STAND FIRM

be-strong

Stand Firm!  These two words often come into my mind, they are used      throughout scripture in different places.

I normally choose a word for the year.  I have been feeling led to make my one word for 2017 joy.  I have joy; it is not dependent of my circumstances, it is mine because I have Christ in me.  It is a great word.  Yesterday I was introduced to the thought of choosing a phrase; then, it may be “choose joy “or “focus on joy”.  I naturally go to James, Consider it great joy when you encounter various trials… Joy would come as character is being developed, but as you go through the trial, you would have to choose, or focus on joy instead of current circumstances.

Following events in my life lately, I am not sure if joy is what I need to focus on, as nice and comfortable as it may sound.  I do need to find it sometimes as it seems to be hiding, but I am not sure if it needs to be my focus for the new year. The phrase Stand firm, words used in a study I recently completed on the Armor of God, might speak to me now.  I am certain that the devil was not happy about that study as here are a number of ladies in my church now focusing on watching for his schemes and attacks —> BAM, in he waltzes!

Standing firm may not always be easy, but God has directed us to stand firm.  We are to let our yes be yes and our no be no.  We are to stand for the truth of his word and not “dance with the devil” (not biblical words, but I think you know what  I mean).  We need to be on gurard, always.

When Jesus saw defiance at the temple, he showed he would not stand for it.  Sometimes when we stand firm against the schemes of the devil, others may not look at it as you do.  That is when you need to STAND FIRM.  The devil is not soft sweet (except when he is trying to lure in his prey), we need to be on guard, to be watchful, to stand firm against him and not be swayed into the grips of the devil.

A few weeks ago my post included Wisdom’s Gentleness.  Sometimes though, gentleness has been used up and we need to stand our ground firmly and boldly.  I try to follow the example of Christ, when he saw the money changers using his temple for their own cause, he was bold and fierce.  He was not comprimizing.  We may not need to throw over tables, but we may need to move against what others would like and we may even feel judgement.

God is my judge, he can make beauty out of ashes when we stand with him, armored for battle, doing it all in love.  Love for one another, love for God and love for his truth.

So, what have I decided on for 2017?

A word or a phrase?  What will it be?

I don’t have to decide now, all I have to decide is to “Put on all of God’s armor so that I will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.”

??????????????

Consider it all Joy

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I know my joy comes from being in his presence.  If there are things happening to take my joy, it is time for me to go back to the basics and get into His presence!

 “You will show me the way of life,  granting me the joy of your presence  and the pleasures of living with you forever.” Psalm 16:11 NLT

I am assured that I have Jesus in me, I have received the gift of the Holy Spirit and will live with God forever.  That’s the helmet of salvation, it will guard my mind, the apostle Paul advised us to put it on.  My mind is protected by that thought, I can grab hold of it no matter what else is going on around me! Yes, the battle is spiritual, and, yes, the devil is roaming to and fro seeking whom he may devour.  I choose joy, he will not get through that protection God has for me, as long as I put it on.

Last year our ladies group focused on the fruit of the spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,  and self-control. I will not forget, fruit grows, it grows big and strong under the proper conditions.  It is up to me to make sure the conditions are right for the fruit to grow and not only grow, but to remain healthy in my life.

Songs reflective of this post

This is the season we sing songs like Joy to the World, Joy (Unspeakable Joy), Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee; the joy the we all seek is found when we choose to put our priorities in the right place. As the brother of Jesus said,

Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do it’s complete work, so that you may be mature, complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4 HCSB

When we go through various trials, often the trial is not of God.  It is most surely the result of sin.  It may be self-induced or influenced from the outside, but it’s root would be from sin.  Quite often the sin of pride.  Sin, missing the mark, missing of God’s best, no matter what that sin is, most likely originated from pride.  “I want this.”  “I deserve better.” “Why should she have and I don’t?”  Sin entered because of Eve’s temptation, being told by the serpent that she should have the knowledge.  God knew from the beginning of time that all would sin and fall short of his Glory.  He had a plan from the beginning of time, that plan included a savior.  That savior came in the form of a sweet innocent little miracle, a baby, Jesus.

The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.

But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.

Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

See, the virgin will become pregnant
and give birth to a son,
and they will name Him Immanuel,

which is translated “God is with us.” Matthew 1: 20-23 HCSB

Emmanuel, God with us, Jesus, the Messiah, the Redeemer, promised so many years before his birth.  I trust him!  I trust him to be the source of my joy, even when I can’t seem to find it, it’s there because he is so good and cares about every detail of my life.  I hold on to and am assured that he who began a good work in me will complete it until the end, and, that all things work together for the good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.

He cares about every detail of your life too!

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:16-17

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May you be blessed at knowing who you are and who’s you are.  May you be held in the loving arms of the one we celebrate this season!  Joy to you and your family.

Wisdom’s Gentleness

In the book of Hebrews, we are told that God’s word is alive and active…that it is.  Two weeks ago I read the book of James, then yesterday I read again and it spoke differently to me. How is that?  I suppose that is the alive and active part grows, adapts and changes to what we need at any given time in our life.  The Holy Spirit guides us as we dig into the word.

When we are humble, and seeking for what the Lord has for us to grow, the word of God will speak, we need only listen for him.  Be still, and know.  How many times have I read about the tongue, a horse, steering of a ship and fire in James 3?  I taught on it.  Yet it still has a new lesson for me.  A lesson on humility, a lesson on wisdom and a lesson on gentleness.  If you have not read James in a while, go and read it.  It is not a long book.

What words spoke to me differently this time than in the past? Verse 13 “Who is wise and understanding among you?  He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom’s gentleness.” (HCSB)

As I praise and worship my Father with my mouth, I pray not to be cursing my brother or sister with the same.  I pray my actions and my words show wisdom’s gentleness as I go about my life.  May my worship and praise to the King be reflected in my life and in my actions.

Perhaps since our ladies group this year is seeking to “Gain a Heart of Wisdom” those words just jumped out at me. Earlier this summer, I looked up all sorts of verses on wisdom.  There are many!  This verse was not on my list. Perhaps is was timely, wisdom’s gentleness, I planted that seed in my head, wisdom’s gentleness.  I want my speech to be seasoned with gentleness.  I kept reading those words, and I believe they took root when I needed them to act.  Living and active, God’s word ~ Yes, it is!

I have been contemplating my word for 2017, I thought it would be joy, but now I am thinking it may be gentleness.  The Holy Spirit is always working on my heart, for that I am thankful.  God is so good, don’t you think?  His grace and gentleness abounds.

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I pray you bask in his grace and gentleness as you enter into this holiday season.  

As you look at Christmas, look at it simply, look at it as it is; a wonderful gift of love to you from a gracious Father.  fullsizeoutput_718

Acting on Acts … Ride on a Cloud!

Flag and a cross

Our reading through the bible with Good Morning Girls kicks off the fall season in the book of Acts today. Acts is the story of the church, when it began and struggles the early Christians faced.  In reading this book, what can I read that would be a call to action?  What was the first verse that really spoke to me?  Was I influenced because we just had a three week sermon series on Resurrection? Possibly, in chapter 1:9 I read “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on,  t he was lifted up, and  u a cloud took him out of their sight.”  This was after Jesus resurrection from the tomb, after he spent 40 more days on earth in his resurrected body.  So what can I glean from this?

As I continue my hunt for old testament pictures of Jesus, did I expect to find it here in the first chapter of the book of Acts?  No, but I did!  God brought Jesus up on a cloud.  So what does that picture say to me? It brings me back to the Old Testament. In Isaiah 14:14
‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ –  Is this a fulfillment of prophecy? More research on it to be done, but it  was Lucifer saying he would make himself “like”… but only Jesus ascended above the heights of the clouds to be with the Father, from earth on a cloud that would take him even higher than the clouds!
I also thought about the pillar of cloud and what it represented in the scriptures.  That pillar of cloud showed the people that God was with them, it showed them he was leading them and they could trust him and follow.  So I look at God’s lifting Jesus up on the cloud, Jesus is God and he had been present on earth living among the people. I see Jesus pictured in that pillar of cloud in that way.  Jesus leads people to God ~ I love this Old Testament picture even more now that I consider it through the first chapter of Acts!

So what else did that cloud do for the people of Israel? It brought them to a place of worship (Ex 33:10) and it caused nations to talk about God (Nu 14:14).  Christians all over the world worship Jesus for who he is and for what he has done for them.

Just before crossing the red sea the pillar of cloud separated the people of God and the people against God (Exodus 14:19-20).  Jesus separates God’s children from children of the world.  In the first chapter of John we are told this…   The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  The right to become children of God, available to all people, given to those who receive him and believe in his name. Jesus is the separation, in John 14:6 Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  The right to become children of God, available to all people, given to those who receive him and believe in his name. 

… JESUS now lifted back to the Father on a cloud… the same things that were done by the pillar of cloud for the Jewish people through out their journey home, I see now in this picture of Jesus going up on the cloud to be with God.

Look forward, look at what Paul wrote in his letter to the  Thessalonians “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”1 Thes. 4:17
For the Christian that hope of eternity is the hope that keeps us in peace through anything the devil throws at us! Hope, peace, joy… in Jesus!

I then thought about Elijah on the cloud, and the song by Robin Mark “These are the days of Elijah”, a song I love, but now has new meaning for me because of The story behind These are the Days of Elijah; after reading this, watch our Marines singing Days of Elijah!

These are Elijah Days, God is here, he is in control, we can bring new life to the hurting. We have the message of salvation, we have the love of Jesus, we can share the message and share his love.  On this Labor Day, be thankful for those who serve and labor for us, celebrate that as you consider ways to serve others.

Living Sacrifice

relaxing with a cup of cocoa

I have just completed reading the book of Matthew, fresh in my mind is the Lord’s last days.  The sacrifice he made for me, the sacrifice he made for you.  Now I begin the book of Leviticus… not knowing what to expect… how will it speak to me, a book of laws that the Jewish people would not be able to full fill completely? Chapters one and two showed me Jesus! Pure, loving and perfect.

God was very specific in how sacrifice was to be made, whether it be a blood sacrifice or a grain offering.  It was to be pure and perfect.. Jesus was that!  It of course then would be held as important to the one offering it… Jesus again! In these chapters of Leviticus, the offerings made would be a sweet aroma to the LORD.

Jesus’ sacrifice was an atonement for our sins, it was to restore a right relationship between God and us.  In all of our shortcomings, Jesus pain, suffering and crucifixion  was an act of love for us, a gift of grace.  So, I think about this all, and focus on that gift…

With all the things going on in our day to day lives, we can get distracted from his grace.   Sacrifice ~ made for me ~ love ~ grace.  The Old Testament can seem old, just as it is called.  But it is filled with pictures from what is new!  As a new Christian, one of the first verses on my own I committed to memory was Romans 12:1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” ESV

I am reading through the bible with Good Morning Girls. (http://womenlivingwell.org/2015/04/introduction-to-leviticus-resources-chapters-1-5/) We are being guided to look at Leviticus as a book of Worship… I looked at that verse I memorized so many years ago and wanted to see it in a fresh new light… so on to more modern translations I turn.  I love that we can see the word in so many different versions!  Here, The Message puts it so clearly,

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

This also goes along with what our message was about on Sunday in King Solomon’s life.  Things around us can pull us away slowly, gradually. The key words I took from that was “start well ~ finish well”.   When we Focus on Grace,  keep our attention on God, he brings out our best!  Our best attitudes, our best character, it gives us gratitude for what he has done for us and given us.  It helps us to look at all things around us, things going on in our lives that may seem like interruptions, and see them as opportunities! It will help us to finish well!  I hope to live my everyday, ordinary life for Him, as a living sacrifice.  As I do that, I have peace and joy because of his mercies and grace.

Whatever season you are in, God is on the throne!  He is able, he is faithful.  Focus on His Grace and live in gratitude. Pace your live before him!

  

Rich History of the Past

If you have not figured this out yet, I do keep telling myself I want to be more consistent with posting, but it hasn’t worked.  Winter in the northeast has not been kind during this past month and they are telling us we can expect another storm this weekend.  So be it, if it does come, it will be good to stay in and do some reading!

The reading plan I have been going through with Good Morning Girls has had us in Exodus.  I am a bit behind because I keep going back to what I thought I finished.  There is such rich history, and I have been in God’s instructions to Moses after leaving Egypt.
The Tabernacle, I used this picture on Sunday. It was my turn for Communion meditation. I used this song by Kutless to set the focus… 
The hight priest was only allowed to enter the holy of holies one day a year. He was the only one allowed that one day, and it gave him a time of exclusive fellowship.  He entered into a place filled with all of the glory of God, bringing a blood offering for the sins of the people. The thing is, what he did had to be done over and over, every year. The offering of blood covered over the sins of the Israelites, but was never enough!
The Holy of Holies contained the Ark of the Covenant; inside the Ark were items representing sins of the people. Things to remind them of their need for forgiveness, their ugliness, their rebellion against God.  God didn’t stop there though, his instructions continued that the ark be covered with pure refined gold, lovely and perfect.  This covering was called the mercy seat or the atonement covering.  So,while the interior represented the sinfulness of man, the covering represented a place of forgiveness, mercy and redemption.  The ugly sin inside the Ark is not what the priest saw when he entered, he saw the pure and lovely, beautiful gold.

Jesus blood covers us with mercy and grace.  When we come into the presence of God, he sees not the ugly inside of our hearts or the rebellious attitudes we hold on to. He sees us pure, and clean, and lovely, covered with the blood of Jesus.  The Ark of the covenant, a beautiful picture in history showing what would be to come, showing Jesus the Messiah, the one who would free the people of their sins once and for all.  Jesus frees, the law condemns.  There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus!

What a plan God had for us! You can read in Exodus 26 the detail God laid out for the tabernacle, even detail in the curtains alone separating the ark from the priest. This was all done so that on that one day he could rip the veil in two, eliminating the separation, giving us direct access to him… not on one day a year, not one day a week, not only when we meet around his table, but every day and any time we choose. What a joy to be able to call God my Father… to be able to call out Abba, Father (Daddy, Daddy!).

In the Old Testament here is so much to treasure! I love seeing reflections of the New in the Old, this is rich! We are richly blessed indeed!

Thank you Lord for providing this path for us to choose. Thank you for setting up everything so precisely. Thank you for your grace and mercy over me. Thank you for not seeing the ugly in me but for seeing me pure and refined through Jesus. As we are entering the season that we celebrate the victory he has over satan, we remember the suffering and pain Lord Jesus that you experienced because of how much love for me you have. May I live a life worthy!

Additional reading :

  • Exodus 24 – 27
  • Hebrews 9-10

If you enjoy meditating on music, this version of Take Me in is a long version, but worth it! 

Pondering the Psalms

Bing you good news

It is the time of year we are all busy in our preparations for Christmas.  Shopping to be done, decorating to be finished, cookies to be baked… yes busy, busy, busy!

Oh, but in our reading through the bible we are in Psalms this month.  I am seeing David, a servant of God.  Imperfect, like all of us and so many before him.  But, he gives his praise and worship to God.  God is the creator of the universe, he is seated high in the heavens.  David talks of humility and being righteousness, the fact that we are crowned with glory and honor.  He talks of the pride of the wicked but finishes off Psalm 10 with this reminder…”The Lord is king forever and ever

Pondering the Psalms…at Christmas.  Most would choose to read about the prophesies or the life of Christ.  We celebrate the birth this month, the birth of the King of Kings, the Lord who is king forever and ever.  No matter what we see happening in this world we live in, Jesus came here in complete and utter humility.  A baby is completely dependent for life.  Dependent on the love and nurturing for nourishment, protection, provision. Jesus showed us what humility is.

We are to be humble before God.  Let us not get lost in all the glitter and glitz of the season.  Let us not forget that the reason we celebrate is because God loved us so much he sent his son to suffer and die in our place so we might have a relationship with God the Father.  What a savior we celebrate!  Grace ~ the gift sent from above into a stable so many years ago, born that we might have life!