Sea Glass

Have you ever thought about how long it takes to form sea glass? I bet it is a long time. Maybe several decades. The salt water adds to the beauty giving it a frosted appearance. A lot of people hunt it and use it for making jewelry and other unique pieces of art. But it did not start out this way. It was not instantly a finished work of art or even very pretty. It more than likely started out as a jagged piece of broken glass from a beverage bottle. You could say it was just a piece of garbage. It was rough around the edges and painful if you cut yourself on it.

Isn’t that how we start out? Our hearts are rough around the edges, and we cause others pain if they get too close. We could say we are sometimes discarded by others as trash and end up in a sea of troubled waters. Then God lifts us out of the murky waters, just as we are. He begins to shape us and smooth out our rough edges. But just like sea glass, it takes time. It is a work in progress; we are God’s masterpiece. He created us in His own image and although we are not perfect because of sin – He wants us to strive to be more like Jesus, not in our performance but in the way we love, treat, and serve others. Our lives are like shards of brokenness awaiting transformation that is only accessible through our Savior, Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:16 ESV)

Angelic Presence

A while back I asked God what He wanted me to write about. His answer was the title of this message. I did not take to pen and paper or computer/keyboard right away. Frankly, I was not completely sure what to write about in that arena. I know a little about them from what I have read in the Bible, but to write about them felt a little intimidating at first. I know I cannot do it on my own by any means.

I began reading a book my friend gave me for my birthday entitled, “Angels” by Billy Graham. I received this gift a few months earlier and had not pick it up to read until then. I believe it was no coincidence that she gave it to me.

It also was not a coincidence that two days later I dreamed about mom and dad. Mostly dad as he stood over me watching me sleep. When I woke up (in the dream) to see him standing over my bed I knew he was there to protect me. I got up and he gave me the best hug! This was a special gift, even in a dream, as when I woke up it made me very happy and stayed with me all day like a warm smile from an old friend.

The next day, my sister called and began to tell me how angels had been on her mind that week. I told her my dream, but I still did not write about them just yet. I forgot about it for a couple of weeks and had not read any more of the book about angels either until one evening I picked it back up and this sentence stood out to me like a sore thumb, “we are not to pray to angels.”

The next morning, my scripture reading led me to Hebrews 1:14- “Angels are only servants, spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation.”

He showed me that prayer is a form of worship, and we are only to worship God the creator of all things. Angels are not higher than Jesus and should not be worshipped.  

The next morning, my reading led me to Revelation. 19:10, where John is reprimanded for attempting to worship the angel who was delivering the message. “Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said, no, don’t worship me. I am a servant of God, just like you and your brothers and sisters who testify about their faith in Jesus. Worship only God.” In the notes section of the NLT study bible, it gives this reflection: “God still has angelic messengers, but they are creatures who serve Him, not divine beings to be worshipped. Faithful servants of the past, including Mary, are human beings. They may be honored in our Christian memories, but they have no claim to divinity, and they should never be worshipped.”

I believe and have experienced that God can send messages through many forms, including angels, who are also here to protect all believers everywhere. The presence of angels can be comforting, but most of the time we do not even realize they are with us. They can come in different forms that are unseen or in physical body form, but we may not always know when they are here.  God can send angels to protect and save us from danger as He chooses.

The Holman Bible dictionary defines an angel as, “created beings whose primary function is to serve and worship God. Unlike God they are not eternal or omniscient.” Angels carry out God’s will as He directs them. (Ps. 148:2-5; Col. 1:16) They also preform tasks as mediators. (Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Rev. 1:1; 10:1)

Some people think cardinals are a visit from a loved one or an angel. I am very fond of cardinals. One evening, during this time, a cardinal flew up to the living room window and tried to perch multiple times. I feel God sends me multiple messages until I finally write about it. Perhaps this was another reminder. Angels continued to show up in my reading as I read the book of Revelation. There are some very beautiful imageries in this book if you get a chance to read it again.

I will leave you with this: “And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is the light.” (Rev. 21:23)

The Light

I was sitting in my car at the traffic light this week waiting for it to turn green when my gaze drifted to the cars passing by in front of me. I attempted to read the sign on each truck that sped by and see each person driving them. It was chaotic and hard to keep up, until I diverted my eyes back to the light realizing I needed to be ready to move when it turned green so I would not get honked at if I hesitated even a second (it happens).

When my focus was on the right place, I did not feel overwhelmed by the distractions around me. The same is true, as we go through our day, when we have our eyes on everything going on around us, it can be confusing, busy, and distracting. But when we remember to look up and keep our gaze on God we can be ready to move when He gives the signal. I need to remind myself of this when the things around me seem chaotic or I get too busy; I need to remember to pause and turn my eyes back to the ultimate ‘light’, which is Jesus.

It makes it easier to drown out the noise around us so we can hear God’s voice and discern the direction he wants us to go when we are in His word daily, praying for discernment, and keeping in step with the Spirit.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:2, ESV).

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

God-Honoring Life

Through the divine nature all around us, we have no excuse for not knowing God (Romans 1:20). There is a difference in knowing of God, his existence, and attributes, and honoring Him above all things. Most people miss the whole purpose of life when not honoring God. Romans 1:21-23 describes this kind of knowing and understanding God through creation, yet not doing what is right based on that knowledge.

I know in my personal experience, for most of my life, I knew God existed, I knew He was good and that He created all things, but I did not know how to put Him first in my life or that I could have a personal relationship with Him. It was not until I completely surrendered my life over to God and began to study His word and genuinely seek His truth that these things were revealed to me. I realized how much I had missed in not pursuing God in this way. Our relationships with God can look a little differently but will include the same principles once the Holy Spirit is activated inside our hearts. My journey has consisted of conversations, praying as well as listening, correction, love, grace, guidance and a lot of mercy and forgiveness. It is the ultimate Father, daughter relationship where I can take everything to Him, knowing He cares and wants the best for me. It is a daily routine of meditation, prayer, reading His word, and humbly seeking direction so I can become who He created me to be for such a time as this. Reading His word and letting it saturate our minds and hearts will help us guard against the lies and false teachings of the world.

Are you tired of fighting battles alone? What if your life never changed from what it is today? If you have not done this, I encourage you to invite the Holy Spirit to dwell in your heart and activate the ultimate Helper to fight the battles you are facing from the enemy, so you can live your best life. The Holy Spirit gives us strength to break the strongholds in our lives that we cannot do on our own. It is only through Jesus that we have access to the Father and the Holy Spirit in this way. Because of Jesus we have forgiveness and freedom.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 ESV

Baby’s Breath

With the Father by His side, the Groom awaits His bride

He walked the earth to be by her side

He searched the fields for the perfect bouquet

Everlasting love in a fragrant sachet

Mere words fall short and express only in part

The beauty He sees within her heart

A magnificent love story waiting to be told

As their paths cross the journey unfolds

Grace and honor hold hands, their fingers intertwine

In the unity of truth, His glory divine

Made for this moment, their hands finally meet

Their purpose intact, the puzzle complete

A picture of hope for a new life

They come together as husband and wife

Respect, honor, and peace shine through in love

Their Father looks down from Heaven above

A past forgiven, new hope springs forth

A memory shared, their hearts rejoice

All creatures great and small circle around

To witness the union in reverent awe

Baby’s breath, so tiny and sweet

A reflection of purity, His purpose complete

For this moment He died upon the cross

With a loving heart, He bore the loss

To save His bride and live a life

As God intended with the bride of Christ

The kingdom of God awaits us all

An inheritance of joy when we heed the call

Have faith and trust in a mighty God

Who loves us fiercely and forgives our flaws

A servant’s heart He asks of us

We fall on our knees, lift our eyes in trust

Conversations with God

Do you sometimes wonder what to pray for specifically? I pray for a lot of things and a lot of people, but the other morning I was sitting in my quiet time and decided to ask God what He wanted me to pray for instead of my usual list.  God wants us to have conversations with Him and we can ask questions and then listen and pay attention for the answers.

During my journaling and Bible reading that followed, I did what I sometimes do when I am not sure where to read; I held up my Bible and asked God to open it at a place He wanted me to read. On this occasion, it opened near the back of my Bible past all the books of Scripture. At first, I was not sure what to read, but it did not take long to notice one of the headings that read, “God Gets the Glory; We Get the Joy” under the section called “Reading the Bible” in the back of my study Bible. As I began to read the first paragraph, there it was, in the first sentence: “The Bible shows that prayer is near the heart of why God created the world” (English Standard Version). I am still amazed when God does these things. This is one of the many reasons I am in awe of Him every single day. It went on to say that when we pray, God gets the glory, and we get the joy.

In summary, this led me to three specific prayers that we should pray for as we make our longing for God’s name to be hallowed in the world, as central to our prayers. #1: For God’s church (all over the world) to be filled with the fruit of righteousness, to the glory and praise of God (Col. 4:3-4). #2: For the Gospel to spread and awaken faith in Jesus, among all nations (Romans 10:1).  #3: That the many who do not believe would be saved (Romans 10:1).

The aim of God’s word and the aim of prayer are the same: For the Glory of God and salvation of the nations through Jesus Christ. As an example, Jesus told his disciples how to pray as we see in Matthew 6:9-13. To hallow God’s name is to make it holy, greatly revered, and honored. We also see another prayer by Paul for spiritual strength in Ephesians 3:14-21. I am grateful for the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts.

The prayer for awakened faith reminds me of a song we sing at church that has stuck with me this week and was prominent on my mind at every waking moment during the night. It is called, God of Revival by Bethel Music. This is also a beautiful prayer for our city and people. I know in my own journey after becoming a Christ follower, it felt like I had just woken up from a self-induced stupor and that I had slept walked for most of my life. I hope you will join me in praying for a great awakening and revival and if you get a chance listen to this song.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

Beware of Traps

One particularly chilly morning after a rainy day, I stepped out on the pavement before taking off to run to check for ice. It seemed wet but not icy, so I ventured out. I saw a bridge covered in water ahead but forged on to cross it in an area of low water thinking I could squeeze by without getting my feet wet. As soon as I hit the bridge my foot slipped, and I immediately come to a screeching halt. I tiptoed over to the sidewalk and got past the danger zone before I continued.

This is so like the enemy. Just when we think it is all smooth roads ahead and we are happy, the enemy will try to trip us up. He lays in wait to attack us at any moment with traps of all kinds that appear to be good but are not at all. He makes bad things look good and tries to convince us to do that thing you have been thinking about. Truth is he is the one who put the temptation on your mind and makes it look good to us.

The best way to defeat the enemy and stay continually cautious of his tactics are to study the Word of God. The more we know God’s truth the easier it will be to recognize the enemies’ lies. Matthew 16:10 says, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees’. Have you ever wondered what that means? I was directed to this in my Bible reading while working on this message; so, I looked up the definitions. A Pharisee is a self-righteous person, a hypocrite. A Sadducee is someone who denied the afterlife and lived only by the law. In other words, these are false teachings from people who try to trip you up. Yeast is a symbol of sin and evil- deceptive teaching falls into that category.

My dad used to tell a story from the pulpit about a young banker who wanted to make sure he did not accept any counterfeit bills, so he began to study them. An older banker asked what he was doing and when he told him he was studying the fake money so he would recognize it, the older wiser banker told him that was unnecessary, if he studied the real thing, he would easily recognize the fake. (the day after I wrote this message, I read almost the exact story in my “100 Ways to Brave” devo by Annie F. Downs-A powerful little book by the way!) What a great message. Study God’s truth for yourself and you will recognize the counterfeit (or false teaching) others try to pass on to you.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil., He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. I Peter 5:8

Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. Ephesians 6:14

Then Jesus was approached by some Sadducees- religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead. Luke 20:27 (verse that led me to Matt. 16:10)

In the Garden

She carefully planned each step, stretching her little legs as far as she could to reach the imprint her father made in the fresh tilled soil. She placed her tiny foot inside each of his impressions two or three times before moving on to the next.

Heeding to his instructions she dropped one or two seeds into the holes he prepared. He did not need her help to accomplish his goal but delighted in teaching her the way as his father had shown him.

The tiny building beside the garden where livestock once found shelter from the storms now only housed the dry dung from days gone by. Using the dirty silver bowl, she found inside, she joyfully scooped one serving at a time and carried it to the garden as a fertilizer to ensure ultimate growth.

The dry parched land lapped up each drop she gave the seeds to drink from the jug, as she gripped the handle tight. Helping her father in the garden was hot work but would be most rewarding when new life sprang forth.

Many years have come and gone, and her earthly father has passed. But, once again, with childlike wonder, the little girl carefully follows in her Father’s footsteps to help Him in the garden; trying her best to follow her Father’s every instruction. With each drop from her bucket a thirst is quenched.

She spreads the seeds of His love in the cultivated hearts, fertilized with the dung from her past. She knows she may not see the final stage of new life that springs forth, but she is content to be able to share even a small part of their unique journey.

The living water that flows from the Father above into her life below and into the lives of others is enough. She joyfully sings a new song He places on her heart and praises His name for the freedom it brings.

Free as a bird to soar overhead and carry His messages and spread His love.  All of this He could do on His own- but He chose her for His purpose to give meaning to her life and help her grow in full richness of His glory.

We are part of His grand design to follow His path and help each other using our gifts for His glory. The few who find it and follow in His steps will be blessed beyond measure. The more we lift to Him the more that will be poured back down, it will return to us even better than how we released it.

In the garden of life, He has set forth a path for each of us to follow. He goes before us to guide us each step of the way. In childlike wonder we look up to the Father. He will lift us up on His shoulders for a new perspective that we are to share with others. The path leads to His kingdom and a glory not yet known. But its beauty will amaze you – don’t you want to come along?

The Art of Listening

I had the opportunity a couple of years ago to have lunch with a lady who had significant hearing loss since birth. She did a very good job of reading lips. I on the other hand did not do as great a job making out her words. I saw right away this was going to be a challenge for me even though she managed her words very well for someone who could not hear.

I began to focus on each word as it escaped her lips so I could see the shape of her mouth to anticipate what she might be saying so I could respond appropriately. When I could not understand a particular word and had to ask her multiple times to repeat it, I felt really bad. Although she is probably used to that and did not seem to mind repeating and trying her best to help me make out her words. I paused after each sentence before I responded. I repeated over and over in my head, “Help me, Holy Spirit.”

I admittedly have not been a great listener in the past. I will attempt to inject my two cents worth before the other person completes their thought. I am aware of this and have been training myself to be intentional about listening to understand instead of thinking about my response. I also try to pause before responding and ask the Holy Spirit to help me with my answer. Having lunch with this kind lady gave me some much-needed practice. I realized more than ever how intently I was listening.

Isn’t this what God wants of us? How much do you think our Heavenly Father wants us to be still, listen, and pause for an answer? Maybe He even wants us to take our time while praying and communicating with Him and not rush through our prayers- He is a great listener. But, once we have all our thoughts out, we need to give Him a chance to speak.

 You may be surprised what He has to say.

James 1:19 My dear brothers and sisters; take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Perseverance & Protection

Did you know God gives us resources to ward off the enemy? Maybe you have read about the armor of God in Ephesians 6:11-17.  Paul’s metaphorical descriptions of the “armor of God” along with instructions on how we should wear it to protect ourselves are clearly listed. But did you know he gets many of the parts from the OT, in the book of Isaiah? He even quotes Isaiah in the book of Romans that relates back to the armor of God. We sometimes dismiss the OT for different reasons, but there are many great messages and instructions for us in those books. The entire Bible is composed by people just like you and me whom God revealed his Word so that we could benefit from it, even today. It is God’s story. Everything in the OT points to the coming of Christ and everything in the NT is about Jesus’ life on earth in human form as well as His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. It is there for a reason, not to just take up space.

Regarding the armor, Paul gets the belt of truth or faithfulness from Isaiah 11:5, “Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.” The ESV study Bible explains that the Messiah is not clothed with the trappings of human ego but is truly qualified to rule the world. Isaiah 52:7 is quoted in Romans 10:14-15, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who bring the good news, who publishes peace, who brings news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, your God reigns.” Isaiah 59:7 states, “He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head, he put on garments of vengeance for clothing and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.” God “put on” the powers of a fully equipped warrior to fight off sin. He was committed to His victory from the depths of His being. We are to do the same with the resources God gives us. Like a soldier going to battle we can fight off our enemy, Satan, because of Jesus Christ.

The Greek word for “whole armor” is panoplia and relates to the complete equipment of a fully armed soldier with shields and weapons. The metaphors Paul uses for spiritual resources are given by Christ and are truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation, and the Word of God are all aspects of God’s and the Messiah’s own character and work, as depicted in Isaiah, with which Christians are now equipped. The armor of God is the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace (always ready to proclaim the gospel), helmet of salvation, sword of the spirit (word of God) and he adds to this perseverance and to boldly proclaim the gospel while staying alert for the enemy. Did you know the opposite of perseverance is disobedience? So, in essence our basic obedience to God helps us fight off our spiritual attackers and helps us cloth ourselves in God’s armor.

Human resources are not enough, we must take up the whole armor of God to go up against spiritual forces. These are made available to all believers. We can stand firm against the enemy as Christian soldiers in a battle. The weapons of warfare are spiritual because they are rooted in prayer, the main and most powerful resource we can use. Paul says to pray “at all times”, “with all perseverance”, and “in the spirit”. Jesus’ prayers, when he was on earth, were always heartfelt and tearful. His prayers were answered then and He now stands with every Christian to intercede on their behalf so that ours are answered now.

We, as children of God, because of Jesus, can come boldly to the throne, in fact we are encouraged to do so. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) That is only possible when our sins are forgiven through sacrificial and the intercessory ministry of Jesus. God’s throne implies that Christians have the privilege of a personal relationship with God and can have confidence to speak to Him honestly without fear. Just like a good father expresses to his children and wants them to come to him; we can go to God.

Jesus did not leave us unarmed and unprotected when He ascended into heaven. Jesus Himself prayed for us as future believers before he ascended. I find that comforting. He also left us the gift of peace, and the power of the Holy Spirit to guide and protect us until He comes back for us.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

“it is to your advantage that I go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7)

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” (John 17:20)

Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages and notes referenced are in the English Standard Version.