produce, the more joy. Contentment comes, peace reigns in our hearts and lives, and our outlook on life is one of deep, abiding joy. Jesus promises that if we remain in Him that His joy will overflow in our lives.

Growth comes not only from obedience and a close relationship with God, but also through difficult times that could be characterized as a pruning process. In order for plants and trees to grow properly, they need to go through a pruning so that old, dead parts of the plant are cut away to allow for new growth to come. The same is with our lives as Christians, those who are Christ-followers. Those difficult times we experience are times when the Father cuts away those things in our lives that are hindering our growth process. As much as we don’t want to go through the pruning process, it is a necessary part of growth in a Believer’s life. It is during those times that we find it difficult to exhibit much joy. Pruning is hard, but so necessary!

I can look back on my life and see times when God has done some extensive pruning, and it was not a pleasant experience. But, I wouldn’t trade it for anything, because I learned so much, and I grew the most during those times. Sometimes those times are preparation time for what is to come next. We need to be strong for the next level. Pruning also helps make us strong to encounter whatever the next level has to throw at us. We also can take the things we learn from those growth spurts and use them to help someone else who is going through the same thing we did, and thereby we become instruments that God can use to help someone else to grow. There is no greater joy for me than to be used by God in that manner. It makes my heart happy when I see that someone has gained strength through something I shared, and that God has brought them so far, and they grow more in Christ!

This is one area in our lives that we can become intentional in pursuing joy in our lives. There are many ways to be filled with God’s joy. I’ve already mentioned studying His Word and being obedient to His commands. Other ways are singing or playing music as a means to worship and praise Him. For me, this is a really big thing. Music is such an important part of my life. I love nothing more than singing, playing my flute, and playing Christian music on my laptop or radio. Participating in the worship team at my church is where I find myself in a state of peace and contentment, and joy. Also, just being part of my church brings me joy. Being in the company of my fellow Believers in unity is the most awesome experience ever! I’m sure there are many more things that could be included, and I encourage my readers to seek out ways to be filled in God’s joy. You may just find that you are filled with a joy that you have never experienced before in your life.

Don’t Worry Be Happy!

Ok, this is confession time…when it comes to being content, I am a long ways from getting to that point. The Bible says that we are to be content in all circumstances…well, sorry to say, I’m not there yet. Today’s Bible Journaling is from Philippians 4:6, “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.” (NLT) I must admit, I tend to do the worrying part more than the praying part. I also do quite a bit of complaining. So, this verse is talking to me a lot!

The Apostle Paul was encouraging the Philippians to do the same thing…pray, don’t worry, thank God, BE HAPPY! Remember the popular song a few years ago, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”? It’s a catchy little tune, and when things are going well, it’s easy to sing it. But when things are not going well, then it’s not so easy. When we were kids our parents used to tell us not to complain because there was always someone who was worse off then we were. For me, that didn’t help me in my situation. I couldn’t do anything about that person who was worse off than me, and I sure wasn’t happy about where I was…so what was the point of that little lesson? It has taken me a very long time to figure that one out. God has blessed me so much! I have no right to complain. I have a roof over my head, food on my table, and a wonderful husband to share my life with. Maybe I don’t have everything I want, but God never promised to meet all my WANTS, He promised to supply all my NEEDS according to His riches in glory! (Philippians 4:19)

This is where contentment comes in. Once we figure out that what we have is what we need, then we can be content in knowing God is watching over us and supplying everything we need, and the wants will come if it’s for our good. This is can be a hard lesson to learn, and for me, it’s a life-long learning experience. I wish I could say I am there, but I can’t. God and I have a lot of work to do for me to get to that point.

Paul said that he had learned to be content no matter what circumstance he was in. For me, that’s hard to understand. I mean, he was imprisoned, ship-wrecked, beaten, left for dead, persecuted…you name it, he was abused in so many ways. Yet, he could say that he was content. So, from where does this contentment come? From Jesus Christ. He is the One who gives us contentment. He is the One who knows and understands all the things we encounter in our lives. He has taught us by His life how to be content. The Bible says that Jesus didn’t even have a place to lay His head! So, He understands being homeless! He was betrayed, He understands when we are betrayed by those we had trusted. He endured so much persecution, even to the point of death, He understands when we are persecuted for our faith. Everything we go through in life, He also had to endure. His life, and how He reacted to each situation, is an example for us. We are to be imitators of Jesus.

Will we do it perfectly? No, but then we aren’t perfect creatures. Only Jesus was perfect, and He was able to be the perfect example for us. We are, to the best of our ability, to imitate Him, learn to be content in whatever situation we find ourselves. With that contentment comes joy. Philippians 4:4 says, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!” (NLT) Contentment and joy are attitudes that we are to incorporate into the very fabric of our being. So, I hope this encourages you. For me, it’s a good kick in the seat to get me to that point of being content in every situation.

Great Are You Lord

Once in a while God wakes me with a song. This morning He woke me up with a song our church has been singing for a little while now. The song is called “Great are You Lord”. I did some background checking on the Internet to see what Scripture it was based on and I found an article of an interview with the writers of the song. They talked about the passage in Ezekiel 37 where God told Ezekiel to speak to the bones in the field and God breathed life into them and they rose up to be a great army. The part of the song that keeps running through my mind is, “All the earth will shout Your praise, our hearts are stirred, these bones will sing, Great are You Lord.”

This song has been running through my head all week, and when I got to this part of the song, I wasn’t sure I was singing it right, because bones singing just didn’t make sense to me and I thought I was remembering it incorrectly. Then as I actually looked at the words of the song and found that the song says that, that’s what caused me to look into what the composers were thinking when they wrote that lyric.

As I read the article, the composers spoke about a message they heard where the pastor stated that, “Worship is when we give God His breath back.” The song says, “It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to you only.” Then as I read Ezekiel 37, it says that God breathed into the bones. Can you imagine being a great army that had been killed in battle, and then all of a sudden being made flesh and blood and breathing! I bet those bones were praising God with all their might!

Then I began to think about our Spiritual life…. sometimes we need a little breath breathed into us! Sometimes we become like dead men walking, there is no life in our walk with the Lord, for whatever reason. Worship and praise to God helps revive that life, we are giving God His breath back and He in turn breathes back into us to revive us.

Worship is our love song to Jesus. It has many benefits. The Bible says that God inhabits the praise of His people. (Psalm 22:3 KJV) When we lift our voices in praise to God, He is present, right there with us! So, as we lift our voices He draws near to us, we can feel His presence, and especially in dark times, His presence gives us strength. We find that we are more able to fight the battles, and we are encouraged. Life begins to swell in us and grow, making us stronger in the Lord.

I love how the song begins. It says, “You are life, You are love, You bring light to the darkness!” We are given life when He breathes into us physically, and Spiritually! He is the source of life! We praise Him for giving us life, love, and light to our spirit!

The past few weeks our church has gone to a whole new level in worship! God has really made His presence known. As I stand on the platform with the Worship Team, I look out over the congregation, and I see people praising God with tears streaming down their faces, there are shouts of praise, people walking the aisle with their hands raised, it’s the most phenomenal thing to see! There have been times when, while I’m playing my flute, I find it difficult to play because I’m on the verge of tears. God’s presence is so heavy on the platform, that it’s almost hard to breathe. It’s His breath in our lungs that gives us life, and we praise Him clear to our bones!

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.”