The Power of a Name!

Research indicates that American employers make decisions based on people’s names, especially when those names seem to indicate that the applicant is Black or from low-income homes. Without actually meeting the persons or calling them for an interview to establish their qualities and abilities, studies show that applications are tossed in the garbage, simply because of the person’s name. That is how powerful names can be.  This ability of names to impact people’s lives is not just an American phenomenon; instead, it happens around the world.

In India, organizations worked to help girls whose names meant “unwanted ” receive or pick new names with more positive meanings. The act was meant to decrease gender discrimination and to change parents’ attitudes about the importance and relevance of girls. In many cultures, personal names identify the expectations people have for children, but also names render individuals as unique human beings.

In the Bible, names matter a lot. You learn about people and their history through their names and the names they give to their children. For instance, in Exodus 18:3-4, we learn that Moses named his first son, Gershon, to signify that he had been a foreigner in a foreign land, and he named his second son, Eliezer, to denote that God was his helper, rescuing him from the sword of Pharaoh. In both cases, people knew some of Moses’ qualities and background from the names of his sons.

Names can also have negative meanings in the Bible. In 1 Samuel, Chapter 25, we meet Nabal, whose name means “fool or senseless.” What a name to give to a child! And he was a fool who almost caused the deaths of all the men in his employ by showing a lack of gratitude for David and his men keeping his flocks safe. I think that just having to live with that name was one of the reasons Nabal was so mean!

But, probably the power of a name is most demonstrated in the name given to a baby boy born in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago. The prophet Isaiah prophesied of his coming, asserting that a boy child would come, and that he would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. In the fullness of time, the prophecy was fulfilled, and the child’s parents, Mary and Joseph, would name him, Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins, just as the angel Gabriel had advised them. It is in his name that we learn his qualities and of his ability to save, heal, redeem, and deliver. His name is above all other names (Philippians 2:9), and there is no other name given by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

For me, the power of his name is best told in the story in Acts 3:1-11. Peter and John were going to the Temple for a prayer service when they encountered a man lame from birth being carried in to sit by the Temple gate called the Beautiful Gate to ask for money. The apostles looked at him, and he gazed back at them eagerly, thinking that they had money to give to him. But, he got more than money, for he learned about the power of a name to change lives and make whole.

In Acts 3:6, Peter said to him, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” Peter reached his hand out and helped the lame man up, and his feet and ankles were instantly healed, and he began to walk. Then he started leaping and praising God, going into the Temple with the apostles. People were astounded as they watched him walking while holding on to Peter and John.

Peter understood the power of Jesus’ name,  and the name of Jesus is still powerful today. When people tell me that sometimes they do not know what to pray to God to do for them (and I have been there myself), I tell them to just open their mouths and simply utter his name, “Jesus!” He will hear them, and the power that still resides in him will help them. It may take time, but be encouraged because the name has lost none of its power or ability to heal and to save.

I found out that my name, Regina, means “queenly.” You can imagine how wonderful and unique that made me feel, having been born in poverty and expected not to accomplish much in life. I never forget the meaning of my name, and I have worked hard to live up to that name. My husband calls me his “queen.” How amazing is that?

Still, as much as my name brings me joy, the name of Jesus means so much more to me. For it is because of his name that I live, breathe, and exist. It is because of his other name, Immanuel, that I know that God is with us.  Today, let us not forget that we must speak his name to everyone, so that the healing, saving, and redeeming power of his name can heal our land.

Dear Abba, Father, in Heaven,

      The power of the name of Jesus still amazes and astounds me! I thank you so much for Jesus Immanuel, for you, Father, was in your Son, reconciling us to You. He took on our sins, so that we could have eternal life, just by believing in Him and that You sent Him into the world. I believe that same power will bring Him back to gather up your people, so that we can live in your presence forevermore. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

 

Why Not Me?

A cancer diagnosis changes a person for good. I still remember the disbelief and fear when I was told I had stage 2 colon cancer. I was just two weeks on the job and had not even taught a class. I just knew they were going to fire me, so that I did not increase their healthcare budget when I had just been hired. But the amazing people at Santa Clara University told me just to get well and return to teach! As wonderful as their generosity was, I was still in shock.

After the surgery and finding out that I would have to do chemothereapy, I really got scared, because I had seen people suffer so bad from chemo.   I started crying, and I asked, “Why me, Lord? I am a good person. I try to always do my best and treat people right. I have endured so much already. So, why me? Are you mad at me?” I just could not comprehend why I had cancer. I was already diabetic and had a pacemaker for a heart condition. So, having cancer seemed like overload. Someone told me that God does not put more on you than you can bear. I responded, “Well, He must have a very high opinion of my capacity to suffer.” I was just not ready to be comforted. I was wallowing in my anger.

Then, a couple of days later, as I laid contemplating taking chemo, I started thinking about the little children at St. Jude’s Hospital and other children’s hospital that were dealing with cancers far worse than mine. I thought about the people in the Intensive Care Unit of hospitals across the world, and I asked myself, “Are you better than these people? Do you think they deserve their suffering more than you do? What makes me so special? With no answers to the questions, but a fresh take on the situation,  I realize just how blessed I was, and I said, “Why not me?”

You see, I had been on painkillers for nearly three months, because the doctors in Illinois where we had moved from and the first doctors that I saw when we moved to California could not determine why I was having pain in my right side. They did tests and found nothing to explain the pain, so they gave me pain pills and insinuated that I needed psychological help. So, when I was hired at Santa Clara University and was given health insurance, the first thing I did was find a doctor who would determine what was causing the pain.

I went to the new doctor on a Wednesday, and I told her my story of living on pain killers. She scheduled a Cat Scan for two days later. I went for the test, and, before I could get home, my doctor called me and told me I was scheduled for a colonoscopy on the following Monday, and one week from the day she started to treat me, I had surgery to remove a cancerous polyp in my colon. They had found it pretty early.

What is so amazing is that the pain was not from the cancer but from scar tissue from a appendectomy years earlier. The surgeon said I was really lucky to have the pain, or the cancer may not have been found.  I do not know why  the doctors before then had never scheduled me for a colonoscopy as I was over age 50. But, I believe that God placed me where He could use my story for His glory.

I think of the woman in Luke 8:43-48, who had constant bleeding for twelve years. She endured a lot at the hands of doctors, spending all of her money, and she got worse. But, then, she went to where Jesus was, and, at the risk of losing her life because she was considered unclean, she reached through the crowd, touched Jesus’s robe, and she was healed. Jesus called her, Daughter, and told her that her faith had made her well. Still today, people are encouraged when they read or hear her story, and God is given the glory. It was my hope that God would use my suffering and victory in the same way.

I made the decision to teach my students while I was taking chemotherapy. The university offered to let me Skype, instead. But, I needed the energy that I feel from my students, so, I said I wanted to be in the classroom. I told my students that I was taking chemo, and that if I started running out the room, please make sure I was heading for the bathroom. They were compasssionate, caring, and empathetic, offering to bring me food the one time that I had to cancel classes because I was too ill to teach.

Then, toward the end of the quarter, one of my best students came to my office, and she told me that her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She said that she was so scared of her mother dying until she remembered me. She told her mother that her professor was on chemo and still teaching, and it helped them both be encouraged and hopeful. I said, “To God be the glory!”

I will have been cancer-free for nine years in October, and I thank God for every day. I do not take living for granted. I see my struggles differently now, and I ask God to use them to help someone else, which is partly why I started this website. I am not the same person that I was before cancer. I realize that Jesus was correct when he said that we will have many trials and sorrows here on earth (John 16:33). I have learned that nobody deserves sickness. Illness is not a form of punishment for lack of faith. I cannot tell you why some of us survive and some other do not survive. I just know that I am just an ordinary person with an extraordinary God.

I hope that as you read this post,  if you know someone over age 50 who has not had a colonoscopy and have insurance, that you will encourage them to ask their doctor to schedule them for one. Colon cancer is the “silent killer, ” especially for African Americans who are more likely to die from colon cancer than are others, mainly because by the time the disease is discovered, it is well advanced. I am blessed, and my husband believes that I would not be alive today if God had not laid it on my heart to move to California. He went ahead of me, opening doors for me, guiding me to the right doctors. So, now my question when troubles come is not Why me, Lord?, but Why Not Me?

Dear Father in Heaven,

I am a living witness that You hear and answer prayer. I thank you for every breath    I take, because I could be dead. You saw what I could not see and you opened doors for me. I am so grateful. I pray today, Father, for all the people dealing with cancer, and for those who have just been given a diagnosis and are trying to figure out why they have cancer. Touch their hearts and give them peace and comfort. Help them to endure what seems impossible to endure. Lord, I don’t know why bad things happen, but I do know that I trust You to be there to help us through the difficult moments. You have never failed me. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Danger of Misplaced Anger

As we walked, I noticed the lines on my husband’s forehead that I had not seen before. I wondered what could be stressing him enough to imprint on his face. I started thinking about our lives over the last few months before the walk, and I was reminded of the anger that I had been carrying for months. I  continually found fault with just about everything he said or did, even whether the toilet tissue roll was on correctly or how we put the top sheet on the bed. Nothing he did seemed right, and we were both unhappy.

That day I had agreed to a walk, to try to find some common ground. As we walked, I felt in my spirit that God was saying to me, “It’s not him you are angry with. You are angry at yourself for the decisions you have made in the past, and you are taking it out on him.” I stopped in my tracks, and I just started to cry.  I wanted him to comfort me, but, as I saw him hesitate, I realized that he was paralyzed, unable to decide whether to hold me or keep his distance, mainly because he did not want me to yell at him or put him down.

So, I said to him, “I am not mad at you. I am mad at myself for some bad decisions I made in the past, and I have made you the scapegoat. I am so sorry, but you were the most available target for my anger.” As I watched, he relaxed, and the lines in his forehead started to smooth out, and the rest of the walk was sweet, as once again he held my hand. I learned that day the danger of misplaced anger.

Anger can be healthy, when it motivates us to stand up for what is right and to seek to correct social injustices. But, when our anger controls us, it can lead to sin. Ephesians 4: 26-27 state, “And don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” Issues that are not addressed in our lives can begin to manifest as anger, and when we fail to acknowledge the rightful focus of our anger, innocent people can get caught in the crossfire and suffer irreparable harm.

Children suffer when parents who are frustrated and angry with their bosses come home and fight with spouses or scream at their children. I believe that much of the violence and the tremendous sorrow and pain of violence in homes, in the streets of America, and around the world derive from deeply entrenched anger that people fail to acknowledge and address in their lives. They may not even know whom they are mad at, or they may be angry with individuals or nameless bureaucrats  that they cannot challenge. So, they take out their frustrations on innocent individuals, with family, friends, and neighbors bearing the brunt of their misplaced anger.

We all get angry at one time or another, and often with good cause. But sometimes, we direct our anger at the most vulnerable persons around us, especially when we feel that the persons or situations that fuel our anger are too powerful for us to confront. Recall that King David in 1 Samuel 25 became angry when Nabal refused to share with David and his followers, after they had kept Nabal’s sheep safe. David, separated from family and wives, was frustrated and angry by King Saul’s attempts to kill him. Unwilling to kill King Saul because he thought of him as God’s anointed, David takes his anger out on Nabal, threatening to kill all the men of Nabal’s household. Thankfully, Abigail was able to calm him down so that he did not sin.

The danger of misplaced anger lies in the rashness that accompanies anger which does not allow us sufficient time to think before we speak or act. Uncontrolled anger or misplaced anger results in unnecessary destruction and devastation for both the person who is angry and for innocent bystanders.

I’ve come to understand that if we are to heal the land and find common ground, we must acknowledge the anger of the many Americans whose lives have been impacted by the loss of good jobs and their inability to share in the American Dream, for whatever reasons. Then, we must find alternative ways for people to deal with their anger so that we do not destroy ourselves or others. We must realize that human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires of us (James 1:20). Let us bring our anger to God, asking Him to help us reflect on it and understand the real source of our anger.

Dear Heavenly Father,

    Help us to understand what or whom is making us so angry that we are unable to control our emotions or our mouths. Teach us to control our anger, so that we do not end up hurting others or ourselves. You teach us to get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, and to be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as you have forgiven us through Jesus Christ. Give us the courage to apologize to those we have hurt with our misplaced anger, and forgive us for the hurt we sometimes cause others, for often we truly know not what we do. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

A ChildLike Faith

Parent Tossing Child

I always cringe when I see grownups throwing children into the air or swinging them around by their arms. I hold my breath until the children are safely back in their parents’ hands or on their own feet. While I am scared that the parents will drop the children and cause major physical injuries, all you can hear are the giggles and laughter of the children.

Children demonstrate such faith in their parents that they are not even a little bit afraid of falling! The children seem to trust their parents so much that they do not even consider that they are in danger. They do not worry about being injured; rather, they concentrate on enjoying the fun of it, believing that they are safe in their parents’ care.

That is the type of childlike faith that I believe that Jesus spoke of to his disciples when he said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children” (Matthew 19: 14). Jesus saw how children, without any guile, came to Him wholeheartedly, feeling His love for them. Children seemed to trust this man called Jesus, and they came to Him without expectations of getting or receiving anything but His blessings and love.

When the disciples tried to discourage the children from bothering Jesus, they must have forgotten that Jesus had recently used a child to help them understand what it took to get into the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 8: 1-6. The disciples had been questioning Jesus regarding which of them would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, and Jesus advised them to turn from their sins and become like little children. For me, this means being humble, trusting in God the Father and Jesus the Son without reservations, having a sincere heart without any guile, and accepting Christ Jesus as our Savior with no expectations of earning greatness, wealth, or fame from our work to edify the Body of Christ.

Never have I heard a child ask a parent for references before they allowed them to throw them up or swing them around. Unlike adults, children place their faith in their parents, without any evidence that they should, and, sometimes, they believe in their parents even when others do not think that they should. That is what God calls us to do. When troubles come into our lives, God asks us not to panic or believe that He will drop us as He carries us through them. Instead, he asks us to show a childlike faith in Him, remaining joyful even when the world is spinning all around us.

I must confess that I am a worrier, and I struggle to put my trust in God first, mainly because I am also a perfectionist and want things fixed my way. It causes me unnecessary stress and sorrow. But, I am working on it. What other qualities do you think demonstrates a childlike faith? Which qualities of being like a child do you struggle with? Remember, we are all a work in progress, and once we become adults, we often lose those childlike features. It’s too bad, because every once in a while, I wish I could demonstrate the faith those children have in their parents, and just enjoy life as it comes without worrying about what’s next.

Father in Heaven,

      You have never failed me. Even when I thought I was alone or that You were not listening, all of a sudden, change would come, and I would learn that You really know what’s best for me. Help me to increase my trust and decrease my unbelief. I know you can do all things, but, sometimes, I just forget when trials come. Help me build a childlike faith that does not question that You are able to help, no matter what the problem, even something as trivial as where I laid my keys. I am Your child, and I love you. To You be glory and honor forever. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

 

Convinced!

It was while riding in the backseat of an old car down a mountainside in a bad rainstorm with no windshield wipers that I became convinced of the reality of God’s promises in Isaiah 65:24: I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers! I went to be a witness for two fellow college students who planned to get married in the hometown of the groom-to-be, which happened to be up in the mountains of Tennessee. I am afraid of heights, so I was looking forward to getting there and getting back to flat land in Chattanooga.

As it turned out, there was a three-day wait between applying for a marriage license and getting married, so we just visited with his family.  Therefore, it was nearly dark as we started down the mountain. When the rain started, I asked my male friend why he did not use his windshield wipers to help him see better, and he told me that the wipers had not worked for months! That’s when I started getting a little scared.

At first, no windshield wipers was not an issue, because we could still see ahead of us a good distance. But then, the rain started coming fast and strong, and neither of us could see hardly anything in front of us but the red lights on the back of the big rig in front of us. When darkness descended, he tried to see with his window down. But, the big rig in front of us was kicking up so much water that he had to raise the window up. All I knew was that there were no guardrails to stop our momentum if we got too close to the edge of the mountain. So, as we kept driving, I got increasingly scared of going over the mountain to our deaths.

I was the only Christian in the car, and I was not particularly good about praying.  But, I closed my eyes, and I envisioned those wipers going back and forth. I don’t remember all of what I prayed, but I very silently started to call on God for a miracle. My friends saw me praying earnestly, and although they thought it was useless, they did not make fun of me or ask me to stop. I think they were scared, too, and hoping for any kind of miracle.

After what seemed like hours of praying, but I think was less than ten to fifteen minutes of praying, the windshield wipers started working! We were all shocked, but grateful, because we were near the edge of the mountain. My friend swung the car away from the edge just in time! The two of them looked at me in the backseat, and the driver said, “Boy, that must have been some prayer!”

I sat and watched in awe and gratitude to God as those windshield wipers went back and forth all the way back to Chattanooga. By the time they arrived at my house, the rain had stopped considerably, but the wipers were still working.

They say that seeing is believing, and it is true. God answered my prayer while I was still praying, and I became convinced of two things. First, God really hears our prayers. I cannot explain how he hears to you, but I know that He does. Second, there is nothing too hard for God to do, because He has truly overcome the natural world. So, do not ask me how the wipers started working. There was no earthly explanation. When I saw my friend a few months later, he told me that the wipers stopped working that night and they never worked again up until he sold the car.

They were still in awe of my praying, but I knew that it was not the quality of my prayer that started those wipers to working, but it was the faithfulness of the One to whom I was praying. They needed to be in awe of the God who created all three of us. I believe that both of my friends were changed that night, because I was. I became convinced that God’s words are truth, and that our faith must be based on His promises.

Dear Abba, Father, in Heaven,

   I still remember the night the wipers started out of nowhere. I remember the lesson I learned that night: God hears and answers prayers, sometimes while we are still praying. Our website is based on the belief, O God, that you are with us flawed humans from birth to old age. I was convinced that night, and I am still convinced that nothing is impossible for you. Let your will be done in our lives. Hear our prayers, O Lord, and incline thine ears unto us and grant us your peace. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

 

Never Go Back to Egypt!

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Numbers 14:3-4  “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”

When we fail to remember the victories that God has given us, we tend to make mistakes, often returning to bad situations. I call this phenomenon “returning to Egypt.” I am guilty of it, for I tend to panic easily and grab for what I already know, rather than face the unknown. Like the children of Israel, I tend to only remember the good and forget the bad, until I suffer a rude awakening. Then, I remember what a co-worker said to me one day, “Never go back to Egypt!”

In 1997, I accepted an early retirement buyout, believing that the opportunity to quit a job that I had stopped enjoying was a gift from God. I had worked in information technology for nearly ten years, and I was attending college to earn a degree that would allow me to be promoted to management in the telecommunications giant where I worked. Then, out of nowhere, we were told that our jobs had been outsourced to another company, and we would not be hired by the new company.  With tremendous joy, I accepted the early buyout package offered by the company, and I rejoiced that God had rescued me from a job that had become monotonous and lacked any mental stimulation.

With my new degree, I was ready to tackle new horizons. But, unfortunately, I could not find jobs that paid comparably or that allowed me to use the Bachelor’s degree that I had worked nine years to complete. I just knew that God had guided me to quit the job, and, for me, that meant He was going to provide a new and better job than before. But, it was taking too long for the new job to materialize. So, I thought, ,”Maybe God did not tell me to leave my job.”

I had a dream to become a college professor, so I used the time off to earn a Master’s degree in Sociology. But, I could not find a job teaching that paid well. Feeling panicked, anxious, and afraid of losing all that I had gained while working,  I did not wait for God to guide my employment decisions, as I had done before with great success. In my fear of becoming poor as I had been as a child, I applied to the new company to do the same job, with even less mental stimulation than before I left. Day after day, I wondered what was I thinking returning to a job that I hated, but I kept doing the job, mainly because of the pay.  For many people, returning in to Egypt occurs because of the money. We forget the bad stuff, and we think that, for the money, everything will be fine.

It took me only nine months to remember why I had accepted early retirement. I questioned how I allowed myself to think that the job would be different and tolerable, when I had already tired of it. I remembered my dream, and decided that Egypt had not changed. I was still enslaved to my fears and anxieties, and the only way to make things better was to trust God and leave Egypt a second time, not ever returning.

One day, after a really bad call, I put my phone on hold, and I wrote a resignation letter, giving the company one month’s notice,  telling them that I planned to go to college and earn a PhD to teach college. I went from earning $40,000 a year to $18,000 a year as a graduate teaching assistant, and, guess what? I never missed a bill or a meal! When I put my trust in God to provide for my family and me, regardless of my inability to see the future, He came through, as always. I love teaching! There is no greater joy for me! To think I almost missed the opportunity, going back to Egypt!

If you have been blessed to leave a bad job, a bad relationship, or whatever your Egypt might be, and it seems as if God has forgotten you, keep believing. Never go back to Egypt! The Israelites complained and wanted to return to Egypt, rather than die in the wilderness. They forgot the hardships of slavery, in their fear and anxiety about the future. They forgot that the same God who brought them out of slavery would provide every need for them on their journey to the Promised Land.

It is easy to experience spiritual amnesia when difficulties arise while waiting for change. But hold on! Stay the new course, and success will surely come.

Dear Heavenly Father,

 I salute you today for bringing me out of Egypt. Thank you for saving me from myself and my fears and anxieties. I am so amazed at how you go ahead of us and open doors of opportunity that we cannot even see. We just have to believe that You know what You are doing. To You I offer gratitude, honor, and exaltation. Blessed be the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

 

The Sun is Still Shining Above the Storms

Sun Shining

Mark 4:39-40 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

It had been storming for two or three days in a row, and I was feeling depressed, because it seemed that the storms would never stop coming.  I remember thinking, “This is how my life seems. One big storm that will never end. I don’t believe the sun will ever shine again in my life.”  I felt hopeless and in despair, and I could see no way to change my situation. Then, the clouds parted!

I was 24 years old, with four children whom I had adopted when I was 21 years old and my only sibling, their mother, died, and I was living with two alcoholics: my mother and my husband.  I tried to find work, but I could not find a job that paid enough to lift the children and me out of poverty, so I stayed in the marriage. Even more distressing was my mother would not allow me to discipline the children,  because she felt that they were already suffering from the loss of their biological mother. Needless to say, the children understood that they could do anything and get away with it, so there was total chaos in the home. Overall, I was in danger of losing my mind.

I foresaw a future of desperation and pain. I prayed, but did not see how God could change anything in my life. Then, one day, as I vacuumed the living room, I felt in my spirit to stand still and look up at the storm clouds as they rolled by, with seemingly no break in them. Suddenly, there was a break in the storm clouds, and I saw the sun shining just above the storm clouds! I was floored! I never knew that the sun was still shining during a storm.  In that moment, God taught me a lesson I have never forgotten: The sun will shine again in your life, but you have to wait for the storms to pass, and they will.

I was overjoyed, my faith was renewed, and I was still, waiting to see the salvation of the Lord. I began to believe that maybe things would turn around for me, and they did. Like the disciples who found themselves in the midst of a storm-tossed sea, I had wondered if  Jesus cared that I was drowning in sorrow and despair. I had stopped going to church, and I felt alone in the storms. But, nearly a month or so after that fateful sighting, God silenced the storms in my life, as He opened doors of opportunity that eventually allowed me to find a great job, leave the abusive marriage, and give my children a solid middle-class life, with the discipline God expected me to administer.

So, whatever the storms are in your life today, just remember that the sun never stops shining, even during the storms. Be still, and know that He is God, that He has overcome the natural world, and that He has the ability to speak to our storms and silence them. Keep your faith, let go of your fears, and wait for your change to come.

Dear Father in Heaven,

Thank you for silencing the storms in my life. When a storm comes, I am reminded that the sun will shine again, and that I must be patient until the storms pass over. I try, Lord, not to worry when storms come, but I seem to be a worrier by nature. Yet, I do not forget that You are in control, and that there is no reason to be afraid. Take care of the situation in Your own time, dear Lord. I believe in You. In Jesus’s Name. Amen.

 

Are You Thirsty?

John 4: 13-15 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again.  But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” “Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”

We all thirst at some time or another in our lives. We may thirst for love, fame, recognition, wealth, or success in our jobs. It is a thirst that can run deep into the soul, not easily satisfied or quenched by human means. Attempting to quench this thirst causes many people to make bad choices in their lives.  Recently, a young mother accidentally shot and killed her boyfriend in an attempt to create a video that would make them an Internet sensation. What they could not know was that, even if that thirst had been quenched, they would soon be thirsty again, because they had not went to the right source for the quenching of their thirst.

In the Scriptures today, Jesus is talking with a Samaritan woman, who has come to draw water at Jacob’s well.  In those days, it was against the customs for a man even to talk to his wife in public, much less to talk to a woman who was a stranger. But, I believe Jesus saw in her a thirst that could only be satisfied by partaking of the fountain of living water, God the Father (Jeremiah 17:13).

Jesus told her that drinking the water that he offered her meant that she would never thirst again; instead, it would become a spring of living water that leads to eternal life. This water was the Holy Spirit, q gift from God, that permeates the souls of believers, keeping them joyful and content, no matter what life throws at them. She asked for this water, so she would never thirst again and never have to come to the well again.

The woman was alone at the well in the heat of the day, meaning that she was ostracized by other women. Moreover, she had been married five times, which made her a social outcast. Many times, it is preached that she had to have been immoral because of her many marriages. Indeed, I have heard her called a whore or an adulteress many times, but there is nothing in the Scripture to substantiate those claims. Instead, it is important to know the culture, to comprehend her dilemma.

In her culture, only men could initiate divorce. For whatever reasons, she had been rejected over and over again by the men in her life. In a culture in which women were judged as valuable and of worth by their connections with men, and in which women were dependent on men for their livelihoods, she had to hunger for acceptance and love. She had to feel lost, trying to understand why she was so unwanted and unloved.  Jesus offers this lost and sad woman “living water,” the type of water that never gets old or runs dry. It was an act of compassion and love, for it is water that quenches to the very depths of our souls.

Jesus offers her the hope of salvation, a connection with God the Father.  The Good Shepherd is leading her beside the still waters. Psalm 7:16-17 states, “They will never again be hungry or thirsty;  they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun.  For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

As our physical bodies thirst for water, so do our spiritual bodies thirst for spiritual water.  Reading God’s Word daily, and accepting His Son, Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives will keep our thirst at bay. We see people today making bad choices in their lives, as they seek for something that will quench their thirsts, and, with much sorrow and pain, they  find that nothing this world offers can relieve a dryness in the soul. The things of this world tend to alienate us from God, not bring us closer to partake of His Holy Spirit. As believers and people of God, we need to offer this water to those who are lost, rejected, and oppressed, connecting them to the Source of life, Our Father in Heaven, His Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. It will be an act of love.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Today, I come to the throne of grace and mercy, seeking to quench the thirsts in my life.  I wish to bow down and partake of that river of living water, clear as crystal, that flows down from the throne of the Father and of the Lamb. I know that nothing this world can offer can give my soul the contentment it needs. Thank you for the living Word, Jesus Christ, and the written Word that quench my every thirst and keeps me satisfied in the God of my salvation. In Jesus’s Name. Amen.

In-Spite-Of Joy

Habakkuk 3:17-19 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty,  yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.

It is easy to praise God and find joy in Him when everything is life is going well. But, praise and joy are often the last elements we consider when dealing with the hardships of this world. Yet, in the Scriptures above, the prophet Habakkuk teaches us that, in spite of the devastation that may be occurring around us, we must still rejoice in the Lord.

In the three short chapters of Habakkuk, the prophet had a dialogue with God regarding Habakkuk’s perception that God was slow to help His people in a time of tremendous spiritual and cultural degradation. He complained of violence in the streets, people arguing and fighting constantly, injustice in the courts, and wicked people outnumbered righteous people. Do these complaints not sound familiar to you today? But, don’t let it worry you. God has not forgotten us, and He is still in control!

The level of disrespect and intolerance in America today saddens me, and I ask, how long, Lord, will this continue? Can we survive as a nation with divisions such as liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, climate change supporter or climate change deniers? And the disagreement and seeming hatred occurs even across the Body of Christ! Jesus said in Matthew 12:25 that every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. Yet, in spite of the daily deluge of ugliness and hatefulness that I read or hear, I believe there is still reason to praise God and rejoice in Him.

I believe that we must wait patiently for God’s answers, for they will surely come, in His own ways and in His own time. Even though I sometimes don’t understand why so much pain, sorrow, hate, and tears exist today, I trust God to  keep His promises. He promised that in the day when the new Branch of David’s family appears, nothing will hurt or destroy in His holy mountain, that the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord, that the land where He lives will be a glorious place, and that jealousy and rivalry will no longer exist among His people (Isaiah 11:8-13).

So, let’s demonstrate some in-spite-of joy today, and let us remember that we still have a lot to praise God for, if just for breathing! Regardless of how big the troubles seem in America and around the world, let us remember that the Day of the Lord is still at hand, and that we can rejoice in the God of our salvation, who still protects and provides for His people, regardless of the policies or lack of policies by politicians. Praise the Lord!

Father in Heaven,

I will continue to praise you, even if I lose my health insurance, or I lose my job,  or if wars continue unabated. I will rejoice in the Name of my Savior, and I will continue to tell others of Your greatness and of their need to let You guide their hearts and minds. I admit that sometimes I am nearly frozen in fear at the level of hate and the lack of compassion expressed in America and around the world today. But, I will continue to trust in You, in spite of it all. Thank you for daily meeting our needs! In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

 

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