Citizenship

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Philipians 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Ever since I can remember, I have always been intrigued with the plight of the Jewish people during WWII. I remember watching the documentaries on the labor camps and how they struggled to stay alive. They helped one another even though they were strangers. It was enough to know they were fellow Jews. The oppression was fierce but the unity among them was greater. Nothing could strip them of their identification as Jews even though their oppressor tried. He tried over six million times but each one of them died as being identified as one who belonged to the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob.

I just watched a film last night called Defiance.  It is an unbelievable true story. It’s practically a modern version about Joshua and what he went through in leading the nation of Israel to Canaan.

The year is 1941, and the setting is Nazi-occupied Belarus. The Final Solution is in full effect, and the Jews of Eastern Europe are being slaughtered. Three brothers have miraculously managed to escape into the dense surrounding forest. Having played in these woods since childhood, the brothers have a distinct advantage over their adversaries, and soon decide that simply surviving is not enough. In order to make a difference, they must take action, but in order to take action they will need support. As whispers of their bravery take wind, others like them appear determined to lay their lives on the line for the cause of freedom. Tuvia has become the de facto leader of the group, but he’s still somewhat reluctant to take on such a heavy responsibility.  With winter setting in, everyone works to create a functioning community that will help them endure the frigid months that lie ahead. I won’t tell you how it ends because I hope you will see the movie yourself.

If you have committed to following Christ and you are identified as being one of His, you are in a war. Tuvia wasn’t perfect and he never expected to be used of God to lead his people through the forests of Belarus. Our Pastors are the Joshua’s and Tuvia’s to lead His people. They aren’t perfect and maybe didn’t even want the job. Joshua was Moses’s assistant but after Moses died he was needed to continue the plight.

I remember in the movie Tuvia exhorted the members in the forest community that everyone needed to work without exception. Everyone was needed and they needed to work together to survive. Several times they had to flee because the enemy was approaching. They had to grab all their necessities and relocate and build once again their log cabins. What a metaphor of the Christian life. If we aren’t busy working for the Lord we are a hindrance to the work. Not everyone is called to go to the front lines like street evangelism but kid’s need to be taught, the church needs to be cleaned and the wounded need to be greeted when they walk through the door. To carry out the great commission isn’t the job of one man. If you aren’t busy serving in the Lord’s work; you or someone could become a spiritual casualty.

The journey to Canaan for the Israelites wasn’t a smooth one, that is why God consistently God told the people Be strong and very courageous. The people in the forests of Belarus were struggling daily to get to rest and freedom. We too have to understand we have enemies on every side and there is a great struggle to make it to the end. Today is a reminder to encourage your pastor and ask him how you can be used in the work; our plight to our promised land where Christ dwells and is waiting to welcome us home.

There was a scene in the movie when a member of the “forest community” reminded the leader Tuvia that yes they needed to be strong but they needed something else…community. In the midst of defending themselves each day for survival they found time to commune together, enjoy wedding celebrations, babies being born and chess games hand carved from the trees they used to build cabins. No matter where we are, we are to find joys to refresh us to keep up the good fight. But, we should always have in the forefront of our minds that we are in a battle and this is not our home.

Smell the Lilies

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To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1
 
I can’t believe it’s been a month and a half since I posted last. I have been thinking of you all. I have been so eager to post something encouraging or meaningful; just a little something to encourage you on your journey. 
 
Due to my son being ill and going into the hospital for a few days, I haven’t been able to write or post to the blog. Although, I felt this sort of pressure, almost a sense of failure for not writing. But, the events of life impeded me from being able to do so. Don’t you just get jostled when your plans get interrupted? I think those are the Lord’s “teaching moments”. He had to remind me “to every thing there is a season”. In our faced paced society our schedules and agenda’s rule the day. We don’t take time to take in the sunsets, smell the lilies. 
 
I have been studying the writings and educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason. She was a dear Christian sister, teacher and educator. She said this, “An education is a science of relations; to God, man (including ourselves) and to the world around us.” Her view of children and how they learn was forward thinking in her victorian era. When children were more seen rather than heard she stated that children are born persons that should be cherished and cultivated. Her motto is an education is: an atmosphere, a discipline, a life. There are many nuggets of wisdom that really renew our view of life and why we do what we do. 
 
Sometimes those detours in our schedules are reminders that our schedules should be our servants and not our masters. They are they to serve us in life but not to enslave us by stealing our enjoyments of the sunsets. Don’t worry if today you didn’t get to complete that project or deadline. Take a detour and smell the lilies. 
 
Until next time.

Bitter no more!

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“Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled” Hebrews 12:15

I can’t think of any worse spiritual poison than bitterness. It’s literally a kill joy. I had been going through a bible study when the word diagnosed me as bitter. I didn’t even know it.

Reading God’s word is often like getting a check up at the doctor. Do you remember the last visit to the doctor you had? You went in confidently thinking that you would get a clean bill of health. Then, the test results came back “positive”. You have a response of confusion as you say to yourself, “But, I feel fine.”

Bitterness can be that subtle. We supposedly “feel fine”. Over the years of not forgiving that one person or persons it’s tentacles make their way into our hearts choking out things such as joy, peace and contentment. The symptoms have always been there but we just thought that those outbursts of anger or touchiness were just part of our personality. We had no idea that those symptoms were contusions on our hearts from roots of bitterness.

Once I recognized I had a root of bitterness, I had to discover who I was bitter toward. In praying to God about it He showed me I was bitter toward Him. It was a painful confession that I had to make. It’s such a terrible feeling to be bitter toward God when you love him so much. I felt a bitterness because my son had died. I didn’t realize feeling bitter distanced me from God. After all, how can you be close to someone you are bitter toward? My joy was gone.  I was touchy and irritable with everyone around me. It was miserable.

 I can’t say enough about God and how awesome he is. Yes, I tested positive for bitterness but God didn’t care about the diagnosis, He only cared about healing me.  Here is the treatment He gave me:

 

Ask God to examine your heart.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;

And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting. Ps 139:23-24

I asked the Lord to show me the source of bitterness that I had.

 

Forgive the person that you should forgive.

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:15

Not forgiving prevents us from receiving God’s forgiveness. I had to ask forgiveness from God for being bitter toward Him.

 

Turn from harboring your anger and resentment so that healing will come.

“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,” Acts 3:19

After deciding to turn from my way of bitterness and unforgivness, I was made whole.

 

God healed me and took away the root of bitterness. There is now a peace flowing like a river in my soul. When we have a root of bitterness in our heart there is no room for love to flow. If you follow God’s steps toward healing, you can experience the peace that surpasses all understanding. God be with you today.

 

Psalm 32:3-5

When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long.

For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

 

 

 

 

House of Mourning

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“It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.” Ecclesiastes 7:2

We live in a day and age in which the old fashioned values of our parents, grandparents and greatgrand parents have almost ceased to exist. If you just look at the news or social media outlets you can ascertain what we now value as a world culture. Everything is designed to escape the hardships in life. Beauty to escape aging, vacation to escape work, movies to escape boredom. Previous generations didn’t consider aging, hard work nor boredom things to be dreaded. They were considered stages and aspects of life to be experienced. In fact, if you spend the majority of your time pursuing the former it would have been considered superficial, jovial or immature. I guess that’s what the newer generations have become; a bunch of work loathing, pleasure seeking, age defying loafers.

Remember the old adage “ If it feels good just do it”. That’s become our highest virtue. But, here we have in Ecclesiastes something altogether different. Solomon was saying that’s it’s better in the “house of mourning”. So he is suggesting being in a place of pain is somehow better than “the house of feasting”.

I find myself at times breaking down in tears. I feel like a valve giving way to pressure built up. It’s the grieving process that I am going through since the death of my son. God in His wisdom created human beings to dispense of our grief in steps. Although we want it now, since we don’t want any kind of pain in our lives, it is something that takes time.

Solomon talks about how in the house of mourning we realize that is the end of all men. One day our lives will come to an end. That’s something that, without hope in God, we all dread. It says, “the living will lay it to his heart.” It means to reflect upon or to ponder.

I can say that in this time of mourning God is building something in me of deep meaning and value. I now desire to use my time for things that have purpose and will have effect long after I am gone. The trivial and transient things in this life no longer have an appeal for me. Mourning truly has a purpose. It clarifies our priorities. It helps us to aim for higher in life. It builds our character to become people who can make a difference in the life of someone else for the good.

Sometimes going to the house of mourning just means taking the higher and sometimes painful road. God may be asking to make the harder choice. It’s going to cost you something. But, know it’s going to do a deeper work in your life. Let Him walk with you every step of the way.

Gift of Loss

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“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” Philippians 3:7-8

Loss of any kind can be so unsettling. We don’t like it when things happen to us that weren’t planned. It shakes us, throws us off, gets us off balance. Some losses are greater than others. It’s the “greater” ones I am talking about. The kind that rattle us to the core. Maybe it’s the loss of a relationship. Your heart was invested and it didn’t turn out like you had hoped. Now that person is no longer part of your life. It’s a loss. It’s grieving to the heart.

How about a big financial loss? I remember my husband and I invested in a business that closed after just two weeks. We invested not a small sum of money. It was a deal gone bad. It was disheartening. We felt jilted. It takes the wind out of your “sales” (literally).

How about loosing a loved one?  I remember when my son died after 33 days I wondered how God could work everything for good. I think when we go through trials we ask the wrong questions sometimes that can leave us perplexed & without resolution. So I just started to ask God through His own word. In Psalm 127:3 “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.” I started to ask God how my baby was a gift.

The day of Isaac’s funeral I gave the eulogy. God showed me how he was a gift in my life. This is what I shared that day:

My darling Isaac,

You were the gift I never expected. You came as a baby but left as God’s chosen vessel. He used you to lead me into the immensity of God’s love and to know Him who stands with us in the furnace. We suffered together like two soldiers in battle but the captain of our souls slew the roaring lion. We both entered the glory hole but you came out first. Just like the One who is made higher than the heavens, you were sent to give but not meant to stay. My cries aren’t tears of defeat but tears of joy remembering the gift I have in you.

In 2 Corinthians it says “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” If you have ever studied glassblowing you will recognize “the glory hole”. After glass is put in a crucible, it’s put into a second furnace which is the glory hole. We are like glass and Jesus is making and forming us to be a beautiful vessel to reflect Him. This comes through trials and sometimes loss.

It can be so painful but know that God is making you into a beautiful vessel. He is not putting you through this to break you but to make you. He says, “A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish” Isaiah 42:3

May our great Comforter be with you during whatever trial or season of loss you are facing.

The Watering Place

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O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.

Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.

Yet the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the day time, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.

Psalm 42:6-8

I just love to discover the meaning of places in the bible. It’s like finding hidden treasure. These verses contain so much. The place called Jordan means the watering place. It’s where the Israelites crossed when God delivered them from their enemies. Hermonites means sanctuary and the hill of Mizar means smallness.

I remember when my newborn baby Isaac was in the NICU struggling to live. My husband was faithfully teaching bible studies during the week and on Sundays. He had to commute four hours between the church and where our baby was being hospitalized. I felt I needed to attend a midweek service. I hadn’t left Isaac since he was born but I believed it was time to be an example to the fellowship of what it looks like to trust God during a severe trial. Believe me, it wasn’t because I had the strength. But of course, taking that step of obedience opened the door for God to minister to me.

The church that night was the Jordan, the watering place where God refreshed my heart. I was in awe of God during worship. In His great and awesome presence, I felt small and so did my trial. He being so awesome consumed the weight of my yoke. I felt lighter, revived and joy in His presence. He was my watering place.

Our God is able to refresh you during the most pressing of trials. Worship the King. He will revive you, strengthen you and lighten your load. Let him take you unto himself as you worship our Lord.

 

Jesus, Your Advocate!

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It’s constantly on my mind to write something to you that is a “word in season”. It’s so easy just to type up something and post a note just to keep it up; just to check something off my “to-do” list. But my heart is only to write whatever the Lord would have me share. My hope is that it would be a timely message for a dear saint looking for something to refresh their heart. So here it is:

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
 Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret—it only causes harm. For evildoers shall be cut off;
 But those who wait on the Lord,
They shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; 
Indeed, you will look carefully for his place,
 But it shall be no more.” Psalm 37:7-10

I recall many years ago I had started a new job. I worked in an office and my manager had been there for over 25 years. Over time, I can’t tell you what caused a change but my boss started to be very malicious toward me. I can’t recall doing anything to provoke her harsh treatment of me. It was becoming very difficult to work there. But, I sensed God just wanted me to abide and trust him to be my defense. I was very respectful but steadfast that God was going to fight my battles. He knew how difficult it was mentally and emotionally to work under such oppression.

You may be facing something similar today. Can I tell you that you have an advocate with the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ. He goes before the grand jury to defend you. Rest in your innocence. God is a just judge and he will deal with those who are bringing their wicked devices against you. God says, “ For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more”. The deliberations are almost over and the injustice will soon end.

I remember one day when I went into work, my manager was nowhere to be found. It was announced that she had been terminated. I couldn’t believe it. She had been a friend of the family and worked for the owners for 25 years yet, she was terminated. God removed the one who was oppressing me unjustly.

Just like verse 7 says, “Rest in Lord, and wait patiently for him.” He will fight your battle toward victory. Be encouraged.