Chance of Showers

storm-clouds-above-the-field-grass-sky-nature-1920x1200-wallpaper360974With the internet down for the past three days (ah, country living!) I’ve come to realize just how much I depend on the crazy thing! Is it going to rain, or will these clouds move out? Wow! It’s given me an appreciation for farmers who lived before any broadcasting system! So, should I hang the sheets out to dry or not? You may wonder, “Why take the chance?” If you’ve never slept on sheets hung out to dry in the fresh summer air, then you wouldn’t understand! The sheets come off the line crisp and smelling like fresh air. But should I risk it?

This relatively minor quandary reminds me of the dilemma we face when giving someone the Gospel. Should I risk offending them, or having them belittle me? Will they become angry and reject the message? We don’t know; and unlike so many ads that we hear today, there are no guarantees.  Jesus only said, “Go!” But wait! That’s not true.  He also said this:

…and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Matthew 28:20

He promises to go with us, even if it’s just across the street! What a comfort to know that He is with us in every situation, especially when we are sharing the Gospel. He will help us to know what to say and what NOT to say, when to speak and when to be quiet. We are not responsible for the results because we cannot do the “saving.” That’s the work of the Lord. We’re only responsible for going because it is a command of God.

I remember hearing the story about a man who witnessed to a person whom he had been praying for for a long time.  The man slammed the door in his face, and the ‘Gospel-giver’ went to his car, sat there a moment, and began to weep for the other man’s soul. He prayed and felt that the Lord wanted him to try again, and when he returned to the door, the man let him in and trusted Jesus Christ as his Savior. That’s an example of a man who never even looks at the forecast! Praise the Lord.  There is truly no greater joy than having the privilege to lead someone to Christ—it’s better than sheets fresh off the line!

Chance of showers? Well, since it’s been a few hours since I started this post, I can tell you that it did rain, but not until I got the sheets off the line!

 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.Proverbs 11:30

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Just a Taste

chocolate-meio-amargo-alfarroba-melhor-opcao-para-dieta-58878As I face another good-bye, I’m working HARD to keep focused! Our youngest son and his little family have been here for a week now. The Lord has blessed us with perfect weather and wonderful opportunities to pack in the memories! Now, it’s time to get back to “normal.”

Normal—what does that look like? Well, for me, it means one son and his family living 1,292miles away, this son and his family 674 miles living away, and our daughter and her family just down the road eleven miles. Up until March, our oldest son was just twenty miles down the road. We’re a close-knit family. We love to be together. One of my favorite family activities is singing together. We’ve ministered together, and for years that was “normal.” But it’s not normal now, and I’m still struggling to adjust to my new normal. How can I do that?

O taste and see…

I’ve “tasted” that sweet manna of my family all around me, so how do I settle for less? How do I settle for flavored chocolate when I’ve eaten Ghirardelli’s?

Little by little, the pieces fall into place, and I’ve come to realize that part of the healing process in any situation is understanding the pain. Why am I struggling so? Why can’t I just get over this? Why can’t I just be happy with where I am in life? Do you find yourself asking those questions? Well, I have the answers! NOT! But… I do know Someone who does, and He has taught me a few things:

  1. Get the labels right. This new normal is not less perfect than the old normal because it is God’s normal for me! How can a spouse endure the loss of a lifetime best friend unless he or she embraces this thought? How does a person endure a career change when he has lost his dream job? How does a mom deal with an injury that leaves her healthy child crippled? How can we cope when a teen chooses to stray down a deadly path?

O taste and see that the LORD is good…

In Psalm 34, David tells us to “taste and see” that the Lord is good! David wrote this psalm while he was running from Saul. He ran to Gaza, a major city of Israel’s enemies, the Philistines, and ended up feigning madness to escape. Great circumstances, don’t you think? He had enjoyed great success, but now he was a hunted man, and yet he gives us so many nuggets of true faith in this psalm.

  1. Live in the moment. That might sound like worldly advice but it is good advice. When we live in the past or live for the future, we miss today! Another way to put it, which is not original to me, is “keep your mind where your body is.”

Later, when David longed for the waters of Bethlehem, three of his valiant men risked their lives by breaking through the Philistine battle lines in order to grant his request. Longing for the past or hoping for the future can be deadly! At the very least, it makes us miserable today. It can also bring on depression and bitterness—two of Satan’s sharpest and deadliest weapons!

  1. Trust, trust, trust! Do I really believe that God knows best or are they just words?

O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. Psalm 34:8

Spurgeon writes this:

“No one knows how sweet honey is till he tastes it, and even so the sweetness of true religion cannot be learned by mere hearing, we must try it for ourselves.  O Lord, help all in this family to prove the power of faith in Jesus, and the efficacy [effectiveness] of prayer to God for themselves.”quote

Trials will taste bitter unless we look past them to the One
who holds the spoon! Then we
see the love in His eyes, and His look sweetens the bitterest pill. We hear the love in His gentle voice, and we know that it is good because He only does what is best. We are blessed because we trust Him!

The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing. (v. 10)

Again, Spurgeon writes:

“Lions are strong, fierce, and crafty, yet they hunger; men of the world are also very cunning and full of self-confidence, yet they are not satisfied.  But humble believers, though often weak, and in the world’s judgment, very foolish, are yet blessed with every needful blessing by their gracious God.”

Can you be a humble believer? Can you yield to whatever God puts in your path?  That’s the question that I ask myself, and I’m afraid to say, “no!” More than that, I don’t WANT to say, “no” because…

The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

AND…

The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. (16-18)

One last note from Spurgeon, who fought what was called “causeless depression” most of his life:

“What a blessing to have a tender sense of sin.  We have heard of persons dying of a broken heart, but if repentance breaks our hearts we shall live eternally.”

When the Foundations Are Destroyed

Just passing on a blessing from “Days of Praise.”

“If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)

The word here for “foundations” is not the usual word for, say, a building foundation. Used rarely, a better translation of this word would be “purpose,” or “basis.” The fear expressed is not that the foundations of our faith might be undermined but that we might lose our sense of purpose.

In the context of the psalm, David was in danger of becoming demoralized by the pressures of wicked desires and evil ambitions all around him, and Christians surely have the same problem today. Why shouldquote we try to maintain high standards of doctrinal integrity and moral purity when the people around us—even most Christians—seem to be occupied mostly with materialistic ambition and pursuit of pleasure? If we allow the devil to undermine the very purposes God has for our lives, wandering away from His will in favor of some temporal interest, then why even continue with a pretense of Christian living?

David’s solution was simply to remind himself that “the LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’s throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men” (v. 4). He may allow the righteous to be tried for a season, but we must not forget that “the righteous LORD loveth righteousness” (v. 7) and that “the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth” (v. 5).

When we are tempted to wonder whether it is really worth all the effort, and when our very foundation and purpose for living seems to be crumbling, we should remember that our God is Creator, Sustainer, and Judge of all—that He still is on His throne, and that we who belong to Him have been “predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11). HMM

Our Heavenly Home

62aaee287cc77d7b5b870b3d60becf15Dorothy really did get it right—there’s no place like home!

Last week, we returned home after traveling nearly 2,500 miles, through nine states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota (our point of GREAT interest—but that’s another post!), Missouri, and Kentucky. What a wonderful country I am privileged to call home, and we didn’t even see half of it!! As the hills turned into rolling farmland and we crossed the Mississippi, I was amazed at the farms AND the flatness. I suppose I’ll always be a Pennsylvanian, but it was good to see another part of the good ol’ USA.

Home—what makes a place become a home? Familiarity, family, ownership, personal items? These may all be true, but the greatest ingredient needed to turn a house into a home is time. If you’ve ever moved from a home where you resided for a long time, you have experienced the uncomfortableness of newness. Where’s my favorite mug, my slippers, my toothbrush?!

Home—surrounded by all those people and things you love. I love to travel, and we’ve rarely been gone for such an extended time, but when we walked into the house, I was surprised at the overwhelming joy that flooded my heart! I was home, and I was so glad!

Just think of stepping on the shore and find heaven,

 Of touching a hand and finding it God’s,

Of breathing new air and finding it celestial,

Of waking up in glory and finding it home.

~ L. E. Singer

In the swirl of confusion and difficulties which crowd into our lives, what joy and comfort to know that one day, we will be truly home! Peace and safety, joy and rejoicing, a place filled with Jesus Christ and all that He is! Will it feel like home? As a born-again believer, heaven becomes home in the same way that a place becomes home—by spending time there. But, you may ask, how can I spend time in heaven? Bring it down to earth! Clip off the rough edges of your person—the words and actions which sprout in the opposite direction of Christ-likeness—and heaven begins to bloom in your heart and life. Train up your children to walk in the goodness of the Lord. Spend time with God’s children. All these things prepare us for that place called our heavenly home!  And the less “world” that you bring into your home, the more heavenly it will be! If you need a few more ideas, check out the wonderful words to this hymn:

Take Time to Be Holy

William D. Longstaff,

 

1. Take time to be holy,
speak oft with thy Lord;
abide in him always,
and feed on his word.
Make friends of God’s children,
help those who are weak,
forgetting in nothing
his blessing to seek.

2. Take time to be holy,
the world rushes on;
spend much time in secret
with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus,
like him thou shalt be;
thy friends in thy conduct
his likeness shall see.

3. Take time to be holy,
let him be thy guide,
and run not before him,
whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow,
still follow the Lord,
and, looking to Jesus,
still trust in his word.

4. Take time to be holy,
be calm in thy soul,
each thought and each motive
beneath his control.
Thus led by his spirit
to fountains of love,
thou soon shalt be fitted
for service above.

 

 

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Lincoln’s Greatness

maxresdefaultThis past week, I had the privilege to visit Lincoln’s hometown of Springfield, Illinois. We toured the house and visited his presidential library and museum. I was nearly brought to tears because of the museum’s wonderful portrayal of this great man, who was destined by God to lead our country through some of its darkest hours.

So, what is the secret of his greatness? As I read and listened to several of his speeches, I began to notice a common thread. Here are just five of his most famous speeches:

  1. Peoria, Illinois: October 16, 1854 “If the negro is a man, why then my ancient faith teaches me that `all men are created equal;’ and that there can be no moral right in connection with one man’s making a slave of another.”
  1. Illinois Republican State Convention, Springfield, Illinois:June 16, 1858                  A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Mt. 12:25)
  1. Farewell Address, Springfield, Illinois: February 11, 1861                                         Without the assistance of that Divine Being, who ever attended [George Washington], I cannot succeed. With that assistance, I cannot fail. Trusting in Him, who can go with me, and remain with you and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.
  1. Gettysburg Address, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: November 19, 1863                             It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
  1. Second Inaugural Address, United States Capitol, Washington, D.C.: March 4, 1865 Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other… The Almighty has his own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offences! For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” (Mt. 18:7) If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope-fervently do we pray-that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God will that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.” (Psalm 19:9)

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

Do you see it—all the references to God and all the quotes from the Bible? As I stood in his tomb and read his second inaugural address, just five days before Lee surrendered and ten days before Lincoln was assassinated, I was amazed to see that the entire speech was laced with references to God! I don’t believe the words were added for effect but came from a heart that beat for God and knew the scriptures. Abraham Lincoln never joined a church and didn’t attend regularly (even though his wife Mary did). But he obviously read the Bible and was familiar with its content.

So, what’s my point? You don’t need to be in church on Sunday? Well, sadly, many of you may not be, especially with it being a holiday weekend; however, even sadder still is the thought that there may be a day when there is no church to go to because of today’s lack of interest. No, this post is not about church attendance.

Abraham Lincoln knew the Bible. Do you? Do you read it daily? Do you love it? Is it your guide book? Could you…

  1. Name all the books?
  2. Name five authors?
  3. Quote any verses? How many?
  4. Name twenty heroes of the Bible?
  5. Name twelve tribes of Israel?
  6. Name in order the days of creation?
  7. Name the 10 commandments in order?
  8. Name the 12 apostles?
  9. Recite the Lord’s Prayer or the Twenty-third Psalm?
  10. Use verses to lead someone to Christ?

These are just ten random questions off the top of my head. It’s not knowing the trivial facts about the Bible that will change your life, but knowing the God of the Bible, and if you want to know God… know God’s Word!

The message of the Bible came through loud and clear in his speech—he didn’t just tack  “and God bless America”  on the end. It was his guide, his foundation, his focus, and his Friend. AND, the most amazing part is that it can be the same to anyone who wishes it to be true enough to make it happen! Worried about America? READ THE BIBLE!!

 

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God’s Footprint

ID-100144966 (1).jpgWe often use the word “footprint” to describe the area over which something occurs or is effective, e.g. the area where a signal from a communications satellite can be received.  So, how big is God’s footprint?  Some folks just believe that He started this whole ordeal called “life on planet earth” and then went on His way.  If so, then does God have any real effect on my life? I’m so thankful for the godly influences I have had right from the start.  One of my earliest song memories is this:

God sees the little sparrow fall, it meets His tender view;

If God so loved the little sparrow, I know He loves me too.

He loves me too, He loves me too, I know He loves me too.

If God so loved the little sparrow, I know He loves me too!

And that song is based on scripture, which makes it a doctrinally sound little ditty!

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?

and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. Matthew 10:29

That is so amazing! How many sparrows fall to the ground in just one day? He sees them all, and God sees me.  He knows when I need a good price on peanut butter.  He sends His angels ahead of me when I’m driving. (My daughter just drove three hours alone to take photos of a wedding, and had stopped at a rest area for just a moment.  Further down the road, a car was pulled over and had just hit a deer. Her comment, that it could have been her if she had not stopped, is exactly right!)

And if songs and live testimonies aren’t enough, look at Proverbs 16:

  • The preparations of the heart in man,
  • and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD. (v. 1)
  • A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps. (v. 9)
  • he lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD. (v. 33)

Of course, there are dozens of verses which say the same thing, but here are just four examples in one Proverb!

  How big is God’s footprint in your life?

Do you allow Him to affect every part? Do you ask Him to direct your steps? Guard your heart? Guide your words? Some may say that’s a crutch, but I believe it’s the smartest thing we can do as children of God.  After all, if your toddler was heading for the road, wouldn’t you stop him? You see the danger that he doesn’t see, and you gladly intervene even though he doesn’t ask you to! Oh, how big our God is! He is our infinitely all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, good and gracious heavenly Father; He sees the beginning and end of YOUR life, and every step in between! Why would anyone ever choose to have his or her own way?

Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established. Proverb 16:3

 Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool:

where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? 

Isaiah 66:1

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Watch your words

Dare to Stand…

Watch your wordsThis week, while subbing in a public high school, I sat and listened to two seniors exclaiming over a senior project. It was a slideshow of all the seniors, showing their lives throughout their school years—quite a project, and well done, I might add.

However, as I heard the Lord’s name over and over again, a phrase of exclamation with no thought to God, I prayed for wisdom.  We “just happened” to be in the same room; I wasn’t teaching them. Finally, I went to them, sat and looked at the project with them, exclaiming what a great job she had done.  Then I asked them if they realized how many times they had used that God-dishonoring phrase.  They sheepishly said, “No,” and then asked me how many times.  (As though I was counting!) I said that I didn’t know, but then read Exodus 20: 7 and briefly talked to them about it, hoping for an open door.  Amazingly or not so amazingly, the phone rang just at that time! Curse the god of this world!!!

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain;

for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

I talked with them a little bit afterwards but didn’t sense an open door.

What would you have done? I don’t really know these girls. I’m thankful for the rapport that I have with the students, but it seems to be more and more difficult to speak to them about spiritual matters. So many thoughts went through my mind:

  1. Just leave it alone. They don’t even know you, and you don’t want to push them away from God.
  2. They’ll think you’re some sort of religious freak.
  3. Just pray for someone else to enter their lives and challenge them—someone they know.
  4. Coward!
  5. If you don’t tell them, who will?

The last argument won out, and here’s why:

At times, when I’m teaching piano lessons, a student will play something incorrectly.  It may be just a little thing and I’m tempted to overlook it; but this thought goes through my mind: How will they learn if you don’t tell them that it’s wrong?  Seems like a no-brainer.

How much more serious is taking the Lord’s name in vain! Not learning how a phrase of music should sound will not affect that student’s eternal soul, but vainly using God’s name will!  Take another look at the verse, especially the second line:

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain;

for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

GUILTY IN THE FACE OF GOD! That’s pretty serious.  Satan laughs as EVERYONE, even professing Christians, vainly spew forth this phrase or its abbreviation. (This is another of my pet peeves.  If I write PA on an envelope, everyone knows it stands for Pennsylvania.  It’s not weaker, not even a substitute—IT MEANS THE SAME AS ‘PENNSYLVANIA!’ So, isn’t the same true for THAT God-dishonoring phrase?)  Students are never corrected about this phrase.  They will be rebuked for the “four letter words,” but glibly using God’s name goes unchecked.  Even the teachers interject God’s name into their comments. It’s just another word, but is it? I think the little clue that is given for kids to remember the Commandment Number Three, is pretty effective.  Hold up three fingers, trace the ‘W’ you see, and remind yourself to WATCH YOUR WORDS!