Another Chance

Adversity and discouragement are a way of life for some. Prosperity and happiness come to others. Most of humanity lie somewhere in between. Many of us experience discouragement and happiness at times. The business of life focuses on our daily provisions: food, shelter, and health, so we can enjoy some happiness.

Where does God fit into our formula for contentment? Do we even consider him? Only he can give the real peace that passes understanding.

Elijah, the prophet, experienced many of these characteristics mentioned above. His first appearance recorded in the Bible was to give an announcement to King Ahab. There would be no rain nor dew for three years.

I’m sure Ahab thought Elijah was a nut. But after a while, with no rain, they started to wonder. In the meantime, Elijah went to pray. Not a random prayer, but an earnest one. It didn’t rain for 3 1/2 years until the prophet prayed for rain (James 5:17, 18).

Later, after many other mountaintop experiences, the prophet became discouraged. Finally, he decided to withdraw from society because an ungodly woman threatened him, so he ran. 

Elijah asked God to take his life ( I Kings 19:4). God didn’t! Instead, God gave him food. Then Elijah replenished with strength, traveled 40 days to Horeb. The distance was some 250 miles over rugged terrain. Horeb is also known as Mount Sinai, the same mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments. It is here, the Lord spoke once again. This time, he asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah” (I Kings 19:9)?

Imagine the God of gods is now talking to you. How would you respond?

Elijah rehearsed his past deeds for God. So now God gives him a simple instruction. “Go stand on the mountain before you” (I Kings 19:11). Then God shows the discouraged prophet a fierce wind, strong enough to break rocks. Then, there was an earthquake. And, it was followed by a fire. But, the Lord wasn’t in them.

Now, God spoke to his heart, and Elijah heard the Lord speak. The man of God stood determined not to change. Again, God asked, “What are you doing here ” (I Kings 19:13)? Once again, Elijah rehearsed the past. Finally, God seemed to say, OK, your powerful ministry is complete. I want you to go and do three things; anoint Hazel, King of Syria, Jehu, King of Israel, and Elisha to take your place.

What is the Lord saying to you? Is he giving you another chance to serve him? Have you decided to quit? The choice is always yours.

The Past Is Forgivable

“Come unto me” were Jesus’ words (Matthew 11:28). He said those words to the multitudes. It was an open invitation; those words crossed nationalities, time zones, and millenniums.

How does that make you feel? Can you accept his invitation? Do not make excuses about your past, about your birthplace, your parents, or even your actions.

God did not give up on Moses when he killed an Egyptian. Nor did he give up when Moses said get Aaron to do it. God did not abandon the widow at Zarephath when she was down to her last meal. The Lord saved a harlot and her family because she hid two spies. Her kindness placed her in the genealogy of our Lord.

Our Lord still used Peter after he denied knowing Jesus and cursing. John Mark deserted the mission field, yet he was essential for the ministry later. Then there was the woman at the well. She failed in marriage five times, but God still reached out to her.

Sin is forgivable, but forgiveness requires a step of faith. Simply ask God to forgive whatever sin you have committed. This is your opportunity to have the guilt removed from God’s memory.

Have you ever known Jesus to turn away a sincere seeker? There are no “turn aways” recorded in the Bible. Nicodemus came to the Lord by night so no one would know. He later joined Joseph of Arimathea in preparing the crucified Lord for burial.

The past is forgivable for God. All it takes is a big swallow of pride and an outstretched arm for help. Peter reached out to Jesus when he was sinking, and Jesus extended his hand to help. That is what Jesus does—help. Help is always available to a trusting heart.

The Lord knows and watches all his children all the time.

Making Sense of Non-Sense

It was just another week. Seven days strung together. Nothing stands out as I reflect.

Lots of things happened. Many were everyday things. You know routine things. Routine becomes normal. Normal is OK, normal brings stability. Somehow it makes things stick together.

It keeps things in order—mundane order. Mundane is good—normal. No surprises. and normal is good. Does that make sense? Probably not, since sense is on vacation this week leaving only non-sense.

What does the next week hold? More routine, or does it have any new adventures in store? You will not know until you get there. Take one day at a time, one hour and then another. Those hours run together; you cannot get to the next hour until you complete this hour. The present is where we live. The past is gone, and the future is before us if we live! Our plans may be few, but they can sparkle, one sparkle can be bright and bunches of them light up the sky. However they arrive, they are there for you. Maybe only for you.  No one else can share it with you.There are things in life that have your name on them. Only your name. No one else.

Your week may have good news. No news. Maybe even bad news. It is still your week. Whatever your outlook, think! God has allowed these events in your life for his glory. That can be hard to understand at times, but it is your time.

Your perspective will determine your mindset. Whatever comes your way is for your ultimate good. Maybe now good or later good. Remembering that may be your biggest challenge, making sense of non-sense.  Is it non-sense or for later sense? Learn as you go and learn well for his glory.

Normal, But Not Normal

What is normal? It could be a definition accepted in your family or immediate surroundings. But strange in another locale.

Mary was a young lady, a godly one. A girl open to the Lord’s will. Her engagement to Joseph hit a significant bump on her way to the altar. An angel told her she would have a child, a normal thing. However, this child will come about by the Holy Spirit overshadowing her, not normal.

Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, was told his bride-to-be was pregnant. The child was not Joseph’s. In a dream, an angel of the Lord informed Joseph to take Mary as his wife, not normal.

Meanwhile, the Roman emperor ordered a national census. To be registered, Joseph had to return to his birthplace. While there, Joseph’s wife, Mary, would give birth to Jesus, but with no room in the local motel. They bedded down for the night in the local barn, not normal.

When Mary delivered Jesus, God’s only Son, his first bed was an animal feeding trough, not normal. Soon shepherds came to see her son. Angels informed the shepherds where to find Jesus, not normal.

Later, probably two years, some wise man followed a star to locate Jesus, not normal. When they inquired to the local ruler, he informed the travelers Jesus was in Bethlehem. Scriptures, in Micah 5:2, recorded 700 years earlier that Bethlehem was the Messiah’s birthplace. When the searchers located Jesus, they gave gifts. After departing, Joseph was warned in another dream to relocate to Egypt (Matthew 2:13). This, too, was predicted in the Bible (Hosea 11:1), not normal because Herod ordered the elimination of all male children under two years of age.

After a while, angels again informed Joseph in another dream to return to Israel (Mathew 2:19, 20), not normal. Joseph and his family returned to Israel, settling in Capernaum.

Nothing is mentioned in the Bible about the following years of the Lord’s life, indicating a regular early childhood until the age of 12.

It was then, the Lord’s parents made their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover, typical for Jewish families. After the holiday, Jesus did not return home with his parents, which was not normal for a young man. Instead, he remained in Jerusalem and taught in the Temple, not normal for a 12-year-old.

When his parents found him three days later, Jesus announced he was about his heavenly Father’s business, not normal. After returning home, nothing is mentioned concerning the Lord for the next eighteen years, indicating a routine adolescent life.

It was then the Messiah began his ministry, not a normal one. He taught and performed miracles for three-plus years while training 12 men to succeed him, not normal. Then one night, Judas, one of the 12, betrayed the Lord. Jesus was arrested, tried, and convicted to death. Jesus was then crucified for our sins, not normal.

Jesus arose from the grave, not normal. Afterward, he taught his disciples some more before ascending into heaven in their sight, once again not normal.

So, what is normal to you? Do you listen when God speaks to your heart? If you are wise, you will listen then obey his directions. An adventure awaits you that is not normal. You will never be sorry you followed his instructions.

You Will Never Know

Have you ever felt like an octopus? Needing eight arms and then deciding which one to use on the most pressing need? So is the natural man resisting our spiritual nature. Who wins? Who loses? It’s our decision. At times we do not know which way to go. No matter what we decide, there is a loser. We are like the rope in a tug of war, pulled in different directions.

Since the day of our salvation, we became a soldier in a war. Every day there is a battle, our old nature battles with our new nature. The one with the most ammo usually wins. But, even with less ammo, the new self can win by applying God’s strategies. Put God first. Decide to load up with the word of God first. You can then shoot straight and hit the target.

The apostle Paul struggled with his two natures. He did things he did not want to do and failed to accomplish the things he should have done. He is an example of never quitting. Discouragements abounded in his life. Paul experienced prison, whipped five times, stoned, shipwrecked, robbed, the Jews and the Gentiles didn’t like him. Besides working as a tentmaker, he was hungry and cold at times, yet he never quit or gave up (II Corinthians 11:23-27). He kept going. He remembered he would stand before the Lord one day and give an account of his life. Notice Paul did not mention his horrible past of torturing Christians. He recognized those were forgiven sins.

Why do I mention the apostle’s life before salvation? To remind us that our sins are forgotten. Never to be remembered by God. Too many Christians today allow their past life to haunt and hinder their present life. Their preoccupation of the past forgiven life stops many Christians from being what God wants them to be today. Remember, Moses was a murderer, so was David. David added adultery to his list of sins. Paul tortured Christians, and Rahab was a harlot. Some of these sins were before they met the Lord, and some were after. John Mark even left his mission field. But God—our Lord, still used each one of these in his service..

If God can do this yesterday, what can he do today through you? You will never know unless you lay aside the past and trust him for the future.

A Camouflaged Cry

There was music in the wind chimes. It was not the melody I wanted to hear, but the song the Lord had for me to hear. The notes I did not know but soothing were its lyrics. That was what God wanted me to be—peaceful in my spirit and speech. His calming voice was soft and low commanding my attention.

The Lord’s instruction comes unexpectedly. This time it was on a printed page of a hurting saint who was rejoicing. Her soul and spirit were in communion with the Lord. She realized her physical and emotional pain would soon pass as she pondered her heart and soul in light of eternity.

God’s comforting hand holds ours through the throes of life. He is there when we think no one cares. But sometimes, probably most of the time, we do not recognize his presence, but he is there. He promised never to leave us or forsake us. 

His Word has a way of pinpointing our problem. We have a way of ignoring his divine company. He is our constant companion even when we do not acknowledge he is there. His faithfulness often shows in an action of quietly doing what he does best—abiding with us constantly. That is what he does. His ever-present companionship refreshes our spirit. Even when we do not recognize his divine presence, he helps us constantly.

Our self-pity and arrogance are selfishness in action. However, our arrogance can be a camouflaged cry for mercy and companionship. By turning our attention from self to godliness, Jesus has us in a place of usefulness. When those thoughts of his divine presence come into focus, it changes our outlook—to him, not our body and mind.

May our thoughts and prayers be to him for his glory, not the temporal cares of this life.

The God of the Impossible

God can do anything! We have been taught that for as long as I can remember. I believe it. Our Lord can:

  • Turn a shepherd’s staff into a snake (Exodus 4:3).
  • Divide the Red Sea (Exodus 14:16,21).
  • Bring water out of a rock (Exodus 17:6).
  • Guide a stone to a giant’s forehead (I Samuel 17:49).
  • Send down fire from heaven for Elijah (I Kings 18:38).
  • Shut the mouths of lions (Daniel 6:22).
  • Make water so hard that Peter could walk on it (Matthew 14:28,29).
  • Open prison doors and remove chains from prisoners (Acts 5:19 and 12:7).

All these are examples of God doing the impossible. Yet each one has a similarity. They are inanimate objects. Life is God’s breath (Genesis 2:7); every breath is a gift from God. The air belongs to him.

So, how does the Almighty work with humans? Yes, our Great, Great, Great… Grandfather, Adam, came from dirt. God knew when Abel’s blood tarnished the good earth. He watched Enoch and thought so much of him he took him to heaven bypassing death. He fed Elijah with the help of the ravens. Protected David from a lion, bear, and King Saul. He made Solomon the wisest man on earth. Our Lord blessed Sarah and Elizabeth with a child in their old age.

All the above were the work of God in revealing he would protect and provide for his children. God is a miracle worker. But there is something he will not do. Yes, you read that right. God records in his inerrant Bible something he cannot do. The book of Titus in its second verse, states God cannot lie. Whatever our heavenly Father says is the truth. Occasionally, the Lord does change his mind. Isaiah informed Hezekiah he would die, but God extended his life for another 15 years (II Kings 20:4-6).

God, in his compassionate manner, frees the asking saint from the penalty of his sin. He describes it as putting the forgiven sin as far as the east is from the west (Psalms 103:12). Think about it. If I started driving west, where would I find the beginning of west. When I reached the Pacific Ocean there is still more west. There is no location where the east meets the west. The Lord adds that he erases our forgiven sins from his memory (Isaiah 43:25, Hebrews 8:12). God does not erase the sins of everybody because individuals must come to him voluntarily. When we want forgiveness, we must ask for it. He is ready and able to forgive. We must step out by faith and come to his open arms.

Have You Prayed?

Do you have a yearning to pray? Then pray.

Do you sense that you do not know how? Definitely.

You want to talk to God, but you do not know what to say. Pray.

Are you afraid to spend time with the almighty? Pray anyway.

You feel you are unworthy to call out to God. Always.

What do I do with these emotions? Talk to God about them.

You may ask, “Will he hear me?” You can count on it. What if he does not answer? That’s a wrong thought. He is always answering for the best. Our problem is we do not know what is best. Our best request may not be the best in his eyes. God can see into the future. He knows what is best. Our problem is our short-term vision. We want immediate answers. But God has a far-reaching vision.

Being confused about how, where, when, or posture to pray are the least of our concerns. God cares about our hearts—hurting, aching, breaking, lonely, sad, angry, or even disappointed. It doesn’t make any difference. Pray.

All things do work together for good for the trusting child of God. Accepting all things is our responsibility. The Bible is true whether we believe it or not. Our unbelief is our problem, not his. We need to pray about accepting what God has for us, especially when we do not understand. When life’s happenings are beyond our comprehension, he has a door ready to be opened by the hand of faith. What’s behind the door is God’s gift. He is ready to do what is best.

Are you ready to spend some time with God? If so, find a quiet spot and start talking to God. He is ready to listen. Heavenly Father, here I come.

Pray constantly is God’s answer (I Thessalonians 5:17).

Overcoming Discouragement

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so the saying goes. It took time. 

Discouragement is not eliminated in a moment, day, or week. It takes time. The focus of your thinking needs time to change. Our thinking needs to leave the rut and jump onto the highway of progress. It’s our going forward that will diminish our depressing thoughts of the past.

Whatever brought about the despair needs to be eliminated. If it’s financial, one payment after another will eventually reach the paid in the full mark. Hurt feelings may get an apology. Then again, maybe not. But even if there is no, “I’m sorry,” let it go and move on. The other individual will have to deal with themselves and their emotions. But then maybe they will not. If you have debilitating injuries making permanent hindrances, make the necessary adjustments and go on. Things may not ever be the same, but God can still use you.

Learning and changing are part of progress. At times, the adjustment is unpleasant. But that is what life is all about. I’m glad for the change, at least, some of them. For example, I’m a slow typist. Manual typewriters are considered obsolete. So are electric typewriters. Computers are today’s wonders. Most have programs where you can speak, and voila! Words appear. Someone invented this technology for me. Sure, I make corrections because of my diction, but it is still faster than a manual typewriter.

We cannot let the old hinder progress. Neither should we allow discouragement to handicap our future. Progress is all about moving on. You can take the past with you, but do not let it tie you down. Experience is preparatory for the future. Progress may move slowly in our lives, but at least we’re going forward.

Attitude is our biggest hindrance or help. Improvement is the foundational motive for most of our desires. Desires to go forward and help others, including ourselves, are necessary for progress. When we focus on something or someone other than our discouragement, progress happens. Without it, the future looks dim. What do you see in your future? Change or the refusal to change? Only if you are committed to progress will you overcome the discouragements of life.

No Stopping It

It was a snippet. Only one derogatory comment. And it was not the whole truth. It was like a stone pushed down a steep hill. Moving slowly, gaining speed as it traveled downward. It bounced off a giant rock, jumping into the air and skipping the other little stones. But now, the speedy boulder increased in velocity. There was no stopping it.

That is how gossip moves. Leisurely at first, then gaining momentum. It’s rolling over whoever is in its way. A careful observer will point out the path of destruction. The havoc becomes wider in influence, forcing hearers into choosing sides.

Organizations are being destroyed or handicapped by the mischievous. Leaving only a skeleton of a once-thriving body. The originator of the derogatory comment has since disappeared. Others have sought greener pastures, regardless of their position in the matter. What was once a booming organization with excitement is now only a handful of innocents. They are now responsible for holding the organization together, at least what remains.

In another scenario, the troublemaker remains, and many others leave. One sad thing about this is the organization does not regain its previous posture. The momentum robber never sees the source of the decline. They justify themselves by stating, “we are smaller, but we are better.”

The power of God builds upon the purity of heart, not the outward appearance. God loves purity. He hates gossip. It was just a snippet, but it started rolling. It didn’t stop. Only the innocent suffer and remain.