Chink in My Armor

chink-in-the-armorIt’s a dreadful thing when Satan finds the chink in our armor. A chink is a place where the armor comes together.  It’s a weak spot for no other reason than necessity. It’s not that the armor is poorly made. Chinks need to be there. We also use that word when referring to a log cabin.  The chinking is the mixture that goes between the logs. If there are any weak spots in the chinking of a log home, the chilling winter wind will whistle its way into the cabin or a varmint may creep in as well.

What is your weak spot? Your “chink?” Where is that place where Satan hurls his fiery darts, trying to destroy you? For me, it’s my children. Our two sons, their wives, and five of our seven grandchildren live over 12 hours away.  I never understood the joy of grandparenting until I became a grandmother.  I love those little ones and just want to spend time with them… but I can’t.  They are too far away.

And what does Satan do? He needles me, tempting me with all sorts of wrong thoughts and foolish reasoning. How slippery the trial he puts before us, decorated to make it look inviting! It reminds me of the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast” sitting before the fire licking his wounds. Belle wants to clean the deep scratches but instead, the Beast withdraws and cares for his hurts in his own way. That particular scene is pivotal in their relationship, and as the beast holds out his arm for Belle to clean, she thanks him for saving her life. The cleansing hurts but her tender touch and kind remarks start to heal the Beast internally as well as externally.

So, once again I return to my “normal”—facetime and phone calls. The “decorated path” that Satan puts before me borders on bitterness. I want to “lick my wounds” and have a pity party! But instead, I surrender my desires for the Lord’s will and trust Him to do what is best! That’s not easy but it provides peace in my soul and healing where the fiery darts have wounded. Going my own way—demanding my own way—will never bring lasting peace.  It may relieve the present pain, like the Beast licking his wounds, but I’m looking for eternal rest, not temporary relief!

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3: 5,6

Only Trust Him

Come, every soul by sin oppressed,
there’s mercy with the Lord,
and He will surely give you rest
by trusting in His word.

Refrain:
Only trust Him, only trust Him,
only trust Him now;
He will save you, He will save you.
He will save you now.

For Jesus shed His precious blood
rich blessings to bestow;
plunge now into the crimson flood
that washes white as snow.

 Yes, Jesus is the truth, the way,
that leads you into rest;
believe in Him without delay,
and you are fully blest.

Come, then, and join this holy band,
and on to glory go,
to dwell in that celestial land
where joys immortal flow.

Only trust Him, only trust Him,
only trust Him now;
He will save you, He will save you.
He will save you now.

~ John Stockton

 

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My Poor Little Zinnias!

zinniasI decided to start zinnias from seed this year. Yesterday, I transplanted them.  I was amazed at the length of their little roots! They had sent them down as far as their shallow soil would allow them to go and then made a sharp right and started crawling along the bottom of the tray! So, I scooped them out and transplanted them into their own little pots; and this is how they look this morning…

Poor little fellas! I wonder if this is how the disciples felt this morning! It’s Saturday—the wonderful once-a-year Passover celebration culminates today! They should be excited, but you see, Jesus had uprooted them out of their comfortable, several millennia of traditions, and they didn’t even know it until this past week. Even though He told them what was going to happen, their eyes and ears and hearts were blinded to understanding His purpose.

Had my little zinnias known what was coming, they might have hunkered down and said, “No! We’re fine here! We’re not moving.” But if they could have done that, they would have eventually died. They would never have produced any flowers. They would have looked pathetic.

Do you ever feel like that?  God has pulled you up by the roots out of your comfy, cozy spot and put you into unfamiliar surroundings.  They seem harsh and unforgiving. You just want to lie down and die!  But wait! There’s something nice about this new place. Mmmm! My toesies have so much room!  I can stretch way down! And this new soil is really nice. I think I’ll just reach my little leaves towards the sun and GROW!  I’m so glad this happened!

Can we say, “I’m so glad this happened,” when life falls apart?  Better yet, can we say, “I’m so glad God did this?”

I would say most of us do not remember what happened on November 5th, 2017. If I mention Sutherland Springs, Texas, some of us might recall the infamous event. That day, 26 people who went to church to worship God, praising His name with their families and friends. But God had other plans.

How do we cope with something like that?  How do we grow through what would seem to be a dry and barren land? Here are some thoughts:

  1. We fall back on what we know: God is ALWAYS good. This step is so foundational to any further steps we take. Anything less will lead us down the wrong path. “ And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day” ( Deuteronomy 6:24).
  2. We draw closer to God and learn of Him. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Titus, James, Peter… these men experienced firsthand the almighty power of God! They have so much to tell us, and since it is really God’s Word and not theirs, it is a well so deep, it will never run dry! ” Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
  3. We gather strength from others: This is why a network of believers is so important. (Recommended: flesh and blood. Social media is great but it can’t give hugs!) We go to the huddle known as church and we learn and weep and pray, drawing strength from each other. “…not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).
  4. We take one step at a time. One of my favorite pictures is of the Guardian Angel,41 portraying an angel watching over two small children while they cross a torrential stream via a very rickety bridge. Just like those children, we walk “circumspectly,” testing each toehold to be sure it will hold, avoiding the pitfalls of pity, anger, bitterness, doubts, fears… the list is endless! (BTW, those are all “fiery darts” and you know who is hurling them!)

The apostles would never be the same. In fact, this dark, distressing week was only the beginning. It would pale in comparison to the testings and trials that were coming their way. BUT, Sunday made all the difference!  Jesus’ resurrection changed them, forged them into great heroes of the faith! Oh, to think that our trials as well are designed to kill us… so that we too can truly live!

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

 

Burning, Burning, Burning

Candle_(Slava_celebration)“A good teacher is like a candle, it consumes itself to light the way for others.” I saw this quote in one classroom and thought it was worth sharing, but couldn’t we broaden the scope a little:

“A good pastor is like a candle, who consumes himself to light the way for others.”

“A good Sunday school teacher…”

“A born-again believer…”

Isn’t that our calling–to be spent so that others will see the True Light–Jesus Christ? How are we “consumed?” Like that candle, we become consumed as we live and walk for our Lord.  Our testimony shines because we are “consumed” or are willing to sacrifice…

  • Our ways — living in the light of the gospel may require giving up our ways for His Way.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. Isaiah 55:8

  • Our thoughts — EVERYONE has an opinion.  I overheard a 7th grader explaining that she didn’t follow any religion.  She just goes on her experiences. WOW! It made me realize that many people are missing the one essential factor which directs my path. As believers, we are three-part beings: body, soul, and spirit. Our goal is to have the Spirit of God control our mind which, in turn, controls our bodies. When a person leaves God out of the picture, he will listen either to the desires of his flesh or the dictates of his mind.

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

Below is a chart of the outcomes when we allow either the bodies or our minds have greater sway than God’s Holy Spirit.

Body-controlled Mind-controlled Spirit Flesh wins every time.
Body-controlled Spirit-controlled Mind Spirit is controlling the mind, but only when the body allows.
Mind-controlled Body-controlled Spirit A disciplined person who factors God right out of the equation.
Mind-controlled Spirit-controlled Body A disciplined person, but logic overrules faith.
Spirit-controlled Body-controlled Mind Physical actions overrule common sense quenching the Spirit of God.
Spirit-controlled Mind-controlled Body Spirit has His way in the mind, which, in turn, dictates the body’s actions.
  • Our Expectations — Sometimes we just assume the outcome.  We assume that our marriage will be bumpless, our houses spotless, our children nearly sinless. God’s plan may be different from ours because He sees and knows everything, and His expectations for us to “come forth as gold” often require circumstances beyond our expectations.

But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. Job 23:10

A good teacher or pastor gladly pours himself out for his class/congregation, thrilling when he sees a student gain understanding or a church member yield and grow.

Burning with a passion for Christ can cause burnout unless we experience a Maccabee’s miracle! Around 200 BC, a Syrian king took over Jerusalem. He allowed the Jews to stay but prohibited them to worship in their traditional way, encouraging them to worship the Greek gods. Some did, and they were called Hellenistic Jews. However, when this king built a statue of Zeus in the Temple, the Jewish people had had enough and revolted.

When they successfully ousted a much larger and better-equipped army, they cleared out the Temple and rededicated it to the Lord; however, they only had enough oil to burn the Menorah for one day.  Miraculously, it burned for eight, and this miracle is celebrated every Hannakuh.

We will soon be consumed if our strength is not from God.  There isn’t enough wick or wax to finish the course.  Some Christians sputter at the very beginning of their walk, perhaps because they are CINOs: Christian In Name Only. Sputtering is also caused by the splash of the world, our flesh, and Satan who would gladly extinguish our light IF HE COULD! (Praise God, He can’t!) It may be caused because we are too close to the world’s faucet of foolishness, and we are not regularly dipping our candles into the wax of the Word.

Daily, we need to do a self-check to be certain we’re ready to shine brightly, by…

  • Trimming our wicks
  • Cleaning our chimneys
  • Being filled with the Word.

 

“Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning.”

Recalcitrant, Dead and Inert

ID-100159550The first word in the title stopped me  — what does it mean ? In this wonderful age of devices and gadgets, I just highlight it, and, bingo, there’s the definition: having an obstinately uncooperative attitude toward authority or discipline.

So, when the call comes that a funeral has derailed our plans for Bible Conference, I find myself a bit recalcitrant, and that, my friend, is not an attribute of holiness!

Lately, the desire for holiness in my life has moved to the front burner. Am I living a holy life, and what does that mean? A recent quote said, “Think not on a holy life, but on a holy moment as it flies” (John Kitto).

Holiness is a lifelong process of making right choices! So, when I read this devotion, I felt that perhaps it could be a help to you as it was to me! R.C. Sproul has a way with words, even if they are big ones ! 🙂

Becoming a New Creation

As Christians, we are new creations. Our hearts of stone have been turned into hearts of flesh. In this metaphor, flesh is used as a positive figure, not a pejorative one. Where once my heart was cold and recalcitrant, dead and inert to the things of God, now it throbs and pulsates with spiritual life. Once I was biologically alive but spiritually dead. Now I am biologically alive and spiritually alive as well. I am a new person.

There is radical discontinuity between my new self and my old self. This radical discontinuity, however, is not total discontinuity. A link between the old man and the new man remains. The old man has been dealt a mortal blow. His total destruction is certain, but he is not yet dead.

The conflict of the Christian life is a struggle with sin. Sin no longer has dominion over us if we are in Christ, yet sin is still in us. Regeneration liberates us from the bondage of original sin, but our corrupt nature is not totally annihilated this side of heaven.

Paul speaks of the warfare that goes on between the flesh and the spirit. “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Gal. 5:17).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Thank God for the new heart of flesh He has implanted in your spiritual being.

Copyright © Ligonier Ministries. Get a free book from R.C. Sproul

Growing Old… Gracefully?

Related imageWe’ve all heard that phrase, but as I approach six decades, I’m beginning to think I fit more accurately into that category than the “middle-age” bracket I’d like to claim. Certainly, my body creaks and groans like an old, sagging door, and my stiff joints remind me of our twelve-year-old Cocker Spaniel when she first awakens. But what does it mean to “grow old gracefully,” and how is it accomplished?

I’m sure I don’t have all the answers, but another phrase often comes to mind when I’m around older people.  “What we practice in our youth we will magnify in our old age.” For example, a cantankerous man will be a cantankerous old man. We don’t just suddenly become something that we haven’t been “practicing” all our lives! In our younger days, we may be able to cover our cantankerous tracks with grace, but when we are older, sadly, either we don’t care anymore to apply tact, or we aren’t able to because of the effects of the dreaded duo: Alzheimers and dementia.

Our church recently had the funeral of a 100-year-old woman. My husband has been pastoring her for eleven years, and in that time I can’t recall EVER hearing an unkind remark, complaint, or wrangling word come from her mouth. She loved the Lord, loved everybody, and everyone loved her. Her funeral was a celebration of her life and testimony before the Lord. At the end of the service, the family gathered round the casket in the front of the church, but it seemed as though they just didn’t want to leave.  This happened again at the graveside as well. They hated to say good-bye to this dear, dear mother, grandmother, great-grand mother, aunt, sister, and friend. Yes, they knew they would see her again, but this withered and worn shell had housed a dear, sweet soul. That face had lit up so infectiously so often that it was hard to let go.

Mary Wilson had her mind and body nearly to the end of her life, and she always praised the Lord for it. I’ve visited dear saints who have lost their minds and make no sense in their speech or understanding; however, when my husband would begin to quote scripture or we would sing a hymn, their faces would brighten and they would quote the verse with him or sing along.  Hallelujah! What a wonderful example of the spirit being willing but the flesh weak! (Matthew 26:41)Years of tucking verses away in the heart and keeping a song on the lips will bring great dividends!

So what are you “practicing?” Are you working daily to develop a kind and gentle spirit?

“Well, I’m just naturally …” you fill in the bitter blank. But know that we all come with a bent toward sin. Yes, some are, by nature, more easy going, but the fruit of the spirit is available to all! You will preach what you practice when you practice what you preach!

By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. Hebrews 11:4

 

Weak Greeks

wonder woman.jpgI watched “Wonder Woman” the other night at our daughter’s suggestion.  I had seen some of the other Marvel movies, so I knew what to expect. Although they are not my favorite type of movie, the ending made it worth watching.  Granted, all the Greek gods get on my nerves, but then they made me think about our one true God. Consider these comparisons:

  • Zeus is just a puppet god, a myth. He supposedly dies somewhere in the past as mentioned at the start of “Wonder Woman.” Our almighty Father is from everlasting to everlasting. He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting (Habakkuk 3:2).
  • Zeus’ powers are limited, but Jehovah is omnipotent. God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God (Psalm 62:11).
  • Zeus lived on Mount Olympus and visited the people of earth, but our God is omnipresent. Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else (Deuteronomy 4:39).
  • Zeus made mistakes. Our God is perfect. He knows everything. Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite (Psalm 147:5). Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:13).

According to “Wonder Woman” folklore, Zeus created man and Ares, his son—the god of war—is out to destroy man, believing that Zeus’ creation was a big mistake. As I listened to these statements, first, I was saddened to think that some folks watch these things and think, “Hey, why not!  Maybe that’s really how it happened!” Then, I think about the truth of the scriptures, that our Jehovah, God Almighty, did create man in His own image.  He did create Satan as a glorious being whose pride caused him to fall from heaven as well as from God’s grace. On this account, there are parallels between Greek mythology and the truth of the Bible. Our enemy is still trying to destroy us!

But two amazing facts just brightened my morning!

  1. Our loving, gracious, all-knowing, all-loving heavenly Father witnessed the fall and provided His only begotten (not made) Son as the ultimate sacrifice for man’s sin. AMAZING! Greek gods don’t do that!
  2. This one true God not only sent His Son, the perfect lamb, to die for our sins conquering death by rising from the dead, but His Spirit dwells in our hearts when we accept His gift of salvation. That wonderful fact—God dwelling in me—gives me an unshakeable, unbreakable, power in my life! Satan may load us down with all kinds of discouragements, accusations, temptations, and failures, but the power that lives within our hearts CANNOT FAIL US! I don’t know about you, but I think I need to go get a hanky and jump on my bed at that thought!!! Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world (1John 4:4).

I don’t think I can express the impact that this thought has had on my life. There are no words to describe it.  I cannot even comprehend it! As I watched Wonder Woman pick up tanks and hurl them at Ares, and he tries to destroy her with his electrical thunderbolts, I laughed.  “Ha!  That’s nothing compared to my God—the God which lives in me!” Can you imagine if we allowed that power to have complete rule in our lives what the result would be? Suffice it to say, Satan cannot win!  He can make this life difficult, but our God is no weak god! He knows all, sees all, plans it all! Hallelujah! Just had to share it!

 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,

whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy. Psalm 107:2

Bile (Boil) That Cabbage Down

If you’ve lost a loved one, then you will understand this scenario:  I’m preparing to teach elementary music when my eyes fall on the 5th Grade Chorus music—Bile That Cabbage Down.  I choke and a tear springs to my eye because it brings back a very fond memory of my father who passed away in 2009. He didn’t play the guitar often and he didn’t sing often, but when he was being silly, he would sing this song while playing the guitar… and I loved to hear it! My dad, who was very private with his feelings and not an “in front of people” guy, could be so different in the shelter of our home. He was silly! He loved to tease. Oh, the memory just makes my heart ache for him!

Then my next thought stopped me short. I wish I had…

  • Spent more time with him
  • Not wasted so many moments being a rebellious teen. (One summer we rode to work together and they were the most silent rides of my life! Why didn’t I try harder to talk to him? I hear you saying, “But he should have talked to you.” True, but now he’s gone.)
  • Worked harder to know him better
  • Been more patient with him

Even though these are relatively minor regrets, they do come to mind and bring with them a lesson for today that I would urgently suggest you consider…

  • Spend more time with people than your computer
  • Get out of your comfort zone and SAY SOMETHING!
  • Work at family relationships. They can become so strained by miscommunications, lack of time together, morbid self-introspection, jealousy, selfishness, and just plain meanness
  • Be more patient, especially with elderly folks and teens. These are two groups of special needs people.  We’ve all either been there or will be there! Teens bark more than they bite, and I have yet to be bitten by one because I started a conversation.  And as a pre-older person 🙂 (OK, so I might not be speaking the truth in my heart!) I’m beginning to understand the aches and pains, the disappointments life seems to throw at us, and the frightening thought that time is changing more than I can handle.

You may say…

  • “But I can’t!” Are you sure?
  • “You don’t understand.” No, but God does!
  • “It’s impossible.” But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).
  • “It won’t change anything.” Oh, but you don’t know until you try! Sometimes we are so busy looking for the other person to change that we fail to realize the change that needs to happen in our own hearts!

Sometimes, when counseling with someone or in a teaching moment when I’ve tried to encourage someone to make right choices and do the hard thing, I wish that I could play back all the excuses I hear. But then there are those precious moments when the listener hears with a heart surrendered to do God’s will, and I know there’s hope for that one!

I hope this challenge blesses and changes you—I know it has touched my heart!  I needed it. Praise the Lord!