My third year of teaching senior English at Broken Arrow High School is closing in on being completed. Such a unique job teaching school is in so many ways. This job struck  me with such striking impact as I took down the pictures off my classroom wall of which the students created and of which I used as decoration. Among the pictures were motivational posters the students made the first week of school, Macbeth heads symbolizing the themes of the Shakespearean tragedy, newspaper clippings of the students and their athletic and or academic achievements, and of course, the birthday wall exposing the birthday boys and girls of the month. What struck me as I removed the years accumulation of projects was how as teachers we literally start completely anew in the fall, then in the spring we completely put an end to grades, curriculum, schedules, students, phone lists, duties, and the list could go on and on. Beginning and ending the school year is the busiest and most exhausting time of the school year!! And, yet, so worth it with all that happens within the nine months of class time, sporting events, clubs, meetings, grading papers, parent teacher conferences, and specifically to me, getting to know some of the neatest people on the planet – seniors in high school!

I really will miss this group of seniors the Lord so graciously brought to my classroom. I pray specifically each year that the Lord will pick out the students to be placed on my rosters. With that perspective, I truly have a God-given love for each individual occupying a sit in my room. What a privilege to be a part of these young people’s lives at such an important time in their life as they make decisions regarding life after high school. I could go on and on about my job, but that is not the reason I sat down this afternoon to blog….

I am the club sponsor for Students for Christ (SFC) at the high school. We meet once a week in the commons of the D building where we get to worship through song and devotional. This group is responsible for two events: See You at the Pole (SYATP) & Baccalaureate. As the sole sponsor of this club, I am totally dependent upon the students to help coordinate not only our meeting times but SYATP and Baccalaureate. Knowing SYATP occurs within the first few weeks of school starting, I threw up a prayer one night asking God to show me who I should ask to be the president of SFC. I didn’t even have to ask! The next morning, a young man came into my classroom asking me what we are going to do about SYATP! I knew then God had called him to be the president of the club. This young man answered the call with a clear “yes” and led the club beautifully. He also did a fabulous job of coordinating Baccalaureate of which I am deeply thankful!

The call on his life to lead SFC got me thinking….

The world will tell you to go after your dreams. To follow your dreams. That dreams do come true. To dream big. To not let anyone or anything be an obstacle in fulfilling your dreams. Secular culture tells you you have arrived when you become a household name, when you have won the prized trophy, when you make it to the big leagues, when you are worth a million dollars, or when you have celebrity status.
Contrary to secular culture, the Word of God speaks truth. God’s Word reveals true purpose, breathes life into our bones, directs our life, and exposes our callings. As Christians we are not to be self-seeking but to answer the call. It is not your dreams we should go after, but instead to discover your God-given calling.

Romans 12:7 “If it is in serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

You will never be too old, too young, too out dated, not talented enough, not extraverted enough, not rich enough, not creative enough, not smart enough, not skinny enough, not pretty enough, not buff enough, or any other excuse you can come up with to not step into your calling. Your Creator, the One who designed you and put you on this planet for such a time as this has called you.

No need to sit around and wait for the dream person to discover you. No need to sit idly by hoping someone somewhere out there will notice you. No need to pretend you are going to be famous one day.

Because Child of God, the ONE and ONLY who calls you by name, purchased you with His own blood, and proclaimed you as His son or daughter of the King of kings has sealed the deal on your calling in which you will get to move mountains with your faith, see the lost found, bind up broken hearts, set the captives free, and proclaim freedom to the bound.

Revival is coming!

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In my last post I described things God has been teaching me concerning the verse “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). I mentioned ways in which man today looks at the outward appearance of man and then basically makes a character judgment call. I then recalled a quote from John Ortberg regarding the church producing so many stone throwers. It’s fascinating to me to realize how quick we are to throw a stone based on outward appearances. In other words, believers seem to bestow disgrace to others who aren’t who we think they should be or do or not do what we think is acceptable.

What about grace?

As a church do we not sing about it, praise God for it, study it, believe in it, receive it for ourselves, name our children after it, hang pictures on our walls with the word on it, and expect others to give it to us?

Why is our first response like the Pharisees in John 8 toward a woman caught in sin to want to throw stones? Why is it that the ones who proclaimed the Scriptures were the ones who also proclaimed condemnation? Or, why are the rules more important than the person?

Philip Yancey in What’s So Amazing About Grace writes: “Readers of the Gospels marvel at Jesus’ ability to move with ease among the sinners and outcasts. Having spent time around ‘sinners’ and also around purported ‘saints,’ I have a hunch why Jesus spent so much time with the former group: I think he preferred their company. Because the sinners were honest about themselves and had no pretense, Jesus could deal with them. In contrast, the saints put on airs, judged him, and sought to catch him in a moral trap. In the end it was the saints, not the sinners, who arrested Jesus” (Yancey 274).

The Apostle Paul who regarded himself as the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) was the same man who testified, lived out, gave out, and humbly received the grace freely given him. “Even though I was a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:13-14).

This same grace that was poured out on Paul is ours. Paul wrote to the church at Rome, church of Ephesus, and Timothy:

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ.” Romans 3:23-24

“But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” Romans 5:15

“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:17

“…to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Ephesians 1:6

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6-7

“…who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time…” 2 Timothy 1:9

The Greek word for grace is charis which means: “the divine influence upon the heart, and it’s reflection in the life” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance).

As one who has been freely given grace and as one who knows and believes I am saved not of myself, but because of the grace of God, I ask myself and those who also testify as one who has received the abundant grace of God: If God has been so gracious and kind and good to me (us) even when like Paul it is undeserved, why is it so difficult to give it to someone? If, like the definition of the word, grace has divinely influenced our hearts and has changed us for the better when we least deserved it, why is it not more readily reflected in our everyday lives toward those we live with, work with, our acquaintances, or even to those who aggravate us like on the roads we drive on or in the stores we shop at?

What keeps us from giving what has obviously been sufficiently given to us? This priceless treasure we carry within ourselves – how could we not want to give it away? What stops us from giving back to those so hungry for worthiness?

Maybe –

1. Fear – we are scared of what it would look like and it could make us feel uncomfortable

2. Pride – what would others say? How would this make me look?

3. Unbelief – it may cost me more than I have (emotionally)

4. Vulnerability – it may expose my heart which could leave me hurt, rejected and wounded

5. Laziness – I don’t want to do what is required of me

*This is where I am right now in my pursuit of understanding the grace of God and how it can be reflected in my everyday life. The next book I will begin reading (besides the Bible) is The Case for Grace by Lee Strobel.

I leave you today with Philippians 4:23 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Our church is in transition. The pastor of 40 years retired in November. Just think…our church has not had to search for a new pastor in 40 years. Quite incredible, huh?! As you can imagine we are taking our time in finding “God’s man” (as the chairman of the committee accurately states) to lead our church for the next 10, 15, 20 plus years.
Since our pastor’s retirement we have had guest speakers for our Sunday morning worship services. One Sunday morning as I glanced at the bulletin and noticed the bio for that morning’s guest speaker, which was a lengthy and qualified bio, the verse, “man looks at the outward appearance” (1 Samuel 16:7) whispered in my heart. The verse caught me by surprise as it had not been on my radar. But now, I can’t let go of it. I meditate on it and look for other ways “man looks at the outward appearance” that I hadn’t before. My thoughts are not complete at this point – they may never be – but this is what I have so far.

Our church has received over 500 resumes for men seeking to be our pastor at Arrow Heights Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, OK. The resumes are most likely filled with qualifications by anyone’s standards to validate why he should be the one for the position. Just as the resumes are noteworthy, the bio’s of the guest speakers blazon titles, degrees, books written, positions of power, along with honors and recognitions. God is right (obviously and always), man does look at the outward appearance. In order to properly satisfy the congregation as to why so and so was asked to bring the message of God’s Word through the pulpit, we give them what they want to hear; we answer the question of “Why him?” We answer it by stating all his accomplishments in the field of ministry. I am not saying this is wrong, but I do believe we as a church body (not just my church) have neglected how God chooses his men as He did multiple times in the Old and New Testament.
1 Samuel 16 is about the Israelites needing a new earthly king after King Saul made a spectacle of himself and didn’t honor God in the end. 1 Samuel 16 is about the boy God chose to be the next king even though no one in his own family even remotely considered him a candidate. Earlier before Samuel even knew who God had chosen to be the next king, prophesied to King Saul that the next king is one who is after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). The Bible Knowledge Commentary adds these words, “After the seven older sons of Jesse were disqualified one by one (vv. 5-10), David was singled out by the Lord and anointed by Samuel (vv. 11-13). The anointing, as in the experience of Saul, was accompanied by the coming of the Spirit of God mightily on the young lad (v. 13). This was the supernatural authentication of God’s will.” (Walvoord, John F., and Roy B. Zuck. “1 Samuel 16.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1983. 448. Print.) I love that last phrase – “This was the supernatural authentication of God’s will”. The Spirit testified! Everyone in the room knew David was to be the next king, and even David himself knew he was the one.

In the New Testament Jesus selected unqualified men by man’s standards to be His disciples. But, Jesus didn’t measure what He did by man’s standards. His standards were no less and no more than God’s standards. It was said about two disciples: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Those who have been with Jesus are ones who resemble the Spirit of God and will have favor with God and with man. It was said of Samuel in his growing up years that as he served in the tabernacle he grew in favor with the LORD and with men” (1 Samuel 2:26).
My question is, “Do we really want to qualify someone based solely on what paper states of him?” Is this really how we should as the body of Christ decide whether or not one’s credentials point toward the success of the man? I can’t help but think that this is the heart of a Pharisee who as Jesus described “their teachings are but rules taught by men” (Matthew 15:9). By no means, am I disqualifying titles, education, and experience. I am all for an educated person who uses the gifts and callings he has been given to build the kingdom of God. (I am, by all means, a high school English teacher and my oldest daughter is attending Oklahoma Baptist University with a minor in ministry.) So, I am not saying that we shouldn’t consider previous job titles, education, experience, etc. What I am saying is we should also consider the heart as “the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Maybe we should consider:
his fruit,
his love,
his obedience,
his giving,
his forgiving,
his commitment,
his self-control,
his patience,
his kindness,
his joy,
his servanthood.

As I have been meditating on 1 Samuel 16:7 the part that reveals “man looks at the outward appearance”, a conversation came up at a club meeting I sponsor, Students for Christ, at the high school campus. The conversation was on tattoos. They (a group of over 40 high school students) were giving their opinions whether or not having a tattoo was a sin. After a good and biblical discussion (of which I only listened), it ended on the note that we shouldn’t judge someone by their outward appearance. I think some adults could have gained some insight from these students!!

Something else was brought to my attention as I was reading Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them. The author, John Ortberg summarized the story in John 8 about the woman caught in adultery. He then added this question: “Why do churches produce so many stone throwers?” (Ortberg, 95). He said of a church he once attended that the members passed judgment on the spiritually inferior. He states: “-Somebody’s kids were a little wild- people would pick up stones. – Somebody’s marriage wasn’t working – another stone. – The music minister chose the wrong kind of song, or played it too loudly – more stones. Somebody crossed a line, violated a code, had a problem – word spread. People picked up stones. The truth is – though they would never admit this – it energized them, gathering stones. They looked forward to it” (Ortberg, 96). Ortberg’s point was that “we are most scandalized by sins of the flesh. Jesus was most scandalized by sins of the spirit” (Ortberg,94).
Obviously, we aren’t going to literally pick up a stone in today’s time, but we can be a “stone thrower” meaning we may label someone by what he/she does or does not do. We identify a speck in someone’s eye all the while we have a log in our own (Matthew 7:3).
These could be ways in which we (including myself!!) unknowingly and knowingly label someone:

seminary degree – outward appearance
tattoo – outward appearance
BMW- outward appearance
nose ring – outward appearance
Seven children – outward appearance
pink hair – outward appearance
25 years of ministry experience – outward appearance
grungy clothes – outward appearance
President of this or that – outward appearance
only a high school diploma – outward appearance
15 mighty fine suits – outward appearance
facial hair – outward appearance
musically talented- outward appearance
former addict – outward appearance
too old – outward appearance
too young – outward appearance

If we have been one to throw a stone or have a stone thrown at us (no matter how polished and polite the intention), I believe wholeheartedly that this strikes not just the person, but also the Lord Jesus – it hits a chord in His heart – He is Love. What Joseph said of his brothers who condemned him, can be said today at those who throw stones, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20 ESV).

I don’t want to be a “stone thrower”. Nor do I want to disqualify or even qualify someone for that matter based on his/her outward appearance. Lord, forgive me for times I have intentionally and unintentionally thrown a stone. Lord, forgive me for not respecting someone based on his/her outward appearance. Lord, forgive me for giving someone undue attention based on outward appearance.

Another thought comes to my mind…we shouldn’t qualify or disqualify ourselves based on our outward appearance. Just because we may not look the part based on man’s views and standards does not mean God has not called you to do something or be someone! Of course, God would never ask you to do anything contrary to His Word, so if you believe God has put something in your heart and mind to do – He will qualify you! He gives you favor with man and with God! “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).

I end this post by asking myself and you what Paul declared to the churches of Galatia: “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

IMG_3709aIMG_2292I was working the concession stand the other day for my youngest daughter’s volleyball game (Broken Arrow freshman team), when I glanced out toward the gym and saw a little girl around the age of two playing on the bars by the gym seats. From the back the little girl totally reminded me of my oldest daughter, Braelyn, (who will be 19 this Wed.). In an instance, Braelyn’s life flashed before me! I stood motionless staring at this precious little girl who was oblivious to anyone around her -she was captivated by playing on the simple bars meant to help persons stepping down to a seat.

The background music at the time was an oldie by Miley Cyrus – one that when Braelyn was in middle school used to dance to – “Everyone Makes Mistakes”. I felt like I could go up to this little girl’s mom and tell her, “Everything will turn out better than you can imagine”. Even though this mom hasn’t even had the memorable privilege of putting her daughter in kindergarten yet, and even though the dreaded teenage years seem so far removed from the both of them, I felt like telling her that loving her little girl will be one of the most rewarding acts you could ever do in life.

See…Braelyn went to college less than a month ago. She is having the time of her life at her Dad’s and my alma mater – Oklahoma Baptist University. Before she left I had a lot of family and friends ask me if I was going to be alright with her going away. My answer was always, “Well of course!” This is exactly what we reared her to do – go away to a four-year college to continue her education and enjoy some freedom away from mom and dad. I was nothing less than ecstatic for her!! Moving day was a breeze…that is until her two sisters began to tear up.

Now…I am going through a grief I did not expect. Having three daughters in four years has been all-consuming! I felt as if I hadn’t come up for air since the day my first was born. I never imagined myself with an empty nest; it didn’t seem even remotely possible. I don’t want to come home to an empty house in four years which is when my youngest will be entering her freshman year in college.

Not sure I can actually pinpoint my grief completely. It may be a sense of gratitude of being all of my daughters mom and having had the blessing and oh so enormous responsibility of bringing them up in this oh so crazy place called Earth in the 21st century! I may not have gone to every game they played, ordered every school picture, volunteered at their school regularly, read to them as often as they would have liked, or given them all name brand clothing, BUT I do believe they know that I love them and that the One who created their beautiful bodies and knows them more than me loves them with an infinite love.

To all the moms who are just beginning the adventure of being a parent – I know the days are long, the messes are plenty, the money is short, and your energy is small. But know that your reward is great! Each small endeavor you invest into your child’s future really is no little thing! Enjoy as many moments in the mundane dailyness of life as you seek God in all things. He keeps you together!

Daniel praised “the God of the heaven” and spoke “He reveals deep and hidden things” (Daniel 2:22 NIV). I wanna know “deep and hidden things” too! I may not want to be in the same predicament as Daniel and his friends were – execution – if the deep and hidden things were not revealed, but I do surely desire to understand and have supernatural insight into the things of God and His Word. I am convinced that the best way to have a revelation is to read God’s Word and simply talk to Him about it. There is a passage of Scripture that has captivated me and prompted a desire for a deeper understanding. The passage is found in 2 Timothy 2. This is a letter to Timothy from his mentor, the apostle Paul, who is writing while being imprisoned for the sake of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. In verse 6 Paul reminds Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God”. Meaning – DO WHAT GOD HAS EQUIPED YOU TO DO. Then, Paul issues a call not just for Timothy but for the whole province of Asia (2 Timothy 1:15). Before he issues the call, he exposes a possible excuse to not answer the call. “So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner” (2 Timothy 1:8a). Paul is saying that before you decide to say “No”, please don’t let your own insecurities keep you from fulfilling God’s call on your life. The call – “join with me in suffering for the gospel…”(verse 8). At this point, Paul was in unbearable conditions; he was in prison. His environment was not one to be envied. He was hungry, dirty, stinky, cold, hurt, and in need of basic human dignity. How dare he issue such a call! What was he thinking? He wants someone to join him and he even uses the name of Jesus as a lure? Wouldn’t this just scare people away from wanting anything to do with Jesus who put him in such conditions?? Shouldn’t this be the appropriate time for him to keep his mouth shut for fear of giving the name of Jesus a bad rep? Paul’s response: “Yet I am not ashamed because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).

Oh, we American’s sign-up for things! In fact, just this morning, via email, I signed up to win several prizes for home improvement. I also had an opportunity, again via email, to sign up to win a $1000 gift card if I just answer a few questions. We are the first to sign up for whatever requires the least amount of work. We sign up for giveaways whether we want the products or not. We sign up to be the first to go on vacation on the assumption we are most deserving. We sign up whenever we get something bigger and better in return. We sign up to be a part of a program that offers “get rich quick” even at the expense of family. We don’t want to sign up for something that is obscure. If we can’t post it on social media, then it is a waste. I am totally not pointing fingers by any means! I am the first to admit, I tend to not sign up for things that requires me to sacrifice my time. I have so much on my own “to do” list, that I know I have missed out on serving Christ because of my own selfish reasoning.

What do we do with the call to “join with me in suffering for the gospel”? What specifically does God call me to? What specifically does God call you to?

Paul issued the call to the province of Asia. Do you know how many responded? One. One brave, one devoted, one unselfish, one servant-hearted man. His name was Onesiphorus whose name means “profit-bearer”. Paul described him as “he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains” (2 Tim. 1:16). Paul goes on to say that Onesiphorus “searched hard for me until he found me” (verse 17). Sometimes the very thing that God calls us to does not get thrown into our lap. We may have to do some research, get counsel, make phone calls, visit several people and places, and search our hearts. Onesiphorus was not ashamed of Paul’s chains. He was not overly embarrassed to be near Paul in his filthy confinement.

My question I have for you and myself is: What symbolizes “chains” for you and for me? What are we afraid of? What do we not go near for the sake of being grossed out, uncomfortable, or feeling inadequate? Or maybe it is because of our pride. What if someone saw us with someone in chains? What if we get dirty and stinky too? Or maybe we lie to ourselves and say that we are not called to that type of suffering; someone else is more qualified.

Paul mentioned two men who I am assuming he thought would be there for him in his time of need but were not. The two men were Phygelus and Hermogenes. Phygelus’ name just happens to mean “fugitive”. This tells me that when approached with a similar sign up list, we have 2 choices: 1. Embrace 2. Run away. We are either going to open our arms to the “chains” or we will simply ignore the “chains”.

Paul used the word “refreshed” when referring to what Onesiphorus did for him. The word literally means “comforting, reviving, bracing me like fresh air!” Can you imagine anyone needing real fresh air more than Paul? Who knows how long he had gone without being outside or near an open window! Someone needs us to be like a breath of fresh air to him/her. Someone needs a hug. Someone needs to know he/she is thought of and cared for. Someone needs to be heard. Someone needs to be validated. Someone needs love. Someone needs you. “…by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:8b-10).
We may feel inadequate, embarrassed, unworthy, uncalled, ashamed, afraid, and insecure. No doubt – the chains are intimidating. No more excuses! No more lies! No more fear! Search for what God has called for you to do and know that “God’s word is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:9b)! Hallelujah!

I came across three words during my study of God’s Word that I haven’t ever studied. It isn’t that I hadn’t heard them or read them before; I just saw them differently. A lot of times my study of God’s Word revolves around a word or a phrase. Something hits me – jumps off the page – and my new obsession emerges. I do tons of cross referencing, use the Strong’s Exhaustive Dictionary, read from multiple sources, and eventually write about it.  I find I am like that with my food and drink too. I will eat something for breakfast or for a snack every day until I can’t put one more in my mouth. Right now my favorite after work snack is Stacy’s cinnamon and sugar pita chips! For my drink it is a homemade ice coffee. Ok, so it is a sugar overload, but it keeps me going with the evening activities! I would not describe my personality as OCD…just thorough 🙂

Most of the time when we are trying to describe something or someone to someone we tend to think about all the ways in which he/she is. For instance, we will say, “He is so handsome”, “He is hard-working”, “She is precious”, “She is a straight ‘A’ student”, or “It is the one that fits me the most”. But, there are times, when saying what it isn’t is appropriate as well. For example, when referring to a prospective employee we could mention, “He doesn’t smoke”, “He doesn’t live far”, “He doesn’t have a criminal background”, and so forth.

So, the three words I came across, came first from Isaiah 40:28, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” Did you find them?? It is the words, “He will not”. Normally, I would have just read the verse and just kept going. But, for whatever reason, the three little words “He will not” totally did it for me! It was like the Lord was putting those words in all caps with an exclamation point at the end: HE WILL NOT ! “He will not grow tired or weary”. Isn’t that such good news that our God, our Creator, our Sustainer does not need a break from us nor does He ever cease to work on our behalf.

Of course I then proceeded to find more “He will not’s” in the Bible. This is what I discovered about the “I am” (Exodus 3:15).

He will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down (Exodus 12:23).

He will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath (Deut. 4:31).

He will not fail you or forsake you…(1 Chronicles 28:20).

He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea (Psalm 102:17).

He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep (Psalm 121:3).

He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them (Hebrews 6:10).

Which one of these “he will not’s” means the most to you at this point in your life?

For me, it is the Hebrews promise that He will not forget the work I have done in His name even though outwardly there is no evidence in the natural means.

Something else that is highly interesting. When the apostle Paul wrote the famous “love” chapter in 1 Corinthians 13, he wrote equal amounts of descriptions of what love is, as he wrote descriptions of what love is not.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Sometimes the promises of God come not in the form of what He will do, but in what He will not do.

 

 

  

The end of a year and the beginning of a new year seem to conjure up all sorts of remembrances from family memories to celebrity break-ups, births, deaths, songs and videos of the year, and a wide-range of national news. Personally, I enjoy taking moments to ponder moments from the year. It can be these moments that lead one to conjure up new year’s resolutions. Believe it or not, a resolution could be to remember! It is a biblical concept that runs throughout the Old and the New Testament. Some of the calls to remember include –

“Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God…”(Deut. 4:10). “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deut. 5:15). “Remember well what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all of Egypt…” (Deut.7:18). “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert…” (Deut. 8:2). “Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…” (Deut. 9:27).”Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the LORD your God…(Deut.11:2). “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt” (Deut. 25:17). “Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced…” (1 Chronicles 16:12). “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago” (Ps. 77:11). “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering” (Hebrews 10:32). “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Rev. 2:4).

Moses and the other divinely inspired writers remind God’s people to “Remember”! This isn’t limited to just thinking, but also to record, to write down what one remembers especially in regards to what God has said or done on behalf of oneself. I can think of several reasons the act of remembering would be beneficial. 1. It would take our eyes off ourselves and onto our Heavenly Father. 2. It would keep us from feeling alone. 3. It would cause us to be grateful for all He has done. 4. Increase our faith. 5. Encourage us to continue on the straight and narrow.

In Mark 6 the disciples had just witnessed and been a part of the feeding of the 5,000 which was an enormous God-size miracle by anyone’s standard. Then, they got into a boat where a storm came up. When Jesus got in the boat with them (btw…he did another miracle of walking on the water), the storm ceased. Scripture then states, “they [disciples] were greatly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened” (Mark 6: 51b-52). Lord have mercy! May this generation of believers, including myself, learn from what God has done and can do!

My favorite reason for remembering comes from Deuteronomy 4:9 “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Another aspect of our ever- so- lengthy job description of parenting is to remember what God has done for us out loud so that our children and grandchildren see the hand of God personally in our lives.

My grandpa, Dr. Charles E. Green, was full of God stories. Every time my family would visit him, then in my adult years when Richard would go with me to visit, Grandpa would recall so many memories of what God had done for him. His stories were incredible. Before he died he was given the amazing privilege of making a record of his life-story in which was published. His autobiography is titled The Lord Heard My Cry. I am so thankful for this gift because now I can pass it down to my daughters.

I am inspired to journal and to speak the good things the Lord has done for me. “Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD” (Psalm 102:18).

Scary creatures are appearing in neighbor’s yards. Ghosts made out of white sheets inhabit one yard entirely. Oversize black cats and hairy tarantula’s occupy sidewalks with a look that dares one not to come any closer. Life- size dolls imitating real-life humans  erected to cause anyone near to fear being the next victim. Then, there are the “normal” evil characters such as witches, vampires, and monsters that impose fright no matter the time of year. And why??? Why is scaring people fun?! I really don’t get it. I really don’t like it. There is only one place all of this scary stuff could have originated – the devil himself.

It doesn’t have to be the time approaching Halloween or the day of Halloween for Satan to use his mastery of deception to try and scare the people of God away from their callings. One such example comes straight out of the book of Nehemiah. The Jews, God’s people, who bravely came back to Jerusalem after being in captivity to the Babylonians for 70 years, were given the job of rebuilding their homeland, their place of worship, their own homes, and the wall of protection around their city, Jerusalem. This task was more than the Jews could handle, so God ordained Nehemiah (also a Jew), who was serving as the cup-bearer to the king, to orchestrate and see the building process through especially in regards to the rebuilding of the wall (Nehemiah 2).  The men, women, and children were ridiculed day and night for their hard work by neighboring evil men. The opposition was fierce, exhausting, and relentless. The Jews’ strength was gone. So much so, they wanted to quit. Prayer to God kept them going (Nehemiah 4). Just when the wall was near completion, the enemies voiced their threats once again. A message was sent to Nehemiah, “‘Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.'”( Nehemiah 6:2). Nehemiah recognized immediately this was not a “peace treaty” request, but a scheme meant for harm. I wonder if it was the name of the plain that initially gave the threat away – “Ono”!? Their enemy never tired; the message was sent four times. On the fifth time another letter was included that was filled with lies. Nehemiah admonished the Jews by reporting the enemies “were trying to frighten us” hoping the work on the wall would cease (Nehemiah 6:9). Furthermore, another attempt to get Nehemiah from collaborating with the Jews occurred when Nehemiah went to visit a man shut in his home. The man warned Nehemiah that men are coming to kill him, so he wanted Nehemiah to go to the temple where only the Levites had the right to enter. Nehemiah discerned that this man was not of the Lord, but quite the opposite, “He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me” (Nehemiah 6:13). The Message translation of the same verse: “He had been hired to scare me off—trick me—a layman, into desecrating The Temple and ruining my good reputation so they could accuse me.” Nehemiah didn’t bite the bait. His knees may have buckled in his boots, but he kept fighting…kept praying…and kept rebuilding. The crazy, great thing – the wall was rebuilt in record time! In just 52 days the work was accomplished. The ridicule, the threats, the intended harm, the intimidation and the frightening words only hurried the people of God to fulfill their God given calling! And guess who ended up being afraid?? “When all our enemies heard about this (the rebuilt wall), all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:16). Now that is what you call a healthy dose of fear!

Voices of ridicule, words that mock, and intimidating lies may be hurled your way. Know this my friend – You are doing the work of the Lord. Pray as Nehemiah did: “Now strengthen my hands”.  When all said and done, it will be your enemies who will be shaking in their boots!

One of my sweet friends spent the past two years in an overseas country serving God by serving others. After graduating from college, she accepted the call to serve. Not only did she leave the country, she left family, friends, new start on career, and all the comforts of home.  Some wanted to know if it was worth it. What she posted was absolutely brilliant. Her reply was nothing less than from the spirit of our living God. I asked her permission to share it with you on my blog. I pray it gives you the courage to do something you thought you could never do, or speak something you thought you could never say, or feel something you thought you could never feel, or believe something you never thought you could believe. This is her reply:   Was it Worth it

Moore pic 2

Moore pic 1 

These are 2 photos taken in Moore,OK this past Saturday when a group from the Student Ministry of Arrow Heights Baptist Church went to help with clean-up after the “Monster” tornado. Of course, these 2 photos do not begin to capture the overwhelming destruction that we witnessed, just a tiny glimpse.

As a group we truly desired to do whatever possible to help in any type of manner. We wished we could have accomplished more. As rubble lay in heaps, we were instructed to move the rubble closer to the street. The rubble consisted of up to 3 different household’s belongings. Items that once comprised their dwellings, their shelter, their refuge from the storms of life… but could not withstand the worst tornado in our nations history. The household items were not just the inside the house stuff, but also included the framework of the home – walls, shingles, windows, doors, fences. The house and everything in it (except for what was recovered) now lay in a very large pile…across the street from its original address. All of it exposed to the elements of spring time weather and labeled as ‘rubble’. What was formerly a properly established house that family members could call home now became a mound of trash us strangers were literally holding in pieces – not to use the items as intended- but instead to move closer to the street where the next rubble managers would soon dispose of “the stuff” to the dump. What struck me was that as we picked each item up from the heaping pile, it looked as though the stuff was meaningless. But, yet, truly just a number of days ago, the “stuff” had great meaning to its owner. Those items and especially the structure of the house had obvious and tremendous meaning. The windows allowed sunlight to brighten the home. The doors allowed members to walk in and out. The cabinets held the tableware to which one could get nourishment. The clothes provided covering. The list could go on and on. I hear persons saying all the time, “It’s just stuff”. That is truth. But “the stuff” served meaning and purpose to those families each and every day. And yes, the families can purchase more stuff to resupply their needs. But, that still does not negate that “the stuff” before the tornado did have meaning. One of humanity’s most basic needs is shelter. As our team viewed the multiple miles of devastated homes whose families are no longer able to return to their shelter, the complexity of the tornadoes destruction was evidently monstrous.

I praise God for His Truth!  Even though our properties may be confiscated, burned, blown away, flooded, stolen, or abandoned we know “that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions” (Hebrews 10: 34b).

As the Moore,OK residents complete the clean- up of their properties, they will begin the process of rebuilding. I can’t help but think that they will want a shelter, a school, a business that could withstand the worst of the worst. They are not going to want the same type of structure. As believers in the risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we have complete hope in our future citizenship in our eternal home. As Abraham put his trust, so do we. “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).

In Billy Graham’s revised edition of Storm Warning he writes that we are to be alert and watching for Christ’s return and at that moment we would desire that we would be found “in Him”. He continues:

     The idea of “watchfulness” is presented throughout Scripture. We, as earth dwellers, are watchful people. Ofetntimes, unfortunately, we are watching the wrong things. Thankfully, there are those in the world who keep watch for us – to some degree. Meteorologists, for example, watch radar monitoring the signs for approaching storms. We should be grateful when their warnings are issued about dangers ahead.

     A tornado, considered nature’s most powerful and violent storm is an example. Because of its rapid development, it can come upon us without warning. But forecasters have learned to read the patterns that help formulate their predictions about the conditions that may spawn a surprise from the sky. Following violent thunderstorms, an eerie calm may settle in the air for a brief time. The sky may turn dark and gray with brushstrokes of greenish hues; the leaves on the trees may become quiet and still. Often, just before a tornado moves in with the sound of a roaring freight train – there is silence.

In our personal relationship with our Creator, my prayer is that we heed the warnings here in this short time on planet Earth so that each one of us will be ready on that great and glorious day when our Redeemer comes for His own! “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” (Matthew  25: 12).

Jennifer Johnson

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"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen." -Revelations 1:5b-6

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