Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Blaze of Glory -- INTRODUCTION

Welcome to our study, Blaze of Glory! I'm very happy to be sharing it with you as something the Lord put upon my heart to demonstrate through His Word. Pull up a chair, grab some coffee, tea (or since our theme for this study, partly, is the American cowboy, and there's one cowgirl in that picture to the left, too!), some sasparilla. Root beer is probably easier to find. Anyway, get comfortable, have your Bible ready, and let's start!

First, let's define the idiom "a blaze of glory." Some years ago there was a song by Bon Jovi with that title, which was the theme song for the movie, Young Guns 2. The term is defined as "a spectacular downfall," or, the definition which applies to our study, "to refuse to surrender to the enemy, to die fighting."

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, puts it much more eloquently with these words:

Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, TO STAND." -- Ephesians 6:13 NIV

That sounds like the same thing as our definition: To put on the whole armor of God without thought of surrendering, but rather to fight until the end.

Before we go on, let's state one Biblical fact, and that is that there is nothing the devil would like more than to see us, as believers, give up. He lives for that, for us to throw down our weapons and stop fighting. The late David Wilkerson of New York's Time Square Church said in his great sermon, A Call to Anguish, "That's all the devil wants to do is get the fight out of you and kill it, so you won't labor in prayer anymore. You won't weep before God anymore."

Further in that same sermon, Pastor Wilkerson spoke about that fight: "It is only what is accomplished by the Holy Spirit when you obey Him and take on His heart. Build the walls around your family. Build the walls around your own heart. Make you strong and impregnable against the Enemy. God, that's what we desire."

What are our weapons? Whether we're well acquainted with this passage from Ephesians 6 or this is new to you, let's review those weapons of warfare...all God-issued to us, as His soldiers.

  • Stand therefore, having your loins girl about with TRUTH, and
  • Having on the breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS; and
  • Your feet shod with the preparation of the GOSPEL OF PEACE
  • Above all, taking the shield of FAITH, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked
  • And take the helmet of SALVATION,and
  • The Sword of the SPIRIT, which is THE WORD OF GOD,
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.

Ephesians 6:14-18, KJV

Is that not awesome? But, wait--that doesn't totally fit the world's picture of the Church,..does it? The Enemy likes the depiction that the world holds onto. That spirit of the world that says, "It's okay to be a Christian, but just keep it to yourself, okay? Sing, have church dinners, love, love, love! But don't mention Jesus around people because you don't want to be offensive. Be mild and quiet, keep the Bible hidden."

That's a spirit that is contrary to all that we're told in scripture, contrary to what the Lord Jesus Christ taught and died for.

If you listen to the world, Christians aren't supposed to be cowboys. We're surely not supposed to be soldiers. You should hardly hear a peep out of us. We're not to make waves. Ever.

Their depiction of Jesus is about the same. If you buy the world's version of Jesus, He was a hippie of 2,000 years ago who did "cool stuff" like turning water into wine, healing the sick, more love, love, love than the Beatles sing about, and oh, so sorry, He was killed and died young.

Over the course of this study, we'll take a look at the Jesus of the Bible. Satan tried to get Him to surrender, too--and the devil lost that fight miserably.

We'll also take a look at the tough guys--and the tough ladies, because they're in there, too--of both the Old and New Testatments. You would've heard more than a peep out of them. Those people made some noise. And, oh, yeah, they made some waves, too.

All of whom risked something. Faith cost them dearly, often their earthly lives. People who were anything but passive and retiring. None who surrendered, who fought "the good fight" with valor and to God's glory until the end.

Still with me? I hope so! If you are, below is the reading for this part of the study. Read it, study it, meditate on it.

Luke 4:1-13

And we will meet again here for Part I of Blaze of Glory!

To read or review Part I of Blaze of Glory, click here.

Monday, November 28, 2016

TGIM Reflection -- 11/28/16

Hello again, sisters in Christ!

For many of us, that was a longer weekend than usual, so I'm hoping you're rested and refreshed and ready to say, "Thank God It's Monday!" (And if not, coffee should help!)

Besides the fact that it's Monday, we might have eaten (and spent more money) than we usually do. That's okay. That's what's Mondays are for: to get back to normal. Make sure to carve out a few minutes for a much-needed walk. Plan light and healthy meals for the week, starting today.

And our TGIM Reflection for today comes from the title of a Toby Mac song: Speak Life.

God is watching. We just got through a holiday dedicated to giving thanks and being grateful. Stay in that same spirit. Speak Life to your loved ones, friends, neighbors and coworkers.

Speak Life to the lady ringing up your order at lunchtime. Don't just say, "thank you," but share a kind word.

Speak Life to everyone you meet today.

Speak Life to the Lord. Tell Him you're not done thanking and praising Him. He'll love it! The Bible says God sings over us. May He break out in song over you!

Speak Life to yourself. Remind yourself that You belong to Him. Remind yourself that, no matter what happens today, Jesus has already won the victory for us.

Speak Life.

And have a blessed Monday!

Always walk with a friend!

Monday, November 21, 2016

TGIM Reflection -- 11/21/16

"Be still and know that I am God." - Psalm 46: 10 KJV

Good morning! And yes, I know--it's Monday and I'm reminding you of your Father's words to be still.

That is our TGIM reflection for today: That sometime today, you take out a few moments to steal away to someplace quiet. Somewhere that you can push aside the worries of this day or week...where you give yourself permission to stop thinking about the trial you are going through, or the hectic day ahead, or the person who said cross words to you today.

Find that place. Quiet your mind. Take a deep breath. Be still. You don't have to say anything, either. Just let your heart rest in knowing that He is God--El Shaddai, the Creator of the Universe, the One who conquered Death and the grave. And yet, this powerful God is also our Good Shepherd. The Father of Lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. His Son, Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Take time to let Him wrap you in His everlasting love.

Be still and know that He is your God.

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Heroine of Proverbs 31 -- PART IV

She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: "Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all." Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates." - Proverbs 31:26-31 NAS

Welcome to the fourth (and final) part of our study! Sorry about the delay and I hope you will find a blessing in this last installment of our study on the Heroine of Proverbs 31.

So grab a coffee or a tea, make yourself comfy, and we'll get right to it!

What I find interesting about these last few verses of our text is that it is like a summary of who this woman is, her identity. Again, you never see in this passage the word perfect. Mrs. Excellent is not perfect, but she takes great care in everything she does.

She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. Notice that it doesn't add only to those of her household. That's something the Lord has been teaching me (among other things--I still need to learn a lot!) this year, how important it is to open our mouth in wisdom and to have "the teaching of kindness on our tongue."

The Bible has a lot to say about the tongue, but here are a few key scriptures to jot down and study:

"If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worseless." -- James 1:26 ESV

"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." -- Proverbs 15:1 ESV

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer." -- Psalm 19:14 ESV

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." -- Ephesians 4:29 ESV

That last one, especially, speaks to the Heroine of Proverbs 31, because the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. Our words are for building up, for giving grace to others.

Think back on all the negative things that may have been spoken over you in your life. The way those words left an impact, even scars, that may have been difficult to overcome. Sadly, some people spend years in a painful healing process from having been lashed at with cruel words that have shaped who they are, and wrongfully so.

Now think back on the positive things that have been spoken over you in your life. A teacher who told you you were a budding writer, maybe (someone did that for me the fifth grade, and I never forgot him!). A grandmother who laughed at all your antics and let you know what a delight you were to her. A friend who told you you were beautiful when you felt anything but. A mom or dad who told you that it was okay if you didn't win the game or someone else gained the achievement you wanted, because they were proud of you just for trying and giving it your all. Those are the types of words that also can shape the person that we become.

Words have power. Whether they are spoken or written in social media, words have power. I warn myself as well as you, that we need to be careful. Because every time we speak a word, we represent the Lord. We are His ambassadors. And we always are presented with opportunities to build someone up, to give them grace. That applies to both people in our household and who we come into contact with outside the home.

Moving on...She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her saying, "Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all."

Wow! How lovely is that, sisters? While Mrs. Excellent is busy, tending diligently and lovingly to her family and home, not "eating the bread of idleness" because she minds her own business and keeps herself focused on what is good, what has to be  done, her children and husband are praising her. Just to note, I once heard that one scripture paraphrased as, "Many women have done well--but, baby, YOU'RE THE BEST!"

Have you ever noticed the kind words spoken about the deceased during funerals? When my mother and aunt died, I wondered if I had told them enough how much I loved them, how much I appreciated everything they'd done for me and my cousin, Pep, and our little family. There is a beautiful Spanish song by the great Puerto Rican salsa band, El Gran Combo, "Que Me Lo Den en Vida" (Translation: "That They Give it to Me in Life"). The song talks about exactly what is being said here. There's a part where the singer says, "Don't wait to go to my grave to give me (this affection); don't wait until I die to say sweet things to me; say them now, while I live, while you have me."

It is my prayer that those who you love, those of your household will praise and brag about you to all who will listen! Speak life to your daughters, too. To your daughters-in-law, to your sons, to your baby while he or she is still in the womb, because the unborn child hears their mother's voice and already builds a connection with her. Because loving words are good for all of us. God knows that, and it is pleasing to Him--truly, it brings Him glory!--when we express our love and appreciation for each other.

And finally, these words: Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

The King of Kings is looking for you. You are the creation of His hands. This is who He meant you to be: a woman who fears the Lord. Though we all have different talents, different careers or life paths, when we know the Lord as our Savior, Redeemer and Friend, this is His will for us, that we will be women who fear Him and walk with Him. He's not looking for youth or a sparkling personality or flawless beauty. All of those things, over time, fade. God doesn't care what label is on your clothes or what college degree you may or may not have. He cares about who you are in Him, that you belong to Him, and that your life is hidden in Him. You are beautiful and you are unique in His eyes.

Closing prayer: Gracious Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word, which is eternal. Thank you for the picture painted in Proverbs 31. You know that it is difficult sometimes and You know everything I go through, but I stand on Your promise that with You, nothing is impossible. Thank You for my life, exactly as it is. Please protect and guide my loved ones and shine Your light through me in their lives. Help me to be an example for them. Forgive my shortcomings, Lord, and help me to forgive myself for my mistakes and to take one day at a time in Your will for me. Thank You for every opportunity that You present in my life for You to be glorified through everything I do, and that no act of love is small or insignificant. In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen.

To view or review Part III of the Heroine of Proverbs 31, click here.

To view or review Part II of the Heroine of Proverbs 31, click here.

To view or review Part I ofthe Heroine of Proverbs 31, click here.

Monday, November 14, 2016

TGIM Reflection 11/14/16

Good morning & Happy Monday, sister!

Are we ready for today? The Monday that follows a long weekend has an even worse reputation than your average, every-day-Joe Monday. But that's all right: We're facing this day with the Good Shepherd.

And here is our reflection to carry you through this beautiful Monday:

"Each one of them is Jesus in disguise." -- Mother Teresa

That is what Mother Teresa said about the poor and sickly that she spent so much of her life helping. We may not be on "the front lines," as she was, but we all have our own mission field in this world.

Do you look for Jesus every day? You may see Him today...and on MONDAY, of all days! He may be disguised as that coworker who is going through a hard time, who could use an encouraging word and someone to listen. He may be a client, a customer, a patient, a student, anyone who needs to see the Light of this World through your smile and kindness. He may be the stranger that you pass on the street today, who may look distracted or sad, who desperately needs your prayers. It could be anyone who, at this time of year, asks for help in some way, either for food or clothing or a small gift to give their kids.

There's a song that Sidewalk Prophets sing that demonstrates Mother Teresa's words. If you get a chance, you can hear Save My Life here. Here's a little snippet from the lyrics:

Tell me what I need to hear
Tell me that I'm not forgotten
Show me there's a God 
Who can be more than all I've ever wanted
'Cause right now I need a little hope
I need to know that I'm not alone
Maybe God is calling you tonight
To tell me something that might save my life.

We never know what form He might take, so let's look for our King today in everyone we meet. May we make it our prayer that He will bless others through us, that we will love our neighbor, as He has asked of us, all to His glory.

Have a great Monday!

Monday, November 7, 2016

TGIM Reflection 11/7/16

Is it me, or does the weekend just zip by all the time? Before you know it, here comes THAT day again. (Monday!)

For our TGIM reflection today, I wanted to share a scripture from the final chapter of the book of Daniel that I'm sure I've seen before, but when I read it during my devotional on Saturday it jumped right out of me. It doesn't matter how many times we read God's Word, does it? Because we always find some little gem that stands out, something we've read before, but the Lord expressly wants us to see it.

"Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." -- Daniel 12:3

May the Lord use you for His glory this week in blessing someone else. Happy Monday, sister in Christ!