Discernment

Everybody goes through a struggle at times. Knowing which way to go or what to do in certain situations is puzzling. An often used verse for encouragement in this area is Isaiah 40:31. “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength” (NKJV). Quoting a Bible verse is good, but following it is better.

By nature, we are not patient, especially when we want God to answer us immediately. Our Lord often delays his answer for our best interest. We do not understand his reasoning. But, if we wait for him to work his plan for our request, we will realize he knew best all along.

Trusting, waiting, and discerning are godly attributes that we can incorporate into our lives. Each of these three attributes is a lesson in making a worthwhile learning experience. Sadly, this lesson is not a one-and-done experience. Every time a crucial decision needs an answer, we should resort to the same process; Trust, wait and discern through prayer.

Romans 5:3 in the old King James states, “tribulation worketh patience.” Likewise, the ESV says, “suffering produces endurance.” Often our best learning experiences result from some trouble we endured: past experiences and the lessons grasped in those valleys. Hopefully, we learned them the first time without journeying through the same valley again.

God has a way of making discernment real, and the way he chooses for us to learn is for our betterment. So, then, when the needed lesson is behind us, we better discern the future to wait on the Lord.

A Piece Is Missing

Misplacing your keys may be aggravating, especially when you’re in a hurry. Our memories fail us at times. We expect our memory bank to be retrievable in an instance, but there are times when the mega bites get jumbled or go on an unannounced vacation. Most of the time, they’re taking a short nap.

There are other times when our memory seems to be in a coma. These are reminders of the seasons of life. We all have them. Teens forget their homework. Adults forget where they place things. And the older one’s memory bank seems like someone pressed delete.

When processing Bible knowledge, we go through stages, but they’re not the same for everyone. We are all made from a different mold, and the growth process is varied. 

Young people rely on their memories, that’s good. Still, their numerous activities sometimes reach an overload—the time to complete project conflicts with another event.

Adult life has too many things going on simultaneously. Work, family, and social events collide. Choosing between events means the elimination of one and presents a lose-lose situation.

The mature crowd has reached the place where things are supposed to slow down. That may be true for some. Others want to do everything they didn’t do in the previous years. Time is abundant, resources and health may not cooperate.

But, something is missing. Reflection may draw one’s attention back to spiritual things. We might ask ourselves, where is God fitting into our lives, or have we pushed him aside in our journey through life? The answer usually falls into place when we put God first. 

Reflecting

Do you struggle to write? Most of us would say yes at times. Well, this is one of those times for me. Nothing fresh seemed to come to mind. So, I started reflecting upon the Lord’s goodness. Covid has hit our household. As of this date, everyone but me has experienced this agony.

Now onto some positive reflections of the previous year. First, there is a fresh realization of God’s goodness. Family is excellent, friends are sincere, health is good, prayer is great, and the Bible is a wealth of golden nuggets. Some of the chunks are easy to find. Others need mining. The richness of them is priceless. 

As the years of life have drifted by, the reflection appears on God’s protecting hand. His unseen intervention kept me from getting hit by a car at age eight. His grace protected me in an automobile accident when eighteen. His watchful eye kept me safe when experiencing cramps while swimming.

Only God knew when this high school boy went to a dance the first Friday night of his senior year that he would meet his future wife. Then, there’s the Lord’s directing hand to getting Linda and me to hear the gospel and asking Jesus into our hearts on the same night. Our life and eternity changed that night.

We enrolled in the Bible college for training the following fall. God’s miraculous provisions during those training years were numerous, including the expansion of our family (son and daughter). Then, onto our serving the Lord and pouring our lives into others while still growing in God’s knowledge and presence.

The years turned to decades. Sure, there were bumps in the road, but God allowed us to continue the journey. All along the way, God has kept his hand upon our lives. 

We have reached our sunset years in the eyes of many, but there’s still much to do. We have seen two granddaughters grow into adulthood, are watching two grandsons who are reaching school age and are thoroughly enjoying a great-granddaughter who is still in diapers. God is good. Actually, great is the better word.

God has changed the ministry from teaching to writing this blog. Hopefully, it encourages others on God’s goodness.

We serve the one who speaks, and the world came into being. The Lord picked up some dirt, and voila, man. Then, sin came, but God was still working. He sent his Son. Two thousand years later, I can reflect that God is still working through his children.

When the Lord gives you the opportunity, speak up and tell someone how great our Savior is.

Contagious Commitment

After the crucifixion, the clouds of depression engulfed the remaining eleven disciples. Overwhelmed and saddened, they gathered in the same room where Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled.” Their future looked bleak. Happy days were difficult to imagine. Excitement about the future vanished.

These eleven chosen ones felt abandoned as they huddled in the Upper Room. Then something happened. The Lord walked through the walls. No words could describe what they saw. Is this real? Were they dreaming? A new day was approaching—one of celebration, encouragement, and challenge.

The disciples made the transition into a new era. First, they prayed and then, by faith, sought the leadership of God. Then, when their door of opportunity opened, they walked through it on Pentecost. Following their example, we can also open our doors of privilege. Whatever God lays before you, press on through tough times and good times because the Lord will never leave you—that’s His promise.

Simple encouraging words may slip your memory, but The Lord never forgets when you encourage someone. The Lord is always with us is a thought to remember every day, hour, and minute. Every breath we breathe is a gift from him and a reminder He is still with us in every moment of the day.

After 40 days of prayer, the disciples were ready to share the good news, which they did. Our world has not been the same since the Day of Pentecost.  May we make this new year one of prayer, serving our Lord with infectious enthusiasm. If we do, our communities and churches will be different. Why? Because we decided to serve the Lord with a contagious commitment to sharing the good news, which will cross generational boundaries.

Due Diligence

Ready or not, the new year has arrived. Many look forward with great anticipation to new opportunities and adventures, while a few see doom and gloom on the horizon. 

The younger generation revels in making New Year’s resolutions. Wishes that they want to happen for them. These wishes always seemed to come with rewards, riches, or meeting other individuals. The older contemporaries have let wishing to be a bygone event.

Whatever category best describes your age group, there’s always hope. For argument’s sake, let your wants be practical and personal—personal in the sense where you are in control. Forget about depending upon others to fulfill your secret heart’s desires.

Work and due diligence make most wishes come true. Patience also plays an important part. There are times of learning how to use new ropes to climb that will come into play. Experience seems to agree, and inexperience appears to say I can do anything now. The truth of those two thoughts will come in due time. 

Plan your route toward your goal. Allow for bumps in the road and the shortage of funds. But don’t let disappointments make the quitter within you persuade you to do just that. Instead, turn the potholes of life into enrichment.

Make yourself determined to buckle down and work harder and longer to achieve your goal; this may be where hardheadedness can be an asset. The no staring you in the face is reality saying there’s another way. Circumstances of gigantic hurdles in the path are an indication there’s a better way.

Thomas Edison tried repeatedly to find the suitable filament for the light bulb. History said he tried over one thousand of them before discovering the correct one. Nevertheless, the pursuit of the right element has made millions of homes illuminated.

Your diligence for the new year will come true with hard work.

What’s In A Name

This is the week we celebrate the birth of Christ. The announcement of our Lord’s birth in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke uses four different terms to symbolize God’s Son, thereby confirming the Father’s mission in Him.

The first name given to our Savior is Jesus (Matthew 1:21). According to this verse, his mission was to save “His people from their sins.” Jesus was a common name of that time. But saving people from their sins was not a common occurrence. Philippians (2:10) states this is the name to which every knee shall bow.

Luke describes an angel’s appearance (Luke 1:31) to Mary, saying the Lord’s name would be Jesus. This name, Jesus, was officially given to him on his eighth day at the circumcision ceremony.

Immanuel, God with us, was first used in Isaiah 7:14 to prophesy the natural birth of the Son of God. These were the exact words repeated by an angel to Joseph (Matthew 1:23) about the child, Mary his fiancée, would bring forth. The meaning of the name indicates the impossible would happen. Jesus was God walking in the form of a human being in Israel.

The third name attributed to Jesus was the Son of the Highest (Luke 1:32), which the angel spoke to Mary. This Son was to be like his Father, our heavenly Father. Not only that, but Jesus would also be the ultimate successor of King David’s throne and rule forever.

In Luke 1:35, the Bible records the fourth name of our Savior, the Son of God. Not just any son but the Son of God. His name denotes deity and superiority. He is God, the Father’s Son, having all the attributes of his Father’s knowledge, presence, and power.

Three disciples Peter, James, and John heard God the Father say, “This is my beloved Son ( Matthew 17:5). John the Baptist also heard God the Father speak, “This is my beloved Son,” at the Lord’s baptism in Matthew 3:17. 

What is the meaning of these four names? First, Jesus is the Savior of the world. Second, Immanuel assures the Christian He is always with us. Third, the term Son of the Highest signifies Jesus is like his Father in every aspect. Then lastly, the name Son of God describes his superiority over everything and everybody.

I hope this description of God’s ultimate gift to humanity will enrich your Christmas by accepting God’s ultimate gift of salvation.

All Things Are Ready

The tiny village of Bethlehem was underprepared for the worldwide event. There was only one little motel.

Caesar had ordered everyone to report to the town of their birth for a census count. Like many small villages, Bethlehem had seen its young depart for work. Joseph was no longer a resident.

Before Caesar made his decree, God was already working long before Caesar ever thought about a census. 

Years before, God had announced a forerunner of the Messiah. John the Baptist was going to prepare the way for the Messiah. This announcement came in the book of Malachi about 400 years before the birth of Christ. John’s birth was a miraculous event. His parents were old and well past the child producing age.

Then, an angel announced to Mary that she would have a child, but she wasn’t married. Thus, another miracle of conception when the Holy Spirit would overshadow her. This allowed Mary to be with child.

Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, was in an awkward place. What was he to do? Condemn Mary? Have her stoned for adultery or put her away privately? Joseph was praying for the Lord’s leadership. God told him to take Mary as his wife. Joseph was obedient to the Lord’s leading for her child was the Son of God.

His ability to do what was right brought them to Bethlehem with his expectant wife. Unfortunately, there were no more rooms available in the tiny inn; the barn was the only solution. It was there that Joseph became a surrogate dad. The Christ child was born and placed in a feeding trough with hay as a mattress.

Before this young couple knew, there was a knock on the barn door. Shepherds appeared. They were told in a nearby pasture by angels that Israel’s Messiah was born, and he was in Bethlehem’s barn. They came to see.

Kings, mayors, and wealthy merchants did not receive an invite, but ordinary everyday workers did.

It was there that our Lord received his first congregational worshippers. It is worth mentioning that Christ still receives the curious seekers. God is ready to work even when things don’t seem right.

Once In A While

Some things never change. Greed and love are two of those things. They motivate thoughts, actions, and feelings that people find a way to express in one way or another.

Change is good if it’s an improvement. However, selfishness creates an unsatisfied desire for more. Love, on the other hand, is about sharing. When this latter trait is reciprocated and appreciated, circumstances improve.

In reflection, greed only satisfies before it moves to something else for a short duration. In contrast, enduring love has its roots in growth.

“There’s nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Every previous generation has experienced happy days and sad days; only the times and technology have changed, human feelings are the same. Adam saw, desired, and took the fruit, but it had consequences he didn’t anticipate. The same is true with sin today. There is still the thrill of enjoyment, but some pleasures cause bitterness and regret.

Why can’t humanity learn from the past? We can tweak our reactions, but the past is still there. We can change our future actions and improve ourselves to look different, but beneath its outer wrapping, it is still the same old forbidden fruit. 

Adam didn’t listen to the divine instruction, and neither has each succeeding generation. Nevertheless, some things remain the same. The appetite for sin is ever salivating. Only once in a while will someone stand up and say enough is enough like Joshua wrote in 24:15 of the sixth book of the Old Testament. “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (NKJV).

Let’s choose to be more like Joshua.

Moving On

Just asking. Is it time to move on? 

Painful situations from the past have caused deep demoralizing emotional scars for some. Their pain was and still is real. However, there’s a future with new opportunities and challenges. Each of these upcoming events is asking one screaming question. Are you willing to move on?

The book of Ecclesiastes describes a list of events that humanity experiences. The scriptures mentioned the whole gamut of circumstances. But with each one of them, there is a surviving trait. The challenge was to move on, don’t let the past hold you back.

Paul said he was forgetting the past and moving forward. Yet, this apostle experienced some of the most challenging hardships any servant of God has ever endured (read II Corinthians 11:23-27). Most 21st century Christians would quit on God if they lived through two whipping episodes, let alone five.

Something happened in Paul’s Christian journey. Somewhere he picked up an l extra dose of determination. He kept on going for the Lord. He suffered delay many times, but he kept moving toward the time he would answer for his life’s journey. There was a voice he kept hearing—move on. There’s still work to do. This servant didn’t say, “I’ve done enough. It’s someone else’s turn. Let the younger and stronger ones do it!”

That may be true, but our experience of the good and the bad can somehow help others. Determination gives everybody extra strength. Attitude makes us decide yes or no. The prize before us can motivate us to determine our future. We can do it. Our godly wisdom will enable us to labor smarter in completing our God-given opportunities to keep moving on.

There Is A Remedy

This is the week America celebrates Thanksgiving. Some, however, have little to be thankful for. Past events have robbed them of a grateful heart. Something happened in the past, removing the joy of family getting together.

Wrong is wrong. Defamation can spread like a fire and burn in every part of a person. Specific hurts may turn into anger. The inner rage, if unchecked, becomes a tree of resentment, causing its limbs to bend with its heavy fruit. The bending extremities are visible to spectators, but are accepted by the tree. Those who partake of its enticing fruit soon experience the same result—hatred.

After eating and enjoying several pieces of this bountiful fruit changes one’s taste buds. Now, the flavor is ever so tempting. But, the new flavor becomes increasingly enjoyable, even trying to recruit others to feel the immenseness of our hatred. 

One’s inner hatred all began over a wrong that happened, but the festering irritation became personal. The failure of the offended person to stop and ask for forgiveness was his downfall. The heartache of a previous event has opened the door to a room of grief and despair.

There is a remedy—forgiveness—the forgiveness of the original wrong. When we forgive, there is no more burden. The heart doesn’t ache, the knees receive strength, the back straightens, and the load is gone, allowing the forgiver a Christlike spirit.

Jesus took all our sin burdens away and removed them. Our emancipated bodies stood tall. New found freedom made life enjoyable.

A daily dose of forgiveness will keep our backs erect and our legs strong. The only bending of our knees is our time in prayer. The relief of bitterness allows believers to enjoy Thanksgiving.

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