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.”

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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!

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.

Remember God

 

So many times, I think, we tend to forget that what we have achieved, be it wealth, position, material goods, whatever it is, is only because God has given us the power to accomplish these things. Deuteronomy 8:18 says, “But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”

I’m sure we all know people who are so focused on obtaining the things of this world, and they work hard to get them, but they fail to realize that without God, none of it would have been possible. They think that the reason they are where they are, is because they did it all. They worked hard, they gained the knowledge to get where they are, they did this or that. The glory goes to them. They never once consider that without God allowing them to be successful, they wouldn’t be where they are at this time.

God is reminding the children of Israel that what they have is not because they did it on their own, but that God gave them the power to accomplish their goal. It is He who gives health to be able to work, it is He who gives the knowledge to learn skills, it is He who gives opportunities to develop their skills, God is the one to receive the glory for it all.

I had an uncle who did very well for himself. He was able to do so many things that my family were not able to do. However, what he failed to realize was that no matter what it was, he was not the reason he had acquired all he had, it was God’s goodness and graciousness that allowed him to have the wealth that he had. My uncle had the mindset that if he could buy his way into Heaven, he would be ok. I don’t know if he ever came to the point of turning his life over to Christ, only God knows that. But my heart is sad, because he never really understood that God was the reason he was so successful, and that he needed to change his focus from getting all he could get, to surrendering everything to Jesus. I loved my uncle very much, and I am glad he could enjoy things that I have never been able to, but I look at my uncle’s life, and what I see was a man, who deep down inside, was always searching, never fully happy or fulfilled, and was empty inside because He didn’t focus on God. He didn’t remember that God gave him the power to do what he was able to do. God was not part of the equation in his life.

As Believers, we also must remember that God is to be given the glory for all we have and are able to do. He gives us power, through the Holy Spirit, to witness, to live our lives as an acceptable offering to Him and be able to acquire wealth. He alone is to be given the glory for it all. He gives us the skills, the giftings, the talent, the knowledge, and the opportunities to be successful. Sometimes I think we get a little too full of ourselves and tend to forget that without Him, we can do nothing! (John 15:5)

We are blessed beyond measure, and God also gives us the hope we need to accomplish the dreams He has placed in us. Those dreams may include our part in spreading the Gospel to those who need to know who Jesus is, and to lead them into a relationship with Him. God gives us the avenues, be it speaking one on one with someone, broadcasting over radio and television, writing books, magazine articles, or blogs, or developing a website that draws people to further investigate God’s love and mercy to us, or through music, artwork, or dance. There are numerous ways to reach people with the love of Jesus, and He gives us the power and the wherewithal to accomplish those things.

So today, let us remind ourselves that what we are able to do, what we are able to gain, is only because God gives us the power! His Holy Spirit resides in us, helps us, guides and counsels us. Remember God.

Waymaker

 

Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday, and especially in Pentecostal churches, there is always a focus on the work of the Holy Spirit. Our First Lady (pastor’s wife for those not familiar with that term) is also our worship leader and she brought a new song to us. The song is called, Waymaker, and the congregation just soaked that song in! It has been running through my mind since yesterday, and I’m letting it sink deep into my soul.

I’ve included a link to a You Tube video on this song, and if you’re not used to Pentecostal services, it could be a little overwhelming, but don’t let it scare you because God will touch your soul deeply!  https://youtu.be/KeXcHAurv5A

Isaiah 43:19 says, “Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.” (NASB) God has promised to make a way for us in whatever situation we find ourselves. We can have confidence in knowing that whatever is going on in our lives is not unnoticed by God. He knows, and He cares. We have several people in our congregation that are currently going through some pretty devastating illnesses. Some are going through difficult circumstances in their lives, but all of these people have strong faith that God will see them through. One of my friend’s is right now battling leukemia and praising God for a Christian doctor who prays with her. God is working a miracle in her life. She has a form of leukemia that, as far as I know, has no cure, BUT GOD, is healing her! The last report she gave us was that the chemo is working and the tests on her blood shows great improvement. We all are believing God that she will beat the predictions of the doctors and that God will heal her completely!

Each of us has gone through some devastating things, financial crisis, marriage difficulties, loss of loved ones, horrible illnesses, situations that seem unsurmountable! But God has promised that He is doing a new thing in our lives, He’s making a way, a new path, creating circumstances to be placed in our lives to bring about a greater faith in Him and for our good! I love the part of the song that says, “Even when I don’t feel it, You’re still working! You never stop, never stop working!” That is such a powerful phrase that we can lean upon. We can trust that He will keep us in His hand, He will guide us, He will make new paths for us to travel and new ways for us to trust Him.

Pastor’s sermon was called, “Infusion”, and he talked about allowing the Holy Spirit to be infused into our hearts and into our lives so that others may see Jesus in us, and that we receive power from the Holy Spirit to reach others for Him. Our purpose as Believers is to witness. That can take various forms, one on one speaking to someone about God, living in a manner that reflects God in our lives, through music, through the spoken word on radio and television stations, and even in the written word through books, devotionals, websites, and blogs. Whatever way we witness, it is our “job” if you will, to reach others for Christ. Jesus’ last words to His disciples was to “Go into all the world and make disciples.” (Matthew 28:19)

So, as I think about infusing the Holy Spirit into my life, I also am allowing the song to be infused into my heart. It’s a mantra of praise, worship, encouragement, and declaration that God is in control, He knows everything I’m going through, and I don’t have to worry or be afraid, because I know He is a Waymaker and He has me in the palm of His hand!

 

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!