Friday, July 22, 2016

WHAT LIES WITHIN

What Lies Within
Karen Sue Hale
July 22, 2002

People spend a great deal of their lives fretting over events they cannot change. We cannot undo mistakes already made, nor can we completely insure a positive future. Yet we dwell on what has been and what will be instead of living in the present. I understand this phenomenon because I have wasted considerable time regretting my past and worrying about my future.
Perhaps I should have worked harder in high school and tried to be valedictorian, or maybe I should have had more fun instead of working as hard as I did. I carried around a load of bitterness from my divorce for years after the fact.  I felt I had missed out on the possibility of studying at Cambridge or having some other overseas adventure by staying here to marry when my parents moved to England.  As years of singleness rolled by, I wondered if I’d missed my chance to have children (I hadn’t, but that’s another story of God’s grace).  I can’t count the number of times I’ve questioned getting my bachelor’s degree in music education.
I’m equally good at stressing over things that haven’t happened and may never happen.  I suffer from the “what if” syndrome.  What if I never remarry?  What if I don’t have enough money in my retirement fund?  What if my car conks out before I have money saved up for a down payment?  What if I have cancer and don’t know it?  What if I tell everyone I believe God has led me to write and nothing ever gets published?
God clearly tells us that dwelling on the past or being overly concerned about the future are counterproductive to living a life of peace, power, and joy.  Paul writes, “…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13b-14)  He is leaving his past behind and moving toward a secure future. In what has become known as “The Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus admonishes us not to worry about our food or clothes or tomorrow.  He tells us to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness and ends by saying, “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34)
I’ve always struggled with how to do these things, but recently I came across a quote that God used to open my eyes.  It was not a scripture verse or something said by a famous theologian. It wasn’t even in a book by a popular Christian author.  As I was reading my notes in a traveler’s journal used to record the events of a mission tour in Europe, this printed page topper jumped out of the book:

 “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

            God immediately began to reveal what lies within me.  God in the person of the Holy Spirit is within me, and He is more powerful than any problem in the world (I John 4:4b).  Jesus teaches us that we are to be in Him like the branches are in a vine.  When we are staying close to Him in this way, then He pours into us His life and the ability to do what He has given us to do each day (John 15:5).  Jesus prayed for us, His future followers, that we would have unity as He is in us and God is in Him (John 17:20-23). In reality, I no longer live my own life, but Christ is living in me (Galatians 2:20).  “I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me – I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me, [that is, I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency]” (Philippians 4:13, Amplified Version).
            Even though I was certain that Christ indwells me, I still found myself asking how to tap into the power He has promised.  The answer again was “what lies within us.”  I have been instructed to treasure God’s word in my heart in order to avoid sinning against Him (Psalm 119:11).  If I have hidden in my heart the fact that I am to “be anxious for nothing,” but instead make my needs known to God, He will use that knowledge to remind me to replace worry with prayer.  If I have memorized Romans 8:1, I know that since I have trusted Jesus, God does not condemn me; nor should I condemn myself. The psalmist says, “I rejoice at Thy word, as one who finds great spoil” and “Those who love Thy law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble” (Psalm 119:162 & 165). 
How can I plug into the Lord’s supply of grace for my past and my future?  When I am tempted to fret, I will take my needs to God.  My worry log will become my prayer list.  When I catch myself dwelling on the past, I will focus my attention on memorizing scripture about forgiveness, assurance of salvation, and God’s control.  I will spend more time abiding in Him and letting “the word of Christ richly dwell” within me (Colossians 3:16). God will enable me to trust Him with what lies behind me and what lies ahead of me as I become more sure of Who lies within me right now and forever.


BON APPETITE!


Bon Appetite!
Karen Sue Hale
July 31, 2001

           
I love dessert!  Whether it’s a chocolate fudge brownie and a dip of vanilla ice cream smothered with hot fudge and caramel sauces or my favorite cheesecake buried beneath fresh sweet strawberries, I look forward to a good dessert every now and then. I try to resist indulging in them because my figure already advertises the fact that I love dessert.  However, as tasty as they may be, dessert items are not the healthiest choice on the restaurant menu.
            Sometimes I find myself treating God’s word like dessert.  It’s that extra, added benefit at the end of an otherwise average day like dessert is the sweet treat at the end of a meal.  After all, doesn’t Palm 34:8 tell us to “Taste and see that the Lord is good?”  I love to taste God’s word.  I can taste God’s word by reading the scripture verse at the end of an entertaining, one page devotional.  That’s like eating dessert.  Dessert is often thought of as “comfort food” used to soothe the rough edges off a bad day.  I can draw comfort from familiar verses and passages of God’s word.
            However, just as I cannot live a healthy life physically by eating only sweets, I cannot live a healthy life spiritually by just occasionally reading the parts of God’s word that give me a warm feeling.  Sometimes, like eating an appetizer, I’ll read an excerpt from the Word that should whet my appetite for more; but I have a tendency to stop after the mozzarella sticks and not go on to the main course. God’s word is compared to bread (Matt. 4:4) which was a staple food of the Jewish culture.  The Word should be my mainstay and not just an afterthought or a starter. 
            Milk is the main food of the infant because of its nutritional value.  I am told to drink the pure milk of the Word (I Pet. 2:2) because it will help me grow in my relationship with Christ.  Just think about it…little babies drink a bottle about every two hours!  If the parents are slow with that bottle, the baby loudly lets them know it.  I should not wait until I’m crying with hunger for a word from God to read my Bible.  I should maintain my spiritual satisfaction with regular feedings.  It might just keep me from being quite so grumpy.  After all a well-fed baby is content and usually rests for a while after a bottle.  Imagine resting in the fullness of God’s word.
            As a child grows she needs more than milk.  She moves on to baby food, junior food, and then regular meals.  Ultimately, I need to progress to the point that I am dining on the meat of God’s word (Heb. 5:12-14).  Protein in our diet builds muscle and strength.  My spiritual stamina is developed by digesting the more difficult and challenging passages of the Bible.  My faith is strengthened as I am obedient to that which I have read and as I discipline myself to read not only the comforting but also the convicting pages of the Word.
            God’s word cannot be merely dessert added as an afterthought or an occasional pleasant flavor.  Yes, I enjoy tasting God’s word, but a dessert portion of it will not sustain my spiritual energy during times of temptation and trial.  I must move to the place where I can say as Job did, “I have esteemed and treasured up the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12 Amplified Version, italics mine).  I must eat a balanced diet of all the food groups in order to be physically healthy, and I must eat a balanced diet of God’s word in order to be spiritually healthy.  I challenge you to do the same.  Dine on the meat of God’s word while still enjoying an interesting appetizer or a delicious dessert.  I’m hoping this will be your appetizer to a scrumptious Scripture meal. Bon appetite!
           
For more protein in your spiritual diet, try reading our Bible Study Blog at www.preciousjewelsministries.org!



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

THE STRAIGHT POOP

Photo courtesy of Ian Dacek

The Straight Poop
(A Lesson Learned from a Little Bird)
By Karen Sue Hale

            I heard a loud chirping. Wait a minute. This elevator is in the center of the building, not near any outside walls. That must be a really loud bird!
            I stepped out on the first floor and saw the source of the sound. A small, brown bird fluttered around the foyer, spied a tree, and flew straight at it. Crash! Stunned, he fell back against an invisible barrier. He did this repeatedly. Obviously, he did not understand glass walls and was wearing himself out trying to fly through them.
            My compassion for the poor, little bird was greater than my fear of approaching something wild. I was the only person in the building, and it was up to me to return him to the outside world, whatever it took. I prayed the Lord would give me the courage and ability. I tried to open the front doors. Locked. The only exit was at the back of the building. I couldn’t shoo him that direction; so I decided Brownie (yes, by now I’d named him) might be tired enough that I could catch him.
            After several one-handed attempts, I put down my papers and began to use both hands. Immediately after one of Brownie’s suicide slams, I managed to catch him as he lay exhausted on the floor. His beak flew open in a silent scream, and I could feel his little heart beating wildly. I hoped he wouldn’t poop in my hand. “Brownie, I’m not going to hurt you.” I talked to him in the soothing voice I would use with an injured first grader. “I know you don’t want me to hold you, but it’s the only way I can get you home. Please don’t die. We’re nearly there. Everything will be all right.”
            I opened the back door and gently set Brownie down. He quickly flew toward other birds of his type, chirping frantically as he went. I imagined he must be telling his tale. “I was trapped in this strange place with air so hard I couldn’t fly through it. I kept crashing and bouncing to the ground. Along came a very large creature that walked rather than flying. She captured me; but she let me go, and I’m back home!”
            Mrs. Bird probably squeaked back, “Yeah, right. You’re late for dinner again, and you offer that lame excuse.”
            As I walked to my car I thought, “Way too often, I’m like that little bird. I flit around, trying to solve my own problems, only to bounce off the things I didn’t anticipate in life. Then, I foolishly go back to the same barrier instead of realizing that is not the way out. Meanwhile, I have a heavenly Father soothingly saying, ‘Let me carry you in the palm of my hand. You may feel a little confined at times, but I won’t hurt you.  I want to carry you safely home.’”
            I can daily struggle to achieve the pleasures of this world that remain on the other side of those glass walls, or I can submit to the Lord. I must trust Jesus enough to rest in his hand. He will carry me safely through my time on earth and eventually take me to the home he has prepared for me in heaven, a home far greater than my limited imagination can conceive (John 14:1-4). Allowing myself to be controlled by the Lord is not always comfortable, but his perfect love casts out all fear. I can continue to trust that he’s carrying me home, even when things get a little scary. Jesus promised to hold us in his hand, and no one can snatch us from him (John 10:28).
            The next time I feel as if I’m crashing into invisible walls, I’m going to ask myself whether I’m allowing God to carry me or I’m striking out on my own. I’m going to stop, spend some time in prayer and Bible study, and wait on the Lord to show me what to do. Thank you, Lord, for using a little bird to teach me to depend on you.

Monday, July 18, 2016

THAT THEY MAY ALL BE ONE

That They May All Be One

Jesus said that people will know we are Christians by our love. Another way people will recognize Jesus in His church is by our unity. We should not be known as black churches, white churches, Korean churches, Hispanic churches, etc. We should be known at The Church. Yes, sometimes it is effective to have a congregation that has a similar socio-economic and ethnic background in order to minister effectively to needs. However, all these congregations should be able to join in unity as the body of Christ. Recent events in Dallas and Baton Rouge have put unity in the forefront of our minds. We cannot expect all people to be united – those who do not know Christ do not have the Holy Spirit directing them. But those of us who do profess faith in Jesus CAN and SHOULD be united regardless of race, status, wealth or poverty. Jesus prayed asking the Father to make us one, so I know if we are truly surrendered to His will, we can function together as one united family. Pray for the Spirit to move mightily among us to bring us into unity with the Lord and each other. 



Friday, July 15, 2016

JESUS PRAYS FOR HIS SHEEP

Jesus Prays for His Sheep
July 14, 2016

Jesus is the Good Shepherd
Who lovingly cares for the sheep.
The Father has given them to Him.
They are His to care for and keep.
Jesus is also the High Priest
For all of us who believe,
We are the ones that He prayed for,
Once we trust Him and receive
The gift of life He has purchased
By His sacrifice on the cross.
He was praying for those who are chosen,
Not for those who remain lost.
He went on to pray for our oneness
With the Father, Spirit, and Son
And also that all who will trust Him
Would unite together as one. 



Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A WOMAN'S CALL TO PRAYER

A Woman's Call to Prayer
Susie Hale, November 13, 2008

Christian women, God is calling you to pray,
Not just in a crisis but every single day.
We have a mighty power when we call on Jesus’ name,
And as we stand upon His word, we will not be dismayed.

Single woman, pray for yourself
And for your friends in the Lord
That you’ll stay true to His word
To live in purity and faith a life that’s clean.

Young wife, pray for your man
as he walks out the door,
that he’ll follow the Lord
not just at church, but at home and work and in between.

Mothers, pray for each child,
As he takes his first walk,
As she first learns to talk,
That Christ will draw them ever closer to His side.

Grandmas, keep praying for your kids,
And the grandchildren they raise
That the Lord they’ll learn to praise
And that your family ever near Him will abide.

Childless woman, pray for the ones
To which you give your mother love
For God has blessed you from above
With unconditional love He has given you to share.

All women, pray for the souls
Who seem to have no one to pray
Who so easily stray
That the Lord will help them see how much he cares.

Christian women, you can change your world
Not by following flags unfurled
But by standing on the word of God , falling to your knees
To call upon the power of God who loves, cares, and sees.

Monday, July 11, 2016

JOY FULFILLED



I forgot to explain this beforehand. The last three posts including this one are excerpts from Susan Slade's soon (we hope) to be published e-book, A Life's Symphony of Joy


Day 40 – Joy Fulfilled

The word and the world are juxtaposed as polar opposites. When we meditate on (study) scripture we should go one step further to internalize it. In other words, the truth of the Word is walked out in our everyday lives through our thinking, speaking, and interacting with family, co-workers, and strangers. The Bible brings joy because it is living; it is as relevant today as when it was first written. We can have joy because in the Word we find peace to replace anxiety (Philippians 4:6-7), power and love to replace fear (1 Timothy 1:7), and direction to replace aimlessness (Proverbs 3:5-6). The Bible is a treasure trove of joy for those who believe. “Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart” (Jer. 15:16). “I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches” (Ps. 119:14). “I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil” (Ps. 119:162).


Instead of getting angry in a traffic jam or while waiting at the doctor’s office or grocery line, try having Scripture verses on post-it notes or small cards that you can read and work on memorizing while you wait. The Lord will bring those verses to mind just when you need them the most! As God’s word becomes your treasure, you will find that your treasure brings you joy.

Friday, July 8, 2016

IRREVOCABLE JOY


Day 39 – Irrevocable Joy

Jesus had just explained that He was going to die, and the disciples would temporarily be without him. After His resurrection, their sorrow would be turned to joy. This joy that would come to them would be a forever, complete joy. It could not be snatched away by any earthly circumstance.  Salvation, healing, and deliverance are found in the name of Jesus. In order to use “in Jesus’ name”, one must have a personal relationship with Jesus and one must also know, according to the Scriptures, what Jesus teaches us concerning His will. Requesting something in the power of Jesus’ name implies that one is submitting to the will of God. When we ask in the power of His name, in the will of the Lord, we will experience true, total joy.

Before you petition God, do you make sure that your petition meets with His will as revealed in the Bible? If so, you can pray expecting an answer. It may not always be exactly what you were thinking of, but it will ultimately bring glory to God as well as joy to you.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

ABIDING JOY

Day 38 – Abiding Joy

Joy is conditional upon the act of abiding in our loving relationship with God the Father and Jesus the Son through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit . Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are perfected in their love. We do not love perfectly. We are messes being made into messages of God’s love, goodness, and grace. As we grow in our ability to love the Lord and people, our joy will increase. Part of this is not being “in love” with ourselves, but loving ourselves. Matthew 22:37-39 (ESV) “And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

It is important to note that we cannot give away what we do not have. If we haven’t experienced and understood the love of God, we cannot properly love ourselves or others. Have you personally experienced God’s love in your life? If so, are you sharing it with others? If not, I pray the Lord will send someone to share His love with you.