Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Expect the Unexpected

     Life happens.  We have all heard that and experienced it.  At times, however, it can be discouraging especially when you have plans for a special day.  This past Sunday, my husband and I were headed for a wonderful day of celebrating his birthday with our son and his family.  We were also going to attend a production of "Mary Poppins" in which our grandson had a major role.  All seemed well as we headed down the highway when I started to experience some chest pain.  This is the second time this has happened to me in the last couple of years so I was concerned.  I told my husband about it, and we had to abort our plans.  I ended up in the hospital for two days for testing but thankfully, everything turned out okay.
Our grandson Aiden
     At first, all I could think about was how I had spoiled my husband's birthday and disappointed my grandson, but as my husband reminded me, I had to take care of my health.  Certainly, we cannot predict when something is going to happen especially in the time in which we live.  No one plans to be sick, have an accident or lose their job.  Life in this fallen world is anything but perfect.  Yet God works through every circumstance we find ourselves in and in the end, brings good out of what Satan means for evil.  Romans 8:28 says:  "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God to them who are the called according to His purpose."   So how did God work things together for good in this situation?
     First, I had several opportunities to pray with different people in the hospital.  A nurse on duty at night was in terrible pain and was trying to work until her relief nurse came.  She kept telling me how sorry she was that she was in pain.  I looked at her and asked if she would like to pray.  She agreed and we had precious time with the Lord.  I had a chance to pray with my husband, my son and another nurse.  Talk about a prayer meeting!  It is easy to see God's hand in all things if we will just pay attention.
     Looking back, I remember my Great Aunt Mildred Eitzman going around our local hospital cheering other patients up and praying with them even as she battled breast cancer.  She always had a smile on her face.  It was a lesson in courage and commitment despite her circumstances.  God used her till the end of her journey here.  In each of our lives, I am certain we know someone who has faced a giant and won the battle through Christ.  This is what we must recall when the unexpected happens.
     Because we face these events in life, we need to lean into the arms of the Lord and trust in His sovereignty.  He has us in His grip and He will never change or let go.  This morning I read in Psalm 32:7:  "You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance."  This is an example of David's trust in God.  When trouble came into his life, he ran to the Lord not away from Him.  We need to do the same.
     Another verse that gives us confidence in the grace and mercy of the Lord is found in Jeremiah 29:11:  "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."  Before we are even born, God knows us intimately and formed us for His purpose and plan.  As we walk each day, we need to remember this truth.  All those little detours in our life can be an opportunity to serve and live for Him.
     If we live expecting the unexpected, we will not be surprised when something comes at us "out of the blue".  Our comfort and strength can be found in the Lord who helps us walk through those times when things do not go as planned.  Remember that it is God who supplies us with all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).  Trust in Him who is able to do far more for us than we are able to do for ourselves.  Selah!


Friday, May 11, 2018

Don't Forget to Remember

     As Mother's Day approaches, I have so many fond remembrances of my mother who left this earth many years ago.  Her teaching and encouragement have often served as my port in the storms of life especially her love of the Psalms.  She taught me early in life to turn to the Psalms and pray them as she did.  She found comfort in their words and read them every evening.  In addition, she also closed every note, card or letter with the blessing from Numbers 6:24-26 ("The Lord bless you and keep you...").  Of course, at the time, I did not think much of the way she ended her writing as I was not a committed Christian, but now I cherish this memory.  My mother planted so many seeds of faith in my life that God has brought to full flower as I have walked with Him.  For these and so many things, I am grateful.
     I also remember, with a chuckle, the many "Mom-isms" my mother gave me when I was growing up.  Things like:  "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" (translation:  Be nice to others not unkind); "Be careful to put on clean underwear without holes in them in case you are in an accident" (I never did get that one as they generally cut clothes off of you if you are in serious shape);
"Never let the sun go down on your wrath" (translation:  don't go to bed angry as you will not sleep...make peace with others); "If you are too sick to go to school, you are too sick to play outside" (self-explanatory); "Don't jump on that roll-away bed.  It is meant for sleeping not jumping" (said to me moments before I jumped on the roll-away bed, fell and cut open my head resulting in stitches).  Of course, there were many others that I found myself repeating to my own children.  It is good to remember the words our mothers have passed on to us for they were said out of love.
Mother's Day flowers from our children!
     In the same way, we ought to meditate daily on all that God has done for us throughout our lives.  Wouldn't it be a blessing to sit down and make a list of His blessings during the day instead of thinking about the things that went wrong?  Looking at Scripture, we find in Psalm 106 the words of praise but also the words of confession and repentance.  The Psalmist started by praising God:  "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!" (Psalm 106:1)  Then the author goes on to describe Israel's unfaithfulness to the Lord and their covenant with Him.  Recounting and thinking about our sins is a good thing for us to remember.  When we see what a great sinner we have been, we can truly appreciate the wonderful salvation of our Lord.  Likewise, we need to recall God's commandments and direction to us in the way that we live.  Repetition is good for us as it was for the Israelites who tended to quickly forget all God had done for them.  This is why we need to teach our children and grandchildren the truths of walking with Christ.  If we do not teach them truth, the world will certainly instruct them on how to follow their fleshly desires.
     One of the surest ways to remember the instruction of the Lord is to read His Word daily and spend time in prayer.  Each time we pick up the Bible, we find in its pages an encounter with God.  Psalm 119:11 tells us to hide God's Word in our heart so we might not sin against Him.  The more we know His character and understand His precepts the more we will be able to follow Him in obedience.  Looking back on our lives gives us perspective as we see how God has worked in our behalf
     Just as I often sit and think about my mother and all the good things she taught me, it is also good to meditate on God's Word, His blessings, who we are in Christ and what God has done in our lives.  This gives us a reality check.  Psalm 106 did that for the people of Israel.  They needed to remember their sin and God's mercy upon them.  Revival begins when our heart is tuned to the Lord's heart.  Let us never forget to remember all He has done for us and is doing in us!  Selah!

P.S.  Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Losing Our First Love

     One of the downsides to putting something away in a safe place is remembering where you put it!
I cannot tell you how many times this has happened to me and it is not just a sign of age.  When I was raising our four children, I would misplace items simply because I would become distracted by someone calling for help.  In short, my full attention was not focused on what I was doing.  The same thing happened to my parents one day and the result was funny to say the least.
     My father put his Brylcreem for his hair on a lower shelf and the toothpaste on the upper shelf of the medicine cabinet.  Ordinarily this was just the other way around.  So, when my mother went to brush her teeth, she grabbed the Brylcreem which was in a tube that looked similar to the toothpaste.
Needless to say, she was not a happy camper and it took a while for her to get that nasty taste out of her mouth.  While misplacing things is no fun, losing our first love of Jesus Christ is far worse.
     Jesus spoke to the Church at Ephesus in the book of Revelations 2:1-7:  "“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,
‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. 6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”’  In this passage, our Lord commended the Ephesians for many good things they were doing.  However, they had lost the zeal and ardor that once characterized their love for Christ and the salvation He gave to them.  They were going through all the right motions but the flame and passion had gone out of their relationship with the Lord.  This is serious business both for a church and for individual Christians.  How does this happen and what are the signs?
     Life can be very distracting especially if we are parents of active young children or we work a demanding job.  We can easily put off prayer time or Bible study thinking we will do it later; yet, later never seems to come for us.  The longer we put off doing these faith building exercises the more distant we become from Christ.  This is not unlike a marriage or even a friendship.  If we neglect that other person, we will build some barriers.  Lack of communication is a relationship killer.  It takes effort to keep a relationship alive and growing.  This is one way we can lose our first love.
     Another thing that can isolate us from the love of Christ is when we are angry with God or unwilling to repent of sin.  When a tragedy occurs in our life, it is easy to blame God for what has happened, but if we hold on to that anger, we will be the loser in the end.  We often do not know why God allows certain things to happen.  He has the big picture and we do not.  This is where we have to trust Him in all areas of our life and yield to His Lordship.  Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us that God has good plans for us even if we do not see the results at the present time.  Likewise, if we have sinned and are unwilling to repent of that sin, we have raised a barrier between ourselves and the Lord.  Jesus said that if we love Him we must obey Him and love one another.  This is contrary to living in sin.
     Apathy also can cause us to lose our first love for Christ.  It is a spiritual laziness where we spend more time listening to the "flesh" than we do to the Holy Spirit.  We could read our Bible, but that takes effort.  Or...we could go to Bible study, BUT there is this special on T.V. tonight.  Having been a Christian for 47 years, I am well acquainted with all the excuses for not building my zeal for the Lord.  It takes discipline and effort to serve the Lord.  Lets face it, it takes effort to work on any important relationship, and our fellowship with God is the most crucial one we will ever have.
     Now, we must ask ourselves, "Have we lost our first love?"  Here are a few signs:  We make excuses for not attending church; we have little or no spiritual appetite to read the Word; prayer time is a burden rather than a blessing;  our heart is cold towards the Lord rather than the passion we once felt; we do not go out of our way to tell others about Christ; we justify areas of sin or compromise;  we are critical of others rather than forgiving and we avoid Bible study with friends  when we used to enjoy it.  These are just a few of the signs that we have lost our first love.
     Jesus calls us to return to our first love for Him.  He desires to fellowship with us.  In this crazy world in which we live, it is easy to get caught up in all the busy activities of work, children and other obligations.  However, we must never neglect our relationship with the Lord.  May we be diligent in seeking Him every day and then, see how all the rest of our life will fall into place.  Selah!