Happy Birthday, USA!

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” Psalm 33:12

American Flags

Every year in the small town where I grew up, Richland Springs TX, they celebrate America’s Independence on the 1st Saturday of July. While my parents were alive, we would go visit them over the week-end and be there for the celebration, but I’ve rarely gone since they died. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve felt a tug back to my roots and to the place I came from. So this year I decided I would go.
The day started off with a parade and while it may not have been as big as you would see in a larger town, for a community of 455 residents, it was wonderful. A color-guard on horseback started it off followed by more flags and a float with the local veterans. There were pick-ups pulling trailers, all decorated in red, white and blue and lots of sparkle. There were 4-wheelers, dune-buggies, and motorcycles. There were kids in funny hats and dogs in sunglasses. There were antique tractors and brand new semi-s, and of course the VFD fire trucks. And candy- lots of candy thrown to folks watching the parade. The Richland Springs Coyote high school football team (who won the state 6-man championship for the 7th time last fall) and the high school cheerleaders as well as the middle school football team and cheerleaders had floats. The First Baptist Church had their van in the parade inviting kids to their Vacation Bible School in a couple of weeks. Everyone was there celebrating their freedoms and their victories.
Throughout the day, there were competitions for horseshoes, washers, and this year for the first time, a 2-man pig-sacking completion. There were bounce houses and a water slide for the kids.
The day wrapped up with a fireworks show. The Star Spangled Banner was sung over the loud speaker, then BOOM, the spectacular display of bursting colors began. It was a show that could put many larger towns to shame, lasting over an hour, it was amazing.
As I sat there watching the beautiful display, I could only think about the fact that even as many things we see wrong in our hation, there are still a lot of things that are right. And all those things right with our nation, can be seen right there in my small farm community hometown of Richland Springs, Texas, USA.
Yes, we have people trying to destroy our nation, from the outside and even within our own government, but we still have men and women willing to fight defending her.
Yes, there are too many people just wanting a hand-out and for the government to give them everything free, but there are still hard working men and women, taking pride in their labors, working hard to support and provide for their families.
Yes, we have too many young people with no sense of responsibility or goals beyond pursuit of their own pleasure, but we still have many young people with goals and dreams, who believe in competing to win.
Yes, there are too many people, places and institutions who exclude God and godly beliefs, but there are still more who love God and who are willing to share the love of Jesus Christ with the nation. Let us who do know the Lord continue to pray for this nation, pray for our leaders, and for the upcoming elections that we may continue to live quiet and peaceful lives serving the Lord.
Happy Birthday, USA! And may your next 240 years be even greater!

Peace and blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Dee

color_guard_resized

Color-guard

vetrans_float_resized

My Uncle Robert Lewis, 2nd from left, fought in WWII

dog_sunglasses_resizedantique_tractor.2_resized

God’s Unrelenting Love

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

The first song I learned as a child was “Jesus loves me this I know because the Bible tells me so.” And the first Bible verse I learned was John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever should believe on Him would not die but have everlasting life.” I had child faith in the truth of those words, but as I grechild-prayer-clipart-royalty-free-praying-clipart-illustration-216150w up I also heard, and believed other words presented as truth. Along the way the messages of the world began to drown out the message of God’s love for me.
Turn on the TV or listen to the radio for even a little while and we can hear that we’re not thin enough so we need this diet or that medical procedure. Our job is inadequate so we need to go to this school or take that training program. Over and over we hear how lacking we are.
Some messages we absorb from the world are subtle and more damaging to our soul. We compare ourselves or our lives to others and feel inadequate. We try to compensate by turning to other people, working harder at our job or even drugs or alcohol. But these are band-aides, incapable of healing deep wounds, and frequently only cause more pain. Meanwhile, God is calling us to Himself, whispering “I am the One who paid a great price for you, I am the One who heals, I am the One who can give your life meaning.” We must go back to that simple child-like faith and believe that Jesus loves us.
When God sent His Son Jesus to the cross because He loved the whole world, it wasn’t just the whole world in general, but it was for every specific individual ever born of a woman. If you’d been the only person who ever lived, He’d have done it for you.
I pray that you can know, can have intimate knowledge of how much God loves you. It’s not about who you are, how you look, where you came from, or even what you’ve done. It’s all about God and His love for you. He has assigned great worth and value to you. His love is unrelenting and it pursues you. He desires you to know Him and find your place and value in Him.
Here is a prayer the Apostle Paul prayed for the church at Ephesus, and it is my prayer for you.
“I pray that according to the wealth of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, because you have been rooted and grounded in love, you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19 (NET Bible)
Peace and blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Dee

Giving Thanks Always – Even When You Don’t Feel It

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (NKJV)

      child-prayer-clipart-royalty-free-praying-clipart-illustration-216150       When my younger sister was about 4 years old at a family dinner with my grandparents, she requested to say the blessing at the table. My Granny, being one to always encourage us to pray, told her to go ahead. Everyone bowed their heads and closed their eyes, except me of course being the older sister I felt the need to keep an eye on her. She began to pray, looking around the table, thanking God for each and every item on the table, including the plates and forks, except one food. She closed her prayer with the words “But I’m not thankful for the green beans. I don’t like them and I’m not thankful for them! Amen.” We can laugh at a child’s honesty in refusing to give God thanks for something she doesn’t like, but how often are we unthankful? Do we too sometimes feel justified in not giving thanks?

            God wants us to have a grateful heart and thankful spirit. “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is the great God, and the great King above all gods.” (Psalm 95:1-3) But we don’t always feel thankful. We all have times and situations in our lives that we don’t want or like, so how then can we be thankful?

            When we cannot be thankful for a specific thing or situation, we still can find ways to give thanksgiving and praise to God. Sometimes we have to stop and ask God to bring to our remembrance things to give Him thanks for. Sometimes we have to ask Him for the words to praise Him with. David wrote Psalm 51 after Nathan had confronted him about his sin with Bathsheba. In verse 15 he says, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise.” David who wrote so many beautiful psalms praising God, asked for help to praise Him.

            How do we offer God thanksgiving when we are hurting, when we’re going through a spiritual battle, or we’re in a time of trial?

            First, we remember WHO God is. 

 “Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and heaven.” (Psalm 148:13) God’s names tell us who He is. He is the great “I AM”. Whatever you need Him to be, He is. 

He is JEHOVAH SHALOM, The Lord is Peace. Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  During some of the worst times and events of my life, God has been my peace.

He is JEHOVAH SHAMMAH, The Lord is There. “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth… and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” (Matthew 28:18, 20b) He was there with me in every crisis.

He is JEHOVAH-RAPHA, The Lord That Heals. “…If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.” (Exodus 15:26) He was my Healer when I had shingles in 2010.

He is JEHOVAH JIREH, The Lord Will Provide. “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:19 He has been and continues to be our Provider through job lay-offs and a bad economies.

He is EL SHADDAI, The Lord God Almighty, The All-Sufficient One. When God spoke to Abram in Genesis 17:1, He said “I am El Shaddai” (Almighty God) and He promised to bless him and make him great. He is the God Who sustains us. Genesis 18:14 says, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?..”

 Whatever else is, wherever else we are, we can give God our thanksgiving for Who He is to us. Psalm 69:30 (NKJV) says, “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving.”

          The second thing we can do is to remember WHAT God has done in the past.  Psalm 107:21-22 says “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!  Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing.” (NKJV)

            Psalm 77: 5, 6 in the New English Translation says, “I thought about the days of old, about ancient times. I said, ‘During the night I will remember the song I once sang; I will think very carefully.’ I tried to make sense of what was happening.’” v.11-14 continues “I will remember the works of the Lord. Yes, I will remember the amazing things you did long ago! I will think about all you have done; I will reflect upon your deeds! O God, your deeds are extraordinary! What god can compare to our great God? You are the God who does amazing things; you have revealed your strength among the nations.”

            When we are walking through the valley, when we are under fire, when we have questions, we need to reflect back on the times God answered us and recall His great work in our life.

            Psalm 107:22 in the Amplified Bible says “And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving and rehearse His deeds with shouts of joy and singing!” We need to speak about what God has done for us to others. Hearing ourselves rehearse God’s goodness not only encourages them, but it encourages us too.

             The third thing is to remember the HOPE God has given us.  Romans 5:1-2, 5 says “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory… And (this) hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (NET Bible)

            “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13) We have been given hope through the Holy Spirit and that hope does not disappoint.

 “Blessed is the man [or woman!] who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For (s)he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NKJV)

            When we don’t feel we have anything to be thankful for, we’re usually in some kind of spiritual battle, and we can’t afford to be silent. That is when we need to loudly proclaim the goodness of our God. We need to offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God. Psalm 86:12-13 says “I will praise You, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, And I will glorify your name forevermore! For great is Your mercy toward me, and You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.”   The Psalmist is recalling Who God is and What God has done in the past.

            The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”.

            When we have a bad report from the doctor, we say “Thank you God for being my Jehovah Rapha. When the bills are due and there’s no money we can say “Thank You God for being my Jehovah Jireh.” When there is turmoil all around us we can say “Thank You God for being my JEHOVAH SHALOM.

              Psalm 50:14-15 says “Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” We can go to God with our needs, and we can do it in faith when we know Who He is and we can offer Him thanksgiving, not for the need itself, but for His response to that need.

               When David was on the run from Saul, who was trying to kill him, he fled to Gath but when he realized he was in danger there he pretended to be insane. (1Samuel 21:10-15) That is when he wrote the 34th Psalm. It begins “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

Peace and blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Dee

 

 

 

Good Choices Bad Choices

 “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore [you] choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” Deuteronomy 30:19

            My 7-year old grandson recently got into trouble at home and was grounded from participating in shooting off fireworks for the fourth of July, something he’d been looking forward to doing. But his parents wisely told him it was because of the choice he’d made to do something he knew was wrong. My daughter and son-in-law never tell the kids that they are bad when they misbehave, but tell them that the choice they made was a bad choice. “We love you, son, but you made a bad choice and here are the consequences.”

             I was reading John 13 this morning in my quiet time, and God showed me something I’d not totally understood before.

 “When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.’ Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke. Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke. Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ Jesus answered, ‘It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.’ And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What you do, do quickly.’ But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, ‘Buy those things we need for the feast,’ or that he should give something to the poor. Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night.” John 13:21-30  

             The Old Testament prophesied that one close to the Messiah would betray Him.  “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” (Psalm 41:9) When Jesus chose Judas Iscariot to be one of the twelve, He knew it would be Judas who betrayed Him. Jesus saw what was already in his heart.

             This morning as I was reading, I felt the Lord say to me “Notice that it was after Jesus offered Judas the dipped bread and he took it, that Satan entered into him. Up until that moment, Judas had the choice to do it or not.” That really struck me. Until the moment Judas took the bread from Jesus’ hand while He was saying “The one I give this piece of bread is the one who will betray me”, Judas had a choice. He could have said, “No, Lord, not I” but he didn’t. He chose to accept the bread and in doing that he yielded to Satan.

             In Matthew’ account of that night, Jesus warns Judas of the consequences of his actions. “He answered and said, ‘He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.’” (Matthew 26: 23-24)

             We all have freewill. Even Judas Iscariot had a choice. He made the wrong one, as it was prophesied he would do. God has set before us choice – life through His Son Jesus Christ, or eternal death.

             Jesus said “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

 I chose life!

 

Peace and blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Dee

 

“Come With Me”

“Come to me, all of you who are tired and are carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NIRV)

I was recently asked by a friend to write a short Bible study lesson on love. That was her only directive – just write a short study on love. Wow, that a huge subject. As I prayed about what to write, God kept bringing me back to the directive He had given me years ago when I first started writing. “Tell my daughters how much I love them.”

You may wonder, doesn’t everyone know God loves everybody? Probably, in their head if they ever been in or near a church. Most people can quote some version or form of John 3:16 “For God so loved the world”, but in their hearts they may wonder if or how He loves them personally, individually. Even Christians who have a real relationship with God can have periods of doubt, they may wonder about God’s love for them.

This week in our ladies Bible study at church, a lady shared that she was coming out of a period of darkness, she’d been through some struggles with her faith. As I listened to her, I thought about how I’d been through my own periods of darkness and struggle. I knew right then that that was the reason God had led me to write about God’s love for us.

In 1981 Del Shannon recorded a song originally written and recorded in 1959 by Phil Phillips called “Sea of Love”.

Come with me my love
To the sea
The sea of love
I want to tell you
How much I love you

When I hear that song or read those words, I think of Jesus and what He said in Matthew 11. “Come to me, all you who are tired…” Yes, there was a time when I was very tired, and not just physically but emotionally and spiritually.

In 2001, about a year after my mother had graduated to heaven, I went through a deep depression. I was angry at God for taking my mother and not preparing me for her leaving. I felt that some of the people in my life had not given me the comfort and support I thought I needed. I was fighting with my sister over care for our dad. Some individuals at church, instead of reaching out to me, judged me because I wasn’t acting right in their opinion. So I dropped out of church for a period and stopped reading my Bible. From there I continued to spiral downward. My husband and I began having problems in our marriage. Sins I’d not struggled with for decades began tempting me. I don’t know what would have happened had God not loved me enough to pull me back. But He did and He did it in through a secular magazine of all things! But since I’d stopped reading my Bible, listening to Christian music, or going to church I hadn’t left Him a lot of options. I opened a Woman’s Day magazine I’d bought that day on a whim and saw these words:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 The Message


As I read those words, it seemed as if Jesus were sitting right there beside me, speaking directly to me. “Are you tired and worn out?” He asked. Yes, I was very tired and worn out from my hurts, doubts and fears. “Are you burned out on religion?” Yes, I was totally burned out and let down by church members. “Come to Me, not the church, not other people. Just come to Me.” Jesus gently and loving wooed me. There was no condemnation in His words, just love. Tenderly and lovingly God reached out to me when I was at the lowest point in my life.

I’ve learned about the “unforced rhythms of grace”, I’ve recovered my life. I’m leaning how “to live freely and lightly”. I run to Jesus every day to hear Him tell me how much He loves me. Good circumstances or bad, I rest in His love.

Jesus calls you to come with Him, come to the sea of His great love and let Him tell you how much He loves you. Wherever you are in your life, He calls “Come to Me. Come learn about my grace. Come with Me and learn how to live. Come receive My love. Come with Me, I want to tell you how much I love you.”

Jesus loves you, my friend!

Peace and blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Dee

New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)
Copyright © 1996, 1998 by Biblica

The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Good Friday – The End and the Beginning

“After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” … So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. John 19:28, 30

Today is Good Friday, a Holy Day for Christians because it is the day we remember the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the day a perfect sacrifice was made once and for all for our sins and the price was paid for our healing. Sometimes we seem to take this too lightly and fail to consider what it cost Jesus.

King David wrote Psalm 22, a prophetic psalm describing Jesus death on the cross. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” was Jesus’ cry from the cross. Why would God the Father turn his back on His beloved Son? The answer is in Isaiah 53:6, “And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” God had to turn His back – He cannot look at sin and the sin of all mankind was placed on Jesus. The Apostle Paul wrote “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21.

God the Father and Jesus, God the Son, had been One, in perfect unity and harmony, from eternity past until that moment when Jesus took on Himself the sins of the world. My sin, your sin, the sins of our parents and our children were all put on Jesus. The Man who never committed a single sin was made to be sin so that a woman who never did anything righteous could be made the righteousness of God. Praise God!

There was more to come. After being beaten into a bloody mess, being nailed in the most humiliating way possible to a cross and dying of suffocation, there was more to come. Jesus descended into hell where He finished the price and defeated Satan on his home field.

That was the end. The end of sin having dominion over the man God created to have fellowship with. Ah, but with the end came a glorious beginning! After 3 days and 3 nights, Jesus came up from the heart of the earth. “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matthew 12:40.

That is the beginning – Christ is risen from the dead so that we may have eternal life! Praise God! The grave where they laid His body, is empty. He is risen from the dead! We have the testimony of eyewitnesses, people who saw and spoke with Jesus after the resurrection. As a woman, it blesses me to know that one of the first people Jesus appeared to was a woman.

“Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.
“Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.” Mark 16:9-11, 14

Jesus was crucified for our sins, paid our debt in full, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. His work completed, He’s given all who believe eternal life in Him, forgiveness of all sin, healing for our bodies, and peace for our minds. Now it is our job to share the good news to the world.

THE LORD IS RISEN! YES HE IS RISEN INDEED!

Peace and blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Dee

New King James Version (NKJV)
The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.