Thursday, January 29, 2015

What Are You Called to Do?

On this Throw Back Thursday, I have reached into my archives to share a post with you that I wrote some years ago.  It is good to take a look back from time to time.  Be blessed as you read.

     When I was in college, most of my fellow classmates had a general idea of what they wanted to do with their life, but as time went on, some of them changed their major.  I, however, did not.  I knew that I wanted to train to be a teacher of communications and English.  My inspiration came from a high school teacher whom I admired.  He recognized my strengths and encouraged me to pursue them. 
     However, not everyone cheered me on.  I remember a public speaking contest I entered (during my high school days) where one of the judges questioned whether a girl should be an
extemporaneous speaker.  He was very negative, and his remarks stung me to the core.  Undaunted, I continued to enter contests and won some awards for my efforts.  Then, my high school principal told my parents that he did not think I could make it in college.  He felt my math abilities were in question.  Personally, I had to agree with that assessment to an extent, but I was determined to go on and prove that I could handle college level work.  I graduated Magna Cum Laude pursuing the dream I had in high school.  With a teaching certificate in hand, I thought I was destined to be a public school teacher, but God had other plans.
     While in post graduate studies at Ohio State University, my fiancee and I became Christians, and that changed the course of our lives.  We were married three months later, and I found myself working in public relations for several years while my husband studied his profession.  Later, I did some radio broadcasting and worked in banking.  I had done everything but teach. 
     When our family came along, I stopped all work activities in favor of being a stay at home mother.  It was a blessing to have children and pour my life into theirs.  In fact, God called my husband and I to teach our children at home.  It was an unusual thing to do in those days and the very real prospect of having authorities challenge your right to do this was present.  Despite this, we gave our time and effort for 21 years to this endeavor.  It became clear to me that my training as a teacher was being put to use by God in ways I had not imagined.  As Proverbs 16:9 says:  "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." 
     I have shared this to point out the fact that we may have certain goals in our life that may change as the Lord directs us.  At the time, we may wonder why on earth we ever went to college or why we are stuck in a certain position.  This isn't what WE had in mind.  Nevertheless, as Christians we do not belong to ourselves any longer but we belong to the Lord.  Colossians 3:17 encourages us with these words:  "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."  This means whether we are worshipping the Lord, working at our day job or changing dirty diapers, we are to do it all for the glory of God knowing that it is He who has called us.  We are where He wants us at this point in time.
     Part of our problem is that we want to be at the destination now instead of enjoying the journey that God has set before us.  We all know how it grates on the nerves of parents when their children ask over and over again, "Are we there yet?"  Imagine how that sounds in the ears of God.  Instead of embracing each moment of life that He gives us here and now, we are off worrying about tomorrow.  Oh, what we miss when we fall into this trap. 
     Romans 8:28 sums up how God works in our lives:  "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose."  He takes all the pieces, segments, training, gifts, talents, circumstances (good and bad) and makes them work together for His glory and our good.  He knows our beginning from our end and He is the finisher as well as the author of our faith.  He is writing the book of our life each day, and not a thing happens to us that He does not know about.  God sees the big picture.  We see only a small fraction.
     Through all the many hats I have worn over the years, I have come to understand that God has given to me a gift of encouragement.  It has been the thread that has been woven through every strand of my life.  I know I am called to use that to be a blessing to others.  It gives me joy and satisfaction like nothing else does when I can be used to help someone else.  But God has given you a precious gift too!  In fact, all who believe are given gifts by God to use for His glory and for the mutual blessing and edification of the saints.  This is the call that rises above our occupation or circumstances.  No matter  where we find ourselves in life right now God can use us if we will do all for His glory using the gifts He has given us.  If you do not know what your gift and calling is, just ask God.  He will show you.  It will be your passion and the motive that drives you.  Once you recognize that gift, that passion, God will guide you in using it wherever you are at this time in your life. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Helping or Enabling

     As a parent and now a grandparent, I have always had a desire to assist or help my family in any way I can.  This is a natural outgrowth of my love for them.  However, what is the difference between helping family, friends and others and enabling them?  We all want to show mercy and grace to those in time of need, but when do we get in God's way?
     Currently, there are many fine ministries created to help the poor and needy.  When someone loses a job or faces huge financial problems, they need a hand.  In many cases, these ministries have a person designated to do a background check on the person to see if there is a real need.  This is crucial because the sin nature in man often reveals itself when someone wants help but is unwilling to help themselves.  They may be a steady customer to any ministry or person who will continue to provide them with their needs while they do nothing to improve their situation.  My father-in-law, who had a good deal of wisdom, used to say, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."  If we do everything to make life easy for someone or to help them avoid the consequences of a wrong action they have taken, then we are enabling them.
There is a time and place to help and a time to let someone face the results of their decisions.
     For Christians, this is a fine line because we feel compelled to assist those who are in need or in trouble.  Someone with a mercy motive  has even more of a challenge because they want to apply bandages to the wounds of life when the Lord may be trying to get someone's attention.  Scripture is very blunt when it comes to reaping what we sow:  "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." (Galatians 6:7-8 NIV).  The question becomes, "Are we mocking God when we ride to the rescue every time a person makes a wrong decision?"
     Parenting certainly is not an easy task in this day and age by any means.  Saying "no" to our children is tough, but there are times we have to do so for their own good.  We can either assist them in growing up by setting and maintaining healthy boundaries or we can pamper them to death leaving them with a sense of entitlement.  Life "owes" me becomes their mantra.  A good example for us to look at is the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32).
     In the story, the youngest son approaches his father and demands his inheritance now.  What makes this an unusual request is that most children do not receive their inheritance until their parents are gone.  It is as if the young man was wishing his father dead.  However, the father gives to him his inheritance whereupon this son leaves to spend it on his pleasures.  According to Scripture, the son spent all he had on "reckless living".  When the money was gone, the young man had no choice but to  look for work to sustain himself.  He ended up feeding pigs in this far country.  He got to the point where he wanted to eat even what the pigs were being fed, but no one gave him anything (vs. 16).
There came a point where this son woke up to reality and thought seriously about what he had done.  He knew his father's servants were taken care of better than this lifestyle.  At this moment, he knew he had sinned and needed his father's forgiveness.  Therefore, he returned home with an attitude of humility and a willingness to be a servant in his father's household.  His repentance was sincere.  Imagine his shock when his father ran to greet him.  In fact, his father held a feast for him and restored him to the household as a son.  Why?  Because the father knew he was truly repentant.
      As we consider the father in this story, there are several things we should note.  First, the father did not run after his son.  He let him go to face the consequences, of his decision.  I am certain he was concerned and probably hurt that his son wanted to take his inheritance early and leave home, but he did not stop him.  Though it is not stated in Scripture, I am certain the father prayed diligently for his wayward son.  Was the father unloving because he didn't run after the son?  On the contrary, he released him into God's care.  There are times when we get in God's way by trying to fix things for others.  This is what enabling does.  God is more than capable of trimming our sails when we are rebellious as this young man seemed to be.  When the son came home with full repentance, the father welcomed him with open arms.  The key here was that the son acknowledged his wrong doing and asked for forgiveness.  Then, he was restored.  Jesus tells this story to show how the heavenly Father reacts when a sinner truly repents and returns to a right relationship with Him.
     If this story were to play out today, I can only imagine how it might be in the age of text messages, emails and phone calls not to mention unhealthy parent and child relationships.  All too often, parents do not allow children to face the consequences of their decisions.  They pay the rent, fix up the vehicle, buy the food rather than let their child suffer.  Again, there is a fine line between genuine help and enabling.  We need godly wisdom as found in scripture, prayer and the counsel of others.  It is too easy to jump in to save someone from consequences that perhaps God wants them to face for their growth and good.  Perhaps God wants them to feed the pigs for a while until they come to their senses.
     May God give us discernment, wisdom and understanding as parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors and fellow believers so we know when to help.  He, alone, knows the plans He has for each one of us.  Let us be faithful to listen to Him.  Selah!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Destructiveness of Sin

      Have you ever told a "white lie"?  I know I have from time to time because I didn't want to hurt some one's feelings when they asked me about an outfit they were wearing.  However, besides being a dishonest thing to do, it is also sin.
     We all try to rationalize away the ugliness of sin by grading it.  Some sins like murder are "very bad" while other sins like "white lies" to protect some one's feelings are not quite as bad.  However, to our Lord, sin is sin and it is an abomination to Him.  Realizing this can keep us from taking this matter lightly.
     As we look at the life of David, we know both that he was a "man after God's own heart" but also a man who fell into the sin of adultery followed by murder.  How could this be?  It started small with a glance from his palace at a beautiful woman.  Like a little "white lie", the leaven of sin spread into his soul and led him into deeper evil.
     After David was confronted with his sin by Nathan the Prophet, he cried out to God for forgiveness, and we see this in Psalm 51.  As you read this Psalm, focus on verses 7-12.
Ruins of the castle wall in Heidelberg, Germany
     In verse 7, David seeks to be purged with hyssop.  A branch of hyssop was used in the ceremonial cleansing of lepers in Leviticus 14:6,7.  The hyssop was dipped into the blood of a sacrificed bird and sprinkled upon the leper thus making him clean.  Not only does this foreshadow the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ for sin but also shows that David is aware that his sin makes him like an unclean leper.  In Bible times, leprosy was a serious disease often leading to death.  The second half of the verse asks God to wash David so that he will be whiter than snow.  Numbers 19:19 describes the ritual of washing after coming into contact with a dead person.  David was familiar with this and likens his sin to being in touch with death.  Only God is capable of cleansing him.
      Verse 10 of Psalm 51 uses the verb "create".  This is the same verb used in Genesis 1:1 where God is creating the heavens and the earth.  Here David is acknowledging that only God is able to give him a clean heart and renew him in spirit.
      Recognizing that sin utterly separates us from God is evident in verse 11 as David begs God not to cast him far away.  How little we often realize that sin keeps us from the relationship we so desperately need not only with God but our fellow man.
     Finally in verse 12, David asks the Lord to restore the "joy of Your salvation".  He came to realize that he had left his first love when he fell into sin.  He took his eyes off the Lord and fixed them on a woman.  David went from being a "man after God's own heart" to declaring spiritual bankruptcy in a short period of time.  This recognition led him to a great repentance.
     There is a sign above my computer which reads:  "Joy isn't the absence of sorrow, it's the presence of God."  In King David's case, he certainly experienced much sorrow over his sin, the loss of Bathsheba's baby and his broken relationship with God.  However, he knew that this was necessary in order to find the joy of a righteous relationship with his creator.  He also acknowledged that he wasn't able to restore this in his own power.  Only God could do that for him.
      When we consider that sin is much like the disease of leprosy which disfigures little by little and can lead to death, we will come to understand our need to walk closely with our Savior Jesus Christ.  Little "white lies" seem so innocent when we tell them, but just like David's glance at a beautiful woman, the consequences can be devastating first to our relationship with God and secondly in our relationship with others.  May we strive to walk in the Spirit by His Word so that we might not sin against Him.  Selah!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Power of the Name

     Most of us had a nickname when we were growing up.  Some were fun and perhaps, some were hurtful, but often, they reflected some characteristic or trait that others saw in us.  For example, those of us who grew up watching "The Lone Ranger" knew that his side kick Tonto always called him "Kemosahbee".  This was a word denoting respect and meaning "faithful friend" according to the story line.  However, there is no name as powerful or safe as that of our Lord.
       Proverbs 18:10 reads:  "The name of the Lord is a strong tower."  It is in God alone that we find all that we need in this life and for eternity to come.  Throughout Scripture, God is called many names which point to His character and sovereignty. This listing is not complete but contains those which many of us are familiar with:
     Elohim:  God "Creator, Mighty and Strong"  (Genesis 17:7; Jeremiah 31:33
     El Shaddai:  "God Almighty"  (Genesis 49:24 and Psalm 132: 25).
     Adonai:  "Lord" (Genesis 15:2; Judges 6:15).  This name for God often replaced YHWH as the Jewish people felt God's name was much too holy to be spoken.
     YHWH, Yahweh or Jehovah:  means "Lord" (Deuteronomy 6:4, Daniel 9:14).  This was the name best associated with God and the one He called Himself when He and Moses met in the wilderness - "I Am that I Am".
A strong tower in Heidelberg, Germany
     Jehovah Jirah:  "The Lord will provide" (Genesis 22:14).  God provided a ram for a sacrifice instead of Abraham's son Isaacc in the wilderness.
     Jehovah Rapha:  "The Lord who heals"  (Exodus 15:26).  He heals both body and soul.
     Jehovah Nissi:  "The Lord our Banner" (Exodus 17:15).  God went before His people like a banner when they defeated the Amalekites.
     Jehovah Shalom:  "The Lord is our Peace" (Judges 6:24).  This was the name given by Gideon.
     Jehovah-Tsidkenu:  "The Lord Our Righteousness" (Jeremiah 33:16)
     Jehovah-Rohi:  "The Lord Our Shepherd (Psalm 23:1)
     Jehovah Sabaoth:  "The Lord of Hosts" (Isaiah 1:24; Psalm 46:7)  He is the God of all creation over both earth and heaven.
     Just in these few names we can see that God desires relationship with us.  Through His Word He tells us who He is and what He requires of us.  Furthermore, His names should bring us comfort knowing that He is the completion of all we need for life.  When we are afraid, we can seek our El Shaddai to protect and keep us.  If we have need, Jehovah Jirah is our resource.  During sickness, we can call upon Jehovah Rapha.  However,  God has lifted up the name of His Son that we might come to salvation.
     Philippians 2:9-10 tells us:  "9For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,…"  Our Lord Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man, and in Him, we have forgiveness of our sins.
     Dear friends, God has provided for us all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and it is found in His name from start to finish.  We have only to call upon Him in earnest prayer.
     When uncertain times come our way, we would do well to meditate on the name of the mighty God we serve.  In Him, we have a faithful strong tower just as Proverbs tells us.  He will never leave nor forsake us.  Therefore, let us put our trust in the One who never sleeps nor slumbers.  Call upon the name of our Lord.

Friday, January 16, 2015

All the Evidence is In...

     Having grown up in a family with a well-known criminal attorney for my grandfather, I was exposed to all things concerning the law from the time I was little.  My father would usually go and visit my grandparents every evening and I always begged to go along.  I would sit and listen to their discussions concerning various cases that were in the news and the evidence that had been gathered.  Whenever eyewitness testimony was mentioned, my grandfather would say "Case closed unless they can prove the witness to be less than reliable."  Without eyewitness testimony, many cases were on shaky grounds in those days unless there was enough other evidence present to bring a conviction.  However, when both eyewitness testimony and forensic evidence were present, it made the case a more solid one.
     With this in mind, I always find myself surprised when I hear people talk about their faith being built upon that "inner" feeling they have that God is speaking to them.  Perhaps they have been highly motivated by a great message or by the antiphonal music of a choir and instrumental group.  Certainly, there is nothing wrong with being moved in our hearts, but our faith can rest on far more than a "feeling".  We have eyewitnesses who testified to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Because of this, we can say, "Case closed."  Feelings come and go, but the Word of God stands forever!
     Two of the disciples, John and Peter, were eyewitnesses to what happened in the life of Christ and they wrote clearly about their experiences.  Peter said in his letter:  "For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty" (2 Peter 1:16).  Likewise, the Apostle John wrote these words:  "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life, and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us" (1 John 1:1-2).  Both of these men walked, talked and lived with Jesus for three years.  They witnessed His crucifixion, His death and His resurrection.  Then, they boldly proclaimed His name after He ascended to the Father.  In fact, they ended up paying great penalties for what they preached.  Peter was crucified upside down as he felt unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as His Lord.  John was boiled in oil though he survived and was banished to the Isle of Patmos where he later wrote the book of Revelation.
     Matthew was also a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ and recorded in detail the events of our Lord's life.  While Luke was not an original disciple, he spoke with many of those who were eyewitnesses to the life of the Lord.  He records in great detail the many events that occurred. As a physician, he would have been very driven to write things accurately and he states in the opening of his Gospel:  "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught"(Luke 1:1-4).   From this we know that Luke had first hand eyewitness accounts on which to base his writing.
     Jesus also appeared to His original disciples (with the exception of Judas who had taken his own life), Mary Magdalene, Salome, Mary the mother of James, Cleopus (Luke 24:13-34) and to over 500 during the 40 days following the resurrection.  Though Paul was not an eyewitness, we know that he had a dramatic encounter with the living Christ that turned him from persecuting Christians to believing in Him.  He also was brought to the disciples in Jerusalem by Barnabus and affirmed as a brother in the Lord  (Acts 9:26-30).  As a contemporary of the Apostle Peter, Paul wrote, preached and taught alongside these disciples.  His testimony of Christ was demonstrated by his life and death at the hands of Rome.
     I have only scratched the surface in pointing out the eyewitness testimony to the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, but it should be evident that we have radical legal evidence to stand on for our faith.  Most of the Gospel accounts were written either before 70 A.D. or within the first 100 years following the death and resurrection of the Lord.  This type of historical documentation lends even more credibility to the events that transpired.   In addition, many (if not most) of the original disciples were put to death for their faith.  These trembling, fearful fisherman who hid after the crucifixion became bold preachers.  They paid dearly for their stand.  Why would you do this if it was not true?  I do not think anyone would offer up his body to be crucified, beaten and beheaded for the sake of a false religion.  These were the eyewitnesses to the life of Christ who sealed their testimony in their own blood.
     Feelings are not a reliable source on which to base our beliefs.  Christianity is logical, reasonable and has stood the test of time.  In fact, more evidence to the veracity of what the Bible teaches is being turned up every day by archeologists.  Who is surprised?  God's Word is inspired, infallible, and the very foundation of our faith.  We could take it to court and find no better testimony offered there.
     After recounting the events surrounding the resurrection, John makes this powerful statement in his Gospel:  "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name"  (John 20:30-31).  This is why the Bible stands as a book filled with eyewitness accounts to the greatest events in history.  It is His-story!  Believe in the Lord, not as a result of feelings, great music, or a motivating message.  Believe in Him because of the testimony preserved for us in the written Word of God which guides us into all truth.  Selah!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Family Circle


     When you are up to your ears in diapers with dinner to cook and a house to clean, there are times when you wonder if life will ever slow down just a little more!  Then, the day comes, as it has for me, when the house is empty and quiet.  Our four children have all grown up, and it seems to have happened overnight. Now we are grandparents.
Our family at Thanksgiving 2014
     At Thanksgiving, all of our children descended on our home to visit, and once again, the house rang out with happy laughter, children playing and busy activity in the kitchen.  It was a delight to share time together and it made me smile in my heart.  However, one by one, everyone had to return to their homes and their busy lives.  As I cleaned each room, I lingered for a moment reflecting on all the storybooks I read, all the injured knees I bandaged and all the wonderful long talks we shared together while the children were growing up.  In that moment, I could identify with Mary, the mother of Jesus, who treasured up in her heart all the things she witnessed as her Son grew.
     From the very beginning of the Bible all the way to the end, it is clear that God instituted marriage and the family as the foundation of stability and protection for His creation.  Throughout the Old Testament, we find countless references to the lineage of the Patriarchs and other leaders.  Long lists of people from each tribe is seen in the Book of Numbers.  Then, in the New Testament, Matthew is very careful to list the lineage of our Lord Jesus Christ.  In short, God worked within the family to bring forth His plan of salvation.  With that in mind, lets look at several elements of the family that make it a good environment for us to grow in our faith.
     First, the family provides a place of love and nurturing.  In the Garden of Eden, God created a man and a woman and brought them together in marriage that they may be fruitful and multiply.  Unfortunately, the picture of a perfect family was shattered by sin, but God promised that a Redeemer would come who would redeem fallen mankind.
     In the Book of Exodus, the Ten Commandments further clarified not only man's relationship to God but also to one another.  This is especially true of the marriage covenant and the way in which children are to respond to their parents.  When God is obeyed and put first in a family, harmony and love prevail.
     Another area that family touches is instruction.  The book of Deuteronomy in chapter six and verses 6-9 speaks specifically about meditating on God's Word and teaching them to our children.  We are not to do this one time only or even once a week but throughout the day.  This was one of the main benefits I saw when we home educated our children.  We were able to bring God into every area we studied and spend extra time in the Bible.  Whether parents choose to home educate or not, the family should be the place of first instruction when it comes to teaching God's Word, praying, and setting a good example for children in how to worship.  I remember very well my Grandfather Engel reading the Bible to me even when I was very young.  I may not have understood all the stories he read, but I knew that this was an important part of our family life.
   Finally, the family is where we gain an understanding of how to resolve conflicts, how to live in harmony, how to forgive, and how to encourage one another towards a goal.  Within this safe haven, we have the opportunity to develop a healthy view of life if the family is centered on Christ.  Without the Lord, as we have seen in our world today, the family unit struggling to survive.  Even Christian families are having difficulties in this increasingly secular society.  It is critically important, therefore, to pray and seek to support all the families in our church fellowship along with those in our community and especially to ask God's protection on our own family.
     Our time with our children is very short before they leave and move out on their own.  By honoring our marriage vows, living and walking by the Spirit, and instructing our children and/or our grandchildren in the Word of God we will strengthen the family unit.  This, in turn, builds up the church which consists of many families.  If we want a better world, nation, city or church, we must first begin with the family.  This was God's design from the beginning.  May we be found faithful in our call to build our homes on the solid Rock of Jesus Christ.  Selah!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Year Later.....

Branson James Thayer
     A couple days ago, I received an unexpected card from a college friend.  She had already sent a Christmas card to us so I was puzzled why she sent another.  When I opened and read it, I was deeply touched.  In the card, she told me that she had been unaware that we lost our oldest grandson last year  (January 9, 2014).  She went on to write that no grandparents should ever have to bury a grandchild.  Her words were loving, and she promised to continue to keep us in prayer.  This card could not have come at a better time because my thoughts had been filled with memories of Branson James Thayer since before Christmas.  Holidays are typically tough times when there is an empty chair in the family, but as we approach the date of his death, the thoughts of him have become more frequent.
     As grandparents, a loss like this is a double edged sword.  Not only did we lose a grandson, but we also witnessed the anguish of our son and daughter in law.  Had there been a way, we would have gladly taken their pain.  Yet, there really is no way to shorten or avoid the suffering that comes with loss.  What I do thank God for is the precious bonds of Christian family that see us through times like these.  Without our faith, how could we ever recover from such a heartache?
     One of the many great verses that has been a comfort to me over the months has been Psalm 34:18:  "The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."  This is a precious promise and our entire family could feel not only the love of the Lord but also the prayers of those around us.  Another Scripture that encouraged me is found in Psalm 147: 3:  "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."  Knowing that God is at work applying the salve to our wounds is assurance of His loving care for us.
     Pain and loss comes to all people both those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and those who do not.  Death is the consequence of sin.  However, those who have placed their trust in Christ have what others do not possess - HOPE.  We have the promise of resurrection and life eternal in our Lord.  We know we will see Branson again when the Lord calls us home.  For me, that is a comforting thought.
     In addition to seeing him again, we also know that in the presence of the Lord is joy forever more. Branson now has no limitations.  Where he needed assistance in walking, he can now run.  Where he had problems communicating, he can sing praises to God in heaven.  There are no more tears, pain or suffering.  Who could wish him back to a body that would not respond as he desired?
     Each one of us knew Branson from a different perspective so each one has had to reach a "new normal" via different means.  Now that a year has gone by, we can look back on all those things which captivated our hearts like his irresistible giggle when someone tripped or even dropped something; his love for the color red; his obsession with cars; his big smile and even his ornery one just before he was about to do something he should not have and finally, his triumphant statement when he achieved one of his goals "I did it!"  We are all the richer for these sweet memories today.
     Shortly after we lost Branson, I was taking the dog outside when I looked up and saw a big "X" in the sky above our house.  It was as if Branson had blown a kiss our way since he was fond of doing that.  At that moment, I felt God's loving presence reassuring me that He would see us through our time of grieving.   Now whenever I see those jet contrails in a big "X" over our home I never fail to thank God for the time we did have with Branson.  We may not understand why he had to leave when he did, but we know that God holds him in His arms, and we shall see him again.
     My closing advice to all would be to never take your family for granted.  We never know when the Lord may call someone home.  Instead do as the Lord Jesus Christ bid us to do by loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind and loving our neighbor as ourself.  Hug your loved ones and never fail to tell them you love them every day.  Selah!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

When You Have Had a Really Bad Day

     Life can throw us some curve balls can't it?  Whether it is illness, a difficult day at work, whiny children, or sudden loss, we all experience times when we feel like we want to go back to bed and pull the covers over our head.  However, God has a purpose through all the the circumstances of life and according to His Word it is all meant for good (Romans 8:28 and Jeremiah 29:11).  Jesus never told us that life would be easy if we followed Him.  To the contrary, it is often very painful.
This is true in the life of Job.
     We often read this book of the Bible overlooking some very important facts.  For example, we know that Job was a very wealthy man with a large family.  He was a good person who loved the Lord with all his heart.  What Job did not know was that a heavenly challenge has been issued regarding his faithfulness to God.  As the Lord praised the fidelity of Job before the host of heaven, Satan told him that Job was only faithful because God had protected him.  So the Lord allowed Satan to test Job by allowing him to take away all the wealth and even his children in one day. Talk about our bad days!  They are nothing compared to what Job experienced.
     In Chapter 1:13-19, Job learns as one messenger after another comes to tell him his animals had been stolen, his
Troubles in life like small gators can become big ones if
we don't trust God.
 servants were killed, fire fell from heaven destroying his sheep and their servants, his camels were stolen, and worst of all,  the house where his children were dining fell upon them and killed them all.  This was a devastating loss and Job tore his robe, shaved his head and fell on the ground.  Verse 20-21 tells us that he worshipped God and said:  "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return.  The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."  Indeed, Job loved the Lord with all his heart and did not curse Him in all he lost.
     Further reading reveals Satan's further challenge to God concerning Job.  He told the Lord that if Job was afflicted he would certainly curse his Maker.  Once again, God allowed Job to be tested but not put to death.  Satan then attacked him with sores and boils all over his body causing great pain and suffering.  Now, not only was Job grieving for his lost children and holdings, but he was also enduring chronic ill health.  His own wife mocked him for remaining faithful to God.
     Certainly, Job did not know what was going on in heaven.  He could not understand why all this happened to him.  He was unaware of any sin which he had committed so he had no reason to repent. Lets consider for a moment how we would react.    Haven't there been occasions when we have all undergone hard times?  We cannot imagine why this has happened to us either.  There are some things we are not meant to know, and this is where trust in the Lord comes in.  Deuteronomy 29:29 says:  “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law."
     Job did not know what was going on in heaven.  He was living with veiled eyes as we do.  However, God, through His Word, has pulled the curtain back for us to see what was behind everything that happened to this man.  For us, it should be encouragement because at every turn God was in control.  He knew Job was faithful.  The Lord had His purposes for testing this man, and He has a purpose for all that comes to us as well.  We may never understand them in this life, but for the Christian, a day of understanding will come when we see the Lord.  The Apostle Paul wrote these words of encouragement in I Corinthians 13:12:  "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known."
     God has called us to a walk of faith not based on sight or our senses but based upon the full counsel of His inspired and infallible Word.  He has given us the Bible so that we may know Him and what He requires of us.  The secret things, however, belong to Him.  This is why we must live in a trusting relationship with the Lord.
     In the end of this book, God restores to Job twice as much as he had before including seven sons and three daughters.  Of course, Job had no way to know that this would happen.  His trust was based not on what God could do for him but on God's perfect character.  The Lord is gracious and full of compassion which is demonstrated in this story.
     As we walk through the trials of life, let us remember Job.  Because he loved the Lord, God did sustain Him through all the heartache.  He will do the same for us.  We may not always understand why things happen the way they do, but we are not privy to all that is going on behind the scenes for our good and God's glory.  Therefore, let us be bold to live a life in faith trusting God to work all things together for good as He said in His Word.  Selah!