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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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!

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!