Thoughts and Encouragement

REST
posted: 10/21/2019

Rest is a key factor to our everyday lives, and it seems to be a common theme throughout the scriptures as you study throughout.  As I have printed before, being busy can really hamper our Christian growth as we move forward in our lives.

One of the central themes of many of the Psalms is rest.  Psalm 23 states that, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, He restores my soul.”   Psalm 95 paints the picture of a rest that is provided by God to His people:

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down;   let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.”” — Psalm 95:6-11 (ESV).

The rest that the Psalmist is speaking to is the rest that God promises us…a rest that can only be found in all out devotion to Him.

The Sabbath was set aside for rest under the law to give the people a day to reflect, relax, and renew themselves, but too many of us today run ourselves into the ground by letting ourselves over-commit our schedules.  The fast pace of today’s world has caused many to lose sight of the Lord in their lives.  We become too wrapped up in our plans to stop and see the plans that God has for us.

If we would take the time to rest, we would find a renewal of strength that only the Lord can provide.  We must humble ourselves to receive the blessings that God intends for us, but we must make sure that we are not too busy to see when they come our way.

I would like to encourage each of you to look deep into your heart and see where your priorities lie…

The only way for us to fully rest is to take the time to get to know our God, and the only way to do that is to read His word.   We have to fully immerse ourselves in the Word of God to really get to know Him. For that reason we need to get to know His Word so that we can make sure we are living the way we should, as well as making sure that we can discern the lies that the world will throw our way.

The importance of this rest is seen in Hebrews 3 and 4 where the writer explores the words of Psalm 95 and then details the importance of this rest.  As we look deeper into this topic, we see that we must find the time to relax and separate ourselves from the world to fully clear our minds.  Today, too many times, we find ourselves fully wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of life, filling our schedule with so much that we barely have time to sleep.

Rest is valued by God.  We see this in Genesis in the story of the Creation.  God worked for six days and rested on the seventh to sit back and reflect on all He had done, seeing that it was good.  God felt that rest was important, and it gave Him time to look over His work.  We should take this same approach to our lives.  If we never rest, we never have time to reflect on where we stand.

We see in Hebrews that those who do not rest will not find rest.  God places this rest as a way for us to renew and refresh, but if we do not help ourselves find this rest, we will never find the rest that God gives.

The writer of Hebrews reflects on the Psalmist’s words, “Today, If you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…”  He then recounts the story of Joshua and states that there is a Sabbath rest for the people of God, because anyone entering God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did.

The final plea comes in encouraging the Hebrews to enter that rest so that none will fall into disobedience.  The writer then proceeds to discuss the change in the old law, stating that Jesus is now our high priest.

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV)”

Find your rest today, draw near to the throne of grace in full confidence and receive the blessings you need in your time of trouble.  We have everything we need in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

ADDICTIONS
posted: 8/23/2019

“A glowing sort of witness, to know and to become;
reflections of true meanings of a life to come undone.
Which to see lost purpose in darkness of the heart;
caught in downward spirals of addictions to impart.
A glowing sort of witness, in lostness of to so tend;
reflections of true meanings as a life to seek an end.
Which to see lost purpose in darkness of the soul;
Caught in the downward spirals of never meant to know…”

— “Addictions,” J.D. Diller, 8:04 am, 12/21/2018

Sometimes blessings come in just the right moment for us to realize workings of God in others that we come across.  One such working that I have recently seen is the poetry of J.D. Diller, a local resident who strives to give as God leads. He supplies poetry to many folks who cross his path; including Law Enforcement and EMS workers.  I have been blessed to also have him bring many of his poetic verse, in no effort to be published, but many of them have struck a chord in such a way that I feel they need to be shared.

This is one of those poems.

It sparked thought within me about how many in our area face the battles of addiction – be it drugs, alcohol, or other destructive patterns of life…

Addiction can cause the life that we know to completely come undone at the seams, tearing us apart from the inside out. Addiction leads us to destroy ourselves silently – alone and broken.  This poem brought to mind the scripture in Romans 7, in which Paul states, “For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. (v. 15)”

Sure, the things we are addicted to were “fun” and offered a release from the troubles of life when we began them; but as time passes by and dependency builds up, it can become a struggle that is complete with the conversation that we do not want to live the life we are living.  Unfortunately, we feel that there is no choice because we have become a slave to the thing we are addicted to…it controls us…it has taken the reins…

Paul goes on to say in verse 20, “Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one that does it, but it is the sin that lives in me.”

What can we do to break this pattern of addiction?

We are sinners and we all need saving!  There is not a one of us who is immune to the addiction of sin, whatever that sin may be. Once sin takes hold in our lives, it begins to grow as a cancer…it starts to dictate our nature, and unless we remedy the sin, we will remain captive to it.  Whether it be addiction to drugs and alcohol, or something we may consider as minor as telling a little lie in a moment of weakness; remember, that lie can become 1,000 in a moment…the only true redemption we can find is through the blood of Christ.

I challenge you today – recognize the addictions in your life! If you do not realize it is an addiction that is separating you from the love of God, take inventory of the things you turn to and the battle it brings; then ask the Savior for the freedom from those chains. Ask for HIS amazing grace to take hold and free you!  There is only one answer…that answer is Jesus Christ!

DO YOU SEE ANYTHING
posted: 06/20/2019

When you hear the name Elijah, most likely the first thing that comes to mind is that he was a prophet in the Old Testament; some may even go so far as to remember that he was taken up in a chariot of fire and did not face death on this earth. But it isn’t this testament to his faith in that God took him home in that way that I want to focus on … in fact, I want to focus on how he handled one particular circumstance that many of us may have missed along the way.

Elijah prayed for God to close the heaven’s, and God answered by not allowing it to rain for 3 ½ years…but still, this is not the part of the story we need to understand as Christians…it’s what happened at the end of the drought that I believe can guide us in our lives today.  The faith Elijah had was unmatched in his day, because he knew that God would answer his prayers…and he did not give up until he got that answer.

After 3 ½ years, Elijah began to pray for God to open the heavens and send rain…and he had faith it would happen….so he prayed and sent an assistant to see if clouds were forming, the answer, “no”, and he could have stopped there, but he didn’t.  Elijah prayed over and over, persistently and passionately that God would hear his cry, and on the 7th time the assistant returned and said, “There is a cloud!”

“There is a cloud!”

This was an exclamation of an answered prayer…until we look at it in today’s terms, would we have the faith that Elijah and his assistant did to believe that the cloud that was seen was something that could produce rain?  It was the size of a man’s hand…something small, seemingly insignificant, and honestly could have been easily missed if we were not focused on seeing even the smallest of blessings in front of us.  But they saw it and exclaimed, “There is a cloud!”

This followed by Elijah issuing a warning to the king to clear the area and save everything before the rains came…all over a little six inch cloud…a SIX INCH CLOUD! How is your faith today? Would you have had the faith to exclaim, “There is a cloud!”?

Are you looking for even the smallest of blessings that can grow into larger ones? Are you seeing the first signs of God’s provision in your life? Are you focused enough to see that little six inch cloud that is about to become a blessing?

Where is your focus today? Are you praying persistently and fervently? Can you say, “There is a cloud”?

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” – James 5:16

WHAT CHILD IS THIS?
posted: 12/12/2018

Put yourself in Joseph’s shoes, what do you do when the woman you are promised to marry comes to you and says she is pregnant? Joseph did what he knew could be done and began to seek a way to drop Mary with little to no fuss and quietly end things with her. What would you do in that situation? He was visited by an angel that encouraged him to stay and raise the Son of God.

Many of us would likely have trouble being faithful through something like this, we would struggle with the knowledge that the child that Mary is carrying is not my child. I know what she said but I can’t marry her like this. Joseph exemplified true faith in trusting God to provide.

Who was this child and exactly how important is He to us as Christians? It brings us back the the lyrics of the traditional Christmas hymn, “What Child is This?”. Take aloof at the lyrics:

“What child is this, Who lay to rest On Mary’s lap is sleeping Whom angels greet with anthems sweet While shepherds watch are keeping.

So bring him incense, gold and myrrh Come peasant king to own him The King of Kings salvation brings Let loving hearts enthrone him.”

Who is this child of Christmas? What can he do for us? Come bring, gifts and bow down to worship Him.

“This, this is Christ the King Whom shepherds guard and angels sing Haste, haste to bring him laud The Babe, the Son of Mary”

This child came to the earth for many reasons and we can answer the question of what Child this is by looking at four things:

No person has had more impact on history than Jesus Christ. It is undeniable that He lived and walked in the land of Judea and Israel almost 2000 years ago.

–He is the visible image of the invisible God. He is God in a person. You want to know what God is like? Look to Jesus. The fullness of God dwells in Him.

–He is also the Creator of all creation. He holds all creation together. It is His masterpiece. Creation reveals the greatness of God.

–He is the Savior who saves us from our sins. He came to reconcile us with God.

–He is the head of the church. He is to the church what the head is to the body.

Once you know who He is, you have a choice–a decision to make. It’s the biggest one ever–to trust Him as your Savior and Lord or to reject Him. Who is Jesus? The Bible is clear, but the important thing for you is, do you believe it?

AWAY IN A MANGER
posted:12/05/2018

As we approach the Christmas season I want to look at some songs of the season and truly look into the meaning of Christmas for us all. First I’d like to look at the hymn ‘Away in a Manger’. This is such a simple song, but the message is one that is deeper than many may realize.

“Away in a manger, no crib for His bed; the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head. The stars in the sky looked down where He lay, the little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

“The cattle are lowing, the poor babe awakes; but little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes. I love Thee Lord Jesus, look down from the sky, and stay by my cradle ’til morning is nigh.

“Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay, close by me forever and love me I pray. Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care; and take us to heaven to live with Thee there.”

The words are simple, and like ‘Jesus Loves Me,’ is a song that is taught to children, this around the Christmas season. The beauty of this hymn is that it lets us in on the true meaning of Christmas, a baby, born in a stable, laid in a manger because there was no room for Him. It embraces our story today as well…because too many times we fail to make room for him in our hearts. We find ourselves in a situation where we push him out to the parts of our lives that seem dirty and unworthy of the King of kings to be.

The lyrics paint a picture of peace that comes through a Savior that was born in the humblest of circumstances. A Savior who came to save the world and make a way for His people to achieve salvation. If we can begin to look at it in this way we will see the scriptures come to life right before our eyes. This song speaks of more than a baby in a feeding trough, it speaks of ‘A Way’ in a Manger.

A way for us to achieve salvation, a way for us to come to God, a way for us to feel happy about life, a way for us to find peace and fulfillment. Jesus even said later, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6),” and we are the ones who receive the gift that was given that first Christmas morning.

This Christmas, take the time to focus on the Way that came in a manger on that day. The way to eternal life came in a Bethlehem stable. Jesus is THE WAY in a Manger.

BETTER DAYS AHEAD
posted: 11/15/2018

I know that many struggle at times with uncertainty in their lives. Uncertainty of where they are, how they got there, and even what to do to get out. One common misconception when it comes to struggling with difficulty is that we have a sin in our life that has caused it. This doesn’t have to be the case; in fact, I would venture to say that in most cases it is not the situation at all.

Take a look at the book of Job if you don’t believe me. Early in the book we find that the devil felt that Job was successful in life and able to serve God because he had everything going for him:

“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.” – Job 1:8-12 (ESV)

We see a couple of things in this passage that I want to focus on this week. First, that we do not necessarily have to have a sin in our life as a reason for why things are seemingly going wrong in our lives; it could be that Satan has taken notice of us because of our relationship with God. The next thing we see is that God will allow the testing of our faith, but will not allow us to be harmed in the process.

If you are following the will of God you will get the attention of Satan, because he can’t stand for someone to follow the will of God. Satan will leave you alone if you are already out of God’s will because he doesn’t need to work to get you where he wants you, but someone who is striving to live a life that is pleasing to God, as was the case for Job, will grab Satan’s attention and he will do what he can to try and cause you distress.

We can hold on to hope today in our suffering that we will be taken care of by God, and He will not allow us to be harmed. God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11 holds true in the story of Job, and will hold true in our story as well. God looks after His children, and no matter what trial we are facing, we have a promise today that it will not be something that will harm us. It may hurt when we lose a loved one, it may sting if we lose a job, and it may seem like our world is upside-down when life seems to slap us in the face, but according to scripture, all of these things build our perseverance and lead us into a joyous life with God.

The beauty of the promise is that we are given a hope and a future. We see that Job was doubly blessed in the end, and we can know that God will do the same for us. He will make our trials a blessing. We must learn to praise him through the storms in our life and take every opportunity to thank Him for the trials that are molding us into who He wants us to be. Today, take the chance to ask God to show you ways you can praise Him through the tough times in life, because, it is the tough times where we can see that there are better days ahead.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)

MISSING MAYBERRY
posted: 10/22/2018

I have been thinking lately about the simple life of Mayberry that we see on the Andy Griffith Show.  What happened to the days where we could be a community, where folks trusted one another, where people enjoyed a good church service and a get together where they weren’t afraid to sing praises to our Lord. What happened to these days?

We live in a time of corruption; we live in a time where folks have turned their back on the old way of life.  Many seem to have forgotten where we come from.

Looking back to Mayberry, I think we can all see a way that life could be simpler for us.  We must learn to trust the Lord and trust one another again.  The problem is, no one cares these days if they are trustworthy.  People are too busy trying to look out for themselves and forget to look out for one another.  We forget that we are to be praying for one another.  We forget that we are to be showing the love of Christ to others and we forget that we need to band together as a community.

Ephesians 5:15-21 tells us about what has happened to our way of thinking:

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

We must watch out for our steps, we must guard our actions, but we must also watch out for each other today.  We can’t be afraid to allow God to work in our lives.  We don’t have to miss Mayberry today, we can pray and get ourselves back to those days.  There is nothing wrong with the old way of life. What is wrong is our perspective.

I encourage you today to think back to how things used to be and see what changed.  I guarantee you that you are the one who has changed, the Savior is the same yesterday, today and forever.

FLY LIKE AN EAGLE
posted: 10/19/2018

A verse that has always been a strong part of my life, and I know has also been a favorite for many is Isaiah 40:31 which states, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

This verse was a favorite of both of my parents, as well as a verse that became a major part of my life because of the meaning that we see in it.  “But they that wait upon the Lord…” is a promise for each of us.  If you can be patient and wait on the Lord’s timing things will fall into place.

To me, this is saying, wait on what God has for you; do not try to pursue a life that may not be within the realm of His calling.  Do not try to force his hand and jump head first into something without prayer and application of the scripture.  God wants us to wait for His timing so that His work in us can be made perfect.

This verse continues with the promise, “…shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles…” We shall mount up as eagles if we just wait.  We may be worn down and ready to give up because we just don’t understand what is taking so long sometimes, but today I encourage you to wait.  Wait because our strength will be renewed; our strength will be restored…we will be lifted up.

We will run and not be weary and walk and not faint…nothing can overtake us when we are patient with the Lord and wait upon his timing.  God has a plan for us today, and when we are patient and wait for that fulfillment we will be blessed; we will be restored; we will feel renewal.  Revival happens when we ask the Lord to move and wait on His move rather than pursue it with our own motives.

Fly like an eagle today, wait on the strength the Lord will provide and mount up with wings like an eagle.  Fly majestically and beautifully through the plans of the Lord in your life while pursuing Him and His timing.  Spread your wings and embrace all that He has for you today and allow Him to complete His work in you in His way and His time.

If we today can be patient, waiting for the Lord while working to live a life worthy of His calling on us, we will soar above all that will come our way.  Nothing will be able to pull us to the ground, we will rise above it all and become what He wants us to be, all because we were willing to be patient and trust in His plans.  Today, you can fly like an eagle if you put your trust in Him.