Your Backyard’s on Fire!

Recently my husband decided to smoke a brisket to take back to Indiana with us on a visit we were planning. It was a Sunday morning and he had gotten up around 6:15 am to start the process. He started the fire in the smoker. I had not gotten up yet but was suddenly awakened by the sound of a doorbell. It, of course, frightened me. Who would be coming that early in the morning? I first thought of the police or our neighbors since we’ve recently had break-ins on our vehicles. The doorbell rang a second time. I soon realized my husband was outside with the smoker and could not hear the doorbell ringing. I called for my husband to answer the door.
He came back in a few minutes later laughing. He was telling me it was our neighbor who had taken his dog out for a potty break. He spotted the smoke and the fire and decided he needed to wake us up and let us know about the fire in the backyard. After reassuring our neighbor he had set the fire and everything was okay, we realized how grateful we were that we had neighbors who were concerned enough to come and alert us about the danger. He had come to warn us.
As I thought about this later, I laughed and then was very thankful for the neighbor. Some might have called him nosy, but I was thankful for him. I was also a bit thankful he didn’t call the fire department or the police, but he warned us first instead.
This morning, as I reflected back on this, God gently reminded me that what our neighbor did for us is what we are to be doing for others. He saw a danger and he came and alerted us to the possible danger we were in. When we see our Christian family and friends headed for danger, we are to gently alert them to the possible dangers that lie ahead of them.
This gentleman didn’t panic; he didn’t call in all of our neighbors and make a big scene. He just came, rang our doorbell, and warned us. When others are going down the wrong path, that is what we need to be doing. We shouldn’t make a big deal out of it, we shouldn’t be bringing in all of our friends and telling them what’s going on and we shouldn’t make a big deal out of it. What we need to do, is gently pull the person aside and let them know the dangers.
We, who have walked this earth a long time, know some of the hidden dangers or the wrong path that Christians often take. We may have taken that path or have experienced some of those dangers. The best thing we can do to help another one is to share our experience with them. Let them know some of the dangers we experienced going down the path they are choosing to take. Sharing the knowledge we have to help them on this journey is one way Christ has called us to service.
How many times has a parent, grandparent, relative or friend pulled us aside and said to us, “Look I’ve been on that road. I’ve done those things and here is what happened. Trust me you don’t want to go down that path or do those things.” I am forever grateful for those times someone has come and warned me not to go there. Did I listen to them all the time? Of course not, but I was grateful for the warning. I was grateful that someone cared enough to come and warn me.
We may go to someone with a warning. They may listen or they may turn away, but we are to love one another enough to go and warn them. Galatians 6:1-2 reminds us, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
We are called to restore him or her spiritually while at the same time not be tempted to join them in their sin. We do that by gently warning them of the dangers. Once we have warned them it’s up to them to decide how to proceed.
This neighbor could have ignored the signs of danger. If it had been a real fire, we would have perished in the fire. But, because of his love and concern, he warned us. We never want to be responsible for seeing danger and not warning someone. I am sure he would have felt guilty had something happened to us.
For years, while in Indiana, I had a beautician that did not attend church. I often prayed for her but did very little to talk with her. I worried that she might be lost just because I didn’t say anything to her. Little by little I let my worries slip by and I would say things about my faith and church.
After moving to Texas I found out later she began to attend the church I had just moved from. She said it was because of my faith and the faith of others that she knew she needed to get into a church. She not only started attending she taught a child’s Sunday school class. She loved kids and kids were her passion. Because of her faith and her passion, she decided to teach these young ones. It wasn’t too long after becoming a major part of this church that she suddenly died. This was something no one saw coming. I was so glad that I stepped up and shared my faith with her. I would like to think I had a little bit in helping her save her life and change directions.
We may never know if what we say will help but I what I do know is it’s best to warn others in a discreet and pleasant way. It just might be a life that is saved because you showed concern and cared enough.
Thanksgiving is coming and I thank God that this neighbor took the time to stop what he was doing and warn us of impending danger. Even though it was not what he thought it was at least we know somebody is watching out for us. That’s the way it is with God. He is always watching out for us. He will send us somebody to warn us just at the right time to keep us from falling away.
Dear God: Thank you to our neighbor. Thank you for sending us someone to warn us about the dangers around the corner or down the street. Help us to be wise, understanding and appreciative when others come to us and warn us of the danger that lies ahead. Let us listen with open minds knowing too many times they have been down the road before us and they know the dangers. Thank you for all who show concern, love us and for those who encourage us daily. Amen

Grace To Trust Him More

I listen to praise music. As I work around the house, as I get ready for the morning, and when I go to bed, I am constantly listening to praise music. I can’t sing…I make a joyful noise. When no one is around I sing with my music. To me, it’s a time of worship. I also do a lot of bible studies both at home and out of the home. I read a lot of Christian books by Christian authors. These are my times to get in tune with God.
One Sunday morning, after listening to my music I woke up with a song and a phrase in my head. It was the song, “’Tis So Sweet To Trust in Jesus”. The phrase I kept hearing was, ‘oh for grace to trust him more’. I wondered why those words were so significant on this particular morning. Then I remembered. Today was the end of our stewardship campaign at church. Today we would be turning in our pledge of commitment and consecration at church. After praying all week for God to show me what amount to put down, I filled out the card before I went to bed. We had committed to increasing our tithe by $10.00. Now, this might not seem significant to you, but to us it was. By waking up to this song, God reminded me I needed his grace to trust him more. We couldn’t do this by ourselves. God was in the midst of our decision and God would help me with my trust issues.
This is not nor will it be the last time I wake up with a song or a phrase in my head. What I find so interesting is, that whatever the song or phrase, it’s what I need at the time. It may not be anything more than just a praise song.
I have found the same thing true with scripture. Just about the time I need something to encourage me or help me along this journey, I am reminded of a scripture.
When we are grounded in God’s word, or listening to praise music or prayer, it doesn’t matter what our circumstance is, God will give us what we need to encourage us.
Listening to music is not only a worshipful time, but it’s a time to be grounded in him. I listen to the words and I make them my own or I think about the message that God is giving to me through them. Sometimes it’s an old hymn and sometimes it’s a newer praise song. Whatever it is, it is always significant for what I am going through.
A long time ago, back in Indiana, we were going through some things and I was given this from God, “maybe part of trusting God is coming to the place where you realize there is nothing you can do for yourself anymore.” Now I know this was from God because in the article I was reading, it showed up. I had my oldest daughter read the same article and she couldn’t find it at all. I thought maybe I had given her the wrong article so she read the magazine from the front to the back reading each article in the magazine carefully to find that phrase. She never found it. It was something I needed at the right time.
God will often put those things in our head on a random basis, but most of the time it’s because of something we’ve read or studied that jogs our memory. When we read, study and listen to praise music, then God jogs our memory and it becomes the most important piece we have to get us through things. That is why reading, praying, studying and listening to music is so important. It keeps us in tune with God. We do our part and just at the right time God does his.
After waking up and realizing I couldn’t do this on my own, and I didn’t have to – God had this – I was excited about going and consecrating my pledge card to God. I no longer needed to worry about next year or whether or not I’d be able to keep my commitment.
When we pray about something and we let God have it, we need to trust in him. The song says, just to take him at his word; that is what we need to do. We know God does not lie Numbers 23:19 reminds us this, “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” If we have searched God out and he has given us an answer, then we need to take him at his word and trust him completely.
As I have looked back over this year, I have wondered if my hubby and I would make it through this year. This year has been an expensive year with lots of repairs and next year promises to hold much of the same. Yet, as I look back we have made it and we have everything we need. We may not have everything we want, but we certainly have everything we need to live a comfortable life. Some would look at us and say we have it rather good compared to others who are struggling. God has always told us he would provide and he has!
I can sometimes be a worrier. I know I have a frog ministry and I tell others to “fully rely on God.” Sometimes it’s easier to tell others to do that than to actually do it. I also talk about wearing the armor of God and not worrying about things. I am learning that I need grace to trust him more. My journey for the rest of this year and into next is to learn to have grace to trust him more; to really rely on him and not look at our circumstances, and to learn to walk on the water and not take my eyes off of Christ.
How about you? Do you need grace to trust him more? Would you like for God to put thoughts into your head at just the right time? If you do are you grounding yourself in his word or the music he provides? Are you prayerfully praying about the things God wants you to give him?
I pray that next year you join me as we journey into trusting him more each day.
Dear Lord, I love it the mornings I wake up with you on my mind and on my lips. I know I need to trust you more each day in all my circumstances. Oh, for grace to trust you more. You have never failed me and I know you will never fail me. I thank you each day for what you are doing in my life. Continue the work you are doing in me as we head into a new year. Amen

I Have No Words

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I Have No Words!
As I write, this I am overwhelmed with the news I have been receiving in the last twenty-four hours. A friend has passed away from cancer, a little boy that I am acquainted with has a malignant brain tumor, my daughter barely missed being in the midst of a devastating tornado, two of my daughters lost power and a mass shooting in a church which 26 people lost their lives and several more injured.
What do you say to a mom and dad when their six-year-old has a malignant brain tumor? What do you say to people who have lost eight family members at one time because of a senseless act? What do you tell to young adults who have lost the only person in their lives that mattered? These two grandchildren of my friend have no surviving family. They are on their own at a young age. What do you say to people who have lost a home, barns, and animals in a tornado? I have no words. I am at a loss.
All I know is, no matter how bad it gets, God is still in control. God did not cause any of these things to happen. Did he allow them? I don’t know. That is not for me to say one way or the other. He allowed Satan to test Job, so could he have allowed these things to happen? I don’t know. All I know is, he is in the midst of all that is going on. Whether he allowed it to happen or he didn’t that doesn’t matter. What matters is knowing God’s in control. God’s love is stronger than any hate I might have for the one who was responsible. God’s strength is strong enough to help all of these folks get through this.
When it seems like the world is falling apart and people are out of joint with one another, something like these things happens and the next thing you know, people are coming together. They put their differences aside and they pitch in to help out.
Just maybe all these things are happening to help us realize we are more alike than different. We all have troubles, we all have sorrow and we all cry when we hurt. Maybe we are to learn that what really matters is reaching out and seeing each other as brothers and sisters on this journey together. When things like this happen, love is poured out and the hatred and prejudices are set aside. We realize those things don’t matter anymore. What matters is reaching out and touching the lives of others to make them a little better when their world has crumbled.
Sometimes there are no words, but there are actions. A simple hug, offering a shoulder for someone to cry on, or maybe simply being in their presence and allowing them to vent their frustrations is all that may be needed. Sometimes it’s offering a home for those that have lost theirs, or it’s a hot meal or a hot cup of coffee as they scramble to see what can be saved from the chaos. Maybe it’s digging in and sifting through the debris to find those precious few things that can be salvaged. If you are in the hospital for any length of time, cafeteria food can get old and going out to eat gets expensive. Offering a meal or giving some extra money for expenses or taking them out and getting them away from the stress, even if it’s only for an hour does the heart good.
God’s in control when we allow him to work through us to help those whose needs are overwhelming. When we do those things God lays on our heart, we become the hands and feet of Christ. When we take the time to pray and listen to those who are hurting, we become the mouth and ears of Christ.
I found this on the internet and I think this is so true. Don’t worry God is never blind to your tears, never deaf to your prayers, and never silent to your pains. He sees, He hears, and he will deliver.
Maybe the only thing we can do is get down on our knees and lift others up in prayer. Praying for strength and praying for peace is the one thing God calls us all to do. Praying for one another in time of grief, suffering, and loss may be the only thing needed at the time. I am reminded of what Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says,
“Two are better than one,
  because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
  one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
  and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
  But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
  two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

When we walk with those who are going through struggles, we can pick them up. When they can’t take that next step we grab their hand and help them along the way.
This day will be a day of prayer for all those who are going through things I can’t even imagine. We may not have words to offer anyone, but what we do have to offer is a God who knows, cares and understands. We can offer God’s peace and presence to those who need a gentle reminder that God is all anyone needs to get through tough times.
As helpless as I feel today, I have hope knowing God will be with these folks and he will give them what I can’t. I will be open to God’s leading and do those things God asks me to do to help out even if it’s just falling on my knees and praying.
There will be times you will experience what I am experiencing; maybe you already are. Maybe you won’t know what to say or what to do. Do what God is leading you to do. Be his hands and feet when possible. Be there to listen and pray; be his ears and his mouth. Become a cord with them that cannot be easily or quickly broken.
Life is fragile. Life is tough. Life changes in an instance. But, through it, all God is still in control.
Dear God, so many people are suffering today and have experienced loss. I don’t have words. I want to make all the pain and suffering go away, but you have told us in this world there would be suffering and this world would be tough. Comfort those who need comforting, give strength to those who have lost their strength to go on, bring healing if possible and touch lives through all that’s going on. Help us to set our prejudices aside and to reach out and see each other as brothers and sisters that are on this journey together. Let us not hate but love. Help us as we become the body of Christ to those in need. Amen

God May Not Be Who​ You Think He Is

I have read the book, “The Shack” and I loved it. I was excited the movie came out! I just recently finished watching it in the privacy of my own home. The way I reacted to the movie made me realized I was glad I watched it at home.
I was talking with someone who couldn’t get into the movie. We’ve been having this discussion. I wanted to share with you my thoughts.
The person couldn’t get past the idea that God was portrayed as a woman. It just didn’t seem right. As a child she always grew up with pictures of Jesus being a man, having a beard, wearing a robe and sandals. That was her image of God. Now she was being asked to change her mind on what God looked like.
For one thing, no one knows what God looks like. God may be a man. God may be a woman. God may be God and not any one particular sex. I see God as having manly aspects; someone who is big, strong, and powerful. I see God as a woman having certain aspects like a mother would; someone who gives hugs or one who is tender and cries with us. I see God not as a man or a woman but as my God.
Unfortunately, the pictures people have created of Jesus have created in us a certain image of who God is or who we think God should be. As I watched the movie, I began to understand, it’s not about who God is; it’s all about what he does to bring us to him.
God uses circumstances (that he may or may not create) to bring us to him. A circumstance happens and he uses it to bring us to him. I also think he creates circumstances for us. For instance, two people show up someplace at the same time and a relationship happens that either deepens a relationship with Christ or starts a new relationship with him. I think he created the circumstance that brings these two together to make it happen.
A child is taken from this father in the movie. I don’t believe God wanted it to happen; he didn’t make it happen, but it happened and he used that circumstance to bring the father of this child into a deeper relationship with him.
Because of past events in this man’s life, using another man to bring him to Christ wasn’t going to happen. His relationship with his own father was really not a good thing. He had a wonderful relationship with his mother. God knows what is best for us and what is needed. What was needed in this case was a woman to develop and deepen his relationship with God. A man just wasn’t going to do it. Again, it’s not about who God is or who we think God is; it’s about what he does. What he does is love us enough to send us what we need or who we need, to get in right relationship with him.
A perfect example of this is pretty simple if you think about it. I listen to the radio or get a phone call (from someone I don’t know). I get an image in my head of what that person looks like. I meet that person or I see a picture of that person and it’s nothing like I thought that person looked like. He is completely different than the image I created. I think it will be like that with God. I can’t even imagine.
I saw myself in so many of the circumstances in the movie with the pain of losing a little one or being abused by another human being. To see the forgiveness that God challenged him to was simply amazing. To see God help him deal with the pain of losing that child was a walk I needed to go through.
We all have someone who needs our forgiveness. It may not be easy, but as I watched this movie, I realized it is necessary for us to go through this process. It’s not only good for us and our relationship with God, but it’s necessary for the one who did us harm. We do more harm to ourselves as we hold on to that grudge than any harm done to the other person. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15

Holding onto our pain will only bring us down. If we are so consumed with our own pain that we can’t see the pain others are experiencing, we will never be a true servant of God. We are called to take that pain, experience it, deal with it and then move on so we can help others in the same experience.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 God does not want us to live with that pain. He wants us to bring it to him, lay it down at his feet and let him heal us in a healthy way.
There was also a segment in the movie on judging people. This was another powerful part of the movie for me. It spoke volumes to me. We are simply called not to judge people. That is not our job. Our job is to love them and let God sort them out himself.
I had a very moving experience after this movie. I am not sure I am the same person. At least, I hope I am not. I don’t want to be. If God takes us on a journey to deepen our faith, we want to always move forward. We never want to regress. We will regress a little just because we are human, but we never want to regress so much we have to go through difficult passages to get back to where we were.
I encourage you to get God’s image or what you think he might look like out of your head and concentrate on what God can do and will do. Let’s not think about who God might be; let’s think about all the possibilities God can do and will do for us. Let go of any pain you are hanging on to so you may see the pain others around you are experiencing. Finally, forgive those who need to be forgiven. God has forgiven you; now go and do likewise following in His footsteps.
Dear God: thank you for men and women who create such beautiful stories so we can experience you a little deeper. Help us as we deal with what you may or may not look like. I think we will all be surprised in the end. Help us not to think so much about who you are but think about what you are willing to do to bring us back to you. Thank you for your love, and your patience with us. Guide us on as we journey through this world. Amen

Martha, Moses and Smorgasbords

Smorgasbords have popped into my head recently. We all know smorgasbords are buffets offering a variety of foods. Salads are first and there are numerous things to choose from. Then comes the entrees, meats of different varieties, potatoes, vegetables, and then our favorite – desserts. Oh, and don’t forget the many types of bread, biscuits, and rolls we can choose. We usually pay one price and then go back as often as we like.
A new term has popped into my head, “smorgasbord people”. Now when you hear that term people are often referring to people who pick and choose what they want to believe in when it comes to the bible. They pick what they want to hear and digest it. What they don’t like from the bible they often dismiss it and go on by. That’s the way we do smorgasbords. We get all the things we like and those things we don’t like we walk by.
Some people are picky eaters and it’s easy for them to walk by the foods they don’t like and the foods they like, they get all they can. There are some people who like and will eat everything. They have a hard time choosing what they will eat. These folks want it all. They can’t resist.
This brings me to a more personal problem. When going to a smorgasbord, I usually chow down on the food I like. It’s easy for me to pass on the food that I am not crazy about. I pick and choose when it comes to the food I want to eat and digest. Until of course, it comes to the loaves of bread or the desserts. Then watch out. I want it all.
One of the problems for me going to a smorgasbord is I eat until I am miserable. I don’t know when to stop. That is the problem with a lot of people going to smorgasbords. They eat until their miserable.
Thinking about my faith, I realize I am a smorgasbord person. Unfortunately, I am also one of those people who like it all. I want it all and I want to do it all. I can’t pick and choose when it comes to acting out my faith. Let me explain.
There are so many opportunities when you become a Christian. You can choose to do ministry, you can choose to do mission work, you can choose to serve in the community or in church or a number of other places needing help. There are smorgasbords of opportunities for where and how you can serve. Now, this is not a problem if you are able to be a picky (in a good sense) Christian. If you are lucky enough to be able to choose what you want to do then you are good at smorgasbords, but if you are like me, you want to do it all. First, I must say, I don’t want to do it all because I think I am the only one capable of doing it all or doing it right. I believe others have much more talent than I do and can do so many things better than I can. That’s not my problem. My problem is everything looks inviting. Everything looks so enjoyable. (Again it’s not because I like the honor or want to get all the glory) I just like being in service and doing God’s work. Now there is nothing wrong with doing God’s work and being in service. But, remember when I said we can eat so much we become stuffed and feel miserable? That’s the way it can be with us and being in service to God. We have to choose balance. We have to be able to pick those things God wants us to do and to move on. We have to move past those things that look enticing to us and follow God’s leading. We can’t have it all and we can’t do it all.
I was recently reminded of the Mary and Martha story.
“She [Martha] had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 
But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, 
‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ 
And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and
 troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary 
has chosen that good part, which will not be taken from her’ ” (Luke 10:39-42).
We always look down on Martha for not wanting to be with Christ and for being a busybody. I see it differently. She was like me. Being in service was enticing, exciting and she basically enjoyed it. I don’t think (at least for me) it’s not so much about not being with Christ as it is being in service to Christ. We just forget that it’s just as important to be with Christ as it is to be in service with Christ. He does want us to be in service with him, but there are times we just need to stop and be with Him. I don’t think Christ wanted Martha to stop helping others, he just wanted time with her.
When we are so busy doing for Christ that we can’t be with him, it also takes a toll on our health; both mentally and physically. I often tell people, if you aren’t physically or mentally well then you are no good to God or anyone else. You have to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. That may mean as you look at the smorgasbord of opportunities to serve you may need to pass on some of them. I have to remember Moses did not go out and look for the burning bush. God brought it to him. If God has work for us he will bring it to us. We do not need to go out and look for work.
The other problem I have, and I will be the first to admit this, is I am a people pleaser. I do not want to disappoint people. I love people. I love making people happy. So, you ask me to do something and because I don’t want to disappoint you I will go out of my way to do it for you. I have to be reminded often of this scripture, Galatians 1:10, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” If all we do is seek the approval of our friends and when we become so consumed with seeking approval we cannot always please God. There are times people will put undue pressure or burdens on us. These folks have figured out if they come to you first, you will always say yes and then their job is done. Instead of looking for the person Christ wants in that position.  It is best to always pray to see if God is leading you in that particular direction. If it isn’t, don’t be afraid to say no. You may disappoint them, but God is never disappointed in us.
Smorgasbords are great if you know how to handle them. Smorgasbords are great if you have the ability to walk away before you feel over stuffed. Smorgasbords are not so good if you can’t say no. God has given us a smorgasbord way for us to serve. It’s not for us to do it all instead it’s opportunities to seek his will for your life. He gives it to us because we are all different and he knows we need to serve in different ways. If you give him a chance he will tell you what you are to do and he will lead you away from the things you shouldn’t be doing.
Being Martha isn’t bad. Just like her, we need balance in our lives. We should follow the example of Moses and not be out looking for our burning bush, but let it come to us. Finally, we need to remember it’s not about pleasing people; it’s about pleasing God and following the path he has for us.
As a side note, someone asked me recently to take on something else. I said yes without hesitation. After a friend sought me out and talked to me, I listened to what God was telling me. I called my friend and politely told her I was not able to do the thing she asked me to do. I may be a slow learner, but I might just be getting it.
How are you doing? What kind of smorgasbord eater are you? Are you a Martha, a Moses? Are you a people pleaser? Can you say no when God wants you to? These are all questions we have to answer and deal with. I pray for you as you discern what God is telling you.
Dear God: we’ve had this discussion so many times. I realize now why you have given us so many ways for us to serve. It’s not for us to do it all, but to be able to discern what it is you want us to do and then go after that one thing. While we digest one thing and we serve one-way others have different opportunities to serve in other ways. Help me as I deal with being a Martha. Let me be more like a Moses. Remind me I can’t please everyone all the time and while I can’t win the approval of everyone I must seek to be in one accord with you. Amen
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The Cellist and the Conductor

I was recently in a church worship service. The handbells were playing along with a guest Cellist. It was a beautiful service. I love listening to the handbells and the added cello was a treat.
As I watched the cellist play his cello, I was fascinated. The handbell director is a choir director and an orchestra conductor. This cellist plays in his orchestra. I am sure he has played for many years and would be considered a professional.
All of that to say this: as he played he kept an eye on his music and the conductor. He was familiar enough with the instrument he never looked at it. As professional as he was, he still watched his conductor. Now there were times he would look at the music and not watch the conductor, but before too long he would turn his eyes toward the conductor and watch. I believe he was watching the conductor as he leads not only the handbells but the cellist as well. The cellist needed to know when to play and the direction the conductor wanted him to go.
This, of course, got me to thinking about my own spiritual walk with God. Just like the cellist focused on the sheet music, there are times I need to focus on the words God has given me. Whether it is my own personal bible study, bible study at church or in a group. The cellist had to be familiar and study the music in order to understand and to perform well. I cannot understand my walk and perform well if I don’t study the words God has given me. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.” This passage reminds us the scriptures are useful for teaching and training. I need to be taught and trained in the ways of God and I can only do that when I study the word of God. As the cellist started out long ago, I am sure as he studied the music, there were times he had to be corrected. As a young Christian, many years ago, I needed correcting as I read the scripture. The scriptures would open my eyes to things I was not doing correctly.
2 Timothy 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” We are to be diligent and accurate. How can we be accurate if we don’t know the words of God? In order to share the good news with others, we have to be accurate and not lead them in the wrong direction or give them wrong information. In order to be accurate, we need to be diligent. It is only through hard work and really studying do we begin to understand the words of God. The more we read and understand the more accurate we become.
The cellist also would occasionally look at the conductor. We need to not only understand, read and study the scriptures we also need to keep our eyes on our conductor: God. By watching the conductor the cellist knew when to play and when to stop. He was following the conductor’s lead and allowing the conductor to lead him. That is what we must do. We must follow God to see what we are to do when we are to rest in him and then follow him as he leads us down the path he wants us to take. The cellist could only look at the music and never look up at the conductor, but I am sure if he did there would be times the cellist would make a mistake. We need to not only read the Bible but need to keep our eyes focused on God. By focusing and watching God, we will understand fully the scriptures and what it is God is really saying to us. God will give us wisdom and better understanding if we allow him to lead us. The cellist could have spent all his time looking at the conductor and never looking at the sheet music, but again if he did that, I am not sure it would have sounded nearly as good. He had to know the music in order to be led. We can’t spend all our time focusing on God and never opening our Bibles. God uses the Bible as a guide and a road map to where he wants us to go. Hebrews 12:2 “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.”
This cellist has played for several years. I am sure he is a professional and top notch in his field. Yet, he still watched his sheet music and watched the conductor. He knew the importance of both following the sheet music and watching the conductor. This was a reminder that no matter how long I have considered myself a Christian, it is still important for me to follow the bible and to keep my eyes on God. I will never be good enough not to follow along in the bible or watch the conductor. When we get to the point we think we have read the bible too many times, we know what it means and says, and, we slack off of our diligence of reading and studying the bible, Satan comes in and messes with our minds. We play the wrong keys or we start when we should have stopped or whatever. The cellist never thought he was so good that he didn’t need to watch the conductor. I must remain humble and allow myself to keep my eyes on God. I can never allow myself to think I am good enough to turn away even for a second.
There was a happy balance between watching the sheet music and the conductor. The end result was a beautiful piece of work. If we maintain a happy balance between studying the scriptures and keeping our eyes on God then what the end result will be is a life with God that ends as beautifully as the piece of musical work did.
We can be like the cellist, keeping our eyes on the word of God and our conductor or we can choose to play the way we want. In the end, isn’t a beautiful piece of work what we long for? That’s what we will get if we follow the example of the cellist.
Dear God, thank you for the talent you have allowed this cellist to have. Thank you for his willingness to study the music, follow along and watch the conductor. It’s a lesson that we all need to be reminded of. Help us as we study your word and keep our eyes on you. Help us as we strive for a healthy balance so in the end a beautiful piece will be produced through you. Amen

There Is Nothing I Can Do and Neither Can You

I was doing my devotion this morning and I came across something that stirred up within me! How grateful I am for our God!
I was reminded this morning that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. We cannot work long enough hours in the ministry or evangelize; we cannot work hard enough at those things to save ourselves. I follow rules. Give me a rule and I am the one most likely to follow it. However, I can’t follow all the rules in the Bible. I am human. I am not perfect nor will I ever be perfect; I will inevitably fail. Because I can’t follow rules perfectly I am not able to save myself. I am pretty sure you are in the same boat; you can’t save yourself. God didn’t intend for us to. If we could work long enough or hard enough or if we could follow all the rules perfectly, we wouldn’t have needed a Savior. God knew what we needed and he provided.
Roy Lessin wrote this and it’s so true: “If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer. But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.”  God gave us the one thing he knew we needed the most: His Son.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16  

God knows we don’t deserve this gift, but because he loves us so much and is not wanting any of us to perish, he sent his son to die in our place for our sins. His Son took on our sin so we may have life.
This brings us to grace. We know grace is God’s unmerited favor that he gave to us by sending his son to die on the cross. Unmerited means not adequately earned nor deserved. We cannot do enough and we don’t deserve it. All of us have sinned; every one of us. Romans 3:23 says this, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” 
We have all experienced grace in one form or another. For instance, as children, every one of us at some time has disappointed our parents. We didn’t do everything we were expected to do, didn’t follow the rules perfectly and did things that didn’t make them happy. We let them down. Most of us have experienced grace through our parents. Even though we didn’t always deserve their love, they still loved us. They never walked away from us. The love they had for us continued on through our wrong doings. They showered us with their love even when we didn’t deserve it. That’s what God did, only he went one step farther and sent his son to take on our punishment and to bear our sins.
Because God sent his son as an atonement for our sins does not give us the excuse to keep on sinning and expect God to keep on forgiving. At some point, we have to turn from our wicked ways and follow him. Ezekiel 18:27 reminds us, “Again when a wicked man turns away from his wickedness which he has committed and practices justice and righteousness, he will save his life.” We must turn around and walk in the ways of the Lord.
When we stop and really think about God sending his son to save us from all we deserve and think about grace, we can’t help but spend time in praise and thankfulness. As we turn into adults, we often go back and thank our parents for being a little rough on us and for some of the punishment we have received from them. We often tell them we are better people because of how they raised us. If we are raised up in God’s family there might be times when things seem a little rough, but in the end, we will know we will walk away better Christians because of God’s love for us.
God didn’t have to do what he did, but he did because he loved us. He loved us so much he grabbed us out of Satan’s reach and we are now held tightly in His hands. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28) If you have come to Christ, you know you are in God’s grip and nothing or nobody will ever take you from him. You are his!
We will soon be headed into Thanksgiving and a time for being thankful. This should be on the top of our list of things we should be thankful for. Take that thanksgiving for what God has done for you and turn it into praise and worship for the One who did what we could not do for ourselves.
God is good all the time; All the time God is good!
Dear God, thank you that I don’t have to work to death or work long hard hours to do something that is impossible for me to do. Thank you that even though I can’t follow all the rules all the time I am not lost. Thank you for your Son who was willing to come and be an atonement for my sins. Thank you that he was willing to take on my sin and receive the punishment I deserved and he did it out of love. Thank you for grace. I want to praise your name and give you all the honor that is rightly deserved. I want to take that praise and turn it into worshiping you. Help me to turn from my wicked ways and follow you all the days of my life. Thank you for holding on to me so tight nothing can snatch me from your hands. In all these things I pray Amen.
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