Now What? Where Do We Go From Here?

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I’m not sure how to process my emotions over the last week. Every day I’ve gotten on social media and had to get right back off or bite my tongue. People have said some of the most rude and hateful things.

Many Trump supporters have gloated. They’ve called liberals “cry babies” and made memes to mock the other side. Flip the coin and it’s no better. Many (and I mean many) Hillary supporters have called our newest president ugly names, used vulgar language and have shown the same hate they claim comes from the Republicans. Hate doesn’t make “love win.” It just doesn’t work that way. Hate breeds more hate.

I don’t know about you, but I’m emotionally spent. I’ve fallen to my knees and sobbed to the Lord. God, heal this nation. Help us to get through this and get along. But every day the people I’ve seen are more and more resolute they are choosing hate.

Let’s pause a minute. Neither of our candidates was a great choice. We can talk and talk about why each was a poor selection, but that doesn’t matter any more. It’s over. Trump is in office for the next four years. Now what?

God has been very clear with me about how we got into this current state. We walked into it – step by step, sometimes begrudgingly, but more often than not we were happily skipping and running into the mire.

We have made an idol higher than God. And that idol is SELF. We’ve put our own needs, thoughts, and ideas first. It’s time to focus on me. I have to be true to myself. How often do we here those words as we seek to justify a sin-filled life? And if we dare open the Word of God, we are looking for a justification for our actions. We would rather put our self on top and live in sin than turn from our wicked ways and let God change us. How dare we open the Living Word of God and try to make it fit our lifestyle? The Word of God changes us. We don’t change it.

So now what? What do we do to change the world around us? To create positive change? It isn’t yanking people from their cars and beating them to death. It isn’t closing our eyes to the real fear of those around us. It isn’t standing in the middle of streets chanting about how much we hate the president. How does that change anything? All of those things only create more of a divide. The divide that satan started and then let us run with it, because we were doing a better job than he was.

In order to change the world around you, you have to start with yourself. Alan and I have shared this with many married couples in distress. They are unhappy and want to know – what now? I’m going to let you in on a little secret. You can’t change anyone. Not with your protests, your memes, your Facebook posts – not even with this post can I change you. The only person you have the ability to change is yourself. So start there. Start with you.

Get on your knees and ask God to empty you of you and fill you with Him. Spend time reading His Word. It’s powerful and will change you. That, my friend, is where I’m starting. I’m starting on my knees and I’m asking God for revival to start right here in my own heart. You see, revival starts with one. And if each one of us focuses on soul changing, hand raising, life altering revival with that person in the mirror, we CAN change this nation, and we can change the world. Are you willing?

Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!

All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing.

We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you. 2 Corinthians 5:16-20

 

Carol

What if America Really is Going to Hell in a Hand Basket?

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What if our worst fears come to reality?

Throughout this election process, we’ve spent months either on our knees in prayer or holding our knees to keep them from knocking. Let’s face it. We’ve all been a little bit afraid.

As the preliminary races whittled down the candidates to two main choices, many of us watched in horror as the reality of our options were placed before us. Media painted them as a jerk and a crook. We were to choose the lesser of the two evils. And to make matters worse, they both led some of the biggest smear campaigns in history. What ever happened to focusing on the platform issues and letting the other party’s character speak for itself? Their mud slinging did nothing to assuage our fears and help us settle on a candidate; it did the opposite. Fears escalated as the American people decided they really didn’t trust either one.

As I watched the candidates debate, my stomach soured and my faith in this nation dwindled. Meanwhile, news stories about “too much nationalism” came out. Our own president almost acts embarrassed by our country. Whatever happened to national pride? Since when is it wrong to feel happy about where you are from?

Yesterday I cast my early ballot, but walked away wondering if I should have asked for a paper copy after reading some polls were rigged. We can’t even trust the voting stations anymore.

This morning I was praying for America – begging God to heal our broken nation. I asked Him to help both Hillary and Trump to recognize Truth and be changed by it. And as I prayed, a story from the Bible came to mind. You can call it what you will – but I know the Lord placed it there.

It was the story of Jesus predicting His death to His disciples. He laid out the entire event before it happened. Jesus told them He would go Jerusalem, and once there, He would suffer at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law. Then Christ explained He would be killed but would come back to life on the third day.

Imagine your close friend, your mentor, just told you something like that. How would you respond? I’m sure I would’ve responded the same way Peter did.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Matthew 16:22 NIV

Jesus didn’t say, “It’s okay buddy. God has a plan in all of this.” No. He reply was much stronger!

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matthew 16:23 NIV

That’s pretty harsh. But, you see, Christ’s death and resurrection was God’s greatest gift to humanity. Through that death and new life, we – you and me – can have eternal life. So, when Peter suggested to Jesus that it wasn’t going to happen, Jesus wasn’t having any part of that. He was saying, “You are just concerned about yourself. This is a God thing. Don’t get in my way.”

So as I was praying for America today, God brought this story to mind and how it relates to our situation. You see, if the worst happens – if Hillary gets in office and inadvertently shares state secrets and continues the gut-wrenching horror of late term abortions – or if Trump gets into office and mouths off to Vladimir Putin and causes Russia to drop an atomic bomb – the end result is people will be looking for hope. And the only Hope to be found is in Christ. You see, our only purpose here is to bring Christ glory. So if it takes the world getting more wicked and vile to make people turn to God, then that is what He will allow.

If that seems cruel to you, remember He allowed His only Son to die for the same reason – to bring you life. God desperately wants this world to know Him and experience His saving grace. So while I’ve been praying for things to get better when the election is over – for the newly elected president to make positive change – things are going to get worse. There may be some positive change. I’m not trying to be doom and gloom. But God is pointing out that things have to get bad, really bad, for people to turn from their wicked ways and come to know Him.

So, fellow Christian, the time is now. First, we have to stop getting so distracted over things that divide us – political parties, movements, the need to weigh in on things where we need to keep our mouths shut. Satan is using those things to destroy us.

We also need to be plugged in to God’s Word, and then let the power of the Holy Spirit that fills us change those around us. In other words, stop being so shy about sharing your faith. Let Christ empower you.

For those of you who don’t know God, or you know of Him but you don’t talk to Him and you really aren’t sure where you are going when you die, the time is now. The same God who created this entire universe is all knowing and all-powerful. He has the power to save you if you just admit you are a sinner who desperately needs Him. Ask Him to save you. He will fill you with hope you never thought possible.

So friends, America may get worse before it gets better. But do not fear. You may weep and wail. You will see things you never thought would happen. But don’t lose hope – Jesus will return. So if our worst fears come to reality, have hope and know that God is and forever will be on the throne.

Psalm 47

1 Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy.

2 For the Lord Most High is awesome,
the great King over all the earth.
3 He subdued nations under us,
peoples under our feet.
4 He chose our inheritance for us,
the pride of Jacob, whom he loved.

5 God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
7 For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.

8 God reigns over the nations;
God is seated on his holy throne.
9 The nobles of the nations assemble
as the people of the God of Abraham,
for the kings of the earth belong to God;
he is greatly exalted.

Carol

It’s All in Who You Know

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Try to make it in any business and you’ll find this statement to be true. If you know someone on the inside, they can help bring you on board. It’s the basis of LinkedIn, the popular job networking site. You connect with everyone you know and all your friends connect with everyone they know. Then see if you can link with some of your friends’ connections that might be an asset to you. Which connection can help you get a job?

In showbiz, it helps to know someone who can get you an audition for great parts. In the music industry, when you have a personal connection with someone from a label, you’re more likely to get your music heard. Even in the writing industry, every new writer is encouraged to attend conferences, because in those conferences you can make personal contacts with people in publishing.

It’s the word “know” that stuck out in my quiet time reading this morning. I am reading the Bible through and am in Ezekiel. God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel to give messages to the Israelite nation. Frustrated with the people’s worship of idols, God tells Ezekiel again and again to warn the people He’s about to bring wrath on them.

Each time God shares what He’ll do, He adds, “Then you will know that I am the Lord.”

“The inhabited towns will be laid waste and the land will be desolate. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 12:20 NIV

After reading a few chapters, I noticed that phrase repeated over and over. So I did a little research. In the book of Ezekiel, the phrase “Then you will know I am the Lord,” is repeated 34 times! I investigated further and found variations of the same phrase consistently throughout the entire Old Testament.

“They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.” Exodus 29:46 NIV

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other.” Joel 2:27

The Hebrew word for “know” is “yada.” The definition says, “to know, recognize, understand; to have sexual relations.” Woah. Wait. Did that just say the S-word? Did we just jump way off course?

Not really. You see, the idea behind the sex part of this definition isn’t the actual physical intercourse so much as it is the physical intimacy. Two people cannot get any close than sexual intercourse. So using the word “yada” means “to know someone in the closest possible way.” That’s what God is trying to get across to us. It’s what He’s been saying since the Old Testament times.

I want you to know me.
I want you to know I am your God.
I want you to know how much you mean to me.
I want you to know I am Creator and Ruler over all things.
I want you to know I’m with you when you are going through hard times.
I want you know I would never leave you.
I want you to know I see you.
I want you to know I hear your prayers.
I want you to know my ways are not like yours.
I want you to know I loved you so much I allowed my Son to die for your sins.
I want you to KNOW!

God brought His wrath on the Israelites for not knowing Him. They were driven from their Promised Land and sent into exile. Then as the New Testament dawned, God came up with another plan. A plan so people could know Him. He put skin on and came in the form of a man – Jesus. But His plea is still the same. Will you know me?

He’s not asking “do” you know me so much as “will” you? You see “do” you know God, simply asks, “Do you believe He exists?” Do you know who He is? And most people will admit they believe. But what the Creator of all things really wants to know is “Are you willing to know Him?” Would you agree to know Him in the closest possible way? Because knowing God on that level and understanding how He became flesh, died and rose again is the key to eternal life.

You see it really is true. The best things in life really are in Who you know. Will you accept the knowledge of Him today?

Carol

The Most Important Thing in Building a House

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I never thought I’d be hearing a sermon in my bathroom.

I stood among the sheetrock dust and cast off nails and listened as my tile guy told me how he could not put the tile on the wall the way I envisioned. On the far right and far left of our newly constructed master bath stood our bathroom vanities – one for me and one for my husband. On the floor was some type board to go under the tile, that had been recently nailed into the subfloor. The shower was tucked in the corner and coated with red waterproofing.

My tile guy, Randy, stood in the center of the bathroom where my tub was to sit, behind him were red lasers running the length of the wall and floor to guide his tile installation. This was the wall where I dreamed of large white textured tiles running from floor to ceiling.

My husband and I are in the home stretch of building our dream home. We moved from the city to the country to build next door to my parents. My brother and his family live on the other side. Through the process there have been lots of ups and downs. I’ve learned a lot about pressure treated pine, building codes and the true meaning of “estimates.” (It means add 20% to your estimated cost and pray to God you don’t exceed it.)

Randy walked to the wall where the laser made a line parallel to the floor and measured from floor to line. Then he walked across to the opposite wall and measured again. “Yep,” he told me. “It’s 7/8th of an inch difference from one wall to the other. If you run tile all the way to the ceiling vault, you’ll be able to see that.”

Let me be straight with you. I know there are more important things in life. People starving. Those who don’t know Jesus. Too many kids in the foster system. Homelessness…just to name a few. In comparison to the big picture, me not getting tile on the wall behind my tub doesn’t even rank a blip on the radar. It’s not important.

But, it was a little disappointing nonetheless.

I stood there looking at the floor with my wary eyeball trying to see the difference in height – which I couldn’t – and imagined the framers as they put the floor down. Honestly, in this process I’ve learned how one small decision or mistake anywhere in the course of the build can alter the whole thing.

“It’s crazy how one small thing being a little bit off can affect every single thing that comes after it,” I told Randy.

From behind me, Randy’s helper, Anthony, spoke up, “It actually goes all the way back to the foundation. If your foundation isn’t right, everything in the whole house is off. The foundation is the key most important element in the whole build.”

I’m pretty certain my mouth hung open a second as I realized the sweaty, dust-covered man in front of me had preached an entire sermon in one statement.

I chuckled a little and told him, “Preach it, brother.”

You don’t have to build a house to need that important information. Your foundation– everything you believe and stand on – must be strong in order for your life not to fall down around you at the first storm.

That foundation, the building blocks of your life and who you are, must be in Jesus Christ. He alone can smooth imperfections and level out floors. Have you ever tried to put something together and realized it won’t work because you don’t have something lined up just right? It can be frustrating. But don’t give up. It’s never too late to start over with a new foundation in Christ.

And if you forget, don’t worry. Wherever you are, God will remind you – even in the bathroom.

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11 ESV

Carol

Press On

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I saw it out of the corner of my eye, flittering at the window. I turned from where I was enjoying my morning cup of coffee to see a hummingbird at my kitchen window. It fluttered and then landed on the suction cup feeder right next to me on the window.

I tried not to make any quick movements for fear it would fly away. My hand crept to my phone to open my camera. The bird leaned down in quick spurts to drink and then looked right and left, checking for danger.

Dip, drink, check.
Dip, drink, check.

Its wings fluttered once or twice as it moved to a different drinking location on the feeder, until finally it settled on the middle.

Dip, drink, check.
Dip, drink, check.

But then the hummingbird did something I’ve never seen one do before. First it looked up as if it saw something on the house above it. Then it stretched its tiny neck all the way back, looking upside down behind it. I thought maybe it was stretching at first, but then it didn’t move, staying in that position at least a full minute or so.

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I sat watching it, wondering what it was seeing, when I realized I should move in closer to get a picture. With its neck stretched back, it wouldn’t be able to see me coming.

I continued watching it and chuckled to myself when I thought of how that tiny bird with its miniature ruffled feather neck resembled myself. Sometimes I’m so consumed at what’s behind me, I miss what’s coming ahead.

God recently pointed out how I am so consumed with sharing all He has done in my life, that I have become content to live in the past. “Let me tell you what God DID.” (past tense) Like it’s a one-time thing and He is done. Which, by the way, He is NOT. Not done. At least that’s what He revealed to me.

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” Philippians 1:6 The Message

I’m so busy turning around pointing out God’s path in the past, that I’m missing what He is doing right now. He’s still working on me, and as that verse says, He will continue to work on me until Jesus returns.

The Bible has quite a few examples of God saying, “Don’t look back!” Remember Lot’s wife? Lot and his wife lived in a sin-filled city. The city was so vile, God wanted to destroy it all, but He was merciful and allowed Lot and his family to escape. The angels sent to save Lot hurried his family to safety and told them not to look back. “But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:26) Some say God was harsh, but in His Sovereignty, He knew the motive and the heart of Mrs. Lot. Perhaps she was looking back and longing for the immorality of life there. Only God knows.

Here are a few more verses about keeping our eyes ahead.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. Philippians 3:13

Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19

Maybe you can relate. But maybe what you are turned around looking at is not a positive thing. Maybe it’s a hurt or a past behavior that haunts you. Maybe it’s a health scare. Maybe it was a bad financial decision. An abortion. An infidelity. A death.

Whatever it is, sweet friend, it’s time we turned back around. It’s time to look forward and see what God has in store for today.

Let’s press on.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

Carol