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It started Valentines Day, which was Ash Wednesday.  Not only did I start reading “Red Letter Challenge” by Zach Zehnder but everyone at church started this challenge.  It has been a assignment that I’ve enjoyed very much and I think it goes right along with my second book, “Faithful Promises of God”. 

Zach introduces five principles: being, forgiving, serving, giving and going.  In “Faithful Promises” I constantly remind the reader that as we read through the Bible, we are called to obedience.  In being, Zach challenges us to 1) walk with Jesus and doing the things He asks and 2) words without actions are never acceptable to Jesus.  Do you see how closely these two books reflect the same challenge? 

This year as I read through the Bible, I am using Bible Pathway devotional and since I am a couple days ahead (which is what God needed for me to read at just the right time), I have 1 Peter 5:6 highlighted, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.”  Then I have underlined and starred “All who are used of God will experience a time of preparation when it may seem that one’s efforts result in disappointments.  Accept with gratitude everything that God allows through friends or enemies—through failures or humiliations—as a means to see yourself as nothing and to see your need of full dependence upon Him.  Then will come the time of fulfillment when your faith will be rewarded.”  Next to this paragraph I wrote, “I am nothing without Him, He has allowed everything into my life for a purpose…His purpose!  Everything!

That is pretty powerful to me as I have made many wrong choices in my life, even as a Christ follower.  Yes, I’ve repented of those choices but that doesn’t stop me or others from bringing up those choices and reminding me that I am such a failure.  In fact, I had a person who said she was my friend chastise me when I was down on myself with “What’s wrong with you?  You keep making bad choices!” 

Yes, I have but at that moment, I needed someone to come alongside me and show me empathy, show me the love of Jesus rather than condemnation.  I do quite well with that all by myself!

Fortunately, I did not turn away from the Lord or the church just because I’ve had hurtful people judge me.  No, I looked to the Lord even moreso, His Word was my only comfort. 

But what has struck me through the years is the direction the Lord has allowed me to serve.  Ministering to women and children who have experienced abuse, using my compassionate heart to work with children who feel worthless, showing them that Christ gives us the worth that we need. And to love. You see, it’s those wrong choices that I made that God is using for me to minister to the hurting, the abused, the lost, the hungry and the people who are searching for one person to care about them. 

And how do we learn to meet other’s needs?  Through the reading of the word, but not only reading the Bible but listening to God.  He will call you to certain phrases and Scripture that truly will speak to you…like God is directly talking to you!  The best thing you can do when that happens is to obey.  Don’t worry about doing it perfect…just do what God is calling you to do. 

When we doubt that we can do it, look to the Lord and He will give you the strength to be faithful in this calling.  We are all weak at times but when we are weak, His strength comes through.  We know we cannot take credit for what we’ve done, we know that it’s the Lord who carries us. 

Charles Stanley gives us insight concerning Gideon’s call from the Lord.  “Gideon challenged the Lord in his calling; not once but twice.  Gideon’s actions indicated that he really did not believe that God would do what He said He would do.  Still, there was a great desire within his heart to trust the Lord, and this is what God saw in his life.”  Stanley goes on, “The Lord calls us to a different path and walk.  It is a walk of faith, and not one of fear, doubt and worry.” 

Easter is this coming Sunday, attend church if you haven’t been there in a while.  Start going if you’ve never gone before.  Find a version of the Bible that you can understand and start reading it.  Your faith will only get stronger as you obey His Word. 

Psalm 46:1-2 is our comfort, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;”

Have a most blessed Easter!   

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From the obstacles that Joseph experienced to the rebellious people that Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb had to deal with, we can learn along the way how important it is for us to grab onto our Lord in faith and trust that He has our back. 

Many forsake faith and live in fear, which only paralyzes the bravest soul into a shaking mess.  As we keep our eyes on Him who is there for us, when we read Scripture each day and trust that He will keep His promises to us is when we gain strength.  Strength to take that first step towards the goal which He has called us to.  That step, when we are shaking in our boots, that we know in our own strength we are not able to take. 

When we think about it later, we realize that God has had us in training for such a time as this.  To realize that God sees what we cannot.  To realize that through our obedience in His Word, His promptings in life, those who He sends our way is all part of the plan. 

What plan?  The plan to care for those around us in the middle of chaos and cruel treatment.  The plan to step out and buy that house that you never thought you could afford.  The plan to move forward in the middle of an unplanned pregnancy.  The plan to know that He is God and He will care for you, just as He has promised; even though it’s not the way you saw it in your mind’s eye. 

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.  For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness” (1 Cor 3:19)

Charles Stanley puts it this way, “When God begins to move in power on our behalf, sometimes our situation can actually grow worse before it gets better.  Yet we can learn through adversity and grow spiritually if we will commit ourselves to Him and trust Him in all of our circumstances.” (Life Principles Bible, p 87)

I don’t know about you, but I seem to learn much better, He certainly has my attention, in the midst of hardship and sorrow.  And yet, you will hear me exclaim, “Where is God?” and I feel so sorry for myself! 

When we are in the middle of such circumstances, we seem to focus on the situation at hand and forget about the promises that we just read in our daily devotions.  We seem to forget that disappointments and heartache are inevitable and become discouraged.  But know we are not alone.

Let’s take a look at Elijah and his response to some hard times.  “God had sent the prophet to rescue Israel from its moral and spiritual decline.  Elijah confronted and defeated the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 28:17-40), but the wicket Queen Jezebel immediately threatened to kill him for executing her false prophets.

Instead of holding fast to God’s faithfulness, Elijah panicked, ran and hid (1 Kings 19:3).”  “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he mighty die, and said, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.  He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and He said to him, “Arise, eat.”  Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water.  So, he ate and drank and lay down again.” (1 Kings 19:4-6)

Not only had Elijah quickly taken his eyes off the promises of God but also what God had done for him.  Sometimes we just need to rest (yes, a good nap can help) and a little nourishment can go a long way. 

And think about those Israelites who miraculously left Egypt only by the hand of God who were quickly crying that they wanted to return to Egypt, to return to slavery, because they were going through some difficulty on the road and would rather go back into bondage rather than trust God for the promise of going to the land of milk and honey. 

When we get weak kneed, when we become frightened, when we want to go back into a sinful situation rather than fight through our present circumstances, we need to fall on our knees in prayer before God.  So often we fool ourselves thinking the easy way, the way it used to be, would be better and we long for that sinful life again.  But it isn’t better, it’s sin and that never is better! 

Not only does reading the Bible daily help you focus on His love, His strength, His plan for you but it helps to have friends who will encourage you to draw ever closer to Jesus and to remind you of His promises and the blessings that await you in being obedient to our Lord. 

Obedience is essential in all walks of our life and we find His truth and direction in reading our Bibles daily.  Reading and obeying are the keys to moving forward in the midst of difficult times. 

I don’t know who needs to be encouraged by these words but I know someone does.  I also want to encourage each of you reading this to pray…pray for someone you know who is discouraged and needs the love of the Lord.  Pray for the widow(er) going through this Easter season for the first time without her (his) dearly loved husband (wife).  Thank you for your prayers! 

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It’s a wonderful new year as we start reading the Bible in the book of Genesis.  With the book of Genesis comes new beginnings, we see God’s creation of what we know as earth, His creation of all living creatures on earth, His creation of man (which includes woman…remember when there was a time that was automatically understood?) 

We also find the fall of man, sin entering into this perfect world that God created.  Why?  Because they were not content with living in the perfect environment, having everything they would ever want or need, having a close relationship with the Creator Himself.  Can you imagine?  Not content and they just had to disobey God’s instructions to find a more perfect environment. 

Now, let’s think about that a little further.  What are the environmentalist saying?  If we drive electric cars, give up our gas stoves, stop eating meat, and the list goes on, then we will have a perfect or, if not perfect, a better environment?  But let me ask you this, if Adam and Eve were not satisfied with the perfect environment, how do you think sinful man will be when man is the one who messed it up.  Through sin…the sin of not being content!

So, Adam and Eve listened to a serpent and fell for his deception.  Believing the lie that they would be better off.  How God was holding out on them.  And all too often we listen to those who are more educated, more deceptive than we can ever imagine.  We have the Word of God at our fingertips with all the answers and yet, we want to believe the lies being told to us.  Deception doesn’t look much different today than it did with the serpent but because we are not walking with God, we are so willing to believe the lie and fall into sin. 

Words the experts use today—self-actualization, self-confidence, self-seeking, self-will—we can solve the worlds problems by our self but they are all knowing and will tell us how to do it.  Really? Don’t fall for the lie. 

As we go through the genealogy of the first few generations after creation, we see that Cain followed his parent’s footsteps by having his feelings hurt (self) when God accepted Abel’s offering and he kills his brother. 

Things go so bad with sin everywhere that God was sorry that he’d created mankind.  Genesis 6:5, the “wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thought of his (man’s) heart was only evil continually.”   The earth was full of corruption and filled with violence (see Gen 6:11). 

Noah was chosen as a righteous man, blameless.  I can hear some of you reminding me that Noah sinned too.  Yes, God has always used imperfect people to fulfill His goals.  As you read the Bible this year, notice this fact and then know that He can also use you, an imperfect person as well. 

And after the flood, God makes a promise “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”  (Genesis 8:22)   With this promise from God, we can be made aware of man’s deception that we are experiencing right now…man will not destroy the earth.  We are to follow God’s commands, the first of which is “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1) And who can be fruitful?  Man and Woman, which God told Adam and Eve the exact same thing in Genesis 1:28.  He created male and female and no matter how people are trying to deceive us today, it is only male and female who can “be fruitful and multiply”. 

The other thing that struck me is the lie we have been hearing since October, that the land of Israel has belonged to the Palestinians since…when?  Actually, the book of Genesis give us a history of Abram’s calling to this very land.  “I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” Genesis 17:8

Get an old map out, one from an older Bible and you will see exactly where Canaan is…it is being occupied by the enemy.  The very ones who want the Israelites in the Mediterranean Sea.  The lies of evil go deep!

Another thing that struck me this year as I started my journey through the Bible once again, is that Lot chose to live in Sodom, an evil place, shown by their behavior.  Again, we are seeing the same thing today.  But after Sodom is destroyed, we continue to see disobedience first from Lot’s wife, who was instructed not to look back—she did and was immediately turned into a pillar of salt.  Then Lot’s daughters chose sexual immorality with their father to get pregnant.  Tell me that living in such an evil place as Sodom didn’t have its influence on Lot’s family! 

And today, how we raise our children and allow them to be exposed to so much evil will have an influence on them as well. 

We now jump ahead to Jacob and Esau, the two brothers who God promised their mother that “the older will serve the younger”. (Gen 25:23) 

It seems that Esau was more interested in quick, self-satisfaction rather than being honored as being the oldest and fulfilling God’s wishes.  But God knew that from the beginning, that’s how He could tell Rebekah this before she even had these boys. 

Life Lessons from Charles Stanley’s Life Principles Bible, p 39, helps us to understand Gen. 25:34, “In despising his birthright, Esau proved himself “godless” (Heb 12:16) because he considered filling his empty stomach more important than the spiritual promises of God to Abraham.  To avoid making Esau’s grave mistakes, always remember the H.A.L.T. principle.  Whenever you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, be very careful because you are especially vulnerable to sin.  Before making a decision, stop and seek God.  The more you give in to your feelings of weakness and look for ways to fill your needs apart from God, the more you’ll reap the terrible consequences of it.”

Now, those are words to ponder! 

I look forward to God blessing you as you read the Bible daily.  I look forward to hearing from each of you, whether you are reading the Bible from cover to cover for your first time or more times than you can count.  God will teach you each step of the way.  I am excited for you!

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