Friday, December 8, 2017

A Reflection of Christmas Past

A Reflection of Christmas Past
Romans 15:1-4

Far to the north in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reflected on the days of Christmas past. The tragic death of his wife, Fanny, in the summer of 1861 brought grievous memories. Fanny dropped a match on her summer dress and it burst into flames. Henry tried to extinguish the flames with a small rug but failed causing him to sustain serious burns on his face, arms, and hands.

The coming of the holiday season in the Longfellow house became a time of sorrow. He tried to provide a happy time for the children left at home but was quoted as saying, “A ‘merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.” His oldest son, Charlie, joined the Union Army during the Civil War against his father’s wishes. Charley later came down with typhoid fever and malaria and was sent home to recover. He did not rejoin his unit until after the Gettysburg battle of 1863. 

At the Battle of New Hope Church, the young Lt. Longfellow sustained serious disabling injuries. The following spring, Longfellow’s lifelong friend Nathaniel Hawthorne passed away unexpectedly in his sleep. These had been difficult times for the poet; but sometimes it is only through our adversity that hope makes itself known to us. 

The Civil War brought wounds to the heart and minds of the American people and they were in need of hope through their long journey to recovery. In Longfellow’s plight for peace and joy, he penned these words that touched the spirit and soul of a war torn nation.

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, 
With Peace on earth, good will to men.”

Perhaps you have struggled in times of deep despair, remember the words Longfellow composed, “God is not dead, nor does He sleep.” Trusting God with all things will give you the hope you so long for and the peace you desire (Romans 15:13).

Lord, may I abound in Your hope.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Telling God's Story

Telling God’s Story
Mark 4:35-41

The greatest hope of all Christian parents is to see their child one day come to the saving knowledge of Christ. Most parents would climb the highest mountain or fight the fiercest giant if it would assure their child’s salvation. As parents, we have the awesome privilege of being able to tell our children of the powerful, life-changing message of the gospel. The Bible tells us that the gospel is the power of God unto Salvation  for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).

The gospel story is filled with breathtaking adventure, suspense and drama. Every young child loves a story that is filled with excitement and anticipation. Recall with me the the story of Jesus after spending much time ministering to the multitudes became weary and tired. Being fully God but fully man, He withdrew Himself to the stern of the boat to sleep. While He was sleeping, there arose an immense storm and the disciples became fearful that they might perish. The wind and waves were most likely reaching gale storm proportions. (A gale is a very strong wind. Not a hurricane but forceful. A storm may include rain, thunder and lightning, hail, sleet, snow or wind-––or a combination of them). If this storm was not of such an enormous magnitude, why were the disciples, who were experienced fishermen, so afraid?

We understand that the storm was to try the faith of the disciples and cause them to cry out to God. Their confidence was appearing weak and our Lord was assuring them that He had the power to calm any storm that they may find themselves in. His words to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” They were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” God’s wonderful, mighty power was made obvious to them that storm filled day. 

We, too, can share with our children the magnificent power of Christ found in the gospel.

Lord, thank You for Your incredible story.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Am I Thankful?

Am I Thankful?
I Thessalonians 5:18 
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

In everything, refers to everything that occurs in our life. We are to demonstrate and express thanks for everything no matter the circumstance or trial that may come our way. God commands us to find reasons for thanking Him. Have we been unsuccessful in thanking Him for all He has done for us? If we are saved, and living for God, we have one thing left to do in order to follow God’s will—be thankful.

When the love of my life passed away over fifteen years ago, the verse that rang out in my heart and mind was (I Thessalonians 5:18). Certainly, I was not thankful for his death but through his death it taught me to be thankful in all things, even with death. There is no greater teacher than the Instructor that educates through life’s experiences. Through the finality of death, God guided and restored my broken and weakened heart. How could I be thankful for such a time as this? I realized it was the will of God for me and for my children. I learned from this life altering experience–––God makes no mistakes.

God’s will for you is to be thankful in all things because this is the ultimate expression of a grateful heart. Thanklessness can permeate throughout a church, a marriage, and a home ever so quickly, utterly destroying it. Those who are thankful see the providential hand of God everywhere and say, “God, I thank You for the peaceful times as well as times of extreme heart ache.” I do understand that God will use difficult circumstances for my good and His glory. Start today by cultivating a heart filled with gratitude. Be thankful for all things in all circumstances because this is the will of God for you who are in Christ Jesus.

Lord, help me to be thankful for all things that You may allow in my life for my good and Your glory. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Divorce, A Complicated Life

Divorce, A Complicated Life
Matthew 19:9 
“. . . whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

To say that sin makes a mess of one’s life would underestimate the consequences of our sinful nature.  Sin's outcome can haunt us for the rest of our lives and some may feel it can bring untold ruin upon the family name. Because sin does complicate our lives, we sometimes make wrong choices that bring severe ramifications and devastating after effects. 

The decision to divorce is one of those life changing alternatives. We have found ourselves at one of life’s most important crossroads with an extremely difficult decision to make. Are you thinking no one knows exactly how you feel or understands the pressures shaping your decision?  If you are thinking this, you’ll be relieved to know you are wrong. God’s Word offers a comprehensive guide to answering those questions.

In Bible times, divorce was running rampant and men, especially, were divorcing their wives for any reason. God’s Word is clear in saying the bond between a husband and wife is dissolved only by death (Romans 7:2), adultery (Matthew 19:9), and an unbeliever’s leaving (I Corinthians 7:15,16). When the bond, or bondage, is broken in any of those ways, a Christian is free to remarry. Throughout Scripture, whenever legitimate divorce occurs, remarriage is assumed.

Because God has called us to live in peace (Romans 12:18; 1 Corinthians 7:15), God allows divorce in such a case of desertion. If the unbelieving husband or wife desires to be free from the union because they cannot tolerate the spouse’s faith, it is better the marriage be dissolved in order to preserve the peace of His child. Fighting, turmoil, physical, and verbal abuse disrupt the harmony and peace of the home that God intends His children to have. Therefore, divorce is acknowledged and granted by concession.

It is important to make clear that even if adultery occurs, God forgives, the bottom line of everything is the act of God’s grace.

Lord, in life’s devastation, thank You for Your grace. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

What Happens When I Fail?

What HappensWhen I Fail?
Proverbs 3:5,6
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

What happens when we fail before a Holy God? Are we doomed to struggle in guilt  plummeting into hopelessness and despair? Will we ever be forgiven? Are we without hope or any possibility of God’s mercy? After counseling with many women who have fallen into Satan’s snare, there is one common denominator they all battle with. They have listened to his lies and believed they are far too imperfect and unacceptable for God to ever love or forgive. Women in addiction are especially dominated by self-reproach and depression using any kind of substance to relieve their conscience. Needless to say, substance abuse only makes matters worse and the feelings of guilt stronger. How can anyone ever attain freedom from the pit they’ve descended into or make the shame go away? This is a question so many have asked with no resolve. 

Women struggling with divorce, spousal abuse or just trying to make it as a single mom see themselves as unworthy and undeserving of God or man’s forgiveness. Consequently, they become riddled with shame, remorse and humiliation. Is this condemnation from a Holy God? “No,” it’s from others who have heaped contempt upon these hurting people with immense disrespect. This sort of judgmental mindset is excruciatingly painful and brings with it a defamation of a persons character. 

There’s only one way to rid oneself of guilt and shame and that is by putting your complete trust in the finished work of Christ. Whether you have problems with substance abuse, spousal abuse or other burdens in this life, the answer is still the same. Believe in Christ, repent of your sin, and trust Christ to forgive you. What should you do when you fail before God and man? Trust in the Lord not on your own knowledge or understanding. Have faith in who He is–––the Great I AM!

Lord, I will trust in You.

Friday, November 3, 2017

In Times of Distress

In Times of Distress

Esther 4:1-8

In a crisis situation, how would you say you typically respond? Do you become hysterical, cry, seek counsel, try to run away, or react in some other way? Why do you think you respond in this way? Have you had to make some decisions that required great courage, humility or considerable trust in another? Esther, the Queen of Persia, and her cousin, Mordecai were in an overwhelming crisis in their lives. They must make a life or death decision regarding the Jewish people and their land.

Mordecai and Queen Esther had learned of a formal decree stating all Jews were to be destroyed. Mordecai, realizing that his nationality had been publicly announced, went into mourning. The wearing of sackcloth during mourning was against the law in the king’s gate. This was not surprising in light of the shallowness of spiritual life in the royal court. Esther sent clothes for Mordecai to put on but he, in his anguish and torment, refused them. The betrayal of the people was oppressive and too perplexing to bear. Mordecai knew that Esther was exposed too, and that she must go before the king to humbly beg for the lives of her people and herself.

Communication between Mordecai and Esther had to be done through mediators to protect her during this national crisis. Hathach, a trusted eunuch in the kings palace and one who attended to Queen Esther’s specific needs, had been given special instructions to help Mordecai. Hathach’s good reputation was admirable making the confidence that Queen Esther and Mordecai had in him above suspicion .

When you’re at a crossroads in your life and a crucial decision must be made, to whom do you look to for insight and help? All of us need someone we can trust during times of trouble. We know that there is only One who holds the highest reputation of having perfect wisdom, as well as being the most trustworthy friend, the Lord Himself.

Lord, in times of hardship and despair, may I trust in You.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Why Are You So Fearful?

Why Are You So Fearful?

Mark 4:35-41 
... And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?  And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

Jesus was preaching before a large crowd but needed space between Himself and the crowd of people surrounding Him. He stepped in a boat and pushed off into the water a little bit giving Himself room. Christ, being exhausted by all He had done that day, went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee to rest. While Jesus was asleep in the stern of the boat, a fierce storm arose filling the boat with water. The disciples, being afraid, awoke Him and said to Him, “Master, do You not care that we are perishing? How can you sleep when we are going through this?” They panicked. The disciples knew Jesus had power over the natural world as well as the supernatural world but questioned His ability to save them from the storm.

Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the sea saying, “Peace, be still.” The wind died down and became perfectly calm. He said to the men, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” Immediately, they became exceedingly fearful and said to one another, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” 

Why are we afraid of the storms of life when the Creator of this world lives within us? How can we be fearful of any circumstance when Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith, dwells in our mortal bodies? The strong winds of fear may invade our anxious minds but, when Christ, the Creator and Captain of the sea speaks, may we surrender full command of the storm to the One who can calm the raging sea and bring PEACE to our troubled soul.

Lord, I surrender full command of the storm in my life to You.