Tuesday, November 12, 2019

An Encouraging Word

     Do you need some encouragement?  I know that I do almost every day.  Life can be really difficult and unfair at times.  For the Christian, seeing the wicked prosper while we struggle to get ahead, can be  discouraging.  When will we see justice done?  Will our efforts ever pay off in the end as we seek to serve the Lord?  Certainly, we know that one day we will enter into eternal life with the Lord and find rest for our souls, but in the meantime,  what encouragement can we find?
     As I looked into Psalms today, once again, I found truth that brought me peace.  In Psalm 37, King David tells us:  "Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!  For they will fade like the grass and wither like the green herb" (vs. 1-2).  How often do we get upset when we see a person who is breaking all the rules (laws) and yet, they seem to get away with it.  In fact, they are often applauded by the culture.  It is so easy to become embittered.  Nevertheless, we are instructed with a remedy that should bring us great encouragement.  Verses 3-4 read:  "Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."  Within these verses, we are pointed to the direction that we need.
     Our first focus should be on the Lord and not on this world.  Trust me, it is easy to get wrapped up in what is happening daily all around us.  We see people getting ahead in business by crushing others in their wake or perhaps, we see someone getting promoted who has been cheating on the job.  It does seem unfair.  Yet, we are told to trust God, do good and befriend faithfulness.  To put it another way, continue doing what God has called you to do, and in due season, the blessings will come because God sees your heart.  We must not get wrapped up in what others are doing in this world.  God has not called us to fret over evildoers.  Verse 8-9 tells us:  "Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!  Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.  For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land."  My mother used to tell me that getting upset over something we cannot change is a waste of energy and emotion.  She was right and so is God's Word!
     As we meditate on these verses, we can take away some practical words of wisdom.  We must, first, wait on God's timing.  He sees us and all our efforts.  When the moment is right, He will bring the blessings according to His will and plan for us.  Secondly, we need to learn to trust Him.  We know from the Word that He is good, and His love for us is unconditional.  Therefore, we must know that He has our best interests at heart all the time.  Thirdly, we need to continue to do good no matter what everyone else is doing around us.  God has called us to be His servants and ambassadors of the Good News.  Fourth, we are to plant ourselves wherever the Lord has placed us.  Work with a cheerful heart and allow the Lord to bring the harvest in His timing.  Fifth, we need to be faithful in what we are doing.  Don't be concerned about others around us.  Instead, think about how God has been faithful to us.  This will feed an attitude of gratitude!  Finally, we are to delight ourselves in the Lord.  He is our supplier, defender, sustainer and redeemer.  He will grant us the desires of our heart when He is the center of our life.
     Later in this Psalm
that King David wrote during his old age, we read these words that should also bring encouragement to us:  (vs. 35)"I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken."  When it comes to fulfilling His promises to the righteous, God never misses a beat.  While it may look like the wicked are cleaning up in this world, their day is coming when God will bring them to account.  Read the entire Psalm 37 and rejoice for the Lord will bless those who belong to Him.  He sees our situation and has promised to never leave or forsake us!  Selah!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

When Its Been One of Those Days

     There are times when things just don't seem to turn out the way we had expected, and it seems that whatever can go wrong does.  This is the way my Monday began.  Actually, I should back up and explain that on Saturday, I opened the freezer door and a pound of frozen bacon came flying off the shelf and hit my big toe.  To say this hurt is putting it very mildly.  All night long the toe throbbed and so I got very little sleep. The same was true for the next evening.  This is probably what led to my not so happy Monday.
     Having a doctor's appointment in another town, I left early enough so I arrived on time.  There were no other patients in the office, and in fact, the doctor came out and chatted with his receptionist for a while and returned to his office.  I waited fifteen more minutes before I had the chance to see him.  This was to be the first of many irritations.
     In addition, our internet had been down since the past week meaning no communication or T.V.  We had a tech scheduled to come but not until Tuesday.  This was irritating but then my cell phone email quit responding as well.  I did not know how to remedy the problem so I went to the providers office in the same town where my appointment was only to find there was a line out the door.  I waited in line, and when I finally got to a customer service agent, she told me I had to call the technical line because they could not help me at all.  Unfortunately, my luck with agents on the technical line was often dismal, but I had no other possibility.
     By the time I reached home, I was in quite a stew about life in general.  Lack of sleep, and the frustrations of life can make problems seem much larger than they really are.  With this in mind, I decided to just sit quietly and do some embroidery, read my Bible passages and allow myself to unwind.  It is far better to be silent than to speak up and say something unkind.  My mother impressed that upon my heart long ago.
     Reading the Word of God brought the most comfort to my heart...it always does.  Why do we not reach for it more often?  One of my favorite verses is found in Psalm 30:5:  "For His anger is but for a moment,  His favor is for life;  Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning."  Then, I turned to another favorite verse sound in Psalm 147:3:  "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."  What a God of mercy and grace who cares about us and even the little things that cause us frustration.  However, my favorite verse comes from 2 Corinthians 1:3-4:  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."  These beautiful words really do soothe the soul like no other Scripture.  To think, we are loved by the God of all comfort.  He personally comforts us like a mother comforts a child who has been injured or is afraid.
     In those moments as I read this, I could feel the loving arms of the Lord around me.  Then, the hymn that was one my father loved to hear came to mind, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus".  Verse 1 goes:  "What a friend we have in Jesus,
               All our sins and griefs to bear!
              What a privilege to carry
               Everything to God in prayer!
              Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
              Oh, what needless pain we bear,
              All because we do not carry
              Everything to God in prayer!"
We do often forfeit our peace when we allow the circumstances of life to dictate our happiness.  Our first thoughts should be to take the everyday situations before the Lord who cares for us.
     Not only did the Scripture bring me comfort, but it also brought me conviction.  I had allowed my
frustration to win the day.  In those moments of silent reflection, I found repentance, peace and the joy of the Lord again.  How sweet to end my day this way.
     Have you had those days too?  Our comfort is never far away or unable to lift us above our circumstances.  All we need to do is call upon the Lord, meditate on His Word and trust in Him.  He is the God of all comfort.  As He has comforted me, I have shared this with you to pass along His comfort as the Word tells us to do.  Be encouraged today and know that when frustration arises, God is only a whispered prayer away.  Selah!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Dirtmaster Special

Murphy with his favorite toy
     Our family pet is a most beloved Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier named Murphy, a.k.a. The Dirtmaster.  We call him that because he seems to attract sand, sand spurs, clinging seeds and almost anything that can catch on his soft hair.  When he returns from a walk, I can tell that he has explored the weeds and tall grass carefully for all that falls off on my floors.  Seems like I major in sweeping here at our home to get up all the sand almost every day.  Of course, Florida is one big sand dune and even though we have grass, Murphy can find areas in and around bushes that are filled with black sand.  He often comes in with his legs covered in the stuff.  Even though he creates extra work, we would not trade him for the world.
     At times, I wonder if God sees us in much the same way.  We can often wander into the weeds of life and step into a patch of thorns or sand spurs.  Certainly the Apostle Paul spent a good deal of
time warning Christians about all the pitfalls in this world.  We are saved by grace, washed by the blood of Christ, but we still carry about us the old man of the flesh that likes to wallow in the dirt.  As I see it, we have to make a choice every morning to put on the mind of Christ and be renewed in His Spirit even before we begin the day's activities.
     In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul contrasts the ungodly with those who have come to Christ.
Ephesians 4:20-24 tells us what we must do each day:  "But that is not the way you learned Christ! - assuming that you have heard about Him and were taught in Him as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."  We can either allow the old self, with which we are very familiar, to run the show or we can consciously put on the new self in Christ.  We are no longer in bondage to the old man by the blood of Christ.  Before, we had no ability to walk away from sin and evil desires.  Now, by the grace of God, we have the Holy Spirit living in us to empower us to walk in holiness daily.  We don't have to wallow in the dirt any more.  We can wear our robe of righteousness.
     However, there will be those days and times when we allow the old self back in the driver's seat.  This is when we become human dirt masters carrying the grime of sin with us wherever we go.  When this happens, we do have an advocate who pleads for us before the Father in heaven (our Lord Jesus Christ).  I John 1:9 has the remedy:  "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  We don't have to wait to be made right with God.  He hears us when we call to Him with a repentant heart in the name of Jesus Christ.  Now while the process is easy it can also be messy because sin brings with it consequences.  While God forgives the sinner, there are some things that cannot be "unsaid", "unseen" or "undone".  This is why we should start each day with the prayer that God would renew us in the spirit of our minds that we may be transformed in our thinking.  We must also declare to the Lord that we are putting on the new man and putting off the old.  With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can walk in the light as He is in the light.  No where is this promised to be an easy walk, but we know that it is a joy filled walk with the Lord by our side.
     If Murphy, our dog, is the dirt master than I am the bath master in charge of keeping him clean, groomed and brushed.  I take care of him because I love him.  I do think God looks at us when we get in the weeds and shakes His head too as we come trudging home with all that dirt.  But like the father who welcomes the prodigal son, God is more than ready to clean us up and set us back on the path if we will confess our sins and humble ourselves before Him.  Let us resolve to put on the new self each day and be renewed in the spirit of our minds so that we may bring glory to His name.  Remember...we are no longer slaves to the old self and sin!  Selah!