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

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Color-guard

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

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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

 

 

 

I Give Thanks

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” Psalm 107:1

I love Christmas. Without the first Christmas, we would have nothing to celebrate. Without the first Christmas, there would have been no Calvary, no perfect sacrifice for our sin. Without the first Christmas, most of us would be without God. I love Christmas for all that and more.

Having said that, I don’t want to rush into the Christmas season bypassing Thanksgiving. Since I was a child, Fall has been my favorite time of year. The colorful fall leaves, pumpkins, scarecrows and candy corn in October, cooler days, turkey and pumpkin pie, and then of course my birthday in November were all my favorite things.

Thanksgiving Day is primarily an American holiday (the Pilgrims and all that) but setting aside a special time to give God thanks for all He has given and done for us should be so much bigger than just a single feast day. A day that is being diminished more and more as we all seem to want to rush right into the Christmas season. I want this year to be more. I want to really stop and consider what I have to be thankful for, as an American and as a Christian.

This nation was born because men and women came in search of a place they could worship God as their hearts desired. My ancestors left Wales in the 1700’s to escape the tyranny of religious persecution. They were Separatists and Separatists were not approved of by the Church of England therefore not by the Crown. Even in the colonies, there was disagreement about religion, but the idea that all men had the right to choose how to worship won over have an authorized state church. A nation that had true religious freedom was born and people from all over the world and from every ethnicity have come to participate. I give thanks that today I have the right to choose how and where to worship God.

This nation has been under attack from the beginning, but God has protected it and held it together. The War of 1812 tested the United States ability to defend itself but the nation proved itself strong. In 1865 the nation was tested again when it was divided regarding slavery, but freedom won and the nation was restored. Through two world wars, in Korea, Viet Nam and the Middle East, with God’s help and protection, the United States has defended itself and its friends against common enemies. For this I give thanks to God.

It’s easy to look around and see moral decay all around us. Unborn babies are killed at the mother’s convenience and it is legal in all 50 states. Sexual depravity is rampant and in our faces every time we turn on the television or if we’re not careful every time we use the internet. Drug addiction and alcoholism continue to tear families apart and destroy lives. Students are not allowed to carry Bibles on school campuses. It appears that God is no longer a part of this nation and that the Christian voice and influence is being silenced. But that is not all there is.

I know students who are standing up for God and for what they believe and are telling their friends about Jesus. I see good men and women in government trying to right some of the wrongs that have been done. I know men and women of God who are preaching and teaching the gospel, working to bring lost people to Jesus. Every week at our church, and other churches, men and women, boys and girls are giving their hearts to the Lord. For this I give God thanks.

God has always had a remnant of people He could work through to bring about the things He desires. In the Old Testament we have the account of Elijah, God’s prophet in Israel. Elijah had defeated the prophets of Baal, the false god the people had begun to worship. He was on the run for his life because Jezebel had vowed to kill him. This mighty prophet started feeling sorry for himself and decided he just wanted to die because things were so bad. He thought he was the only one left serving God and he just wanted to give up. But God spoke to him saying, “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19)

I may not always be able to see what God is doing around me, in my nation, in community, or in my family. But I know that He is at work. God brought this nation into existence for a reason and a purpose and He’s not done yet. For that I give thanks!

Psalm 107:1-9, 17-22, 43 (NKJV)

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy,
And gathered out of the lands,
From the east and from the west,
From the north and from the south.
They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way;
They found no city to dwell in.
Hungry and thirsty,
Their soul fainted in them.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
And He delivered them out of their distresses.
And He led them forth by the right way,
That they might go to a city for a dwelling place.
Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
For He satisfies the longing soul,
And fills the hungry soul with goodness.

Fools, because of their transgression,
And because of their iniquities, were afflicted.
Their soul abhorred all manner of food,
And they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
And He saved them out of their distresses.
He sent His word and healed them,
And delivered them from their destructions.
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.

Whoever is wise will observe these things,
And they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.”
Peace and blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Dee

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

Disappointment 101

“My soul is deeply grieved, even to the point of death. Remain here and stay alert.” Mark 14:34

How do you handle disappointments? People don’t always behave the way we expect or need them to behave. Even our closest friends or family members let us down. Things happen that we have no control over cause us pain and disappointment. What are we supposed to do with those feelings? Who can we turn to in those times?

Jesus suffered disappointment in the Garden of Gethsemane. He took Peter, James and John, the inner circle of the twelve men He’d called to follow Him, His closest friends, into the Garden to watch and pray with Him. One of the twelve had already deserted Him and was going to betray Him.

“Then they went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took Peter, James, and John with him, and became very troubled and distressed. He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, even to the point of death. Remain here and stay alert.’” Mark 14:32-35

“Remain here and stay alert” Jesus asked them, but when He returned they had fallen asleep, not once, but three times. When He needed them the most, they were sleeping. (See Mark 14:32-42)

David wrote in Psalm 31:7 “I will be happy and rejoice in Your faithfulness because You are aware of how distressed I am.”

God notices our pain, emotional as well as physical. He is aware of our disappointments. But He does more than just notice and be aware. David goes on to say, “But I trust in you, O Lord! I declare, ‘You are my God!’ You determine my destiny!” (31:14, 15a)

Keep trusting God. He knows what happens in your life, and He has a plan for you. Other people do not have final say in your life – God does!

Verse 19 says, “How great is your favor, which you store up for your loyal followers! In plain sight of everyone you bestow it on those who take shelter in you.”

When your friend lets you down, when your spouse disappoints you, when you get passed over at work, pull into Jesus. He knows your hurts and He understands them as no one else can.

“Therefore since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.” Hebrews 4:14-16

Jesus suffered disappointment without letting it cause Him to sin. He forgave and continued to love those who had let Him down. He held to the plan that after His resurrection, those eleven men would be the leaders and take the gospel to the world. Forgive without being asked, keep loving those who hurt you and hold fast to Jesus.

David closes Psalm 31 saying, “Be strong and confident, all you who wait on the Lord!”
Be strong. Be confident. Wait on the Lord.

Peace and blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Dee

References: New English Translation (NET)
Mark 14:32-42
Psalm 31
Hebrews 4:14-16

Signs of Mercy

“Now David came to his house at Jerusalem. And the king took the ten women, his concubines whom he had left to keep the house, and put them in seclusion and supported them, but did not go in to them. So they were shut up to the day of their death, living in widowhood.” 2 Samuel 20:3
(NKJV)

I love King David. He was the man the Bible called “a man after God’s own heart” but that’s not why I love him. I love him because like most of us, his life took many twists and turns, highs and lows. He could worship God in total abandon, yet yield to dark temptations. Sounds like someone I know very well – me! David understood from personal experience about repentance, grace, love and forgiveness. He understood mercy.

The history of King David recorded in 2 Samuel tells us about his son Absalom’s decision to take the kingdom away from him. Instead of defending the throne, David packed up his wives, his other children, and his army and went on the run. He left behind ten women, his concubines, to keep the house. Nathan the prophet had told David that division would come in his own house, and what he’d done in secret, would be done to him in public. Absalom pitched a tent on the roof and took the ten concubines of his father so the people could see he’d taken his father’s wives and the kingdom.

When David returned after the death of his son, what was to happen to these women? Concubines were wives but they did not have the rights of a wife, they were really slaves. They were more easily dismissed than a wife, they had little legal protection.

Jewish writers tell us that the widowed queens of Hebrew monarchs were not allowed to marry again but were obliged to pass the rest of their lives in strict seclusion. This is what David chose. They were not divorced, they were guiltless; but they were no longer publicly recognized as his wives. He sequestered them away where they were out of public view, where they could live in quiet privacy as Absalom’s widows. And he continued to provide for them the rest of their lives. That’s mercy.

When we’ve been abused or wronged by someone or the world in general, we can call on God’s mercy to sequester us in His love. He’ll provide us with His lavish love. We’re not to be isolated, we need the right people around us; but we can be protected further abuse or from judgment.

David wrote the 31st Psalm. Verses 7-8 says, “I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy and steadfast love, because You have seen my affliction, You have taken note of my life’s distresses, And You have not given me into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a broad place.” (The Amplified Bible)

“I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy”. David understood the mercy of God because he’d benefited from it over and over. “You have seen my affliction…you have taken note”. God not only sees when we’re abused, He’s taking notes! Beloved, God will not let your abuser go unpunished. But you He will set in a broad place because you are seated with Jesus, your life is hidden with Christ in God.

“…let all those who take refuge and put their trust in You rejoice; let them ever sing and shout for joy, because You make a covering over them and defend them; let those also who love Your name be joyful in You and be in high spirits.” Psalm 5:11 (The Amplified Bible)

God’s mercy and love are a covering over us. We can shout for joy and rejoice even in our hard places. We are covered with His love. We are covered by mercy.

Peace and blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Dee

Scripture used but not noted: 2 Samuel 15:13-16; 2 Samuel 12:10-12; 2 Samuel 16:20-23; Ex 21:7-11: Colossians 3:3.

No Word, No Power

I’ve been out of sorts the past few days and just really not wanting to do anything. I haven’t been able to write anything, haven’t worked on my website or studied nutrition. Just blah. And now my back hurts and I don’t deal well with pain.

Finally this morning I understand, or I should say I acknowledged what the problem is. I already knew, just wasn’t willing to do anything about it. I’ve been too busy doing “other stuff” that I’ve not spent time reading and meditating on the Word.

It’s no wonder I’ve felt so powerless, I’m not feeding my spirit. If I have time to read my email, check Facebook, watch TV, I have time for the most important things – Time meditating on God’s Word. Yeah, God’s Word is my food. And today is going to be a good day.

“Then they cry to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivers them out of their distresses.
He sends forth His word and heals them and rescues them from the pit and destruction.
Oh, that men would praise [and confess to] the Lord for His goodness and loving-kindness and His wonderful works to the children of men!” Psalm 107:19-21

How Short Are the Days?

“Lord, make me to know my end and [to appreciate] the measure of my days–what it is; let me know and realize how frail I am [how transient is my stay here]. Behold, You have made my days as [short as] handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing in Your sight. Truly every man at his best is merely a breath! Selah [pause, and think calmly of that]!” Psalm 39:4, 5 (Amplified Bible)

My grandmother used to say that the older you get, the faster time passes. I do believe she was right. It feels like only an eye blink since I went to Christopher’s 5th grade graduation last May and it was the beginning of summer. Now this week all across Texas children are going back to school and summer is over. Soon we will be celebrating Christmas and a New Year.

The Bible tells us to number our days so that we can have wisdom.

“So teach us to number our days, that we may get us a heart of wisdom.”
Psalm 90:12.

When we realize how brief our lives here truly are, we then can understand how important it is to make the most of our time. We need to eliminate things that use up our time and energy but don’t really benefit others or ourselves.

How often do we realize we need to minister to someone but just don’t have the time? What we need to ask ourselves is what is using up our time to make us unable to take care of the important things? Are we serving God or ourselves? How much time do we waste watching TV shows or reading books that don’t build us up spiritually and then have no time to study God’s Word?

In the terms of eternity, this life is nothing. Even if we live our full 120 years, it is still “a breath” in God’s timetable. The New Testament tells us to be careful how we live and to make the most of our time.

“Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil.”
Ephesians 5:15, 16. (Amplified Bible)

“Live purposefully…” When we live purposefully, we won’t be overly occupied with trivial things but will be available and ready to obey whatever God puts before us to do.

Peace and blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Dee