Give me a word, Lord: PEACEMAKER

Romans 14:19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

Hebrews 12:14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.

Matthew 5:9 God blesses those who work for peace for they will be called the children of God.

James 3:18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

The first thing I saw on social media at 4:00 am this morning was feedback on the vice presidential debate. I won’t try to stir anyone up with my opinion here because I do like to keep the peace. A peacekeeper can be a good thing. A peacekeeper is one that avoids conflict by avoiding touchy subjects and arguments. It is a natural tendency for most people to try to avoid conflict, avoid arguments, and sweep the conflict under a big rug. Out of sight, out of mind so to speak. Yea, it’s safe to say I like to keep the peace, but do you want to know what is much better than a peacekeeper? It is a peacemaker. A peacemaker is one that actively gets involved to resolve conflict and reconcile relationships.

Most of my life, I’ve been a peacekeeper, but the older I get, the more I have developed into a peacemaker. I no longer want to just avoid conflict. I want to settle the disputes, work out the differences, and solve the problems. I no longer want to sit on the sidelines when two people I love are hurting. Nope, not this girl. Are you mad at so and so? Does so in so even know you’re mad? Well, come on girl. We are going to work this out. That’s right, we are going to pull up chairs, grab some coffee, and have a pow wow.

The truth is that most conflicts can be worked out if both people involved in the conflict would simply talk to one another, share their hearts, and maybe apologize for goodness sake. How many relationships have gone by the wayside merely because someone failed to talk about the problem? I’m betting the number is vast.

James tells us that those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. What exactly does this mean? Well, we all know the old saying, “you reap what you sow.” When you plant a seed, fertilize it, and water it, you will always get much more than you planted. One tiny cucumber seed will produce a multitude of cucumbers. Our spring garden generally produces enough to feed our whole community. Yet when we plant cucumber seeds, we know we are going to produce cucumbers. We don’t expect to grow a tomato plant from a cucumber seed. That wouldn’t happen. You reap what you sow, and if you plant cucumber seeds, you are going to get a cucumber or two or maybe even a hundred. Therefore. If you are planting seeds of conflict, guess what you are going to harvest? Yep. You got it. You will reap lots of conflict. You will likely end up getting a whole lot more than you planted, perhaps enough conflict to affect the whole family and maybe even the whole community.

However, if you plant seeds of peace, your harvest will be ripe with goodness, kindness, and peace. Oh, but how in the world do we plant seeds of peace? Bear with me. It’s going to take a little effort, but it is very doable. First, you must identify the conflict. Just look around and you can spot a conflict. That’s easy enough. Then, and this is the most important step: pray. Talk to God before you even get involved in this gardening adventure. Tell God that you see this conflict, and ask Him for the wisdom and words needed to plant the seeds of peace in this situation. If you caused the conflict or are personally involved, now might be a good time to go to the other person and apologize, share your heart, and lovingly try to work it out. If you aren’t part of the situation, now is the time to bring the ones in conflict together and lovingly tell them that you care about them and their relationship, and ask them to talk it out. A lot of conflict could be resolved if we would just learn to talk it out. You may not be able to resolve the conflict every time, but if you try to plant these seeds of peace by showing the love of Christ, peace will eventually be harvested.

God will bless your efforts. He loves peacemakers so much so that Jesus calls the peacemakers the children of God. Wait, what? The peacemakers are called the children of God? But aren’t all believers called children of God? Yes, we are so I suppose that means as chikdren of God we are all charged with the duty of being peacemakers. As Christians, we are all called to make peace. Get out there today and make some peace. Don’t be satisfied with merely keeping the peace. Be a peacemaker!

Give me a word, Lord: ONE MORE TRIP AROUND THE SUN

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Psalm 118:24 This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Well, Peeps, God has blessed me with one more trip around the sun. Yep, I’m officially one year older today. As I look back on this past trip around the sun, I could easily get discouraged. If I allowed myself to only reflect on the bad things of the year, it wouldn’t seem like I had a very good year, but I have to admit, 53 was a pretty good year for me. I’m willing to bet that 54 will be even better. Oh, but my body is trying to get old before my mind, and I have to keep it in check. My fingers are knotted up with arthritis to the extent that my right index finger points only to the right, even if I’m pointing it to the left. LOL. My right knee has started making this cute little creaking noise when I walk up and down the stairs. Just for fun, my neck decided it would join the party. For the past three weeks, my right arm has been going numb from my neck to my fingertips. A c-spine x-ray told me that I need an MRI, and oh yea, just for giggles, let’s go ahead and get a bone density because the x-ray also showed osteopenia. My bones aren’t the only things that are getting thin. My hair is falling out by the handful, and it seems to be turning more gray every single day. Yes, I think it’s safe to say that my body is trying to turn against me, but I won’t let it win. People ask me how I get so much accomplished in a day, and I have to say part of the reason is because I know that if I stay down too long, I might not be able to get back up with these decrepit joints of mine. But the real answer is: Jesus! I can’t accomplish anything without Him, but with Him, I can accomplish much.

Now, I could sit here and whine and complain about my ailments, but I’m not going to do that. I like to laugh at my crooked fingers and creaking knee, and I learned a long time ago that complaining doesn’t make anything better. I find it just makes me feel worse. Besides, even though my exterior may be falling apart, my interior is becoming more put together every single year that passes. I really love the person that I am becoming. Over the past few years, I have truly drawn closer to my Lord and Savior, and in doing so, I have learned to love me a little bit better. After all, I am God’s masterpiece! It says so right there in the Bible, so I know it’s true. I don’t know exactly why this masterpiece has all these arthritic problems, but I’m pretty sure God thought I needed this to bring glory to Him. So I’m just going to glorify Him.

Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Read that again. We are His masterpiece, and He created us anew in Christ so that we can do the good things that He planned for us. He created us anew in Christ. He did this so that we can do the good things that He has planned for us. Isn’t that amazing? It is so reassuring to know that no matter how bad or challenging the day looks, God has good things planned for us, and He has created us anew through Christ so that we can accomplish those good things. I have absolutely enjoyed watching God’s plans unfold in my life. He has really shown out over the past couple of years, and I am so thankful for the goodness He has given me.

I may be 54 years old today, but I still don’t feel like I’m a fully grown up Christian. I still have so much to learn. I have so many things that I need to do. I feel that I fall short every single day, and I think that is one reason God keeps giving me another day….every day that we open our eyes, we are given one more day to glorify our Father. We are given one more day to accomplish the plans that He has for us. I’m so thankful for second chances…third chances…fourth chances…and a million other chances. Each day, we are given one more day to rejoice in Him, serve our Father, and glorify Him. Yes, my friends, this is the day that the Lord has made, and I will most certainly rejoice and be glad in it! How about you?

Give me a word, Lord: MY HEART SINGS

Zephaniah 3:17 For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.

Psalm 89:1 I will sing of the Lord’s unfailing love forever! Young and old will hear of your faithfulness.

What makes your heart sing? Many days we wake up without a song in our hearts, and we don’t feel much like singing, but there is always something to be thankful for, and there is always something to sing about. With the thanks in our hearts, we can sing songs of praise and rejoice in the goodness of our Lord and Savior. I’ve been told by my family that I can’t sing, but that doesn’t stop me from singing. I have an awful singing voice, and though I know that I don’t make a joyful noise, I know that my Savior is still glad to hear my happy racket, and I make that happy racket just as often as I can.

I love to sit outside to do my morning devotionals. Our farm is one of the most joyful places I know. This time of year, the songs of the morning are nothing short of pure delight. Hummingbirds take turns buzzing up to our feeders. The birds are joyfully chirping away singing praises to the new day. The sheep are baaing. The emus are whistling quietly. Occasionally the turkey will let out a gobble. She doesn’t know that she is a hen, and she likes to gobble and strut like a dude. The coatimundis are chirping and the raccoons are chattering away. In the distance, an occasional lowing of the cattle can be heard. Wow! All I have to do is walk out of the door of my home to hear God’s creatures singing praises to Him. If all of these creatures who don’t even have a soul realize the need to sing praises, shouldn’t we mortals who have a soul find reason to sing?

Oh, but you may say, what is there to sing about? We have an election coming up next month that has everyone fired up and split in two polar directions. Our president and first lady have contracted COVID 19. The economy isn’t looking so hot right now. And don’t forget, there is another storm that once again appears to be headed our way making landfall this Friday night. Not much to sing about there, huh? Maybe not, but still we have so many reasons to sing this morning. Do you want to know what makes my heart sing? My critters, my farm, my family, my friends, my career, good music, serving others, living life, and loving Jesus, and oh so much more. Y’all, God did not create a bunch of humdrum robots. He created each of us uniquely with our own set of talents and skills to serve Him and to serve others, and He gave each of us a spirit of joy, love, hope, and faith!

We can sing for freedom. Even though politics seem to be really messy right now, we can still rejoice and sing for our freedom. We can sing for gratitude. We have so much to be thankful for. We can sing for joy. Sometimes we have to dig a little deeper to find the joy, but I promise if Jesus is in your heart, joy is residing there also. We can sing of the love of God. Oh my, that’s a good reason to sing. When I think of how awesome and magnificent the love of God is, I can’t help but sing praises to Him. We can even sing in times of trouble or sadness. God wants to hear from us at all times…not just during the good times.

Are you singing this morning? If not, take a few moments to reflect and ask yourself, “what makes my heart sing?” If you don’t know, if your heart isn’t singing, you may be missing the song of the One who can give you everlasting joy! Ask Jesus into your heart, and I can guarantee you that there will always be a song in your heart! “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” (Zephaniah 3:17) Let your heart sing!

Give me a word, Lord: SPIRITUALLY DEAD?

Revelations 3:14-20 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen—the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s new creation:  “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.  “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

I read this story a little while back, and definitely think it is one that is worth a share today. “A new Pastor in a small Oklahoma town spent the first four days making personal visits to each of the members, inviting them to come to his first services. The following Sunday the church was all but empty. Accordingly, the Pastor placed a notice in the local newspapers, stating that, because the church was dead, it was everyone’s duty to give it a decent Christian burial. The funeral would be held the following Sunday afternoon, the notice said. Morbidly curious, a large crowd turned out for the “funeral.” In front of the pulpit, they saw a closed coffin, smothered in flowers. After the Pastor delivered the eulogy, he opened the coffin and invited his congregation to come forward and pay their final respects to their dead church. Filled with curiosity as to what would represent the corpse of a “dead church,” all the people eagerly lined up to look in the coffin. Each “mourner” peeped into the coffin then quickly turned away with a guilty, sheepish look. In the coffin, tilted at the correct angle, was a large mirror. When it comes to your spiritual life, are you still alive?”

Wow! How many of us today are guilty of being spiritually dead. Is the church of America becoming like the church of Laodicea? Are we lukewarm, neither hot or cold? Oh, I pray that we are not, but I do worry that we are headed in that direction. We remember the church of Laodicea from Revelation chapter 3. The angel of the church wrote, “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other!” Are we becoming lukewarm? Is church not as important to us any more? I mean really, people, look around. This COVID pandemic has changed our country in more than one way. Churches were closed for a while, and that closure has prompted some to continue to stay home. It’s very convenient to watch the sermon on the internet, and I’m thankful that we have that availability. There are many who shouldn’t be getting out and joining in large gatherings at this time, and I completely understand that, but what about those of us who have decided that it’s just more convenient to worship at home in our pajamas? Is that convenience making us a bit lukewarm? Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely thankful for the availability of online worship. We were traveling yesterday, and we were able to enjoy our church services live online, but it’s just not the same. I, for one, need that personal interaction.

I don’t think that it is merely online worship that is causing this nation to become lukewarm, though. There are so many different components. Society in general has become one of acceptance. We are expected to accept what the rest of the world is doing. We are expected to turn our heads and ignore the evil that is being committed around us. We are expected to either accept evil as good or look the other way. I’m a sinner saved by grace. I’m not perfect. In fact, I’ve been pretty lukewarm myself in the past, but God, oh but our God, He deserves so much more than a lukewarm attitude. When we consider the love that our heavenly Father has for each of us, the mercy and grace He has shown us, and the magnitude of His power, there is no way that we can remain lukewarm. We can’t continue being spiritually dead. We have to wake up, people!

Christ is standing at the door, knocking…knocking…knocking. Can we hear His voice? Do we even realize that He is there…waiting for us to open the doors of our hearts and allow Him to come in and fill us with His Spirit? Are we neither hot or cold, but merely lukewarm? Lukewarm is not what our Father desires, and it is definitely not what He deserves from us. The gospel of our Lord and Savior should ignite a fire within each of us that can not be quenched. Rather than getting smaller each day, that fire should rage bigger and hotter day by day. We are surrounded by the lost. There are so many people that we encounter on a daily basis who need to know the Good News. We can’t keep this all to ourselves.

When we first learned of COVID 19, the spread of the disease was projected utilizing the pathogen’s basic reproductive number (RO). For example, for every one person that was contagious, that person would spread the virus to three people. Those three people would spread the virus to nine people. Those nine people would spread the virus to 27 people, and so on. Wouldn’t it be awesome if the gospel could spread like that? If we each told three people about Christ, and then those three people told three people each (nine), and then those nine people told three people each, and so on, can you just imagine how the gospel could spread throughout all nations? It would be akin to an uncontrollable forest fire.

Yes, Peeps, it’s time to wake up and get on fire for the Lord. If you are feeling a bit lukewarm, light a fire within today by getting in the Word, turn on some praise and worship music, and most importantly, pray. Pray, pray, pray! Call out to the Father. He’s at the door knocking. All you have to do is invite Him in!

Give me a word, Lord: GOD WILL TAKE CARE OF IT

Exodus 4:10-17 But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.” Then the Lord became angry with Moses. “All right,” he said. “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks well. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. He will be delighted to see you. Talk to him, and put the words in his mouth. I will be with both of you as you speak, and I will instruct you both in what to do. Aaron will be your spokesman to the people. He will be your mouthpiece, and you will stand in the place of God for him, telling him what to say. And take your shepherd’s staff with you, and use it to perform the miraculous signs I have shown you.”

Yesterday, I shared a portion of this scripture as we considered the fact of being on a mission for God. God called Moses to rescue His people, but Moses did as many of us do, and found an excuse. He explained that he was tongue tied and that his words became tangled when he spoke. God patiently reminded Moses of who makes a person’s mouth, determines whether one will speak or not, hear or not, or see or not. But still Moses begged for the Lord to choose anyone but him for this task. I can just imagine how exasperated God must have been. Here we have the Creator of the universe speaking audibly to Moses explaining that He would give him the words he needed and all that it would take to accomplish the task at hand, yet Moses still begged, “don’t pick me.” Finally, God in his exasperation, gives Moses a partial out. He told him that He would allow Moses to use his brother Aaron as his spokesman for the people. Aaron would be the mouthpiece, but Moses would still stand in the place of God for him telling Aaron what to say. God’s pretty awesome. He could have just corrected Moses’ speech impediment, whatever that may have been, but instead, He brought a teammate in for Moses. Rather than using Moses alone, He allowed Moses to have his brother at his side for the upcoming events.

Moses lived a pretty remarkable life. Let’s do a quick recap. At the mere age of three months old, he was rescued by a princess (Exodus 2:1-10). He then fled to Midian (Exodus 2:11-22). God spoke to Moses from a burning bush in Exodus 3. Next we learn about the ten plagues. Moses had to repeatedly ask Pharoah to let the people go. Each time he refused, and God sent plagues upon Egypt (Exodus 7 – 12:30). Finally, Pharoah complied and allowed the people to leave, and the Exodus began. Of course, Pharoah changed his mind and went after them, and God miraculously parted the Red Sea so that the people of Israel crossed over the Red Sea on dry ground (Exodus 12:31-15:21). We later read about God giving Moses the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), and don’t forget the golden calf incident (Exodus 32). Moses left Sinai and renewed the covenant (Exodus 33-34). He eventually named Joshua as his successor, and later died at the age of one hundred and twenty. When we consider all of this, we must also remember that the people Moses was rescuing at God’s command fought him pretty much the whole way. They whined and complained to the bitter end. They turned their backs on God numerous times only to repent and move forward again. Sometimes it was like he was herding thousands of preschoolers through the wilderness. But all the while, Moses stayed strong following the command of God. Moses wasn’t perfect. He didn’t even want to do the task that God commanded him to do. He tried to talk God out of it, but God knew that Moses was the man for the job even when Moses couldn’t recognize this himself.

Life is going to throw some challenges at you. If you are serving Christ, this is a definite given. Life isn’t going to be easy, but just as God provided for Moses as he traveled through the wilderness, He will provide for you and I today. When we follow the will of God, we can have confidence in knowing that God is working everything out behind the scenes. He will give us the words that we need to say. He will give us the boldness and courage to speak and proclaim His Word. Y’all, He parted the Red Sea, sent manna and quail from heaven, and turned a rock into water. There is nothing that God can not accomplish, and just imagine how much we could accomplish for the glory of God if we would stop making excuses and avoiding His calling on our lives. If God puts a calling on your heart, He will take care of you and see it through, you only have to be a willing participate!

Give me a word, Lord: ON A MISSION

Jeremiah 20:9 But if I say I’ll never mention the Lord or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire.  It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it!

1 Peter 4:10 God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.

We are all on some sort of mission in this life whether we recognize it or not. Some are on a mission to get rich quick, some are on a mission to climb the corporate ladder to the top, and some are on a mission to merely find a job. Well, Peeps, I’m here to tell you of the greatest mission opportunity in the whole world. It’s not a very well kept secret. Many have accepted the challenge over the years, but way too many haven’t yet started because they let things get in the way. Those things can be fear, feeling of inadequacy, or possibly the biggest reason the mission is rejected: lack of time due to the busyness of life.

What is this mission? The greatest mission you can ever accept is to be a warrior for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that may sound silly to some, but not to God. God placed us here to be fruitful, and declaring the gospel to the lost and dying world is the natural fruit of a Christian. The lost do not know they are lost, and they need to hear the Word of God. “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” (Romans 10:14)

Someone has to to tell them! We can’t just warm the church pew and wait for the pastor to tell them. What if they don’t ever walk through the door of a church? How are they going to hear? Sadly, if we lay Christians lay around and wait for someone else to share the gospel, a whole lot of opportunities are missed.

But how? How do we share our faith? Oh, my friends, there are probably no less than a million ways. We each are gifted with special talents from God, and He gifted us with these talents so that we can glorify Him. I’m just an old redneck gal from Mississippi, but God put missions in my heart. Do I feel competent? Nope! But guess what? God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called! And guess what else? We are ALL called into missions to share the gospel with all of the nations. But you don’t have to travel to some far away country to do it. You merely have to go down your driveway, stop at the grocery store, or go to your job. There are people living right in your own community that need to here the Good News. You only need to be willing to go.

Oh, but you may be thinking, “I won’t have the words. I don’t know what to say.” That excuse won’t play. Consider when God called Moses. “But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.” (Exodus 4:10-13) The Holy Spirit will provide the words, you only need to be a willing participate.

I’ve never been a fan of public speaking. As a matter of fact, when I graduated high school, I didn’t go to college immediately because I was horrified of having to take Oral Communications class, aka speech class. I had a desire to go to nursing school, but I had a real terror of having to speak publicly. I eventually talked my best friend into taking it with me as a night class, and I survived! As I continued into my Master’s degree, speeches became a part of life. I had to write thirty page papers and present it to my class on a weekly basis. I still didnt enjoy it and felt like I was going to pee my pants most times, but I survived. I didn’t realize it at the time, but God was preparing for missions. He trained me slowly but surely to speak publicly so that I could learn to proclaim Him!

After publishing my first book, I was asked to do speaking engagements at churches. Yep, little old scaredy cat me was standing in front of a bunch of church people telling how God was working in my life. I was afraid, but each time I silently prayed for boldness. And I kid you not, each time before I spoke, the pastors prayed, and each time, they prayed for God to give me boldness. They didn’t even know I was scared, but God did, and He worked it out. He gave me boldness every time.

But, Peeps, you don’t even have to overcome the fear of public speaking. Mission work is a very personal experience, and it is most frequently accomplished one on one, you plus one lost soul. That’s all it takes! Not feeling bold enough? Don’t have the words? Scared to open your mouth? All you have to do is pray! God will give you the words and the ability just like He gave the words to Moses. Trust me, if God can give this girl that boldness, He can surely give it to you too.

Life is a mission. Let’s get on the mission of sharing the gospel starting right now!

Give me a word, Lord: FELLOWSHIP

Hebrews 10:24-25 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Last night, we kicked off our ladies’ ministry meetings again after a long hiatus caused by our not so favorite friend, COVID-19. I belong to a small church, but that church is so full of love and life and laughter. The ladies try to meet on the first Thursday night of each month to gather together for fellowship, food, and renewing of our faith through devotionals and or Bible studies. We always have such a great time when we gather together, and I didn’t even realize how much I had missed these gatherings until last night.

We wanted this meeting to be a more relaxed one to get together and reignite our ministry, and I would have to say that we were successful in our efforts. God has truly blessed me with church that has a remarkable group of ladies who truly love the Lord. These girls are not merely friends. They are my sisters in Christ. They are family. We laugh together, learn together, and definitely love each other. I have known these ladies for a long while, but last night, I learned things about them that I didn’t know. We played a silly game in which each person had to take turns telling of unique experiences or unusual talents that we possessed as a means of learning more about each other. It was so much fun. I used to hate participating in games like this, but now I truly enjoy it. I loved learning things about my friends that didn’t know. It was a great icebreaker, and prepared us for our devotional which followed.

I have put a lot of thought into fellowship of my Christian faith family, and I have to admit that fellowshipping with my faith family is one of the greatest blessings in my life. I don’t know how people make it without a great group of believing friends. In Hebrews 10:24-25 we are reminded to gather together, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” This pandemic has caused us to miss out on gathering opportunities, but praise God, we can start gathering once again!

Why is gathering with fellow believer so important? When we gather together, we motivate one another. We encourage one another. We pray for one another. Do we all like each other all of the time? Maybe not all of the time, but by the grace of God, we do love each other, and it is that love for Christ that spurns us onward in our relationships. As we grow in our relationship with Christ, we grow in our interpersonal relationships as well.

So many people sadly look at church as a means of entertainment. They go for the show, the music, the lights, the action. It’s almost as if they entertain the idea of going to church in the same light as going to a movie. It’s a hour or two escape once or twice a week, and then that is it. Well, I’m here to tell you that is NOT it! To me, church is family. We are in fact brothers and sisters in Christ, right? Sometimes we are part of a church that we have attended our whole lives, and other times, we are new to a church, but whether you are an old member or a new member, all those other members are part of the family of God. If you are a child of God, those people are your kin folks! We are called to lovingly treat each and every member like family. If someone in the family is sick, we pray for that person and minister to them. If someone is struggling, we pray and offer assistance. If someone needs food, well, we are on that like white on rice. If someone needs encouragement, we are the encouragers. If there is a loss in the family, we are there. Can’t you see? Church is not a show. It is a group of fellow believers who love one another, care about one another, and fellowship with one another as family.

Oh, Peeps, I pray that you have a great church family. If you don’t, please get busy looking for one. And if you are part of a body of believers, but you don’t feel like family, you have to ask yourself why. After I married Jeff, I transferred my letter to his church, I didn’t feel like part of the family for a long while. I sat on the back pew. I kept to myself. I showed up at the appointed times. I attended Sunday School. I listened to the sermons. I was there, but I wasn’t involved. Those people weren’t my family. I left my family behind at another church. I felt distant and unaccepted. It took me about three years to realize that it wasn’t that the people of the church were not accepting me, but rather it was me who was not becoming part of them. I began getting involved. I started teaching Sunday School, participating in outreaches, accepted the position of church treasurer, and I started to really get to know the people of the church. Slowly but surely, they became my family too. I learned that being part of a family isn’t just showing up and filling a pew. It is so much more than that. You have to make a concerted effort to get to know each and every member of the family, and to do this, you have to put forth a little bit of effort. You may even play silly little getting to know you games like we did last night, and that is completely okay and acceptable. You have to do what it takes to get to know your family, silly or not. I’m so very thankful that God moved me to my current church, but I’m even more thankful that he moved me to get involved there.

Today I encourage you to check in on your sisters and brothers in Christ. Pray for them. Laugh with them. Love on them. It’s been a really tough year, and we need each other now more than ever. Fellowship with family today!

Give me a word, Lord: LOVE IS FRIENDSHIP THAT HAS CAUGHT FIRE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give me a word, Lord: JUST DO IT!

Romans 10:14-15 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!

Isaiah 6:8 Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.”

Mathew 24:14 And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world,

No, I’m trying to steal the Nike logo this morning, but the words, “just do it” are the words on my mind as I write. Romans 10:14-15 and Isaiah 6:8 are verses that have taken on a very deep meaning in my life over the past few years. One of my sisters’ reads my blog, and she comments, “preach it, sister.” I keep assuring her that I am not a preacher. I do enjoy teaching the Word, but I don’t consider myself a preacher of the Word. We have men trained for that. I do not have a degree in theology, but what I do have is a calling on my heart to share the gospel. I’m just going to say I’m a sharer of the Word. I love sharing the Word. Do I always feel equipped? Nope! Do I stumble over my words at times? Yep. So why do I keep on doing it? Because there are too many people out there who have not heard the gospel, and if I sit on my behind and keep all of this great news to myself, I am not following the will of my Lord and Savior.

A few years ago, we were on a medical mission trip in the Dominican Republic. This was not the typical medical mission trip where I worked like a robot seeing as many patients as I could possibly see in a day without even getting to share the Word, pray, or even get to know the person that I was providing health care. No, this one was different. We were indeed there to provide much needed medical attention to these people who had been without such care for a long while, but the major goal of this mission trip was to share Christ. The pastor over the mission explained that he would only allow us see a certain number of patients per day, and that he wanted us to actually get to know the people, their culture, their families, and their values. He wanted us to spend time sharing Christ, and this is exactly what we did. My husband, who is not in the medical field, worked with others at a registration point. Here, the patients were registered, and the questionnaire began. The simple process of asking about their beliefs, church, family, etc. was started at this point. The patient would then go from registration to triage. The nurses there dove a little deeper in the questioning and interacting aspect. Notes were jotted down on the intake sheet, and the patient was then taken to see the providers. When they reached our station, we attended to their medical needs, but continued the conversations that were started at the very first point. By the end of our examination, we knew a good bit about the patient, whether or not they were a believer, and we were able to share some of the gospel. The best thing about this was that at the end of each visit, we asked the patients if we could pray for them, and every single one of them allowed me to pray. They continued from our station to the pharmacy, and the seeds continued to be planted and watered along the way.

One morning, we got up, loaded up in pick up trucks, and headed up the mountain. Some of us rode squished inside the little compact truck, while others rode in the back of the trucks. It was a rough and rugged 45 minute ride up that mountain. We were so excited when we arrived and saw that the patients were lined up waiting to see us. The people on the mountain were primarily Haitian refugees, very poor, living in substandard housing, and many were without electricity. There was no running water. At the end of our first day, our team felt disheartened. The people here were different. They were cold, distant, and seemed almost unreachable. It felt like there was an evil spirit there. Seriously, we could feel that something was so off with these people. They were very distant. They wanted the medical attention, but they did not want anything more. My heart was broken for them. After a long day, we went back to our lodging, and we debriefed and prayed. We knew that we had to go back up that mountain the next day, and it seemed like we were wasting out time. I was thankful that we were able to meet their medical needs, but I wanted to give them some Jesus too!

If you ever doubt the power of prayer, I say test it. Our team of 14 prayed fiercely for the mountain people that night. The next morning, we loaded up for the bouncy ride back up the mountain, and everything was different. The moods were lighter. There was a freshness in the attitudes of the people. They were open to our questioning and some even responded to the calling of God. I remember one lady very clearly. I asked her if she knew the Lord as her Savior, and she told me that she did not but that she wanted to know Him. She wanted to know how to be saved. I was so excited when I heard this, especially after the trying day we had previously, that I was almost at a loss for words. I jumped up to find the pastor, and when I finally tracked him down, I told him that I had a lady who wanted to be lead to Christ. He looked at me and said, “Go do it.” I thought, “umm, me? I’m not equipped for that.” He read my expression and assured me that I could do it. I walked back to my makeshift clinic thinking, “I’m not their pastor. I can’t do this. I don’t even speak her language. How am I going to share my whole heart with this lady who doesn’t speak the language of my heart or mouth?” And I had to do this through a translator who admitted that he was a believer, but he did not believe in eternal salvation. I only knew a handful of Spanish words, and these Haitians didn’t even speak regular Spanish. That spoke a Creole Haitian version of Spanish. What and how was I going to pull this off. I didn’t want to fail this most important test. Oh but God! I doubt my abilities all day long every day, but I don’t ever doubt God’s. The Holy Spirit showed up, and showed out on that very day. I grabbed my Bible, sat down with this lady, and I shared the gospel via a translator, and on that glorious day, I watered the seeds that had been planted in this lady’s life, and God took over and made those seeds grow. She accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior, and I know all of heaven was rejoicing. This redneck girl from Mississippi was dancing with joy on the inside.

But, wait, that’s not all. While sharing the word with this precious little lady, my translator’s eyes were opened too. He was a young man of about 27 years of age. He believed in Christ, but as was common to the culture there, he believed that he could lose his salvation through sin. He didn’t understand the redemptive power of our Savior, and he didn’t understand that once saved we are always saved. He began asking questions in between patient visits, and I was able to explain the fullness of grace that our Lord offers us. I explained repentance and forgiveness, and told him that my belief from reading God’s Word is that once I become His child, I am His forever. I was able to explain to him that I was a big old goof ball who made mistakes many times, but just because I fall down doesn’t mean I won’t get back up. I explained that God loves us no matter what, and when we become His children, the Holy Spirit of the living God resides within us and convicts us when we are doing wrong and urges us to repentance. I shared that there was nothing or no one that could snatch us out of the Father’s hands once we were truly His. I planted seeds. I think I watered seeds. And I prayed that God would grow those seeds in the heart of that young man.

Do you see how awesome our God is? He can take a redneck girl from Mississippi to a mountain in the Dominican Republic to speak to Haitian Creoles about Him, and He can open their hearts to receive His Word even when the words are being translated through a non-believer. And He can cause that non-believer to start questioning his faith opening doors for more seeds to be planted and watered. You do not have to be a preacher. You do not have to be a theologian. You just have to be you, willing to share the gospel, heeding the will of God, and just be a willing vessel. All you have to do is be willing to plant and water. The Holy Spirit will take over the growing part. You just have to do it! Just do it!

Give me a word, Lord: A WHOLE LOT OF FAITH

Hebrews 11:7 It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.

We are studying Hebrews, chapter 11, in Sunday School and taking a detailed look at a few people of great faith. This week we explored the faith of Noah, and it has definitely made me search my heart. I can say I have faith all day long, but do I have the faith of Noah? I’m not sure. If you go back to the beginning of the Bible and read Genesis, you will be reminded that the people of the earth had grown very wicked in their ways. God created man in His image, but he also gave man the gift of free will. Men and women were making choices that were so ungodly. God looked at the people, and all he that saw was corruption. Their thoughts were corrupted with evil thoughts, and good thoughts could not even be entertained. Everything that the people thought and imagined was totally evil. God grew weary of these people. Genesis 6:6 says, “So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart.” Can you imagine it? God created man, surrounded him with beauty, met all of his needs, and then sin entered the world and man fell so far from God that it broke the heart of the Creator. His heart was broken so badly that He decided that He would wipe the face of the earth of every living thing…animals and people. Maybe He wanted to start over, make a clean slate. But God, oh there’s that but God saying again, but God saw Noah, and Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

God told Noah that He was going to send a great flood to cleanse the earth, and He told him to get busy constructing an ark. He gave Him the floorplan and dimensions, and He laid it all out for Noah. But y’all, prior to this there had never even been any rain on the earth. From the best I can understand, everything was watered with a vapor or mist that came up from the earth sort of like that of the rain forest. It had never rained. It had never flooded. Yet, God told Noah to build a gigantic boat for he and his family and two of every living creature so that they might be saved when this flood came. Also note that Noah didn’t live near a large body of water, so he had probably not even seen a big boat, much less one the size of the ark that he was to build. But Noah commenced to building a boat. He believed God, he had faith that what God told him was the truth, and he reached out on faith and did as he was commanded.

Now, we have to realize that this was not an easy task for Noah. Have you ever been to the Ark Encounter in Kentucky? The life size replica of the ark is massive. As we walked through my thoughts kept going back to how in the world did Noah and his sons accomplish this enormous undertaking? They had no power tools, no table saws, no nail guns. There wasn’t a Lowe’s or Home Depot on the corner to run over to and purchase the wood. He also didn’t have a huge construction team of men working on this project. As a matter of fact, he was scorned, laughed at, and ridiculed by the people around him. He had to complete this project on his own with the help of his family only. It is remarkable to me that this man and his sons could have completed this on their own, but it’s not surprising at all when you factor in the fact that it was God’s will. When God’s will is behind any task, nothing can stand in the way of completion.

It took years to construct the ark. The Bible doesn’t really pin point the exact amount of years, but it was quite a few. During that time, Noah was likely taunted day in and day out. People laughed at him, but what did Noah do? He kept on preaching and warning the people, and he kept on building that ark. He had never seen rain. He had never heard of a flood. He had never built a boat. But he knew that he could trust in God. He had so much faith, and it had to be a fantastically strong faith in order for him to accomplish what he accomplished in such an overwhelmingly negative situation. Though mocked and ridiculed, he persisted. He didn’t give up. He followed God.

I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve heard the story of Noah and the ark since my early childhood days, and even though I’ve heard it hundreds of times, I had never really invested a lot of time thinking about just how much faith was involved in this endeavor. Noah was truly a man of faith. He sets a standard that we should all strive to live by. God spoke. Noah believed. Noah acted. Are we that faithful? Are we listening for the voice of God? Are we heeding His will? Are we living for Him despite the negative feedback that we get from those around us? We have to get back to God. We need to renew our relationship with our Lord and Savior, and we need to start building our arks! No, there will never be another flood of the whole earth. God promised that, and He does not break His promises. But just look around, Peeps? He has to be growing weary of the people of the earth again. Wickedness and evil are no longer hiding, but rather these things are right out in the open for all to see. The people are straying so far from God. We need to pray, get in His Word, and really live for Christ sharing the gospel with everyone we meet. Yes, we will probably get mocked and ridiculed too, but that just means we are doing it right! We need to learn to have a whole lot of faith just like Noah!