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Resurrection Day

Luke 24:13-34 13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?” They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. 18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.” 19 “What things?” Jesus asked. “The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago. 22 “Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. 23 They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! 24 Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.” 25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. 28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, 29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared! 32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” 33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.”

Resurrection Day has arrived! Our Savior lives! Death had no sting. Death could not hold Him. The tomb is empty. Yesterday, we celebrated Easter as a family at our home. A large portion of my family and some of my husband’s family came together for a fantastic celebration. We had way too much food, a wonderful egg hunt, and then we all sat around the living room and sang praise songs as a family. We paused the hustle and bustle long enough to read scripture. I chose the scripture above to share with my family yesterday, and today, I want to share it with you.

Most Easter devotionals speak to the moment that the empty tomb was discovered. Jesus’ body was missing. He had risen just as it was prophesied, but what about the proof? Had Jesus not appeared again after that faithful day, there would be so much doubt. I mean really, how could He be alive again after suffering such a gruesome tortuous death? His death was witnessed by many. It was confirmed. He was dead, and if the only evidence of the resurrection were the empty tomb…well, doubters gonna doubt! Thankfully, Jesus left us with no reason to doubt. Over 500 people saw the risen Savior after the resurrection before His ascension. 500 witnesses!!

I love the story of the men walking on the road to Emmaus. They were walking along talking about the phenomenal events of the previous three days including the resurrection. They were talking to Jesus, but He didn’t allow them to recognize Him until after they had broken bread with Him. Their eyes were opened, and they realized that they had been in the presence of the risen Savior. What an emotional experience that must have been.

I love the stories of the witnesses of the resurrected Savior. I love studying apologetics. I ordered a stack of A Case for Easter written by Lee Stroebel to give to my Sunday School class for Easter. Lee Stroebel is a journalist who was previously an atheist. His wife became a Christian, and he was so upset by this that he decided he would disprove the resurrection. He took a deep dive into scripture, researched it extensively, called in some experts, and guess what? He couldn’t disprove the resurrection, and now, He is a believer.

I was standing in a long line at the local Dollar Tree this week, and a young lady in line behind me was conversing with her mother. She was talking about different theories that she enjoyed studying, and she told her mother how much she loved the theory of evolution. She said that she loved evolution and talking about it because it could be substantiated. It could be proven. She then began comparing this theory to Christianity, and she explained that she couldn’t understand how people believe in all that religious stuff because it couldn’t be proven. As I listened a bit, I turned around and engaged her in a conversation. I told her that I had heard her discussion about Christianity and the inability to prove it. I recommended that she and her mom get a copy of A Case for Easter. I told her that I believed that Christianity was absolutely true, and shared with her that the death, burial, and resurrection could not be disproven although scholars had tried to do so for years. Her mom asked me again for the title of the book. A friend was a little bit ahead of me in the line. (It was a long line as I said.) She overheard our conversation and asked for more information about that book. We then got into a full blown apologetics discussion right there in the Dollar Tree line.

I pray that you believe in Christ’s resurrection. He died for you. He died for me. Our perfect, sinless, spotless Savior shed His blood for us to give us eternal life. He didn’t stay dead though. That tomb is empty! He arose just as He said He would. Just as it was prophesied. Yes, He arose. Hundreds of people saw Him after the resurrection. It can’t be denied. There is so much proof! Scripture confirms His life, death, burial, and resurrection.

May we celebrate the absolute best day of the year with complete confidence that our Savior is risen!

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Silent Saturday

Acts 2:27 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.

Friday came to a close, and Saturday morning began. The Messiah had died the day before. He was in the grave. Death had silenced Him (temporarily). Jesus was silent. God was silent. God had spoken quite loudly on Friday. No, God wasn’t silent on Friday. He tore the curtains of the temple. He opened the graves of the dead. He turned the sun off in the middle of the day as if He turned off the light switch. He shook the earth. He sacrificed His one and only Son. He didn’t speak audibly, but oh how the voice of God was heard on Friday.

But then Saturday arrived. SILENCE! The silence must have been deafening. Jesus told the disciples He would return, but how would this happen? They had seen the numerous miracles. They heard Him teach. They walked right beside Him. They had trusted Him. But…He’s gone. They saw His agonizing death on the cross. They heard Him speak His final words. They saw His body being prepared for burial. They saw the stone roll in front of the tomb. The Savior was silent. Those closest to Him, His most trusted friends had to wait.

Oh, the weight of the wait, it’s almost unbearable. We recognize the events of Friday, and then we quickly skip over to celebrate Sunday, the resurrection. We skip Saturday…silent Saturday. That day is important though. That is the day that occurs between the struggle and the solution. That’s the day we frequently find ourselves in. We struggle with questions. We struggle with problems. We struggle with sickness, pain, and loss. We struggle…and sometimes God is silent. We call out to Him, but we don’t hear anything. We don’t see a physical response to our cries. God seems silent. It is that time between the struggle and the solution in which the weight of the wait is almost unbearable.

The thing we have to remember is that our God does not remain silent. He answers every question in His own time. He never leaves us. He did not leave His Son in the grave, and He will not leave you in your struggles. Cling to Him.

Sunday is coming….

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Good Friday

John 19:28-30 28 Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 30 When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

The day arrived. The day that the final sacrifice would be paid. The day that the blood of the sacrificial Lamb was shed. The day of the cross. I urge you to read all of John chapter 19 as well as the other gospels that share the crucifixion story. Read it and feel the emotions as hot tears well up in the eyes as we recall the suffering that our Savior endured for us. We know the story well. We’ve heard it so many times, and sometimes, I fear that the repetition of it dulls our senses to the reality of the horrific pain and suffering that occurred on the day that we all call “Good Friday.”

Jesus was taken as prisoner and brought before the Jewish religious leaders and then before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. Pilate questioned Him but could not find Jesus guilty. Yet, the Jewish people had Him sentenced to death on the cross. The crucifixion is probably the worst form of a death sentence. It isn’t a quick, painless injection on death row. No, this form of death sentence was marked by great suffering…and time…it wasn’t quick and painless by any means. Jesus was flogged. He was beaten. His skin was torn. A crown of thorns pressed into his head. But the torture didn’t stop there. He was nailed to the cross. NAILED. I can not even comprehend the amount of pain that He endure that day.

So, what was so good about that day? Jesus knew exactly what He was doing and why. He knew that He had to take on the cross as a sacrifice for you and I. He knew that He had to be the propitiation, the payment, for our sins so that we could be made right with the Father. He knew that He had to be the final sacrificial Lamb. He knew. He endured agonizing pain and torture, and He knew it was going to happen. He could have made it stop. He could have run away. He could have escaped. He is Lord of all after all. It was a good day because our Lord and Savior saved us that day because He knew us…

He knew that we needed a Savior. He knew that we would sin. He knew that we needed a plan for salvation. He knew me, and He knew you over 2000 years ago, He knew. He knew that our world would be falling apart around us. He knew that we would suffer tragedies. He knew that marriages would end in divorce. He knew our grown children would walk away from the faith. He knew we would lose jobs. He knew we would have financial struggles. He knew we would have loss. He knew we would feel alone…and sad…and lost, oh so lost! He knew… Yes, He knew we needed Him more than anything else in this whole wide world. He knew, and because He knew us, He willingly suffered and died on that cross. There has never been, nor ever will be, a greater act of love. He knew…

But the story didn’t end there. Sunday is coming….

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Maundy Thursday

John 13:1-17 Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.” “No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!” 10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.

We’ve reached Thursday of Holy Week. This day is called Maundy Thursday. The word Maundy is taken from the Latin root mandatum or commandment. Jesus shared this commandment in John 13:34, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” Earlier in John chapter 13, we see the recorded account of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Jesus was displaying sacrificial love, a love that had eternal significance.

Back in the days that Jesus walked the earth, there weren’t any comfy tennis shoes or stylish shoes to cover the feet. Most people wore sandals or perhaps no shoes at all. There weren’t any cars either. Foot traffic was literally just that. They walked from place to place for the most part. You can only imagine how dusty and dirty those feet were at the end of a day of traveling. It was proper to wash those dirty feet at the end of the day. The owner of the home would offer a basin to the guests to wash their feet, but the guests were expected to do the washing. Gentile slaves may have been tasked with this lowly job of washing the dirt off of someone’s feet, but even the Jewish slaves usually didn’t have to endure this degrading task.

Yet, here we see that Jesus, the Messiah, King of kings, Lord of lords, got up from the table, tied a towel around His waist, poured water in a basin, and began washing the feet of His disciples. Jesus, Lord of all, willingly took on the position of the lowliest of servants and washed the feet of the ones He loved. Our Savior dropped to His knees in the lowly position of a servant to wash the feet of the disciples. They were shocked and taken aback. Their Teacher and Master could not be allowed to do such a demeaning task. Simon Peter, of course, was the one recorded to speak out. He told Jesus that He would not allow Him to wash his feet, but quickly asked for a full body cleansing when Jesus informed him “Unless I wash you, you don’t belong to Me.”

This foot washing session wasn’t just about having clean feet. No, it went much deeper than that. Jesus was showing an extravagant act of love. The Master became the servant. He took on the role of a slave in this simple act of washing feet. He lowered Himself to the status of a slave. He served like a slave, and this act, unbeknownst to the disciples, was a foreshadowing of things to come. Jesus knew that He would soon be dying the demeaning death of a slave.

Yes, when He took on the cross, Jesus offered an eternal cleansing for each and everyone of us that accept the great gift of salvation. He showed love in a manner that was never seen before and has never been seen since. Jesus lived a life of a servant. He was King of kings, but He taught, He loved, and He served humbly and beautifully teaching His disciples and all of His children how to love.

As you go out today, please remember the gracious gift Jesus gave you. Show His love to those you encounter.

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Holy Wednesday

Matthew 26: 6-16 Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head. The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste!” they said. “It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, replied, “Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me? 11 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. 12 She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial. 13 I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.” 14 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests 15 and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.

We’ve made it Wednesday of Holy Week. The anticipation of it all makes my heart flutter. Reading through scripture, reminding myself of those last few days that Jesus walked the earth, fully human yet full man, is overwhelming. On Wednesday, they were busy preparing for the first Lord’s Supper. Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, the Leper. Simon could have been recognized for many things, but his unfortunate skin disease was what people remembered. While there, a woman approached Jesus. She had an alabaster jar of very expensive fragrant oil. It was likely worth at least a year’s wages. While Jesus was at the table reclining to eat, she poured this fragrant perfume over His head. She used the whole bottle!

What a beautiful site this must have been to behold. The woman was giving all that she had to honor Jesus. He saw the beauty in her actions, and He received her gift gladly. Sometimes we look over the beauty in scripture. God created beauty for our eyes to behold and our minds to enjoy. He created beautiful sunrises and sunsets. He didn’t have to put those brilliant colors in the sky, but He did. He created spring time with flowers of brightly colored hues to decorate the landscape. He produced the brilliant color changes of fall. He didn’t have to do any of that, but He did. God appreciates beauty, and we should take the time to appreciate the beauty He has blessed us with each and every day.

Yes, Jesus saw the beauty in this woman’s actions, but the disciples didn’t. They were indignant. They saw the waste of this valuable oil. They suggested that this could have been sold for a great deal of money and be given to the poor. But Jesus recognized the beauty in the woman’s actions. He told the disciples that the poor would always be with them, but He would not. He saw the act of the pouring of the fragrant oil onto Him as preparing His body for burial. He saw the beauty in this woman’s actions. Jesus knew that the day was drawing near, and He praised this woman. He saw the beauty.

Matthew then moves quickly from the woman anointing Christ to the traitor. Judas Iscariot, one of the trusted Twelve, went to the chief priests and sold out our Savior. He asked what they would be willing to give him for Jesus if he turned Jesus over to them. They weighed out 30 pieces of silver, and Judas accepted the bribe. From that moment on, he began looking for his opportunity to betray our Lord.

What a contrast. The woman gave all that she had to anoint Jesus, and one of His trusted disciples took a mere 30 pieces of silver to betray Him. One piece of silver was approximately a day’s wage. Therefore, Judas betrayed Jesus for about a one month salary. That is really not that much if you look at the big picture of what it cost Judas later for he later took his own life.

It had to happen. Jesus even knew that Judas would betray Him. He knew His time was coming. It was all part of God’s plan. Today, I ask that you look around and seek and find the beauty that is surrounding you. Open your eyes to the goodness that is still here because of our good God. We will still see sin. It is there. It’s been around since the fall of man, but praise God for our Savior. But God! He brings beauty from ashes. He understands us. He knows that we will make mistakes. Yes, my friends, He already knows everything. He knows our hearts. He knows our sins. But most importantly, if we give ourselves completely to Him, He forgives us. He loves you so much! Look for the beauty of the Savior in the great act of salvation today.

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Holy Tuesday

Matthew 22:36-40 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

It’s Tuesday of Holy Week. I have prayed about what to cover on today’s discussion because, let’s face it, Jesus was busy on the Tuesday of that Holy Week! Tuesday morning had arrived. The disciples may have been discussing the withered fig tree, and yet they still were not comprehending the message that Jesus was sharing. But as they approached Jerusalem, the events from the day before weren’t on the forefront of their minds. Jesus entered the Temple Mount and crowds were gathering because they couldn’t wait to hear what Jesus has to say. However, the chief priests and scribes had other things in mind. They decided that they would trap Jesus.

They concocted a plan of questioning Jesus to trap Him. The first trap was asking by whose authority Jesus had carried out the actions the day before. (Matthew 21:23-27) They figured that Jesus would take the bait, but they didn’t know our Jesus. Rather than falling into their trap, Jesus turned the tables as He so frequently did, He answered their question with a question, “I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question,” Jesus replied. “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human?” He has placed them in a trap. If they answered “from heaven,” then it would appear that they didn’t believe in the One whom John was preaching about. But if they answered “from man,” they would be taking a chance of turning the crowds against Him as they held John in high esteem.

That plan failed, so they moved on to another attempt. (Matthew 22:16-17) “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” This trap questioned Jesus’ allegiance. If he answered “yes,” the people would be distraught because their expectations of the Messiah taking them out of the Roman ruling would be crushed. But if he said “no,” He would be arrested. Oh, but Jesus, our Lord, He reminded them that the denarius bore the image of Caesar, therefore, it was appropriate to pay taxes to him. He said to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but give to God what belongs to God. (Matthew 22:21). I can just picture the amazement on their faces at Jesus’ response. It would be hard for me to hide the smirk on my face at this point.

Foiled again! These fellows just wouldn’t give up. They asked about the wife in the resurrection in Matthew 22:23-33. Jesus explained to them that they didn’t understand the scriptures. Next, they asked about the greatest commandment. They weren’t taking anymore chances. They sent in an “expert” in the law to ask, “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” (Matthew 22:36) “Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (37-40)

Jesus then begins challenging them with His own set of questions and proclaimed a long critique of the scribes and Pharisees. He pronounced the seven woes of judgment on hypocrites found in Matthew 23:1-39.

As Tuesday came to an end, Jesus had to be exhausted. He spent the entire day teaching and proclai6ming truth, gracefully asserting His authority and Kingship. I can’t even comprehend His thoughts as they are so much greater than mine. I believe that if I were in His sandals, I too would be trying to reach as many people as possible in the few short days I had left in my earthly body. So, why, then, knowing that our days are numbered, and we don’t know when our last day will be, are we NOT trying to reach as many people as possible in the days that we have left? The gospel needs to go out. Our time is running out with each passing day.

Tuesday is over, but Friday is coming…..

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Holy Monday

Matthew 21:12-17 12 Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. 13 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!” 14 The blind and the lame came to him in the Temple, and he healed them. 15 The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David.” But the leaders were indignant. 16 They asked Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” Yes,” Jesus replied. “Haven’t you ever read the Scriptures? For they say, ‘You have taught children and infants to give you praise.’” 17 Then he returned to Bethany, where he stayed overnight.

Yesterday we reviewed Palm Sunday, the triumphal entry of our King Jesus. He knew that the time was drawing near…the time of the cross. He had taught so diligently and lovingly throughout his earthly ministry as fully man yet fully God. He had worked to prepare the disciples. He had performed miracles, cast out demons, and oh, had he upset the Pharisees and Sadducees. They would not give up until they saw Him crucified.

He entered Jerusalem in peace on a gentle donkey. He was greeted with adoration and praises were sung to Him. Our Lord was recognized for his Kingship. Today, we pick up where we left off yesterday. While in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple complex and found people buying and selling within the temple for personal profit. They were not selling goods to establish the temple, make repairs, nor maintain the temple. These people were buying and selling for their own personal profit. They were making money off of the temple guests. This angered Jesus. He had to cleanse the temple of this egregiously dishonorable act that was ongoing within the temple.

We always see Jesus as this loving, compassionate King, but at this moment, we see His anger. We feel His pain. He was hurt that people were using the temple for personal profit. They were using the place worship as a marketplace for personal gain. He was upset! He was upset enough to overturn tables. I bet this got their attention. “He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”” (Matthew 21:13) Jesus is referencing scripture from Isaiah 56:7, “Even those I will bring to My holy mountain And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”

After cleansing the temple of the money changers, Jesus began healing. He healed the blind and the lame that came to the temple. The chief priests and scribes saw this, and they began more indignant and determined to stop Him. Yet, the little children who saw these things sang praises, ““Praise God for the Son of David.” The priests and scribes asked Jesus if He heard what the children were saying, and again, Jesus quoted scripture to them. “‘You have taught children and infants to give you praise.” We see this in Psalm 8:2.

After this, Jesus left them. He went out of the city to Bethany and spent the night there. I can’t imagine the emotions our Lord and Savior was enduring as the days to the cross began dwindling quickly away. I will never understand it completely, but I will always be forever grateful that our King took on a cross for someone as insignificant as me.

Stay tuned for more events of the Holy Week…..

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Holy Week: Palm Sunday, Jesus’ Triumphant Entry

Matthew 21:1-11 (NLT) As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. 2 “Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.” This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said,“Tell the people of Jerusalem,

  ‘Look, your King is coming to you.
He is humble, riding on a donkey—
    riding on a donkey’s colt.’”

The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it.Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,

“Praise God for the Son of David!
    Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
    Praise God in highest heaven!”

10 The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked.11 And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

As we enter the week preceding Easter Sunday, we are probably already caught up in the busyness of life. It is spring break for some, there are festivals occurring, spring ball games, and activities galore. It is definitely a fun time of the year. However, if we aren’t careful, we may just glide right through Easter without pausing to truly reflect and celebrate the glory and significance of the day. If you will indulge me, let us take a little dive into Passion Week and look at scripture as it relates to the most heartwrenching, yet soul redeeming day of the year. Let’s take a look at scripture and remember what we are celebrating this week.

We begin in Matthew 21 with Jesus’ triumphal entry. We recognize this day as Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Easter week. Scripture tells us that people cut palm branches, waved them in the air, and laid the Palm branches and their cloaks on the ground as Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey.

The King of kings had finally arrived. This is the King prophesied in Zechariah 9:9. The King arrived gently on a donkey as Zechariah foretold about 500 years earlier. Jesus was finally proclaiming his kingship, and whether the people truly recognized Him for who He was or not, prophesy was fulfilled. The people greeted him as He arrived in Jerusalem as they would greet a king. They cut branches and laid them out on the road before Jesus and laid their cloaks on the road to the city. The branches represented victory, a victory over death that would soon come to fruition.

As He passed through the city, the crowds shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! He who comes in the name of the Lord is the blessed One! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9b HCSB) Hosanna is often translated “Please Save Us.”  It is a Greek word “ὡσαννά” that most scholars believe is the transliteration of two Hebrew words- יָשַׁע- “yasha” which means “to save or deliver” and אָנּאָ – “anna” which means “please, I beseech.” Other scholars believe its Hebrew roots come from a different verb tense of “yasha” הוֹשַׁ֣ע which means to cause or to bring about salvation. In this tense, hosanna becomes a command to bring about or cause salvation. I like the translation, “please save us.”

As Jesus rode the donkey into the city, the people shouted Hossanna just one short week before the cross. The people were shouting in joy and adoration. They were shouting “Save us!” They had no idea of the events which were about to occur. They had no idea that this man on a donkey would soon suffer a gruesome death on a cross only to be resurrected 3 days later to save them…to save you…and to save me!

Jesus arrived then on a lowly, gentle donkey. He arrived quietly but definitively asserting His kingship on His way to the cross. May we reflect today on the triumphant arrival of our King. May we remember that He came for each of us, and may we remember that He is coming again. But the next time, He won’t arrive gently on a donkey. He will return on a white horse bringing judgement just as He promised. Our pastor left us with this statement today, ” Don’t risk meeting Jesus on the war horse when you’ve rejected Him on the donkey.” (Pastor Shane Moore)

May we shout with joy and adoration and praise the One who saves. If you haven’t yet called out for Him to save you. Let today be the day.

Blessings,

KK Hodge

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Calm in the Chaos

God is so good! Things are getting real, Peeps! My 365 day devotional cover design has been completed and approved. This devotional was written to encourage us as we walk through these days of chaos. We can always find calm in Jesus. The publishers are tweaking a few interior changes that I made, and then we’re off to the printing presses!

I have another announcement: I completed a third children’s book last week, and it has been accepted for publishing. An Unexpected Friendship is a story about my Axis deer and kangaroo, and it teaches children how to love others who may be different than them. Its based on the second greatest commandment: love your neighbor as yourself.

Im giving God the glory for giving this wordy girl the words for 5 books in 5 years! Thank you to my sweet husband for enduring all the time I’ve spent writing & editing lately. He is a gem! Thank you to all my loyal readers!

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GOD CARES ABOUT THE LITTLE DETAILS

Isaiah 41:13 For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

Happy New Year’s Eve, friends! I’m sitting here sipping on a cup of peppermint mocha tea by the soft light of the Christmas tree with my laptop on the top of my lap. I really can’t believe I am writing tonight after the week I’ve had, but here I sit with words to share.

As y’all know, my fourth book is currently in publishing. A few weeks ago, I received an email from the publisher with quite a few edits that I needed to make. I am using a different publishing company this time around, and these people are “by the book.” The corrections seemed daunting at first glance. There was so much to do, and in fact, it was almost enough to make me want to throw my hands up in the air and quit. But…I’m NO quitter! However, although I’m not a quitter, there was much work to be done. I still work full-time as a nurse practitioner. I am a wife, mother, grandmother, farmer, and heavily involved in my church. How in the world would I find the time to make the corrections? I was overwhelmed. Not only did I have a whole lot of editing to do to my book, it was December. It was the best, but busiest time of the year! We had parties, candy making, friend gatherings, and so much more going on. When would I possibly find the time? The book is a 365 day devotional written over the span of a year. I knew the editing would take a long while. I was a little exasperated.

But God! Oh, but God! If I haven’t mentioned lately, I work for an amazing company. We received a message stating that they didn’t want us to lose any of our paid time off, and only 40 hours would roll over to the next year. I messaged the bosses explaining that I was going to lose 34 hours, but I was okay with that. It was too late to request time off, so I was just going to let the hours go. The very next day, I received a call from one of my bosses informing me that the last week of December was covered and my schedule was blocked off. I was to take the vacation time the whole week after Christmas. This was an unexpected blessing for sure!

I started working on the edits on Tuesday. I was able to make all the recommended text corrections in a day and a half. But then, I had to change all of the scripture to a different translation. I chose one translation, but I didn’t realize that the copyright laws limited my use to no more than 500 words of that particular bible translation. I had to delete and then paste over 1000 scripture verses in a different translation. That took a bit of time. I worked on the editing for 12 hours a day for 4 days straight, but I finally finished. I pretty much used my entire vacation editing my book, but I’m not upset. I’m in awe!

Yes, I’m in awe. Before I even received the email with the needed edit, my good God, the creator of the Universe, the Most High, looked down at this old redneck gal from Mississippi and said, “I’ve already worked it out!” I’ll admit, I was a little bit stressed, a little distressed, and a little hard pressed not understanding how or when I would be able to complete the task at hand, but I didn’t need to be. I was able to see God’s hand working out the little details right before my eyes. He gave me the time I needed to do what needed to be done, and did I mention I got paid to do it? I completed the work while I was on paid time off from work.

I know the devil didn’t want me to publish this upcoming devotional book. He has thrown up some serious road blocks. That makes me think that the old devil doesn’t want this book in print, but guess what? I wrote that devotional to glorify God, and God wins every time!

(I’ve re-read about 700 pages of text from my book this week. Words are spinning all around inside this kinky haired head of mine. The photo is a picture of the mug my sister got me for Christmas. It’s fitting tonight!)

Blessings,

KK

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COME TO THE TABLE

Matthew 25:34-36 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.

About 10 years ago, my husband was building my dream barn. Yes, you read that correctly…my dream barn. We planned every detail over about a year’s period of time. When we broke ground on that barn, I was extremely excited. When we were close to completing the barn that I had already filled with critters, my husband saw an ad for some stall doors. He decided to go look at the doors, and that decision turned out to be one that would improve our meal time from that day forward. Let me explain. The man that was selling the stall doors also had a huge mahogany board that was 38 inches wide, 12 feet long, and 3 inches thick. He asked Jeff if he wanted to buy that board. Jeff at first said no. We were nearing completion of the barn, and had been paying for it as we went. We didn’t need that board, and we didn’t really need to spend any extra money on a board. They talked for a while, and the man explained that he wanted the board to be made into a table. He said someone had previously tried to buy it, but the person wanted to cut it up to make violins. He didn’t want it to be cut up into tiny pieces. He wanted it to be made into a huge table. When he learned that we have a big family, he reduced the price of the board to $700. Jeff couldn’t pass it up. He made a call that very night to a woodworker and scheduled an appointment. In my minds eye, I knew exactly what I wanted, and a few months later we had a 10 foot long solid mahogany table with ten hand crafter chairs. It was rustic, beautiful, and it completed our home.

Most days, that table sits empty as we only have three of us living at home now, my husband, myself, and our youngest. But thank God, it doesn’t stay empty for too long at a time. Today, it will be completely full as we enjoy Christmas dinner with our family. We completely fill up the table and all ten chairs when our kids, their spouses, our grandson, and our parents come over. We frequently even overflow to the kitchen island. That table is the heart of our home. It is where friends and family gather, and it is where many major decisions have been made. We discuss world events, our daily hurdles and blessings, and important conversations have taken place at that table. Exciting announcements have been proclaimed while sitting at that table. We have laughed and shed tears while gathered there. And that table is where I sit with my coffee in hand first thing every morning to read my Bible and write a devotional. Yes, my friends, that old slab of mahogany turned out to be a true blessing. With that solid old table, we will be able to continue to invite many to come to the table at our home.

There’s another table that we have all been invited to, and that one is much more special that our well loved kitchen table. We have all been invited to dine with the King of all glory. But while we await that glorious day, we have the blessed opportunity to share our table. As children of the King, we are given the ability to show the love of Christ each and every day. We can do this by feeding the hungry, loving the unlovable, and inviting others to come to the table. We can seize those opportunities to really share and show the love of Christ, share the gospel, and invite others to come to the table of the King. Whether your table is big or small, wooden or glass, take every opportunity to invite others to come to the table. Open your heart and your home when possible, and use every chance you get to share Christ so that everyone comes to the table of our Lord and Savior! Won’t you come to the table of the King and celebrate His birthday today at His house! Get prettied up and get to church this morning!

Merry Christmas!

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WORN OUT

Isaiah 51:6 Look up to the skies above, and gaze down on the earth below. For the skies will disappear like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a piece of clothing. The people of the earth will die like flies, but my salvation lasts forever. My righteous rule will never end!

I’m enjoying a few days of PTO this week. It turned cold here in south Mississippi. It’s deer season, and that means that it is time to get out into the woods and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. That also means it’s time to finally slow down a bit, and this girl needs a slow down period! This is a pretty busy time of the year for everyone, and if we aren’t careful, we may start feeling worn out.

Yesterday, as I was finishing up some last minute details for my job on my laptop, I noticed that several of the letters are worn off. I can barely make out the letters E,S, and C. I’ve only had this laptop a little over a year, but during that time, I have put it to great use. This particular laptop is used for my job only, and in just over a year, I’ve really started wearing it out. Why is that? I suppose it is because I used that laptop eight hours a day five days a week. I use it to chart my patient visits, to handle emails, to communicate with colleagues, and for virtual meetings. I use it all day every day. So, one could easily tell just by looking at the keyboard that I spend a lot of time on that silly laptop.

A large part of my time is spent working for my employer, and that is definitely important. God blessed me with the brains, talent, and compassion to be a nurse practitioner. And He charged me with doing the best job that I can. Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Colossians 3:23. But in reality, does a worn out laptop reveal that I’m a good nurse practitioner? Nope! This is evidenced in my performance. My skills are revealed in my timely completion of charts, meeting metrics, but most importantly, in how well I care for my patients.

I began pondering on old worn out things and exactly what that indicates. We all have that favorite shirt. It has been laundered more often than others because we love it, and therefore it’s probably worn out from repetitive use. What about that favorite pair of comfy shoes? Yes, they are wearing out quickly. But what about our Bibles, friend? Are they worn out?

I have several Bibles, but the one I use most often is made of some kind of synthetic leather like material. The cover is stiff and not very pliable. It hardly looks worn out at all. However, when I open the cover, I see that the binding is pulling away from the cover. The pages will soon begin to turn loose. As I fan the pages, I see lots of notes in the margins, underlined scripture, and asterisks. I see a well worn Bible, but I still must ask myself, does this worn out Bible reveal that I’m a good Christian? Nope! Unfortunately, I can know scripture back and forth, take notes in my Bible all day long, but if I never put foot to pavement, it does not benefit me or anyone else.

God gave us His Word, the instruction manual for life, the Holy Bible. He desires for us to read and study His Word, but reading and studying is not enough. Even Atheists know what the Bible says. We have to wear it out, friends. We can not merely study the Word. We must wear it on our minds and in our hearts. We must live it out. We must share it with others. We must have a personal relationship with Christ. It is our faith in Christ that makes us Christians.

Things of this world are temporal. Our stuff will get worn out. It’ll fade away. However, salvation is eternal. God’s love for us will never wear out. We may grow weary and worn, but Christ refreshes, rejuvenates, and renews our worn out bodies and minds daily if we rely fully on Him.

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EQUIPPED

Hebrews 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace— who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood– may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.

My blog has remained quiet for the past few weeks. There hasn’t been a peep out of me. Oh, I’ve wanted to sit down and pour out my heart sharing my deepest thoughts, but I’ve been otherwise engaged. I’ve been hard at work completing another project.

I’m not really a procrastinator by nature, but I have procrastinated on this project. It is something I have wanted to complete for quite a while, but I knew that it was going to take an exorbitant about of time. Spare time, my friends, is something I seem to have very little of. So….I procrastinated. BUT when I finally made myself start on the project, there was no stopping. That’s how I roll. If I start on something, I can’t stop until the task at hand is completed.

What was this time consuming project? I’m happy to announce that I have completed my fourth book. Over the past year or so, I’ve written daily devotionals. The words were God inspired, and I give Him all the glory. Each day before I wrote, I prayed, “Give me a word, Lord,” and He graciously did. A topical word would come to mind, I would research the word, dig into scripture, and from that, a devotional poured out. After completing 365 days, I knew that a devotional book was the next step. I felt this within the core of my being. I knew that it was what i was supposed to do next, but your girl was busy! God put it on my heart, and although I procrastinated and made a lot of excuses, my heart could NOT rest. For you see, if God puts something on your heart, it is going to stay on your heart until you give in and follow through. There will be no rest. The Holy Spirit will continue to tug at your heart strings, and the urgency will remain in your heart and on your mind.

So, I finally pulled out the laptop and began. Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent every waking minute, outside of my job and home chores, copying, pasting, editing, printing, re-editing, and finally, submitting my manuscript for “Calm in the Chaos, More Inspirations from the Funny Farm”. I grew weary. There were moments of frustration. I almost gave up. I thought that maybe I couldn’t complete a 365 day devotional book, but then I remembered that the devil is a liar! God placed this task on my heart, and therefore, I knew I had to finish.

Why am I sharing this? Because I think that possibly we can all relate. You may not be trying to write a book for the glory of God, but I am certain that there is a project that God has placed on your heart. There is a recurring idea and urge to do something. Our human nature allows the busyness of life consume us. Life frequently gets in the way of our time with Jesus. Yet, Jesus ia always more important. The heart tug we feel may be a desire to spend more time in His Word. It may be a need to start journaling. Perhaps, you feel a calling to do mission work. Maybe, there is a strong inclination to share the gospel. Whatever the desire is that God has placed on heart, must not procrastinate. Maybe, just maybe, you keep getting an overwhelming feeling that you need to merely walk next door and tell your neighbor about Jesus. Those urges and feelings are heart whispers from the Holy Spirit, and they can not be satisfied or quenched until we act.

What task has been on your heart lately? The good Lord is calling. You may not feel equipped, but have no fear. God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called. He equipped this old gal from Mississippi, and it is only through Him that I can accomplish any of the things I accomplish. If He is calling you, all you must do is answer the call. He will handle the details!

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LOVE IS FRIENDSHIP THAT HAS CAUGHT FIRE

John 15:12-15 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.

I read this quote from Ann Landers, “Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.” Y’all remember Ann, don’t you? Her birth name was Esther Pauline “Eppie” Lederer, but she was best know by her pen name Ann Landers. She was an American advice columnist whose column ran for more than 47 years and had a reported readership of 90 million people. She gave some pretty good advice over the years, and still everywhere we look, we can find some kind of advice and someone willing to share their advice with us. It may not be good advice, but it’s out there…free for the taking. But this little quote about love has been repeated over and again. It has been read as part of marriage vows. It has been etched in the minds of many, and we have to admit, that it’s a pretty catchy phrase, “love is friendship that has caught fire.”

Love is a word of action. It’s one of the most difficult terms in the world to truly define, and it’s much easier to show love than to define the terminology. If I were asked to define the word love, I would simply have to say, “Jesus”. He is the epidemy of the word love. I don’t know if Ann meant to describe a relationship with Jesus when she wrote this statement, but I think she did a pretty good job here. Consider the words for a moment. “It is a quiet understanding.” We will never understand Jesus fully, but it is in our quiet times with Him that we gain truth and knowledge and understanding of our Lord and Savior. We must dedicate a quiet time each day to devote to Christ, and during that time, He will teach us, grow us, and show us things that we need to know, ways we need to change, and the will that He has for each of us. When we retreat to our quiet place and invite the Lord into that place, we connect with Him on that personal level, and this is where miracles begin to happen.

Love for Jesus gives a mutual confidence. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we become His, and no one can snatch us out of the hands of God. (John 10:28) Jesus has confidence in the fact that we are His, and we have confidence knowing that He is our Savior! We are promised eternity with Him, and the thought of that should give us confidence to walk through this life with our heads held high. We are loved by a God who sent His Son to die for our sins so that we can have everlasting life with Him. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is! And we can have confidence that we have an eternal home in heaven. And because of this confidence, we can “come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Love is about sharing and forgiving. Peeps, I am very thankful that we can share everything with our Lord. Prayer is a wonderful gift from God. He gave us a means to have open communication with Him way before the idea of a smart phone was every created. We can enter His presence any time, day or night, 24/7, and we can share everything in our lives with Him. He desires this kind of relationship. He wants us to share our hearts and to be the Lord of our hearts. And that forgiveness part, y’all, isn’t that the best? There are so many times that we goof up, mess up, fall down, and get off of track, but our loving Father is always there to pick us back up. He forgives the little sins and the great big sins, and then He wipes the slate clean. And He even gave us with the Holy Spirit to convict us and guide us, and show us when we are getting off track. He’s such a good, good God!

Love is about loyalty through good times and bad times. I venture to say that loyalty is a quality that is sorely lacking in this world, but not when it comes to Christ. He is there with us through all of the joys in life…the new births, the weddings, the new job, the newly constructed house. He celebrates with us, and all of the angels rejoice when we accept Christ as our Savior. Oh yes, He is loyal through the good times. But what about those bad times? Where is He then? Oh, my friend, He’s still there. He is there with us through the losses, the deaths, the break ups, and all of life’s battles. Those are the times He is standing there with His arms open just waiting to give us a hug, asking us to cling to Him, and lean on Him with all that we are. It is in those times that we feel His strength and presence when peace envelopes our souls that we can not even venture to explain.

“Love settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weakness.” Praise Jesus that He settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weakness. Jesus is the only perfect man that walked this earth. We strive for perfection, we try to walk like Him, but we are mere humans. We are not perfect, but guess what? He loves us totally and completely flaws and all. He knows we aren’t perfect, and he allows for our weaknesses. God even designed the greatest means of redemption. We are made right through Christ! “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” (Romans 3:22-24) And 2 Corinthians 12:9 assures us, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” His power is made perfect in our weakness! Praise God!

Can’t you see how much Jesus loves us? The thought of it overwhelms me. His love for us is definitely like a friendship that has caught fire, but the question we need to ask ourselves this morning is, “is our love for Jesus like a friendship that has caught fire?” Has our love for Him been ignited? Are we clinging to Him, sharing with Him, humbly asking forgiveness, and striving for perfection in Christ? My friends, this relationship, the relationship between Christ and us, is the absolute most important relationship in our lives. Why do we put it on the back burner and let it simmer? We need to ignite a fire within each one of us and really get to know our Lord! Ignite the fire within you today!

Blessings,
KK

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PICTURE THIS

Isaiah 41:13 For I hold you by your right hand—I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, “Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.”

Isaiah 46:4 I will be your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.

Isaiah 41:10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

If you read through the book of Isaiah, you will find some very good words of wisdom in this book and many great reassurances. I praise God for His Word. I am so thankful that He provided His Holy Word to give us guidance, strength, and peace. We have God that is bigger than all our troubles and problems, and His Word reveals that to us over and over again.

We all have problems. We may not admit them, but if we are living and breathing, we probably have some sort of problem or concern. The problem with our problems is that we try work them out on our own. I’m a very visual person. I love to take pictures. I take pictures of anything and everything, and when I’m working things out in my mind, I do so with pictures or images. Sometimes we have to picture things in order to get a clear image of the situation at hand.

When we picture all our problems in our mind, we see all the different problems in the picture. We may see financial problems, relationship issues, concerns about our children, health troubles, job stressors, and the list goes on. We see all of these troubles in the picture, and then we see ourselves sitting in the middle of the picture surrounded by all of these problems. The problem with this is that we are seeing it all wrong! When we look at a picture of all those problems, we shouldn’t see ourselves sitting in the midst of the trouble, but rather we should see GOD in the picture with our problems. We have to take ourselves out everything, and we need to give everything to God.

Some might say, if God is handling all of my problems, why do I have so many? Well, my friend, sometimes we bring those problems on ourselves. We aren’t perfect. We goof up every now and then even when we are trying to live a good and righteous life. God can and will handle any and all problems that we are enduring, but we have to trust Him through the process. Psalm 119:71-72 tells us, “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees. Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver.” What? Did he say that suffering is good for me? Yea, buddy! When we go through the struggles in life, we learn from the difficulties and we learn to lean on our Lord and Savior. We are going to have problems in this life. Life is a problem solving adventure. We may not choose the problem, but we get to choose how the problem affects us. The problem will either develop us or defeat us. We get to make the choice.

No matter what type of difficulty you are going through, you can rest assured that God will use the problem for your benefit. Sometimes He uses the situation to direct you. Maybe He needs to get you to start moving in a certain direction, and He uses a problem to ignite you and get you going. Maybe, just maybe, God has placed something on your heart that He wants you to do, but you won’t budge. Maybe He uses a problem to get you moving in the direction in which He desires for you to go.

Sometimes He uses a problem to correct you. Maybe you are going down a path of destruction, and God uses a problem to teach you a lesson. Ouch! We don’t like the sounds of that one, but there is truth there. Just as a parent disciplines a child who is doing wrong, God is going to discipline His kids. He’s going to get our attention, and a lesson will be learned. Just as we love our children too much to allow them to do things that will harm them, God loves us too much to ignore us when we are doing wrong.

Maybe God is using the problem to inspect you. Did you ever think of that? I’ve read this little saying on social media. “You are holding a cup of hot coffee, and someone bumps you and causes the hot coffee to spill everywhere. Why did you spill the coffee? Because there was coffee in the cup. Had there been tea in the cup, you would have spilled tea. The point is whatever is in the cup will be spilled out. Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you, whatever is inside of you will spill out.” So…what spills out when you are struggling through a difficult situation? Do people around you see fear, anger, bitterness, or do they see love and grace as the marks of a true child of God? What does God see when He inspects you?

Maybe God is using your problem to protect you. Perhaps He has closed the door on a job, a new place to live, or a dream that you had, and it seems like the end of the world. We have to remember that God knows what is coming down the road, and sometimes He closes doors so that other doors can be opened. We can’t see as God sees. He is all knowing, and He knows just what we need when we need it. He may remove a person, a thing, or even a job from our lives in order to provide needed protection.

Our problems weigh us down. We try to carry the burden all alone. Oh, if we could only see the big picture. All those problems that we picture are not too big for God. We may or may not have invited the problem in, but regardless, God is going to use the situation for our good and His glory every time. Stop picturing yourself surrounded by all of the problems of the day. Begin picturing our perfect Lord and Savior…sitting right there in the middle of it all…working it all out. He’s working on each one of us. He’s directing us, correcting us, inspecting us, and protecting us, and ultimately, y’all, He is perfecting us. Just picture it!

Blessings,
KK

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BIRTH AND REBIRTH

John 3:3 “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

I Peter 1:3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation.

2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

It’s that time of the year again. One of my favorite seasons has arrived. You may think I’m speaking of fall, but I’m not. It is technically fall, but it was 97 degrees here yesterday! It’s true I love fall, but I really love one of the farming seasons that begins during this time of year. We call it calving season. The cows are springing, bagging up, and dropping calves almost daily. We drive around the fields to locate the brand new babies and check on the soon to be mamas. We equate our calf seeking adventures to an Easter egg hunt at times. Our mama cows are pretty good at hiding their babies, and checking on the newly born calves can be a challenge. We purchased a new Hereford bull a couple of years ago, and I have to tell you something, that boy is producing some beautiful calves.

The actual process of calving, for the most part, is not a lot of work for the farmer. The mama does the work, and we get to enjoy the benefits. It is a beautiful experience to see new birth. The mama delivers the calf, and she immediately, gently cleans the baby up. She recognizes it as her own, and she will do whatever is necessary to protect the newborn calf. Although most deliveries are easy, from time to time, a mama cow will have difficulty. The calf may be a bit to big for her to deliver, and occasionally, the calf will have to physically be pulled out. I’ve not had to be a part of pulling a calf before. My husband, sons, and father-in-law always assume this role. I have had to pull a baby goat before, and that was super tough. I can only imagine how difficult it is to physically pull a calf out. What a way to arrive in this world…being tugged and pulled, resisting the change, not wanting to make the effort for the birthing process, resisting rather than arriving in a peaceful and gentle way.

Why would the baby want to leave the warm comfort of his or her mother’s womb and enter a strange, new, big unknown place anyway? Who could blame the calf for wanting to stay put? I was considering that idea this morning, and began to think about humans and our need for rebirth. We create this warm, comfortable womb for ourselves. We have developed habits and attitudes, and we become fairly comfortable with the way things are. The world around us says live however you want. If you are happy then it is okay. We have adapted way too much to the worldly culture. A part within us may want to follow Christ, but we resist the need to change. We are too comfortable living our lives, and our hearts have to be tugged and pulled by the Holy Spirit because we refuse to make the effort on our own. But y’all, in order for us to receive the gift of salvation, we must be reborn.

Fortunately for us, being reborn is so much easier than the pulling a resistant calf. No one is going to tie our legs together and pull us out of the womb. So why are we kicking and screaming and fighting the rebirthing process? The kingdom of God requires that we leave our comfort zone. We have to completely die to ourselves and begin living for Christ. That sounds strange. How do we die to ourselves? We have to come to the end of ourselves. We have to recognize that we can’t do anything without our heavenly Father. We must become new creations and children of the King. We must give our hearts completely to the Lord.

In the mission field, I have had people tell me many times that they were waiting for a certain age to arrive, and then at that point, they would come to Christ and be saved. This was one of the answers I received frequently while ministering in the Dominican Republic. The people seemed to have a mind set that you had to reach a certain age, eliminate all of the sin in life, and become a better person, or perhaps they thought that they had to give up their comfortable way of living for self. When I questioned why they needed to wait for a certain age (usually around 40) the answer was frequently something to the effect of “I’m not good enough yet. I’ll be a better person by such and such age.” People, it doesn’t work that way. We can never be good enough. We have to recognize the fact that we are all born sinners, but because of Christ, we can all be sinners saved by grace. All we have to do is admit that we are sinners, believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and was resurrected, and confess that Jesus is the Lord of our lives and commit our lives to Him. When we do that, the Father immediately, gently reaches down and cleans us up, and He recognizes us as one of His own. He will provide all the protection that we need. A wonderful thing happens at this point. The Holy Spirit of our living God takes up residence within us. That heart of stone we were carrying around that felt like an empty void is now beating for the Lord and full of life. That void we failed to fill despite our many efforts is now completely full. We didn’t do anything to earn this rebirth. We couldn’t possibly ever be good enough to deserve salvation. But God! Oh but God! He loves us so much that He desires a close and personal relationship with us, and He made a way.

To be reborn, we don’t have to clean our act up first. If we accept Christ as our Savior, He will do the cleaning up. The Holy Spirit will gently guide you in the right direction. He’ll nudge you here and there and let you know when sin appears, and He will strengthen you so that you can overcome the sin struggles. A new baby calf is one of the cutest things on the farm. When he first stands, his long little legs wobble as he tries to walk over to mama to nurse. Baby steps. Unsteady. Off balance. He struggles a bit, but soon he is latching on to mama and filling his belly with the milk of life. As young Christians, we are going to struggle. We also must take baby steps. We will feel unsteady, off balance, and unsure, and I’m not going to tell you that it won’t be a struggle. That enemy that controlled the old sin life will try to battle with us. He won’t give up easily, but there is no reason to fret. Our Savior has already defeated the enemy, and now we belong to God. We begin praying and speaking to the Lord. We latch on to His word, and soon, we too are filled with the milk of life, and we receive that much needed spiritual nourishment that only our Savior can provide.

Just as that baby calf grows into a healthy strong bull, a reborn person too will grow healthy and strong in spirit. It won’t happen over night. We can’t be reborn one day and know all we need to know about Christ the next. In fact, we will never know all that we need to know, but we can rest assured that we are no longer walking in the dark. We are no longer that old shell of a person. We are now new in Christ, and we are walking with Him. We grow by reading His Word, going to church, joining Bible studies, surrounding ourselves with Christian friends that help us stay on the path as we begin our walk, and we praise God and pray and pray and pray. God never said it would be easy. If you’ve read the Bible you already know that it won’t be easy. Actually, it’s going to be pretty hard. There will be struggles. I guarantee that there will be struggles. But one thing that I know for certain is that it will most definitely be worth it! Consider the hardest day of work that you ever put in during your lifetime. You thought that you couldn’t make it until quitting time, but you did. You got off work and went to the place you feel most at ease…home. Right now, Peeps, we are going through some of the hardest days of our lives. We may feel like we aren’t going to make it, but we will. And when our time here is finished, we get to go the best place ever…our heavenly home! It’s not going to be easy, but just remember that it will be worth it!

Blessings,
KK

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THREE LITTLE THINGS

We’re studying Psalm 119 on Wednesday nights, and last night the topic was “What I love about the Word.” It brought to mind this devotional I wrote a couple of years ago.

John 3:16-17 (NLT) For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

Romans 8:38-39 (NLT) And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jesus loves me; this I know! For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong; they are weak, but He is strong. Jesus loves me, loves me still! Tho’ I’m very weak and ill. That I might from sin be free, bled and died upon the tree. Jesus loves me; He who died. Heaven’s gate to open wide. He will wash away my sin; let His little child come in. Jesus loves me; He will stay! Close beside me all way. Thou hast bled and died for me; I will henceforth live for Thee. Chorus: Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so. I bet that almost everyone reading this knows this song by heart. We sang it from our very earliest days of childhood. It was written by the author named Anna Bartlett Warner (August 31, 1827 – January 22, 1915.) What I didn’t know was that it wasn’t originally written as a song. It was written as a poem in a novel. The main character in this book recites it to comfort a dying child about how much Jesus loves him. WE can have that same comfort! Jesus loves me, and He loves you too.

Isn’t it a wonderful feeling to know that no matter what we are enduring, Jesus loves us and He is still with us? Today, I want to talk about love, and I’m going to need you to get a piece of paper in hand as we begin to play a little game that I just made up this morning. I’m calling my game “Three Little Things.” The first step in the game is to ask the one you love to tell you three things that he or she loves about you. It can be your spouse, best friend, mother, father, or anyone that you love. Ask them to be honest. Next, write down three things that you love about that person. After you complete that list, I want you to write down three things that you love about yourself. Then write three things that you love about Christ. Finally write down three things that show you that Christ loves you.

As soon as my husband woke up this morning, I handed him a piece of paper that read, “Three Things Jeff Loves About KK.” He’s a good sport, y’all. He had barely opened his eyes, when I asked him to do this. I love this man, and I know that he loves me, but when you put someone on the spot to actually put pen to paper, you can’t be sure what you are going to get. His answers amazed me. His three answers were “1. Devoted to her family and friends. 2. Gives of her time regardless of cost. 3. God fearing and relentless to bring souls to Christ.” I don’t know about all that. When I look at myself, I don’t see myself the same way. Oh, I’m devoted to my family and friends. There is no doubt about that, but do I give of my time regardless of cost? Maybe, but sometimes, to be honest, I don’t do it out of the goodness of my heart. Sometimes, I do what I have to do because I have to do it. LOL. And I am God fearing, but am I relentless to bring souls to Christ? Oh goodness, I feel like I come up short all of the time.

I think the second part of this little game is the easiest part for me. I can make a list a mile long telling you all the things I love about my husband. As a matter of fact, I had a little book printed for him for Valentine’s Day a few years ago that listed 100 things I love about Jeff. It is a little cartoon stick figure book. I spent a day writing down all of the things that I love about him. It’s hard to pick just three. I love the way that he loves me, our family, and God. He has so much energy. He is funny, creative, and caring. He has a true servant’s heart. This list could go on for days, y’all, so I’m going to get back to the game. The third part of the game is actually the hardest for me. What are three things I love about myself? Ugh! I look in the mirror and I see this old lady staring back at me. The hair is graying, and needs to be colored. The wrinkles are appearing faster every year. The twenty year old body is gone with the years, and nothing can bring it back. It’s a good thing that I never really loved my looks. I’ve never been a girl who was proud of her looks. What do I love about me? That’s tough. I love that although I am a sinner, I have been saved by grace. I love that I am a nurse practitioner, and that I get to do a job that I love. I love that I am a wife, mother, grandmother, farmer, author, and Christian. I love who I am on the inside…most of the time. The outside, well that shell of a being needs some work with that crazy hair that doesn’t seem to care how I think it should behave.

The next part of the game gets easy again. What are three things I love about Christ? Oh my! How can I keep that list to three things? He died for me! I’ve got some truly awesome loving people in my life, but none of them have had to die for my sins! Christ knew that I was a sinner, and He died for me. He knew all of the good, bad, and ugly within me, yet He still chose to die for me. I love that He is a forgiving Savior. He knew when He created this girl that I was going to be a handful. He knew I was going to mess up multiple times, and no matter how many times I mess up, He still forgives my sins. He is always there to pick me up. He is my friend, Savior, Creator, Holy Father, Lord of lords, King of kings, Waymaker, Miracle Worker, Promise Keeper, my God! What is there not to love about Christ!?! The list is infinite!

Now, I bring you to the final part of our game this morning. What are three things that show me that Christ loves me. Let’s first turn to John 3:16-17 which reads, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” God sent His Son, Christ, to die on the cross for each of us so that we may have eternal life. He didn’t send Him to judge us, but to SAVE us! Christ died an agonizing death on the cross, taking on your sins and my sins and all of the sins of the world so that we might have everlasting life! If that doesn’t get your heart beating, nothing will. He loves us so much that He gave us His Word. The Bible, the oldest book in the world, was penned by man, but breathed by God. He gave us a written instruction manual for life, and a book that shares the redemption story so that all sinners, all people, can come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior. Thirdly, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. NOTHING! Romans 8:38-39 assures us of this. “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We’ve completed this little exercise to look at love from different perspectives. How do others see us, how do we see others, how do we see ourselves, how do we see Christ, and how much Christ loves u?. Dwell on love as you go through this day, but most importantly, dwell on Christ. If you have accepted Him as your Savior, the Holy Spirit of the living God is residing within you. He loves you, and that my friends is where it’s at! Jesus loves me this I know, and that’s all I really need to know. I am His. He is mine. I am loved and you are too!

Blessings,
KK

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DON’T BLAME THE DONKEY

Numbers 22:28-35 Then the Lord gave the donkey the ability to speak. “What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?” it asked Balaam. “You have made me look like a fool!” Balaam shouted. “If I had a sword with me, I would kill you!” “But I am the same donkey you have ridden all your life,” the donkey answered. “Have I ever done anything like this before?” “No,” Balaam admitted. Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the roadway with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bowed his head and fell face down on the ground before him. “Why did you beat your donkey those three times?” the angel of the Lord demanded. “Look, I have come to block your way because you are stubbornly resisting me. Three times the donkey saw me and shied away; otherwise, I would certainly have killed you by now and spared the donkey.” Then Balaam confessed to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I didn’t realize you were standing in the road to block my way. I will return home if you are against my going.” But the angel of the Lord told Balaam, “Go with these men, but say only what I tell you to say.” So Balaam went on with Balak’s officials.

I love the story of Balaam and his talking donkey. Everyone that knows me, knows that I love animals in a huge way. I talk to my animals all the time, and I think that some of them understand me. I know that my Bouvier des Flandres, Sophie, understands me. She is such a smart girl. My animals converse with me, but not with spoken words in English. They speak their animal barks, moos, and cock-a-doodle-dos. Sometimes, I know what they are trying to tell me, and I can almost hear what they are saying, but I’m no Dr. Dolittle. Life would be so much simpler down at the barn if the animals spoke English, and I know it would be a whole lot more interesting. Balaam had quite an interesting and eye opening experience with the only real life talking donkey.

The Moabites and Midianites were afraid. They knew about Israel’s victories, and they feared that they were going to be the next people over run by them. They wanted some supernatural help so they sought the assistance of Balaam. They knew who Balaam was, and they wanted him to come and curse the people of Israel. However, God told Balaam not to curse His people. Balak received word that Balaam said he could not come and curse the people, and he decided to sweeten the deal. He promised Balaam a lot of money. Balaam left on his donkey en route to deliver the cursing, but his donkey tried three times to stop him. First, the donkey went off of the road and into a field. Next, the donkey got too close to a wall and crushed the foot of Balaam against the wall. Finally, the donkey laid down on Balaam. At this point, Balaam became very angry and struck the donkey a third time. The funniest thing happened next. The donkey looked at Balaam and spoke. I could just hear the donkey saying, “Dude, what is wrong with you!”

I love this story because it is so unlike God, and it reminds us that God is in total control and that he has a sense of humor. He wants to communicate with us, and if we aren’t listening to His voice, He may just open the mouth of a donkey. God is so creative. God uses a variety of means to speak to us, and we must be willing to hear from Him. When God asks us to do something, He wants us to obey. Balaam started off on the right track. God told him not to go to curse the people of Israel, and he stayed put, but then the deal was sweetened. The enemy works this way. If he can’t win you over one way, he will come back to you again and again with a sweeter deal each time and try to break your resolve. Don’t fall for it. Continue to obey God, and don’t listen to the enemy.

Another thing to consider about this story, is that when we are walking (or riding a donkey) outside of the will of God, many times He will put up some roadblocks. He may have to put up more than one, but God is going to get our attention one way or another. If we are going the wrong way, God will stand in the road to oppose us. He loves us. He doesn’t want us going down a road of destruction or a road that leads away from Him. He will do whatever is necessary to make us turn around. I can recount many memories of times when things didn’t go as planned. I’ve often shared the story of when I wasn’t accepted into the acute care nurse practitioner program after completing my bachelor’s in nursing. I was so upset. I had a 4.0 GPA, several years of experience in critical care, and a sparkling resume. There was no reason that I should not have been accepted. I was angry, I was hurt. I even cried like a baby. I eventually dried my tears, and I applied for the family nurse practitioner track, and I was accepted immediately. It wasn’t until a long while later that I realized that God changed my path. That was more than 25 years ago, and had I completed the acute care program, I would have had to move away from my family and friends. There were no acute care nurse practitioner jobs available in my area back then. And the “all knowing” me didn’t want to do family practice because critical care was all that I really knew up until that point. Little did I know that my God already knew just what and where I needed to be. I absolutely love being a family nurse practitioner. I feel like it is a calling from God. I interact with entire families on a daily basis, and I get to share Christ…on the job! I’m so thankful He put that roadblock in my path. His plans are always so much better than mine!

Lastly, let us consider Balaam’s actions. The donkey was trying to protect Balaam. He saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road blocking the way, but Balaam could not see the angel. The donkey tried three times to avoid running into the angel, and three times Balaam beat his good old donkey. God placed a roadblock right in front of him, and he couldn’t see it, and instead of trying to figure out why his donkey was acting out of sorts, he did as we do many times and became angry and struck the source of his irritation. God tries to get our attention, and when we don’t listen, He tries again and again, and before we know it, we are beating the donkey, the wrong donkey, who is an innocent victim. We begin to lash out at others, and we blame other people in our lives for our bad circumstances rather than looking inward to try to determine why things are as they are.

If God is calling you in a certain direction, run to Him. Don’t compromise on that calling. If you’ve got a burr in your saddle, maybe you should try to remove the burr by finding out the source of the irritation. Is God putting it there to protect you and put you back on the right track? Don’t strike others and blame them when things are going wrong because something in your own life needs to be corrected. Instead, sit down and have a talk with God. Open His word. I bet He is just waiting to hear from you right now! God desires a relationship with each of us, and if we are straying from Him, He may not open the mouth of a donkey to get our attention, but I guarantee you that He will get our attention because He loves us that much!

Blessings,
KK

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GRATEFUL

John 3:16 For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 10:10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

John 10:28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me.

Our pastor, Brother Shane, asked me if I would speak for about 5 minutes on why I am grateful for my salvation during our Sunday morning service yesterday. Well, folks, that presented a bit of a challenge for this wordy girl. After all, how can I possibly explain how grateful I am for salvation in just 5 short minutes? I put a lot of thought into it, and I narrowed it down to a few of my favorite reasons. This list is definitely not all inclusive, and neither is it in order of favoriten to least favorite, but I definitely want to share a few favorites. I shared this with my church family, and today, I want to share it with you.

I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior at the age of 13. There was no magical change in the outward me, but over the years (we won’t talk about how many), Christ has slowly but surely change this old wretched soul. Here are a few of the most important changes and blessings that I can claim because of my salvation and for each and every one, I am eternally grateful.

(I used an acrostic for the word G.R.A.T.E.F.U.L.)

GRACE – Grace is the unmerited gift of divine favor that I receive from God through salvation. Unmerited favor, y’all! It is through grace that God works effective change in our hearts and lives.

RELATIONSHIP – Because of my salvation, I have a direct relationship with Christ. I am the daughter of the King! I have a Father that I can cry out to in the middle of the night, and He will always be there. And don’t forget about the other relationships…I have brothers and sisters in Christ and some are of those relationships are closer that that of my blood relatives.

ARMOR – Ephesians 6 explains the armor of God. Salvation gives us armor. With salvation, we can put on the full armor of God and take a stand against the devil’s schemes. I don’t know about you, but I need that protection, and I gladly wear it!

TRUTH – With salvation, I can stand on truth. God has given us His word to guide and direct us. He has kept every promise. He has never lied. I am so grateful for God’s truth.

EVERLASTING JOY – We are going to have good days, and we are going to have bad days. There will be happiness and sadness. But even on the terrible, awful, horrible days, with salvation, there is everlasting joy. Happiness is fleeting, but joy in Jesus is everlasting.

FAITH – Our God is faithful to His children, and He daily teaches me to have faith in Him. I am learning daily to lean fully on Him. Faith is trust in action, and I fully trust in Him.

UNITY – Salvation provides unity. Through salvation, we are united with Christ. He is the bridegroom, and the church is His bride. We are united and those ties that bind can not be separated. No one can snatch me out of His hand (John 10:28)

LIFE ABUNDANT & LIFE EVERLASTING – I may have saved the best for last. John 10:10 tells us that Christ came so that we may have life and that we may have it more abundantly. Salvation gives us not only life, it gives us abundant life. One of my favorite sayings is , “I’m drinking from my saucer because my cup is overflowing.” With the free gift of salvation comes many blessings, so many blessings that they literally cause my heart to overflow. And the most important gift of salvation is life eternal. When my days here are on earth are done, I’m going to my heavenly home. I can’t wait. Unfortunately, every one won’t be there. Only those who have accepted this precious free gift of salvation will pass through those pearly gates. I leave you with two questions. Will I see you there? And if so, why are you grateful for your salvation? Ponder on that today.

Blessings,
KK

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CHANGING WITH THE SEASONS

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT) Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Isaiah 43:18-19 (NLT) But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

Hebrews 13:8 (NLT) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

I’m sitting here in a rocking chair on my front porch witnessing the early signs of fall. The birds are singing, and there is a very light hint of coolness in the air. Brown leaves are already beginning to gather around the yard. The fruit tree leaves are rapidly changing from brilliant deep greens to golden yellow as they prepare to let go. We live in the middle of eighty park like acres, so as you can imagine, we have a lot of trees. Of all those trees, I have my one favorite little tree. It is a Japanese Maple that I bought as a little seedling many moons ago. When my husband and I married, we dug up that little tree and planted it in our front yard. It was supposed to be one of those maples with the beautiful, dark maroon leaves, but surprise…it did not grow into the tree that I planned it to be. It grew into one that is so much better. In the very earliest days of spring, little green leaves begin to develop and grow. Before long, the little maple is covered with beautiful green leaves and those leaves provide a much needed shade for the front yard and bring comfort for our morning porch sitting sessions. It really is a beautiful tree with all of those lovely green leaves, the branches stand high, reaching for the sky, boldly and beautifully. Yes, that little tree looks like it’s got it all together, but it doesn’t really begin to shine until it prepares to let go of its leaves. That sounds crazy, I know, but it is the truth. Every year, right before Thanksgiving, those pretty green leaves begin to turn, and for a few short weeks, that maple tree becomes the most beautiful fixture in our yard. The leaves gradually change into splendid shades of gold and orange. I marvel at the beauty of it every single year. I delight at looking at that tree when I drive up after a long day or even if I’m just sitting on the porch rocking. The marvelous beauty of the fall colors only last a few weeks though, and eventually that little maple tree stands there with its branches held high as though it was raising its arms to the sky, bare, empty, and colorless.

If I saw that tree during the winter season, I would have never wanted to bring it home. I would have thought that it was a sad, boring little tree. I would not have realized that a total transformation had recently occurred, and could not imagine the transformation that was soon to come when the spring season returned. We could learn a lot from this little tree. It doesn’t stubbornly hold on to its dead leaves. It drops them to the ground letting go of the old season of life while it anxiously awaits for the new season. Consider that for a moment. We also go through seasons of change, and the seasons change us. We can not cling to the past. We have to get rid of all the bitterness, anger, and every form of malice, and learn to be kind and compassionate to one and be forgiving just as Paul told the Ephesians. As humans we often want to hold on to the things of the past. We sometimes want to live in the past because we feel like those were the best times of our lives. Others want to forget the past because it felt like the worse time of their lives. It is okay to remember the past, rejoice in those fond memories and learn from the mistakes, but we can’t set up house there. That season has passed, we grew during that season, but we have to let those leaves fall. We can’t cling to the old leaves. They have to fall to the ground so that we can make room for the new season that is just around the corner.

That Japanese Maple is like a picture of what Jesus does in our lives. We go through all kinds of seasons. We start off tiny, weak and small, and we have no clue how we will look as we grow and mature. As kids, we develop dreams of who and what we will become, and before we know it, we are all grown up, and things don’t look anything like we thought they would. We aren’t doing what we had planned to do while we were still in our youth, but as we look within ourselves, we realize that we are so much better than what we dreamed of. We have survived many seasons. Some of those seasons were hard. We endured loss of loved ones, break ups, loneliness, financial strain, sickness, and grief. We may have fallen down, but we did not give up. We grew stronger in those seasons. The seasons changed us. We have also been through some really great seasons that were beautiful, bright, and marvelous that brought so much richness to our lives and the lives around us. Those seasons passed, and we recognized the beautiful changes that occurred as we grew in love, happiness, and grace. Sometimes, the Lord sends a season so that we have to make a change. We can’t remain the same. We may get complacent and lazy, and Jesus may send a new season to make us let go and let Him take the lead in our lives. He knows that there is strength in our branches. He wants us to look up to Him, let go of things that are not of Him, and see things in a new light and perspective.

When we get bogged down in the hard, winter seasons of life, and it feels like we have lost all of our brilliant color, and there is nothing left but the dull, gray branches reaching upward, it is then that we might just find ourselves right where the Lord wants us to be as He prepares us for the best season yet. We can always rest in the word of God. Just look at these words from the book of Isaiah, “But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” Christ is preparing you. He is getting you ready for a great work. He may be pruning you now, and pruning hurts, but the pruning will bring forth new vines and much fruit. Let it go, and let God take the lead. This year feels like it has been one very long season of fall….one great fall after the other…but the Master Gardener is working everything out for our good and His glory. Hang on. Enjoy the fall. Marvel at the changes that are occurring within you as our Lord prepares you for the next great season!

Blessings,
KK

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LEGALISM VS GRACE

Galations 2:16-21 (NLT) Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law. But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not! Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

My daddy is a wonderful Christian man. We know that there was only one perfect Man who walked this earth, and His name was Jesus. Daddy isn’t perfect, but I know that my daddy has been made right through the blood of Jesus Christ. He loves to tell others about Christ. He helped to build the foundation for me to become the believer that I am today, and I want to be a witness like he is to others. He told me once that his goal is to share the plan of salvation with someone at least once every single day. When he told me that, I thought, “Wow, I want to be just like him!” I remember a situation a couple of years ago in which a pastor caused my daddy to have a bit of a spiritual battle, and it had to do with legalism. I’m not a pastor. I don’t have a theological degree. I’m just a nurse practitioner and a farmer who has a heart for Christ and for sharing His word with others, but it is my opinion from studying God’s word that grace defeats legalism every time!

My daddy was raised in a Landmark Missionary Baptist Church. Actually, the church formed in my grandparents’, his parents’, home. They were charter members. It is still a wonderful church, and we have visited from time to time. They preach the word, no doubt. As young children, we attended a Southern Baptist Church, and in our teen years, we attended another Missionary Baptist Church. We were fed the gospel at both churches. I loved both churches. I grew in my faith at both churches. The church ordinances may have differed, but the fact remains that the gospel was being preached at both churches. Did difference in ordinances make one church wrong and one church right? I’m not here to determine that. My belief is that if a pastor/preacher is preaching and teaching the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ, then that church is doing the right thing. How do we determine that the truth is being preached? Well, we have to study the word of God ourselves.

Back to my story, this man told Daddy that the women at the church Daddy attends wear lipstick, cut their hair, wear pants, and sometimes even wear shorts, and therefore, it is wrong for him to attend that church. Y’all don’t pull out your stones or torches just yet, but I’m going to tell you about me. This girl right here wears lipstick, cuts her hair, wears pants, and yes, on a hot summer day in south Mississippi, this girl even wears shorts! BUT, BIG BUT, not little but, this girl also loves Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior more than anything else in this world. Am I going to die and go to hell because “the rules” of my church are different than “the rules” of another church? I must answer emphatically–NO! I know that my eternal home is in heaven. There is not even a shadow of a doubt in my mind!

I prayed a lot before I wrote this today. I don’t want anyone to think that I am making light of the choice of church in which one chooses to be a member. I merely want to point out that Baptists won’t be the only ones in heaven, y’all. There will be Baptists, Methodists, Non-denominationals, and Pentecostals there too (to name a few)! God isn’t going to just call one church home. He is going to call THE CHURCH. You don’t get to heaven by attending a certain church on Sunday and following the ordinances of that church. You get to heaven by placing faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. It’s a free gift of grace that was given to each of us when His blood poured out on the cross.

Legalism leads with the law rather than the gospel. The gospel stands on it’s own. It doesn’t need any help from us to give it strength. Paul reminds us of this in Ephesians 2:8-9 , “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” We can’t work our way into heaven, but we work for the gospel and Christ because of the gracious gift of salvation. But if works are taking the lead over the gospel of Jesus Christ, this is legalism. It’s human nature to distort the glorious truths of God, and I think we have all been guilty of trying to misuse that free gift of grace. God has given us all that we need for godliness. We desire to live for Christ, and we have deep convictions that the sins in our life dishonor God. But sometimes, in the midst of our pursuit for godliness, we forget that it is only by the grace of God that we can live for Him. Unfortunately, we sometimes tend to forget that any and all godliness comes from the Father. We become all puffed up and start projecting our standards on others. We soon begin to judge people and pressure them to conform to our “God lifestyle.” We forget about the principles that the word of God reveal to us, and we teach our own preferences and practices of the law.

In Galatians 2, Paul brought up an example of when Peter went to Antioch. When Peter first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians who were not circumcised. But later on, when some of the friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles any longer. He was afraid of the criticism that he would receive because the other people insisted on the necessity of circumcision. Paul later says, “Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” Those uncircumcised believers were believers too, and they have receive the gracious gift of salvation and eternal life just like their fellow circumcised believers.

We have to learn to balance the reality that our faith is through grace alone and by faith alone. We are called to glorify God, and we are called to follow His word. Grace teaches us to separate ourselves from cultural sin, but it never teaches us to use ourselves as the standard for grace. We must look to Christ as the standard, not ourselves! The important questions to ask yourself are, “Have I received the gift of salvation? Am I a child of God?” If you know that the answer is yes, then you know. We aren’t perfect. We are perfectly imperfect children of a perfect God, and it is through Him that we are made right. We can’t do this thing called life on our own accord, but with God we can. We were created to glorify God. If what you are doing is sharing the gospel and bringing honor and glory to our Father, then keep on doing that! That is His desire for each of us. I leave you with this a word from 2 Corinthians 12:9 that assures us, ““Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” Alone, we are weak, but the power of the Father works best in our weakness. His grace is all we need!

Blessings,
KK

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DROPPED BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

2 Samuel 4:4 Jonathan son of Saul had a son who was lame in both feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled, but as she hurried to leave, he fell and became disabled. His name was Mephibosheth.

2 Samuel 9:1-13 Then David asked, “Is there anyone left from the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for the sake of Jonathan?” And there was a servant of Saul’s family named Ziba. They summoned him to David, and the king inquired, “Are you Ziba?” “I am your servant,” he replied. So the king asked, “Is there anyone left of Saul’s family to whom I can show the kindness of God?” Ziba answered, “There is still Jonathan’s son, who is lame in both feet.” “Where is he?” replied the king. And Ziba said, “Indeed, he is in Lo-debar at the house of Machir son of Ammiel.” So King David had him brought from the house of Machir son of Ammiel in Lo-debar. And when Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he fell facedown in reverence. Then David said, “Mephibosheth!” “I am your servant,” he replied. “Do not be afraid,” said David, “for surely I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog like me?” Then the king summoned Saul’s servant Ziba and said to him, “I have given to your master’s grandson all that belonged to Saul and to all his house. You and your sons and servants are to work the ground for him and bring in the harvest, so that your master’s grandson may have food to eat. But Mephibosheth, your master’s grandson, is always to eat at my table.” Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. And Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do all that my lord the king has commanded.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s own sons. And Mephibosheth had a young son named Mica, and all who dwelt in the house of Ziba were servants of Mephibosheth. So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table, and he was lame in both feet.

The story of King David and King Saul is all too familiar, but there is a behind the scenes story of redemption that I would like to discuss today. It is the story of the man named Mephibosheth. Remember the anger that old King Saul had toward David. He despised him, and he truly wanted him dead. David was best friends with the king’s son, Jonathan. David felt sure that the king wanted to kill him, and he shared this concern with Jonathan. Of course, Jonathan didn’t want to believe him. Saul was his father, and David was his best friend. How could this be true? In I Samuel, chapter 20, we read of a plan between David and Jonathan to discern whether or not Saul was really out to for David’s blood, and we also read of a promise that David made to Jonathan. The plan worked, and Jonathan realized that his father actually did want to kill David, and Jonathan warned David so that he was able to get away safely. A promise was made between the two best friends. David promised that he would never stop being kind to Jonathan for as long as he lived, and that he would never stop being kind to Jonathan’s family.

Fast forward about 15 years or so. King Saul and Jonathan were both dead, but David did not forget his promise. He began to inquire if any descendants of Jonathan were still living. He found out that Jonathan had a son named Mephibosheth. The boy was only 5 years old when his father and grandfather were killed in battle with the Philistines at Mt. Gilboa by the Jezreel Valley. When his nurse maid heard of the death of Saul and Jonathan, she picked up the boy, Mephibosheth, and ran to flee to safety, but she dropped him causing him to be lame. The fall injured both feet, and he was lame from that day forth. He was once the grandson of the king, but now he was a lame man without power or wealth whose family was hated. David tracked down Mephibosheth and made good on his promise to Jonathan. He showed kindness and grace to the son of Jonathan, grandson of Saul, and elevated him to a position equal to member of his very own family. From that day on, Mephibosheth dined at the table of the king. It’s a great story of redemption that we don’t give a lot of weight too, but we should.

Mephibosheth lived for many years unaware that grace was waiting for him. He was the only living direct descendant of King Saul, and therefore, he was despised. He had to look for death around every corner. He didn’t know that King David had entered into a covenant with his father, and because of that covenant, grace was extended to this man who has been lame since the age of five. Mephibosheth became part of the family of King David, and he was treated as though he was the son of the king and an heir to the throne so to speak. Think about that, and think about yourself for a moment. How many years did you live before you knew about the grace of God? Was it 10, 15, 20, or maybe you still haven’t fully accepted this grace. Until we accept the grace of God, spiritual death is lurking around every corner. Thankfully, a long time ago, our King made a covenant with His people, and because of this unconditional covenant, grace was extended to you and to me. Through Christ, we have become sons and daughters to the King. We have been adopted into the family of our Lord and Savior, and we are heirs to the throne. We can dine at the table of our King.

You may be feeling like you’ve been dropped, bruised, injured, and forgotten, but let me remind you that our God is still on the throne, and He is a promise keeper. He made a covenant, and He doesn’t break His promises. He sent His son as a propitiation for our sins so they we may be made right with Him, so that we may have an everlasting relationship with our Father, and so that we may be heirs to the throne of the King of kings, Lord of lords. You may feel like you were dropped somewhere in the past, but I assure you that you have not been forgotten. Trust in the Lord. Taste and see that He is good. He is my redeemer, and He will redeem you too! You don’t even have to have a great name like Mephibosheth. He knows your name. He knows you. He wants to adopt you into His family. You don’t have to be dropped and forgotten. With Christ, you can be delivered and forgiven!

Blessings,
KK

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REST

Psalm 91:1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Where do we get our energy? Oh, I could quickly answer that with my favorite drink: coffee. I do love coffee. I didn’t drink coffee until I was in my early forties. I jokingly say that it took me that long to grow up. Before that, I was hooked on Diet Coke, and prior to that it was Coca Cola. I truly had a soda habit, but now I don’t even really like soft drinks at all. But I do love my coffee! I have a couple of T-shirts that announce my dependency on Jesus and coffee. I have one that says, “With Jesus in her heart and coffee in her hand, she’s unstoppable.” Another one says, “This girl runs on Jesus and coffee, Hebrews 4:16.” It’s true. Caffeine is a crutch that gives me a little short term energy to do the things I need to do. Oh, but Jesus, He gives me the energy to get through every single day all day long. So where do we truly get our energy? We get our energy from rest, and true rest only comes from the Lord.

A couple of years ago when my grandson was five, he required a rest period during the day. He didn’t think that he needed a nap, but everyone around him knew the precise moment that a nap was needed. He has always been the happiest child, very talkative, intelligent, and creative, but after he goes fast and hard for a while, his energy depletes. He becomes a little bit whiny and irritable. A thirty minute respite still changes his whole attitude and outlook. After a short nap, he became that smiling sweet boy that we all love and adore. We are a lot like a five year old at times. We wear down, become weary and tired, and oh do we get irritable at times. We may unintentionally become snappy and short with those that we love. We may whine a little bit about our day and complain more frequently than we mean to. As adults, we also need someone to tell us to go take a nap so that we can get refreshed and renewed and wake up in a better frame of mind.

We may not be allowed to take long, luxurious naps during the day, but we still have the very best resting place. We can find respite in Christ all day long every day. To truly rest in Christ, we must truly believe that He can help us, save us, and deliver us in our most urgent needs. We must have a real belief that Christ can help us. It has to be so real that we can almost touch it and taste the sweetness of it. To truly rest, we must truly believe. If we truly believe, then we can trust fully, and my friends, when we truly believe and trust, we will find a rest like no other rest.

We must believe that the Lord is sovereign, and that He is the authority over our lives. We have to recognize that the Lord is in absolute control, and then we must believe that He can accomplish much in our lives. He is all powerful, all knowing, and ever present. He is there for us. He sees the trials that we are enduring. He knows when we are weary, and He knows how to give us rest. Isaiah 30:15 says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” We find rest in the Lord by believing that He can help, save, and deliver us. When we believe, we trust that He can help, save and deliver us, but Isaiah 30:15 points out one more ingredient needed to find rest: repentance. If we have a sin problem, no matter how big or how little, that sin is separating us from the fullness of rest in Christ. We must lay that sin out before our Lord and Savior, confess, ask forgiveness, and turn away from it. If a sin problem is constantly worrying our minds and separating us from Christ, we will never know true rest. Our minds fill with worry and regret, and there is no rest to be found there, but when we have repented and been forgiven, oh the sweet rest that we find is sweeter than the sweetest honey.

We all need a whole lot of energy to get through our daily walk, some days more than others. We can drink all of the coffee in the world, but we all know that kind of energy will soon fade, and we’ll crash. When the caffeine leaves us, we are spent and weary. To get true, lasting energy, we must plug into the power source. We must plug into the Savior. Talk to the Lord, Have a little chat throughout the day, and lay your cares and concerns at the feet of Jesus. He can handle those things much better than we can. Read His Word. Rejuvenate your mind with the sweetness of the Word of God. Believe in Him. Trust in Him. Seek Him. Rest in Him!

Blessings,
KK

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ARMED

Ephesians 6:10-18 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Gathering with fellow believers is such an important part of the Christian faith. When we gather together we strengthen bonds with fellow believers, we sing praises together, and most importantly we hear and receive the Word of God. This helps us to continue to put on the full armor of God each and every day. There was a period during the early part of the pandemic when we didn’t gather in person. We gathered in the church parking lot. We gathered on our sofas and watched the services on Facebook. But then, praise God, we finally were able to gather in the sanctuary together as it was meant to be! Gathering with fellow believers in person is truly a very special part of worship, and gathering for corporate worship encourages and strengthens our daily walk.

Consider for a moment an orange or a satsuma. It’s peeling acts as a protector for the fruit. It is the armor for the fruit. If you place that orange in a glass of water, it floats. It is protected. But if you remove the peeling and the protective coating, and then place that same orange in a glass of water, it will sink. It is not protected. It has lost the natural protection and armor of the peeling.

As Christians, we have to put on our armor daily. There will be troubles of the day that will try to peel the armor away, but if we are rooted in the Holy Word of God, our armor will remain and our protection will be guaranteed. When we continue to gather with a body of believers, our armor is strengthened as we walk through the Word of God with our pastor, deacons, and elders and those who are seasoned with the salt of the Word of God and shine a light in this dark world in which we live. We can put on the belt of truth and tighten our waistbands, keep the breastplate of righteousness in place, and as we learn and hear the truth preached and taught, our feet will be fitted with readiness to share the beloved gospel with the world. We can take up the shield of faith, and extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one, and wear the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which we all know is the Word of God. And we pray in the Spirit, oh the sweet prayers of a praying church! The armor of God protects us!

I woke up praying this morning. That’s nothing new, but my prayer this morning was that the churches across this country would have an awakening, a revival. I prayed that the true Word of God would be preached throughout our land, and that ears would be opened to hear it. I prayed that lost souls would be saved, and I prayed that those who have gotten out of the habit of gathering together with fellow believers would return to church. In this evil world that we are living in, we need the full armor of God. We need the prayers of fellow believers. We need the sword of the Spirit. We need this now more than ever. Are you ready to get armed today?

Blessings,
KK

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COME HOME

Isaiah 1:3 The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.

Jeremiah 8:7 Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration. But my people do not know the requirements of the Lord.

Sally Sue is a whitetail doe that we rescued a few years ago. We bottle fed her, and she took up residence down at our barn with the sheep and goats and our neutered Axis buck, Bucky. She is a typical skittish little doe, but she loves apples, and she will take us down for a bit of fruit. She allows Jeff and I to pet her, but she is stand-offish around others. Each year, she leaves for a few days during breeding season. She always comes back home to the barn after a bit. She recently had a little fawn. We spotted it in the grass outside of the barn. It looked healthy as it darted through the woods. Sally still comes home for supper. Sally Sue knows how to find her way home. She knows where the buckets of feed are plentiful and the fruit snacks are abundant. But right now she is mostly hanging out in the woods caring for her little one…until supper time!

Sally Sue is a wild, whitetail doe, but she was bottle raised by my husband and myself. She knows that we are her safe place and that our barn is her home. She will always have food, water, and shelter there. She is free to leave as she pleases, but she always knows when to come home.

God has given animals a remarkable homing instinct. Before Sally Sue, we had Ellie May. She would wander miles from home visiting our neighbors, but all I had to do was rattle the chain on the gate to the barn, and she suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Why then do we humans seem to want to rebel and not even show the good sense of an animal? Our loving Father created us and has given us every reason to want to come home, yet we drift and backslide. We try to do things on our own and under our own power and authority. We tend to forget that in Christ, we have all of the nourishment we need. In Christ, we have hope, love, joy, protection, grace, and mercy. Away from Christ, we may find temporary pleasure, but it will always be short lived. Without Christ, we are lost and alone.

In Jeremiah 8:7, we are reminded that even the birds live according to the instincts that the Lord has given them. They know when to migrate and when to return for seasons just as my little doe does. Why then do we humans have such difficulty with this? Man seems to constantly run the race of self destruction, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Our natural instinct or intuition tells us that we don’t want to be alone. We don’t want to feel lost, abandoned, or full of despair. We want to have fullness of joy, hope, and love everlasting. We yearn for grace and mercy. Fortunately for each of us, we have a heavenly Father who wants to give us all of this. We needn’t run from Him, but rather we should be running to Him.

No matter where you are at this moment in time, no matter how far you feel that you have strayed, no matter how big or little your sins are, Christ is inviting you to return home. He’s been rattling the chain on the gate for a while now. His buckets are overflowing with love, joy, hope, grace, and mercy. He is ready to wrap His arms around you and give you the comfort and protection in that safe place that you are seeking. Don’t keep running away. Run home to the Father! There is no better place to be in this whole world!

Blessings,
KK

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REMEMBER THE CROSS

John 3:16 For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Yesterday, I visited an elderly gentleman in his eighties. He is a sweet, gentle soul. He walks with a rather stiff, shuffling gait, moving slowly and steadily to each appointed destination. During our visit, he told me that he had just returned from ceramic’s class. I asked about his ceramics, and he proceeded to show me a few of his finished products. The items were lovely. He has just completed a fleur de les, but he has made several light houses, different animals and reptiles, and an especially detailed alligator. He took pleasure in telling me about each item, and explained the process of ceramics. We had a nice visit. Towards the end of our visit, he spoke of his belief in God. We shared a common bond, and that fact pleased him. Before I left, he waddled over to a beautiful old chifforobe, and he pulled out a bright green, shiny ceramic cross that he had made. He said that he wanted me to have it. I naturally told him that I could not take it, but he insisted. He said that he wanted me to keep it to remember him. I graciously accepted the ceramic cross gift, and he grinned from ear to ear. He told me that this cross (pictured here) is an Irish cross. He said there are so many different types of crosses, and many different cultures have crosses which range from very simplistic to extremely elegant. He said that he thinks this is because every culture needs to know God and know Christ in their own way. The conversation excited him, and he then said, “Come with me.” This sweet, elderly man who is stiff from arthritis, and merely getting up and down is a huge chore, waddled throughout his entire home taking me from cross to cross. He has at least one cross in every room, and every cross was a little different. He explained the significance of each one in great detail. After the tour was complete, I held my new bright green ceramic cross close to my chest, and I said, “I will hang this cross on my wall, and every time I look at it, I will remember you, and I will remember the meaning of the cross.” His eyes lit up, and his face glowed with gladness.

I told him that I would remember him, and I definitely will. The moments are etched in the cobwebs of my brain. There are so many people that we come in contact with on a daily basis who just want to share a little piece of themselves with us so that we can remember them. Just think of the memories that you have stored away from past encounters and experiences. We have fond memories of our grandparents and parents. We may hear a word, smell a scent, or even listen to an old song, and those memories flood our very core. People want to be remembered. God gave us the beautiful gift of being able to hold these valuable memories in the vaults of our minds.

We definitely want to remember people. We want to remember loved ones. But, we most importantly need to remember the cross! Yes, there are many versions replicated of the cross. The styles may very, but the underlying message is the same. For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Jesus was born fully man and fully God as prophesied over 700 years prior, and He came for one reason. God sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. He came to die for us to save us! He was crucified on a cross made from trees. It wasn’t elaborately designed. The cross wasn’t beautiful. He was nailed to that cross made of trees, and He died an agonizing death after being beaten and bruised for OUR sins. That cross wasn’t beautiful at all, but it symbolizes the greatest gift that we could ever receive. For when He died on that cross and was resurrected three days later as promised and foretold, the gift of eternal salvation was given to you and to me. All we have to do is accept the gift. We have to accept with our whole heart and our whole mind that God loves us so much that He gave His Son to save us. If we only accept the gift, believe that He did this for us, and confess our sins, we receive the gift of eternal salvation. This gift is totally free for you and for me, but consider the cost.

Yes, I will hang this cross on my wall, and I will remember the sweet gentleman who gifted it to me. But more than that, I will look upon this lovely cross and remember that old tree. I will remember what it cost my Savior to save an old wretch like me. How about you? Do you remember the cross? Have you accepted the greatest gift ever?

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DON’T LET THE BUZZARDS WIN

Matthew 24:28 Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near.

I Peter 5:8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

One of my favorite times of the year is calving season. It’s going on right now! The cows of Hodge Lodge have already gifted us with two beautiful bull calves and one beautiful heifer calf in the past week. I love critters of all kinds, all shapes, and all sizes, but I especially love new born baby critters. Calving season is also a great adventure. Those mama cows have their babies, and then due to natural instincts of protection, hide those babies out of site. When we go to check on the cows and the calves, it is akin to the great Easter egg hunt. We load up in the side by side and ride the pastures seeking and finding cute little newborn calves. It’s actually quite fun and something that I enjoy doing with my husband.

However, calving season isn’t always cute surprises and sunshine. There is a lot of work involved before and after, but there are also times of heartbreak. A couple of days ago, we rode over to check the cows, and as soon as we opened the gate to the pasture, a flock of about twenty buzzards flew up into the sky. That’s always a bad sign! We located the new babies and saw that they were all looking fit and fine, and we continued to ride around the pasture. We soon came upon the remains of a newborn calf carcass. The buzzards had already devoured about 80% of the poor baby calf. Our hearts sank. There wasn’t anything that we could do to save it, yet our minds still wondered what happened. We know that the buzzards are opportunists. They will feed on afterbirth left in the fields. They will even feed on a newborn calf if the mama doesn’t clean it up right away and move it out of the open pasture (thus the hide the baby part.) We began a search for the mama, and when we came upon black cow mama #2, we found a mama with a gaunt appearance. Her big belly was no longer present. She wasn’t due to deliver just yet, so it appears that she gave birth prematurely. The calf more than likely wasn’t mature enough to sustain life, and therefore, it’s demise lead to a lofty meal for the buzzards.

So, you wonder, where is this girl going with this today? I’m going to tell you. I started thinking about the immaturity of the calf and the opportunist attack of the buzzards, and I realized that this happens all too often in the human spectrum of life. Think about it friends. When we are immature in our spiritual walk with Christ, every opportunist in the world is seeking after our soul. Those opportunists are led by Satan, and we know the Bible tells us that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (I Peter 5:8). If we aren’t truly living for Christ, we are but a shell of a man or woman. We are no more than a carcass, and wherever the carcass is, there the vultures will gather (Matthew 24:28). If we aren’t maturing in our daily walk with Christ, we are going to get devoured!

I know that this is a strange analogy, but life is strange, Peeps. Life is hard. Every day can be a struggle to keep on surviving. Yes, we are going to stumble, and we are going to fall, but by the grace and strength of God, we can get up. We don’t have to lie there and let the buzzards of the world devour us. We have Christ! We can mature in Christ daily, but how? The answer is simple. Get to know Him. Read the instruction manual: the Bible. Study His Word. Pray. Talk to our Lord and Savior. Grow that relationship, and the maturity that we seek will come. When your faith is feeling weak, remember that Matthew 17:20 tells us that if we have faith as small as a mustard see, we can move mountains! Don’t let the buzzards feast on you! Don’t let the buzzards of this old world win! Get up, clean up, and go rest in the safe arms of our Lord!

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A SOLID OAK

Isaiah 61:3 To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

Monday was Labor Day. What do you do on Labor Day? Well, you labor, of course! We chose that day to clean and bleach the porches and the back deck, the deck furniture, and to do a little weeding. After my husband, Jeff, had sprayed the whole world down with bleach, I looked up and noticed the gutters over the back of the house. They were so grimy and dirty thanks to all the trees overlooking the back deck. I grabbed a ladder, and Jeff sprayed the gutters down with bleach. He began washing the debris away with a water hose. After he had already climbed up and down the ladder a few times with me handing him the hose each time, he said, “When I get up there, hand me the hose.” Well, I thought, “that’s what we’ve been doing.” Jeff disappeared, and I thought that he went to get a bucket for the roof debris. BUT the next thing I hear is Jeff calling my name. I ran around outside looking for him to no avail. I called out asking him where he was, and he said, “I’m up here on the roof.” I climbed the ladder quickly. I could not see him. So, I asked where, and he said words that made my heart sink, “I slipped and fell.” He quickly added, “But it’s okay. This oak tree caught me.” He told me that he had climbed out of my study window onto the roof. The roof was slippery from the green mildew from the constant tree coverage, and he lost his footing. He fell down, and he would have fallen off the roof onto the ground below….a thirty foot drop! Jeff said that he almost cut that tree down this year because of fear of the damage it would cause if we had a hurricane. BUT GOD!

Our God, so loving and full of mercy and grace, planted that oak tree right there beside our house in exactly the right spot so that decades later it would be a strong, solid oak tree that prevented my sweet husband from falling off the roof. Being in the medical field, I instantly thought of the what if’s…if he had fallen he would have definitely sustained broken bones, possibly a broken back or neck, it could have ended in paralysis. Labor Day could have ended in a very different way for the Hodge family. BUT GOD! God rescued Jeff with a solid oak tree, and we were able to grill brisket burgers with all the kids and the grandkids later that night. BUT GOD!

I was telling my sister about our adventure, and that I was going to share it in a devotional. We talked about the strength of that oak tree and the fact that God knew exactly where it needed to be and when it needed to be there for such a time as this! But then, my sister also pointed out the symbolism of an oak tree. Spiritually, a strong, towering oak tree symbolizes strength, wisdom, and healing. They prove time and again to embody beauty and power. Some refer to someone who possesses wisdom or knowledge as an oak. In the Bible, the term oak symbolizes righteousness, righteousness as a gift from God, and therefore, life-giving and enduring, and in their beauty and strength manifesting His glory. Wow!

Most of us don’t need a literal oak tree to catch us when we fall, but boy oh boy do we need oak trees in our life. We definitely need the ever present, all consuming presence and guidance of our Lord and Savior to rescue us on a daily basis. And He knows this all too well. Thankfully, God plants oak trees in our lives. He places people around us who are righteous, beautiful, and strong. Those people are our oaks. They rescue us, help keep us on the right path, and through their acts manifest the true glory of our Savior.

Ponder on this a bit today. Look around and think about all the oaks that God has planted in your life over the years. Say a prayer of gratitude for them. Perhaps even reach out and give those oaks a big old hug. And thank God! I have said at least a hundred prayers of gratitude in the last twenty four hours. I’m so very thankful for the literal oak next to my house, and all the figurative oaks that surround me daily!

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EXILED

Jeremiah 29:5-11 Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord. This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

I prefaced today’s devotional with a bit longer scripture reading than normal, but sometimes you have to read the scripture in context to absorb the meaning. And many times, we need to be fully reminded that God never fails His children. He hasn’t forgotten us! We may feel that we are in exile now, but He’s going to bring us out of exile.

The people of Jerusalem had been exiled to Babylon. They were in a foreign land with foreign people, and they must have felt so alone. I think we can all relate. Our country does not look like our home any longer. COVID 19 has wreaked havoc on the country. Jobs have been lost. Work places are more stressful. The country is divided in more ways than one. We may feel completely alone and isolated. We may feel like we are in exile. So what do we do today while we wait through our period of exile? Let’s just wallow in our grief and depression as we wait for our rescue. That’ll show them all, right? WRONG!

The people of Jerusalem likely felt a lot of the things we are feeling right now. God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah, and He gave him some specific instructions. We can’t sit around and wallow in the self pity. We have to continue to live. We can live expectantly knowing that God is with us through our trials, and although we may feel isolated, we are never truly alone.

In verses 5-7, Jeremiah tells the people that God said to actively participate in life even though they are in exile. He told them to build houses, get married, have children, and multiply. He told them to plant gardens and eat the produce. He told the people to increase, not decrease, and to seek the good in the city in which they have been deported to and to pray to Lord, and they would prosper. We may feel alone and isolated right now, but we must continue to actively participate during this time of exile. We should be building relationships, constructing and not destroying. We need to plant things in our lives and nourish these things. We must increase our relationships and the depths of those relationships. And while we are doing this, we must look for the good in all of it. No matter how bad things look, there will always be some good to be found.

In verses 8-9, Jeremiah reminds the people that they must continue to pursue God. There will be false teachers and those around us that will deceive us. Have you watched the news lately? Or have you scanned through social media? If so, you can relate to these verses. There is so much deceit being spewed by public leaders and public figures, on the news, and shared on the web. We must protect ourselves from the lies. How do we do that? Pursue the truth. If we are pursuing God, staying in His Word, and asking for discernment, we will be protected from the lies. You won’t know a lie is a lie if you don’t know what is true. Learn the Word, cling to the truth. Pursue God during this time of exile.

Lastly, in verse 10, Jeremiah tells the people that they have to be patient. Oh man! That’s the hard part. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Oh, but friends, we have nothing but time on our hands while we await the restoration. Jeremiah assured the people that God would come and get the people of Israel and restore them. It was a promise from God, and we all know that God doesn’t break promises. The people had to patiently await the time of rescue from exile.

We are in a time of exile right now. We may not have been literally moved from our homes and been taken to a foreign land, but we each may feel our own particular kind of isolation. We aren’t the people of Jerusalem that were exiled to Baylon for 70 years, but we feel the weight of the wait. The wait may be long, and the extreme heaviness of the weight of the wait may seem unbearable, but Peeps, we are not in this alone. God already knew in advance everything that would be going on in our lives right now. He may be allowing these things to grow us in our relationship with Him. He may be allowing this so that we can plant more seeds. He may be allowing these things to occur so that the number of believers may increase. I don’t pretend to know the mind of God, but I do know with all of my heart that I am not alone. You are not alone. We can endure the weight of the wait if we continue to pursue God while we wait. Be patient. He hasn’t forgotten us. He will restore us. God has plans for each and every one of us, plans for welfare, not disaster, and plans for a future and a hope!
KK

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IF JESUS COMES TOMORROW

Matthew 24:36 However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.

Matthew 25:13 So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.

Hebrews 9:28 So also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting on him.

When I work out in each morning, I listen to You Tube videos of a variety of Christian music. This fine morning, I chose “Greatest Hits Gospel Country Songs 70s-80s-90s,” and I heard a song that I wasn’t familiar with. I’m not sure who was singing the version I heard today, but a Google search revealed that Owen Mac wrote the song. The words resonated in my mind, and I need to share them with you. The lyrics pose several important questions. “If Jesus comes tomorrow to spend some time with you, would you answer all His questions or lie to hide the truth? Would you welcome Him with open arms or even let Him in? If Jesus calls your number could you leave today? Are you ready to lay down your wordly goods and walk away? Would it take a month of Sundays just to tell Him of your sin? If the sky turns black as midnight in the middle of the day, and somehow you knew that Jesus would soon be on His way, would you have to beg forgiveness? Or could you reach out and take His hand. If Jesus comes tomorrow, WHAT THEN?”

The older I get, the more ready I am for His return. As I child, I knew Christ. I knew that I was saved. I knew I had a heavenly home, but in my childlike mind, I wasn’t ready to go there. If I were asked these questions as a child, my answer would be, “Don’t come yet, Lord. I have so many things that I need to accomplish first.” Yes, I always had things on my mind. I wanted to grow up, go to college, have a career, get married, have children, and live life. Yes, I had much to accomplish!

I have always been a “list” kind of person. Every day of the week there is list in my head, on notebook paper, or in my phone of the things I need to accomplish that day. I go so far as to set allotted times in my brain in which the tasks must be accomplished. Yes, I’m a planner. But through the years, I’ve learned that I’m not in control, and many days, the list gets thrown out because life just gets in the way. I’ve gradually learned that I’m not in control of my day. I just don’t have that much power!

BUT, what if we knew that Jesus was coming tomorrow? What then? Really, Peeps, what then? Would we be living differently today? Would we change anything about our busy schedule? Would we be reaching out to lost friends and relatives sharing the gospel like it was the last chance for a lost world to be saved…because it really was the last chance? Think about that for a moment. What then?

Fun, or maybe not so fun, fact…we don’t know when Jesus is coming back. It could be twenty years from now. It could be next year. He could come back next week. He may return tomorrow. Actually, He could call today! This thought excites me, yet at the same time saddens me. I’m ready to go. I’m ready for heaven right this very second, BUT I have so many friends and loved ones who haven’t made a decision to follow Christ. There are many who won’t share the glory of heaven with me if Jesus comes tomorrow because those people have never received the gift of salvation.

Friends, we live in a lost and dying world. If Jesus comes tomorrow, many will spend eternity separated from the Father. They will spend eternity in hell. It’s our job, our calling, to share the gospel with others. And oh my goodness, the way this world looks today, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if God said, “Okay Son, today’s the day. Bring my people home.” We need to be living like today is the last day in our temporary home. We must make sure that we are ready, and we must share this important message of the gospel as often as possible. Jesus is coming….are you ready?

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WHO AM I?

Psalm 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

John 1:12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—

Who am I? Why am I here? Those questions have been asked by the masses for years. I am not who the world says I am. I am who GOD says I am, and the answers to the questions are found right there in black and white (and sometimes red) in the instruction manual for life: The Holy Bible. You are not the color of your skin. You are not the product of a broken home. You are not the ugliest one or the prettiest one in the room. You are not the expensive clothes nor the rags that you may be wearing. You are oh so much more. Get your Bibles ready, Peeps. We are fixing to go for a ride through the manual!

First and foremost, I am a child of God. John 1:12 confirms this. All who received Him and believed in His name have the right to become children of God. I am God’s kid! He’s my heavenly Daddy! I have an absolutely awesome earthly daddy, and I wouldn’t trade him for anything, but isn’t it grand to know that we are God’s kids. The Creator of the universe, God Almighty, Maker of the heavens and the earth, is my Daddy! If that doesn’t get you excited, you better check your pulse!

Turn to Romans 8:17. This one will blow you away. Because I am God’s kid, I am a fellow heir with Christ! Say what? Yep. It’s right there in Romans 8:17. “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” I’m a co-heir with Christ for the entire kingdom of God. So it doesn’t really matter that I don’t have the nicest house or car or clothes or whatever, I’m an heir to the kingdom of God! This place is only my temporary home. Jesus is preparing my heavenly digs right now. It’s pretty cool being the kid of God, huh?

Now, flip over to John 15:15. Jesus tells us here that we are His friends. Peeps, I have some pretty terrific friends, some longer than others and truer than others, but all in all, I have some great friends in my corner. I have friends that I can talk to when I’m up, when I’m down, and anytime in between, and I’m so grateful for the people God has placed in my life. But y’all, we have an even better friend than our bestest friend! We have a friend in Jesus. He is the truest friend we will ever know. He died for us. He suffered for us. He rose again for us. You are never alone in this lonely world, my friend, because there is one friend who never leaves, and He is available 24/7. He is my Friend.

I know that I’m skipping around the manual a bit, but bear with me. There’s so much good stuff in the Book, I’m trying to share a bit of it this morning. Next, I want you to read Ephesians 2:10. This scripture assures us that God doesn’t make junk. We are God’s handiwork. He created us to do good works, and in fact he predestined us to do so. God created me to do what He wants me to do, and therefore, He equipped me with the ability to carry out those tasks. If I follow His lead, I can accomplish anything! Psalm 139:14 reminds us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. How awesome is it that the Creator of the universe thought enough about me to knit me together in my mother’s womb to be the person that He wanted me to be. He designed me specifically for His good works, and though I feel flawed in numerous ways, I know that I’m not junk! I’m God’s handiwork!

I don’t have to walk through this crazy life under my own power. Nope! I have direct access to my heavenly Daddy, and I can go to Him with boldness and confidence. “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Ephesians 3:12 Think about that for a moment, and I bet you will be in awe. There are a lot of powerful people in this world, and we know who they are, but we don’t really have access to them. There are presidents and governors, prime ministers, and kings throughout the world. We know their power and authority, but we don’t know them. How great is it that we know the Creator of the universe, and we have a direct all access line to Him 24 hours a day 7 days a week? This is reaffirmed in Hebrews 4:16. We can confidently approach the throne of God everyday, all day long.

Finally, I know that I am not condemned by God. Oh, yes, man may condemn us. We may suffer long and hard as we walk through this temporary land, but I have a hope and a future with Christ in my permanent dwelling place. I have been set free from the law of sin and death. I have been promised eternal life. Romans 8:1-2 shares this truth. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” This life we are walking through now can be aggravating and stressful to say the least, but it is not the end of the story. We may feel beaten at the end of each day, but don’t forget that our victory has already been won. We have an eternal home waiting for us with our heavenly Daddy!

I’m going to close now, although I found hundreds more scriptures that tell me who I am in Christ. If you aren’t sure of your identity, I challenge you to read the instruction manual. I bet you will find out who you really are. I know for sure that I am a child of God, and I pray that if you don’t know Him, you go and meet Him today!
KK

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SECRET SERVICE CHRISTIAN?

Romans 10:14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 5:13-15 You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

Are you a secret service Christian? I’m not talking about a missionary who is living and working in a country were Christians are persecuted for sharing the word of God and have to share the gospel cautiously. I’m talking about how we serve the Lord right here at home. I listen to the radio while driving, and I recall hearing a preacher use the phrase “secret service Christian,” and it got me to thinking. When I was young in my walk with Christ, I wasn’t nearly as vocal about my faith as I am now. I could give you a list of numerous reasons, or rather excuses, why I didn’t share my faith. I was very shy. I was afraid of controversy. I was secure in knowing where my final destination would be, and I thought that was enough. I had accepted Christ as my Savior, and I didn’t need to share Him. As I grew in my faith, I realized that was not enough. I was being extremely selfish. I had the knowledge of the BEST news in the world, and I was keeping it all to myself. I was being a secret service Christian. I was serving God in a very secret way. I was so secretive, I was keeping things just between Him and I. Boy oh boy, I was really missing out on the big picture. I really wasn’t serving anyone but myself.

God didn’t design us to merely come to Christ. He designed us to glorify Him. He wants a relationship with us and with others. He desires for us to share the gospel with the world. Paul reminds us of this In Romans 10:14. How can one believe if they have never heard, and how will they hear if no one shares the Word? We are commanded to go and make disciples of all nations. We are charged with the duty of sharing Christ with others. We can’t keep Him all to ourselves.

Jesus says that we are the salt and the light. In Biblical times, salt was used as a preservative. They didn’t have refrigerators or freezers. Salt was applied to foods to preserve the foods for future use. Jesus tells that we are to be the salt, but if the salt loses it saltiness, it is no longer good. That sounds strange to us because salt is salt. It doesn’t lose its saltiness. What did Jesus mean that salt could lose its saltiness? Salt wasn’t exactly the same compound that it is now. It wasn’t pure sodium chloride. It was a weakened form. If a rain poured over the salt, it diluted the crystals, and then the salt literally was no longer salty. It was of no use. It lost its preservative value and also its flavor. Salt that doesn’t preserve and is tasteless is of no use. If we’ve lost our saltiness, we are of no use to Christ. Can we say ouch? If we aren’t actively working to preserve others by sharing the gospel and bring in the flavor of Christ to our conversations, we are not being the people that Christ called us to be. We serve Christ by being salty. Are you a salty, showing others how to preserve everlasting life and adding flavor to the lives of those you come in contact with, or have you lost your saltiness?

Jesus also calls us the light of the world. We know that Jesus is the true light, but as Christians and followers of Christ, we are to reflect Christ. Just as the moon reflects the sun, we are to reflect the Son. We should be reflecting Christ in the way that we are living, speaking, and loving on the world around us. Many people will never step a foot into a church building. Many will not openly ask you to tell them about Christ, but we should be reflecting Christ so brightly that everyone can see Him in us. The Holy Spirit resides within each and every Christian. The light within us should be shining so vibrantly that we couldn’t put it out if we wanted to. When we realize that the light of Jesus within us is the only Jesus some people will ever see, we should glow brighter than ever. We serve Christ by being a reflection of Him. Do others see Christ in you? Are you reflecting the Son, or are you getting burned by the sin that surrounds us?

I know it’s hard to share your faith. It’s scary, but Peeps, we need to share our faith like lives depend on it, because quite frankly, they do! We can’t be happy being secret service Christians. We must be full service Christians. Be the salt and the light. Share the Good News. Don’t be selfish and keep Jesus all to yourself. Everybody needs to know Him!

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GET YOUR WORSHIP ON

Ecclesiates 5:1-2 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

Psalm 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

Getting ready for worship can be compared to getting ready for a journey. When we are preparing for a trip, we pack our bags, we set our destination, and we begin the journey. Some of the travelers with you are giggly and happy, some are looking out the window bored to death, one or two may be looking at their phones, and many are looking at their watches and asking “are we there yet?” I thought about all of the things I’ve seen while traveling whether it be a plane trip with a group of strangers or a long road trip with my beloved family, and I can tell you, I’ve witnessed all of the above. Sadly, I can say that I’ve seen the same things during our worship services as well.

Don’t get me wrong, Peeps. I’m talking to myself too. I’m definitely not perfect, and I’ve been guilty of all of the things I listed above while attending worship. The reason I’m sharing this today is because I want to make sure that while I’m on my journey, I’m a little bit better prepared for the destination. For you see, when we attend worship, our destination is to meet God. We should be journeying to meet our Almighty Father, and not simply enduring the worship service.

Sunday mornings are tough. I wrote a chapter called “Sunday mornings ain’t easy round here” for my last book. Trust me, I know. There is so much to do before leaving the house on Sunday mornings from cooking to cleaning to getting children dressed, finding lost shoes, battling the evil forces that are trying to keep us home, and so much more. Sometimes just arriving in the parking lot feels like we’ve accomplished what we have set out to do. But that is not it, Peeps. We can’t just keep arriving, sitting through the worship service, and then leaving unchanged. We go to church to worship our Lord and Savior and spend a little blessed time with Him in His presence with other believers and even some non-believers.

We go to church to worship. How do we get our minds and hearts ready when we already have so much other stuff on our minds taking our focus away from true worship? We have to prepare for the journey. We first have to get ready to meet God. Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes to guard our steps when we go into the house of the Lord. When we enter the physical building or even the spiritual presence of our Lord, we must be reverent and respectful. Remember Moses and the burning bush? He took his sandals off because he was standing on holy ground. He had complete respect and reverence of that place because he was in the presence of God. We also have to pray. We must pray for God to open our hearts to receive His word, and then the important part, we have to really listen to hear what He is telling us. We must humble ourselves before God, and recognize his sovereignty. We need to remember what He did on the cross for each of us. We must remember the great love that our Lord has for us. Next, is the fun part. We get to get our praise on! I love singing praise songs, hearing praise songs, and enjoying praise and worship time with our church family. I can’t be still. I move a bit here and there wiggling with the music. I get so excited singing praises to our Savior. When the praise songs end, true worship should begin. As the pastor leads in scripture reading and preaches the Word, our hearts should be fully prepared to receive the message. Our journey is really beginning now. We journey through the Word of God. We fill our spiritual bellies. We get fed in the Spirit, and oh how we hunger for the food of the Spirit. Finally, we leave that place or worship, refreshed, renewed, and ready to share what we’ve learned with others.

Worship service can either be a boring trip to church and home, or it can be a marvelous journey. We can muddle through, or we can marvel at the wonders as we travel on our great journey to our destination to have an up close and personal meeting with Christ. So what do you say, Peeps? Are you going on a mundane journey of same old same, or are you preparing for awesomeness this week? I’m not planning to just have a nice trip. I’m getting ready for an AWESOME ride!

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A LIVING SANCTUARY

2 Corinthians 6:16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

I Corinthians 3:16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I was looking at some old memories and came across a video of my daughter singing, “Sanctuary”. It is one of the most precious videos that I have of her. I won’t share it here because she would probably not like that, but I think it’s awesome. She was only nine years old and had just finished taking a bath in our big old jacuzzi tub. I was going about my normal busyness of preparing to close the chapter on another day when I heard this sweet little melodious song coming from my bathroom. My daughter has a beautiful singing voice that is a gift she received from God, and not from me. I tend to make a happy racket rather than a joyful noise, but that doesn’t stop me from making noise! However, the reason she doesn’t like this particular video is because she had found her “princess voice” at that time. As a mom, I didn’t care if she couldn’t care a tune in a bucket, if she sang like a princess, or had the most beautiful voice ever heard, I thought
her singing was fantastic! It wasn’t how she was singing, but rather what she was singing that made me so happy. (Side note: she grew into that princess voice, and now she sings like an angel.)

The words to the song “Sanctuary” remind us of who we are to be as Christians. “Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for You. It is you, Lord who came to save the heart and soul of every man. It is you Lord who knows my weakness, who gives me strength, with thine own hand. Lead me on Lord from temptation, purify me from within. Fill my heart with You Holy Spirit. Take away all my sin. Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.”

What does it mean to be a living sanctuary for God? On Sunday mornings, we get all gussied up and go to church to sing songs of praise, and we worship our heavenly Father. I get excited about going to church, and I hope that you do too. I love the praise and worship music. I can’t help but wiggle around a bit while singing. Praising God excites me. I may sit on the back pew at church, but I am not one of the “frozen chosen”. The praise and worship music gets us geared up for the Word of God, and helps us to prepare our hearts and our minds to receive the Word. I listen intently while the pastor preaches, and I take notes in my Bible and on the bulletin. Sunday morning service is a great time for refueling the heart of a Christian as we prepare to take on another week, but that’s not it. That’s not being a living sanctuary. That’s part of it, but that’s not the whole enchilada.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:19-20 to “be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When he gave us these words, he didn’t say for us to sing hymns and songs only on Sunday mornings. He didn’t say make music in your heart only when you gather together in the church building. He didn’t say give thanks to God the Father only while you are dressed up pretty and attending church services. Notice the last part of his statement: “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” ALWAYS!

Paul said we are supposed to do these things always! Some of us can’t even seem to get excited for Sunday morning worship so how in the world can you get excited always? Well, Peeps, that’s where the living sanctuary comes in. We can’t just live in Christ in the sanctuary of our church buildings. For goodness sake, we all know that God is all knowing, everywhere, and all powerful. Why in the world would we think that we are to only worship Him while we are in a building sanctuary? He didn’t create us to praise Him once or twice or maybe even three times a week on a good week. He created us to glorify Him, and in order to do so, we have to actively be a living sanctuary for Him. We can’t just keep talking the talk. We can’t just show up for appearances, We can’t be the “frozen chosen”.

We become disgruntled and disheartened with the state of affairs of our country, but we need not wallow in the muck and mire of it. If we want things to change, we must first change ourselves. We must first truly become living sanctuaries for God, and begin living for Him, not ourselves. We can’t just keep showing up. We must started showing out, and by this I mean showing outwardly who resides within us: Christ! We must start worshiping and praising on a whole new level. Sunday worship is awesome, and I’m so grateful that I live in a free country which allows corporate worship. Corporate worship is a wonderful part of who we are as Christians. Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds us of what we need to do. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Don’t give up on meeting together, but we must encourage one another. Today, I am encouraging you to be a living sanctuary for Christ. Your body is the temple where the Holy Spirit of Christ resides. YOU are carrying Him around with you all day long. Are you having “church” all day, always, or are you just another pretty temple? Be a living sanctuary for God!

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OH MY HEART!

Ephesians 3:16-19 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Proverbs 23:26 My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways.

Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

As a family nurse practitioner, I listen to a lot of hearts every day. It doesn’t matter to me if the person is has a complaint of a sprained finger or a simple case of sniffles, I am going to put a stethoscope to the chest. I’ve caught some abnormal rhythms in the past and diagnosed new murmurs. The heart has always fascinated me. Early on in my career, it was my favorite organ to study. I loved teaching the pathophysiology of the heart and teaching others to read EKGs and cardiac rhythm strips. I love the design: electrical impulses and muscular contraction working together to produce a regular rhythm and peak cardiac output. God really put a lot of thought into that design.

About 12 years ago, a little four year old boy was sitting on my exam table. He looked a little frightened, but he soon made my heart so very happy. I placed my stethoscope on his chest, and I listened as I have done thousands of times before, but this time was different. When I removed my stethoscope, he looked at me with those big brown eyes and asked, “Do you hear Jesus in there?” Y’all, he stopped me in my tracks. No one had ever asked me that before in all my years of practice, but I knew the answer to his question was a definite yes. I said, “Well yes, as a matter of fact, I do.” He began grinning from ear to ear, and I couldn’t help but smile the rest of the day as well. So today, I ask you my friends, is Jesus in your heart?

There are many days in this crazy, chaotic life that we feel overwhelmed and tired at the end of the day. We may even feel alone, and sometimes we wonder if Jesus is there. As a Christian and child of God, we have asked Jesus into our hearts to be the ruler and king of our hearts, but sometimes we feel empty, and we have to ask, “Jesus are you still there?” I’ve heard the answer loud and clear oh so many times. Jesus never leaves us, but sometimes we keep him out. Jesus wants to be the Lord of our hearts…our whole hearts, not just little rooms that we decide to let Him in, However, we tend to close the doors on the places that we don’t won’t Jesus to see. We put “Do Not Enter” signs on certain rooms that we think we can handle ourselves. Oh, you know those rooms: rooms of hurt, sorrow, confusion, anger, bitterness, or betrayal, or perhaps it’s that one little bitty sin problem that we just can’t let go of. We tend to close those doors up, but in reality those things are separating us from a relationship with Jesus. Keeping those doors closed keeps Jesus at a distance. It is not He that is distanced from us. We are the ones who are locking the doors and keeping Him out.

Jesus wants to be the Lord of our whole heart, not just the parts that we want to let Him control. Jesus wants to go into those rooms of hurt and sorrow and fill them with His love and comfort. He wants to go into that ugly room of past transgressions, and forgive our sins and wipe the slate clean. He wants to take away the hurt, the bitterness, and the anger. He wants to help us overcome that little bitty sin problem and the great big ones too. He truly wants to be the Lord of our whole being. Why do we keep closing and locking those doors?

The Holy Spirit of Jesus can and will dwell in your hearts if you will only allow Him to reside there. Then you will be rooted and established in love and have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness. Even a four year old knows that Jesus needs to fill our hearts!
KK Hodge

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STORMS

Mark 4:35-41 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the and the waves obey him!”

The meteorologists are closely watching the waters for development of tropical storms and hurricanes. It’sthat time of the year. Everyone gets a little stirred up waiting and watching for possible hurricanes. We’ve experienced the devastation, but here is south Mississippi, we’ve learned that you can’t avoid the storms in life. They are going to come when they come. Nope, we can’t wish them away, but we can prepare. We can watch and wait, keep necessary supplies on hand, and do what we do for all of the other storms in life, we pray! We must remember that no matter how great the storm is that we are facing, we know the One who calms the storm.

One day after a long day of teaching, Jesus was weary and ready for a good night’s sleep. He told the disciples to cross over the sea to the other side. They loaded up in the boat, and Jesus went to sleep. While Jesus slept, a terrible storm developed. Four of the disciples were very able bodied seamen with a great deal of experience in the sea, but this wasn’t an ordinary storm. It was fierce. Perhaps it was like an August hurricane in the Gulf. This storm scared the disciples, even the experienced seamen. They went and woke Jesus up. And the asked Him, “Don’t you care that we are about to die?” They thought that they were surely doomed.

I find it strange that these fellows were with Jesus, up close and personal, witnessing the many miracles that He had performed, and yet they still didn’t recognize that He had the full power and authority of God. The disciples panicked, but notice that Jesus did not panic. Jesus knew before He got in that boat that a terrible storm was on the way. After He was awakened, He went to the front of the boat and commanded the wind and the waves to be still, and the wind and waves obeyed.

Jesus told the disciples, let’s go over to the other side. He knew the storm was coming. He knew they wouldn’t crash and sink. He knew they would make it to the other side. The disciples didn’t think they would make it, but Jesus knew that they would.

We seem to be sitting in the middle of some mighty big storms lately. We’ve had the COVID pandemic, a suffering economy, riots, deaths, political disagreements, floods, tornadoes, and now we wait for storms to develop in the Gulf of Mexico. Storms in life are inevitable, but what separates us from the crowd is that we know the One who calms the storms. We know the One who commands the winds and the waves. Our Lord and Savior already knows what kind of storms are on the way. He already knows the conflicts and circumstances that we are going to face, but He is not panicking and neither should we. He is the calm in the storm. We only have to trust in Christ completely, and He will see us through.
KK Hodge

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WHAT ARE YOU CHASING?

Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Jeff and I are always chasing things. We both love to chase sunrises and sunsets. I’ve probably taken thousands of photos trying to capture the beauty but have failed in comparison to the real thing. We love chasing waterfalls and fall leaves. We got married under a waterfall, and we’ve been chasing waterfalls ever since. We have seen pretty much every waterfall there is to see in the Smoky Mountains. We’ve flown to the New England states, rented a car, and chased waterfalls in that area, and a few years ago, we tried to see every single waterfall in the state of Washington and a few in Oregon while on a trip to the Northwest. Those were some magnificent sites, but my favorite waterfall of all is Rio Celeste in Costa Rica. I’m sharing a photo of this one today. It is quite magnificent.

We have chased a lot of things in our day. Besides the sunsets, sunrises, waterfalls, and fall leaves, we have chased the everyday things like children, dogs, goats, sheep, and pigs. I’ve even chased a pig while in my Sunday dress and high heels. We’ve chased all kinds of critters, and we’ve chased dreams…many dreams. As we’ve grown older, and closer to Jesus, we’ve experienced a new chase. We’re trying to get better about chasing Jesus and things of Christ because we have slowly come to the realization that all the things we are chasing were all created by Him. If we don’t recognize His glory in all of it, we are missing the BIG picture.

In Ecclesiastes chapter 2, King Solomon wrote his memoirs, and in his old age, he recognized that he had chased a whole lot of emptiness in his lifetime. He considered the meaning of life in these memoirs, and basically took an inventory of his days. King Solomon lived life to the fullest. He actually overdid things. He inherited a whole kingdom from his father David, and he was wise enough to ask God for wisdom. God was so pleased with this request that He not only granted Solomon with immense wisdom, He also gave him much wealth. He was likely worth about $100 billion by today’s standards. That dude showed very little restraint. He married 700 women and had 300 concubines. (Can you even imagine trying to keep up with 1000 women? LOL)

Basically, Solomon had every single thing that his heart desired. Take some time and read the entire chapter of Ecclesiastes chapter 2. Solomon completed an inventory of his days. He said that laughter is madness, and pleasure accomplishes nothing. He told us that he tried wine, took on great projects, bought servants, amassed great fortunes, and became greater than anyone in all of Jerusalem and probably the earth. He chased it all and acquired a plenty, but King Solomon came to the end of his days realizing that even good things like wisdom, hard work, wealth, pleasure, and diligence, apart from God, will only leave us in despair. He said, “This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

King Solomon gives us a narrative in Ecclesiastes of a fallen world. He acknowledges that the temporal pleasures are just that . They are temporary. Our hope and pleasure comes from things eternal. If we look around right now, we could probably write a pretty detailed narrative of a fallen world once again. But this is not the end! Oh yes, we may be nearing the end of days on this earth, but it is not the end. We can live in hope and with great confidence because it is not finished yet. About nine hundred and some odd years after Solomon penned these words, Jesus came to earth. He came and walked as fully man and fully God, and He eventually was crucified for the sins of us all so that we may have everlasting life. He came to give our lives meaning, and through His resurrection we have been given the confidence of salvation, eternal life, and a promise of a future…a future that can not compare to anything we have seen or chased thus far.

I’m going to keep on chasing kids, critters, sunsets, fall leaves, and waterfalls because I see the beauty of our Creator in each of these things, but I can’t focus on chasing the things of this earth. I love those things because God gave me eyes to see them and a mind to enjoy them, but He gave me a heart for Jesus. We can’t go chasing waterfalls if we aren’t chasing the One who created them. Although I appreciate and love the beauty I see with my eyes, I’m going to keep running after and chasing the unseen that fills my heart…Jesus Christ! Without Him, I am nothing. I have nothing. With Him, I have EVERYTHING. So I ask, who or what are you chasing today?

KK Hodge

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SEA OF FORGETFULNESS

Micah 7:19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

Psalm 103:12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Corrie Ten Boom once said, “God has thrown our sins and guilt into a sea and permits no fishing in those waters!” I think that thought possibly originated from Micah 7:19. Isn’t it an awesome thought that we serve such a loving, gracious, merciful God? A God that truly forgives and forgets? Our God throws our sins into the depths of the sea!

When we have sin in our lives, the sin may seem pleasurable at first, but eventually, especially if you are a child of God, that sin will begin to eat away at us, and it will slowly but surely separate us from our heavenly Father and from others that we love. Last year, a patient that I had been seeing for years said that she needed to talk to me about something. She became very serious and somber, and walked up within a foot of my right ear. We were both masked due to the ongoing pandemic, but she seemed to think she needed to be really close to me to say what was on her mind. She told me that she owed me an apology. I had no idea where this was coming from or where it was going, but it was apparently extremely important to her. She told me that several years ago, she came to the office with her granddaughter, and she was unable to be seen at that time for whatever reason. She said she became very angry, screamed and shouted, and said she wouldn’t be back. Yet, she has continued to see me for years now. She said that she was ashamed of her behavior that day, and that it had been eating away at her for all these years, and she needed to tell me that she was sorry. The truth is, I barely even remember the incident. When you’ve been in health care as long as I have, you learn to forgive and forget and not hold grudges. I assured her that we were okay, and that I was not upset with her at all. All was forgiven.

I really didn’t have any hard feelings towards this lady, but the incident was weighing her down. She said it was bothering her for several years, and she felt a need to make it right. This is how sin affects the life of a Christian. When we are living outside of the will of our Father, that little voice in our head starts telling us that we are doing wrong. That voice is the Holy Spirit, and that feeling is called conviction. The Holy Spirit is within us convicting us, and showing us that we are living outside of the will of God. We may lose sleep at night. We may worry over the issue. But then, a spiritual battle begins to occur. Old Satan is going to tell us that what we are doing is really not so bad. He’ll show you that everyone else is doing the same thing, so it must be okay to continue living in this sin. Is it really a sin if the world says it is acceptable? The battle ensues, and the conviction continues. We can’t rest, and we finally realize that we have to confess this sin to the Lord, and walk away from it. Repent and turn away.

Oh, but glory! When we reach this point of true repentance, we recognize that we are living in a sin, we confess it to the Savior, and we are forgiven. It’s almost magical. We are totally and completely forgiven, and better yet, the sin is forgotten. God throws that sin in a sea of forgetfulness. That sin is now at the bottom of a deep, deep ocean, and we are not to go fishing in that ocean! We are to leave it right there at the bottom of the sea. God has forgotten the sin. We should forget it too, but that’s easier said than done. As children of God, I think we tend to be like that patient I spoke of earlier. When we’ve sinned, the sin bothers us. We dwell on it. We feel bad. We fret. We need not do this though. If we’ve truly repented and turned from that sin, all is truly forgiven and forgotten by our heavenly Father. We are free.

God forgets the sin. He doesn’t throw it back in our face down the road. He forgets it. Yet, we never forget, and I think that is a good thing too. We’ve been forgiven, but we need not forget. If we forget, we may allow the sin to sneak back into our lives. Oh yes, we remember, and we have a faithful, merciful Father who loves us so much that He will help us to stay on the right path. All we have to do is ask Him for help. I know some sins seem much bigger than others. Some battles will be much harder to win than others, but when we equip ourselves daily with the full armor of God, that old devil doesn’t stand a chance. As we learn to lean totally on Christ, we slowly learn that He is stronger than any problem that we have. He’s already defeated the devil. He can help us defeat any sin in our lives. If we truly give it to Christ, the battle has already been won!

We must not forget that Christ has set us free. Our job is to let go of the sins for which we have been forgiven and to move towards the finish line. Let go and let God take over. Do not continue to search the sea for your sins. Do not go fishing in that sea! Stay out of those troubled waters, and look ahead to the promised land. When we are forgiven by our Father, we feel a peace that we can’t even begin to understand, but when we feel that peace…the peace of forgiveness…we will want to learn to live right there and never leave. Thank you God for forgiving me!
KK Hodge
funnyfarminspirations.com

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CONNECTED TO THE VINE

John 15:1-5 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

The fall grapes are ripening here in Mississippi. We have a beautiful scuppernong arbor that my husband built many years ago. He prunes it back every year, fertilizes it when necessary, and that beautiful vine takes off every spring. In August, it brings forth beautiful, huge, sweet, golden scuppernongs. Our crop is still not quite ready for harvesting, but we are getting to taste a few samples on a daily basis. Our suppernongs are large, golden grapes. The wild muscadines are purple in color. They are a bit smaller and a bit more tart, but they make an excellent jelly. We also love to go on a search and find mission for wild fox grapes. My husband and I have so much fun collecting these tiny grapes. We have climbed on trees, pulled on vines, and finally pulled a twelve foot ladder from the house to help us gather those little jewels. When the fox grapes ripen, we ride and walk around the outer edges our our cow fields searching for the fruit. We always have a blast, and what a great reward we receive after sweating our tails while off foraging for grapes. We make jelly. Lots and lots of jelly! Our pantry is filling up quickly with all of God’s blessings.

We really have had a lot of fun gathering our wild grapes. It is quite amazing that a delicious fruit can grow out in the woods without the loving care of a gardener. Our personal vines are tended by my husband with great care, but what about all those vines that we found out in the woods? Well, those vines have the BEST Gardener! Our heavenly Father, the Creator of the universe, created all the plants that we get to see, taste, and enjoy. He cares for those wild grapes with His tender love and care. He provides rain for them in due season, sunshine, and adequate nutrition. God created these vines with a purpose.

The purpose of a vine is to send out fruit to feed the birds of the air and critters of the woods. In order to fulfill its purpose, the vine must be lifted up to send out branches that will bear fruit. The vine’s main function is to draw water and nutrients to provide the branches with everything they need to promote growth. Clusters of grapes are produced. Some are sweet, others are sour, and some are tart which are my favorite.

Under the care of the vine dresser, the vines are prepared yearly to produce crops. This is done through pruning. Pruning is the most important part of the growing process. Jeff prunes our branches down to almost nothing but the root every year. If the branches are not pruned, they become unmanageable and draw energy away from being fruitful. This will lead to the death of the vine. Trimming the shoots and removing the excess allows the branches to produce a higher quality fruit.

In John 15, Jesus tells us that He is the true vine, and God is the gardener. God will remove the branches that are not bearing fruit so that the branches that remain will be more fruitful. We have to look upon God as the ultimate gardener because well, He is. He created each of us with a purpose: to glorify Him. He sent His Son Jesus, so that we may have a direct connection with Him. We see God is the gardener, Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. God will prune things away in our lives that are preventing us from bearing fruit. He will also prune people out of our lives that may be keeping us from the relationship that He desires with us. This pruning process is sometimes painful, but as the Gardener (God) prunes us, we become closer to Him. If we remain connected to the Vine (Jesus), the branches (us) will continue to grow stronger in our daily walk, and we will produce much fruit.

If a branch becomes separated from the vine, it will wither away and die. That branch is of no use any more. It has lost its source of nourishment and life. If we as Christians, do not remain connected to Christ, we will wither away. We can not produce fruit if we do not remain connected to Christ. If we remain connected to Christ, seeking Him daily, and abiding in His ways, we will produce the fruits of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22.

Today we must ask ourselves, are we producing fruit? Are we showing the love of Christ to those we come in contact with daily? Do others see the joy of Jesus in us? Are we peacemakers or troublemakers? Do we show patience and restraint? Are we kind? Are we good? Are we gentle? Do we show self control? If you answered no to more of these than yes, maybe you should check your connection to the true Vine. I am not perfect, not by a long shot, and I know that I am truly lacking in the area of fruit production many days, but the good news is that the great Gardener is still watching over me, and I am still connected to the Vine. The Gardener will keep on pruning away the things that are keeping me from producing good fruit, and I will continue to let the nourishing Vine grow me into a branch that produces the sweet, savory (though sometimes tart) fruit that He intends for me to produce.

If you don’t feel that warm embrace of the Father, if you don’t see the fruits of the Spirit in your life, or if you feel like something is missing, please check your connection. The line to Christ is always open. He wants to hear from you today. Call out to Christ, and get connected to the Vine today! There is no time like the present to recline in the presence of our Savior!

KK Hodge
Funnyfarminspirations.com

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STUBBORN AS A BULL

Today’s devotional is an excerpt from my last book, “Inspirations from the Funny Farm.” Good Sunday morning from the funny farm. I pray you have a blessed day in the Lord!

Our farm needed some small cows that we could pet. Yes, I know that we have a lot of cows. Those are mostly Black Angus, and they really aren’t pets. I wanted some cows for pets. The little researcher in me jumped on the world wide web in search of the perfect small breed cow. I looked at Dexters and Zebu. We even went out to a farm to look at some Zebu cattle. They are pretty tiny, but not very cute. Then suddenly, I found the beautiful long-haired Scottish Highland cattle. I read online that there were miniature Scottish Highlands also, and I was on a search and rescue mission to bring a pair of Scottish Highland home to Hodge Critter Lodge. I found out that there were only two farms in Mississippi that raised these beautiful cattle, and I promptly emailed them both. I got one response. It was from a judge in Tupelo, MS. He said he wasn’t really wanting to sell any of this herd, but after talking to me, he decided he could part with a young pair. I can be pretty persuading when I get my mind set on something. He said he would sell me a 10 month old heifer and a 13 month old bull. He also informed me that to his knowledge there was no such thing as a miniature Scottish Highland. He said that their legs are shorter than average cattle and perhaps that was where the misunderstanding came from. I didn’t really care at that point. I just wanted what he had.

One fine morning, we loaded up the cattle trailer and drove four and a half hours to Tupelo, MS to pick up our new heifer and bull. The judge had a beautiful herd, and we were tickled with the ones that he was selling us. I named them Merida and McLeod, two good Scottish names. Neither of them was halter broke, but we were determined. Merida halter broke rather easily. McLeod, well he was a whole other story. He was 100 percent bull, and bull headed to prove it. We got a halter on him, but that was about as far as that went. We never were able to train that bull to follow. Merida, however, was terrific. I had her following me around within a week. I even sent a video to that old judge, and he was shocked. He said he couldn’t believe we had her broke that quickly. Merida was a big old baby. There were times when I thought she would curl up in my lap if she could fit. She is the sweetest cow I have ever owned.

From that moment on, Merida was mine. I loved her. She loved me. She grew into a beautiful, dark rust colored cow while McLeod had more of a light rust colored coat. They grew a nice set of horns. Highlands have rather long hair, and they are distinctly different in appearance from our black angus cattle. They stuck out like a sore thumb. We housed Merida and McLeod in our barn and the field area behind the barn initially so that they could get to know us, and so that we could tame them down. Because of their rather long hair, they got really hot during the summer in that barn and lot area. It gets close to 100 degrees here in south Mississippi during the dead of summer. Jeff installed 3 fans in the barn. They understood that if the stood under them when they were too hot, the heat was a little more bearable. We also sprayed water on them from the water hose to cool them off on especially hot summer days. They loved getting sprayed with water. They loved it so much that they actually learned to turn on the water faucet at the back of the barn. I cannot tell you how many times I walked out to the barn to find the water spewing full blast and Highlands dancing around in a summer water faucet shower! Whenever I walked upon Highlands under a spray of water, I pictured a supermodel ad with the model laughingly being sprayed with water. They looked just as happy! We won’t even talk about the water bills.

After a while, we moved them out into the area we had fenced around our pines. They loved it there as there was a lot more shady areas. There is a nice little creek on our property, and this allowed them to cool off when needed, and it saved on our water bill! After another year of growth, Merida was finally bred. We had moved both Merida and McLeod across the driveway into a little rye grass field to let them finish off the rye grass. Merida delivered her first calf on a wintery, rainy night. Cows are generally a little bit skittish in nature, and they really don’t want their humans around when they are calving, but not my Merida. Jeff and I were out in the field with her and stayed with her the whole time. We kept McLeod at a comfortable distance because he was after all still a bull. I’ve never had such a love for a cow in my life. We definitely have a special bond, and she knew that we were there to help.

A few months later, the rye grass was gone, and it was time to move them back across the driveway into the pines again. Jeff was at work offshore. There was no rye grass left. They needed to be moved so that they could get to an area where they would have plenty to eat. I took the kids to school, and after I arrived back home, I decided that I would move them across the driveway. I mean, it was less than twenty feet. How hard could it possibly be to move a cow and a bull twenty feet? I walked up the drive and took the fence down across the drive from the Highlands. I grabbed a bucket of feed, and Merida walked right across the drive without hesitation. McLeod did not. I tried to tease him with a bucket of feed. He would walk into the drive and up to the fence line, but he would not cross the fence. I tried shooing him into the fenced area. He would not budge. I picked up a long stick to try to coerce him to go. This did not work. He darted up the driveway. I quickly pictured my huge bull running free down the road and visiting the neighbors. I finally got him back down the drive, but he still would not go into the area I needed him to go to. I kept telling him that his wife was over there, and that he should be with his wife, but that stubborn bull-headed bull didn’t seem to care. I was frustrated, and I was just about ready to jerk a knot in his tail.

I chased him back and forth, and then he chased me back and forth. After about 30 minutes of running with the bull, he charged at me. I suddenly realized that an 1800 pound bull was probably going to trample my 135 pound self. I also realized that I didn’t have my cell phone with me. I was about a quarter mile from the house. The kids were at school. The husband was overseas. I contemplated for a few seconds how long I might have to lay there in the pines dead or dying before anyone thought to look for me there. I scolded myself for my stupidity, but then I realized that I am as bull headed and stubborn as this bull. I stood my ground. I told him he wasn’t taking me out until the good Lord called me home. It took me close to two hours to get that bull to move a simple twenty feet, but I won. I got the fence back up, and walked back to the house praising God for keeping me safe. I was hot, sweaty, exasperated, and worn out, but I proved to that bull that I’m as stubborn as a bull. I’m stubborn, and God has my back.

Merida had her second calf while they were living in the fenced area in the pines. I was again worried how McLeod would respond, and I was scared that he might accidentally trample or injure the calf. The kids called me at work to let me know that she had calved. I didn’t get off work until 7:00 pm, and I knew it would be dark when I got home. I asked the kids to try to get the calf and Merida up to the barn. Well, they didn’t have any luck doing that. I got home around 7:30, and sure enough, Merida had delivered a beautiful little heifer that we named Annabel. We couldn’t get Merida and the calf to walk back to the barn after several attempts. I finally picked Annabel up, and carried her to the four wheeler. I loaded her on the four wheeler, and my son drove. I led Merida with a bucket of feed along the fence line all the way to the barnyard. That old girl will follow me anywhere, especially if I have a bucket of feed. We arrived at the barn, and I carried Annabel into the barn and put her in a nice stall with Merida with plenty of fresh hay.

McLeod hung out down by the barnyard on the other side of the fence keeping a watchful eye on his wife and new baby. Two days after Annabel arrived, I got home from work to find McLeod in the barnyard. He was no longer on the other side of the fence. He was inside the fence. No one had put McLeod inside the barnyard. I walked the fence line and found that McLeod had busted through the fence. He literally walked right through the fence. My husband put this fence up, and it wasn’t a shoddy job. It was a really good strong fence. I suppose McLeod decided he had enough time out, and he was ready to join his family whether we were ready or not. I don’t think that there was a fence in the world strong enough to keep those love birds apart. Thankfully, none of the other critters decided to leave through the open fence before I got home and before the fence got mended. We never separated McLeod from Merida after that.

Our critters and our children know that I am as bull-headed and stubborn as old McLeod. To work as a nurse practitioner and to help maintain our farm, I have to be tough. I work hard at everything I do, and I do not settle for second best or half-hearted attempts to do a job. Any job worth doing is worth doing right. I am so thankful that I have a husband who never gives up on me, and I am eternally grateful that I have a savior who never gives up on me. I will continue to work as hard as I can by my husband’s side, and I will continue to seek guidance from the Holy Spirit as I share the good news to all that will hear. And I will do so with the same tenacity it takes to defeat an 1800 pound bull! I will listen to the Holy Spirit and I pray that I never squander away the gift that Christ has given me.

We must all stand firm and be stubborn, and not give up. We must endure every challenge that is put before us knowing that God goes before us and will carry us through. I’ve been faced with many a challenge during my walk in this life, but I have to say that not one of those challenges has killed me yet! I know that I can trust in the Lord through any difficult situation, and that the Lord will see me through. Things may not always work out the way the I want them to work out, and there may not always be a happy ending. But with God’s grace and mercy, I will continue to fight the good fight until the day He calls me home. I’m going to finish this race called life. I just pray that I will finish it the way that God has planned for me.

“And you continue, so bullheaded! Calluses on your hearts, flaps on your ears! Deliberately ignoring the Holy Spirit, you’re just like your ancestors. Was there ever a prophet who didn’t get the same treatment? …You had God’s law handed to you by angels—gift wrapped—and you squandered it!” Acts 7:51-8:13

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

“May the God who gives and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:5-7
KK Hodge

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JUST FISHING

Luke 5:4-10 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”

I love to fish. Beginning in the early spring, we take the boat out to Old River WMA and fish for catfish among the cypress trees and cypress knees. During the summer, we’ve taken many family vacations to various lakes throughout the south. While there, we boat, swim, tube, and we have so much fun, but we never leave without trying the fishing. We’ve even been known to hit a few of the ponds around here from time to time. I’m not an expert fisherman like Paw Paw J. B. or my husband, Jeff. I just go along for the joy of it. It is quite simply amazing to sit out in a boat in the middle of some of God’s finest creations, enjoying nature at it’s best. I enjoy the bird watching, the beauty of the flora and fauna all around me, and I love just being outside in God’s country. We’ve had some great conversations while out fishing. It is quite relaxing, but oh, man, when those fish start biting, that’s when the real fun begins! When I feel that first tug on the line, my heart skips a beat, and I sit up ready to reel in my big catch. Sometimes, I’ve sat out there all day, and I haven’t gotten a single bite, but I keep going back because I know that maybe they’ll bite the next time.

Simon Peter, James, and John were real fishermen. They were serious about the fishing. This is how they made their living. In Luke 5, we see a story about an unsuccessful night of fishing. These old boys had fished all night long, and they hadn’t caught a thing. Imagine how low their heads must have been hanging as they were ready to call it quits and come to shore. Oh, but Jesus! He showed up and told them to go out to the deep water and drop their nets. The men were already familiar with Jesus, and they knew enough about Him, to follow His instructions. They went out to the deep water after coming up empty handed all night and gave it one more shot. They dropped their nets as Jesus had instructed, and when they pulled the nets up there were so many fish that the nets were breaking. They had to call over some friends in another boat to help them, and the catch filled both boats with fish! Whoa! That’s what I call a good day of fishing.

But then, Simon Peter fell to his knees, and he told Jesus to go away from him. He recognized that only God Himself could have performed such a thing, and when Peter looked at Jesus, he saw the perfect Lord and Master. When Peter looked at his perfect Lord, all he could see was his own sins. He didn’t feel worthy to even be in the presence of Jesus. Jesus didn’t turn away, but instead told Peter to not be afraid, “from now on you will fish for people.” I don’t know if Peter really understood what Jesus meant with that statement, but he trusted Him enough to follow, and he did indeed become a great fisher of men.

I love this story because as I said earlier, I love to fish so it is truly relatable, but I also love it because it is a great reminder to us here, more than 2000 years later, that we too can and should be fishers of men. God didn’t send His Son to earth to walk along side His people and then become the ultimate sacrificial lamb just so that I could experience eternal life with the heavenly Father. He did this amazing thing so that ALL people could come to Him. But how are all people going to come to know the Father if someone that truly knows Him doesn’t share the Good News? Isaiah 6:8 is one of my favorite verses: Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Jesus didn’t just call on Peter, James, and John and all of the other chosen disciples to be fishers of men. He calls upon each and every christian to be fishers of men. We can’t keep the gospel all to ourselves! We have to get out there and share it with this lost and dying world before it’s too late!

I’m not the best fisherman, but over the years I’ve gotten a little better. I’ve learned some skills from my husband. I paid attention. I have learned what works and what doesn’t. When we fish for fish, we always have a great time even if we come home empty handed. It’s okay if we don’t bring supper home because God has already blessed us with freezers and pantries full of food. So even though I take my fishing for fish seriously, it’s just for fun. But fishing for men…well that’s a whole other story! I’ll admit that I’m not the best witness for Christ. I’m still a work in progress, but I pay attention to His word. I’ve learned some things, and I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work when sharing the gospel. And one thing I’ve learned is that I must share the gospel! If I’m not doing my part to share the gospel, it’s not okay. It isn’t just for fun. It has eternal consequences. I don’t want anyone to spend eternity in hell, so I’m going to keep on fishing…fishing for men. Sometimes, I’ve shared the Good News all day, and I haven’t gotten a single bite, but I keep going back because I know that maybe they’ll bite the next time….and when they bite…my heart skips a beat and I can’t wait to reel them in!
KK Hodge

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FRIENDS

Job 2:1-13 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhit and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

“It occurred to Pooh and Piglet that they hadn’t heard from Eeyore for several days, so they put on their hats and coats and trotted across the Hundred Acre Wood to Eeyore’s stick house. Inside the house was Eeyore.

“Hello Eeyore,” said Pooh.

“Hello Pooh. Hello Piglet “said Eeyore, in a Glum Sounding Voice.

“We just thought we’d check in on you,” said Piglet, “because we hadn’t heard from you, and so we wanted to know if you were okay.”

Eeyore was silent for a moment. “Am I okay?” he asked, eventually. “Well, I don’t know, to be honest. Are any of us really okay? That’s what I ask myself. All I can tell you, Pooh and Piglet, is that right now I feel really rather Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All.

Which is why I haven’t bothered you. Because you wouldn’t want to waste your time hanging out with someone who is Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All, would you now.”

Pooh looked and Piglet looked at Pooh, and they both sat down, one on either side of Eeyore in his stick house.

Eeyore looked at them in surprise. “What are you doing?”

“We’re sitting here with you,” said Pooh, “because we are your friends. And true friends don’t care if someone is feeling Sad, or Alone, or Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. True friends are there for you anyway. And so here we are.”

“Oh,” said Eeyore. “Oh.” And the three of them sat there in silence, and while Pooh and Piglet said nothing at all; somehow, almost imperceptibly, Eeyore started to feel a very tiny little bit better.

Because Pooh and Piglet were There.No more; no less.”

At first sight, it looks like this is cited from a 1928 book “The House at Pooh Corner” written by A.A. Milne, but after some further research, I found that it was actually written by an energetic blogger Kathryn Wallace. She writes parodies of encouragement, and these are definitely great words of encouragement.

In the second chapter of Job, we see that Job is in great distress. He didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes. Satan thought that Job would turn away from God and stop worshipping Him if He withheld blessings. When taking away all of Job’s material possessions didn’t work, Satan afflicted Job’s body with boils. His wife even told him to curse God at this point, but he did not.

Job sat down in the ashes with boils covering his whole body likely feeling very alone. But look what happened next. Three friends heard of Job’s trouble, and they set out to meet Job. When they saw him from the distance, they cried, tore their clothes in anguish, sprinkled dust on their heads, and sat with Job for 7 days and 7 nights. They didn’t speak. They just sat with him because they saw how great his suffering was. They were being true friends. They showed up and shut up! Now, later on these three guys were a great source of agitation for Job, but for those seven days, they rocked it! They were true friends. They saw a friend that was suffering, and they showed up and sat with him and made their friendship and presence known.

I pray that you have friends like this. We all need great Christian friends making up our circle. We need friends that recognize when we are going through a trial and know when to show up and shut up. We don’t always need advice. We don’t always require an answer. Most of the time, we just need the presence of a friend. I am so thankful for the beautiful, God fearing, faith filled loving friends that make up my crazy circle in life. Each friend brings a different gift or talent to the table. Each friend is a blessing for which I am eternally grateful!

I reflect back on all of the friends I’ve been blessed to know in my lifetime, and I know that my cup is truly running over. God has blessed me with some awesome people. But of all those friends, whom I dearly love, I know that there is one friend that is the truest of all. His name is Jesus. I know that it’s because of Him that I have all my special friends. He has surrounded me with good friends and loved ones that continue to draw me closer to Him. I only pray that I can be the friend that my friends deserve! And because of Jesus, I am confident that I will never ever be alone!
KK Hodge

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DO YOU KNOW?

Ephesians 4:20-24 That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

My daddy told me a story that an old black minister friend once shared. He said that he asked a boy, “Are you saved?” The boy answered, “I think so.” The minister then told the boy that the way that you can know for sure is “if you is what you was, then you ain’t.” Hey, I know that is poor grammar, and I’m not even going to try to correct it because it speaks the truth in the simplest form.

Salvation changes us from the inside out, and we become new beings. We can’t change first, and then get the gift of salvation. It is because of salvation that we change.

Paul explains this in Ephesians chapter 4. When we become Christians, we put off the old self that is corrupted and renew the attitude of our minds. We put on a new self, a self that was created to be like God. We don’t completely change the moment that we accept Christ into our hearts, but we sure start wanting to change. We recognize that our old selves are not like God, and we start gradually changing. The change starts when we learn about Christ, but learning about Christ isn’t the same thing as knowing Him. Far too often, we fill our minds with book knowledge that doesn’t transform into heart knowledge. The more we learn about Christ, the more we want to know, but if we never truly give our hearts to Christ, we will never know and experience the life with Him that He intended for each of us. We must ask Christ to be the Lord of our hearts.

When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, and ask Him to be the Lord of our hearts, we put off the old self. “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” Romans 6:6. The person that we once were is no more. The old self was crucified with Christ so that sin no longer rules our bodies and our minds. We are no longer slaves to sin because we are free in Christ. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Sin will still try to creep into the life of a Christian, but knowing and trusting and following Christ will help us to recognize sin as sin, and we can and will overcome and defeat the sin with Christ. Conquering those demons will be hard at first, but as we fall more in love with our Savior, learn more about who He is, learn to fully trust in Him, and start putting on the full armor of God every day, we gradually realize that we can win those battles one battle at a time. We have the strength of the Creator of the universe residing within us. John 16:33 tells us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Christ has already overcome the world.

Once we put off the old self, we put on the new self. We are a new creation in Christ, and we must continually renew our attitude as a Christian on a daily basis. How do we do this? We must study the Word of God, talk to Him, keep Christ in our thoughts and actions throughout the entire day. If our minds are on Christ, then our actions will be right. We can’t grow as Christians if we accept Christ as our Savior and go to church on Sunday mornings and do nothing else. That’s not how God designed us, and that’s not the kind of relationship He wants with us. We must keep our eyes on the goal…eternity with Christ. We must live each day with heaven in mind.

I ask that you ask yourself this question today, “Am I saved?” And if you’re not absolutely sure that your answer is yes, just remember what that old preacher said, “if you is what you was, then you ain’t.” Are you a new person in Christ? Have you turned away from those sins of the past? Do you know without a shadow of a doubt where you will spend eternity? If not, don’t wait one more minute! We aren’t promised tomorrow. I don’t profess to be the perfect Christian. I’m just an old Mississippi gal saved by the grace of our loving Savior. I’m just thankful that I ain’t who I was!

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RESCUED

Psalm 28:7 The Lord strengthens and protects me; I trust in him with all my heart. I am rescued and my heart is full of joy; I will sing to him in gratitude.

Psalm 107:6 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble;He rescued them from their distress.

2 Corinthians 1:10 He has rescued us from a terrible death, and he will continue to rescue us. Yes, he is the one on whom we have set our hope, and he will rescue us again.

Part of the fun of Hodge Critter Lodge is the continual animal rescues that occur. We get calls on a regular basis asking if we can take in another critter. Occasionally, we refer the animal in need of rescue to some of the other area wildlife rescue sites, but most of the time, we don’t, or rather can’t, say no. We have rescued so many different species over the past few years. We have rescued deer fawns, fox kits, baby opossums, raccoons, squirrels, flying squirrels, and even skunks. We’ve had fawns running around the house in diapers, and baby flying squirrels jumping from person to person at our kitchen table. We truly love all of God’s creatures. It can be a headache at times, and occasionally lead to heartache, but trying to nourish and provide the needs for a tiny little creature is a true joy.

Day one of the rescue is generally the hardest. The animal is from the wild, and of course, it doesn’t recognize me as the new mama, and that dropper full of formula I am trying to persuade it to drink is nothing like milk from the real mama. It will give them the nourishment and nutrition they need, but they don’t know that. They just see a crazy, kinky headed lady cooing and talking some foreign language trying to force a hard plastic dropper in their little tiny mouths. Nutrition and hydration are truly the most important part of rehabbing, but the babies must be kept warm. We always put them in a small carrier with an electric blanket and a soft towel. We try to make the baby rescue feel right at home. It usually takes a couple of days, but before long, they are taking formula from a bottle, and rather than us trying to force feed them, they begin demanding the bottle. We slowly gain their trust, and they realize that we are there to rescue them and to keep them safe from harm.

There are many biblical accounts of rescues. Not the furry critter kind of rescue, but the good Lord kind of rescue. Don’t you just love the story of Jonah? He always comes to mind when I think of being rescued. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach against the city because they were wicked. Jonah detested the people of Nineveh and going there was the last thing he wanted to do. So he ran. He got on a boat headed for Tarshish which was the opposite direction of Nineveh. Jonah makes me laugh. Did he really think that he could run away and hide from God, the Creator of the universe? Whether he thought he could hide away or not, God showed up and showed him that he couldn’t run and hide. He sent a strong wind and waves, and Jonah finally admitted to the sailors that he was running away from God, and he told them to throw him into the sea to calm the waves. They threw him into the sea, and God sent a big fish to swallow him up. Jonah remained in the belly of the whale for three days. What do you suppose Jonah did next? He recognized the power and authority of God, and he prayed. The fish spat Jonah out, and God told Jonah once again to go to Nineveh. This time, Jonah went. I suppose there’s nothing like living in the belly of a great fish for three days to convince you that God means business.

Jonah traveled to Nineveh, and he preached to the people as God had commanded. To his surprise, the people believed God and repented. God saw that they had turned from their evil ways, and he relented. He didn’t bring the destruction on them which He has promised because they repented. This is where it gets even a bit more funny. Jonah did what he was supposed to do this time. He preached the word of God. the people repented and turned to God and away from their evil ways. Jonah should be happy right? Wrong. He acted like a pouting child that didn’t get his way. He despised the people of Nineveh. He wanted God to destroy them. God had said He would destroy them, but when God saw that they had turned from their evil ways, He relented. This angered Jonah, and God had to remind him that he should have concern for the more 120,000 people of Nineveh. Shouldn’t Jonah have wanted the people to be rescued by God?

God has rescued me too many times to count, and He sent His Son, Jesus, so that we can all be rescued. We have the assurance of everlasting life with the King of Kings. Our eternity is secured if we have accepted Christ as our Savior. Christ rescues us. Without Him, we are weak. We need spiritual nourishment to grow in Christ. We need Christ to keep us safe from harm. He doesn’t force feed us, but He gently guides our path. Before long, we are craving more knowledge of the Savior, and we are spending more time with Him. We may not recognize that we needed saving until we come to know the Savior. We gradually begin to trust Him, and we recline in the comfort and security of His saving grace.

What about those who don’t have that security? What about those who haven’t yet been rescued? What about those people we detest…murderers, child molesters, rapists, thieves, or those closer to home…that grumpy old man down the street, a co-worker that has different opinions, people who have angered us or caused us pain? What about those people?The same God that rescued me wants to rescue them too. The awesome thing about the love of Christ is that there is nothing we can do to make Him love us more, and there is nothing we can do to make Him love us less. He wants to rescue each and every one of us!

If we have the security and promise of eternal life with Christ, He shouldn’t have to make us go tell others like God had to tell old Jonah. We should be telling everyone we come in contact with about the saving grace of Christ. Spread the Good News! And if you haven’t yet been rescued, what are you waiting for? Just call on His name. He’s waiting.
KK Hodge

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JUST SMILE

Proverbs 15:30 “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health.”

Proverbs 15:13-15 “A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit.

Psalm 126:2-3 “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.”

I love that silly movie “Elf”, and my all time favorite line from the movie is, “I just like to smile…smiling’s my favorite!” Have you ever thought about the power of a smile? A smile is a powerful weapon, and smiling is quite contagious. I’m not talking about fake smiles that are forced. I’m talking about those smiles that are derived from the great joy that starts in the heart and ends up spreading all over the face. I’m talking about the kind of smiling that makes your cheeks hurt with delight. When is the last time you wore a genuine smile on your face?

I can remember stopping by our small town grocery store a few years ago. I was walking behind this older fellow. He stopped abruptly, turned, and almost ran me over. Instead of responding grumpily, I smiled at him and said, “Hello, Sir! How are you today?” He snorted and said, “I’m old and I’m GROUCHY!” Instead of responding in kind, I looked at him, put a big old grin on my face, and as sweetly as possible said, “Well, maybe you could try smiling! It wouldn’t hurt anything. Might even make you feel better.” Before I rounded the corner of the next aisle, he was next to me with his buggy telling me a joke. I think he even cracked a smile. Smiling is definitely contagious!

When I look back on that simple little memory, I think about it with joy. What if I hadn’t been faithful in my Christian walk that day? What if I had responded just as grumpily as that old fellow? What would it have accomplished? Not a thing! But because I am filled with the Spirit of the true living God, even on my worst days, my heart is full of joy. I could keep that joy all to myself, but that wouldn’t do any good. Just that one kind word with a smile on my face changed the whole demeanor of what could have been a very mean old man. I don’t know why he was feeling so old and grouchy that particular day, but I do know that simple kindness changed his whole attitude and outlook.

Y’all, that’s the way God works! He fills our hearts with joy, and we can’t help but let that joy leak out and spread all over the place. I think God designed us with the ability to smile so that others could see Him in us. Smiling isn’t just the upturning of our lips. Smiling is what our face does when our heart is glad. In the world, we haven’t had a lot to smile about lately. But if we have a glad heart, we can’t help but have a cheerful face.
We can seek fame and fortune, always chasing the next big thing, trying to get more stuff and better things, but all that stuff won’t give us glad hearts. The pleasure of that stuff will last a little while, but in the end, it will just leave our hearts and our pocketbooks empty.

I know the answer for a glad heart and a cheerful face. His name is Jesus. If you invite Him into your heart, EVERYTHING changes! You start to see everything through the light of Christ. Those bad days don’t seem so bad anymore, and those good days are oh so much better. Through Christ, our hearts are slowly transformed and pump with gladness and joy. Your heart controls your face. If your heart is grumpy or sad or gloomy, your face will appear grumpy or gloomy, but if your heart is happy, you can’t help but have a cheerful face. The face is the mirror to your heart, and your heart should be a reflection of the love of Christ.

Is your heart full of joy? Maybe you should tell your face about it! Put a smile on your face today! Turn that frown upside down! Feel the joy of Jesus, and let other see Who fills your heart with joy! If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times, “I’m drinking from my saucer because my cup is overflowing,” and “I just like to smile…smiling’s my favorite!” I’m going to keep on smiling. How about you?

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STAMINA

I Corinthians 9:24-25 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

I’ve shared this story before, but I can’t help but share it again because it brings me great joy. When nearing the end of our mission trip to Peru, we traveled by boat down the Amazon River to Casa Mi Padre, a boys home. We camped outdoors on mats under mosquito tents. It was a pretty amazing experience, but being in the great outdoors on the Amazon River was just a little piece of cake. The sweet, delicious icing on the cake came the next morning.


We were up early setting up for the day, when a little 80 year old lady, who was about as big as a minute, came paddling upstream to our site. Seriously, y’all, she was 4 foot nothing and 80 years old. She had paddled upstream for an hour to get to our camp because she knew that we had something she needed. (And it felt like it was 110 degrees with 100% humidity. It was hot!) She walked up the hill with her paddle in hand. We weren’t quite set up for patient care, but she peaked our interest, and we paused our preparations to take time to get to know her. She told us that she had 12 children, 8 of which were still living. One daughter brought her food each week but had failed to come the previous week. She was hungry. We had some scrambled eggs and bread and cold water left over from breakfast, and she scarfed it down. We went through our back packs and loaded her up with as many snacks as we could find so that she could take something back home with her.


I then examined her in my makeshift clinic under an outdoor gazebo. I gave her necessary medications, and she proceeded on to our dental clinic and eye clinic with paddle in hand. She was guarding that paddle the entire time.
A few hours had passed, and I noticed a man carrying her paddle away. I didn’t speak the native language, and couldn’t make the man understand that I was trying to tell him that the paddle belonged to the lady. I recruited a translator, and had the translator explain to the man that the paddle belonged to the little lady we had met earlier. The joke was on us, however. It turned out that the little old lady had high jacked a boat, paddled upstream an hour because she heard that our team would be there. She “borrowed” someone elses boat! We had something she wanted, and she did what she had to do to get it. We all had a good laugh, and arranged for a family member that was present to take her back home, but not before she had a full belly, medications, new glasses, and new teeth. She praised God for each of us, and wished many blessings over our team.


Now, I am not condoning nor recommending “borrowing” a boat or taking something that doesn’t belong to you to get what you need. But I am recommending that we all strive for that kind of stamina when we are seeking Christ and doing His work. We should paddle upstream if necessary to reach others for Christ. We need to travel to remote places, go to the hard places, meet people that are outside our daily circle, talk to people that we may not even like, and do whatever it takes to share the Good News. God will open the doors. God will make a way. You only have to be a willing vessel and have the stamina to do it. If a 4 foot tall 80 year old woman can paddle upstream up the Amazon River, can’t we go down the street, in the comfort of our air conditioned vehicle, and tell others about Christ? Yes, we can! God will give us all the stamina we need!!
KK Hodge

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SATISFIED

Deuteronomy 26:11 Thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the Lord thy God hath given unto thee.

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Philippians 4:11-12 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

Are you satisfied? Whoa, that’s a tough question isn’t it? Put some real thought into it before you answer. The world will tell us that we can’t ever reach the point of satisfaction. We want more. We want better, newer stuff. We want, want, want. But if we really put some thought into it, most of us will realize that we really don’t need anything. Most of us have the good fortune of having a roof over our heads, a vehicle to get us where we’re going, food in the pantry and refrigerator, and much more than we need. We have what we need, but the world tells us we need more. We are in a constant pursuit for satisfaction, but we already have the key to satisfaction, but we just don’t see it.


The secret to satisfaction is found in Christ. Paul the apostle endured some really hard times including imprisonment, yet he knew the secret to satisfaction. He told us that he learned to be content in every situation. He knew how to be brought low, and he knew how to abound. He knew that no matter what situation was ongoing, he had satisfaction in Christ.


How then do we reach satisfaction in Christ? That’s the easy part. All we have to do is give our hearts to Christ. If we give our hearts to Christ, and we allow Him to fill our hearts, we will feel a satisfaction like nothing else. And the closer we grow in our relationship with Christ, the more satisfied we become. When we study God’s word, spend time in prayer having heart to heart talks with the one who loves us most, we gradually recognize that we are totally and completely satisfied in Christ. We have everything we need, and Christ is really all we want! We can be satisfied in Christ!

KK HODGE

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LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Philippians 2:14-16 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.

John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Peeps, I look around at this old world we live in, and I see darkness all encompassing our country. There is so much evil. It’s not just in the huge cities anymore. The darkness is closing in an encroaching even upon our small towns. What is darkness? It is simply the absence of light, and boy oh boy does this country need some Light!
Jesus tells us in John 8:12 that He is the light of the world and whoever follows Him will not walk in darkness. So how do we get rid of darkness? We only need to shine the Light!
As followers of Christ, we have the ability to reflect the light of Christ as brightly as a full moon reflects the light of the sun. We can light up a dark room by reflecting the Light. We can change a dark world by shining the light of Christ.


But lights won’t shine if they aren’t connected to a power source. If you buy a brand new package of light bulbs, you can place them all around your house, one on a table in each room, but when night comes and darkness ensues, those bulbs will not emit any light. They can’t emit light in and of themselves. They have to be plugged into an electric source and then powered on with a light switch. As humans, we are a bit like those bulbs. We can be scattered all around, sitting in rooms all over the country, but if we aren’t plugged into Christ, we are not able to emit any light.


We have to actively participate in growing a relationship with the Father, study His word, learn what is true and right and just, and live it out. Live life for Christ. When we do this the light of Christ begins to shine so brightly within us that others will see that light and are drawn to it.


Have you ever left the porch light on late one summer night? What happened? I don’t know about your house, but here in our neck of the woods, the insects swarm the lights. They are attracted to the light. Hundreds of tiny insects try to get next to the light. What if we acted like a porch light on a warm summer’s night? What if we shined the light of Christ so brightly that others couldn’t help but be drawn to the light? Oh my, what opportunities would be opened for sharing the light of Christ. Just imagine how much light we could shine in this dark world. The more light that we shine, the less dark this place becomes.


Darkness truly is just the absence of light. We have the Light within us that this old dark world needs. Get out there and shine some light today! Be the light in the darkness. Shine the light of Christ!
KK Hodge

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ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER

Colossians 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

I Thessalonians 4:16-17 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven,with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

Have you ever been separated for a long period of time from someone you love due to work or other obligations? If so, do you remember that moment when you were finally reunited? Oh the joy of those reunions!


When Jeff and I first married, he was working overseas with an oil company, 28 days on, 28 days off. With travel, he would be gone for 32 LONG days, and home for 26. The 32 days that he was gone seemed to take years to go by. I missed him so much. But when he flew home, I would meet him at the airport with open arms and grinning so hard my face would hurt the next day!


I remember all those return home trips with great fondness. People told me that when he was home all the time, we would get sick of each other. Those people were wrong. We are celebrating our anniversary today and we are still honeymooning.


For just a moment, think about the return of our Lord and Savior. Jesus ascended to heaven to prepare a place for us. He left with us the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, while he is getting our forever home ready. He is going to return and gather us up and bring us home with Him to spend eternity in glory. Now, y’all know I love my husband, and I remember how excited I was to see him after our long absences. I can’t even imagine how excited I’m going to be on the day that Jesus returns. Can you just see it? Jesus descending from the clouds. An archangel shouting. Trumpets sounding. The glory of Jesus Christ in our actual, visual presence!! It makes me think of that song, “I Can Only Imagine.” Will I dance? Will I be still in His presence in awe? Will I stand? Will I fall to my knees? Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all? I’m here to tell you, I can not even imagine how I will respond. The Bride will be united with the bridegroom, and we get to honeymoon in heaven for eternity!


Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we are separated from Christ now. If we’ve accepted Him as our Savior, He is with us. But I’m overwhelmed with the excitement of being with Christ physically, in His presence, in heaven! I long for that day, and oh what a day that will be!
KK Hodge

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NO BAD DAYS

Ephesians 3:14-16 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.

Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Isaiah 25:9 Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.

When I turned my phone on this morning, I received a group text email from some of my sisters in Christ. I want to tell you something. If you don’t have a few good Christian friends, you better get you some! These ladies are my joy! We share our faith, our hearts, our joys, and our heartaches, and we offer encouragement, love, and godly wisdom. I truly love these ladies.


The message was about the tough things of the previous week. We are all experiencing tougher times than usual: sickness, death, unemployment, trying new job responsibilities, family issues, and the list goes on and on. It seems that our troubles are never ending. It seems that we will be overwhelmed and succumb to the troubles at hand, but then there’s God. But God! Just when we think we’re going to sink, He teaches us to swim. When we think we can’t handle one more difficult event, He wraps His loving arms around us and carries us through.


Psalm 118:24 reads, “This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Oh my, with all the terrible stuff we’re going through, we are supposed to rejoice? How in the world can we rejoice? We’re not just having a bad day, we’re having a bad week, a bad month, a bad year! Oh, but God! He created this day. He gave us one more day to walk His beautiful earth. One more day to share the good news. One more day to rejoice and praise Him.


I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I wake up oozing with joy every morning. I wake up looking something akin to Medusa with my crazy curly hair sticking out in every direction. There’s no joy in my mirror first thing in the morning. Lol. I have to have a cup of coffee and get a little spiritual nourishment first. But once I open the Word of God, He reminds me through His Word that my joy and strength come from Him. Then, I can’t help but be joyful. When I pass through the waters, He will be with me; and when I pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over me. When I walk through the fire, I will not be burned; the flames will not set me ablaze. And John 10:28 assures us that nothing can snatch us out of the hands of our Father.


When your feeling the flood waters overcoming you, or you feel that you are in the fire, don’t give up. Don’t fret. Cry out to the Father. He’s always just one breath away. He’s waiting and watching. He never leaves our side.
So in reality, we can’t have a bad day. Bad things happen, and they’ll keep happening. But there is good in every day because God is there. He made today just for me and just for you, let us rejoice and be glad in it! It’s going to be a good day!
KK Hodge