Friday, December 15, 2017

Lonely Street

Lonely Street
Song lyrics paint a clear picture of life; we share tales of love and loss, joy and sadness, companionship and loneliness. Loneliness … just the word makes me want to hang my head. I am unable to form the word loneliness with a smile on my face. Poets and songwriters pen their deepest pain. Craving the presence of one they love, writers share the ache of feeling alone.

It is ironic, we hear it is lonely at the top. That implies that many who reach success and are in the midst of their peers feeling lonely and isolated. Notoriety comes at a high cost. They lose the pleasure of relationships based on trust.

Scapegoats take the blame. Society pushes them away, wanting no association with the guilty. It might be time for me to take a second look at their role. “Aaron will make the Most Holy Place, the Meeting Tent and the altar clean. Then he will bring the goat alive to the Lord. He will put both his hands on the head of the living goat. Then he will confess all the sins and crimes of Israel over the goat. In this way Aaron will put the people’s sins on the goat’s head. Then he will send the goat away into the desert. A man who has been appointed will lead the goat away. So the goat will carry all the people’s sins on itself. It will go to a lonely place in the desert. The man who leads the goat will let it lose there (Leviticus 16:20-22 NCV).”

Imagine the streets of Jerusalem. Jesus is led to a hill outside of the city; the sin of the world is placed on Him. In loneliness, He asks why the Father abandoned Him. He dies in our place. The Father who gave Him, offering the way to receive eternal life loses Him from the grave! He tasted loneliness and reaches out to us with His hand; we never walk alone. PamFord Davis

Friday, December 8, 2017

Love for Others

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. ~1 John 4:11

Love for Others
“Ma’am, do you work here?”

The young man stood at the children’s check-in counter at church, looking a bit lost. He was covered in tattoos, sporting a pair of baggy shorts and a white t-shirt. His cross necklace was in context, but the size and length of both the cross and the gold chain necklace it hung from were more apropos for a rapper’s music video than a church service.

Surely he wasn’t talking to me. I knew this for certain because a) I am most definitely not old enough to be a ma’am (in my head at least); and b) I didn’t work there, although the volunteer shirt I was wearing made me look like I did.

Oh, and also knew he wasn’t talking to me because c) he wasn’t someone I would normally talk to.

“Can you help me?” he asked. Oh, dear, he was talking to me.

“Sure,” I replied outwardly, while inwardly groaning because he was keeping me from getting into church service.

He waved a slip of paper in front of his face. It was the tear-off slip from the bulletin for prayer requests. ”I can’t find a pastor or anyone to give this to.”

I looked around. The information desk was all closed up; the pastors were all in service. I was going to have to handle this. ”I can take that for you. I’ll get it to the right place.”

“Thank you,” he said. ”I just … I just need …” He started to cry. ”I just need someone to pray for me.”

With that, he began to talk. And I listened. He was 21, had just returned from active duty in Iraq. He told me about his worries about his girlfriend. He talked about church, and how he wanted so badly to find a church where he not only fit in but where he could convince his girlfriend to attend with him.

I was totally, utterly, completely ill-prepared for this encounter. I have a heart for serving others, but most of my ministry involves others who look like me. I’m comfortable with other moms of young families. I deal well with young women who I can mentor.

But this man – this young, young vet who has already seen much more of the world and war and violence and killing than I hope I ever have to – was not like me. And if he hadn’t stopped me, if he hadn’t reached out, I would have ignored him.

And I would have missed the opportunity to be blessed. Not bless someone. I was blessed by the opportunity God gave me to be his ears, to listen to one of his children cry out. Even if his child didn’t have one single thing in common with me.

It’s difficult to reach out to those who don’t look like us, who don’t think like us, who don’t act like us. We let race and gender and age and stage & station in life build a wall we can behind. Yet God calls us to love everyone, not just the people we choose to love. He calls us to minister to them, to be a blessing to all we encounter.

To let ourselves be blessed by the opportunity to serve him. Amy Ragland

Dear Lord, let me serve you today. Give me the right words to say to someone who is hurting, or scared, or lost. Help me to overcome my own shyness or inabilities. I want to be a light for you, not just among those who look like me. ~Amen.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Love and Grace

Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give. (Proverbs 25:14)

Love and Grace
We attend a rather large church. Not a 'mega church', but we have to have two services to fit everybody in. A GOOD problem. But I think I can safely say that most of our members are quite familiar with the 'Who's Who' population.

By that I mean that when you've been around for awhile, you know who you can go to for certain things, or if someone asks 'who does this ...?', you just KNOW! For instance, if someone askes me about childcare, I would say 'see Pastor Neal', our children's minister. If someone needs prayer, it's 'Talk to Miss Pam. She has a direct line to God!' If someone knows someone who needs help financially, it would be Mike K., who is a great advisor. Or if somebody needs help with a party or dinner, then it would be Chuckles ... my own hubby!

Now, that being said, just because certain people are known to excel at certain things, that in and of itself does not mean that they are 'boasters'. Not at all. What it is, at least in these cases, is that these people are leading by example. And because of their willingness to be that example, many others are stepping up and lending a hand when and where they can. And by doing so, they are learning valuable lessons about loving others. Those who lead, do so by God's wonderful grace.

'What would Jesus do?' Well, He would do what true servants do ... serve others. And He would not have a need to brag. He was being the example. So if you do a good deed, and other than obtaining whatever help and assistance you may need to accomplish it, you do not make it a pointed effort to be 'seen', then there is no bragging. If you are noticed along the way, and someone compliments you for it, accept it, but make sure you do nothing more with it. Oh, you may offer to help that person to get involved in some way too, but if you just let it lie for it's own sake, then there will be no thought that you boasted. Which is another way God gives us grace.

Remember, The Father sees what we do quietly; but He will reward us openly. There He is, showing love to us when we are being humble and simply serving. And when we serve others, we are serving Him. When done with a pure and humble heart, and with no complaining, then we are warming the heart of God.

If people do good deeds, and then make a point of announcing it to everybody and their brother, then they are indeed like the 'wind and the rain'. And they are giving gifts to nobody but themselves. And what does that profit them in the Kingdom of God? Nothing.

Love ... it is in many forms, in many actions, and in many hearts. Make sure the love in your heart is presented to those who need it. Serving others with a heart of love is made possible for us because of the GRACE that our Heavenly Father shows to us. Loving others is a form of grace, which can only be from Him. Lili Richey Willard

Friday, November 24, 2017

Lost and Found

Matthew 18:12
"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?

Lost and Found
I learn so much about my behavior from my kids. Two summers ago, we brought our girls to Six Flags. We were in the Wiggles World and had given my oldest the freedom to wait in line by herself for a ride. We watched her closely, she got on the ride, we relaxed a bit and waited with our younger daughter. The ride let out, and Maggie was not there. We panicked, found the staff and asked what to do next. They calmly asked what she was wearing, turned and pointed to a young girl, leaving a ride. It was Maggie. She had gotten on a different ride and we didn't see her. Unfortunately for her, we left our post and she couldn't find us either. Terrified, she called to us. When we were reunited, she was angry with us for losing her. A long lecture and the punishment of leaving the park resulted in her never repeating that drama.

I think I am a lot like that. See, I'll be walking along with God. We'll be pals. I call on him for help, he comes through, we're a team. Then, suddenly I get distracted. I decide that I know how to do my life better and I go about things my own way. "I can work out finances." or "Look how well I did at that!" I say. God leaves the picture. Inevitably, something goes wrong. I reach for God and he's gone. He's out of the picture. I can't find him no matter how hard I look.

I get angry and confused. I can't understand why he would leave me when I need him most. What I fail to acknowledge is that I left him, not the other way around. Like Maggie in Wiggles World, I had my own ideas, got lost and got angry. If I had stayed close by all along, I could have avoided the stress and confusion of being lost. Like a child, I ignore my role in the situation and blame God. Lonely, I cry out and accuse him.

Eventually, I find my way back, irate that I have been alone for so long. Suddenly, things seem clearer and life gets better. I get into my groove, count on him and feel better. I hardly even realize that I was the one who left and he is the one who brought me back. Luckily for me, he always seems to find me. Amanda Lynch

Heavenly Father, I know I am your child, and that you want what is best for me. So often, I walk away, convinced I can figure things out on my own. Inevitably I mess things up. I get scared and confused. I get angry and cry out to you. Without fail, you bring me back to you. By your side, I can do anything. Thank you for your compassion and companionship. Keep me close to you. Amen

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Blessed Thanksgiving 2017

You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the 
hard pathways overflow with abundance.
Psalm 65:11 (NLT)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Lost Baggage

Lost Baggage
Recently our son-in-law returned home to his family after two months of military training. The excitement and joy of his return was over shadowed by the frustration of the airlines losing his baggage! In my many years of flying or traveling by bus, I am grateful I have never experienced that. Fortunately his was located; and they brought it directly to their home.

God provides us with all needed baggage, equipping us for service; and it is always handled by Him with care. The equipping gifts are never misplaced or removed, “For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).”

When luggage is lost, a person often must replace essentials to use until their personal items, contained in lost baggage are returned. Not only would that be aggravating, but would mean unexpected expenses as well. My mother wisely packed needed items in her carry on, including tooth brush and paste, extra set of undergarments, etc. Mom always thought of everything!

God knows our every need, “for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him (Matthew 6:8b NAS).” How is that for speedy service? God not only provides our trip itinerary, (Matthew 28:19-20) but He packs our bags with gifts and power (Acts 1:8)! That baggage cannot be lost! PamFord Davis

Friday, November 10, 2017

Lord I Do Not Understand

Lord I Do Not Understand
My mind is unsettled, my soul is in a state of heightened awareness, I am spiritually confounded.

Lord, I sit here dumbstruck because events around me have my mind in a whirl, and if I am honest Lord, I am a bit at a loss. Things are just not suppose to be like this. No, not at all. So help me, Lord, to understand. Everything tells me that what a person sows that person is suppose to reap. But it is not happening, Lord, and I can’t seem to move on.

You see, Lord, I have been planting tomatoes for as long as I know, and my pals have been planting all sorts of vegetables. In every case we are reaping exactly what we sowed. Truth to tell, Lord, I thought recently that I had planted carrots, but now I see that thyme is growing, and when I checked my cupboard I see the carrot seeds that I thought I had planted. Lord, even when I made a mistake I still got exactly what I planted.

Lord, I heard the gospel preached, and I submitted to your call for redemption, and committed my life to you because you told me “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) Lord my soul needed rest, my spirit was broken, I felt crushed and traumatised by the world. Truth Lord, I felt useless and utterly unworthy of your grace and mercy because I know that I was bad, worse than bad; I was a reprobate heading for destruction. I knew it, others knew it and Lord, you knew it too.

And yet, Lord, you, knowing all this brought me to you, you cosseted me with your love, you filled me with your grace, you wiped my slate clean with your mercy, you even elevated me to a heavenly place with you and the saints, and not once did you condemn me, you did not badger me for my many faults, Lord, you dried my tears and took away my sorrows. And Lord, you know I haven’t earned any of this, I am reaping what I did not sow and Lord, I do not understand.

For my many sins you gave me peace and comfort.

For my waywardness you showered me with love and plenty of blessings.

For my many fears and insecurities you underpinned and supported me with your mighty arms.

Lord, through your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, you are showing me something that all believers are experiencing. You are showing me that you do not do anything by half measures, Lord, and I am so humbly grateful. Lord, I did not expect to have so much joy, so much deep-seated happiness, so much divine peace that I can scarcely contain my heart from bursting.

Lord, you told me, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22). Lord, I did and for the past 50 years you have kept these promises, in deed all your glorious promises are unshakable, timeless and applicable to all those who put their trust in you. Lord, I still do not understand how you do it, but in your mercy and grace I ask that you help me to keep hanging on.

All I ask, in addition to your blessings and love upon all believers in Christ everywhere, is that you, Lord, help all those like me, who may not fully understand the ineffable workings through your grace, but cling to the simple promises of redemption and glory through faith in Jesus Christ. “For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11) Dr Henderson Ward

Friday, November 3, 2017

Lord, Break Out

How often I have looked to heaven and cried, “Oh, that You would rend the heavens, Lord, and come down!” (Isaiah 64:1)
I have bent myself in my prayer closet and whispered, “Lord, come and break through the darkness.” (2 Samuel 5:20)

Lord, Break Out
There is nothing inherently wrong with these prayers and certainly we do want the Lord to come near and give breakthrough in our situations.

But lately, I have felt like the Lord wants to change my point of view. If I am always waiting for the Lord to break into my life and circumstance, I have adopted a mindset that He is somehow separated from me, outside what I am living in and walking through. This skewed understanding makes it seem as if He is sitting far off on some white cloud watching to see if I can figure things out in my life. My experience in this salvation is vastly different.

You see, I have known Jesus to be a Good Shepherd, always close and guiding me with His sheltering love. I have known Him to be the One standing firm footed on top of the billowing waves, pulling me out of the stormy waters when I wavered in my faith. I have known Him to be the One Who holds my hand as we walked together through the blazing furnaces of my hardest circumstances. I have known Him to be the wind blowing on my face in the secret place, eyes blazing with passion as I worship. No, I have never known my Jesus to be in any way separate from me. I abide in Him and He abides in me. We are connected. He is closer than the breath in my lungs. That is the Jesus I have known.

He will never leave us nor forsake us, Church (Hebrews 13:5). He is not far away waiting to break in. The Lord is very much present in the Body of Christ and in the life of the believer, and He is still very much a miracle working Messiah. All the power that surged out of Jesus as He walked the streets of Galilee still resides in Him now. The voice that healed the sick with a word, made devils tremble in fear, and raised the dead, is the same voice that whispers in our souls. We are filled with the mighty Holy Spirit, Church. Instead of breaking in, perhaps we should be praying, “Lord, BREAK OUT.”

Pray with me? Lord, we stand absolutely amazed at You. You fill us with wonder and joy. We are captivated at the very thought of You. We praise You. You have made our lives so much more than they were supposed to be. You have poured glory into us and we didn’t deserve such generosity. —Cynthia Bowen

Lord, as we look around at our community, we can be overwhelmed at the problems we see. So, Lord, do BREAK IN for those who around us, but can we dare ask it? BREAK OUT of us. Let Your light shine through these earthen vessels. (2 Corinthians 4:7) Let Your love be poured out of these frail vessels. Let Your miracle power be manifested through us. Let these earthen vessels leak the power of God.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Lord I Am So Angry

Lord I Am So Angry
Lord, as I sit here doing my meditation, reflecting on your blessings, and engulfed in the warmth of your love, and the splendour of your grace, I am nevertheless deeply troubled. I can’t seem to put off this deep anger that seems to have cloaked my body like a second skin, and I am wondering if my anger is sin.

Lord, I know the scripture that is often quoted with regards to anger, but knowing it seems not to be working for me. That scripture is found in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus and says, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” (Ephesians 4:26). True, Lord, one can be angry and sin not, meaning that anger is not the same as sin, but why does it feel so sinful, so wrong if it’s not. Or am I allowing my feelings to colour my judgment?

I was angry when I heard of the pointless, avoidable death of those Brazilian football players, and all the others, who died in a plane crash because their plane had run out of fuel. Before that anger had subsided, I heard of the  pointless, avoidable death of so many innocent souls in the raging fire at a converted warehouse in Oakland, California, USA, where the death toll is nine and mounting, and many people are still unaccounted for. And only a few hours ago, I heard that the naked body of a teenager  was found on the beach, with his head smashed in.

Lord, it seems my anger cup is full, and overflowing.

Then I remembered that Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, was angry too. I am in good company. That’s better. How did Jesus get on, and can I learn a thing or two? Let me check.

Jesus must have been angry when he saw the thieving Jews doing their dirty business in the temple, and when he made whips and drove the thieves out, and overturned their money tables. But the three mentions of this incident in scripture, Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-18 and John 2:13-22 did not say that Jesus was angry. The word “angry” was never used. No help here, so I am forced to move on.

Then I remembered that Jesus Christ was angry with some Jews because of their meanspirited, wretched attitude to a suffering human being. Bingo! I found the scripture, and here it is: “And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.” (Mark 3:5)

Lord, meditating on this scripture is awesome. I get it.

Jesus was angry, just as I am, and my anger will remain a little longer, but Jesus did not sin. Jesus did not sin, although he was angry, because he dealt with his anger in the right way.

So how did Jesus manage it, and can I follow his example?

In his normal, exemplary fashion, Jesus dealt correctly with his anger because:

  1. He was angry for the right reasons. Not for some petty personal matter or some piffling annoyance. There was nothing personal, hypercritical or sneering in his manner.
  2. His focus was centered on a specific sinful behaviour. Jesus was infuriated when he saw their lack of compassion for a suffering soul.
  3. His anger was grounded in love. Love for the suffering man with the withered hand, but love also for the Jews, “being grieved for the hardness of their hearts”
  4. His anger was controlled. Jesus did not shed blood because he was angry, he never let his emotions get out of hand and beyond his control. The discipline that comes from a dedicated life was on full display, even when he chased those crooks out of the temple.
  5. His anger lasted just right. He did not allow the anger to fester, and perhaps turn to bitterness and resentment.
  6. His actions were righteous. Jesus had every reason to be angry and he acted in such a way as to bring honour and glory to God.

Yes, Lord, I get it, and as ever, it was the excellent example of Jesus that brought it home. My anger might be deep, but you have assured me that it too will vanish, even as your word comforts me with knowing that, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) Dr. Henderson Ward

Father, teach me always to remember that Jesus, “... was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15), and that in every troubling situation, in every distressing event in our life, we can turn to him for consolation and guidance. Speak peace to your children everywhere, and give us all the reassurance we seek, that we might serve you better day by day. Amen.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Look Up and Don't Give Up

Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Look Up and Don't Give Up
I only have eyes for you, Jesus.

Sitting flat in the dirt of the garden near an olive tree, Jesus was weeping before the Father while his companions were peacefully sleeping just yards from him. “Father, I really don’t know whether I can do this. If it’s your will … please may this cup pass from me … but I know … it’s not what this flesh wants but what you want, Father. This is what I need to do. Oh Abba …”

Jesus sinks his head into his hands as drops of blood from burst capillaries in his skin, mix with his sweat and dampen his fingers. Jesus knows he’s facing crucifixion; the consequence of sin for which he is not guilty! Slowly the Son of Man submits and as he does he straightens up and sighs, “Abba, not my will but your will be done.” Suddenly a surge of power of the Son of God that he is, comes upon Jesus’ flesh and he looks beyond the cross and sees himself at God’s right hand, glorified as King of kings!

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus …” My friend, just as Jesus took his eyes off of the pain and anguish in his soul and looked beyond the cross, take your eyes off the pain in your body and fix them on God’s healing power. Take your eyes off that debt or poverty and see God’s provision for all that you need. Don’t focus on the problems in your marriage, look to the Lover of your souls and, with a softened heart, see the One who unites you in his love. Pay no attention to that bullying at work or school and trust in God’s love to heal those hurts and make you strong. Look beyond the hopelessness of your problems and know that God does have a blessed and a prosperous future for you. Never look down! Never look back just look-up! Press forward with joy and courage right now just as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane, declaring with me, “I only have eyes for you, Jesus!”

Look-up and fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God! Dudley Anderson

Dear Lord, forgive me for taking my eyes off of Jesus and looking at my problems. I know that you do have a purpose for me. Jesus, you are my example, my role-model. Help me to get through this time and meet my needs, oh Lord. Thank you for your joy and courage, I praise you now, Lord, for my healing and deliverance in Jesus’ name. I only have eyes for you, Jesus. Amen.


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