Over the years my family and I have often found the need to travel to large metropolitan cities to experience the wonders tucked within. Sometimes it is a sporting event or a child’s field trip or educational opportunity that takes us to these heavily populated towns. Often driving ourselves we have noticed that no matter how close you may be to your destination it doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to get there soon. More times than not, we have found ourselves within yards of our hotel entrance or parking area only to be held up by traffic lights and people crossing, blocking the last few feet to arrive at our desired location. It could be maddening at times so my husband started an expression we still use today when we travel. When our destination is in view but our access is denied he will simply state “So close and yet so far”. We all laugh and try to relax while we wait to proceed. It has become our own little family funny!
Since I have just returned from the real “God’s country” (Israel), I was overwhelmed with emotions that will take weeks or months to put into comprehensive thoughts. One evening after an eventful day of sightseeing our guide, Jewell Barrett asked us to reveal what had impressed us so far. My feelings were of the people that were bustling around in this city of Bethlehem that our Lord Jesus was born in. Most were Muslims, Palestinians or Jews. Only a few were Christians. It struck me that God must be so grieved by the droves of people that populate this Holy Land and how few realized how truly Holy it is. They are all busy trying to get the tourists to buy their wares or stopping to the Muslims “call to prayer” 5 times per day projected through very loud speakers from poles positioned throughout the city. The Muslims are a devout group who are serious about their faith. They, however, are very aware of the opportunities to make money from the unsuspecting Christian tour groups.
A stark reality came took up residence in me, all of these people were “so close and yet so far” from what God intended for His people. The people He loves the people He sent His Son to die for!!!! Every day in Bethlehem seemed to be a day of law following people who were right in the midst of the most incredible territory rich in scriptural history and yet most didn’t have any obvious reverence for it. Just going about their business worshiping their false gods not realizing how very close indeed they were to the one and only Savior of the world, Jesus Christ!
What mercies God has poured out on us who believe!!! We have the Holy Spirit in us! It was eye opening and life changing to witness first hand.
Traveling to the Holy Land is more than one can imagine. The sites are consistently spectacular. Our guide, Rev. Jewell Barrett has been here 23 times! His working knowledge of the history of Jesus’ life is superb. As we travel from place to place he is a fountain of information that never ends. Bro. Barrett is from Possum Trot, KY but feels at home in this sacred place. He feels it is his calling from God to reveal the life of our Lord in and around Jerusalem. Already the wisdom that has been shared is overwhelming.
Just a few things we have experienced so far… An unforgettable prayer session on the peak of the mount of olives, the garden of Gethsemane, The Wailing wall, the dungeon Jesus was held in before going to the cross, Herod the Great’s coliseum on the Mediterranean Sea, Jordan River where Jesus was baptized. We are in Nazareth for the next two days with as they celebrate Easter.
God has sent me on divine assignment. A few short weeks ago it became clear that my husband and I would be traveling to the Holy Land. For those of you who wait patiently for my posts I apologize for my absence the last two weeks. Since I am the wife and mother of our home I went from my daily activities to preparing to travel half way around the world in less than two weeks! You ladies out there can relate to what I am saying!
In my walk with God he has sent me on more than one field trip. They are not always fun but a necessary part of growing in faith. For instance when my grandson was born with several health problems which required an extended stay in the NIC unit. I watched God grow my young daughter and her husband beyond any measure of faith they thought was possible. God used that difficult trip to show off his mercy and healing power through the prayers of this sweet couple. I witnessed a small helpless infant go from total life support to a completely healthy newborn in a matter of hours. I was standing on Holy ground right in front of that lifeless little boy when God sent his angels to heal him. I know it with all that I am. I felt the healing hand of God right there right then. The presence of God was so tangible I wondered if He had come to take our little angel home. I remember thinking “this feeling is so wonderful, if God takes this little man home I want to go too!
This field trip is a different sort of journey but I come expecting to sense God in powerful ways. In ways I haven’t know Him before. A new plateau of learning that I haven’t known before now. I will do my best to expose you to all we experience. My assistant at home has promised to post photos I provide. So, join me as we discover together what God has in store.
Have you ever attended a church service where someone just stopped the preacher in mid-sentence to proclaim “I need to get right with God!”? I will assume that most reading this will say “no” to that question. I have heard stories from mission trips around the world reporting such things, but rarely do I hear of it happening in the United States.
During our regular Worship service at the prison this week, a woman raised her hand with a question. She stated, “I need to get right with God, I haven’t been doing things I should. What do I do?” Since I was delivering the message and wasn’t quite done, I simply asked her to join some of the other team members on the sidelines for counsel and prayer. This young woman was embraced by the ladies on the team and prayed to receive Christ as her Savior. The volunteers who prayed with her will forever be changed, I am sure.
That event took place two days ago and I am still reeling from the effects of it. The incredible power of the Holy Spirit to make someone shout out, “Stop! I need to repent and find peace with God,” is simply amazing and inspiring. The ministry has seen this happen often and it is beginning to seem commonplace. Not so long ago, one woman stopped us and asked if she could repent. She was a believer but realized she had not repented of her sins and wanted peace. On yet another day, a lady stopped us and reported to the entire group that she was a practicing lesbian and because of the teaching she was convicted of that lifestyle and wanted to put it behind her. She realized it would be hard and Satan would not like that decision. She asked us to pray specifically for her strength to follow through with this commitment.
Is it possible that revival is about to erupt “behind the wire”? Could God be preparing hearts to receive a fresh touch from Him, when many people have given up on them? It is indeed exciting to think about, but also makes me yearn for that same humility in my home church and other churches in my community. How exciting to think about people just coming clean with their church family and with God. Repenting first, then turning away from well-hidden sins. No judging, just loving embraces from your church family who understands. What would happen if just a few of us had the courage to do that? Would it start a wave of revival that couldn’t be stopped? Would some drown because of an anchor of sin that has a stronghold in the muddy recesses of their lives?
One thing I know for sure, when a revival starts I want to be on top of the wave and not consumed by the flood waters as it passes by. If the conditions at the prison are any indicator, we are about have a tidal wave. I want to be free of anything that weighs me down so I can enjoy the ride. What about you?
In today’s world there’s a lot of emphasis on getting fit and staying fit. Everywhere we look we see how- to ads for weight loss, fitness and nutrition. Our society has tried everything to be slim, trim and muscular overnight. We seem to be consumed with being fit but we want it now! If we really want to get fit we will need to change permanently. You can’t expect to run a marathon with no preparation or training. We need to commit to the training program that goes along with the race. The change will seem strange at first but over time will become second nature to you. When you aren’t preparing for it you will feel out of sorts.
Modern Christianity seems to have gotten in on the get fit quick mentality too. We have more resources at our fingertips than ever before to read the bible, go to church and participate in church activities and yet there are less and less mature Christians who pursue Christ for heaven’s sake. I hear more and more people saying they need to read their bible more; go to church more; pray more. Like a new found fitness or nutrition program, the intent is there in the beginning but the commitment fades after just a few days or weeks.
Here’s what God’s fitness plan looks like for us; go to church weekly, study your bible and pray every day. No special supplements or foods, no special equipment except your bible of course. Working this plan for thirty days will create a lifestyle change that will eventually push other things out of the way permanently. Your relationship with God will develop beyond anything you could have ever imagined and before you know it your appetite for Christlikeness will overrule other things that previously commanded your attention. It will become second nature and you will begin to crave it. Church participation, praying and studying the Word will become a necessary part of your week in order to fulfill the deep longing God has placed in you for HIM. You will find that your appetite is satisfied by this daily meeting and you no longer wonder what you’re here for. You will begin to realize you are God’s great design for heaven’s sake!
The kingdom clock is ticking and we are rapidly running out of time to get fit for heaven’s sake. God loves you more than you could ever love a certain food or drink. Check out God’s fitness plan for your life. It will take some time and perseverance but the results will outweigh any get fit quick plan this world has to offer and your reward will be eternal.
When I was in high school I joined the track team for a brief season. I discovered I enjoyed sprints or short distance running. This type of race offered quick gratification without much time or energy spent. I wasn’t interested in long distance races. It took too much time and energy to prepare for a run where the finish line was not in view.
Well, time has a way of helping us see things from a different perspective. I now realize that speed, rapid start and quick gratification do not entice me any longer. Even though these types of events allowed me to see the finish line from the start, I have discovered that life is a long distance run. A little over a year ago I signed up for my first half marathon. That’s 13.1 miles of pavement to pound without a finish line in sight. In a few weeks I will be at the starting gate of my second.
I can’t see the finish line from where I’m at in life either. I need faith in Jesus to give me the determination, confidence and perseverance to finish my life race. Much like the half marathon I have signed up for it requires me to keep my eye on the goal that I can’t see. I must keep going even when I want to quit. I must endure hardships, weariness, and difficulties along the way.
Hebrews 12:1-2 states, Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
When I am dismayed and want to quit this grueling race I just think about Jesus! He died for me and for you on the cross of Calvary without the finish line in view. His joy was set before Him. The best part of all, when He was done he sat down!
Following Jesus will test our faith constantly as we come up against obstacles that discourage and distract us from what we are called to do. Fix your eyes on Jesus and keep trudging along. One day your race will be done and a great cloud of witnesses who finished before you will be cheering as you reach your home in heaven. Then you will be able to sit down and rest awhile.
Is it just me or has anyone else noticed how unbelieving our nation has become? It seems we don’t want to believe God or His Word anymore. I am constantly amazed at how often I hear others comment on the Word of God as “a book of stories to teach us lessons.” Recently, I spoke with a person who confessed they had been thinking possibly once the Word of God was written and God no longer controlled it that others had added things to enhance it with rules He didn’t mean for it to have!
Believing God doesn’t seem to be the norm any longer. We have somehow begun to think we know what is best. We just want to read the good stuff God has to say and skim over the rest that makes us uncomfortable and doesn’t line up with what others are telling us. Or maybe, we don’t read it at all and just trust what we hear from the pulpit, Sunday school class or a TV personality.
Personally, if I couldn’t trust the Word of God for my everyday living I wouldn’t know what to do with myself when assaulted with every day news and events. No wonder so many of us are on medications for anxiety and depression! The world is a scary place!
It has been a very long time since I went a day without a dose of the WORD. It is a miracle drug for me that cause’s my eyes to see clearly, my ears to hear, my heart to love and forgive, my body to relax, and my mind complete peace. The only cost for a refill of this magnificent drug is my time. I confess I am addicted to this marvelous timeless treasure.
So, today, I challenge you to stop listening to the noise around you and get into the incredible Word of God. Find some peace between those pages. He has all your answers and will delight to reveal anything you could possibly think or ask.
2 Timothy 3:16 says it the best. Go ahead crack open the Good Book (or in my opinion, the best book) and see for yourself!
Hebrews 11:1-2 – Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.
Examples of GREAT faith are littered throughout the Old and New Testament then condensed for us in Hebrews 11. Often referred to as the “faith chapter” Hebrews reminds us of the extreme circumstances placed before many of the faithful and what their response was to the challenge to keep on keeping on.
What about you? Do you run like a scared rabbit when faced with situations that demand your faith in God? Or do you accept it as a learning experience and hang on for dear life while God takes you through it?
For me, I have to admit it has been some of both. I try desperately to follow hard after God but in all honesty it can be so hard when I just can’t see. But, isn’t that what Hebrews 11 states? Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, but not seen.
There’s a scene in the children’s movie “Finding Nemo” that portrays this faith so well. Marlin (Nemo’s Dad) and friend Dory are sitting on the tongue of a whale. All of the sudden the whale starts to moan and begins to fill its mouth with water. Dory states that the whale is saying “let go”. She, in simple faith says “ok” but Marlin is terrified of being swallowed whole and is convinced that his simple minded friend is nuts and doesn’t want to trust her or the fish eating whale!! Dory pleads with Marlin to just let go and enjoy the experience. Don’t think about the “what if’s” just trust the whale. She is absolutely confident that the message is correct. Marlin finally relents and within a few seconds they are both propelled through the whale’s blow hole unto the surface of the sea right at their desired location! Simple faith in the face of what appeared to be extreme danger proved to be a shot in the arm for Dory and a life lesson for Marlin.
What I love about this scene is Dory communicating with the whale in an unknown language that only she seems to understand. It reminds me of my relationship with God. The more I know Him the more I understand Him. He speaks to me differently than He does to anyone else and if I keep our lines of communication open I can enjoy sweet fellowship, trusting my Creator to carry me through all sorts of dangers, toils and snares!
My Grandson turned two years old the other day! His constant smile and good nature make him hard to resist. When he was 15 months he began experimenting with words that would eventually become my “pet name” for him. You see, here in the south all grandmothers have a name that sets them apart. A grandmother could be; Mimi, Memaw, Granny, Gran, Nana, Nanny and a host of other names that endear that child to his grandmother.
I wondered what in the world he would eventually settle on. As the words began to form he would murmur unknowns until finally one day he looked at me with a wide grin and sang out Meeeee. Each time he would say my new name he would use a different lilt and it would sound sunnier and sunnier. I have to admit I was pretty proud of that and began to think “wow, it’s going to be all about Me!” At this point, he would look at his grandfather and just point. He couldn’t for the life of him come up with anything to call Grandfather. Each time we saw him he would just sing Me in every way imaginable finally adding another me making me a Meme. I was getting pretty puffed up by then and really wanted to believe it was going to be all about Meme.
Then one day it happened. He saw his Grandfather in a photo and just pointed right at it and in a loud and proud tone boldly stated “That’s a Paw Paw!” From then on I was doomed. It was no longer about Me. Each time he sees us he smiles and says “Hi Meme, where’s PawPaw?” So much for getting all the attention!
I love to tell this story because it is so characteristic of our selfish nature. We humans tend to like things to be about us. Right from the beginning we get all our needs met by crying! No wonder we think it’s all about us. We whine and whimper about the littlest things and don’t like any difficulties to come our way. We expect everything to be fair and work out for the good guy. Eventually, if we follow God we will be required to starve our flesh accepting the cruel reality that it isn’t all about us. This process with our Father can take some of us a long time to come to terms with. Our selfish nature will hang on as long as it can. Once our will lets go of its death grip on the flesh we realize it is all about HIM and always has been.
I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have David’s psalms to comfort me when I am discouraged or my faith is challenged. Life can be so difficult, it is wonderful to know that God is but a breath away to help us, guide us and protect us.
A closer look at David’s life reveals he was anointed king as a young boy but wasn’t actually appointed until much later and after much despair, disappointment and discouragement. He must have wondered what God was doing. If it weren’t for those difficult days of David’s life we would not have the beautiful Psalms that most of us run to in times of trouble. Those Psalms show what an intimate relationship David had with the Father.
The difficulties of life causes pressure that is building, shaping and maturing us into the Christlikeness that we were meant to have. We must have complete trust that He loves us and wants what is best for us while He is shaping us to be the person He desires us to be.
As we bear the burdens of life we begin to grow and produce righteousness. David’s deep despair and times of loneliness caused him to look upon God for protection and guidance as he waited for his appointment.
Today, if you’re experiencing any one of the three D’s cry out to God telling him what you are going through. If you feel like you can’t stand one more minute; hang on you’re probably almost there. Remember, all burdens we bear are meant to produce righteousness conforming us to the likeness of the Son.