The Hot Seat

Siting in a meeting, several months ago, I noticed one of my co-workers squirm a bit. Then he reached into his back pockets and pulled out two hand warmers he had placed there in anticipation of a cold meeting room. We had a little laugh and that was the last I thought of it, until one chilly morning run, a few weeks later, when I inserted hot hands into my gloves. As my body heated up my hands felt quite toasty, and that is when it hit me; the vision of him literally being in the hot seat.

When we are in the hot seat for something we’ve done- we begin to squirm. We try to explain ourselves or blame others. It wasn’t our fault or maybe we try to justify our behavior, like a child who gets caught with their hand in the cookie jar or with icing all over their face and still protest it wasn’t them. We’ve all been there at some point to some degree.

But what would it look like if we came clean now? If we faced those things from our past that haunt us and keep us awake at night; and instead of squirming and justifying- we owned it. What if we took it to God and talked to Him about it, asked for His forgiveness, for the part we played and laid it all out, instead of hiding from it? It is at that point God’s grace kicks in and we can have full realization of His redemption. Isn’t it better to receive that now so we can have peace than to wait until we are truly in the hot seat later? If we have taken it all to God already and allowed Him to redeem it and restore us through the blood of Christ- then we won’t have to dread facing Him later.

But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. I John 1:9

So, let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16

Marathon

Here is an interesting fact I learned recently in my Western Culture class; do you know where the name ‘marathon’ originated? During the Persian invasion of Greece, a man named Phidippides (fi-DIP-i-deez), was the messenger who ran the 22 plus miles from a town called Marathon to Athens, to tell of the Greek victory over the Persians. (Rawls, 2018)

Since becoming a runner about nine years ago, it has never been my goal to run a marathon. The longest race I have completed was a 10K (6.2 mi.) and the longest run on my own has been 7 miles.  These days I do about 2-3 miles each day.

My main goal is to run for my health not to harm it. For me, that is what I would be doing if I trained for a marathon. Finding out I have the first stages of osteoporosis and that running is good for my bones only added to the many beneficial reasons for continuing this sport. I enjoy running and spending that time with God. I do not want to turn it into something I dread. I have learned to listen to my body and give it a day of rest when it needs it; that helps my muscles recover and I feel the difference the next time I run. Besides, this is where a lot of these messages come from…my time with God in nature. I have the time to process, pray and receive. God teaches me a lot, but I realize it is not just for me, so I share it with others in hopes it blesses them as well.

However, when I think about the things God is preparing us for it reminds me that the opposite is true. It is in God’s timing. Most of the time He must remind us it is a marathon, not a sprint. We can celebrate the milestones along the way, remember to take breaks, rest, and enjoy the beauty of the journey. We may not know the end goal of our trainings, but God does. We can slow our pace and take one day at a time.

Our experiences and lessons along the way can be used to help others. Sometimes, we think we know where we are headed only to be shifted in a completely new direction and focus. If we are staying our course, with God as the leader, we can rest assured we will get wherever we are going at just the right time. We should not settle on anything less. It may take a little longer but that is the nature of the marathon. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. (Hebrews 12:1 NLT)

Shalom

Shalom

Shalom – a Hebrew word which simply means peace.

According to the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, shalom appears in the OT 180 times. It is not used in a negative manner, rather involving completeness or wholeness as with the repairing of a relationship. One could say it means to have harmony with friends and family or even with allies, but it also can refer to health and security or being safe. We see in the OT testament it being used to describe a sense of confident awareness that all is well, as we see in Psalm 4:8, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (ESV) Another verse that comes to mind, and one of my favorites, which a song called, “The Blessing” is based on, is Numbers 6:24-26; if you haven’t heard it yet, it is worth it to look this one up on YouTube. (V24) “The Lord bless you and keep (guard & protect) you, (V 25) the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; (V26) the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” (ESV) (Countenance involves taking notice and treating people with favor.) Here the word peace or shalom is “total well-being”, so, it is indeed a grand and positive gesture to pray this blessing upon someone.

In the NT, we see peace used in a different sense. Here the translation is eirene, and in addition to the “total well-being” we see in the OT, it can also relate to not only our physical well-being but our spiritual well-being. Another great verse that we can associate with this is John 14:27, we see Jesus use it as a blessing, when He says to the disciples, “Peace I leave with  you, my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled neither let them be afraid.”(ESV)  I believe, to capture the fullness of this message and blessing we need to back up to the previous verse where Jesus tells His disciples that the Holy Spirit is coming, He will teach them and remind them of the things Jesus said to them. He is giving them foreknowledge that after He is gone, the Holy Spirit or Helper will come to live inside them to comfort them. This message is not only for the disciples of Jesus’ time but also for us as believers in Christ, so that we also may be comforted and receive the blessings of Jesus; the peace that passes understanding. A confident awareness in God.

The ESV study Bible notes that it is all that Christ would do or had done through the cross and the resurrection to end the dominion of sin and to make peace between God and man. Peace between all who are in Christ and state of being spiritually whole again. Not because of us, but because of Christ. The world cannot achieve or provide peace because it cannot deal with the problem of sin. But God’s peace guards the Christian’s hearts and minds and “surpasses every thought” (Phil. 4:7, ESV).

Now that we have established the usage and meaning of the shalom or peace in the Old and New Testament, let us look further at our Spiritual gifts. I believe we, as believers in Christ, can achieve both the OT and NT meanings through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I Corinthians 12 was in my recent reading, when I picked up a book, I had purchased several weeks prior and began to read it. In “Forgotten God” Chan specifically brings the readers attention to I Corinthians 12 as a reminder to take seriously and, “to believe that you have been given manifestation of the Spirit and that your church, the worldwide body of Christ, and the world are crippled without your involvement,” (Chan, 2009, p. 91). If you are not familiar with or have not read I Corinthians 12 recently, please take a moment to read it. It gives us a picture of the church (as the body of Christ) and all its members. We are all one in Christ and are to use our gifts, given to us by the Holy Spirit, to help each other and build up the church. If you are like me, maybe when you think of the church, you immediately think of it as the place we go on Sunday morning or that your service is limited to your local church involvement. When we look at the big picture here and allow our minds and thinking to go beyond that of human limited views, we can see the church of Christ, and as Chan put it, “the worldwide body of Christ”, we can expand our horizons and realize that our gifts are to be used, not only in our local church, although that is important, but also wherever we are. Whether that be at work, school, the grocery store, our community or neighborhood, we are to use the gifts given to us to their fullest for the Glory of God, through the love of Jesus, with the help of the Spirit who gave them to us.

I believe when we are doing this, then we will have shalom or peace – knowing all is well, confident in God, not ourselves, and can sincerely pray for others to find this peace as well; to be successful in their endeavors, and use their gifts and talents to the Glory of God as we walk together through this temporary life and world, in an attempt to show others the love of Christ, in hopes to bring others to Him, through the saving grace of Christ Jesus. The steps to victory are steep, but the Spirit will help us. It is easy to be the same- the challenge is being different. When we have these critical components in place, and genuinely walk by the Spirit through faith, we will not want to follow the world anymore; and that, my friend, brings true peace and freedom.

A Reflection on the Four Seasons

Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. We all know these seasons and probably have a favorite. Most of us would probably say Spring or Fall is their favorite because it is the right temperature, you like when flowers are blooming or maybe the Fall colors take your breath away. Whatever the reason, good or bad, we have a love/hate relationship with them.

Recently, I had a different thought about the four seasons. I believe we also have seasons of life. A spiritual and physical. For the spiritual we could look at it this way:

Fall: We fell into sin (a fallen world)

Winter: Death to self (we realize we should be living for God instead of self)

Spring: New birth (renewed by Christ for a new life)

Summer: Maturity & peace

Now, let us look at our physical seasons:

Spring: We are born

Summer- We mature

Fall- We are aging

Winter- Death

Winter can be like a dry season in our life. But no matter how long we have been in a dry, dark season, God can bring new life and refresh us with living water of the Spirit.

Just like the valley of dry bones, if we listen to the word of the Lord and have faith, He will breathe new life into us. (Ezekiel 37)

Jesus replied, “I assure you no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So, do not be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8 NLT)

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. (Eccl. 3:1-2 NLT)

Common Ground

I hardly ever get into a conversation about politics. It is just not something I want to debate. Frankly, there are bad things about both sides that make us think about morals and principles, or the lack of them. On the contrary, if we look hard enough, and admit it, there are good things about each as well. I do not want to get in any heated discussions about or with either party, it is just not worth it. I am sick of all the advertisements going back and forth accusing each other of the same things. It makes me not want to vote for either party, (but I will vote!). Ultimately, I will try to choose who I think is the best person for the job (this involves a LOT of prayer), and even though I feel there are slim pickings, my decision and final vote is between me and God, and it’s the same for others as well.

We need to be alert. Satan is driving a wedge between us using politics as his weapon. I have seen some of the closest friends be divided and lose a lifetime of friendship. People are taking sides and allowing the enemy to have a foot hold, to pit brother against brother, Christian against Christian. We need to let Jesus and love be the overarching factor that unites us, not let politics divide us. That is exactly what the enemy wants. We are to love all no matter who they vote for, even if we do not agree. We should show others who Jesus is instead of showing ourselves by plastering our worst on social media.

Change begins with us. Who can you love today despite who they are going to vote for? Be kind. Be gentle. Be humble. Be still. Be who God created you to be.

Be Specific

Our prayers and goals are interchangeable. We pray for the goals we want for ourselves. We may not get the answer we think we wanted, but God always gives us something better. We cannot see the bigger picture or the view from His perspective. We are like a mouse in a maze. Our view is only of the wall in front of us. When we come to a roadblock, we can feel discouraged. But looking down over our lives is our Heavenly Father who sees all, knows all, and can guide us to the right path. He can remove the obstacles and place people in our lives to help us along the way.

I heard a minister on the radio who said our prayers need to be specific and measurable. His belief was that if we just ask for a blessing that could come in the form of a problem. Blessings are little problems that keep you from a bigger problem.

That reminded me of a lady I was in a life group with a few years ago. She always told us we need to be specific about what we want in our prayers. She told of a friend who prayed for a husband. In her words, “that is all she got!”  I had to laugh about that one.

I believe if we are continually pouring ourselves into the Father, He will pour more into us. The closer our relationship with Him, the more we align our desires to what He wants for us instead of what we think we want. God always knows best and wants the best for us.

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we do not know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.

(Romans 8:26, NLT)

But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted? (John 15:7, NLT)

Bearing Fruit

Have you ever seen an elephant without a trunk? I recently saw this article about a baby elephant that was spotted with just that issue. See video and article here: https://nypost.com/2018/09/07/baby-elephant-without-a-trunk-sparks-concerns-over-its-survival/ This is an elephant’s most vital tool for survival. It uses it to smell, eat, fight off predators, and basically survive.

It made me realize, this is how we are when we try to live life without Jesus- (our most vital tool for survival). We need Jesus to help us fight off the enemy, eat (bread of life), drink, (living water), and survive.


We basically cut off our nose to spite our face when we try to go this life alone. In order to bear spiritual fruit we need to be in communion with Jesus every day. What small steps can we take today to invite Jesus into every part of our lives? I am glad you asked…

Here are a few small things you can implement into your daily routine:

  • Spend 10 minutes in quiet space (thinking and listening)
  • Ask God what He wants for you
  • Prayer time
  • Read Bible
    • Start a Bible plan on your phone (I use the YouVersion)
    • Invest in a good study Bible (I use the NLT study Bible)
    • Pick up the Bible and open at random asking the Holy Spirit to guide you where to read
  • Journal anything that sticks out to you
  • Spend time in nature with God

It does not need to be all at once – you can start small and add things as you go so you do not get overwhelmed.

Listen to his instructions and store them in your heart. (Job 22:22 NLT)

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. (James 1:5 NLT)

If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5 NLT)

Aman

A Greek word meaning: to believe. The verb denotes trust. An action decision to believe in the trustworthiness of a person. It can also signify an ongoing state of belief and the action associated with faith. (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007, Greek glossary section).

Last week, I lost someone that had only been in my life a short time. But during this time, he made a great impact on my life. My new boss of only 78 days died at a very young age. Although at times, especially early on, the days could be challenging, God used him to help me use my voice to speak up and set some needed boundaries on my time.

My first thought was that I did not know what he believed. I did not have time to share any of my personal testimony with him or ask him anything about himself. But God is now using his death for a purpose in my life- to fuel the fire God placed in my belly to share the truth of Jesus Christ with others. I do not want his death to be in vain. I was deeply saddened over this loss and grieve the shortness of a life with such potential, but will use it to fan into the flames of the gifts God gave me, tell my story, share my testimony with anyone God places in my life that needs to hear it.

God gave me peace with the loss and I know he is in a better place, but it also reminded me of the urgency of telling everyone I love about the intimate relationship that is available to us and what a difference it made in my life. We are all called to share the gospel. We need to be good stewards of our gifts, talents, time, and treasure. If we are unsure of your gifts, let us ask God. Then stop talking and lean in to listen to what He has to say. “For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened,” (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007 Matthew 7:8).

We are called to be fishers of people. (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007, Mark 1:17). Jesus’ last commandment was to go out and make disciples- The Great Commission. (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007, Matthew 28:19). Life is short, who do you love enough to share the truth? Ask the tough questions, take risks for the sake of the Kingdom. Give God all the glory. Be grateful. Share your faith in love. Galatians 5:3 says, “What is important is faith expressing itself in love.” John 3:16 tells us that God loved the world so much He gave His one and only Son so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. This brings new life. Do you believe this? Do you believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and what that means for us?

It is not enough just to believe, but we must put our faith into action and follow Christ wholeheartedly. Stop straddling the proverbial fence and go all in. If you are lukewarm, He will spew you out of His mouth. Jesus calls His followers to believe in Him, but also to trust, love and obey Him. Sometimes we have trouble with that word ‘obey’, but it is not the authoritative tyrant kind of obedience He calls us to. It is the type of obedience that a loving Father knows what is best for his little children. He says choose you this day whom you will serve. We can not serve two masters. We have a free will to choose, but there are always consequences to our choices.

When our time is up, do you we want to be found following this world, which is temporary? What do we have to show for our efforts when this world is gone? It is my hope that you choose Jesus because what He offers is an eternity of joy and peace. We are to lay up our treasures in Heaven, (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007, Matthew 6:20) People like to skirt around the truth and make everyone feel better about the choices they make, but the truth is written in God’s word for us to follow. It is a guide called the Bible. It tells us there will be a judgement day for the choices we make in our lives, but there is redemption through the blood of Jesus, who died for our sins so we can be saved and spend an eternity with Him in glory.

This Good News is be shared – It is my hope that you know Christ as your personal Savior, but if you have any questions about how to accept Jesus in your life or desire an intimate relationship with Him and not sure how or where to start, please reach out to me at angela@faith-ealk-ministries.org.

“This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord,” (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007, 2 Timothy 1:6-8)

(V9) “For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did not do this because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time- to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.”

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else and live righteously and He will give you everything you need.” (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007, Matthew 6:33)

The Chosen One

This is another story through the eyes of the character…thank you for allowing me some liberties in the details of his feelings. The story is based on the biblical account of Moses’ brother Aaron.

Moses older brother, Aaron, was an imperfect leader. Even though he was chosen by God for an honorable position, in his disobedience, he died in the wilderness without seeing the Promised Land. As Moses mouthpiece, he spoke to Israelite leaders on behalf of the Israelites to convince Pharaoh to allow them to leave Egypt. He was also chosen to become Israel’s first high priest.

Taking second fiddle to Moses most of his life, Aaron dreamed of the day he himself could lead the people. At this point he only repeated messages God gave Moses. Aaron sat on a stump, carefully carving each letter of his name on a staff that would represent the tribe of Levi. His thoughts racing, he tried to imagine the staff budding and what that meant for him and his family. If he were chosen, everything would change.  This would be a great responsibility. He could feel the palms of his hands begin to sweat, and the tension in his brow became apparent as did his intense grip on the staff. His jaw tightened and then in one extreme exhale of air, he began to relax a bit. He would just have to await until the appointed time.

He delivered the staff to Moses, who took it with the eleven others, representing each ancestral tribe, to the Ark containing the tablets of the Covenant, and placed them in the Lord’s presence. Then they waited. The next day, when they arrived at the Tabernacle, Moses found that Aaron’s staff not only had buds, but it had sprouted, budded, blossomed, and produced ripe almonds, (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007, Numbers 17:8). You could not ask for a clearer sign. God had shown the people who will oversee the Ark and the staff was placed there permanently as a reminder.

In amazement, Aaron picked up one of the almonds and touched it cautiously with the tip of his tongue for a brief second and then jerked back. It was real. He chuckled under his breath and popped it in his mouth, relieved and nervous at the same time. Although a bit of arrogance crept in at first, he knew this job could not be taken lightly. If Aaron allowed anyone near the sacred objects of the alter, both he and them would die. God also provided for Aaron and his family, by allowing them to receive a portion of the most holy offerings. He had special garments made just for Aaron and his sons that would distinguish him as a priest set apart for the Lord’s service.

Great skill and care went into making the chest piece that Aaron would wear when seeking a decision from God. He would always carry over his heart the objects used to determine the Lord’s will for his people whenever he goes in before the Lord. The breastplate held sacred jewels representing the sons of Israel with each name engraved on them like a seal, serving as a reminder that the priest represents the people of Israel.

The four rows of gemstones carefully placed were:

  • red carnelian, pale green peridot, emerald, blue lapis lazuli
  • turquoise, white moonstone, orange jacinth, agate
  • purple amethyst, blue-green beryl, onyx, green jasper

The weight of the breastplate rested on Aaron’s shoulders as a reminder of the great responsibility given to him by God. But God also provided everything Aaron needed to accomplish his feat and fulfil his purpose. God has always provided for us, even when we cannot see it. He generously bestows knowledge, wisdom, spiritual gifts, talents and fully equips us with everything we need to accomplish our God-given mission.

Aaron’s story leads him in the wilderness, his impatience with the Lord led him to make a golden calf for the people to worship; and his life was ended before seeing the Promised Land because he challenged God. This should stand as a reminder that even though we are chosen by God for a purpose and He equips us for the journey; we are not to worship His creation, but the Creator Himself. Our disobedience makes us miss out on blessings and joy in this life. Our gifts and talents are not to be made idols in our lives, but we are to always look to the One who generously gave us those gifts and give Him all the honor and glory He so richly deserves.

God’s timing is perfect. When we rush it or try to do it by our own efforts and take control, we are edging God out by letting our ego and impatience take first place. But when we surrender all to God, the Creator of all things, who knows all, sees all and has a plan for our lives, we are blessed beyond measure and everything will fall into place, as God designed. We can trust God with the outcome. He has proven to be faithful and saved us from our own destructive behaviors more times than we can count. His faithfulness endures forever. We when are struggling with something, we can ask God what He wants for us; but we must be willing to listen and make the necessary changes. That is not always easy, but it is worth it. Surrendering to God changes lives.

You are a chosen son/daughter of the King. That is not a heavy burden but an honorable mission that brings delight when we allow God to lead us one day at a time and trust Him with the outcome. It will put you out of your comfort zone into unknown territory, but it is a risk worth taking, every time.

The Puzzle

Like pieces of a puzzle we can’t see the whole picture of our lives while God is still working on it. He’s always working on us. He sees the bigger picture and knows what is best for us. We are to trust and believe. Some days that is hard.

It’s like me not wearing my glasses. The words are fuzzy and out of focus. I strain to see but only see in part. But when I put on my glasses, I can see all the words clearly and it makes more sense. When God brings us through whatever we are going through, and we can begin to see more clearly the bigger picture then it makes more sense to us.

We just need to do our part each day, one day at a time, knowing some day it will all come together. We are not alone during the waiting season. God hears our cries and is answering our prayers even when we think He isn’t. It may not look like what we think it should but that is where faith comes in. He is a trusted Father who loves us and wants the very best for us. Our pint size dreams and plans for ourselves are no comparison to what He is working on for us.

Our story is not over, it’s just beginning, and it’s a beautiful journey. We can’t be in every room of the house at the same time. Rest assured God is there waiting for us when His timing is right.

Do you feel like your life is in a holding pattern right now? Rest and wait for the next door to open. When all the pieces are in place God will reveal His plan and your path will become clear. We just need to show up and be willing to listen and obey through trust and obedience.

He has proven from our past experiences that He is the ultimate friend and trustworthy to follow. He has our best interest at heart now and forever.

Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophesy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. I Corinthians 13:9

(v12) Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All I know is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.