Thursday, December 29, 2016

Living By Faith

"For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: 
as it is written, The just shall live by faith."
Romans 1:17

What exactly does it mean for God to reveal His righteousness "from faith to faith"?
What does it mean to live by faith?

In my last post, I talked about how my Papaw used to say that "God will be everything to us that our faith will take Him for" and how the apostles said unto the Lord,
"Increase our faith."
Luke 17:5

As God continues to deal with me along this line,
He is showing me how much He has increased our faith during this current year of 2016.
All glory to God, I can look back and see how many long-standing fears were overcome.
Truly, I try to remember my exact feelings at the beginning of 2016,
and I am amazed at the progress in faith God has wrought for us this year.
I am humbled before Him, like never before, as I seem to never be able to completely release
all the praise I feel in my heart for all He has done.

And, do you know what I am finding, more and more, as I recall His leading this year and over the past few years?
His power has been there all along.
A lot of the progress has had to do with our willingness.
NOT that I am giving ANY credit to us...we deserve none.
Again, to GOD be all glory.
But, the point I am trying to make is this.
Much of the advances, development, and yes, even the breakthroughs we have seen, experienced, witnessed, and lived out have happened because we were finally brought to a place of a place of total a place of being compliant to step forward in faith and 
launch out into the deep, as He was asking us to do.
What startles me nearly speechless, is to think that we could have stayed where we were, indefinitely, through the paralysis that comes through our own lack of faith and unbelief.
We could have missed out on so much growth and so many blessings, if we had refused to move forward, at God's command.

He is faithful to send gentle urges to point us in the right the way in which He wants us to go.
He is faithful to even apply increased pressure, as we go along, trying His utmost to get our attention and further clarify the importance of our moving forward in a particular direction.
He will allow circumstances to intensify and light a fire under us, but He will not force us, against our will, to trust and obey Him the way He longs for us to.

As I think back over life, I just wonder how much I have, personally, missed out on,
because I dug in my heels and refused to live out a life of daring faith?

I'll be honest.
Many of the things God has asked of us have been difficult.
They have not even made sense, at different times.
When God gave us the word "Trust" as our "one word" for 2016,
we had no idea what all that would entail.

In our journey of trust, what I have found is that trust requires faith.
In order to place your trust in someone, there has to be at least a measure of faith 
in that person and their integrity to do what they say they will.
When Jesus told Peter to "launch out into the deep", Peter had to exercise a certain amount of faith and belief that Jesus would deliver on His promise of a great draught of fish if only Peter would position himself in the place Jesus specified.
Had Peter frozen in fear and refused to launch, he would never have received the fish.
The fish were not going to jump out of the water and land themselves in Peter's net inside his boat.
The fish were out in the deep, and the only way they would ever become the property of Peter,
was for Peter to follow Jesus' command, (even though it made NO sense, since he had been fishing all night and caught zero fish), and launch out to the place where the fish were.

Jesus always knows where the fish are located.
Peter had to trust that.
Even though he, as a seasoned, professional fisherman, 
had probably fished that Gennesaret lake countless times and thought he knew everything there was to know about it,
Peter had to come to the realization that Jesus knew more about it than he did.
He had to acknowledge that Jesus saw not only above the surface of the water,
He saw what was out of sight, behind the scenes, and under the surface, too.

Even though there was no humanly logical reason for Peter to turn around and launch back out in to the deep and give Jesus' suggestion a try, Peter had to accept the Isaiah 55:8-9 epiphany that this wasn't about human logic....that human reasoning and the thoughts of God are worlds apart.

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:8,9

This, my friend, is where faith comes in.

Seeing what God has already done in our lives is giving me a completely fresh, never-before-experienced level of inspiration to believe God for MORE.
There are mountains remaining in our lives...mountains that we cannot move on our own.
Obstacles that still stand in our way.
Impassable seas that need to be parted in order for us to progress yet even farther.

If God has done all He has already done, why would I think He cannot do the rest?
Is there anything in His Word that says once we have reached a certain level of blessings,
the blessings have to stop, and we just have to accept life at that level and be content with it,
when there are still mountains that need to be moved?
Does God ever do a half-way, unfinished job?
Does He give less than our faith takes Him for?

JESUS, Himself said this,
"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"
Matthew 7:7-11

The first word is A-S-K.
A     - ask
S   - seek
K - knock

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you.
Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."
John 16:23,24

As I survey all God has done, the nothing-short-of-miracles He has performed in our lives,
the bondage He has broken, the deliverance He has brought,
the thought occurs to me that we haven't seen anything yet.

A God with power so vast!
How can I doubt Him for what I still need?

Is God's arm shortened?
Is His power restricted?

"Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear..."
Isaiah 59:1

When we started out in 2016, we were in a very different place...
physically, financially, spiritually, and yes, geographically.
We were under a lot of oppression.
Fear stood in our path.
Intimidation by satan held us paralyzed.
Everything felt uncertain, except the certainty that change was coming.
And, in the midst of this, God spoke.
And, though His command was hard to follow,
and though some of what He was asking did not align itself with human reasoning,
we mustered mustard seed faith...not a drop more, I'm ashamed to say,
but a mustard seed portion was all that was required.
We launched out into the deep, in varying, progressive levels,
until we reached waters that were Ezekiel 47:5 deep.

"Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over."
Ezekiel 47:5

Our launching landed us in a before-undiscovered level of depth of what it means to trust God.
Our feet can no longer touch bottom.
He has had us to "let down our nets"...the safety nets that we clung to for security, stability, and sameness, and in our letting down of nets, 
we have discovered a draught of His blessings and provision.
As we have steadily turned loose of our own "adequacy" and there is less self on board continually hindering Him, we have found Him to be exceedingly enough.

God is a jealous God.
He does not want to compete with anyone else, including ourselves, for our dependence.
He wants us to walk life reliant upon Him.

All along the way, He has pointed out "idols" in our lives...things that we have turned to for what we should have been relying upon Him to provide in HIS way.
As He shines light, we must let go of our own illusion of self-sufficiency.
This journey has required us to forsake house and land, to let go of a vast percentage of our physical belongings, and to walk forward from a place of familiarity,
not knowing for sure where we were going, not yet knowing for sure where the journey will end.

God is teaching us to trust in Him for our physical needs,
our spiritual sustenance, and our financial provision.
To try to hold on to our own devices and our own nets of safety is counter productive to living by faith.
As long as we cling to our own back-up plans, we are not fully trusting God.

As humans, we don't like feeling dependent.
As a child, I grew up in what was near-poverty, and this foundation made me bound and determined to be fiercely independent as an adult.
It made me want to work hard and make sure and certain I was in charge.
God has had a time working with me and teaching me that I am not in charge.
He is, and He is fully capable of being THE All-in-All that we need...
that He does not need my self-contrived buffers, safeguards, and preventive measures kept in place,
"just in case" He doesn't do things when and how I think He should.

"For we walk by faith, not by sight..."
2 Corinthians 5:7

Tracing the hand of God and watching how He has navigated our path inspires me, dear friends.
It makes me see that it absolutely pays to mind God.
That God is true to His Word.
That He will not let you fall, if you fling yourself out upon the tide of His holy, Divine will
and dare to trust Him fully.

Though this journey towards minimalism and trust and living by faith may not make sense to anyone else around, I have never, in all my years of serving the Lord, known with such clear, decisive certainty that we are right in the center of God's perfect will.
This is the place of true peace, shut out from what the world calls "normal".

We can make the choice to follow Jesus and turn a deaf ear to what the world says our lives have to look like, and what the world says our lives have to look like is rarely, if ever, in alignment with what God wants us to do.

"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God."
James 4:4

Faith is building, as we see how God is taking care of us.
As we follow His path, however radical it happens to be when compared with the way of the world,
He is continually proving His faithfulness to us.
And His faithfulness to us is the very thing that is growing our faith in Him.

He has truly taken us from one level of faith to another this year.

"For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: 
as it is written, The just shall live by faith."
Romans 1:17

From faith to faith...isn't that where He wants to continue to take each one of us?
Are there not still, yet, vast numbers of levels of faith, undiscovered?
Is it possible to exhaust the power of God?

Seeing all He has done, gives me a new sense of boldness when approaching His throne.
It gives me increased, audacious courage to A-S-K...for more.
So, do you know what I am doing, as we approach the first day of 2017?

I am making a list of things I want to see God do in our lives during this new year.
Some may look at my list and call me crazy.
They may think I am being too daring.
That I am asking too much of Him.
That, after all God has already done for us, I should be content and stop asking.
That it would be excessive and extravagant for me to believe God wants to do more.
Satan would say that I am setting myself up for utter defeat and disappointment.
He would say that I don't deserve anything more from God...
that I have made far too many mistakes, that I have fallen too far short of God's glory,
that God would never overlook my past failures and give me the desires of my heart.
Satan is a liar.

When speaking of satan, Jesus said,
"He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it."
John 8:43,44

I choose to believe my Father in Heaven and the many promises He has made,
than to listen to satan's pack of lies for one more minute.
For too many years, I have lived cowering, believing his lies, instead of embracing the real truth of God's Word.
For far too many years, I have allowed the thief of unbelief to rob me of blessings God has wanted to bestow.
I have read about the people in the Bible who refused to have faith and believe, and I have judged them, even though I was following in their footsteps.

"So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief."
Hebrews 3:19

I have often wondered how many people in Jesus' hometown missed out on healing,
deliverance from demon possession, and other miracles, because they allowed their unbelief to stand in the way of the mighty things Jesus so longed to do for them.
There He was, Almighty God personified, standing right in front of them, in a body of flesh and bone, holding within His grasp the power for every, single thing they needed,
and yet, He was so hindered because they would not believe.

"And He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief."
Matthew 13:58

Seeing what God has already done has vastly increased my faith.
It has accelerated my boldness to approach His throne and lay out my petitions at His feet,
unashamed and with full knowledge that I have been invited to do so.

"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
Hebrews 4:16

Dear friend, what do you need?
What is most pressing upon your heart, as you watch 2016 come to a close?
Which desires of your heart, in particular, have not yet been granted?
Are there burdens you started out with at the onset of this year that you are still carrying today?
Is there an immovable mountain in your path?
Perhaps there is an impassable situation that looms in front of you as large as the Red Sea.
Maybe there is something that seems too big for God to change, 
and because of its size and gravity, you haven't even dared to ask Him to.

I want to encourage you to pick up your shield of faith with a new and emboldened passion,
to recklessly abandon fear, doubt, and unbelief, and to grasp hold of a new level of faith,
to make a list of all of the things you need from God,
and, then, my friend, I encourage you to ask.
" have not, because ye ask not."
James 4:2

Don't hold back a second longer.

Let's dare to believe God in 2017, as we have never believed Him before.
Let's open our minds to the possibility that He really does want to bless us this year,
that the blessings of the past were sent to us to move us from one level of faith to another,
that He wants to continue to build upon those blocks of faith with consistent increase,
that the best is not behind us, but ahead of us in this new year.

Are you sick?
God still heals.

"I am the LORD that healeth thee."
Exodus 15:26

"But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed."
Isaiah 53:5

"Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by Whose stripes ye were healed."
I Peter 2:24

Are you in need?
God still provides.

"But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:19

"Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Matthew 6:25-33

"And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them:"
Deuteronomy 28:13

Are you discouraged?
God is still our refuge.

"The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble."
Psalm 9:9

"Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looseth the prisoners:
The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous:
The LORD preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow..."
Psalm 146:7-9

"Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you."
I Peter 5:7

"Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30

Let's approach 2017 with faith, instead of fear.
Let's believe in the God of Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Elijah, David, Daniel, Esther, Peter, and Paul...
the very same God Who has brought us, personally, through so much already.
Let's take the plunges God is asking us to take and launch yet even further out into the deep of trusting Him and His plan.
Let's toss unbelief aside and dare to take Him at His Word, dear friends.
Let's just see how many of those items on our list can will be crossed off by December 31, 2017,
if God spares time and life.

He has already done His part.
His promises have been made.

"For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us."
2 Corinthians 1:20

His Word is out.
It will not return unto Him void.

"So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
Isaiah 55:11

"God will be everything to us that our faith will take him for"....
sounds like a lot of this is going to be up to you...and to me...and just how much we are willing to trust, obey, and believe.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas 2016, & Increased Faith for 2017

"Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost."
Romans 15:13

On this beautiful Christmas Day, this is my prayer for each of you dear readers.
That the God of hope will just fill you up to the brim and overflowing with a deep joy and peace.
That you will abound in hope, through the amazing, life-transforming power of the Holy Ghost.

Oh, He is a good God, Who is absolutely able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think.  (Ephesians 3:20)
My dear, old, Godly Papaw used to say,
"God will be everything to us that our faith will take Him for."

I think of that often.
Just how big is my faith?
To move a mountain, all it takes is faith the size of a tiny mustard seed.

Jesus said, 
"for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you."
Matthew 17:20

If little faith will move a mountain, 
just think what great faith will bring about in our lives!

I love the quote,
"Little faith will bring your soul to Heaven;
great faith will bring Heaven to your souls."

As I reflect back on past years and the year 2016 and recall the many prayers He has answered,
the mighty way He has demonstrated His power in our lives,
and the way He has stood by us through every trial and tribulation,
and I look ahead to the new year that will soon be upon us, God willing,
I ask myself, "What will my faith take Him for in 2017?"
If He will be all my faith will take Him for, is there any limit to what He can and will do?

God, Himself, asked Jeremiah,
"Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for Me?"
Jeremiah 32:27

What if, in the new year, we turned our focus away from our troubles and problems,
and we began to fix our eyes upon God and what He is able to do?

What if we started believing in Him like never before?
What if we simply took Him at His word and knew, with a new level of certainty,
that He will fulfill every promise He has ever made?
What if we took a hold of a faith like Abraham possessed, of whom the Apostle Paul wrote,
"And being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform."
Romans 4:21

Dear friends, there is nothing impossible for God.
Nothing is beyond His scope of power.
Nothing is bigger than He can handle.

"But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, 
With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible."
Matthew 19:26

"Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine; Thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and Thou art exalted as head above all"
I Chronicles 29:11

"Great is our Lord, and of great power: His understanding is infinite."
Psalm 147:5

"Wherefore thou art great, O LORD God: for there is none like Thee, neither is there any God beside Thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears."
2 Samuel 7:22

"For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him:
And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist."
Colossians 1:16,17

"For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward:
He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment."
Deuteronomy 10:17,18

"God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God."
Psalm 62:11

"Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable."
Psalm 145:3

"He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against Him, and hath prospered?"
Job 9:4

"Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son."
Genesis 18:14

"Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of His understanding.
He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength."
Isaiah 40:28-29

It is all a matter of our faith...and how much we are willing to "take Him for", 
as Papaw used to say.

I think, as Christians, we, too often, live beneath our privileges.
I, for one, do not want to do that anymore.
There are mountains that need to be moved
and impossibilities that need to be conquered.

God is able, my friends, to do what we cannot do.
Let's believe for great miracles to be wrought in each of our lives in the coming year.

What do you need?
What do you most long for Him to do in your life?
What are the yearnings of your heart today?

"Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth."
Mark 9:23

From our house to your house, 
we wish you a Merry Christmas,
and may the prayer of each of our hearts echo the words of the apostles in Luke 17:5,
"And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith."

In closing, I'd like to share the words to one of my favorite hymns written about faith,
by Clara M. Brooks.

The Virtue of Faith
As far above the howling storm,
Secure from danger’s reach and harm,
Triumphantly the eagle flies—
My soul on wings of faith would rise;
When raging is the tempest’s blast,
Ere yet its wrath is overpast—
My soul would rise from earthly woe,
To leave the stormy winds below.

Upon the troubled, restless wave,
His fearful, trembling ones to save,
The Master walked and calmed the sea,
The wildly tossing Galilee;
By faith again I hear His voice,
In tones which make my heart rejoice,
When fears my soul with terror thrill,
He gently whispers, “Peace, be still.”

The lilies clothed in garments fair,
The ravens flying through the air,
Our blessed Father cares for all—
He seeth e’en the sparrow’s fall;
His children more He surely loves,
Their cry His heart with pity moves:
Though thorns bestrew the path we’ve trod,
He whispers still, “Have faith in God.”

The waves around may fiercely roll,
They cannot harm my trusting soul,
Regarding not what I may see,
My faith, O Lord, ascends to Thee;
The darkest night and brazen sky
Are pierced by faith’s unfailing eye—
My cry shall be till time shall cease,
“O blessed Lord, my faith increase.”

Friday, December 23, 2016

Be The Example

"Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity."
I Timothy 4:12

Today, I heard some disparaging news.
It really has nothing in the world to do with me, on a personal level.
But, boy, did it affect me.
I can't seem to shake it off.
It has to do with a lowering of standards, of sorts, and, if you have been reading what I write,
or if you know me at all, you already know that things like that always bother me.

When I first heard the news, my first impulse was to jump on the judging bandwagon.
I felt like going to this person's website, clicking on their "contact" page,
and giving them a harsh written scolding.
I even composed a bit of it in my mind.
Shamefully, it went something like this.

"Dear _______________,
How on earth could you?
You profess to be a Christian.
Have you forgotten what that means?
How could you announce such despicable news?
How could you flash such a picture for the whole world to see?
How could you be so flagrant?
So blatant?
So unashamed?
Don't you know there are people who look up to you,
who value your opinions, who mimic you?
Do you realize that when people see you and what you've done,
and they see Jesus' name attached to your name,
they will think these wrongdoings are okay with Him?"

I think that is the part that hurts me the most.
It is not so much that I care much about what this person does in their personal life.
It is really none of my business.....not a drop.

The part that troubles me....irritates me....downright vexes this.
This person openly professes to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
They move in Christian circles.
They "minister" in Christian churches.
And, I can tell you with Bible-backed certainty, that what they did,
is in total opposition of what Jesus stands for.

I sat there, laptop on lap, fingers on keys, staring at their website,
"fixin' to" (as they say in the south) lower the boom, let 'em have it,
and speak my over-zealous mind,

I felt justified in my righteous indignation.
That is, until I heard His voice.

"It is not up to you to correct this person.
You are not the judge."

Boy, was I put in my place.
Humbled beyond words.

He is right.
He always is.
He is righteousness personified.
He is the way.
He is the truth.
He is the life.

I could send that letter....that sanctimonious lecture of rebuke and admonishment that I was so carefully composing in my mind.
I could type it, hit the "send" key, and it would be on its way to its inbox destination.
Scripturally, my viewpoint is on, and, to be honest, I think even this person would know in their heart that what I am saying is true.

But, is it really my place?
Do I really have the right?
To rake someone else over the lay down God's law to them?

God continued to speak to me, letting me know that He knows they are doing wrong.
He is aware.
And He will deal with it.
I don't have to.
What a relief!

As I pondered how much this person has let me, and who knows how many others, down,
and how hypocritical it is for them to continue to maintain a Christian profession
while their conduct belies their claim,
I could hear my dear mother's voice speaking a phrase I have heard all my life.

When Mom would find that I was disappointed in someone else's behavior,
when I couldn't seem to find a role model I could really feel I wanted to follow,
when it seemed like the whole world was turning away from God and His holiness...
Mom would say,
"Cheryl, Bro. Wilson used to tell us,
if you want to see an example, BE an example."

Bro. Wilson was an old-time minister of the Gospel.
He and his wife came and spent two weeks in our home when I was a baby.
Mom said he used to call me "tinker-tot".
I've heard her say so many times that she cried and cried the day they left.
Having them stay with us, enjoying that sweet fellowship, had meant the world to Mom and Dad,
and it felt to them like a piece of Heaven came into our home while they were there.
They truly lived out an example of Christianity.

On a side note, a funny story she used to tell about Bro. Wilson is that each morning,
she would get up and make a big breakfast, including old-timey, country gravy.
Mom's gravy was just never seemed to have the same consistency.
One time, it may turn out a bit thin....another, it may come out on the thicker side.
She said, every time she would put the gravy on the table and say,
"I'm sorry, it looks like my gravy is too thin",
Bro. Wilson would reply, in his slow, drawling way, "I like thin gravy."
If she said, "My gravy is too thick today", he would say, "I like thick gravy."
The man was humble, easy to please, and slow to anger.
His kind are a vanishing breed, sad to say.

"If you want to see an example, BE an example."

I don't know about you, but I long to see people who are living, breathing examples of what Jesus would be should He walk upon the earth in our modern times.
Someone who is true to what they profess.
Someone who will take a stand for Godliness and Biblical teaching and who will not back down,
will not crumble to pressure, and will not cave to intimidation.
I yearn to see Jesus lived out and exemplified.

So, what should we do when we can't seem to find this?
Should we go around straightening everyone else out?
Should we make it a point to go out of our way to correct their errant behavior?
Should we allow our righteous indignation to take over while we "slam" them with the truth?
Or should we mind our own business,
"work out our own salvation with fear and trembling" as Philippians 2;12 instructs,
leave everyone else with the God-given responsibility of working out their own,
and simply BE the person we long to see?

As we see the blatancy of sin, the promotion of evil, and the glamorization of unGodliness in our modern world, and, yes, even in the modern church world, we have a choice to make.
We can sit down in despair, become discouraged, and wallow in hopelessness,
or we can rise up from the ashes, be the example, and spread the light and hope of Jesus Christ.

Instead of judging our brothers and sisters, we could choose instead to diligently pray for them.
Instead of lowering our personal standards beneath what the Bible teaches in order to make a compromise and conform to "what everyone else seems to be doing", we could make the choice to lovingly stand firm and hold God's true position in our personal lives,
quietly, meekly, and consistently showing the way.

We are not responsible for what anyone else does, nor is it our job to follow behind them and correct them when they stray.
We will not give an account on Judgment Day of anyone else's behavior.
We will stand there alone...just us and God...and He will look over the record of our individual lives.
Aren't you thankful that you are not responsible for anyone else's actions?
I am.
I do well to keep myself in line and don't do a very good job at even that.

What do you wish to see in others?
More love?
More compassion?
A higher moral standard?
A nicer attitude?
More patience?
More giving, less taking?
A kind spirit?
Less judging?
More modesty, less exposed flesh?
A servant's heart?
A pleasant, smiling countenance?

When you look around, are you unable to find the qualities you seek?

Why not BE the way you wish others would be?
Why not take the initiative and be the one to lead by example?

If you want to see more love in others, show the love you wish you were being shown.
If you wish others were more compassionate, reach out with unselfish arms.
"Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep."  (Romans 12:15)
Be true to your spouse...not just physically, but mentally.
Isn't that the standard Jesus established?
"But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."
Matthew 5:28
Lust in the mind is no more righteous than lust carried out.
Not my words, His.
Hold and live out a high standard of holiness in your everyday life.
Be as honest with others as you wish they were with you.
Be genuine and sincere...never phony.
You know how much it bothers you to be treated rudely,
so do the opposite when dealing with others.
Bear with them...their faults, their discrepancies, their mistakes,
with the same level of respect you long to be shown.
Initiate the conversation.
Be friendly.
Be approachable, available, and accessible to those who need you.
Be nice, regardless.
You will walk away a winner!
Be patient.
Offer grace to others.
Hasn't it been lavishly bestowed upon us all?
Things come up and happen unexpectedly.
Allow for others not moving as quickly or as competently or as efficiently as you do.
Will yourself to wait...and be nice while waiting.
Give cheerfully, unreservedly, unbegrudgingly, happily, and with all your heart.
Give, until it hurts.
The worst kind of "giving pain" still makes you feel great.
"...remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said,
it is more blessed to give than to receive."
Acts 20:35
There are so many people in need.
It doesn't take long to find them.
Donate all of your extra winter coats, keeping one for your own use.
"He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise."
Luke 3:11
How many coats can you actually wear at one time?
Give away your extra gloves, mittens, scarves, socks, sweaters, and blankets to the homeless.
When yours wear out, God will bless you with what you need when you need it.

How can we say we possess the love of God when there are piles of these excess items lying around
collecting dust, and there are so many who are freezing and have none?

"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth."
I John 3:16-18

Remember that time someone went out of their way for you?
When you were so surprised and humbled and touched by their consideration of you?
Do that....for someone else.
Be considerate of the feelings of others.
Think before you speak.
Try to make someone else's day.
Treat others with tenderness and Jesus would.
"Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits."
Romans 12:16
"For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
Luke 3:11
Humbleness is not a sign of weakness.
It is the epitome of strength.
Be content to let someone else lead.
Open your mind to learn from a child.
They have much more wisdom than they are ever given credit for having.

"And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them,
And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 18:2,3

Be the person you say you are.
The first word in Christian is Christ.
Are we really living out our lives the way He lived His?
Be a person others can count on...
to faithfully pray, to do the right thing even when no one else is around,
to keep your word, to serve God and do His will, whatever the cost.
Be the same....all the all...regardless of how popular or unpopular they are,
or how much they can or cannot do for you in return.
"Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity."
Hebrews 5:2
Reach out to those who you know will never be able to pay you back.
"Then said He also to him that bade Him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.
But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:
And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just."
Luke 14:12-14

Don't look down on anyone or think they are less than you,
even those who seem to be completely compromising the Bible and Christian faith.
While observing others, always remember, "but for the grace of God, there go I."
Be humble, and acknowledge your total dependence upon Him.
Every, single one of us is subject to fall.
Just because we haven't lowered the Biblical standard of truth does not mean we won't succumb to the pressure, at some point.
I truly hope not, but we need to remember that every one of us lives in a human, subject-to-temptation body in a fallen world.
We may think we are ever-so-sanctified, but we are not yet glorified,
and none of us is above the propensity of reproach.
"Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
I Corinthians 10:12
Just because we are not battling the horrors of addiction today, doesn't mean we haven't been there in the past or that we won't find ourselves struggling in the future.
As God so clearly reminded me, we really do not have the right to judge.
"Judge not, that ye be not judged.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."
Matthew 7:1,2
Always remember every person out there bears their own burden,
and, perhaps, they don't know Jesus quite as well as you do.
Be gentle.
Suspend judgment.
I know it isn't easy.
Righteous indignation is a good thing, but left unbridled and untempered by the precious Holy Spirit,
it can be ever so detrimental and injurious to those around us.

We may never see the example we wish we could see in another person.
If we don't, that doesn't mean we cannot be the example we wish we could see.

I read a quote once that said,
"Example is a language anyone can read."

My question to myself, is this...what are people reading in my life?
What kind of example am I putting before our dear son?
What is he daily learning from his mama?
What do those how know me see in me?
Is it an "example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity",
as the Apostle Paul instructed Timothy in I Timothy 4:12?

Mom and Dad always taught me that I needed to be aware of my behavior,
because we are the only "Bibles" some people will ever read.
If that didn't put the fear in me to live and walk like Jesus,
I don't know what would!

To think that some people's perception of Christianity will be solely based upon my life,
actions, and attitude really lights a fire under me to try to do better.
To live more Godly.
To BE the example I wish I could see in others.
All I say is, God help me.
When I write these posts, please always know that before I ever pass along the information to you,
dear readers, God had to deal with me about it first.

One more thing Mom and Dad used to tell me is this...
when I point my finger at someone else, there are three others pointing straight back at me.
I am no authority on anything.
I am far from having it all together.
I fall so short of the glory of God.
I am completely undone and can do nothing without Jesus Christ.
I need every, single admonishment I share here...more than anyone else who may happen to read it, believe me.

Thank God for His love and mercy and grace and forgiveness.
To God be all glory forever and ever.

I leave you with a few of my favorite quotes.
(I have given attribution when possible.)
I like these, because they challenge me and really make me think.

(By the way, have you ever visit the Homespun Devotions Quotes Page?
All of my favorites are on there, in no particular order, 
but just as I come across them or they come to mind.
I hope you will visit me there.)

"The thing about you Christians, is that you are so unlike your Christ." Ghandi

"Christians are the light of the world, but the switch has to be turned on."

"If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"

"Christian volunteers are good for nothing."

"Patience is a virtue that carries a lot of wait."

"Speak kind words; hear kind echoes."

"Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it."  Mark Twain

"You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you."
 John Bunyan

"Love lights more fires that hate can extinguish."  Ella Wheeler-Wilcox

"By swallowing evil words unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach.

And a couple the dear Lord gave me...

"If I was the only view of Jesus the world would ever see,
what kind of a person would they think Him to be?"  C. E. Smith

"Humble pie is bitter, but the aftertaste is sweet." - C. E. Smith

God bless you this beautiful Christmas season, dear friends!
Even in the midst of illness, we are enjoying its simplicity so very much at our house.
I hope you are enjoying it, too!

Enjoy this sweet video!

If video doesn't load, click here.

Monday, December 19, 2016

How Far We've Come

"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God..."
Romans 8:14

It is at this time of year that most of us become most reflective.
Knowing the year is soon coming to a close and realizing that if God spares time and life,
we will soon embark upon a brand, new one somehow has a way of causing us to stop and consider.
To take inventory and check our spiritual pulse.
To pause, even in the midst of the busyness of the season, and contemplate where we are.
To analyze what we perceive God is teaching us.

In one sense, looking back can be detrimental.
It was in this light that I wrote this post.

This type of looking back is not healthy.
In fact, Jesus warned against its dangers in Luke 9:62.
"And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

He gave another somber admonition in Luke 17:32.
Just three short words, but, oh, so full of meaning!
"Remember Lot's wife."

I believe the type of looking back Jesus was speaking about in these two passages of Scripture is the type of looking back that includes a longing to go backwards to a place we are no longer supposed to be...a yearning for an escape from what is to what was,
even though "what was" is no longer God's perfect will for us.

A good example of this type of unhealthy looking back can be found in Exodus 14:11,12.
Remember the children of Israel?
They suffered untold anguish, due to the severe bondage and oppression that resulted from being the slaves of Pharaoh.
Their lives were hard and void of joy.
God raised up a deliverer for them in the person of Moses,
who led them forth from the land of Egypt, away from its misery and enslavement.
When they came to the Red Sea and realized that, humanly, it was impassable,
they began to murmur against God and Moses,
and they actually longed to go back.
Back to what was familiar, never mind how horrible their lives were in that place.
Instead of them focusing on the power of God that had just been demonstrated to them through the mighty deliverance He wrought in setting them free, they chose to fixate upon the new impossibility in front of them.
I have often thought of this situation and judged them for being so disbelieving and fearful.
I have tried to imagine how much faith I would have had, if I had been standing in their shoes.
But, over time, I have come to realize that I am very much like the Israelites.
I too often find myself in the face of a new impossible, impassable situation, 
and I so quickly forget how powerful my God is and how much He has already delivered me from and brought me out of, and my faith just crumbles and morphs into fear.

The type of looking back and wishing to still be in a place God no longer wants us to be is counter-productive to spiritual progress.
If God called us forward from a previous spot, He did so for a reason,

The Apostle Paul knew that in order to progress and press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, he must let go of the past and not allow himself to longingly look back.
"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 3:13,14

But, on the flip side of this, there is a type of looking back that is very edifying.
What I am talking about is looking back to see how far we've come...or rather, how far God has brought us.
This is the kind of looking back I like to do at this time of year.
I am thinking you probably do, too.

We didn't make this progress on our own.
There was an unseen hand parting the waters and orchestrating the details and removing the obstacles.
There was a God Who turned the tide and made the crooked paths straight, exalted the valleys, made the mountains and hills low enough for us to be able to walk over, and smoothed out the rough places.

"Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it."
Isaiah 40:4,5

Looking back for the sole purpose of tracing God's hand is a good idea and a very important part of our Christian journey.
It is beneficial, even necessary.

We need to see where God has brought us from, not to yearn and grieve for what was,
but to draw encouragement from seeing how far we've come,
to spotlight God's awesomeness and power and ability to save to the uttermost,
and to give us courage and assurance in our current battles.
The God that brought us from where we used to be is the same God we still serve today.
He is the same God Who will continue to lead us forward, shattering every stumblingblock placed by satan in our path.

To be able to look back and see and understand what He has done is so strengthening to our faith.

Today, I am "looking back" (in the healthy way!) to when I wrote this post.
I was trying to open my mind and heart to the impending changes I discerned would soon be coming to the lives of my little family and me.

Even though we sensed that change was coming, we had no idea what a whirlwind year 2016 would be for us.
There have been highs and lows to the extremes.
Hurts, disappointments, hardships, and close calls with death...literally.
We have fought some of the most intense spiritual warfare I have ever personally encountered.
We have cried together, and we have laughed from the depths of our souls together.
We have reached new levels of intercessory prayer.
Speaking of new levels, God has unpeeled levels of trusting Him that we never even knew existed.
We have seen God's hand at work in ways that we hadn't even thought of.
We have lived and proved that God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or even think and that His omnipotent power trumps any and everything satan can do.
That His will will prevail in our lives, in spite of every weapon satan forms against us to try to thwart it.  (Isaiah 54:17)

At the beginning of this year, I SO wanted our one word to be "new".
Our situation felt like such a deep that we couldn't imagine how God could pull us out of.
In spite of my longing for our one word to be new, in this post, I talked about how God showed Kevin and Zach that our one word would actually be "trust",
and I shared a reminder of the acronym God gave Zach for the word TRUST.
Looking back over this very eventful year, do you know what I find most ironic?
As we launched, putting our trust in God, He allowed that trust to propel us to the very thing I was hoping our "one word" would be,
and, on this journey, He has made so many things new in our lives!

On a chilly late evening last October, I sat on our front porch (the one shown right here) in the very rocking chair shown here, with my yarn and crochet hook in hand, and, in between stitches,
I stared at the sky across the road from us as the evening sun was going down.
My heart was troubled.
I knew, with a certain assurance, that what had started out over a year before as a real subtle stirring,
was growing and turning into a definitive leading from deep within our hearts.
Change was in the air.
Not only was autumn changing the atmosphere, but something was about to transpire in our lives
that would alter our future in a very big way.

As I intermittently crocheted and stared at the evening sky,
I wept, and I fervently, earnestly prayed.
I will never forget the exact words that sprang from my lips, as I turned my face Heavenward.
"God, I want You to do something in this situation that will cause all three of us to turn to one another
and say, Wow, just look what GOD did!"
I was asking my Father in Heaven for a "WOW" miracle.
One that would make us stop, give pause, and come to the conclusion that only God could have made happen what just happened.

I asked for something big.
I wanted HIM to get the credit in a big way.

Here it is about a year and two months since I prayed that way,
and His answers have come.
The changes He has brought about have been nothing short of a WOW miracle.
The word, "Wow!", has escaped our lips more times than I can recall.
The three of us have often turned to each other and uttered the words,
"Only GOD could have done this!"
To God be all glory forever and ever!

This has been a process.
There have been moments when we honestly did not know what God was doing...
when we had done our part in complying with all that He asked,
but it seemed to be for no explainable or apparent reason.
I was walking through such a moment when I wrote this post.

So many times, over the course of this year, Abraham has come to mind.
"By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went."
Hebrews 11:8

We don't always know why God is asking us to do things.
We don't always even know where we are going.
He doesn't always show us the end from the beginning.

 I will never forget the day I turned to Kevin and Zach and told them I had no idea why 
I was working so hard to pack up our things.
I had no physical evidence that we were even going to move,
but there was this inward stirring, even an urgency, to minimize, downsize, sort, go out in search of moving boxes, and pack our belongings.
To prepare.
To work towards being ready.

Later, after our home sold, and we didn't have a long time span between the sale and our closing,
I was so glad we had started when we did.
I could look back and see that God had a Divine purpose in every single gentle urge He had so impressed upon us.
The things He had asked us to do that made absolutely no sense, at the time,
were then completely sensible, and we could finally see why God had asked certain things of us.

One thing I've learned this year is this...
if God impresses us to do something, 
no matter how absurd it seems, at the moment,
it is in our best interest to comply with what He is asking of us.
This Christian life is a total walk of faith.
It doesn't matter if the assignment makes sense.
Our duty is to be obedient.
As we walk forward in trust, He will open up the way.
Sometimes, our feet have to dip in the brim of the water before God will make the waters stand up in a heap, forming a wall on both sides for us.

"And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,)
That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho."
Joshua 3:15,16

I find it interesting that the waters did not part first.
It took an amazing act of faith for the priests to dip their feet in the water,
even when there were no visible signs of the water opening up for them to pass over,
and once they did, God made a way for them to cross.

In this year season that is requiring so much trust for my dear family and me,
we have had to take many such steps.
Steps when we could not see even one step in front of us.
Steps when we weren't certain there was a firm place to drop our foot.
Steps when we felt like we were flailing...out here in the depths to which we have launched, where our feet no longer can even touch bottom.
Steps when there was no evidence of the waters parting to allow us to cross over.
Steps when the mountain seemed way too hard to climb.
One labored, faith-filled step at a time.
And, the journey continues, as God unveils more and more layers of what it actually means to trust Him and to make Him our all-in-all.

Looking back, I am amazed at how far we've come He's brought us.
Looking back reminds me that it is even better farther on.
It helps me to see that God is faithful...that He always has a plan, 
even though we often don't see that until way after the fact.
That He doesn't waste one experience or circumstance of our lives.
That each time He requires an act of obedience, it is safe to take that action,
even when it makes no sense to us at all,
even when it scares us out of our wits,
even when everyone around us thinks we have lost our minds.

When God called Abraham to leave everything familiar to him, it made no human sense.
When, right on the heels of giving him amazing dreams, God allowed Joseph to be thrown into a pit, then sold into slavery, He seemed to be defying His own promises.
When Jesus cried, "It is finished" from the cross and gave up the ghost,
it seemed that all hope of our redemption was lost forever, and satan had won.

Looking back, you and I can trace God's hand in all three of the above situations,
and we can see that, even though nothing good could be seen while these scenes were being played out, eternal good was being processed and brought about, under the surface and behind the scenes.
Looking back, God enlarged Abraham's coast far beyond the scope of the place from which He called him.
Looking back, He used the 22 years from the time of 17 year-old Joseph's dreams to the moment he stood over his cowering, repentant brothers at the age of 39, to temper and refine Joseph so that he could entrust him with great power and use him to save "many people alive".  (Genesis 50:20)
And, looking back, three days after our dear Lord suffered death by the most violent, anguished, agonizing means possible, God raised Him from the dead, and He came out of that tomb, alive forevermore, having bought eternal redemption for all of us!

Things look different on the mountain from the shepherd's point of view.
As you and I look back over the year 2016, I hope you can pause and listen to the words of this,
one of my family's and my favorite songs...our testimony.

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