EXILED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IF JESUS COMES TOMORROW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHO AM I?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SECRET SERVICE CHRISTIAN?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GET YOUR WORSHIP ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A LIVING SANCTUARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OH MY HEART!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STORMS

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT ARE YOU CHASING?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KK Hodge

SEA OF FORGETFULNESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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