February 23, 2010

Never Forget

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” Psalm 103:2 (KJV)

The flashing lights and screaming siren interrupted the flow of massive traffic on Beach Blvd. The local fire engine, weaving in and out of stopped vehicles, was directly in my path. Fortunately for me, it was headed in the opposite direction from where I was driving that afternoon.

Unfortunately, this is not an unusual sight in Jacksonville. Where traffic abounds so does madness. Not to mention, the normal every day occurrences of accident and illness where the mighty paramedic is needed. But what caught my attention on this particular day, about this particular fire truck were the words painted across the outside of the vehicle, just above the windshield. I believe they read: NEVER FORGET.

I am certain those words were a reference to September 11 and the terrorist attack we endured on that day. Yet, for some unexplained reason, my mind took off in another direction, something about not forgetting the God of my youth. What were those things I should never forget?

I will never forget the day Bob proposed to me. I will never forget our wedding or the day my daughter was born. I will never forget the day she married and the days my grandchildren were born. I’ll never forget the day my sister moved from this life to the next with the Father. So many things I will never forget.

I will also never forget the day I asked Jesus into my heart – even though I cannot for the life of me, remember the date. I will never forget my baptism or the first day I ever taught a Sunday school class. I’ll never forget the day Bob took my hand and I walked the aisle with him, as he gave his heart to the Lord. I’ll never forget the day my daughter publicly confessed her belief in the Lord.

Never will I forget the day God spared my child’s life after she totaled her car and walked away without a scratch. Never will I forget the day God walked with her and protected her as a bank robber held a gun to her head, and she 5 months with child at the time.

I will never forget the day the hospital bill came after I had surgery – with full knowledge the insurance company was not going to pay for it and the bill was only $25.00. I will never forget the comfort of Christ as we moved across the country and bountifully received new friends and blessings for our efforts.

I will never forget the look on Emily’s 13 year old face, as she nodded “no” when I asked if she had prayed to receive Christ and then shyly confessed, “But I am ready now.”

There are so many things we should forget. Such as the wrongs done to us, and the pain we suffered through a winter of discontent. We need to forget the times we failed and the things we hoped to gain but have not, thus far in life and indeed may never gain. There are so many things to forget and let go of because they are not worth remembering. They serve only to kept us in the past and stifle our forward momentum in life. The only things worth remembering here is the way God used each moment in question to teach us, reach us and conform us into the image of His Son. After that – remembering negativity may only continue to fuel negativity.

Ah! But there are so many other things we should never forget! Never forget the Creator! Never forget the God of your youth! Never forget the Savior of your present and the King of your future! Never forget the beauty of your life as it is covered with Christ. Oh my beloved friends – never forget!

I bless the LORD, with all my soul, and may I never forget all His benefits!

Praising God with remembrance!

February 15, 2010

Fear Factor

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Proverbs 31:30 (NAS)

I am a storyteller. I love to tell stories. I didn’t even realize that until one day Cheryle told me, “You are a storyteller!” Since Jesus was a storyteller, I stand in good company. People like to hear stories. It helps to accentuate a message or illustrate a point. I use a storytelling method when I share my testimony at Stonecroft Ministry luncheons.

Now and then, I revert back to my basic instinct of lecture-style teaching. I hope no one minds, but that is where I am heading this morning. But first, let me begin by stating regardless of the opening verse, this is NOT a gender-biased lesson.

On Saturday’s, I have been studying Proverbs 31 with a lovely group of women. This past Saturday we talked about the fear of the Lord. The first thing we had to do is define fear. For today, we can cut to the good part by defining fear as it pertains to the fear of the Lord.

Fear used in this capacity refers to the reverential awe we should have before a holy and mighty God. Of course, I am a firm believer that it should encompass a dose of what I call a healthy fear as well. I mean the Bible says something about fearing man who can only kill your body and then fearing God who created your soul!

Moving along the trail of fear, once the group decided that God deserved our reverence and our awe – we had to ask a very worldly question about fearing God. What’s in it for me? I hope I don’t loose you because I really don’t mean that like it sounds, however what does practicing fearing the Lord do for us?

In my lesson prep, I put together a series of verses where you find the phrase “the fear of the Lord.” I noticed that when I arranged them in a particular order, there was a wonderful and thrilling progression about it. This is what I want you to see this morning.

I’ll give you the verses and the points – but I want you to look them up for yourselves.

The fear of the Lord …..

1. Proverbs 19:23…leads to life. It’s not a fear to run from but toward. Our very life eternal and otherwise is in God through Christ Jesus, and fearing the Lord will lead you to the foot of the cross where real life is found.

2. Prov. 1:7…is the beginning of knowledge. It’s cliché, but knowledge is power. Knowledge can be what you know or sometimes, who you know!

3. Psalm 111:10…is the beginning of wisdom. Wisdom helps you and I use knowledge appropriately. I’ve seen knowledge used without wisdom and it isn’t a pretty sight.

4. Psalm 112:1…brings blessings. I love blessings and I bet you do too! But read the rest of this verse to get the entire picture.

5. Psalm 19:9…creates a pureness or cleanness in us. This is vitally important since we can never be spiritual clean or pure apart of Christ. But it also enables us to do what comes next…

6. Prov. 8:13…hates evil. Yes Virginia, love your enemy, but hate what is evil. Hate only what God hates but to accomplish this correctly, your heart must be in order.

7. Prov. 10:27…prolongs life. Whether God sees fit to prolong your actual days or provides a fullness of what days you have, eternally we have it all.

Finally in Prov. 23:17…we are to live always in the fear of the Lord. This is an imperative, going forth command. It keeps us where we need to be to practice a godly life-style.

Perhaps you are like me and sense a theme here. The fear of the Lord leads to life, prolongs life and we are to live in it always. Fearing the Lord has everything to do with life. Your life. The life God intends for you to experience. So are you practicing godly fear in your life? If so, what does this look like in your daily walk?

I leave with you with one last thing. Man, woman, boy or girl, the one who fears the Lord is to be praised. The fear of the Lord is all about your life. It was not meant to be a small part or fraction of it. It is meant to be the driving force and factor of it.

What’s your fear factor?

February 08, 2010

Defend the Defendable

“But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to every one who asks you to give an account of the hope that is in you.” I Peter 3:13a (NAS)

I have to tell you about my Friday! My friend (and boss) has many talents and venues of ministry. One is coaching people. It is an avenue of ministry I will soon start to pursue as well. With that in mind, I decided to take Cheryle up on her offer to spend a day coaching me.

Not a bad idea – since I really should be intimately acquainted with what she does for others, so I can explain this ministry with first-hand authority to someone else. Also since, I have signed up for a coach training class, it would be very good experience to see what coaching might mean in the life of another person.

By the way – this coaching is not for sports. Quit laughing, you will not see me on a grassy playing field wearing a black and white striped shirt, blowing a whistle. Really, can you picture me trying to that without getting my hair messed up? I think not! I am talking about doing this in a life coaching capacity to help me serve my God and my church/community better. I am thinking of it as continuing education.

From 10am to 4pm last Friday, Cheryle walked and questioned me through a lengthy series of subjects from my personal worship to my personal health care. I was amazed to discover and uncover some true gems of revelation. Some of the things I discovered, God and I had already been conversing over so my session provided affirmation. Other things took me by complete but wondrous surprise. It was fascinating to review my strengths and equally fascinating to review my weaknesses.

In fact, one personal character trait I need to work on is in the area of defensiveness. I am afraid I can be a little touchy – although I try not to show it. Whether I am successful or not, is for my friends to decide! I explained to Cheryle that one of the biggest struggles I have in that area is giving up my right to be right. Can anyone relate?

I hate being told I am wrong when I know I am right. It can make a big difference if what I am right about can withhold potential harm to someone. But most times, it is just my pride and stubbornness getting in the way. Pray for me as God continues His work in progress on this earthen vessel.

Now that brings me to this morning – oh yea – I am writing this Sunday night. While dressing for church I was listening to a local televised church service. A guest speaker was addressing the congregation. I’d heard him before and always enjoy what God says through him. While, he spoke to all of us – I gather a lot of his sermon was to encourage other pastors.

Here is my perception of his message. I felt one of his main points was to encourage pastors to remain true and steadfast even amidst those that would seek to deter their ministry – even if those people were fellow Christians.

The bold spoken minister encouraged the gathering of clergy to remain firm in times where others sought to tear down what they were trying to build up on the foundation of Christ. He urged them to let God be their protector and not worry about constantly being on the defensive.

Now you and I know that anytime someone attacks us, doubts our judgment or questions our motives/methods, the first thing we do is rise to the defense of what? Ourselves! Be honest, you know you want to do that even if you don’t always do it.

Then the master preacher made a statement I hope I carry with me the rest of my life. He told the pastors to “let God defend you, you defend the sheep and “defend what is defendable.” I’d say that could preach – but it already has!

I wonder what I could accomplish if I quit worrying about what others thought of me, trying to defend my right to be right when I feel wronged, and worried about defending that which is defendable. Defending the “least of the brethren”. Defending the widow and the orphan. Defending the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I guess if I strive to sanctify Christ in my heart the way He deserves and is worthy of, then He’ll prepare my heart to be able to defend the hope that lies within me and deal with any perceived threat to me, all by Himself. I suppose that would free me up to continue to do what is right in His sight and not in mine!

Lowering my self-defenses!

February 01, 2010

You Are So Beautiful To Me!

“And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us; and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yes, the work of our hands establish thou it.” Psalm 90:17 (KJV)

For some reason, I have beauty on the brain this week. Not sure why because as I write, I am in mismatched pajama’s, 2 pairs of socks, no make-up with not even a quick brush of my hair. It’s a nauseating picture, I’m sure.

Yet, I am internally plotting as to how many tin cans I will have to collect to buy a $315 pair of Prada eyeglasses. Why? Because when I tried them on my husband said they looked sexy. Stop the presses! Get me the smelling salts! In 19 years of marriage, and as wonderful as he is, Bob has never used the word sexy and my name in the same sentence! Well, I gotta have those glasses!

To add to my vanity drama, I had to admit last week to you that I am indeed vain. So you can imagine how Bob’s compliment must have affected my mind. As if that wasn’t enough, we are studying Beauty Queen Esther on Wednesday night and the Proverbs 31 Woman on Saturday’s. I am doomed.

Or not.

God let’s me get carried away only so far, before He gently reels me back to reality. Actually, it’s two realities to be specific. Do you want to know what they are? Glad you asked!

I was reminded last week in my study of Esther just how easy it is to get carried away with the cosmetology of the day. I was also reminded (again!) that isn’t the outside appearance God looks on but the heart. And while it’s not likely that I’ll give up trying to take care of the outer me, my primary concern should center on the inner me. This brings to me to Psalm 90:17 and:

Reality Number Two: Let the beauty of the Lord be upon me and stop fretting over a few age spots! This reality is nothing new to the believer, but perhaps we don’t give it as much consideration as we should at times.

Now let’s stop for just a minute. No, you didn’t miss reality number one. In fact, I had labeled the above reality number one – then I quickly “rethunk” my writing. This past week, my thoughts flowed over Psalm 90:17 and letting His beauty be upon me, and it made me smile to think that God considers me a beauty – just as I am. The same way my hubby thinks I am beautiful despite the ravages of age. (Okay – that’s is a bit dramatic)

I worry for nothing about the Lord finding me beautiful as long as I let His beauty be upon me. But as my heart was consoled in that fact, it was convicted in another. How long had it been since I told God how beautiful He was? My mind wondered back to our first days in Denver when we first walked in those Rocky Mountains and all I could say or think was, “God you are so beautiful! You are so beautiful!” Over and over again, nothing else could escape my lips. How long had it been? Far too long. That brings us to:

Reality Number One: God is beautiful. He is beautiful in creation. He is beautiful in His wisdom, righteousness and faithfulness. His beauty rests in the fact that God indeed is real! Dearest Father, how beautiful You are to me! Forgive me for not telling you sooner and more often!

For without this reality, the second reality could not exist. Besides, everything including beauty is all about Him anyways and not about us, except that it enables us to share His beauty in a world decaying with sin.

I think I’ve said enough.

Praise His beauty and exclaim it to all the peoples (including those sitting next to you) and let HIS beauty be upon YOU so the work of your hands, He will bless!