My New Normal

Sometimes your world gets turned upside down! Have you been there? I began back in October with the intention of posting a regular post here on my little blog. Looking back on things I realized that almost 9 months have passed. In October of 2015, My world did indeed turn upside down. I felt as if the devil was coming after me in all areas of my life. My husband and I began to experience crisis in our church in which he had been the senior pastor for the last 14 years. Also, in my work situation I was having some problems with a coworker. In January and February, I began to have some physical problems which resulted in surgery and a time of recovery. As the situation in our church intensified, My husband felt lead to resign and step out in faith not knowing where we would be going or what we would be doing.  We put our stuff in storage, moved in with his family for a while. His last day of preaching, May 23rd, was a good day although he felt a little under the weather. On Monday, May 24th, he experienced a major health issue, septic shock, which kept him in the hospital for 11 days, 3 1/2 of those in Cardiac ICU. Though the grace and mercy of God, not to mention the prayers of people all over the world, he came through and is doing better. We were able to bring him home and he had 14 days of iv antibiotics under home health care. He was able to get in the pulpit for the first time in a month. God is so good. Praise Him for He is faithful!

When you walk the valley, every day of the journey is an exercise in finding God in the individual moment. A few days ago, I told my husband, “We have no normal anymore, every day we are finding a new normal!” I know it may sound strange, but when life takes you from day by day, to hour by hour, then minute by minute you may have reached the point where you have no “normal” anymore. I can say that in every moment of this valley we have been in has brought about a change in  my heart. God sometimes has to take us through the dark places so he can show us we only need Him and His light to light the way. You may be walking in a valley of your own. Let me encourage you to stay close to your Heavenly Father. Let Him guide you. Also, you need to get in His Word and hang on to his promises. Find his sweet peace, and let Him guide you through. Your “new normal” will be a sweet refuge in the arms of Father God. What a wonderful normal to experience!


The Lord Is In The Details

Ok, I’m tired. Maybe you didn’t know. However a lady in the parking lot of Walmart did. I had gotten off of work, and had to pick up a few things, and as I was walking back to my car. A lady stopped me and said, “you are tired aren’t you?” I didn’t realize it showed on my face. A chance encounter came about in a place not expected. I talked about 5 minutes with a lady who was feeling the same. We shared, and agreed to pray for each other in the coming week. I walked away with the realization that God set up that encounter to show me by a stranger’s words that I was loved and cared for by my Heavenly Father.

So often we get in the habit of only talking to God about the big things in our lives. With the world gone crazy and so many hurting in the world, our prayer lives has our focus shifted to things on the grander scale. Wars overseas, cancer scares, government taking our rights away, Missionaries tormented, and countless other things are going on right now. God does care about those things and we should pray for them. I think though that God also cares a great deal about the every day details that only we know about and try to accomplish every day.

In Exodus 25, God begins to reveal to Moses all the details on how the Tabernacle of the Lord was to be constructed. I had forgotten how detailed the Lord was in showing the people how to make each piece that would be going into His place of worship. He took 6 verses to describe the candlestick that would be placed on the table.  God is concerned with all the little details in your life too. He wants you to talk to Him about them. I Corinthians 6:19-20, tells us our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Just as God was concerned with the details of the tabernacle, He is also concerned with every detail of our lives. Take time today to share all the little things with God, and let Him show you He holds all of it in His capable hands.

God’s Promise of an Eternal Home*

Have you ever been in a place where your longing for home was so intense it was overwhelming?  For me it was when my parents dropped me off at college. I was standing in the parking lot watching them drive away, and I felt such a since of loss and loneliness. I was excited about the new things to experience, but I felt, for the first time, very alone. For the Christian, we ought to feel a longing to go to our Heavenly Home even though we haven’t been there. The feelings I experienced as an 18 year old, I believe is even more intense today. As I have grown in my faith, the feeling to be in God’s presence is something I long for. I also have several loved ones I am looking forward to seeing in Heaven, My Grandparents, My Mother, and the babies I never was able to hold here on earth are all waiting on the other side. The Bible tells us that we should hope and pray for the day when we go to Heaven to be with God forever. It will be a wonderful time.

Our Scripture is Revelation 21:1-8. John, the Apostle, wrote about the new Heaven and the new earth that is being prepared for us by God Himself. In the first three verses, we see that John shares with us the wonders of the Holy City. He first comments on the brightness and beauty of the new city. He compares it to a bride coming down the aisle toward her husband to be. God looks at us, the church, in this way. He see our spotless beauty made perfect in righteousness by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. In the third verse, God proclaims that He will now dwell among His people and we will be living in the presence of our wonderful God. Imagine being able to sit beside Him, talk to Him, and even reach out and touch Him. What a humbling and amazing time that will be.

In the following verses, He lets us know some things that will not be in Heaven: no death, no grief, no crying, and no pain. The cause of all of theses things will be removed. I am thankful that at this time we will never have to fear losing another person, therefore the cause for the pain and grief we feel in our heart when loss occurs will be gone. We never will shed another tear because of the hand of someone reaching out to harm us, or tears caused by our own wrong choices. The effect and the toll that sin has taken on us will all be removed. The consequences of sin and the weight that sin has had in our lives will be gone forever. I am thankful also there will not be any pain. A few years ago, I would have looked briefly at that one and moved on. I do understand a little better what it will be like to not hurt with pain everyday. I also can empathize with those who experience chronic pain on a greater level than I. The fact that there will not be any pain of any kind is a cause for celebration.

In verse 6 we read,” And he said unto me, “It is done. I am Alpha and Ome’ga, the beginning and the end.” In the beginning it was all about God reaching down to man, and in the end it will be God lifting man up to dwell with Him forever. We can look with anticipation for the return of our Lord, and going to the place that He has prepared for us. What a great day that will be! Until then hold on to the promise that one day we will be with God for eternity in a brand new home!

*This is a summary of a Sunday School lesson is based on “Bible Studies for Life” printed by Lifeway Christian Resources. While The main points and focus questions are printed in our Sunday School curriculum. The Commentary on them is based on personal experience and lessons learned from my own life. This is offered to my SS Class members who are unable to be with us due to work or health issues. Thank you.

The Heart of the Matter

“How is your heart?” I have often heard the expression in sermons, Sunday school classes, and from friends. My first reaction to this is to say, “just fine, or it’s all good”, yet there are times when I know in the depths of my heart, it is not “just fine”. Often over the past few days in my quiet time, I have been burdened for those I have come in contact with daily. On at least 3 different occasions, I have listened as they have shared how busy everyone seems to be lately, and I quite agree. We are a busy people. Often, others have said, “If I could just get though this week or month, things will slow down and I will have more time. Circumstances have overwhelmed us, and we seem to be busier than ever before. So in this life that is constantly moving, and we never seem to catch up, how do we cope? How do we keep our heart guarded against the opposition of the devil, crazy circumstances, and others who are constantly grabbing our time and attention? As I was praying this morning, the Lord reminded me of of Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  It seems like a contradiction doesn’t it. Many would say I just don’t have time in the mornings to spend time with God. When the alarm goes off, I hit the ground running. I have a million things to do today. I will get with God later. Unfortunately, later never comes. Nighttime falls and the head hits the pillow and our thought is I am just to tired, or I will just try again tomorrow. Days pass and our quiet time has suffered. Our time with God is pushed to the side in favor of other things. In Matthew 6:33, we see we need to seek the kingdom of God first. Why? Because God knows everything. He knows before you get up in the morning what you will face that day. He has gone before you in the way and prepared for you to walk it with Him. When we seek Him first, the things we face that day may not change, but how we deal with it will. We need God’s presence to light our path and walk beside us into the unknown. Our heart will be strengthened and encouraged as we walk the day’s path with God at our side. Don’t leave Him behind in your pursuit of things and accomplishments of this life. Because the heart of the matter is this, It does matter how your heart is right at this moment. Is it really good between you and God? Are you walking with Him daily, talking to Him through prayer and letting Him speak to you through His Word? Seeking after God and His kingdom is our part. Look at the 2nd half of our verse today. If we do our part, God will keep His promise and do His part. “…all these things will be added unto you.”  Does this mean we will get everything we want? No.  It means God will provide for all our needs and give us blessings that we cannot imagine. He will work when we see no straight path. He will answer us when we need encouragement. He will strengthen us to do everything we have in front of us for the day. He will clean up our heart and help us to walk in righteousness. So, my friend, How is your Heart?

God’s Promise of Answered Prayer*

When was the last time you really went after something? You went all in, and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Our Sunday School lesson this last week deals with our persistence in prayer. In Luke 11:5-13, we find the parable of a man who had unexpected company, and didn’t have anything to feed his guest. He went expectantly to his neighbor knocking at his door asking for bread. When the neighbor continually gave the man excuses why he could not help, the man continued to knock at the neighbor’s door. Because of the man continuing to knock without giving up, the neighbor finally gave in, and gave to him the bread he needed. You may say that God wants us to go to Him in prayer with the same urgency and boldness that the man in the parable showed. It is a picture of how we should approach our Heavenly Father.

I saw the movie, “War Room” the week it came to the theaters in our area. I was compelled by the faith that the main character showed in committing to a consistent prayer life. The circumstances in her life brought her to her knees in prayers. I was challenged to begin to pray all in and with my whole heart. This is the kind of praying God wants us to do. Praying that doesn’t let go, and that goes to God time after time after time until God answers.

The question is asked, “What is the connection between being patient with God and persistence in our relationship with Him?” Patience is something that I think we all struggle with from time to time. In our society, we have been conditioned to ask and receive instantly. Want answers? Log on and hit the search bar. Hungry? Fast food is around almost every corner. Need products? 24 hours stores are waiting for you. In our walk with God there are times when we pray and feel God has not heard because we did not receive an immediate answer. Perhaps, God is challenging us to keep praying to see if we are really serious in gaining an answer to our prayers. God wants us to keep on praying with confidence expecting an answer. If you saw me purchase an ice cream sundae, sit down with a spoon, take one bite, and push it away and say, “ok, I’m done!” You would think that to be weird I am sure. When I sit down with ice cream, I am all in attacking until the spoon hits the bottom on the bowl. Then I scrape the sides getting every last drop. I want my prayer life to be like that. All in, and going for it until I receive all it has for me.

We know the promises of God, For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (v.10) We can and should have the confidence in God that He will answer our prayers. “Why do we not pray persistently?” Many things may keep us from praying like we should. When this question was posed to our class the answer they gave was “life”. Our busy lives are constantly grabbing our attention from focusing on a consistent prayer and bible study time. I mentioned last week that we fight for time to do the things that are important to us. We must decide for ourselves if our time with God is worth fighting for. 

In the last three verses of our Scripture, God used the father’s love for his child to shadow how God responds to us as believers. He uses the comparison if A is true then B must be true. “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (v. 13) God love for us far outweighs the love an earthly father has for his child. So God invites us to pray, and brings all our needs and requests to Him. This passage teaches us that God always wants to hear and answer our prayers. Do you want to have a powerful prayer life with an abundant of answered prayers? The solution is simpler than you may think, “Just start praying!” Be consistent and persistent. It is a winning combination!

*This is a summary of a Sunday School lesson is based on “Bible Studies for Life” printed by Lifeway Christian Resources. While The main points and focus questions are printed in our Sunday School curriculum. The Commentary on them is based on personal experience and lessons learned from my own life. This is offered to my SS Class members who are unable to be with us due to work or health issues. Thank you.

Peeling The Onion…

Just when you think you have everything figured out, life throws you a curve ball. In the last few weeks I have been praying that God would renew me, reveal more of Himself to me, and basically have a “spring cleaning” of my heart. Be careful what you pray for. In my quiet time today, I read over a passage I have probably read several times. In fact, it is one that I memorized in my teenage years. It is Colossians 3:13-17,

13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
About 13 years ago, God really began to work on my heart in the area of forgiveness. I had some unresolved feelings that needed to be removed from my life. I was a work in progress, and it took a while. I am glad God was patient with me, and did a work of grace in my heart. I was able to forgive some who had hurt me very deeply. I absolutely give God the praise for this because I know I could never have done it on my own. I continued to live my life using the principles I had learned in the area of forgiveness. For a long, long time, I began to think, “Ok, I got this. I have mastered forgiveness.” Well, brothers and sisters, I needed to think again. My husband is fond of says, “Dealing with our sin and attitudes is like peeling an onion. You work on it till it is mastered, and as it it peeled back you realize there is another deeper layer that must be dealt with before considering it mastered.” (or words to that effect) Today, I found a new layer. Something can up in my life that caused me to look back at the hurt all those years ago. I found myself focusing on it, rather than shifting my focus to God. So once again, I gave it back to Him and forgave again.
When things happen in our life, we often find that new depths of our trials need to be dealt with. As I read these verses, I saw a progression from forgiveness to thankfulness.  According to our Scripture, once we have forgiven we need to “put on charity” or love. This is a deliberate act.  I needed to show love. Once I “put on love”, then “the peace of God” can rule in my heart.This peace shows us that we are part of the body of Christ. When we fail to show forgiveness to our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are fighting against our own body. For peace to be felt, love needs in be in action. From peace, I have to choose to be thankful. This is a command, something I must do whether I am ready to feel thankful or not. After I make the choice to be thankful, I am in a position to let the Word of Christ dwell in me “richly in all wisdom”. Do you want the wisdom of Christ? If so, let’s work on getting in the Word of God. If you think about it, the onion applies to this too. To get to the to the heart of the matter, I want Christ to dwell in me completely in all the nooks and crannies of my heart.  I do not want to hold back areas of my life and whisper, “Lord, don’t go there!” When Christ takes over, He gives me a song in my heart that is grace-filled, then I can praise with a heart that is overflowing with thankfulness. Forgiveness to Thankfulness is a overwhelming feeling. It is after this progression is made can I truly be thankful for going through the hurting that I have received by others or by my own making.
Yes, peeling the onion often causes tears and anguish. The knife of God’s word can cut through, and show us where we need to begin. Forgiveness is one of the hardest, needed thing we can ever do, but once those layers are peeled back our heart will be just a little closer to the person we hold in highest regard–Jesus Christ.

“God’s Promise of Provision”*

In our Sunday School class this past week, we continued studying the promises of God. This has been a great blessing to me and I hope it has been to you as well. We studied “God’s promise of Provision” with Psalm 34:4-14. I would encourage you to review this passage of Scripture as a part of your quiet time over the next few days.

While thinking about “the good life”, we may think of being happy, financially stable, family and friends abundant, and just things going good. As we study Psalm 34, we see that David begins with praise to God, and he invites us to join in shouting out the goodness of God. Verses 4-7 show us why God’s greatness was on his mind. Whatever the needs that David had at that moment, God was there and meeting every need. “I sought the Lord and he heard me” v.4 David was in a situation that was beyond his control. The Philistine King was after him. “…The Lord heard him and saved him from all his troubles.” v.6 Have you ever been in a situation that was beyond your control? Did you see God in the midst of the circumstances working and bringing it all together? or Did you find yourself saying, “whew… I was lucky.” or “this person saved the day.” David recognized the presence of God in his circumstances, and guiding him to the place of safety. (Romans 8:28)
“God does not just provide for our needs; He provides Himself.” “The Lord encamps around those who fear Him…” v.7
In God alone, we find all good things, and are satisfied with all He offers. Contentment has been chased after since Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve wanted to put their own agenda, and have their own way. This led them to sin against God and cast their lives into turmoil. Peace and contentment had reigned, now discouragement and upheaval had taken over until they repented and were made right with God. By staying true to God and His Word, we can find our peace and contentment in God alone.

“O, taste and see that the Lord is good.” v. 8 We need to seek after God with our whole heart looking to Him for joy in this life. When we are in a right relationship with God, we experience his goodness and “not lack for anything” v. 10 The age old question was brought up. Why do bad things happen to good people? I do not claim to be an expert on this question by any means, but my opinion is this. We live in a broken world. It has been broken by sin, back in the Garden of Eden. God gave Adam and Eve a free will. He made them in His image so they would be able to choose to love God the way that He loved them. Did they choose to disobey God? yes. We have the same makeup as they have. We are made in God’s image. We can choose to follow God, or we can choose the path that leads to sin. Every person has that choice. We cannot choose for someone else. When our contentment in not in God alone, we begin to search in other areas to fill that place inside. Have you seen someone look and try so many things, and then get deeper in the hole they have dug for themselves? When we choose to follow God, we experience joy and peace. We become a partner with God in this Christian Life. The choice is up to us.
Our next section of Scripture is v.11-14. “Come, children, listen to me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” God gives us three things to do in these verses. 1. Keep your tongue from evil. v.13. 2. Turn away from evil and do good. 3. Seek peace and pursue it. v.14. When was the last time, you just sat at the feet of Jesus to be taught by him. As we pray and seek his face, don’t just spout off your needs and say “see ya later”. Take time to sit quietly and let the Holy Spirit speak to you. I know this can be a challenge at this time in your life, but let me assure you, Christians struggle with this at all stages of life. Ask anyone and they will tell you, “I am just so busy.” In all the busyness of life, we need to take time to talk and listen to God. We need to fight for our daily time with God. Get in his Word and let Him teach you the things that will get you through the toughest days. The devil wants nothing more than seeing you defeated, discouraged, and chasing your life. The devil will have a hard time bringing you to your knees if you are already there in prayer.
Being under God’s care and provision is the best place you can be. Trust your Heavenly Father to know what is best–Now that is the Good Life!

*This is a summary of a Sunday School lesson is based on “Bible Studies for Life” printed by Lifeway Christian Resources. While The main points and focus questions are printed in our Sunday School curriculum. The Commentary on them is based on personal experience and lessons learned from my own life. This is offered to my SS Class members who are unable to be with us due to work or health issues. Thank you.