Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Heart to Heart

"Good grief", was an exclamation that originated with Charlie Brown, but it was commonly said by his peers. It was used  an expression of exasperation or disappointment. Sometimes it was in response to something frivolous. Other times, it was uttered regarding a serious matter. Knowing when and how to say something, is a virtue learned through experience.

I don't always get it right. However, the following is an example of how the Holy Spirit helped me to relieve a friend's exasperation and gently point her back to  The Comforter.

The other day, I was visiting with a dear friend who had recently lost both of her parents. She shared with me about how the grief came in various forms, at odd times, and with or without any particular prompt. I did what I have learned to be one of the best things for helping someone who is grieving; I listened.

She talked about how people offer sympathy in ways that pale in comparison to someone who offers true empathy. She said that she could always tell who had lost someone dear to them versus someone who had not dealt with death, up close and personal. My friend went on to talk about the uselessness of cliche's; how in general, people mean well, but offer no more than a band aid for a broken leg. I nodded in agreement.

Then, "what's worse", she added; "is when someone tells me that I should be getting over it. When they say something like, 'you have to get on with your life' or 'you h"ave to think about your children'. That stuff really makes me mad." Again, I nodded; figured I would let her pour it all out, before offering my two cents worth.

When my turn rolled around, I looked her and said, "yep, that's about right". And she began again. She was grieving and somebody had hurt her feelings. I listened. My mind was filled with all sorts of comments. But my heart told me to be quiet. Once her venting was complete,our conversation flowed freely.

Fast forward to the close of our visit. We hugged and said, "love you" to one another. She added, "I feel so much better. Thank you". We parted, each, enriched from our fellowship. 

We are Christians, she and I. We believe in the power of prayer. We know the scriptures. We walk by faith and not by sight. Yet, her relief did not come from an open display of any of those things. It came from the simple trust that we share as sisters in the Lord. The confidence that I would give her space to share her heart and her hurts, and that I would understand.  

Empathy is not about the sound of your voice or content of your replies. It is the listening to the heart's cry of another, that coveys understanding. Never underestimate the power of bearing one another's burdens. It is one of the most rewarding ways of fulfilling Christ's law of love. 

This time, it was I, who did the consoling. Next time, it may be me, standing in the need of prayer. I'm thankful for the friends/sisters that the Lord has given me. If it has been a while since you told your loved ones that you love them; today would be a good day to do it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Worship Song?

 Psalm 55 is a Psalm of David, initially submitted to the Director of Music. It was to be played upon the stringed instruments and sang as part of the services in the temple. In short, David presents this piece as his prayer regarding the hate mongers that have lifted their voices against him. He tells of their deeds. He identifies them as wicked, malicious, and destructive. And all; reacting to the railings of one who David calls a peer, companion, and friend, who once joined him in worship in the temple. He completes the piece, declaring his dependence upon the Righteous Judge, and urging his hearers to cast their cares upon God.

In the first verse as recorded in the King James Version, David refers to his request as a prayer or supplication. In the second verse, he says that he is mourning in complaint to God. I looked up the word for "mourning" in the Strong's Concordance. In the original language, it means "to wander restlessly". Put it all together, he is restless, agitated, and complaining to God; without focus, he is just making a noise. 

In the next twelve verses, he shares how his life has been impacted by the wicked ones. And how he would flee as a bird, if he were able.  He goes on to suggest various punishments for them. Again, he reiterates the continuity of their evil deeds. David even prescribes death and hell for them.

Then he pauses to state his plan of action. He has found the proper focus. He sets himself to call upon the Lord day and night. He assures himself that he will be heard. And he recalls the faithfulness of God.  As David continues to pour out his soul to the Lord, he again mentions the deeds of his oppressors. But quickly adds an admonition to all who will hear/sing this song. Verse 22 reads like this: "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." No doubt in his mind of who is ultimately in control.

Personally, I know of no worship team that would be brave enough to add this piece to the order of worship in their church. But just imagine what would happen if they did....... I'm sure some would find it offensive. Even the dearest old saint, might have something negative to say about it. Surely, anyone that had contemplated speaking evil against a fellow member, would be convicted. And the wicked.... many would become more vile than ever. It might even bring about a much needed purge of the membership rolls.....Yet, David thought it proper to include it in the services of the temple. 

If it is never included in a public worship service, it is certainly appropriate for our private utterances unto the Lord. Our prayers are much like David's. Often we begin with complaints rather than adoration. And in pouring out the depths of our anguish, we utter what we deem to be appropriate punishment for our offenders. If we continue on in prayer, we too, will find a place of reflection upon the goodness/faithfulness of God. We will gain the focus necessary to give him the praise and worship that He is due. Ultimately, God is faithful to hear both what is verbalized and what issues forth from our hearts.

Dear ones, don't be worried about saying an "ugly" prayer. God is not looking for the eloquent. He is looking for the humble. David was a man "after the heart of God". As long as we are after (straining to obtain) the heart of God, He will hear & answer our prayers.


Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Dismembered & at Rest

If you are like some folks, the word "dismembered" causes you to have the distasteful thought of a human body being mutilated by a deranged killer; a reaction I suspect, that is from watching too much crime TV.  But that is another post for another time. For the purpose of today's post, think of "dismembered" in its most basic meaning, that is, something that is separated into parts. 

Hebrews Chapter 4 has some very familiar content, yet its verses are often taken out of context. The verse I want to concentrate on today is verse 12. In the King James it reads, "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."   

To take this verse in context, you must read the entire chapter. In doing so, you will see that each verse relates to the idea of the whole chapter. That idea/thought is all about entering into the rest that God has designed for believers. Rest, now that's a subject that everyone is interested in, these days. However, few are interested in being dismembered in order to obtain that rest.

Bottom line: the Word of God is the instrument that God uses upon us to separate our carnal/flesh desires (soul) from the part of us that is regenerated at salvation (spirit). The soul part of us is our human intellect and base desires. Our spirit is the part of us that was created when God breathed into Adam and made him a living soul. The soul, then, consists of the spirit and is housed in a body.

God is not interested in dismembering our physical body. Yet, scripture says that His Word is sharp enough to divide the joints from the marrow. Our skeleton is made up of the bones. Within our bodies, the bones are attached with ligaments and tendons, creating the joints.  The marrow is the inside part of the bones. Within the bones, the red blood cells are manufactured. Without healthy bone marrow, a person will die for lack of on-going production of red blood cells.  So the marrow is what makes the body to live. And the bones/joints are the structure/stability of our body. His Word is sharp enough to separate our structure from our life source. That's a heavy thought. But it is exactly what is necessary to transform us into the new creation that He wills at our time of salvation. That is the point in which we realize that apart from Jesus (Life- Giver) our human structure (flesh/soul), has no means of living.

God is in the business of helping us to distinguish between our soul-ish desires and the righteousness that we have in Him, that is our spirit. One of the ways that He does this, is through the reading/hearing of His Word. When we read/hear His Word, faith is built and our spirit is quickened ( made alive) to what God desires us to be and do. When our thoughts are separated from our intents, we can see the goodness or deceitfulness of both.

We can have a good thought, but deliver it with the wrong intent and vice versa. We can have good intentions, but negative thoughts. It is God's Word that will help us to reconcile our thoughts and intents. In general, modern translations of Hebrews 4:12 state that God's Word is alive, active, and powerful. The Word lives forever, will always work for our good, is more powerful than any force, and is what we must have to live. We can not survive without the Word. We can not enter into God's rest without total dependence upon the Word.

It may hurt to be dismembered, but the pain will subside as He/ the living Word, mends you back together in the way that is most pleasing to Him.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Epitaph - Engraved


What will be engraved on your stone?
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." Rev 2:17 KJV
Now, I can not tell you what that "white stone" is or what it symbolizes; but I can ponder about that "new name" that will be written on it. And in thinking about that new name, I also find myself thinking about the sentiment that will be engraved upon the head stone. that will grace my earthly burial site.
In recent years, I have taken on a new hobby. Basically, I "work" on a site called FindaGrave.com. In the beginning, I used the site for researching family history. It was fun finding & adding additional info to the memorials that had already been created. Working on the site, I have run across various epitaphs. Some are full poems, others just a word or two. It is interesting to get some insight into the life of the deceased.
Many head stones bear the words "Rest in Peace". Others say, "Loving Mother or Loving Father". Some of the very old stones have full poems that tell a stories about the deceased. Some are comical, some are droll, and some must be related to an "inside joke" because they make no sense as standalone comments. At any rate, the epitaph is borne from the heart of someone that was left behind.
What would I like to be written upon my rock? (that's one way it is referred to here in the South.) I have thought about it a few times. It needs to be true; it should be something that would have been evident to anyone who knew me, and I would like for it to be a beacon to point the reader to Jesus.
I would like for my epitaph to read, "Faithful Servant, Forever in the Presence of the Life Giver, Jesus Christ."
I'm praying for the Lord to help me to remain faithful to Him and to the calling that He has placed upon my life.. And I ask you, dear ones, take a moment to reflect upon what lasting words that you would want others to read about you. Remember, the epitaph is ENGRAVED and not likely to ever be changed. It is the final period upon your earthly existence. Live in such a way that you will hear these words: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord." Matthew 25:21 KJV



Today's vocabulary word is "epitaph". It is a word not often heard these days. Yet, a large number of people still choose to inscribe one upon their loved one's grave. The general content of epitaphs has changed over time. Early inscriptions were simply the deceased's name, birth date, death date, and perhaps the place of their death. 

The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia's definition: "An epitaph (from Greek ἐπιτάφιος epitaphios "a funeral oration" from ἐπί epi "at, over" and τάφος taphos "tomb")[1][2] is a short text honoring a deceased person. Strictly speaking, it refers to text that is inscribed on a tombstone or plaque, but it may also be used in a figurative sense. Some epitaphs are specified by the person themselves before their death, while others are chosen by those responsible for the burial. An epitaph may be written in prose or in poem versepoets have been known to compose their own epitaphs prior to their death, as did William Shakespeare.[3]"

And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day." Genesis 35:20 KJV 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Prayers Related to Church Construction

Below is a paper/prayer that I wrote a few years ago. At the time, our church was on the brink of building a new sanctuary. The pastor asked me to write something bind the people together in unity as the project got underway. I have removed the specific names of the church and pastor so you may fill in the blanks with the particulars of your church/pastor and type of project to be built.

This may also be a guide to building or remodeling your "heart house" wherein your Savior resides.

If you/your church is beginning  a  project, and in need of a similar prayer/paper; feel free to copy/share the following guide.

____________________________________________________________________________

Prayer Topic: Prayer for the Construction of  the new building.

Scripture Reading: I Chronicles 16:8-16, Nehemiah 3

Declaration: “The God of heaven Himself will help us succeed; therefore, we will arise and build!” Nehemiah 2:20

Scriptural Prayer: Omnipotent Father, we thank You for the Vision for this building. Thank You for being Jehovah Jireh, the One who will provide all the resources we need to complete this project. Thank You for giving our leaders wisdom, discernment, and favor as we move forward with this project. Thank You for entrusting this task to our body of believers. You are the Lord and beside You, there is no other. We can do all things through Christ, Who is our strength.

We stand in agreement for God’s Kingdom to come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven for the construction of our building . Lord, as we commit the plans for this construction project to You; we decree that these plans will succeed. In Proverbs 11:14, Your Word declares “Where there is no counsel, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Therefore, we confess that we will seek the counsel of the godly as we proceed with this project.

Father, we expect You to call forth competent and skilled laborers for this project, just as You called forth the artisans for the building of the tabernacle. We decree that everyone involved in this project will focus their attention and efforts so that they can successfully complete their assignments and bring glory and honor to Your Name. By faith, favor surrounds this project and we will have good success with every person associated with the completion of this project.

Father, we are confident that our building will be completed because You spoke the idea/plan to our pastor and Your word will not return void; it will accomplish all that You send it to do. We commit to praying diligently for all involved in construction. We commit to praying throughout the course of this project, from beginning to full completion.

Lord, please bless our building & our body,  to provide ministry that will promote growth, development, education, and enjoyment for our church family, and the people of our community. As Your Light shines through us, help us to love, and lead by example, to reach the hurting and the lost.

Hide our Pastors, deacons, and building committee members under the shelter of Your wings and protect them from any opposition as they continue to manifest Your Kingdom here on earth, as they oversee the construction of our new facility.

In the Name of Jesus, we rebuke satan and any evil force that he would send our way. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God; and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” II Corinthians 10:3-5 KJV

Stir up the faith in our congregation so that we will walk by faith and not by sight. Stir up the faith in me so that I will walk by faith and not by sight. Grant us generous resources to support Pastor's vision through our giving, service, and prayers. Fill every participant, including the building contractors, permitting officials, architects, and engineers with Your spirit of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and excellence.

Merciful Father, please convict and forgive anyone in our congregation who is speaking against the vision that You have given to our Pastor. Correct those who are not willing to submit to his authority. Convict and forgive those who have loose lips and speak idle words against this project.

Help our church family to work together in unity. Convict and forgive us when we demand our own way and fail to function as one body. Please forgive us for all of our sins. Lord, forgive me for ___________, ____________________, ____________________ (list any sins that you have committed).

Holy Spirit, remind us all of those we need to forgive and help us to be quick to forgive. As for me, Holy Spirit, bring to my remembrance those I need to forgive. (As He shows you, say aloud, “I forgive ____________, ______________, ___________________name of person(s).” Then, trust the Lord to heal any wounds in your soul caused by unforgiveness.)

As a Church Family, help us to overcome temptation and deliver us from the evil one. Almighty God, we put our trust in You. Help us to be consistent in our prayers and support. Help us to be a beacon of hope to everyone that we encounter. All these things we ask in Jesus’ Name, for Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.


Additional Scripture References: Genesis 22:14, Isaiah 45:18-19, Matthew 6:10, Proverbs 16:3, Proverbs 15:22, Habakkuk 2:2, Exodus 31:1-6, Psalm 5:12, Philippians 1:6, Psalm 91:4, IICorinthians 5:7, Matthew 6:13, Isaiah 40:22-25

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

The Heart of the Cup Bearer

"The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, that Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem." Nehemiah 1:1,2 KJV

"...For I was the king's cupbearer.Nehemiah 1:11 KJV Full chapter, here.

As you read the entire chapter, take note of the parallel between his earthly (flesh) actions and what is required (spiritually) to be a faithful servant/minister of the Lord.  

Humble, Faithful, Trustworthy, Unselfish, Willing to go the extra mile, Wise, Worked within the protocol/boundaries/rules of the kingdom.... these are a few of the character traits of Nehemiah. Traits that we will exhibit, IF we strive to have them in our spirit.

The last verse of chap 1 sets the tone for the entire reading. He was the cup bearer..... SERVANT. Nehemiah had the training/skill set needed to serve the king. More importantly, he had the HEART of a servant. When driven by the heart to serve (in general) one will learn the skills needed to do whatever could be required by the recipient. In serving the earthly king,, the standards were set high and required full attention of the servant. Nehemiah applied this same observance to the work of the temple.

My greatest take away from today's passage is this: we cannot serve God any better than we serve our fellow man. For. Christ came not to be ministered into, but to be a minister. And, as we have done to to least (mankind) we have done into Him.

Additional scripture references:

Mark 10:43-45, "....even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."

Matthew 20:26,27, "...whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:"

Luke 12:48, "..... to whom much is give, much is required"  

Matthew 25:31-46  "....Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."



Saturday, July 10, 2021

Routed by Routine

Often we under-value the importance of our daily routines  Take for example, brushing our teeth. Our parents taught us how and reminded us to do it, until it became a regular habit for us. As grown ups, it is just something we do, without giving it a thought. We understand the importance of brushing, but rarely think about it, until it is time to see the dentist.....(smile)

In I Samuel chapter 16, we read about the first anointing of David, future king of Israel. God instructed Samuel to go to Jesse's house and there he would anoint the next king of Israel. After passing over seven of Jesse's sons, Samuel was convinced that there had to be another son. Verse 11 reveals the eighth and youngest son, David. He was out in the countryside, tending to the sheep.

His job was to keep the sheep together as a flock and lead them to water & grass. He had to study the elements, lay of the land, weather patterns & etc to know the best places/times to feed, stay put, or travel.  He was to keep them safe from lions, bears, & other predators. Which meant, he had to learn the signs of the predators & their deceptive ways of getting their prey. All of these things became parts that made up his ROUTINE.

If we want to excel at any task, sport, hobby, or skill, we have to study every aspect of it as we learn it. Besides having a teacher/mentor,  we learn through regular repetition. In time, we will be able to go through the motions without actually thinking about what comes next. Our reactions become automatic just like a reflex action.

Fast forward to I Samuel chapter 17. The taunts of Goliath brought fear upon the entire Israeli army. They essentially had no hope of defeating him. They cowered at his challenge. For forty days, the giant had stood and belittled the army of Israel. King Saul as their leader, had no idea what to do next. 

In verse 17, Jesse sends David to the battlefield with food for his brothers. David hears the railings of Goliath and puts the whole scene into perspective.  And proceeds to  volunteer to answer the challenge of the giant. You see, David had been faithful to the routine of keeping his father's sheep. He had been faithful to protect them. God had enabled him to kill both a lion and a bear; and he knew this beast of a man would be no different. The precedent had been set.

The rest is history. David killed Goliath. Israel routed the Philistines and plundered their belongings. All because David had been faithful in tending the sheep. All because David recognized the battle as a spiritual skirmish that could only be won by operating in the the power of God. All because David was the right man, with the right heart, at the right time, to deliver God's people.

Want to be an agent of deliverance for the lost, bound, sick,or destitute? You can be the right person at the right time for the right purpose, if you are in right standing with God and have made it your routine of life to be fully dependent upon Him.


Context: I Samuel 17:16-58


Side bar: David played the harp, SKILLFULLY.  ...... had to have been some routine practice.

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