Lay some stones

My young friend tweeted again. This time it was a “selfie” of a middle-teen loaded down with overnight bags. The girl was turned toward the bathroom vanity as if to ensure she wasn’t leaving any pertinent items behind. The caption read to this effect: “the life of a child of divorce”. So in keeping of my promise to my sister in the Lord to warn us all of the heartbreak of divorce, I will share what a more mature friend of mine shared just this past week.

My girlfriend is a grandmother, a proud grandmother who married at the age of 17 and renewed her vows with the love of her youth just two years ago. It is inspiring to see her devotion and love to her spouse and his to her. She was asking me of another mutual friend, whom she devised left her husband via photos on Facebook. We mourned together the twenty plus year marriage and the heartache of the children. She told me, “My parents divorced, and it still hurts.” Her dad has even left this earth and gone to his eternal reward. And she tells me, “It still hurts.”

If you wonder why I am writing on divorce again today, in part it is to remind me that those differences with my spouse I think are so intolerable are not quite so in light of my children’s futures. You see I don’t want to make their walk on this sin filled earth any harder. I speak the Words of God to them, and the importance and preeminence of His ways. I don’t want to break those laws in their sight or His. I don’t want them to think for a minute that I don’t believe the principles in the Book of Life. So today I am writing to lay some stones of remembrance as the Israelites did as they crossed the Jordan. Divorce hurts, for forever. My witness pays. My children pay. I pay. The Kingdom pays. It is not a winsome choice.

May we all be satisfied with the spouse of our youth!

Burning within me,

JOY!

Proverbs 5

15Drink water from your own cistern,

running water from your own well.

16Should your springs overflow in the streets,

your streams of water in the public squares?

17Let them be yours alone,

never to be shared with strangers.

18May your fountain be blessed,

and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.

19A loving doe, a graceful deer—

may her breasts satisfy you always,

may you ever be intoxicated with her love.

20Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife?

Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman?

21For your ways are in full view of the Lord,

and he examines all your paths.

22The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them;

the cords of their sins hold them fast.

23For lack of discipline they will die,

led astray by their own great folly.

 

Again, I write not to condemn.  If you are a divorced, God loves you!  He has a plan for your life.  He has never and will never leave you.

JOY!

A Powerful Prayer

This past week my son received a powerful prayer via a card. I share this prayer with you, for you and hope you will pray it for another. There is nothing so precious as realizing God is so very near.

My prayer is…

That you will find some word, some verse, or some thought that will convince you that God is very near. I pray that as you read you will be reminded that the same voice that stilled the rage on the Sea of Galilee can still the storm in your world. Be assured – He is closer than you’ve ever dreamed. – Max Lucado

Burning within me, 

JOY!

God loved Ishmael

In the days when Hamas and ISIS are wreaking havoc on our world, they are killing innocent people and fighting for control of governments, I must remember that the individuals that make up these terrorist groups are souls. Souls God loves.

In Genesis it is obvious that Isaac is the child of promise. God would not relent His plan to Sarah and Abraham as they tried to have descendents through Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid. However, twice, Ishmael could have perished and God intervened. The first time Hagar fled from Sarah’s harsh treatment of her. Jehovah-Roi saw. (Genesis 16:13) He went so far as to promise I will make a great nation of him when Hagar was sent away by Abraham. (Genesis 21:9-18) Ishmael was not the chosen one but preserved. Me, too. I was preserved. To my knowledge I have no Jewish heritage. But God, in His mercy, grafted me into the vine, wild olive shoot that I was. (Romans 11:17)

I believe Hamas, ISIS, must be stopped. Their killing rampage is not to be ignored. However, I must remember these terrorist organizations are made up of individual souls. For them I must pray. They too can escape the coming wrath of God if they repent and seek forgiveness from Christ the Lord. They are difficult matters to consider, especially when they upload their evil deeds to YouTube and boast of them through media outlets. However, God does not change based on man’s actions. Hallelujah! Therefore, we should pray for their salvation while there is still day. Night is coming when no man can work. (John 9:4)

Burning within me,

JOY!

I am an ostrich

I’m an ostrich. Are you? Do you prefer to hide your head in the sand and not know or acknowledge the events around you? In November of this past year, God pulled my head from the sand and said no more, Joy. The hour is late.

Many times I have read the verse that speaks of the “man of lawlessness”. A radio program this past week (Jan Markel, Understanding the Times) gave new meaning to this title for me. Have you ever seen in your lifetime where man was more law breaking? Think of the results of what happened in Ferguson ever so recently. Meaningless acts of destruction and pillaging took place. In our “me” culture, people chose to react to the event for the good of themselves rather than usefulness to the cause for which they were supposedly protesting. The acts didn’t help the deceased or his grieving family or bring justice. Even our president is breaking the laws of the constitution bypassing the checks and balances put into place purposely. The soul of our world has collapsed says David Jeremiah.

The length of my life is short. I only have a handful of decades of experience. I do have the recollections of nearly a century of history from my mom. I read incessantly. These are unprecedented times in America. Are they unrepeated in the world? We have had dark eras. We have had horrifying wars and unfathomable atrocities from man’s desire to have power. Has it ever been this widespread? Global chaos is erupting. It is in cities in America, our government and in the Middle East, Russia and the Ukraine. Are you allowing yourself to know or acknowledge?

Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming. 2 Thessalonians 2:8

In Thessalonians Paul is preparing us for times to come. Are we preparing for times to come? Does it seem we are on the doorstep of another world war? Many of our scholars of history and world politics believe so. I urge each one of us as Peter has, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.” (1 Peter 4:7) He actually admonishes in his first epistle to be sober three times. The “Joy” translation of that is “Get my head out of the sand.”

May each of us as God’s children be in prayer, the Word and the spiritual battle for souls. The hour is late. It has been since Jesus left the earth for His throne. Your children need you; your community needs you; the Kingdom needs you. Don’t be an ostrich like me.

Burning within me,

JOY!

You never know

It was three o’clock in the morning. My sister, husband and I were the only ones in the OR waiting room. My son was in surgery. We were so cold, tired and apprehensive. My sister said, “You never know when you leave home in the morning where you will be going.” She was so right. We had no clue we would get a call to meet the ambulance. We surely didn’t anticipate spending the next three days in the hospital. We just don’t know what lies before us.

We had spent the evening in the care of a wonderful hospital staff while awaiting the surgery. They were compassionate and efficient. Our family and friends surrounded us in prayer. They filled the waiting room and blew up our phones with texts and calls to check on our boy. In a traumatic and anxiety filled situation, God was there with His loving provision.

One thing my Father has spoken to me numerous times through our recovery is you must always remain prepared. Keep your prayer life active. Keep your church family close. Be in the Word daily. Don’t be caught unaware. You don’t know what a day may bring.

I also want to remember what blessings the body of Christ has bestowed. There have been countless cards, care baskets, gifts, visits and meals. So many have volunteered to help us in any way we can use them. Each thing has been like oil anointing our heads with love. The gestures mean so much. I want to be one who does that for others. It’s often hard to receive, but may the humbling act of receiving make me a more gracious giver. I had a conversation about the small number of servants among God’s family just this week. The Lord showed me how wonderfully refreshing are the giving as we have been the recipients of so many acts of love.

God knows each of our days before one of them comes to be. We, however, do not. So plant seeds today that will yield the crop you need for days you cannot see.

Burning within me,

JOY!

How do you know what is going to happen tomorrow? For the length of your lives is as uncertain as the morning fog—now you see it; soon it is gone. (James 4:14)

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)

Not the time

When you see the light at the end of the tunnel and realize it is a train! For some that jovial statement can bring a smile and to others it only brings a grimace of familiarity. Troubles can roll in at such a steady pace it feels like the ocean tide. You are sure this has to be the last knock, and it’s not. What in the world do you do? Here is what you don’t do. Don’t wait until hardships overwhelm you to decide who God is. Don’t wait until your breaking point to get into the Word and feast on truth. If you are in this ocean of reoccuring trials, you won’t have time to theorize on the doctrine of suffering or the steadfastness of God.

Jeremiah lived in days of violence and horrible prophecies for the fate of his people. God called Jeremiah to deliver news that no one wants to hear. He suffered for it. As I heard Dr. Michael Youssef say this week, “Jeremiah persevered because he knew the character of his God.” We need that to persevere as well. Today’s times are anxiety filled. You cannot listen to the news or talk to friends without hearing of heartache, personal tragedies and frightening revelations and predictions. Where can you find peace and hope? The ability to carry on is only in the knowledge of the character and power of our Jehovah God. Jeremiah knew Him as the one who delivered his people from Egypt, as the One who mightily defeated armies, and the One who fulfilled His promises. He is still that One today. Make sure you are daily meditating on the Word of God which outlines the character of God. Read those accounts again and again of how He delivers His people. You don’t know when you won’t be afforded that time, but you can sustain yourself on this truth when there is a famine of it in your life and in our world.

It is inevitable that bad times will come. The world is in turmoil. It may be soon we all have to choose a side. Daniel tells us that those who know their God will stand and do mighty acts. (Daniel 11:32) Learn of Him now.

Burning within me,

JOY!

The ransom of a life is costly

It is reported ISIS demanded a 132 million dollar ransom for the life of James Foley. The ransom was not paid. The journalist lost his life to a jihadist somewhere in the sands of the Middle East. The ghastly scene was uploaded to YouTube.

The Bible speaks of the ransom of a man. It is costly Psalms states.

No one can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for them—
the ransom for a life is costly,
no payment is ever enough—
so that they should live on forever
and not see decay.
Psalm 49:7-9

There is a reason man is not allowed to live forever. It is given in Genesis. “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal;
their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” reads Genesis 6:3. Why? Man is wicked. It is the very reason the Lord chose to destroy the earth by flood and start over with just Noah and his family. Did that fix the problem? No, man was still wicked. Genesis 8:21 states “for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” So what is to become of us?

The ransom was paid for man. Mark 10:45 tells us, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus gave his life’s blood for without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of our wickedness. (Hebrews 9:22) What higher cost could God have paid for our ransom? His son came in the flesh to suffer a cruel death on a cross to buy back mankind from the slavery of sin.

Unless Jesus returns before we die, each of our bodies will decay. The great comfort is that if we believe on Jesus who Himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, the ransom is paid. We can be free in Christ and made alive in Him. “No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom” for us. God in His infinite, loving, grace paid the ransom through His own son. Know what your life is worth and Who it is that is willing to pay that price for you.

Burning within me,

JOY!

He’s thirteen

My first-born is thirteen. It is incredible how much God has shown me I am not capable of doing. I thought I knew what it took to raise a child. Move outside of the physical realms of food and shelter and protection from harm and the elements. I was disciplined growing up and thought I knew how to discipline. I was taken to church growing up and so that box was checked as well at least three times a week. I went above and beyond what my parents did for me spiritually. I homeschooled. I carried him to AWANA and had him memorizing scripture at length. I prayed for him in all the ways I could imagine. I read him story after story explaining our great God. I filled his mind with truth! I also adored him. This child was the focus of my life.

God won’t share the devotion of your heart, not if you are His. Not long into my parental journey, I learned my experience and knowledge did not prepare me for the child God had made in me. He had obstacles I was not capable of helping him cross. I thank God for that – now. These issues I couldn’t solve forced me to take the path of Hannah when I had made no such vow in my heart – not truthfully. This greatest treasure of mine had to be given back to God. I wasn’t what he needed. He needed the same One I did, and I was between them. He was between me and my Father. For the first time I think I could understand, “If anyone loves father or mother, son or daughter, more than me, he cannot be my disciple.” It is a terribly painful realization.

So thirteen years later, I love him as much, but not more than my heavenly Father. I want as much for him as before, but recognize God’s plan for him is the one that is to stand. I walk beside him and provide all I can and pray for God to supply what I cannot and be where I cannot be. I no longer think my experience and knowledge are worth much at all. God never intended him to be mine. He intended for me to point him to his Father. My goal has always been for him to be with me in heaven. The lesson God taught me was that he was to be there to be with his Father, not me. This path involves him recognizing he is a sinner in need of a Savior. That is painful. It is a path full of dying to self and learning to be like Christ. I cannot do this for him. The One who walked this road ahead of him and walks with him now is Jesus. Those are the arms into which I had to lay him.

Has this road been painful? Yes! Has this road humbled me? Yes! Has this road taught me to be more merciful? Yes! Has this road made me more like Christ? I sure hope so. Is he still a treasure? Yes! He just isn’t mine.

Burning within me,

JOY!

Labor in vain

Do you have a goal in mind as you head to work each day? Are you working with an ends in mind or just to pay the month’s bill? Do you have an IRA that must reach a certain value for you to retire? Are you funding a dream vacation? Does your child want to attend an Ivy League college? Many of us head to work with a perishable goal in mind. We are working for the here and now as we toil and labor under the sun. Solomon in his disgruntled wisdom of Ecclesiastes says we labor in vain. “What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:3) Why do I say disgruntled? Solomon took his eyes off the Lord when he married his multiple foreign wives, and he began to pay tribute to their gods. He lost his perspective. Don’t lose yours. Realize there is an eternal home where you can store up treasures where rust and month don’t destroy and eat away. A place where markets don’t crash, storms don’t brew and tuition doesn’t rise annually. There is nothing sinful in an IRA or vacation or education. There is sin in not making God your focus. I pray each of you gets time to rest from your labor this holiday. When you do, take time to focus on the eternal and your plan to store treasures there. This brings not only joy in eternity but in the labor itself today.
Happy Labor Day!

Burning within me,
JOY!

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