Give me a word, Lord: TEMPORARY HOME

2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

John 18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

James 2:5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?

My heart has been heavy for the last couple of weeks with concern about a precious lady’s health. She has been my patient for more than twenty years, but she is much more than just a patient. I consider her to be family. I’ve held her hand as she cried through many of life’s struggles. She has lost a husband, children, and multiple siblings. They have all passed away before her. She is up in age now, her health has been deteriorating for the last few years, but last week her health took a turn for the worse. She visited the ER for one problem, but while there it was revealed that she had a much bigger problem. Metastatic cancer was found on a CT scan. This diagnosis, of course, was very unexpected. When I received the call from the ER doctor, my heart began to ache. I telephoned her and asked her to come to the clinic to see me the following day so that we could put a plan of action into place.

When she arrived, I prayed again. I had already been praying for her and asking God to give me the words to say as I explained this turn of events. I brought her into the clinic by wheelchair. She has already lost so much weight. I think I could have picked her up and carried her into the building. She doesn’t weigh much more than a child now, and she is so tiny, frail and weak. She was in terrible pain, but still managed to give me her sweet smile. We talked. I gently broke the news that the tests at the hospital showed what appeared to be metastatic cancer. We talked about doing further testing to get a clear diagnosis, and then we discussed possible treatment regimens down the road. She listened intently never shedding a tear or raising her voice in anger. She didn’t show any signs of fear. I was afraid that she didn’t understand the severity of the problem, but I was wrong. She grasped the information fully. When I finished explaining everything, she looked at me and said, “I’m an 80 year old lady. I’ve lived my life here. I probably won’t do any kind of treatment. I’m ready to go to my heavenly home. I’m ready.”

This sweet frail little lady reminded me of something I knew all too well. This old body that we are living in right now is just a tent. Our bodies are frail. We are subject to injury, disease, and death. We are going to know pain while we pass through this temporary land, but praise God, this world is not our home. We are just temporary citizens here. Although the devastating news that I was sharing overwhelmed me with grief for her, she took it in stride. For you see, her eyes are already focused on her permanent dwelling place.

One of the biggest problems in this world is that we place too much focus on our temporary home, Peeps! We want the nicest home, the fastest car, the prettiest face, the fanciest clothes, or whatever the latest trend of the week is. We focus on looking good on the outside so that the world notices us and pays attention. We spend small fortunes on keeping up appearances, but none of that really matters at all. When it is all said and done, and Jesus calls us home, NONE of that stuff will matter! What really matters is how we look on the inside before our Lord and Savior. The only thing that really matters is where we will be spending eternity. Are you going to spend eternity in the smoking section or non-smoking? Do you know for sure without a shadow of a doubt that you will be spending eternity in heaven if you lost your life today? Or will your final destiny be hell?

Life truly is but a vapor. These old bodies we are living in will fall apart. They’ll turn on us. Our hair will turn gray and fall out. Our joints will begin to swell and ache. We will develop diseases that we must try to treat. Yes, these temporary bodies will let us down sooner or later. Now, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take care of our bodies. I’m a nurse practitioner so I have to throw that in. Our bodies are temples in which the Holy Spirit resides. We need to keep the home of the Holy Spirit in the best shape that we possibly can, but still we can rest assured knowing that when these old bodies wear out and give out on us, the best is yet to come. If we are in Christ, the best really is yet to come: eternity in glory!

As I thought all of this through, all the sadness I have felt over the past few days regarding this very likely terminal diagnosis that will be given to this sweet lady, my tears have turned from sadness to joy. I know that when she leaves this temporary home, she will never suffer again. She will feel the arms of our Savior wrapped tightly around her welcoming her home…to her forever home. I’m so thankful that I have a reservation in heaven. I can hardly wait!

Give me a word, Lord: BORN AGAIN

John 3: 3-8 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Today we celebrate my husband’s birthday. Jeff is a wonderful man, and the day God welcomed him to this earth is truly a day worth celebrating. I’m thankful for my husband’s birth, and I try to make his day very special because he is such a blessing to me. Birth is the beginning of life. Oh what a wonderful thing to celebrate. A new born baby coming into this world is a special gift from God. But there is something even better than that to celebrate, and that is to be born again. The expression sounds strange even to my ears, and old Nicodemus really didn’t understand the concept the first time Jesus used those words when speaking to him.

In John 3, Nicodemus was seeking counsel from Jesus. He had concerns about his own soul and salvation. When Jesus told him that he had to be born again in order to see the kingdom of God, Nicodemus was thinking, “how in the world? I can’t go back in my mother’s womb and be born a second time.” It made no sense to him. Jesus went further to explain what He meant, and He explained that one must be born of the Spirit. The first time we are born of flesh and blood, and our physical bodies are born into sin. That’s human nature, but by God’s divine plan, we have been given a way to be born again in the Spirit. Jesus died on the cross to take on the sins of the whole world. He died and was resurrected as a propitiation for our sins. Because sin is within us and within the world, we were separated from God. Sin separates us from a relationship with God. Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected to bring us back to God. God doesn’t want to be separated from us. He wants a close relationship with each and every one of us. He loves us so much that He sent His son to die so that we may be forgiven of our sins and thus be made right before our Father.

By our first birth, we are corrupt and sinful, but when we choose Christ, accept Him as our Lord and Savior, and ask forgiveness from our sins, our sins are washed away. We become new. We are born again. This new birth causes us to change spiritually. We aren’t automatically transformed into a perfect new being. We will never reach perfection, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for it. We begin to have a new nature, new principles, new goals, and new affections. We slowly transform into a child of God as we begin to daily strive to live like Christ. We can not change on our own. We must first have a heart change. The Holy Spirit moves within us to make that change of heart. The Holy Spirit does something in us and to us that we can not possibly do ourselves, and it is the absolute best change that can ever occur!

Third Day’s song “Born Again” speaks this truth. “Well today I found myself after searching all these years. And the man that I saw, he wasn’t at all who I thought he’d be. I was lost when You found me here. I was broken beyond repair. Then You came along, and You sang Your song over me. It feels like I’m born again. If feels like I’m living for the very first time, for the very first time in my life.” To be born again means that we are truly living for the very first time. When we are born again, we have the Holy Spirit within us, guiding us, encouraging us, and taking us to places that we had never dreamed possible. We become children of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We become brand new.

Have you been born again? If you can’t answer that question with an emphatic yes, please don’t let another physical yearly birthday pass by without making the decision to follow Christ. It is the absolute best decision you will ever make! If you’ve already made that decision and have experienced the new birth in Christ, shout it from the roof tops. We need to spread the gospel in our homes, our towns, our country and the world! The time is now. Spread the Good News!

Give me a word, Lord: PUTTING IN ALL IN GOD’S HANDS

I Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Psalm 9:10 Those who know your name trust in you,     for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Psalm 91:1-2 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

I woke up at 2:30 this morning. Usually on Monday morning, my brain decides to awaken at 4:00. Today, the brain decided to awaken earlier than usual. I had a lot of things on my mind today. We had a great church service yesterday and a team meeting yesterday afternoon. I had so many different prayer requests running around in my brain, so I laid in bed and talked with the Lord. I do this quite often. I’m so glad that He doesn’t keep bankers’ hours and that I can always count on Him to hear my prayers no matter what time of the day or night I go to Him. Jesus and I had a long talk this morning. I called out many requests and laid them at the feet of my Savior. I praised His name, and I thanked Him for answered and unanswered prayers. I think our conversation lasted about an hour before I dozed back off. I awoke a second time around 4:30, but that feeling of uneasiness had completely disappeared. I said another prayer. This time it sounded more like this, “Thank you Jesus! Today is going to be a great day because I’m putting everything in Your capable hands. If I try to do it on my own, I know I’m going to mess it up. So I’m just giving it all to You, and I know it’s going to be a good day.”

Now, I sit here writing this devotional and realizing that God really does have me in the palm of His hands. I’ve nothing to worry about. I’ve nothing to fear. There is a tropical storm making landfall currently, and there is another hurricane that is projected to intensify and make landfall just to the west of us. I’m headed to work on a manic Monday at our busy clinic while COVID-19 is still rearing it’s ugly head. I have so many family members and friends on my mind. There is much to worry about, yet I feel completely calm as I prepare to tackle this day. That, my friends, is the peace that transcends all understanding that Paul told us about in Philippians 4:7. I can’t figure out how it works. It’s definitely a God thing. When we truly put all of our worries, concerns, fears, and doubts in the hands of the Savior, we receive peace.

Fear is a liar. Satan thrives on our doubts and fears, and he makes them increase, However, when we give those things to Christ, the doubts and fears decrease. Jesus has already overcome the world. “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.” John 16:33. Today, I pray that we can put it all in the hands of our Lord and Savior! Happy Monday, Peeps!

Give me a word, Lord: FAITH IN ACTION

Mark 2:1-5 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

I talk a lot of talk. Yep, I’m a pretty wordy girl. In my mind, I know the things that I want to accomplish for the glory of God, and I write these things down, and I even speak them out loud, but this morning I woke up with the word action on my mind. Am I putting foot to pavement? Am I walking the walk? Or am I just talking the talk. I feel like my plate is totally full of things that I still need to do. I love missions, and I want to be more mission minded. Am I putting my faith into action?

The scripture today is very familiar. I absolutely love and admire the faith of these men. Jesus was preaching in Capernaum. Everyone wanted to hear Him and see Him, and they gathered in large numbers. Could you just imagine if Jesus came to visit your home town? I can see the crowds in my mind’s eye. Everyone was excitedly gathered to see the Messiah in person. Wow! That had to be an awesome gathering. Then, Mark tells us about these men that had a paralyzed friend. We aren’t told here what happened to this man other than the fact that he was paralyzed, but we can read through the lines and see that this paralyzed man was truly loved by his friends. They apparently knew about this man called Jesus, and had heard of His miraculous healings. They knew that they had to get their friend in to see Jesus, but the place was too crowded. There was no way that they could carry him in through the crowds. They couldn’t make their way through such a massive gathering, but they had to get the paralyzed man in to see Jesus. What did they do? They climbed up on the roof with the paralyzed man. This isn’t described in the text, but just imagine how much effort it required to lift a paralyzed man from the ground to the roof. That had to be a chore. And then, after getting the man up on the roof, they made a hole in the roof large enough to lower the paralyzed man down into the crowd. Jesus saw their faith and healed the man. The once paralyzed man walked out of that crowded place.

This story is a spectacular example of faith in action. It brings to mind several thoughts. This man was surrounded by some really good friends. His friends loved him so much that they went the extra mile to make sure that his needs were taken are of. They went above and beyond the duty of friendship. They showed faith and love in action. As Christians, we must surround ourselves with good Christian friends, and we must in turn be a good Christian friend. We need to be there for one another and show the love of Christ and our faith in Him in our daily actions. But, we can’t just show that love and faith in action to those we love and care about. That would be easy. We have to show that same love and faith in action to those that we don’t even like. Yes, that makes things a little more difficult. If we are truly living for Christ, we can’t just love the lovables. We have to love them all. We have to go above and beyond for people that are hard to love and even more difficult to like.

We can’t just keep talking the good talk. We have to start actively walking the walk. We have to put our faith into action. We know that our Lord and Savior is capable of healing a paralyzed man, who has been lowered through a hole in the roof, by speaking the words, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” We know that that same Savior is still the same today as He was then, and He is still in the business of saving and forgiving. We have faith in these things, but do we exhibit that faith in our daily actions? Do those we come in contact with see our faith in action? My friends, these are the questions on my heart today, and I plan to start working toward being able to answer them with an emphatic yes! No, I’m not where I want to be. Not by a long shot, but I’m definitely not where I used to be. I know I have the faith of those four men who lowered their paralyzed friend through a hole in a roof. I need to start exhibiting that faith in action!

Give me a word, Lord: 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 waves obey him!”

The meteorologists are closely watching two storms that are expected to both be off the gulf coast this week. Everyone is a little stirred up because two storms, possibly hurricanes, making landfall within a matter of days could be devastating. 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, and now we have the threat of two storms 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.

Give me a word, Lord: HELP! I’M TOO BUSY!

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

James 4:8 Come near to God and he will come near to you.

Yesterday, I received a call from a wonderful Christian lady who wanted to talk about how I juggle this thing called life and still keep my focus on Christ. We Hodges are super busy. There is no doubt about that. We go go go from daylight until dark, and we try to accomplish much People have asked me before how we get so much done in a day, and my answer is always, “The good Lord gets us through.” However, I don’t think anyone has ever asked me how I keep my focus on God in the midst of my busyness. We chatted for a while, and I tried to share some insight, but I hung up the phone worried that I hadn’t shared enough. That conversation was on my mind all evening, and I awoke thinking about it this morning. I’ve come up with a better answer. There is no right answer. There is no agenda we can follow. There is no specific list that explains how to make time for God in the busyness of life. Each person has to find what works for them individually. I’m in a much different season in life than the person who called me. My children are all grown and gone. I’m in the slowing down phase of life…though I haven’t quite figured that part out yet. I’ve put in the long hours.

While in school I worked full time and put in an additional 40 hours of clinical a week. During that time, I missed a lot of church. My priority was school. Oh I still talked to God, but not the all day long continual conversation kind of talks that we have now. When I finished school, I got up early and made rounds at the hospital. I worked Saturdays. I left early, and I stayed late. I put in as much time as I thought I needed to because I was just starting out in my career, and it was important to me that I do a really good job. I earned the respect of my colleagues and the trust of my patients. You would think that life was perfect, but nothing is perfect. I was juggling a full time clinic position, hiring and firing, training employees, making sure that there was enough money coming in to pay my employees, pay the bills, and keep the lights on. I dictated charts while driving to work in the morning, and I stayed up late doing paperwork, writing checks, calling patients, and anything and everything that needed to be done. Did I read my Bible during that time? To be truthful, the answer was not very much. I opened my Sunday School book on Sunday mornings and read just enough to gear myself up to teach my class. I never stopped loving God, but I lost the closeness that I had felt in my younger days. I was too busy. Oh, I prayed everyday as I went to work and before I went to sleep, but I never felt like what I was doing was enough. I didn’t feel like I was enough.

What happened? Life happened. After a failed marriage, I had the good fortune of marrying the guy that took me to my junior prom. Who would have ever thought that would’ve happened? Certainly not me! I fell in love, and I gradually realized that work was important, but God and family had to come first. I prayed, and I prayed. I can’t tell you how many times I sat down in the middle of all of my animals in the barn and cried out to God. I remember very vividly praying for God to become the center of our lives and to strengthen our marriage. I prayed that prayer a lot. You want to know something? He answered me! He answered a little old redneck woman from the sticks of south Mississippi who cried and prayed in a stinky old barn full of crazy critters. God heard my prayer. He slowly changed both my husband and myself, and we began to grow in our relationship with Christ. I got out of owning and running my own clinic and went to work for a larger company. I quit making hospital rounds. I began working fewer days of the week in clinic so that I would have more days at home. We began making a concerted effort to read our Bible together as a family at night and to pray together. I keep my radio tuned to Christian radio so that even when I’m driving the 20 minute trip to and from the clinic, I am being fed. My husband and I both became more involved in our church. We went on mission trips, and we love assisting in outreaches. We definitely changed, but not in and of ourselves. God made those changes in us because we asked Him to!

We are still crazy busy around here. We don’t stop. We go from daylight until dark, but we go about things in such a different way. Our focus isn’t on the dollar anymore. Our focus is on living our best life for Christ because hey, that’s what it’s all about anyway! We were created to serve and glorify God not the other way around. What worked for me may not work for you. You have to have your own up close and personal chat with the Lord. If you really want Him in your life, seek Him. He will help you clear the time in your schedule. Find a good devotional to read. Listen to christian praise music. Play a podcast while driving. Read your Bible together as a family. But most importantly, pray! Pray without ceasing. Talk to God all day long. He will hear your prayer. I promise! He will answer! All you have to do is be willing to receive the answer. Just slow down long enough to listen.

Give me a word, Lord: COMFORTABLE PLACE TO BE

Psalm 139:1-10 You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,  even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 

Psalm 139:13-18 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!  Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you. 

Do you ever just sit back and think about how glorious our God is. Oh, I wish that I could journal like King David. I mean, really, just flip through the Psalms. There is a Psalm for every possible mood or emotion under the sun. I love that David poured his heart out in pen and song, and I love the way he talked to God. He had a continual conversation with his Father, and he talked to Him about everything.

Psalm 139 was just what I needed to read this morning.It is a beautiful reminder of the magnificence of our Creator. In this Psalm, David acknowledges the omniscience of God. He acknowledges that God has searched his heart and knows him. God knows his thoughts, and he discerns his goings and comings, and is familiar with his ways. He even acknowledges that God knows the words he is going to speak before he even speaks. I know these things to be truth, but when I really consider the idea that God knows me so completely I’m in awe. How awesome is it that the Creator of the heavens and earth knows me in such an intimate way? I’m just one of approximately 7.6 billion people in this world, and my God knows my thoughts, my ways, my comings and my goings, and even the words I’m speaking before I speak them. Whoa!

David also acknowledges that God created him and knit him together in his mother’s womb. God knows each of us from the point of conception. He knits us together from the cellular level and makes us fearfully and wonderfully in His image. He sees our unformed bodies and ordains all of our days before we are even born. How is that even possible? The only answer I have is because He is God. His is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. He is all knowing, all seeing, and all powerful. He is God. Isn’t it marvelous that the same all knowing, all seeing, all powerful God that created the heavens and the earth, the 7.6 billion people living here right now, and all those living here in the past, saw it fit to so intricately create you and me too? With all the billions of people in the world, God thought about me, and He decided that the world needed a K.K. Hodge. And not only did He create me, He knows and loves me intimately. Wow! It is truly beyond the comprehension of my mind!

David says it best when he says, “how precious are your thoughts, God! How vast the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand–when I awake, I am still with you.” It is astonishing and very much overwhelming to try to consider how precious the thoughts of our God is, yet it is so comforting to know that the almighty God of the universe, the one true God, the creator of the heavens and the earth, has little old me in His thoughts 24/7. He is watching over me. He knows me better than I even know myself. He knows my thoughts, my words, and he knows my future. Oh, there is so much comfort in those thoughts. No matter how bad things are going, no matter how tough the day seems, no matter how crazy our world is becoming, God is still God, and He knows us, loves us, and cares for us so deeply. We are never alone. Oh, thank you God! I think I’ll recline in the comfort of the words of Psalm 139 today knowing that God has me in the palm of His hand. I’m His and He is mine! What a comfortable place to rest!

Give me a word, Lord: OH, MERCY!

Luke 10:30-37 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’  “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Oh mercy me! I’ve used that phrase a time or two in my day. It’s an old southern phrase meaning “God have mercy on me.” I sure need mercy, and I bet you do too. But what exactly is mercy? The King James Version dictionary defines mercy as “That benevolence, mildness or tenderness of heart which disposes a person to overlook injuries, or to treat an offender better than he deserves; the disposition that tempers justice, and induces an injured person to forgive trespasses and injuries, and to forbear punishment, or inflict less than law or justice will warrant. It implies benevolence, tenderness, mildness, pity or compassion, and clemency, but exercised only towards offenders.” So how do we get mercy? Matthew 5:7 tells us “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” In order to receive mercy, we must be merciful. We have to show mercy to others.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is just one of many great biblical examples of mercy, but it is probably one of stories that we are most familiar with. An expert in the law asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus knew that he was a man of the law, and as He did so often, He answered the question with a question. He asked the man how he interpreted the law. The man of law answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus told him that he answered well, and to go and do this. But then the man of law asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus then proceeded to share the parable of the Good Samaritan.

In biblical times, Jews despised Samaritans, and Samaritans in turn despised the Jews. They would walk a mile out of the way to keep from crossing paths, and they definitely wouldn’t show compassion on one another. Jesus knew this, and He paired up a Jew and a Samaritan in this parable to give it some weight. The story begins with a Jewish man who had been beaten by robbers and left for dead on the side of the road. A priest came walking down the same road, and he surely noticed this injured man, but rather than going to assist him, he walked past him on the other side of the road. Then a Levite came upon the man, and he too passed by on the other side of the road. Here we have two religious men who observed this injured man, and yet they did not show an ounce of godly compassion on this poor guy. And then the plot thickens. A Samaritan who was traveling through came upon this injured man, and he showed great compassion on him. He didn’t just stop by and say, “Hey are you okay? Do you need anything?” and kept on riding on his donkey. He got off of his donkey, bandaged the man’s wounds, poured on his own oil and wine, put the man on his donkey, and took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he paid the innkeeper, and left money to continue to care for the man, and he even told the innkeeper that if it cost more than he left, he would return to pay the difference. Wow! That is mercy, my friends!

The Samaritan didn’t know this man, and culture told him that he should hate this man, but his heart told him not to. He had a heart full of compassion. He showed true mercy. He stopped to check on the man. He gave of his time to a stranger, and a stranger of an ethnicity that he was brought up to despise. Not only, did he stop and check on this man, he tenderly cared for him. He bandaged his wounds. He poured his on oil and wine on him. He gave up riding on his donkey so that the injured many could ride, and he even took him to a local motel to help him recover. He paid the bill too, y’all! You know, we could learn a thing or too from this Samaritan man.

Two religious leaders passed by and avoided the situation, and a traveling stranger stopped and showed mercy. That injured man had not done anything to earn the mercy that was offered to him by this good Samaritan, but the Samaritan gave mercy to him regardless. He compassionately cared for the man, and at what cost? It cost him his time, his wine, his oil, his donkey, and even his money. He gave all of this to someone whom he would probably never see again, and he would not receive anything in return. This is truly a great example of mercy and compassion, but there is an even greater example and it isn’t just a parable. Jesus suffered and died on the cross so that each and every one of us would be given the opportunity to receive the gift of ever lasting life. He took on the sins of the world so that you and I could have an eternal relationship with God. We didn’t do anything to earn that mercy. We will never be able to repay that gift. Jesus has been so merciful to each of us, and we were created in the image of God to be a reflection of Him. We too are created to show mercy to others.

As Christians, we need to get past the societal influences that tell us who to like and who to hate and what color skin is good and what color is bad. We were all created in the image of God. We have to start loving our neighbors. Who are our neighbors? Everyone we come in contact with every single day. Our pastor always says a way you can gauge your love for God is how you love others. If we could just get over ourselves, and really truly reflect the love of Christ each and every day, all day long, what a different place this world would be. We must start showing the love of Christ, and we have to be merciful. We didn’t deserve the mercy that Christ has shown us. Our neighbors may not deserve mercy from us either, but if we truly have the Holy Spirit residing within us, we can’t help but show mercy.

Don’t step over that wounded neighbor or friend. Don’t cross their paths on the opposite side of the road. Don’t ignore the hurting. Don’t dishonor someone because of their race, educational background, the social status, or even their career. Jesus says we have to love our neighbors. That means all of them…even the ones that are hard to like. Show them lots of love!

OH MERCY ME! Lord, we really need Your help here!

Give me a word, Lord: MY WEAPON

Psalm 29:11 The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.

Isaiah 54:17 no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord.

2 Corinthians 10:4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

I heard a song on the radio this morning that really spoke to me. Natalie Grant sang, “My Weapon.” The chorus repeats the words “Your presence is my greatest weapon pushing back the darkness breaking every chain. My worship opens up the heavens crushing every stronghold when I speak Your name ’cause Your presence is my weapon.” I had a different devotional on my mind when I went to bed last night, but after reading a devotional this morning, and then hearing this song, my thoughts changed. It’s funny how God works. I always pray for God to give me a word to write about to encourage others and myself for our daily walk, but sometimes I get impatient and try to figure out what “I” want to write about without waiting on God.

I’ve been in a little funk lately. Nothing serious. Just looking around me at the current state we are in and wishing things would change. The COVID pandemic has changed everything, and I just don’t like this kind of change. This school year looks totally different with a vast mixture of virtual learning and on site classes. Churches are learning new ways to share the Word of God. Politics, well, I’m not even going to discuss how politics have affected my mood. Even my work place has changed. I’ve been a nurse practitioner for more than 20 years. I love my job. I love that God blessed me with the talent and ability to care for others. I love interacting with my patients and getting to know them. I love that I can hold the hand of someone who is going through a difficult time. I love to give and receive hugs. But that’s all changed for now. Now I spend my day in disposable scrub jackets, masks, and goggles or face shields all day, and add a full length plastic gown, 2 pairs of gloves, and an N95 mask when seeing those that are sick. Even though we are still in close proximity, it feels like the patient provider closeness that was once there is missing,. This saddens me.

So for a few days, I’ve been dwelling on this “stuff” which I have no control over and that I can’t change. I started getting a little bit disheartened, but then God, oh but God! He opened my eyes today. A friend shared a devotional that said we should not waste time and energy wishing for different circumstances, but instead we should trust God to yield His design and purpose. I even read the devotional out loud to Jeff, and said, “This is just what I needed to hear.” And I guess God said, “In case you didn’t get the message in what you read, listen to this song child,” and Natalie Grant proceeded to sing the song “My Weapon”. “Let every lie be silenced and all depression cease. Let every dark assignment bow down at Jesus’ feet….Your presence is my greatest weapon.”

Y’all, God’s got this! Spending hours dwelling on the current life situations is not going to help. Worrying and fretting and wishing the circumstances would change will not make them change. But God! Oh but God! He can change the circumstances, and if He doesn’t change the circumstances, maybe He’s using those circumstances to change us, grow us, and bring us closer to our walk with Him. The Word of God is active and alive. Our God is active and alive. He resides within each and everyone of His children. We have the power of Almighty God within each of us.

The circumstances don’t have to change. We only need to change our attitudes regarding the circumstances. Christ is our weapon. His presence is our greatest weapon. We just need to speak His name. Call out to Him. Are you armed with the greatest weapon ever?

Give me a word, Lord: GROWING IN CHRIST

Psalm 34:11-14 Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn from evil and do good; and  seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

Don’t you just love the Psalms? With schools starting back in full swing in these uncertain times, it’s nice to know that we can turn to our instruction manual for life, “The Holy Bible,” to help us start out on the right track. This is the first year that we don’t have any of our children starting school, but our grandson will begin his first day of kindergarten today. The years pass much to quickly, and we have so little time to spend with our littles before we send them out into this big old scary world. I’m so thankful that we have the Word of God to guide us as we go.

Psalm 34 is an excellent reminder of this. It is a letter written to our children. The psalmist. David, is speaking to a child who will soon be entering adulthood, and reminds the child of all of the things that have been taught in the past. He brings to mind a coach giving a pep talk to his team. He reminds the child to burn these things into his heart, mind, soul, and spirit because if we recall the truths of Christ that we have learned, we are armed for any and every situation that we will face.

But how does a child learn the truths if we don’t teach those truths? As parents and grandparents, we are charged with bringing up our children and grandchildren in the ways of the Lord. We must learn to fear the Lord ourselves and grow in a relationship with Him. As we grow, we learn to walk more closely to the Lord. We learn what is right, and we learn what is wrong. We recognize good and evil, and we learn the ways of our Father. Trust me, if we aren’t teaching our children the right ways, someone else will be busy teaching them the wrong ways. Children are sponges. I watch and listen to my grandson in amazement. He retains so much knowledge and is so smart for a wee little five year old guy. He wants to learn new things, and he is very inquisitive. He learns new things from those around him every single day.

Children and Christians share a commonality. We all have a desire to learn more, and Christians, like children, need someone in this life teaching and growing us in the ways of the Lord. Thankfully, God gives us His Word as an instruction manual for life, but not only that, He places people in our lives who will help grow us. He places pastors, Sunday School teachers, church elders, and brothers and sisters in Christ to walk beside us and continue to grow us in our relationship with Him. We should be ever inquisitive and growing in our knowledge of Christ daily, soaking up new knowledge like a sponge, and as we grow, it is our responsibility to grow others in Christ. We must teach what we’ve learned and be disciples who are discipling others.

Through the word of God, we learn to live with integrity. We learn to trust and believe God for everything and in all things. We learn to treat others with respect. We learn to cheer others on and inspire others, and most importantly, we learn to pray about everything. Psalm 34 tells us to keep our tongues from speaking evil and telling lies, and to turn away from evil and do good. We must search for peace and work to maintain it. We are assured that the Lord is watching over us, and that He hears us when we cry out to Him, and we are reminded that the Lord is close to the broken-hearted, and that He rescues those who are crushed in spirit. The Lord is our protector, our redeemer, and we can take refuge in Him.

As we begin this manic Monday, let’s begin it with prayer for our children who are starting a new school year, the teachers and the staff, and the parents. It’s a different world this year. It seems that everything has changed, but we can rest assured that our Father in heaven has not nor will not ever change. As we continue to grow in our relationship with Him, let’s be sure that we are growing our children in the Lord also. Let’s teach them that when we have the Spirit of the true living God residing withing us, there is nothing to fear. We must all be disciples for Christ. Our children are our future. Let’s train them in the way of the Lord and help them to grow in Christ daily.