Saturday, June 28, 2014

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Searching for Treasure

Searching for Treasure

(It is God who works within you!)

          Some weeks ago, I began to accumulate notes and thoughts for a story that was to be entitled “What Manner of Man Am I.” It is an attempt to understand the difference between the natural man, carnal man, and spirit man. My thoughts at first were more along the generalized study of mankind as a whole.  Yesterday morning I awoke, and for some reason known to my Lord, but unknown to me at that time, He brought two scriptures to my mind.  They were still there this morning enticing me once again to spend time with the Lord to see just what He might have in store for me.  Through them He seems to be leading down a different path than I had expected.  Wherever He leads, is where I long to go.  It’s always a new and exciting adventure each time He comes to me in such a way.  In my minds eye, it’s as if He has just walked into my bedroom and bounces on my bed like a kid full of excitement.  Not wanting to waste one moment of the day or our time together, He urges me; “Get up, get up!  We’ve got places to go and things to see and do!”  Quickly, I get ready to go on another exploratory trip to search for buried treasure.  His excitement is so contagious that it makes me feel as though it must be Christmas morning, and I too can not wait to get started.  In reality, to start on these adventures together, I don’t have to pack a thing, and I don’t have to travel any further than my comfy chair.  The only things I must bring along with me are His Word, my computer, a willing heart, and most importantly, His Holy Spirit.  He is the key that opens the door and makes all of these journeys possible.  I couldn’t ask for a better companion.  He’s always more than willing to go traveling with me, and the truths we find are more precious than silver and gold.  My question to you is; would you like to come along with us?

          Okay, what were those two scriptures that He brought to my mind to ponder upon yesterday and today?  To my surprise, the first was one that I had never really liked.  In fact, when I had read it before, I remembered feeling offended by it.  Therefore, if He really wanted me to look at it, I first had to take my own advice that I have previously given to others.  “If you don’t think something is true or valid in the word, is it not better to at least consider that it is not the word that is in error, but your own ability to discern and understand it?”  If that be true, then why not turn to the one who is the greatest authority.  He will help you open up the package, making sure that you don’t miss any of the smaller and more intricate parts of it. He will help you see and receive the pearl of great price that had been there all along?  You guessed it; He’s your constant companion if you are a believer in Jesus Christ.  You know, the one Jesus said He would send to indwell you and me after His ascension into Heaven?  He is the one who would be our Comforter, who would never leave nor forsake us, for the Holy Spirit can always be depended upon to lead and guide us into all truth. 

          Well, the following is the package that needed to be opened this morning and I really needed His help: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philip. 2: 12, 13)  I had no problem with the “fear and trembling” part, as I believe that refers to the fear of the Lord.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do His commandments: His praise endureth forever.” (Psalm 111: 10)  Note this does not refer to the knowledge of the world, but rather the godly kind of knowledge imparted through His word.  It’s the part about working out your own salvation that bothered me.  Why in the world would I have taken offense at this?  To my way of thinking, it was giving the appearance that my salvation was something that I had to work for to earn.  I knew from the scriptures that salvation can not be earned for it is a gift freely given of the Lord when we choose to believe upon Christ, the only one who has the right and ability to save us through His shed blood on the cross.  “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” (forgiveness of sin)   (Hebrews 9: 22)  Since the Holy Spirit, through His Word, had confirmed that portion of truth concerning salvation, I knew that there must be something else involved in the idea of “working out your own salvation.”  Maybe it was evident to you from the very start, but it wasn’t for me. 

          Since it had been the Lord that brought me along for this treasure hunt this morning, I knew to expect that He would open the eyes of my understanding, that I might, with His help, find the treasure that could be a key to the results of this whole exploratory adventure.  There it was, no longer hidden, but standing in the sunlight for all to see.  What had been the error that had previously hidden its full meaning from me?  I had taken it out of context, thus perverting and distorting its truth.  In order to reveal the fullness of the truth, let us, along with the Holy Spirit, peel back the layers of the onion.  First, we are right in that salvation is a gift from the Lord through faith.  We are born again of the spirit, no longer to exist as a mere “natural man,” for we have become a “spiritual man” born of the Spirit of God through faith in Christ.  If we began our lives after our first birth as a baby, then the same must be true after our second birth.  We all begin our spiritual life as baby Christians, one who must be raised and nurtured under the admonition of the Lord.  Our maturation does not happen over night, but is a life long process.

           So now, what part does this “working out your own salvation” play in the whole maturation process?  To understand that better, let’s look briefly at the process of growing up from a baby for the natural man.  A baby is first fed milk for he’s unable tolerate the whole load of a steak and potatoes meal quite yet. As he grows in stature, he needs the help of others to aid in that growth.  But he also has to do his part to contribute towards his own growth.  He can’t just lay there like a lump on a log if he is ever going to learn to turn over, sit up on his own, crawl, walk, run, think, and so on. 

          Like I said, others can and do help him, but very little is going to take place, other than just getting bigger in size, if he never puts forth effort himself to attain any kind of mastery in these areas of growth.  Therefore, does it not stand to reason that in order for a spiritual man to grow and mature; do we not need to know what God requires of us?  These three scriptures seem to provide a pretty good starting point: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51: 17) “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart: and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34: 18)  “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.”(Ezek. 36: 26)   For a spiritual man to grow in maturity, he must first have a humble heart, not one full of pride.  He must have a spirit that is willing to submit itself to that of the will of God.  As long as we persist to live out our lives as if we know better than God, our hope for any growth towards spiritual maturity in Him is next to no hope at all.  A stony heart is one that is hardened and closed off to the Lord and His ways.  It is most often revealed by the attitude of doubt and unbelief in the truth of God’s word, the truth of the deity of Jesus, the saving power of His death on the cross, and proof that He is who He said He was as demonstrated through His resurrection and ascension into Heaven.  The natural man is more apt to be rebellious and unwilling to even recognize sin in his life.  Try to tell him that the word of God is truth and you will probably find it easier to convince him that frogs don’t jump.  He may give the outward appearance of going about “doing good deeds,” but that is all it is - giving the appearance outwardly, yet concealed within is a prideful and rebellious spirit.  The outward semblance of God might be very visible to the eye, but the power of God through faith is lacking within.  To grow in spiritually, one must have a heart that is ever willing to recognize, confess, and repent from sin. 

          Without submission to the will of God there is no hope of becoming the spiritual man we were designed and planned to be by God.  And that is where the very beginning of the original scripture comes into play.  “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philip. 2: 12, 13)

We must be willing to contribute to our own salvation through the act of obedience, or a conscious decision to live out our lives by being doers of His word and not just hearers only.  As human parents, as we teach and raise our children, it is our hope that one day they will grow and mature to the point when they will no longer need our stern hand over them to stay on the straight and narrow path.  We want them to become self disciplined beings ready and equipped for life.  Our Heavenly Father desires that of us also.  If we endeavor to learn of Him and His ways, as we mature, His ways will become what is ‘normal’ to us.  More and more we will be obedient to His will, not because we have to, but because we want to.  Our old ways will be cast aside, for He has put a new spirit within us; one that is led and taught by the Holy Spirit.

          It is only with an attitude of humility, which grants God control in our hearts, minds, and spirits, that enables God to continue the good work He has begun in us, melting and molding us more and more into His image.  God never enters the heart of anyone without first having been invited to do so.  My original concept of “working out your own salvation” seemed to distract from giving all the glory to God; thus, exalting the position of self above God.  However, somehow I had missed out entirely upon the relevance and cohesiveness of the very last part of the scripture that binds it all together to the glory and magnification of God.  “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philip. 2: 12, 13) Ta dahhhh! Do you see that?  Doesn’t it make you want to jump up and shout, “Yahoo and Praise the Lord”?  Yep, I’m a kid again, it’s Christmas morning, and the surprise package has been opened for all of us to see! Yes, I do have to work out my daily salvation by making a willing decision to cooperate with God in His remaking of me.  But, and here is the best part of it for you and me, who is it that is right there with us doing the real work?  Of course, it’s God the Father who has first loved us. Here we are these minute, frail, faulty messed up children of God, and yet, wonder of all wonders, He has loved us first in spite of ourselves.  He knows exactly what we are, but because He knows the beginning from the end, He also knows what we can become in and through Him.  I don’t know about you, but if this working out things was all left up to me and my own ideas and opinions, apart from God, I’d probably make a pretty big mess of it.  But for the moment, let’s give me the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe, in my own wisdom and knowledge, it might seem on the surface that I’ve done a pretty good job of it.  I’ve attained all the outward signs of health, wealth, and prosperity while on the inside, no matter what I gain from the world’s point of view, I never quite feel like anything is enough and there always seems to be something lacking.  In my feeble way, I keep trying to fill that unhappy void with all the things the world has to offer, never realizing that I am missing out on the best part which is what God had planned – that work that He had intended to do in me “both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”   Look at that once again.  First, He’s going to give us the desire or will to be a doer of the word.  Not only that, now that we want to do His will, He goes another step further in that He helps us to do that which His will.  Just think about that for a moment!  God, who knows and wants only that which is best for us is willing to work in us to create in us a heart, mind, and spirit within us that is submitted to doing His will, and then on top of that, it is His pleasure to do that for and in us.  Why, because He loves you and me, and it pleases Him to do so.  Think of your own children, or the ones you may have in the future.  Think of the joy it gives you when you do something special for them, whether they deserved it or not.  And you did it because you found delight and pleasure in doing something for their good.  He has said, “But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither entered the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” (I Cor. 2: 9)  Good golly Miss Molly, why would anyone want to pass up a deal like that?  When I think of the magnitude of what He offers to do in and through me and you, not just in the here and now, but for all eternity, like the bible says, “I scarce can take it in.”

          Remember at the beginning of today’s adventure with the Lord, I said he had given me two scriptures to ponder on to seek out their hidden treasures?  The second one is: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known.” (I Cor. 13: 12)  When I first began today’s story, I was given a vision in my mind.  It’s rather like playing a video recording in your head, and it was even in Technicolor.  Jesus is with me and we are standing in front of one of those old Victorian style freestanding full length mahogany framed mirrors.  When we first peer into it, we see a scene of a beautiful garden with all manner of beautiful vegetation. There’s a molded cement bench that even has a back support.  Even though it is of cement, it has curves that seem as though they would mold comfortably around your body.  It appears as though we might go in and sit down to visit with one another in it’s peaceful and tranquil atmosphere.  But then I began to think about all of the different pathways, some of them may even have been hidden from our view by the lush vegetation.  As I wondered which pathway He might choose to take me down this morning, this scripture served as a caption, written above the entrance to the garden: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119: 105)  The greatest treasure that you and I can ever find on this earth is the Lord and His word.  He beckons to us to come join Him in His garden, and He will show marvelous wonders unto us that are beyond our imagination.  I think God uses this ‘video’ of His garden to speak to my heart because He know that it has a special  significance and meaning in my life, and in the life of my brothers and sisters.  If you have read my previous stories, you will remember that I have spoken of one of our Daddy’s favorite hymns, “I Come to the Garden Alone.”  I can hear him even now.  He starts the song and the rest of us chime in to sing along with him.  And Mama, she’s sitting beside him with a smile on her face and a tap of her foot as she dances to the tune in her heart.  She is relishing the sweet moment of time together.  Though it is truly a sweet and tender moment, and I do enjoy and appreciate having the opportunity to be “looking  into the mirror darkly” seeing “only in part,” yet my heart so yearns for the time when we shall see Jesus face to face and, along with the Father, Holy Spirit, and all the host of angels, we will lift our voices to sing “And the joy we share, as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”  To God be the Glory!

Thank you Jesus for taking me down this “path” today.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philip. 2: 12, 13)

Monday, June 23, 2014

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Living Out the Word in Your Life

          To gain a full understanding of the impact of this story, I ask you to first read two of my previous stories: “The Journey Is Important” and “The Joy of the Lord Is My Strength” (written just yesterday).  All three, including this present story, are based on my personal life experience.  Together, they could be viewed as a part of a daily spiritual journal, rather like a daily diary, except the focus is meant to be on God and not on self.  Come join with me once again and let us experience together the reality of the scripture, “O taste and see that the Lord is good!”

          I’m sure that all of us would agree that God is so good all the time.  Yet, sometimes I know I get so boggled down in the daily routine of just living life that it seems as though I am much more aware of “me” than I am of the greatness of “Him” in my life.  I can’t express the utter wonder, excitement, and amazement that stirs within my soul when moments occur which seem as though He has just walked in the door of my heart for a personal one on one visit.   He softly shuts the door behind Him, closing the two of us off from the distractions of the world outside.  It’s not as though He wasn’t there all along, but somehow I am more aware of His presence.  He pulls up a chair right in front of me making it comfortable for us to look into each others eyes.  He’s so close that our knees are almost touching, and from time to time He reaches out to hold my hand and speak even more intently to my heart.  He’s so real and near that nothing else exists.  It’s as if He’s saying, “Come on Honey, let’s sit over here together and just you and I have a little time together.”

          I’m sure you too have experienced such moments.  In a past story, I spoke of a time when I was sitting on the bedside of my oldest son when he was only about eight years old.  We held hands as we joined in prayer together.  Just moments into our prayer, my son had a smile on his face and he began to giggle.  I stopped praying for a moment to ask him what was funny.  He said, “You’re talking like He’s really standing right there.”  It was one of those precious moments when I actually did ‘feel’ His presence so near, and the way I spoke had conveyed that feeling to the tender heart of my young son.  

          This morning was another one of those precious moments, except that I wasn’t aware of it until our conversation was practically ended, and then it happened.  I had intended to do more studying to prepare for continuing a paper I had previously started on the subject of “What Manner of Man Am I.”  As I delved into II Corinthians, a scripture seemed to leap out of the page and into my heart, as if it just burst into life. It wasn’t as though I hadn’t read it before.  In fact, it had already been highlighted in some previous time.  I’m sure it must have spoken a message to my heart more than once before.  This time however, it was used to give to me a more personal message, for He was using it to show me how His word had been used once again in my own stories, and I had not even realized it until the day after I had written the story.  I don’t know, maybe it won’t seem like such a big thing to others.  Maybe it’s just one of those personal moments meant only to have significance between the Lord and me.  Yet, knowing the reality of the phrase, “what He’s done for others, He’ll do for you,” I take the opportunity to share this story with you.

          I now digress to tell you of how this had already happened at least once before.  My brother was used of the Lord to reveal this to me.  This past Feb. my brothers and sisters came down for our annual gathering.  My older brother and his wife were housed in our youngest son’s camper or the castle as they call it, which is parked in our back yard.  Most every morning, my brother would sit on the back porch with my husband, and they would have a glorious time searching and ‘arguing’ the scriptures together.  This kind of arguing is not the kind ordinarily thought of, but rather is an exercise in rooting out the meaning and understanding of the deeper morsels, intricacies, and tidbits of knowledge found in the scriptures.  For some this might have been perceived to be too tedious or maybe even a bit contentious at times, but for them it is a search for greater enlightenment, not just for head knowledge but for the joy of learning from the Lord.  I’ve seen that excited look on each of their faces, as each has come to me with a smile on their face and a little giggle on their lips saying, “Look what I have found!”  It’s so neat to see what it does to others when they too have been sitting alongside Jesus to “spend a little time with Him.” 

          My brother was presently involved in the study of the book of Hebrews for the purpose of preparing lessons to teach to his Sunday school class.   During such times, he often finds it useful to bounce his findings off the ears of others.  Knowing how we all look forward to being recipients of his teaching, he held a daily Sunday school class, inviting all interested persons to come and take part.  Under his tutelage, we were not just to be vessels to receive, but were expected to be contributors during the lesson, submitting our own questions and thoughts as we may have personally gleaned from the scriptures. Oh that we all lived closer together so we could indulge in such glorious times more often.  Through this group study, Jimmy imparted to us the overview of Hebrews as a book which teaches about the growth of each believer as we seek to become more mature in the Lord.  The maturation process doesn’t take place by accident, but takes place over a lifetime as we learn to submit our will and spirit to the will of God, through the transforming power of the word by the power of the Holy Spirit.  In other words, it’s the communing of our spirit with the Spirit of God as He works within us to continue to complete the good work that He began in us when we were born again.    As a result of one of our study times together, for some reason, I shared with them one of my previous writings, “The Journey Is Important.”  After reading it, my brother said, “Ginger, this is your own personal life story exemplifying the process of maturing in the Lord as taught in the book of Hebrews.”  He added that  this process is not completed on earth, but rather when we are with the Lord when He gives unto us a glorified body.  This insight that he shared about my writing, and its relationship to the working out of the word in my life, was like a special gift from the Lord.  It wasn’t a thing that I perceived to be as flattery to me, but rather as a ray of sunlight meant to glorify God and His wondrous work.  It is one of those times in which He shows His mighty love towards each and every one of us. Isn’t it wonderful to know that we serve such a great and mighty God, and yet He takes the time to show His care and concern for each and every one of His children, as if you or I were His only child?  His love is so great that it can not be taken in and understood all at once.  Sometimes, due to the limits of my own humanity, I catch a little glimpse of His all consuming love.  Then there are other moments, like this insight from my brother and then again today, His love seems to come gushing into my life with the power of the rushing water of a mighty waterfall, overwhelming my heart with joy unspeakable.  My excitement is so great, I feel like his joy is going to start pouring out of every pore of my body, creating its own minute waterfall.   In my excitement, I want to shout, “Look everyone, did you see what God just did?”  You don’t want to hide this wonderful Lord.  It makes you feel just like a little kid who rushes up to anyone and everyone, expressing what he thinks is the greatest news ever, assuming that all are going to be just as excited as he is when they too hear such fantastic news. It reminds of the song that repeats over and over again, “I Gotta Tell Somebody” referring to the good news of Jesus Christ and His wonderful love.

          Okay, what happened this morning?  Well, for you to fully understand, I do hope you were able to read the other two stories I referred to previously.  However, if not, perhaps the Holy Spirit will tie it all together for you.  The story I wrote yesterday, reflected on how I have come to understand through personal experience that God is greater than any affliction or suffering than either you or I could ever experience. Our focus, when we do endure such times, should be on God and how He provides for us here and now, and the even greater future that He has stored up for us in eternity.  My story yesterday extended over the space of about seven or eight pages.  Yet today, in referring to the afflictions and sufferings of this world in comparison to all that He has in store for us in eternity, He showed me a scripture that summed up the whole meaning of that previous story in one brief paragraph:

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (II Corinthians 4: 16 – 18)

          We are to hold fast to our faith in the Lord and trust that what He is doing within us is giving us strength for today and greater hope for tomorrow.  In not allowing the intensity of whatever pain, suffering, disability, affliction, or trials and tribulation to take total rule and dominion over us in this temporal life, we learn to live each day that we are given to the glory of God that we may not be robbed of the greater joy of the Lord.   I don’t mean that we try to deny the existence of such things in our life, for that would be an exercise in futility and dishonesty.  However, when we look at the lives of such people as Joni Erickson Tada,  how can we deny the power of God as we see His strength shining out so brightly and unmistakably even in the midst of her weakness and daily suffering?  She has been a quadriplegic since about the age of eighteen.  One might look at her and be tempted to say, “Oh poor thing.  How could a loving God allow such a thing to happen to her?”  Sure, she has said that there are plenty of times in her life that she would have yearned for God to heal her.  That is only human.  Yet, she has endured where others have given up.  She has overcome the temptation to wallow in bitterness, self pity, and hopelessness with the greater determination and commitment through the power of the Holy Spirit to put her trust in God.  She has touched more lives than many able bodied persons have; to God be the glory.  Where others have used disabilities and afflictions as an excuse to get angry with God and turn their back on Him, she has determined to live out her life day by day with a purpose to glorify God in the strength of the Lord in spite of her situation and condition.  She has made the Lord her daily companion, and He is faithful to carry her through all the afflictions in her life, teaching her to value eternal things that she may not be consumed by the temporal afflictions of this present life.  You can imagine there may have been many a day when she might wake up and tell Him, “God, I just can’t do this; it’s just too much.” He comes to her side to tell her, “Honey, you don’t have to do it; Here, take my hand and we’ll do it together.”  God has ingenious ways to help us when we think we have reached the end of our rope.  Remember, in our weakness He is strong.

          Let not the sufferings, trials, or afflictions of this life rob you of the joy of the Lord.  Instead, let us learn to be content in the Lord, whether we have little or much, whether we are blessed with good health or endure sufferings. With God’s help we can make the most of what we are given and live out life day by day, doing all that we do as unto the Lord.  Be determined to learn not to live a life based on “feelings.”  Happiness is fickle and only lasts for the moment as it is created or disappears with every happenstance, or change of conditions and situations in your life.  What a shallow life we lead when we base everything we do, feel, or believe upon whether it seems to make us happy or not!  Don’t give up your rewards in eternity(that which is not seen) for the sake of running after the fickle things that seem to represent success, happiness, and prosperity in the present (that which can be seen), but will definitely fade and will surely come to a final and lasting end one day.

          “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”(Matt. 6:33)  I’m not asserting that we can overcome the trials of life by assuming that any of us can float along in life, always on the mountain top and never experiencing the valleys of life.  Some would have us believe that everything in life can be controlled or changed just by thinking ‘good thoughts’, or ‘sending out good thoughts to others.’  This false teaching of mind over matter is a deception that only causes people to loose faith.  Try that and you will quickly find yourself lost in a boat, not only up a creek without a paddle, but headed down a route that is full of nothing but rapids.  Mind over matter presupposes that one can make it through life without God, depending entirely on one’s self.  Neither is it my assertion that trusting in the Lord means that one then goes through life as if wearing rose colored glasses, experiencing only happy days with no bumps and pitfalls along the way.  What I do hope to convey to your heart and mine is that there is one with whom we can always be honest, no matter what our feelings, situations, or conditions may be.  There is no one who knows, even more than we ourselves, what we are going through.  There is only one who knows where we’ve been and where we are headed.  Trusting in the Lord means that our lives do not have to be defined or confined by what we may feel, think, or experience at any given time.  What we perceive to be the worst thing that could ever happen to us could turn out to be the pathway to the very best thing that could happen to us in our future.  The story of the life of Joseph is a classical example of the truth of that statement.  Being sold into slavery by his brothers, and all the horrible things that happened thereafter, looked as though his doom was at hand.  However, it finally resulted in his placement in the highest position of authority in Egypt just under that of the Pharaoh, which enabled him to provide for and save the lives of all of his family when they most assuredly would have died as a result of the famine.  Trust in the Lord; He alone knows the beginning, the end, and all that lies in between.

          With God nothing is impossible.  Nick Vujicic is a young Christian man who was born with no arms and no legs.  Yet he has become one of the most powerful speakers in the world, being used of God to spread the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  If you haven’t seen or heard this man speak, I recommend that you Google him.  I look at what God has done in Him and it humbles me to my very core. 

          I’m reminded once again of the words God spoke to my heart years ago in a time of my life which seemed to be flowing along in a rather peaceful manner.  He told me then, “If you lose your home and everything in it, God will still be God.”  I didn’t know what He meant then; I simply acknowledged that I realized that it was Him speaking to me.  Over the years, He has revealed to me little by little the truth of the words that He had spoken to my heart.  I am still learning what He means:  In the pain, am I still not God; In the valley of depression, am I still not God; In the midst of losing a child, am I still not God; In the midst of loosing a job, am I still not God; In the midst of a heart attack, am I still not God?  There is nothing that we could ever experience in life that God is not more than able to carry us through it, not even death?  There is nothing in this life that God can not or will not help you and I through IF we will always hold on to our faith in Him; trust and believe that He is always in control and will never leave us nor forsake us.  His word is always and forever at work in our life, even when we are not aware of it.  Draw near to Him and He will meet your every need.  Let Him pull up a chair next to you, and begin to pore out your heart to Him.  Don’t presume that He is always going to tell you what you want to hear; trust that He will always tell you what you need to hear.  As we seek and trust Him, He will reveal that He doesn’t give up on us, but is faithful to continue to do that good work in us until we reach our eternal home to then be housed in our new and glorified bodies.  Let us not depend on fickle happiness, but rather on the joy of the Lord to be our strength even when we are weak.  As we do, we can all join in unison in the faith of Jesus Christ our Lord and shout with every ounce of our being: “I can’t explain it, but I can say, Glory Hallelujah, Great Things He Has Done!”       

          We are taught of the Lord by the power of His word even in and through the trials and tribulations of our life.  Take every challenge in life as an opportunity to learn and be taught of the Lord that we might become better equipped to stand even in the face of adversity.  Trust in the Lord and wait patiently upon Him as you ask; “Okay Lord, what would you have me do and learn even in and through this?”

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5: 1-5)

            Sit with the Lord, and listen to His sweet voice as He tenderly teaches you and me from His word.  Let us sing this refrain unto Him: ** “Open our eyes Lord.  We want to see Jesus, to reach out and touch Him and say that we love Him.”  “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34: 8) “And His word is sweeter than honey.” (Psalm 119: 103)


**Hymn: “Open our eyes Lord, we want to see Jesus” Author; Robert Cull

Sunday, June 22, 2014

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“I Am Who I Am in Jesus Christ. God’s Approval Is Needed!”

          I was browsing on FaceBook and came across a poster with a picture of a rather smug looking fellow bearing the following caption at the bottom: 

“I Am Who I Am.  Your Approval Is Not Needed!”

I began to reflect upon the question of whether or not that was really a good attitude to apply to ones life?  My first reaction was to agree with it.  It seemed to be an attitude that would aptly support good self esteem and confidence.  But then I tried to delve into the possible consequences that might occur if I personally might choose to live my life based on such an assumption.  I thought on the one hand that it was good to accept myself as I am, and not be swayed by what other people might think of me one way or the other.  But then I looked at the thought provoking statement from a different point of view.  Is it possible that this attitude could wind up producing a person who would become self centered and totally prideful?    Had he begun to view himself as the picture of perfection, feeling superior to all others; thus, others would just have to accept his superior status, and if there was any need for change it must necessarily be their need to change and none of his own. 

          Have you heard this statement made.  “I’m stuck in my ways and I’ll never change”?  It is conveying an attitude very similar to the caption on the picture. It seems the person holding such an attitude has convinced himself that others are obligated to accept him the way he is with a “take me or leave me” attitude, or “like it or lump it.”  “No one can tell me what to do!”  What kind of relationships with others is such a person most likely to develop?  It is conceivable that a person who is so unwilling to change would then automatically require all others in his life to submit to his views in order to please his ego.  He/she might become so self centered that he has developed an inability to have any consideration for the needs and desires of others.

          It could be that this learned behavior developed over a period of time in his life as a result of feeling that others cared so little about him, and in order to make himself less vulnerable to hurt from others, he would first withdraw from investing any real part of himself in relationships with others.  In his way of thinking, this would make it impossible for others to ever hurt him again.  He would make others his victim instead of the other way around.  In the end, what he has really accomplished is closing off his own ability to truly love others or recognize and receive love from others.  Instead, his/her idea of love will become based entirely upon a self centered attitude of “what’s in it for me?” or “what have you done for me lately?”  Anyone who tries to have a relationship with such a person will most likely wind up living on a starvation diet of little crumbs of carefully doled out semblances of affection that are never really given out of true love, but once again imparted, either consciously of unconsciously with a motivation of getting something for themselves.  Often the person on the receiving end of this kind of a relationship begins to believe that their lack of being loved must be caused by something they themselves are doing or not doing.  They ‘learn’ that somehow they must not be worthy of being loved.  They will spend their lives trying to earn love and approval from someone who is neither able to give nor receive true love.      Hopefully, one day he/she may learn that the problem does not lie entirely within their self, and their efforts will never be enough to fix, change, or replace the piece that is missing in the one they are seeking to please.  Apart from a miracle, all is in vain and is wasted effort.  Often the controlling and self centered person hurts and harms the other person in the relationship, and out of sheer self defense, not having learned how to deal with the situation in a more positive way; the abused begins to turn into the same kind of person as their abuser.  The abused then often turns into an abuser and begins to turn others into victims.  It is continued and passed on to others in a vicious circle.  In such relationships, it seems that the way of escape from being the victim or becoming a victimizer is to extricate ones self from the relationship all together.  One must seek help in order to become well and whole once again and free so as not to carry the same old baggage into future relationships.   Some are able to go to counseling to work things out and bring healing to the relationship.  But that is only successful when both are willing to do whatever it takes ‘in a healthy way,’ to promote mutual healing for one another.  If only one of them is willing to do the ‘homework,’ then reconciliation and restoration is not a possibility.

          Unfortunately, some will choose to stay in such relationships to the bitter end.  They get stuck in the poor me victim mode never choosing to take responsibility for their own actions and choices.  Those who have made it out had to be willing to take positive action to overcome the fear or whatever it was that held them captive to their situation.  It takes courage and a willingness to admit our own mistakes instead of always blaming others for the conditions of one’s life.  Some will choose to stay in their miserable situation simply because it seems simpler and easier to stay in the ‘known’ than it is to step out on their own to face the ‘unknown.’  Maybe it’s out of fear of being alone, or even an unwillingness to have to truly work and learn to support and be responsible for ones self.  Choosing to remain a victim and continuing to blame others will forever block any pathway out of the past to progress towards a better future.  It’s as if they choose to stay in a perpetual state of misery rather than admit to themselves that they are at least partially responsible for their own situation. Believe me, I know first hand that facing my own demons was hard, and trying to rid my life of them is still a continuing battle that requires not only a desire to change but hard work to do so.  I have fallen flat on my face and had to pick myself up and run to the arms of Jesus to seek His forgiveness and ask his help to start all over again.  Change doesn’t happen without a commitment on our part to learn from God, and then obedience to apply what He has taught us until His ways become the normal response for us.  Learning when and how to discipline has been a particularly hard lesson for me to learn. For some, it seems as if being a consistent and responsible disciplinarian is a thing that has just come to them naturally.  For me it was always hard and something I had to continually try to learn and relearn.  Finding that right balance between being strict or too lenient was difficult.  Plus, I always had to battle against reacting in anger in the heat of the moment instead of disciplining with wisdom and patience.  I do not regret disciplining my children or students, but I have had plenty to regret in the way I may have administered it.  There is always a balance that should be kept.  I did not always do that, and I have profusely asked God’s forgiveness and forgiveness from others.  Personal responsibility is very closely related to being honest with the Lord, confessing our sins, and repenting and turning away from it.  Any of us can choose to lie to ourselves and God by trying to put the blame for our sin on someone else.  I could easily find excuses and ways to place blame on others for my own failings.  I could say that I didn’t use wisdom and patience as I should have because my husband had to be on the road and I was stressed out by having to be both mother and father for much of that time.  That might sound like a pretty good excuse, but it just won’t hold water.  I could say I just didn’t know any better, but that won’t stand by itself either.  I can say, I did seek help and tried to learn a better way.  That did help and I did learn, but I can not say that I always applied what I had learned.  I couldn’t abdicate my responsibility to discipline, for that would have been treating my children and students as if they were strangers, and no responsibility of mine.  Failing to reach the mark is never an excuse to stop trying to learn and trying to change.  I thank God for His mercy and grace.  Not until we truly tell God we are sorry, ask His forgiveness, and then ask Him to help us turn away from wickedness and give no further place to the devil will we ever be able to get free of the very thing that is holding us captive.   

          Not being a psychologist or marriage counselor, I can’t truly advise others who may find themselves in miserable and difficult situations of continual disappointment.  My advice would be to seek a thoroughly well educated and experienced Christian counselor, and a good support group depending upon what your need is.  Lack of effort will only contribute to the continuation of the problems until they build upon one another, and embed you deeper into the grasp of their miry clay.  One thing is for sure; do not get involved with people who will help make excuses for you enabling you to stay in the poor me poor victim mode.  Don’t seek the company of those who may be wallowing in the same misery as you are, as they will be more inclined to tell you what you want to hear, instead of what you need to hear.  Do get involved with a group that may have been in a similar situation, but have been successful in finding their way out in a prosperous, successful, and healthy manner.  There are many who claim to be counselors, but few are fully equipped to do so with much good and lasting success.  Some will be satisfied to keep you coming back as often as they can simply out of their own greed, to line their pockets.  I have known some counselors who even used their position to prey on the victims that sought their help, victimizing the victim all over again.  Be a wise advocate for your own wellbeing, but don’t chose to do nothing to improve your situation for then you really have no one else to blame but yourself.  The best and most important place to start is on your knees before the Lord God who loves you more than anyone else ever could or ever will.

          Refuse to stay a victim, for it can only lead to further misery and the strong possibility of becoming an abuser and victimizer of others yourself.  Choosing to live life with the attitude that whatever you have become is because someone else made you that way may sound like a pretty good excuse, but in reality it’s an absolute lie.  An adult can make better choices.  In most cases, others can only control you to the level of power that you give them to do so.  The old adages of “You don’t know what my life is like” and “Of course that’s easy for you to say or do; you don’t have to endure what I do,” just don’t cut the mustard.  If they did, no one would have ever been able to find their way out of conditions that have been similar or even worse than yours.

          Anyone can be tempted to fall into the deception of the attitude of “I am who I am.  I don’t need your approval.”  It has just enough truth in it to hide the lie.  “I am who I am” overlooks the fact that there is always room for improvement and thus a need for change.  I do believe that what 'should' concern you and me, is the necessity to be willing to see ourselves with honesty, realizing that none of us is perfect, but will always be in need of correction for improvement.  In addition, and equally important, is the need to be willing to change in order to become a better person tomorrow, than I am today.  The only person that you have the power to change is yourself.  Waiting for someone else to change to become something that you want them to be is an exercise in futility.  I do advocate that you pray with others.  But if you want a real legitimate change in your life, it has to begin in you, regardless of whether someone else ever changes or not. Of course, I am speaking for myself when I pray that I might learn to submit my will to the much wiser will of Jesus, my Lord and Savior, always desiring that He would melt me and mold me more and more into His image. "Let the meditations of my heart, and the words of my mouth be pleasing in Thy sight." "Search me O God and see if there be any wickedness me" and remove it far from me.   

          There is also some truth in the statement that as far as who or what I am, “I don’t need your approval.” Concerning that part, what is my personal conclusion?  According to the word of God, I am not supposed to be conformed to the world.  May I forever do my best with God’s help to resist the devil, my flesh and the world (people and their opinions and attitudes contrary to the word of God).  Help me Lord not to yield to their manipulation based upon that which is approved of by them, for in so doing I will have given more importance to what pleases man over and above that which is pleasing to God. I may even find favor in the world, but I will have lost my soul. I will have gained something of temporary value only.  I may gain the favor of the temporary world, but at the expense of loosing the far greater hope of eternity and all that God has promised to all who will choose to believe, follow, and obey Him.

          As I learn to have the mind of Christ (to think and act as He does) through the renewing of my mind by the washing of the water of the Word of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit. May He continue to do that good work which He has begun in me. May He forever perform His will in me that I might not become what I think is good in my own eyes.  Enable me Lord to become all that You have planned and designed me to be, in Your sight.  Only that which is pleasing in the sight of God has any eternal value.  So, in the end, while it may be true that I don’t need man’s approval for who or what I am, it is most definitely true that I do need and desire God’s approval of who and what I am.  It is true that I should not think more highly of my self than I do of others.  If I want to be first, I should be willing to be a servant to others and put my self last, not as a doormat for others to wipe their feet, but rather as an instrument of His love and forgiveness towards others.  I should be willing to do unto others as I would have them do unto me; love thy neighbor as thyself.   It is through seeking God and His righteousness that He will help me become all that He has planned and designed me to be that I may glorify and magnify Him in thought, word, and deed..  He alone knows what is for my best, and it is His delight to bless me with the gift of eternal life and the glories of His eternal presence.  Let us not be deceived by the use of partial truth mixed with lies.  To put the truth, and whole truth back into the original statement, I would choose to revise it: “I Am Who I Am in Jesus Christ.  (Man’s approval is not a necessity, but) God’s Approval Is Needed.”  Both are a continual process that is worked out from day to day as you and I yield our spirit in cooperation with all that He wants to do in me and you, by the power of His word and Holy Spirit.  May you choose to join in this prayer with me: Lord Jesus, let change begin in me!

Monday, June 16, 2014

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Ancient Written Language

          It is said that anything that happened before written language is simply legend or myth, and not counted as history. Using this theory, it is easy for Bible detractors to nullify much of the Old Testament.  It is my opinion, based on research, that there has been written language since the beginning of man.  Although there is conjecture over the age of the earth, we know that mankind is approximately 6,000 years old. There was no time, as we know it, before God created Adam.  Pardon me, there were five days before Adam was created.

          Enoch wrote the books God told him to in 2660BC.  The Minoan civilization, which flourished about 5000 years ago had a written language which would have been 3,000BC.  Comparing these to the evolutionist theory in timeline, this would be about the same time the cave men were knocking their girlfriends in the head with a club and dragging them back to their cave by the hair.  Since we can surmise that written language didn't just pop into existence, we must assume that there were some precursors to these writings. Of course, someone may have just Googled it and shared it with the world.

          "The Adamic language is, according to Jews (as recorded in the midrashim) and some Christians, the language spoken by Adam (and possibly Eve) in the Garden of Eden. It is variously interpreted as either the language used by God to address Adam (the divine language), or the language invented by Adam with which he named all things (including Eve), as in Genesis 2:19."[1]

          "Our ability to speak in words came from God.  Adam and Eve (and all human beings since) were created in God's image (Genesis 1:26-27).  Among other things, that means we were created to speak by means of language. Animals were not created in God's image.  They cannot speak like people can speak.":[2] The whole world spoke the same language until God diversified the languages.

"The Minoan Civilization flourished 5000 years ago ... They were the first in Europe to use a written language, referred to as Linear A,  Mycenaean Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, ancient Greek.  The history of the Greek alphabet starts with the adoption of Phoenician letter forms and continues to the present day."[3]  We know that the Egyptians had a written language in 3,400BC.  We know that Moses received the Ten Commandments in 1446 BC.  Using the Bible, as well as other well-documented historical events, we find that the Flood began approximately 4,359 years ago in the year 2348 BC.  The disappearance of the Minoan civilization, since it apparently was before the flood, could account for the emergence of the Mycenaean civilization.  " The Minoan civilization was an Aegean Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC."[4]  Could it be that the Minoan writings were also with Noah in the Ark, and Noah's sons descendents found the Minoan cities usable and also resurrected their language?  Perhaps this could have happened after the Tower of Babel incident and the Minoan language was one of the diverse languages.  Since the majority of the worlds calendars conflict with each other, it is hard to establish exact dates. 

          It is extremely difficult to research the derivation and continuation, of written languages without a basis in faith.  The divergence of civilizations before and after the flood leave us with a divergence of agendas by those civilizations.  The following is an excellent example of the different theories: "The early inhabitants of Crete settled as early as 128,000 BC, during the Middle Paleolithic age. It was not until 5000 BC that the first signs of advanced agriculture appeared, marking the beginning of civilization. The Minoan culture was established by the 27th century BC."[5] We can see here that since we know there can be no human history before there were humans, and there were no humans before 4,000 BC, the addition of between 1,000 and 124,000 years doesn't make sense.  Modern science and investigation is allowed to change day by day.  God, on the other hand, is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  Since God can't change and can't lie, it behooves us to trust Him over all others.

          Since we are told that God will supply all our needs (not necessarily all our wants), wouldn't God have supplied Adam with written language?  Either that or God supplied Adam with a mental capacity the size of the library of congress.  There were at least 2 to 50,000,000 species on earth[6], which Adam named.  He was either able to remember all those names or he would have written them down.  I have read that written language was handed down from Adam, to the flood, carried on the Ark and passed down to us.  Granted, a lot of these writings have been lost through time, however, the accuracy of the Bible testifies (at least to me), God's ability to give us the information He wants us to have. Archeology has revealed many ancient writings, and continues to do so. Only God knows what will be revealed in the future.  Since the Bible's information starts before the beginning of time, I would surmise that it is the oldest text available anywhere. 

[1] Wikipedia
[3] Wikipedia
[4] Wikipedia
[5] Wikipedia
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The Joy of the Lord is My Strength

          My thoughts this morning are drawn towards trying to understand the stark difference that exists between the state of happiness, as the world thinks of it, and the state of joy, as imparted by the Lord.  It is one of many of the precious jewels that God willingly teaches and imparts to all of His children as we walk through the process of maturing in the Lord.  God has His own plan and agenda for each of our lives.  He doesn’t play favorites, but He does teach us and impart things differently. Otherwise, each of us would look as if we were all cut out of the same mold, all designed for the same purpose in life.  Have you noticed how one person may be very mature in the area of having learned to live a disciplined life when things are going well, while at the same time he behaves very immature in his ability to handle affliction or disappointment in his life?  In the life of another, the abilities may seem to be entirely reversed.  Christians do not grow in maturity at the same equivalent rate of speed, nor do each of us all mature in the same areas.  I believe a great deal of that difference depends upon the individual’s willingness to cooperate and submit our will to the will of God.  At the same time, it also seems to be connected with the difference that God has built into each of our lives.  We are each created for the purpose of giving glory and honor to God, but His plan and design as to how that is to be carried out may be different for each of us.

          I’ve written on this theme before, but today He seems to be leading me to think on it in a bit of a different way.  As usual, I’m not quite sure where this is all going to lead, or where and how it will conclude for the time being. I view it as another opportunity for me to walk down a familiar path, to visit with the Lord.  As I do, I hear the words of that dear old hymn once again: “I come to the garden alone…and the time we spend as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”  It’s that same sweet time that each of us has access too when we turn our hearts to Him, and seek to spend time with the one who has first loved you and I.  As He beckons to our heart, we begin to feel the stirring of His Spirit within our own spirit.  Once again we experience that same familiar, but oh so precious remembrance of how “our hearts burn within us” each time we truly sit at His feet, or walk along the way to learn of Him and draw near to Him.

          In part, I am drawing near in a quest to learn and understand why affliction often seems to exist to a greater degree in some than it does in others, and also how our response and reaction to it can produce such drastic differences?  I know the answers I seek are not going to be comprehensive for, as always, we can not see fully but only partly as reflected in a dim mirror.  I know that on the one hand, God has and still does work miracles in the lives of some to heal them completely and instantaneously.  I know this because I have I seen it happen in close family and friends.  At other times, I have seen and experienced His hand at work to produce healing partially over a period of time, with and without a form of medical treatment.  The process of all healing comes from the Lord, the way He administers it often differs.  We can influence the process though our choice or response and actions to either obey and contribute to the process, or to disobey and hinder it.  Whether the healing is instant, complete, partial or after we go home to be with Him, whether He takes us out of it or through it, it is always a wonder as we see His hand at work in our lives.  I’m thinking about the instant death of my sister’s husband as a result of an automobile accident.  He knew Jesus as His Lord, and went home to be with the Lord when he was only in his forties.  He was such a wonderful man, and for myself, I remember asking God why He had allowed that to happen?  God gave me a scripture that helped to give me peace that alluded to the idea that some are taken out early to spare them of from what was to come.

My sister was left behind with two grown married children and one teenage son.  I remember marveling at God’s comforting hand as He led and carried her through those oh so difficult times.  There was just no other answer for how she came through all of that except for the mercy and grace of God.  For me, this was a reality experience to understand the meaning of the scripture that tells you and I that “My grace is sufficient for thee.”  The total understanding of the ‘why’ something is allowed we may not know; the ‘how’ was made visible to me through the gentle work of the Holy Spirit as He comforted and guided her through it one day at a time.    

          My focus is not meant to be on the source or form of suffering or affliction, but rather how to deal with it in our lives.  I don’t take the path, as some have done, that “if you have enough faith, you will be healed; if you’re not, it’s your own fault for lack of enough faith.”  I believe God has a reason for all things in our lives.  As we have seen in the lives of such men as Paul and Job, who at some time and in some way, had or experienced either a life long or periodic affliction of a “thorn in the flesh.”  Job was eventually healed of his, but Paul, when he asked God to remove his, was told “no, for my grace is sufficient for thee.”  On the surface, we might look at that and think that God was playing favorites and being unfair in His treatment of one over the other.  But I submit once again, you and I can see only partly and not the full picture of His plan for each of our lives.

          For the moment, I will turn the focus of my thought to my own life, simply because that is what I can speak about on a more knowledgeable level.  In the physical realm, comparatively speaking, it seems as though enduring some kind of affliction has played a considerable part in a good bit of my life.  In no way do I intend to stir up sympathy, but simply to make a factual statement. Personally, I don’t even look upon it as being any big thing.  It has always seemed to me to be a matter of “Oh well, that’s just the way it is so lets get on with it.” 

          I hope you won’t mind while I take a moment or two to give you an “organ recital.”  From as far back as I can remember, I suffered from asthma until I was about nineteen years old.  I would wheeze so loud that it could be heard from one room to another.  When I reached ninth grade it got even worse.  At times I could not walk twenty feet without turning blue around the mouth.  I can remember asking the Lord to please take me home just so I wouldn’t have to struggle so hard for each breath.  Well, He didn’t do that for me as I am seventy one and still here.  What He did do was provide a doctor who put me through the process of determining my allergies.  Eventually, I was started on a regimen of shots for a period of three years.   In time, I thought I was doing pretty good as the attacks became fewer and less severe.  Within about four years, the asthma attacks ceased entirely. Now isn’t that a Praise the Lord?

          When I was in second grade, I came down with scarlet fever and had to be quarantined to my room.  For several weeks, my fever was so high the skin on my body turned red, and then it would peel as if I were sunburned.  Of course I didn’t enjoy any of that, but in my little child’s mind, the worst of it was not being able to be around my brothers and sisters.  I could only see Mama and Daddy for brief periods as they ministered to me.  As I was beginning to improve, the final and greatest blow to me was when it was suggested that I might have to repeat second grade due to having missed so much time in school.  Oh no, to me that would have been a fate worse than death!  In the end, that did not occur and my panic at the thought of it dissipated.  What I didn’t realize until years later, was that in those days I could have died from scarlet fever.  I’m sure my parents had been made aware of it, so in reality the ordeal was probably far worse on them emotionally than it was on me physically.  Once again, each of us endured and came through to the other side.  Praise the Lord!

          Over the years, I have had several surgeries, some minor and some major, ranging over the years from age nineteen to seventy.  I experienced four miscarriages, three of which were in the first trimester, and one in the seventh month of pregnancy, in which I lost a precious baby girl due to multiple birth defects.  One major surgery in recent years revealed that I had been only one step away from developing stage one cancer of the colon, something that seems to run in our family’s medical history.  When I was 69, I had a heart attack and had a stint placed in one of my main arteries to my heart.  Praise God, there was no damage done to my heart.  Each time there was an opportunity to get hung up in the land of

“Get angry with God and blame Him.”  That’s a terrible place to go for it robs you of all the comfort and peace of the Lord, and the opportunities to draw nearer and learn from Him.  There is so much positive that God will impart to us even in and through the most difficult times of our life if we will only trust and let Him; “let go and let God” is a small phrase that packs a lot of wisdom.

          My freshman year in college was the first year of integration occurring in the fall of 1960, and the female student lived in my dorm.    One night as a riot developed, we were all put on lockdown with lights out and the doors locked.  During the event, I was the only casualty.  A rock had been thrown with such force that it burst through our third story window through screen and glass, flying the width of the room and striking just above my right eye.  Of course, I developed two beautiful black eyes, but also headaches that prevailed for a few weeks. A couple of years later I started having epileptic seizures.  It could not be definitely proven that the blow on my head had been the cause, but neither could it be ruled out.  It may even have been a genetic thing, as I found out later that my grandfather’s brother had had epilepsy.  Okay, this was going to be something that wasn’t simply going to go away.  As it has turned out, I have only had seizures during my sleep.  Others have had far worse to deal with.  My husband, then my boyfriend, had to be informed of the development.  His attitude was, “So what, I love you and we will deal with it together.”  Another cause to Praise the Lord!

          When I was sixty two, I fell at work, landing so hard on my forehead on a linoleum covered cement floor, that my head bounced up and then down for a second time resulting in a huge knot on my forehead and a bad concussion, in addition to a fracture to the upper bone of my left arm.  The bone healed in time of course.  However, the blow to my head and concussion has left me with a severe problem with light which gives me vertigo migraine headaches and, when exposed to too much or certain kinds of light, an inability to walk without holding on to something or someone to keep me steady.  My brain is first affected causing my head and neck and down into my upper spine to hurt, which then somehow causes my legs to become spastic and unable to walk properly or keep my body in proper balance.  As I understand it, the walking part is called ataxia.  Of course, as a result, I had to quit teaching, and can no longer drive or go out without a companion to hold onto for stability.  However, as inconvenient as this may sound, I have improved considerably in comparison to how severe it was in the beginning. My doctor told me it was a classic post concussion syndrome.  He could not guarantee that I would ever completely recover from it.  Thus far, eight years later, I seem to have reached a certain plateau that has remained sustained without further improvement being manifested as yet.

          All right now, what in the world has been the purpose of this “organ recital?”  Has it been to say, “O poor me, look at what I have had to suffer through?” No!  I’m sure there are plenty of others that have and do suffer through far more and far worse.  Just look at people like Joni Erickson Tada who has been a quadriplegic since she was about nineteen or younger, and yet through it all, in her weakness, the strength of God in her has been manifested to heights that many of the rest of us can only imagine.  I suggest that you read about her life and all that God has done and is still doing in her life.  Am I trying to glorify suffering? Far from it!  For what purpose then have I shared all of this with you?  I hope to convey an insight that God is greater than any and all of the adversities that life may try to throw at you.  For our good, we need to view life as a journey through which all of us must go once we are born into this world.  Because it is a corrupt world with trials and tribulations, none of us are going to come out of this unscathed and unaffected. We are all going to be confronted with hurtles and stumbling blocks, some small and some large.  We are all going to experience them along the way to one extent or another.

          This is what I submit to you.  If you and I will choose to delight ourselves in the Lord, in His word, and in His ways, He will draw near to us as we draw near to Him.  He will be your friend that sticks closer than a brother.  He will be your Comforter and Hiding Place in times of trouble.  He will be your strength when you are weak.  He will give you peace that passes all understanding even in the midst of all the storms of life.  He will never leave you nor forsake you. Even when you may turn and stray from Him, He will still keep His arm outstretched to you to receive you back into the fold.  He waits patiently for whosoever may choose to come to Him.  He will teach you of His ways that you may not be deceived by the ways of this world or by the desires of your own flesh.  With God, “surely goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life.” (Psalm 23)

          Did I learn all of this by chance?  Did I ever question Him, “Why me Lord; how could you let this happen to me or to my loved one?”  When I found myself in the depths of depression for five whole years, did I ever want to just throw in the towel, and bring it all to an end?  Yes, but He alone showed me what at terrible legacy that would be leaving to my own children.  When my daughter was lost in drug addiction, did I ever question Him and ask Him, “Where are you God, and why aren’t you doing something about this?” Yes, but He reminded me that just because I couldn’t see His hand at work did not mean that He wasn’t there.  It was all a part of learning to trust and place all in His hands, putting my trust in Him, No Matter What!  Who else was I going to turn to: myself, riches, career, my own intellect, opinions, and finite reasoning abilities?  No, thank God for the wisdom to turn to the One who knows the beginning from the end and all that is in between?

          When the afflictions and adversities of life come, and they will come, we all have a choice as to how we are going to respond and react.  We can choose to tell God, “Because you did not do what I asked you to do God, I turn my back on you to forget you and your ways entirely.  I’ll go down my own pathway without you.”

Or we can choose to have faith and believe that He knows best and has a bigger purpose in His plan for our life that we can’t presently see.  Maybe you see your child going through horrible things, and you are wondering why in the world?  We may never understand so many things that happen to us or to our loved ones until we see Him face to face.  He might choose to reveal to you even now that He allowed something to happen in your past that you might be better prepared or equipped for something in the present or something that may still lie ahead.            Within a few months of my fall at work, my life changed from being active and going out daily among people to teach and carry on in an independent manner, to that which was pretty much one of isolation and being home bound. I can remember walking down my hallway one day after all that had happened to my head.  As I did, I consciously asked Him, “This is the way it is.  What do you want me to learn in and from all this?”  I could have become angry, bitter, and resentful that He had allowed this to happen and then, on top of that, He didn’t seem to be answering my prayer for complete healing.  Thank God I did not fall into the permanent pit of the land of “Self Pity and Why Me.”  I have to admit there have been times that I visited that land for a brief period or two, but thank God I did not decide to join the ranks of those who have become its hostage.   My salvation was not based or founded in my own self will; instead, all that He had already taught me in times past was used to prepare me now for this.  I am still learning to be content in Him, no matter what my situation may be.  I am learning to be thankful for the things that I can do, and not have regret for the things I can’t do.  God can and will give us the victory if we will only let Him be in control.  It is far superior to choose to live life on purpose with the guidance and help of the Lord who never slumbers nor sleeps.

          My sister’s son, Eddie, lived such a life.  He was diagnosed with stage four cancer and given only about six months to a year to live.  He knew from the get go that his battle against it was not going to be one that He could win in the end.  However, he didn’t give into it and refused to live life as a victim.  Instead, he lived each day of the rest of his life, which turned out to be three more years, on purpose and with a plan to make the most of each and every day.  With God’s help and the loving support of his entire family, as long as he could, he got up, shaved, got dressed, and went to work even through all the chemo therapy.  He was an inspiration and a true opportunity for others to see God’s hand at work becoming his strength even as he himself became weaker.  He didn’t give into the victim attitude of poor me, why me, or blaming God.  Instead, because of what God did in him, Eddie did not only go to his regular workplace, but he also worked again in the usual summer leadership program held every year in the Blue Ridge Mtns.   I was granted the pleasure of feeling that I had contributed and helped him in some small way by loaning him my motorized wheel chair; thereby, enabling him to get around and save his energy for teaching his classes.  He made it to his daughter’s wedding, even dancing with her.  When his first grandchild was born, he was able to travel and even hold and feed her. 

          His determination to fight against the visible effects of pain and physical deterioration was an absolute wonder to all.  Was this a terrible thing to go through? Yes, without a doubt!  Yet, he did just what the bible says to do; he endured to the end and he persevered with a purpose until he no longer could.  Did I remember to tell you that at birth he had a condition that required a complete transfusion to replace his blood?  Or that he had had epilepsy since he was just a baby? Or that he was never seizure free until during the last year or so of his life?  Did I tell you about the special needs program that he developed and taught at the YMCA where he worked, or that he was so loved that that same Y named a part of it after him in his honor, and a scholarship fund in his name was established for others after his death?  Did I fail to tell you that he was only in his forties when he went home to be with the Lord?  I could go on and on about this young man.

          Though he lived a life shorter than he and his family desired I’m sure, yet even so, the one life he lived was with a purpose and to the glory of God.  Eddie’s life may have been the only bible ever ‘read’ by some.  None of us knows how many were drawn nearer to the Lord because of seeing God at work in him.  He lived out the scripture, “Having done all to stand, stand.”  With a purpose, he endured to the end.  Yes, thank God, that is the greatest news about his life.  He did know the Lord as his Savior, and now he is truly experiencing abundant life in the presence of His Lord.

          What is my main point?  Adversity, difficulties, even sufferings and afflictions do not have to define you as a victim or one who is less blessed in life.  Through it all and in spite of it, you can live a life that is filled with the joy of the Lord as your strength.  Happiness is determined and limited by conditions and situations.  The joy of the Lord is limitless and fills you with a gladness and peace that exists regardless of situations and conditions.  There are those that may have been enduring pain and unbelievable distortion and wreckage to their physical being, yet, to their last breath, they would choose to expend their last bit of energy to write, sing, or do what ever they could with joy unmentionable in their hearts testifying to the glory of God.

          If you have experienced disabilities or hardships in your life, or the life of your children or other loved ones, you too have the choice to become angry and bitter by what you perceive to be unfair and unjust.  You can choose to blame God and turn from Him.  Or you can determine to put your trust in Him, responding to Him in faith that He is able, and that He does have great plans for your life that you can not imagine.  We may never know how even one little thing that He has done in our lives may be used to bring joy into the life of another.  Many may choose to go it alone, depending entirely upon their own abilities and resources to make it through.  Some may choose to become victims and slaves to the conditions created by their own choices or circumstances.  Bitterness and anger towards God can produce no good thing, and will rob you of all the blessings that God had planned for you.  Open the door of your heart and let Him give you His joy to be your strength that you may be set free to rejoice and praise Him regardless of the trials and tribulations of this journey and temporary life on earth.  We must stop focusing on the problems and conditions of the things of this world as if they were the only and most important part of life.  Focus on self is a detractor from the higher things of life.  Focus upon God and see what blessings will be poured into your life.

          Begin now anew, and let God show you and your loved ones how to live your life with a purpose, with the view that the best part of your life is yet to come and yet to be lived now and on into eternity.  Do all that you do in the here and now as unto the Lord; thereby, you will be storing up riches in Heaven.  Don’t be deceived by the feel good false teachers of today that would have you believe that being a Christian guarantees you health and wealth in the here and now.  Any one with an ounce of sense can readily see that we do not live in a perfect world free of corruption, sin, poverty, or trials and tribulations.  If we learn to submit our will to the will of God, He will give us the desires of our heart, for we will have made His desires our own.  “Delight thyself in the Lord,” and He will take even that which seems to be for your harm and turn it around to be for your good.  Choose to trust in God!  Rejoice in the Lord always, and you shall have the joy of the Lord to be your strength, even during and regardless of the storms of life. Happiness is fleeting, but the joy of the Lord is established in and through His Holy Spirit in you.  “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.”  Take heed to the wisdom and truth in the following scripture:

“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”  (II Corinthians 4: 8-10)